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CCC comments on Excluding the Supernatural - Less Wrong

37 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 12 September 2008 12:12AM

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Comment author: Kenny 14 December 2016 08:37:59PM 0 points [-]

Prinicpally that its truth doesn't depend on arbitrary assumptions.

I'm still confused. If a truth doesn't depend on "arbitrary assumptions" what makes it different than an "arbitrary assumption"? If you're familiar with mathematics, what would a sketch of a 'constructive proof' of an absolute truth look or seem like?

There are any number of areas of knowledge where the axioms aren't at all obvious.

It's not clear to me how your reply is relevant. But by your own criteria, in what sense do these areas consist of 'knowledge' if there are no obvious axioms? In what sense is something known if it's not true? Do you mean knowledge in a sense that I would accept?

Regardless of the obviousness of axioms for a particular area of knowledge – doesn't an area of knowledge accept – at least implicitly – a number of axioms? It sure seems to me that, in practice, every area of knowledge simply accepts many claims as axioms because it's impossible to reason at all without assuming something. For example, every area assumes that people exist, that the relevant object(s) of study exist, that people can gather evidence somehow of the objects of study, that the universe is not arbitrary and capricious 'magic', etc.

And there's nothing distinctive about God's existence other than it's being the opposite of God's non-existence. You seem to be associating momentousness with complexity.

That's not true (ha)! Certainly God's existence is incredibly distinctive in so far that God has definite attributes and there is some correlation between those attributes and the universe we can observe. If there is no such evidence it's not clear in what sense God 'exists'.

What I've yet to glean from your comments is how 'absolute truth' is any different than 'green sound'. They're both short phrases but neither seems to refer to anything.

You haven't provided any means of distinguishing 'absolute truth' from any other kind other than claiming that the former is the complement of the latter among the set of all truths (or something similar).

The means of distinguishing them is just the kind of argument we are having now. Of course, that is not particularly algorithmic. If you are running on the implicit assumption that nothing is meaningful unless it has very precise, algorithmic truth conditions, then that could do with being made explicit.

The argument in which I've been participating is whether 'absolute truth' is coherent in principle. A means of distinguishing it from some other potential kind of 'truth' would certainly help me better understand what you seem to be trying to communicate.

The means of distinguishing them is just the kind of argument we are having now. Of course, that is not particularly algorithmic.

What's not "particularly algorithmic"? I don't think you've provided a means of distinguishing between absolute truth and other truths. Did I miss it or miss them? I'd be curious if you could offer any potential means in any form.

You haven't offered any reason to care about 'absolute truth'

I have in fact explained why the non existence of absolute truth would turn the world upside down for billions of people.

You did? You simply asserted that most people conflate 'truth' and 'absolute truth' but I disagree. For one reason, I can't distinguish between people believing something to be an 'absolute truth' and believing something to be an 'axiom'.

But let's assume that most people believe things to be 'absolutely true' and yet, somehow, someone convinces them of the non-existence of absolute truth. What exactly causes the 'world to be turned upside down' for these people? That, because they think all truth is 'absolute truth' and that they're now convinced that the latter doesn't exist that therefore nothing is true? If they think nothing is true would that also include the belief or claim that 'absolute truth does not exist'?

Consider use of arbitrary axiom in arguments with real-world implications:

Axiom1: You owe me a whole number sum greater than $99. Axiom2: You owe me a whole number sum less than $101. Conclusion: You owe me $100.

So.. do you owe me that money? Arbitrary axioms are relatively safe in mathematics, because it is abstract..they are pretty disastrous when applied to the real world.

Your entire argument seems like an attempt at a 'sophisticated' justification of radical skepticism. So I'm not sure how I can possibly accept or decline either of those axioms. On what grounds would I do so or not do so?

What you seem to be trying to sidestep tho is a number of claims or beliefs that are required for the scenario you described above to even be sensible:

  1. There is a thing 'you'.
  2. There is a thing 'me'.
  3. That there are things 'the natural numbers'.
  4. There are things 'dollars' quantified using 'natural numbers'.
  5. That the things 'you' and 'me' could possibly be related such that one of us 'owes' the other some number of 'dollars'. x. ...

Those claims, those beliefs, are what seem like required axioms. Because without assuming they're true it's not clear in what sense one can believe anything, let alone engage in written communication about something.

It's pretty clear you're acting as-if you believe I exist and that I can engage in an argument or discussion with you. It's pretty clear that there is a 'you', tho the details of your person are largely unknown to me, e.g. whether you're really a number of distinct people.

There is no "ideal philosophy student of perfect emptiness" on which 'absolute truth' could possibly be bestowed. By the way, that post to which I just linked covers all the reasons why the idea of 'absolute truth' is not even wrong.

You and I were both bootstrapped as minds with already existing 'axioms', tho really none of them are incapable of being revised or replaced.

Mathematics does not "compeltely" sidestep the Munchausen Trillema, because completely sidestrepping it would not involve a compromise nature of truth!

Okay, everything completely sidesteps the Münchhausen trilemma because it's not actually a trilemma, because there is no absolute perfect truth of which anyone is capable of knowing.

Or, nothing involves a "compromise nature of truth" – because there's only one 'truth', it's built on evidence, and it's all bootstrapped by evolution and history.

From the end of the linked post, A Priori:

Perhaps you cannot argue anything to a hypothetical debater who has not accepted Occam's Razor, just as you cannot argue anything to a rock. A mind needs a certain amount of dynamic structure to be an argument-acceptor. If a mind doesn't implement Modus Ponens, it can accept "A" and "A->B" all day long without ever producing "B". How do you justify Modus Ponens to a mind that hasn't accepted it? How do you argue a rock into becoming a mind?

Brains evolved from non-brainy matter by natural selection; they were not justified into existence by arguing with an ideal philosophy student of perfect emptiness. This does not make our judgments meaningless. A brain-engine can work correctly, producing accurate beliefs, even if it was merely built - by human hands or cumulative stochastic selection pressures - rather than argued into existence. But to be satisfied by this answer, one must see rationality in terms of engines, rather than arguments.

The Münchhausen trilemma has been around for awhile and yet truth is just as true as ever. No one is bothered by it in practice. It's an empty argument.

Comment author: CCC 15 December 2016 07:09:14AM 1 point [-]

What I've yet to glean from your comments is how 'absolute truth' is any different than 'green sound'. They're both short phrases but neither seems to refer to anything.

It's kind of a side point, but there actually is such a thing as green noise (there's actually four different definitions...)

Comment author: Kenny 20 April 2017 11:13:19PM 0 points [-]

Definitely a side point, but thanks for the info anyways!