How can we base our existence on thought?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Mr. Hamtastic, Dec 1, 2008.

  1. Simon Anders Valued Senior Member

    Total skepticism.

    Well, I said it because it seems intuitively true, but perhaps there is some way to do it.

    The problem with a total skeptic making a defense of his or her position is the defense will contain arguments. These arguments will be based on observation, or deduction, or assertions or


    To defend you must assert something, even if it is only in the negative.

    "We cannot know what we perceive is real"

    Oh, really. How do you know that?

    How do you know I can't?

    For example.
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  3. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member


    SA is totally correct here.
    His analysis here is ultimately a valid critique of any inductive argument; sooner of later, the justification regress will lead one to something that one cannot justify.

    Of course, this critique only applies to those of us who believe justification to be of import.

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  5. Simon Anders Valued Senior Member

    Appreciate the seal of approval.

    I assume you mean that induction cannot justify itself. It needs some axioms non-inductively arrived at.

    I was also being more general. Any system. Gödel perhaps.....

    I have always thought that there is a mid line. A balance point where one accepts a certain amount of intuition (in this case axioms, perhaps). One lives on this midline. One can be called on to question that midline, but these questionings will have their own vulnerabilities based on axioms (at the very least). So however much it may seem correct to pull back on some intuition and be more epistemologically cautious, in fact you are talking yourself out of the obvious, with a cost.

    At least potentially.

    Caution or unnecessary self-doubt?

    And can this ever be resolved without resort to gut feeling?

    Just realized I may be pulling the thread away from Ham's area of interest.

    I do think it relates, but I will try to keep an eye on a Simon Glaucon tangent.
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  7. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member

    Your assumption is correct.
    And the Godel reference is quite apropos (although I don't want to throw undecidability at the good Mr.Ham.).

    I must note here however, that there are some epistemological schools of thought that argue that this regress can be avoided. Although, I would tend to say that it's more of a side-step than an avoidance. I'm talking about non-linear justifications (a la coherence theory). But, this is an aside...

    Interesting points.
    I was actually tossing a jibe at one noted poster here, but you do raise some interesting considerations. I do think it's possible to maintain an inductive justification without an appeal to an a priori, but ultimately this becomes more of a question of justification methodology as opposed to epistemology.

    I was just about to comment on how we might be moving away from Ham's focus. I'm not entirely sure, but I suspect Ham is growing concerned with the seeming inescapability of solipsism....
  8. Simon Anders Valued Senior Member

    Let me try to bring it back to Ham's OP, mixing in what I am getting at.

    Descartes chose to do a thought experiment. He doubted, radically - but not as radically as he might of. We end up with his cogito thingy.

    After this experiment, given the social impact of it in certain circles, it can seem like one must somehow extricate oneself from this thought experiment - show that I think therefore I am is logical and build from there - get oneself back in the world, so to speak, and feel all rational about it.

    But if one feels this pressure, then one has accepted the premises of the thought experiment - along with some not articulated neo-moral and certainly practical injunctions about what one should do.

    One could, the moment one is approached by the 'thought experiment gestalt' - for example someone who challenges you with 'for all you know your brain is in a vat, etc. - challenge/doubt/be skeptical about all the presumptions involved - ethical, epistemological, social (yes, even with certain thoughts in one's own mind - presumed by such an approach.

    It is as if one must automatically 'entertain' the radical doubt and claw one's way up from it.


    Hams' position seems to be that Descartes was not radical enough. I think in a way he feels contrained by the thought experiment, limited by it. He was more freedom to doubt. Whereas most people reacting to Descartes are seeking less doubt and hope to build from I think therefore I am to more.

    So, socially, I want to be careful NOT take away from Ham's freedom to doubt because I think he is using doubt as a tool, not necessarily to ascertain truths, but to be free from them. Whereas another person approaching me with radical doubt might very well be trying to undermine my freedom - to make certain assumptions, for example.

    I think there is a lot of curling up around conservative, less assailable epistemological positions, where one claims to hold ideas as likely or useful SO FAR. I am thinking partly of you and also Wes who seems to have risen from the dead.

    Far be it for me to want to take these positions away, as long as they are not seen as right in a universal sense.
  9. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member



    These premises being what?

    Just to be clear; I don't want to misunderstand you.

    Nice. I love a good Hillary Putnam reference.
    Interestingly, it's because of this line of thought that I ended up discarding the standard inductive justification chain...

    I get that sense as well, but given the alternative, how could one then get from there to a 'basis for our existence' (to paraphrase Ham)? I mean, if Ham thinks that thought isn't a valid foundation upon which to 'build;, then what is?

    What do you mean by "curling up"?
    Is it the notion that in such epistemological positions, one ultimately ends up with some wholly contingent justification relations? Or something completely different?
  10. Mr. Hamtastic whackawhackado! Registered Senior Member


    Simon has me, basically. If everything is doubted, including my own existence, then I am free to become whatever I imagine.

    "But wait, you can't imagine if you don't exist..."

    How would I be able to tell if my thoughts and imaginations are any more "real" than anything else? If I do not exist, then does it matter if I think? Does it matter what anyone else thinks? If I am but an anomaly within an anomaly within non-existence, then I can choose to be and do whatever I want, because justification is whatever I choose...
  11. Mr. Hamtastic whackawhackado! Registered Senior Member

    I still don't know what rational episiotomies are...
  12. Mr. Hamtastic whackawhackado! Registered Senior Member

    My defence of skepticism would be that at the end of the day, nothing matters, and anything is possible.
  13. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    feel free to put your money in my bank account anytime ... any size denomination accepted

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  14. Mr. Hamtastic whackawhackado! Registered Senior Member

    What money? Neither us nor our money exist, so perhaps a pile of it will materialize in your refrigerator...something to hope for...

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  15. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member

    I must admit, I didn't expect this response.

    You're an optimistic nihilist???
  16. Mr. Hamtastic whackawhackado! Registered Senior Member

    I guess that would be apt, although both are oversimplifications... Just to give you a headache, though, I choose to believe in christianity, too.... I irritate christians to no end with my thoughts...

    But, leaving theology out of it, isn't this the most effective defence of skepticism?
  17. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member



    I'm sure you do.
    How in the world do you rectify nihilism and Christianity?

    Not at all.
    Skepticism needs no defence. As a methodology, its veracity cannot be assailed.
    Besides, your two mixed philosophies entail some serious value content. Skepticism does not.
  18. Mr. Hamtastic whackawhackado! Registered Senior Member

    Simple, I choose to believe in God, while acknowleging the possibility that God may not exist. Then again, I may not exist either, so it doesn't really matter, does it?

    I'm confused by what you call my two mixed philosophies... Skepticism is the way I approach things, right? Nihilism is the fact that I believe that in the end it doesn't really matter, and optimistic because I hope things do exist?
  19. Roman Banned Banned

    I started a thread on this last year:

    Unfortunately, not much came of it.
    I hope yours does better.

    I also tend to agree with you- metadiscussion, it does nothing!
  20. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member

    Mixed, as in, generally contradictory.
    The fact that you hope 'such and such' is in direct conflict with your belief that 'such and such' doesn't matter.
  21. Mr. Hamtastic whackawhackado! Registered Senior Member

    I find myself forced to "exist" on some level, by something. Based on this existance against my will, I hope that what I would like to imagine exists, does. There is a possibility, however, that I do not exist at all, and in such a case, the nonexistance of things I would prefer does not matter.

    Or at least that's how I translate a phrase used in reference to me-"laid back to a fault".

    I may be completely misunderstanding myself, however, and skepticism is a new methodology for me, as my old one of tolerance and acceptance was not allowing me to live life and find contentment, so forgive me if I misuse it.
  22. Mr. Hamtastic whackawhackado! Registered Senior Member

    Basically, it all allows for life to be a series of if-then statements based knowingly on assumption. If I exist then there may be a deity. If there is a deity I would like to be acceptable to that deity despite not living up to any set of rules. Thus, christianity is attractive, and I have a faith by choice...
  23. Simon Anders Valued Senior Member

    Well, it's been a long time since I read descartes, but I assume some meta-premises like one can imagine things (which may or may not be true) accurately, that one can piecemeal unimagine things away and stare at what's left, I would guess grammatical assumptions without realizing these are grammatical - like subjects go with verbs always, or rather the converse, at least - and so on. Perhaps hovering around these premises about what thinking is for, what one should do with ones mind, what one cannot take for granted and why, etc.

    But I don't quite see you as a coherence guy either. Let me know.

    Just because I think the word thought is so equivocable (new word?), I want to mention animals who generally are not thought of as thinking, but exist. (which as an aside is a partial response to total or extreme skeptics: Are animals making an error?) I have noticed that you tend to include emotions, feelings and other 'mental' activity in thoughts, but I just want to be clear.

    That said....I am, in a sense questioning that one needs to go on the defensive. Why am I presumed non-existent until proven existent? to bring a legal metaphor over and transform it.

    And I will keep raising the interpersonal aspects of this. Who is it that wants me to justify my existence? Why does it want this? Who gave it the authority to put me on the defensive? How does it know that my existence is 'at issue' and therefore in need of justification or 'basis'? And can I find any assumptions within that claim that I need to do this that are at least as vulnerable to doubt and my own existence?

    I mean: How do we even know if 'How do you know you exist?' is a valid question? Why not start right out doubting the question?

    Certainly would make preparing dinner easier. I mean I am joking, but I am serious too.

    To me any dialogue can be about power and domination - stress on can - with such an undermining radical doubt and the potential effects of it, I have to ask myself: what does a meme like this or its bearer gain?

    My doubt is interpersonal first, then perhaps I will fuss around and justify on a more abstract let's think level.

    Perhaps the contingent justification relations idea. I would not say wholly. I think I have a thread idea that will take on this issue, though it may not seem like it at first. I asterisk it for you so you know.

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