Pragmatism Morphed into a Reasoning System

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Les Sleeth
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In discussions of philosophy participants rely on a reasoning system. Some are put together haphazardly, others seem distilled from a commitment to beliefs or a particular philosophy, while still others appear carefully constructed. In this thread I want to suggest that a reasoning system derived from a variation on the philosophy known as pragmatism may be most suited for philosophical debates at PF.

But first, let me briefly explain what I mean by “reasoning system,” and limit the definition to philosophical discussions. Within the context of philosophy, reason is the avenue for the exchange of ideas about the nature of reality, and how one thinks properly about it. A reasoning “system” then, is a collection of components in service to the overall reasoning function.

Strictly for the sake of quickly moving ahead to the point of this discussion, I’ve selected a list (incomplete, I’m sure) of reasoning components as key quantitative and qualitative contributors to the ideal of reason. I’ve also situated them in three levels I’ll call foundational, advanced, and vanguard.

The chosen foundational components are: information, logic, and integrity. About information one might say it needs to be accurate, while logic should obey the formal rules (i.e., not one’s own version of logic), and integrity means being fully committed to using accurate information and correct logic. For the advanced components we might settle on: comprehensiveness and depth. Comprehensiveness refers to finding and using all relevant information, not just that which supports one’s argument; and depth means of understanding, and so it’s a commitment to think things out thoroughly rather than superficially. Finally, like the tip of a strong pyramid rests on a solid foundation and quality materials, so too does the vanguard of philosophical reasoning: inference. Inference is truly the most advanced skill of philosophical reason, and totally dependent on doing all the other components well.

Okay, let’s get to pragmatism and what sort of reasoning system might be derived from it. Those who’ve read any of what I’ve written here or at the previous PF know I have been influenced by quite a variety of people. But when it comes to philosophical debate, no idea has influenced me more than pragmatism. Pragmatism is a uniquely American development that began in the late 19th century with the insights of C.S. Peirce and later William James, John Dewey, A.J. Ayer (who I’ve quoted often), and many others, and it is still vital today.

I am going to express a pragmatism principle first by how I’ve come to see it, and I’ll admit it’s a bit simplistic. Principle: if something “works,” then at least some part of it is based on the true nature of reality. For example, if you lift rock and drop it in a deep lake, it will fall and make a “kerplunk” noise. If you do that because you know it will make that noise and so signal your friend on the bank, then you’ve correctly assessed the way reality works. If you drop your rock in a shallow area of the lake hoping for that sound, the lack of the “kerplunk” tells you that you have not assessed reality correctly.

Peirce, in my opinion, was the man in terms of developing a practical, objective approach with pragmatism. James, who is also known for his contributions to pragmatism, gives it a psychological twist that can become idiosyncratic. James might say, “if it works for you there’s some truth to it, which Peirce didn’t like at all (nor do I except in a limited way). Taken to the extreme, one could say, “it worked for Stalin to kill everyone he perceived as a threat to him.” To evaluate this one has to consider every effect of Stalin’s approach (comprehensiveness). What effect did it have overall and long-term, did it really work for everyone? Did it enrich the economy, did it spawn creativity, did it strengthen the society, did it even make Stalin happy?

Anyway, in terms of philosophical debate at PF, people make various philosophical proposals. My standard for evaluating a proposal is to look for evidence that any element of the proposal has been proven effective (again, comprehensively). Heusden preaches dialectical materialism, so I look for instances of it working. LG proposes an all-mind theory, and I look for examples of that working somewhere. Some people say chemistry can spontaneously start life, so I look for chemistry working that way.

Now here is where we reach the “vanguard” of reason. If you can’t show something works so well, then how far can you leap with inferences using it? Obviously different categories of things have different standards for what “works.” A theory, for example, doesn’t have to work by achieving what it theorizes, but it should work in the sense of accounting for lots of observed phenomena and not being unequivocally contradicted by anything. With the pragmatism principle I’ve outlined, one can only leap inferentially as far as one’s concept is supported by evidence that it works. Works little, leap little; works lots, leap lots. At a science-oriented site, to me this seems like a good standard for philosophizing.

What do you think?
 
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  • #2
quantumdude
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Originally posted by LW Sleeth
Principle: if something “works,” then at least some part of it is based on the true nature of reality.

Would this be the same as empiricism?

It sounds like you are saying that philosophy should be approached in the same way that science is approached. I agree with this; as I've argued in FZ's thread "limits of reasoning" (or something like that), there is no such thing as a purely deductive proof of anything pertaining to reality. That kind of "pure logic" is reserved for proofs on abstract objects (like mathematics and logic itself).

Anyway, in terms of philosophical debate at PF, people make various philosophical proposals. My standard for evaluating a proposal is to look for evidence that any element of the proposal has been proven effective (again, comprehensively). Heusden preaches dialectical materialism, so I look for instances of it working. LG proposes an all-mind theory, and I look for examples of that working somewhere. Some people say chemistry can spontaneously start life, so I look for chemistry working that way.

If I'm right on your take on philosophy (that is, that it should be approached in the way science is approached), then we should not be looking for instances in which the philosophy works, we should be looking for instances in which it fails.
 
  • #3
Les Sleeth
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Originally posted by Tom
Would this be the same as empiricism?

To keep my opening post reasonably short, I decided I'd cover all the particulars and exceptions when people brought them up. Let's call what I described "pragmatic reasoning," and there is at least one way it isn't really empiricism.

One of the defining principles of empiricism is the role of experience in both proof and hyphothesizing. I have quoted A.J. Ayer a few times saying, “All propositions which have factual content are empirical hypotheses; and the foundation of an empirical hypothesis is to provide a rule for anticipation of experience . . . “ I like that concept because it places serious responsiblity on the theorizer.

However, the standard for experience in empiricism is sense experience only. You probably know I am open to a certain other type of experience as the basis for hypothesizing (such as the Buddha's experience of enlightenment). Nonetheless, even with that I apply the pragmatic rule, and so I have searched for instances of how or if the enlightenment experience "works."

Originally posted by Tom
It sounds like you are saying that philosophy should be approached in the same way that science is approached. I agree with this; as I've argued in FZ's thread "limits of reasoning" (or something like that), there is no such thing as a purely deductive proof of anything pertaining to reality. That kind of "pure logic" is reserved for proofs on abstract objects (like mathematics and logic itself).

Yes, exactly. I think those days when philosophers depended so heavily on a priori reasoning was a time when they didn't have the means for acquiring good information. But now we do. Plus, we have understood the role of experience in knowing. With all that, I would love to see a whole new standard develop for philosophizing that is both restrained and encouraged by any and all types of evidence.

Originally posted by Tom
If I'm right on your take on philosophy (that is, that it should be approached in the way science is approached), then we should not be looking for instances in which the philosophy works, we should be looking for instances in which it fails.

Well, philosophy is more speculative than hard science, so I wouldn't have such a tough standard. As a regular test of proposals I can see it because if it fails anywhere, then obviously it has a problem. But sometimes enough of a philosophical idea is right that a few mistakes might be ironed out rather than throwing the whole thing away.
 
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  • #4
Just a technicality, pragmatism can't be uniqely American if you're including a Brit. A. J. Ayer. But then I wouldn't lump him in with the pragmatists. He's a modified logical positivist. But, yes, pragmastism is American and without Ayer. It might have been better to have included Rorty instead of Ayer. As you say, it's important to get the basics right before we proceed.
 
  • #5
Les Sleeth
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Originally posted by N_Quire
Just a technicality, pragmatism can't be uniqely American if you're including a Brit. A. J. Ayer. But then I wouldn't lump him in with the pragmatists. He's a modified logical positivist. But, yes, pragmastism is American and without Ayer. It might have been better to have included Rorty instead of Ayer. As you say, it's important to get the basics right before we proceed.

Indeed. I skimmed the details to get to my point -- what I meant was that it originated in the US. I cited Ayer as someone whose ideas I appreciate, and who understood the notion of pragmatism whether he fully endorsed Peirce or not (he did, by the way, agree with Peirce's key ideas). But then it doesn't really matter so much who supported pragmatism as what it means. If it's principles work, then as far as I'm concerned Rin Tin Tin could've developed the pragmatism concept without diminishing it's significance.
 
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  • #6
Excuse my ignorance, but at the end of the day, isn't 'pragmatism' just a fancy-term for 'materialism'?
 
  • #7
wuliheron
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That pragmatism is one of those american classics is not surprising to me. Like the blues and jazz, it has attitude that reaches up from the ground through the souls of your feet yet reaches for the stars. What you have described thus far is the conservative of pragmatism, it is the blues and the rudiments of jazz before the invention of swing. It classical steps are ill suited to modern dance floor.
 
  • #8
Les Sleeth
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Originally posted by Lifegazer
Excuse my ignorance, but at the end of the day, isn't 'pragmatism' just a fancy-term for 'materialism'?

I think this is a great question for you to ask LG because sometimes I think you resist certain rules of reason thinking it is going to lead to materialism.

Let's take your over-riding idea that all creation is a manifestation of God's mind (forgive me if I've been less that precise in describing your belief). If it is true, then shouldn't your theory "work" in every way you believe it is true?

Now, often you propose ideas meant to demonstrate your belief, and just as often you find individuals competent in working with materials who dispute your proposals. Why? Is it that you are wrong? Or might it be that the steps you take to argue your point don't conform to the standards of reason?

If God exists, it would wonderful if you could "prove" it objectively. But if God exists, he/she/it is not an object. Think about it, just as you are held to demonstrating something works through pragmatism, so are the materialists. Do you believe they are making claims beyond what they can prove? If you have faith in your beliefs, then you also should have faith that you can find a problem in their theories.

What I am suggesting is not materialism, but rather a fair standard for a debate. Can you demonstrate chemistry can spontaneously generate life? NO? Then don't speak to the world like it's all but been accomplished. Can you demontrate God made creation in 6 days? NO? Then don't speak to the world with confidence that it's true.
 
  • #9
Les Sleeth
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Originally posted by wuliheron
That pragmatism is one of those american classics is not surprising to me. Like the blues and jazz, it has attitude that reaches up from the ground through the souls of your feet yet reaches for the stars. What you have described thus far is the conservative of pragmatism, it is the blues and the rudiments of jazz before the invention of swing. It classical steps are ill suited to modern dance floor.

Wuli, you are speaking my language. I especially like bluesy, swinging jazz. Hopefully I won't seem too ethocentric here, but philosophy (and music) from the Earth-up seems to me to be what Americans do best.
 
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  • #10
wuliheron
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Originally posted by LW Sleeth
Wow Wuli, you are speaking my language!!!!! I love jazz, and especially bluesy, swinging jazz. Hopefully I won't seem too ethocentric here, but philosophy (and music) from the Earth-up seems to me to be what Americans do best.

America's innovations tend to be stylish as much as fashionable. That is, we invent classics as well as fashion trends. Pragmatism and the blues are classics from which countless new works branch out, competing and collaborating to express themselves and the world around them. They can be equally artform and science to any extreme. It is these flexibly vague yet distinctive attitudinal styles that is the source of their power to surprise us. And their power to still surprise us, that is half their strength.

Often jazz will take us where eventually more plodding classical methods would have taken us eventually anyway. Other times, the process is reversed and a more plodding approach reveals what no one could have maybe found in any other way. The blues and pragmatism have room for all attitudes, and not just sad songs, because they share this openness to experimentation. Each is as rudamentary as you can get, but leads to unparalleled complexity. From my own point of view, they share an accepting attitude, affect, and expression with room for all others.
 
  • #11
Originally posted by LW Sleeth
What I am suggesting is not materialism, but rather a fair standard for a debate. Can you demonstrate chemistry can spontaneously generate life? NO? Then don't speak to the world like it's all but been accomplished. Can you demontrate God made creation in 6 days? NO? Then don't speak to the world with confidence that it's true.
Amen to all of that.
 
  • #12
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But at some point you have to make assumptions on available data, and there is more evidence that chemistry created life than God. Not confidence, but a matter of the current picture of things.
 
  • #13
Royce
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lw,
As you know I admire your writing and thinking and this post lives up to all the rest that I've read; however, I have a problem with Pragmatism. Perhaps I do not fully understand it and/or am to influenced by the definition of pragmatic.
I think that pragmatism as a branch of philosophy is necessary and beneficial but I find it too limiting as it, in my understanding, it does away with pure abstract and ideal thinking which to me are just as necessary in philosopy as reason and pragmatism.
As a System of Reasoning I believe as you do, I think, that it goes hand in hand with logic and the scientific method. That is all well and good even in pure abstract, ideal and, if you will, artistic thought and writing. It gives form, meaning, clearity and coherence to our thinking and writing and for those reasons alone it should never be abandoned; but, Pragmatism is and should, IMO, remain a branch of Philosophy and this is the philosophy forum.
Hopefully to better illustrate my thinking, is it possible to describe Quantum Mechanics, Relativity, four dimensional spacetime and infinitities, all major theories in modern physics that are completely outside human experience and common sense, in a purely pragmatic way?
 
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  • #14
Les Sleeth
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Originally posted by FZ+
But at some point you have to make assumptions on available data, and there is more evidence that chemistry created life than God. Not confidence, but a matter of the current picture of things.

What are you making assumptions for? For empirical research, for making practical decisions, for maintaining your own personal philosophy, or for discussing philosophy with others?

Let’s say it is research, and you assume “chemogenesis” is the origin of life for the sake of helping you investigate if it happens that way . . . then I would agree with you. Similarly, if you need to make practical decisions then it has to be based on your best guess. And if the only evidence you know of is that which supports chemogenesis, then again it makes sense to maintain that as your “current picture of things.”

Then there is discussing philosophy with others. I don’t know if you recall any of my debates with DT Strain on chemogenesis, but there was a grueling exercise for me because his assumption that chemistry can spontaneously generate life was carved in stone. DT would list all the evidence supporting his position, then I would point out the gap in the evidence, plus I introduced other evidence. He consistently ignored or belittled by points (even though he know nothing about what I referring to), and then would lecture me again with his evidence.

That sort of approach to reason is why I included in my little pragmatic reasoning pyramid “comprehensiveness” at the advanced level. If you are already committed to and/or more interested in being a materialist or theist over the desire to know the truth, no matter what the truth turns out to be, then you will be far less likely to seriously consider any evidence that contradicts your commitment. In my opinion, this is exactly why some of the debates here are hopeless. You can almost see someone starting to bolt or shut down when you introduce any evidence or logic contrary to their beliefs.

Of course, it isn’t only here one finds over-commitment to beliefs, we merely reflect the state of things in society. And it isn’t just the theists you catch advocating without evidence – I see it in science publications and documentaries all the time where one expects to see objectivity instead.

I mentioned in another thread a special I saw on one of the Discovery channels where a neuroscientist claimed it was her duty as an empiricist to prove consciousness is the result of only material processes. Is that the proper approach to research? I could’ve agreed if she’d said her job was to discover the material processes that contribute to consciousness, but she openly declared her pre-committed belief and that she was going to try to prove it. To me, she was trampling on the principle comprehensiveness and letting us all know she was going to single out that evidence which supported her beliefs. It also lacks integrity to use a platform that claims objectivity (science research) to make your theories appear more trustworthy.

So, my suggestion of a morphed pragmatism is to suggest a standard for philosophical debate (and public claims) rather than whatever personal views one maintains.

(Regarding there being enough evidence to assume chemistry can spontaneously generate life, I'd be more than happy to debate that with you. )
 
  • #15
Excellent points LW. I made alot of similar remarks in my "corrupt philosophy" thread.
 
  • #16
wuliheron
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Originally posted by Royce

[Pragmatism] gives form, meaning, clearity and coherence to our thinking and writing and for those reasons alone it should never be abandoned; but, Pragmatism is and should, IMO, remain a branch of Philosophy and this is the philosophy forum.
Hopefully to better illustrate my thinking, is it possible to describe Quantum Mechanics, Relativity, four dimensional spacetime and infinitities, all major theories in modern physics that are completely outside human experience and common sense, in a purely pragmatic way? [/B]

The mistake some people make with pragmatism is to think of it as glorifying common sense and personal experience by sacraficing all else. Pragmatism is as much a social endevor as anything else and need not sacrafice anything. Quite the opposite, pragmatism is inclusive by the very nature of it to avoid placing abstractions on a pedestel.

According to one story Plato once asked his students how many teeth a nearby horse in a field had. One after another his students speculated on the issue until one of them actually walked over and began counting the horse's teeth. According to the story plato immediately expelled the student from his school.

Modern physical theories only have meaning in the sciences in their pragmatic applications and expressions. The theory of Quantum Mechanics in particular can be said to be an utterly pragmatic theory due to the fact that exactly what QM describes is hotly debated. Instead of an abstract idealistic theory compatable with the human mind and perception, it is a pragmatic statistical one based on observation. Relativity is a more idealistic theory not entirely outside of human cognition, but there is room within a pragmatic approach for idealistic approaches as well when the occation apparently warrents their use.
 
  • #17
Les Sleeth
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Originally posted by Royce
Perhaps I do not fully understand it and/or am to influenced by the definition of pragmatic. I think that pragmatism as a branch of philosophy is necessary and beneficial but I find it too limiting as it, in my understanding, it does away with pure abstract and ideal thinking which to me are just as necessary in philosopy as reason and pragmatism.

I don’t believe it is true that philosophical pragmatism does away with any sort of thinking. However, let me make it clear that I am not an expert in or advocate for any formal version of philosophical pragmatism. To be honest, I only read enough of it (mostly Peirce and James) to get the idea of “if something ‘works,’ then at least some part of it is based on the true nature of reality.” That appealed to me instantly as a basis for discussion (rather than using it for say, research or thinking), and I’ve relied on successfully in debates ever since (hey, there’s some pragmatism right there).

Originally posted by Royce
As a System of Reasoning I believe as you do, I think, that it goes hand in hand with logic and the scientific method. . . . but, Pragmatism is and should, IMO, remain a branch of Philosophy and this is the philosophy forum.

Hopefully to better illustrate my thinking, is it possible to describe Quantum Mechanics, Relativity, four dimensional spacetime and Infinitities, all major theories in modern physics that are completely outside human experience and common sense, in a purely pragmatic way?

This is why I used the word “morphed” in the title of this thread. I am not pushing pragmatism, but instead I am looking for standards which can help make philosophical discussions more realistic. If you have to demonstrate a practical connection between reality and your theory, and are constrained in your inferences by how much you can make such connections, that will bring the theory down to Earth pretty fast.

Also, remember there are different sorts of philosophical discussions. When Heusden advocates dialectical materialism, the first thing I want to do is ask for instances where it has worked (plus point to all the dismal failures with it). I personally don’t think dialectical materialism makes sense philosophically (knowing what I do about human psychology), but if we only discuss it theoretically a person can reason in circles forever. But ask someone to cite examples of it working, or even elements of it working, then that makes the discussion more realistic right away.

In your examples of QM, relativity etc., these are theories. A big part of good theorizing is when one’s theory accounts for facts better than alternative explanations. So theories in development like QM gain status as we find more and more supporting evidence. That standard for theory development is close to Ayers pragmatic principle that along with a hypothesis should be the expectation of confirming experience. It doesn’t mean one can’t think wildly creative ideas, such as the way Guth now is theorizing about bubbling universes, but it would, using my little reasoning system, limit how far one would inferentially leap from that theory. Already at this site I’ve seen it stated as fact that the zero point energy figure means energy can come from nothing. That is not a fact at all, it is one possible interpretation of zero point energy.
 
  • #18
Royce
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Your point is well taken and as I said I agree completely if used as a reasoning tool or method. I meant it quite literally that "I" have a problem with Pragmatism. (Probably in part because my wife is such a pragmatist)
Wuli said that Pragmatism, while it has it feet firmly angored to the ground, can still reach for the stars; but, can it reach beyound the stars? It's hard to soar the heavens with your feet stuck in the mud. "I"
 
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  • #19
Les Sleeth
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Originally posted by Royce
Your point is well taken and as I said I agree completely if used as a reasoning tool or method. I meant it quite literally the "I" have a problem with Pragmatism. (Probably in part because my wife is such a pragmatist)

Ha! My wife too (though that sort of pragmatist and the philosophy of pragmatism are two different things). I admit she helps keep my feet on the ground while my head is in the clouds.
 
  • #20
wuliheron
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Originally posted by Royce
Your point is well taken and as I said I agree completely if used as a reasoning tool or method. I meant it quite literally that "I" have a problem with Pragmatism. (Probably in part because my wife is such a pragmatist)
Wuli said that Pragmatism, while it has it feet firmly angored to the ground, can still reach for the stars; but, can it reach beyound the stars? It's hard to soar the heavens with your feet stuck in the mud. "I"

Pragmatism can't reach beyond the stars using a classical western dialectic either-or approach, but Asian philosophies such as Taoism can and have often been described as pragmatic. Just as the object of QM is unknown, the paradox of existence remains an enigma that may well extend beyond the stars for all we know. By pragmatically addressing everything between the ground under our feet and the stars above we do not deny the possibilities of transcendence and the supernatural, but instead, simply expand our awareness.
 
  • #21
Royce
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Wuli,
Completely off the subjuct but a question I've been wanting to ask. I Chen, Zen a Buddist sect baised on Tao? I,m familar with both and like to concider myself a student of them. I read the Tao fist in my late teens then at least once again as an adult. I then started reading and studying about Zen. I, as a westerner, (occidental?)found them very similar.
 
  • #22
wuliheron
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Originally posted by Royce
Wuli,
Completely off the subjuct but a question I've been wanting to ask. I Chen, Zen a Buddist sect baised on Tao? I,m familar with both and like to concider myself a student of them. I read the Tao fist in my late teens then at least once again as an adult. I then started reading and studying about Zen. I, as a westerner, (occidental?)found them very similar.

Zen or Chuan Buddhism is a combination of Buddhism and Taoism. Buddhism has proven remarkably adaptable to just about any school of thought, and from its inception has a long history of missionaries. The distinction Between Zen and Tao is largely one of style rather than substance and Zen has been compared to Taoism in wolf's clothing.

In comparison to Taoism, all the popular world religions and philosophies are much more masculine. They are assertive, aggressive, and dramatic where Taoism is accepting, nurturing, and understated. The Zen, for example, first brought the dramatic idea of "instant enlightenment" to china where for millennia the concept of gradual enlightenment had prevailed.

This is also why pragmatism can span both eastern and western thought. Rather than taking a dramatic and firm stance on issues, it takes a much more flexible and understated one.
 
  • #23
FZ+
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I don’t know if you recall any of my debates with DT Strain on chemogenesis, but there was a grueling exercise for me because his assumption that chemistry can spontaneously generate life was carved in stone.
But, if he was arguing the "can", ie. the possibility of chemogenesis, then this assumption is justified by some evidence, and in fact non-disprovable. Gaps in his evidence is certainly not enough to dispute the possibility. If he was instead arguing that chemogenesis MUST have occured, in a sort of "Proof for the material origin of life", then he is being unneccessarily confident. But not if he argues that it is possible. In which case, the reversal of the situation, that your belief that chemogenesis - and hence materialism - cannot explain life wholly seems an expression of over-confidence. At least, so it seems to me.

If you are already committed to and/or more interested in being a materialist or theist over the desire to know the truth, no matter what the truth turns out to be, then you will be far less likely to seriously consider any evidence that contradicts your commitment.
LG, take note NOW.

I mentioned in another thread a special I saw on one of the Discovery channels where a neuroscientist claimed it was her duty as an empiricist to prove consciousness is the result of only material processes.
I agree in this case. This particular scientist is seriously screwed up over his logic... Duty as an empiricist?
Then again, similar examples can be found on the other side of the border...

(Regarding there being enough evidence to assume chemistry can spontaneously generate life, I'd be more than happy to debate that with you.)
Later...
 
  • #24
Les Sleeth
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Originally posted by FZ+
But, if he was arguing the "can", ie. the possibility of chemogenesis, then this assumption is justified by some evidence, and in fact non-disprovable. Gaps in his evidence is certainly not enough to dispute the possibility. If he was instead arguing that chemogenesis MUST have occured, in a sort of "Proof for the material origin of life", then he is being unneccessarily confident. But not if he argues that it is possible. In which case, the reversal of the situation, that your belief that chemogenesis - and hence materialism - cannot explain life wholly seems an expression of over-confidence. At least, so it seems to me.

His argument was that it was a perfectly reasonalbe explanation. My argument was not that chemogenesis isn't possble, but that the confidence with which scientism devotees proclaim in text books, public documentaries, etc. that chemogenesis is the most likely origin of life overstates their case; and that is because there's not enough evidence chemistry can spontaneously behave in such a way. I have not (that I recall) expressed any confidence materialism will never explain it, although I personally don't think it can. My focus has been on inferences which leap too far -- part of the theme of this thread.
 
  • #25
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But there is also absolutely no evidence for any alternative, which puts chemogenesis as a imperfect, but only workable hypothesis. At least, unlike the other possibilities, we can investigate it. And it is perfectly reasonable, according to the available evidence. Though that of course does not imply it is true.
 
  • #26
Originally posted by FZ+
LWS: "If you are already committed to and/or more interested in being a materialist or theist over the desire to know the truth, no matter what the truth turns out to be, then you will be far less likely to seriously consider any evidence that contradicts your commitment."

LG, take note NOW.
It's impossible to invalidate the Mind-hypothesis with reason.
That's not a boast. It's just a fact which most members of this forum have come to see for themselves.
And I know - through reason - that science cannot ever find the absolute-origin of any universal-effect, using observation. Sooner or later, science will have to understand that the source of universal-sensation cannot be observed within sensation itself. Because sensation is an effect of that source.
But reason is not confined to what is sensed. Reason has unveiled concepts which simply cannot be sensed. Reason can take us beyond the senses. In fact, it is reason which has also taken us inside the sensations - defining those sensations using concepts created beyond-sensation.
So interestingly, our sensations have been understood by reason which uses concepts that do not exist within those sensations. And yet we still manage to define this reality in a manner which can predict future sensations (science) - thus prooving that our method of reasoning is sound.
As such, rational arguments which seek to draw readers to the mind-hypothesis, are worthy of rational contemplation. I shouldn't have to listen to assertions about matter, as the basis of a refutation against my argument. But that's what always happens. LWS is correct.
 
  • #27
quantumdude
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Originally posted by Lifegazer
It's impossible to invalidate the Mind-hypothesis with reason.

The problem is, it is also impossible to validate it with reason. That was one of LW Sleeth's main points. He is forwarding this "pragmatism" idea because he recognizes that it is impossible to prove things about reality with nothing but deductive logic (never mind the fact that you don't even use deductive logic!).

As such, rational arguments which seek to draw readers to the mind-hypothesis, are worthy of rational contemplation. I shouldn't have to listen to assertions about matter, as the basis of a refutation against my argument. But that's what always happens.

LOL, so instead of listening to materialist assertions, you should be able to forward your own assertions with no counter argument, is that it?

LWS is correct.

Yes, I think he's on to something too. It's too bad you are only taking the selections of what he said that suit your needs.
 
  • #28
FZ+
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It's impossible to invalidate the Mind-hypothesis with reason.
Then why do you fail consistently to see the reverse? I am talking about your utter confidence in the theory as not just a possibility but a proof, and your self proclaimed role of disproving materialism. While you are quick to declare "corruption" in others, you fail to see the assertion you make yourself because of your self-declared viewpoint. I am happy to accept any theory as a possibility. However, I will not allow the declaration of being absolutely correct to pass uncommented.
 
  • #29
Originally posted by Tom
The problem is, it is also impossible to validate it with reason.
Arguable, obviously.
That was one of LW Sleeth's main points. He is forwarding this "pragmatism" idea because he recognizes that it is impossible to prove things about reality with nothing but deductive logic (never mind the fact that you don't even use deductive logic!).
Then I disagree with him too, on this particular issue. Actually, science is the proof that he is wrong. Reason has obviously unveiled facts about reality. The physical-laws are facts, are they not?
Actually, scientific-reason has unveiled facts about the order within our sensations. I argue that an extension of reasoning can unveil the source of these sensations. What possible reason insists that reason cannot discuss the causality of sensation?
LOL, so instead of listening to materialist assertions, you should be able to forward your own assertions with no counter argument, is that it?
Usually, I present an argument-of-reason that leads to the Mind-hypothesis. I'm clearly hoping to debate my argument from a point-of-reason alone. Hence, I agree with LWS upon this point. But invariably, I am told that "matter created the brain" and "matter created life" and "the universe needs no cause beyond matter itself", etc.. I.e., I am refuted via assertion. And when I ask for a clear explanation of how these processes unfolded, none is given - because there is none to give. You know yourself that science can account for any fundamental philosophical-enquiry. And so how can these assertions have any merit in discrediting things which I have argued? They cannot have any philosophical merit.
Yes, I think he's on to something too. It's too bad you are only taking the selections of what he said that suit your needs.
Try presenting an argument of your own. I can promise you that I will try to refute that argument directly. I will analyse each statement you make, and look for errors of reason within those statements (if there are any). I wont just assert that "The Mind did it; and therefore your argument isn't worth listening to.". Or words to that effect.
That's exactly what DT Strain's post ammounted to, in the other thread. He simply asserted his own premise - ignoring my argument - and then proceeded to explain why his premise was correct. Even though everyone knows that there is no reasonable-argument for proving that matter creates thought.
At the end of the day, DT Strain's post amounted to a defense of an asserted-premise which is non-provable. It was a prime-example of what LWS himself is talking about.
 
  • #30
Originally posted by FZ+
Then why do you fail consistently to see the reverse? I am talking about your utter confidence in the theory as not just a possibility but a proof, and your self proclaimed role of disproving materialism.
The very fact that it's impossible to argue against (directly), and the very fact that it conforms to known physical-law and knowledge; is what makes it a strong argument.
While you are quick to declare "corruption" in others, you fail to see the assertion you make yourself because of your self-declared viewpoint.
The whole point of my arguments is to avoid assertion. I build from direct-sensation. Am I making an assertion, for example, when I state something like "Knowledge of existence is known via the reasoning of sensation."?
I am happy to accept any theory as a possibility. However, I will not allow the declaration of being absolutely correct to pass uncommented.
Fair enough. Then challenge my argument directly, and refrain from materialistic-assertions as the basis of your rebuttal. As LWS implies.
 
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  • #31
quantumdude
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Originally posted by Lifegazer
Then I disagree with him too, on this particular issue. Actually, science is the proof that he is wrong. Reason has obviously unveiled facts about reality. The physical-laws are facts, are they not?

The minor quibble here is that no, physical laws are not 'facts'. They are abstracted from facts (namely, the results of experiments). The major quibble is that you aren't really proving that he's wrong, because science is not pure deductive reasoning. There is the inductive element I mentioned.

Actually, scientific-reason has unveiled facts about the order within our sensations. I argue that an extension of reasoning can unveil the source of these sensations. What possible reason insists that reason cannot discuss the causality of sensation?

The fact that we know nothing about it, for starters.

Usually, I present an argument-of-reason that leads to the Mind-hypothesis. I'm clearly hoping to debate my argument from a point-of-reason alone. Hence, I agree with LWS upon this point. But invariably, I am told that "matter created the brain" and "matter created life" and "the universe needs no cause beyond matter itself", etc.. I.e., I am refuted via assertion.

That's not exactly how it goes with your threads. The counter usually comes in the form of a one-two punch:

1. The logical errors in your argument are pointed out.
2. An alternative is presented.

Once it is demonstrated that your argument is invalid (and it always is), then that does in fact make room for an alternative explanation. If the alternative is also consistent with what we know, then it is also plausible.

The question is then: Which one is more plausible, and why?

And when I ask for a clear explanation of how these processes unfolded, none is given - because there is none to give.

How do you know?

As for myself, I can only talk about physics with any kind of authority. I know very little about cognitive science (but I am trying). What I object to are your unprovable assertions such as this one...

You know yourself that science can account for any fundamental philosophical-enquiry.

I assume you mean "cannot account for..."

In which case, I say, "No, I don't know that, and neither do you." You really do shoot yourself in the foot by making these kinds of claims, because they are unprovable. You don't know what science can or cannot accomplish given the time to do it. This is just as unprovable as your claim that AI scientists will never make a machine that can think like a human. You simply do not know, and neither does anyone else!

And so how can these assertions have any merit in discrediting things which I have argued? They cannot have any philosophical merit.

See above. If an alternative is plausible, then your idea cannot be taken to be "The Answer".

Try presenting an argument of your own. I can promise you that I will try to refute that argument directly. I will analyse each statement you make, and look for errors of reason within those statements (if there are any).

I will post my argument in favor of LW Sleeth's idea in my next post in this thread. Happily, it is right on topic.

That's exactly what DT Strain's post ammounted to, in the other thread. He simply asserted his own premise - ignoring my argument - and then proceeded to explain why his premise was correct. Even though everyone knows that there is no reasonable-argument for proving that matter creates thought.

I still think you do not understand the nature of a deductive proof. If someone can forward an alternative explanation, using the same premises, then your argument does not prove anything. DT Strain did that, and that is sufficient to overturn your claim that "all is Mind, and I can prove it".

If you would change that to, "It is possible that all is Mind", I think most people would agree with you.

At the end of the day, DT Strain's post amounted to a defense of an asserted-premise which is non-provable. It was a prime-example of what LWS himself is talking about.

But you do the exact same thing! And what is worse, you have no evidence to back up your arguments. There is no way in which this idea of yours "works", because it has no bearing on anything that we observe. This all comes back to do with the inefficacy of "pure reason" when it comes to reality.

And that is what LW Sleeth was talking about.
 
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  • #32
FZ+
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*sign*

Forget it LG. You obviously cannot contemplate the idea of self-reflection and acceptance of fallibility. Maybe you'll learn it eventually. When you are so locked into your beliefs, trying to reason with you, even simply raising the possibility of an alternative, is futile.
 
  • #33
quantumdude
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Here is my argument supporting my position that pure reasoning can only reveal things about abstract forms, and not about reality.

From FZ's topic The limits of reason

First, the prescriptive laws of reasoning (aka logic) cannot be proven "right" within the system of logic itself.
Second, all arguments rely on unproven axioms (aka assumptions).


All systems of logic can be put into one of two categories:

1. Deductive
2. Inductive

I explained all this in detail in my Logic Notes thread, but let me give a rundown here.

Deductive Logic
An argument is deductive if its premises necessarily imply its conclusions. With a mandate to construct such a system of logic, one is led directly to a formal structural language that strongly resembles mathematics. It contains rules for types of inferences that can always be trusted. This should not be misunderstood to mean that deductive logic can be used to derive absolute truths about reality. In fact, deductive logic is completely silent in this regard. It should be understood as follows:

I may not know whether the premises are correct, but I do know for certain that: If the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true.

That conditional statement expresses the only idea of which we can be confident using only deductive logic. Deductive logic does not contain a procedure for testing the truth or falsity of propositions (except for some propositions about deductive logic, of course).

Inductive Logic
An argument that is not deductively valid is inductive. The premises of an inductive argument provide only partial support for its conclusion, and as such the conclusions of inductive arguments are accepted only tentatively. This may prompt one to ask, "Why bother with inductive logic?" Good question. The answer is that it is impossible to reason about anything that cannot be known a priori without inductive logic. So, the price we pay for inductive reasoning may be the lack of absolute support for the conclusion, but the benefit is that we obtain the ability to say something meaningful about reality. In other words, inductive logic provides a means to judge the truth or falsity of propositions, but only in a probable (as opposed to absolute) sense.

The discipline of implementing these two kinds of reasoning to learn about reality is called science.

Continuing:

If truths about reality are destinations, then deductive reasoning is the car that gets you from one to the other. The initial post of the thread boils down to: How far can that car get us?

Is there some limit to the understanding that logic alone can provide? I have answered that question emphatically in the affirmative, on the following grounds:

We have two kinds of logic: deductive and inductive.

The former is concerned with arguments whose premises give absolute support to their conclusions. The problem is that it gives no decision procedure for determining the truth or falsity of propositions with absolute certainty (actually, it's damn near completely silent on the issue).

The latter is concerned with arguments whose premises give probable support to their conclusions. The advantage is that this logic does indeed either lend support to, or outright falsifies, the conclusions that are brought under its analysis.

Since those are the only two kinds of logic at our disposal, I state that absolute truths about reality (known absolutely!) are beyond the capacity of human logic.
 
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  • #34
Les Sleeth
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Joint Response

I decided to respond to you three (Tom, FZ and LG) all in the same post because it helped me make a few points I wanted to make.


Originally posted by Tom
We have two kinds of logic: deductive and inductive.

The former is concerned with arguments whose premises give absolute support to their conclusions. . . . The latter is concerned with arguments whose premises give probable support to their conclusions. . . . Since those are the only two kinds of logic at our disposal, I state that absolute truths about reality (known absolutely!) are beyond the capacity of human logic.

Nicely reasoned. That is exactly the conclusion philosophers came to after two millennia of rationalistic speculation. It reminds me of a friend I had who was always dreaming big dreams, but doing little to realize them. In his dreams he was always on the verge of success, and so when friends tried to warn him he was headed for trouble, he would answer with some part of his perfect dream. He got away with that until the day reality came down on him so hard he finally woke up. Similarly, with pure rationality there is no meaningful test of what one reasons because like a fox watching the henhouse, the only test is the idea’s own internal logic.

The great thing about pragmatism is that it assumes there is a reality (which let’s say is all that exists, or potentially can exist), that it works in very specific ways (i.e., there’s nothing arbitrary about reality), and therefore a perfect test of one’s theories is to find ways to apply the theory. If a theory is in line with the rules of reality, it will work on some level. How well it works indicates how in line with reality it is. If only part of it works, then it needs adjustment, and so on. That feedback from reality, to me, is the most powerful teacher that could possibly exist because reality is the truth waiting right there for us to discover.

Now, the most impassioned debates here seem to be about the nature of reality, primarily between those who say material reality is probably all there is, and those who say there is at least “something more” which is probably immaterial. Although the main theme of this thread is about reason, I also was hoping better debates might happen between those two groups by suggesting reasoning standards both sides could agree to.

I have something else I want to say about your first post in this thread, but I am going to save it for my response to FZ.

Originally posted by FZ+
But there is also absolutely no evidence for any alternative, which puts chemogenesis as a imperfect, but only workable hypothesis. At least, unlike the other possibilities, we can investigate it. And it is perfectly reasonable, according to the available evidence. Though that of course does not imply it is true.

I am glad you said that because it is the example I need to demonstrate the bias that stems from believing something too strongly.

In Tom’s first post here he asked if when applying the pragmatic reasoning concept I was proposing, it might not be a good idea to test a theory by “. . . looking for instances in which it fails.” I still don’t think that should be the primary approach (in philosophy at least), but I think he is right too. The way I would do it is, after all the ways an idea is shown to work, then look for how it fails to work (of course, some ideas are so bad they only fail to work, so you can just jump right to that).

Okay, you say chemogenesis is “perfectly reasonable according to available evidence,” but really it isn’t and I think if you weren’t over-committed to a materialistic explanation for life you already would have seen that.

There is a major problem for the materialist theory there which I can’t believe isn’t noticed. The problem is that chemistry cannot be shown to spontaneously exhibit, on its own, the kind of functional and organizational system building that is present in even the simplest life form. The inferential leap from amino acids spontaneously forming and such to the sort of consistent self-organizing change needed to reach life is HUGE.

You say “there is also absolutely no evidence for any alternative,” but not only is that not a good enough reason to assume chemogenesis, that missing organizing force actually is evidence of a type. Say you were a detective investigating a report of vandalism to a house. You go there and find it is covered in mustard. There are no people around, no mustard jars, no evidence of any kind that the mustard came from somewhere else. Would you conclude that the house is oozing mustard on its own? Isn’t the lack of a means for getting that mustard there really evidence it must be somewhere else because houses are never known to ooze mustard?

Similarly, how can materialists conclude that chemistry does it alone when they can’t duplicate the kind of self-organization necessary for life? How do you build other materialist theories, such as purely physical explanations of consciousness, on top of a theory which has such a colossal evidence gap in it? Where at least is the doubt of the materialist explanation (for chemogenesis), and the openness to another variety of force present in life that would explain such self-organization?

I say the way materialists casually roll past the spontaneous self-organizing problem is a symptom of blind faith; they so are “blinded” by their belief in materialism they cannot see just how significant the chemogenesis issue is. In terms of the theme of this thread, it doesn’t matter how successful a discipline is in other areas, it doesn’t mean they get to circumvent the standards of evidence and proof for their pet theories.

I have a little more to say about this which I will do while answering LG.

Originally posted by Lifegazer
Then I disagree with him too, on this particular issue. Actually, science is the proof that he is wrong. Reason has obviously unveiled facts about reality. The physical-laws are facts, are they not?
Actually, scientific-reason has unveiled facts about the order within our sensations. I argue that an extension of reasoning can unveil the source of these sensations. What possible reason insists that reason cannot discuss the causality of sensation?

I think you are mixing together ideas that need to be considered separately to make sense. Using Tom’s explanation of logic types, you are mixing deductive and inductive logic together and then talking about them as though they are the same. The word “proof” in science represents a deductive process that culminates in observation (experience). When reason has helped lead researchers to setting up the correct experiment that proves something, that often was helped along by induction. Induction cannot prove something that needs to be experienced, it can only posit the reasonability of searching for certain verifying experiences.

When you claim your mind hypothesis cannot be disproved, all you are really saying is that we have no way to test it by way of experience. The same thing is true of say, Zeus . . . that is, we cannot experience him either but there is no reason to be certain of a theory that believes in him because he can’t be disproved.

Then you argue for the efficacy of “extension of reasoning.” But what are you extending reason from? This is exactly the problem with rationalism sans experience, your house is built on an uncertain foundation. It’s the same criticism of the materialist notion of building consciousness theories on top of a non-existent foundation of chemogenesis. Don’t you think you first better establish that your foundation is correct before you start building a bunch of theoretical rooms on it? If so, how do you create a foundation?

This is where I think you need to come up to speed because if you study the history of success with philosophical ideas, it is dominated by those which could be demonstrated they “work.” The working philosophies have so outdistanced all that old rationalistic stuff that many thinkers today believe classic philosophizing is dead. For something to be said to work, one has to be able to witness it working. This then, is the standard for proof -- that you link your claims to experience.

Are we who think there is something more to reality than physics left without recourse to proof? When it comes to objective proof, it appears we are; that does not mean there isn’t inner or subjective experience which reveals the “something more” to reality. It just means the only witness to that is to be the subject himself.

If there is “something more” to reality than physics, are we left without a means to challenge materialist claims that physics and mechanics is it? Not at all. If you have faith that “something more” is necessary to explain how at least life and consciousness “work,” then the materialist argument is going to have problems, and that is where you focus your attention (i.e., on exposing the problems). And it doesn’t mean you can’t have your theory, it only means you have to stop trying to rationally “prove” it. Let the facts or lack of facts naturally lend support to your concept.
 
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  • #35


Originally posted by LW Sleeth
When you claim your mind hypothesis cannot be disproved, all you are really saying is that we have no way to test it by way of experience.
No I'm not. I'm saying that it cannot be disproven by logic, since my logic matches known laws of science. In other words, you've already tested my hypothesis, because it matches all-known laws - which have already been tested.
My arguments are founded upon laws and reason. Via the direct-experience of sensation. When you say that there is no way to test it by way of experience, you ignore the fact that my argument is founded upon the experiences we are all having now. I have not based my arguments upon anything but experience. And that's a fact.
The same thing is true of say, Zeus . . . that is, we cannot experience him either but there is no reason to be certain of a theory that believes in him because he can’t be disproved.
Firstly, can Zeus explain his own origin? I.e., can the philosophy "of Zeus" explain *everything*, rationally? If it cannot, then Zeus is of God. Not God himself.
The point is obvious. Reason can rip-apart specific concepts, until those concepts have explained everything, including themselves.
And when these concepts cannot explain such things, then these concepts are all but worthless.
You have reason to invalidate crackpot-theories. And yet you sit there saying you cannot disprove it because you cannot experience it. That's incorrect LWS.
Then you argue for the efficacy of “extension of reasoning.” But what are you extending reason from?
From itself. Reason is a system which seeks to define the relative-world in relation to absolute-scales of existence. Reason stretches towards absolute-concepts. The mind unquestionably-knows about absolute-concepts of existence.
Hence, there is no reason whatsoever why an argument founded upon reason, cannot take us to the absolute-source of existence.
You cannot discard this notion by repeating that you've had no experience of such things, and so cannot disprove them. Because you have the essence of all knowledge to disprove of such thoughts. You have reason itself. And if you are going to be sincere unto your own earlier thoughts, then you should listen to what I'm trying to say to you. You are a materialist LWS. To what degree, I do not know. But I do know that logic does not allow for a bias towards experience as the basis of all knowledge. Logic was/is the true source of all knowledge. The sensations don't know a thing about themselves.
You cannot abandon reason to a bias. You've said so yourself.
Don’t you think you first better establish that your foundation is correct before you start building a bunch of theoretical rooms on it? If so, how do you create a foundation?
By logic, from sensation.
The sensations are the only thing which we can confirm exists, within 'awareness'.
The working philosophies have so outdistanced all that old rationalistic stuff that many thinkers today believe classic philosophizing is dead.
Well my philosophy 'works' too. It explains everything (because it embraces science), and it also has profound repercussions for humanity. I'm not stupid. I'm aware that most of you are aware of this. My philosophy is almost impossible to believe, even if you see the sense in it. For look at the conclusion! How can we believe that?!
How can there be 'a God'?!!
Catch 22. You can't fight emotion with reason. It'll drive you crazy, in the long-run. Not unless you can get the emotion to recognise its own folly, and allow the reason to take over.
For something to be said to work, one has to be able to witness it working.
This then, is the standard for proof -- that you link your claims to experience.
Do scientific-laws accurately depict the order inherent within our sensations? Of course they do. Therefore, it is an absolute-fact that the physical-laws are reflective of sensed-experience. You cannot argue that the physical-laws are wrong, and that our sensations are telling us something else. For reason would beg to differ - since reason unveiled those laws, from those sensations.
Are we who think there is something more to reality than physics left without recourse to proof?
Evidently so.
Mother-reason weeps, I say.
 

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