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  1. I just gave a source – that chapter. Stop harassing me.
  2. "That is not what certainty as contextual means." Dude it's the name of a chapter.
  3. For example, "Certainty as Contextual" in OPAR.
  4. Objectivists accuse Popperians of being skeptics. Popperians accuse Objectivists of being infallibilists. Actually, both philosophies are valuable and largely compatible. I present here some integrating ideas and then a mistake that both philosophies share. Knowledge is contextual, absolute, certain, conclusive and progressive. The standard of knowledge is conclusiveness not infallibility, perfection or omniscience. Certain means we should act on it instead of hesitating. We should follow its implications and use it, rather than sitting around doubting, wondering, scared it might be wrong. Certain also means that it is knowledge, as opposed to non-knowledge; it denies skepticism. Absolute means no contradictions, compromises or exceptions are allowed. Contextual means that knowledge must be considered in context. A good idea in one context may not be a good idea when transplanted into another context. No knowledge could hold up against arbitrary context switches and context dropping. Further, knowledge is problem oriented. Knowledge needs some problem(s) or question(s) for context, which it addresses or solves. Knowledge has to be knowledge about something, with some purpose. This implies: if you have an answer to a question, and then in the future you learn more, the old answer still answers the old question. It's still knowledge in its original, intended context. Consider blood types. People wanted to know which blood transfusions were safe (among other questions) and they created some knowledge of A, B, AB and O blood types. Later they found out more. Actually there is A+, A-, B+, B-, AB+, AB-, O+ and O-. It was proper to act on the earlier knowledge in its context. It would not be proper to act on it today; now we know that some B type blood is incompatible with some other B type blood. Today's superior knowledge of blood types is also contextual. Maybe there will be a new medical breakthrough next year. But it's still knowledge in today's context, and it's proper to act on it. One thing to learn here is that a false idea can be knowledge. The idea that all B type blood is compatible is contextual knowledge. It was always false, as a matter of fact, and the mistake got some people killed. Yet it was still knowledge. How can that be? Perfection is not the standard of knowledge. And not all false ideas are equally good. What matters is the early idea about blood types had value, it had useful information, it helped make many correct decisions, and no better idea was available at the time. That value never goes away even when we learn about a mistake. That original value is still knowledge, considered contextually, even though the idea as a whole is now known to be false. Conclusive means the current context only allows for one rational conclusion. This conclusion is not infallible, but it's the only reasonable option available. All the alternative ideas have known flaws; they are refuted. There's only one idea left which is not refuted, which could be true, is true as far as we know (no known flaws), and which we should therefore accept. And that is knowledge. None of this contradicts the progressive character of knowledge. Our knowledge is not frozen and final. We can learn more and better – without limit. We can keep identifying and correcting errors in our ideas and thereby achieve better and better knowledge. (One way knowledge can be better is that it is correct in more contexts and successfully addresses more problems and questions.) The Mistake Peikoff says that certainty (meaning conclusive knowledge) is when you get to the point that nothing else is possible. He means that, in the current context, there are no other options. There's just one option, and we should accept it. All the other ideas have something wrong with them, they can't be accepted. This is fine. Peikoff also says that before you have certainty you have a different situation where there are multiple competing ideas. Fine. And that's not certainty, that's not conclusive knowledge, it's a precursor stage where you're considering the ideas. Fine. But then Peikoff makes what I think is an important mistake. He says that if you don't have knowledge or certainty, you can still judge by the weight of the evidence. This is a standard view held by many non-Objectivists too. I think this is too compromising. I think the choices are knowledge or irrationality. We need knowledge; nothing less will suffice. The weight of the evidence is no good. Either you have knowledge or you don't. If it's not knowledge, it's not worth anything. You need to come up with a good idea – no compromises, no contradictions, no known problems – and use that. If you can't or won't do that, all you have left is the irrationality of acting on and believing arbitrary non-knowledge. I think we can always act on knowledge without contradictions. Knowledge is always possible to man. Not all knowledge instantly, but enough knowledge to act, in time to act. We may not know everything – but we don't need to. We can always know enough to continue life rationally. Living and acting by reason and knowledge is always possible. (How can we always do this? That will be the subject of another essay. I'm not including any summary or hints because I think it's too confusing and misleading without a full explanation.) Knowledge doesn't allow contradictions. Suppose you're considering two ideas that contradict each other. And you don't have a conclusive answer, you don't have knowledge of which is right. Then using or believing either one is irrational. No "weight of the evidence" or anything else can change this. Don't pick a side when you know there is a contradiction but have not rationally resolved it. Resolve it; create knowledge; learn; think; figure it out. Neither idea being considered is good enough to address the contradiction or refute the other idea – so you know they are both flawed. Don't hope or pray that acting on a known-to-be-flawed idea will work out anyway. Irrationality doesn't work. That's not good enough. If you discover a contradiction, you should resolve it rationally. If you fail at that – fail at the use of reason – then that's bad, that's a disaster, that's not OK. Karl Popper made the same mistake in a different form. He said that we critically analyze competing ideas and the one that best survives criticism should be acted on. Again this is too compromising. Either exactly one idea survives criticism, or else there is still a contradiction. "Best survives criticism", and "weight of the evidence", are irrational ways of arbitrarily elevating one flawed idea over another, instead of using reason to come up with a correct idea. (For some further discussion about weighing ideas, see also the choices chapter of The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch.)
  5. So you actually reject logic in general, and only accept logic you consider "realistic"? Your common sense intuition is prior to logic? If these ideas are so dumb, then your epistemology ought to be able to easily deal with them. If it can't, that's a fault with your epistemology, not a fault with me for bringing up examples.
  6. Jason, There are reasonably simple methods of creating an infinite sequence of compatible more general theories. For example, say you have 5 apples and they are all rotten. This is logically consistent with "At least 20% of all bears have black fur." which is a somewhat general theory about bear fur colors, applying to all bears. There are many other examples we could use. How do you get from here to infinitely many theories? Change 20% to 20.01%, 20.011%, 20.0111%, and so on. I don't know how you can reconcile "all men are mortal" and "all men are immortal" as non-contradictory They contradict each other. But for any given data set you can make versions of both of these theories which don't contradict the data set. (E.g. by saying all the men who seemed to have died, actually their souls are still alive and they are reborn, and will be forever, and this is a type of immortality. That claim is logically compatible with the various observations of people dying.) These points, like it or not, are a matter of logic. No matter how convoluted and unintuitive they seem, they remain true. A correct epistemology must not get refuted by them. Not getting refuted by logic like this is an important starting point to get anywhere in the field. (Rand, btw, avoided being refuted by stuff like this by never claiming to have figured out a way to make induction work. Most philosophers aren't nearly that wise.)
  7. As a matter of logic, yes it's consistent with those four generalizations. You haven't said why you disagree, so I'll have to guess. What does consistent mean? Non-contradictory. All desks are brown is a kind of dumb idea but not contradicted by observations of men dying. Same with the last one, dumb idea but men dying observations don't contradict it. All men are immortal is a dumb idea for various reasons, but is not contradicted by the evidence. You have not seen all men die. Even if we were very generous about what observations we gave you credit for, some men go off alone and aren't seen again. Maybe one found the fountain of youth and became immortal and has been living in a nearby cave ever since. Is this a good idea? No. Is this idea contradicted by the observations available to you? No. Nothing about observing most men dying logically rules it out. You may have in mind what we might call indirect contradiction. Basically you take the evidence and run with it and think and come up with a bunch of ideas and then one of those ideas does the contradicting. That's different than the evidence doing the contradicting.
  8. So you're closed minded. If anyone disagrees with you, they should be ignored. That's bad. What if you're not right about everything and dismiss some improvements?
  9. You're telling me induction means "pick one however you want, it doesn't matter"? That is not what induction means. And that would suffer from being arbitrary, wouldn't it?
  10. Any set of particulars is logically consistent with infinitely many generalizations. How do you pick one? Why that one?
  11. I don't think anyone has ever understood the topic well from a summary. Popper made numerous lengthy arguments and it's hard enough to understand if one reads them in full. Further, there are many different variations of induction and you haven't specified which one you want a refutation for. But, OK, starting at something like the beginning: Induction says to generalize some less general ideas (possibly raw data, or grouped percepts, or lower level concepts) into a more general idea. However, any input set of ideas (without internal contradictions) is logically compatible with infinitely many different more general ideas. So which one is to be picked? Induction doesn't understand and answer this problem (some failed attempts notwithstanding). So inductivists pick what to induce using intuition, common sense, or unconscious theories. That's not a good approach.
  12. Karl Popper is often misunderstood because he says the debates for several major philosophy issues involve a false dichotomy. The question is misconceived; both sides are wrong; a new way is needed. (Whether there are exactly two standard positions, or actually more in some cases, doesn't affect my point.) Popper's epistemology is the most innovative epistemology of note. By that I mean it changes more from prior epistemology than any of its rivals do. It's the most different. That makes it harder to understand. (Also, to be clear, Popper personally is not important. Like all philosophers, different people have read his books and interpreted him to be saying a variety of different things. I am interested here only in what I regard as the correct, best interpretation. This includes refinements by David Deutsch and myself.) What commonly happens is Popper (or a Popperian, or a person advocating a Popperian idea, whatever) says a particular epistemology idea is mistaken and tries to explain why. Then people usually interpret Popper as being on the other side of the dichotomy from them, because he's disagreeing with them. "If he says I'm wrong, he must be on the opposing side from me!" That's an easy conclusion to reach when you don't fully understand the point being made. But actually Popper is taking neither of the standard sides. It's hard conceiving of a new way of looking at an issue. That's harder than understanding that someone has an opposing position which you've heard before and have arguments about. The standard opponent is within your framework, which is easier to deal with. Look at it another way. For many issues, there are two sides which disagree but also have some points of agreement. For example, they agree on what the right question or dichotomy is, but give opposing answers to it. When popper says that not only is their answer wrong, but also their question is wrong, Popper is disagreeing with them more than their opponents do! So he could be misunderstood as an even more disagreeable version of their opponents, even though he isn't. This is relevant to Objectivism because Objectivists have misunderstood Popper, and their criticisms of Popper rely on misunderstanding his positions. There aren't any Objectivist refutations of the Popperian ideas I'm advocating. (Nor are there Objectivist answers to Popper's actual criticisms of some Objectivist positions, like induction). Popperian epistemology does not contradict all of Objectivist epistemology. There are many points in common, such as valuing clarity and accepting the possibility of humans attaining objective knowledge. But there are some major points of disagreement such as induction and self-evident axioms. Objectivists have the opportunity to learn something, and should be happy about that (just as, for example, Popperians could and should learn a lot from Objectivist morality and politics). Let's look at some example issues where there is a false dichotomy which Popper rejects: certainty and proof, induction, justification, support. Take certainty or proof: there is a false dichotomy between having certainty and not having knowledge. There is an assumption, shared by both sides, that certainty is a requirement of knowledge. Popperian epistemology rejects that package deal, and offers a new way: a non-authoritarian, fallibilist way to gain objective knowledge. Take induction: the two main positions both center around the problem of induction. One position is that we can solve the problem of induction (some claim they already did solve it, some expect it to be solved any decade now). Another position is that the lack of solution to the problem of induction presents a big problem for epistemology. The popperian position is that it's the wrong problem, the wrong question. Popper instead raised a different better question and solved it. Take justification: there is a false dichotomy between "yes we can justify our beliefs/ideas/knowledge" and "no we can't, justification fails due to regress [and several other arguments], therefore knowledge is impossible". The Popperian view is that both of these positions are wrong. They both agree on an incorrect concept of what justification is and why we need it. They package justification together with knowledge. Take support: consider the idea that we can support our beliefs with evidence and arguments. Some people say we can't, therefore our beliefs are irrational. Some people say we can, and it makes our beliefs rational. Both sides have accepted that we need to support our beliefs with evidence and argument for them to be rational. Popper disagrees with both standard sides. He says we don't have to support our beliefs with evidence and argument for them to be rational; that isn't actually how you get rational knowledge; but there is a different way of getting rational knowledge. There is a package deal combining rationality and support. And it creates a false dichotomy where either you have both rationality and support, or neither. Popperian epistemology is a complex subject requiring study to understand well. I cannot cover it all here. I'm going to talk about one example in more detail to give you a sample. Do we have to support our beliefs with evidence and arguments for them to be rational? Pretty much everyone agrees the answer is "yes". That includes both people who think we can do this and thereby get rational knowledge, and also people who think that our inability to do this prevents us from getting rational knowledge (skeptics). The Popperian view is that rationality is not about support. It is achieved by a different method. Rational ideas are ideas which are open to criticism. If there's no way to improve an idea, it's stuck, it's bad, it's irrational. If it's open to improvement via criticism – if it's open to reform, refinement, error correction – then it is rational. Whether ideas are open to error correction does not depend on how much support they have. That is not the issue. (And actually, sometimes when people say, "I've proved my case with all this supporting evidence," it can indicate they are not open to criticism.) Think, for a moment, about what we want to accomplish in epistemology. For example: we want to sort out good ideas from bad ideas. We want to improve our ideas. We want to get knowledge – ideas that are connected to reality and effective in reality. Trying to support ideas was a false goal. It's not really what we wanted. It was a way of getting something else. It had indirect value. It's important to identify this gap and separate the concepts. We can reject support but still find a different method to get the useful stuff support was intended to achieve. Supporting ideas is meant to sort out good ideas from bad ideas. The ones with more support are good. This method does not work. One unsolved problem with it is to define exactly when, why and how much any given idea supports any other ideas. A second problem is whether a less supported idea could be the best one. If it can, what does it really matter that it's less supported? However, a different method of sorting out good ideas does work: criticism. Ideas which are not refuted by criticism are sorted out from those which are refuted by criticism. (These critical classifications are always open to revision in the future as we learn more.)
  13. I'm aware of differences. Can you provide one piece (here or anywhere) with an Objectivist refutation of Popper which you think is correct? So if I refute it, you will rethink things. For example, one difference is induction. If you could provide any correct Objectivist answer to Popper's refutation of induction, that would be wonderful. Yes I've already tried looking myself.
  14. Ayn Rand has the best moral philosophy ever invented. Karl Popper has the most important breakthrough in epistemology. Most Objectivists seem to think that Popper and Rand are incompatible, and Popper is an enemy of reason. They have not understood him. These lists are intended to help explain my motivation for integrating Rand and Popper, and also to help highlight many similarities they already have. Points Popperian epistemology and Objectivist epistemology have in common. In Popperian epistemology I include additions and improvements by David Deutsch and myself: - opposition to subjectivism and relativism - fallibilism - says that objective knowledge is attainable (in practice by fallible humans) - realism: says reality is objective - connected to reality: we have to observe reality, keep our ideas connected to reality - asserts there is objective truth - attention to context ("problem situation" or sometimes "problem" is the common Popperian term meaning context. E.g. a Popperian will ask "What is the problem this is addressing?" and be asking about context.) - pro-science - opposition to positivism - opposition to the language analysis school of philosophy - say that most professional philosophers are rather crap - opposition to both skeptical and authoritarian schools of epistemology - keeps our concepts "open-end[ed]" (ITOE). That means: possible to improve in the future as we learn more. - says that there are objective moral truths - does not seek a "frozen, arrested state of knowledge" (ITOE) - written clearly and understandably, unlike much philosophy - says epistemology is useful and valuable to real people; it matters to life; it's practical - you can't force an idea on someone. they can choose to accept it or not - you can't implant an idea in someone. you can't pour it in, stick it in with surgery, make them absorb it, etc. they get to think, interpret, choose. - free will - people are not born with some unchangeable nature and innate ideas. we can be self-made men. we can learn, change, improve, progress - emphasis on active use of one's mind, active learning - no inherent conflicts due to objective truth - understanding of unconscious and inexplicit ideas - if two ideas contradict, at least one is false - integration of epistemology with morality, politics, and more - rejection of authority - full rejection of idealism, solipsism - strong emphasis on clarity - rejection of limits on human minds - reject probabilistic approaches to epistemology - looks at man as rational and capable - value of critical thinking including self-criticism Strengths of Objectivist epistemology: - stolen concept - package deal - check your premises - ideas about integrating all one's knowledge and removing all contradictions - measurement omission and concept formation ideas both worthwhile, though flawed - good criticisms of many opponents of reason - good understanding of essentials vs non-essentials, e.g. for definitions - idea about automating some thinking - good explanation of what objectivity is - Judge, and be prepared to be judged Strengths of Popperian epistemology: - evolution creates knowledge - conjectures and refutations method - piecemeal, incremental method. value of every little improvement - identification of, and solution to, justificationism - addresses induction - conjectural, fallible, objective knowledge - idea that we progress from misconception to better misconception - myth of the framework - value of culture clash - emphasis on bold highly-criticizable claims, sticking your neck out to learn more - no shame in mistakes - value of criticism. criticism is a gift - understanding of rationality as being about error correction - unimportance of starting points. you can start anywhere, improve from there - criticism of definitions - criticism of foundations, bases - criticism of essentialism - criticism of manifest truth (and self-evidence, obviousness, etc) - static and dynamic memes - structural epistemology - coercion and common preferences - understanding of conflict and symmetry - applications to parenting, education, relationships - understanding of tradition - explanation of value of external criticism (if everyone has some blind spots, but some people have different blind spots then each other, then it's productive to share criticism with each other. a little like comparative advantage) - emphasis on critical method, criticism (ideas stand unless refuted) - let our ideas die in our stead Some of you are now wondering about details. I know. But it's so much! Let's do it like this: if you are interested in one of the topics, ask about it and I can elaborate. If you would preference a reference to existing material on the topic, that's fine too.
  15. http://www.curi.us/1578-critical-review-of-ayn-rand-contra-human-nature Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature is an anti-objectivist book. I was wondering if anyone here would like to discuss my review and the philosophical issues involved.