Tuesday, October 31, 2023

The Ethics of Epistemology - Escaping the Inigo Montoya Trap - You keep using that word 4

We've looked at the misleading origins of the term 'Epistemology' in the mid 1800s, and at how the term purports to carry on the pursuit of 'meaning' that the premoderns were concerned with, even as the modernist's new '4th branch of philosophy' rejects the metaphysics and logic that any claim to meaning, is necessarily meaningless without. While modernity had been smoldering with skepticism & cynicism since at least the time of Bacon, Hobbes, and Descartes, it didn't burst out into flame until it was ignited by David Hume's declaration that we could not know the causes of anything or anything else beyond an empirical fact and therefore the best (!) thing to do regarding any ethical & moral advice based upon that illusive 'knowledge', would be to:
'Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion'
Claiming that Hume woke him up from his 'dogmatic slumbers', Immanuel Kant decided to oppose Hume by going even further with his systematic assertion that we can't ever really know the reality of the 'thing itself', and deeming earlier 'believable truths' to be outdated and 'uncritical', he led the moderns in systematically revising philosophy's role away from pursuing wisdom, and into providing convoluted sets of high-minded rules and rationalized 'truths' that they'd determined 'would be best' for society to treat as if they were 'realistic' and 'true'. And that system of German Idealism, is what the modernist's new '4th branch of philosophy' sprang from, and is what the word 'epistemology' was coined to obscure behind a facade of 'Greekness'.

For those who'd rather engage with ideas that actually help them to better understand themselves, the world, and how to live a life worth living within it, they'd do best to avoid the presumptions and practices of modern 'epistemology', and instead rediscover how premodern philosophy put what that word claims to mean - a theory of knowledge that distinguishes justified belief from opinion' - into action. The premoderns accomplished that through the only possible means of doing so, by establishing what is real and true, demonstrating how to soundly argue to affirm or refute claims about that, and by identifying what if anything should be done regarding that, which they did through the unified use of Metaphysics, Logic, and Ethics.
Knowledge without Wisdom is Monstrous

In coming posts we'll look at the details of how the modernists did what they've done and the subsequent ill effects that's had on the lives we now lead, but first, to avoid falling into the Inigo Montoya trap which the moderns stumbled upon with 'epistemology' ("You keep using that word... I don't think it means what you think it means"), we need to look at the meaning of the word Ethics, which is generally defined as:
"Ethics: Moral principles that govern a person's behavior and conduct"
, and perhaps the 1st thing to point out is that Ethics is more than merely rules of 'behavior and conduct', Ethics was traditionally the 3rd branch of philosophy, and contained the subjects of Politics, Law, Economics, and more, which matters a great deal to how philosophy 'distinguishes justified belief from opinion', and despite modern epistemology which concerns itself with that in name only, an ethical concern must be involved in any effort to understand what is real and true and how to respond to that, lest you reduce your own mind to that of an artificial intelligence like ChatGPT.

How do I mean that? Like this: it is not possible to meaningfully pursue the purported meaning of epistemology, without ethics - how would you justify - 'justify' being a term of ethics - belief, while having no belief in, interest in, or concern for, what is right and true? What can 'justified' possibly mean without a regard for what is real and true, and what, if anything, should - 'should' is also an ethical term - you do about that? Should you say anything if you notice an error in how something's been justified? What if that'd be inconvenient for you? Does it matter if you don't? Given its treatment of such stated concerns, it's not so surprising that modern philosophy has spawned a succession of evermore coldly antagonistic and brutal ideologies (utilitarianism, materialism, socialism, communism, pragmatism... etc.,), whose ideals are in constant competition to 'manage society', while agreeing only upon the belief that what is real and true, doesn't matter and can't be known by anyone anyway.

The truth is that it is not possible to be concerned with what we are told 'epistemology' means, without incorporating an Ethics that's more worthy of its name, than the '4th branch of philosophy' is of its name - the desire for knowledge without ethics, is a lust for power unburdened by wisdom. Or, to fit it to the season, knowledge without wisdom is monstrous.

Taking a different tact with the 3rd Branch of Philosophy - differences of degree, not kind
How we approach Ethics, necessarily has to differ from how we approached metaphysics and logic in the previous two posts (here, and here), and you can see why in the differences between the first two of the three philosophical questions, in relation to the third - they are again:
  1. 'What is this?', (metaphysics),
  2. 'How do I know that? (Logic)',
  3. 'What, if anything, should I do about that? (Ethics)'
, in that the first two are concerned with what is, while the third is concerned with what should be done because of what we understand those to be. The principles of Metaphysics and Logic rest upon what Aristotle identified as being the first rule of thought, that a thing cannot both be and not be, at the same time and in the same manner and context, and as Logic is entirely derived from that and exists to root out any such contradictions in our thinking, both fields have remained essentially unchanged from Aristotle's day on down to ours, and rightly so, because they are concerned with the timeless First Principles of what is. But as Ethics is concerned with how to respond in respect to what knowledge we have of what is real and true, and as the scope and depth of our knowledge and understanding has expanded and deepened, what is understood to be ethical in relation to that knowledge, has necessarily changed as well.

Put another way, imagine a scene viewed through a telescopic lens, where you see the ground of a yard with a house upon it and a nearby tree being the tallest figure within the scene - then as you zoom out, while the ground remains at ground level, the single house is seen to be one of many houses in a neighborhood, and the tree which had been the highest point visible has become dwarfed by the mountain which had been obscured behind it when zoomed in. Similarly, while the ground of metaphysics and logic remain solid and unchanged, as their ethical high ground had been raised upon standards that are now understood to be considerably lower from our perspective in time, so that what they saw as the high ground back then, we can now see as standing lower, overshadowed in places, and in some cases is now even seen as being disreputable, if not downright evil.

Because the fundamentals of what we accept as ethical behavior, are nearest to the timeless principles of metaphysics and logic which they are derived from, what we believe to be right and wrong in relation to those fundamentals (virtue, murder, theft, etc.,) change very little over time.

But. Since the breadth and depth of knowledge available to us has grown far beyond what was understood when the philosophical pursuit of wisdom was begun by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, that enables a difference in ethical perspective that's often glaring to our eyes today, which was unavailable in their own time. So that where on the surface there seems to be a common baseline understanding of what is ethical - murder was wrong in their time, as it is in ours - what was thought to be an ethical application of that knowledge can differ as much as its scope - i.e. the understanding of what does and does not constitute murder, has changed a great deal between their day and ours.

For instance, you've heard of the term 'decimated'? That comes from the Roman army's practice of discipling poor performance of the soldiers by lining up the troops and going down the line and killing every tenth soldier where they stood. In their eyes, that was not murder, that was simply maintaining discipline.

That's how much degree can vary within kind. And the more closely you look into the past, the more such differences of degree are revealed.

For instance, on the one hand, there were numerous positive developments over even the course of the 300 years from Socrates' time to Cicero's, where their knowledge and experience of the nature and purpose of the state (government and politics being a subset of Ethics), had further developed the idea of a Republic, into one that contained features of democracy, oligarchy, and monarchy (which was hugely influential on our founder's thinking). Also, the character and performance of the Roman's idea of a Republic depended greatly upon the character of their people, and especially upon the importance of the family unit. That also compelled them to seek out and admit more input from the people, and so they also began to see that The Law needed to be much more than an arena for verbal gamesmanship and rules for the rulers to rule their society through - which was the norm in Socrates' time - and instead needed to be based upon a principled understanding of right and wrong, which needed to be able to stand up to reasonable scrutiny, in order to be considered sound and acceptable as law (see especially Cicero's 'Republic' and 'The Laws').

On the other hand, while these were important and sound advances, advances that could be foreseen only dimly, if at all, from Socrates' position in time, from our perspective perched high atop of their shoulders, we're able to look back and down into their details, and see problems which they could not. For instance, as important as the family was believed to be by Romans to the Roman way of life, the near total power that the Roman Husband/Father, the Paterfamilias, had over the lives of his wife and children - he could put either to death if they had in some way (determined by him) dishonored the family - is something we're able to see today as being intolerably wrong and corrupting. And for all that they'd advanced in an understanding of the Law, and of Government, it was not uncommon for leading citizens and politicians, from Lucius Cornelius Sulla to Marc Antony and Octavian (later Augustus), to issue proscriptions for the good of the state, in which were listed the names of hundreds and even thousands of people who were to be hunted down and put to death, based solely upon the say so of whichever eminent figure had put their names onto that list - Cicero himself met his end in that way.
Death of Cicero

Those differences in degree, follow from not just ignorance, but from the scope of knowledge and understanding that was available to them. In Aristotle's day at the opening of the philosophical pursuit of wisdom, the good of the polity, the state, marked the upper limit of known value and virtue, and that meant that the value of the individual was measured by their ability to serve the needs of society and the state. It was from that perspective that it was believed in Aristotle's time:
  • that the state 'should' direct the education of its youth,
  • that some men were naturally slaves and so should serve their masters,
  • it was considered perfectly acceptable for unwanted or disabled children to be 'exposed', tossed out on a hillside, where, unless retrieved by a stranger for some desperately specialized slavery, they would die of exposure to the elements or become food for the wild things and vultures.
Our very different takes on those situations today come from our present vantage point (or at least one that was common to us in our Founders' time), which sees the purpose of the state to be to
  • uphold and defend the rights and property of the individual within society,
  • treating people as property is seen as an evil that is fundamentally opposed to the individual rights which it is the purpose of the state to safeguard,
  • leaving infants for dead is seen as murder and an intolerable evil (*cough* abortion *cough*).
The vantage point from which we see those situations so differently today, comes from the considerably expanded scope of knowledge and understanding of what a person is, and what a society should be, which was largely unknown and unavailable to them in their time - but we cannot forget that our vantage point is built upon the foundations which they laid.

Note: Far from this being an argument for 'relativism', it's in fact the very opposite, in that it is because the range and scope of what we know today - not just in quantity, but the height and depth of understanding that is available today - that it's possible for us to see more clearly what is right and true and good and proper in relation to what is and can be known, than could even be imagined in the absence of that understanding. Note Also: Attempting to reverse that perspective, to judge them by the wider perspective of our day which they lacked, is being anachronistic - imposing something from one time, out of place upon another - and should not be engaged in, as doing so doesn't make you look superior to them, but only shows your judgment to be inferior to the knowledge that is available to you.

And yet, the differences are worth noting, if only to highlight the importance of understanding what is available for you to know, and the enormity of what can be missed through ignorance.

It's also important to point out that a vital part of what made our elevated perspective possible - even imaginable - to us today, are due to the major additions to knowledge and understanding that came from the Christian quarter of what was fast becoming the Greco/Roman-Judeo/Christian West, and that raised the bar in ways that truly were inconceivable to Aristotle, and to Cicero as well.

In addition to the four Cardinal Virtues that had been known to them - Prudence, Justice, Courage, Temperance - were added three more virtues of Faith, Hope, Charity, which altered how the original four were understood to be applied. And so, in holding that violence was not only wrong, but that every person was made in the image of God, it was able to be understood that every person - child, mother, father - should be seen as equally human in the eyes of those whose own eyes had been opened to that. From that perspective it gradually became more and more difficult to not see the rich & powerful, as well as their humblest servants, as being equally human, and so equally deserving of the mutual respect and civility that should be extended to all as members of society.

The (very) Slow (then really fast) Progress of History
We today hardly notice how revolutionarily new these innovations were, and many today even cynically treat them as being outdated - not as a result of any new knowledge of ours, but out of a new ignorance of our old knowledge. What we miss, at the very least, is that these new ideas were such that within a remarkably short time they'd defeated the 'gods' of mighty Rome, within Rome! True, they couldn't stop the rot which centuries of corruption had already brought Republican Rome to ruin, and raised the Roman Empire up in its place, but Rome was able to continue on for another two centuries in the western half of the empire, before collapsing from opposing forces within and without at around the 400s. OTOH, the eastern half of the empire in Byzantium - which had never stopped thinking of itself as Rome - endured and prospered for another thousand years, before it too was finally defeated, though more by external forces than internal failures (though those last weren't lacking).

Centuries more passed by before Thomas Aquinas was able to bring that new Christian understanding, into Aristotle's philosophy, while the 'little people' continued to receive very little benefit or recognition of what we would understand today as 'individual rights', and even once violence, slavery, and immorality, had been brought into clearer disrepute, there were still few substantial barriers to stop the powerful from abusing the weak, as 'needed'. As the centuries passed, the ideas began to bubble up as with England's Charter of Liberties, and still centuries after that before monarchs began to be bound to respect the lives & property of their subordinates (barons, earls, etc.,) began to be codified into British law with the Magna Carta, and still several centuries more before people would begin to see that those same rights should be extended to the non-aristocratic population as well, and only then was the understanding expressed by Sir Edward Coke, able to begin to be infused into British Common Law with the idea that 'Every man's home is his castle', and the corollary realization that everyone's 'Castle' depended upon everyone recognizing that every person was due the equal protections of society's laws which were to be defended by the state, against all enemies, foreign & domestic.

With the solid foundation in fundamentals provided by the early Grecco/Roman half of the West, expanded and humanized by the Judeo/Christian half, and refined over the course of the developments of Europe and especially Britain over the course of two thousand years and more, their accumulated experience and discoveries and knowledge, eventually achieved such an elevated understanding as what began to be expressed with the idea of the English 'Bill of Rights'.

The ethical development of the 'Rights of Englishmen', was a tipping point, spanning as it did across Ethic's subsets of governance, law, economics, and societal norms, and became a new norm that America's Founding Fathers refused to relinquish it, even though England was clear across the ocean. They soon set about refining the idea further still, and then extended the theory of its applicability to mankind as a whole, with the understanding that not only did and should the choices of individuals have value and standing before the law, but that government must be barred from infringing upon those fundamental individual rights. With that understanding becoming widespread, a new soundness and prosperity of their entire society soon followed, and hard on the heels of that came the realization that it all depended upon the people having a moral and liberal education, because an uneducated people, as John Adams put it:
'...would break the strongest Cords of our Constitution as a Whale goes through a Net...'
, and so it was seen to be necessary that each person's choices and rights & property, would be respected and defended against forcible interference, through the principled Rule of Law, which even the State and its officers were to be held accountable to.

John Adams: '... would break the strongest Cords of our Constitution
 as a Whale goes through a Net...'
America's Declaration of Independence, its federal Constitution (and those of its united States), and Bill of Rights, arguably expressed the most radical and revolutionary leap of political progress in human history, and though 'self evident' to them then, it took over two thousand years for that knowledge to be developed and understood, before it could become 'self evident' to our Founders. It is important for us to understand today, that though we share essentially the same understanding of metaphysics and logic and the same Cardinal Virtues of ethics understood in Aristotle's & Cicero's time which our Founders understood to be invaluable 'common judgments of public right' and are still of immeasurable value to us today, 'The Spirit of 1776' was an ethical development that was utterly and completely beyond the ability of anyone to perceive in Aristotle's & Cicero's time.

What beliefs that are justified without reality, looks like 
Ethics develops from our understanding of the knowledge available to us, which is just one reason why it is so unforgivable when systems of education fail to teach our youth the history which our standards of ethical behavior depend upon - how else do you think we came to have college campuses where students chant for death to Israel?! Students protesting for 'free speech' by supporting terrorists, is what it looks like when a person is given an education that has had metaphysics, logic, ethics, and the knowledge they make possible, removed from their understanding.

Ethical understanding is developed from what we know, and that cannot be ignored in any attempt to identify a 'theory of knowledge for justified belief', and it is our ethical responsibility today to carry that on, which means that you cannot blindly accept the judgments of any time - theirs or ours - without giving reasonable consideration to what is right and wrong, if only to ensure that you understand what you're doing and why, rather than timidly obeying a set of rules that then can have no meaning to you.

Because we have abandoned our ethical responsibility in what we accept as a 'theory of knowledge for justified belief' from modern 'epistemology', we now thoughtlessly accept almost any rule that experts tell us is 'justified', and it has taken less than a century of that for our own people to become largely unable to see what had been seen as self-evident in our Founders' era.

We'll take a look at how the three branches of philosophy work together and are embedded in the ethical virtues that need to be recognized in order to defend against that, and the key epistemological method that was used to blind us to all of that, next.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Logic: Observing and deactivating the boobytraps of modernity - You keep using that word 3

The previous post reviewed the highlights of Metaphysics and noted that everyone has a philosophy, even if they are unaware of it, and that the only choice open to us is whether yours will be a confused mishmash that'll be of greater benefit to those interested in using you for their own ends, or a sound one that serves what you think is best by respecting what is real and true. The latter option requires practicing what the term 'Epistemology' was coined to mean in the mid-1880s - 'distinguishes justified belief from opinion' - rather than how that '4th branch of philosophy' (which denies that you are able to know what is real and true) is typically thought of and practiced today.

In this post we'll look at that philosophical feature which mankind had been unaware of for most of human history (that we know of), which is that 3,000 year old manmade technology that quickly became the power-tool of the Western mind: Logic (see Aristotle's Organon). For the fact is that while reasoning comes naturally to all men, doing so methodically, and logically, does not, and until men began paying conscious attention to the process of what they did when reasoning, the key tool for doing that more effectively, and for verifying reason's results, remained undiscovered.
Guarding against Fallacies is important, but not enough!

It would be especially hard for anyone interested in Epistemology to treat Logic as a separate and distinct system, as Logic cannot be 'done' without paying due attention to the metaphysics it is derived from, as identifying what is, what is true, what you know, and what follows from that, are the fundamental requirements that must be known before Logic can be used to test an argument's validity. Any exercise in 'logic' which ignores whether the terms or propositions it is built from reflect reality, is a waste of time and intellectual effort, as logically it cannot be interested in Logic. Yes, the rules of Logic's most visible feature, the Syllogism, are used to validate your argument, but that's just a means to an end, the actual point of logic is to detect inconsistencies, errors, and contradictions in your thinking and in what it is you think you are thinking about, and that requires clearly identifying the nature of your terms, noting how one term actually relates to another, and whether or not your premises are in fact true, and support - or invalidate - your argument.

That's why this primary prerequisite for Logic isn't just a formality, it's the whole point of the process:
  • Ensure that your terms are clear and unequivocal, and that your premises are true
, and there's no point applying any of the other rules of logic, if you haven't first ensured that your terms and premises are true, as what results cannot be logical.

Disclaimer - I'm no expert on Logic, and I'm not intending to teach it here, but only to point out the too often neglected fundamentals, without which you can have no real ability to be logical. If you are interested in learning Logic properly and fully, I can suggest a comparatively brief, and very readable introduction to logical reasoning, in Peter Kreeft's 'Socratic logic: A Logic Text Using Socratic Method, Platonic Questions, and Aristotelian Principles (the first few pages are excerpted here). In that, Prof. Kreeft points out that the rules of logic are, perhaps surprisingly, rather simple, for instance, concerning the archetypal syllogism:
'Socrates is a man,
all men are mortal,
therefore Socrates is a mortal man'
, he points out the immediate understanding which we should take from that argument:
  1. "What are we talking about? "Man"
  2. "What are we saying about it?","That man is mortal"
  3. "Why is it mortal?", "Because man is an animal, and all animals are mortal, therefore man is mortal."
What may not be immediately obvious in that, is that the form of the syllogism enables us to either relate and order that knowledge into a hierarchy of what we know and how it relates to reality, or it exposes the gaps and breaks and errors in our understanding, both of which enhances and reflects our grasp of Identity, Knowledge, and Causality. How it does so is through the terms, propositions, premises, and the conclusion which they argue towards. What's implicit in the working parts of the syllogism, is that its structure reveals three different aspects of the reality being taken into consideration:
  1. Terms reveal essences (What a thing is)
  2. Propositions reveal existence (whether it is)
  3. Arguments reveal causes (why it is)
Those terms, propositions, premises and arguments, are concerned with the metaphysics of what is, and what causally follows from that, is what Logic exposes, as well as expressing what should and should not follow from that, through Ethics. If you have eyes with which you permit yourself to see, you should be able to see that when Sophists' attack causality, they are indirectly attacking logic, identity, truth, and your ability to understand and respond accordingly to them, as we saw with the relativist's 'my truth' being an attack upon truth and reality as such. It is through the logical process, that we see how our knowledge is consciously validated from the grassroots of reality on up, and extended through to the highest of abstractions formed from them, into solid units of understanding.

Not surprisingly, in the modernist's treatment of logic, as with the supposedly 'mathematically rigorous' symbolic logic (Prof. Kreeft gives an excellent explanation of why that is of little value in reasoning), that fundamental rule is rarely even mentioned, and is more likely ignored or evaded, because modernism fundamentally ignores and evades identity, causality, and existence itself. Play your word games all you want, but don't pretend that dressing such games up in the operational rules of logic could make them any more logical, than dressing a man up in women's clothing would make him a woman.

Elementary my dear Watson
The practice of attempting to 'do logic' by the technical rules while ignoring its overall purpose, often leads to one of the common excuses or *criticisms* of syllogisms, such as: "That just deals with deductive logic!', meaning that it's too simple, and also that deductive logic is somehow more obviously and perceptually *true*, and then that inductive or inferential logic deals with conjectures that we cannot ever be ultimately 'certain' of. Before we open ourselves up to the Inigo Montoya treatment, let's get clear on what the meaning of the words we're using, are:
  • Deductive reasoning progresses from general ideas to specific conclusions.
  • Inductive reasoning starts with specific observations and forms general conclusions about them.
Ok... so how different is Deductive logic, from Inductive logic? Well, seemingly very different, and yet not so different after all. You see, making inferences isn't as mysterious as modernists would like you to infer, and those who do so would like you to forget (or better yet, never realize) that all deductions, are themselves derived from inferences!

Look again at the classic example of deductive logic:
'Socrates is a man,
all men are mortal,
therefore Socrates is a mortal man'
The three Propositions that the syllogism is made up of, each of which has two terms, and form a premise about reality, with each building upon the previous one, are leading to the argument's conclusion that is and must be true - if it agrees with experience, and that is the key.

To be logical, your basic logical units, the Terms used, and the propositions formed from them, must be clear, and unambiguous, meaning that there can be no doubt about what is being referred to (Identity). The 1st particular concrete term, is identified as belonging to the 2nd general abstract term, and all within the 2nd general term are related to the particular attribute of the 3rd term, forming the conclusion which clearly follows by demonstrating that there is a relationship between the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd terms. That integrated meaning causes the conclusions, and not the happenstance of a premise's position in an argument, or the surface rules it abided by, and modernity is fundamentally opposed to that understanding (more on that in coming posts).

One too common example that's given of inductive reasoning today, is this exceedingly poor example which was the very first result I received from a Bing search (from liveScience.com),
"The coin I pulled from the bag is a penny. That coin is a penny. A third coin from the bag is a penny. Therefore, all the coins in the bag are pennies."
What this deliberately gives the impression of, is that induction is just a matter of happenstance and seemingly sensible conjecture of one thing that happens to follow another (Oh, Hello there Hume!), which is unreliable and easily invalidated by any unexpected 'black swan' event, such as the fourth coin coming out of the bag as a nickel - Oops! However the fact is that this is not a valid example of Inductive Reasoning, and is in fact only a hasty generalization (which is itself a logical fallacy - see #3 in '10 Commandments of Logic' pic above).

We can easily come up with a better and more appropriate example of inductive logic practically off the cuff, by looking at how the experience of different particulars, leads to a conclusion that relates to every particular instance, by way of a generalized abstraction of 'mortality':
"It's been observed that man requires food and drink in order to live and that he will die without them. In most climates, men require clothing and shelter to survive, and in too harsh conditions without them, even briefly, whether hot, cold, or excessively wet, will likely cause his death. Like other animals, man is subject to diseases which can cause his death, and man, as with other animals, becomes more frail and subject to disease by aging itself, which also eventually leads to his death. Man is also made vulnerable to death by any number of injuries and wounds that, whether sustained by accident or incident to his person, will cause his death. Seeing that there are numerous means for causing a man's death, and that death will eventually come to him even without obvious external cause, and that not only is there no evidence of any men ever having been impervious to fatality, all of the evidence gathered from every relevant direction, indicates that man cannot escape death, and so we infer that it is part of the identity of man that all men are mortal."
Unlike the exceedingly weak example of the three pennies 'proving' that all coins in the bag are pennies by sequential happenstance, this example looks at what becomes an integrated whole through a variety of ways in which man experiences mortality, and inescapably leads to the conclusion that because of the nature of what we know man to be, we are able to infer that part of his identity is that all men are mortal.

The last words there, of "... all men are mortal", of course are what form the 2nd premise of the classic 'Socrates is...' example of deductive logic, and what you should infer from that, is that all such abstract terms are arrived at through the same inductive manner (soundly or unsoundly), which begin in experience, and rising up by abstraction to become accepted concepts - and inescapably lead to the conclusion that the premises used in Deductive logic, are derived from Inductive reasoning. The terms of a deductive syllogism are the answers at the end result of a process of inductive reasoning that created them, and while it can and does save time, it shouldn't be forgotten that it can and should be used as a means of making more plain any oversights or errors that might've been missed in the more detailed process of inductive reasoning.

To fully appreciate Logic and the benefits it reveals to us, we need to understand the nature of the reciprocal 'fact checking' role that is implicit in the complementary roles of deductive and inductive reasoning, which they'll perform for each other, if attended to diligently, in that - so long as you expect that to the best of your knowledge your premises & terms are true - if your deductions and inferences are technically valid, and yet the inescapable conclusion differs in some way from what experience actually shows, that's an indication that there are gaps or even errors in your assumptions and knowledge of the terms you're reasoning with.

For instance, the following example which abides by only the surface rules of the syllogism:
'Socrates is a Greek,
All Greeks eat olives,
Therefore, Socrates eats olives.'
, leads to a conclusion which does not agree with our experience which indicates that at least one of the premises are not fully sound and true, which should cause you to acknowledge that this argument inescapably 'proves' that something in 'what you know' is false.

Discovering errors in your logical reasoning, by means of logical reasoning, is not a bug, that's a feature, and it means that there's more to learn in what you're thinking about, and it clearly shows you that your premises and possibly even your terms, need to be explored further, qualified, and possibly even entirely revised.

To ensure that our 'logically inescapable' conclusions don't become traps for us, we need to do our best to ensure that every step in our logic, and our understanding of its premises, and that its terms are clear and unambiguous, all fully comport with what is real and true. The rules for arranging terms and premises in a syllogism are an important part of the process of logical reasoning, but they do not substitute for the entire process which they too depend upon. That requires that you incline towards a wider view of your knowledge, and ensure that it is more than an arrangement of 'facts', and that there are good reasons to believe that the soundness of your knowledge, and the terms and premises derived from it, lead to, rather than are constricted by, the technical rules of the syllogism itself. By adhering to the primary rule, before, during, and after, we are able to learn from what we know.

Deductive Logic, and Inductive Logic, are two complementary and interdependent approaches to validating your reasoning, and you can bet that when people criticize logic as being 'too pat', or rationalistic, it's because they've allowed those terms to become divided from each other in their minds. It should come as no surprise that modernity was practically established upon pitting deductive and inductive reasoning against each other, they've a number of methods for confusing you into allowing them to do just that.

This issue came to the forefront with Hume, and then exploded in maximum density with Kant's reaction to him, but it is enough for now to know (we'll get into further details in later posts) that when you see the terms 'analytic vs synthetic', or in their more technically detailed form of 'a priori' vs 'a posterori', in either case you'd be wise to treat them as flashing red warning signs being used to divert you into taking the offramp of their '4th branch of philosophy', which is designed to lead you astray from what is, and what can be understood to be, real and true.

You should know that those lights are flashing red, whenever you see examples such as this:
'A Bachelor is an unmarried man' and 'Grass is green'
, and they're attempting to force you to exit onto modernity's epistemological offramp, through those 'analytic'/'synthetic', or 'a priori'/'a posterori' terms just mentioned, which they assert are only 'true' (scare quoted as this is the means of reducing Truth to small 't' truths') either by definition alone, or through empirical evidence.

Before looking closer, how they typically define these terms are, that Analytic or:
"A priori claims are those you can know independent of experience"
, or is 'contained by it' (as 'unmarried' is 'contained' by 'bachelor') while on the other apparent hand, a Synthetic or:
"a posteriori claims are justified based on experience"
If something about those statements seems unsettling, congratulations, your internal B.S. detector is working well, and you can see the issue by asking 'What is this, How do I know it, What if anything should I do about that', yourself.

We can and should say that, and without advancing a materialist position, it is true that there is nothing that we can know of this world, independent of experience. The word 'Bachelor' was not magicked into our minds from somewhere beyond time or space, we know that a bachelor refers to an unmarried man, and because through experience we know what a man is, and we know what marriage is, and that 'Bachelor' is the word we use to identify a man that is not married - it is self-evident that the word, its terms, and its premise, are all derived from experience.

The same goes for their other favorite examples, that the sum of degrees in a triangle is always 180* is 'true in every universe', because we understand from experience the nature and properties of a triangle. Likewise with Number and numbering, as far from numbers being mysteriously ethereal concepts, they are what we arrived at after having abstracted the particulars being counted - apples, oranges, spears - away from the quantities being handled, we were able to give the names of 'one, two, three' to them, as a means of greatly simplifying the counting of them.

Yes, numbers show up in the darndest of places, but that's because quantities of this and that is all there is... everywhere! No part of 27÷9=3 exists outside of or prior to experience, and in case you've forgotten, learning that the answer to what 27 divided by 9 is, is devilishly difficult to get to - ask any 1st grader to verify that for you. It's only after you've understood what a number is, and what particular numbers refer to, and after you've experienced working through and counting it out a few times, that it gets easier. Yes, numbers, math, can be applied anywhere in place and time, and would apply whether or not people existed... by whichever intelligent creature existed that was able to learn the concept from experience. Don't fall for the 'a priori/a posterori' con, it is purely philosophical sleight of hand, and it is intended to take something from you - one of your most important handles on reality. Whatever example is waved in your face, don't buy into their conceptual Three Card Monty game - concepts are applicable in nearly every scenario we can imagine, but that does not mean that we came to know any of them through any means other than from experience.

Note: In recent years there've been attempts to dodge this, by objecting that "What makes something a priori is not the means by which it came to be first known, but the means by which it can be shown to be true or false" (Baggini), meaning that once it's been learned, we no longer need to refer to experience, to know what a triangle is, to which I give all the respect which is due that argument in my reply: B.S.! Someone who has somehow never seen or heard of a triangle, will not 'know' it by saying the word 'triangle', and until you ask them to imagine the shape made from three straight lines, laid end to end with the last connecting back to the first, they will then understand it, from having had that experience of imagining it, or you can show them a triangle and after having experienced seeing it, they'll recognize it... from that experience.

There are many technical differences between what I've lumped together here as being roughly equivalent between 'analytic vs synthetic', 'a priori' vs 'a posterori', but they are differences of degree, not kind, and the ugly fact is that people are working very hard to discredit your ability to apprehend reality, and they will try to confuse the issue of what is, and is not real, but their efforts are no more worthy of trust than those of the Three Card Monty dealer - don't fall for it. After cutting through all of the dense verbiage, what they're doing is attacking both Identity and Causality, and they're doing so in order to capture your mind - decline to accept their 'hypotheticals' - they're trying to bounce you right on out of the real world. I'd advise against accepting their invitation.

As we've already seen with the premise that 'man is mortal', when we examine our experiences, we don't simply infer a conclusion from a sequence of observations, as the lame example of taking coins from a bag asserted, rather, as we saw with 'man is mortal', we observe that in examining our experiences, when we find that the totality of our observations show the same results, which are also affirmed through all other conceivable variations, we are able to infer with certainty that within those contexts that conclusion is able to be understood to be true.
NOTE: Certainty does not require nor imply inerrant infallibility, and any attempt at claiming that, is also an attack, deliberate or not, upon reality, identity, truth, and everything in your world which depends upon them.
We are able to infer that there is a basis for being certain of our conclusion, within appropriate contexts, and one reason why we should not separate deductive from inferential reasoning, is that they are interdependent and self-correcting, when previously unconsidered evidence and contexts arise.

It's important to point out that the famous 'black swan' event, is not a valid case of inference or exception, relying as it does on nothing more than the feeble 'this coin was a nickel, and the next coin was a nickel, so all coins are nickels' mockery of inference, in that as we know that chemical processes which produce the coloring of a swans feathers, are fully capable of producing other colors, and there's no reason to suspect that a mutation would be unable to produce a single black swan or even a new breed of them. The fact that swans are most likely to be white, is valid as a general rule of thumb, but the existence of one or more black swans does nothing to invalidate inferential reasoning.

With that being said, we can move onto the other evasion of 'synthetic' or 'a posteriori' examples, which are typically positioned through common examples of:
"Grass is green" and "Man is mortal" and "There are no black swans"
, and one of the ways that students are intellectually assaulted with these terms, is by means of hypotheticals - NEVER allow someone to propose violating a fundamental principle such as identity or causality, in order to engage you in a hypothetical that begins with your agreeing to imagine something that conflicts with what you know to be real and true; their purpose is not to expand your thinking, but to puncture it, to sow doubts into your existing thoughts, and to disable your ability to think clearly from then on.

As we've seen, the premises that 'man is mortal' or 'bachelor is an unmarried man', are inferred from experience in just the same manner as 'grass is green' (in most varieties, not all), and the sum of degrees within a triangle is always 180*. It is only from experience that we are able to conceive of and conclude with certainty that all triangles in a flat plane (important point) sum up to 180*, because we can quickly see that there are no possible variations within a flat plane, that could result in more or less that 180* - it isn't possible. And while laying a triangular shape upon a convex or concave surface will produce more or less that 180*, that's no longer dealing with triangles in the context of a flat plane. And we don't validate our concepts through hypotheticals such as 'imagine grass that's red, or striped', because experience shows that hypotheticals that do not exist in reality, are not valid 'points of view' for considering reality from.

That man is mortal, is a result of inference. That all triangles contain 180* is the result of inference. That Red is a color, is a result of inference (and the fact that there are edge colors where its difficult to say are blue or green, does not invalidate either, and the fact that noticing there are fuzzy edges affirms, rather than calls into question, that solid ground can be identified). That a Bachelor is an unmarried man is no less an inference because it is defined to express the difference between men, and married men. Even 2+2=4 is an inference. The fact that some terms and premises take more or fewer instances to reliably infer a conclusion, has no effect on the validity of inference. BTW, the same applies in ethical conclusions, when an argument is made that:
'All people need food and shelter to survive,
some people lack food and shelter,
therefore government should ensure they are fed'
, they are counting upon your accepting their premises - and the ones they are ignoring - without question, and you can bet that they will fight against your checking their premises about 'people', 'need', 'good', and 'government'. Don't allow it. Ever.

The supposed 'ideal' of inerrant and infallible certainty, which they hold up as an ideal, is a confession of their failure to understand and hostility to, mankind and man's means of understanding.

Are you Certain?
Is logical reasoning infallible? Of course not, and neither is it a criticism of either logic or reasoning to point out that both can make errors (ehm... discovered... how?),and seeking after infallibility, is itself an attack upon your ability to know what is real and true. Those who make such points as criticisms of logic and/or reasoning aren't seeking after what is 'right', they mean to suggest that it is possible to be human and inerrant, which is a confession that they seek to escape the burden of judgment, they seek after systems that are so perfect that they won't ever need to risk being in error, and more than anything else, they seek to escape the responsibility of taking their own judgment seriously. Ultimately what that means, is that they seek to escape from reality, and truth, in the comfort of the grandest lie of all, which is but a euphemism to divert attention away from the death and destruction that follow in its wake.

Stay on the road to reality, don't take the detours and offramps. The reason for the rules of logic that Aristotle formulated, and why we should follow them, checking and verifying that your thinking is either valid, or invalid, is to bring clarity to our understanding of what is real and true, and to bring order to our thinking. Logic is less about proving that something is true, than with clarifying whether your ideas of what is true, correspond to what actually is real and true, and reveals to you whether the fault is to be found within your argument, or with your premises, or even the terms, that you're using.

With all of that having been said, and reviewed here, there are a few other notable cautions and root fallacies noted in previous posts, to point out here, as an awareness of them helps in keeping your mind on track:
  • An infinite regress does not lead to an explanation (in an evasion of both inductive and deductive logic), and engaging in such an effort is a giveaway that either an error, or a deception, is being concealed ("It's turtles all the way down!")
  • The hypothetical assault - when a modernist asks you to consider an unreal or impossible hypothetical - "If we hypothetically, imagine ice that sinks, or grass that floats and burns, then it would it be logical to say...", but they aren't teaching you to think logically, they're actively steering you away from the fundamental rule for logically building upon what is real and true, to send you instead down modernity's epistemological offramp, performing computational rules of flowcharting, rather than engaging in logical reasoning.
All of that and a great deal more (but always at least that), are basic to what was expanded upon in Aristotle's Metaphysics, and what's been known as The Organon, made up of his Categories, On Interpretation, the Prior Analytics, the Posterior Analytics, the Topics, and On Sophistical Refutations.

What 'Epistemology' is defined as being, then - though rarely practiced as such - a system that 'distinguishes justified belief from opinion', is only able to see that it's justified, because it first identifies what is real and true, and so can be argued for logically, and be ethically justified.

That process is, and was, and should again be, understood to be one that utilizes metaphysics, logic, and ethics, in identifying what is, what follows, and what, if anything, should be done about that, by examining claims in a methodical, reasonable, and logical manner... and the Ethical portion of how we go about determining 'what, if anything, should be done about that', is what we'll look at next.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Epistemology's meaning is meaningless without Reality - You keep using that word 2

In the previous post I pointed out that despite what the Textbooks, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and Wiki's, would have you believe, Epistemology is not an ancient term for an equally ancient '4th Branch of Philosophy' that 'all the greats of philosophy' have contributed to, but is instead a term coined by a Scotsmen in the mid 1800s, that aided in legitimizing that equally modern '4th branch' which there was no need for in premodern philosophy. Both term & branch have served as a useful means of injecting modernity's numerous mind-numbing innovations into the field of philosophy, while at the same time steering people away from the premodern view, which first and foremost saw philosophy as an intellectual means of looking at the world from a perspective that began with wonder:
"...It is through wonder that men now begin and originally began to philosophize; wondering in the first place at obvious perplexities, and then by gradual progression raising questions about the greater matters too..."
, which also taught that how to avoid becoming lost in wonder, was by consciously grappling with identifying what they found to be real and true, in both theory and practice:
"It is right also to say that philosophy should be called knowledge of the truth. For the end of theoretical knowledge is truth, while that of practical knowledge is action..."
Philosophizing for premoderns entailed using metaphysics, logic, and ethics, to identify and verify what you'd come to understand - whether that was that something that was timelessly true, or technologically effective - and how best to communicate to others that those beliefs were justifiable, and why, and what - if anything - should be done about that. IOW, for two thousand years 'doing philosophy' had included doing in practice at each step, what the modernists wouldn't coin the word 'epistemology' for, until the mid 1800s.

Modernists, OTOH, having begun by denying that we can know what is real and true, have used the meaning of the word as a deceptive cover, while the system behind it condemned 'philosophy' to being learned through textbooks, each securely wrapped up in the specialized technical jargon of various subfields, which typically rationalized whichever ideological positions of the moment - 'Standpoint Epistemology', 'Epistemology of Ignorance', 'Social Epistemology', etc., - seemed best suited to serving the greater good of that moment in time, without reference to what is 'real and true' across time.

The typical reaction of those who've only encountered what the modernists call 'philosophy' in school, is that they have no intention of bothering further with philosophy at all, but no matter how understandable that reaction is, that particular 'good intention' is one that's paved many a private road to Hell, as it immediately puts you at odds with the reality of what and who you are as a human being. Like it or not, no one has a choice about whether or not they will have a philosophy: you already have one! Whether you're a drug addict, a working stiff, student or professor, it is an inescapable part of the identity of being human. The only choice that is open to you, is whether you'll have a sound and coherent philosophy that orders and serves your life, or an unconscious mishmash of contradictory notions that is more likely to benefit those seeking to exercise power over you for their own ends.

Even those who have no burning interest in philosophy - and most don't - should still have a grasp of its basics and the common pitfalls to watch out for, just as those who have no burning interest in mathematics, should still be familiar with the basics of arithmetic, multiplication & division, and know some 'gotcha!'s like not to divide by zero, especially as the consequences of miscalculating your ability to pay your bills, is nowhere near as consequential as those philosophical errors that can easily hamper your ability to live your life well, gut your life of meaning, and even bring your society to ruin.

The good news is that it doesn't take a lot of effort to learn what you need to know, or to recognize the philosophical pitfalls & poisons lurking around us in the modern world today. In fact, even briefly hitting the highlights of what was recently covered here across several posts, would help with putting your own sense of wonder back on solid ground, as with just a little watering of attention to the essentials will take root and develop, if you only habituate yourself to consciously and actively asking and answering three simple questions:
  1. 'What is this?', (metaphysics)
  2. 'How do I know that is real and true? (Logic)' ,
  3. 'What, if anything, should I do about that? (Ethics)
It's of course not possible to detail all of metaphysics, let alone philosophy, in a single post, or even a series of them, but the greater point is that there's no need to, for anyone who honestly pursues those three questions towards what is real and true, is philosophizing, and is already 'doing' epistemology as it should be done, and anyone doing so will benefit from the confidence of knowing that they have some justification for what they believe - not just because they say 'I believe!', but because they've developed an understanding of what they know and how they know it, and how to respond accordingly, while progressively freeing their lives from the vagaries and falsehoods which have accreted over the West during the last four centuries of the modern era.

You could start on your own with those three questions and be far ahead of those who don't do even that, but there are a number of enticingly false trails that've ensnared and consumed the time of many truly great minds who've pursued those questions before you; or instead, giving your consideration to these highlights will reveal them and the ways they found around the more obvious detours, exits, traps and dead-ends, that lay in wait for you, and spare yourself the same trouble. Doing so will not only give you access to their wisdom & experience, it'll also reveal to you the enormous state of confusion, and the many mis-directions that the modernists have injected into the daily assumptions surrounding us in our world today, and so help you to disentangle your own thoughts from them.

To begin a 'quick' (well, quicker than seven posts) review of those highlights, we'll begin at the beginning with The Three Acts of the Mind:
First Act: Apprehend (Understand) - We open our eyes, and whether seeing something for the first time, or understand that we know it by name, a Rock for instance, we apprehend it, conceptualize, identify it
Second Act: Judgment - The act of mind which combines or separates two terms by affirmation or denial. 'Rock is hard' is a judgment
Third Act: Reasoning - From our observations and judgments, we move towards further conclusions and applications of them. 'As rocks are hard, I should avoid striking my toe against them.'
We're always performing these three acts of the mind, and no matter whether we do so well or poorly, the human mind, the 'difference engine' as it's sometimes been called, is constantly, naturally, observing and making distinctions between one thing and another, making a judgment about those differences and what to do about them. No matter what continent or age he's lived in, man has naturally been able to engage with and dominate his environment, by performing those Three Acts of the Mind - even though he mostly did so with no awareness of what that process was, or entailed.

The first to notably begin paying conscious attention to the process of reasoning were the Greeks, and the first of them to begin trying to methodically identify and clarify what our words referred to, and whether or not what they were leading us towards, was, or could be true, was Socrates. He famously put his Socratic method to use by publicly questioning the leading voices in Athens who claimed to know something of the reality behind the popular assumptions of his time - what was meant by Good, Virtue, Piety, Justice, Power - and revealed that all too often the primary concerns of those leaders were for how those assumptions could be used to their own social and political benefit while ensnaring their audiences through them, rather than communicating something real and true with them.

Despite Socrates being put to death for practicing it, his Socratic method of reasoning (what he called the 'Dialectic', is not like what goes by that name today) caught on and was spread by followers of his like Plato, and by Plato's own student, Aristotle, who further refined their methods into a system of requirements, rules, and common errors to be watched out for when doing so, which were applicable not only to questioning members of society, but also to examining the world around us through what would become the framework for biology, physics, the arts and more.

The fundamental principle that was at the root of the entire system, was what Aristotle called the first rule of thought:
- that a thing cannot both be, and not be, in the same manner and context;
, and that understanding that contradictions cannot exist, was the cornerstone which Aristotle built his system upon, and it's been the distinction that truly has made the difference between what would become The West, and all of the rest - and is what Modernity has been targeting since its inception (that is what's being targeted by the nonsense of saying that a man can become a woman).

How to validate, communicate, study, and argue for what is true for all, within the reality we all share, begins with identifying the three different forms of knowledge which we come to know that through:
  • Empeiría/Epistemé - often translated as only one word or the other, what we call Empirical, refers to the facts and data of experience, while Epistemé refers to the principled methods of Science;
  • Tékhne - what we today call Technology, is the “art” or “technique” of putting the facts and data of experience to use;
  • Sophía - Wisdom (Philosophy, philo-Sophia, being the love of wisdom) goes deeper and sees farther into how to turn the experiences and arts of living, towards taking those actions that make lives worth living
Lacking those distinctions implicitly degrades the depth & quality of what you know to a flat 'if you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail' view of knowledge and what it might be useful for, whereas an awareness of those distinctions in what you know, allows depth and dimension to your understanding and inclines you towards a more 'well rounded' education.

The philosophical awareness that reality is the basis of what we're able to recognize as being true, and that truth is the measure of what is good, provides an ever-clearer sense of man's place within the world, and in practice reveals those otherwise unseen relationships which surround and incorporate us all within what is real and true.

Coincidentally (not!) that same philosophical awareness of reality is what the modernist's misosophy (hatred of wisdom) seeks to divorce you from. How? Think about what is happening within and to a person's thoughts when they advance any of the positions plucked from the bitter fruits of modernity, such as:
That may be your truth but it's not my truth
, for while a person may have their own opinion, they cannot have their own Truth, yet in the act of expressing the idea that they can, a person is denying their own ability to share their thoughts and understanding with another person - and they with them - which is isolating 'their' realities from each other. If taken seriously, that'd mean that they'd be unable to discuss with anyone else what they meant by even their own statement's words of 'that', or 'my', let alone by 'truth' - how could they, if truth is not what we have or even can have, in common? If what is objectively true is not accessible to all, then any and every thought and statement of yours would be rendered fully and completely meaningless to others and to yourself, and could not be otherwise.

You might say "Well, but they don't really believe that", but that means that they've consciously advanced a lie at the center of their mind to achieve surreptitious ends, and how could that not accomplish the very same thing? Such modernisms disengage your sense of self from the world, and deprive you of being able to trust in your fellows - what can trust be without Truth?! - and puts you in opposition to what is real and true, separating each person's words and concepts from what they refer to, ultimately rendering the intelligible world, intelligence, and the logos, into little more than meaningless sounds to be parroted as verbal tricks. Those who've been taught such modernisms, have been cast adrift in their own private chaos (see Sartre who embraced that chaos as the ideals of existentialism).

Not only are all such beliefs necessarily chaotic, but their inconsistencies and contradictions are also almost comical to listen to, as "That may be your truth but it's not my truth" is itself declaring a universal truth while claiming that truth can't be universally known, just as the claim that "No one can know anything!", is itself a claim to know something! Or how about this oh-so Modernist gem:
'Reason can't be trusted!'
, oh... ok, so how and with what did you come to that conclusion? Yep, that's right! You used your REASON to conclude that 'reason can't be trusted', which means, 1st, you shouldn't trust yourself, and 2nd I'm not going to trust you either. Good lord. The attentive listener who's unwilling to be diverted from what they can observe to be real and true, shouldn't hesitate to show how embarrassingly self-refuting and at odds with reality such statements are (see Retortion).

Failings such as these were as obvious and applicable to the sophists of Aristotle's time, as they are to the skeptics of our own, and the reality is that they have no choice but to implicitly, and often explicitly, utilize every aspect of what they're so dramatically denying, in order to deny them! Not for no reason did Aristotle note that if a skeptic actually took their own positions seriously, they'd have to close their mouths, and sit down to await their deaths, motionlessly & silently, since,
"...But if all are alike both wrong and right, one who is in this condition will not be able either to speak or to say anything intelligible; for he says at the same time both 'yes' and 'no.' And if he makes no judgement but 'thinks' and 'does not think', indifferently, what difference will there be between him and a vegetable?..."
The awareness that there is something to know, and that it cannot both be and not be at the same time and context, leads to noticing not only those distinctions between the forms of knowledge we can have of that, but also that there is a distinctive pattern to how we act upon our knowledge, which Aristotle illustrated as the Four Causes:
  1. the Material Cause: “that out of which”, e.g., bronze is what a statue is made out of.
  2. the Formal Cause: “the form”, “the account of what-it-is-to-be”, e.g., the shape of a statue.
  3. the Efficient Cause: “the primary source of the change or rest”, e.g., the artisan, the art of bronze-casting the statue, the man who gives advice, the father of the child.
  4. the Final Cause: “the end, that for the sake of which a thing is done”, what the aim is of commissioning a bronze statue to enhance a park setting;
, by developing the habit of looking deeper into the nature of causation than only the shallowest of surface appearances, you'll be more aware of where you are in the world, more informed about what it is you are observing, and less mystified about what's going on around you - in short, an attention to causation, causes you to have a more thorough understanding of what you know matters to you.

In matters of material causation, the same principle applies, in that the deeper understanding we have of the identity of what something is, the better we'll be able to understand how it changes with the circumstances of its present context which determines its Actuality and Potentiality to change (the example given previously, Baking Soda and Vinegar cause a very different reaction, than when Baking Soda is combined in a cake mix), in that 'change' is what results from being in sufficient proximity with what something else is - IOW, Causation is Identity in action (and interaction).

That attention to what is, how we know it, and what is caused by that, reveals that whatever the sophist and skeptic might say about how seriously they take their own positions and inconsistencies, if they acted on them consistently - from crossing the street without looking, to disregarding 'too rigid' warnings on powerful medications - they'd soon be dead, and yet their shadowy inconsistencies are effective at ensnaring popular opinion, and the power & influence which that leads to, is what they do take seriously. Likewise, then as now, while Sophists are unconcerned about the weaknesses of their claims, in having turned away from the pursuit of truth (a wrong turn which modernity's off-ramp of 'epistemology' has detoured generations of students with), they thrive on the confusion which naturally spreads out through mishandling concepts of identity, causation, and change, easily inflames popular passions through whatever it is that is the 'Irritant of the Day' - as has happened from the Persians of Socrates' day, to the 'economics' of Marx's, and down to the global warming of today - giving them easier access to the levers of power while further undermining popular norms, as sophists have excelled at doing since the time of Zeno's paradoxes (look up Achilles losing a race to a tortoise).

A fabricated doubt is a willfully arbitrary denial of reality which (if unchecked) progressively erodes ever larger swaths of your understanding, whereas a naturally arising doubt indicates a gap in your knowledge which prompts your asking questions to improve and enlarge your understanding.
It was through the indirect route of causation, that modernity's first skeptic of note, David Hume, launched his attacks upon our ability to know what is real and true, and with a big assist from Descartes' 'method', he struck through our only implicit understanding of Causation, by fabricating arbitrary doubts about our ability to know what causes anything at all to happen. His assertion was that what we mistakenly take for being knowledge of cause and effect, is really nothing more than our naively associating what we see happening in sequence - 'contiguously in time' - which is all just 'one damn thing after another'. Hume, who was a nominalist (believing that words are arbitrary labels which convey no real understanding) and an empiricist (only measurable facts matter), asked if anyone had actually ever seen a 'cause', or do we simply first see one billiard ball rolling into another, and then on seeing the 2nd billiard ball rolling away, we assume that the one caused the other...riiight?

Hume answered his own question, declaring that:
"I look for an object of 'causation' and I do not see it"
, and so following other such doubts concluded that if 'causation' is not a physically detectable feature like a fissure or a bump, then it doesn't 'exist'; there is 'no causation', only happenstance, and when we say that striking a billiard ball will cause it to roll, we don't actually know that striking it will cause that, we only say so because it's happened that way in the past, and we have no way of knowing that it'll ever happen that way again. Meaning that having no knowledge of identity (which was his real target), and so we can have no meaningful knowledge of what a billiard ball is, or what causes it to move when struck by another, let alone what might cause the sun to rise, or iron to rust - all we can know are memories (which are...?) of past facts (...how?), and though those are mysteriously useful in gambling on what'll happen in the future, that 'fact' can only be an uncertain guess, a probability, not a 'truth'.

Ironically, for an 'empiricist', such sentiments are only possible by evading the evidence of his own senses. That Hume willfully evaded seeing this, we can easily see from his own words which make plain that he is making use of his own ability to perceive and conceive of what is real and true, in order to deny his own ability to perceive and conceive of what is real and true. Right? What, after all, is a memory? What is a 'fact'? Is a fact a tangible 'thing' (no, it is our conception of a tangible thing, in the context of other facts) that exists, and if not, how are you speaking of it? How do empirical 'facts' get into memory? How are such things committed to and recalled from our mind, except by some form of causation that's necessarily formless in nature, and which in considering it, conveys what knowledge you have of it, knowledge that can be added to, examined, and verified? Sorry Hume, but you cannot deny metaphysics, causality, and knowledge, while making use of metaphysics, causality, and knowledge, in order to deny metaphysics, causality, and knowledge - not to mention doing so with the appearance of a logical argument when logic also depends upon all three (more on that in the next post).

Hume's ultimate target was not causation, but identity, and especially the responsibility that recognizing both entails, in that upon his asserting his conclusion that any metaphysical, moral, or ethical teachings, are but reckless conjectures which Hume advised readers to 'Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion', and why wouldn't he, since he claimed that on having gone in search of his 'self' he came up empty, and remarked:
"When I turn my reflection on myself, I never can perceive this self without some one or more perceptions; nor can I ever perceive any thing but the perceptions"
, and Hume likewise denied the self, the soul, and Free Will, he took that act of willful blindness in the face of reality to 'the next level', feigning blindness to the fact that that 'me' which he described those 'concrete mental acts' being given to, was the very self he denied the existence of.

His necessarily meaningless assertions to the contrary, Causation, is not a mysterious force, and there is no need to look for a separate object of 'causality' (which would do what exactly?), nor is there some sort of causal pixie dust that somehow evaded Hume's observations, there is only reality as it is, which is open to all who don't refuse to see, and identify what we can see.

Perhaps the best reply to such willful blindness comes from the response that Aristotle gave in his Physics to the Sophists of his time, who, like Hume, preferred to spin up their own mental notions which they 'thought' were somehow more preferable to the reality which they refused to see:
"... That nature exists, it would be absurd to try to prove; for it is obvious that there are many things of this kind, and to prove what is obvious by what is not is the mark of a man who is unable to distinguish what is self-evident from what is not..." [emphasis mine]
, but of course saying so to someone who refuses to see and hear and who denies the choice he made to do so, it would almost certainly be pointless, as such answers as those which Hume declared he was unable to find, in everything from his 'self', to causality, to knowledge, were and are easily found in the premodern metaphysics which he'd so actively evaded, and opposed, which as we'll see in coming posts, what the spark that escalated modernity's ongoing assault upon the Greco-Roman/Judeo-Christian West into open opposition to it.

When a child first sees the explosive reaction caused by adding baking soda to vinegar, he quickly grasps that something about adding the one to the other, causes that eruption - it doesn't just happen 'contiguously in time', no child would tolerate such a perverse evasion of causality.

And as innumerable ' volcano science projects' have demonstrated for more than a century, as the student's knowledge deepens into a more detailed understanding of the chemical identities of both substances involved, their earlier inference of being 'the cause' of the eruption, is contextually clarified, not invalidated, which is a process that will continue on down to their knowledge of what is happening at the subatomic level, where previous knowledge will be contextually sharpened, but not discarded.

Causation is Identity in action and interaction, and the better we understand the identity of something, the better we can predict what it might cause.
What we are able to know of the identity of what something is, tells us about how it will behave in action, and interaction, with its surroundings - what happens, happens because of the nature and substance of what it is, and in relation to what else is in its surroundings - subject and object exist in interaction and do not do so in isolation from each other, there is a causal relationship, and as our understanding of the nature of one identity improves, so does our understanding of what causes it to behave as it does in various contexts, with those of the planets orbiting around our sun, or of billiard balls striking each other, or of one substance changing into another as from iron to rust, or those detectable affects to our own disposition and character that are reliably caused by our own willingness or unwillingness to understand that what is real and true, matters.

When you deny that, as Hume did, you soon lose the ability to even recognize yourself. His blindness to them was a choice, made through the free will which he denied that he or we have, and was likely the result of a long and habitual rebellion against reality - outside and in - to the point of his having divorced himself from reality, inside and out. Sad. And modern Epistemology, which Kant formed in reaction to Hume (more on that in coming posts) - not by trying to correct his claim's errors, but by accepting his claims and extending them into a system that begins by denying our ability to know what is real, should be a non-starter for anyone concerned with what is real and true, as the meaning of the word 'Epistemology' is necessarily meaningless, without reality.

Summing up: It is what it is
Socrates, when asked about his new system and his role in it, had the humility and self-awareness to realize that ultimate wisdom was beyond the reach of man, but what we could and should do, was recognize its priceless value and the need to pursue it, which he called Philosophy, the love of wisdom.

Premodern philosophy's love of wisdom necessarily entails the pursuit of knowledge of what is objectively real and true, while always being aware of the possibility of being wrong or lacking important context, and engaging in that pursuit in that way leads us into a deeper understanding of ourselves, the world, and our place in it. Armed with the understanding that reality not only exists, but is worth knowing, and that knowing it is good, a society leads itself towards a flourishing level of education, the practice of science, and the development of technology that is beneficial to human life.

Two thousand years after Socrates' time, Hegel had no such sense of humility or any suspicion that he could be wrong, and convinced as he was that he already knew all that needed to be known, he concluded that he needn't pursue the wisdom he was sure he already had (conveniently he also pooh-poohed Aristotle's concern over contradictions), and all that he felt was left for him to do was to teach his wisdom to those who weren't too stupid to grasp it (an attitude which has been a 'tell' of those following in his misosophical footsteps to this day).

Modernity's doubtful certainties, lead only to false pretenses, anxiety, isolation, willful ignorance, and a regression to 'communicating' your desires through lies and the exercise of brute power and violence, while very likely devising and utilizing technologies suited to further those ends. The 'position' that we cannot know what is real and true, and that there is no issue with holding contradictory positions, is and should be beneath contempt, and that far from being the positions of a 'realistic skeptic', they are, at best, confessions of willful ignorance and intentional blindness in mind and spirit.

To reload our bullet points, how we come to understand anything, is through The Three Acts of the Mind:
First Act: Apprehend (Understand) - We open our eyes, and whether seeing something for the first time, or understand that we know it by name, a Rock for instance, we apprehend it, conceptualize, identify it
Second Act: Judgment - The act of mind which combines or separates two terms by affirmation or denial. 'Rock is hard' is a judgment
Third Act: Reasoning - From our observations and judgments, we move towards further conclusions and applications of them. 'As rocks are hard, I should avoid striking my toe against them.'
, and through conscious attention to how & what we think, we come to understand that:
  • Reality exists
  • What exists, exists as some thing, which is what it's Identity is derived from
  • In becoming aware of what exists, we become aware of our selves.
, and the more conscious we become of what we think and how, we are led to Aristotle's first rule of thought:
  • "...the same attribute cannot at the same time belong and not belong to the same subject and in the same respect..."
, through which we come to grasp the three forms of knowledge (Episteme, Techne, Wisdom), and a realization of the reality that what is real and true, is objectively true for all, and from that realization, by making the distinctions we naturally do, in a methodical manner, we come to a better understanding of Causality - in the context of man's actions it entails the Four Causes (the Material, Formal, Efficient, and Final Causes), and with material causation's Actual and Potential to change being determined by the Identity of those materials within a given context, in which causation is essentially what results from Identity in action and interaction, over which our knowledge enables us to act upon and understand the world around us and our place within it.

And one last point and peril to be aware of, is the crucial importance of recognizing the difference between a legitimate doubt that comes unbidden to your mind, and the artificial 'doubt' that modernity is intent upon your developing the conscious habit of inserting into your every thought.

These are the doubtful distinctions between a true doubt, and an arbitrarily fabricated 'doubt' of corrosive skepticism:
  • A true doubt, comes upon us unbidden from an unconscious understanding, and leads us to ask those questions which initiates the desire to identify and to relate to what else you know - Aristotle's "All men my nature desire to know" - and helps to form or clarify our understanding. Such naturally occurring doubts as those are valid and entirely desirable, and are the very antithesis of an arbitrary and consciously fabricated doubt.
  • An arbitrary doubt, is not a basis for thought, this Cartesian 'method' instead eradicates methodical thinking, and is erosive to reasoning, as it transforms what had been known, into further unknowable unknowns that unceasingly divides our knowledge and understanding, and straying down those paths will not lead a thinker to knowledge and wisdom, but only to their destruction - AKA: Critical Dialectic
The hard reality is that no part of metaphysics can be denied, without utilizing all of its other 'parts' to do so, and every attempt to do so affirms every part in an embarrassingly self-refuting manner (remember Retortion). Fortunately for us, knowing even only that much about what you are up against, gives the advantage of awareness which enables you to take notice of and so step around the epistemological booby traps that the modernists' have laid for us all, and so logically proceed on more securely within a world that truly is meaningful... next post.