Tag Archives: epistemology

G.W.F. Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit 90-91

9 Jan

I understand it has been awhile since I have published anything here. I say this all the time when transitioning into new material to discuss, so I just experienced déjà vu. Or is it jamais vu? I think it’s déjà vu. I hope you all have had a great Christmas and New Years and got lots of kickass stuff from your loved ones, as well has you giving kickass stuff to them. I also hope you got at least a little schwasted (slang word, sorry, it is a combination of shitfaced and wasted). I also have more posts beyond this one. When I told u I would deliver another post before Christmas about Epicurean prudence my computer succumbed to viruses, key loggers, spyware, and malware and I had to wipe the hard drive and recover. I have been on a 3 week break from school and have had no internet as a result because I only have internet at school. That post will really, for sure, come now.

Moving on, I have acquired numerous books this break and have acquired G.W.F. Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. I have been reading each one and contemplating upon it. Starting with number 90 in the book, I would like to begin discussing each proposition of the book on this blog.

The test begins with A. Consciousness, 1. Sense Certainty: Beginning with 90, Hegel begins by saying that what we see at first is for sure true knowledge of reality and that we should not try to grasp what we see. Hegel is basically saying that the observed object seen is immediate knowledge of what is. What is phenomenologically observed is what is. This is true, in my opinion, because due to metaphysical modal realism what is seen is what is.  Modal realism being the metaphysical belief that all things observed at any time t is real in one way, world, or another, a dream for instance, is real if it can possibly appear to you. Modal realism (by David Lewis specifically) combats the epistemological objection that something seen is not metaphysically real in existence. Object= Immediate knowledge. Object seen= What is.

Hegel continues in the same proposition by saying that the object seen should be not grasped, altered, or comprehended: “Our approach to the object must be immediate and receptive” (Hegel). We should not add anything to the object as it appears to us. It is understood by Hegel that the object should only be taken in and registered without altering it or adding anything to it, but it can be argued whether or not grasping and comprehending the object actually alters the object or adds to it. I agree with Hegel that all objects should not be comprehended, grasped, altered, or added to. A person coming to the world not having seen anything before with no record of protocol statements will find any object (and note that the object is the word Hegel uses to refer to what we see) odd and in need of understanding of interpretation. This new person will jump to grasping or comprehending the newly seen objects because confusing things immediately call for grasping and comprehension. This grasping and comprehension of odd objects by a recordless subject can lead to distortion of the object seen, therefore I agree with Hegel that in any observation (specifically of phenomenological investigation) should not only  be without additions and alterations but without grasping or comprehension.  People having seen certain objects all their life may or may not look to grasping or comprehension in a later stage of life, but when they first saw these objects they did use grasping and comprehension and their life long perception is distorted and damaged. Therefore, due to all of this, no grasping or comprehension should ever be done to the object because at some point this will result in alterations and additions distorting the said object.

This knowledge of immediate sense certainty is described further in 91. Sense certainty is stated by Hegel as a ‘rich’ knowledge because of its ‘concrete content’. This sense certainty is rich in its expanses. Hegel also describes sense certainty to be knowledge  that is truest because it is pure when it is not grasped or comprehended and nothing is removed from the object as it is immediately presented to us. At the same time sense certainty is a poor, empty, and abstract truth. Hegel claims that it is poor and abstract because all it claims is that it is. It simply has an ontological claim to truth. Furthermore, Hegel describes consciousness, or one having consciousness, as representing one as another ‘I’ or ‘this’. The object is also simply another ‘this’. Sense certainty (or a subject ‘I’ being certain of an object ‘this’) occurs just because of how the object appears to us with immediate knowledge. Sense certainty does not come about, according to Hegel, by the ‘I’ or the ‘this’ having importance over one another. For example, it may be thought that the ‘this’ becomes known by the ‘I’ having control over the object field perceived.  A solipsist would believe that the ‘I’ has importance over the object and the object has a certain level of potentiality to be known or certain about. “ I, this particular I, am certain of this particular thing, not because I, qua consciousness, in knowing it have developed myself or thought about it in various ways; and also not because the thing of which I am certain, in virtue of a host of distinct qualities, would be in its owns elf a rich complex of connections, or related in various ways to other things. Neither of these has anything to do with the truth of sense certainty: here neither I nor the thing has the significance of a complex process of mediation; the ‘I’ does not have the significance  of a manifold imagining or thinking; nor does the ‘thing’ signify  something that has a host of qualities….” (Hegel). He continues to state that sense certainty is true because of how immediate knowledge in the object seen just simply is.  Consciousness of sense certainty just registers and does no work beyond that.

One thing I think can be argued in 91 is whether or not the ‘I’ of the subject and the ‘this’ of the object take importance over one another (is the ‘I’ equal to the ‘this’), and whether or not consciousness in sense certainty does any work beyond just recognizing ontological existence and truth in the object. Thinking that the ‘I’ is more significant than any ‘this’ would cause the belief that the certain ‘I’ grasps and comprehends the object perceived therefore distorting the object. An ‘I’ being superior to other subjects and objects puts reliance on the view of that ‘I’.  If one is attempting to observe things phenomenologically (I shall explain more about phenomenology soon) a polarization or bias cannot be put on the evaluation of observations. Hegel’s work here creates the idea that any observation should understand that all things are level with one another and that it all is equal in truth. It is all difficult to explain in this proposition,  as it is to a degree difficult to understand in the first place. Reading it gives you an idea how to phenomenologically investigate and evaluate observations.

Essentially 91 explains that all observations should be free of all bias, polarization, alterations, additions and all other distortion. It should simply be understood during phenomenological investigation and observation that this immediate knowledge of sense certainty just is. Another way to describe immediate knowledge of sense certainty is that it has no content, just the ontological statement of truth when it immediately appears to the subject.

I could continue discussing these matters of 90 and 91 in the Phenomenology of Spirit because of how it is difficult to explain and even understand. I urge you (especially if you are a lover of philosophy and a philosopher yourself) to read this book. To really understand what Hegel is saying about consciousness and sense knowledge when understood phenomenologically.

I will talk more about this epistemological theory of perception called phenomenology including philosophers of the subject like Husserl, Nietzsche, and Heidegger.

Thanks for the support as always. If I misconstrued something Hegel talked about in 90 or 91 in the Phenomenology of Spirit please let me know by Twitter (cosmosZ), by commenting below, or by email at cosmosuniversez@yahoo.com


Ayer’s Function of Philosophy in Language, Truth, and Logic ( A Metaphilosophy #2)

2 Dec

I am writing a few things here on my free of obligations thursday so that I can get some posts in before I won’t be able to write anything for about a month (I think). This is simply because I have a ton of school things to do for the next 2 weeks and then I will have Christmas break and will have little time.  I will for sure come back to writing by the week of January 10.

I want to talk about an aspect of another section in A.J. Ayer’s Language Truth and Logic. The second section of the book is the Function of Philosophy. I find this interesting because metaphilosophy and finding out what the goal of philosophy is should be held dear by any philosopher. Again showing his rejection for metaphysics Ayer states that the function for philosophy is not to find insight on metaphysical things. Ayer says that the search for a first philosophy is not really the goal. First philosophy is the kind of philosophizing Descartes did in his meditations.

Ayer proclaims philosophy to be a critic. This is for one thing towards scientific propositions where philosophy is used to critique the sciences and make it better. Mostly, he states philosophy to be a critic in that it tells one whether their beliefs are  ‘self consistent’ or not, and that it shows the things we use to find the truth ( or lack thereof) in our propositions. This function of philosophy contributes to science and critiques things one scientifically proposes. Ayer seems to be defending against the idea that science cannot do without philosophy because of induction. He goes on to say that induction cannot be solved, and we should deal with it in science and philosophy is not really needed for this purpose.

Others in the logical positivist era and before it have maintained the idea that science can do without philosophy and simply that philosophy assists philosophy by critiquing it and making it the best it possibly can be. In the beginning of logical positivism, the Vienna Circle (influenced by Mach and Wittgenstein, and including Carnap, Hempel, Schlick and others) wrote the Scientific Conception of the World. “The goal ahead is a unified science. the endeavor is to link and harmonize  the achievements of individual investigators in their various fields of science. From this aim follows the emphasis on collective efforts, and also the emphasis on what can be grasped intersubjectively; from this springs the search for a neutral system of formulae, for a symbolism freed from the slag of historical languages; and also the search for a total system of concepts.” This I quoted from the Scientific Conception of the World. The aim these scientists show to have is to give philosophy a goal to contribute in this unified science with physics, chemistry and all other sciences contributing in any specific theory. Philosophy just seems here to be one of many parts of a collective effort. Philosophy plays a huge part in this collective effort in that its theories can contribute to any kind of discipline or science. Did I mention the members of the Vienna Circle rejected metaphysics too? Its what all the positivists were doing. If your friends jumped off a bridge would you do it too? I am simply joking because of how many people in the logical positivist era who advocated a verification, an a priori epistemology, and the rejection and elimination of all metaphysics and its pseudo-statements. I can understand why they feel the need to remove metaphysics from philosophy because science does some of metaphysics’ roles in the most logical way possible (I am kind of being facetious). A unified science achieved by collective efforts among many sciences and disciplines is one goal philosophy has. This should not involve the rejection of metaphysics however.

Putting science aside, I feel philosophy is not simply an additive profession used to critique and assist scientific experimentation and exploration. In mostly non-metaphysical aspects of philosophy, there are roles in philosophy made specifically for the critique and use in science, but an underlying goal or purpose exists under all specialized goals and roles the specific kinds of philosophy has (such as I feel the Vienna Circle refers to the philosophy of science and not really to the rest of philosophy as they may have thought). The huge purpose philosophy seems to me to have is the role in doing what science and experimentation cannot.  Science cannot prove the existence of noumenal beings or transcendent realities but philosophy actually has a chance at doing just that. If one uses the intersection of metaphysics and epistemology along with some ethics (and of course logic as the foundation of understandings) to postulate upon our empirical and un-empirical observations, things can be discovered that science cannot measure up to. This is why I think the unified science by the collective efforts of all disciplines including philosophy is the best combination because science being paired with philosophy can yield great results. Philosophical propositions can be experimented sometimes scientifically and proved out.

I totally advocate the unified science proposed by the Vienna Circle, but instead of eliminating half of the entire body of philosophy, it should be revitalized and used toward science’s benefit. Metaphysics can be beneficial to scientists as can some religion.  Philosophy should be used whenever possible in all disciplines of science.

I have interest in metaphilosophy to help philosophers define and redefine the purpose being driven toward. I want to keep addressing themes in metaphilosophy here every once in awhile to keep thoughts on track. Each philosopher regardless of situation has his or her own course of action to take to complete a philosophical project or work. I have my own so I feel it necessary to keep metaphilosophically addressing philosophy right now, and the philosophy I currently pursue.

What function or goal do you think philosophy should have?

Let me know your answer if you would like to (on Twitter, commenting below, or by email).

I appreciate the support as always.

A.J. Ayer’s Language, Truth, and Logic: Elimination of Metaphysics

30 Nov

I return, once again, yes again, to Mr. Alfred Jules Ayer. I am now interested in his book he wrote in his twenties Language Truth and Logic. Reading it, the first section addresses metaphysics and why it sucks.

What a positivist.

I have two bones to pick with the first section of Ayer’s book, but he goes over more things than I am particularly concerned with. He begins to discredit the metaphysician  by stating that they attempt to get into the transcendent reality (unseen unempirical reality) when we create our propositions by our senses. When we feel we are limited to our 5 senses, postulating about anything other than empirical matters can be something hard to muster. Ayer claims that if one cannot really or worthily postulate about anything unempirical, most metaphysics conducts philosophies of pseudo-statement where nothing is really proclaimed and nothing can be argued for or against because again nothing is really proclaimed. From this discussion of most metaphysics as crappy pseudo-statements Ayer goes on to saying that statements and propositions made in metaphysics and epistemology must have a process of verification. He then goes into aspects of verification ( like application and other things).

Like I said, what a positivist (trying to kill metaphysics and trying to verify statements).

I have said before, I have 2 opinions differing from Ayer. 1) must all propositions be derived from sensory perception?

2)Verification is a lost cause.

In the beginning of the section Elimination of Metaphysics, Ayer stated that if most propositions are derived from sensory perception, transcendent realities cannot be understood or postulated about. Not to say that we have a 6th sense, but there are senses and feelings beyond the 5 senses we all know (sight, sound, smell, touch, sound). The main five tell us things about phenomenal reality, but there are things we have that can lead us to postulations about noumenal reality. When I say noumenal reality, I mean reality we cannot empirically perceive. I hate to exemplify this because I will be called dumb, but one might be a conversation indirectly or directly between a God and man. This is not of th 5 senses. This can note an existence of a God, and a heaven. Another example is God talking to a man and sending him to a very dark place (i.e. Hell) and then bringing him back. These observations are not empirical. This would lead me to question does one have the 5 senses beyond the body and when the soul is relocated? I think not, and it is just that everything is made known to the soul of what is around it. This is all hard to explain because empirically understood people will not understand. A connection between a God and a man, or a relocation to another space, is personally experienced only with the soul present, and cannot be understood to a man who has not experienced it himself.

I have only experienced an indirect conversation with God. In a hard time of problems in my life, and constantly praying to God for answers, my prayers were answered as I immediately understood wholly my situation and what I needed to do from there on out. It is almost as if I had a close experience with God to the point that I cannot explain it to any other than myself. These experiences are examples of what can lead us into inferring a noumenal space not empirically observed by people.

My point is that not all propositions have to be derived from empirical observations. It isn’t like we can chose to observe unempirically a noumenal place or being, but it happens at the will of God and other beings there. I do not mean to reject Ayer’s argument solely on religious inferences, but I mean to reject it by saying that if people have conceived of beings and places unempirical and not phenomenal before, it  can happen again even if its not at our will.

This leads me to verification, the Holy Grail of the logical positivists. Quine and other philosophers have shown the with meaning and other things in verification, it is just not a feasible project for metaphysical and epistemological propositions.  Verification can be done, but only on a personal basis, or a local basis between a few people who have experienced the same things. If verification of statements can only be done on such local or personal bases, there is little point to continuing on the quest for verification. Meaning has been solved, as has justification and criterion of application, and how these are applied has also been solved, but using all of these things in verification is what I understand as a pointless endeavor.

Going back to the noumenal perceptions that I believe people (including myself) to have, if these noumena unempirical perceptions are there mixed with the phenomenal ones, propositions become personal. Once these propositions about the world phenomenal or noumenal become personal, verification is a pointless endeavor.  It cannot be done, and one would be continuously be searching for that last part to verify a proposition.

Where does this leave a person who wants to know things about the world?

Still with a bright future I think (I haven’t even addressed the current foundationalism vs. coherentism, and internalism vs. externalism yet but nonetheless this is a totally different course of action in postulating things about the world). The fact that propositions cannot be verified only means that single propositions cannot be verified because of personal aspects with noumenal facts. Various propositions grouped together are what actually can tell one something about the world. Plethoras of propositions put together that while aren’t verified alone, can overlap and tell people something about the phenomenal or noumenal world. Or at least this is what I think, not taking into account any other philosophies.

Let me guess what you’re thinking, “Bullshit”. Did I hit the nail on the head?

Noumenal metaphysics is something totally feasible, just not entirely by empirical observation. Empirical observation is the short cut in all epistemology crossing with metaphysics, and it is also seen as the only way, when really it is one among many.

Thanks for the support. I have not a clue when I shall write again as my college papers are coming closer to their due dates and I will have less time.


Reductionism of Logical Positivism and Quine’s Rejection

16 Nov

The two dogmas of empiricism are rooted in the verification theory of meaning and meaning itself. Analyticity I have previously discussed, but here I want to discuss the other dogma of reductionism. Quine ultimately rejects meaning and rejects both dogmas. Reductionism, specifically radical reductionism, is the belief that “every meaningful statement is held to be translatable into a statement (true or false) about immediate experience” (Quine). Reductionism is generally the belief that statements of one kind are translatable into statements of other kinds. It is often thought in reductionism that one translation is confirmed or accepted as true (or later as the best). Quine rejects this dogma again by rejecting meaning. The verification theory of meaning of logical positivism is rejected because of the rejection of meaning. If the verification theory of meaning is rejected reductionism is rejected because one translation cannot be reduced down. Meaningful statements being able to be reduced down into statements about immediate experience cannot really be true because of the lack of ability to understand meaning.  Reductionism is simply is the translation between linguistic frameworks possibly from meaningful statement to statements about immediate experience. Reductionism carries the need to confirm a translation by verification of meaning. Quine rejects this: “My present suggestion is that it is nonsense, and the root of much nonsense, to speak of a linguistic component and a factual component  in the truth of any individual statement” (Quine). To ultimately simplify, reductionism is rejected by Quine because of his rejection of meaning (just like analyticity is rejected).

The main thing I want to do here is keep talking about Quine’s discussion of meaning and reductionism, and talk about philosophers partaking in reductionism in the early to mid 20th century. I think I am understanding reductionism and Quine’s rejection, but if I miss something please let me know.

Above is Bertrand Russell. In 1914 he published Our Knowledge of the External World which had Hard and Soft Data in it. Hard and Soft Data presented logic and sense data as the two hardest hard data as he presented soft and hard data based on logically and psychologically derivative and primitive. In this essay he presented sense data (as Moore and Royce did before him). While having his logic and sense data, he claimed that a process of reconstruction would be taking place from here on out. This reconstruction was the reconstruction of the language of physical objects into language of sense data. Physical objects are complicated when seen and to philosophically and epistemologically understand physical objects better, this reconstruction was presented by Russell. This is a form of reductionism because physical objects language has meaning, while sense datum language is based on immediate experience. I have exemplified these languages before, but physical object language would be exemplified by saying “I am seeing a red marker before me” and sense datum language would be exemplified by saying ” I see an elongated cylindrical red patch, with some black patches inside.”  This is a very early form of this reductionism Quine rejects.

Another philosopher and scientist taking up a reductionism is, above, Rudolf Carnap. In Der Logische Aufbau der Welt , Elimination of Metaphysics through Logical Analysis, and Empiricism Semantics and Ontology, Carnap’s quest for reductionism while granting the analytic is shown.  In the Aufbau and even the Elimination of Metaphysics Carnap has a desire to uphold a stricter set of linguistic frameworks where the correct framework is searched for. Looking for a correct framework is not upheld in his 1950 Empiricism Semantics and Ontology. The previous linguistic frameworks of the 1928 Aufbau are presented in the verification conditions including meaning. This is the build up from observation statements and protocol statements to thing language and physics language while accepting a geometry and a physics. Carnap’s reductionism is accepted in mainstream logical positivism at the time.  From that point Otto Neurath comes along and revises the protocol statements of Carnap’s verification conditions and the buildup of confirmation. Moritz Schlick later accepts his own reductionism.

In Empiricism Semantics and Ontology, logical positivism has sort of gone down from its peak, while Carnap and A.J. Ayer are both still trying to keep old positivist techniques. In this essay Carnap really softens his die hard reductionism, yet he still maintains a reductionism.  He states that a plethora of linguistic frameworks are to be accepted while not accepting a metaphysical doctrine at the same time. He maintains that a tolerance of linguistic frameworks is to be had while being cautious and evaluative of the frameworks presented. Unlike in the Elimination of Metaphysics and the Aufbau, in Empiricism Semantics and Ontology Carnap states that the framework that works best is the one to be accepted instead of the framework that is correct. This is still a ‘subtle’ reductionism.

Above is Moritz Schlick. He was the leader of the Vienna Circle and an influence in logical positivism. Taking into understanding Carnap (Empiricism Semantics and Ontology had not happened yet note) and Neurath and their influences on the verification theory of meaning, he had his own idea of it in his Foundation of Knowledge. He advocated a similar reductionism to Carnap and Neurath by keeping observation statements at the bottom of the whole thing, which become protocol statements (partly statements about sense data), which can be translated into thing language statements, physics language statements, and theoretical language statements. That statement can have a prediction made from it, and may or may not be confirmed. All of this grounded to the side in experience. This shows the reductionism because of how all of it is able to be reduced to statements about immediate experience.


A.J. Ayer is another philosopher advocating reductionism specifically because he advocates ‘cash value’ translations between sense datum language and physical object language. He does so in Phenomenalism and his expanded theory of perception.

I did not mention Neurath because all he spoke to was Carnap’s supposedly wrong understanding of the protocol statements.

Statements being able to be reduced down, or translated between each other is implying that most statements have meaning. This is what Quine uses to reject reductionism. The verification of meaning is involved here because it is implied that most statements have meaning and can be verified that way. After contemplating meaning more, I am thinking that we all grant meaning quickly, but I really do not think there is meaning. These languages each have their own set of rules of logic because rules of logic can be proven wrong and verified from one statement to the next. Because of this variation of logical rules I think that meaning is granted, yet no real justification for it is presented.

I think I have come to a general opinion about Quine’s rejection of the two dogmas.

I think I understood everything, and talked about everything correctly, but if I did not please tell me so I do not look foolish. Thanks again for the support.

Analyticity and Quine’s Rejection of the Dogma

16 Nov

I have succumbed somewhat to the understanding that there really is no meaning in anything. I used to think everything had meaning, but after studying W.V. Quine, I understand better why meaning cannot really exist.  If one reads and understands Quine’s On What There Is and Two Dogmas of Empiricism that one person must come up with some big evidence to actually prove that one truth statement can mean another or do any other function that meaning has said to have. This comes from Quine because of the two dogmas: 1) analyticity, and 2) reductionism. My concern here is analyticity and to help myself and the reader of this writing to understand why analyticity can be shown false and can also show ‘meaning’ to be a false hope.

If you have read Kant or other philosophers analytic statements are easy to understand. I understand them as things I can come to understand without having to go through a logical process of factual evaluation. If I hold a red pen up, I can see it and know “this is a red pen” without any logical process of fact evaluation. I know it like the snap of two fingers. Synthetic is just the opposite where factual and logical processes of evaluation must be executed to understand it. Quine defines the analytic in a somewhat different fashion which I can fathom clearly:

“Kant conceived of an analytic statement as one that attributes to its subject no more than is already conceptually contained in the subject. This formulation has two shortcomings: it limits itself to statements to subject-predicate form, and it appeals to a notion of containment which is left at a metaphorical level. But Kant’s intent, evident more from the use he makes of the notion of analyticity than from his definition of it, can be restated thus: a statement is analytic when it is true by virtue of meanings and independently of fact” (Quine).

So ultimately what I want you to get from that quote is that the analytic is statements that are true ‘by virtue of meaning’ and ‘independently of fact.’ Most important is that analytic statements are said to be true by virtue of their meanings. This has so much importance because Quine attacks the use of the word meaning because it is loosely and not well understood or defined.  In Two Dogmas of Empiricism he ultimately concludes that there is no meaning at all. He rejects not only reductionism but also analyticity. He rejects analyticity by rejecting meaning. He rejects meaning by talking about why certain logical truths and synonymies are not meaning and can not be meaning.

Beginning with logical truths he discusses reference and extension to not be meaning. Logical truths are exemplified by Quine with Morning Star and Evening Star. They both are sightings of the planet Venus, and they both are names for Venus, and both refer to Venus. Morning Star does not mean Evening Star or Venus.  This is just naming or reference. These things like certain logical truths and synonymy have been posed as clarification and understanding for what meaning is, and Quine simply paints these as failures to define and understand meaning. Reference and naming are both of singular terms. Extension is a logical truth that is of predicates. Extension is often thought to be meaning. An example of extension would be creating 2 truths about a certain entity as Quine puts it, but he paints this as another failure to understand meaning. If I am talking about a man, 2 logical truths about it would be ‘a creature with a brain’ and ‘a creature with a stomach’. Both statements extend to the same ‘entity’ but just because this is so does not mean that they mean man. These are obvious logical truths that Quine says is not meaning.

Besides logical truths, Quine says that synonymy and definition are also not meaning. He talks about definition and then interchangeability with synonymy. Synonymy is obviously understood because things like bachelor and unmarried man are synonymous, but the question is does synonymy entail meaning. Quine states definition to not be meaning because of what the lexicographer (dictionary writer) does. A definition for a word is just a section of a long chain of synonymies:

” In formal and informal work alike, thus, we find that definition – except in the extreme case of the explicitly conventional introduction of new notations – hinges on prior relationships of synonymy. Recognizing then that the notion of definition does not hold the key to synonymy and analyticity” (Quine).

S0 definition is not at all meaning because of how definition continues from word to word and phrase to phrase and being referred to those because of the synonymies that create the huge chain. Definition is just related to more synonymies and does not have meaning and cannot hold analyticity in any defined word or phrase. Definition and its relation to prior relationships of synonymy are more easily understood when it is understood why most synonymies are not meaning.

Definition not being meaning, Quine goes on to specific synonymies. Interchangeability is a certain kind of synonymy that Quine proves to not be meaning. He goes as specific to talk about interchangeability salva veritatae or interchangeability preserving truth. He declares the synonymy in interchangeability salva veritatae, but no meaning at all. For example, ‘bachelor’ and ‘unmarried man’ are interchangeable salva veritate and synonymous of course, but they are not meaning because what if bachelor is referring to ‘bachelor of arts’, ‘bachelor of science’, or ‘bachelors buttons’ as Quine puts it. In those cases bachelor would not mean unmarried man, so synonymy in the case of interchangeability salva veritatae is not meaning. He also includes that interchangeability salva necesitatae or interchangeability preserving necessity is synonymy yet not meaning because necessity is confusing as to its meaning and causes problems. The issue here is that interchangeability is synonymy yet its not meaning because some words can be synonymous and interchangeable yet not really mean the same thing. He declares this to make difficult the understanding of what meaning is.

Quine continues with his discussion about meaning and synonymy and his rejection of analyticity. I could talk for a long time about it, but I simply want to discuss the basics to understand why he rejects analyticity. In the end of the essay he uses his premises to say that the boundary between analytic and synthetic has never really been drawn. There have been attempts at defining the two in making the boundary, but clarifications have not been given to really make that dreaded distinction. If you read Two Dogmas of Empiricism by Quine and get nothing else out of it, if you get out of it that there is no meaning, then that is good enough.

I think that there is analyticity. If a person understands philosophy that person has their own understanding of the analytic/synthetic distinction that is difficult to put into words good enough to convey understanding of it from one person to another. I really think that there is analytic while at the same time it can be proven that there is not. I have my understanding of analytic and can understand why there is no analytic. Analyticity is a complicated subject because understandings of it are not the same between people.

Coming to an opinion about whether one thinks analytic exists is a difficult one especially because deciding whether one thinks there is meaning is an equally hard thing. Meaning is a hard thing to define or understand because of issues of logical truths and synonymies exemplified by Quine. My opinion is that there is no meaning and that it is all synonymy or logical truths of one form or another. Meaning is like analytic in that it can be understood by a person but not well put into words. I feel like I can understand meaning, but then I can logically reject it at the same time.

What do you think? Do you think there is analytically true statements? or meaning in general?  I am stuck and do not know what my stance on the issue is because I read Quine’s great rationalization on why analyticity, meaning and reductionism are not in existence and then at the same time I can think as if they do.  I am just not sure and need further contemplation.

Please say what you think on Twitter or in comment section. Thanks for the support.

G.E. Moore’s Proof of an External World: If we cannot prove it, can we know it?

3 Nov

I have previously discussed Wittgenstein’s book On Certainty that he wrote towards the end of his life, where he gets his frustration out mostly by correcting Moore’s essay Proof of an External World (and A Defense of Common Sense).  I am looking at Moore’s essay and looking at beginning propositions of Wittgenstein’s On Certainty and thinking about their arguments.  What Moore’s essay ultimately boils down to is him saying that he can know things without proving them. He bases that upon his idea of rigorously proving things along with other things.

Moore begins by saying that he can prove the entire external world by saying “I have one hand here, and another here.” He says this and then says that what he said conforms to a rigorous proof. “I can prove now, for instance, that two human hands exist. How? By holding up my two hands, and saying, as I make a certain gesture with the right hand, “Here is one hand”, and adding, as I make certain gesture with the left, “and here is another”. And if, by doing this, I have proved ipso facto  the existence of external things, you will all see that I can also do it now in numbers of other ways: there  is no need to multiply examples” (Moore).  He then states that what he just said was a “rigorous proof” for the external existence of 2 hands. He proceeds even further to state what qualifications for a rigorous proof are: “Of, course it would not have been a proof unless three conditions were satisfied; namely (1) unless the premiss which I adduced as proof of the conclusion was different from the conclusion I adduced it to prove”, so in short, the conclusion is different from the discussed premise,”….; (2) unless the premiss with I adduced was something which I knew to be the case, and not merely something which I believed but which was by no means certain, or something which, though in fact true, I did not know to be so;” in short  you are certain about the premise, which certainty and knowing is the ultimate discussion about Moore’s paper, and I shall further discuss here later, “…and (3) unless the conclusion did really follow from the premiss” (Moore). So, to Moore, for a rigorous proof, the conclusion and premise must be different,  you are certain of the premise, and the conclusion follows from the premise. If, in ones argument, you can satisfy these three requirements, to Moore, you have proven what you have been trying to prove.

Going on in the essay Moore talks about why his proof is good, and how proving that something existed in the past external world helps him with his present proof. All of this leads up to the final paragraph of the essay where Wittgenstein and others get most of their food for argument. I will simply cite it and discuss it thereafter:

“But another reason why some people would feel dissatisfied with my proofs is, I think, not merely that they want a proof of something which I haven’t proved, but that they think that, if I cannot give such extra proofs, then the proofs that I have given are not conclusive proofs at all. And this, I think, is a definite mistake. They would say: ” If you cannot prove your premiss that here is one hand and here is another, then you do not know it. But you yourself have admitted that, if you did not know it, then your proof was not conclusive. Therefore, your proof was not, as you say it was, a conclusive proof.” This view that, if I cannot prove such things as these, I do not know them, is, I think, the view that Kant was expressing in the sentence which I quoted at the beginning of this lecture, when he implies that so long as we have no proof of the existence of external things, their existence must be accepted merely on faith. He means to say, I think, that if I cannot prove that there is a hand here, I must accept it merely as a matter of faith – I cannot know it. Such a view, thought it has been very common among philosophers, can, I think, be shown to be wrong – though shown only by the use of premisses which are not known to be true, unless we do know of the existence of external things. I can know things, which I cannot prove; and among things which I certainly did know, even if (as I think) I could not prove them, were the premises of my two proofs. I should say, therefore, that those, if any, who are dissatisfied with these proofs merely on the ground that I did not know their premisses, have no good reason for their dissatisfaction” (Moore).

The entirety of this ending section of the paper refers to what one says when saying “I know.” His opposition says that one only knows when it is proven, and when premises cannot be proven, the whole conclusion is proven. Responding to all of these oppositions to his proving qualifications and to how he gauges how he knows something, he ends up referring to Kant’s statement that when one cannot prove something, one does not know it, and must resort to having mere faith. Thinking back to Kant’s discussion of noumena, we cannot know of their existence and we must understand that there are ways of understanding things beyond empirical observation. Kant talks about faith when introducing noumena in that noumena cannot be really known. Moore talks about Kant when defending his argument (not necessarily the part in Kant’s work about noumena) by saying that if he has faith in his right hand being there, he can still know it.

Using again the phrase “what this boils down to”, what this boils down to is that what can be proven (proven rigorously beyond what Moore defines as rigorously proving in that the premises are proven in different ways to help prove even more the ending conclusion) is known, and what cannot be proven can be known in a way less strict sense (not with all the logical proofs) where we have faith in it, yet it is not really strictly Wittgensteinian defined ‘known’, yet Moore thinks with faith, one can ‘know’ in all forms of the word what cannot be rigorously logically proven.

Kant thought that faith did not lead to proving or knowing an external thing, Moore thought that faith led still to knowing external things, and Wittgenstein overwhelmingly trampled on Moore’s opinion here with his book On Certainty. I think that when looking at these few arguments about what it means to ‘know’ anything, the word ‘know’ should be thought of and use in the strictest sense especially when trying to understand the arguments and formulate individual opinions on them. Moore thinks of ‘knowing’ something as not having consistent proof (in my opinion) but having faith in things such as that there is a right hand here. Kant believes in faith being there for minimal understanding, but it doesn’t denote ‘knowing’. Finally, in Wittgenstein’s On Certainty he makes the word know, knowing, knowledge and any other words like it to be as strict as possible.

Here are only a few propositions in the book’s entire discussion about knowledge and certainty that stomps on Moore’s argument:

”  14.  That he does know takes some shewing.

15. It needs to be shewn that no mistake was possible. Giving the assurance “I know” doesn’t suffice. For it is after all only an assurance that I can’t be making a mistake, and it needs to be objectively established that I am not making a mistake about that.”

Wittgenstein goes on to cite Moore and say more things about his argument. One thing I want to make known about Wittgenstein’s argument is that he thinks that Moore’s use of know, knowing, and knowledge is redundant, repetitive, and does not help his overall argument. If you have a library near you, like a college library, it probably has a philosophy section and may have On Certainty by Wittgenstein, or if you have the means pick it up. To get Moore’s essay Proof of an External World go here:  http://faculty.uml.edu/enelson/g%20e%20moore,%20external%20world.pdf I say that because there are many arguments that Wittgenstein specifically picks on from Moore’s essay, and there are many other things to think about and discuss besides the single point I am going to make from here on out, so if you want a more wholly picture of Moore’s opinion and Wittgenstein’s opinion, read the essay and read some of the book (since I do not think reading all of On Certainty is necessary and if you want to read a whole book of Wittgenstein read Tractatus Logic0-Philosophicus).

First of all, my opinion is that Moore’s proof of an external world and his qualifications for a proof that he used are faulty in actually making knowledge of external things. It all comes down to that Moore does not feel the need to prove his premises, and then he says that having faith is proof of external things, and it is knowing external things. I am a large holder of faith in things I have not empirically observed and proven, the only reason being that I have not found a way to prove their external existences beyond faith. Faith is similar but not equal to knowledge, and I think that when one says that faith equals knowledge, it is merely a cop out in that that person will not take further efforts to come up with logical proofs for what one has faith in.

Its hard to say how much proof there is in faith, and how much knowledge there can be had in any faith at its face value. This is because faith varies from what faith is had in, how the faith is had, and a plethora of other factors that go into faith in one thing. If I have faith in God, which I do, I feel like I have total knowledge about Him yet I do not have logical rigorous proofs for it. I feel like I have full knowledge because of my intimate and loving faith in Him, but I want to create a logical process for further proof of things others might not see but I still have faith in. Moore just says that faith equals knowing things external, but that leads to ridicule from logically sensible philosophers and people like Wittgenstein. This tells me that faith feels sufficient for knowledge to those who have faith in something external, but if we want to show others about this thing and prove it to others for the entire benefit for everyone and ourselves, we need a logical process to create a rigorous proof for things’ existences like God.

In the end,  I hate to say this, but faith is not sufficient for true knowledge in its strictest sense. Moore is copping out philosophically when he says that faith is equal to knowledge.  Wittgenstein isn’t really getting there either when he tramples on Moore’s argument rather than just removing a few things, polishing it, and building upon it.

I do not know what that logical process towards a rigorous proof of external things not empirically observed would be, but I think it should be something philosophers and logicians should progress toward. It would be nice to have logically rigorous proofs for noumena and God, or even monads and forms. Then metaphysics would be generally more accepted rather than rejected. This is a difficult thing to just say should happen, but I think it should have efforts put toward it rather than just saying that faith is knowledge.

To actually figure out how  to prove external things that are phenomena or noumena, it is my opinion that our sensations should be analyzed more than they ever have been. I say this to mean that we should analyze sensations beyond just the six senses. I like to think of it in the way that we should look at our impressions  (using Hume’s term in the Origin of Our Ideas). Impressions being things entering our perception with most violence and force. Impressions are what I take to be emotions, passions, feelings, and sensations. For example, I find an impression to be the event that one has a direct or indirect conversation with God. I have not had a direct one, but others I know have. An indirect one I have had is where I ask Him for something in particular to really help my horrible situation out. After not getting it for awhile and asking Him again, soon after, it immediately occurs and I immediately realize why He waited until now and why he put me in the problem initially. Along with this understanding, I would have amazing emotional feeling because  I can feel the things that have happened before me, and I know from who they come. This is one example of an impression that I think should be examined further to get from faith in noumenal external things to actual knowledge in the Wittgensteinian sense.

I just think that faith does not denote knowledge even if it gives us real pure understanding.

Thanks for the support, and my apologies if this was too long.

A.J. Ayer and the Act Object Analysis of Sensation

3 Nov

Here I am referring back to Ayer’s Phenomenalism, yet just another aspect in his entire argument that I have explained before. In case you did not know, I started another website http://herodotean.wordpress.com where I talk about history, politics, and current news.

Ayer begins Phenomenalism with a discussion about Bertrand Russell’s definition of sense data where he describes them as “objects of acquaintance.” He finds confusion and need for further explanation with Russell’s sense data because this implies that he is describing sense data as objects of knowledge. For something to be an object of knowledge, Ayer says,  it is something that we know to be or not be the case. Ayer states that knowing things is something meaningless to say, and therefore there are no objects of knowledge.

This all leads to Ayer’s conclusion that it  “is meaningless to speak of knowing objects.” He continues further: ” Failure to realize this has contributed , I think, to a famous piece of philosophical mythology, the act-object analysis of sensation. For once it is assumed that having a sensation involves knowing an object, then it may seem reasonable to apply to this case the principle that what is known must be independent  of the knowing of it…..”

This at first implies that its meaningless to talk about knowing objects, because knowing objects involves saying that it is or isn’t the case in certain situations, or it means knowing it in other ways, making it entirely meaningless. Ayer talks about knowing being a transitive verb carrying many meanings that are variously used by philosophers and people that do not philosophize creating many confusions. All of this together makes it meaningless to talk about knowing things. This leads further to say that we often assume that knowing an object always involves  having a sensation. Finally, the act object analysis of sensation says that what is known, call it A, can be thought that because of all of the above, is independent of the action of knowing it.  Because of all this A is thought to be independent from the action of knowing it.

Because we cannot really talk about knowing objects, we are lead to this act object analysis of sensation where the act of sensing an object is separate from the actual object.  I like to think of this as if the act of sensing an object was  a part of, or dependent on, the object. If this is the case in any sensation, the object cannot have any postulates made upon it as to whether or not it is a real object that can be known.

If the act and the object are together and dependent on each other, we cannot speak of knowing an object, because most likely the object is not real anyway. Ayer seems to think that this is the best way to go about thinking about things. If this were the other way, where the act and object are separate and independent, this would imply that an object may be out there to be known, and the act would be used for just that purpose.

Ayer states that the act and object cannot be independent or separate because this would lead to objects being able to be known. To Ayer, however, objects cannot be discussed as to how they can be known.

First, I do not know how meaningless it is to discuss knowing objects. Because of how transitive of a verb knowing is, I think it needs much clarification as to what knowing means when talking about sense data and objects. Ayer only says that its meaningless to talk about objects being known because of how physical objects are logical constructions of sense data, and he wants to end discussion about objects in the beginning words of his essay.  I disagree here, because I think objects can be discussed as to if we know certain ones or not. What we mean when we say we know of an object needs to be clarified. I think it should be clarified to say the following: knowing an object is the apprehension of an actualized existence or being.

This view is contrary to Ayer’s and it endorses a modal realism discussed by David Lewis. Lewis states in On the Plurality of Worlds that each thing we see is an actualization of a being in one way or another. When we see anything, we are apprehending objects that are existent. This would lead me to think that the act of seeing an object and the object itself are totally independent…..

This is true in most cases I think. Lewis’s modal realism would still work in the case that the act of seeing the object and the object itself are dependent and together. This scenario I think is existent in the case that one is hallucinating, dreaming, or seeing anything usually not actualized. Any hallucination or dream is still an actualized existence, even if the act of seeing it, and the seen object are dependent and together.

All in all, I disagree with Ayer’s originating proposition that begins discussion of the act object analysis of sensation. When Ayer says that discussion of knowing objects is meaningless, I think he is wrong. Yes ‘knowing’ is a confusing transitive verb that has meanings that can be confused between each other, but this only needs clarification to return to discussion of knowing objects. Anyway, I think we can know objects anyway because we see something all the time that is actualized existences in one way or another. We are always seeing real objects whether the act and object are independent or dependent, together or separate.

This modal realism and its following ontology dismantles Ayer’s thought that discussion about the knowledge of objects is meaningless.

This is only a  tiny part of Ayer’s entire argument in Phenomenalism, but the act-object analysis of sensation making one choose between the two options made me think about it, and how my specific philosophy at the moment totally tears it apart. Hopefully this wasn’t too hard to understand as I am sleepy and incoherent. I shouldn’t be writing in this state of incoherence, but if there are any inconsistencies, misuse of information, or misinformation, please let me know.



Thanks for the support.