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Ab3 comments on Making Beliefs Pay Rent (in Anticipated Experiences) - Less Wrong

110 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 28 July 2007 10:59PM

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Comment author: Ab3 09 February 2012 06:30:24PM 0 points [-]

Thank you for your thoughts.

What are the criteria that we use for accepting or refuting rational non-empirical beliefs? You mention that falsifiability would be refuted if some other criteria “secured the advance of science.” You also mention that we should give up the refutability criterion if “sheer dogmatism conduces to the growth of knowledge.” It sounds like our criteria for the refutability of non-empirical beliefs are mostly practical; we accept the epistemic assumptions that make things “work best.” Is there more to it than this?

Comment author: [deleted] 10 February 2012 03:57:13AM *  1 point [-]

To be pedantic and Popperian, I'd have to correct your use of "empirical beliefs." The philosophical positions at issue aren't scientific but they are empirical. "Empirical"--to be the basis for scientific observation statements-- must be expressible in low-level observation sentences that all competent scientists agree on.

The belief in question is that science's crucial distinguishing feature allowing it to advance is the subjection of science's claims to empirical testing, allowing strict falsification. We can't run an experiment or otherwise record observation statements, so we resort to philosophical debate aimed at refutation. Refutation is obtained by plausible argument. For instance, in the discussion about demarcation, an example of a potentially plausible argument goes if we relied on falsification exclusively, we would never have evidence that a claim is true, only that it isn't false. But we rely on scientific theories and consider them close to the truth (or at least as probably so). Therefore, falsifiability can't explain the distinctiveness of science.

This involves highly plausible claims, based on observation, about how we in fact use scientific theories. But although the result of observation, it can't be reduced to something everyone agrees on that is closely tied to direct perception, as with an observation statement.