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Author Topic: P4E - Philosophy for Everyone  (Read 429 times)

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Online Belowa2x4Topic starter

P4E - Philosophy for Everyone
« on: October 30, 2019, 11:28:24 AM »
Hey everyone! I’m new to the community and have been considering different ways of jumping in. And since I haven’t quite gotten the lay of the land in regards to the RP boards, I thought this board would be the easiest place for me to dip my toes in. My first thought was to start a kind of AMA thread for philosophy, but realized that would be pretty presumptive of me - I’m sure there are others in the community at least, if not more, versed than I. So instead, I thought I might introduce a pedagogical style that’s I was involved with in graduate school, which I think is particularly well suited to a medium like E.

Philosophy for Everyone is a method of communal inquiry in which the participants, mediated as necessary by a discussion leader, explore philosophical topics and/or philosophically explore topics (and that distinction itself may be worth getting into too!). The topics range from prepared questions and talking points by the group leader, to free-flowing conversation, to the group members each proposing topics and then one or two question being honed in on via democratic processes. As the name may suggest, the method was originally developed as a way for children and teens to participate in philosophical discussions outside of the stressful context of Academic Philosophy and The Who-said-what-when paradigm that often dominates even college level philosophy courses. Of course, kids are not the only one’s who can benefit from this approach, and employ it in all of my courses to varying degrees. There are some guidelines, many of which already seem to fall under the general etiquette of E anyway:

1. P4E/C circles are safe spaces. That means no talking down to, no bullying, no making fun of, etc. One of the major turn offs, I think, for people being introduced to philosophy as a discipline is the tendency to descend into a bunch of have you read X?” Which  outlying lead the majority who haven’t read that author or text to clam up. One of the core concerns of P4E is that everyone should feel comfortable enough to express their lack of knowledge or understanding without fear or ridicule or dismissive rebuttal.

2. If you do have some background knowledge in the discipline, use it to enrich the discussion, not stifle it. Namedropping authors, texts, theories, etc., is fine. But as a general rule, I like to provide brief explanations or context any time I mentioned something for this sort, and also only do so if you are prepared to answer others’ questions to help keep everyone on the same page.

3. Listen. Listen to what other people are saying. The flip side to this one is that, though one must listen, one should never be compelled to respond. People are more than welcome to just lurk. (Obviously this one is easier to follow on a board than in person, but still worth mentioning.

4. If you don’t know, ask! Whether it’s an argument, an idea, a word, or anything else, P4E only really works if the group moves together. Don’t let jargon leave you behind.


There are some others, but I think everyone gets the general idea. So in order to gauge general interest for something like this, I’m going to start out with an introduction. My hope is that others will introduce themselves, and if there is enough interest, we can get a good discussion going around a topic! At the very least, thanks for reading this far. To get us started, let’s address five things, some of which will be redundant with E profiles but still.

1. Name
2. Exposure, if any, to academic philosophy.
3. Past times
4. A few favorites (games, books, food, music, whatever!)
5. What’s something you’ve often wondered?



Hey there! I’m Belowa2x4, or just B. I am currently finishing my PhD in philosophy, slogging through the last quarter of my dissertation. I started formally studying philosophy almost two decades ago and have never looked back. My area of specialization is pre-Han dynasty Chinese philosophy, and Chinese philosophy more generally, but I am also comfortable working in more traditional areas, including history of western philosophy, Greek, German philosophy, political philosophy, metaphysics, aesthetics, etc.

I spend much of my free time playing games. With video games I prefer grand or turn based strategies, Stellaris and Civ being two of my favorite franchises. In the physical realm, I tend to like the large scale board games, especially heavier euro games. Favorites include Agricola, Scythe, Castles of Burgundy, Twilight Imperium. I also, love music (with the exception of country). Favorite genre is hip-hop/rap. The favorites list here would be too long, but Action Bronson, Kendrick, OutKast would be on the list. I also dig on a lot of funk, like Galactic and Rebirth Brass Band.

And finally, a question I’ve always found myself coming back to, even after many discussion about it in the past is: what are the differences, if any, between knowledge, belief and opinion?

Offline Nico

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Re: P4E - Philosophy for Everyone
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2019, 12:31:05 AM »
Oh, what a lovely idea!

And finally, a question I’ve always found myself coming back to, even after many discussion about it in the past is: what are the differences, if any, between knowledge, belief and opinion?

This is a very interesting question! ;D It prompts some of my own, right away.

Do we always believe in what we know (or believe to know?)? Is our opinion coloured more by our beliefs or our knowledge? Can it be both or does one exclude the other?

Now, for my little profile:


1. Nico or Nic. Or N.
2. Via my husband and friends, reading quite some about the matter (I am a huge fan of Kant, Nietzsche, Platon and Sartre)
3. Sports ( mostly running, football and soccer), Gardening, my dogs, French Cinema, Psychology, Drawing;
4. Favourite foods? Everything vegan! Favourite movies? The Godfather. Psycho. The silence of the Lambs. Music! I am quite versatile when it comes to music but I can usually live without Trash metal and most R 'n B.
5.
Would the world be a better place if we all would be honest with one another? Does fate even exist?

Offline Inkidu

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Re: P4E - Philosophy for Everyone
« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2019, 07:43:46 AM »
And finally, a question I’ve always found myself coming back to, even after many discussion about it in the past is: what are the differences, if any, between knowledge, belief and opinion?
I think a little Socratic questioning is in order.

Ask yourself:

What do I know about God?
Do I believe in God?
What are my opinions on God?

For me each one elicits its own separate responses that may inform upon one another, but if each question elicits a fairly unique answer then that should mean there's a difference, right?

Online Belowa2x4Topic starter

Re: P4E - Philosophy for Everyone
« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2019, 12:36:16 PM »
Hey Nico and Inkidu, thanks for jumping in!

 

Do we always believe in what we know (or believe to know?)? Is our opinion coloured more by our beliefs or our knowledge? Can it be both or does one exclude the other?

I think this is a really good place to start, both because it proposes a clear set of relationships (we always need axioms), and because I think it represents a fairly vernacular (and I don’t use that term in a negative sense at all) view of the three elements. It’s been my experience discussing this with students is that most people seem to agree that opinion can be and normally is influenced by both knowledge and belief. I think there is also a general consensus around the idea that opinion informs belief. The sticky bit is, what affect, if any, can or should opinion have on belief and knowledge, and what is the relationship between belief and knowledge? Are they wholly separate? Is one subordinate to another? My suspicion is that this last question will be the most contentious. I also think that Inkidu has provided us with perhaps the best method of inquiry immediately available to us, introspection!

What do I know about God?
Do I believe in God?
What are my opinions on God?

First, let me say that I’m comfortable talking about the specific example given (ie God), but I have two brief concerns that I’d like to mention p. First, I’m new here so I’m not sure to what degree the boards bleed into each other, so please let us know, Great Mods, if things drift to far toward the Politics/religion debate board. Second, I think the example of God, or any deity really, is quite useful, but also potentially a special case. It may be better, from a procedural standpoint, to begin with something more mundane and make our way up. But I’m open to suggestions on that front.

Anyway, I think you’ve done two clever things with your line of questioning, Ink. First, I think you have implicitly agreed with Nic, though let me know if I’m putting words in your mouth. Your ordering of the questions from knowledge to opinion reflects y’all’s agreement, as well as your mention of Socratic wisdom. Of course, there’s a whole separate discussion to be had about the relationship and authenticity of Socrates/Plato (shout out to Nic, btw for calling him Platon. True facts, Plato comes from Platon, which was the Greek word for wide and was a nickname Plato acquired during his wrestling days!),  but this general consensus, that there seems to be a general asymmetrical relationship flowing from knowledge to opinion comes all the way from the Republic itself.

The other clever thing is subtle, but important. There may be something important in the linguistic shift from noun to verb. We could completely the shift by rephrasing the third question to “what do I opine about X?” The usage is a bit archaic to our ears, but I think it is important to realize that framing knowledge/belief/opinion has discrete items that we possess in some way is very different from framing them as activities that we engage in, knowing/believing/opinion. I’m not sure that one frame is more or less preferable (or if they at all exclude one another), that’s something else we could explore, but it’s definitely a distinction worth teasing out!



So, another integral part of the P4E process is what’s called the “toolbox”. This includes several concepts that participants are encouraged to deploy to help clarify, point out assumptions and questions, etc. While I don’t want to rehearse them all here, I do want to keep track of points of consensus, definition concluded on by the group, questions raised, and those sorts of things. And obviously, all of these are always something we can return to for further considerations, if we believe our premises have led us astray.

Assumptions:
1. Both belief and knowledge affect opinion.
2. Opinion affects belief.

Questions:
1. Can/should opinion or belief affect knowledge?
2. Can you know something, but not believe it?

Offline Nico

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Re: P4E - Philosophy for Everyone
« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2019, 01:58:42 PM »
Hey Nico and Inkidu, thanks for jumping in!

 
I think this is a really good place to start, both because it proposes a clear set of relationships (we always need axioms), and because I think it represents a fairly vernacular (and I don’t use that term in a negative sense at all) view of the three elements. It’s been my experience discussing this with students is that most people seem to agree that opinion can be and normally is influenced by both knowledge and belief. I think there is also a general consensus around the idea that opinion informs belief. The sticky bit is, what affect, if any, can or should opinion have on belief and knowledge, and what is the relationship between belief and knowledge? Are they wholly separate? Is one subordinate to another? My suspicion is that this last question will be the most contentious. I also think that Inkidu has provided us with perhaps the best method of inquiry immediately available to us, introspection!
Yes, I agree. It is quite a controversy I believe and therefore all the more interesting. My suspicion is that "subordinate" colours it very negative for many people and it leads them to believe that it is a negative thing. I do not think so, however. Beliefs are often a result of our upbringing and not something we seek out consciously. It forms us and our opinions at times while knowledge is mostly gained because we strive to obtain it. Which of course bring up the next question: What is there first? Belief or knowledge? Do we believe before we know?

On the other hand, there is this "If we know something, we must not only know that it is true, we also must believe that it is true." It does not seem that one is subordinate to the other, for me at least. Perhaps more like - one enables the other?

Platon has a rather interesting theory about belief and knowledge and different states of mind for either.


Offline Hawkwood

Re: P4E - Philosophy for Everyone
« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2019, 08:02:00 AM »

1. Name
2. Exposure, if any, to academic philosophy. Philosophy of Science (YAY! POPPER!), medical ethics, and jurisprudence. That's about it.
3. Past times Painting, swimming, hiking, cooking
4. A few favorites Stellaris, 7th Sea, Pierogi, Edinburgh, Sabaton

Quote
what are the differences, if any, between knowledge, belief and opinion?

To me, these seem like very different kinds of 'knowledge' or ... er... I can't think of a word for knowledge that doesn't involve the word knowledge. So I'll stick with 'thought'

Knowledge is something that can be proved true or false, accurate or not. For example, "I am not wearing a pokemon onesie" is a matter for empirical verification. You just need to check. This is where lying becomes relevant because you can only say something untrue about something that can be demonstrated.

Belief is something that cannot (yet) be falsified, or is contested. For example, "I believe that people should be free to wear pokemon onesies" is a statement of how things should be rather than how they are. They can be popular, but they can't necessarily be falsifiable.

Opinion strikes me as something like a a belief, but less heartfelt? I mean, "I believe that red is the best colour" is the same as saying "my favourite colour is red"

I think things get messy because we don't all share an objective distinction between these three groups. That is, I think that evolution is the best way to describe our origins because I think the true source of knowledge is scientific reasoning. A creationist would say that the only source of knowledge worth having is from a holy text. The two are fundamentally different. So when I mock someone for being an anti-vaxer, I am in fact mocking them for having a different theory-of-thinking, I think.

I think also that knowledge, belief, and opinion are all horribly inter-related. A scientific hypothesis is a form of opinion or belief that is the precursor to knowledge. The subordination question doesn't - to me - make sense. Each type of thinking is a different kind of answer and is dependent on context:

Consider, for example, the following statement: "Game of Thrones is massively over-rated"

This is somewhere between a statement of belief and opinion, but it cannot ever be a statement of knowledge. Because we're talking about something that isn't falsifiable / observable. By contrast, you could say "Game of Thrones is a book", and that'd be more or less true.

The statement "Do you believe in evolution" troubles me. I believe in it to the same extent that I believe in gravity or electromagnetism. That is, I think it's the best explanation for observable reality that we currently have.

Offline Dichotomy

Re: P4E - Philosophy for Everyone
« Reply #6 on: November 22, 2019, 06:04:04 AM »
1. Name: Dichotomy
2. Exposure, if any, to academic philosophy: Medical ethics - xD but thats been years and years ago and so I'd rather say: None!
3. Past times: Reading, cooking, knitting, talking walks, playing guitar
4. A few favorites: Star Trek, Hunger Games, GoT (the books though), LotR, cupcakes, and last but most important: COFFEE!

I love the discussion! And... yeah. I just can't help it. I need to chime in with my (wait for it xD) opinion!

Knowledge - Knowledge is something set in stone and centers around things that can empirically veryfied or falsified. Examples: Water reaches it highest density at a temperature of 4°C. This is due to the hydrogen bridge bonds between the molecules of H20.
But knowledge is more than only academic facts. I know that my wife's favourite food is pancakes and her favourite snack is chocolate pudding. I know that my son enjoys watching PJ Masks and Paw Patrol but doesn't like Pocoyo.

Opinion - is based on both believes and knowledge. In my opinion marriage should be allowed between more than two people. Because of the knowledge that polyamorous relationships exist, another opinion, that all kinds of relationships should be allowed to have the same legal status and the belief that marriage is something to strive for.

Belief - a belief is something that nobody can prove or falsify. To me it's basically the opposite of knowledge. I for example believe in the concept of marriage. I do not believe in a christian god. I do believe that there are higher powers. But that is just that. Believes. Feelings. I'd never try to convince somebody of my believes. I DO try to convince people of my opinions.


Online Belowa2x4Topic starter

Re: P4E - Philosophy for Everyone
« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2019, 05:44:35 PM »
So, in light of all these lovely comments, I’d like to complicate the situation. So far, most of our examples seem to be what we in the biz would call “propositional knowledge”.  That is, something of the form “X know that p.” where p is some proposition. So for example, “Dichotomy knows that her son likes Paw Patrol.” And while no specific analysis of knowledge has been widely accepted among experts, this leads us to one of the more natural-feeling ways of thinking about what specifically constitutes knowledge. Anyway, I’m sure some of you will be familiar with the “Justified, true belief” (JTB) analysis of knowledge. Basically, it’s a three part theory that says a proposition, p, is true if and only if it meets three criteria:

1. p is true.
2. Dichotomy believes that p.
3. Dichotomy is justified in believing p.

So, I think that there are a few things that might jump out at us right away, but the basic idea is that each of these conditions must be fulfilled in order for us to “know” something. So, the first one is usually called the truth condition, and is based on the (also problematic) correspondence theory of truth (that is that propositions are true based on the extent they reflect “objective” reality, but all of that is for later). The second, the belief condition, is the idea that belief is a necessary condition for knowledge. Basically, Dichotomy can’t know that her son loves Paw patrol without also (and probably first?) believing that he does. Finally, the third condition is that the knowing subject must have good reason to believe. Obviously, there is a can or worms here as well, in terms of who and what gets to constitute proper justification. But basically this stems from Plato’s concerns about “true opinion” not being a sufficient condition for knowledge. So, if I were to have said that, prior to meeting her, that I know that Dichotomy’s son loves paw patrol, the proposition of my claim would be true, but my belief it in would be unfounded because i had no good reason to believe it to be the case.

What do you think of the JTB analysis of truth? Again, it is not widely regarded as true (oh no, infinite regression?) but it is still useful as a starting place. I think it is an intuitive interpretation, as well as one that seems, on the surface, satisfactory to many laypeople. Now, another twist, would be what are called Gettier cases. Here’s an example:


Suppose that Smith and Jones have applied for a certain job. And suppose that Smith has strong evidence for the following conjunctive proposition: (d) Jones is the man who will get the job, and Jones has ten coins in his pocket.
Smith's evidence for (d) might be that the president of the company assured him that Jones would, in the end, be selected and that he, Smith, had counted the coins in Jones's pocket ten minutes ago. Proposition (d) entails: (e) The man who will get the job has ten coins in his pocket.
Let us suppose that Smith sees the entailment from (d) to (e), and accepts (e) on the grounds of (d), for which he has strong evidence. In this case, Smith is clearly justified in believing that (e) is true.
But imagine, further, that unknown to Smith, he himself, not Jones, will get the job. And, also, unknown to Smith, he himself has ten coins in his pocket. Proposition (e) is true, though proposition (d), from which Smith inferred (e), is false. In our example, then, all of the following are true: (i) (e) is true, (ii) Smith believes that (e) is true, and (iii) Smith is justified in believing that (e) is true. But it is equally clear that Smith does not know that (e) is true; for (e) is true in virtue of the number of coins in Smith's pocket, while Smith does not know how many coins are in his pocket, and bases his belief in (e) on a count of the coins in Jones's pocket, whom he falsely believes to be the man who will get the job.

Thoughts?
 


Offline Regina Minx

Re: P4E - Philosophy for Everyone
« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2019, 08:25:01 AM »
I don't think your setup is the best illustration of Gettier problems, since proposition (e) is not justified. Perhaps we could use a different example for those in the audience not up on propositional logic and go with the classic example of deductive reasoning from Philosophy 101:

P Socrates is a man.
Q All men are mortal.
C Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

This is a logically valid argument, and if the premises are true then it is also a sound argument. In the JTB theory of knowledge, if I had very good reason to accept P and Q, then my belief that Socrates is mortal would be justified and thus I could “know” that Socrates is mortal.

The problem that Gettier is trying to illustrate is that it is possible to have a justified belief in a conclusion but for one of the premises to be false. For example, suppose I overhear a discussion about a certain Socrates. From the context of the conversation, I reach the conclusion that they’re talking about a man named Socrates. I have a justified belief that this Socrates is a man. I also have a very reliable belief that all men are mortal so I can validly reach the conclusion that this Socrates is mortal from those two premises. So I have a justified belief that Socrates is mortal.

But suppose these two people were actually talking about a pet fish named Socrates. Unusual and perhaps highly improbable, but it happens to be the case in this instance. That means that the deductive reasoning I used, P+Q=C, is valid but unsound because P happens to be false. But P being false did not make my belief in C unjustified because justified beliefs can be false. My belief in P was justified (whereas your (e) was not), and C justifiably follows from P and Q, so my belief in C is justified as well. But guess what? Fish happen to be mortal too. So in fact C is true. The fact that I got C right was just an accident. The mistake I made did not change the conclusion. This is what Gettier tries to demonstrate and what you’re discussing, just through a more convoluted and less justified setup. The thrust of the matter is that we can have justified true belief that we derive from false premises.

So is my belief that Socrates is mortal knowledge, and more importantly, why does it matter? Philosophers are troubled by the idea that I can “know” Socrates is mortal when in fact I sort of kind of really don’t. Although my belief that Socrates is mortal is both true and justified, I really only came by it by accident. This is actually easily solved. In fact, it solves itself if we treat this as a semantics problem. If knowledge simply is "justified true belief," then the beliefs generated in Gettier cases are simply knowledge. End of case, QED. The objection to that cannot be based on a semantic issue with the word knowledge, because justified true belief is justified true belief, no matter how you got there. The objection, therefore, a pragmatic one: philosophers don’t want accidental knowledge to be knowledge, so the fact that their definition of knowledge allows that is something that annoys them. Or, if you like, it creates a problem when they want to distinguish knowledge reached non-accidentally from knowledge reached accidentally. But that's not much of a problem again. All you need to do is clarify your definition of knowledge and just say that you mean "justified true belief not arrived at accidentally." This simply brackets away all Gettier cases. Since you get to "justified true belief" only by accident in those cases. modifying your definition of knowledge eliminates all Gettier cases. So my knowledge that Socrates the fish is mortal isn’t really knowledge. I’m not aware of that fact, and I’ll go on believing that I know something that I don’t, but that’s true of all beliefs I get there with unknowingly false premises, whether they're ultimately true or not.

What Gettier problems really show is that since justification does not guarantee truth, it is possible for there to be a break in the connection between justification and truth, but for that connection to be regained by chance. For further reading on the topic, I'd like to refer you to Linda Zagzebski's article in The Philosophical Quarterly, "The Inescapability of Gettier Problems."
« Last Edit: November 30, 2019, 01:41:51 PM by Regina Minx »

Offline Remiel

Re: P4E - Philosophy for Everyone
« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2019, 10:56:52 AM »
One of the things I often argue with my brother about is: is there such a thing as an objective experience?

As we all know from Schrödinger, the act of observing often changes, albeit in small, subtle ways, the thing being observed.  And the act of observation requires an observer who, by nature of being a non-infinite, non-omniscient being, is biased in perspective, space, and time.  Therefore, one could reasonably make the argument that all that we know, all that we have learned and observed about the physical universe, are subjective data: i.e. data that is filtered through the consciousness of an observer.

Can we have an experience, that is objective, that is completely independent of the perspective of the observer?  I argue that no, we cannot.  Therefore, how can we trust anything that we know, given the fact that everything is a subjective experience?

Or, to put it another, more familiar way: if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it really make a sound?

Offline Regina Minx

Re: P4E - Philosophy for Everyone
« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2019, 11:15:20 AM »
One of the things I often argue with my brother about is: is there such a thing as an objective experience?

Well. No. Everything we experience, everything that is or might be true we get only through our own subjective experience. But I think a distinction that needs to be made is what’s true about that experience (THE FACT THAT I see a certain shape; THE FACT THAT I feel a certain way; THE FACT THAT I think a certain thing), and what we can infer is true about the world from that experience (am I seeing an apple; does my fear indicate that I'm in danger; is what I'm thinking true?)

When people make the subjective/objective distinction they're making a distinction between opinions, thoughts, and feelings, things which are subjectively true for one person but not for another person, and things that can be independently verified and confirmed. But that distinction breaks down, at least in theory, because my thoughts and feelings and opinions can be independently observed by some future brain-imaging technology. Feelings and thouhts and opinoins are a physical part of the world in they arise from the state of our brains.

Offline Vekseid

Re: P4E - Philosophy for Everyone
« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2019, 09:03:24 AM »
Stellaris seems to be a rather common fandom here of late.

I don't believe equating knowledge with truth is useful. A person's knowledge is their model of reality. Reality is a rather large, complicated, evolving place, and your model continually updates no matter how solipsistic your viewpoint. Encoded in this model are degrees of certainty and importance. I believe my room has seventeen pairs of socks, I'm not terribly certain and I don't consider it terribly important. Emptying my dressers to try to find that potentially missing pair doesn't feel like a good use of my time.

A belief, as distinguished from a conclusion or rote acceptance of data, is a tool to shape your personal model, both in terms of how you perceive it, and how you apply pressure to your reality. Beliefs are resilient to changes in model because they do so much to shape it. Veganism for example dictates a large part of what a practitioner considers an acceptable diet, and deciding to abandon veganism means abandoning something they have chosen to take a moral stand on - the belief that no animal creature should be enslaved, or whatever other basis.

An opinion in this context is going to be a judgment that your model isn't really invested in. My preference for Stellaris over Endless Space is an opinion. I believe it is because I tell my own story in the former, versus exploring one of Amplitude's stories in the latter. My preference for telling my own stories rather than exploring someone else's in another opinion - I don't have a belief that it's superior, or anything.








Offline Dichotomy

Re: P4E - Philosophy for Everyone
« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2019, 05:06:58 AM »
I don't think there's an objective experience. But there is objective data that can be gained by an experience.

Example: Dichotomy is in the lab and runs a qPCR. The experience of running the experiment is NOT objective. The data measured by the qPCR machine is. My feelings about the results of the qPCR are NOT objective. The way I interpret the data is NOT objective. The data itself... IS objective.

That means, if I write a thesis about the result of said qPCR there's the subjective "Introduction", the objective "Methods and Materials" part of the paper, the objective "Results" part of the paper and the subjective "Interpretation" of the data.

And those subjective parts are what makes a paper/thesis interesting in the end. "I measured that Her3-receptors are upregulated in samples that were treated with siRNA to knock down Her2-receptor expression." is the fact. The interpretation: "We are of the opinion that the cell does this to counterregulate the suppressed Her2-receptor expression, and we believe that by doing a double knock-down of Her2 and Her3 receptors in breast cancer cells would improve therapeutic results in breast cancer considerably." is what gets us going. The subjective interpretation leads to new experiments that need to be done and hopefully in the end to a more succesful breast cancer treatment.

The knowledge again leads to an opinion and based on this opinion we formulate a new belief, that can be verified or falsified and be turned into more knowledge.




Offline Remiel

Re: P4E - Philosophy for Everyone
« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2019, 12:17:23 PM »
I don't disagree with anything you said, Dichotomy, and in fact I agree.  But simply because I'm contrarian by nature, I'm going to play Devil's Advocate:

At first blush, it might seem that there are some facts that exist objectively; that is, they exist independent of the observer.  After all, to quote Philip K. Dick: "Reality that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."  But any student of psychology will tell you that every human being is susceptible to Confirmation Bias, or the tendency to overvalue data that confirms what you already believe to be true while undervaluing any data that calls it into question.  Even scientists are susceptible to this bias, which is why peer review and independent replication of experiments is so important.

But even then we have to be careful on what we define as "data".  For example, you might say: there is a table in this room.  This is an objective fact.

But then we might disagree upon, exactly, what might constitute a "table."  Some people might insist it has to be rectangular to qualify as a table, while others would expand that definition to include circular tables.  Some people might debate on whether a table is truly a table at all if it has more or less than four legs.  And so on.

So you could say, "Fine.  There is a wooden object, about three feet in height, with a flat horizontal surface and four legs in this room."  And most people would then agree.

But what if one of the people in the room was blind?  What if they were unable to see the table?  They'd have to rely on the word of the people who could see it.

You could then take the blind person over to the table, and guide their hand to its surface.  They could explore the table by touch, brush their fingers across its flat surface, get a feel for its dimensions.  But how would they know some sort of prankster didn't swap out the table for another object while they were moving around it? How could they be sure of anything at all?

And even if you can see, there are people who make their living by taking advantage of the way we process the information given to us by our eyes and use it to make assumptions.  They are called... magicians.

But I suppose that is where Bayesian probability applies (thank you, Regina Minx!).   You'd have to trust that, say with 95% probability, you are in fact looking at a table in the room and not some kind of optical illusion.



Edit: Confirmation Bias.  Not Basis.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2019, 02:03:02 PM by Remiel »

Offline Regina Minx

Re: P4E - Philosophy for Everyone
« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2019, 12:41:47 PM »
The only thing that we can have absolute certainty about with no probability of error is immediate uninterrupted experience. Whatever you are thinking, feeling, or experiencing you cannot be "wrong" about. But as such, there's never a truth about anything outside your mind, and thus never a truth about anything in the world apart from what you are feeling or thinking or experiencing or saying. That we can call Cartesian knowledge of the cogito ergo sum. Whenever you say "I am experiencing x" you can never be wrong about. As long as x is just a plain statement of experience and not an inference about what's causing it or what it really means.

To put it in concrete terms, "I am experiencing holding a coffee cup in my hand right now" I cannot be wrong as long as I'm relaying my honest sensory experience. What's causing me to experience having a coffee cup in my hand is where I can make a mistake. The fact that I actually am holding a coffee cup is one explanation, but so is the possibility that I'm dreaming, hallucinating, or that I'm a brain in a vat being fed simulation data about having a coffee cup in my hand would all be sufficient to explain my sense of having a coffee cup in my hand.

To respond on what Remiel said (hi friend!), "But then we might disagree upon, exactly, what might constitute a 'table.'" To me, this is getting us onto the problem of "is a taco a sandwich," and then analyzing the physical properties of what people mean when they say sandwiches and pointing out how tacos fit every aspect of that definition. To me, that misses the point. Wittgenstein and others pointed out that when we speak, we're not using words because of specific truth values lining up with what we observe about the world. Speech acts are no different than any other kind of acts; we use them to bring about a certain behavior in others. For example, asking someone to put something on a table, I'm not picking out facts about the world, but using words with the expectation that it will cause certain behavior in others. Learning what is and what isn't a table is, therefore, more like learning the rules of a game than making declarations about what exists in the world. To me, what is or isn't a table depends only on success or failure of the word 'table' in a social context, regardless of its physical properties.

Offline Hawkwood

Re: P4E - Philosophy for Everyone
« Reply #15 on: December 05, 2019, 06:14:41 PM »
I think that I disagree with Regina.

The only thing that we can have absolute certainty about with no probability of error is maths.

Considering the underlying neurobiology of sensation I'm very sceptical about any absolutes regarding sensation. The way the brain works is to basically lie to us - again and again.

What is touch? Well, there are 4 (I think) kinds of touch-receptors in your finger that detect the cup; stretch, gross touch, moderate vibration, and low vibration. They trigger different impulses down a 3rd order neuron in your body, to a 2nd order neuron in your spinal cord, to a 1st order neuron, and then on to the somatosensory cortex. I don't remember what happens to it after that, but I remember it's very complicated. You can only experience "holding a coffee cup" if you have a lot of prior experience of holding things in general, as well as experience of cups and mugs and other drinking vessels, and also coffee.

What you are actually experiencing is a combination of proprioception (knowing where your hand is in relation to your body), and touch (holding something).

There's rather large variety in normal healthy human populations in tactile acuity, as well as variation caused by age and disease.

Consider, for example, what happens if I were to inject a local anaesthetic into your hand - you could see that you were holding the cup, but you wouldn't be able to feel it. Which of those sensations is true? Do you stop holding the cup when you close your eyes? And then, once I had numbed your arm replaced your field of vision with a TV screen that appeared to show you holding a cup. And so on. You are used to your sight and other sensation matching up.

In the fight between fMRI and a philosopher, I will always side with the magnets. Any statement you make based on sensation is so caveated to be meaningless. It's like saying x+y=5, no matter what x and y are. I don't think it gives us any useful answer to say "I am experiencing a sensation" when the sensation is the trick your brain is playing on your mind to handle the torrent of sensory data that you're exposed to.

This discussion, actually, has made me wish for the first time that I did more neuropsychology and less biochemistry / genetics.

Here's the wiki on the Neural Correlates of Consciousness
« Last Edit: December 05, 2019, 06:21:20 PM by Hawkwood »