Keith_Coffman

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Reverse engineering of belief structures

What part of

Also note that you don't get to define the terms that I'm using - I do.

do you not understand?

I know I am using non-standard definitions in the context of this discussion in order to make my points more clear.

Your argument has boiled down to "MY definition of your words says that you are saying X, which is wrong" when I am in fact saying Y, which you have not responded to. I don't care about what you (or Google) say evaluating a claim is supposed to mean, because what we are discussing is what I mean when I say it. The "idle circularity" flows from your failure to acknowledge different uses of words in the context of this discussion and respond to my actual points. If you want to get somewhere, perhaps you should reread my definitions and actually consider what I am saying.

Reverse engineering of belief structures

A conceived state of reality is something that happens in your head, not in writing or spoken aloud. The utterance of a claim is an attempt to convey this conceived state to someone else. You seem to be bordering on rejecting objective reality altogether; if there are no minds in the universe is a rock still a rock? In such a universe there would be no language, but you would agree that A still equals A, right? If you were alone and had no one to talk to, could you not still understand your surroundings via internal models of reality?

Edit: in short the fact that A=A, the concept that A=A, and the utterance A=A, are all unique things and to try to combine the latter two is unjustified.

Reverse engineering of belief structures

The entire point has been that you have consistently said that you can evaluate utterances independently of contingent features of the speaker and context.

You are putting words into my mouth. Note that I have never even used the term "utterance" to this point in my statements. Also note that you don't get to define the terms that I'm using - I do. I'm glad that you listed these propositions in several point, since it makes this easier to deconstruct:

Let me state this in rough propositions:

  • a. evaluation is a judgement of aspects of things relative to criteria

  • b. a claim is an utterance

  • c. utterances can contain information about things and their aspects

  • d. utterance intelligibility depends on knowing contingent things about the speaker and context of utterance

  • e. ergo, evaluation of a claim must follow these steps: to judge aspects of things related to a claim requires utterance information, which requires utterance intelligibility, which requires contingent knowledge about the speaker and context of utterance

Here are my responses/restatements to/of each point:

  • a) In this context, I use "evaluation" to mean comparing a statement about reality with reality itself.

  • b) In this context, I use "claim" to mean a statement about reality.

  • b') Also critically important is that you understand that "a statement about reality" is a pure and independent concept, free of the burden of language. Perhaps a better phrasing would be "a concept of reality" or "a conceived state of reality" rather than a statement. A statement about reality is not to be confused with the utterance of a claim)

  • c) The utterance of a claim is an attempt to make a statement about reality.

  • d) The intended meaning of an utterance (i.e. the conceived state of reality in this case) often incorporates contextual and implied contextual information (e.g. when one says "It's raining," one also means that the statement pertains to here and now)

  • e) Ergo in order to evaluate an uttered claim one must: 1) fully understand the claim, incorporating all relevant contextual meaning, 2) evaluate the claim, i.e. compare the conceived state of reality with reality itself.

The second part of (e), comparing a conceived state of reality with reality itself, does not involve the context or the belief structure of the claimant; however, given that we are bound by language, you must necessarily go through step 1 to get to step 2.

For instance, take the claim

A = A

Now, if you aren't familiar with mathematical notation, then you could not understand the claim and therefore could not proceed to step 2 because you were unsuccessful at completing step 1. However, the agreement between reality and the conceived state of reality (which cannot be purely expressed as such, since we are bound by language/notation when communicating interpersonally) can be evaluated regardless.*

-* I realize that for some claims we do not have the knowledge/resources/possibility to check their correspondence to objective reality. Ignore this during our discussion to minimize unnecessary qualification.

Reverse engineering of belief structures

You are misrepresenting the statement-response structure.

I simultaneously say two things:

1) You must understand a claim to check it, else you wouldn't know what to check. (we both agree here, I think)

2) Given that you can understand a claim, it can be checked

You say "Hold on, you can't understand a claim without the context!" And I agree. In the practical reality that we must face on a daily basis, you can't really ever avoid the fact that we must communicate via language and we also often imply some additional details, such as time/location.

Let's say I claim "Il pleut." (in French it means "it's raining").

There are several things in the context that matter: a) You need to either speak my language or have it translated into your own. b) In context, the claim is really that "It's raining in this area at this time" (this is important, as it might not be raining elsewhere or in the past/future here).

Even if you didn't know what I said, it is in fact either raining at this place and this time or it is not. You need not understand my claim in order to see if it's raining. However, you also wouldn't check in the first place because you didn't know it was claimed.

What I've been trying to do this whole time, which you seem not to have grasped yet, is that I am separating the truth of the claim (a statement about reality) and the baggage that we must actually deal with when we communicate such a claim to each other (hence my distinction between understanding a claim and checking a claim).

Do you follow me?

Reverse engineering of belief structures

You can't check a claim independently of understanding it, for which contextual knowledge is necessary. It's as simple as that.

I know you can't check a claim without understanding it. I've said as much (the qualifier you keep mentioning). My point is that, given you do understand it, you can check it.

I am also confused as to why your think all claims are empirically verifiable, i.e. if X is Y and Z is X then Y is Z. Most language is not world-referent.

I don't think that all claims are empirically verifiable - that was my mistake in writing. However you still haven't explained how someone's belief structure could affect objective reality (outside of their own state of mind).

Reverse engineering of belief structures

I think I see where things aren't matching, and aside from your last comment I think it's a matter of definitions rather then concepts.

Firstly, when I say "evaluate a claim" I mean checking that it matches with objective reality - NOT understanding what the claim means in it's linguistic context. If I managed to translate "barkbark22" into something I understood, I could then evaluate it. If you want to say that my definition of the phrase "evaluate a claim" is faulty, fine, but you should now understand what I mean by it.

Secondly, I think that the statements "how someone arrived at a conclusion" and "how someone formed their belief" are equivalent, and at the very least I have been using them as such. Likewise, if you think this is wrong, you at least know what I'm saying now hopefully.

As for verification of a claim's truth being empirical, I don't see how someone's belief structure could affect objective reality, unless the claim specifically relates to someone's state of mind (such as "I am angry").

Dark Side Epistemology

My point was not really related to your discussion, I just wanted to clarify on your paraphrasing of "scientists think it works, so who cares what philosophers think."

I think it is slightly silly to worry about who thinks it works when the fact of the matter is that it works - this is not a point directly against your comments, just a point of clarification in general.

Reverse engineering of belief structures

Each reiteration of "how someone formed their belief" is an attempt on my part to clarify the meaning, since you yourself just said that it is "extremely ambiguous." The concept I am attempting to convey remains the same, however.

I will bring in a quote by Shakespeare: "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Language is the means by which we communicate information interpersonally. Language is important, as it is imperative that the sender and the receiver internalize the same concept. However, the rose and how it smells is independent of the language; when I say "evaluate a claim" I mean you go and smell the rose yourself, with the underlying qualifier being that you know they are talking about a rose in the first place.

Non-rhetorical questions: Can you smell a rose if you speak modern French? What if you speak 16th Century German? Does it smell difference based on the language you speak?

Furthermore, your ability to smell the rose doesn't depend on whether I claimed something about it based on empirical evidence (such as smelling it myself) or if I just heard it from someone else and believed it. These are very simple ways of coming to a conclusion, but it illustrates what I mean when I say it can be verified independent from the belief structure behind it.

Dark Side Epistemology

Do scientists think it works, or does it work? The end result is a model for a particular phenomenon which can be tested for accuracy. When we use a cell phone we are seeing the application of our understanding of electromagnetism, among other things. It's not scientists saying that science works - it's just working.

Reverse engineering of belief structures

I agree. I'm glad we finally got there. I have been saying your equivalent of "you have to find it intelligible" this whole time. You have to understand the claim to test it.

But you don't have to understand how they came to that conclusion. In case it's not clear, that's how I've been using the term "belief structure."

By the way, it would greatly help the discussion along if you answered all non-rhetorical questions, because that would help me understand where things aren't clicking.

*Edit: Upon rereading our discussion, it looks like you think the qualifier "you have to understand what the claim is claiming" contradicts the statement "you don't need to know how they came to the conclusion." The reason I keep repeating each is that they do not contradict; I want you to consider each statement carefully: "How they came to the conclusion" addresses the logic by which they arrived at a particular belief - such as A & B therefore C. "You don't need to know how they came to the conclusion " addresses whether C is correct. A & B are not involved in the evaluation; the only time context enters into it is understanding what C means.

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