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CR’s fallibilism vs the issue of sufficiently reliable rationality

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UD serves as a forum in which many issues are debated and as a result form time to time, there are things that it is helpful to draw to wider attention by headling. Here, something from the objectivity and morality thread, as food for thought :

KF, 302: >>CR:

Every proposition is fallible because there are no infallible sources that we can defer to by which to prevent us from falling in error. Reason has its say first.

Absurdly false and counter to facts in evidence.

Just because we are fallible does not entail that in every case there is a residual uncertainty regarding the truth of propositions. A significant number of things are necessarily true, and a relevant subset of these are self-evidently true. For instance, it has been repeatedly shown that error exists is undeniably true, Likewise, as a conscious individual, you are incorrigibly and undeniably known to yourself to be conscious as a bare fact. and that we don’t have a list of all SET’s or an infallible rule for grounding all truths etc etc, is utterly irrelevant to what we now have in hand. The bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Your problem is that you have made a crooked yardstick your standard, a type of fallibilist skepticism and you have a major challenge in acknowledging its failures.

For example: in the above you have exerted great certainty about fallibilism, asserting a universal affirmative that is thus self-referential. It implies that fallibilism is uncertain also, so that what your claim boils down to is a policy declaration that you will treat all claims as fallible, with the convenient exception of the core elements of your system.

Now the oh the sources are fallible claim fails through the key issue of degree of reliability. A good car, calculator or computer will admittedly be fallible, but they are sufficiently reliable to be very effective and useful. Likewise, our reasoning process. The abstract possibility of error can be compatible with the reality of effective and trustworthy performance in many relevant cases.

And in the case of relevant SET’s such as are seen in the OP and thread above, we have claimed truths that are so, are warranted to be necessarily so, and that can be confirmed by insightful inspection backed up by the examination that shows the attempted denial leads to patent absurdity. Denying that error exists directly leads to the implication that it is an error to assert that error exists, so error exists is undeniable. To try to deny one’s consciousness has to use said consciousness so is self-defeating. And so forth.

So, the answer to such fallibilism is the sufficient reliability of our reason. Sufficient to function in some cases to utter certainty.

Your scheme fails the test of factual adequacy.

As for reason, your implication is, that it is a sufficiently reliable capacity to be trustworthy and respected. But, it too depends on self evident truths connected to distinct identity. For instance you are conscious and may consider the appearance of a bright red ball on a table. It matters not here whether it is instantiated physically, or is imagined, or is a computer generated graphic or is a product of electrical stimulation of a brain in a vat. The appearance is enough to distinguish ball A from rest of world ~A. The world partition is immediate:

W = {A|~A}

From this we instantly see that A is itself, also that this is distinct from ~A which is also itself. Then, no thing x in W can be A AND ~A. Any x will be A X-OR ~A. this is due to A’s distinct identity as a thing.

This is not a proof, it is an instructive explanation for the willing. For, to discuss such, at every step of the way we had to rely on distinct identity. This is the root of reasoning and it is undeniably true, forced truth.

Similarly the dichotomy marks distinct things so quantity. From that we see two-ness, thence the endless chain of the naturals necessarily following.

Going on, we can consider also how 2 + 3 = 5:

|| + ||| –> |||||

This too speaks for itself so that one who understands sees that this is necessarily and undeniably so on pain of absurdity. And yes, one may construct an axiomatic scheme that leads up to this, but that scheme is less certain than the above. And we hardly need to point to Godel’s incompleteness result to see that.

The end of all this is that you have put up a crooked yardstick as reference standard for straightness, accuracy and uprightness. It has failed the test of the naturally straight and upright plumb-line. So, now, whose report will you believe, why?

KF

PS: Red herrings on the Bible are obvious distractions intended to taint the discussion. They are readily addressed elsewhere and we need not end up in a pointless distraction. Sufficient is on the table, and unresponsiveness or evasion or clinging to absurdity will not help you or your claims.>>

Yes, the above is not directly on the design issue, but the force of the matter should show its relevance. For, if we deal with those indoctrinated to imagine that  all thought is fallible so skeptical doubts prevail, then we can see a big part of why mere evidence and reasoing will often fail to be impressive.

Something is deeply rotten and is dangerously destructive with the state of our civilisation, and we need to deal with it before things collapse. I have my doubts that as a whole we will wake up, but sufficient numbers can form a remnant that can stand in the face of palpably coming chaos. END

49 Replies to “CR’s fallibilism vs the issue of sufficiently reliable rationality

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    CR’s fallibilism vs the issue of sufficiently reliable rationality — headlined.

  2. 2
    Origenes says:

    According to CR & Deutsch there are no infallible sources of knowledge. All information is suspect; information stemming from direct experience included. This idea is self-defeating and completely in line with self-defeating statements by Popper, like “all knowledge is hypothetical” [OKN 30], and “All knowledge remains… conjectural” [RASC xxxv].
    KairosFocus skillfully points out yet another problem with it:

    Now the oh the sources are fallible claim fails through the key issue of degree of reliability. A good car, calculator or computer will admittedly be fallible, but they are sufficiently reliable to be very effective and useful. Likewise, our reasoning process. The abstract possibility of error can be compatible with the reality of effective and trustworthy performance in many relevant cases.

    And in the case of relevant SET’s such as are seen in the OP and thread above, we have claimed truths that are so, are warranted to be necessarily so, and that can be confirmed by insightful inspection backed up by the examination that shows the attempted denial leads to patent absurdity. Denying that error exists directly leads to the implication that it is an error to assert that error exists, so error exists is undeniable. To try to deny one’s consciousness has to use said consciousness so is self-defeating. And so forth.

    So, the answer to such fallibilism is the sufficient reliability of our reason. Sufficient to function in some cases to utter certainty.

    Deutsch wrote:

    … nothing can infallibly tell you what is infallible, nor what is probable.

    In other words, according to Deutsch, we are completely in the dark. There is only darkness, no light anywhere, not even shades of grey. Needless to say, Deutsch produced yet another self-defeating statement …

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    Origenes, The parallel thread on the two new security holes in advanced processor architectures show how probability can be estimated and used for inferring key information that would be used to hack systems. Deutsch is simply wrong. empirically overturned. See here:https://uncommondescent.com/cybernetics-and-mechatronics/an-unhappy-new-year-for-computers-and-smart-devices-the-meltdown-spectre-flaws-in-intel-amd-and-arm-processors/ KF

  4. 4
    Origenes says:

    //follow-up #2//

    Being totally in the dark without any escape, is no basis for knowledge, so CR & co need to introduce something that can lead us to the light. “What would that be?”, the reader might ask. Well, the theory of evolution of course. Why? Well, that’s easy: because it is (nearly) impossible to imagine that it could be wrong …

    Deutsch explains why that is:

    Deutsch: The analogy between the theory of evolution and the 2+2 theory is in fact closer than the mere difficulty of imagining a good explanation to the contrary. Both of them, if false, would seem to involve there being laws of physics that directly mess with the creation of knowledge, in what we would consider a malevolent way. This makes for very bad explanations, but that doesn’t affect the logic of the issue so here goes: The analogue of creationism being true, then, would be something like that there is really no such entity as the number 4 because the axioms of arithmetic as we know them are blatantly inconsistent, and that the laws of physics act on neurons to make us unconsciously confabulate excuses for ignoring the physical effects of that.

    In my perception this “argumentation” by Deutsch is one of the craziest texts I have ever read. Everything about it is totally insane.

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    Origenes (ATTN, CR et al):

    NOTE: an oopsie, left standing . . .

    Deutsch: the axioms of arithmetic as we know them are blatantly inconsistent

    Really?

    Who established such and what prize was s/he given, when, where?

    That one caught my eye.

    KF

  6. 6
    daveS says:

    KF,

    It doesn’t look like he’s claiming “the axioms of arithmetic” are actually known to be inconsistent.

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, Okay, you are right. He is “merely” making a grossly flawed analogy. KF

  8. 8

    What I’d like to see is CR actually take an idea and show us his “critical reasoning” process in determining the moral value of it – not just describing the theory, but showing the work and coming up with a “critically reasoned” value – good, evil, or whatever. Take something like slavery or abortion and apply this critical reasoning to it so we can see an example of the process in full bloom.

  9. 9
    rvb8 says:

    Wow, two posts specifically aimed at ridiculing CR.

    If you take his, and science’s line at a less purist level, then approaching ALL knowledge sceptically would seem to be the rational stance; its certainly how I view any new ‘truths’ or dicoveries.

    Our recent past shows how humanity too easily falls for the con-man, and snake oil salesmen.

    If we had just followed Popper’s wise words, the world would have several fewer Abrahamic religions.

    Unfortunately being the gullible bumpkins we are, we swallow any old prophecy, and then spend the rest of our lives in mental contortions as science emphatically disproves all the writings as either, ahistoric, mad rambling, or just plain barmy.

  10. 10
    vividbleau says:

    Origines

    “In my perception this “argumentation” by Deutsch is one of the craziest texts I have ever read. Everything about it is totally insane.”

    Not really, doncha know that to establish your bona fides you must genuflect before Darwin’s altar.

    Vivid

  11. 11
    vividbleau says:

    Origines

    We should also take into account Mark Twain’s counsel about these things.

    “When we remember that we are all mad,the mysteries disappear, and life stands explained.””

    Vivid

  12. 12

    In other words, according to Deutsch, we are completely in the dark. There is only darkness, no light anywhere, not even shades of grey. Needless to say, Deutsch produced yet another self-defeating statement …

    If they really believed what they say, they wouldn’t bother trying to make the argument that fallibilism is true. What an obviously inane argument to try to make.

    For their argument (or any argument) to have any real value, fallibilism must be false. Their arguments, as always, depend on the very things they claim do not exist.

    It’s hard to believe any being with the capacity for abstract reasoning can’t see the folly in these kinds of positions. It’s almost like they have a higher-reasoning blind spot that comes with their insistence that God doesn’t exist. I guess when you block out the sun you end up not being able to see all sorts of things that are readily apparent to those living in the light.

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    RVB8, ridicule is patently a wrong term to describe the focus of the OP. There is a substantial issue on the table, why not simply address it cogently on the merits? For example: does fallibility undermine ALL of the products of reasoning, decisively undermining warrant for knowledge claims? Isn’t that self-referential? And, aren’t there demonstrable cases of self-evident truths that directly counter the claim? If you disagree, kindly explain why and in so doing draw our attention to how fallibilism does not then fatally undermine the trustworthiness of your own contention. KF

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    WJM, it seems there is a tendency to give oneself (and one’s colleagues or referents) a self-serving exception to self-referential dilemmas. KF

  15. 15
    Origenes says:

    CR, Barry Arrington, KF

    Every proposition is fallible — [CR]

    Is that proposition fallible? — [Barry Arrington]

    CR: I haven’t preceded every statement with “This is a conjecture”. So, what? Do I need to put a disclaimer at the top of every comment?

    CR understands that there is a problem and proposes inserting a disclaimer. For clarity, without a disclaimer, the problem is that “Every proposition is fallible” is a self-defeating statement:

    1. Every proposition is fallible.
    2. *Every proposition is fallible* is a proposition.

    Therefore, from (1) and (2)

    3. *Every proposition is fallible* is fallible.

    Therefore

    4. *Every proposition is fallible* is self-defeating or utterly meaningless at best.

    “But what happens when CR’s disclaimer is inserted?”, the reader might ask. It would look like this:

    This is a conjecture: every proposition is fallible.

    Does this solve the problem? Is the disclaimer a ‘cure’ for all self-defeating statements?
    Unfortunately for CR it is not. “Every proposition is fallible”, is false, because it is a self-defeating statement. Any conjecture about it is therefore equally false.
    If that is not immediately clear, then let’s, for a moment, replace “every proposition is fallible”, with another false statement, “A = not A”, so we get

    This is a conjecture: A = not A.

    Now we can clearly see that the conjecture must be false, because it is about something that is false.
    Put generally, “this is a conjecture: [self-defeating statement X]” is always necessarily false.

    Conclusion: CR’s disclaimer is utterly useless.

  16. 16
    Origenes says:

    //Correction #15//

    The wording of the last part of #15 is a bit off. Second try:
    – – – –

    This is a conjecture: every proposition is fallible.

    Does the insert “this is a conjecture” solve the problem? Is the disclaimer a cure for all self-defeating statements?
    Unfortunately for CR that’s not the case. “Every proposition is fallible”, is a false proposition, because, as shown, it is self-defeating. Conjecturing (guessing / hypothesizing) what is false is therefore always wrong.
    If that is not immediately clear, then let’s, for a moment, replace “every proposition is fallible”, with another false proposition, “3 = 7”, so we get:

    This is a conjecture: 3 = 7

    Here we can effortlessly see that the conjecture must be wrong. “3 = 7” is false, and (obviously) it doesn’t make it right to add “this is a conjecture.”
    Put generally, “this is a conjecture: [self-defeating/false proposition X]” is always necessarily wrong.

    Indeed, in its entirety “this is a conjecture: every proposition is fallible” is no longer self-defeating, but it is still necessarily wrong because it still contains a self-defeating statement.

    Conclusion: CR’s disclaimer is utterly useless.

  17. 17
    kairosfocus says:

    Origenes, yup. KF

  18. 18
    critical rationalist says:

    For example: in the above you have exerted great certainty about fallibilism, asserting a universal affirmative that is thus self-referential. It implies that fallibilism is uncertain also, so that what your claim boils down to is a policy declaration that you will treat all claims as fallible, with the convenient exception of the core elements of your system.

    Except, I’ve given examples of what it means to be a fallibilist about fallibilism, which everyone continues to ignore. Some of which are examples of what other people have done when making counter arguments.

    When I point this out, all I get are enthusiastic denials to the contrary. Apparently, it’s not criticism if they say it’s not criticism?

    Again, no one has actually disagreed with me beyond quoting dictionary definitions, which is essentialism.

    Why did KF choose 2+2=4 or any other proposition over all others that he considered to best make his point

    Has anyone failed a math test? Has anyone failed a logic test?

    How can we infallible claim to posses every possible criticism of the idea? Can we not devise even better criticisms in the future, which propositions may pass?

  19. 19
    critical rationalist says:

    Either no one can be bothered to quote the post in such a way that presents the actual substance of what was written, which is quote mining or, apparently simply failed to understand the point being made.

    The first implies intentionally presenting falsehoods and the second implies incompetence or a desire to remain willful ignorant.

    In context…..

    What would a good explanation that 2+2 doesn’t equal 4 look like? I can’t think of one; that’s because the theory that it’s true is, in real life, extremely hard to vary. That’s why mathematicians mistake it for being self-evident, or directly intuited, etc. And it is of course my opinion that 2+2 does in fact equal 4, so I’m not expecting to find a contrary theory that is at all good as an explanation. But, for instance, Greg Egan’s science-fiction story Dark Integers explores essentially that possibility (albeit only for very large integers).

    The analogy between the theory of evolution and the 2+2 theory is in fact closer than the mere difficulty of imagining a good explanation to the contrary. Both of them, if false, would seem to involve there being This makes for very bad explanations, but that doesn’t affect the logic of the issue so here goes: The analogue of creationism being true, then, would be something like that there is really no such entity as the number 4 because the axioms of arithmetic as we know them are blatantly inconsistent, and that the laws of physics act on neurons to make us unconsciously confabulate excuses for ignoring the physical effects of that.

    Again, the point being make is that we do not have good criticism of the idea that 2 +2 = 4. Deutsch goes out on a limb to provide a possible criticism that leads to bad explanations. Which an example of a bad criticism. Namely, the bad criticism that 4 doesn’t actually exist and that the laws of physics somehow act our brains to continue make excuses for it’s absence.

    Let me emphasis this again. This is not a good criticism. And we do not accept it, because it has implications that “there are laws of physics that directly mess with the creation of knowledge, in what we would consider a malevolent way.”

    This would be like claiming someone merely appears guilty because everyone from the judge to arresting officers, to the crime scene technicians to the DNA testers to the defendants family to even the laws of physics, are conspiring against them.

    However, this does not preclude someone in the near future finding some common thread between all parties involved that might lead us to think such a conspiracy is actually in play.

    One might point out the the entire police force was dirty, and the judge was willing to throw the case in change for withholding evidence on a high powered associate’s case, and they had blackmailed the crime scene technician because he had contaminated a crime scene that let another criminal go free, and the DNA tester was paid to swap out the test and the wife was having an affair and paid the commissioner a million dollars to get him out of the picture, etc.

    But until someone does this, “it might be a conspiracy” is a bad criticism of the very same evidence that points to the guilt of the defendant. And it will be deferred to as such until then.

    In the same sense, even 2 + 2 = 4 is open to criticism. Even if that criticism ends up failing, which would be yet another test it had passed, which may cause people to think it is even more ambiguously and self-evdeinty true.

    For example, how did you specifically pick 2 + 2 = 4, and all other propositions listed here, as candidates for immunity from criticism? Why not some some other propositions, such as the angles of a triangle sum to two right angles, or that the city you live in exists, etc?

    Did you not conclude those specific propositions would best make your point because they were the most unambiguously true of all the candidate propositions you considered including in your argument?

    If so, then how did you determine how obviously and unambiguously true each of those candidate propositions was in relation to the other candidates? Did you not stop and criticize them by an attempt to quickly consider reasons or ways they might be conceivably false?

    It seems that, if you didn’t criticize them, then you have no way of concluding those specific propositions would best make your point. If they were immune from criticism, then did you arbitrarily choose them?

    IOW, nothing you’ve said conflicts with the idea that there is no dichotomy between non-basic beliefs and basic beliefs. What you call basic beliefs are beliefs that we do not have good criticism of, as opposed to being immune to criticism.

  20. 20
    vividbleau says:

    CR
    “Except, I’ve given examples of what it means to be a fallibilist about fallibilism, which everyone continues to ignore”

    Why should we not ignore you? As Origenes pointed out you conjecture a self defeating false proposition and then expect people to take you seriously?

    Vivid

  21. 21
    Origenes says:

    CR: Except, I’ve given examples of what it means to be a fallibilist about fallibilism, which everyone continues to ignore.

    The examples you gave strongly indicate that you hold that the phrase ‘being a fallibilist about fallibilism’ describes a remarkable new philosophical position, which offers its supporters an invulnerable position from which they can freely criticize the beliefs of others.
    That’s not the case at all — see #15 & #16.
    Instead, ‘being a fallibilist about fallibilism’, if it means anything at all, is a description of the intangible knot that the fallibilist experiences when it suddenly hits him that fallibilism applied to itself is self-defeating and therefore false; as shown. An experience not unlike the one which a guy with a “nothing is certain” tattoo had, at the moment when epiphany struck.

  22. 22
    critical rationalist says:

    The examples you gave strongly indicate that you hold that the phrase ‘being a fallibilist about fallibilism’ describes a remarkable new philosophical position, which offers its supporters an invulnerable position from which they can freely criticize the beliefs of others.

    [sarcasm]Of course, Origenes. It couldn’t possibility be that you’re so unversed in philosophy if you think fallibilism is “new” and that no one has presented a example of what it means to be a fallibilist about fallibilism.[/sarcasm]

    The example I just quoted in #19. You haven’t addressed it. At all. You keep making up some straw man of my position, then claiming it’s wrong.

    Again, why did you choose 2+2=4? Why did you pick it from all the others you considered? Did you select it out of thin air? Did you choose it arbitrarily? Or did you stop and criticize them by an attempt to quickly consider reasons or ways they might be conceivably false?

    If none of the above, then how did you arrive at 2+2 = 4 as a shining example by which to make your argument?

  23. 23
    Origenes says:

    CR@

    For clarity, a short question:

    CR: I’ve given examples of what it means to be a fallibilist about fallibilism, which everyone continues to ignore. ….

    For example, how did you specifically pick 2 + 2 = 4, and all other propositions listed here, as candidates for immunity from criticism?

    This is, according to you, an example of what it means to be a ‘fallibilist about fallibilism’, right? IOWs, according to you, a ‘fallibilist about fallibilism’ is someone who holds that no proposition is immune to criticism. Someone who holds that e.g. “2 + 2 = 4” and “A = A” are not immune to refutation. Is that correct?

  24. 24
    Origenes says:

    To be clear, in my view, a ‘fallibilist about fallibilism’ is someone in the act of refuting fallibilism (see also #15 & #16). Contrary to what CR seems to think, it is not something else, least of all a world view or an epistemological position.

    “But where does CR get that idea from?” the inquisitive reader might ask. The answer is: from the part-time comedian Professor Deutsch:

    Deutsch: Paradoxes seem to appear when one considers the implications of one’s own fallibility: A fallibilist cannot claim to be infallible even about fallibilism itself. And so, one is forced to doubt that fallibilism is universally true.

    As a side note: self-reference, a self-defeating proposition, is not a “paradox”. Contrary to a paradox there is no solution to a self-defeating proposition. “Contradiction” would have been a much better try.

    More importantly, the issue is not, as Deutsch suggests, one’s own fallibility, but, instead, the fallibility of fallibilism itself. Allow me to explain:

    The problem is not: (1) I am fallible. (2) I cannot make infallible claims. Therefore. (3) I cannot make an infallible claim about fallibilism. Therefore. (4) I am forced to doubt fallibilism.

    That’s not the problem.

    The problem comes from fallibilism itself. Fallibilism, the theory that ‘no belief can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief’, is, on its own, self-defeating and false — completely independent from our supposed fallibility. Again:

    1. No belief can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief.
    2. [*No belief can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief*] is itself a belief.
    Therefore, from (1) and (2)
    3. [*No belief can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief*] cannot have a justification which guarantees its truth.
    Therefore,
    4. Fallibilism is self-defeating or meaningless at best.

    IOWs if fallibilism is applied to itself, it defeats/refutes itself. If we are ‘fallibilists about fallibilism’ — if we apply fallibilism to itself — then we REFUTE fallibilism.
    However, Deutsch wants us to believe that ‘being a fallibilist about fallibilism’ is something else entirely:

    Deutsch: Which is the same as wondering whether one might be somehow infallible—at least about some things. For instance, can it be true that absolutely anything that you think is true, no matter how certain you are, might be false?
    What? How might we be mistaken that two plus two is four? Or about other matters of pure logic? That stubbing one’s toe hurts? That there is a force of gravity pulling us to earth? Or that, as the philosopher René Descartes argued, “I think, therefore I am”?

    According to Deutsch, “being a fallibilist about fallibilism” is equal to “wondering whether one might be somehow infallible”.
    No Deutsch. No, they are not equal at all — these statements are not even related. ‘Being a fallibilist about fallibilism’ is about fallibilism not about one’s own fallibility.
    – – – –
    BTW Deutsch threw in another self-defeating statement:

    Deutsch: For instance, can it be true that absolutely anything that you think is true, no matter how certain you are, might be false?

    No Deutsch. No, that cannot be true, because, it is (yet another) self-defeating proposition:

    1. Everything I think is true is false.
    2. *[Everything I think is true is false]* is something that I think is true.
    Therefore, from (1) and (2)
    (3) *[Everything I think is true is false]* is false.
    Therefore
    (4) Not everything I think is true is false.

  25. 25
    kairosfocus says:

    Origenes:

    You could probably wire this up to make a digital oscillator:

    1. Everything I think is true is false.
    2. *[Everything I think is true is false]* is something that I think is true.
    Therefore, from (1) and (2)
    (3) *[Everything I think is true is false]* is false.
    Therefore
    (4) Not everything I think is true is false.

    Race hazards like that . . .

    KF

  26. 26
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origines

    CR: For example, how did you specifically pick 2 + 2 = 4, and all other propositions listed here, as candidates for immunity from criticism?

    O: This is, according to you, an example of what it means to be a ‘fallibilist about fallibilism’, right?

    No, that’s a question about the process behind how you ended up pick the specific proposition “2 + 2 = 4”, out of others you considered. Your answer would be the example, assuming you didn’t arbitrarily pick it out of thin air.

    Did you not conclude [that] specific [proposition] would best make your point because [it was] the most unambiguously true of all the candidate propositions you considered including in your argument?

    If so, then how did you determine how obviously and unambiguously true each of those candidate propositions was in relation to the other candidates? Did you not stop and criticize them by an attempt to quickly consider reasons or ways they might be conceivably false?

    That would represent being a fallibilist about fallibilism.

    If, when presented with fallibilism, your response was to criticize propositions you thought were obviously and unambiguously true in an attempt to quickly consider reasons or ways they might be false. And, in relation to all others, you selected “2 + 2 = 4” as the proposition that would best make your point.

    In doing so, you actually criticized all of the propositions you thought were obviously and unambiguously true and immune to criticism. To contrast between supposedly infallible propositions you must have criticized them in relation to each other as if they were fallible.

    IOWs, according to you, a ‘fallibilist about fallibilism’ is someone who holds that no proposition is immune to criticism. Someone who holds that e.g. “2 + 2 = 4” and “A = A” are not immune to refutation. Is that correct?

    Immune to possible refutation and having being refuted are two different things. Again, from the article…

    Paradoxes seem to appear when one considers the implications of one’s own fallibility: A fallibilist cannot claim to be infallible even about fallibilism itself. And so, one is forced to doubt that fallibilism is universally true. Which is the same as wondering whether one might be somehow infallible—at least about some things. For instance, can it be true that absolutely anything that you think is true, no matter how certain you are, might be false?

    The question is whether we can be infallible about some propositions regarding our infallibility in a universal sense isn’t the same as that all propositions being false.

    When presented with fallibilism, the author asks….

    What? How might we be mistaken that two plus two is four? Or about other matters of pure logic? That stubbing one’s toe hurts? That there is a force of gravity pulling us to earth? Or that, as the philosopher René Descartes argued, “I think, therefore I am”?

    Here we’re asking how we could possibly be wrong about our infallibility in respect to those things? And what was the result?

    I must now apologize for trying to trick you earlier: All the ideas that I suggested we might know infallibly are in fact falsehoods. “Two plus two” of course isn’t “four” as you’d discover if you wrote “2+2” in an arithmetic test when asked to add two and two. If we were infallible about matters of pure logic, no one would ever fail a logic test either. Stubbing your toe does not always hurt if you are focused on some overriding priority like rescuing a comrade in battle. And as for knowing that “I” exist because I think—note that your knowledge that you think is only a memory of what you did think, a second or so ago, and that can easily be a false memory. (For discussions of some fascinating experiments demonstrating this, see Daniel Dennett’s book Brainstorms.) Moreover, if you think you are Napoleon, the person you think must exist because you think, doesn’t exist.

    In “trying to trick us”, Deutsch selected some propositions about what was thought to be known infallibly, and indicated how that assumption of infallibly was false by illustrating how they actually are false or how they could be false. I think, therefore I am is not something we can know infallibly. This doesn’t mean that one must be mistaken about who you they are if they are a fallibilist. However, if you think you are a deceased historical figure, who you think you are would not exist. So, it’s unclear how this is an example of something we can know infallibility.

    This is not to say that we do not think think there are no objective truths in reality but that all chains of reasoning cannot result in us knowing them infallibly.

    If you could show an example of something we can know infallibly, then we would be mistaken about fallibilism. And, when I saw know infallibly, I mean knowledge that is not trivially true, such as the the idea that A=A, which might actually be B=B or C=C, etc. However, as the article indicates, reason always comes first. And reason is fallible.

  27. 27
    critical rationalist says:

    It’s unclear how you get from..

    One might be somehow infallible—at least about some things. For instance, can it be true that absolutely anything that you think is true, no matter how certain you are, might be false?

    to..

    1. Everything I think is true is false.

    Can you walk me though it?

  28. 28
    Origenes says:

    CR: … how did you determine how obviously and unambiguously true each of those candidate propositions was in relation to the other candidates? Did you not stop and criticize them by an attempt to quickly consider reasons or ways they might be conceivably false?
    That would represent being a fallibilist about fallibilism.

    Okay. So, if I first attempt to criticize e.g. “error exist”, and only after that attempt conclude that it is “self-evident”, then I am, according to you, a ‘fallibilist about fallibilism’?

    Do I understand you correctly on this?

    I am asking because I have no idea what you would mean by this.

  29. 29
    Origenes says:

    CR @27

    CR: Can you walk me though it?

    Sure. Easy. In order to answer the question ‘might X be false?’ it is standard operation to posit ‘X is false.’ If we consequently come to the conclusion that X cannot be false, then we are in a position to answer the original question —‘might X be false?’— with a resounding “NO!”

    Example question: “Might ‘error exist’ be false?”

    Well, let’s do the check:

    1. ‘Error exist’ is false.
    2. ‘Error exist’ is an error.
    therefore
    3. Error does exist.

    So the answer to “Might ‘error exist’ be false?” is “No, that is not possible, Deutsch.”

  30. 30
    Origenes says:

    KF @25

    Maybe it can be incorporated in word processor software? Current developments seem to suggest that ‘logical syntax highlighting’ may come in handy. 🙂

  31. 31
    critical rationalist says:

    Okay. So, if I first attempt to criticize e.g. “error exist”, and only after that attempt conclude that it is “self-evident”, then I am, according to you, a ‘fallibilist about fallibilism’?

    Do I understand you correctly on this?
    I am asking because I have no idea what you would mean by this.

    What I said was there is no dichotomy between non-basic beliefs and basic beliefs. Rather what you call basic beliefs are just beliefs that we currently have no good criticism of.

    First, when initially considering an idea, could you have been distracted with some other issue, which lead you to not apply a known criticism? Did you just plain old forget to apply all but one known criticism? How did you manage to obtain an infallible source of which criticisms that, if applied, would guarantee to reveal if it was or was not mistaken? How do you know infallibly interpreted and understood each criticism from this source, so you could correctly apply them to get the correct results? Can there be no new criticisms of an idea which have yet been developed yet? If not, why?

    IOW, could you have been mistaken when classifying said idea as being immune to criticism going forward? And, therefore, that idea may remain mistakenly thought to be self evident because it was never criticized again?

    Second, for the sake of argument, let’s ignore the problems above and assume you somehow managed to identity an infallible source of predetermined self evident truths at your disposal. How do you infallibly known when to defer to it? How do you know how to infallibly interpret every self-evident truth as it applies to concrete problems you have? Is problem X an actual situation to apply self evident truth Y? Couldn’t you be mistaken about that? Would’t you need to use reason to determine if it actually fits your problem?

    Third, I’m also referring to criticism of ideas relative to each other would have occurred when determining which proposition, out of all you considered, was the best example of an obviously and unambiguously true idea, to make your counter argument.

    Did you not conclude [that] specific [proposition] would best make your point because [it was] the most unambiguously true of all the candidate propositions you considered including in your argument? Did you not stop and criticize them as an attempt to quickly consider reasons or ways they might be conceivably false?

    This would be criticism among self-evident truths that were supposedly already classified as self-evident truths. Unless you arbitrarily chose 2+2=4, it seems that you preformed a quick analysis that indicated other propositions were not quite as obviously and unambiguously true as 2+2=4 and would make a less forceful example to make you point. So, you doubted fallibilism after during the process of exposing what you thought to be self-evident truths to criticism.

    Again, from the article….

    You remain a believer, serious about giving your faith absolute priority over your own “unaided” reason (as reason is called in these contexts). But that very seriousness has forced you to decide first on the substance of the issue, using reason, and only then whether to defer to the infallible authority. This is neither fluke nor paradox. It is simply that if you take ideas seriously, there is no escape, even in dogma and faith, from the obligation to use reason and to give it priority over dogma, faith, and obedience.

  32. 32
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origenes

    Sure. Easy. In order to answer the question ‘might X be false?’ it is standard operation to posit ‘X is false.’ If we consequently come to the conclusion that X cannot be false, then we are in a position to answer the original question —‘might X be false?’— with a resounding “NO!”

    Might fallibilism be false?

    Our response it to take fallibilism seriously, as if it were true in reality, for the purpose of criticism.

    This would…

    …force us to doubt that fallibilism is universally true. Which is the same as wondering whether one might be somehow infallible—at least about some things. For instance, can it be true that absolutely anything that you think is true, no matter how certain you are, might be false?

    Now, currently, I cannot think of a good criticism of the idea that fallibilism is true. I think it is true, and I don’t expect one to be presented.

    However, just like Deutsch came up with an bad criticism that suggested there were some malicious at work with how knowledge was created as to how 2+2=4 could be false, I could probably come up with some similar bad criticism about how fallibilism is false. But that’s like saying everyone from the judge to the entire police department to the DNA testing lab to the defendants family, etc. was framing someone. It’s a bad explanation.

    Alsop, we only find things false, and then only tentatively. So, I’m open to new arguments and criticisms.

    In fact, I suspect there will be better criticisms that will be leveled against fallibilism and it will survive those as well. And that would lead us to a better understanding of why it would be true. It would reveal new knowledge. It would be an improvement, which would not be possible if we held it immune to criticism.

    So, no, I don’t think your augment follows.

  33. 33

    For instance, can it be true that absolutely anything that you think is true, no matter how certain you are, might be false?

    CR thinks it could be false that he exists. Oh, if only.

  34. 34
    Origenes says:

    CR: … how did you determine how obviously and unambiguously true each of those candidate propositions was in relation to the other candidates? Did you not stop and criticize them by an attempt to quickly consider reasons or ways they might be conceivably false?
    That would represent being a fallibilist about fallibilism.

    O: Okay. So, if I first attempt to criticize e.g. “error exist”, and only after that attempt conclude that it is “self-evident”, then I am, according to you, a ‘fallibilist about fallibilism’?
    Do I understand you correctly on this?
    I am asking because I have no idea what you would mean by this.

    CR: What I said was there is no dichotomy between non-basic beliefs and basic beliefs. Rather what you call basic beliefs are just beliefs that we currently have no good criticism of.

    Did you notice that you suddenly change the topic? For several posts I am trying to find out what you think that being ‘a fallibilist about fallibilism’ means. You have been using that idiosyncratic term for months on end. And I have asked you this several times. Why not give a straight answer? A ‘fallibilist about fallibilism’ is a person who holds that … (and so forth). Why is communicating with you so incredibly difficult?

  35. 35
    Origenes says:

    CR: Now, currently, I cannot think of a good criticism of the idea that fallibilism is true.

    I also think that you cannot think of a good criticism of the idea that fallibilism is true.

    I think it is true, and I don’t expect one to be presented.

    What you expect or not expect on this point is rather irrelevant, since refutations of fallibilism have already been presented in abundance — e.g. post 15# or the following refutation of fallibilism from another thread:

    … fallibilism, which is the philosophical claim that no belief can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief.
    This theory is self-defeating:

    1. No belief can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief.
    2. [*No belief can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief*] is itself a belief.

    Therefore, from (1) and (2)

    3. [*No belief can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief*] cannot have a justification which guarantees its truth.

    Therefore,

    4. Fallibilism is self-defeating or meaningless at best.

  36. 36

    Apparently, CR thinks criticism precedes existence itself.

  37. 37
    Origenes says:

    [sarc]

    Existence comes from a criticism of nothing.

    [/sarc]

  38. 38
    Origenes says:

    CR @32

    CR: Might fallibilism be false?
    Our response it to take fallibilism seriously, as if it were true in reality, for the purpose of criticism.
    This would…
    …force us to doubt that fallibilism is universally true.

    No. It would not — see #24. Do you read any of my posts?

    CR: Which is the same as wondering whether one might be somehow infallible—at least about some things.

    No it is not the same. Absolutely not — see #24.

    And BTW, to answer the question ‘might fallibilism be false?’ one must obviously posit that fallibilism is ‘false’, not, as you suggest, ‘true’.

  39. 39
    daveS says:

    No. It would not — see #24. Do you read any of my posts?

    Good grief, Origenes. Do you even logic?

    Fallibilism is false iff some beliefs can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief.

    Right?

  40. 40
    Origenes says:

    DaveS @39

    CR: Our response it to take fallibilism seriously, as if it were true in reality, for the purpose of criticism.
    This would…
    …force us to doubt that fallibilism is universally true.

    Origenes: No. It would not — see #24.

    For clarity, I am responding to CR, who claims that, if we posit fallibilism to be true, we are forced to doubt that fallibilism is universally true.
    In post #24 I analyze what happens if we posit the truth of fallibilism and arrive at a totally different conclusion than CR.
    [Enter DaveS:]

    DaveS: Good grief, Origenes. Do you even logic?
    Fallibilism is false iff “some beliefs can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief.
    Right?

    That’s right Dave. But your question is completely irrelevant. Your question shows that you completely misunderstand what’s being discussed: namely, the consequences of fallibilism being true.
    For your information, fallibilism is a self-defeating proposition, which means that, if it is true, it defeats itself — again see #24.
    Do you even read?

  41. 41
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    For clarity, I am responding to CR, who claims that, if we posit fallibilism to be true, we are forced to doubt that fallibilism is universally true.

    In post #24 I analyze what happens if we posit the truth of fallibilism and arrive at a totally different conclusion than CR.

    I actually was looking at your #24 as well as #38 (and have been following along), so I know roughly what is being argued. My apologies for the snarky tone though.

    But back to the topic, I agree with CR in #32 and on the matters you raise in #24:

    1. No belief can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief.

    2. [*No belief can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief*] is itself a belief.

    Therefore, from (1) and (2)

    3. [*No belief can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief*] cannot have a justification which guarantees its truth.

    Therefore,

    4. Fallibilism is self-defeating or meaningless at best.

    #3 is simply part and parcel of the fallibilist position (in the broad sense from the wikipedia article): beliefs just don’t have justification which guarantee their truth.

    That led me to wonder what you mean when you say that fallibilism is self-defeating or meaningless.

    If by “self-defeating”, you mean something strong like “self-refuting”, then you would be saying that you have shown that fallibilism proves itself false, which is what prompted my question about what “fallibilism is false” actually means.

    If you don’t mean fallibilism is actually self-refuting, then we are in agreement on that point. 😛

  42. 42
    Origenes says:

    DaveS @41
    Apologies accepted and I would like to apologize to you also.

    3. [*No belief can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief*] cannot have a justification which guarantees its truth.
    Therefore,
    4. Fallibilism is self-defeating or meaningless at best.

    DaveS: #3 is simply part and parcel of the fallibilist position (in the broad sense from the wikipedia article): beliefs just don’t have justification which guarantee their truth.

    If, by “simply part and parcel of the fallibilist position”, you mean to say that #3 follows logically from the application of fallibilism to itself, then I agree. However, if you mean to say that this is not a problem for fallibilism, then I strongly disagree.

    DaveS: That led me to wonder what you mean when you say that fallibilism is self-defeating or meaningless.

    I mean exactly that. And I mean to say that both options are equally damning for fallibilism

    If by “self-defeating”, you mean something strong like “self-refuting”, then you would be saying that you have shown that fallibilism proves itself false, which is what prompted my question about what “fallibilism is false” actually means.

    Let’s look at the definition again: “No belief can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief.” I hold that “No belief can be proved true.” is simpler and still an accurate translation.
    Okay, let’s assume it is true and apply it to itself:
    – – –
    1. No belief can be proved true.
    2. [*No belief can be proved true*] is itself a belief.
    Therefore, from (1) & (2)
    3. [*No belief can be proved true*] cannot be proved true.

    4. [*No belief can be proved true*] is either self-defeating or a meaningless proposition.
    – – –
    We find that by applying the proposition to itself, it ‘attacks’ itself. It devalues itself, because it says about itself “well, you can never ever prove that buddy!”. In short, there is a clear element of self-defeat to it.

    And I would argue that, insofar as it is not self-defeating, it is meaningless: “Well ppl, I cannot prove it at all, but here it is: nothing can be proved true” or “What I am going to say is very doubtful because unprovable, but here it is anyway: ‘ no belief can be proved true’”, are not exactly meaningful propositions, at least not in my book.

  43. 43
    daveS says:

    Origenes,

    Apologies accepted and I would like to apologize to you also.

    Thank you, yours accepted as well. That’s quite gracious of you.

    I do think you have a point in #42. From the perspective of someone who subscribes to justificationism, at least, this position looks like a step down or a retreat, and even appears to undermine itself. I don’t know this, but I suppose the situation looks differently from the perspective of falsficationism.

  44. 44
    Origenes says:

    DaveS

    I found the following definition of falsficationism:

    A scientific philosophy based on the requirement that hypotheses must be falsifiable in order to be scientific; if a claim is not able to be refuted it is not a scientific claim. — https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/falsificationism

    I am not sure if the latter sentence makes sense. It is almost as if it says: “it must be wrong to be scientific.”
    If they just mean “testable”, why not just say so?
    Do you know of a good definition?

  45. 45
    daveS says:

    I think the last part just means that the hypothesis must be able to be falsified “in principle, if it were false”, which is very close to “testable”.

    In fact, from wikipedia:

    Statements, hypotheses, or theories have falsifiability or refutability if there is the possibility of testing or observing it to showcase how false or how true it is. They are falsifiable if it is possible to conceive of an observation or an argument which could negate them and in the corollary, conceive of an observation or an argument which proves them. Thus, the term falsifiability is synonymous to testability.

    That’s not the best writing I’ve ever seen, but perhaps is more or less accurate.

  46. 46
    Origenes says:

    DaveS

    There isn’t anything logically wrong with “scientific claims must be falsifiable/testable”. But if it goes any further than that, as it often does, then self-defeat is looming — see e.g. Popper going off the tracks.

  47. 47
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Origenes, in 24 on Deutsch’s fallibilism, per reductio ad absurdum:

    More importantly, the issue is not, as Deutsch suggests, one’s own fallibility, but, instead, the fallibility of fallibilism itself. Allow me to explain:

    The problem is not: (1) I am fallible. (2) I cannot make infallible claims. Therefore. (3) I cannot make an infallible claim about fallibilism. Therefore. (4) I am forced to doubt fallibilism.

    That’s not the problem.

    The problem comes from fallibilism itself. Fallibilism, the theory that ‘no belief can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief’, is, on its own, self-defeating and false — completely independent from our supposed fallibility. Again:

    1. No belief can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief. [–> Per, Deutsch, hyp to be tested]
    2. [*No belief can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief*] is itself a belief.
    Therefore, from (1) and (2)
    3. [*No belief can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief*] cannot have a justification which guarantees its truth.
    Therefore,
    4. Fallibilism is self-defeating or meaningless at best.

    IOWs if fallibilism is applied to itself, it defeats/refutes itself. If we are ‘fallibilists about fallibilism’ — if we apply fallibilism to itself — then we REFUTE fallibilism.

    Reductio.

    KF

  48. 48
    critical rationalist says:

    Did you notice that you suddenly change the topic?

    Words are shortcuts for ideas. I’m trying to explain the ideas behind the words I’m using. For example, If we define knowledge as justified, true, belief, then we’ll never get anywhere.

    [*No belief can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief*] cannot have a justification which guarantees its truth.

    Here, you’re assuming knowledge is what? Justified belief. Go figure.

    So, you’re objection is parochial. It perpetuates itself.

  49. 49
    Origenes says:

    CR @48

    CR: If we define knowledge as justified, true, belief, then we’ll never get anywhere.

    So, IOWs, *knowledge as justified true belief is a dead end*?
    Is that *itself* ‘justified true belief’ CR? What do you thunk?
    Do let me know.

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