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Skepticism

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  • dkkimbel
    I (Daniel Kimbel) am writing this post at Paul s suggestion as an expansion of the following statement I made in an email exchange: I was also philosophically
    Message 1 of 5 , Mar 6, 2012
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      I (Daniel Kimbel) am writing this post at Paul's suggestion as an expansion of the following statement I made in an email exchange:

      "I was also philosophically paralyzed by radical skepticism (which I still have no solution for, but to dismiss it as impractical), and had what I would describe as an autoimmune issue with reason. In my present thinking, I view reason as the mind's immune system. While the body's immune system identifies and degrades or in some way neutralizes antigens, the mind can use reason to identify and purge irrational thoughts or beliefs. Like the human immune system, reason malfunctions when it targets itself. When I looked for a rational foundation for logic, I found logic to be something that could only be accepted because it apparently "works." That wasn't good enough for me. In a world that might or might not exist and might or might not be as it appears, something that "seems to work" was not something I could feel confident in. I concluded that reason could not stand up to itself, and that it was therefore self-contradictory. Again, these are not problems that I have truly solved (I know of no solutions, and do not believe that there can be any), but I'm trying to actually enjoy my life, and that requires a philosophy that takes the world I perceive at "face value," as something absolute and real."

      I'll begin this post by elaborating on skepticism. Skepticism is, in essence, doubt – it is doubt that any given claim is true. This doubt can be seemingly impossible to address. Given that doubt in a claim might be countered by the justification for that claim, we can go straight to the heart of the matter of skepticism by investigating Agrippa's trilemma. The trilemma lists the three ways in which a claim might be justified. First, a claim might be "justified" by infinite regress. That is, a first claim might be justified by a second claim, which is justified by a third, and so on, ad infinitum. The second item of the trilemma is circularity. A claim might be "justified" in some loop, such that a first claim was justified by a second, which was justified by the first. Finally, the third piece of the trilemma is the "self-justifying" claim. This would be a claim that is itself foundational – a claim that is perhaps self-evident, or somehow does not require outside justification.
      In light of the trilemma, how might we truly (with absolute rigor) justify any claim? From the perspective of logic, circularity is fallacious. Infinite regress is also problematic, as it leaves us with no apparent foundation for our claims. And yet, how could a claim be self-justifying? What sort of claim could possibly justify itself? It seems that there is, in fact, no way to justify a claim – at least, not in an ideal sense. That is to say, a claim cannot be known to be true with absolute certainty.
      How do we generally justify the claims that we make? I might claim that I ate a tomato yesterday, for instance. I would likely justify this claim using my own memory. But what justifies my memory? Unless we claim that my memories are "self-justifying" (and surely memories are not reliable enough to truly justify themselves), we will be at a loss – there is no way for me to be absolutely certain that I ate that tomato yesterday. In this way, skepticism can challenge any and every claim that we might make about ourselves and about the world.
      To go a bit further into skepticism, consider a thought experiment that is well known in epistemology: the "brain in a vat" scenario. To present it simply: how do I know that I am not, in fact, a brain in a vat? How do I know that all of my experiences are not simply being simulated in a laboratory somewhere – that everything I perceive is not reality, but rather some dream-like illusion? I cannot be certain. Likewise, I cannot be certain that I am not in fact dreaming right now, or being deceived by some strange supernatural beings, and so on.

      To take this discussion away from specific claims and back to philosophies themselves: any particular philosophy is founded on some set of axioms. Axioms must simply be taken as foundations with no outside support; they are the self-justifying claims of the trilemma. In essence, they must be accepted on faith alone. Given that we define an "ideal philosophy" as a philosophy that can be known to be sound with absolute certainty, it appears that no philosophy is "ideal," and no philosophy can be ideal. No philosophy could be known to be sound with absolute certainty because the premises on which that philosophy rests must in essence be accepted without proof – or, at least, without perfect proof.
      What, then, is left? When we cannot be certain of our axioms – or even, for that matter, of reality – what sort of philosophy might we build? Necessarily, it would be a "practical philosophy": a philosophy built for the purpose of helping its practitioner navigate the world effectively. Such a philosophy will not be able to demonstrate claims with absolute certainty; it will not provide us with reasons to be completely certain that reality exists, or that the use of evidence is absolutely ideal as a standard for judging the validity of claims. In such a philosophy we will do without this level of certainty, and accept what appears to be the only option that the universe gives us: beliefs that are not justified to the most rigorous conceivable standards, but that are "good enough." (Note: it was Max who first exposed me to the idea that I might let go of trying to find a rigorous truth with philosophy, and simply base my philosophy on what is practical.)

      As an aside that will show more of the differences between practical and ideal philosophies: I suspect that a person must choose between the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of truth. Given that the pursuit of truth is sufficiently rigorous, I propose that a person will be unable to find happiness, because he/she will be unable to overcome the doubt posed by radical skepticism. Practical philosophies are for the pursuit of happiness, while "ideal philosophies" are for the pursuit of truth. I do not believe that an ideal philosophy is possible: that is, I do not believe that a person can derive some absolute rules that state how people ought to live, or even derive absolute, certain rules about the universe. I believe that we all need to settle for accepting the world as it appears to be. Very importantly, I should note that while a practical philosophy is fundamentally about the pursuit of happiness, that pursuit may be made by what is very much like the pursuit of truth. If we define "truth" not as some unobtainable and certain ideal, but rather as the "reality" that our senses perceive, then the best practical philosophies would pursue happiness by pursuing truth. And, indeed, it is quite "practical" to define truth in this way.

      I introduced skepticism earlier using Agrippa's trilemma. However, it bears mentioning that the trilemma may take entirely the wrong approach to knowledge. It is possible that we should not be concerned with "justification" at all. (Quick note: philosophers in the past commonly defined knowledge as a "true justified belief," and a similar but different definition is likely used by numerous epistemologists today.)
Consider Karl Popper's "critical rationalism" – his philosophy that reason is not for justifying claims at all, but rather for falsifying them. Agrippa's trilemma would be irrelevant to a philosophy built around critical rationalism – or, at least, the trilemma would be irrelevant to that philosophy's statements regarding knowledge. This philosophy might still run into issues with skepticism in so far as it is based on premises.
      Another important point to note is that we might do best not to be concerned with "certainty" or the "absolute." It may even arguably be irrational to doubt reality; if nothing that our senses perceive gives us reason to doubt that reality is as it appears to be, then we are essentially "making things up" when we claim that reality may not exist. This is a similar point to the one made by G.E. Moore in his "Here is a hand" argument (there is a Wikipedia article on this called "Here is a hand"), which is the most powerful objection to skepticism that I am aware of. In fact, Moore's argument may deal with skepticism entirely, and I'd encourage anyone else interested in the topic to investigate it.
      To sum all of this up, skepticism is doubt; it appears to prevent any philosophy from being a genuinely "ideal" philosophy. However, depending on the way that one thinks about the world – if, for instance, one is not concerned with absolute justifications, but rather with a critical approach to knowledge and the world – skepticism may not bear on a person's thinking, at least not in a practical sense.
    • Paul Wakfer
      ... It is important to carefully differentiate define between irrational and illogical. Illogical thoughts are those which are either self-contradictory or
      Message 2 of 5 , May 12, 2012
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        On 03/06/2012 03:30 PM, dkkimbel wrote:
        > I (Daniel Kimbel) am writing this post at Paul's suggestion
        > as an expansion of the following statement I made in an email exchange:
        >
        > "I was also philosophically paralyzed by radical skepticism (which
        > I still have no solution for, but to dismiss it as impractical), and
        > had what I would describe as an autoimmune issue with reason. In my
        > present thinking, I view reason as the mind's immune system. While
        > the body's immune system identifies and degrades or in some way
        > neutralizes antigens, the mind can use reason to identify and purge
        > irrational thoughts or beliefs.

        It is important to carefully differentiate define between irrational and
        illogical. Illogical thoughts are those which are either
        self-contradictory or inconsistent with something which is objectively
        true (as some logical implication). Irrational thoughts and actions are
        those which do not optimally increase one's Lifetime Happiness. All
        illogical thoughts are irrational, but there are also irrational
        thoughts which are not necessarily illogical but will still not lead to
        maximization of Lifetime Happiness, although this may not be apparent
        for many years.

        > Like the human immune system, reason malfunctions when it targets itself.

        I do not see any logic in this aspect of your metaphor (which is a
        general problem of trying to use metaphors). As opposed to immune system
        elements which can attempt to eliminate self-proteins and thereby cause
        harmful unnecessary inflammatory effects, if reason and its tool, logic,
        are applied soundly then they cannot have any negative effects.

        > When I looked for a rational foundation for logic, I found logic to
        > be something that could only be accepted because it apparently "works."

        Ultimately, this "working", which is effectively an isomorphic modeling
        of an extracted finite part of reality, is the only foundation that can
        be had for any set of postulates. In fact, to even ask for a rational
        foundation for logic is faulty thinking, since logic is prior to any
        notions of rationality or reason.

        > That wasn't good enough for me.

        Then you are being irrational, because that is all the foundational
        validation that you are going to get.

        [When I read Daniel's statement, it occurred to me that he is seeking
        the assurance/comfort of a supernatural being - a perfection. This is
        what "believers" want. **Kitty]

        > In a world that might or might not exist and might or might not be
        > as it appears,

        This is more nonsense. Reality exists or we would not be having this
        discussion. Reality is and remains relatively constant as it appears to
        us or we would not be able to describe it to one another in a manner
        which achieves any communication or understanding. Whether or not human
        see the "true" reality is a pointless question. The reality that humans
        detect with their senses is just as true for them as the reality that
        any other lifeform detects with its senses - there is nothing more to be
        had or said. Yes, it is true that we can directly only detect (sense)
        those things which our limited human senses enable us to, but with
        advancing technology humans are able to detect and analyze more and more
        of reality. And again the fact that when two different scientists
        examine these parts of reality, which are not directly detectable by
        human senses, and independently arrive at the same examination results
        does prove that there is a solidly existing underlying reality which is
        relatively constant in its properties and operational interactions. And
        note that this extension of detection to aspects of reality that human
        senses cannot directly detect neither falsifies nor alters the previous
        human sensory views of reality. (And the existence of quantum phenomena
        does not negate this observation since human senses cannot normally
        directly detect them.)

        > something that "seems to work" was not something I could feel confident in.

        Logic does not just "seem to work". It's validity of operation is
        implicit in the structure of reality and is verified with every
        interaction with reality that occurs.

        > I concluded that reason could not stand up to itself, and that it
        > was therefore self-contradictory.

        Your conclusions were illogical and therefore irrational.

        > Again, these are not problems that I have truly solved (I know of
        > no solutions, and do not believe that there can be any),

        I have described the only reasonable "solution". But OTOH, it is not a
        solution because there is no actual problem needing to be solved.

        [I would say that the "problem" has existed in the way that Daniel -
        and many others - has thought about reality. **Kitty]

        > but I'm trying to actually enjoy my life, and that requires a
        > philosophy that takes the world I perceive at "face value," as
        > something absolute and real."

        There is simply no other way to take it. What other meanings could you
        possibly give to "absolute" and "real", which would be consistent with
        your own being.

        > I'll begin this post by elaborating on skepticism. Skepticism is,
        > in essence, doubt – it is doubt that any given claim is true.

        But prior to any "doubt" must be a basis for even having doubt. So you
        cannot even start with absolutely no basis - without some confidence or
        lack of doubt in something.

        > This doubt can be seemingly impossible to address. Given that doubt
        > in a claim might be countered by the justification for that claim,
        > we can go straight to the heart of the matter of skepticism by
        > investigating Agrippa's trilemma. The trilemma lists the three ways
        > in which a claim might be justified.

        Note that this argument itself assumes the validity of the claims that
        differentiation and logical progression through cases are valid modes of
        reasoning - and further assumes the validity of whatever logical
        reasoning is used to analyze each of the three ways. As I said it is
        impossible to think or act without some basic assumptions.

        > First, a claim might be "justified" by infinite regress. That is, a
        > first claim might be justified by a second claim, which is justified
        > by a third, and so on, ad infinitum.

        There is no such logical thing as an infinite regress, since all things
        in reality, certainly including human minds, are strictly finite. Rather
        what can be done is to regress to certain fundamental and generally
        independent assumptions, which are then regarded as axioms.

        > The second item of the trilemma is circularity. A claim might be
        > "justified" in some loop, such that a first claim was justified by
        > a second, which was justified by the first.

        This kind of argument is essentially tautological - true purely by
        virtue of the meanings of component terms.

        > Finally, the third piece of the trilemma is the "self-justifying" claim.
        > This would be a claim that is itself foundational – a claim that is
        > perhaps self-evident, or somehow does not require outside justification.

        The most solid form of such a "self-justifying claim" is one that must
        be true for the claimant to be able to make it - such as "I exist".

        > In light of the trilemma, how might we truly (with absolute rigor)
        > justify any claim? From the perspective of logic, circularity is fallacious.

        Circular logic is not fallacious, but mostly rather useless. It is only
        not useless when the circle of conclusions is rather large and its
        members take interesting and important forms which are not immediately
        obvious conclusions from the prior ones.

        > Infinite regress is also problematic, as it leaves us with no
        > apparent foundation for our claims.

        You are arguing in such generalities, that you are effectively saying
        nothing having meaning or value. You need to produce some examples of
        these types of claims. Remember that meaning and value of information
        can only be found in the details of a real example. Generalities are
        meaningless unless and until real examples of them (in clear exact
        correspondence) are produced.

        > And yet, how could a claim be self-justifying? What sort of claim
        > could possibly justify itself? It seems that there is, in fact, no
        > way to justify a claim – at least, not in an ideal sense.

        Anyone who thinks this to be true, necessarily has a meaningless idea of
        "ideal sense".

        > That is to say, a claim cannot be known to be true with absolute certainty.

        Absolute certainty is only meaningful to the individual possessing it
        and for that individual some absolute claims can be fully valid because
        their refutation would be self-contradictory. "I exist" is such an
        absolute claim for me.

        > How do we generally justify the claims that we make? I might claim
        > that I ate a tomato yesterday, for instance. I would likely justify
        > this claim using my own memory. But what justifies my memory? Unless
        > we claim that my memories are "self-justifying" (and surely memories
        > are not reliable enough to truly justify themselves), we will be at
        > a loss – there is no way for me to be absolutely certain that I ate
        > that tomato yesterday. In this way, skepticism can challenge any and
        > every claim that we might make about ourselves and about the world.

        While your statement about the tomato is correct - because all
        statements about events in reality can only be valid with a certain
        level of confidence, this does not imply that all statements are
        probabilistic. Statements logically derived from axioms in meta-reality
        are absolutely true, since their falsity would lead to a contradiction.

        > To go a bit further into skepticism, consider a thought experiment
        > that is well known in epistemology: the "brain in a vat" scenario.
        > To present it simply: how do I know that I am not, in fact, a brain
        > in a vat? How do I know that all of my experiences are not simply
        > being simulated in a laboratory somewhere – that everything I perceive
        > is not reality, but rather some dream-like illusion? I cannot be certain.
        > Likewise, I cannot be certain that I am not in fact dreaming right
        > now, or being deceived by some strange supernatural beings, and so on.

        While the above is not logically invalid, my view is that the unbounded
        complexity of one's experience of reality with respect to every
        attribute of that reality precludes its likelihood and Occam's razor
        removes it from reasonable consideration.

        > To take this discussion away from specific claims and back to
        > philosophies themselves: any particular philosophy is founded on
        > some set of axioms. Axioms must simply be taken as foundations with
        > no outside support; they are the self-justifying claims of the trilemma.

        No. This is an incorrect view of axioms. In their most relevant form,
        axioms model reality. Evidence from reality is what supports them. This
        is only not true historically for certain areas of mathematics, but the
        most interesting result is that in almost every case, the originally
        composed axiom system was later found to accurately model some
        aspect of reality. In fact, I would go so far to propose the conjecture
        that it is impossible to design any logically self-consistent axiomatic
        system which is not isomorphic to some system in reality. This would
        suggest that reality is unboundedly complex.

        > In essence, they must be accepted on faith alone. Given that we define
        > an "ideal philosophy" as a philosophy that can be known to be sound
        > with absolute certainty, it appears that no philosophy is "ideal,"
        > and no philosophy can be ideal. No philosophy could be known to be
        > sound with absolute certainty because the premises on which that
        > philosophy rests must in essence be accepted without proof – or, at
        > least, without perfect proof.

        Once again you are using meaningless notions of "ideal" and "perfect".
        You need to define these in a meaningful manner before you attempt to
        use them. In addition, you continue to use "we", when it should be clear
        that all such questions can only be decided by the individual for hirself.

        > What, then, is left? When we cannot be certain of our axioms – or
        > even, for that matter, of reality – what sort of philosophy might
        > we build? Necessarily, it would be a "practical philosophy": a
        > philosophy built for the purpose of helping its practitioner navigate
        > the world effectively.

        But that is the only reasonable purpose of any philosophy that actually
        relates to reality.

        > Such a philosophy will not be able to demonstrate claims with
        > absolute certainty; it will not provide us with reasons to be
        > completely certain that reality exists, or that the use of evidence
        > is absolutely ideal as a standard for judging the validity of claims.
        > In such a philosophy we will do without this level of certainty, and
        > accept what appears to be the only option that the universe gives us:
        > beliefs that are not justified to the most rigorous conceivable
        > standards, but that are "good enough." (Note: it was Max who first
        > exposed me to the idea that I might let go of trying to find a
        > rigorous truth with philosophy, and simply base my philosophy on
        > what is practical.)

        My only new comments here relate to "beliefs", which would better be
        replaced with "convictions", and to your idea of "rigor" which you have
        never defined and is therefore as out of place as your continued use of
        "ideal", "absolute" and "perfect".

        [I have the mental image of many philosophy professors taking some
        perverted pleasure in creating intellectual contortions for their
        students resulting in mental confusion described as skepticism and/or
        cynicism. All the easier then to "guide" them towards some "leader"
        for further usage. Or is it for some depraved humor? I do not see the
        results of teaching true critical thinking. **Kitty]

        > As an aside that will show more of the differences between practical
        > and ideal philosophies:

        You need to learn that there can be no dichotomy between the truly
        practical and the ideal - the only reasonable meaning for either is that
        the methods and ideas described will promote and enable actions which
        optimize human lifetime happiness - anything that is not ideal in that
        sense can also not be practical and vice-versa.

        > I suspect that a person must choose between the pursuit of happiness
        > and the pursuit of truth.

        Absolutely not! In fact, while one can not be certain of optimizing hir
        lifetime happiness by always pursuing truth, for sure if one does not
        pursue truth (one accepts falsity), then one surely will not optimize
        one's lifetime happiness.

        > Given that the pursuit of truth is sufficiently rigorous, I propose
        > that a person will be unable to find happiness, because he/she will
        > be unable to overcome the doubt posed by radical skepticism.

        Your statement is meaningless unless and until you define precisely what
        you mean by "rigorous". Using my definition of "rigorous" (essentially
        an extended scientific method approach to reality), the first part of
        your statement is false for me. And "radical skepticism" being
        essentially meaningless and therefore invalid, has no bearing on my
        reasoning.

        > Practical philosophies are for the pursuit of happiness, while
        "ideal
        > philosophies" are for the pursuit of truth. I do not believe that an
        > ideal philosophy is possible: that is, I do not believe that a person
        > can derive some absolute rules that state how people ought to live,

        This is incorrect. Such a derivation can be done just like any other
        theory of reality that is derived from observed evidence and then
        validated with as much confidence as possible against reality. But as
        stated in the essay on Social Meta-Needs, there is no absolute "ought to
        live" but only a conditional "ought to live if one wishes to optimize
        one's lifetime Happiness".

        > or even derive absolute, certain rules about the universe.

        You need to get it out of your head that there ought to be or even can
        be *any* certain, absolute rules about direct reality - all statements
        about reality can only be held as true with a certain confidence non-100%
        level.

        > I believe that we all need to settle for accepting the world as it
        > appears to be. Very importantly, I should note that while a practical
        > philosophy is fundamentally about the pursuit of happiness, that
        > pursuit may be made by what is very much like the pursuit of truth.
        > If we define "truth" not as some unobtainable and certain ideal,
        > but rather as the "reality" that our senses perceive, then the best
        > practical philosophies would pursue happiness by pursuing truth.
        > And, indeed, it is quite "practical" to define truth in this way.

        You are on the right track but your definition of practical truth is far
        too simplistic to be effectively practical with respect to optimizing
        one's lifetime Happiness.

        > I introduced skepticism earlier using Agrippa's trilemma. However,
        > it bears mentioning that the trilemma may take entirely the wrong
        > approach to knowledge. It is possible that we should not be concerned
        > with "justification" at all. (Quick note: philosophers in the past
        > commonly defined knowledge as a "true justified belief," and a similar
        > but different definition is likely used by numerous epistemologists
        > today.) Consider Karl Popper's "critical rationalism" – his
        > philosophy that reason is not for justifying claims at all, but
        > rather for falsifying them. Agrippa's trilemma would be irrelevant
        > to a philosophy built around critical rationalism – or, at least, the
        > trilemma would be irrelevant to that philosophy's statements regarding
        > knowledge. This philosophy might still run into issues with skepticism
        > in so far as it is based on premises.
        >
        > Another important point to note is that we might do best not to be
        > concerned with "certainty" or the "absolute." It may even arguably
        > be irrational to doubt reality; if nothing that our senses perceive
        > gives us reason to doubt that reality is as it appears to be, then
        > we are essentially "making things up" when we claim that reality
        > may not exist.

        Again you are being too simplistic with phrases such as "reality as it
        appears to be". First this is entirely individualistic to start and
        second, for the appearance to be validated it must be concurrently and
        communicatedly perceived and described in a common manner - otherwise
        the reality perceived by a schizophrenic is just as valid as that
        perceived by anyone else.

        > This is a similar point to the one made by G.E. Moore in his "Here
        > is a hand" argument (there is a Wikipedia article on this called
        > "Here is a hand"), which is the most powerful objection to skepticism
        > that I am aware of. In fact, Moore's argument may deal with skepticism
        > entirely, and I'd encourage anyone else interested in the topic to
        > investigate it.
        >
        > To sum all of this up, skepticism is doubt; it appears to prevent
        > any philosophy from being a genuinely "ideal" philosophy. However,
        > depending on the way that one thinks about the world – if, for
        > instance, one is not concerned with absolute justifications, but
        > rather with a critical approach to knowledge and the world – skepticism
        > may not bear on a person's thinking, at least not in a practical sense.

        In the end you said it right - while skepticism is in general a
        beneficial approach to reality, what is called "radical skepticism" is
        essentially meaningless and pointlessly nihilistic.

        --Paul
      • Daniel Kimbel
        ... This is an interesting distinction. I understand it, but I m having a hard time thinking of examples of thoughts that are logical but irrational. It would
        Message 3 of 5 , May 22, 2012
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          On Sat, May 12, 2012 at 7:17 PM, Paul Wakfer <paul@...> wrote:

          > On 03/06/2012 03:30 PM, dkkimbel wrote:
          > > I (Daniel Kimbel) am writing this post at Paul's suggestion
          > > as an expansion of the following statement I made in an email exchange:
          > >
          > > "I was also philosophically paralyzed by radical skepticism (which
          > > I still have no solution for, but to dismiss it as impractical), and
          > > had what I would describe as an autoimmune issue with reason. In my
          > > present thinking, I view reason as the mind's immune system. While
          > > the body's immune system identifies and degrades or in some way
          > > neutralizes antigens, the mind can use reason to identify and purge
          > > irrational thoughts or beliefs.
          >
          > It is important to carefully differentiate define between irrational and
          > illogical. Illogical thoughts are those which are either
          > self-contradictory or inconsistent with something which is objectively
          > true (as some logical implication). Irrational thoughts and actions are
          > those which do not optimally increase one's Lifetime Happiness. All
          > illogical thoughts are irrational, but there are also irrational
          > thoughts which are not necessarily illogical but will still not lead to
          > maximization of Lifetime Happiness, although this may not be apparent
          > for many years.


          This is an interesting distinction. I understand it, but I'm having a hard
          time thinking of examples of thoughts that are logical but irrational. It
          would be helpful if you could provide one. Perhaps negative thoughts about
          the past are an example? At times such thoughts may give a person
          motivation and thus be conducive to the maximization of one's lifetime
          happiness, but if a person is simply brooding about some past failure,
          his/her thoughts about that failure will not be illogical, but will reduce
          his/her total lifetime happiness and therefore be irrational. An example
          would be the thought: "I would be happier if I had learned more in the
          biology class I took seven years ago." There's something useful there --
          the conviction that learning more science can bring about an increase in
          happiness -- but the particular thought reduces the thinker's total
          lifetime happiness.

          Or perhaps you mean that a certain decision can be made logically, but that
          the outcome may in fact reduce the thinker's total lifetime happiness, on
          account of the fact that the thinker was operating with incomplete
          information (as thinkers essentially always are). For example, I might buy
          stock in a company after studying it carefully and determining that it was
          a sound investment, only to later have that investment fall in value for
          reasons that I could not reasonably have known about beforehand. My
          decision to invest was not illogical, but it turned out to be irrational
          (given that rationality is defined by the thought's consequences for the
          thinker's total lifetime happiness -- the definitions of "rational" that I
          usually encounter would consider the decision to invest to have been
          rational, since it was consistent with the available information).


          > > Like the human immune system, reason malfunctions when it targets itself.
          >
          > I do not see any logic in this aspect of your metaphor (which is a
          > general problem of trying to use metaphors). As opposed to immune system
          > elements which can attempt to eliminate self-proteins and thereby cause
          > harmful unnecessary inflammatory effects, if reason and its tool, logic,
          > are applied soundly then they cannot have any negative effects.


          What I was discussing was probably not a "sound" application of reason. I
          was claiming that, when a person uses reason to attack reason, the result
          is that reason appears to contradict itself. That was all ultimately built
          on an impossible requirement that any given proposition would need to be
          "justified" with certainty, which you address below.


          > > When I looked for a rational foundation for logic, I found logic to
          > > be something that could only be accepted because it apparently "works."
          >
          > Ultimately, this "working", which is effectively an isomorphic modeling
          > of an extracted finite part of reality, is the only foundation that can
          > be had for any set of postulates. In fact, to even ask for a rational
          > foundation for logic is faulty thinking, since logic is prior to any
          > notions of rationality or reason.


          I am going to need to think on this more deeply. But yes, I don't see any
          other foundation that could be used.


          > > That wasn't good enough for me.
          >
          > Then you are being irrational, because that is all the foundational
          > validation that you are going to get.


          Yes, I see that.


          > [When I read Daniel's statement, it occurred to me that he is seeking
          > the assurance/comfort of a supernatural being - a perfection. This is
          > what "believers" want. **Kitty]


          I do not agree with this. I am/was seeking some form of perfection, which a
          person could try to argue would necessarily have to be "supernatural"
          (though I don't think that argument would work), but it had nothing to do
          with beings.


          > > In a world that might or might not exist and might or might not be
          > > as it appears,
          >
          > This is more nonsense. Reality exists or we would not be having this
          > discussion.


          The skeptical response would be that I don't know that you exist, or that
          anything external to my mind exists; I only know that I have perceptions
          that could be those things. It takes a leap of faith to posit that those
          perceptions do, in fact, correspond to an external reality. That leap is
          appearing to be necessary for my happiness and survival (though of course,
          there's no real way to test the latter).


          > Reality is and remains relatively constant as it appears to
          > us or we would not be able to describe it to one another in a manner
          > which achieves any communication or understanding. Whether or not human
          > see the "true" reality is a pointless question.


          When you say "pointless" here, do you mean that the question has no
          practical applications? I would agree with that, with the exception being
          that, if a person thought he or she was in some way being deceived and was
          not experiencing the "true" reality, that person could then seek evidence
          within his/her perceived reality that might support or refute their claim.
          Of course, given that no evidence was apparent, that would very quickly
          become a waste of time.


          > The reality that humans
          > detect with their senses is just as true for them as the reality that
          > any other lifeform detects with its senses - there is nothing more to be
          > had or said. Yes, it is true that we can directly only detect (sense)
          > those things which our limited human senses enable us to, but with
          > advancing technology humans are able to detect and analyze more and more
          > of reality. And again the fact that when two different scientists
          > examine these parts of reality, which are not directly detectable by
          > human senses, and independently arrive at the same examination results
          > does prove that there is a solidly existing underlying reality which is
          > relatively constant in its properties and operational interactions.


          If you're using "prove" in the sense that "X proves Y" means approximately
          "X gives a logical, careful thinker the conviction that Y is highly likely
          to be true," then I agree. If "prove" is supposed to mean something certain
          in an absolute sense, which overcomes the "leap of faith" I mentioned
          earlier, then I do not agree.


          > And
          > note that this extension of detection to aspects of reality that human
          > senses cannot directly detect neither falsifies nor alters the previous
          > human sensory views of reality. (And the existence of quantum phenomena
          > does not negate this observation since human senses cannot normally
          > directly detect them.)
          >
          > > something that "seems to work" was not something I could feel confident
          > in.
          >
          > Logic does not just "seem to work". It's validity of operation is
          > implicit in the structure of reality and is verified with every
          > interaction with reality that occurs.


          I've only ever seen logic verify the structure of reality. When you say
          that logic's validity of operation is implicit in the structure of reality,
          do you mean that the world operates by some particular set of physical laws
          that are consistent with logic? That does appear to be true.


          > > I concluded that reason could not stand up to itself, and that it
          > > was therefore self-contradictory.
          >
          > Your conclusions were illogical and therefore irrational.


          I don't see any problems with what you're saying, but I will need to think
          about it more.


          > > Again, these are not problems that I have truly solved (I know of
          > > no solutions, and do not believe that there can be any),
          >
          > I have described the only reasonable "solution". But OTOH, it is not a
          > solution because there is no actual problem needing to be solved.
          >
          > [I would say that the "problem" has existed in the way that Daniel -
          > and many others - has thought about reality. **Kitty]


          I'm starting to see this point better. Thinking about reality as something
          to be doubted, which requires some form of justification to be believed in,
          may outright be an illogical way to view it.


          > > but I'm trying to actually enjoy my life, and that requires a
          > > philosophy that takes the world I perceive at "face value," as
          > > something absolute and real."
          >
          > There is simply no other way to take it. What other meanings could you
          > possibly give to "absolute" and "real", which would be consistent with
          > your own being.


          It's true that the "absoluteness" I was seeking does not exist anywhere in
          reality. It is still a concept in my mind, though. That actually leads to a
          somewhat interesting question -- how it is that humans can form concepts
          that are not consistent with reality. People certainly do this (e.g. the
          concept of a god).


          > > I'll begin this post by elaborating on skepticism. Skepticism is,
          > > in essence, doubt � it is doubt that any given claim is true.
          >
          > But prior to any "doubt" must be a basis for even having doubt. So you
          > cannot even start with absolutely no basis - without some confidence or
          > lack of doubt in something.


          I spent some time thinking about that a while ago: whether doubt requires a
          basis. I didn't reach any satisfactory conclusion. It's clear that radical
          skepticism posits that doubt does not require a basis, but that is 1)
          highly impractical and 2) arguably illogical, per the idea you mentioned --
          how can we have doubt without confidence? Yet, I do think that it is
          logical to have at least an extremely small measure of doubt in virtually
          everything. So while a thinker may demand a low level of doubt in some
          claim to provide the standard that a high level of doubt can be measured
          against, I see no standard absolutely devoid of doubt that can be used.


          > > This doubt can be seemingly impossible to address. Given that doubt
          > > in a claim might be countered by the justification for that claim,
          > > we can go straight to the heart of the matter of skepticism by
          > > investigating Agrippa's trilemma. The trilemma lists the three ways
          > > in which a claim might be justified.
          >
          > Note that this argument itself assumes the validity of the claims that
          > differentiation and logical progression through cases are valid modes of
          > reasoning - and further assumes the validity of whatever logical
          > reasoning is used to analyze each of the three ways. As I said it is
          > impossible to think or act without some basic assumptions.


          Yes, I've recognized this in the past, too -- even as a skeptic doubts
          things, that skeptic is using reason to do it. Still, I think a skeptic can
          do that validly: if reason could be used soundly to demonstrate that reason
          doesn't work, that would make reason self-contradictory, and that would be
          worth talking about. So the skeptic isn't admitting defeat by using reason
          -- the skeptic is simply trying to demonstrate that reason can lead to
          absurd conclusions. Of course, whether or not that actually works is
          another matter; it is seeming to me that it does not.


          > > First, a claim might be "justified" by infinite regress. That is, a
          > > first claim might be justified by a second claim, which is justified
          > > by a third, and so on, ad infinitum.
          >
          > There is no such logical thing as an infinite regress, since all things
          > in reality, certainly including human minds, are strictly finite. Rather
          > what can be done is to regress to certain fundamental and generally
          > independent assumptions, which are then regarded as axioms.
          >
          > > The second item of the trilemma is circularity. A claim might be
          > > "justified" in some loop, such that a first claim was justified by
          > > a second, which was justified by the first.
          >
          > This kind of argument is essentially tautological - true purely by
          > virtue of the meanings of component terms.


          I don't understand what you mean here, about the "circularity" portion of
          the argument being tautological.


          > > Finally, the third piece of the trilemma is the "self-justifying" claim.
          > > This would be a claim that is itself foundational � a claim that is
          > > perhaps self-evident, or somehow does not require outside justification.
          >
          > The most solid form of such a "self-justifying claim" is one that must
          > be true for the claimant to be able to make it - such as "I exist".
          >
          > > In light of the trilemma, how might we truly (with absolute rigor)
          > > justify any claim? From the perspective of logic, circularity is
          > fallacious.
          >
          > Circular logic is not fallacious, but mostly rather useless. It is only
          > not useless when the circle of conclusions is rather large and its
          > members take interesting and important forms which are not immediately
          > obvious conclusions from the prior ones.


          This is interesting, and something I hadn't thought about before. Is this
          essentially "coherence" that you're talking about? For instance, there
          might be some seven claims, and no one of them would stand alone, but taken
          together as a group they all make sense?


          > > Infinite regress is also problematic, as it leaves us with no
          > > apparent foundation for our claims.
          >
          > You are arguing in such generalities, that you are effectively saying
          > nothing having meaning or value. You need to produce some examples of
          > these types of claims. Remember that meaning and value of information
          > can only be found in the details of a real example. Generalities are
          > meaningless unless and until real examples of them (in clear exact
          > correspondence) are produced.


          I'll need to think some more about this, including about the definition of
          "meaning."


          > > And yet, how could a claim be self-justifying? What sort of claim
          > > could possibly justify itself? It seems that there is, in fact, no
          > > way to justify a claim � at least, not in an ideal sense.
          >
          > Anyone who thinks this to be true, necessarily has a meaningless idea of
          > "ideal sense".


          Yes, this is like the earlier concept of absoluteness that doesn't exist in
          reality.


          > > That is to say, a claim cannot be known to be true with absolute
          > certainty.
          >
          > Absolute certainty is only meaningful to the individual possessing it
          > and for that individual some absolute claims can be fully valid because
          > their refutation would be self-contradictory. "I exist" is such an
          > absolute claim for me.


          This is more food for thought; I haven't thought of these things in an
          individual context before. I think about statements as being absolute or
          not absolute objectively, not simply within the mind of a single
          individual. My immediate concern is that, without verification from others,
          an individual may illogically consider some claim(s) to be absolute.


          > > How do we generally justify the claims that we make? I might claim
          > > that I ate a tomato yesterday, for instance. I would likely justify
          > > this claim using my own memory. But what justifies my memory? Unless
          > > we claim that my memories are "self-justifying" (and surely memories
          > > are not reliable enough to truly justify themselves), we will be at
          > > a loss � there is no way for me to be absolutely certain that I ate
          > > that tomato yesterday. In this way, skepticism can challenge any and
          > > every claim that we might make about ourselves and about the world.
          >
          > While your statement about the tomato is correct - because all
          > statements about events in reality can only be valid with a certain
          > level of confidence, this does not imply that all statements are
          > probabilistic. Statements logically derived from axioms in meta-reality
          > are absolutely true, since their falsity would lead to a contradiction.


          This is interesting, but I don't fully understand it. Do you mean that some
          statements about reality (which are valid with less than complete
          confidence) are absolutely true, or are you saying that some statements are
          absolutely true, but none of those are statements specifically about events
          in reality? If it's the former, that wouldn't make sense to me. Perhaps in
          that case you mean that those things really are true in reality, but we
          can't be fully certain of that fact ourselves; that wouldn't seem to be
          consistent, though.


          > > To go a bit further into skepticism, consider a thought experiment
          > > that is well known in epistemology: the "brain in a vat" scenario.
          > > To present it simply: how do I know that I am not, in fact, a brain
          > > in a vat? How do I know that all of my experiences are not simply
          > > being simulated in a laboratory somewhere � that everything I perceive
          > > is not reality, but rather some dream-like illusion? I cannot be certain.
          > > Likewise, I cannot be certain that I am not in fact dreaming right
          > > now, or being deceived by some strange supernatural beings, and so on.
          >
          > While the above is not logically invalid, my view is that the unbounded
          > complexity of one's experience of reality with respect to every
          > attribute of that reality precludes its likelihood and Occam's razor
          > removes it from reasonable consideration.


          I've actually had my doubts about Occam's razor. Is it something that you
          consider to be highly practical and convenient? It is very practical, but
          seems to be -- I don't know the best word -- unphilosophical? As best I can
          tell, it amounts to ignoring claims or arguments. I suppose that is
          necessary sometimes when one is seeking to maximize one's total lifetime
          happiness, though.


          > > To take this discussion away from specific claims and back to
          > > philosophies themselves: any particular philosophy is founded on
          > > some set of axioms. Axioms must simply be taken as foundations with
          > > no outside support; they are the self-justifying claims of the trilemma.
          >
          > No. This is an incorrect view of axioms. In their most relevant form,
          > axioms model reality. Evidence from reality is what supports them. This
          > is only not true historically for certain areas of mathematics, but the
          > most interesting result is that in almost every case, the originally
          > composed axiom system was later found to accurately model some
          > aspect of reality. In fact, I would go so far to propose the conjecture
          > that it is impossible to design any logically self-consistent axiomatic
          > system which is not isomorphic to some system in reality. This would
          > suggest that reality is unboundedly complex.


          I don't fully understand this yet, either, but the idea that axioms model
          reality is interesting. Something else I'll have to think about more.


          > > In essence, they must be accepted on faith alone. Given that we define
          > > an "ideal philosophy" as a philosophy that can be known to be sound
          > > with absolute certainty, it appears that no philosophy is "ideal,"
          > > and no philosophy can be ideal. No philosophy could be known to be
          > > sound with absolute certainty because the premises on which that
          > > philosophy rests must in essence be accepted without proof � or, at
          > > least, without perfect proof.
          >
          > Once again you are using meaningless notions of "ideal" and "perfect".
          > You need to define these in a meaningful manner before you attempt to
          > use them. In addition, you continue to use "we", when it should be clear
          > that all such questions can only be decided by the individual for hirself.


          If "meaningful" involves consistency with reality, then indeed, there isn't
          a meaningful definition to use here. And yes, I agree that my use of "we"
          was imprecise.


          > > What, then, is left? When we cannot be certain of our axioms � or
          > > even, for that matter, of reality � what sort of philosophy might
          > > we build? Necessarily, it would be a "practical philosophy": a
          > > philosophy built for the purpose of helping its practitioner navigate
          > > the world effectively.
          >
          > But that is the only reasonable purpose of any philosophy that actually
          > relates to reality.
          >
          > > Such a philosophy will not be able to demonstrate claims with
          > > absolute certainty; it will not provide us with reasons to be
          > > completely certain that reality exists, or that the use of evidence
          > > is absolutely ideal as a standard for judging the validity of claims.
          > > In such a philosophy we will do without this level of certainty, and
          > > accept what appears to be the only option that the universe gives us:
          > > beliefs that are not justified to the most rigorous conceivable
          > > standards, but that are "good enough." (Note: it was Max who first
          > > exposed me to the idea that I might let go of trying to find a
          > > rigorous truth with philosophy, and simply base my philosophy on
          > > what is practical.)
          >
          > My only new comments here relate to "beliefs", which would better be
          > replaced with "convictions", and to your idea of "rigor" which you have
          > never defined and is therefore as out of place as your continued use of
          > "ideal", "absolute" and "perfect".
          >
          > [I have the mental image of many philosophy professors taking some
          > perverted pleasure in creating intellectual contortions for their
          > students resulting in mental confusion described as skepticism and/or
          > cynicism. All the easier then to "guide" them towards some "leader"
          > for further usage. Or is it for some depraved humor? I do not see the
          > results of teaching true critical thinking. **Kitty]


          I don't think that many philosophy professors have bad intentions; I think
          they either agree with these skeptical arguments or, more likely, consider
          them to have some merit and to be intellectually stimulating.


          > > As an aside that will show more of the differences between practical
          > > and ideal philosophies:
          >
          > You need to learn that there can be no dichotomy between the truly
          > practical and the ideal - the only reasonable meaning for either is that
          > the methods and ideas described will promote and enable actions which
          > optimize human lifetime happiness - anything that is not ideal in that
          > sense can also not be practical and vice-versa.


          This is another interesting idea.


          > > I suspect that a person must choose between the pursuit of happiness
          > > and the pursuit of truth.
          >
          > Absolutely not! In fact, while one can not be certain of optimizing hir
          > lifetime happiness by always pursuing truth, for sure if one does not
          > pursue truth (one accepts falsity), then one surely will not optimize
          > one's lifetime happiness.


          I see your point here.

          > > Given that the pursuit of truth is sufficiently rigorous, I propose
          > > that a person will be unable to find happiness, because he/she will
          > > be unable to overcome the doubt posed by radical skepticism.
          >
          > Your statement is meaningless unless and until you define precisely what
          > you mean by "rigorous". Using my definition of "rigorous" (essentially
          > an extended scientific method approach to reality), the first part of
          > your statement is false for me. And "radical skepticism" being
          > essentially meaningless and therefore invalid, has no bearing on my
          > reasoning.


          The definition of "rigorous" in the above instance would be like "ideal,"
          "absolute," and "perfect" before -- it would refer to something not present
          or possible in reality.

          > > Practical philosophies are for the pursuit of happiness, while "ideal
          > > philosophies" are for the pursuit of truth. I do not believe that an
          > > ideal philosophy is possible: that is, I do not believe that a person
          > > can derive some absolute rules that state how people ought to live,
          >
          > This is incorrect. Such a derivation can be done just like any other
          > theory of reality that is derived from observed evidence and then
          > validated with as much confidence as possible against reality. But as
          > stated in the essay on Social Meta-Needs, there is no absolute "ought to
          > live" but only a conditional "ought to live if one wishes to optimize
          > one's lifetime Happiness".
          >
          > > or even derive absolute, certain rules about the universe.
          >
          > You need to get it out of your head that there ought to be or even can
          > be *any* certain, absolute rules about direct reality - all statements
          > about reality can only be held as true with a certain confidence non-100%
          > level.


          Yes, I do need to become accustomed to, and satisfied with, this idea.

          > > I believe that we all need to settle for accepting the world as it
          > > appears to be. Very importantly, I should note that while a practical
          > > philosophy is fundamentally about the pursuit of happiness, that
          > > pursuit may be made by what is very much like the pursuit of truth.
          > > If we define "truth" not as some unobtainable and certain ideal,
          > > but rather as the "reality" that our senses perceive, then the best
          > > practical philosophies would pursue happiness by pursuing truth.
          > > And, indeed, it is quite "practical" to define truth in this way.
          >
          > You are on the right track but your definition of practical truth is far
          > too simplistic to be effectively practical with respect to optimizing
          > one's lifetime Happiness.
          >
          > > I introduced skepticism earlier using Agrippa's trilemma. However,
          > > it bears mentioning that the trilemma may take entirely the wrong
          > > approach to knowledge. It is possible that we should not be concerned
          > > with "justification" at all. (Quick note: philosophers in the past
          > > commonly defined knowledge as a "true justified belief," and a similar
          > > but different definition is likely used by numerous epistemologists
          > > today.) Consider Karl Popper's "critical rationalism" � his
          > > philosophy that reason is not for justifying claims at all, but
          > > rather for falsifying them. Agrippa's trilemma would be irrelevant
          > > to a philosophy built around critical rationalism � or, at least, the
          > > trilemma would be irrelevant to that philosophy's statements regarding
          > > knowledge. This philosophy might still run into issues with skepticism
          > > in so far as it is based on premises.
          > >
          > > Another important point to note is that we might do best not to be
          > > concerned with "certainty" or the "absolute." It may even arguably
          > > be irrational to doubt reality; if nothing that our senses perceive
          > > gives us reason to doubt that reality is as it appears to be, then
          > > we are essentially "making things up" when we claim that reality
          > > may not exist.
          >
          > Again you are being too simplistic with phrases such as "reality as it
          > appears to be". First this is entirely individualistic to start and
          > second, for the appearance to be validated it must be concurrently and
          > communicatedly perceived and described in a common manner - otherwise
          > the reality perceived by a schizophrenic is just as valid as that
          > perceived by anyone else.
          >
          > > This is a similar point to the one made by G.E. Moore in his "Here
          > > is a hand" argument (there is a Wikipedia article on this called
          > > "Here is a hand"), which is the most powerful objection to skepticism
          > > that I am aware of. In fact, Moore's argument may deal with skepticism
          > > entirely, and I'd encourage anyone else interested in the topic to
          > > investigate it.
          > >
          > > To sum all of this up, skepticism is doubt; it appears to prevent
          > > any philosophy from being a genuinely "ideal" philosophy. However,
          > > depending on the way that one thinks about the world � if, for
          > > instance, one is not concerned with absolute justifications, but
          > > rather with a critical approach to knowledge and the world � skepticism
          > > may not bear on a person's thinking, at least not in a practical sense.
          >
          > In the end you said it right - while skepticism is in general a
          > beneficial approach to reality, what is called "radical skepticism" is
          > essentially meaningless and pointlessly nihilistic.

          I think that, in all, I'm understanding your points better, but I'll need
          to do more reading and thinking to grasp them more completely. There's
          clearly some depth to them that I don't understand yet, and they're more
          nuanced than I'd realized.

          Daniel
        • Paul Wakfer
          ... Yes, brooding about the past is certainly one example. But more generally think of what being logical implies - simply the use of logical processes to
          Message 4 of 5 , May 27, 2012
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            On 05/22/2012 08:24 PM, Daniel Kimbel wrote:
            > On Sat, May 12, 2012 at 7:17 PM, Paul Wakfer<paul@...> wrote:
            >
            >> On 03/06/2012 03:30 PM, dkkimbel wrote:
            >>> I (Daniel Kimbel) am writing this post at Paul's suggestion
            >>> as an expansion of the following statement I made in an email exchange:
            >>>
            >>> "I was also philosophically paralyzed by radical skepticism (which
            >>> I still have no solution for, but to dismiss it as impractical), and
            >>> had what I would describe as an autoimmune issue with reason. In my
            >>> present thinking, I view reason as the mind's immune system. While
            >>> the body's immune system identifies and degrades or in some way
            >>> neutralizes antigens, the mind can use reason to identify and purge
            >>> irrational thoughts or beliefs.
            >>
            >> It is important to carefully differentiate between irrational and
            >> illogical. Illogical thoughts are those which are either
            >> self-contradictory or inconsistent with something which is objectively
            >> true (as some logical implication). Irrational thoughts and actions are
            >> those which do not optimally increase one's Lifetime Happiness. All
            >> illogical thoughts are irrational, but there are also irrational
            >> thoughts which are not necessarily illogical but will still not lead to
            >> maximization of Lifetime Happiness, although this may not be apparent
            >> for many years.
            >
            > This is an interesting distinction. I understand it, but I'm having a hard
            > time thinking of examples of thoughts that are logical but irrational. It
            > would be helpful if you could provide one. Perhaps negative thoughts about
            > the past are an example? At times such thoughts may give a person
            > motivation and thus be conducive to the maximization of one's lifetime
            > happiness, but if a person is simply brooding about some past failure,
            > his/her thoughts about that failure will not be illogical, but will reduce
            > his/her total lifetime happiness and therefore be irrational. An example
            > would be the thought: "I would be happier if I had learned more in the
            > biology class I took seven years ago." There's something useful there --
            > the conviction that learning more science can bring about an increase in
            > happiness -- but the particular thought reduces the thinker's total
            > lifetime happiness.

            Yes, brooding about the past is certainly one example. But more
            generally think of what being logical implies - simply the use of
            logical processes to analyze the data in one's possession. It does not
            say anything about the validity of that data, its completeness or its
            value relative to increasing one's Lifetime Happiness. Those are all
            part of being rational - remember that rational thought is merely a short
            from way of describing thought that examines as many aspects of a
            situation as possible (both wide and long range) during a time which is
            judged reasonable relative to the importance of the situation, for the
            purpose of optimally increasing one's Lifetime Happiness. Logical
            processing is merely a tool or set of tools used during any such process
            of analysis.

            > Or perhaps you mean that a certain decision can be made logically, but that
            > the outcome may in fact reduce the thinker's total lifetime happiness, on
            > account of the fact that the thinker was operating with incomplete
            > information (as thinkers essentially always are). For example, I might buy
            > stock in a company after studying it carefully and determining that it was
            > a sound investment, only to later have that investment fall in value for
            > reasons that I could not reasonably have known about beforehand. My
            > decision to invest was not illogical, but it turned out to be irrational
            > (given that rationality is defined by the thought's consequences for the
            > thinker's total lifetime happiness -- the definitions of "rational" that I
            > usually encounter would consider the decision to invest to have been
            > rational, since it was consistent with the available information).

            If you carefully read the NSC annotations about this you will see that
            the investment example you give above would not be considered to be
            irrational because of your assumption "I could not reasonably have known
            about beforehand", but rather a simple mistake or error. If you could
            have known beforehand about the reason for the ultimate investment
            failure and you simply ignored it or even did not examine the known
            information sufficiently, then that would be irrational - but not
            illogical if you correctly applied logic to all that you did examine.

            >>> Like the human immune system, reason malfunctions when it targets itself.
            >>
            >> I do not see any logic in this aspect of your metaphor (which is a
            >> general problem of trying to use metaphors). As opposed to immune system
            >> elements which can attempt to eliminate self-proteins and thereby cause
            >> harmful unnecessary inflammatory effects, if reason and its tool, logic,
            >> are applied soundly then they cannot have any negative effects.
            >
            > What I was discussing was probably not a "sound" application of reason. I
            > was claiming that, when a person uses reason to attack reason, the result
            > is that reason appears to contradict itself. That was all ultimately built
            > on an impossible requirement that any given proposition would need to be
            > "justified" with certainty, which you address below.

            I don't think any additional comment is needed here.

            >>> When I looked for a rational foundation for logic, I found logic to
            >>> be something that could only be accepted because it apparently "works."
            >>
            >> Ultimately, this "working", which is effectively an isomorphic modeling
            >> of an extracted finite part of reality, is the only foundation that can
            >> be had for any set of postulates. In fact, to even ask for a rational
            >> foundation for logic is faulty thinking, since logic is prior to any
            >> notions of rationality or reason.
            >
            > I am going to need to think on this more deeply. But yes, I don't see any
            > other foundation that could be used.

            Good, and I welcome additional comments during your thinking.
            But better to a new thread, since this one is now getting nested very
            deeply.

            >>> That wasn't good enough for me.
            >>
            >> Then you are being irrational, because that is all the foundational
            >> validation that you are going to get.
            >
            > Yes, I see that.

            Good! I am pleased about your apparent philosophical growth here.

            >> [When I read Daniel's statement, it occurred to me that he is seeking
            >> the assurance/comfort of a supernatural being - a perfection. This is
            >> what "believers" want. **Kitty]
            >
            > I do not agree with this. I am/was seeking some form of perfection, which a
            > person could try to argue would necessarily have to be "supernatural"
            > (though I don't think that argument would work), but it had nothing to do
            > with beings.

            I still think Kitty's point is valid (although perhaps it should not
            have referred to any "being") since any seeking of perfection is most
            definitely seeking for something apart from and outside of reality. If
            that is not a being, then it is still something supernatural (yet still
            existing?) which will provide one with a kind of comfortable assurance.
            It is desired by those who do not have sufficient self-esteem to face
            reality as it really is, with all its uncertainties and need for
            constant examination and chance taking.

            >>> In a world that might or might not exist and might or might not be
            >>> as it appears,
            >>
            >> This is more nonsense. Reality exists or we would not be having this
            >> discussion.
            >
            > The skeptical response would be that I don't know that you exist, or that
            > anything external to my mind exists; I only know that I have perceptions
            > that could be those things. It takes a leap of faith to posit that those
            > perceptions do, in fact, correspond to an external reality. That leap is
            > appearing to be necessary for my happiness and survival (though of course,
            > there's no real way to test the latter).

            Yes, you do not *know* that anything external to your mind exists (and
            neither do I), but that is simply because a person does not *know*
            anything about reality, but rather only has convictions about its
            validity with a certain probability level of such conviction.

            But also it does not take "a leap of faith" to be highly convinced that
            there is an existing external reality. Postulating such an external
            reality is simply the Ocham's razor approach - it is the simplest and
            most useful model to describe your mental perceptions.
            Remember that in the end all things can only be justified by practical
            considerations - even though there are many principles and theoretical
            considerations behind the most important practices. And remember that
            being rationally practical is not the same as being pragmatic (which is
            essentially irrational).

            >> Reality is and remains relatively constant as it appears to
            >> us or we would not be able to describe it to one another in a manner
            >> which achieves any communication or understanding. Whether or not human
            >> see the "true" reality is a pointless question.
            >
            > When you say "pointless" here, do you mean that the question has no
            > practical applications?

            Yes. Contemplating something more to reality (the "true" reality), which
            is not in any manner detectable by humans, is a total waste of time.

            > I would agree with that, with the exception being
            > that, if a person thought he or she was in some way being deceived and was
            > not experiencing the "true" reality, that person could then seek evidence
            > within his/her perceived reality that might support or refute their claim.

            Quite so, and this has in fact been an important part of the development
            of physics. Quantum processes were only recently able to be sufficiently
            detected that their effects clearly became part of the true reality.
            There were some examples of such effects in earlier epochs but it was
            not understood then how those observations fitted with the rest of reality.

            > Of course, given that no evidence was apparent, that would very quickly
            > become a waste of time.

            But one does need to be very careful here, to not throw out evidence
            (sensory experiences and observations) just because they do not seem to
            fit the current conception and description of reality.

            >> The reality that humans
            >> detect with their senses is just as true for them as the reality that
            >> any other lifeform detects with its senses - there is nothing more to be
            >> had or said. Yes, it is true that we can directly only detect (sense)
            >> those things which our limited human senses enable us to, but with
            >> advancing technology humans are able to detect and analyze more and more
            >> of reality. And again the fact that when two different scientists
            >> examine these parts of reality, which are not directly detectable by
            >> human senses, and independently arrive at the same examination results
            >> does prove that there is a solidly existing underlying reality which is
            >> relatively constant in its properties and operational interactions.
            >
            > If you're using "prove" in the sense that "X proves Y" means approximately
            > "X gives a logical, careful thinker the conviction that Y is highly likely
            > to be true," then I agree. If "prove" is supposed to mean something certain
            > in an absolute sense, which overcomes the "leap of faith" I mentioned
            > earlier, then I do not agree.

            You are right. I essentially goofed by letting the word "prove" slip in
            here (a word which would be better not used at all within the sciences -
            but only with the realm of mathematics and logic). My sentence above
            should more correctly have been written:

            "And again the fact that two different scientists examine these parts of
            reality, which are not directly detectable by human senses, and
            independently arrive at the same examination results does provide strong
            evidence for being convinced that there is a solidly existing underlying
            reality which is relatively constant in its properties and operational
            interactions."

            >> And
            >> note that this extension of detection to aspects of reality that human
            >> senses cannot directly detect neither falsifies nor alters the previous
            >> human sensory views of reality. (And the existence of quantum phenomena
            >> does not negate this observation since human senses cannot normally
            >> directly detect them.)
            >>
            >>> something that "seems to work" was not something I could feel confident in
            >>
            >> Logic does not just "seem to work". It's validity of operation is
            >> implicit in the structure of reality and is verified with every
            >> interaction with reality that occurs.
            >
            > I've only ever seen logic verify the structure of reality. When you say
            > that logic's validity of operation is implicit in the structure of reality,
            > do you mean that the world operates by some particular set of physical laws
            > that are consistent with logic? That does appear to be true.

            Yes. Reality appears to operate according to the rules of logic. It
            seems to be impossible to consistently think of any other manner of
            operation.

            >>> I concluded that reason could not stand up to itself, and that it
            >>> was therefore self-contradictory.
            >>
            >> Your conclusions were illogical and therefore irrational.
            >
            > I don't see any problems with what you're saying, but I will need to think
            > about it more.

            I will be here for any additional thoughts you have about it.

            >>> Again, these are not problems that I have truly solved (I know of
            >>> no solutions, and do not believe that there can be any),
            >>
            >> I have described the only reasonable "solution". But OTOH, it is not a
            >> solution because there is no actual problem needing to be solved.
            >>
            >> [I would say that the "problem" has existed in the way that Daniel -
            >> and many others - has thought about reality. **Kitty]
            >
            > I'm starting to see this point better. Thinking about reality as something
            > to be doubted, which requires some form of justification to be believed in,
            > may outright be an illogical way to view it.

            That is true because the existence of reality must logically be prior to
            any thinking at all.
            One has no grounds at all to doubt the existence of the foundation of
            doubting itself.

            >>> but I'm trying to actually enjoy my life, and that requires a
            >>> philosophy that takes the world I perceive at "face value," as
            >>> something absolute and real."
            >>
            >> There is simply no other way to take it. What other meanings could you
            >> possibly give to "absolute" and "real", which would be consistent with
            >> your own being.
            >
            > It's true that the "absoluteness" I was seeking does not exist anywhere in
            > reality.

            Which means that such a concept is meaningless.

            > It is still a concept in my mind, though.

            But it is highly negative (with respect to logical, practical thinking)
            for a mind to attempt to hold on to a meaningless (non-existent) concept.

            > That actually leads to a
            > somewhat interesting question -- how it is that humans can form concepts
            > that are not consistent with reality. People certainly do this (e.g. the
            > concept of a god).

            That is certainly a good question. I think it is related to the extreme
            complexity of the human brain and the evolutionary advantage of forming
            concepts as generally/widely as possible (with green light thinking),
            and only afterwards deciding whether or not they are meaningful and useful.
            Reality is so complex that a mind which was programmed to stop such
            concept formation would almost certainly miss many important and useful
            concepts. This is related to some people having so little imagination or
            ability to think outside of rigid guidelines, that they are not very
            creative and cannot initiate many new ideas.

            >>> I'll begin this post by elaborating on skepticism. Skepticism is,
            >>> in essence, doubt -- it is doubt that any given claim is true.
            >>
            >> But prior to any "doubt" must be a basis for even having doubt. So you
            >> cannot even start with absolutely no basis - without some confidence or
            >> lack of doubt in something.
            >
            > I spent some time thinking about that a while ago: whether doubt requires a
            > basis. I didn't reach any satisfactory conclusion.

            Note that I responded to this earlier.

            > It's clear that radical
            > skepticism posits that doubt does not require a basis, but that is 1)
            > highly impractical and 2) arguably illogical, per the idea you mentioned --
            > how can we have doubt without confidence?

            Yes, you have to at least have some confidence in your doubt :)

            > Yet, I do think that it is
            > logical to have at least an extremely small measure of doubt in virtually
            > everything.

            I don't disagree with this - at least about everything in reality (as opposed to meta-reality).

            > So while a thinker may demand a low level of doubt in some
            > claim to provide the standard that a high level of doubt can be measured
            > against, I see no standard absolutely devoid of doubt that can be used.

            Again I agree. Logically, one would have a kind of hierarchy of
            confidences and doubts.
            But one cannot practically go around doubting everything all the time.
            Rather one must have a very high degree of confidence (essentially
            near-term temporary total acceptance) about most of one's environmental
            reality in order to actually get anything done.

            >>> This doubt can be seemingly impossible to address. Given that doubt
            >>> in a claim might be countered by the justification for that claim,
            >>> we can go straight to the heart of the matter of skepticism by
            >>> investigating Agrippa's trilemma. The trilemma lists the three ways
            >>> in which a claim might be justified.
            >>
            >> Note that this argument itself assumes the validity of the claims that
            >> differentiation and logical progression through cases are valid modes of
            >> reasoning - and further assumes the validity of whatever logical
            >> reasoning is used to analyze each of the three ways. As I said it is
            >> impossible to think or act without some basic assumptions.
            >
            > Yes, I've recognized this in the past, too -- even as a skeptic doubts
            > things, that skeptic is using reason to do it. Still, I think a skeptic can
            > do that validly: if reason could be used soundly to demonstrate that reason
            > doesn't work, that would make reason self-contradictory, and that would be
            > worth talking about.

            Not really. If one thinks one has shown that reason is
            self-contradictory, then how does one know that the reasoning which
            showed that is valid? I think what you are attempting to contemplate is
            a logically impossible process.

            > So the skeptic isn't admitting defeat by using reason
            > -- the skeptic is simply trying to demonstrate that reason can lead to
            > absurd conclusions.

            But then how does the skeptic know that the demonstration itself is not
            absurd?

            > Of course, whether or not that actually works is
            > another matter; it is seeming to me that it does not.

            I would be much stronger and say that it *cannot* work!

            >>> First, a claim might be "justified" by infinite regress. That is, a
            >>> first claim might be justified by a second claim, which is justified
            >>> by a third, and so on, ad infinitum.
            >>
            >> There is no such logical thing as an infinite regress, since all things
            >> in reality, certainly including human minds, are strictly finite. Rather
            >> what can be done is to regress to certain fundamental and generally
            >> independent assumptions, which are then regarded as axioms.
            >>
            >>> The second item of the trilemma is circularity. A claim might be
            >>> "justified" in some loop, such that a first claim was justified by
            >>> a second, which was justified by the first.
            >>
            >> This kind of argument is essentially tautological - true purely by
            >> virtue of the meanings of component terms.
            >
            > I don't understand what you mean here, about the "circularity" portion of
            > the argument being tautological.

            Read the three meanings of "tautology" at:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tautology and elsewhere.
            If you still do not see my point then come back to me.
            Admittedly, I am using a rather extended meaning of tautology, but even
            a formal axiomatic system is nothing but a complex tautology in a
            fundamental way - the propositions of the system are true by virtue of
            their logical form and definition alone.

            >>> Finally, the third piece of the trilemma is the "self-justifying" claim.
            >>> This would be a claim that is itself foundational -- a claim that is
            >>> perhaps self-evident, or somehow does not require outside justification.
            >>
            >> The most solid form of such a "self-justifying claim" is one that must
            >> be true for the claimant to be able to make it - such as "I exist".
            >>
            >>> In light of the trilemma, how might we truly (with absolute rigor)
            >>> justify any claim? From the perspective of logic, circularity is fallacious
            >>
            >> Circular logic is not fallacious, but mostly rather useless. It is only
            >> not useless when the circle of conclusions is rather large and its
            >> members take interesting and important forms which are not immediately
            >> obvious conclusions from the prior ones.
            >
            > This is interesting, and something I hadn't thought about before. Is this
            > essentially "coherence" that you're talking about?

            It could be called coherence, but the more strictly logical term is simply consistency.

            > For instance, there
            > might be some seven claims, and no one of them would stand alone, but taken
            > together as a group they all make sense?

            That sounds like a reasonable example, but I would need to have it
            actually concrete (write down any seven such claims for me) both to see
            if such can actually exist and to see if it satisfies your description.

            What I was talking about is the greater complexity of an axiomatic
            system, where there are smaller and larger circles of propositions,
            intersecting each other (if you make a diagram of the inference
            structure - all of the logical implications - of the system).

            >>> Infinite regress is also problematic, as it leaves us with no
            >>> apparent foundation for our claims.
            >>
            >> You are arguing in such generalities, that you are effectively saying
            >> nothing having meaning or value. You need to produce some examples of
            >> these types of claims. Remember that meaning and value of information
            >> can only be found in the details of a real example. Generalities are
            >> meaningless unless and until real examples of them (in clear exact
            >> correspondence) are produced.
            >
            > I'll need to think some more about this, including about the definition of
            > "meaning."

            Do so and get back to me. Remember that no meaning (or value) can be
            found for anything outside of its relationship to reality.

            >>> And yet, how could a claim be self-justifying? What sort of claim
            >>> could possibly justify itself? It seems that there is, in fact, no
            >>> way to justify a claim -- at least, not in an ideal sense.
            >>
            >> Anyone who thinks this to be true, necessarily has a meaningless idea of
            >> "ideal sense".
            >
            > Yes, this is like the earlier concept of absoluteness that doesn't exist in
            > reality.

            Good! Now you are getting the idea.

            >>> That is to say, a claim cannot be known to be true with absolute
            >>> certainty.
            >>
            >> Absolute certainty is only meaningful to the individual possessing it
            >> and for that individual some absolute claims can be fully valid because
            >> their refutation would be self-contradictory. "I exist" is such an
            >> absolute claim for me.
            >
            > This is more food for thought; I haven't thought of these things in an
            > individual context before. I think about statements as being absolute or
            > not absolute objectively, not simply within the mind of a single
            > individual.

            Ah, but this is kind of objective thinking is a major mistake, since all
            that can be said and all that is *real* relates to the perceptions and
            thoughts of each individual hirself. It is only the clear and precise
            agreement of each individual about hir perceptions with each other
            individual, to the extent and depth that such communication is possible,
            that will effectively objectify any statement.
            Here is analogy for you. Think of each individual as a kind of
            probabilistic quantum state regarding some statement about reality
            (think measurement of some attribute of reality). The communication of
            those probabilistic quantum states effectively causes them to collapse
            to an objective definite value (become objectified).

            > My immediate concern is that, without verification from others,
            > an individual may illogically consider some claim(s) to be absolute.

            That much is very true, but it is not any argument for some kind of
            absolute objectivity outside and independent of individual perceptions.

            >>> How do we generally justify the claims that we make? I might claim
            >>> that I ate a tomato yesterday, for instance. I would likely justify
            >>> this claim using my own memory. But what justifies my memory? Unless
            >>> we claim that my memories are "self-justifying" (and surely memories
            >>> are not reliable enough to truly justify themselves), we will be at
            >>> a loss -- there is no way for me to be absolutely certain that I ate
            >>> that tomato yesterday. In this way, skepticism can challenge any and
            >>> every claim that we might make about ourselves and about the world.
            >>
            >> While your statement about the tomato is correct - because all
            >> statements about events in reality can only be valid with a certain
            >> level of confidence, this does not imply that all statements are
            >> probabilistic. Statements logically derived from axioms in meta-reality
            >> are absolutely true, since their falsity would lead to a contradiction.
            >
            > This is interesting, but I don't fully understand it. Do you mean that some
            > statements about reality (which are valid with less than complete
            > confidence) are absolutely true, or are you saying that some statements are
            > absolutely true, but none of those are statements specifically about events
            > in reality? If it's the former, that wouldn't make sense to me. Perhaps in
            > that case you mean that those things really are true in reality, but we
            > can't be fully certain of that fact ourselves; that wouldn't seem to be
            > consistent, though.

            I meant the latter - only statements about meta-reality can be
            absolutely true.
            In fact, there is even a stronger statement that holds. Any statement
            about meta-reality is either absolutely true or absolutely false and no
            statement about reality is either absolutely true or absolutely false.
            Sorry if my earlier text was not sufficiently clear to you.

            >>> To go a bit further into skepticism, consider a thought experiment
            >>> that is well known in epistemology: the "brain in a vat" scenario.
            >>> To present it simply: how do I know that I am not, in fact, a brain
            >>> in a vat? How do I know that all of my experiences are not simply
            >>> being simulated in a laboratory somewhere -- that everything I perceive
            >>> is not reality, but rather some dream-like illusion? I cannot be certain.
            >>> Likewise, I cannot be certain that I am not in fact dreaming right
            >>> now, or being deceived by some strange supernatural beings, and so on.
            >>
            >> While the above is not logically invalid, my view is that the unbounded
            >> complexity of one's experience of reality with respect to every
            >> attribute of that reality precludes its likelihood and Occam's razor
            >> removes it from reasonable consideration.
            >
            > I've actually had my doubts about Occam's razor. Is it something that you
            > consider to be highly practical and convenient? It is very practical, but
            > seems to be -- I don't know the best word -- unphilosophical?

            You again appear to have an idealized and completely unreal view of the
            basis and purpose of philosophy and what it means for some thought or
            idea to be philosophical. The reason why Occam's razor applies to refute
            the "reality is just a big program running on someone's computer" idea
            is because there would then still need to be a larger reality to house
            that computer and its programmers. So it is really an infinite regress
            problem in a different form.

            > As best I can
            > tell, it amounts to ignoring claims or arguments.

            Not at all. Occam's razor amounts to picking the simplest model which is
            consistent with the evidence, rather than something more complex than
            necessary having extended aspects for which there is no evidence.
            Occam's razor is what is used to refute both the belief in a God and the
            refusal to place high validity on the evolution of species.

            > I suppose that is
            > necessary sometimes when one is seeking to maximize one's total lifetime
            > happiness, though.

            Definitely! Using a more complex model than is necessary is a waste of
            precious time and mental resources.

            >>> To take this discussion away from specific claims and back to
            >>> philosophies themselves: any particular philosophy is founded on
            >>> some set of axioms. Axioms must simply be taken as foundations with
            >>> no outside support; they are the self-justifying claims of the trilemma.
            >>
            >> No. This is an incorrect view of axioms. In their most relevant form,
            >> axioms model reality. Evidence from reality is what supports them. This
            >> is only not true historically for certain areas of mathematics, but the
            >> most interesting result is that in almost every case, the originally
            >> composed axiom system was later found to accurately model some
            >> aspect of reality. In fact, I would go so far to propose the conjecture
            >> that it is impossible to design any logically self-consistent axiomatic
            >> system which is not isomorphic to some system in reality. This would
            >> suggest that reality is unboundedly complex.
            >
            > I don't fully understand this yet, either, but the idea that axioms model
            > reality is interesting. Something else I'll have to think about more.

            Read and think more about it and get back to me with questions and comments.

            >>> In essence, they must be accepted on faith alone. Given that we define
            >>> an "ideal philosophy" as a philosophy that can be known to be sound
            >>> with absolute certainty, it appears that no philosophy is "ideal,"
            >>> and no philosophy can be ideal. No philosophy could be known to be
            >>> sound with absolute certainty because the premises on which that
            >>> philosophy rests must in essence be accepted without proof -- or, at
            >>> least, without perfect proof.
            >>
            >> Once again you are using meaningless notions of "ideal" and "perfect".
            >> You need to define these in a meaningful manner before you attempt to
            >> use them. In addition, you continue to use "we", when it should be clear
            >> that all such questions can only be decided by the individual for hirself.
            >
            > If "meaningful" involves consistency with reality, then indeed, there isn't
            > a meaningful definition to use here. And yes, I agree that my use of "we"
            > was imprecise.
            >
            >>> What, then, is left? When we cannot be certain of our axioms -- or
            >>> even, for that matter, of reality -- what sort of philosophy might
            >>> we build? Necessarily, it would be a "practical philosophy": a
            >>> philosophy built for the purpose of helping its practitioner navigate
            >>> the world effectively.
            >>
            >> But that is the only reasonable purpose of any philosophy that actually
            >> relates to reality.
            >>
            >>> Such a philosophy will not be able to demonstrate claims with
            >>> absolute certainty; it will not provide us with reasons to be
            >>> completely certain that reality exists, or that the use of evidence
            >>> is absolutely ideal as a standard for judging the validity of claims.
            >>> In such a philosophy we will do without this level of certainty, and
            >>> accept what appears to be the only option that the universe gives us:
            >>> beliefs that are not justified to the most rigorous conceivable
            >>> standards, but that are "good enough." (Note: it was Max who first
            >>> exposed me to the idea that I might let go of trying to find a
            >>> rigorous truth with philosophy, and simply base my philosophy on
            >>> what is practical.)
            >>
            >> My only new comments here relate to "beliefs", which would better be
            >> replaced with "convictions", and to your idea of "rigor" which you have
            >> never defined and is therefore as out of place as your continued use of
            >> "ideal", "absolute" and "perfect".
            >>
            >> [I have the mental image of many philosophy professors taking some
            >> perverted pleasure in creating intellectual contortions for their
            >> students resulting in mental confusion described as skepticism and/or
            >> cynicism. All the easier then to "guide" them towards some "leader"
            >> for further usage. Or is it for some depraved humor? I do not see the
            >> results of teaching true critical thinking. **Kitty]
            >
            > I don't think that many philosophy professors have bad intentions;

            I agree that they may not be consciously harmful in this manner, but the
            fact that they are harmful in this manner without knowing it makes the
            problem even worse.

            > I think
            > they either agree with these skeptical arguments

            Then they are intellectual fools and followers - incapable of any real
            independent thought and analysis.

            > or, more likely, consider
            > them to have some merit and to be intellectually stimulating.

            More foolishness. Paradoxes and contradictions are not stimulating
            unless and until they are shown for what they are, non-existent in
            reality because essentially meaningless.
            Now *that* would be a really useful lesson to students!
            Until that is done, then they are simply confusing and intellectually
            harmful to young minds looking for practical applications to reality.

            [It is these types of professors who I suspect do *not* want their
            students to be truly critical thinkers, else they would see that the
            "emperor wears no clothes". All they want is to continue to be viewed
            as profound and having insight to the "mysterious". No different than
            a temple priest or medicine man - awe from students is their reason
            for "teaching". **Kitty]

            >>> As an aside that will show more of the differences between practical
            >>> and ideal philosophies:
            >>
            >> You need to learn that there can be no dichotomy between the truly
            >> practical and the ideal - the only reasonable meaning for either is that
            >> the methods and ideas described will promote and enable actions which
            >> optimize human lifetime happiness - anything that is not ideal in that
            >> sense can also not be practical and vice-versa.
            >
            > This is another interesting idea.
            >
            >>> I suspect that a person must choose between the pursuit of happiness
            >>> and the pursuit of truth.
            >>
            >> Absolutely not! In fact, while one can not be certain of optimizing hir
            >> lifetime happiness by always pursuing truth, for sure if one does not
            >> pursue truth (one accepts falsity), then one surely will not optimize
            >> one's lifetime happiness.
            >
            > I see your point here.
            >
            >>> Given that the pursuit of truth is sufficiently rigorous, I propose
            >>> that a person will be unable to find happiness, because he/she will
            >>> be unable to overcome the doubt posed by radical skepticism.
            >>
            >> Your statement is meaningless unless and until you define precisely what
            >> you mean by "rigorous". Using my definition of "rigorous" (essentially
            >> an extended scientific method approach to reality), the first part of
            >> your statement is false for me. And "radical skepticism" being
            >> essentially meaningless and therefore invalid, has no bearing on my
            >> reasoning.
            >
            > The definition of "rigorous" in the above instance would be like "ideal,"
            > "absolute," and "perfect" before -- it would refer to something not present
            > or possible in reality.

            Actually, "rigorous" does not need to mean some ideal outside of
            reality. There are definitions of "rigorous" both for the scientific
            methods applicable to reality and for logical methods applicable to
            meta-realities which are very practical, because highly useful.

            >>> Practical philosophies are for the pursuit of happiness, while "ideal
            >>> philosophies" are for the pursuit of truth. I do not believe that an
            >>> ideal philosophy is possible: that is, I do not believe that a person
            >>> can derive some absolute rules that state how people ought to live,
            >>
            >> This is incorrect. Such a derivation can be done just like any other
            >> theory of reality that is derived from observed evidence and then
            >> validated with as much confidence as possible against reality. But as
            >> stated in the essay on Social Meta-Needs, there is no absolute "ought to
            >> live" but only a conditional "ought to live if one wishes to optimize
            >> one's lifetime Happiness".
            >>
            >>> or even derive absolute, certain rules about the universe.
            >>
            >> You need to get it out of your head that there ought to be or even can
            >> be *any* certain, absolute rules about direct reality - all statements
            >> about reality can only be held as true with a certain confidence non-100%
            >> level.
            >
            > Yes, I do need to become accustomed to, and satisfied with, this idea.
            >
            >>> I believe that we all need to settle for accepting the world as it
            >>> appears to be. Very importantly, I should note that while a practical
            >>> philosophy is fundamentally about the pursuit of happiness, that
            >>> pursuit may be made by what is very much like the pursuit of truth.
            >>> If we define "truth" not as some unobtainable and certain ideal,
            >>> but rather as the "reality" that our senses perceive, then the best
            >>> practical philosophies would pursue happiness by pursuing truth.
            >>> And, indeed, it is quite "practical" to define truth in this way.
            >>
            >> You are on the right track but your definition of practical truth is far
            >> too simplistic to be effectively practical with respect to optimizing
            >> one's lifetime Happiness.
            >>
            >>> I introduced skepticism earlier using Agrippa's trilemma. However,
            >>> it bears mentioning that the trilemma may take entirely the wrong
            >>> approach to knowledge. It is possible that we should not be concerned
            >>> with "justification" at all. (Quick note: philosophers in the past
            >>> commonly defined knowledge as a "true justified belief," and a similar
            >>> but different definition is likely used by numerous epistemologists
            >>> today.) Consider Karl Popper's "critical rationalism" -- his
            >>> philosophy that reason is not for justifying claims at all, but
            >>> rather for falsifying them. Agrippa's trilemma would be irrelevant
            >>> to a philosophy built around critical rationalism -- or, at least, the
            >>> trilemma would be irrelevant to that philosophy's statements regarding
            >>> knowledge. This philosophy might still run into issues with skepticism
            >>> in so far as it is based on premises.
            >>>
            >>> Another important point to note is that we might do best not to be
            >>> concerned with "certainty" or the "absolute." It may even arguably
            >>> be irrational to doubt reality; if nothing that our senses perceive
            >>> gives us reason to doubt that reality is as it appears to be, then
            >>> we are essentially "making things up" when we claim that reality
            >>> may not exist.
            >>
            >> Again you are being too simplistic with phrases such as "reality as it
            >> appears to be". First this is entirely individualistic to start and
            >> second, for the appearance to be validated it must be concurrently and
            >> communicatedly perceived and described in a common manner - otherwise
            >> the reality perceived by a schizophrenic is just as valid as that
            >> perceived by anyone else.
            >>
            >>> This is a similar point to the one made by G.E. Moore in his "Here
            >>> is a hand" argument (there is a Wikipedia article on this called
            >>> "Here is a hand"), which is the most powerful objection to skepticism
            >>> that I am aware of. In fact, Moore's argument may deal with skepticism
            >>> entirely, and I'd encourage anyone else interested in the topic to
            >>> investigate it.
            >>>
            >>> To sum all of this up, skepticism is doubt; it appears to prevent
            >>> any philosophy from being a genuinely "ideal" philosophy. However,
            >>> depending on the way that one thinks about the world -- if, for
            >>> instance, one is not concerned with absolute justifications, but
            >>> rather with a critical approach to knowledge and the world -- skepticism
            >>> may not bear on a person's thinking, at least not in a practical sense.
            >>
            >> In the end you said it right - while skepticism is in general a
            >> beneficial approach to reality, what is called "radical skepticism" is
            >> essentially meaningless and pointlessly nihilistic.
            >
            > I think that, in all, I'm understanding your points better, but I'll need
            > to do more reading and thinking to grasp them more completely. There's
            > clearly some depth to them that I don't understand yet, and they're more
            > nuanced than I'd realized.

            It sounds like we have made some definite progress here, which is great.
            Perhaps at this point it would be best to retire this thread (getting
            much too long and deeply nested) and after some time of external reading
            and thought, to start a fresh thread, bring up any older not fully
            resolved questions that you wish. And, of course, also any new questions
            arising from your reading and thinking. Please refer to specific quotes
            rather than paraphrase.

            --Paul
          • Daniel Kimbel
            Hi Paul & Kitty, I just wanted to say that I ve read this through and agree with your points. I agree that what s best now is for me to do some of the reading
            Message 5 of 5 , May 31, 2012
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              Hi Paul & Kitty,

              I just wanted to say that I've read this through and agree with your
              points. I agree that what's best now is for me to do some of the reading
              and thinking that I want to do, and then start a new thread.

              Daniel

              <snipped text of thread>
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