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Samuel Dravis
11-17-2007, 03:00 AM
I know this may be a bit heavy for this board, but I thought it might be interesting to some people here. That means you, SS! :D

I've recently been reading quite a bit about philosophical skepticism and various philosopher's attempts at answering the challenge that it poses to our knowledge of the world. I was introduced to Ludwig Wittgenstein's work only recently, but I find his ideas on the subject fascinating. At the moment I have not read the entire versions of either of his books, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, or the Philosophical Investigations (although I am waiting for the latter one to come in the mail). Even so, I've been enjoying the selections of his work I do have so much I thought I might as well post a little information on what I've learned so far.

Wittgenstein was interested in the philosophy of language. His Philosophical Investigations can be thought of as a sort of reminder of how language is used to communicate; that is, what do we mean when we say a string of words? He suggests that a word's meaning is not determined by a definition, but by the context in which the word is used. Look at the many words we use in ways that do not fit their definitions: cool, hot, smooth, etc. These words mean completely different things according to what context they are used in.

Most intriguing to me was how he uses this idea to deal with philosophical skepticism. Let me give an example of a skeptical question and a reply:

Wittgenstein: "Put your stuff down on this table."
Skeptic: What table?
W.: (points to table) "This one."
S: Wait, how do you know the table is really there?
W.: "What do you mean?"
S: How do you know the table exists?
W.: "I don't understand your question."

The Skeptic's question is nonsensical to Wittgenstein because the language the Skeptic is using doesn't hold meaning. The reason for this is because the Skeptic has taken the words he uses in his question out of the context in which they can mean anything. Let's see a few ways that things are said to exist in our actual language:

"There is a chair in the other room."
"A huge shark really does exist in the Pacific Ocean."
"Splinter Cells like Sam Fisher do exist, they're just kept very secret."
"Duke Nukem Forever doesn't exist and never will."
"A married bachelor doesn't exist."
"No more Dr. Pepper exists in the house. Too bad for you!"

All of these examples show how existence is used. When we say something does exist, we mean that we can use our senses to feel it, touch it, taste it, smell it, etc. It is tangible.

So what exactly is the skeptic saying when he questions the existence of the table? All possible prerequisites for existence as it is used in language are with the table. The table can be touched, seen, smelled, and, god forbid, even tasted if you really felt like it. We speak of existence as a descriptor of something you can detect with your senses, but the Skeptic still questions the obvious? If it can be sensed, it exists. He does see the table, right?

Wittgenstein would say that the Skeptic hasn't even come up with a question yet, only a senseless jumble of words that look suspiciously like a question. Since that is the case, the "question" the Skeptic presents does not require an answer. Indeed, any answer you tried to give would be just as senseless as the Skeptic's original words. The most you could do is try to explain to the Skeptic why his words are meaningless...


I hope I've done a slightly better job at explaining it than in the chat earlier with teekay and Devon. Like I said, I find this approach to this kind of problem fascinating. I'll probably post more when I'm done reading the full book. Meanwhile, I'm interested in what sort of solutions everyone else has to philosophical skepticism, comments on Wittgenstein's approach, or even if they're looking for solutions to skepticism at all! So: what do you think?

Darth InSidious
11-17-2007, 05:35 AM
Sounds like scientism to me.

Ray Jones
11-17-2007, 05:38 AM
That reminds me about a story by Kafka where this man switched the words stool and table and carpet and door and window, and finally nobody understood him anymore. Forgot its title though.

However, how would we know the table is really there?

SilentScope001
11-17-2007, 11:42 AM
The whole thing seems like a copt-out, but I got two ways to explain it.

1. Wittgenstein: "Put your stuff down on this table."
Skeptic: What table?
W.: (points to table) "This one."
S: Wait, how do you know the table is really there?
W.: "What do you mean?"
S: How do you know the table exists?
W.: "I don't understand your question."

Wittgenstein: Okay, put your stuff on the table.
Total Non-Skeptic: *looks for table, and finds that there IS no table. Anywhere.* Uh.
W: I said, put your stuff on the table.
Total Non-Skeptic: Uh. Where is the table?
W: *points to invisible table that to Total Non-Skeptic doesn't really exist* This table, right here!
TNS: I don't think that table exist at all.
W: I don't understand you, the table does exist. See? *points to invisible table* You are speaking nonsensical.
TNS: I'll be going now.

The fact is, Mr. W assumes that the table really does exist if he says and believes the table exist (his senses tell HIM that the table exist after all, so the table must exist). What if he assumes that the table exist, but other observers, like say me, disagree, and those other observers may in fact be correct but not Mr. W. The langauge of Mr. W holds no sense to the TNS, as the table cannot be visually confirmed by someone else, and so, for all intents and purposes, the table itself does not exist. In other words, Mr. W is forgetting the possiblity that a single human being may very well be insane, which puts all his observations in doubt (and makes Mr. W the nonsencial being).

2. Phrase the sentence in a different way.
"Are your senses correct? Are they sending you the correct message?'

It make perfect sense according to how he see senses, and doesn't have any problems. Question the senses, after all (how do you know the senses are right?). And he says, "No, senses are always correct", he is forgetting the possiblity of insanity or of the senses deciving him, like it can do during a dream.

Samuel Dravis
11-17-2007, 12:24 PM
Sounds like scientism to me.Not exactly... it's more subtle than that. It simply shows that there are restrictions on what can be said intelligibly. "Exists" used by the skeptic and "exists" used normally are two very different things.

I suppose you can think of it this way:

The word "existence" is defined by the senses. What can be sensed cannot be said to not exist intelligibly, and vice versa. Now you might want to say, "But I just questioned the existence of that table, didn't I?" No, you really didn't - you misused the word exists. Interestingly enough, "No, you really didn't" is also meaningless, because there is no situation in which I can talk about a table's existence or nonexistence outside of perception. This way of thinking is quite insidious. :D

Try finding examples of existence in language yourself. I think you might be surprised that you agree with it.

That reminds me about a story by Kafka where this man switched the words stool and table and carpet and door and window, and finally nobody understood him anymore. Forgot its title though.

However, how would we know the table is really there?Like I said, we use "existence" as something tied to the senses. What do you mean by "really there"? If you're trying to redefine words, then be my guest...but unless they're at least slightly related to what I experience, I'm not going to understand you.

The whole thing seems like a copt-out, but I got two ways to explain it.

1.

Wittgenstein: Okay, put your stuff on the table.
Total Non-Skeptic: *looks for table, and finds that there IS no table. Anywhere.* Uh.
W: I said, put your stuff on the table.
Total Non-Skeptic: Uh. Where is the table?
W: *points to invisible table that to Total Non-Skeptic doesn't really exist* This table, right here!
TNS: I don't think that table exist at all.
W: I don't understand you, the table does exist. See? *points to invisible table* You are speaking nonsensical.
TNS: I'll be going now.

The fact is, Mr. W assumes that the table really does exist if he says and believes the table exist (his senses tell HIM that the table exist after all, so the table must exist). What if he assumes that the table exist, but other observers, like say me, disagree, and those other observers may in fact be correct but not Mr. W. The langauge of Mr. W holds no sense to the TNS, as the table cannot be visually confirmed by someone else, and so, for all intents and purposes, the table itself does not exist. In other words, Mr. W is forgetting the possiblity that a single human being may very well be insane, which puts all his observations in doubt (and makes Mr. W the nonsencial being).It really doesn't matter. W will say, "I used language correctly, and if our experienced realities are so different from each other that my language is unintelligible, then that's it." Language is what concerns Wittgenstein here, nothing else. The two people in this discussion may be able to create ANOTHER language that works, but it will not be this one.

For someone who sees a table, it can only be nonsense to say it doesn't exist. Acting as if there was some "sixth sense" that would magically determine that the table doesn't exist is foolish, because we don't have that sixth sense.


2. Phrase the sentence in a different way.
"Are your senses correct? Are they sending you the correct message?'

It make perfect sense according to how he see senses, and doesn't have any problems. Question the senses, after all (how do you know the senses are right?). And he says, "No, senses are always correct", he is forgetting the possiblity of insanity or of the senses deciving him, like it can do during a dream.You cannot say "are the senses correct?" What do you mean by that anyway? Do you know what constitutes a "real" sensory experience to be able to distinguish between true and false? Have you experienced this Truth apart from your senses somehow?

But I can't really SAY those last two sentences, because "experienced" and "real" cannot be used in those ways. Too bad.

This way of destroying the foundation of the question is quite alluring to me, SS. :)

SilentScope001
11-17-2007, 01:37 PM
It really doesn't matter. W will say, "I used language correctly, and if our experienced realities are so different from each other that my language is unintelligible, then that's it." Language is what concerns Wittgenstein here, nothing else. The two people in this discussion may be able to create ANOTHER language that works, but it will not be this one.

Then prehaps I could argue that he only talks about the limits of language then. :)

However, we are still able to understand each other. I understand that he thinks a table exist. He understand that I cannot see that table. We understand what we believe, even though we don't agree (and we don't have to agree in order to understand what we are saying). This isn't a failure of language, as we know what we are communicating. He may be saying something nonsensical, but I know what the nonsense means, I can decipher it. It's not "Como se llama?".

You cannot say "are the senses correct?" What do you mean by that anyway? Do you know what constitutes a "real" sensory experience to be able to distinguish between true and false? Have you experienced this Truth apart from your senses somehow?

No, I do not know what consitutes to be a "real" sensory experience, and tell the difference between truth and false (definition of skepcitism after all), which is why I asked that question after all. If he could tell me why he's so sure his senses are correct, then I would like to be enlightened.

If we can't tell what is true and what is false, then why should we accept what our senses say as true or false.

This way of destroying the foundation of the question is quite alluring to me, SS.

Let define REAL: "the state of things as they actually exist".

Well that doesn't help. Then let define EXIST: 1 a: to have real being whether material or spiritual <did unicorns exist> <the largest galaxy known to exist> b: to have being in a specified place or with respect to understood limitations or conditions <strange ideas existed in his mind>

Uh. So to exist, it must be real. But to be real, it must exist. But let just assume that you mean "being" when you say "exist":

Let Define Being: the state or fact of existing; "a point of view gradually coming into being"; "laws in existence for centuries"

So being is reliant on a person existing, and a person who is existing is reliant on the the fact that he is being.

Oh dear. Is language nothing more than circular reasoning?

Samuel Dravis
11-17-2007, 02:19 PM
Then perhaps I could argue that he only talks about the limits of language then. :)That's exactly what he is doing. Seeing as it is impossible to even conceive of the limits of thought, language is as good as it gets. :)

However, we are still able to understand each other. I understand that he thinks a table exist. He understand that I cannot see that table. We understand what we believe, even though we don't agree (and we don't have to agree in order to understand what we are saying). This isn't a failure of language, as we know what we are communicating. He may be saying something nonsensical, but I know what the nonsense means, I can decipher it. It's not "Como se llama?".Clearly, however, you are no longer talking about a table. You speak of your experiences, and neither person can say something intelligible against what they experience. You will still not know what he means when he says there is a table there, however; tables are always perceptible and to speak of an imperceptible table is not to speak of a table at all.

No, I do not know what constitutes to be a "real" sensory experience, and tell the difference between truth and false (definition of skepticism after all), which is why I asked that question after all. If he could tell me why he's so sure his senses are correct, then I would like to be enlightened.

If we can't tell what is true and what is false, then why should we accept what our senses say as true or false.Wittgenstein says NOTHING about whether the senses return information correctly. He only speaks of how we TALK about the senses. Wittgenstein will refuse to answer the question "How do you know the senses are correct?" because it doesn't make sense to ask the question in the first place.

"Prove it!" the Skeptic says. "Prove that your senses are not deceiving you!" What does "prove" mean here, anyway? I can think of many ways to prove things, but none involve methods theoretically impossible to me. To prove to someone that three specific typos exist in a book, I can open the book and show them those typos. To prove that I have the new Daft Punk cd, I can show someone the disc... To prove the Skeptic that the table exists, I can... show them the table? If the Skeptic throws away all means that we use to prove things (misusing the word "prove" to mean something completely different than its actual meaning in language), what answer does he expect to get? Does this kind of statement deserve an answer? No, because there is no answer to a nonsensical non-question. An illustration of the sentence's flaws might be appropriate, but that is all that can be done.

Let define REAL: "the state of things as they actually exist".

Well that doesn't help. Then let define EXIST: 1 a: to have real being whether material or spiritual <did unicorns exist> <the largest galaxy known to exist> b: to have being in a specified place or with respect to understood limitations or conditions <strange ideas existed in his mind>

Uh. So to exist, it must be real. But to be real, it must exist. But let just assume that you mean "being" when you say "exist":

Let Define Being: the state or fact of existing; "a point of view gradually coming into being"; "laws in existence for centuries"

So being is reliant on a person existing, and a person who is existing is reliant on the the fact that he is being.

Oh dear. Is language nothing more than circular reasoning?Oh dear, indeed. Remember, however, that words do not have meaning independent of how they are used. Does "cool" have a 'true' meaning of "low temperature" regardless of whether it is used to show that something is interesting (this sentence is nonsensical, "true" is misused)? Isn't that why we looked at the context in which we use the word "exists" to see how using it makes sense? So, when we say something exists, we use "exists" to mean that it is perceptible.

Who, when trying to convey information to someone else, would say, "I don't perceive this object of my perception"? But isn't that exactly what the words "that table doesn't exist" mean (actually they do not mean anything, but it is impossible to talk about them without using the flawed language I am trying to get rid of) when taken out of context in this way?

When you say, "I don't know if my senses can be trusted to give me an accurate depiction of reality," you are in fact saying "I don't know if I can trust reality to give an accurate depiction of reality." And to that, I can only say I that have no idea what you are talking about. If the intent of language is to communicate, then the Skeptic is not communicating very well.

SilentScope001
11-18-2007, 01:11 AM
Wittgenstein says NOTHING about whether the senses return information correctly. He only speaks of how we TALK about the senses. Wittgenstein will refuse to answer the question "How do you know the senses are correct?" because it doesn't make sense to ask the question in the first place.

Hm.

"Prove it!" the Skeptic says. "Prove that your senses are not deceiving you!" What does "prove" mean here, anyway?

"2 a: to test the truth, validity, or genuineness of <the exception proves the rule> <prove a will at probate> b: to test the worth or quality of; specifically : to compare against a standard —sometimes used with up or out c: to check the correctness of (as an arithmetic result)"

I'll assume that it is to 'to compare against a standard', as we have a standard that can be used to justify if it is true. That is a basis of logic after all, and the Skeptic believes in logic. (Quick way to refute the skeptic...refute logic. Claim that there are certain things that cannot be
'proven'. Skeptic won't listen to you, but that's the way it's meant to be.)

I can think of many ways to prove things, but none involve methods theoretically impossible to me. To prove to someone that three specific typos exist in a book, I can open the book and show them those typos. To prove that I have the new Daft Punk cd, I can show someone the disc... To prove the Skeptic that the table exists, I can... show them the table?

Take a look back at that definition. We'll assume that to prove something, you have it pass a 'standard'. To you, that standard is a simple "whatever the senses tell you is true".

However, I do fear that we cannot accept a standard as correct if we cannot prove that standard. So, usually, we ask for a proof that the standard of "the senses". And then later, we ask for a standard to evaulate that proof in order to tell if it is correct. We repeat this 'etc.'

I don't think a skeptic want to trust anything. If he trusts, it would be akin to accepting something based on faith, and doing so would be just plain wrong.

If the Skeptic throws away all means that we use to prove things (misusing the word "prove" to mean something completely different than its actual meaning in language), what answer does he expect to get? Does this kind of statement deserve an answer? No, because there is no answer to a nonsensical non-question.

And that's the copt-out. By dismissing the question out of hand rather than attempting to try and find an ultimate standard that could justify everything, that could prove once and for all that what we sense is in fact true and correct, then you fail to convince the skeptic.

You may not have the tools currently (the senses) to verify if you are correct. But that doesn't mean that you should give up the crusade and accept the standard out of hand. You should always question, always try to find the truth, and not rest. But I believe I am sidetracking myself.

Another problem is the fact that if you claim that langague makes a statement nonsencial, then it could lead to thesits using langauge to claim that God exist. Here's how this proof (invented in the 10th centruy) would work.

"An atheist says that God does not exist. God is a being that is all-mighty, all-powerful, and exist. Therefore, the atheist is making a nonsencial statement: 'A being that exist does not exist'. Therefore, the atheist is wrong."

This does have flaws, in that he is not claiming that God exist in the first place. His definition of God is different.

Oh dear, indeed. Remember, however, that words do not have meaning independent of how they are used. Does "cool" have a 'true' meaning of "low temperature" regardless of whether it is used to show that something is interesting (this sentence is nonsensical, "true" is misused)? Isn't that why we looked at the context in which we use the word "exists" to see how using it makes sense? So, when we say something exists, we use "exists" to mean that it is perceptible.

Then we appear to be using different defintions and speaking nonsencial. When I use the word "exist", I mean that which is 'real', not what is perceptible (what is perceptible may not be real, after all, pointing to the 'brain in the vat' experiment). After all, I'm religious, and you can't perecive God. :)

To better explain why I claim 'exist' does not equal perceptible: Sometimes, if I cross my eyes when I see a stool, I see two stools. Therefore, if I use the term 'exist' as to be perceptible, then that means that two stools exist that overlap each other, when that would be wrong.

Once we change the definition of "exist" to match how I am using it, then maybe I might be able to wiggle myself out of this whole messs. I am stating, "What we are perecive due to my senses may not in fact be real." Which, again, may make sense. If I am insane, and I am hallicuanting, then what I am seeing is not real.

All that remain is to define what is "real". And, for lack of a better definition, I would use it as anything that has the property of "existance".

P.S.: This whole 'langauge' argument isn't really going to persuade me, but that's not the point. The main goal is to go and annoy skeptics in the same way as skeptics annoy everyone else. :)

Web Rider
11-18-2007, 02:07 AM
Well, and this may be covered in the above discussion as I skimmed much of it.

W is assuming that said table exists, and that under the condition that it exists, our senses are not deceiving us in it's shape, smell, taste and visual appearance.

the question that the Skeptic is asking is misconstrued by big words(like misconstrued) and fancy literary flourish. W is taking words in a literal fashion, in context. The Skeptic is taking a less literal approach to the words while still remaining in context(IMO). The Skeptic acknowledges in their question, the same way the table's existence is assumed, that according to our senses and modern definitions of language and the words chose by W that the table does indeed exist, or is at least presumed to exist. What the Skeptic is really asking is if we are not being deceived, or to go beyond, if we truly can percieve. It's sort of like an infinite regression scenario.

Each time you step back, the Skeptic's question remains the same, much like when an annoying brat asks you "why" repeatedly. It's not really questioning the immediate existence of the table, but is asking for proof on the next level to prove the answer just given is true.

It's utter garbage like any infinite regression setup as it requires trans-finite(a word I prefer to infinite) knowledge to answer the question. W is still correct that the question is a load and not answerable, but his assumptions of what the question are and why it's unanswerable are incorrect in my opinion.

W: claims there is a table
S: asks for proof
W: should instruct S to move to the nearest location of the table and use his senses to confirm the literal existence of the table.
S: asks for proof that his senses are working right.
W: should instruct S to touch something else, proving his senses either are, or are not functioning properly.
S: asks for proof that senses are trustworthy.
W: now required to use multiple instances of people to touch the given object to confirm they all sense the same thing.
S: asks that human senes in general are trustworthy.
W: runs into a problem since he's unable to get an accurate answer from any non-human species....ans now our trans-finite knowledge problem occurs in needing knowledge above and beyond the current limit.

hence why I find Skeptics annoying, but a necessary part of life.

In a thousand years, the Skeptic's question will be far more relevant when said tabe is dust. It is still all the parts the table used to be, so is it not the table? Or is it dust? repeat infinite regression situation till you hit limit of knowledge. The Skeptic's question is relevant, and not gibberish, but stupid and annoying.

Samuel Dravis
11-18-2007, 11:59 AM
"2 a: to test the truth, validity, or genuineness of <the exception proves the rule> <prove a will at probate> b: to test the worth or quality of; specifically : to compare against a standard —sometimes used with up or out c: to check the correctness of (as an arithmetic result)"

I'll assume that it is to 'to compare against a standard', as we have a standard that can be used to justify if it is true. That is a basis of logic after all, and the Skeptic believes in logic. (Quick way to refute the skeptic...refute logic. Claim that there are certain things that cannot be
'proven'. Skeptic won't listen to you, but that's the way it's meant to be.)That's the thing, isn't it? You're using a definition as if words somehow mean something outside of context. They don't. Wittgenstein instead says that the Skeptic is saying something nonsensical, because the words are being used in a way that doesn't mean anything. He is most definitely not claiming that certain things cannot be proven.

Take a look back at that definition. We'll assume that to prove something, you have it pass a 'standard'. To you, that standard is a simple "whatever the senses tell you is true".

However, I do fear that we cannot accept a standard as correct if we cannot prove that standard. So, usually, we ask for a proof that the standard of "the senses". And then later, we ask for a standard to evaluate that proof in order to tell if it is correct. We repeat this 'etc.'

I don't think a skeptic want to trust anything. If he trusts, it would be akin to accepting something based on faith, and doing so would be just plain wrong.The standard, as you say, is to prove something exists. So how do we prove something exists? We show it to someone. To prove that 1+1=2, we give someone the axioms of mathematics and then show them what the symbols we use mean, and thus prove that operation. That is how "prove" and "exists" is actually used in language - not how it is defined, but how it is used.

When someone points to the table, they have indeed proven that the table exists... And then the Skeptic says, "Kdgndignhd that my senses aren't deceiving me!"

What does that mean? I haven't a clue.

And that's the copt-out. By dismissing the question out of hand rather than attempting to try and find an ultimate standard that could justify everything, that could prove once and for all that what we sense is in fact true and correct, then you fail to convince the skeptic.This approach is not a cop-out, not an offhand dismissal, and it does not misunderstand the Skeptic. It takes the Skeptic completely seriously, examines what he is doing, and determines that he is not using language correctly. Because this is so, there's nothing more to say in response to the Skeptic other than trying to correct his use of language.

You may not have the tools currently (the senses) to verify if you are correct. But that doesn't mean that you should give up the crusade and accept the standard out of hand. You should always question, always try to find the truth, and not rest. But I believe I am sidetracking myself.The interesting thing is, we aren't talking about some transcendent truth. We really aren't even concerned with that at all. We're simply talking about what we can say intelligibly.

Another problem is the fact that if you claim that language makes a statement nonsensical, then it could lead to theists using language to claim that God exist. Here's how this proof (invented in the 10th century) would work.

"An atheist says that God does not exist. God is a being that is all-mighty, all-powerful, and exist. Therefore, the atheist is making a nonsencial statement: 'A being that exist does not exist'. Therefore, the atheist is wrong."

This does have flaws, in that he is not claiming that God exist in the first place. His definition of God is different.Actually, the argument of Anselm and Aquinas - the Ontological Argument - is flawed for several reasons, which include invalidity. Anselm's argument says this:

God is the being of which nothing greater can be concieved.
To exist is greater than to not exist.
Therefore, God cannot exist as a thought alone, but must also exist in reality.

Sounds pretty good, yes? Unfortunately, his conclusion does not follow from the premises. A better conclusion would be "Therefore, God cannot be thought not to exist."

Also, using existence as a perfection like "all-powerful" is not going to win many friends. I am not particularly worried about religious people using this language illustration of Wittgenstein's, because what they say is symptomatic of the misuse of language that Wittgenstein wants to correct.

Then we appear to be using different definitions and speaking nonsensical. When I use the word "exist", I mean that which is 'real', not what is perceptible (what is perceptible may not be real, after all, pointing to the 'brain in the vat' experiment). After all, I'm religious, and you can't perceive God. :)

To better explain why I claim 'exist' does not equal perceptible: Sometimes, if I cross my eyes when I see a stool, I see two stools. Therefore, if I use the term 'exist' as to be perceptible, then that means that two stools exist that overlap each other, when that would be wrong.In your last paragraph you gave an example of an illusion. Why do we say it is an illusion? Because it is available only to some of the senses, not all. An image in a mirror is an illusion because you can see it, but not touch, feel, smell, or taste it. If you crossed your eyes and went over and sat on both of your stools, would one still not exist? If you smelled them both, saw both, tasted both, heard both? Would they still be an illusion? If all of those are true, I can find no illusion...

If you find God completely imperceptible, then you simply cannot use "exists" to describe God. Find another word that you use to describe that which is completely imperceptible, and then apply it to God.

I do think that exists means perceptible, because that is the way I - and everyone else - use it.

Once we change the definition of "exist" to match how I am using it, then maybe I might be able to wiggle myself out of this whole mess. I am stating, "What we are perceive due to my senses may not in fact be real." Which, again, may make sense. If I am insane, and I am hallucinating, then what I am seeing is not real.

All that remain is to define what is "real". And, for lack of a better definition, I would use it as anything that has the property of "existence".

P.S.: This whole 'langauge' argument isn't really going to persuade me, but that's not the point. The main goal is to go and annoy skeptics in the same way as skeptics annoy everyone else. :)And I find that everything that is said to exist can be percieved (or proven, depending on the use of exist). That's a real table? Sure, it's real; I do perceive that table with all my senses.

The Skeptical question is something that cannot be said. As Wittgenstein says, "What cannot be said must be passed over in silence."

SS, I wouldn't worry too much about this; it took me quite a few hours of working on it before I actually understood this approach and how language was being misused. I do recommend that you read the primary sources, but you will have to do it quite carefully. It's easy to miss his argument (I know I did the first few times through. :)).

PS: this whole language argument has convinced me, at least for now. I wouldn't be too sure of yourself, SS. :D

----------------------------------------------

Well, and this may be covered in the above discussion as I skimmed much of it.

W is assuming that said table exists, and that under the condition that it exists, our senses are not deceiving us in it's shape, smell, taste and visual appearance.By how we use the word "exists," the table really does exist. That's all there is to it.

W: claims there is a table
S: asks for proof
W: should instruct S to move to the nearest location of the table and use his senses to confirm the literal existence of the table.
S: asks for proof that his senses are working right.
W: should instruct S to touch something else, proving his senses either are, or are not functioning properly.
S: asks for proof that senses are trustworthy.
W: now required to use multiple instances of people to touch the given object to confirm they all sense the same thing.
S: asks that human senes in general are trustworthy.
W: runs into a problem since he's unable to get an accurate answer from any non-human species....ans now our trans-finite knowledge problem occurs in needing knowledge above and beyond the current limit.

hence why I find Skeptics annoying, but a necessary part of life.

In a thousand years, the Skeptic's question will be far more relevant when said tabe is dust. It is still all the parts the table used to be, so is it not the table? Or is it dust? repeat infinite regression situation till you hit limit of knowledge. The Skeptic's question is relevant, and not gibberish, but stupid and annoying.As soon as the Skeptic in the above scenario asks for proof that his senses are correct, he is speaking nonsense and should be responded to in an appropriate manner. I think I described why this is so in my answer to Silentscope above.

SilentScope001
11-18-2007, 12:53 PM
I'll check the source material, but I guess one last push is necessary. :)

Definitions: If you need 'context clues' to determine what a word means in context, then you need to find objective definition of all the other words, as to conclude what it means. You need meanings outside of the actual sentence itself, otherwise how am I supposed to know what the sentence mean? I won't be able to understand the 'context' at all. It would be like W. saying:

"Gjabn gbajb astiym." (Transaltion: The table exist.)

Not only must the word 'exist' be known via context clues, but also the term 'table' and the term 'the' (are you referring to a specific table or just different tables). W. can point at the "astiym" (table), but then I must figure out via context that pointing means that he is in fact indicitaing that the astiym. And if I can figure that out, then I must conclude why is he indicating of the astiym, is he saying the astiym exist or that he wants to buy the astiym or that the astiym is faulty or that the astiym is not really an astiym.

All I would be seeing is W. pointing at a astiym/table and muttering nonsense. At which point, I won't even dignify talking to W. as if he doesn't recognize my ability to talk to him, then I don't recognize his ability to talk to me.

We are able to develop the objective meanings in our head, but without those objective meanings, langauge will fall. That is why I rely on definitions, to provide a meaning for words.

Without any objective meaning, then I cannot understand what he says at all. In which case, he is seen as nonsencial as well.

In your last paragraph you gave an example of an illusion. Why do we say it is an illusion? Because it is available only to some of the senses, not all. An image in a mirror is an illusion because you can see it, but not touch, feel, smell, or taste it. If you crossed your eyes and went over and sat on both of your stools, would one still not exist? If you smelled them both, saw both, tasted both, heard both? Would they still be an illusion? If all of those are true, I can find no illusion...

Yes, it would still be an illusion. An illusion is something that is false, that is a lie. It's an illusion, it doesn't exist at all. If all your senses agree it is true, then it can STILL be an illusion. People who are dreaming, who see sights, who touch stuff, who have sensory preceptions, they are, by your definition, 'real', 'existing', but they are not.

People can have sensory hallicuations. And by claiming that a person who has a sensory halliucatuion is in fact seeing stuff that is 'real'...that will degrade the traditional definition of reality. This isn't just skepeticsm the argument is knocking down, it's knocking down sanity itself. If you are insane and you see something real and you touch it and its real and you smell it and it's real...well, it's real according to you. But it isn't.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallucination

In an illusory experience, a genuine sensation is attributed to an incorrect cause (eg. misinterpreting a coat hanging on a door to be an intruder). A delusional perception is where a genuine perception (ie. correctly sensed and interpreted) is given some additional (and typically bizarre) significance. Hallucinations may occur in any sensory modality—visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, proprioceptive, equilibrioceptive, nociceptive, thermoceptive.

So if a doctor tells a person who is insane, "It's not real! It's not real," should the insane person say, "Doctor, you are wrong." Yes, the insane person may be justified in saying it, but the insane person is insane.

EDIT: However I am going to need to bow out of this discussion, due to increasing schoolwork. Sorry.

Samuel Dravis
11-18-2007, 01:55 PM
I'll check the source material, but I guess one last push is necessary. :)

Definitions: If you need 'context clues' to determine what a word means in context, then you need to find objective definition of all the other words, as to conclude what it means. You need meanings outside of the actual sentence itself, otherwise how am I supposed to know what the sentence mean? I won't be able to understand the 'context' at all. It would be like W. saying:

"Gjabn gbajb astiym." (Translation: The table exist.)A small point here, but you wouldn't say this table exists, because that would be nonsensical or redundant ("I am perceiving this perception"). "This table." would be more appropriate (i.e., "this perception I call a table"). If you were pointing at the table, the meaning might be closer to a command: "Look at this perception I am calling a table."

Note that there are instances in which you can say that the table exists. These, however, are when you do not have immediate access to the table itself; for instance, if you are in another room and are talking about a table in the hall: "There is a table in the hall." By this we mean that, if someone goes out into the hall, they will perceive something whose attributes are in accordance with what we call a table. Nothing more is meant than this and nothing more can be said about the subject intelligibly.

Not only must the word 'exist' be known via context clues, but also the term 'table' and the term 'the' (are you referring to a specific table or just different tables). W. can point at the "astiym" (table), but then I must figure out via context that pointing means that he is in fact indicating that the astiym. And if I can figure that out, then I must conclude why is he indicating of the astiym, is he saying the astiym exist or that he wants to buy the astiym or that the astiym is faulty or that the astiym is not really an astiym.

All I would be seeing is W. pointing at a astiym/table and muttering nonsense. At which point, I won't even dignify talking to W. as if he doesn't recognize my ability to talk to him, then I don't recognize his ability to talk to me.

We are able to develop the objective meanings in our head, but without those objective meanings, language will fall. That is why I rely on definitions, to provide a meaning for words.

Without any objective meaning, then I cannot understand what he says at all. In which case, he is seen as nonsensical as well.Right. So words are defined by doing, showing. I point at one table and say "astiym." I point at the next and say it again. Meanings can be achieved like this without definitions, but you are unable to convey the totality of what that experience consists of within words. Context not only includes what other words you are using, but also the environment.

These "concrete definitions" of words are the reason that you run into philosophical skepticism in the first place. By using these definitions, you make both the meaning and the label arbitrary. With Wittgenstein, the label is arbitrary but the meaning is not. Use defines words. If you try to define words completely apart from anything known, you only dig yourself into the exact hole you just described; where words mean nothing and there is no communication possible.

Let's try to define "apple." What is an apple? From wiki, the definition is:

The apple is the pomaceous fruit of the apple tree, species Malus domestica in the rose family Rosaceae. It is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits. The tree is small and deciduous, reaching 5-12 m tall, with a broad, often densely twiggy crown.

The leaves are alternately arranged simple ovals 5-12 cm long and 3-6 cm broad on a 2-5 cm petiole with an acute tip, serrated margin and a slightly downy underside. Flowers are produced in spring simultaneous with the budding of the leaves.

The flowers are white with a pink tinge that gradually fades, five petaled, 2.5-3.5 cm in diameter. The fruit matures in autumn, and is typically 5-9 cm diameter. The centre of the fruit contains five carpels arranged in a five-point star, each carpel containing one to three seeds.

This aligns fairly well with how the word is used in language, but that is no surprise - it's supposed to be that way.

At what point does the definition of apple NOT necessarily include sensory perception? If we used "Ksthf" in reference to the same set of sensory information, would we not still be saying the same thing, meaning the same thing? "Apple" is a label, and it has no more inherent meaning than a label. Definitions of apple are only descriptors of how that particular sound/scribble-symbol is used, which may be more or less correct.

So, when the Skeptic says, "How do you know the apple is real?", he is not saying anything of value. I know what an apple is, and I know whether this particular apple exists because I am experiencing that particular set of sensory information that is unique to apples and also unique to this particular one.

Yes, it would still be an illusion. An illusion is something that is false, that is a lie. It's an illusion, it doesn't exist at all. If all your senses agree it is true, then it can STILL be an illusion. People who are dreaming, who see sights, who touch stuff, who have sensory preceptions, they are, by your definition, 'real', 'existing', but they are not.Oh, it's not only my definition; it's everyone's, including yours. No one uses illusion to refer to something that they experience completely with their senses, continuously and without fail. There is no point in time that you can compare experiences and say, "Oh riiight! That's an illusion!" You say you hallucinated? Fine, that just means that you had some previous experiences which do not match up to what you perceive now. But if what the Skeptic says is true, we never stop perceiving this "illusion." Another word for a perfect and eternal perception is reality.

Like I said previously, we don't have a sixth sense. Reality can only be defined as far as we experience it. Were some other entity to have that sixth sense, they would have an entirely different conception of reality. If said being came up to us and said, "The world doesn't exist." they would be either deliberately lying or accidentally misusing the words. Their ability to distinguish some other attribute that we cannot does not make what we experience any less real. That being's use of "real" would include his other sense, while our use of "real" only includes ours.

Sensory hallucinations are real. And by claiming that a person who has a sensory hallucination is in fact seeing stuff that is 'real'...that will degrade the traditional definition of reality. This isn't just skeptics the argument is knocking down, it's knocking down sanity itself. If you are insane and you see something real and you touch it and its real and you smell it and it's real...well, it's real according to you. But it isn't.If reminding you of the actual way language is used properly knocks down what you think of as sanity, then it deserves to be knocked down.

With the language we have now, we can only speak of something that is perceptible as existing. There is no meaningless claim being made. "But it isn't [real]" quite simply doesn't mean a thing.

So if a doctor tells a person who is insane, "It's not real! It's not real," should the insane person say, "Doctor, you are wrong." Yes, the insane person may be justified in saying it, but the insane person is insane.And is the doctor hallucinating the man's illness? I think not; the doctor is said to be sane. He's said to know what he is doing. He is said to perceive correctly. He is said to know what is real.

And he does, according to the context in which we use those words.

Ray Jones
11-20-2007, 09:30 AM
What was this good for again, Mr. Dravis?

Samuel Dravis
11-20-2007, 11:40 AM
Well, this approach makes it impossible to have philosophical problems like skepticism. It works similarly with other things. For instance, if someone asked, "What is the nature of the mind?" you can answer them. This is attractive to me because I find the traditional explanations to these problems inadequate and philosophical skepticism is, well, unpleasant.

"What is the mind?"
Then we must ask, "What context is mind being used in?"
"I mean the MIND! What is it?"

But the word 'mind' is not used in language outside of phrases like "Mind you manners," "he lost his mind," "use your mind," etc. These sentences DO NOT refer to the mind as an object to be found (although GRAMMATICALLY they do); mind instead is used as an euphemism to mean "remember what you're doing!", "he is not acting normally," or "act rationally," respectively.

When a philosopher takes the word "mind" out of this context that we use it in, of course they are going to have problems dealing with it (Cartesian duality, Functionalism, Identity theory, etc). What they are missing is that we don't use "mind" to mean an object. The meanings of "mind," as shown above, are as diverse as its uses.

You may note that none of the uses of "mind" in language ever refer to any kind of immaterial thinking thing, ala Descartes. Think up a few more uses of "mind" to see what it means for yourself - you don't need to trust me.

We don't philosophize about what "It" means when we say, "It is raining," because some transcendent meaning of "it" is not in question. "It" is simply a placeholder for what we mean: "this general area," or possibly other more specific meanings depending on the situation. "It" has no meaning independent of the use made of it. Indeed, the "it" in the last sentence refers to the word "it" - certainly not "this general area." Why should we try to answer the Skeptic, or the person who misuses "mind," any differently than we would answer the person wondering what "it" was?

If you'd like to try it, select a few interesting words to look at, like soul, ghost, joy, Bob, geek, abomination, and Devon. When you find how those words are used in language, you will know what they mean (the last two are probably functionally equivalent, however).

SilentScope001
11-20-2007, 04:34 PM
Well, this approach makes it impossible to have philosophical problems like skepticism.

It Brings up an interesting point...Newspeak, in 1984.

It is supposed to restrict discussion about ideologies that are against what the common world view is. The whole preamble of the Declaration of Indepedence can only be transalated in one word "thoughtcrime", and be easily dismissed. You can say, "Big Brother is ungood", but you cannot offer any reason why Big Brother is ungood, therefore, without any evidence, Big Brother is good. George Orwell was very afraid of words being used to restrict discussion or to cover stuff up, and Newspeak is the culmination of those fears.

The langauge W. claim exist, instead of being used to communicate ideas, would be used to restrict debate. In which case, you are in fact censoring the Skepetic, and not allowing him to speak. I'm not sure that's a victory one should be happy about.

Sorry for this last fient, that statement just make me have an adverse reaction and explained why I don't like W. /sigh.

EDIT: Uh. Please don't response to this, as it's easy to knock down anyway, and it's not an argument, just a statement of anger/regret. That's the whole point of W., and I know you like that Samuel Dravis, but I like "freedom of thought", you know, the ability to question everything, so without questioning, how am I supposed to know if it is right? Sorry however.

Samuel Dravis
11-22-2007, 11:14 PM
SilentScope, I apologize if that I came across as trying to annoy you in particular or skeptics in general. I did not mean this thread in that way. I had just understood Wittgenstein's arguments and they made so much sense to me that I wanted you to have the same opportunity I have had reading him. I have never liked philosophical skepticism, and those skeptics I do know don't really like it either - they just can't see any way out of it. Wittgenstein's arguments offer a way out of many other philosophical quagmires as well, and I thought that you - and people in general - would be interested in that given the common topics here in Kavar's.

I wasn't trying to get you angry, and I am sorry you found that implied in my words. When I made this thread, I knew you had an interest in the topic. In fact, I wrote this up almost exclusively with you in mind. Unless you have run up against the same problem of knowledge as the Skeptic, the person trying to figure out what the mind is, etc., Wittgenstein would seem to be an answer in search of a problem (and the thread wouldn't make too much sense at all ;)).

I asked you specifically because I value your input on this topic, SS, and I know you are able to talk about it. I'm glad you were able to argue it for a while. You certainly made me think of how to apply the argument, and for that I am grateful.



Since you are worried about Wittgenstein restricting the language, think of it this way (and I apologize for not explaining this well before): when Einstein thought up Relativity theory, he didn't personally restrict anyone from traveling faster than light. He merely described what was happening already. People couldn't travel faster than light before Einstein, and they cannot now - the difference is that we know what the problem is and aren't planning any more FTL spaceships.

Similarly, Wittgenstein is just showing what happens in language and the consequences that its origin has on our ability to communicate ideas. He hasn't restricted anything himself, but simply shown that restrictions exist. People couldn't say some things intelligibly before Wittgenstein and they cannot now - the difference being that we know why not and we don't have to deal with these philosophical quandaries in the traditional way.

I think it is a good thing to know our restrictions.