OK now we're getting somewhere. I like what this guy is on about. A bit from Wik below - but there is lots more on the wik page. I like this stuff, and wouldn't mind having a discussion about this further from those interested or who can express their own understanding of this philosophical perspective - and it's implications for life generally and personally.

This from Wik:

Sextus Empiricus raised concerns which applied to all types of knowledge. He doubted the validity of induction[2] long before its best known critic David Hume, and raised the regress argument against all forms of reasoning:

Those who claim for themselves to judge the truth are bound to possess a criterion of truth. This criterion, then, either is without a judge's approval or has been approved. But if it is without approval, whence comes it that it is truthworthy? For no matter of dispute is to be trusted without judging. And, if it has been approved, that which approves it, in turn, either has been approved or has not been approved, and so on ad infinitum.[3]
Because of these and other barriers to acquiring true beliefs, Sextus Empiricus advises[4] that we should suspend judgment about virtually all beliefs, that is, we should neither affirm any belief as true nor deny any belief as false. This view is known as Pyrrhonian skepticism, as distinguished from Academic skepticism, as practiced by Carneades, which, according to Sextus, denies knowledge altogether. Sextus did not deny the possibility of knowledge. He criticizes the Academic skeptic's claim that nothing is knowable as being an affirmative belief. Instead, Sextus advocates simply giving up belief: that is, suspending judgment about whether or not anything is knowable.[5] Only by suspending judgment can we attain a state of ataraxia (roughly, 'peace of mind'). Sextus did not think such a general suspension of judgment to be impractical, since we may live without any beliefs, acting by habit.

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Comment by John Camilli on February 27, 2011 at 6:56am

Don't be fooled Alice, there's no such thing as a non-contradictory model for all of our observations. Consider that the Standard model doesn't predict the existence of dark matter or dark energy, yet we see gravitational effects that far outweigh visible matter and we see an increasing acceleration the closer we get the edge of the observable universe. There's no explanation for either, which is why we call them "dark." There are guesses, like supersymmetry, but we have never been able to test it.


The model also predicts the Higgs as the gauge boson responsible for mass, but we've yet to observe one of those either. And if we find them at CERN, we'll still be left wondering how this particle contributes the effect of gravity. Gravity is literally left out of the Standard right now. There's the Standard model and there's Relativity, but the two are incompatible.


The model also predicts a finite lifespan for the proton, as one of several possible explanations for the matter/anti-matter disparity in the universe, but we have yet to observe a single proton decay. According to The Standard, there shouldn't even be a different amount of matter than anti-matter, yet obviously there is. And there's more: we don't really know what's happening at the Planck scale - why particles seem to pop in and out of existence, or where they go. We don't know how quantum entanglement allows information to travel at superluminal speeds, or how quantum tunneling works. We don't even really understand wave/particle duality - how a thing can behave as if it is in one locality and everywhere at the once.


There are lots of BIG holes in our least contradictory theories. So if things have the identities that they seem to have to us, then reality isn't logical. And the alternative that Michael refuses to see is that we aren't logical; are not even capable of real logic, only guesses and beliefs.

Comment by MCT on February 27, 2011 at 3:48am

AC, continued,

t. We use our implicit knowledge of identity and causality and conceptualize patterns of perceptions of the real world and integrate in a noncontradictory fashion into a knowledge base by reason and logic. This is how we gain objective knowledge. The specific patterns of perceptions are different because of our uniquely subjective view, but the knowledge, if it is knowledge and integrates without contradiction, is itself objective. The more we know about the world, the more precise our knowledge can be said to be.


Additional thought:

Knowledge cannot be metaphorical. Only concrete language with nonarbitrary definitions can lead to knowledge. Metaphor, by definition, always includes nonessentials, i.e., follow your heart, spirit, soul....Theology claims knowledge by metaphor, in fact all sun god based religions, including Christianity, is simply the personification of the objects in the sky, a primitive attempt at understanding reality and making sense of the world. 


Comment by MCT on February 27, 2011 at 3:47am

AC, continued,

ans so successful and powerful. When they are not able to come to a logical conclusion that pleases them or integrates without contradiction, they use other means, either nonrational, like instinct, or irrational, like emotional or mystical. Often people don't have time to reason and must react with instinct or emotion. When the subject matter becomes extremely abstract and complex it becomes more difficult to make sense of the world. For millennia, humans have been slowly figuring shit out. The more they know something, the less irrational they are about it. It takes many many years to affect a change, partly because of the emotional connection people have to their causally developed indoctrinated irrational beliefs. The very foundations of their explicit convictions are built on invalid conclusions. The absence of a God is hurtful to a theist because their repeatedly reinforced foundational concepts were integrated into a worldview with mysticism at its core. We now know enough about our world and ourselves to demonstrate that it is only with the use of reason and logic that we can gain knowledge of the real world, some people are just unable to face it. People scorn the full commitment to reality and a celebration of reason and logic or a condemnation of faith, because it causes a gigantic contradiction to centrally held beliefs. This causes a negative emotional reaction, so they deny it. And as long as they use reason and logic to stay alive, there will be little incentive for them to reprogram their entire mind for the betterment of themselves and/or society. After all, everyone else around them is buying into the local brand of sky-daddy when it comes to a more comprehensive intellectually honest worldview. Why should they? Especially when they don't know their ass from a hole in the wall. We all have subjective views of this world, yes, but I believe there is one reality, it is objective and we can fairly easily have knowledge about i

Comment by MCT on February 27, 2011 at 3:45am


Some thoughts. I believe that our brains are organic pattern recognition machines that group patterns of perceptions into concepts by retaining essential similarities and discarding the measurements of those essential qualities, i.e., a key must open a lock, but it matters not the color it has, if one at all, or the shape it takes or the size it is. This is how we define concepts. A definition is the name given to a group of things that share essential qualities. Arbitrary, nonessential, qualities of a thing are often improperly added to words in modern culture. Like selfishness, it does not, by definition, entail hurting others, that is an arbitrary addition some think is a necessary consequence, but the only essential quality of selfishness is concern for one's self, that's it, not being mean or even only being concerned for one's self. People's arbitrary nonessential usage of definitions, imo, is an enormous part of the problem of philosophy, ethics and politics. Judgment, in and of itself, only entails measurement, assessment and truth, not whether something is good or not. That is value judgment, the judgement of whether or not something is a value or nonvalue. Value judgments are ethical by their nature and entail first having a standard or goal to begin with. If you judge something to be of value to you, whether or not this is helpful to others, then the attainment of this thing will bring about a positive emotion. The attainment of nonvalues or the nonattainment of values will both cause negative emotions. When we integrate new patterns or concepts into our knowledge base, with the use of reason and logic, or noncontradictory integration, we can better predict future events, making us more able to manipulate reality and thus more happy and successful. The vast majority of the time, especially in the 'day-to-day' living people do, people use their knowledge of causal law and reason to form concepts, think and make decisions. It is what makes hum

Comment by Alice on February 26, 2011 at 9:22pm

I've got a way to go though yet, in understanding how to contextualise my current worldview into an integrated world view based on my naturalistic beliefs.  As I am fully caused, by belief in naturalism alone doesn't automatically make all my thoughts and behaviours logically based on this belief and understanding.

Comment by Alice on February 26, 2011 at 9:20pm

Clarence -  the book sounds fascinating.  I think I might buy it.  Although my book budget has gone stupid since joining nexus.  But I’m think I’m due a new level of learning with all this stuff.  It will give me more grounding and confidence in my naturalistic understanding of the world.  Thanks for the tip.


John – LMHO – yes I can see that possibility – sometimes though I think my brains have fallen out already – thus the open mind!  I think my current ‘open mindedness’ is due to the fact that I know very little about philosophy or science, and so lack discrimination as to what is useful and what’s not.


Michael – I’m very interested in your views.  Our differences may lead from differences in meaning and use of words.  Also I lack understanding about your premises and would like to hear more about what you mean when you talk about conceptual contradictions causes negative emotions or mental suffering.


In terms of the use of the word judgement – I may use it in different terms to your terms.  So it would be useful for me to clarify what I mean by this – as I’m using it without clear definition.


I’m concerned about using the word judgement in terms of alienating us from our own needs or the needs of others.  In this sense it may relate to your suggestion of conceptual contradiction.  Meaning that if we are at odds with our own needs or the needs of others, then our thoughts are at odds with our needs.


My use of the word judgement in this context is in terms of subjective opinion such as – I like that red shirt you are wearing – it looks good on you.


I think this use of the word judgment is different to an ultimate judgement about whether gravity sucks or not.  I don’t suppose we can know anything other than subjectively – but I can agree that we share common judgments that can be then classified as objective and ultimate – such as the laws of physics.



Comment by MCT on February 26, 2011 at 3:59pm


Why are you so concerned with doubt? Suspending judgment is always unwise. Being too judgmental is like being too appropriate. Being non-judgmental is something the irrational portend to preclude others from judging them. Acting without reason and logic, which necessitate judgment, will make anyone dead very soon. I would suggest that it is conceptual contradiction that causes negative emotions, or mental suffering, not a lack of perfect knowledge or omniscience. Something is true or false as it compares to reality, the only absolute standard.

Comment by Clarence Dember on February 26, 2011 at 9:40am

I think the externalized expert or standard bearer is most necessary when one has no 1st person singular pronoun or prerogative to form what we refer to today as consciousness. In ancient Egypt only Pharaoh had this prerogative. Given successive collapses and coalition of societies over millenniums this analogue I or first person singular pronoun worked it's way into popular usage by those who would be their own standard bearers, or judges- the word you used.

More of this can be read in the fine work of Dr. Julian Jaynes, professor of anthropological psychology at Princeton University.    The book is "The Origins of Consciousness: in the breakdown of the Bicameral Mind".

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