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RemusShepherd
12-07-2012, 02:14 AM
My current WIP involves the search for The Meaning of Life. I have one for the story; a justifiable and reasoned answer to The Meaning of Life. I have a dramatized quest for it and a heroine who will find it. Narratively, there's only one thing I need to do in order to present this to the reader.

I need to destroy David Hume.

The answer to The Meaning of Life in my story depends upon inductive reasoning -- taking physical data and following its implications. Hume was the philosopher who excoriated the use of inductive reasoning in philosophical proofs, because physical data changes with time. I need a simple argument that will allow my readers to dismiss Hume and believe the Meaning that I'm giving them.

The argument I have in mind is something like this:

The sky is blue.
Tomorrow, there might be clouds and the sky will be gray. Or there might be smoke and the sky will be red.
But it is still true that at this moment, the sky is blue. So the inductive method can find truth if limited to a specific place and time.
As the universe changes, as the culture changes, and as human beings evolve, the answers might change. The inductive approach will need to be performed again.
But for right now, we have the answer.

I know that's simplistic, but I value clarity in my writing style. I'd probably deliver that as dialog, spread throughout two characters' conversation. Does it hang together well enough?

Since this is a humorous story, are there any humiliating anecdotes or inconsistencies with Hume or his work that you can share? I really want to pile on the guy. Only the central argument needs to be reasoned, the rest will be just to entertain. :)

GOTHOS
12-07-2012, 02:29 AM
As it happens I printed for a blog-essay a partial quote by Ernst Cassirer assailing the fallacy of Hume's critique:

“According to Kant the principle of causality is a synthetic principle which enables us to spell out phenomena and so read them as experience. But this causal synthesis…involves a very specific analysis…. It is a fundamental flaw in Hume’s psychology and his psychological critique of the concept of causality that he does not sufficiently recognize this analytical function… Mere local or temporal contiguity is transformed into causality by a simple mechanism of‘association.’ But in truth, scientific knowledge gains its causal concepts and judgments through an exactly opposite process.”-- from MYTHICAL THOUGHT.

Maxx
12-07-2012, 10:31 PM
My current WIP involves the search for The Meaning of Life. I have one for the story; a justifiable and reasoned answer to The Meaning of Life. I have a dramatized quest for it and a heroine who will find it. Narratively, there's only one thing I need to do in order to present this to the reader.

I need to destroy David Hume.

The answer to The Meaning of Life in my story depends upon inductive reasoning -- taking physical data and following its implications. Hume was the philosopher who excoriated the use of inductive reasoning in philosophical proofs, because physical data changes with time. I need a simple argument that will allow my readers to dismiss Hume and believe the Meaning that I'm giving them.

The argument I have in mind is something like this:

The sky is blue.
Tomorrow, there might be clouds and the sky will be gray. Or there might be smoke and the sky will be red.
But it is still true that at this moment, the sky is blue. So the inductive method can find truth if limited to a specific place and time.
As the universe changes, as the culture changes, and as human beings evolve, the answers might change. The inductive approach will need to be performed again.
But for right now, we have the answer.

I know that's simplistic, but I value clarity in my writing style. I'd probably deliver that as dialog, spread throughout two characters' conversation. Does it hang together well enough?

Since this is a humorous story, are there any humiliating anecdotes or inconsistencies with Hume or his work that you can share? I really want to pile on the guy. Only the central argument needs to be reasoned, the rest will be just to entertain. :)

Hume is pretty consistant. I like his description of how we know animals can think and so on.

So in his own terms, Hume is highly consistant, but Kant pretty well covers why this apparent consistancy doesn't jive with what we see in the operation of our own thoughts about the world.

Maxx
12-07-2012, 10:54 PM
My current WIP involves the search for The Meaning of Life. I have one for the story; a justifiable and reasoned answer to The Meaning of Life. I have a dramatized quest for it and a heroine who will find it. Narratively, there's only one thing I need to do in order to present this to the reader.

I need to destroy David Hume.

The answer to The Meaning of Life in my story depends upon inductive reasoning -- taking physical data and following its implications. Hume was the philosopher who excoriated the use of inductive reasoning in philosophical proofs, because physical data changes with time. I need a simple argument that will allow my readers to dismiss Hume and believe the Meaning that I'm giving them.

The argument I have in mind is something like this:

The sky is blue.
Tomorrow, there might be clouds and the sky will be gray. Or there might be smoke and the sky will be red.
But it is still true that at this moment, the sky is blue. So the inductive method can find truth if limited to a specific place and time.
As the universe changes, as the culture changes, and as human beings evolve, the answers might change. The inductive approach will need to be performed again.
But for right now, we have the answer.

I know that's simplistic, but I value clarity in my writing style. I'd probably deliver that as dialog, spread throughout two characters' conversation. Does it hang together well enough?

Since this is a humorous story, are there any humiliating anecdotes or inconsistencies with Hume or his work that you can share? I really want to pile on the guy. Only the central argument needs to be reasoned, the rest will be just to entertain. :)

I'd say there's no way to dispose of Hume's argument if you rely on a time dimension to sort things out. I would pick a different philosopher to overcome. How about Karl Popper? Wittgenstein reportedly out-falisfied him by going after him with a fireplace poker. "Falsify this, Popper!"

Hume? His whole endeavor is to find clarity and for the most part he does quite well. He was a very observant and very experienced man.

Wittgenstein vs Popper: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2001/mar/31/artsandhumanities.highereducation

Of course, Popper is Humean with respect to induction, but with plenty of contradictions such as the critical test of where Neptune was...which wasn't critical, though it was a nice confirmation of Newtonian Celestial mechanics.

See http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/popper/

especially the section 9 (critical stuff)

sunandshadow
12-08-2012, 10:19 AM
What about the idea of triangulation and statistical proof? I mean, life is inherently based on time, I don't see how it could have any meaning that didn't involve comparing a person's present to their past, and maybe also to other people's presents and pasts, since humans are also inherently social creatures and a human who was alone for their whole life would have the least meaningful possible life.

RemusShepherd
12-09-2012, 01:18 AM
What about the idea of triangulation and statistical proof? I mean, life is inherently based on time, I don't see how it could have any meaning that didn't involve comparing a person's present to their past, and maybe also to other people's presents and pasts, since humans are also inherently social creatures and a human who was alone for their whole life would have the least meaningful possible life.

You've got a piece of it. :)

My problem is that David Hume convinced modern philosophy that statistics and time-based comparisons cannot be used to prove anything. Philosophers are weird that way.

blacbird
12-09-2012, 09:44 AM
You Kant do that. They'll Locke you up.

caw

Xelebes
12-10-2012, 12:59 AM
You Kant do that. They'll Locke you up.

caw


By that, I assume that mean attempting to ex-Hume?

sunandshadow
12-10-2012, 05:24 AM
You've got a piece of it. :)

My problem is that David Hume convinced modern philosophy that statistics and time-based comparisons cannot be used to prove anything. Philosophers are weird that way.
But if you're writing fiction, most of your readers won't be serious philosophers.

Maxx
12-10-2012, 07:10 PM
You've got a piece of it. :)

My problem is that David Hume convinced modern philosophy that statistics and time-based comparisons cannot be used to prove anything. Philosophers are weird that way.

From what I've seen, what is modern about modern philosophy is the acceptance that pure induction is a fiction. Ie you can't just use induction alone to get a working model of the universe and if you do, you generate pure fiction. So in that sense, pure induction is both a non-problem and a useful foundation for working on how in fact one does get a idea of what is going on around one.

CChampeau
12-11-2012, 02:04 AM
From what I've seen, what is modern about modern philosophy is the acceptance that pure induction is a fiction. Ie you can't just use induction alone to get a working model of the universe and if you do, you generate pure fiction.

Valid and true deductive arguments are no more than an idealization when you cannot prove that anything is true outside yourself, as, say, a solipsist would argue.

Yes, in the material world, deduction is unquestionably more reliable than induction when it is available.

But I believe that the only true deduction exists as an idealization, an abstraction, which is by nature mathematical and performs its function perfectly only in the abstract realm of mathematics.

Anything we know about this real, material world exterior to ourselves is necessarily precluded by inductive assumptions. I can only assume that what I'm seeing is what is really there, etc.
Useless and solipsistic as this is, it's true. Our perception of the world rests on induction.

Maxx
12-11-2012, 06:45 PM
Valid and true deductive arguments are no more than an idealization when you cannot prove that anything is true outside yourself, as, say, a solipsist would argue.

Yes, in the material world, deduction is unquestionably more reliable than induction when it is available.

But I believe that the only true deduction exists as an idealization, an abstraction, which is by nature mathematical and performs its function perfectly only in the abstract realm of mathematics.

Anything we know about this real, material world exterior to ourselves is necessarily precluded by inductive assumptions. I can only assume that what I'm seeing is what is really there, etc.
Useless and solipsistic as this is, it's true. Our perception of the world rests on induction.

The material world isn't exterior. We are always already in the world. We don't have the option of being anywhere else. Except as a set of more or less heuristic fictions, we can't leave the world and go to an interior that is not in the world. Given all that, perception and induction are intertwined except in the fictions surrounding the imagery of an interior that is somehow not in the world.
Of course there are plenty of interesting approaches to unraveling how some sort of inductive thinking interacts with perception and other structures, but in modern terms there is no non-fictive interior space from which to judge an external world.

RichardGarfinkle
12-11-2012, 07:16 PM
The material world isn't exterior. We are always already in the world. We don't have the option of being anywhere else. Except as a set of more or less heuristic fictions, we can't leave the world and go to an interior that is not in the world. Given all that, perception and induction are intertwined except in the fictions surrounding the imagery of an interior that is somehow not in the world.
Of course there are plenty of interesting approaches to unraveling how some sort of inductive thinking interacts with perception and other structures, but in modern terms there is no non-fictive interior space from which to judge an external world.

That's arguable. While the underlying structures that make up thinking do seem to be part of reality (neural firing and neurochemical interactions) that does not make the individual world of thought a useless concept.

Thought itself as experienced is not a phenomenon observable by other than the person thinking. That the person is thinking can be deduced by measurement of neural activity, but the experience proper is not observable.

Furthermore, there is a utility in the separation between the two because a great many thought phenomena are observations and analysis and attributions toward real world phenomena that the mind is not directly interacting with.

The actual delineation in mind of an external object is a process that only superficially connects to the object being observed (since one is actually working from external stimuli of light, sound, air motion, chemical reception, etc).

Furthermore, the object as conceived will have a number of aspects that do not in anyway inhere to the reality that stimulates the conception of the object. For example, if one recognizes another person, memory associations and attitudes will inhere to the conception where they do not to the real person.

There is also the question of whether or not the concept that distinct objects exist is anything more than a useful fiction in our minds.

Maxx
12-11-2012, 07:49 PM
That's arguable. While the underlying structures that make up thinking do seem to be part of reality (neural firing and neurochemical interactions) that does not make the individual world of thought a useless concept.



Sure it is arguable, just not very easily in terms of any post-Kantian philosophy. Most people start re-inventing phenomenology as you illustrate.

In modern philosophical terms, whether or not your brain has ideas in it is not a major issue. What gives modern philosophers an interesting and rough time is defining the area where a person can decide about things.

Camilla Delvalle
12-11-2012, 11:53 PM
Maybe she found the meaning of life right now?

RemusShepherd
12-12-2012, 01:52 AM
That's arguable. While the underlying structures that make up thinking do seem to be part of reality (neural firing and neurochemical interactions) that does not make the individual world of thought a useless concept.

Thank you, all. This kind of exchange is exactly what I was looking for.

I'm already one step further, by asserting that although induction is subjective, we can approximate true reality by using statistical induction to average out the errors. I don't know of any Humean response to that.

Now I just have to make the whole argument readable and entertaining. :)

Maxx
12-12-2012, 07:01 PM
Thank you, all. This kind of exchange is exactly what I was looking for.

I'm already one step further, by asserting that although induction is subjective, we can approximate true reality by using statistical induction to average out the errors. I don't know of any Humean response to that.

Now I just have to make the whole argument readable and entertaining. :)

The not-very-entertaining Humean counter-argument would be that you still have to invoke some other system of establishing the grounds of your inductive ideas ie, on its own, induction doesn't work, which seems to be a valid point.
The Kantian and Post-Kantian reply to Hume is that the non-working of induction requires one to admit that thinking about things is a heterogenous operation and the inherent wackiness of thought is an interesting strength rather than a metaphysical weakness, though in fact it is precisely the metaphysical weak link that Hume indicates it to be. But in that metaphysical weak link we can basically place all the (very useful) work of post-Kantian philosophy.

GOTHOS
12-21-2012, 03:20 AM
The not-very-entertaining Humean counter-argument would be that you still have to invoke some other system of establishing the grounds of your inductive ideas ie, on its own, induction doesn't work, which seems to be a valid point.
The Kantian and Post-Kantian reply to Hume is that the non-working of induction requires one to admit that thinking about things is a heterogenous operation and the inherent wackiness of thought is an interesting strength rather than a metaphysical weakness, though in fact it is precisely the metaphysical weak link that Hume indicates it to be. But in that metaphysical weak link we can basically place all the (very useful) work of post-Kantian philosophy.

"Grounds of your inductive ideas"= Kuhn's concept of paradigms, to which most scientists allegedly remain faithful no matter what objections come up??

Maxx
12-27-2012, 07:39 PM
"Grounds of your inductive ideas"= Kuhn's concept of paradigms, to which most scientists allegedly remain faithful no matter what objections come up??

I hadn't thought of that. I guess a paradigm could work that way.

But to focus a bit more: apparently, the post-Kantian (and probably Kantian as well) understanding of Hume and induction and what it means is that:

1) Hume is right, no amount of pure metaphysical logic will certify the validity of even the most basic assumptions about what the next immediate sequence of events is. Hume isolates causality as the central aspect of this failure of metaphysically grounded logic, but it seems to apply to any scheme that involves matching propositions and outcomes.
2) since Hume is right but we do have a pretty good understanding of at least some things involving sequences and outcomes -- something else is going on.
3) This something else is what most of Western Philosophy since Kant has been working on. This something else can be the grounds of induction or a paradigm or a computer model, but the radically not-quite-grounded working of these other things is the current province of philosophy as I understand it.