Gordon Tubbs

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Is epistemic possibility all that philosophically matters?
« on: February 14, 2020, 12:46:07 pm »
Taking philosophy to be the project of trying to understand the world and the nature of reality as we find it, epistemic possibility concerns itself with what we can known in theory. If aliens exist somewhere out there in a distant galaxy, it's epistemically possible for us to know if they exist. It might not be feasible (due to time, distance, and technology), but if feasibility were of no concern, it would be easy for us to know (one way or another) if aliens are real. But suppose we are living in a simulation, which is quite conceivable (based on the Matrix movies), and it's logically possible. But here's the rub: is it epistemically possible that we could know this to be true? I can't imagine how. So why would entertaining the possibility that we're living in a simulation truly matter to us, philosophically speaking? To what extent does speculating on any metaphysical possibility matter?
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Harvey

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Re: Is epistemic possibility all that philosophically matters?
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2020, 12:55:54 pm »
It matters a great deal since most m.possible scenarios we can ignore. For example, we don't need to worry that time will suddenly go backwards and then forwards again with a different outcome. Why? Because just as long as our ontology does not call out for some weird event there's an epistemic prejudice in play which says "if your metaphysics doesn't entail it, and it's absurd, then you have diplomatic immunity from having to consider that possiblity." Where many atheists go wrong is that they put forward a brute fact cosmogony where absurd beginnings are no less unlikely than a non-absurd beginning, so they never have diplomatic immunity regardless how much they claim a m.possibility (de dicto) is absurd.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2020, 12:57:58 pm by Harvey »

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Paterfamilia

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Re: Is epistemic possibility all that philosophically matters?
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2020, 02:05:04 pm »
I’ll take a little different tack on this one - I agree that it basically doesn’t matter a whit from our perspective.  When someone says ”simulation”, I always think “simulation of what?”  Real life?

How could we know what “real life” is?  Would it be any different?

From the Christian perspective, the purpose of this short life is to demonstrate what sort of person we each are by how we make our way through the various rooms of this video game that we call the universe.

By whatever means the projection is established and maintained, the important part is the demonstration.

I occasionally have experiences that I fancifully call a break in the matrix.  Those are typically events where other people seem to have knowledge or behaviors that they wouldn’t if they weren’t “in on it”.

I think the only way we would know is if someone told us who knows.


"First I knocked them out of a tree with a rock.  Then I saved them."

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Fred

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Re: Is epistemic possibility all that philosophically matters?
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2020, 04:12:35 pm »
epistemic possibility concerns itself with what we can known in theory
That doesn't sound right. x is epistemically possible if as far as I know it is possible; i.e. I have no  epistemic basis for considering it impossible. (see this)
« Last Edit: February 14, 2020, 05:22:34 pm by Fred »
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Gordon Tubbs

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Re: Is epistemic possibility all that philosophically matters?
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2020, 05:44:03 pm »
@Fred
What do you think an "epistemic basis" concerns itself with?
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Sam Harper

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Re: Is epistemic possibility all that philosophically matters?
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2020, 06:23:27 pm »
If I'm understanding you right, you're defining epistemic possibility as the mere logical possibility that we could know something. And this differs from feasibility because while it may be possible for us to know something in the logical sense, it may not be possible in the practical sense because we might lack the practical technology or ability to figure it out.

If I'm understanding you right, then I think it IS epistemically possible that we could know that we are in the Matrix. We could know it in the same way Mr. Anderson found out. Morpheus could visit us. Or the software developers who wrote the Matrix could tell us. They could program the knowledge into our minds. Apart from something like that, it may not be feasible for us to figure it out, but it's still logically possible that we could know.

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Fred

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Re: Is epistemic possibility all that philosophically matters?
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2020, 08:20:34 pm »
@Fred
What do you think an "epistemic basis" concerns itself with?
An epistemic basis means that its consistent with what we know. I was objecting to your saying it was what we "can" know - i.e. the knowable.  Something that is unknowable can be epistemically possible: e.g. God's existence.
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lucious

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Re: Is epistemic possibility all that philosophically matters?
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2020, 10:42:24 pm »
IMO, we take a very important lesson from two very different areas of human thought; classical theism and contemporary phenomenology and cognitive science.



And that lesson is that epistemology and metaphysics are not independent thoughtforms. Acts of knowing, imagining, thinking are part and parcel of the metaphysical fabric of the world.

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Fred

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Re: Is epistemic possibility all that philosophically matters?
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2020, 08:00:55 am »
why would entertaining the possibility that we're living in a simulation truly matter to us, philosophically speaking? To what extent does speculating on any metaphysical possibility matter?
It's only releance is as a thought experiment, as a means of considering the basis of our knowledge of the world. It's similar to entertaining solipsism. 
Fred

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Gordon Tubbs

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Re: Is epistemic possibility all that philosophically matters?
« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2020, 08:27:34 am »
If I'm understanding you right, you're defining epistemic possibility as the mere logical possibility that we could know something. And this differs from feasibility because while it may be possible for us to know something in the logical sense, it may not be possible in the practical sense because we might lack the practical technology or ability to figure it out.

Yeah. My view is that if feasibility were NOT an issue, how much knowledge COULD we acquire? To me that is what epistemic possibility best expresses.

Quote
If I'm understanding you right, then I think it IS epistemically possible that we could know that we are in the Matrix. We could know it in the same way Mr. Anderson found out. Morpheus could visit us. Or the software developers who wrote the Matrix could tell us. They could program the knowledge into our minds. Apart from something like that, it may not be feasible for us to figure it out, but it's still logically possible that we could know.

But on this view it would always be logically possible that as soon as we are delivered from one Matrix, we could find ourselves in another Matrix. To what extent can we know if the Matrix we leave doesn't entail entering another Matrix? BTW this is a very popular interpretation of the films (it's called in the Matrix-Within-A-Matrix Theory on the interwebs). The way I visualize it, is like a Russian Matryoshka doll, only each layer is a Matrix. How can we know this is not the case? How can we know the layers of Matrices don't extend into infinity? How many red pills would it take before we think okay, *now* I am in the real world?

We might say, if it's logically possible that we could be living in an Infinite Matryoshka Matrix (IMM), that the truth of this proposition is epistemically impossible for us to know. If we have any tangible reason to suspect we could be living in 1 Matrix, how would this not entail an IMM? I've been back and forth with others about this topic before, and we can't seem to come to an agreement of what we ought to think is the case. Some people on this forum contend that until I can squarely rule out the logical possibility that there is no IMM, I have to always default to the possibility that there is.

What common sense tells me is much what Paterfamilia already expressed, as in, there is a certain "SO WHAT?" element to the IMM theory that strains philosophical utility and credulity. We could for instance put our money where are armchair philosophizing mouth is by conducting experiments to "hack" the Matrix on the assumption that we're living in one, but even going to those lengths, I cannot imagine what type of experiments we might do. This is more so what the OP was aiming for.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2020, 08:30:15 am by Gordon Tubbs »
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Tom Paine

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Re: Is epistemic possibility all that philosophically matters?
« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2020, 10:37:15 am »
Taking philosophy to be the project of trying to understand the world and the nature of reality as we find it, epistemic possibility concerns itself with what we can known in theory. If aliens exist somewhere out there in a distant galaxy, it's epistemically possible for us to know if they exist. It might not be feasible (due to time, distance, and technology), but if feasibility were of no concern, it would be easy for us to know (one way or another) if aliens are real. But suppose we are living in a simulation, which is quite conceivable (based on the Matrix movies), and it's logically possible. But here's the rub: is it epistemically possible that we could know this to be true? I can't imagine how. So why would entertaining the possibility that we're living in a simulation truly matter to us, philosophically speaking? To what extent does speculating on any metaphysical possibility matter?

Maybe it doesn't matter much, but however we acquired it, the desire to know seems to be part our human nature, so here we are.

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Tom Paine

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Re: Is epistemic possibility all that philosophically matters?
« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2020, 10:50:34 am »
IMO, we take a very important lesson from two very different areas of human thought; classical theism and contemporary phenomenology and cognitive science.



And that lesson is that epistemology and metaphysics are not independent thoughtforms. Acts of knowing, imagining, thinking are part and parcel of the metaphysical fabric of the world.

I agree, but this leads to a chicken/egg sort of conundrum. I suppose theism seeks to work around this through "revelation."  But as a naturalist I don't believe in special revelation. For me, I think we just look at the big picture and maintain a degree of epistemic uncertainty, a moderate skepticism with regard to the answers to questions far removed from our day to day lives.

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Gordon Tubbs

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Re: Is epistemic possibility all that philosophically matters?
« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2020, 10:57:17 am »
Well the way I see this playing out is that it could potentially distort any Bayesian analysis of what the most probable metaphysical-ontological theory of reality (MOTOR) is, because on the ACH methodology of applying Bayes theorem, the prior probability of a hypothesis being true is 1 divided by the number of competing hypotheses. But if we take the Infinite Matryoshka Matrix (IMM) hypothesis into account, then the prior probability of any hypothesis being true is 1 over infinity. When the prior probability of a hypothesis asymptotically approaches zero, no amount of evidence can raise the posterior probability. The problem is that this applies to all MOTORs.

As a theist, in order for me to convince a religious skeptic that God exists, I have to falsify atheism. And suppose I were to do this by showing this skeptic that there is an organelle in each of our cells that reads "Jesus loves you." But even here, it's possible that if this skeptic just wasn't feeling up to accepting the evidence she could always rebuff my demonstration by appealing to the broad possibility of the IMM and refuse to welcome God back into her life because I haven't falsified the IMM hypothesis yet.

There is a solution to this problem, but we don't seem to want to admit it, because we don't want to be branded as a dogmatic thinker.
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Emuse

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Re: Is epistemic possibility all that philosophically matters?
« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2020, 11:36:26 am »
As a theist, in order for me to convince a religious skeptic that God exists, I have to falsify atheism.

Exactly, because that is how these things work!  Of course, it is trivially true that some people would still dismiss or be skeptical of much stronger evidence but that's not terribly interesting and does nothing to explain why the evidence put forward for theism isn't sufficient to demonstrate the falsity of atheism, beyond reasonable doubt. 

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Gordon Tubbs

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Re: Is epistemic possibility all that philosophically matters?
« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2020, 01:53:25 pm »
How you think these things work is specifically what I'm calling a problem. The solution is to abandon the falsificationist and verificationist scheme when it comes to theism and atheism, given that neither party can truly demonstrate the truth of their position or the falsehood of the other.
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