Earlier today in this diary, several Kossacks and I had a good discussion on reason, science, and logic, versus spiritual faith.
In the comments I repeatedly referenced a written argument for empiricism, which I present here to any who are interested. I apologize if it is difficult to follow in its current format, I am having some difficulty getting the outline to tab properly. I would appreciate if a Kossack with experience in that matter could help me clean it up. :)
My argument differs significantly from traditional logical arguments for materialism, and therefore I will label it empiricism instead. Many of my terms and analogies will be borrowed from myriad sources. If you want a specific definition or further information on a particular point feel free to ask, I can almost certainly provide a reference.- - -
The fundamentals of my argument will be based on logical inference. The reader should assume that all laws of Aristotelian logic apply. My argument in simplest terms is that we, as minds, can only understand reality based on observation, and inference from that observation. All other forms of knowledge are invalid. This includes concepts like divine revelation, connection to an undefined spiritual plane, and blind faith.
A primary difference between this argument, and the arguments for materialism, is that mine does not assume that the physical sciences in their present state could understand all of reality. However, it will conclude that whatever is true will by definition be natural, subject to logic, and understandable through the scientific method.
- Minds are able to observe -
(a) The conscious human mind experiences two forms of activity:
(i) Response to external stimuli. The mind processes information from sensory organs, categorizes and interprets it. We will call this observation.
(ii) Generation of internal stimuli. The mind synthesizes information by combining, altering, or analyzing recalled external stimuli. We will call this conception.
(b) The difference between the two forms is fundamental:
(i) A healthy mind can, without resorting to inference, identify which form of activity it has experienced. It does not need to analyze the content of its memory to know which sections represent observation or conception.
(ii) Observation displays consistency. Each time an external stimulus is observed is the same, except in cases where the observer's mind is altered or impaired.
(iii) Conception displays inconsistency. Thoughts, hunches, feelings, emotions, and dreams are not reliably repeatable. Regardless of the situation, that which is conceptual is never forced to conform to any standard.
(iv) Inconsistency can be a valuable property of conception. Thoughts can change to reflect whatever is observed. When and how these thoughts change is subject to the proper inference of the mind entertaining them. We call this logic.
- Observation is shared -
(a) Observation leads to the recognition of other observers:
(i) As demonstrated by the Theory of Mind, observation alone can lead to the recognition of a self-similar consciousness.
(ii) Through further observation (as shown in 2.b.ii) we can recognize the consistency of others' observation, and the inconsistency of their conception. Further yet, we can identify a consistency between our own observation, and the observations of others.
(b) Multiple minds can share observation through communication:
(i) Due to the mind's ability to inherently differentiate between observation and conception, one mind can produce observable stimuli that another mind can understand. We call this communication.
(ii) On the grounds that observation is consistent and universal between multiple minds, an observer can verify any claim about external reality it hears. When one mind claims to have observed something, another mind can attempt to observe it also. If the claim is verified repeatedly, by multiple observers, this demonstrates that the observation reflects some degree of objective reality.
(A) This allows for independent confirmation that observation is universal. Multiple observers can, for example, confirm the observable properties of a clove of garlic. Among normally functioning minds agreement should be unanimous. However, if there were disagreement, it would be unresolvable until the number of observers exceeded two.
(B) The inconsistency of the conceptual means that two minds cannot be expected to regularly agree on internal experiences, unless they point directly to observed experiences. Multiple observers will have a wide range of internal responses to the garlic. They may find its scent pleasant, unpleasant, too strong, or too weak, and true agreement would be extremely rare.
- This observation is reliable and useful for understanding reality -
(a) It makes communication valuable:
(i) The properties of observation allow us to communicate with other minds. The concepts in two different minds can only be made to agree be pointing them directly to observations. Thus, in order to communicate thoughts effectively one must supply examples and evidence from observation.
(ii) Concepts which are shown to be strongly supported by evidence are eventually considered "laws". The mind's ability to recall, recognize, and verify any observation, means that once something is proven reliable it becomes principal to thought. This is called "common sense", or "reason".
(b) It produces useful concepts:
(i) The laws of logic, physics, and mathematics (based on logic) are observable realities. These things are so solidly confirmed by observation that (as in 3.a.ii) they become integral to our ways of thinking.
(ii) These things in turn, build greater foundations for thought and communication, and permit cooperation and understanding in the fields of science, philosophy, and mathematics.
(c) It identifies useless concepts:
(i) Concepts like a feeling toward the scent of garlic, that cannot point to observable experience, are shown to be not useful. They do not connect to universal observation in any way. They are constructed of the mind, and only applicable to themselves.
(ii) Concepts such as divinity, and spirituality that are not based on verifiable observation, are only applicable in the mind that conceives of them. They have no method of confirmation, and to consider them a part of reality because of faith, or a feeling of "spiritual connection to the universe", is invalid. They exist only in the mind, and are imaginary.
I assert that the above argument demonstrates that reality must be determined with observation. In order for any concept to be considered valid or true, it must point to evidence of external, observable facts. This is what I would call empiricism.
Ultimately, this does come very close to materialistic naturalism because of how observation is defined. Reality will be determined with evidence collected from the external world, and because we only have five sensory tools for observing that world, true knowledge must necessarily come from the material.- - -
Please feel free to crack open any flaws you see in this argument, I would love to discuss it with anyone who is willing. Also, help with the outline would be great!
Live long, and prosper.