An Introduction to Philosophy Part 3 Epistemology 3 - Transcript

Introduction and transition to the realm of concepts

[Stef is wearing shades]

[0:00] What's up, homies? Decided to start wrapping the next part.
Okay, just kidding. It's Stef from Free Domain Radio. Hope you're doing well.
We are going to make the transition today from mere epistemology.
We're going to start to curl our way slowly towards the realm of ethics.
But in order to do that, we have to take a little stop off, you might say, in the wonderful realm realm of concepts.
Now, I know that I've talked about concepts quite a bit, both in my podcasts, and there's an earlier video on YouTube and Google Video around the nature of concepts.
But it's very important to understand, and I think it's often overcomplicated.
And we're sort of just talking about the what at the moment.
We're not really talking about the why in terms of overcomplication.
But I think that you can probably quite well understand that overcomplication usually arises from people who have something to hide or a motive that they don't really want to have revealed and so on.
People don't tend to overcomplicate stuff that they want to make clear.
They tend to overcomplicate stuff which they want to be obscure for a variety of reasons, which we can talk in probably not this one and probably not the next one, but the one after. So hang in there. There's good stuff coming.

Moving towards defining what ethics are not

[1:21] So, as far as concepts go, we're going to start to continue working with the fruit, because it doesn't have really a logo.
And so, we're going to keep working with this, and I'm sorry to those who are only listening to the audio, because, boy, the visuals are beyond stunning.
But um let's start looking at the realm of concepts within the realm of human knowledge and then we can start to move into the realm of beginning to define what things are not in terms of ethics and the correct or right or proper uh preferred behavior for human beings and we won't get until probably the next videocast or podcast into you know the positive sense of ethics or or obligations towards us, which we should fulfill if we want to be ethical.
But we'll at least talk about what ethics are not so far.

[2:15] So let's have a look at...
A bunch of bananas. I think this is technically called a bunch of bananas.
And I want you to remember that the truth statements, which we talked about in the last two shows, the truth statements that we like to deal with in the realm of philosophy have to do with the relationship or the confluence or the accuracy with which our ideas, the ideas in our head, describe.

[2:44] Atoms and energy in the real world.
That is what we call truth.
And the reason for that is that you have to have an objective criteria in order to have something called truth.
That's how we know that truth is different from opinion.
And so, when we are talking about the idea of truth in an epistemological sense or philosophical sense, what we're describing is the relationship between ideas in our head and external matter and energy things in the real world.

The scientific method as an outgrowth of the concept of truth

[3:12] Of course, this is the basis of the scientific method, the scientific method, I would say, is an outgrowth of this basic principle within philosophy, that truth is a measure of the accuracy of ideas in relation to the real world.
Now, it's not a measure, and it can't be a measure of our ideas in relationship just to other ideas that we have.
So if I say to you, I'm thinking of the color blue right now.

[3:36] Is there, I mean, let's assume that there's no fMRI kind of thing that can determine whether whether I'm actually thinking of the color blue.
But if I just say, ladies and gentlemen, I'm thinking of the color blue right now, there's really no way to prove or disprove whether or not that is the case.
You could say, if you wanted to get Chomsky-like tricky, that you can't say the color blue without thinking about it to some degree.
And that's why in the last one I talked about, in 20 minutes I'll be thinking about the color blue. You interrupt me in 20 minutes and say, were you thinking about the color blue? I say, oh yeah, absolutely.
Although, of course, my thoughts run so quickly, the odds of me still, even if I wanted to, thinking about it in 20 minutes, are pretty low.

[4:15] So in order to have truth, we have to have verifiability.
And verifiability can only be possible if we recognize that truth is a relationship between our ideas and the material world.

Describing the properties of a bunch of bananas

[4:29] So to get back to our lovely bunch of bananas, I think that it's important to understand that when we talk about, let's start off with philosophically discreet objects, we talk about one banana, that this banana has matter and energy and a fine taste and good source of potassium.
And so if we take a look at this one banana, it has matter and its energy.
We can describe its properties. It's yellow, it's slightly curved, and so it's got a bitter outside and oh-so-tasty inside. We have one banana.

[5:01] Now, if we take another banana and we hold it up right next to ye olde original banana, then what we can see is that, you know, whether they're close, whether they're together, they can't bump through each other, right?
They can't pass through each other. They can't merge into my hands.
I guess I could squish them, but ew.
And so when we have one banana, we are describing as an instance of a banana, yellow and curved and tasty or whatever, a member of the fruit family.
And when we're talking about two bananas we're talking about two instances of the same dang thing this is very very sort of important to understand when we get to politics a little bit later we have one banana we have two bananas now let's uh magically turn to the somewhat diminished bunch of bananas from which i had been peeling bananas from and now we have a bunch of bananas right there there are bananas discrete bananas that are attached at the stem which was It was pulled from the tree, I guess, and may have housed a tarantula, a Tuareg de Herrick Balafonte.

Individual properties of bananas within a bunch

[6:00] So we now have a bunch of bananas, and they're joined at the top, as you can see.
Now, a bunch of bananas is still just a description of matter and energy, right?
So if I separate all of these bananas out, now I have four separate bananas.

[6:21] It's a lot to hang on to here. So we start to have four bananas.
Now, as I move these bananas closer, their physical properties do not change, right?
It's not like I have bananas on either side of the screen here, and then I start to move them closer and closer, and they turn into something completely different.
Venetian blinds, or a bat, or they suddenly are repelled by gravity instead.
So it's just important to understand that when we start to talk about groups of things, groups, bunches of bananas, a flock of sheep, a forest of trees, a crowd of people.

[7:03] That each individual thing has its distinct physical properties, matter and energy, and when we begin to bring them closer together in our mind, we do not change the fundamental nature of the things that we are describing.
These are bananas, right?

Proximity of bananas in a bunch doesn't change their properties

[7:19] Uno banana, and then more than uno banana, a bunch of bananas.
You get them together. Each individual banana has not changed its properties by becoming closer in proximity to other bananas.
I know this all sounds pretty obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people would forget this when they start to talk about ethics and politics and so on.

[7:37] Each individual banana has properties. Now, if you wanted to get really fussy, and I don't mind if you do, then you could say, well, as you bring these bananas closer together, then the minor tiny gravitational forces that they pull on each other, blah, blah, blah, will, you know, occur and so on.
And that's fine, but we're still not changing each banana's fundamental properties.
There's one tiny little additional, I don't even know if it'd be measurable, additional force that is brought to bear on them, which is gravity.
But the bananas themselves do not change their properties when they get closer to each other right so it's not like banana banana banana oh my god it's a bunch of bananas that can now fly i mean these things don't don't happen all that's happening is they're getting approximately closer in material reality and then within our own minds we can begin to call these bananas a bunch or a group or something like that and the reason that you can try this if you want right you can try Try this if you want, and this is a sort of ridiculous but important experiment, just to sort of think about it, right?

Experiment on the relationship between concepts and reality

[8:37] So, the question of whether concepts trump reality is a testable one, right?
So, I hold up this banana. Oh, sorry, this is just for those who may have been a couple of days since they saw the last one, although I'm sure you're all watching this back-to-back in sequence.
We talked about in any conflict between concepts and objects in the real world concepts are the ones that have to be refined to further match what goes on in the real world because concepts are derived ideas are derived from the behavior of matter and energy in the real world so in any conflict between the two you kind of have to go with the real world as trumping ideas within your your head, right?
So, let's do this very brief experiment, right?
And what I'm going to do, I'm going to hold up this banana, and you can now see something in a moment that I can't.

Introduction to the concept of banana politics

[9:30] It's philosophically something that's valid to sort of think about, and we'll get more into banana politics in a moment.
Banana Republic? Who knows? So what I'm going to do is hold this banana up, right?
I'm going to close my eyes. I now cannot see the banana. I can feel the banana, so let me just move my fingers just down to the very tippy-tip so I can feel the banana.
And now I'm going to concentrate all of my will into believing that this banana is an orange. Oh, it's an orange!

[9:57] Orange! orange, tasty vitamin C, citrus, oh, ah, right?
Now, I don't think it turned to an orange while I was concentrating.
And of course, you can view the video evidence, if you don't believe me, on the audio tracks, that it did not turn into an orange while I concentrated on it becoming an orange, right?
So in this instance, the ideas in my head did not correlate with what actually was in reality, which was that the banana stayed a banana the whole time I was trying to turn it into an orange within my mind.
And I know that this sounds kind of silly, but you'd be really surprised when we start looking into how many times you think that when you get a bunch of bananas together, something different happens to each individual banana.
And also, you'd be very surprised how many times when your eyes are closed, you think that a banana is an orange.
So, I guess it's kind of like a trick, but you really would be surprised when you look at these particular instances of base material objects in front of your eyes and in your ears, you'd be be amazed, and as we go forward, just how many times you think that bunches of bananas are somehow different from the individual bananas that compose them, and also you'd be shocked at how many times you think a banana is orange because your eyes are closed, or if you willfully close your eyes that you can make it that way.
Now, for the next prop, I'm just going to have a sip of coffee.

[11:11] Uh, so, so now I think that it's important to sort of take the next step.

Recognizing the possibility of human error

[11:17] So once we recognize that the human mind is capable of error, and that when there is error, we know that error occurs because the ideas within our own heads contradict the behavior of matter, which we get through the evidence of our senses.
There is error, as we talked about way back at the beginning, six or seven of these ago. go.
There's an ideal state, which is truth, accuracy, integrity, honesty, whatever you want to call it, but I think we know what we're talking about.
There's an ideal state, and then there's the state that we're at in terms of our ideas.
The ideal state is conformity with the objects that exist in the world, accuracy in describing them, and so on, and also conformity with the principles which we derive from the behavior of matter and energy in the world, which is logic, empirical rational logic so things have to be logical verifiable by the senses everything is false it has a null hypothesis which which is is it logical and is it validated by the senses that's our ideal and then we have this thing that we're in and there's a way of closing that gap it's not easy to do otherwise uh there would be no need for um shows like this i guess you could say it's not easy to do but it's certainly possible to do certainly possible to do it so So, let's start moving on about some ways in which we can begin to use these ideas to validate a few concepts.

Using philosophy to validate concepts, starting with ghosts

[12:47] So, let's take the example of ghosts, right?
I mean, this is a common belief among certain groups of people that ghosts exist.

[12:59] And there are certain properties that ghosts have that are pretty common.
So, the ghost is the departed spirit or soul of, I guess, the continuance of somebody's life essence after they've died, right?
So, after you die, your soul gets out.

[13:21] Planks, chains, and so on. And the question that we can begin to examine is, how would we use the ideas that we've been developing in terms of philosophy to begin to understand something like ghosts?
Well, the first thing that you would do is you would say, okay, well, we've got these two criteria, which are, you know, very much interrelated, very much derived from each other, are very much one derived from the other.
We have sensual evidence, evidence in the real world, and we have logic. We have logic.
And so, when we start to think about something like ghosts, we can begin to use these particular approaches to begin to understand the possibility of whether ghosts exist.

Applying sensual evidence and logic to examine ghosts

[14:07] And the way that I would approach it would be something like this.
Okay, first and and foremost, is there sensual evidence for the existence of ghosts, right?
The first thing is, do they appear within reality as measurable by the evidence of the senses, if not directly, then indirectly through, what do they call it, the spectra detector, or something like that?
Is there some sort of instrument that you can point at them the same way that you can look through a sort of infrared microscope, telescopes, and so on, and see things that you couldn't see through the naked eye, then you would say, is there some way that we can translate the supposed existence of this kind of entity into sensual evidence that can be recorded, reproduced, so on?
And, of course, the answer is no.

[14:55] And then we have the problem.
It's not necessarily the case that just because we can't in any way translate something into physical evidence right now, Now, there's no...
That doesn't mean that it's never going to exist. It doesn't mean that it's never going to exist.
So, for instance, I'll just sort of make something up here that...

[15:19] Can't see right now but doesn't mean that it doesn't exist i know there's a debate going on right now about whether pluto is a planet or a cartoon character but let's just say pluto is a planet just before just beyond the other side of pluto is another really tiny asteroid that moves in a direct orbit and which always means that it's obscured from the view of earth uh by pluto right so there's there's earth right somewhere let's make this earth right and then there's There's Pluto sort of out here, and then somewhere beyond Pluto, actually it would be this side, right, so here, there we go, this guy is the rock that is on the other side of Pluto.

The possibility of existence without direct sensual evidence

[15:54] Every time Pluto goes around the Earth, it's always obscuring, it's always being eclipsed by Pluto.

[16:00] Well, there's no way to translate that rock into direct physical, sensual evidence right now.
I'm no astronomer, maybe there is, but I don't think there is.
I mean, obviously you can fly out at some point in your Zoomy spacecraft and have a a look at it, or maybe you could find its effect on the orbit of Pluto.
I think that's how they found some of the secondary black holes around certain stars, as they looked for the wobble of the star on its axis, for the local and invisible gravitational force, and so on.
But if there was a rock on the far side of Pluto moving in a directly synchronous orbit that always kept Pluto between us and seeing it, then we would not have direct sensual evidence for the existence of of that rock, but the existence of that rock would not violate existing and known laws of physics, right?
So, if, on the other hand, I said that there is a rock beyond the orbit of Pluto that we can't see, and it exists, and its properties are this.
It is both fire and ice simultaneously, It is both a sphere and a cube simultaneously, and it is both a liquid and a gas and a solid simultaneously.
Well, then you'd have a little bit more trouble saying that this thing existed, because you didn't have sensual evidence for it.

[17:22] But you're also claiming that it has contradictory properties, or properties which contradict every other known form of matter or energy.

[17:31] And that is going to be a tricky case to make, let's just say.
It's going to be a little bit of a tricky case to make.
So that's a very important thing.

Direct sensual evidence and self-contradictory properties determine existence

[17:41] Direct sensual evidence is not required for the possibility of something existing.
However, if no direct sensual evidence is there, and the nature or the properties of that which you claim exists are self-contradictory, then it doesn't exist.
I'm going to go right out on that limb here and wait for the emails of correction to pour in.
But if you don't have direct sensual evidence for something, or indirect sensual evidence in the form of some, you know, you can turn light, you can turn sound into.

[18:15] Your eyes, and so on, and what you claim exists directly contradicts the properties of all-known matter, and the scientific principles for which get-out-of-jail-free cards have not been discovered, the iron laws of physics, then you're going to have a lot of trouble making that case, and nobody has to believe that such a thing exists.
Now, to take sort of another example, example if the reverse happens you can't see it with your eyes sorry you can see it with your eyes and it seems to contradict all known laws of physics then it does exist right because materially and sensually it can be determined to exist independent of our consciousness then it does exist in the real world and you're going to have quite a nobel prize in science for figuring out what the heck is going on.

Sensual evidence and known laws of physics determine existence

[19:05] So to take a rather simple example, everyone, let's just say that you're a guy who's never encountered a helium balloon, right?
Or something like that. And you believe that everything falls down.
But then you come across a helium balloon, which floats up.

[19:19] Okay, so now we don't have the belief that everything falls down.
Now, things also float up. Now, I don't think you'd want to just say, well, everything falls down.
That's the general rule. but you know there are a couple of exceptions which we're not even going to bother try to explain they just sort of let's just take it for granted that there are a few exceptions which we can't explain stuff floats up no what you'd want to do of course is you want to investigate the helium balloon that floats up and of course you're going to end up with a much richer and deeper and more factual appreciation and explanation of the laws of physics when you begin to investigate you know encapsulating a gas that's lighter than air and therefore it seems to define gravity and and so on.
But it's not defying gravity, it's just that the upward pressure is greater than the downward pressure, and the pressure of the atmosphere is squeezing the helium balloon up.

[20:07] So it's certainly possible that you can observe something that defies all known laws of physics, or at least is a bit of a deviation from them, and that's all very good if you, as long as you sort of recognize that you still have to organize these things logically.

Theory of Relativity and Newtonian Physics

[20:25] Of course, this was the the whole idea behind the theory of relativity versus Newtonian physics, right?
Theory of relativity explains certain things which couldn't be explained through Newtonian physics. It doesn't mean that Newtonian physics is completely invalid.
I mean, sailors still use it to navigate because they don't have to worry about going.

Expanding the Definition of the Laws of Physics

[20:43] It's fine if you see something and can measure it and reproduce it, which defies all known laws of physics.
It just means that you've got to expand your definition of the laws of physics and figure out what's going on. Well, you don't have to, but it would be, I think, useful to do that.
So, to return to our good friends, the ghosts, we have two problems with the existence of something called a ghost.
The first is that there is no way to reproduce any sensual evidence of a ghost.

[21:15] And that's fairly important. If the ghost impresses itself upon our senses, right?
So people say, I see a ghost. I hear a ghost.
I guess some people even say, well, I stand in a room and I get all chilly because I'm standing inside a ghost's innards or something like that.
Or they say, my dog, whenever midnight occurs on the second Thursday of every blue moon month, my dog goes into the corner and growls at a spot and all this kind of stuff.
Well, in order for ghosts to exist in our minds as something that exists outside of our minds, in other words, in order for us to believe that ghosts are not mere hallucinations or phantasms within our own mind, You have a nap and you have a dream that you're sitting in the chair that you fell asleep in, but you think you're awake, you see a ghost, you wake up, and you don't remember the transition.
Then, of course, what's going to happen is that you end up believing that you've seen a ghost, but of course, if you remember falling asleep and waking up, you just recognize it.

[22:21] If you believe that you've seen a ghost with your eyes or heard it with your ears in an objective way then you have the challenge of reproducibility if you can't reproduce it in any way shape or form then you have to assume that you fell asleep it was a trick of your ears something happened you're under great stress you're having hallucinations you might need to get medically checked out or whatever but if the ghost impresses itself upon your senses and you believe that man exists in in the external world and is communicating or impressing itself upon you in some manner, then it has to be reproducible.
Of course, if it's not reproducible, then it's not the behavior of matter, right?

Ghosts and the Laws of Matter, Energy, and Biology

[23:02] We don't notice matter popping in and out of existence all the time, right?
I've had conversations with people who seem to be like bad TV sets, sort of, they get all staticky, they fade out, they beam back, they, you know, they don't sort of zoom in, zoom out.
So, and we We know that based on the sort of second law of thermodynamics, that you can't have matter popping in and out of existence, right?
Matter can't be created or destroyed, merely converted to energy and bad.

[23:27] So we know that matter can't pop in and out of existence.
And so if you have a theory which says that a ghost appears and then it disappears and this and that and the other, then you're going to have a real problem making that case in a believable kind of way.
Because you claim, first of all, that the ghost has impressed itself on your senses in some manner. You saw the ghost. You heard the ghost.

[23:52] So it must exist in the real world, therefore it must be composed of matter or energy in some manner that you can perceive, right?
Because if there were ghosts around us that were completely invisible to all of our senses, then we would have no idea that ghosts existed, right?
If there were millions of ghosts in this room right now, and they never impressed upon my senses in any way, shape, or form, obviously there'd be no null hypothesis, you could never disprove their existence.
Existence but the moment that a ghost impresses itself upon my mind through my senses then it must be composed of matter and energy because that's what our senses recognize and therefore it must be subject to the laws of matter and energy one of which is a you can't pop in and out of existence at will you can't walk through walls you can't any of these kinds of things right so you've got something which is uh not directly measurable by the senses no ghost has ever been unverifiably measured, and also you have something which is claimed to defy all of the known laws of physics.
So it's like that moon beyond Pluto that is round and square and gaseous and solid and liquid simultaneous and blah blah blah on fire and ice at the same time.

[25:04] So when it comes to making sort of claims about a statement of truth called ghosts exist, then you also are not only subject to the laws of physics, but once you start to talk about things like ghosts, you're also subject to the laws of biology.

[25:23] Now, the laws of biology are pretty clear on, I mean, there's some great areas, but they're pretty clear on some of the basics.
And some of the basics of this, you can't live without sustenance, right?
Every creature, in order to continue its biological existence in life, has to ingest energy in order to, because it's expending energy on a continual basis and so ghosts don't eat right i mean as far as we can tell you don't sort of say i know that there's a ghost in my house because my snickers bars keep going missing right that's not really the way that they sort of drift around in this ethereal way and they don't eat right so they, don't expel waste they don't defecate or urinate so uh that's another sort of indication that they're not so much with the laws of physics although of course they're claimed to be alive for.

[26:12] Also, there is no example that we have in the realm of biology or physics, really, but biology, wherein we have life without material form, right?
Millions of species throughout the world. Tons of insects and reptiles and mammals and so on.
And among those millions and millions of species, there's not one that has life without material form.
So ghosts are obviously conceived as things which are alive and then you have a pretty fundamental problem because then you're saying that life or consciousness can exist without material form and by material form i mean either energy or matter and the reason that we can obviously matter we can't touch a ghost and my hands go through it that's the idea but also we know that ghosts Ghosts don't exist because we can't measure any energy footprint of a ghost or anything like that.
And even if we could, we'd still have a problem explaining consciousness that exists in the absence of any kind of material form.
There's no possible example of that in the realm of biology.

[27:24] So consciousness, life, requires matter and energy in particular configurations.
It requires ingestion. and expulsion of waste. I mean, there's lots and lots of things that go around defining life as opposed to like a rock.
But this is a way that you can begin to use philosophy to begin to examine the claims that are put forward by people to understand whether they're true or whether they're false.

[27:54] You can do this with lots of different kinds of ideas or concepts and so on, and we can sort of move forward through them as we go ahead.
But I just sort of wanted to point out, this is a good way of beginning to take this sort of philosophy that what exists in the real world is valid, and that truth is a statement of either the accuracy of our concepts with relation to the real world, or the accuracy of our concepts with relation to objective reason, which is derived from the behavior of matter and energy in the real world.
We have to have some external validatory capacity to check the truth or false value of our statements.
It can't just sort of be made up, that would just be the same as saying opinion.

[28:38] So in the example of ghosts, we've got they either have to be rational, which means that they can't be entities which contradict all the known properties of matter and energy, and or, I guess you could say, they at least have to be centrally validatable.
You have to to be able to see them or hear them or touch them or measure them in some capacity.
Because if you can, then you've got an indication that they exist in the real world.
And even if they then seem to contradict all the known properties of matter and biology, you could at least begin to explore those with some sort of objective criteria.

[29:06] So I hope that this has been helpful. I really, really appreciate you plugging through all of this stuff.
I know that we've been talking about ghosts and bananas, which are number one, of course, in most people's exploration of what is important about philosophy.
We really are laying the foundations here for some pretty powerful ideas which we're going to be moving into with relation to things like ethics and politics and so on.
So, thank you so much for listening as always. I hope that you're doing fantastically and I will see you next round. Thanks again.

Blog Categories

May 2024
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Recent Comments

    Join Stefan Molyneux's Freedomain Community

    Become a part of the movement. Get exclusive content. Interact with Stefan Molyneux.
    Become A Member
    Already have an account? Log in
    Let me view this content first