In the article “sensations and brain processes” Smart makes very good argument against the belief of dualism. While he explores many different ideas and concepts one that I found interesting was Smart’s reference to Occum’s Razor. While he explains that dualism could be indeed the case it is a lot simpler to assume that it is not. I found the following passage to be a great illustration of the problem that we face if we choose to adopt dualism.
“Let us suppose that it is held that the universe just began in 4004 B.C. with the initial conditions just everywhere as they were in 4004 B.C., and in particular that our own planet began with sediment in the rivers, eroded cliffs, fossils in the rocks, and so on. No scientist would ever entertain this as a serious hypothesis, consistent though it is with all possible evidence. The hypothesis offends against the principles of parsimony and simplicity.”
I feel that this idea is also a basis for why we should not believe in many of the skeptical ideas that we vastly deceived about the state of the world. For example ideas that our lives could be an episode of the Truman show, an ancestor simulation, or that we are a brain in a vat are all in a sense irrefutable claims. However due the principle of Occum’s Razor many do not believe these theories. I feel that this is a very important idea to consider in our basis for knowledge. Just because something cannot be disproved does not mean that we should believe that it may in fact be true. However I would not venture to make the opposite claim that the absence of evidence means that something is not true.
What I also found interesting and confusing about the article is the necessity of need to define certain words .For example Smart feels the necessity to define how he is using the word “is” to mean strict identity. For example like in class we discussed the difference between the factive and non-factive “see” in class. “Seeing” something while tripping on acid is “seeing” in the non-factive sense. I think that one of the reasons many of the concepts of the mind are non-intuitive to us naturally is the fact that much of the vocabulary to clearly describe the processes is non-existent. The vocabulary to describe these non-intuitive nuisances is only made in order to describe these points. After observing these problems I suspect that much of our viewpoints about the world are limited due to our limited vocabulary. For example while the “category problem” discussed in the Ryle reading is easy to understand by giving an example, the definition of the Ryle’s category problem is a lot harder to grasp. I suspect that many philosophical questions maybe be similar in nature. Some problems may be such no examples of natural phenomenon and no vocabulary has been created to explain the problem. If this is the case problems such as these may be very hard to define or solve.
In this week’s reading “Certainty” by Moore, Moore touches on many philosophy questions, such as the nature of dreams, certainty, and sensory perception. I would like to comment on the points of his argument where he claims that an opposite claim from his is no better than his claim. For example, he claims that his argument “I know that I am standing up, and therefore I know that I am not dreaming” and “You don’t know that you are not dreaming, and therefore don’t know that you are standing up” are equally valid claims (Moore 364).It seems that only one of the two claims can be true, since Moore can either know or not know that he is standing, and Moore can be dreaming or not dreaming. The binomial statuses of standing, dreaming, and knowing ensure that these two claims are mutually exclusive. Moore’s argument can be written like this
- If I don’t know that I am not dreaming, then I don’t know that I am standing up.
- I know that I am standing up.
- .: I know that I am not dreaming.
While this is formally valid argument Moore does not discuss how he know that he is standing up. Since this is not discussed he is unable to create the sort of “certainty” that the article suggests.
I feel that the lack of certainty and doubt about these claims touches on a point similar to one that Descartes raised “there may be reasons which are strong enough to compel us to doubt, even though these reasons are themselves doubtful, and hence are not to be retained later on” (Oeuvres de Descartes, Adam, Charles, and Paul Tannery, (eds.) 1904. Paris: J. Vrin 7:473–74). If a skeptical argument relies on the universality of doubt and the doubt itself is doubtful, then the original arguments have little foundation to rely on. If you have reasons to believe a claim, such as “I am standing”, but only doubtful reasons to believe the contrary, then perhaps it make sense to believe the original claim despite the lack of “certainty”. Unless we can create a certain universal rule on how we can acquire knowledge, we will have a hard time disproving a skeptical hypothesis, since we may be simply deceived in what we actually know.
Also the conclusion of this claim seems to go against intuition. The first claim makes “knowing that he is standing” and “knowing that he is dreaming” mutually exclusive. However this doesn’t seem to always be the case. Moore discusses a situation in which a duke dreamt that he was standing up talking in the house of lords, and then woke up and was talking in the house of lords (Moore 362). In this situation, the duke is both standing up and dreaming. If this Duke were then given all the knowledge of his situation by any means whether it is divine intervention or deep contemplation, would it not follow that he would both know that “he is standing” and that “he is dreaming”? Why then is Moore’s knowledge that he is standing strong enough to cause entailment in his claim “I know that I am standing up, and therefore I know that I am not dreaming”?