Friday, July 24, 2015

Radical Skepticism: An Answer for Shizmoo

This question reminds me of the time that I posted a question on Massimo Pigliucci’s blog asking him how he kept his arguments grounded to avoid circularity and infinite regress in order to make sure that the arguments were true. He always kept his comments moderated, and that question never saw the light of day. But I can answer for him, and I will at the end of this article.

This is a legitimate issue regarding the grounding of rational arguments. Radical skepticism seems to bump into the grounding process, run it over, flatten it in the road, producing chaos. But it really doesn’t.

Let’s take a slow walk through the issues.
“You said to post any question in latest post. Read some of your first principle articles and I was just curious about you and your response to the Münchhausen/agrippa trilemma.
Axioms are question begging unjustified assumptions, circular reasoning is obviously fallacious, and infinite regress isn't possible. There is no way to know truth or anything being a finite human forced to employ fallacious reasoning as noted above. “

As a preliminary, it is easy to reject circularity and infinite regresses, because they are not grounded in anything like true knowledge. Circularity refers back to itself as the authority for its claims; infinite regressions have no stopping point which can be called authority for its claims. This leaves two possibilities (there are four, not three as the trilemma implies, total). It leaves axioms and chaos. So we need to compare how axioms are known to the proposition that chaos is “known” to be the foundation of human knowledge.

First, when asserting that one “knows that nothing can be known”, as you acknowledge below, that is internally contradictory. But the issue then becomes twofold: that the concept of internal contradiction has the issue of apparently not being a known true principle, having no axioms for itself, other than its own self-evidence, and that the chaos proposition refers only to itself (circular).

Second, axioms are not “question begging unjustified assumptions”, they are self-evident truths, theoretically requiring and receiving no independent “proofs”. But if radical skepticism is asserted as an a priori truth, then nothing is ever self-evidently true, including radical skepticism. Nor can it be reasoned whether this circularity is fatal to reasoning, because there is no longer any reasoning possible.

Third, if radical skepticism is asserted (as truth, of course), then it cannot be known whether the basic statement of the trilemma itself is or is not contradictory, or whether the principle of Noncontradiction is or is not valid, or whether the universe, when observed, would hold to non-contradiction. So asserting radical skepticism as an axiom in order to prove axioms are false is a chaotic statement, which has no meaning.

This idea of axiomatic radical skepticism leads to Nietzsche’s Anti-Rationalism theory and the presumptive “knowledge” that, in the absence of knowledge, only the natural progression of “will to power” exists, and that this cannot be refuted since logic, truth, good and evil cannot exist.

But if the observation of “will to power” is to be asserted as valid and true, then that presupposes that (a) truth actually does exist; and (b) observation, itself, is a valid operator in the pursuit of validity and truth.

And if observation is a valid and true operator in the pursuit of what is true, then the observation of self-evident truths cannot be discarded as invalid. I.e., it cannot be self-evidently true that self-evident truths do not exist, even in a chaotic and irrational universe. Further, if observation of order in the universe exists, then the universe is observably not chaotic. Thus it is possible that self-evident truths exist which can be used to ground processes of rational thinking about the universe.

That, in turn, negates the first horn of the trilemma, because no longer can axioms be declared to be “question begging unjustified assumptions”, the axioms themselves having been grounded in observation of the universe, and the concept of self-evidence.

The slow walk continues briefly into the darkness as we explore the presumption of the necessity of radical skepticism and intellectual chaos:

However, it is also “true” that ultimate, non-axiomatic, presupposition of radical skepticism cannot be logically defeated, because it merely denies the rational ability of logic, and that denial comes from an illogical and irrational basis. An argument based on irrationality cannot be defeated using logic. There actually is uncertainty and unknowablility which exists. For that reason alone, (but with other reasons which support it), fallibility is built into rational reasoning, with the use of the following caveats:
1. Observation is never complete.

2. Self-evidence is based on observation; thus self-evidence is never complete.

3. In practice, the confidence in observation and self-evidence is based on induction of numerous observations which all are congruent. However, induction is then necessarily presupposed as at least contingently valid, and self-evident in a probabilistic fashion. Should induction be proven false, then rationality is not possible. But how could rationality be PROVEN false in a presumed irrational universe where, under radical skepticism, intellectual chaos reigns? Because it cannot be proven false under radical skepticism, it is merely intuited to be false, thus rendering intuition to be a presupposed valid and true condition of thought,

4. Intuition must be asserted, in order to work free of circularity. For radical skeptics to intuit chaos, they must assume intuition to be true. This is necessary in order to intuit that (a) induction is completely false; (b) observation is a false pursuit; (c) congruence cannot be known; (d) self-evidence is false.

Further, the radical skeptic must intuit that he is NOT a brain in a vat totally dependent upon hardwired inputs, nor is he an AI routine programmed solely for non-intuitive rejectionism.

If intuition is NOT true, then the radical skeptic cannot assert the truth of intellectual chaos vs. intellectual order and rational capabilities.

5. Because the radical skeptic has by default asserted that intuition truly exists, is valid, and is a useful intellectual tool since it is necessary for intuiting radical skepticism (to be true), it is therefore also available as a tool for the logician who is not a radical skeptic. If the skeptic can use intuition then it must also be granted to the non-skeptic. If it is not granted, then he cannot assert radical skepticism either.

6. Further, if the radical skeptic intuits that items 4 (a)-(d) are true statements, then he automatically grants the existence of truth.

7. Because the radical skeptic has granted that intuition exists, and is a valid tool for declaring truth, and that truth exists, then it is possible to intuit that observations and inductions can lead to at least a contingent truth. This has been granted by the radical skeptic in order for him to claim radical skepticism.

8. Induction depends upon observations to look for and find non-chaotic, orderly categories of existence in the universe. It can be intuited that this process works, because of historical successes in doing so. One of the observations of existence is non-contradiction. This can be asserted as a contingent truth, which a contingency absurdly low and vanishingly small.
So now we have some criteria for knowability: intuition, observations, inductions, contingent truth, and non-contradiction of existence. These criteria must be granted by the radical skeptic since they arise purely by the process of justifying radical skepticism; they are both presumed valid and presumed necessary. They must be granted also then as tools available to the non-radical-skeptic.

But here we still have two competing assertions:
A. It is true that intuition proves radical skepticism is valid.

B. It is true that intuition proves that self-evidence is valid.
This presents us with a Truth Table, which the radical skeptic cannot deny due to having used all the element it contains in justifying radical skepticism:
1. Radical skepticism is true; self-evidence is false.

2. Radical skepticism is false; self-evidence is true.

3. Neither radical skepticism nor self-evidence is true.

4. Both radical skepticism and self-evidence are true.
Now we can do an analysis of the Truth Table, point by point:
1. If radical skepticism is true, it is also unknowable and cannot be true. This is an outcome of both the assertion of unknowability and the rejection of noncontradiction. Option one is false because it makes a false and impossible statement about the truth value of radical skepticism.

2. If radical skepticism is false, then self-evidence is valid and knowability exists; Option 2 is viable.

3. It is possible that some other kind of reasoning, which is neither skeptical nor grounded is valid; Option 3 is presumably possible but not observed.

4. It is not possible for radical skepticism to be true, IF self-evidence is true. Option 4 is false.
Now we must choose between truth table options 2 and 3.

If Option 2 is false, then option 3 is the remaining possibility. But option 3 is not observed; it is not produced by induction; it cannot be self-evidently “true”; it is purely a logical construct without any correlate in observable existence. Option 2, however, is observable, it is congruent with the properties which are granted by the radical skeptic, and therefore is the only option remaining which fits the criteria of knowability.

At this point we must acknowledge that the analysis process itself – used above – can be denied a priori and without reasoning by radical skeptics. But they cannot claim to have used logic or evidence or reasoning in their process, and so their conclusion is completely outside of logic and rational processes, rendering it completely irrational.

The ability to invalidate rationality by asserting the Truth of irrationality is a closed loop, one which is incestuous and yet intuits the existence of truth and other rational tools in order to arrive at the “truth” of irrationality. But we have now shown that asserting intuition does not lead to radical skepticism.
”I know that sentence is a knowledge/truth claim, but if say the Law of Non-Contradiction(question begging assumption you hold) isn't true then my statement isn't "contradictory" or "false".

I don't see how one can not have an epistemology of radical skepticism which is part of atheism compared to theists who claim to know things such as truth when they aren't omniscient and trapped in the fallacious circle unable to justify their knowledge/truth.”

Radical skeptics are the least able to prove their position to be valid and true of any worldview. They can produce no argument or truth claim at all under their own assertion of unknowablity. In fact, your assertion that circularity is a problem cannot be a truth principle under radical skepticism. Your assertion that they aren’t omniscient cannot be a known truth in an environment of complete unknowability. Your requirement that they justify any argument logically cannot be a known requirement in a universe of unknowability - an environment where no knowledge can be justified, where absurdity such as noncontradiction cannot be judged.

You have, in fact, relied on traditional logic in your assertions of unknowability. But if you really believed in unknowability and radical skepticism, you could not use traditional logic, you could only “not know” anything, period. The rejection of conditions for judging absurdity – for example, rejecting noncontradiction – means that the radical skeptic cannot judge anything to be absurd, for there are no knowable conditions for making such a judgment under radical skepticism.

The additional issue is that if there is no knowability, then radical skeptics cannot “know” anything about the validity of theist claims, and therefore any criticisms of theism by radical skeptics actually are absurd since they are made using traditional logic, not radical skepticism, and therefore qualify for being judged for absurdity.

So the use of radical skepticism to assert the validity of Atheism fails, using its own criteria. Further, Atheism cannot make a case for itself using either disciplined logic, or radical skepticism, or observations made in the discipline of empirical, hypothetico-deductive, experimental, falsifiable, replicable, open data, peer-reviewed and published scientific contingent knowledge.

Yet Atheists and skeptics must be held to their common claims of being grounded in logic and science. They are not so grounded. And they cannot defeat theist arguments, so they make false claims such as “having no theist beliefs” when it is clear and obvious that they do, in fact, believe theist arguments are false and that they reject them, but cannot prove it. So Atheism is a false basis for worldview construction, and leads to false worldviews.

To return to Massimo's rejection of my grounding question: Philosophers such as Pigliucci are not engaged in making arguments regarding subects which have the capability of being grounded in axioms or truths. What they do is to opine on subjects which have no possible grounding at all. That is their intellectual environment. So their intellectual maunderings are usually circular and are based on their own authority, and in the final analysis, in the authority of their tribal associations.


Robert Coble said...

I like the following "proof," because it's short, illustrates the point directly, and is not quite as painful to the radical skeptic as Avicenna's proposed solution. (Islamists have such a direct way of burning [or cutting or shooting] through the BS). Please note that I did NOT compose this "proof."

Evil thought to make an easy proof:

A: Please prove the Law of Non-Contradiction
B: I'm glad we agree that the Law of Non-Contradiction is undeniable.

A: That's not what I said! I asked you to prove it.
B: But you also said it was undeniable.

A: No I didn't!
B: There's your proof.

I think, anyway, that for P = "A says the law of non-contradiction is undeniable", A is asserting that not(P) and B's claim of P are mutually exclusive.

Phoenix said...

It's a shame Shizmoo has no answer for his method of truth acquisition.Perhaps he could ask one of his fellow Atheist's for advice.Atheists have so much hate and anger that they vent on the internet but very little serious discussions.It seems if the bible is not mentioned then Atheists want nothing to do with the discussion.