General Question

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Is it safe, or intellectually honest, to assume that no ethereal objects or concepts exist?

Asked by FireMadeFlesh (16543points) May 18th, 2010

Since each person has limited time to devote to developing their picture of the world, and cannot research every concept in depth, a person will always make generalisations based on what they have researched properly.

Science has established to a high degree of certainty that there is no luminiferous aether, and no metaphysical soul in the sense of Cartesian Dualism. I am calling such ideas as ‘ethereal objects’, since they have an airy feel to them, with no anchor in scientific proof. Other examples which are not yet rejected are Dark Matter/Energy, and the philosophical concept of Qualia, neither of which I personally believe to exist. I generally think of religious ideas in this group as well, although deist ‘uncaused cause’ deities are not strictly included. On a side note, is there an existing term to use instead of my ‘ethereal objects’?

So is it intellectually honest, or a reliable rule to follow, to remain sceptical of all propositions relying on ethereal objects until proven otherwise? Can you give me an example of such a concept that is either proven or widely accepted in academic circles?

I do not want this to turn into a purely religious discussion, or a defence of dualism. Please address the ideal of an ethereal object directly.

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99 Answers

Fyrius's avatar

Isn’t it safe and intellectually honest to remain sceptical of any sort of proposition until proven otherwise?
Particularly if they rely on things not proven to exist, since they would need the additional proposition that this thing exists to be true in order to even be possible. And particularly particularly if they rely on things for which it’s not even proven that they can exist, because such a proposition would hinge on the truth of the additional proposition that this thing exists, which hinges on the truth of the additional proposition that it is possible for this thing to exist.
When you multiply the probabilities of all those propositions with each other, you’ll end up with a very low prior probability that takes a heckload of evidence to crank up to a level credible enough to even think about.

I’m also not clear on what exactly is the defining feature of things you call ethereal. An “airy feel” to them?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Fyrius “I’m also not clear on what exactly is the defining feature of things you call ethereal.”
I should have explained this better. The “airy feel” is simply to explain my use of the word ‘ethereal’. As per the examples I provided, what I call an ethereal object is a hypothetical concept introduced to explain an observed phenomenon, that appeals to a different set of laws to that which we are familiar with. The aether is an unproven hypothetical concept that was used to explain the propagation of light, which we know to occur. Qualia is a hypothetical concept to describe the difference between (for example) what colour does to us and how colour feels to us, and although I do not believe there is a difference, there certainly seems to be.

“Isn’t it safe and intellectually honest to remain sceptical of any sort of proposition until proven otherwise?”
I guess I am talking about levels of acceptance. Although a lot of the scientific community accepts dark matter and dark energy, I am hesitant to follow because it appeals to a different set of laws to those that govern the matter and energy that we know to exist in order to mediate an observed phenomenon. It is a hypothesis that is considered likely by some, and unlikely by others. Scepticism, or cautious thinking on the subject, is definitely warranted – but some guidelines should exist as to whether or not we consider it to be a likely solution.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Fyrius said: ”Isn’t it safe and intellectually honest to remain sceptical of any sort of proposition until proven otherwise? Particularly if they rely on things not proven to exist, since they would need the additional proposition that this thing exists to be true in order to even be possible

it isn’t required for a thing to be known in order for it to be true unless it is also considered true that a thing be known in order for it to exist. But if knowledge of a thing is required for it’s existence to be considered “real” it would follow then that that the only things in existence are the things you, personally, are aware of. A conclusion far too solipsistic (and therefore undesirable). So then, in order to completely dodge that perfect argument, we simply conclude: “It isn’t required for a thing to be known in order for it to be true.” Problem solved.

If it’s not clear, I’m defending solipsism and the view that the “safest” (aka, “best”) answer is always that which you’ve concluded. Why else would someone smoke cigarettes? Or cheer for the Blue Jays? It’s because they’re right to be doing so.. as far as they can tell.

@FireMadeFlesh said: “a person will always make generalisations based on what they have researched properly”

or improperly. Your ethereal objects, i would say, are all propositions which an individual cannot believe are true given their research.

roundsquare's avatar

@ninjacolin Being skeptical of something doesn’t mean you think its false. It just means you don’t accept it as true and whenever its used as an explanation for something, you question that explanation as well.

There are lots of true things we don’t know, so if you don’t know something, you should remain skeptical.

ninjacolin's avatar

@roundsquare i didn’t say ethereal objects are propositions which the individual necessarily believes are false.. i just said that they are objects which the the individual cannot believe are true. this leaves room for either believing it’s false or simply being uncertain, skeptical or agnostic as per se.

LuckyGuy's avatar

In the late 1800’s how would people describe radio waves? Maxwell sad they were real but for the rest of the world they simply were not there. I just looked outside and didn’t see them.
Of course, I can measure them now but back then people would have been skeptical.

mattbrowne's avatar

Ethereal concepts certainly exist. The word ethereal has several meanings and one is impalpable or intangible. Just take the number 3 and try to touch it. Let me know when you can feel it. I haven’t succeeded yet.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@worriedguy That is a good point, thanks. Radio waves are not unique in theory though, since they are of the electromagnetic spectrum, and therefore the same as visible light. It is not a completely new concept, unlike the aether or dark matter.

@mattbrowne I would call that an abstract concept, not an ethereal object. There are plenty of abstract concepts, they are an extremely common tool of thought. All the examples I gave are said to exist in real space, whereas no one thinks it is even theoretically possible to touch the number three.

LostInParadise's avatar

The number 3 can be defined. I could have a universal standard of 3 objects. Any collection that can be put in one to one correspondence with the standard is an example of 3 objects.

One quality that anything must have in order to have a legitimate claim for existence is that it must be possible, at least in theory, to design an experiment to test for the existence of it. This may be very indirect. If the existence of something can not be perceived directly but it implies some measurable result, then that serves as a test. For example, until recently atoms could not be seen, but the verified predictions that followed from assuming their existence was some overwhelming that nobody was much surprised when it became possible to see them.

In this regard, religious concepts do not measure up. There is no way to test for the existence of God, since God is completely free and therefore has behavior that is non-deterministic. I am not qualified to discuss dark matter or dark energy. Sometimes these things seem to have been made up to account for flaws in current theories. The question of the existence of qualia is an interesting one. We all have perceptions of things. Do these perceptions have existence apart from the objects that they are perceptions of? It seems to me that they do. How else do we explain, for example, how a photograph can reproduce images?

Fyrius's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh
Well, in that case, yes. An explanation that does not require revising our understanding of the universe would be preferable to one that does, from a scientific point of view. So I do think the latter sort of explanation would deserve a bit more scepticism.

“Scepticism, or cautious thinking on the subject, is definitely warranted – but some guidelines should exist as to whether or not we consider it to be a likely solution.”
Absolutely.
And I do believe there exist formally correct ways to determine the likeliness of an explanation. I’ve heard of Bayesian probability being used for this, but I haven’t quite wrapped my head around how to use it yet.

@ninjacolin
You lost me. :/ Why are you talking about solipsism?
I do believe things can really exist without us or anyone else knowing they do.

@LostInParadise
Aaand there we go. This is now a god thread. Oh well, had to happen sooner or later.
“As an online discussion on epistemology grows longer, the probability of a reference to god and religion approaches one.” I think we should call this Hitlerwin’s Law.

roundsquare's avatar

@Fyrius Its not actually that tough to use bayesian probability. Its basically what you’d think it is. You start with a guess as to how likely something is, and as you get evidence, you adjust the probability. Thats it. The rest is math, which is useful, but hardly necessary in everyday life.

@ninjacolin Sorry, I’m confused. Can you explain your position some more?

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, we can define the number 3, but we can’t touch it or smell it.

Fyrius's avatar

@roundsquare
Well, this much I did understand. It’s the math part that I have trouble wrapping my head around.
And it seems that until I do, any probability I estimate is more of a quantification of a subjective feeling than of an actual verifiable number. Which means that if we have clear a prior probability of 0.5 and I think some new evidence should raise the probability to 0.7, and you think it should raise it only to 0.6, we can’t really tell whose number is more correct, not without the math.
So as far as formally correct methods go, I think the math is the most important part in this context.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Fyrius solipsism is what leads me to my view point that ethereal objects exist as long as they exist in the mind of the individual. Whatever the individual believes is true is… Until they believe something else.

@FireMadeFlesh asked: “Can you give me an example of such a concept that is either proven or widely accepted in academic circles?”

Proven? No, but unproven yet widely accepted is the idea that for every decision we make there’s an unlimited supply of alternate universes where any and all other possible decisions are made. (eg. If you have a muffin for breakfast today, another you in another dimension is having eggs, another is having a carrot for breakfast, another is having a cinder block.. so on and so on..) I think this is bogus.

@roundsquare, I don’t know what you’d like me to elaborate on. :(

@Fyrius and @FireMadeFlesh, I’m gonna ask you an open ended question here.. The likeliness of a proposition being true is based on what?

LostInParadise's avatar

Then you are saying there are no delusions. The voices in the heads of schizophrenics are true. hmm

I would say that what is true, among scientists at least, is what has been arrived at by consensual agreement based on experimental evidence.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Fyrius Thanks, I will have to try to figure out Bayesian Probability too.

@ninjacolin Your comments on solipsism are quite obvious. Of course something exists as an idea, and you cannot confirm its existence beyond that in a metaphysical sense, but I am working within the construct that the universe as we observe it is real. Considering that, we only need to prove a concept to the level where we are as sure of its truth as we are of the existence of objects outside ourselves.
I would like to see a viable alternative to the multiverse hypothesis, but all current alternatives are even more ludicrous. Physicists seem to be story-telling rather than theorising on this issue, coming up with wild ideas like supersymmetry that are just fudge factors that might be true but probably aren’t.
The likeliness of a proposition being true can be based on the factors it entails, how much of a departure from conventional thinking it is, and how useful it is in solving existing problems. I’m not sure how it would be measured formally, but those are the things I consider when making an ignorant judgement.

Fyrius's avatar

@ninjacolin
“solipsism is what leads me to my view point that ethereal objects exist as long as they exist in the mind of the individual. Whatever the individual believes is true is… Until they believe something else.”
Hmmmokay, think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on that one.

“The likeliness of a proposition being true is based on what?”
Several things. Many different factors, actually.
The following treatise is not guaranteed to be an exhaustive list – in fact, I think it’s likely [0.8] that there are things I accidentally left out or just never heard about. Meanwhile what I do mention may strike you as incredibly obvious. But hey, you asked.

All we have, essentially, and the only thing that any sort of reliable understanding of the world can be based on, is evidence. Various flavours of raw data on all sorts of subject. Science, now, is the human endeavour to interpret the evidence properly and at the same time to gather more evidence, so as to be able to figure out this world we find ourselves in.

The purpose of the hypothesis is to connect and relate the data in such a way that understandable and predictable patterns can be deduced, on which we can base predictions of evidence we do not yet have. The merit and probability of any hypothesis hinges on how accurate its predictions are. That’s what they’re for, pretty much.
Hypotheses that make no predictions aren’t necessarily unlikely, they’re just useless. If you can’t use it to make predictions, it’s not actually an explanation at all. It’s just an excuse for an explanation, and it only gets in the way, by making people think the problem is solved even if they still understand bugger all of what it was supposed to make sense of.
It happens more often than you think.
To the extent that the predictions that a hypothesis makes turn out to be right, then, we can rely on this hypothesis being on the right track; in other words, fulfilled predictions increase reliability; in other words, raise its probability of being true. That’s basically what vindication means. It’s proved right.
And of course it also goes in the other direction; to the extent that the predictions of a hypothesis do not turn out to be right, we may conclude that this hypothesis sucks. And thus to that extent we should give up our hopes that this hypothesis has anything useful to say; in other words, lower its probability of being true. That’s basically what falsification boils down to.
One more thing you should know about predictions is that their power to confirm or overturn a hypothesis depends on the probability that the hypothesis assigns to the prediction; if hypothesis A is really sure X will happen, but X does not happen, then hypothesis A has some ‘splaining to do. On the other hand if hypothesis A says that X might happen, probably, or maybe not, then X not happening will not be as much of a problem to hypothesis A.
Also note that competing hypotheses may predict the same data, but with different probabilities; in that case the hypothesis that most strongly predicts the data gains more probability for getting it right than the other one, and loses more probability for getting it wrong. Like the outcome of a higher bet.
Except what you’re doing is perhaps the exact opposite of gambling.

And once we have a few such high-probability hypotheses that have proven themselves reliable by predicting things that also actually happen, it also becomes important for new hypotheses to be compatible with these old ones; if hypothesis A has a high probability, that lowers the probability of any hypothesis B that doesn’t line up with hypothesis A. The probabilities affect each other. Simply put, well-established knowledge lowers the probability of assertions that it would predict to be false.
And this works both ways too, of course; if hypothesis B gathers more credibility, then the high probability of A drops with everything that B gains. Probabilistic vampirism.

Then there’s the issue of complexity; some hypotheses have many different sub-assertions, others have just a few. Hypotheses in that sense are a bit like chains; some of them are long, with many links, others are shorter. Now, if you don’t need a long chain, you’re better off with a short one, because a chain is as strong as its weakest link, and thus chains with more links are more liable to break. For hypotheses it’s the same thing, kind of; the more sub-assertions, the more things can be wrong, and if one part’s wrong the whole hypothesis goes out the window. Well, to a proportional extent. Therefore if another hypothesis can make sense of the same data in a simpler way, that makes it more probable.
To put the same point in a different way: all the sub-hypotheses have probabilities of their own that they get from all the other probability-determining factors, and if you piece them together again all their probabilities – expressed as number between 0 and 1 – are multiplied by each other to form the grand score of the complex hypothesis, which then becomes really not all that much any more.

In a nutshell, probability is nothing other than a formally correct quantification of uncertainty. Anything that strengthens or weakens our certainty of P affects the probability of P in doing so.
And if P is the proposition that I’ve been talking for way too long, then I’m going to stop writing now before the probability of P comes any closer to one.

Fyrius's avatar

See @FireMadeFlesh’ post for the short version.

LostInParadise's avatar

It should be pointed out that any theory of truth has to have some assumptions built in. The reliance on scientific method rests on the assumption that there are underlying scientific laws that remain constant over time and space and that consequently scientific experiments can be repeated and yield the same results. Is this necessarily true. Is it possible that at some point objects will fall up? So far the assumption of the existence of scientific laws has had remarkable success and until someone finds contradictory evidence, we will stay with it.

ninjacolin's avatar

^ super true.

“I am working within the construct that the universe as we observe it is real. Considering that, we only need to prove a concept to the level where we are as sure of its truth as we are of the existence of objects outside ourselves.”

a solipsistic universe isn’t any less real. ;) just because you’re a figment of my imagination, doesn’t mean I’m not actually spending my time talking to you. What I believe is real, I treat as real. My beliefs coerce my behavior.

That is, if I’m wearing a coat and i believe it’s too hot for a coat, I’ll take it off. I could be delusional or perhaps suffering an allergic reaction or a fever.. it doesn’t matter whether it’s actually hot outside or not. If I believe it’s too hot, then I behave as if it is too hot.. Right to the point where for you were to suggest: “It isn’t hot, no need to take off your jacket” would be an ethereal reality as far as I’m concerned. Not hottness is utterly unavailable to me as a belief. (grammar notwithstanding)

“I would like to see a viable alternative to the multiverse hypothesis”
Well, why not simply: The decisions we make represent every possible decision we could make at the moment. I still think this matches more with what we observe empirically.

@FireMadeFlesh Occam’s razor is another method you’re familiar with for determining likely propositions. A principal more recently expressed as the KISS method. :)
Keep It Simple, Stupid

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I’ve never considered these questions in terms of safety, that’s one and I don’t think I feel in danger or safe from being skeptical about something that hasn’t yet been dissected by science. As for whether or not it’s intellectually honest…well, that phrase, in itself, is a bunch of hooey, if you ask me but if I must use it, that which we know/are aware of are the only things, in my opinion, that we can (actively) be intellectually honest about.

Fyrius's avatar

@ninjacolin
Here it gets interesting.
You take off your coat when you feel it’s too hot for comfort. I presume that means you think taking your coat off is going to make you feel less hot. Why?

ninjacolin's avatar

Why do I believe coat offing = comfort from heat? I would say it’s because of the historical evidence (as a few of you have said already) I have in my head. It’s just something I’ve been shown will likely (there’s that word again) result in a lessened sensation heat. Is this sensible?

LostInParadise's avatar

The assumption of solipsism does not change anything. You still need a way of determining the truth of things. You can of course rely on direct personal experience for some things, but this is the same regardless of the solipsism assumption. If you and I are both scientists and I claim that I can create cold fusion, you would want to either test this on your own or look at the results of others who tried to produce it. Again, the same whether we assume solipsism or not.

ninjacolin's avatar

truth is whatever i believe to be true. that’s how I know a proposition is true, because i believe it.

Fyrius's avatar

@ninjacolin
“truth is whatever i believe to be true.”
I had a feeling you were going to go that way.

But consider what this means. If everything you believe becomes true because you believe it, that means you are unable ever to be wrong about anything. It means all your predictions always turn out true, and everything always happens the exact way you expect it to, because you expected it. It means you can never find any evidence that does not perfectly match your beliefs. It means you’re never surprised. It means you’re an oracle.

I don’t know about you, but for me that’s not going to fly.

ninjacolin's avatar

you never are wrong about anything. you were wrong sometimes in the past but the you who exists right now? he’s right. that other guy had no clue what he was talking about.

and oracle is pretty lowly. if you’re creating everything in existence, wouldn’t that make you a god? god’s can fly if they want but oracles not so much.. no wings or anything.. at least if you said angel, then you’d get some flying action in there. :) anyway, god is definitely a more fitting term for someone of your power and ability, but yea, that’s just my opinion.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I used the term ‘safe’ because people generally feel threatened when someone points out a flaw in their beliefs. This leads to Cognitive Dissonance, where we try to resolve the flaw by either denying the apparent flaw, or trying to rectify our beliefs accordingly. Any hypothesis departing from the null hypothesis is a risk that may lead to that uncomfortable feeling of being wrong.

@ninjacolin “Truth is whatever I believe to be true”
I really don’t want to get into a post-modernist discussion here, but it seems we must. Truth is a relative and subjective concept, since what you believe to be true is almost always different to what someone else believes to be true. Lets say I think solipsism is complete garbage – I must be correct in this belief, since either it is garbage, or it is true and I believe it to be false so it is false anyway (and that line of reasoning collapses into itself). Since it is false either way, your argument becomes futile. If I believe it to be true though, I can either be correct, (because I believe the truth about a truth, which makes it a truth… ad infinitum) or I may be wrong and I just imagine it to be true when it is actually false. This situation is reminiscent of the old trick with the two guards.
I personally believe perception is all the truth we have of the world, but there is still room for some truths to be absolute and immutable. Things can seem to be true, but actually be false, but since they seem to be true we treat them as true. Eventually there is a ‘last word’ on certain concepts, and they must either be true or false.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh I agree that people do feel threatened when someone points out a flaw in their beliefs…I, on the other hand, get excited and feel challenged and want to prove them wrong leading me to learn more about subjects important to me – on the other hand, I feel a disconnect with most people and in my life it has been easier to let go of past ideologies as soon as I understood the logic of another and I never look back, only forward.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir That is a great attitude, but for most people it is a learned behaviour and does not come naturally.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh I think I have a very snake-like nature in that I must always shed my skin and remain fluid in my outlook on things. Maybe it’s an Aquarius thing, supposedly it comes easier to us. (though I don’t believe in astrology).

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I’m an Aquarius too not that I care for astrology, and I usually take insults to be constructive criticism even if they are not intended that way, so I can use that to make myself a better person. I have always thought of insults and teasing as a good source of information on how other people think of me, although with a good measure of exaggeration thrown in.

Fyrius's avatar

@ninjacolin
But at some moment, after you’ve stumbled upon proof you’re wrong and before you’ve changed your mind to the new beliefs that are now true by definition, you must realise that you are wrong right now. The experience @FireMadeFlesh calls cognitive dissonance. For a brief moment, you have irrefutable evidence that the universe does not reshape itself to make you right. During that moment you can only resolve the conflict by adapting your beliefs to the evidence, and then denying your memory that you did so, so you can believe again that it’s reality that adapts itself to your beliefs.

Which is to say that if you seriously believe in solipsism – as opposed to just entertaining the notion for philosophical shits and giggles with people on the internet – then every time you find out you’re wrong about something and realise what that means, you’ll have to convince yourself again that that moment of realisation just now never happened.

@FireMadeFlesh
“I used the term ‘safe’ because people generally feel threatened when someone points out a flaw in their beliefs.”
It seems considering being wrong a “danger” is a common idiom in science. Only not because everyone is afraid of cognitive dissonance and having to admit being wrong, but because being wrong is, y’know, bad.
Science is all about being the least wrong we can be. Anything that introduces a realistic possibility of being wrong threatens that goal. It’s a “risk” and a “danger” in that sense.
This is an important difference, because one mind-set leads you to avoid being wrong, while the other leads you to avoid finding out you’re wrong. Oftentimes in order not to be wrong, you’ll have to cause cognitive dissonance in yourself on purpose. Oftentimes you even need to actively go looking for it.

Incidentally, I’ve always taken (sufficiently specific) insults in the same way, and I’m also a person who constantly tries to tweak and improve himself and needs constant change in order not to lose interest. And if you want to know, I’m a Gemini.
To hell with astrology. We know it’s not true.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh @Fyrius No no, there is something there – look at all of us…Aquarius, Aquarius, Gemini…back in my witchcraft days I learned that perfect people for Aquariuses are other Aquairuses or Gemini…so there…there’s your proof!~

Fyrius's avatar

Cool story, sis.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Fyrius All right, all right but later, when we’re having sex, don’t tell me it’s just coincidence

Fyrius's avatar

(makes a mental note: If I end up in bed with Simone, remember to tell her it’s just coincidence)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Fyrius lol I’ll be waiting

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir My perfect match is a Sagittarius – is that ‘right’ according to the zodiac?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh eh, It’s okay but not the best…lol

Jabe73's avatar

There is no way to “prove” whether something that can’t be explained by normal scientific methods exists.

It comes down to perhaps more circumstantial “evidence” than anything because out of a human being’s natural instinct to be curious about something that can’t be explained by “science” and it’s law of physics as we know it which, on the other hand is completely different than believing something based on “blind faith” itself.

I will give you an example and I am not trying to imply that there is an “alternative” reason but to just make the point why many other people, including myself are interested in perhaps the possibility of an “ethereal dimension or beings” or maybe even an “intelligent creator”. Example, how do you explain how a 6 year old little boy was able to recall the name of the carrier and type of plane he “claims he knew he flew” during WWII, the person’s name he claimed to have been in a past life, and than on top of all of that the boy even named some veterans he served with on that carrier and when the boy’s skeptical parents actually visited the veterans who also flew sorties from that same carrier verify that the information that came from this little boy was true. Example again, how did a woman who was blind from birth see what was happening in the operating room during her surgery and describe the tools that was used on her during her surgery while her brain activity was all flatline and everything she said was verified by the doctors performing the surgery on her, you can’t use the dying brain DMT hallucinations here, she was blind. When this women eventually regained consciousness again and “suppositively returned to her body” she was blind again, just like she was from birth. I could go on and on but i think i made my point, i don’t expect you or anyone else for that matter to believe that this is any proof of something “outside of science” but at the same time no skeptics, and believe me i have read their arguments still do not explain how these and many other “supernatural” events could of happened.

Its not about (at least to me) to try to disprove skeptics but out of my own curiousity that perhaps there is something more to not just the universe as we know it but our own very existence. I know i can never prove anything “supernatural” or “ethereal” but at the same time these things really did happen and as far as i’m concerned the skeptics did not give any believable “scientific” explainations how they could of.

Fyrius's avatar

@Jabe73
I don’t think any of us would disagree that science hasn’t figured everything out yet.

But if science doesn’t know, then ancient scriptures or urban legends or speculation cults definitely don’t know.

LostInParadise's avatar

@Jabe73

James Randi Challenge
Note that nobody has made it past the preliminary round.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Jabe73 The story about the child pilot was conclusively destroyed in another thread by the link posted by @Rarebear. I am confident that given all the facts of the situation your other example would fall flat as well.

People will believe what they want to believe though, and I do not believe this thread is the right place for arguing the existence of things that I am already convinced do not exist.
If you want to discuss such ideas, feel free to send me a PM.

Jabe73's avatar

The article given to me by rearbear, which I read because I thought to find something different about it than the many other skeptic arguments i’ve read about turned out to be nothing special or have anything different than anything else I read about.

This skeptic article didn’t destroy anything LOL. It made many of the same old points about the boy already being into planes, James being a popular name, and even suggesting that some of his statements were probally influenced by Carol Bowman and the boy’s own father. It still failed to explain how he knew the name Jack Larson, whose real name happened to be John Larson who did serve on that carrier. The only real answer here would be that James parents were frauds who were trying to exploit this story to make money off of the story.

There are many fraudulent stories out there about nde and some past life regression stories, I believe this one with James Leininger is for real and that article, just like many others I read still failed to explain several things while cherry picking at things. There are those stories that I don’t believe however, though these had nothing to do with past life experiences they still are about the “supernatural” and are very popular. The books about Bill Wiese 23 minutes in hell and Mary K Baxters “Devine Revelation of Hell” are phony in my opinion. Both of these people didn’t even have an nde. One nde I do believe is the real deal is Howard Storm’s.

Yes people will believe want they want to believe, including you. Go to www.victorzammit.com, I will post other links if you want that clearly destroy the skeptics arguments of nde, many of these scientists were former skeptics themselves until they further researched the evidence in making the case that past life regression stories are most likely real and that your conscious does continue to exist after physical death.

LostInParadise's avatar

If any of these people have a legitimate claim, James Randi is willing to give them a million dollars to prove it. The chance to make that kind of money and to shame Randi’s skepticism would seem to be a pretty big incentive.

Jabe73's avatar

Victor Zammit is offering 1 million dollars to anyone that can prove the afterlife doesn’t exist. It looks like nobody will be getting that neither.

LostInParadise's avatar

The burden of proof is on those who would prove the afterlife does exist. If there is no such proof then by Occam’s Razor we assume that there is no such thing.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Jabe73 Even if there is no alternative explanation at this time, that is no reason to accept the completely implausible supernatural explanations proposed. We know that there is no thought outside the brain, and we know that the brain is a biochemical structure that ceases to operate at the time of death (since that is effectively the definition of death). Those simple facts discount any supernatural explanation involving people surviving their death, and while an alternative should be sought, there is no reason to jump to wild conclusions simply because no alternative exists at this moment.

Jabe73's avatar

What do you mean “we know”, these are not “facts” but opinions. I’m not even admitting my beliefs are facts but are my own opinions. I do agree with you that the brain itself does cease to function at physical death, that we can agree on. When you say that “we know” that there is no thought outside of the human brain that becomes an opinion and not a fact, and has not been proven or disproven by anybody. I’m a very skeptical person myself, and I didn’t believe much of this stuff myself but when some very strange things started to happen when several people close to me passed away it made me aware that maybe there is something else that we’re not aware of.

I am not getting into my own experiences as well as my moms however because i know you would not even come close to being able to explain the events so I may be accused of even lying or making the “stories” up. I had strange things happen when I was child as well that I could never explain, just because someone believes in the possibilty of something outside the “norm” it don’t make that person irrational because “science” can’t explain something. I admit this is my opinion, and not a proven fact but did any of you skeptics even look at Victor Zammits website, www.neardeath.com is another good one, I have read both sides of the argument because I was once a skeptic myself.

Fyrius's avatar

@Jabe73:
Side note: An opinion is a fundamentally different thing from an alleged fact that’s not verified. You can’t prove an opinion – try thinking of any kind of evidence that could prove ducks are cute or Obama’s ears look just a bit less silly than those of Bush.
I think you’re thinking of an unfounded belief.

Not that what @FireMadeFlesh said isn’t properly founded. I wouldn’t say we know there can be no thought outside the brain, but without any evidence in favour of such a thing, the notion is just random speculation on roughly the same order of bizarre improbability as a planet far away where the people are made of chocolate.
Surely it should be possible to think of a better explanation. Even an unscientific explanation involving slightly less magic would be an improvement.

Word to the wise: if you ever meet any people who believe there exists a planet where the people are made of chocolate as adamantly as some people believe they will continue thinking after their brains have stopped working, back away from them slowly and call the psych ward to see if they’re missing anyone.

LostInParadise's avatar

People made of chocolate? That is so silly. How would they resist the temptation to eat themselves?

Fyrius's avatar

@LostInParadise
The punishment for cannibalism is being molten and mixed with milk.
And the wildlife is also made of chocolate, of course.

nisse's avatar

This great thread seems to have been sidetracked somewhat, also, what happened to @ninjacolin, I would love to hear his defence of his (solipsistic?) position, especially an answer to the solipsism amounts to realism argument by David Deutch. :)

(here’s the short version of the argument on wikipedia)

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Jabe73 and @Fyrius although it has not been conclusively proven, it is supported by a similar weight of evidence as the most successful scientific theories. Neuroscience studies of people with brain damage has given us the ability to map the brain in great detail. For example, people with temporal lobe damage (specifically Broca’s area) often have to re-learn the ability to speak, and people with damage to the thalamus regularly end up in a permanent coma.
We also have successful theories for the origin of hallucinations and dreams, we can map brain activity during certain thinking exercises to see which regions are activated, and we can even see from a brain scan of a person playing computer games whether they are travelling clockwise or counter-clockwise in their virtual world.
If there is more to thought than the brain, then we must ask what the nature of the external thought centre is. If it is composed of matter, then it is a useless addition to the brain, which is composed of matter. If it is not composed of matter, then we must develop a theory of the mind that develops a mind structure from unknown particles, which communicate with the brain through an unknown mechanism. This communication mechanism would need to be composed of particles that can interact with both mind particles and matter. To date we are unaware of any violation of the Law of Conservation of Information, inside or outside the brain. This is an unnecessary abstraction, and just another layer of complexity that arises from people’s innate fear that their thought processes could be reduced to an equation.
So @Jabe73, that is far more than an opinion, it is an extremely successful scientific theory, and to reject it requires more than a few NDE anecdotes – it requires a more successful theory with counter-claims to be formulated.

@nisse The thread is now way off topic, which is unfortunate since I put it in the general section to avoid it becoming a religious thread. Maybe you could send @ninjacolin a PM to draw some points to his attention.

ninjacolin's avatar

The truth about the universe/reality/anything is what you believe it is at the moment.

This is a truism. Deutsch ignores this.

Fyrius's avatar

Ah, there you are again. Shall we pick this subject up again, then?

@ninjacolin
I wouldn’t consider that a truism at all. I for one am often wrong. The truth is often something other than what I believe.

Do you really believe your belief makes something true? If so, how do you know?

Hypothetically speaking, if what you’re seeing (and otherwise perceiving) would come from an outside world that’s not created by your mind, what would you expect to be different about the things you experience? In other words, how can you tell you don’t live in such a world? Could you tell the difference?

In my case, if the world around me were an illusion in my mind, I’d expect it to be a lot less complex, I’d expect it not to contain any information that I don’t already know unless I just made it up, and I’d expect what happens to be a lot more in sync with my state of mind.
Things being as they are, several things are much more complicated than at least my conscious mind can understand, I often learn things about the world I didn’t know yet and that in retrospect always seem to have been true, and there seems to be no connection whatsoever between my state of mind and, say, what I see on the news.

LostInParadise's avatar

@ninjacolin , You are avoiding an important question. What is the basis for your belief at any given moment? The solipsism assumption is of no help here. You can ignore what it is that led to your belief but, solipsist or not, there had to be something. It is not possible to disprove solipsism, but it does not provide any help in determining what is true. By that most useful tool, Occam’s Razor, we can therefore dispense with it.

Fyrius's avatar

@LostInParadise
Side note:
“By that most useful tool, Occam’s Razor, we can therefore dispense with it.”
Hate to be a nitpick, because I think you have the right general idea, but I think in this case the existence of a real world outside your perceptions would be a more complex assumption than the existence of only your perceptions.
Whatever principles there may be to judge solipsism as not deserving of our attention, I think Ockham’s Razor is not among them.
I think the fact that assuming a real world comes so natural to us belies how complex the idea is.

No, I think that the real world hypothesis deserves the burden of proof – and bears it more than adequately.

LostInParadise's avatar

For the world to exist entirely inside one’s head there must be a way of accounting for why one ever gets surprised or guesses wrong and why one ever gets hurt or is disappointed by what happens. There may be ways of doing this, but they add an unnecessary level of complexity. The simplest assumption is that what you see is what there is.

Fyrius's avatar

I can’t agree with you there.
You need ways to explain those things either way. A real world is an adequate explanation. So is a virtual reality program, conceivably.
And while it’s true that a virtual reality program would still need the existence of everything you see and a programmer and a reason why he would bother and a system that runs the program and whatnot, a virtual reality system doesn’t require the (virtual) existence of anything you don’t see.

In my case for example it wouldn’t need to contain more than a vague word-of-mouth representation for condensed milk, rabies, durians, Panama, the moons of Jupiter, Mick Jagger, Lego Mindstorms, the 27th digit of pi or Reservoir Dogs, and no representation at all for the surface of Saturn and whatever the Vikings used for toilets. The simulation also wouldn’t have to be larger than western Europe.

My personal experiences are a lot less complex than the entire history of the entire universe. Solipsism only needs to account for the former.
Ockham’s Razor does not argue for an unfathomably huge universe if it can get away with a minimal universe.

And oh dear, now I’m on the other side of the debate.
I can see my house from up here.

ninjacolin's avatar

“My personal experiences are a lot less complex than the entire history of the entire universe.”

this is a great string of characters. more tailored to the solipsist’s position: My personal knowledge of the entire history and goings on of the universe is what i consider to be real. Beyond that horizon, I dunno whether anything else is.

@Fyrius said: “Do you really believe your belief makes something true? If so, how do you know?”

Okay, to say beliefs “Make” reality may be too strong a statement. Rather, beliefs mark the instantiation of truth: Simple Example: Look at your clock, note the current time. “It is true that the time is _____.” Now notice that when the time changes the truth about what time it is changes. More complex: Imagine you’re waking up from being unconscious. First you notice shapes of different colors, then you notice sounds, then you notice faces and hear voices. The truth about the universe at the moment is that you were a businessman/woman driving on the highway, when you spilled your hot coffee on your lap. You looked down for just a second and suddenly you were awakening from unconsciousness. If you were to die right this moment before the voices turned into sentences, that truth would be preserved. But if you go on living and healing up.. you will begin to believe new truths such as what you are told by your rescuers: “Mankind as we know it has been eradicated. You were driving on the hyway when a fleet of aliens landed and zapped about 90 percent of the population, then disappeared. It all happened in about 5 minutes. You were lucky to survive” ... Essentially, you’ve just created all of this stuff. Aliens were just a thing for scifi movies only seconds ago but suddenly they’ve destroyed the whole planet and now you have to put on a space suit and go stop them.

Without you, however, none of this would be true. If you don’t learn it’s true, it never gets a chance to be what you could define as true.

But solipsism doesn’t require you to be the creator, just the “Intended Audience” of the film.

@LostInParadise said: “For the world to exist entirely inside one’s head there must be a way of accounting for why one ever gets surprised or guesses wrong and why one ever gets hurt or is disappointed by what happens”

One of the first things we believe in is the laws of physics which govern everything. These laws require things like expressions and feelings of surprise. The only things that are true are the things we believe are true, however, this doesn’t mean that we get to believe simply whatever we want. Evidently, I function on a set of rules that I can’t seem to disobey. Things like having to articulate my meanings when I would rather others simply understood my requests via telepathy. Somehow, I don’t get to believe according to my whims, rather I believe only according to what tickles my rational sensibilities.

There’s a lot to be figured out about all this stuff. I can’t claim to have had the time to think about it all. But onto @LostInParadise‘s other critque:

“What is the basis for your belief at any given moment?”

Beliefs are based on memories as processed through my rational faculties.

LostInParadise's avatar

One of the first things we believe in is the laws of physics which govern everything. The only things that are true are the things we believe are true, however, this doesn’t mean that we get to believe simply whatever we want. Evidently, I function on a set of rules that I can’t seem to disobey.

There would then seem to be two of you, the one that makes up the rules and the one that follows them. This gets very complicated. It is so much simpler to assume that there are laws of physics and other objects independent of you.

Fyrius's avatar

And now I’m back on the other side again. Hello, guys. Check out these souvenirs I brought.

@ninjacolin
I’m afraid that throwing hypothetical scenarios at me is not going to make your hypothesis sound more convincing to me. For us non-solipsists, “imagine that P” and “P is true” are not equivalent. :P

Let’s make this all a bit more defined, shall we.
Do you believe the outside world has no existence outside your perception of it, or are you now just using a definition of “existence” where things can only exist if a brain processes the stimuli it causes? Does a film not exist except in the mind of the viewer?

When I look at a clock, I believe that means photons bounce off the face of the clock and fly into my retinas, whereupon my optical nerves fire in a pattern that the visual cortex of my brain interprets in such a way that I can reconstruct an image that resembles the object the photons bounced off from, with a little hand hanging in front of one number and a big hand in front of another. There’s a model in my head that corresponds to the physical object and the stances of its hands.
I need this independently existing clock in order to find out how much time has elapsed between two moments, because my brain itself isn’t as good at keeping track of such things.
Would you disagree with any of this?

“Evidently, I function on a set of rules that I can’t seem to disobey. Things like having to articulate my meanings when I would rather others simply understood my requests via telepathy. Somehow, I don’t get to believe according to my whims, rather I believe only according to what tickles my rational sensibilities.”
That, or the rest of us have an existence in our own right.
Shouldn’t you be using this unexpected, hard-to-explain-fact as evidence to decrease your conviction that solipsism is true?

@LostInParadise
You’re going to play that card anyway, after everything I’ve just said?
If you’re going for simplicity, it would be more simple to assume stars are little white dots on a dark blue ceiling, instead of enormous balls of gas millions of miles away. A real world-solipsism hybrid theory, like the Truman Show.

LostInParadise's avatar

@Fyrius , I don’t know what more I can say. Solipsism does not provide any additional explanatory capability and introduces other things that need to be explained. By Occam’s Razor, it is of no value.

If you want to think of stars as painted on a canvas, you can do that using solipsism or not. A scientist making more detailed observations would find that model unacceptable in either case.

Like I said, the solipsist viewpoint needs to explain why life is different from what we would like it to be. The non-solipsist explanation for this is simple – there are external entities that behave independently of how we would like them to behave.

Fyrius's avatar

@LostInParadise
Well, solipsism can make predictions; indeed it would predict life to be more like you would want or expect it to be, as you say. Depending on the formulation.
It’s just that insofar as any form of solipsism does make predictions, those predictions turn out to be wrong. You can’t use solipsism as a way to anticipate reality and actually be right significantly more often than you are wrong.

I just don’t think that has anything to do with Ockham’s Razor.

It’s more like the hypothesis that the colour of every pixel on your screen is determined by a random number generator. Yes, that would be much more simple than an intricate machine with a CPU extracting information from a hard drive and from a connection to a worldwide network of other such machines. And yes, it does make concrete predictions. It’s just that they’re dead wrong.
And it’s futile to argue that the existence of a random number generator in your computer box is ruled out by Ockham’s Razor, but turn a blind eye to the much more complicated machinery you’d need for a real computer.

MissA's avatar

If something is real in one person’s mind, then it is true…if only for THAT person.

nisse's avatar

@MissA: Not really. I may believe that i am financially solvent, but that doesn’t make my bank account any larger, as I will soon find out when I try to use my credit card to buy a Ferrari.

@ninjacolin:

The truth about the universe/reality/anything is what you believe it is at the moment. This is a truism. Deutsch ignores this.

How does Deutsch ignore this? You didn’t adress the critisism the Deutsch argument has against the Solipsistic viewpoint, i.e. that it is really the same as realism, but with different (and more confusing) labels.

I find your position very interesting and I wonder what you base it on? Could you give me some recommendations on longer books or arguments that support your position?

lloydbird's avatar

This thread seems to “exist”.

MissA's avatar

@nisse Exactly. You couldn’t really believe to your core that you are financially solvent, then. Right?

nisse's avatar

@MissA Well, how about this then:

Mark H Richypants believes that his bank account is full. His theieving fiance unexpectedly and unbeknownst to him clears the account to buy jewlery and coke. Mark has no reason whatsoever to suspect his wife of any trickery.

Is Mark H Richypants now solvent? No. He may believe (to the core) that he is but he is not.

MissA's avatar

@nisse I hear the argument you are attempting to make, but it doesn’t hold true because Richypants is not the only variable in your scenario. His wife alters it.

The belief system to which I am referring has to do with the non-tangible.

Bad example, but: Richypants may believe he is the most handsome dude in the world…REALly believes it. In others’ reality, he may have a hideously deformed face. He believes it to the core. It is HIS reality.

There are religions, whereby people believe the most tilted of thoughts…but, to them, it is their reality…it is exactly true…if only to them.

ninjacolin's avatar

“You didn’t adress the critisism the Deutsch argument has against the Solipsistic viewpoint, i.e. that it is really the same as realism, but with different (and more confusing) labels.”

I agree with him. Solipsism = Realism. Don’t you get it? The opinion “The truth is that there are external objects to my mind” is just your mind’s opinion. Your conclusion that “This argument makes more sense than the other one” is your mind’s opinion.

This is prima-facie type stuff here. You are the sole judge of everything in existence. Whether something is true or false is only up to you. You aren’t wrong about anything, and if you are, it’s about something you haven’t had a chance to think about enough. Which could be easily proven wrong by your offering an opinion that you know you’re wrong about in the present moment. The moment you think about it enough, you believe it. Just in time for it to be sensible. Not a moment sooner.

@nisse regarding my style of conversation: “Could you give me some recommendations on longer books or arguments that support your position?”

Really, as above, I reference real life experiences more than I do books and major studies. I adore the big expensive lab study science but I also love the kind of science you can do for yourself. For solipsism, I’ve read very little and can’t offer you anything amazing to read. That Deustch guy had a great essay. I think he tackled some really good issues and I wish I had time to reply to everything he said because I feel like he’s on the right track but he’s just not thinking holistically enough.

@nisse, I agree that it is a bigger, larger view of things that may at times feel superfluous to include in your worldview. But it answers the gapping hole unsolipsism leaves behind when you have to consider that everything you know as true will cease to be known as true by you when you disappear. Your mind is the universe as you know it. Without it, you wouldn’t know anything at all. Even if this is the only question answered by solipsism, then still it certainly renders your worldview more complete. It’s a dimension of reality that seems to exist quietly in the background. It surfaces during fluther debates and other special needs, but otherwise lays dormant ensuring your reality exists.

whether you accept solipsism or not, you’re right… right?

LostInParadise's avatar

@ninjacolin , You still have not explained how things can operate in a way that you find displeasing. You said that there are external rules that have to be obeyed. Where do these rules come from? If you make up the rules, then how do you account for the fact that things follow the rules before you know what the rules are? Do you make up the rules subconsciously. To come up with explanations creates unnecessary complications. Solipsism=Realism + unnecessary baggage. Occam says, trash the baggage.

ninjacolin's avatar

Occam’s razor is meant to provide you with the simplest solution to the equation you’re facing. The equation we’re facing in this case is one where your opinion necessarily determines what propositions do and do not qualify as truth.

Solipsism is the simplest solution that satisfies that. It doesn’t provide all the answers you’re looking for. It simply says: I could be wrong but to the best of my knowledge, the only things that are true in the universe are the things I’m aware of are true in the universe.

The fallacy I believe you and Deustsch are committing with this Occam train of thought is an Assumed Premise. You’re assuming that just because something seems complicated that it must be false. But that’s not necessarily the case. The universe is allowed to be more complicated than you expect.

@LostInParadise said: “You said that there are external rules that have to be obeyed. Where do these rules come from? If you make up the rules, then how do you account for the fact that things follow the rules before you know what the rules are?”

I dunno. The laws of physics govern my experience of reality. I was careful to mention earlier that it shouldn’t be assumed that we’re in control of what happens, we’re simply the observer of what happens. Beliefs are things we collect like barnacles as we drift through time.

Wow, you’re really forcing me to expand my worldview, @LostInParadise. But you have to realize I’m pulling this shit out of my ass at this point. I like it and all, it makes sense to me but I’m just figuring this out raw. I don’t see how you can’t agree with it by now. How could you possibly disagree with me so vehemently unless you, the god of the universe as you know it, have judged my opinion as wrong.

You keep asking me to defend this or that but I’ve provided a testable truism several times over now. How do you respond to it?

LostInParadise's avatar

What truism and what test?

nisse's avatar

@Ninjacolin: I too adore “the science you can do for yourself”, and I love to figure out how stuff really works, as opposed to what you are taught and/or fostered into, so I definetly know where you are coming from there.

That’s also why i don’t want to just disregard what you are saying without considering it, you really seem sure that you have come up with something that is true, and that describes something about the world that seems true to you, and I want a peice of that ;) Some of your replies were (probably by neccessity) very breif, I guess you get a lot of flak for your position.

I suspect you are trying to say something that we all really agree too, but perhaps your wording is not as clear as it could be, or I am just too dense to figure out what you are trying to say.

I think we may be struggling a bit with name calling here, you are (adamantly) calling yourself a solipsist, yet you agree with the claim that realism and solipsism are equal (right?) which I dont think someone who is a solipsist would do, so let’s dispense of the labels unless they are absolutely neccesary and discuss ideas instead.

I’ll try to summarise the arguments you’ve put forth for the idea that “The truth about the universe/reality/anything is what you believe it is at the moment.”, in my language, and you can point a finger at where I am going wrong:

Your conclusion: The truth about the universe/reality/anything is what you believe it is at the moment.
Reason 1: All the things you experience are painted on the canvas in your mind, and for that reason they are necessarily a part of you.
Subreason 1.1 Everything you know as true will cease to be known as true by you when you die.

These are the only arguments i have found in your line of reasoning for your conclusion, please fill in if i’ve misinterpreted or missed something. Perhaps i’ve misinterpreted your conclusion, and it could be better formulated as “everything you know is in your mind”, which I think we could all subscribe to.

The problems me (and other people) are having with your idea is that we believe that some sort of external reality and external truth exists outside of ourselves, of which the experience is certainly being distorted by our minds, but is in no way so completly corrupted so that it tells us nothing of the stuff outside our noggins.

I also suspect you may also be using a different definition of truth than me and others are using – you have put an equal sign so that belief=truth – and I think this redefinition of truth is confusing alot of us, including me, but perhaps this is the core of your argument?

As you seem to argue that belief=truth, why not substitute the word in your conclusion and make it more clear? I think if you had said this instead: “Your belief about the universe/reality/anything is what you believe it is at the moment.”, we could all agree that this is a tautology and a truism.

Counterconclusion: There exists a world (and truth) that is independent of our minds.
Reason 1. To me (and most people) it doesn’t seem reasonable to conclude that the universe ceases to exist when I die.
Subreason 1.1 I have seen other people, which are in no significant way different from me, die before, and this has not led to the universe ceasing to exist.
Reason 2. The world is not exactly as I would like it to be, and i cannot directly form it with my mind.
Reason 3. I can see evidence of things that seem to have been created before my existence, for example rocks and grandparents.
Reason 4. There exists other people which seem to be much like me, which seem to have drives and urges and wants that I cannot relate to.
Reason 5. There exists repeatable evidence of processes that seem too complex to have been created by my mind, for example the wave/particle properties of light.
Reason 6. I have sometimes believed in ideas, which have later turned out to be false. An example from my life was that i previously believed that laser-light follows a straight path and never diverges, which turned out to be false.

I have a weak but growing suspicion that our disagreement is actually the old “if a tree falls in a forrest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”-question.

Wow. TL;DR.

Jabe73's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh

I gave you a GQ but it seems you may have opened a can of worms here.

LostInParadise's avatar

@nisse , Let me see if I can follow your lead and take a more conciliatory approach toward @ninjacolin‘s reasoning. What it most reminds me of is the philosophy of rationalism, which was dominant from the time of the Greeks until Descartes, and it still has an appeal to it, even though we are aware we should know better. This rationalists believed that the world follows logical laws and that these can be determined through reason alone. Socrates believed that we are born knowing all we need to know and that it is just a matter of recall.

Once the gods were removed as the cause of everything, which was no small feat, then I think the rationalist viewpoint would be the automatic next step. It seems quite natural, for example, to believe as Aristotle stated, that heavier objects fall faster. It would not seem to need experimental testing. Even after Descartes and then the empiricists, the rationalist idea that mathematics is part of science did not go away until the nineteenth century discovery of non-Euclidean geometry.

nisse's avatar

@MissA: Your example only holds when there is no well defined truth about the matter in question. Regarding beauty, it’s a subjective property, much like preference of pizza over ice cream, after all “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

These subjective value preferences are neither “true” nor “false”. If you say you prefer pizza over ice cream i cannot make an argument or present evidence to prove you wrong.

Matters that can be decided objectively, such as the size of my bank account, or the speed of sound, are different matters altogether.

You say that your idea is about the non-tangible, but your original claim was wider than that. You said “If something is real in one person’s mind, then it is true…if only for THAT person”. but if i reinterpret your statement with what you have added, a more accurate formulation would be “If someone prefers something in his mind, then that’s his value preference”, which is of course true.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Jabe73 So it seems. I really wish I had the time to address all the ideas here, but I have been really busy recently. I find it interesting that the question originated from trying to find means of taking short cuts, but has ended up in such an in-depth discussion. Thanks everyone.

ninjacolin's avatar

@LostInParadise the Solipsistic trusim is as @nisse has picked up on:

The only things definable as “True” are those things which I believe are definable as true. Nothing else is definable as true at this present moment.

LostInParadise's avatar

We still get to the issue of why you believe something is true. If your belief is non-empirical then you are on the shaky ground of rationalism. If your beliefs are grounded on your experience then you are essentially using the same procedure as non-solipsist scientific method.

ninjacolin's avatar

@nisse, this is mostly redundant (and long) but I didn’t want to not reply to you!

@nisse said: Reason 1: All the things you experience are painted on the canvas in your mind, and for that reason they are necessarily a part of you. Subreason 1.1 Everything you know as true will cease to be known as true by you when you die.”

ninjacolin approved! lol

@nisse siad: “The problems me (and other people) are having with your idea is that we believe that some sort of external reality and external truth exists outside of ourselves”

I wasn’t born a solipsist. I’m not even prepared to admit that I really am a solipsist (although, it certainly seems to be getting there thanks to @LostInParadise and yourself) I agree that I’ve lived with the assumption that exteral truth exists. But now after considering the evidence more carefully, I’m questioning whether it was the most sensible conclusion. Inductively, I can reach that conclusion. But the simplest (occam’s razor) answer seems to Descartes’ ”I’m here!” conclusion.. beyond that, however, I can’t say that I have sufficient evidence to conclude that anyone else is anything but… my opinion.

@nisse concluded: _“There exists a world (and truth) that is independent of our minds.”

This is your opinion sure, but how can we demonstrate this as real? How can we know it is true? I’m not sure it’s something we’re able to do even if it is true. @FireMadeFlesh‘s question (the way a solipsist sees it) is: Is it safe to assume everything else isn’t real besides your opinion.. and the answer seems to be yes; It’s how we live our lives, anways. We wear construction helmets, seat belts, and choose our children’s schools based on our individual opinions or the opinions of those we’ve defined for ourselves as Trustworthy sources of information. Everything an individual ever does seems to be a product of their very individual educated guess.

@nisse said: “Reason 1.”
Another example of your opinion being defined as truth. You’re literally saying: “My personal opinion about what will happen tot he universe is the truth.”

@nisse said: “Subreason 1.1”
naturally, since you’re the only person in existence the deaths of others wouldn’t demolish your reality.

Reason 2, I agree with this as a determinist.
Reason 3, the concusion: “grandparents exist” is a again your opinion.
Reason 4 – 5, I don’t see how wave particle behavior is any more complicated than the existence of grandparents, or other minds. Either way, it’s your opinion that they exist at all, nothing proves they exist.
Reason 5, says you!
Reason 6, you believed something was true until you began to believe something else was true. Only your former self was ever incorrect. Your present self was always correct, to the best of your knowledge.

Very interesting comparison to the tree falling in a forest thingy! ha. I think I know why that comes to mind and I think I agree with you. The situation is that we have no perspective of reality except our own. This means that we cannot know anything else is in existence besides our own minds. Without our minds the universe tends to disappear, as anyone who’s ever been knocked unconscious can verify.

ninjacolin's avatar

@LostInParadise All beliefs are empirically based. No exceptions. Our experience of the universe determines our beliefs. For example, the fact that I’ve typed Triangle has forced you to believe I’ve typed Triangle.

The scientific method is the best systematic method we’ve come up with for determining truth. (While it’s tempting to use the word “estimate” truth) When the scientific methods demonstrates something as factual, sciency minds tend to believe it on faith often without questioning unless a reason for questioning is introduced, at which point the system goes back into action.

Beliefs, as far as I’ve observed, are not freely chosen. They’re coerced into our minds by the weight of the evidence we’ve been exposed to. The evidence we’ve taken in about a premise either forces us to believe, disbelieve, or to be uncertain of a premise.

I would go so far as to say these are laws about how beliefs work and affect us. Like Socrates, I consider rationality to be an extension of the laws of physics.

LostInParadise's avatar

Up to the part about rationality being an extension of the laws of physics, I am in complete agreement.

ninjacolin's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh I guess my answer to your question then is.. no it’s not intellectually honest to assume that no ethereal concepts exist. it’s safer to believe they all do by virtue of every individual having the solipsistic claim to rightness. by the way, this is the closest I can get to that mutidimensional, every possible choice is being made theory: every individual alive represents every human possibility in this universe at this time. have we talked about that on fluther much?

@nisse “5. There exists repeatable evidence of processes that seem too complex to have been created by my mind, for example the wave/particle properties of light.” and to other comments about the universe being more complex than you understand. and to @LostInParadise‘s comment about socrates: ” This rationalists believed that the world follows logical laws and that these can be determined through reason alone. Socrates believed that we are born knowing all we need to know and that it is just a matter of recall”

The solipsist’s defense to these things, and my own interpretation/spin of Socrate’s idea is that yes, we do know all we need to know. When you want to remember a key detail you consciously scour around in your head for a moment playing back the events until you find what you’re looking for. You don’t have immediate access to the things you know. And when you don’t find the answer there, you just keep searching outside of your body to your extra storage brains called “friends” and “family”.. and other minds of that can help you achieve your means. If your primary brain doesn’t have it, you just search your other ones. You know everything, you just have to remember. And sometimes remembering takes years of study, the point is you work for it

Anyway, while watching Stephen Hawkings Into the Universe (the third one) I came to realize that from the solipsist’s perspective Stephen Hawkings is the part of your mind that understands/controls the unvierse. Whenever you want to elaborate on your concept of the universe, you just talk to him or watch one of his videos. :)

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@ninjacolin I have already said I do not have the time to read this whole discussion, so excuse me if I go over some old ground here. I would appreciate it if you would address my comment above.

Solipsism would say other people exist because I believe they do, but you say that “every individual having the solipsistic claim to rightness”. They have no claim to rightness, because they are only real in my mind, so they might as well be unconscious zombies.

Back to the original question though, ethereal objects existing in the mind of others is not enough for them to be deemed real. It is readily obvious that the idea of an ethereal object exists, since I brought it up, but that does not mean the object necessarily exists. For example, gods exist as memes, but not as beings. Solipsism is also too homo-centric in my opinion. We have had discussions before on untestable hypotheses such as determinism, and this is probably another one, but the evidence seems pretty conclusive that the universe created us rather than us having created the universe.

ninjacolin's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh said: “I personally believe perception is all the truth we have of the world, but there is still room for some truths to be absolute and immutable. Things can seem to be true, but actually be false, but since they seem to be true we treat them as true. Eventually there is a ‘last word’ on certain concepts, and they must either be true or false.”

I agree, and the “eventual” answer is always that you are the one determining the truth/falseness in all cases, therefore,... solipsism. (to be frank)

Truism: To the best/limit of any individual’s ability to know.. You’re only ever wrong in the past. The rest of the time, you’re right.

“For example, gods exist as memes, but not as beings. ”

Says you.

@FireMadeFlesh said: ”Solipsism would say other people exist because I believe they do, but you say that “every individual having the solipsistic claim to rightness”. They have no claim to rightness, because they are only real in my mind, so they might as well be unconscious zombies.

Which is what you are in a deterministic universe. (yea, that reminds me: keep in mind, this is solipsism from a deterministic perspective) According to the solipsist, everything just happens the way it does. You’re not sur-real. You’re real too. Everything I believe about you is real, you bleed, you feel pain, you’re real as far as the rules I believe about you are real…. k, fast forward quite a bit… so, my conclusion is, the real solipsist is the universe itself. Whatever it believes to be true is true. And it happens to believe whatever I believe is true at least, since I’m a part of it. It believes whatever I believe you guys believe too. And I believe you know more than I presently have access to knowing.

that’s the best I can do for now, man!

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@ninjacolin I think we’re getting somewhere here. I am amused by the fact we are arguing over complex abstract theories, but their outcomes are essentially identical.

“Truism: To the best/limit of any individual’s ability to know.. You’re only ever wrong in the past. The rest of the time, you’re right.”
Let us imagine we are physicists living in the time where Thompson’s model of the atom is the leading atomic theory. We believe whole heartedly that an atom is a solid ball with positive and negative charges dispersed within it. The solipsist would say that this is true, since it is a strongly held belief of the person. The post-modernist would say that this is only one of many truths, since other people believe other ideas which are also true.
Then imagine that Rutherford’s experiment comes along and blows this theory wide open. We realise that we were wrong in the past, but since we have accepted Rutherford’s theory we are no longer wrong. This is acceptable on a philosophical level, but in the scientific world we now realise that Thompson’s model could never have been stable. If we were right in believing it, the universe should have collapsed into itself.
What I’m getting at here is that the only beliefs that can be true are those that are logically consistent. The solipsist would say a person is right even when they believe in rubbish ideas, simply because they dictate the truth. They don’t realise the ideas are rubbish, so they are somehow correct in believing in ideas based on a logical fallacy.

ninjacolin's avatar

Yes, I think I agree with everything you said… except this part:

“If we were right in believing it, the universe should have collapsed into itself.”

The solipsist believed it was going to collapse, but then he believed he was wrong and saved the day. :)

“They don’t realise the ideas are rubbish, so they are somehow correct in believing in ideas based on a logical fallacy.”

again.. says you. (and me) which is why it’s true.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@ninjacolin Since I don’t believe in solipsism, would you say my universe is still solipsistic? Can I still be the author of my universe without believing that it is the case?

ninjacolin's avatar

absolutely… i guess. shrugs i believe you’re convinced of that, so it makes sense in my universe at least.

ninjacolin's avatar

lol, i just realized Stpehen Hawking said something somewhat relevant to this perspective in that video. I suppose you were absolutely right, @FireMadeFlesh when you said: “They don’t realise the ideas are rubbish, so they are somehow correct in believing in ideas based on a logical fallacy.”

You have to watch that series. Highly recommend it for anyone who wants to catch up on the latest and greatest in our understanding of the universe. I wish they would pay me to say this Stephen made a horribly corny joke saying: The next time someone gives you a hard time for a mistake, let them know if it wasn’t for imperfection we wouldn’t be here at all. :)

LostInParadise's avatar

A very curious interpretation of the meaning of truth. What you are saying is that everything that you believe now is true. This allows you to alter your beliefs and still be correct, since the present moment will have shifted.

ninjacolin's avatar

Yes, maybe it speaks to the limits of language. I mean, what else could truth be besides what you think it is?

LostInParadise's avatar

The nature of truth is an old philosophical debate. In addition to the rationalists and empiricists there were the pragmatists who said essentially that the truth is anything that works, and there are no doubt dozens of other approaches and variations. You might consider opening a separate Fluther discussion of it.

Fyrius's avatar

Footnote: On the subject of what truth means, you guys might find this essay an interesting read.
It’s a bit long, but it reads quickly.

Shuttle128's avatar

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
~Philip K. Dick

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