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On the Existence of the "Irrational"

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Poll Question: Do you believe Pegacorn to exist?
Poll Choice Votes Poll Statistics
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2 [50.00%]
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    Posted: 04 Feb 2011 at 14:15
Hello, all good AE members; it's been quite some time.
 
So, as the poll shows above, this post is about what you believe to be the case. Does the pegacorn (winged unicorn or horned pegasus, if one so likes) exist? Of course, we could replace this specific creature with any other "mythical" creature as well. You have your gryphon, your minotaur, or yes, my personal favorite, fairies.
 
We have all, at some moment or another, heard that believing in such things is "irrational." In fact -- and this is rather the reason I chose to compose this post -- I heard that very assertion two days ago, by someone claiming allegiance to the so called tribe of "secular rationalists." We have affectively driven out our "medieval" concepts of supernatural and fairy tale fantasies of sprites and fairies frolicking in the forest, or so the story goes.
 
Is this really our idea of rational thought? It's depressing enough for one to consider, but perhaps Logic and the Laws of Thought can tell us a bit about the question of the existence of sprites (or what have you), and then again, perhaps not.
 
The three Laws of Thought, the foundation to reason itself, are as follows:
 
1. The law of indentity: A is A, or A = A. A thing is what it is.
 
2. The principle of excluded middle: Between being and non-being there is no middle state. Something eiher exists or does not exist.
 
3. The principle of contradiction: It is impossible for something both to be and not be at the same time and in the same respect. Something cannot both be being and non-being.
 
 
So, do these foundational tools of reason tell us anything about belief in "mythical" creatures? Why would it be irrational to believe that one may have fairies at the bottom of one's own garden? How has reason disproved or even shed an iota of more doubt on the spiritual? 
 
I have often thought about why we don't really take things such as gryphons and pegacorns seriously, but still are quite inclined to believe in God. I have often heard the silly argument, nay, blind assertion, of equating God with fairies, or more buffoonishly, a flying spaghetti monster. I will provide an argument why that is not the case, and why we really don't take things like pegacorns seriously. But first I would like some people to answer the poll and explain why they believe what they do. 
 
-arch.buff
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guest Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Feb 2011 at 14:52
Nothing can ever be proven or disproven beyond doubt. You may claim you exist, I may claim that you are a product of a massive virtual reality network like in the film The Matrix.

So at the end of the day we have to stop dealing in terms of absolutes and start dealing instead with scale and probability. Do you remain holed up in your home everyday for fear that a terrorist will ambush you on the street and kill you? I doubt it. And why? Because intuitively, you processed mathematical variables on the likelihood of that happening, and you decide that the chance of it happening to you is so absolutely minimal that you decide the chance of attack is negligible. You can't disprove that a terrorist will attack you the moment you step outside, but you realise that to seriously entertain the possibility to the extent that you alter how you live your life is simply irrational. And you decide that based on probability, not on absolute proof or disproof.

It would be irrational to believe the fairies exist at the bottom of the garden because the mathematically weighted variables that indicate for or against such a proposition are overwhelmingly stacked against the possibility. Namely, there exists no evidence of fairies.

The reasons people believe in God are many. The comfort of belief in an afterlife, sense of identity and community, obedience to one's parents, coercion, the fact that human beings must construct a meaning to their lives and religion provides this in a readily packaged format..... the list goes on endlessly. Fairies and unicorns don't provide those things.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote arch.buff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Feb 2011 at 16:10
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

Nothing can ever be proven or disproven beyond doubt. You may claim you exist, I may claim that you are a product of a massive virtual reality network like in the film The Matrix.
 
I'm not sure if you are an empiricist or not, Constantine, but you are correct to bring up the question. But my question is more fundamental, whether it is that you believe we exist or we do not exist, it must be the case of it being one or the other. One of those propositions must be true, and the other false -- no middle road. So, how can you ever mathematically come to a probability? You can't, just like you can't come to a mathematical probability about the existence of anything else, fairy or otherwise. What I think you do mean to say is something like, the times I have seen a fairy are zero, whereas the times I have not seen a fairy are far more abundant. Or, maybe, in all the possible occasions I have had the opportunity to see a fairy, I have had no such encounters. What you are doing is appealing to your senses, you are relying on your senses for the probability of your inference. But, we all know that our senses can be deceived. Take dark matter, for instance. Why is it that we cannot sense roughly 95% of the matter in the universe? Seems odd that we make such dogmatic pronouncements about matter when we only know about 5% of it.
 
 
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:


So at the end of the day we have to stop dealing in terms of absolutes and start dealing instead with scale and probability. Do you remain holed up in your home everyday for fear that a terrorist will ambush you on the street and kill you? I doubt it. And why? Because intuitively, you processed mathematical variables on the likelihood of that happening, and you decide that the chance of it happening to you is so absolutely minimal that you decide the chance of attack is negligible. You can't disprove that a terrorist will attack you the moment you step outside, but you realise that to seriously entertain the possibility to the extent that you alter how you live your life is simply irrational. And you decide that based on probability, not on absolute proof or disproof.

It would be irrational to believe the fairies exist at the bottom of the garden because the mathematically weighted variables that indicate for or against such a proposition are overwhelmingly stacked against the possibility. Namely, there exists no evidence of fairies.

The reasons people believe in God are many. The comfort of belief in an afterlife, sense of identity and community, obedience to one's parents, coercion, the fact that human beings must construct a meaning to their lives and religion provides this in a readily packaged format..... the list goes on endlessly. Fairies and unicorns don't provide those things.
 
You had just earlier stated that we can't be positive that we exist at all -- in other words you are open to doubting your senses that everyway tell you that you exist. But, then, why do you lose your skepticism when it comes to fairies? In other words, why do you assume that the five senses you have inform you of the ultimate way things really and truly are? Fairies are no more illogical, by defintion, than you or me. I already voted, so I can tell you that I don't believe pegacorns to exist, but I very well may be wrong.
 
God, on the other hand, is -- by the Christian philosophical tradition -- completely different. I'll get into that in a bit, after others have commented.
 
-arch.buff  


Edited by arch.buff - 04 Feb 2011 at 16:12
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote arch.buff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Feb 2011 at 16:26
Here's the real reason I believe most of us think it completely absurd to believe in pegacorns.
 
Take a pegacorn. It is a rather odd looking creature (to us). It is a horse with wings and a horn, like that of a unicorn.
 
Right away one can notice that the characteristics of the pegacorn are ubiquitous. Take horns, for instance. One can see horns everywhere in the wild: you have rhinos, even deer. Also, too, one can see wings all over. Take a quick look outside to view the birds flying by. And, finally horses. Horses are everywhere -- my brother owns quite a few, as it were -- and they are beautiful animals.
 
Now, all of this seems to be common sense. But where common sense ends is when we are asked to believe in the existence of all these things joined together in one specific entity, one that we have never observed. Indeed, even the thought seems to us completely absurd. But, and here is quite my point, it isn't any more illogical than you or me. What would be illogical is, say a square circle; or, a married bachelor. Those things go beyond just being weird to logically impossible.
 
This goes back to your initial question of our own existence, Constantine. The question is: what can we really know? Can we really ever know if we exist or not? Perhaps not. But there are things we can know, such as there can be no square circles, or married bachelors. Those things defy logic -- the existence of sprites or fairies do not.
 
-arch.buff


Edited by arch.buff - 04 Feb 2011 at 16:30
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Feb 2011 at 00:27
Fundamental question - I doon't know where to start except to say that I mostly go along with Constantine. I'd modify it though (and I chose to say I am absolutely certain the pegacorn does not exist) since if I know somethiing was only created by a human imagination I know it doesn't exist. So - no pegacorns and no fairies at the bottom of the Corringley garrdens, no Red Riding Hood and no James Bond.
 
However that doesn't establish that my view is rational. I can't do that because we haven't established what the word means here. It certainly does not mean 'logical': and to believe something beause it is logical is a severe mistake. I don't know whether it is meant to be the same as 'reasonable', though etymologically it should be, and I doubt anyway that we can easily resolve the meaning of 'reasonable' here.
 
Someone - Omar? - recently in another thread took 'irrational' as 'not acting in one's best interest' and on that basis it seems to me my attitude is distinctly 'rational' since eliminating the highly improbable helps a lot in resolving problems and coming to decisions.
 
Nevertheless that leaves me wondering: was not the act of Captain Oates of the Antarctic the act of a rational man? Is it not rational to act in other people's interests and not one's own?
 
With regard to the excluded middle and probability, the Keynesian answer was the one mentioned - it depends on the frequency of previous observation: there are others. But they have in common being a way of expressing our lack of knowledge. Usually this is because an event is in the future. Either the Braves will wiin the world series this year or they wll not. There's no way we can know which is true and which is false, so we have to assign probabilities to them by some method or other. In fact the same applies to the past and the present as historians should certainly be aware. (I don't necessarily mean mathematical probabilities - any kind of ordered classification can be useful, and a non-numerical one may be all that is possible.
 
In any case the middle can't alway be excluded, and may be important. Is a tomato red? Is a strawberry a fruit? Do Christians believe in transubstantiation? Is Ahmadinejad crazy? Was Jerry Lewis a buffoon? Have you stopped beating your wife?
 
If you limit it to existential statements: Is there a current Holy Roman Emperor?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote arch.buff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Feb 2011 at 06:21
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

Fundamental question - I doon't know where to start except to say that I mostly go along with Constantine. I'd modify it though (and I chose to say I am absolutely certain the pegacorn does not exist) since if I know somethiing was only created by a human imagination I know it doesn't exist. So - no pegacorns and no fairies at the bottom of the Corringley garrdens, no Red Riding Hood and no James Bond.
 
However that doesn't establish that my view is rational. I can't do that because we haven't established what the word means here. It certainly does not mean 'logical': and to believe something beause it is logical is a severe mistake. I don't know whether it is meant to be the same as 'reasonable', though etymologically it should be, and I doubt anyway that we can easily resolve the meaning of 'reasonable' here.
 
Someone - Omar? - recently in another thread took 'irrational' as 'not acting in one's best interest' and on that basis it seems to me my attitude is distinctly 'rational' since eliminating the highly improbable helps a lot in resolving problems and coming to decisions.
 
Nevertheless that leaves me wondering: was not the act of Captain Oates of the Antarctic the act of a rational man? Is it not rational to act in other people's interests and not one's own?
 
Well, I think your last definition would be more aptly defined as altruism. But I'm glad you brought up the definitions of the words we're using. I want to use reason in the sense of using logic to find out what we can know, and -- with that -- I want to first of all define knowledge.
 
You say that "since if I know somethiing was only created by a human imagination I know it doesn't exist. So - no pegacorns and no fairies at the bottom of the Corringley garrdens, no Red Riding Hood and no James Bond." My question would be, How do you know that? Let us leave aside the question as to whether ideas hold existence (not an unimportant question), and let us ask how you can know the above in the same way you can know that x is not non-x? This is what I want to define as knowledge: true, justified belief through the laws of thought (reason).
 
You are right to say that we shouldn't just believe something because it is logical, but, on the other hand, you also shouldn't feel certain in your skeptical beliefs (which are not knowledge in the sense of the logical meaning of that word). There is no way to mathematically put a number on it, but it is very possible that you may be wrong, in your certainty.  
 
 
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

With regard to the excluded middle and probability, the Keynesian answer was the one mentioned - it depends on the frequency of previous observation: there are others. But they have in common being a way of expressing our lack of knowledge. Usually this is because an event is in the future. Either the Braves will wiin the world series this year or they wll not. There's no way we can know which is true and which is false, so we have to assign probabilities to them by some method or other. In fact the same applies to the past and the present as historians should certainly be aware. (I don't necessarily mean mathematical probabilities - any kind of ordered classification can be useful, and a non-numerical one may be all that is possible.
 
In any case the middle can't alway be excluded, and may be important. Is a tomato red? Is a strawberry a fruit? Do Christians believe in transubstantiation? Is Ahmadinejad crazy? Was Jerry Lewis a buffoon? Have you stopped beating your wife?
 
If you limit it to existential statements: Is there a current Holy Roman Emperor?
 
But, again, you are presupposing -- without true knowledge -- that your senses or observations are providing you with what is truly the case. This brings us back to the question: Do you exist? Or are you just an imagination or an idea in a video game? You can't really know the question to that, in the same way you can't know -- with certainty, or otherwise -- that fairies don't exist. What you can know is that you either do exist or you do not exist, and you can also know that one of those propositions has to be the case. That is why the middle has to be excluded. There's nothing between being and non-being. The questions you bring up only involve logical knowledge to the extent that they agree to their inherent definitions. For example, we can know that there are no square circles. Why? Because by their very definitions they are proven contradictory. Your questions all seem to be rather subjective, and are not based on logical knowledge.
 
-arch.buff
 


Edited by arch.buff - 05 Feb 2011 at 06:24
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Feb 2011 at 07:50
The quick answer is that there is no such thing as logical knowledge (if one means knowledge about the real world or whether there indeed is a real world). Logic merely produces the necessary consequences (according to certain rules) of one's non-logical axioms and definitions.
 
But I'm in a hurry, I'll get back to it tomorrow.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Feb 2011 at 05:36
Originally posted by arch.buff arch.buff wrote:

What you can know is that you either do exist or you do not exist, and you can also know that one of those propositions has to be the case.
That's no more true than your ability to know anything else absolutely or perfecly. It is at best axiomatic, just like the postulate that a line is either parallel to another line or not in geometry. That's quite apart from the matter of the definition of 'exist', or indeed 'you'. Does the current King of France exist? If not, how can we talk about him?
 
So much for logic, which as I already pointed out gives no knowledge about the external world, since it's conclusions depend entirely on its assumptions and those assumptions cannot be logically arrived at except by relying on earlier assumptions. For 'assumptions' read also 'axioms' and 'premises' and include definitions among them.
 
But the original question was about 'rational' thought, and 'rationality' demands a different analysis. Googling for definitions doesn't help very much because it turns up ciruclar ones - i.e the definition of 'rational' as 'reasoned' which gets nowhere really.
 
One essential requirement, if the concept is to have any utility at all, has to be that the rationality of a decision be determinable a priori, and not after the outcome is known. That rules out anything like a rational choice being one that was actually in the chooser's best interests, since that can only be none after the choice is made and a new state of affairs begins.
 
It allows however for a rational choice being one made because it is thought to be in the chooser's interest, but that seems to be too wide. That remains true even if widened to be one taken because it it thought to be in someone else's best interest. The reason it is too wide is that it doesn't concentrate on the kind of thought that has to be involved. I don't think that the concept of irrational thought can be ruled out.
 
What I come up with, for the moment and I'm open to offers, is that a rational choice is one where the consequences of the various alternatives have been projected and considered, and assessed as to how they meet the various pre-defined goals of the chooser.
 
Whether belief in the pegacorn is therefore 'rational' or not depends on the goals the believer is tryiing to achieve and the degree to which believing in the pegacorn helps achieve them (or goes against them).
 
Frankly I think that believing in the pegacorn could do nothing but damage any goals I have for self-esteem and social belonging and so forth, so rationally I can write that I am completely certain than pegacorns do not exist: it would be irrational of me to do anything else. Even though in the traditional sense I cannot 'know' whether they do or not. 
 
That of course would not necessarily mean that someone else could not rationally believe in the existence of pegacorns: they would just have to have different goals from mine.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Feb 2011 at 06:21
In terms of physical reality Pegacorns do not exist; in the realm of the fantastic they take wing solely in the imagination. Of course one could become completely poetic--or absurdly existentialist--and move on into the realm that all is but a dream, even dreams are dreams of dreams and this substancelessness is the reality. No Exit anyone? 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote arch.buff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Feb 2011 at 15:10
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

Originally posted by arch.buff arch.buff wrote:

What you can know is that you either do exist or you do not exist, and you can also know that one of those propositions has to be the case.
 
That's no more true than your ability to know anything else absolutely or perfecly. It is at best axiomatic, just like the postulate that a line is either parallel to another line or not in geometry. That's quite apart from the matter of the definition of 'exist', or indeed 'you'. Does the current King of France exist? If not, how can we talk about him?
 
So much for logic, which as I already pointed out gives no knowledge about the external world, since it's conclusions depend entirely on its assumptions and those assumptions cannot be logically arrived at except by relying on earlier assumptions. For 'assumptions' read also 'axioms' and 'premises' and include definitions among them. 
 
Ok, let me see if I am following you correctly. On first examination, it appears to be simply Radical Skepticism. If I have understood you, your thesis is that we cannot know anything "absolutely" or "perfectly." But if that is the case, then why should anyone take your thesis seriously, because you have undercut your entire argument by its very reasoning. In other words, if we cannot truly know anything, then it cannot be possible to assert we cannot know, because that itself is representing a way of knowing
 
Could you possibly flesh out how it is that we cannot truly know that say, 1+1=2. Can it ever possibly be the case that 1+1=2 is not true. Is there a way to even begin to conceive that this is not the case?
 
A liked what you had to say in the rest of your post, and I think it is a nice segway into why fairies and the traditional conception of the Christian God are not compatible. But first I would like to get your thoughts on your epistemological views.


Edited by arch.buff - 06 Feb 2011 at 15:10
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1 egg and 1 chicken do not make two of anything, unless the egg hatches and then you have two chickens (broadly defined that is unless you want to get more exact and define further and discover that you still have but 1 chicken and 1 hatchling who might not develop into a full grown chicken. After all, it is a fundamental tenet of theology that God is the unknowable in the sense that his being lies beyond reason (or human comprehension). Were not the early Greek Fathers rather insistent on this point hence their explanations on the deity being all that we were not in essence: limited knowledge--all-knowing; finite in time--infinite and beyond time; limited vision--all seeing so on and so forth. All else would have exhausted the patience of an Augustine, and I for one find all of this dull and one of the more dismal aspects of scholasticism. 

Edited by drgonzaga - 07 Feb 2011 at 14:12
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What a question!
Are there Pagacorns? Well, let's analyse it in a rational manner. First, let's define what is mean by "are". In other terms, we have the old Shakespearian dilema: To be or not to be.

If we ask the question in that way, is actually impossible to answer, because "To be" could mean:
(1) Have existed at some time in the past an animal like the Pegacorn?

Or

(2) It is possible that an animal like the Pegacorn could exist some day? With genetical engineering for example.

Or

(3) Is there a chance that an animal like the Pegacorn lives in another place? (Like the "other world", another planet or in a parallel universe?)

Or

(4) If the Pegacorn exist in our imagination, does it make it something "real"?

In short, too many questions. Even worst, those questions don't mean the same thing. However, we can answer them one by one. The answers, now.

(1) No. Pegacorn never existed. Even more, a flying horse is impossible for the physical laws of planet earth. Therefore, Pegacorn never existed in the history of the planet Earth.

(2) Yes. Pegacorn could be produced someday by a weird exercise of genetical engineering. For entertainment, for example. Jurasic Park anyone? At least, in theory, it seems possible to achieve the creation of artificial animals designed by artists. Now, for that animal to flyght it will have be in some special conditionated environment. Perhaps in a low centrifugal gravity space station.
When would it be possible? what about 1000 years in the future?

(3) Unlikely. There are chances that Pegacorns exist somewhere else, no matter it is unlikely. After all, anything could happen in the afterlife, there are billions of galaxies in the universe and who knows what they hold, and there are perhaps billions of parallel universes as well, with their own physical laws.
Now, we shouldn't confuse unlikely with false. For example, it is possible that today a meteor came straight from the sky and kill us by hiting on the head? Yes, the probability exist, but it is very unlikely that happens. Another example is the chance to win the Lotto, which is a lot more likely than finding Pegacorns in a star of the Magellian galaxy.

(4) No. If you believe in the actually existence of platonic objects, such as the number 7, the archetype of a dog or the concept of justice, then the Pegacorn exist. However, that doesn't mean they are living animals at all. A very doubful kind of existence, indeed, not better than the life of Donald Duck or Superman.





Edited by pinguin - 06 Feb 2011 at 23:14
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Feb 2011 at 00:44
Originally posted by arch.buff arch.buff wrote:

  
Ok, let me see if I am following you correctly. On first examination, it appears to be simply Radical Skepticism. If I have understood you, your thesis is that we cannot know anything "absolutely" or "perfectly." But if that is the case, then why should anyone take your thesis seriously, because you have undercut your entire argument by its very reasoning. In other words, if we cannot truly know anything, then it cannot be possible to assert we cannot know, because that itself is representing a way of knowing
I can assert we cannot know: I do not know if my assertion is correct or not. That's true. We have to live with that.
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Could you possibly flesh out how it is that we cannot truly know that say, 1+1=2. Can it ever possibly be the case that 1+1=2 is not true. Is there a way to even begin to conceive that this is not the case?
You're confusing statements about the real worl with statements about logical systems (in this case a mathematical one). 1+1=2 because and only because 2 is defined as the sum of 1 and 1 and '+' is shorthand for 'the sum of the items on either side'[1]. We can go on to define 1+2 as 10 or as 3; either is correct and neither necessarily relates to real-world situations.
 
We (normally) define the sum of 3 and 8 to be 11 but there are languages/societies in which such a statement is meaningless. Yet we live in the same world. It may not be that obvious with the 'natural' counting numbers (positive integers) but it becomse more obvious once you move on to real and complex numbers, or even just negative ones. In what way is it a statement about the real world that taking two sheep from a field with one sheep in it creates a field with minus one sheep in it?
 
[1] Of course that also depends on how we define the sum of.
Quote
 
A liked what you had to say in the rest of your post, and I think it is a nice segway into why fairies and the traditional conception of the Christian God are not compatible. But first I would like to get your thoughts on your epistemological views.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Feb 2011 at 02:55
1+1 is 2 in the standard arithmetical system of cardinal numbers, that start from cero and extend to infinite. In base 2 modular math  1+1=0.
Anyways, if we define THE SYSTEM we are talking about, and in that SYSTEM 1+2=3 then It will always be 3, forever, without discussion.
Most of the ambiguity starts when we don't know what we are talking about. In other words, we haven't define the SYSTEM (axioms) as yet.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Feb 2011 at 04:11
Negative numbers anyone?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Feb 2011 at 04:52
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

1+1 is 2 in the standard arithmetical system of cardinal numbers, that start from cero and extend to infinite. In base 2 modular math  1+1=0.
Anyways, if we define THE SYSTEM we are talking about, and in that SYSTEM 1+2=3 then It will always be 3, forever, without discussion.
Most of the ambiguity starts when we don't know what we are talking about. In other words, we haven't define the SYSTEM (axioms) as yet.
 
That's correct, if one is talking about logical truth, where the 'system' is human defined. However if one is talking about epistemological truth - i.e. the correspondence of an assertion with what is true 'out there' - 'in reality' if you like, the situation is different because 'out there' is not human defined.
 
In formulating belief, rationally, about the real world therefore one has to accept the need to believe what is not known for sure. In formulating irrational belief the same must actually hold, but it is not taken into account, disregarded or not accepted.
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Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Feb 2011 at 08:36
Indeed. We reach the "reality" of the "external" world through paradigms, only. The human creates models of the universe (flat earth, epicycles, solid atoms, Darwin, Mendelian genetics, etc),  and its knowledge is derivated from those paradigms.

Once in a while those models of the reality fails, and have to be replaced for other models.

That's true in Physics, Chemistry and Biology, but not in Mathematics. No matter that the Non-Euclidean geometries are also an example of change of paradigm.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hugoestr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Feb 2011 at 14:05
Great topic, arch.buff.

Now, for some discussion.

If you hold that we can't ever, in absolute terms, know that what we perceive is actually real, then we cannot ever prove that fairies, God, gravity, or the computer that I am writing this exists. We end up in an absolute relativistic world. Notice that this assertion, that the objective truth is that we can never establish an objective truth, is self-contradictory.

So, even if this was the case, for practical purposes we operate as if there were some absolute truth. Besides your logical laws, which must assume to be true to even discuss this topic, we must establish some guidelines from observation. That means, we must perceive in some manner, by sight, hearing, smell, or machine measurements, that fairies exist. If we can't perceive it, then the most probable explanation is that it doesn't exist.

You said that probability throws things in, but it doesn't. If you flip a coin, you will get either heads or tail. If you do it for long enough, it should average 50% each.

You could say that it would be hard to calculate the probability of the existence of fairies. Fair enough. But then, let's think about the probabilities that lighting exists. Most people have experience seeing lighting. A lot of people have seen the effects of lighting, such as burned trees or death people. Overall, we can be pretty sure that lighting exists, since we can perceive it directly, or we can see the effects of lighting.

That is not the case with fairies. Some people have claim to see them, but, unlike lighting, there is no evidence of their existence. There are no footprints. There is no fairy dust trail.

It doesn't mean that they don't exist. It just means that, since there perception of it by many people or physical evidence that would indicate that they exist, chances are that they don't. Now, if someone was to find a fairy city, and other people could go there and see it, this would change the previous assertion.

We haven't see virus, but we can see manifestations of their existence. And recently, we could even see them through instruments. This hasn't happened with fairies so far.

Now, throwing God with the fairies is harder due to Western ideas about God as the creator. Then we could argue that our world is evidence of God. I won't pursue this line, which I feel is where you want to get, since I am too tired

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Feb 2011 at 22:20
@hugo - Nobody has seen or otherwise directly sensed subatomic particles. They are hypothesised to account for observations that we make, and we assess the hypothesises on the basis of whether they allow us to predict what we observe in the future. You accept that when you say we can see the effects of lightning - if all we see are the effects we assume they were due to lightning, but that is not direct evidence of it being lightning: if you come across a burnt tree in a field, was that lightning or arson?
 
The same is true of viruses - or at least prions.
 
The effect is more readily seen if one goes back a century or two. Physicians could see bile and the other liquids. They hypothesised the effect of the liquids as being to influence the level of humours in the body, thereby producing symptoms that could be cured by administering the right dosages of certain medicines. They too would have claimed they could posit the existence of the humours based on the evidence of what they observed.
 
Similarly Newton posited a force of gravity that was 'visible' from its effects. For about a century we have had no need for a force of gravity bcause we have hypotheses that explain thos same effects more accurately, and therefore improve our predictive ability.
 
So the observance of effects is neither necessary nor sufficient to justify the existence of what we currently assume to produce those effects.
 
@pinguin you too mix up the role of mathematics as a standalone system with that of mathematics as a tool for modelling the observed universe. As a standalone logical system it does remain eternally true, because it is arbitrary and has noconnection with realtiy. Similarly the play Hamlet is eternally viable because it is just a play: whether or not there was actually a Hamlet or what the Hamlet's life was like has no bearing on the validity of the play at all.
 
However once you try to apply â mathematical paradigm to the 'real world' - as when one might trs to treat Hamlet as a historical record - it may well prove necessary (and frequently does) to drop it and find another one.
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Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guest Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Feb 2011 at 15:18
Evil Smile So, are you gentlemen finally admitting to the existence of Bigfoot? My favorite scientifically unproven mythical animal. Even with the the lack of evidence out there what so ever, the reports keep coming in. It seems the irrational from our youth is not so easily discarded, even when we try to rationalize it all away.

 Ah, how i miss the days of my youth, where every bump in the night had so many meanings other than the trivially mundane normally boring rational stuff!
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