Descartes "I think therefore I am"
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Posted 5/30/14
Descartes coined the phrase "I think therefore I am". In a nutshell this means that the only thing that the only un-falsifiable observation he could make is that he exists. This is because the act of thinking is inherent proof that he exists (read more about it).

I've always thought back to Descartes when someone tells me some fact or "truth" they believe. For example if some one were to show me a fossil and say "this is a stegosaurus". How can I know that the fossil is real unless I were the one to excavate it. Can you truly know that something is truth without having experienced it yourself? Even if an expert were to tell you it were real how do you know he isn't lying?

Because of this I feel that we all make large assumptions when we choose to beleive history, statistics, or "facts". Any thoughts?
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26 / M / Pandemonium
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Posted 5/30/14
On one hand, we do indeed make those assumptions. But remember that if the reality we live in is real, then there are entire communities that will scrutinize these things that are being presented to us. So unless there are giant conspiracies going on, then I think it's a safe assumption at the very least.

Of course it could be that none of this is real, and that all is just a vivid hallucination. Maybe we're even a brain in a glass somewhere in the "real" reality. But that we cannot possibly know. As far as I'm aware anyways.
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32 / M / Atlanta, GA
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Posted 5/30/14 , edited 5/30/14
You know, this is a tanget, but Nietzsche I think wrote an interesting criticism about the cogito. He basically claimed Descartes isn't allowed to conclude the I, just that there are thoughts. When I think about it, he's basically right.

Anyway, you are right. The only way ot know something exists, that a paritcular claim is true, or anything of that nature is to try it out yourself. Test those claims. Science actually proceeds in that fashion when you think about it with the journals and peer review. People test the claims of others themselves. And they do put them through the ringer.

I guess I think you're right OP, and I'm saying that science as a program or a process has already been doing this for a long time now. History has too in a similar vein as I understand it. You're not really encouraged to accept facts blindly. That's why the journal articles exist. Because it's there for you to try yourself. You don't have to accept someone's claim blindly. But if you don't test them yourself and confirm the claim not to be true, you don't really have proof for believing the opposite either.
Posted 5/31/14
must like control
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Posted 5/31/14 , edited 5/31/14

Marth720 wrote:

Descartes coined the phrase "I think therefore I am". In a nutshell this means that the only thing that the only un-falsifiable observation he could make is that he exists. This is because the act of thinking is inherent proof that he exists (read more about it).

I've always thought back to Descartes when someone tells me some fact or "truth" they believe. For example if some one were to show me a fossil and say "this is a stegosaurus". How can I know that the fossil is real unless I were the one to excavate it. Can you truly know that something is truth without having experienced it yourself? Even if an expert were to tell you it were real how do you know he isn't lying?

Because of this I feel that we all make large assumptions when we choose to believe history, statistics, or "facts". Any thoughts?


Except, Descartes would not even be able to say that the Stegosaurus were real even if excavated by you (or even that it existed at all) because the very nature of our senses means we cannot prove anything to be real... He did believe that there were other things, like certain mathematical truths that you could know for sure, but his whole Idea was not that you could only trust things observed by your senses, but that you CANNOT trust things observed by your senses.

I mean this was only really referring to philosophical certainty. If you are talking about things that you can probabilistically believe in, that is what science strives to determine through peer review. By finding pieces of information that can be consistently replicated, we find things we can think of as truth because the likelihood (and usefulness) of it all being chance is incredibly low. Granted this is extremely oversimplified.
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Posted 6/1/14 , edited 6/1/14

Anticosm wrote:

He was a nutter who spent too much time alone thinking too much. His so-called claim was nothing more that the very twaddle spewed by all these "philosophers" who are mentally far too cerebral for their own good.

Nothing has to think in order to exist. A stone exists, yet it cannot think. No mind has to acknowledge existence for existence to exist. So Decraptes can take his meditations (masturbations more preferably) and stick them back up his fucking frog ass.


Quick bit of formal logic. If P implies Q than it's contrapositive NOT Q implies NOT P is true, but it's converse NOT P implies NOT Q is not inherently so. lets apply this to Descartes's statement

I think (P) therefore I am (Q)

to get the contrapositive, we would need to say

I am not (NOT Q) therefore I do not think (NOT P)

what you are trying to interpret is

I think not (NOT P) therefore I am not (NOT Q)

this is called the converse and is not factually supported.

To illustrate this in another example that is easier to understand

I scored a 98% on the exam therefore I passed

The contrapositive of this would be:

I did not pass therefore I did not score a 98% (98% is within the group of passing scores, if I did not pass at all, this could not be my score)

While the converse would be:

I did not score a 98% therefore I did not pass (This is not true, I could have scored a 98%, 99%, 100%, or any range of passing grades and still passed)

While Descartes's work may seem like common sense, and you may feel like it has no real world application (more than anything it illustrated that absolute knowledge of the outside world is nigh impossible) you probably should not criticize him for saying something that he did not.

(And please don't say formal logic is Bollocks, it is what freaking makes computers work)
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Posted 6/1/14 , edited 6/1/14

Marth720 wrote:

Descartes coined the phrase "I think therefore I am". In a nutshell this means that the only thing that the only un-falsifiable observation he could make is that he exists. This is because the act of thinking is inherent proof that he exists (read more about it).

I've always thought back to Descartes when someone tells me some fact or "truth" they believe. For example if some one were to show me a fossil and say "this is a stegosaurus". How can I know that the fossil is real unless I were the one to excavate it. Can you truly know that something is truth without having experienced it yourself? Even if an expert were to tell you it were real how do you know he isn't lying?

Because of this I feel that we all make large assumptions when we choose to beleive history, statistics, or "facts". Any thoughts?


Well, see, here's the thing. Facts, history, science, etc. aren't claims made by one individual that people just nod at and agree is true without question. They're are the result of a great many people - ones that have dedicated their entire lives to the study of their particular field - doing their job, doing the research, and all (or mostly all) coming to the same conclusion. For example, even though there a lot of people choose not to believe the fact that biological evolution happens, a quick look at any scholarly research database will produce literally millions of papers demonstrating that it does occur. All the information is out there for the curious to peruse.

Sure, maybe you can't determine that a "truth" is 100% certain and unfalsifiable unless you actually experience it, but could I not turn that argument on its head and say that facts are what happen when a group of experts personally experience a phemonenon, and then an even larger group of experts verify its validity by experiencing it as well? Are facts not the account of the collective experience of a large group of people that have been specifically trained/educated to examine and establish the truth of particular subject? After all, they can't just make unjustified statements; their job entails writing lengthy accounts of their experiments (or, to be consistent "experiences") that demonstrate why. You may not personally experience the truth, but when it comes to truths that are so widely agreed-upon and supported by repeated evidences that are out there for everyone to see, the statistical probability of the findings being due to chance is so incredibly low that certainty of the truth is reasonably 100% for all intents and purposes.

While questioning is great (and in fact, science itself is about asking good questions), doesn't there come a certain point where questioning a fact doesn't actually accomplish anything, simply because the probability of its falsehood is so statistically remote by all demonstrable indications? True, we are making assumptions at the most fundamental level, but they're justified, and indeed, necessary if you wish to have any measure of knowledge about anything, apart from trying to experience every single possible phenomenon in the world in order to verify its truthfulness (which is quite impossible in one, or even many lifetimes).

The alternative is to say that we can't view anything we haven't personally experienced as true...which, when you couple that with the fact you'll most likely only personally experience the smallest, most minute fraction of everything that exists in your own lifetime, means that you can only know nothing (or very close to nothing). That, to me, doesn't lead to anything intellectually productive. In order to have knowledge about anything that isn't literally right in front of you, you have to assume that knowledge is possible by looking at the (verifiable and reproducible) experience of others.

I guess I can boil down it down to a simple question: If your own experience (the experience of one person) is a valid basis to establish truth value, should it not hold true that the collective experience of many knowledgeable people - who are examining the phenomenon and nearly all finding the same thing - be at the very least just as valid, if not exceedingly more so?
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Posted 6/1/14
Do we live our lives based on assumptions and trust? Of course we do. It's impossible to scrutinize every piece of the world's knowledge and test it for yourself to prove it to be true, you wouldn't even get past the basics in the average lifespan. And that's if you don't go insane beforehand.

We do assume that scientists know what they are talking about. We trust their skill and integrity that the answer they have is the right one. Are they often wrong? Yes, it's my honest belief that science isn't the act of proving that something is true but rather proving that something else is false.

Could evolution be wrong? Could the law of gravity even be wrong? Of course they could be, but those are the best answers that the world's smartest minds have dedicated their lives to figuring out and those are the best answers that they give us so we may better understand how the world works. So we take a bit of a leap of faith and trust their logic. And that isn't a bad thing.

We would never get anywhere if we never took the answers we have and apply them to figure out something else that we don't know. Many people debate against evolution which is perfectly reasonable, but they use unreasonable logic to justify their answers so modern biologists don't use their answers. So we use evolution to try to better understand where we come from and where we are going so we can keep advancing in our technology.
Revolver Dogelot
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Posted 6/2/14
If you can't be respectful on the forums don't post. That isn't philosophy it is just how it is. Please bear this in mind.
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Posted 6/8/14

How do you know if the Rape of Nanking is real if you weren't there? And if you were, how do I know if you are not lying?
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