If a man tells you he cannot know the truth, you can be sure he will probably act as if he has no obligation to tell the truth.
At this point our readers may be asking, why is Barry so focused on the issue of the materialist tactic of insane denial? It is a fair question. And the answer is I have a (possibly perverse) curiosity about whether there is any limit to how many times they will deny a truth in bad faith all the while knowing that everyone knows exactly what they are doing. Is there any limit to the earth they are willing to scorch? Will they go on saying the red pen is a flower pot forever?
I have to admit that I find the spectacle simultaneously revolting and fascinating. Like a train wreck one just can’t look away from. Here is yet another example:
For weeks Learned Hand insisted on a radical falliblism that denied the possibility of certainty about even the most basic truths. Finally, under the crushing weight of rationality, he budged just a tiny bit. Whereas, before he said, “I cannot therefore be logically, absolutely certain of anything—not even that A=A,” he finally had to admit that was not true. He grudgingly conceded, “Defining A as equal to A is defining A as equal to A; the proposition is not fallible if the only metric is its own definition.”
Amazingly, LH, Carpathian and eigenstate immediately turned around and said that LH had been right all along! They said the second statement was not a change in position but a clarification of his initial position. HeKS responded:
It’s plain as day that first holding the position that there is absolutely nothing we can know for certain and then holding the position that there’s at least one thing we can know for certain, however supposedly trivial, constitutes a change of position.
In response they went into full bore “insane denial” mode.
To take one sentence, cut it out of context and hold it up as a complete and total summary of my position is absurd.
Notice what LH is doing here. He is suggesting that HeKS misrepresented his prior argument by quoting him out of context when he previously denied that he could be certain A=A. The truth, of course, is exactly the opposite. Far from being a distortion of LH’s argument, the radical falliblism on display in that quote WAS HIS ARGUMENT for weeks, as is easily demonstrated by several more quotes:
I think that in practice I’m perfectly safe making some assumptions, and that I can’t really do much of anything without making assumptions like “A=A.” But I don’t know how I can be infallibly certain in the abstract.
And I have no way to check whether a slice can be greater than the whole other than by testing it, which can never prove absolutely as a logical matter that the proposition is true.
I cannot therefore be logically, absolutely certain of anything—not even that A=A.
I think the trickiest question here is whether I can be certain that “I think, therefore I am.” But even there, is the fact that I cannot imagine any reason to doubt it because it’s perfectly true, or because I have an imperfect and limited mind?
I reiterate that in practice I’d never doubt the basic mathematical principles at issue. The possibility of error is a logical formality
I cannot be certain about anything other than uncertainty.
I was sloppy when I wrote “I’m perfectly comfortable agreeing…”, because that can be read as a statement that I agree that I can be absolutely certain that p/slice can’t exceed p/whole. I didn’t mean that
That doesn’t mean that I expect future physicists to upset the “A=A” cart. But what’s the objective, infallible principle dividing “A=A” from “particle=particle”
I take the formal position that one cannot be logically certain of anything without an infallible perspective from which to assess it
This presupposes, for example, that the law of identity would be broken on a human scale if it weren’t absolute. It could be violated in ways that aren’t apparent to you, and thus not absurd.
You can’t measure all cases, to see whether A is literally always A
What we’re really talking about here are whether things like “A=A” are proven concepts or axioms that we just assume are true. I think most people take the latter approach, stymied by the obvious impossibility of a human being logically proving themselves to be infallible
I’ve never doubted that A=A in the real world, and I would never expect to find (nor can I conceive of) a counter-example. But to say that I’m infallibly certain would require taking the position that I’m infallible, and I can’t do that.
[LOI, LNC and LEM] are very effective axioms. . . .we assume they are true because we cannot imagine any way in which they could be false. But to say that our failure to imagine a counterexample means there cannot be a counterexample is to arrogate to ourselves infallibility.
Now that we’ve dispensed with that attempted misdirection, on to LH’s change of position. After all of the above, he finally grudgingly admitted:
Defining A as equal to A is defining A as equal to A; the proposition is not fallible if the only metric is its own definition.
The bottom line is that HeKS’s summary is perfectly apt. There really is no debate. That the speaker changed his position is not in question. The only issue is whether they will continue their insane denial indefinitely.
In response Carpathian wrote:
There really is no debate. That the speaker changed his position is not in question.
Of course it’s in question.
Are you taking the position that I haven’t been arguing with you about it?
I don’t think I have ever seen a more pristine example of the phenomenon Robert L. Kocher described when he wrote:
But, observable basic reality does not make a dent in countering the psychotic arguments underwriting the chaotic consequences which are occurring. No matter how airtight the refutation, the talk continues. No matter how inane the talk, the issue is still considered unresolved. Capacity to continue speaking has become looked upon as a form of refutation of absolute real-world evidence.
Earth to Carpathian: The ability to keep typing is NOT the same as the ability to make a rational argument.
In comment 72 below, HeKS makes a very cogent observation:
Barry & LH,
The thing I don’t get about this conflict is expressed in my original comment in the other thread, partially quoted in this OP. I went on to say:
LH should be commended for simply recognizing that he had overlooked something in his initial formulation of his position. The problem stems from the subsequent fact that everyone wants to insist that the positions are identical
Again, it’s plain as day that there was an adjustment to LH’s position, and precisely the one Barry has identified. As far as I can tell, Barry highlighted it simply because it took so long to get LH to recognize that the adjustment, however minor some may think it is, was quite obviously necessary. But the fact is, sometimes obvious stuff can elude us. It could elude us just because we don’t understand the ultimate point the other person is making and when we do, then it becomes obvious. It’s not shameful to adjust or reformulate your position when you realize it’s necessary, and LH could have just been commended for making the adjustment if the issue had been left there so the overall discussion could continue. The big problem is that it wasn’t left there. Instead, there has been a push from those more or less on LH’s side of the debate to insist that the two formulations of LH’s position are identical, when they quite plainly are not. This is made all the more noteworthy by the fact that the people claiming the formulations are identical are precisely the people who insist we don’t know that the Laws of Identity or Non-Contradiction actually apply to the external world. On the one hand, then, they are merely being consistent by refusing to acknowledge the distinct identities of the formulations. On the other hand, however, they are showing precisely what happens to rational discussion in the real world once you refuse to accept that it is necessarily consistent with the Laws of Identity, Non-Contradiction and the Excluded Middle.