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Re: [ontac-forum] Theories, Models, Reasoning, Language, and Truth

To: ONTAC-WG General Discussion <ontac-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 17 Dec 2005 01:49:00 -0500
Message-id: <43A3B4DC.7000501@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Barry,    (01)

Thanks for the pointer to Stove's argument.    (02)

But I'd like to mention that Peirce was very much
a realist.  In fact, he maintained, contrary to Kant,
that there is nothing that is in principle unknowable.    (03)

Stove's conclusion, as stated, is unavoidable *iff*
you are only allowed one look:    (04)

 >  We can know things only
 >    ● as they are related to us
 >    ● under our forms of perception and understanding
 >    ● insofar as they fall under our conceptual schemes,
 >  etc.
 >  So,
 >  we cannot know things as they are in themselves.    (05)

But Peirce's point is that there is nothing that prevents
us from going back again and again to test our hypotheses,
to check the opinions of other people, to devise experiments
that can be tested under widely varying conditions, and,
most importantly, to make and test falsifiable predictions
about what would happen in novel circumstances.    (06)

When we look back in history, there are all kinds of
hypotheses that seemed plausible at the time, but have
been falsified by further testing:  that the earth is
flat, the sun circles the earth every 24 hours, that
phlogiston combines with ores to form metals, that a
vibrating ether carries light waves, etc.    (07)

All those hypotheses were plausible conclusions that
seemed to be justified by sensory impressions.  It took
a great deal of effort to prove them false, often by
ingenious experiments with complex instruments that
contradicted the "obvious" sensory experiences.    (08)

In short, all our perceptions are signs, and the objects
themselves are hypotheses that might turn out to be
illusions.  Our only source of confidence is the fact
that many very smart people over the course of millennia
have tried and failed to refute these hypotheses.  That
gives us a great deal of confidence in their reliability
in all familiar circumstances.    (09)

But we can never be certain that some novel circumstances
tomorrow might show that they are not universally true.
But -- and this is a very big *BUT* -- even if they are
shown to fail under extreme conditions, we can still be
fairly sure that they'll continue to work under the
conditions we have tried and tested for many years.    (010)

I summarize Peirce's arguments in Section 7 of the paper:    (011)

    http://www.jfsowa.com/logic/theories.htm    (012)

John    (013)

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