Friday, July 1, 2011

A Fool's Philosophy

So, I'm having this ongoing conversation with "Thought Provoker" in my Intelligent Design According to Thomas Aquinas thread and I'm trying to explain to him how you must counter philosophical arguments by disputing the premises or by showing that the conclusion doesn't logically follow from the premises.  Now Thought Provoker (like most atheists) doesn't have much use for philosophy, so he brings up the following "philosophical" argument and then challenges me to "try to prove my premise is false or that my conclusion doesn't follow the premise".  So here goes...
Premise - I think, therefore I am.

The truth is what I think is reality is actually reality.

Conclusion - whatever I conclude is correct.
So let's examine this one statement at a time:

"Premise - I think, therefore I am."  First off, this isn't a premise, it's a conclusion based on a condition - one frought with unintended implications.  "I think, therefore I am" implies that thought is necessary for existence, and that "whatever doesn't think, doesn't exist".  Perhaps he didn't mean it that way though.  Perhaps our friend Thought Provoker just meant that thinking is evidence of existence?  So, when he says "I (Thought Provoker) think, therefore I (Thought Provoker) am" he's essentially just saying "I (Thought Provoker) exist".  Well, since I know he exists, I'll grant his first premise:  "Thought Provoker exists".

Thought Provoker's second premise then is: "The truth is what I think is reality is actually reality".  Well, not in a rational universe it isn't.  In a rational universe, truth is demonstrable.  If someone gets drunk and sees pink elephants in the room, the rest of us can be sure that he is delusional.  That's because, in a rational universe, just because he sees pink elephants it doesn't mean those elephants are actually there.  We can see that there are no pink elephants in the room and we know from biology that pink elephants don't exist (unless painted that way).  However, in an irrational universe, truth is not demonstrable.  We can't know, in an irrational universe, whether there really are pink elephants or not.  That's because, in an irrational universe, everything can be true and nothing can be true (remember it's irrational!)  So Thought Provoker's second premise is only true in an irrational universe.

So what of his conclusion: "whatever I conclude is correct"?  Well let's restate his argument and see if the conclusion logically follows:
"I (Thought Provoker) exist in an irrational universe, therefore whatever I conclude is correct."
Wow!  What do you know?  His conclusion does follow from his premises!


Thought Provoker said...

"cogito ergo sum"

From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy;

"RenĂ© Descartes (1596–1650) is widely regarded as the father of modern philosophy. His noteworthy contributions extend to mathematics and physics. This entry focuses on his philosophical contributions in the theory of knowledge.
Descartes' internalism requires that all justifying factors take the form of ideas. For he holds that ideas are, strictly speaking, the only objects of immediate perception, or conscious awareness.
Descartes regards the ‘cogito’ (as I shall refer to it) as the “first and most certain of all to occur to anyone who philosophizes in an orderly way” (Prin. 1:7, AT 8a:7). Testing the cogito by means of methodic doubt is supposed to reveal its unshakable certainty. As earlier noted, the existence of my body is subject to doubt. The existence of my thinking, however, is not. The very attempt at thinking away my thinking is indeed self-stultifying.

The cogito raises numerous philosophical questions and has generated an enormous literature. In summary fashion, I'll try to clarify a few central points.

First, a first-person formulation is essential to the certainty of the cogito. Third-person claims, such as “Icarus thinks,” or “Descartes thinks,” are not unshakably certain — not for me, at any rate; only the occurrence of my thought has a chance of resisting hyperbolic doubt. There are a number of passages in which Descartes refers to a third-person version of the cogito. But none of these occurs in the context of establishing the actual existence of a particular thinker (in contrast with the conditional, general result that whatever thinks exists).

Second, a present tense formulation is essential to the certainty of the cogito. It's no good to reason that “I existed last Tuesday, since I recall my thinking on that day.” For all I Know, I'm now merely dreaming about that occasion. Nor does it work to reason that “I'll continue to exist, since I'm now thinking.” As the meditator remarks, “it could be that were I totally to cease from thinking, I should totally cease to exist” (Med. 2, AT 7:27). The privileged certainty of the cogito is grounded in the “manifest contradiction” (cf. AT 7:36) of trying to think away my present thinking.

Third, the certainty of the cogito depends on being formulated in terms of my cogitatio — i.e., my thinking, or awareness/consciousness more generally. Any mode of thinking is sufficient, including doubting, affirming, denying, willing, understanding, imagining, and so on (cf. Med. 2, AT 7:28). My non thinking activities, however, are insufficient."

All that from a few simple words.

I have little doubt you will quickly claim to have intimate knowledge of Descartes' ideas on internalism. Or are you going to suggest Descartes was a “fool”?

I know my consciousness exists. My body's existence is in doubt. My true self, my consciousness is not.

The reason I brought this up in the other thread is because of your insistence I prove a negative. You insisted I must disprove your (and Aquinas') premise.

In this thread you didn't disprove my premise, you offered an alternative.

You followed up by cajoling the audience to agree your alternative makes more sense than mine.

Aquinas' fifth way isn't fundamentally distinct from a simple declaration that "nature looks designed because it is designed" in hopes people will agree with it.

As a “proof” it is just as valid as my faux argument that whatever I conclude is correct.

I'm glad my extreme example has at least the opportunity to accomplish what I intended when I offered it. That is... provoke thinking.

Daniel Smith said...

Or are you going to suggest Descartes was a “fool”?

Like you suggest of Aquinas? (with his "question begging" and "assumed conclusions"?)

Descartes rejects the rational world - as do you. He truly is the father of modern (useless) philosophy. The "problems" of modern philosophy often stem from its rejection of Aristotelian forms, essences and final causes. Things don't make sense if you start from a place where nothing is certain - where there are no first principles.

Thought Provoker said...

This is getting somewhat amusing.

Was Socrates also a fool?

"Chaerophon visits the Oracle of Delphi and asks if anyone in Athens is wiser than Socrates. The Oracle answered that no one is wiser than Socrates. Socrates made it his mission in life to test and understand the Oracle's pronouncement. He seeks out people who have a reputation for wisdom in various regards and tests their claims to knowledge through questioning. He discovers a good deal of vain ignorance and false claims to knowledge, but no one with genuine wisdom. Ultimately, Socrates concludes that he is wisest; but not because he possesses special knowledge not had by others. Rather he finds that he is wisest because he recognizes his own lack of knowledge while others think they know, but do not." link

You might want to re-evaluation your opinion that I don't "...have much use for philosophy."

Frankly, I have a rather high opinion of the enigmatic philosopher generally known as the "Father of Western Philosophy".

I think we all could learn something from the idea that it is a wise man who knows he doesn’t know.

Daniel Smith said...

"Was Socrates also a fool?"

What does that have to do with anything said so far - in this thread or the other?

Are you comparing yourself to Socrates?

Are you claiming that Socrates had the same philosophy as you and Descartes?

What in the heck are you talking about?

Thought Provoker said...

Hi Daniel...

You wrote...
"What does that have to do with anything said so far - in this thread or the other?"

From the quotation you probably skipped over...
"Ultimately, Socrates concludes that he is wisest; but not because he possesses special knowledge not had by others. Rather he finds that he is wisest because he recognizes his own lack of knowledge while others think they know, but do not."

"Are you comparing yourself to Socrates?"

I am comparing my philosophical outlook to Socrates in a similar fashion as you do with Aquinas.

"Are you claiming that Socrates had the same philosophy as you and Descartes?"

I doubt any two people have the same philosophy. On top of that, personal philosophies change with increasing wisdom.

"What in the heck are you talking about?"

Are you feeling provoked into expanding your independent thought processes yet?

Daniel Smith said...

"From the quotation you probably skipped over..."

No, I saw that and still can't figure out how the quote is relevant.

I showed that your argument is only true in an irrational world. You blew right by that and started talking about how Socrates figured out how wise he was because he recognized how wrong he was. The problem is that you want to apply Socrates' wisdom to me. Another great philosopher once said "first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye".

Thought Provoker said...


I'm not even sure I have an eye.

Maybe what I see in the mirror is an illusion.

The best we can do is make assumptions and play the game as if the illusions are actually real. At least until we find out otherwise.

Daniel Smith said...

You've said it all right there now haven't you?

A word of advice: Don't shoot the pink elephants (they're not real!)