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  1. #31
    Something witty! Bridie's Avatar
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    Well i guess if you agree with Platonic thought you could say we already know everything and we are chock full of apriori knowledge we gained from the world of the forms. All we have to do is remember it....
    But im not sure if i like Plato's ideas. Quite flawed in places.

    I just started studying philosophy.

  2. #32
    Kiss my axe! kahnovitch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner View Post
    How do you reconcile faith with certainty then. If you're certain the egg will break, then how can you believe in God?
    As you should know by now, I'm an athiest.


    how certain can you be it will break every time?
    There may be tiny differences in eggshell thickness, in the speed it drops, whether or not it hits top side or side on and a variety of variable factors, but ultimately it will drop to the floor every time, and break the majority of those times.

    Gravity. You can be certain of that.

  3. #33
    Journalist Monty Mike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bridie
    But im not sure if i like Plato's ideas. Quite flawed in places.
    Yes, quite a few of his analogies are interesting though (the cave, the ship, etc.).

    What other philosophers have you looked at?

  4. #34
    Something witty! Bridie's Avatar
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    Ive done the main thinkers of utilitarianism- Benthem, Mill, Sidgwick and Singer. Aquinas and Aristotle's Natural law. And im just going onto genral Aristotle and Kant. But theres alot we havent covered on them.

    Yeah, his allegorys certainly were well thought out, not sure about the ship though, we havent studied that. Whats it about? (if people dont mind me hijacking the thread?)

  5. #35
    Journalist Monty Mike's Avatar
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    To save me racking my brains since it's been a few years:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_state

    And you're starting Kant soon eh? *cringe* His Critique of Pure Reason is notoriously difficult... Aristotle could be fun for you though.

  6. #36
    Registered User falcon57's Avatar
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    Droping an egg revisited

    > What do we REALLY know?

    Can we be certain that an egg dropping 10 meters upon a hard floor will always break? I think the answer is:
    It depends how you model nature.

    Consider the set of all possible outcomes and the set of the outcomes where the egg remains whole. The easy
    case is to say that the set of the egg remaining whole is empty. If you say that then you are certain.
    However if you say that it is possible that the egg remains whole, that the set of surviving eggs is not
    empty then the answer is not so easy. It turns out that in this case it is crucial of what the cardinalty
    the set of all outcomes is. If you think that there is an infinite number where the egg breaks compared
    to a finite number where it stays whole then you are also certain that the egg breaks. But is it realistic
    to assume that the set is infinite? If you say that the set of all outcomes is huge, but finite then
    you are not certain that the egg breaks.

  7. #37
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    The question in this case is do we need to be certain for any real reason?

    Do we ever need to be certain in any case for any real reason?

  8. #38
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Of course not. Certainty is only a conviction, and conviction is simply... Well, it's hard to say what conviction is, exactly. Conviction is, in many ways, the root of everything. But it is neither certainty nor knowledge. But it's arguably the pre-requisite for both.

  9. #39
    Registered User falcon57's Avatar
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    The last laugh is on you!

    >The question in this case is do we need to be certain for any real reason?

    >Do we ever need to be certain in any case for any real reason?

    Sure we do. Every time you use an elevator you are certain that you will not meet an untimely death using it.

    Fung: For me certainty is not just a conviction. For me certainty is an estimate of possible outcomes or states.
    Just as any estimate it can be accurate or chancy ;-). I agree with you that most certainties are not foremost
    in our thinking. It just makes no sense to worry whether the building comes down the next minute. We accept
    hundreds of things as certainties that are not really certainties otherwise there would be a lot less accidents.
    False certainties are the way of our lives.

    Are there any true certainties? Sure. Our personal death is certain, life as we know it will end too.
    But let's have a lot of fun first.

  10. #40
    Registered User falcon57's Avatar
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    defect in sandbox?

    Certainty in the sandbox of the mind.
    A majority of opinions seem to say there is no certainty at all. If you take serious that certainty is an
    estimate on outcomes or states then this is not surprising. We are dependent for our survival that the
    sandbox identifies high probabilty bad outcomes for avoiding them and high probablities of good outcomes
    for taking oppotunities. When the sandbox is used in non real settings eg purely philosophical questions
    then the sense of attaching probabilities is more a nuisance than a help. I want to point out the
    ongoing discussion whether gods exist where all sides are reduced to voicing their certitudes.

  11. #41
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    If certainty is an estimate of possible outcomes or states, what is the catalyst between holding a certainty and deciding on it?

    If "certainty" delineates the differences in outcomes of a given action/thought/belief, then in situations where two or more possible outcomes are equally as certain (or equally preferable), we run into difficulties. Can we declare certainty that something is uncertain? (the truth is that there is no truth?)

    I think we can fault your theory on its own merits, as it self negates in situations of equal probability in the outcome of the set.

    Given that "certainty" describes a situation of probable outcomes between two or more things/situation/etc, declaring uncertainty as a certainty is a process of self-negation in the set if the two results are mutually exclusive. In a sense, this is declaring an equivocation. How can we be certain that the equivocation itself is warranted, necessary, required, or even certain? How can we be certain that the factors allowing for equivocation are, in fact, equivocal?

    There must be something that pushes an individual to declare certainty in favour of one outcome versus another, even if that certainty is decided to be the uncertain.

    Consider Pascal's Wager. The Wager is set up on a basic set of four possible outcomes from two choices. But in reality we have three basic options: Theism; Atheism; Agnosticism/Fence-Sitting. If we allow that all other hair-splitting definitions fall basically into these three outcomes (god exists, god doesn't exist, there is no answer), and we use the method of determining certainty you describe, we're left with: God Exists = God Does Not Exist = There Is No Answer.

    The outcome set is entirely equivocal. But that's not (normally) an acceptable "certainty." Certitude would require that one answer/outcome/situation be declared victor. So if this set is "true," then the actual answer to Pascal's Wager is to choose "There Is No Answer" because it holds both "God Exists" and "God Does Not Exist" to be true, simultaneously, and thereby takes full advantage of all possible outcomes of either set. Yet, these "certainties" (theism/atheism) are mutually exclusive.

    In any case, the underlying question is: what, in a situation of equal/equivocal "certainties," acts as catalyst for the declaration of a primary certainty? What allows for the decision of certainty?
    Last edited by Fung Koo; November 3rd, 2008 at 09:01 AM. Reason: craptacular grammar

  12. #42
    Registered User falcon57's Avatar
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    Fung: You misunderstood me. Certainty as i meant it is assigning probability 1 to a certain outcome. It has
    not much to do whether you decide to do it. Droping the egg 10 meters is just a waste and creates a mess with
    certainty, I think I would rather cook and eat the egg. Any way probabilty 1 is an exception most outcomes have
    less than one but more then zero. And we are not generally risk avoiders, sometimes our motto is: No risk, no
    fun.
    Also i do not agree that there are three choices about god: Those that applaud, Those who boo, and those that
    don't care. It is important for us as individuals to assess those groups and our standing, but it doesn't say
    anything about the thing itself. Replace god by say a nuclear plant. Then those groups will also exist, but
    the decision whether to build one or not is very complicated and often biased and poorly understood. I think we asses god very indivdually.

  13. #43
    Registered User falcon57's Avatar
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    I think i was unclear about my terms, so let me try to abolish any certainty you might have about certainty;-)
    It makes only sense to talk about an outcome when the thing we are contemplating can/could be repeated. So
    implicitly we have a notion of time and a notion of nature when we asses all possible outcomes.

    When we contemplate states eg. god exists/doesn't exist/undecided we have only states themselves and time
    doesn't exist. We cannot make an experiment and learn by it we can only asses the states and we do that poorly
    because we have only go and we have no clue about before and after.

  14. #44
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    OK, fair enough. Though my question stands -- what is the catalyst for the decision?

    What we think of as "deciding" on probabilities, outcomes, or states in a situation where any number of results are possible -- regardless of the type of set -- is often only a function of the question itself. Nothing is done to challenge the drive for the decision; it's cyclical logic.

    "Will the egg break if we drop it from 10 metres?" There is a high degree of specifity in the question itself, which provides the data necessary to determine the result. The option of results (break, no break) frame the basis of the question, and the content is given parameters of height and implied contextual situation. An egg dropped from 10 metres above the surface of the earth will provide an average with two extremes where the answer can be said to be "certain." An egg dropped from 10 metres above the surface of the moon will result in a very different circumstance, if we abuse the only degree of uncertainty in the question -- context. Or, we can choose to focus on the field of exceptions, in the grey area of the threshold for the earth-bound egg. In the fuzzy grey statistical line, there is no certainty because the contextual details become secondary to innumerable minute factors -- or what we might call "Chance."

    So how does one decide for certain in the grey area? We're offered two extremes of break and no break. Or, like with the God question, do we just agnosticize and go with Option C? In this way, all such sets are questions of "state" in various levels of repetition, whether objective or otherwise.

    Which is just a way of saying -- this approach based on outcomes creates certainty by asking certain questions that predict certain answers. The fuzzy line in the centre only works as an example because its the only exception in the set, but is seen as reducing the question to minutiae. It's not precisely that, though, because the big "state" questions are the exact same questions, just with all assumed context removed. In a context-less argument there are no specifics to argue, no measurable events, and delineated differences, so the question appears bigger. But really, it too is minutiae amongst a relativistically larger set. It's just been inflated.

    And if the question predicts the answer, it wasn't really a question at all. That's the only reason it can be "certain." The outcome was known all along. And the middle -- the undefined, uncertain superposition, if you will -- is the constant true state with all things being equal, but is the least "stable" or preferable.

    So what, then, is behind the decision that allows for certainty at all? Certainty, too, is a "state," after all...

  15. #45
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    If I pray to God every morning to allow me to live each day and wake up the next morning, does that give me the same confidence to claim that I'm certain God is listening and doing what I ask?

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