[lit-ideas] Re: criteria

  • From: Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2015 21:13:31 +0100

 I am a little tired now so I will address only the point that was
originally at issue.
To say that "there exist natural laws" is extremely vague. If metaphysics
consists of such statements it is not terribly impressive. Obviously such a
statement cannot be proven to be false, since no matter how many purported
natural laws are shown to not hold there will also remain the possibility
that there are some that do. I can just as well claim that there are
unicorns and nobody can prove that I am wrong. "Natural law" can also be
defined in various ways, and since metaphysics has warned in advance that
it is not bound by the rules of  ordinary linguistic usage the terms can
always be changed as suits the occasion.

Nevertheless: if it is agreed on all sides that, as Donal puts it, all
"natural laws" are *logically* contingent i.e. no "natural law" may be
deduced from logic" - in other words if the existence of even one natural
law cannot be deduced logically- then a fortiori the existence of a
plurality or a totality of them cannot be deduced logically. If I cannot
logically deduce that even one unicorn exists, still less can I logically
deduce that the universe must be governed by one or more unicorns. Since no
empirical observation or testing is admitted to bear, then I don't see how
the claim can be rationally proven or rationally refuted. This doesn't
exactly make it meaningless, but it might make it useless.


On Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 7:59 PM, Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>

> Popper's account throws some light on these issues.
> Rather than speak of "causal laws" *etc.* [laws do not *cause* anything
> except in the presence of initial conditions and may exist without actually
> causing anything], P uses the term "natural laws" to refer to laws of
> nature.
> These laws are invariants (which means they can include probabilistic laws
> provided the probabilities are invariants i.e. an account using variant
> probabilities is not an account in law-like terms, unless the variation is
> itself explained by way of a further law-like correlation).
> At its simplest, a "natural law" may have the form of a 'universal
> generalisation' ['UG'], such as "All xs are ys". But a "natural law" goes
> further than a mere UG because it asserts that the law-like connection is
> true by necessity ["law"] rather than merely contingently ["accident"].
> This kind of "necessity" is not "logical necessity" but necessity of a type
> relevant to the level at which the law operates: so a natural law of
> physics is true by physical necessity, a chemical law is true by chemical
> necessity *etc. *This means all "natural laws" are *logically* contingent
> i.e. no "natural law" may be deduced from logic. So when we speak of "e =
> mc2" as true by necessity we mean it expresses a law or necessity of
> physics and not that it expresses any law or necessity of logic.
> Such natural laws are doubly unverifiable. They are unverifiable in that
> no amount of instances, of an x correlated with y, can show that "*All *xs
> are ys" (that is, they are unverifiable because there is no valid inductive
> way to proceed logically from a finite set of examples to the truth of a
> UG). In addition, the "necessity" element of a natural law is never
> verifiable - that is, even if "All xs are ys" that itself provides no proof
> as to whether this correlation is true by necessity or only true
> contingently. These two points can also be made as follows: we can never
> observe whether "*All *x are ys", and we can never observe whether "All
> xs are ys" is true by necessity or only contingently. As neither the
> universality nor the necessity of a law-like claim is observable, neither
> may be 'verified' by observation.
> That does not mean we can have no science dealing with "natural laws" - it
> only means that science cannot proceed by verification through observation.
> Science deals with "natural laws" by tests that operate in a purely
> negative way: that is, while neither the universality nor necessity of a
> proposed "natural law" can be verified, their universality and necessity
> can be falsified by finding a single counter-example. But failure to find a
> counter-example merely shows that a proposed "natural law" has withstood
> all present tests: it cannot prove it will survive all future tests. So
> even the most successful scientific theories, that have withstood the most
> severe tests without any counter-example, do not demonstrate that there is
> a "natural law" such as they propose.
> So science can only *falsify* specific proposals that there is a "natural
> law" of some testable sort, but it is beyond the realm of any scientific
> testing as to whether there are any "natural laws" at all. That means any
> assertion of a specific "natural law" contains a metaphysical element
> insofar as its truth, rather than falsity, is asserted - for it is only
> testable/scientific insofar as it is falsifiable, which is to say its truth
> is only testable by showing its falsity [tests can only show the assertion
> is false they cannot show it is true].
> *A fortiori*, assertions like "There exist natural laws" or even "There
> exists at least one natural law" - which are not even falsifiable - remain
> forever and entirely metaphysical.
> Yet Popper asserts that "There exist natural laws" is true, and its truth
> can be argued for. He defends this assertion as part of what he calls
> "metaphysical realism".
> However, even if this assertion were false [and there were no natural
> laws], it would not impact on scientific method and its rationality.
> Dnl
> Ldn
>   On Friday, 20 February 2015, 11:15, Adriano Palma <Palma@xxxxxxxxxx>
> wrote:
>   Sorry Omar, Hume if not Kant determined that in pretty clear (or
> minimally to me convincing) fashion.
> The existence of causal laws, namely the nomic nature of nature  is, at
> best, assumed by sciences or general knowledge, it is not itself an
> empirical finding of anybody or of any individual.
> *From:* Omar Kusturica [mailto:omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx]
> *Sent:* 20 February 2015 13:05
> *To:* Adriano Palma
> *Subject:* Re: criteria
>  I am not sure that these examples constitute metaphysical statements. If
> "vague statements" are defined in a non-vague way, the claim that there are
> vague statements could be empirically verifiable. I don't think that it is
> something that can be deduced a priori. So presumably with "causal laws."
>  O.K.
>  On Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 11:43 AM, Adriano Palma <Palma@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
>  Then, a metaphysical statement can be true (e.g. there are laws, for
> instance, to pick easy cases ‘there are laws of consequence” “ there are
> causal laws” “there are vague statements”) none of this is in physics, it
> may be worthwhile that metaphysics, even for Aristotelians, is what comes
> after physics. Nothing ever proposed a verifiability “criterion” that meets
> its own constraints, let alone a minimal of intelligence applied to it.
> Even Carnap understood it was bullshit by empiricist standards, not to
> mention Quine. Wittgensten, as usual, was confused since he had “pictures”
> and not theories of anything in particular. It may be a good ploy to be
> read non stop by the English department and the adverstising companies, who
> love Wittgenstein, I was told by two colleagues
> *From:* lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:
> lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] *On Behalf Of *Omar Kusturica
> *Sent:* 20 February 2015 12:35
> *To:* lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
> *Subject:* [lit-ideas] Re: The nothing noths
>  Hm... surely it is possible to argue that certain statements that
> purport to be metaphysical are actually nonsense without making the
> sweeping claim that they all are. Neither is it necessary to posit the
> criterion of empirical verifiability for statements to be meaningful as the
> positivists did. (It might be argued that statement has to be meaningful in
> at least some sense in order for us to be able to tell whether it expresses
> an empirically verifiable proposition.) Here are some of the possibilities:
>  A statement in metaphysics [a metaphysical statement, proposition] may
> have at least three values:
>  1. It may be *nonsense* -- i.e. an undefined combination of words. (Of
> course this might be the value of a statement in any subject, not just
> philosophy.)
> 2. It may be a *disguised rule of grammar* (PP p. 312) -- rather than the
> statement of fact ("*real definition*") its author the metaphysician
> intends it to be.
> 3a. It may be a suggestive picture -- i.e. one that suggests images to us,
> but that takes us no further. The proposition 'It's 5 o'clock on the sun'
> illustrated by "a grandfather clock which points to 5" (PI§ 350), and maybe
> the "*questions without answers*", are examples of these.
>  Many such pictures *give a false account* of the way we use some "*sign*"
> or other of our language -- i.e. they are a mistaken understanding of the
> sign's "*grammar*" (The distinction between a sign and its use in the
> language), e.g. the word 'mind' as the name of an invisible object.
> 3b. Or it may be *a way of looking at things* -- i.e. speculation that is
> not subject to falsification by anomaly. (Note that some scientific
> theories are also ways of looking at things -- that is, ways of summarizing
> [organizing] a selected set of data [Every scientific theory is
> *facts plus imagination*] -- that are not falsifiable, e.g. the
> heliocentric and geocentric models of the solar system.)
>  Of course it may also simply be an idle picture -- although note well
> that *metaphysicians know* that their pictures cannot be compared with 
> "*perceptible
> reality*" -- i.e. that their metaphysical propositions are not empirical
> propositions -- and therefore it does not trouble them that their
> speculative propositions cannot be verified or tested by experience. For,
> metaphysics says, "Our experience is only experience of appearances, not of
> reality itself"; cf. Plato's cave image (*Republic*515c). Which statement
> may be an example of senses (2) or (3a) of the word 'metaphysics'.
>  Some religious pictures may resemble these "idle pictures", because they
> also are not hypotheses; however, pictures in religion are *used very
> differently* from the way metaphysicians use pictures, e.g. they are not
> speculative.
> 3c. Or it may be a picture that it is "*logically impossible*" for us *to
> be taught how to apply*: "How is this picture, e.g. Michelangelo's God
> creating Adam (LC, p. 63), to be compared with what it is said to be a
> picture of?" But there is no answer -- i.e. the word 'compare' is not
> defined in this particular case; indeed, the artist did not intend for a
> comparison to be made.
> Source: http://www.roangelo.net/logwitt/logwit24.html
>  On Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 11:14 AM, Redacted sender Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx for
> DMARC <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> On p. 121 of "Quaestio Subtilissima", D. P. Henry proposes this
> formalisation of
> i. The Nothing noths
> (He distinguishes this  from
> ii. The nothing noths.)
> iii. ͻ[[Λ]](Λ)
> The use of "[[...]]" Henry borrows from Oxford philosopher A. N. Prior.
> On p. 120, he notes that the 'the' "portents some sort of singularity",
> which Henry symbolises as
> iv. sol(Λ)
> Henry says that (iv)  justifies "the use of the capital initial letter".
> Henry concludes the section on Heidegger with the remark that (i) can thus
> be seen as being sensical and "a truth derivable from the deductive
> metaphysics" which he is constructing.
> I agree with J. L. Scherb that this was a "pre-war debate" (pre-Second
> World War) between Rudolf Carnap and Martin Heidegger about allegedly (as
> D.
> P. Henry has it) meaningless metaphysical statements such as  "The Nothing
> noths" ("Das  Nichts
> nichtet").
> Within the mainstream of  20th century analytical  philosophy  this
> statement, "The Nothing noths"  has come to be regarded as  obvious
> metaphysical
> nonsense.
> And it was Sir Freddie Ayer who brought the news to Oxford. It is said that
>  Oxford could not BEAR with the 'enfant terrible' -- but I WOULD
> distinguish  between a Carnapian scientist approach and Ayer's, which was
> directed
> towards  empiricist epistemoly in general -- and Ayer did not stay at
> Oxford
> for long,  finding a post in London. In terms of the history of philosophy,
> this is seen as  Oxford never having 'bought' the idea that metaphysical
> statements were, as Ayer  thought he had shown, after Carnap,
> 'meaningless'.
> There were hordes of  philosophers practicising metaphysics THEN (think
> Collingwood) as there are  hordes of philosophers practising metaphysics
> NOW at
> Oxford
> As we all know, this led to an unfortunate confrontation between
> analytical  and continental  philosophy -- with Sartre assuming the
> Heideggerian
> position and generalising it: "Das Nichts nichtet" and  consciousness is
> "le
> néant néantisant".
> The judgement of "The Nothing noths" as nonsense was somewhat 'corrected'
> by D. P. Henry.
> But the conflict still seems to exist.
> Henry's remark didn't find its way to  a  greater  audience, because Henry
> didn't *prove* his claim in a   canonical way, and because Henry's remark
> may be alleged to contains  an ambiguity, which may give rise to criticism.
> The required disambiguation, together with the missing proofs, can be given
>  within the ontology introduced by Stanisław Leśniewski -- notably
> protothetic -- that Grice adored ("protothetic (why?)" -- "Aspects of
> Reason" --
> Grice had a taste for a Polish neologism).
> Ludger Honnefelder calls the systems Stanisław Leśniewski, which  were
> developed roughly at the same pre-war time  (1913-1939), a new  beginning
> of
> metaphysics.
> They systems of Stanisław Leśniewski (that Henry learned via Geach --
> whose  mother was Polish) provide the missing link (to use a  metaphor)
> between
> Heidegger and Carnap (and Ayer).
> The systems of Stanisław Leśniewski can thus be regarded as an ontological
>  (if not metaphysical) supplement to and a  partial correction of  Michael
> Friedman's essay on Heidegger, Carnap and Cassirer.
> A  hermeneutical conclusion may be drawn from this that allows  for a
> reconciliation between two types of
> philosophy.
> This is possible not only in terms of Cassirer's observations,  but also
> along the lines of "logical form", broadly conceived -- as  Henry
> suggested.
> The hermeneutical outcome suggests that one CAN make use  of PRECISE logic
> tools in a more general  way than Carnap himself  allowed (if not Ayer and
> less so Grice), alla D. P. Henry, without having  to declare that at a few
> central  statements of Heidegger's   Fundamentalontologie are pure
> nonsense --
> but rather pretty illuminating --  if you think of them ("and even if you
> don't").
> Cheers,
> Speranza
> Refs.:
> Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic
> Grice, "System Q"
> Grice, "Philosophical Eschatology".
> Henry, Quæstio subtilissima.
> Ryle, Review of Heidegger, "Sein und Zeit", Mind, 1929, vol. 38.
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