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Thread: The last and final argument about reality.

  1. #6901
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    Quote Originally Posted by Len Moran View Post
    I wonder if realism (proper) gets a bit of a bad press sometimes. Does anyone know of any realists (who actually openly define themselves as realists) who are unaware that it is a philosophical structure?
    The problem is not that it doesn't know it is a philosophical structure, it is that it doesn't know it is a belief. In other words, it thinks it is different from other philosophical structures, like idealism-- realists invariably claim their philosophy enjoys some elevated truth status. We see this all the time, as in the Putnam quote above that realism is the only philosophy that doesn't need to invoke "miracles." Yeah, right-- realism begins with a miracle (that human minds can access true reality), and then after having swept that miracle under the rug, it can pretend it doesn't invoke miracles quite successfully.

    Of course, I never argue that realism is bad philosophy, I argue that the justifications people use to rationalize their realist beliefs are bad philosophy, because they ignore their own presumptions. I do argue that realism is bad science, but not that it is wrong science, merely that it has nothing to do with science-- but thinks it does.

    Karl Popper was a realist through and through, but he admits to it being a belief structure in his book "Unending Quest -An Intellectual Autobiography". This is what he wrote:

    "Apart from a restatement of my theory of knowledge, one of my aims in the Postscript was to show that the realism of my Logik der Forschung was a criticizable or arguable position. I stressed that Logik der Forschung was the book of a realist but that at that time I did not dare to say much about realism. The reason was that I had not then realized that a metaphysical position, though not testable, might be rationally criticizable or arguable. I had confessed to being a realist, but I had thought that this was no more than a confession of faith. Thus I had written about a realist argument of mine that it “expresses the metaphysical faith in the existence of regularities in our world (a faith which I share, and without which practical action is hardly conceivable)”.
    And I think Karl should have left it at that-- he was wise to adopt that earlier perspective! For it is very hard indeed to "criticize a metaphysical position", instead one can only criticize a metaphysical position that thinks it is a physical position (i.e., that thinks it's a scientific inference). About the only way to criticize a metaphysical position that knows it's a belief is to say "notice the logical ramifications of your position, do you really want to take those on board?" But if they say "yes, I'm fine with those ramifications," there's not much more to say. That's why I have not focused on my critique of realism, but rather on showing why it is not science.
    Realism has never had any need to account for its inability to produce a scientifically meaningful test of itself because it has never claimed to be a scientific structure.
    Ah, but there's the rub-- it does claim that, pretty much all the time. Even by philosophers! We've seen examples in this thread, including Putnam and Moore, who are philosophers, and we also saw it in the posts of many of the die-hard "science is realism" believers that we saw early in the thread (who left after discovering they could not find evidence to support their position). None of them could ever say "I have chosen realism", it was as though those words would have burned their tongues! Like Putnam, like Moore.
    Of course, in the light of MDR (if accepted as a scientific model) and QM, representative realism is (in my opinion) put under great strain. Not in terms of it being a belief (which MDR "allows"), but rather in terms of the severe contradiction between the belief of a representative realism and the scientific model of MDR. A bit like believing the earth is flat yet accepting a scientific model of a round earth.
    That's a sticky issue indeed, and it speaks to the question of whether a testable scientific theory can ever trump an untestable philosophical priority. I would tend to say it cannot, for if it could, it would be tantamount to testing the untestable. For example, it was long thought that quantum mechanics was inconsistent with the interpretation that particles follow definite trajectories, until Bohm came up with a way of doing it under certain conditions (it's a rather contrived approach, but it accomplishes its goal). Thus, I think someone who is committed to a certain belief can always find a way to interpret scientific data so as to be consistent with that belief. For that reason, when we say that the Earth "really is" 4.5 billion years old, what we really mean is that we have supplied a meaning for what "really is" that allows us to make new predictions and check them. When it works, we say we have a good scientific model. If we make the error of claiming that we have a handle on what "really is" in some MIR sense that transcends the scientific method, we make the same mistake as faith-based people who claim they have a handle on what "really is" in some MIR sense that supercedes the scientific method.
    Last edited by Ken G; 2015-Sep-14 at 07:56 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tashirosgt View Post
    For example, many human scientists reach conclusions by using the "frequentist" interpretation of probability theory rather than the Bayesian approach.
    And the denial required to not see that as an explicit example of the mind dependence of the probability concept is impressive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    The beauty of science is that its methods are objective.
    If you think the methods of science are mind dependent then presumably "objective" has different meanings to different people.

    One can actually point to them, you should try it. Scientific thinking does not look like "this is my opinion of what an empirical demonstration is, but I offer no evidence that this is what empirical demonstrations are", which is what your posts look like.
    Obviously I'm not going to waste my time providing "evidence" to someone who sets himself up as the final authority on what "evidence" is. Nor am I obligated to interpret the "evidence" that he presents the way he does.


    Mine look like "here is an empirical demonstration, like the moons of Jupiter-- but you have to actually look."
    One could interpret observations of the moons of Jupiter by various people as a confirmation of their mind independent existence. That's a good model for explaining some of their persistent properties.

    I have provided countless examples, and shown what is empirical about those examples.
    All you have is vague mentions of this group and that group, I just don't see any evidence behind anything you've said.
    I'm merely observing that your assertions rely on a consensus interpretation of many concepts. You don't acknowledge that your assertions make any assumptions. You claim your assertions are completely empirical, but that obviously depends on how people interpret things that are offered as evidence. If your argument boils down to "Just look and you will see I am correct" then it is an argument that can be used by a variety of people who have different opinions.

    (There was an attempt, many posts before, to describe a model of science based on a consensus of minds. I wasn't the person who proposed that model. )


    Here's the basic problem with scientific thinking, that all scientists encounter eventually (and Galileo encountered in spades): people cannot be convinced of anything if they refuse to do it.
    That's a basic problem encountered by unscientific thinking too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tashirosgt View Post
    All that is consistent with the view that "light" is MIR phenomenon and there various different models for it.
    It is also "consistent with" the view that a supreme being created all that light. What possible significance do you attribute with being able to see things as "consistent with" MIR belief? The whole reason that MIR belief is indeed belief, and not scientific, is that everything is "consistent with" it. So it is no surprise that light is. But the actual point of this thread is that when we look, we see the mind dependence in our various models of light, and one of the ways that mind dependence shows up is in how our minds decide which model of light we are going to use in any given situation. That kind of decision is real science, it's not just waving our hands and saying "everything is consistent with my beliefs." The key difference between a belief, and a scientific inference, is that a scientific inference is designed to find out what works, whereas a belief is designed to be able to be made to work. See the essay by Rosenhouse I just cited for a crystal clear explanation of that point.
    MIR also consistent with the view that models of light are constructions of human Minds.
    Obviously-- because MIR belief is consistent with everything. A planet that is square? MIR can do it. Brains in a vat? More MIR. Harry Potter magic? MIR has no trouble at all with any of it. It is not a strength of MIR belief that it can be applied to anything, that only shows why it is not science. Science is about understanding what works, and what doesn't, and that's why the mind dependence of science is also important-- it helps us to understand that what we mean by "what works" depends on the intentions our minds have for the pursuits we involve ourselves in.
    I agree that we just go ahead and muddle along, but the people doing the muddling may be taking the MIR point of view.
    Of course! Just as they used to take the point of view that science studied the handiwork of a supreme being, as I've said so many times. What significance do you see in the fact that scientists, as they muddle along, might believe in MIR, that you don't' see in the fact that scientists, as they muddle along, might believe in a supreme being? I hardly see your point at all.
    You choose to interpret any account of conventional science an illustration of MDR, but the question whether science gets crippled involves the question of how human beings behave and that is influenced by what they think. The fact that science doesn't get crippled in a given field, could be taken as evidence of the effectiveness of "MIR thinking" in that field.
    If you think that is logic, there's not much I can say. Do you think I claimed somewhere that MIR thinking "cripples" science? What thread are you reading?

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    Quote Originally Posted by tashirosgt View Post
    If you think the methods of science are mind dependent then presumably "objective" has different meanings to different people.
    Obviously. So the question is, which of us will be right-- if we do the experiment? Take a group of 100 randomly selected people, and ask them what "objective" means. What do you think you are going to get from that experiment? It is true that you can always refuse to do the experiment, or you could do the experiment, and be in denial about the outcome. But I think it's pretty obvious what you'll get-- a lot of similarities in the answers, and some noticeable differences. You will also get that same thing if you study their minds-- a lot of similarities, and some noticeable differences. But I'm sure that's just a coincidence, isn't it.
    Obviously I'm not going to waste my time providing "evidence" to someone who sets himself up as the final authority on what "evidence" is.
    And there it is-- the lamest of all possible arguments. "I cannot supply evidence, so I will retreat behind the excuse that I don't need to, because others do supply evidence, and that means they won't ever be convinced by my non-evidence." Yes, you have that right-- I will always go with the presence of evidence, over the absence of evidence. That apparently distinguishes us.
    Nor am I obligated to interpret the "evidence" that he presents the way he does.
    You don't feel obligated to do anything with evidence, apparently. Do you have a post that cites evidence and I missed it?
    One could interpret observations of the moons of Jupiter by various people as a confirmation of their mind independent existence. That's a good model for explaining some of their persistent properties.
    So by a "good model", I wonder what you mean. To a scientist, it means makes a prediction that cannot be obtained by a competing model. But you have not demonstrated any of that, have you?
    I'm merely observing that your assertions rely on a consensus interpretation of many concepts.
    Yes that's true, they do. There are many aspects of scientific thinking that my assertions rely on, and one of the most important ones is the consensus interpretation of objective evidence. Guilty as charged, I am doing science.

    You don't acknowledge that your assertions make any assumptions.
    They don't. Observing what constitutes an "consensus intepretation" of "objective evidence" does not make any assumptions, what it makes is what science makes:models. And it tests them, it doesn't assume them. But all this has been said already.
    If your argument boils down to "Just look and you will see I am correct" then it is an argument that can be used by a variety of people who have different opinions.
    Yeah, I'll bet Galileo got that too, when he pointed out the moons of Jupiter. You still have to actually look at the things I said to look at.
    That's a basic problem encountered by unscientific thinking too.
    Yes, people cannot engage in scientific thinking if they refuse to do it, and they cannot engage in unscientific thinking if they refuse to do it. So we can't distinguish the two simply by looking at what people refuse to do, we have to look at what it is that they are actually refusing to do.
    Last edited by Ken G; 2015-Sep-14 at 08:29 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    The problem is not that it doesn't know it is a philosophical structure, it is that it doesn't know it is a belief. In other words, it thinks it is different from other philosophical structures, like idealism-- realists invariably claim their philosophy enjoys some elevated truth status. We see this all the time, as in the Putnam quote above that realism is the only philosophy that doesn't need to invoke "miracles." Yeah, right-- realism begins with a miracle (that human minds can access true reality), and then after having swept that miracle under the rug, it can pretend it doesn't invoke miracles quite successfully.

    Of course, I never argue that realism is bad philosophy, I argue that the justifications people use to rationalize their realist beliefs are bad philosophy, because they ignore their own presumptions. I do argue that realism is bad science, but not that it is wrong science, merely that it has nothing to do with science-- but thinks it does.
    Well I don't know - I can't speak for philosophers in general, but I have studied d'Espagnat who is both a physicist and philosopher. I have posted his definition of realism several times, but here is part of it again. He says that realism cannot be scientifically accessed, all that can be done is to make the hypothesis that we can say something true concerning a MIR more plausible by means of (for example) the no miracle argument and intersubjective agreement. He refutes both these arguments with counter arguments, thus in his eyes making realism less plausible. But making something more or less plausible is not science. Nowhere in d'Espagnat's writings do I discern the notion that realism is taken to mean some kind of "objective" truth.

    So maybe I have not had a true rendering of what realism means to many philosophers, but to my mind, anyone who can mix a philosophical assumption with a verified model and loose the distinction is treading very muddy waters indeed. That there are philosophers who willingly do such a thing surprises me, I would like to study such works with a view to understanding how such a mixing can be justified. But clearly d'Espagnat is not one of these, perhaps because he also wishes to properly define that which science can address and that which it cannot.

    I have highlighted the important sentences from d'Espagnat's definition of the first element of realism below.

    "As we shall see, there exists several forms of realism. But practically all of the "realist" conceptions (in the philosophical sense of the word) are basically composed of two elements. The first one consists of the notion of reality-per-se - a "reality" conceived of as totally independent of our possible means of knowing it - along with the hypothesis that we do have access to the said reality, at least in the sense that "we can say something true" concerning it. At first sight this "hypothesis" looks a mere truism (if we see an object in front of us how could it not be there, as we see it?). But the simple fact that we have dreams already convincingly shows that it is quite far from being one. In fact the hypothesis in question is one of those that like induction and so on, are quite often intuitively assumed true (and maybe rightly so) without being scientifically provable. To try and make it plausible is, of course, quite legitimate; for example, by means of the no-miracle argument, or by referring to intersubjective agreement (both attempts will be discussed in chapter 5). But it cannot be proved correct."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    Here's the difference-- instrumentalism does not justify itself by claiming it explains why it works. It is just observed to work. Try that with realism! Selfsim's point was not that realism must be wrong because it cannot justify itself, it is that claims that realism is right because it does justify itself (as we saw Putnam claim, when he incorrectly claimed that all other approaches require miracles but realism doesn't) are wrong. A point about which he is completely right.
    This point is just sooo crucial in explaining, (I think), why the ejection of MIR things, from the scientific process, is sooo offensive to those who see MIR as being essential to science's functioning. As you mentioned Ken, science deliberately incrementally constrains ideas during its various phases, in order to produce useful information which can increase collective knowledge. I think it is this effect which is fundamentally offensive to the basis of most philosophical viewpoints, which are really aimed at doing the exact opposite ... ie: broadening outlooks so as to accomodate other, (usually intangible), perspectives. The broadening approach however, reduces the usefulness of information returns.

    I think during the Popper etal era, where the concept of science was still developing, philosophy made significant contributions. However, I seriously question its usefulness in science going forward when it cannot produce its own test. What we see at present with MIR's, (ie: Realism's), inability to produce this test, is the revealing neutral 'returns' factor, (perhaps even negative, considering the obfuscation effect). Logical analysis in science of course, maintains consistency and is highly useful when it starts from evidenced or theoretically based postulates. Anything else, starting with the preamble: 'if' or 'perhaps', when it calls upon nothing more than a belief in its 'truth', should, IMO, be summarily 'punted', (or being kinder, 'stickied'), before the constraining process, evidenced as leading to tangible value, can proceed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Len Moran View Post
    ... So maybe I have not had a true rendering of what realism means to many philosophers, but to my mind, anyone who can mix a philosophical assumption with a verified model and loose the distinction is treading very muddy waters indeed.
    And that is precisely why discussions in a Science Forum which start out with philosophically based postulates, become sooo muddy. Ie: they all invariably depend on individual opinions about the 'rendering of truth'. The presentation of objective evidence in support of some scientific contention, empowers the conversation with respect for other viewpoints about the presented evidence. Assertions based on assumed 'truths' serve to disempower such respectful intentions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Len Moran View Post
    I wonder if realism (proper) gets a bit of a bad press sometimes. Does anyone know of any realists (who actually openly define themselves as realists) who are unaware that it is a philosophical structure? I perhaps would have said it more likely to be the case that many take on a realist stance without realising they are actually doing such a thing - they would see science as directly accessing that which lay outside of the means by which science is practiced and would not call themselves realists when taking on such an assumption because they wouldn't see it as being an assumption, they would see it as science in action.

    Karl Popper was a realist through and through, but he admits to it being a belief structure in his book "Unending Quest -An Intellectual Autobiography". This is what he wrote:

    "Apart from a restatement of my theory of knowledge, one of my aims in the Postscript was to show that the realism of my Logik der Forschung was a criticizable or arguable position. I stressed that Logik der Forschung was the book of a realist but that at that time I did not dare to say much about realism. The reason was that I had not then realized that a metaphysical position, though not testable, might be rationally criticizable or arguable. I had confessed to being a realist, but I had thought that this was no more than a confession of faith. Thus I had written about a realist argument of mine that it “expresses the metaphysical faith in the existence of regularities in our world (a faith which I share, and without which practical action is hardly conceivable)”.
    Thank you for finding and sharing this quote from Popper. Note the words: "a metaphysical position, though not testable, might be rationally criticizable or arguable". He's saying that while there is an important difference between science and philosophy, there is also an important similarity. The important difference is that a philosophical position is not testable, in the sense that it does not make the sort of risky predictions that a scientific theory can make (e.g. what Einstein's theory said about bending of starlight). The important similarity is that, like a scientific theory, a philosophical position is open to challenge. In philosophy, this is thru rational criticism and argument.

    Realism has never had any need to account for its inability to produce a scientifically meaningful test of itself because it has never claimed to be a scientific structure.

    Of course, in the light of MDR (if accepted as a scientific model)
    The MDR position is not a scientific model in Popper's sense, because it does not make risky empirical predictions, any more than the MIR position makes risky empirical predictions. Each of these positions is a description of science which is rationally criticisable and arguable — a philosophy of science.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    Obviously. So the question is, which of us will be right-- if we do the experiment? Take a group of 100 randomly selected people, and ask them what "objective" means. What do you think you are going to get from that experiment? It is true that you can always refuse to do the experiment, or you could do the experiment, and be in denial about the outcome. But I think it's pretty obvious what you'll get-- a lot of similarities in the answers, and some noticeable differences. You will also get that same thing if you study their minds-- a lot of similarities, and some noticeable differences. But I'm sure that's just a coincidence, isn't it.
    For those interested in what people generally mean by "objective", a quicker way of finding out is to web-search the term... It's also possible to web-search combinations of terms, such as ' objective "mind independent" '... An experiment worth trying...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    Do we observe that the photon concept is less mind-dependent than the sense that Percival Lowell made of them? Yes, as a matter of fact, that is just precisely what we observe. Now that wasn't so hard, was it! You just have to look, that's what I keep having to point out.
    If mind dependence is something a model can have more or less of... in mathematics, when a positive quantity becomes less, it approaches zero... if we picture a series of MDRs, in which the level of mind-dependence becomes less and less, what is that series approaching?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Len Moran View Post
    Well I don't know - I can't speak for philosophers in general, but I have studied d'Espagnat who is both a physicist and philosopher.
    No doubt, d'Espagnat understands that realism is just a belief. But you said you weren't aware of anyone claiming anything else, but philosophers (not d'Espagnat) do, and so do MIR believers. So that's why it's important to show that realism is just a belief-- in particular, that it is not a scientific inference, nor part of any scientific theory.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    The MDR position is not a scientific model in Popper's sense, because it does not make risky empirical predictions, any more than the MIR position makes risky empirical predictions. Each of these positions is a description of science which is rationally criticisable and arguable — a philosophy of science.
    This is an important issue, because it gets to the heart of "what is the scientific basis of the MDR hypothesis." The MDR hypothesis is really two rather separate things, neither of which is conventional philosophy because they are both intended to be tested scientifically, which can be judged separately on their own evidential merits:

    1) A repudiation of the common idea that MIR belief is part of science, a requirement of science, or some kind of explanation of why science works. All of those claims have been soundly repudiated by evidence from science itself, within this thread. What's more, your remark above does not dispute this. So this first thing that the MDR hypothesis achieves is hardly in doubt at all, indeed it seems that only tashirosgt, but not gzhpcu, and not even you (if the above remark is your current stance, which admits that MIR does not make empirical predictions) disagrees with it.

    2) A scientifically testable hypothesis in the Popperian sense that does indeed make "risky predictions" that test out well. This conclusion is less clearly established, but I think the evidence for it is still pretty good. The predictions made by the claim that "the reality concept in science means the mind-dependent sense we make of our perceptions, and neither refers to, nor is intended to refer to, anything mind independent" are indeed "risky", in the sense that if the realist stance was a good scientific model, then we should not expect the mental choices made by the physicist to appear in the way physics theories describe reality. Consider, for example, this realist claim by the realist philosopher Moore: " ‘“blue” is as much an object, and as little a mere content, of my experience, when I experience it, as the most exalted and independent real thing of which I am ever aware’ ". The MDR hypothesis makes the prediction that this version of what "blue" means cannot hold true, but instead experiments should be possible that clearly distinguish "the experience of blue" from "independent real things." This is because the MDR hypothesis claims that the "experience of blue" is mind dependent, and should be able to be demonstrated as something different for different minds. This prediction tests out well, because we can easily distinguish the "experience of blue" from the "experience of reading a spectral analyzer that peaks in the blue part of the spectrum." Both of those are mind-dependent capabilities of humans, but what matters for this argument is they are clearly different, putting the lie to Moore's realist claim. Experiments, such as on that infamous recent "internet dress" that to some people looked blue, and to others a completely different color, do indeed clearly show the difference between the experience of seeing blue, and the experience of reading a spectral analyzer that does not give the result "blue."

    In any event, my evidence for conclusion (2) is all the physics theories that cannot be properly understood until the role of the choices of the mind of the physicist is included in the physics. My evidence for conclusion (1) is that the burden of proof to establish that realism plays any role in scientific thinking has clearly never been met in this entire long thread.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    For those interested in what people generally mean by "objective", a quicker way of finding out is to web-search the term... It's also possible to web-search combinations of terms, such as ' objective "mind independent" '... An experiment worth trying...
    All right, let's do it. Here are some tidbits from a web search on the adjective "objective." It's actually quite a mess-- what you see is people bending over so far backward to try to interpret "objectivity" in a mind-independent way that the meanings they intend are clearly internally inconsistent. Here are just a few examples that positively squirm in their own inconsistencies:

    1) (of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.

    So here, we see that "objective" is supposed to be an attitude we have about facts. So what it is trying to say is that "facts are objective", but it recognizes that this only passes the buck to the definition of what constitutes a "fact." To address that obvious problem, the definition stresses the relation of the mind to the fact, and tries to find objectivity in what is absent from that relationship-- in short, "feelings or opinions", things we normally associate with mind dependence. However, the definition is still explicitly referring to the relationship that a mind has with the facts, because how else are you going to determine if that mind was involving itself in feelings or opinions, unless you consider the functioning of that mind? Hence, in trying to remove the role of the mind in the definition of objectivity, the definition gives the mind a specific role. Try defining objectivity without reference to a mind at all, and this will become even clearer.

    2) "intent upon or dealing with things external to the mind rather than with thoughts or feelings, as a person or a book."

    This shows the same misguided effort. Here, we have that objectivity is about dealing with things "external to the mind", but notice the very first word: "intent". I wonder what it is that they are imagining has the "intention" of dealing with things external to the mind-- a rock?

    3) "of or relating to something that can be known, or to something that is an object or a part of an object; existing independent of thought or an observer as part of reality."

    Here we see the same phenomenon again, though raised to a new level. We actually have in the same sentence that the object or part of an object should be "independent of thought", yet also be something that "can be known." Seriously? It can be known, in a way that is independent of knowing? Observed, in a way that is independent of the observer? That's just rich, I can't wait for them to tell me how to set up an experiment that establishes an observation that is independent of the observer! It really shows how badly people trip over themselves when they just try way too hard to maintain belief in MIR in situations where it simply doesn't make any sense.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    This is an important issue, because it gets to the heart of "what is the scientific basis of the MDR hypothesis." The MDR hypothesis is really two rather separate things, neither of which is conventional philosophy because they are both intended to be tested scientifically, which can be judged separately on their own evidential merits:

    1) A repudiation of the common idea that MIR belief is part of science, a requirement of science, or some kind of explanation of why science works.
    This "common idea" is at least 3 distinct ideas. (At least 3, because the statement that MIR belief is "part of science" could be taken in more than one sense.)

    All of those claims have been soundly repudiated by evidence from science itself, within this thread.
    Why not use the quote function to remind us of when, where and how you disproved the three (or more) ideas you mentioned?

    What's more, your remark above does not dispute this. So this first thing that the MDR hypothesis achieves is hardly in doubt at all, indeed it seems that only tashirosgt, but not gzhpcu, and not even you (if the above remark is your current stance, which admits that MIR does not make empirical predictions) disagrees with it.
    I stand by the remark that neither the MDR position (instrumentalism) not the MIR position (realism) is a scientific model in Popper's sense, because neither makes risky empirical predictions. Each of these positions is a rationally arguable philosophy of science.

    2) A scientifically testable hypothesis in the Popperian sense that does indeed make "risky predictions" that test out well. This conclusion is less clearly established, but I think the evidence for it is still pretty good. The predictions made by the claim that "the reality concept in science means the mind-dependent sense we make of our perceptions, and neither refers to, nor is intended to refer to, anything mind independent" are indeed "risky", in the sense that if the realist stance was a good scientific model, then we should not expect the mental choices made by the physicist to appear in the way physics theories describe reality. Consider, for example, this realist claim by the realist philosopher Moore: " ‘“blue” is as much an object, and as little a mere content, of my experience, when I experience it, as the most exalted and independent real thing of which I am ever aware’ ". The MDR hypothesis makes the prediction that this version of what "blue" means cannot hold true, but instead experiments should be possible that clearly distinguish "the experience of blue" from "independent real things."
    ??? I thought the MDR hypothesis was that there aren't any "independent real things". Or at least, that "independent real things" have no part in science. Why then should it be possible to clearly distinguish the experience of blue from them?
    Last edited by Colin Robinson; 2015-Sep-15 at 02:12 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    If mind dependence is something a model can have more or less of... in mathematics, when a positive quantity becomes less, it approaches zero... if we picture a series of MDRs, in which the level of mind-dependence becomes less and less, what is that series approaching?
    Let's look at this question. What has been established is that there is a way to quantify "mind dependence" of any given assertion, or model, relating to the concept of reality. For example we could determine the size of the set of minds that agree with it, or understand it, or can successfully use that model. The larger is that set, the "less mind dependent" is whatever is under consideration. Perhaps we can take the inverse of the number of minds as our measure of "degree of mind dependence", and set up a series like this. If we have a model of reality that only one mind agrees with or can use successfully, we give that a mind dependence rating of 1/1. If we have two minds that can, we give it a mind dependence rating of 1/2. This appears to be the point that you are making, for we could then imagine a series of assertions of truth that correspond to a series of mind dependence ratings like 1/1, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, etc., and we can notice that this series converges on zero. What does this say about mind independence?

    Apparently, what you are claiming is that a series of assertions like that converge on an "ultimate" assertion that is mind independent. The problem with this argument is that it starts out by taking a given set of minds, and assembles a series of statements with less and less mind dependence over that set. But just because we have a series whose mind dependence is diminishing, this does not imply that we can continue the series indefinitely. The series can just peter out-- we can fail to reach a lower number in the series. Indeed, we certainly do not expect to find any assertion of truth that an infinite number of minds would agree with.

    Indeed, the situation is even worse, because as soon as a set of minds that all agree on any given proposition about reality is found, someone else can introduce a new mind that does not agree with it. Perhaps they find a mind whose intelligence is too low to be able to understand the claim, or a mind whose intelligence is too high not to be able to ignore the flaw in the claim. So there is nothing about "mind independence" that emerges from noticing gradations in mind dependence. That's like arguing that if I can find a series of smaller and smaller masses, and note that the gravity they produce gets smaller and smaller, then there must be such a thing as a "gravity independent mass", i.e., a mass so small that it does not produce any gravity. But that's obviously untrue-- what happens instead is that as the gravity goes to zero, so does the mass, so you have nothing left at that point. The same thing could easily happen to assertions about reality-- by the time you get to the assertion that all minds can agree on, you have the null assertion.

    Hence, noticing a series of degrees of mind dependence falls far short of providing any meaning to the concept of mind independence. Indeed, it makes perfect sense to me that any limiting member of a set of models or claims on reality like that, such that you could claim the limit is mind independent, is going to be the limit of not saying anything at all. This closely echoes the early path of the thread, in which we found that the effort to strip MIR of any attributes that depend on the mind, results in an MIR with no meaningful attributes at all. People were still free to believe that the result had meaning, but none could demonstrate that it did, so once again, it's just personal belief.
    Last edited by Ken G; 2015-Sep-15 at 02:04 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    This "common idea" is at least 3 distinct ideas. (At least 3, because the statement that MIR belief is "part of science" could be taken in more than one sense.)
    Then pick any of them-- my argument will hold for the one you picked.
    Why not use the quote function to remind us of when, where and how you disproved the three (or more) ideas you mentioned?
    It would be easier for me to simply repeat:
    1) MIR belief is part of science:
    Nope. Just look up the scientific method anywhere you like-- no mention of MIR. That was easy.

    2) MIR belief is a requirement of science
    Nope. Same answer actually, if it is not part of science at all, it is most certainly not a requirement of science.

    3) MIR belief explains why science works.
    Nope. Scientific explanations must have the following two key properties, or they aren't. MIR belief offers neither of them:
    I. the outcome that is claimed to be explained by MIR belief must not be equally consistent with the MDR picture. However, this is not the case-- MDR thinking works just as well as MIR thinking for saying why science works, and probably quite a bit better. Remember that MDR thinking about why science works is analogous to evolutionary biology thinking about why your eye works, whereas MIR thinking about why science works is analogous to using intelligent design to explain why your eye works-- the former conjures a somewhat random journey involving trial and error, the latter conjures a kind of underlying purpose or plan to the whole affair.
    II. the outcome that is claimed to be explained must be a necessary consequence of MIR belief, it must not be possible for us to use MIR belief to "explain" both this outcome, and a totally opposite one, or it is no kind of "explanation." Yet MIR belief has exactly that property-- if science works, and one believes in MIR, one says "see, science works because it is exploring the MIR." If science does not work, and one believes in MIR, one says "see, science does not work because our puny minds are not capable of accessing the profundities of MIR."

    So no, there is no explanation of why science works that you will find in MIR, and a caveman who believes in MIR would never have any way of predicting whether or not science would be able to figure out nature. Similarly, a caveman who does not believe that the phrase MIR has any coherent meaning, could still just as easily suspect that a long process of trial and error could produce highly successful predictive models about nature.

    There, as I said, easier to just repeat the evidence.

    I stand by the remark that neither the MDR position (instrumentalism) not the MIR position (realism) is a scientific model in Popper's sense, because neither makes risky empirical predictions. Each of these positions is a rationally arguable philosophy of science.
    Beliefs are always "rationally arguable" when they provide no means for making testable predictions, as MIR does not. But assertions get more interesting when they do make predictions, like the MDR picture, for then we can actually check the predictions. We can see where MDR thinking appears in actual science books that you can really find around you right now, for example. Here's my prediction: pick up a science book, flip to a random page, and start reading. You will immediately encounter mind dependent statements, such that what the statement means depends on the mind looking at it.
    ??? I thought the MDR hypothesis was that there aren't any "independent real things".
    Note that my argument did not use that there are mind independent real things, it only used that if you think there are mind independent real things, then "blueness" isn't one of them-- in clear contradiction to Moore's claim. That's the problem with realist positions-- they lead to inconsistent statements when the statements are actually put to the test. MDR thinking, by contrast, doesn't have that problem, one is not led to contradictory statements, though one does have to live with the "tiger-chasing-its-tail" flavor of the situation that we observe ourselves to be in.
    Last edited by Ken G; 2015-Sep-15 at 02:29 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    All right, let's do it. Here are some tidbits from a web search on the adjective "objective." It's actually quite a mess-- what you see is people bending over so far backward to try to interpret "objectivity" in a mind-independent way that the meanings they intend are clearly internally inconsistent. Here are just a few examples that positively squirm in their own inconsistencies:

    1) (of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.

    So here, we see that "objective" is supposed to be an attitude we have about facts. So what it is trying to say is that "facts are objective", but it recognizes that this only passes the buck to the definition of what constitutes a "fact." To address that obvious problem, the definition stresses the relation of the mind to the fact, and tries to find objectivity in what is absent from that relationship-- in short, "feelings or opinions", things we normally associate with mind dependence. However, the definition is still explicitly referring to the relationship that a mind has with the facts, because how else are you going to determine if that mind was involving itself in feelings or opinions, unless you consider the functioning of that mind? Hence, in trying to remove the role of the mind in the definition of objectivity, the definition gives the mind a specific role. Try defining objectivity without reference to a mind at all, and this will become even clearer.

    2) "intent upon or dealing with things external to the mind rather than with thoughts or feelings, as a person or a book."

    This shows the same misguided effort. Here, we have that objectivity is about dealing with things "external to the mind", but notice the very first word: "intent". I wonder what it is that they are imagining has the "intention" of dealing with things external to the mind-- a rock?

    3) "of or relating to something that can be known, or to something that is an object or a part of an object; existing independent of thought or an observer as part of reality."

    Here we see the same phenomenon again, though raised to a new level. We actually have in the same sentence that the object or part of an object should be "independent of thought", yet also be something that "can be known." Seriously? It can be known, in a way that is independent of knowing? Observed, in a way that is independent of the observer? That's just rich, I can't wait for them to tell me how to set up an experiment that establishes an observation that is independent of the observer! It really shows how badly people trip over themselves when they just try way too hard to maintain belief in MIR in situations where it simply doesn't make any sense.
    So your finding is that people use the word "objective" in range of ways, most of which you consider "internally inconsistent", "misguided" etc...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G
    All of those claims have been soundly repudiated by evidence from science itself, within this thread
    Why not use the quote function to remind us of when, where and how you disproved the three (or more) ideas you mentioned?
    I have been following this thread and all its predecessors. Ken has indeed, produced tested evidence repudiating: "the common idea that MIR belief is part of science, a requirement of science, or some kind of explanation of why science works." Note: this is not 'disproof', nor is it intended as 'disproof'. No other long-term posters on this thread, have challenged that he hasn't done this .. to do so, would appear as being simply ignorant of Ken's contributions to the content of this thread. I see no reason why he should burden himself with having to search through the thread to dig it out, when zero evidence for even a test of the Realist view, has thus far been presented.

    Your request appears as just hair-splitting and as a diversion to avoid addressing the key issue at hand for realists (deliberate ones, or otherwise).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    So your finding is that people use the word "objective" in range of ways, most of which you consider "internally inconsistent", "misguided" etc...
    And why not, when they don't bother distinguishing the process by which they give meaning to that term? (Or more often they simply assert the truth of their definition .. ie: no match against using an objective process and operational meanings).
    This is in contrast to Ken's scientific approach of defining that very process ... which included the evidence basis of how operational definitions in science acquire their specific meanings, (which was also before you joined in this thread).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    So your finding is that people use the word "objective" in range of ways, most of which you consider "internally inconsistent", "misguided" etc...
    Actually, that is my mind-dependent scientific finding about how people try to define "objective", in the attempt to force it to connect with MIR belief. How they actually use the word objective is quite different, for that we'd have to look at examples of word usage.

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    John T. Cacioppo et al Psychological Theory as a Search for Truth and the Discovery of Solutions

    A discussion of scientific instrumentalism (MDR) and scientific realism (MIR) by someone who thinks both are valid working models of scientific work, and that as influences on scientific practice, both have advantages and disadvantages.

    "These philosophical perspectives have different strengths and weaknesses... Scientific realism fosters theoretical rigor, verifiability, parsimony, and debate, whereas scientific instrumentalism fosters theoretical innovation, synthesis, generativeness, and scope."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    John T. Cacioppo et al Psychological Theory as a Search for Truth and the Discovery of Solutions

    A discussion of scientific instrumentalism (MDR) and scientific realism (MIR) by someone who thinks both are valid working models of scientific work, and that as influences on scientific practice, both have advantages and disadvantages.

    "These philosophical perspectives have different strengths and weaknesses... Scientific realism fosters theoretical rigor, verifiability, parsimony, and debate, whereas scientific instrumentalism fosters theoretical innovation, synthesis, generativeness, and scope."
    The only purpose I can see that this guy cites for Realism being used, is as a tactic for winning debates, (note: debates aren't science), and to overcome opposition to one's 'preferred' theory:
    Scientific realism also has its downside, of course. Scientific realism can be characterized as outcome drivenin that it seeks to arrive at a conception that the theorist regards as the truth; once discovered, this truth/outcome is defended against all competitors. The disadvantage is thatit can impede progress and encourage defensiveness of andcommitment to a theory well beyond its utility. That is, theoretical battles not only may eliminate the chaff in ascientific field, they may also savage worthwhile formulations that are less developed, more innovative, less vigorously promoted, or maintained by scientists with less political clout.
    This is an active demonstration of what is meant by 'muddying the waters' (raised by Len, in his earlier post).

    Earlier on in the article, he offers another observation:
    Scientific realism holds that scientific theories go beyond data to posit the existence of nonobservable entities—such as quarks, mental representations, and social cognition—which actually exist (Thagard, 2002). According to scientific realists, the product of successful scientific research is knowledge that is independent of theory or methodology (although theories may still be useful devices to organize this knowledge).
    This approach is precisely what we're saying in this thread, is not science, because its purpose is to deliberately step outside of the scientific objective process. As soon as one does this, one is not doing science.

    Put simply, its being used as a political weapon .. which is not the same purpose as distilling objective knowledge, via science.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    John T. Cacioppo et al Psychological Theory as a Search for Truth and the Discovery of Solutions

    A discussion of scientific instrumentalism (MDR) and scientific realism (MIR) by someone who thinks both are valid working models of scientific work, and that as influences on scientific practice, both have advantages and disadvantages.

    "These philosophical perspectives have different strengths and weaknesses... Scientific realism fosters theoretical rigor, verifiability, parsimony, and debate, whereas scientific instrumentalism fosters theoretical innovation, synthesis, generativeness, and scope."
    As has been said often above, any time you see a word ending in "ism", what that means is a suite of philosophical postulates are being invoked. The way I have described them above is "beliefs." The fundamental thesis of this thread is that realism is a belief, so is not an example of scientific thinking, but it can be selected as a belief for personal reasons. It can get in the way of scientific thinking in some cases, but not all cases. I see the above article as completely consistent with that perspective, so thank you for entering it into the discussion. I would take issue with some of its claims (as Selfsim has done), in particular its claims of the advantages of realism (they seem quite undersupported, like their claim that "realism fosters theoretical rigor, verifiability, parsimony, and debate", I just don't see how they can claim any of those things because rigor has nothing to do with realism unless one postulates that reality is rigorous, and verifiability is clearly a mental function not a realist one, as are parsimony and debate). But I won't quibble with the weaknesses in their argument, when their overall conclusion is completely consistent with what I've been saying all along.

    By suggesting that instrumentalism and realism are just modes of thought that you can put off and on like different hats, this article makes the same point I'm making by focusing on a particular type of mind dependence that appears in the process of doing science. To see this, one must recognize that the choice of "which hat" to put on, in "which context", is a decision that can be made in only one way: by using one's mind. Hence, and this is the key point of everything above, the issue is no longer being seen as a fundamental truth about the nature of reality! Hence, this article argues for the quintessential example of mind dependence-- where even the "belief system" we choose, or none at all, are seen to depend on our minds, and not on reality itself.

    Notice what this means. If on Monday, I take an instrumentalist perspective, and on Tuesday, a realist, as this article suggests, then one thing should be perfectly clear: I no longer regard reality as something independent of my mind. The instant someone says that it is not always best to be a realist, they are admitting that they do not believe in realism as a statement about the fundamental nature of reality. But realism is a statement about the fundamental nature of reality! So the authors are saying, "don't be a realist, just think like one when your mind tells you to." I couldn't agree more-- the first step in escaping the pitfalls of realist thinking is to stop believing that it's true, the way it claims to be.

    This is exactly why I have always maintained that this thread is not about the fundamental nature of reality, say realistic or idealistic, because there's no such thing as the fundamental nature of reality. Reality is our word, and our concept, and both those claims are very easily observed to be true. Hence, what we mean by "reality" is what our minds want or need it to be, based on our intentions for the notion-- today an instrumental version, tomorrow a realist version-- contextual and provisional, like everything else in science. As this article says, as I have been saying for 200+ pages.
    Last edited by Ken G; 2015-Sep-15 at 07:58 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Selfsim View Post
    The only purpose I can see that this guy cites for Realism being used, is as a tactic for winning debates,
    No, he says that realism fosters debate.

    (note: debates aren't science),
    An example of the sort of debate which is important in scientific history, is the debate in the early 20th century about the objects then known as spiral nebulae.

    What were they made of, how far away were they, what was was their actual size? According to one theory, supported by the astronomer Harlow Shapley, they were clouds of dust and gas and their distance from Earth was no greater than that of the stars of the Milky Way. According to another theory, supported by the astronomer Heber Curtis, they were very large aggregations of stars, more distant than any other then-known astronomical objects.

    Neither side doubted that the spirals were real, out-there things. Hence if either theory about them was right, the other theory had to be wrong. So they couldn't just agree to disagree. They had to debate it out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    No, he says that realism fosters debate.
    Which is a strange claim, why can't I debate without thinking I have some magical connection to real truth that doesn't depend on how I think about it?
    An example of the sort of debate which is important in scientific history, is the debate in the early 20th century about the objects then known as spiral nebulae.
    But what on Earth does that have to do with realism? How is someone who says "the way my mind makes sense of these observations is via a model of a swirl of angular-momentum conserving gas that is gravitationally unstable on scales of star formation, now see how well this model explains the observations" not "fostering debate" on how to best model those observations? Realism has nothing to do with the debate of how to best model spiral galaxies, it only means that scientists will use shortcut language because they're not going to say "our model is" every time-- even though that's exactly what the scientist means.
    What were they made of, how far away were they, what was was their actual size?
    Again, every word in that sentence is quite demonstrably a mental model (all I have to do is ask, what do you mean by those words?) So realism has nothing to do with that sentence, unless you choose to add that belief to that sentence.
    According to one theory, supported by the astronomer Harlow Shapley, they were clouds of dust and gas and their distance from Earth was no greater than that of the stars of the Milky Way. According to another theory, supported by the astronomer Heber Curtis, they were very large aggregations of stars, more distant than any other then-known astronomical objects.
    And those theories were assembled and argued for by their....
    Neither side doubted that the spirals were real, out-there things. Hence if either theory about them was right, the other theory had to be wrong.
    My goodness, is that really how science works? Black and white, right and wrong? Here's the problem with that thinking: we now model some of the nebulae as one of those, and some as the other! What's more, the models you just described are vague-- when we try to make them more specific and quantitative, we will find that they only approximately work, they have flaws which will constantly require interating, and sometimes radical adjustments (like dark matter, which neither Curtis nor Shapley even dreamed of). So if we realize these are just models, then we are free to judge each one on their merits, contextually and provisionally. We escape black-and-white thinking that is not conducive to the nuances of scientific inquiry.

    So they couldn't just agree to disagree. They had to debate it out.
    And that has to do with realism? That's just what scientists do! Realism has nothing to do with debate, debate is fostered by the desire to attain truth, and realism isn't necessary for a concept of truth. In science, the desire is to find a better model, where "better" quite demonstrably means "better fits the observations, and unifies a wide array of phenomena, in as simple a way as possible." No realism anywhere in that desire to find a better model, and the debate engendered by that desire.

    Still, I repeat that although some of the arguments in that article are pretty flimsy, the overall point is well taken: realism is, at best, a mindset that is useful to enter into for various practical reasons. As a belief about what is really true about reality, it becomes unscientific, because otherwise-- how could we be advised to adopt realism only some of the time? Are we to have a new realism in which reality is only independent of our minds in some cases? Which ones? That would take us right back to the points made above, where gzhpcu said that cats and rocks are the true reality, but electrons are just conceptual abstractions, whereas particle physicists who are realists might say exactly the opposite!
    Last edited by Ken G; 2015-Sep-15 at 01:43 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    My goodness, is that really how science works? Black and white, right and wrong?
    On some questions, yes.

    Here's the problem with that thinking: we now model some of the nebulae as one of those, and some as the other!
    No, the spiral nebulae which Curtis and Shapley debated are now known to be galaxies. I suppose you would prefer to say, "modelled as galaxies"...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    On some questions, yes.



    No, the spiral nebulae which Curtis and Shapley debated are now known to be galaxies. I suppose you would prefer to say, "modelled as galaxies"...

    The Two wordings are scientifically equal. The difference in implied meaning is pure philosophy. Science works through modelling and what it's models are modelling is our observations and thoughts. That is just blindingly obvious. What isn't so immediately obvious to people is the fact that we are forming the meanings to the words used such that when we say they are spiral galaxies what we actually mean is that they match the set of criteria we have come up with to call them spiral galaxies. That is what we are applying is our own mental model of what a Spiral galaxy is, against that which we have observed.

    There is nothing mind independent in this process, it is all part of our operation in making sense out of the world we are presented with.
    Last edited by malaidas; 2015-Sep-15 at 02:56 PM.
    You're really not going to like it, the meaning of life the universe and everything is.... is.... 42!
    What??????
    is that all you have to show for 7.5 million years of work?????
    it was a tricky assignment.

    "Live Long and Prosper" in memory of Leonard Nimoy
    "I think I'll change my name to Cliff. "Cliff, I can't see anyone lasting in this industry with a name like Cliff" in memory of Terry Pratchett

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    MIR just doesn't actually crop up in this process, because this applies to the source of those observations in the first place, not the nature of the observations themselves.

    We simply have no way to demonstrate what the relationship between the 2 is unless we predetermine the answer we are looking to observe. Thus if we define that MIR exists in a certain way and then attempt to test this, we will already know the answer to our question, because the answer is in the question. Any interpretation of the source lies outside of our ability to actually test, except through the same rational consideration that went into proposing the notion in the first place.

    So the question is, can MDR solve this problem. No rather it describes the problem and shows why it isn't scientific thinking to hold that you have solved it. It may or may not be true, but by science we cannot determine which if any of our hypotheses is correct. For the most part this really isn't a problem outside of philosophical debate, but MIR thinking can be a detriment in many cases, when one fails to see the human in the science, that I am yet to see demonstrated for the MDR concept, once that concept is understood.
    You're really not going to like it, the meaning of life the universe and everything is.... is.... 42!
    What??????
    is that all you have to show for 7.5 million years of work?????
    it was a tricky assignment.

    "Live Long and Prosper" in memory of Leonard Nimoy
    "I think I'll change my name to Cliff. "Cliff, I can't see anyone lasting in this industry with a name like Cliff" in memory of Terry Pratchett

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    Returning to objectivity: We can note that we have had to define what we mean by this word and that in practice the meaning, (entirely consistent with the dictionary definitions), is that those experiences or parts thereof that are the same for all of us. Of course even this breaks down a little and in practice it is: those things that we would hold are sufficiently similar in our respective experiences to match our criteria of similarity. We can shorten this to being 'the same', because we have also establshed meaning for those words that do mean that. Note the choices we have made here. Which is why there is no mind independence in the concept of objectivity, unless you choose to believe that there is.

    To see this, it seems is hard for some. So lets dig a little deeper. What do we mean by mind independent? Well to paraphrase realism one must hold that something mind independent is true regardless of our thoughts about it and experience of it. It what simply is. This is not the same thing as being independent of a particular mind. In order to tie the two up we must make an assumption about the meaning of objectivity, such that objective means mind independent. But there is no demonstrable way to say that this is the case, why could it not be that someone who has a different subjective experience is not seeing something closer to the true reality. The answer is a plain, 'because we have not chosen to see it that way'. That choice not only required a mind to make it, but demonstrably could have been made differently by a different mind. Demonstrable because for much of human history, the other choice was the default option.

    Therefore the fact that we experience objectivity is actually not evidence of MIR, Once again to get it to come out, you had to put it there in the first place. Of course, what this really means isn't that there is no MIR etc, or even no knowable* MIR, only that once again MIR is not part of science because it simply doesn't show up in any practical way.

    * knowable is again our word of course and thus depends upon just what we want that word to mean. In science, knowable has a very precise meaning that equates to 'have good empirical evidence for considering it in a certain way'. Therefore scientifically there is no knowable MIR, but one can still know its there, if you take a different meaning to the word 'know', that is allow another process in to establish that words meaning is in context.
    Last edited by malaidas; 2015-Sep-15 at 03:52 PM.
    You're really not going to like it, the meaning of life the universe and everything is.... is.... 42!
    What??????
    is that all you have to show for 7.5 million years of work?????
    it was a tricky assignment.

    "Live Long and Prosper" in memory of Leonard Nimoy
    "I think I'll change my name to Cliff. "Cliff, I can't see anyone lasting in this industry with a name like Cliff" in memory of Terry Pratchett

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