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Post 20

Friday, December 9, 2005 - 1:12pmSanction this postReply
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Bill,

How do you know that we could in principle become aware of any and every existent?
Because of that interaction thing that I mentioned (it's circular, but useful). There can be no existent that has no relation whatsoever to other existence. And there is no coherent and plausible limitation which one can state, on the historical, geometric expansion of human awareness. It may take eons, but we've got eons (unless some fundamentalist towel-head gets ahold of nukes, that is).

Ed




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Post 21

Friday, December 9, 2005 - 2:38pmSanction this postReply
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It is in the nature of existence - the law of identity...  and the recognition of the universe as totally integrated, that there is, by its nature, no contradictoryness in or to it...



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Post 22

Saturday, December 10, 2005 - 8:03pmSanction this postReply
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I asked, "How do you know that we could in principle become aware of any and every existent?"

Ed replied,
Because of that interaction thing that I mentioned (it's circular, but useful). There can be no existent that has no relation whatsoever to other existence.
I agree that that there can be no existent that has no relation to other existence. But I don't agree that this implies our ability to know it. Nevertheless, you add:
And there is no coherent and plausible limitation which one can state, on the historical, geometric expansion of human awareness. It may take eons, but we've got eons (unless some fundamentalist towel-head gets ahold of nukes, that is).
Everything is limited by its nature, including our ability to know reality. Therefore, it does not follow that if something exists, we can know it. Maybe we can and maybe we can't. Whether we can or cannot depends upon the nature of what exists and the nature of our means of knowledge. We know, for example, that it is impossible to travel faster than the speed of light. How do you know that this and other (as yet undiscovered) natural boundaries don't place an upper limit on how much we can know about the universe?

- Bill



Post 23

Sunday, December 11, 2005 - 2:46amSanction this postReply
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Good points, Bill. You've chipped away at my rough thesis. Scratch my whole argument and change it to the following, refined position statement:

It is not, in principle, impossible for us to know THAT some particular thing exists (though it may be impossible for us to know WHAT it is.
This statement escapes the omniscience charge -- while retaining the point about a knowable universe. Whaddaya' think?

Ed





Post 24

Thursday, December 15, 2005 - 9:37amSanction this postReply
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I wrote,
Everything is limited by its nature, including our ability to know reality. Therefore, it does not follow that if something exists, we can know it. Maybe we can and maybe we can't. Whether we can or cannot depends upon the nature of what exists and the nature of our means of knowledge. We know, for example, that it is impossible to travel faster than the speed of light. How do you know that this and other (as yet undiscovered) natural boundaries don't place an upper limit on how much we can know about the universe?
Ed Thompson graciously replied,
Good points, Bill. You've chipped away at my rough thesis. Scratch my whole argument and change it to the following, refined position statement:
It is not, in principle, impossible for us to know THAT some particular thing exists (though it may be impossible for us to know WHAT it is.
This statement escapes the omniscience charge -- while retaining the point about a knowable universe. Whaddaya' think?
Hmm. I'm not sure I understand your distinction. Why couldn't it also be impossible for you to know that some particular thing exists? Of course, you wouldn't know what particular thing it is, but it could nevertheless exist without your being able to know that it exists, couldn't it?

- Bill




Post 25

Thursday, December 15, 2005 - 12:37pmSanction this postReply
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Bill, I'm merely taking your skeptical position, putting it into a positive statement about reality, and re-affirming my position (through denial of yours). Your position, stated positively, is this:

Something exists which we couldn't, in principle, even know about.
Even the watered-down version (the most gracious) has no weight on it's own:

Something might exist which we couldn't, in principle, even know about.
In order to postulate the impossibility of knowing about something, the scope of human awareness needs to be delimited. This is the only way that the skeptical statements can be made coherent. One would have to know the limit of human awareness, before one could postulate impossibilities -- even hypothetical impossibilities.

Ed




Post 26

Thursday, December 15, 2005 - 1:41pmSanction this postReply
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"This is armchair speculation on ontology! How do you know that we could in principle become aware of any and every existent?"

How do you know you can't?

How can we know anything?

Who is John Galt?

!!!!!!



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Post 27

Thursday, December 15, 2005 - 9:34pmSanction this postReply
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Marnee Dearman quoted my reply to Ed Thompson: "This is armchair speculation on ontology! How do you know that we could in principle become aware of any and every existent?" And replied, "How do you know you can't?"

The point is that since human knowledge, like everything else, is limited, it doesn't follow that merely because something exists, one can know that it exists. It may be that it is inaccessible to human knowledge. There is nothing in the nature of reality which says that's impossible.

- Bill



Post 28

Thursday, December 15, 2005 - 9:55pmSanction this postReply
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Ed Thompson wrote,
Bill, I'm merely taking your skeptical position, putting it into a positive statement about reality, and re-affirming my position (through denial of yours). Your position, stated positively, is this:

Something exists which we couldn't, in principle, even know about.
No, that's not my position. Go back and read what I said. I said that "it does not follow that if something exists, we can know it. Maybe we can and maybe we can't. Whether we can or cannot depends upon the nature of what exists and the nature of our means of knowledge."

You continue,
Even the watered-down version (the most gracious) has no weight on it's own:

Something might exist which we couldn't, in principle, even know about.

In order to postulate the impossibility of knowing about something, the scope of human awareness needs to be delimited. This is the only way that the skeptical statements can be made coherent. One would have to know the limit of human awareness, before one could postulate impossibilities -- even hypothetical impossibilities.
I do not have to know the limit of human awareness in order to say that something might exist that it is impossible for us to know. On what conceivable grounds do you deny this? Do you know for a fact that it is impossible for something to exist that we cannot in principle acquire knowledge of? What is your evidence for that? As I indicated in a previous post, we know that it is impossible to travel faster than the speed of light. How do you know that this and other (as yet undiscovered) natural boundaries don't place an upper limit on how much we can know about the universe?

Please answer this question!

- Bill



Post 29

Friday, December 16, 2005 - 10:36amSanction this postReply
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"I do not have to know the limit of human awareness in order to say that something might exist that it is impossible for us to know."

You are asking an impossible question. You postulate something that cannot be proven! Wow.

Think about it. Isnt it similarly possible (as far as Im concerned entirely likely) that man's awareness is perfectly suited to knowing everything in the universe. In fact there is a great deal of evidence. So far man hasnt been hampered. What's to stop him? Nothing. What evidence do you have to the contrary?

More importantly, the implications that there are things that cannot be known, even the very idea, is dangerous. It sets us up for having to agree that we cannot SAY that there is no God, etc, because, well maybe, and Im just postulating here, we just cant ever know it. Prove me wrong.

Egads.

Do you see the position you have put yourself in? What have you accomplished Bill? Do you really want to attempt to invalidate Rand's theory of knowledge or Metaphysics, Epistemology, and everything else? Of course you cant and you havent proven anything. But whatever, right? Maybe Im just too limited to see it.

Like I said: How can we know anything at all?

And by the way the Napoleon example is a bad one. See, I have no problem saying that I CANNNOT know every word that Napoleon ever spoke. Why? Because his words DO NOT EXIST. Migod.



Post 30

Friday, December 16, 2005 - 11:28amSanction this postReply
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Bill, thank you for engaging me so (folks like you, make folks like me, grow wise). You wrote:

Do you know for a fact that it is impossible for something to exist that we cannot in principle acquire knowledge of? What is your evidence for that? As I indicated in a previous post, we know that it is impossible to travel faster than the speed of light. How do you know that this and other (as yet undiscovered) natural boundaries don't place an upper limit on how much we can know about the universe?
How do we know it's impossible to travel faster than the speed of light? How do we even KNOW the damned speed of light? Because we are able to know reality -- if it exists, then we can, in principle, know it. Now, we can't know everything (we're not omniscient), but Marnee's point has merit -- there's absolutely no evidence that we can't know any thing. In fact, it's arbitrary speculation to postulate that it's possible that we can't become aware of an existent in this universe.

My answer remains the same, all existENTS must -- in some way -- relate to existENCE; and existence is something of which we are (geometrically!) increasing our awareness. There is no end in sight. For instance, knowledge in the biological sciences DOUBLES EVERY 5 YEARS, or so! My god, man! This is evidence of the actualization of pure potentiality (e.g. human minds). The weight of evidence on this matter, tips the scale toward my position on this matter.

Individual humans must have limitations (ie. identity), but the species, across time and space, does not have to have limitations. In Newton's time, all that was known to science -- could be known by a single human mind. Now, as I peruse PubMed (the largest online medical database in the world) and note the ~12 million primary publications available at my fingertips, I understand that what is known now, cannot be known by a single human mind. I'm not talking about single human minds, Bill. I'm talking about our whole species, throughout all time.

Does that seem more coherent & plausible?
Ed




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Post 31

Saturday, December 17, 2005 - 5:47pmSanction this postReply
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I wrote, "I do not have to know the limit of human awareness in order to say that something might exist that it is impossible for us to know."

Marnee replied,
You are asking an impossible question. You postulate something that cannot be proven! Wow.
All I'm saying, Marnee, is that there are physical limitations on what we can in principle acquire knowledge of. In order to deny this--in order to claim that human beings can acquire knowledge of everything in the universe and therefore become omniscient--you would have to prove that the sheer existence of something implies our ability to know it. Since the burden of proof is on whoever asserts the positive, if you assert that we can acquire knowledge of everything in the universe, the onus is on you to prove it. In the absence of such a proof, I am entitled--indeed required--to abstain from affirming the point to be proved, just as in the absence of any proof for the existence of God, I am entitled--indeed required--to abstrain from affirming the existence of God.
Think about it. Isnt it similarly possible (as far as Im concerned entirely likely) that man's awareness is perfectly suited to knowing everything in the universe. In fact there is a great deal of evidence. So far man hasnt been hampered. What's to stop him? Nothing. What evidence do you have to the contrary?"
Suppose I said that God exists and challenged you to prove that he doesn't by demanding to know what evidence you have to the contrary. Well, of course, your reply would have to be. "It's not up to me to prove that God doesn't exist; it's up to you to prove that he does." Similarly, it's not up to me to prove that man cannot acquire omniscience; it's up to you to prove that he can.
More importantly, the implications that there are things that cannot be known, even the very idea, is dangerous. It sets us up for having to agree that we cannot SAY that there is no God, etc, because, well maybe, and Im just postulating here, we just cant ever know it. Prove me wrong.
Marnee, this is not analogous at all. In the absence of any proof for God, I do not believe in God. Similarly, in the absence of any proof for the possibility of human omniscience, I do not believe in the possibility of human omniscience. The fact that we can't know everything does not mean that we can't know anything. We can know what we can know, which is considerable. But it doesn't follow that just because we can know a lot of things, we can therefore know literally everything there is to know in the universe. There is nothing in the nature of reality or in the nature of our means of cognition which says that we MUST be able to know everything in the universe. What grounds is there to draw that conclusion?!
Egads.
Egads, indeed!
Do you see the position you have put yourself in? What have you accomplished Bill? Do you really want to attempt to invalidate Rand's theory of knowledge or Metaphysics, Epistemology, and everything else? Of course you cant and you havent proven anything. But whatever, right? Maybe Im just too limited to see it.
So I'm invalidating Rand's theory of knowledge, metaphysics and everything else, just because I don't see how it follows that we can know everything in the universe? I don't think so!
And by the way the Napoleon example is a bad one. See, I have no problem saying that I CANNOT know every word that Napoleon ever spoke. Why? Because his words DO NOT EXIST. Migod.
You mean, they don't exist at present, right? So are you only talking about what exists at this very moment? In that case, please tell me how you could possibly know what presently exists at the far side of the universe? The simple fact is you couldn't, because it takes time for light to travel from another galaxy, so that what we observe through our telescopes is what existed light years in the past. Because nothing can exceed the speed of light, it is impossible in principle for us ever to know everything that exists at present, which means that is impossible for us EVER to know everything that exists. Q.E.D.

- Bill




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Post 32

Saturday, December 17, 2005 - 8:20pmSanction this postReply
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Ed, you're welcome!

I wrote, "Do you know for a fact that it is impossible for something to exist that we cannot in principle acquire knowledge of? What is your evidence for that? As I indicated in a previous post, we know that it is impossible to travel faster than the speed of light. How do you know that this and other (as yet undiscovered) natural boundaries don't place an upper limit on how much we can know about the universe?"

Ed replied,
How do we know it's impossible to travel faster than the speed of light? How do we even KNOW the damned speed of light? Because we are able to know reality -- if it exists, then we can, in principle, know it.

This doesn't follow. We can know the speed of light, because we are able to know CERTAIN aspects of reality, not because we're able to know EVERY aspect of reality.

Now, we can't know everything (we're not omniscient), but Marnee's point has merit -- there's absolutely no evidence that we can't know any thing.

Of course, there's no evidence that we can't know any thing, because the evidence would contradict the assertion. To say that we can't know any thing is to say that there is nothing we can know. But you meant to say that there is no evidence that there is any thing that we cannot know. But this contradicts your concession that we are not omniscient--that we cannot know everything, for if we can know ANY thing, then it follows that we can know EVERY thing. So what you're really saying is that we can become omniscient, because as soon as you deny this, you're saying that there are some things that we cannot in principle know.

In fact, it's arbitrary speculation to postulate that it's possible that we can't become aware of an existent in this universe.

It's no more arbitrary speculation than to say it's possible that no one could run a marathon under 2 hours. If you claim that someone could, then the burden is on you to prove it.

My answer remains the same, all existENTS must -- in some way -- relate to existENCE; and existence is something of which we are (geometrically!) increasing our awareness. There is no end in sight. For instance, knowledge in the biological sciences DOUBLES EVERY 5 YEARS, or so! My god, man! This is evidence of the actualization of pure potentiality (e.g. human minds). The weight of evidence on this matter, tips the scale toward my position on this matter.

To say that there is no end in sight is not the same as saying that we can know anything and everything. Our knowledge could continue to increase without ever getting to the point of absolute omniscience. The universe is changing and evolving so rapidly that our advances in knowledge may continue unabated, yet be unable to keep up with these evolutionary changes.

Individual humans must have limitations (ie. identity), but the species, across time and space, does not have to have limitations. In Newton's time, all that was known to science -- could be known by a single human mind. Now, as I peruse PubMed (the largest online medical database in the world) and note the ~12 million primary publications available at my fingertips, I understand that what is known now, cannot be known by a single human mind. I'm not talking about single human minds, Bill. I'm talking about our whole species, throughout all time.

Does that seem more coherent & plausible?

I do understand the distinction that you're making between individual limitations (we only live a certain number of years) and the limitations for mankind as a whole, whose existence can continue indefinitely. That is indeed a relevant distinction and one that should be kept firmly in mind. Nevertheless, I don't see that this is sufficient to establish your conclusion.

There is, in fact, one insuperable obstacle which I pointed out in my reply to Marnee, and that is that the only information we can gain about other galaxies that are light years away is information about the past. We cannot know what is going on in the rest of the universe at present, and we never will, because the information takes time to reach us. By the time it reaches us, these other galaxies will have changed dramatically, so that we can never know exactly what is happening in other parts of the universe at this very moment. It is true that we may be able to make certain predictions, but since we're not omnisicient, we'll never be able to know all the constellation of factors that could influence the future development of galaxies, solar systems and planets. In fact, even on earth none of us will ever be able to know what everyone else is thinking at any particular moment, or what he or she is doing or is planning to do. Nor could this information ever be made available to anyone who wanted it, thankfully. It's just not possible in the nature of things to acquire that kind of knowledge.

As Hayek pointed out, one of the major problems with socialism is that the socialist planners thought they could in principle acquire enough knowledge to plan everyone's economic activities. What they failed to consider was the fact that everyone has unique, separate pieces of knowledge that others cannot possibly know, and that this knowledge can only be transmitted by individual choices and decisions in a market of voluntary exchange. No elite group of experts or scientists can ever come close to acquiring it.

- Bill

(Edited by William Dwyer
on 12/17, 8:24pm)




Post 33

Monday, December 19, 2005 - 11:56amSanction this postReply
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Excellent response, Bill.

... the only information we can gain about other galaxies that are light years away is information about the past.
 
... none of us will ever be able to know what everyone else is thinking at any particular moment ...
 
Excellent examples, Bill. The second example requires still further refinement in my position (in order for me to remain coherent). Something like this should suffice to counter this excellent criticism:
 
It is not, in principle, impossible for us to know THAT a particular, extra-mental thing exists (though it may be impossible for us to know WHAT it is.--version 3 (revised & restated)
Back to your first example, which, while being internally valid (consistent, coherent) -- is not externally valid (correspondent to reality). It's a snap-shot view that is too concrete to rebut my thesis, which deals with a potentiality for knowledge (not actualized knowledge now). In this respect, I must concede that particularities of objects and events in the past can be truly unknowable by us. Debates rage on over whether we can "know" the Big Bang, for instance. With this point conceded, I still stand by my revised & restated quote directly above.

Ed




Post 34

Monday, December 19, 2005 - 1:01pmSanction this postReply
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I wrote,

... the only information we can gain about other galaxies that are light years away is information about the past.
...none of us will ever be able to know what everyone else is thinking at any particular moment...

Ed replied,
Excellent examples, Bill. The second example requires still further refinement in my position (in order for me to remain coherent). Something like this should suffice to counter this excellent criticism: It is not, in principle, impossible for us to know THAT a particular, extra-mental thing exists (though it may be impossible for us to know WHAT it is.--version 3 (revised & restated)
Thanks Ed, but I still don't see this vallidity of this dichotomy. If it may be impossible for you to know WHAT it is, then why couldn't it also be impossible for you to know THAT it is?
Back to your first example, which, while being internally valid (consistent, coherent) -- is not externally valid (correspondent to reality). It's a snap-shot view that is too concrete to rebut my thesis, which deals with a potentiality for knowledge (not actualized knowledge now).
No, I understand, but I think you're overlooking the fact that we can't gain knowledge about the PRESENT state of other galaxies, BECAUSE we can only gain knowledge of what they were in the past.
In this respect, I must concede that particularities of objects and events in the past can be truly unknowable by us. Debates rage on over whether we can "know" the Big Bang, for instance. With this point conceded, I still stand by my revised & restated quote directly above.
But my point was that we COULD gain knowledge of what other galaxies were in the past; it's just that we can't gain knowledge of their PRESENT existence.

- Bill





Post 35

Monday, December 19, 2005 - 1:11pmSanction this postReply
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Bill,

But my point was that we COULD gain knowledge of what other galaxies were in the past; it's just that we can't gain knowledge of their PRESENT existence.
We could if we, over eons, traveled there. Bill, do you see the strain of potentiality in that, now?

Ed




Post 36

Monday, December 19, 2005 - 2:26pmSanction this postReply
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Yes, but then we'd sacrifice the knowledge of the places that we WEREN'T at, because we couldn't know of their present existence. To KNOW everything that exists in the present, you'd have to BE everywhere in the present.

- Bill



Post 37

Monday, December 19, 2005 - 3:10pmSanction this postReply
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Bill,

Yes, but then we'd sacrifice the knowledge of the places that we WEREN'T at, because we couldn't know of their present existence. To KNOW everything that exists in the present, you'd have to BE everywhere in the present.
How true. That is why TAKU (the Thompson Axiom of a Knowable Universe) is something that applies to all humans across space & time -- and not to any one person at any one place or time.
 
Ed




Post 38

Monday, December 19, 2005 - 5:13pmSanction this postReply
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Yes - it's called CONTEXT.



Post 39

Monday, December 19, 2005 - 10:21pmSanction this postReply
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Ed, I still don't see that this makes any difference. Somehow I don't think your getting my point. Look, it doesn't matter whether or not you're talking about all human beings across space and time. By the nature of the universe, there is never a time at which all human beings could possibly know everything that exists, because in order to know it, they would have to BE everywhere at the same time.

- Bill




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