Is Idealism Unfalsifiable?

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  • #26
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Eh said:
But they are not inseperable, as you've said. There are 2 different philosophies here.
I didn't say that they were the same thing. I said there was a logical relationship between them.

What in the world are you basing that claim on? Also, based on what are you claiming Sartre, Heidegger was an ontological idealist? I think that once you clarify the difference between the 2 kinds of idealism we discussed, you'll find that a much smaller group of philosophers took the metaphysical position of idealism.
Sartre is tricky and I could be wrong. Existentialism has different interpretions. I suppose it depends how you interpret 'existence preceeds essence'. Heidegger is pretty clear however. My original quote by the way, from Pepineau, refered to ontological idealism. I believe that you'll find that the majority of major philosophers have been ontological idealists. I'm not sure how I could prove though.

Let's clarify here. You seemed to be disagreeing with the fact that: Since ontological idealism says nothing specific about how the observable world should be, it cannot be falsified. In fact, you claimed this wasn't true. That is the whole argument here. If you agree on this point, then there is nothing to argue, right?
Ah. Maybe I see the problem. I wasn't suggesting that idealism could be falsified. I was saying that idealism makes predictions about the observable world.

Idealism predicts that the world should be just as it is, as one would expect if it is true or unfalsifiable. However these are not scientifically testable predictions. If they were then idealism would be falsifiable.

My point was that IF idealism is unfalsifiable (or true) then we can predict (deduce if you like, which is ultimately the same thing) from that fact that science cannot explain consciousness. Of course it can be argued that science will explain it in the future, but this doesn't alter anything. It just means that I was wrong to assume that idealism was unfalsifiable - and I acknowledged that this was a conjecture with the 'IF' at the beginning.
 
  • #27
Eh
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Canute said:
I didn't say that they were the same thing. I said there was a logical relationship between them.
Well you did say they are insperable, so I was clarifying the matter.
Sartre is tricky and I could be wrong. Existentialism has different interpretions. I suppose it depends how you interpret 'existence preceeds essence'. Heidegger is pretty clear however. My original quote by the way, from Pepineau, refered to ontological idealism. I believe that you'll find that the majority of major philosophers have been ontological idealists.
You must be mistaken. Bertrand Russell was on the list, as was Spinoza. Along with the Sartre reference, the author must have been refering to epistemology. I don't have the book, but it would help to know the context.
I'm not sure how I could prove though.
We could always make a list and see how many actual "great" philosophers could be considered ontological idealists.
My point was that IF idealism is unfalsifiable (or true) then we can predict (deduce if you like, which is ultimately the same thing) from that fact that science cannot explain consciousness. Of course it can be argued that science will explain it in the future, but this doesn't alter anything. It just means that I was wrong to assume that idealism was unfalsifiable - and I acknowledged that this was a conjecture with the 'IF' at the beginning.
Then you agree that the answer to your initial question is yes? If you're looking for something to be falsified, you're also looking for a testible prediction. IOW, a test that can be failed and falsify the hypothesis. Since idealism does not do this, it can never be proven wrong.
 
  • #28
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Eh said:
Well you did say they are insperable, so I was clarifying the matter.
I did say that but I didn;t mean it quite the way you took it. They are inseperable because they are logically related, but not the same thing.

You must be mistaken. Bertrand Russell was on the list, as was Spinoza. Along with the Sartre reference, the author must have been refering to epistemology. I don't have the book, but it would help to know the context.
The context was a discussion of consciousness, mind and matter, in which the authors were pointing out that one possible solution popular with philosophers is that that idealism is true.

We could always make a list and see how many actual "great" philosophers could be considered ontological idealists.
Ok. How about posting it as a question on its own thread and consulting our colleagues.

Then you agree that the answer to your initial question is yes?
I've always assumed that idealism is unfalsifiable so I posted the question to see if there are any counterarguments. However it seems that everybody agrees.

If you're looking for something to be falsified, you're also looking for a testible prediction. IOW, a test that can be failed and falsify the hypothesis. Since idealism does not do this, it can never be proven wrong.
We already agree that idealism cannot be proved. My point was that this does not mean it is false, or that we cannot know it to be true. After all materialism is unprovable and unknowable, so its even lesslikely to be true by your argument.

I feel you are making a mistake to assume that proof is the only route to knowledge. We know that this is not the case. In fact it's the opposite of what is true according to mathematicians.
 
  • #29
Eh
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Canute said:
I did say that but I didn;t mean it quite the way you took it. They are inseperable because they are logically related, but not the same thing.


The context was a discussion of consciousness, mind and matter, in which the authors were pointing out that one possible solution popular with philosophers is that that idealism is true.
I'd have to read the part leading up to the quote, but from the individuals on the list posted I'm certain it's not ontological idealism.
Ok. How about posting it as a question on its own thread and consulting our colleagues.
Will do.
We already agree that idealism cannot be proved. My point was that this does not mean it is false, or that we cannot know it to be true. After all materialism is unprovable and unknowable, so its even lesslikely to be true by your argument.
I would argue that we can only know experience, but that is an epistemological claim off the original topic here. As well, I would argue that all metaphysical models are equally as likely. Since we cannot experience the outside world, any preference of one consistent ontology over another is completely arbitrary. IOW, one ontology may feel correct, or may seem simpler, but this cannot amount to any precise way of determining which is correct.
I feel you are making a mistake to assume that proof is the only route to knowledge. We know that this is not the case. In fact it's the opposite of what is true according to mathematicians.
If proof were the only source of knowledge, then mathematicians would have a monopoly on truth. But my position is that experience is the only source of knowledge and I include math and logic because they are dependent on the mind. I know, more epistemology.
 
  • #30
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Eh said:
I'd have to read the part leading up to the quote, but from the individuals on the list posted I'm certain it's not ontological idealism.
Sorry but it was library book. However if you're interested it is about the best book on consciousness that there is IMO. It's high school level, very very short and mostly pictures (!) yet it covers all the main philosophical issues on the scientific 'problem of consciousness'. It's far better than most more 'expert' books of the subject. It was certainly talking about ontology, because the ontology of consciousness is why the topic of idealism was relevant to the book.

I would argue that we can only know experience, but that is an epistemological claim off the original topic here.
There wasn't a topic, just a question. Still, these issues came up and they're interesting. I agree that we can only know experience. This is the other side of the fact that 'knowing' can only be achieved through experience. I suspect that we don't disagree as much as you think.

As well, I would argue that all metaphysical models are equally as likely.
Not equally likely, since some are intrinsically illogical (I find 'Creator Gods' illogical for instance). However I agree that metaphysics does not deal with absolute truths. Martin Heideggers lecture 'What is Metaphysics' deals with this issue brilliantly. (It's online).

Since we cannot experience the outside world, any preference of one consistent ontology over another is completely arbitrary.
This is where we disagree. If consciousness is fundamental, which as far as we know is at least an even probability, then ontology is the study of self, not the outside world. This is what Plato, Aristotle, Popper, Heidegger, Spinoza, and (in a roundabout way) Kant argued. Even Colin Mcginn argues that consiousness originates in a 'pre-Big Bang non-spatial reality'. He calls this 'mysterianism' because he doesn't think it's his consciousness that he's talking about, but it's only in western philosophy that there is any need to appeal to mysticism and 'ignoramibuses'.

IOW, one ontology may feel correct, or may seem simpler, but this cannot amount to any precise way of determining which is correct.
I think this depends what you mean by 'feeling', and 'simple' is an impossible concept to define properly. However it is possible to know the truth of our origins, it just isn't possible to prove that it is. (I'll come back to that if you want).

If proof were the only source of knowledge, then mathematicians would have a monopoly on truth. But my position is that experience is the only source of knowledge and I include math and logic because they are dependent on the mind. I know, more epistemology.
Proof is not a source of certain knowledge, we know this because anything that can be proved in one system can be disproved in another. This entails that anything that is provable (or disprovable) cannot be absolutely true.

To avoid this problem it would be necessary to systematically prove that one's axioms are true, but we can't do this in principle (unless the system is trivial). So again I agree, experience is the only source of certain knowledge (although the relative kind is not to be sneered at - we wouldn't get through the day without it).

But this is no reason not to trust our rationality. We just have to be careful about how we use systems of proof, and what we conclude from them. It is worth noting that Taoists etc assert that ultimate truth cannot be known through reasoning. If this was not true then we'd know they did not know the truth, because their 'truth' would be just relative.

It's an assertion philosophers have been making in one way or another ever since Plato. More recently mathematicians have been saying the same, for this is the problem that Hilbert, Frege, Russell, Goedel etc were trying to solve (without success).
 
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  • #31
Les Sleeth
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Eh said:
If proof were the only source of knowledge, then mathematicians would have a monopoly on truth. But my position is that experience is the only source of knowledge and I include math and logic because they are dependent on the mind. I know, more epistemology.

I am not sure why "being dependent on the mind" qualifies them as knowledge givers. I am guessing you mean that if the premises are correct, and the logic is correct, then the conclusion must be correct.

Of course, you'd probably agree that even after you achieve a math/logic proof, and assuming the proof represents some aspect of reality, what one "knows" about reality through that representation is still a matter of faith (in the logic/math process and its results) until one has experienced it.
 
  • #32
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LW Sleeth said:
Of course, you'd probably agree that even after you achieve a math/logic proof, and assuming the proof represents some aspect of reality, what one "knows" about reality through that representation is still a matter of faith (in the logic/math process and its results) until one has experienced it.
I agree but would put it more strongly. It is impossible to prove anything about reality, one can only know it. This is provable. Therefore there is no contest between reason and experience. Experience has greater 'explanatory reach' than reason, and all proofs are relative and depend on having faith in ones axioms. It follows that anything that can be proved is not certain knowledge. This is why idealism is unprovable. If it was provable then it immediately become disprovable.
 
  • #33
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Idealism is the opposite of Materialism.
The difference between Idealism and materialism is that they disagree on what is primary: matter or consciousness.

If Idealism were true then some or other form of consciousness would exist, which would be independend of matter.
But how could that be falsified?

The point is of course that it is impossible to define any form of consciousness, where there is no material existence. How can there be consciousness when there is not something to be consciouss of?
 
  • #34
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heusdens said:
The point is of course that it is impossible to define any form of consciousness, where there is no material existence. How can there be consciousness when there is not something to be consciouss of?
What we are conscious of is the contents of consciousness. So your question is really the 'set of all sets/empty set' problem in disguise.

If you take away all the contents of consciousness then what becomes of the container? If the container is not the contents of the container then does it exist separately to the contents or not? Does the set of all sets contain itself? Does the empty set exist? You're asking a deep question here, awash with problems of self-reference and infinities.

Some people would phrase it as 'how can there be something to be conscious of when there is nothing to be conscious of it?'. David Bohm, for instance, asks it this way around.
 
  • #35
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Canute said:
What we are conscious of is the contents of consciousness. So your question is really the 'set of all sets/empty set' problem in disguise.

If you take away all the contents of consciousness then what becomes of the container? If the container is not the contents of the container then does it exist separately to the contents or not? Does the set of all sets contain itself? Does the empty set exist? You're asking a deep question here, awash with problems of self-reference and infinities.

Some people would phrase it as 'how can there be something to be conscious of when there is nothing to be conscious of it?'. David Bohm, for instance, asks it this way around.

The content of our consciousness has been formed by expererience based o the outside material world.
 

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