February 26, 2021

Induction is absurd

by Neil Rickert

The term “induction” is used in a variety of ways. For example, it is sometime applied to statistical inference. I do not find anything absurd with statistical inference, if it is done properly.

The absurdity that I am posting about, is with respect to what is sometimes called “philosophical induction.” Here’s an example of that kind of induction:

All the many crows that I have seen are black. Therefore all crows are black.

That’s the example that David Stove used in his book “The Rationality of Induction.”

We are born into a world where there are no crows. As a child grows, she eventually learns to carve that world up into parts and to name the parts. What we call “crows” comes from that carving up operation (or that categorizing operation). For that matter, we are born into a world without black. We later learn to categorize into colors such as black, green, red, blue, yellow. That we have black things depends on our categorizing into colors. That we see crows depends on our categorizing into things.

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February 23, 2021

Are there laws of nature?

by Neil Rickert

This post is partly a reaction to a recent post that I saw at Erraticus.

That blog post is mostly a discussion (or disagreement) between two people, David and Margaret, about whether there are laws of nature. David thinks that there are, while Margaret is a skeptic.

As best I can tell, both David and Margaret are fictional. The author, Eleni Angelou, is using them to bring out some of the controversy involved with that topic.

I’ll start with my answer. No, there aren’t laws of nature. There are laws of physics, but those are not laws of nature. The distinction here is that I see laws of physics as human constructs, while I understand “laws of nature” to refer to things that are said to be independent of humans.

That puts me on the side of the skeptic. If anything, I am even more skeptical than Margaret.

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January 22, 2021

America is really, really back

by Neil Rickert

I guess I was a little premature in my earlier post (“America is back“). I knew that Trump could still cause problems, but I was not expecting an attempted coup — or whatever we call what happened on Jan 06.

Biden has now been in office for two days. And already, things seem to be moving in a good direction. It’s not that Biden has great expertise that Trump lacked. Rather, the difference is the Biden has the good sense to seek advice from experts who understand the problems. Trump was never willing to take advice, and that was the real cause of his downfall.

The deep state

The Trumpians, and other right wing reactionaries, have long complained that there is a “deep state” that actually decides what happens. They are right about that. The deep state is just us, the American people. And the deep state — that is, we — defeated Trump’s attempts to change the nature of America.

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November 8, 2020

America is back

by Neil Rickert

It’s been a while since I last posted. And I rarely post on politics. But it was good to see the election of Biden/Harris.

For the last four years, it has somehow seemed as if I were living in The Banana Republic of America. And it may continue to feel that way until inauguration day in January. But the old USA will be back as Joe Biden attempts to re-unite the nation.

I guess I’ll keep this short and sweet. And this is my first post with the wordpress Block editor — which greatly dislike.

July 31, 2020

My views on science and relativism

by Neil Rickert

When I posted a review of “Science and Relativism” last week, I indicated that I would follow up with my own views on that topic.  So here it is.

When Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” came out, I thought it painted a somewhat better picture of science than what has been traditionally presented.  I didn’t agree with everything that Kuhn said, but I did like that he was challenging the traditional picture.

When, many years later, I read Feyerabend’s “Against Method”, I thought it a pretty good read.  I took Feyerabend to be poking fun at traditional philosophy of science, and I saw that as a good thing.  When he suggested that voodoo might work as well as science, I was not sure whether he was serious — and I’m still not sure.  In any case, I did not see him as a threat to science.

Where philosophy goes wrong

In my opinion, much of what people see as criticisms of science are really a reaction to the idea (from epistemology) that knowledge is justified true belief.  As best I can tell, most scientists and most mathematicians see knowledge as distinct from belief.

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July 23, 2020

Science and Relativism

by Neil Rickert

I have been procrastinating on posting this.  I want to say more about truth and how it is actually used.  So I’ll start with a review of the book “Science and Relativism” by Larry Laudan.

I’ll note that the book was published in 1990.  I purchased it, maybe 15 or more years ago.  I recently returned to it for a second reading.

The author, Larry Laudan, is a philosopher of science.  I assume that he is semi-retired by now, but that’s just a guess.

In this post, I shall mainly refrain from expressing my view of the issues.  I plan a followup post where I present that.

What is relativism?

Broadly, relativism if the position that something is relative to something else.  And cultural relativism is that something is relative to culture and cultural traditions.  Most commonly, we hear of moral relativism.  However, when discussing science the issue typically has to do with scientific conclusions and scientific truth.

I’ll quote Laudan from his preface:

But it can be defined, to a first order of approximation, as the thesis that the natural world and such evidence as we have about that world do little or nothing to constrain our beliefs.  In a phrase, the relativists’ slogan is “The way we take things to be is quite independent of the way things are.”

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April 29, 2020

The scientific and manifest images

by Neil Rickert

As a followup to my previous post, I’ll note that Dan Kaufman has posted a second round in his proposals for metaphysics:

As background, I’ll note that I am sitting at my desk.  According to the manifest image, my desktop is solid wood.  According to the scientific image, my desktop is mostly empty space surrounding a sparse array of atoms.

The scientific image is how physics sees the world.  The manifest image is closer to how we see the world.  But sciences vary.  Biologists are concerned about individual organisms.  And those belong in the manifest image, rather than in the scientific image.  Likewise, most of the concerns of psychology fit better with the manifest image.

In my view, philosophy (by which I mean academic philosophy) is mainly oriented toward the scientific image.  And, in my opinion, it should be more oriented toward the manifest image.  I think that’s also how Dan Kaufman sees it, but perhaps I am misreading him.  Please go read his post to see what he says.

Where I come in

A little background about myself.  I started studying learning (or how humans learn) in the 1980s.  And I quickly found myself disagreeing with philosophers.  I imagined myself to be a solitary animal or organism on some planet, with little or know innate knowledge of the planet.  And I had to work out ways of learning about that planet.

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April 25, 2020

Thoughts about metaphysics

by Neil Rickert

Hmm, it’s been quite a while since I last posted anything to this blog.

Dan Kaufman is rethinking metaphysics, as indicated in a recent post:

Judging by the relatively small number of comments, I don’t think there’s a lot of enthusiasm among readers.  But I will be looking forward for continued posts on this topic.

In agreement with Dan, I do want to see some rethinking.  And that’s why I started this blog.

I’ll use this post to give some of my own ideas on the topic.  I expect that some of them are very different from Dan’s ideas.

Basic realism

I am assuming some sort of basic realism.  That is to say, I assume that there is a reality which is human independent.  And we interact with that reality.

I’m calling this an assumption, because I see no possibility of proof.  But it does make clear that I reject Berkeley’s idealism.  I don’t think anything important depends on this assumption.

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August 2, 2019

The FBI and me

by Neil Rickert

Well, okay, the title of this post is misleading and I’m having a little fun in using that title.

Yesterday, I saw a blog post by William Dembski, where he used the acronym “FBI” as shorthand for a Fundamentalist Belief Inventory.  So no, in this case “FBI” does not stand for “Federal Bureau of Investigation”.

The inventory consists of 40 pairs of statements.  In each case you are supposed to pick the one that fits best.  And it is a forced choice — you are not allowed to select “none of the above”.  I suggest you follow the link above to Dembski’s post and read the questions.  It will give you an idea as to what fundamentalists believe.

Testing myself

Directly testing myself would not be much fun.  I would probably score a zero on the fundamentalist scale.  So, instead, I tried to answer them as I probably would have answered them back at age 20 — around 3 years before I left Christianity.

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May 31, 2019

Knowledge of nuomena

by Neil Rickert

A comment to my previous post asked an interesting question:

Do you yourself think that the noumenal world (The world “in itself”) is unknowable to humans?

This brings up issues which deserve a full post responding to the question.  In particular, it brings up questions such as:

  • what do we mean by knowledge?
  • what is the relation between the nuomenal world and the wolrd of our experience (the phenomenal world)?

Some background

Let me state, at the outset, that I am not a professional philosopher.  My background is primarily in mathematics and computer science.  So you should take this post as mostly reflecting my personal opinion.  I like to think that opinion is informed by my study of cognition and consciousness.  As best I can tell, nobody else is studying consciousness in quite the same way.

For background on the meaning of “nuomena”, I suggest the Wikipedia article.  Apparently, Plato used the term to refer to his ideal forms.  But, more recently, the term has been used for what Kant described as the thing in itself.  I take that to be a reference to the world undistorted by human ideas and concepts.  I should note that “nuomena” is plural, with “nuomenon” as the corresponding singular.  And I shall use the expression “nuomenal world” for the world of nuomena.

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