Synthetic A Priori Argumentation

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This topic contains 11 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Spooner Bookman 2 weeks, 4 days ago.

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  • #703

    Spooner Bookman
    Participant

    Elsewhere, @jacob says “I reject synthetic a priori argumentation because I want to understand the real world, not just play logic games, and to do so I must derive my ideas from the evidence available.”

    What about, for example, in the real world, if the cost of something goes up, all things being equal, demand for it will go down — that’s useful, practical (common sense) information about the world that can be deduced — only — aprioristically, is it not?

    If I would like to understand the world as best I can, I *must* make full use of all my reasoning, including aprioristic reasoning (especially with regards to economics), else I wouldn’t be able to understand things like this.

    Convince me I’m wrong? Wouldn’t I be limiting my understanding of the world if reject synthetic a priori reasoning in at least some areas of life (e.g., economics)?

    . . .

    The following is from Hoppe, should be good fuel for the fire, so to speak:

    The ultimate difference from which all disagreements at the levels of economic theory and economic policy stem concerns the answer to the very first question that any economist must raise: What is the subject matter of economics, and what kind of propositions are economic theorems?

    Mises’s answer is that economics is the science of human action. In itself, this may not sound very controversial. But then Mises says of the science of economics:

    Its statements and propositions are not derived from experience. They are, like those of logic and mathematics, a priori. They are not subject to verification and falsification on the ground of experience and facts. They are both logically and temporally antecedent to any comprehension of historical facts. They are a necessary requirement of any intellectual grasp of historical events.

    It is this assessment of economics as an a priori science, a science whose propositions can be given a rigorous logical justification, which distinguishes Austrians, or more precisely Misesians, from all other current economic schools. All the others… regard as dogmatic and unscientific Mises’s view that [Austrian] economic theorems… can be given definite proof, such that it can be shown to be plainly contradictory to deny their validity.

    The view of Mark Blaug, highly representative of mainstream methodological thought, illustrates this almost universal opposition to Austrianism. Blaug says of Mises, “His writings on the foundations of economic science are so cranky and idiosyncratic that one can only wonder that they have been taken seriously by anyone.”

    Blaug does not provide one argument to substantiate his outrage. His chapter on Austrianism simply ends with that statement. Could it be that Blaug’s and others’ rejection of Mises’s apriorism may have more to do with the fact that the demanding standards of argumentative rigor, which an apriorist methodology implies, prove too much for them?

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  • #716

    Hogeye
    Participant

    I doubt if Jacob rejects mathematics. Reviewing the terms used, I found the following concise explanation on a philosophy site:

    — long quote: —

    Unlike his predecessors, Kant maintained that synthetic a priori judgments not only are possible but actually provide the basis for significant portions of human knowledge. In fact, he supposed (pace Hume) that arithmetic and geometry comprise such judgments and that natural science depends on them for its power to explain and predict events. What is more, metaphysics—if it turns out to be possible at all—must rest upon synthetic a priori judgments, since anything else would be either uninformative or unjustifiable. But how are synthetic a priori judgments possible at all? This is the central question Kant sought to answer.

    Mathematics
    Consider, for example, our knowledge that two plus three is equal to five and that the interior angles of any triangle add up to a straight line. These (and similar) truths of mathematics are synthetic judgments, Kant held, since they contribute significantly to our knowledge of the world; the sum of the interior angles is not contained in the concept of a triangle. Yet, clearly, such truths are known a priori, since they apply with strict and universal necessity to all of the objects of our experience, without having been derived from that experience itself. In these instances, Kant supposed, no one will ask whether or not we have synthetic a priori knowledge; plainly, we do. The question is, how do we come to have such knowledge? If experience does not supply the required connection between the concepts involved, what does?
    http://philosophypages.com/hy/5f.htm

  • #841

    Jacob
    Keymaster

    I doubt I am skilled enough to be persuasive, but I will at least offer some thoughts to explain my own views.

    I contend that mathematics, logic, and economics are all a posteriori, not a priori. We learn how to perform mathematical calculations through experiences as children, we can learn about economics by actually observing how humans act in the real world. We may have some innate mental tools, as well as mental tools that develop through experience but are programmed to develop over the course of our lives given a wide range of different experiences, and some simple logical principles, such as a concept of absence or negation, may be among these, but to the extent that they are built in they are not knowledge.

    The brain-in-a-vat scenario is well known among philosophers. How do we know that we aren’t brains in vats, or in a Matrix, or some other variation on the theme? How do we know that what we experience is real, in other words?

    In thinking about this puzzle years back, I decided that the best solution I could come up with was to treat experiences as the starting point for every thought, idea, claim, belief, etc. In order to answer the questions we have to understand them, e.g. we have to understand what is meant by “brain,” “vat,” “Matrix,” “in,” and, indeed, “real.” I know of no way to understand these terms except in terms of my experiences. I have seen pictures of brains, read about them, (indeed, in my college introductory psychology course I got to hold half of a preserved human brain in my hand.) I have watched the movie The Matrix, played computer games, used virtual reality tech. I’ve read and watched videos about brain-machine interfaces.

    Thus, when using language I have to anchor it in my experiences. I have to use words to point to things in the real world. Even fantastical concepts consist of recombinations of things we’ve experienced.

    This means that, if I am answering questions about brains in vats or whether or not my experiences are “real,” then I can only answer by either pointing to my experiences or offering meaningless gibberish. The gibberish isn’t much of an answer at all. “Brain,” the word, is just a name I use for things I think I have experienced. So is “reality.” I define “real” through ostention, I just use the word as a name for my experiences, and thus questions about whether my experiences are “real” become tautological. I could avoid this by using “real” to mean a hypothetical characteristic that might apply to some sort of “deeper” reality, the world outside the vat, but I could only ever conceive of the world outside the vat in terms of my experiences from inside the vat. Unless I left the vat and experiences the outer world directly, but then the whole point of the thought experiment is that we can never know for sure whether we are in the outermost world, or whether there is even any outermost world. Practically speaking, the world I experience now is reality for me, and I can only ever go one step at a time. If I ever have experiences that make it easier for me to think about the world by saying I have been in a vat my whole life and am now out, then I can cross that bridge when I come to it. Until then, I have not the tools to do so.

    I don’t reject mathematics, exactly, but I do take a position as far towards empiricism as I think one could take. To the extent that mathematical principles are “true,” they are derived from our experiences. To the extent that they are not derived from our experiences they are neither true nor false, merely logical games. I like logic games, but I try to distinguish between them and reality.

    Another angle: from reading various books and essays about how people think and perceive the world I have decided that “knowledge” involves causal connections and interactions between minds and objects. I can learn through observation that minds interact causally with various objects and that the patterns in those minds change as a result. Some of these patterns I call knowledge. If, somehow, some patterns in the minds had their shape not because they were caused to have their particular shape by objects but for some other reason, I would not call these patterns knowledge, “Knowledge” is a name I use for patterns that are formed through experiences of the objects they represent. “Justified, true belief” is not what I call knowledge, some causal connection must exist between the object of knowledge and the knowledge itself.

    I can try to answer questions if you like.

    • #883

      Spooner Bookman
      Participant

      [Experience and observation are easily proven to be the starting point for all ‘real’ knowledge, as knowledge requires language and language is gained through experience and observation. Further, for any knowledge to be considered ‘real’ knowledge (and not ‘merely’ a ‘logical game’), some causal connection must exist between an ‘object of knowledge’ and the ‘knowledge itself’. This is because knowledge of anything ‘real’ (barring a matrix scenario) only emerges in a mind when ‘patterns’ form in the mind as a result of that mind interacting causally with an ‘object of knowledge’. If any ‘knowledge-pattern’ emerges in a human mind as a result of anything other than causally interacting with such ‘objects’, it is not ‘real’ knowledge. Because aprioristic reasoning is missing such ‘objects’ (and consequently the causal interaction and such) any knowledge acquired via aprioristic reasoning does not meet the basic criteria for what ‘real’ knowledge is.]

      A priori reasoning (of course) presupposes the knowledge of language being necessary, and also that we are dealing with reality as we know it today. Moreover, no one has claimed that ‘real’ knowledge could be got solely via a priori reasoning, or that apriorism solves the brain-in-a-vat dilemma, so I’m not sure what you are responding to with either of these?

      My inquiry is almost entirely unaddressed, as far as I can tell: a priori reasoning *must* be used in order to fully understand the reality you find yourself in — rejecting a priori reasoning is to dramatically inhibit your ability to understand the world.

      As far as I can tell, you are (maybe) implying the answer is ‘no it is not useful’, and you are (maybe) implying your reasoning for this is that it does not result in ‘real’ knowledge. You say definitively that a priori reasoning is a ‘logical game’ adding the modifier ‘merely’ to (maybe) imply that ‘aprioristic reasoning can not help one understand their world better because logical games don’t help us understand our world’ (but you don’t say what a ‘logical game’ is… Soduku, perhaps?). If this is your argument, my rebuttal would of course be that (‘merely’) changing the name of ‘aprioristic reasoning’ to ‘something that sounds unhelpful’ is not an argument… but surely this isn’t your argument? Could you tell me what a ‘logical game’ is, and what differences (if any) there are between logical games and a priori reasoning? And then, of course, ultimately I’m wanting to know what it is that prevents a priori reasoning (or ‘logical games’ if they turn out to be identical) from being useful in understanding the world?

      Further, and as kind of an aside: if I understand your personal theory of ‘real’ knowledge correctly, then I don’t see how a priori reasoning doesn’t meet your criteria for ‘real’ knowledge? The ‘predictions’ of apriorism are the ‘objects of knowledge’ that meet the experiential component of your theory, and when a mind is making/considering these ‘objects of knowledge’ that mind is ‘causally interacting’ with those ‘objects’ such that new ‘knowledge/patterns’ emerge in that mind (and/or existing ones change), thereby satisfying all your conditions for ‘real knowledge’. Or, no?

  • #884

    Jacob
    Keymaster

    Experience and observation are easily proven to be the starting point for all ‘real’ knowledge, as knowledge requires language and language is gained through experience and observation.

    While I am sure this paraphrasing was a sincere and well-meant attempt to encapsulate what I said, it is significantly different.

    Let me clarify. I am not at all sure that knowledge requires language, in fact I suspect it does not. (Some knowledge may, but I think some knowledge does not.) I am saying, rather, that knowledge directly requires experience.

    Belief, and thought, also require experience. Our minds think in terms of our experiences, we have nothing else to think in terms of. Understanding of language requires experiences, I do believe, but I did not intend to imply a step from knowledge to language to experience, rather I meant that knowledge is made up of patterns in our minds that are both isomorphic, (or “analogous,”) to parts of the real world that we have experienced and causally connected to them, with the analogical relation between the real world object and the pattern being a result of this cause and effect relationship, i.e. the pattern comes to mimic the object in particular ways because the mind interacts with the object and shapes the pattern so that it mimics the object as the object has been experienced. That the object is a particular way causes the pattern to be a similar way.

    My inquiry is almost entirely unaddressed, as far as I can tell: a priori reasoning *must* be used in order to fully understand the reality you find yourself in — rejecting a priori reasoning is to dramatically inhibit your ability to understand the world.

    I don’t understand how you imagine synthetic a priori reasoning can be used to understand reality to begin with. Without understanding how you think it can be used as a source of knowledge I can not understand why you think some knowledge can be obtained only through it and not through other methods.

    As far as I can tell, you are (maybe) implying the answer is ‘no it is not useful’, and you are (maybe) implying your reasoning for this is that it does not result in ‘real’ knowledge.

    Correct. I do not think synthetic a priori reasoning is useful because I think we can not use it to gain knowledge of any sort.

    I want to reiterate that I’m questioning the usefulness of synthetic a priori reasoning in particular, rather than analytic a priori reasoning. Analytic a priori reasoning is just about understanding the structure and content of our own concepts, basically knowledge gained through introspection alongside extrospection. That is useful, sort of, but I think it is misnamed and misunderstood by philosophers. Words do not have inherent meanings attached to them by magic, they mean what we use them to mean.

    A common example of analytic a priori reasoning, (rather than synthetic,) which you may be familiar with, is that of whether or not a bachelor is married. Since part of the definition we use for “bachelor” is that bachelors are unmarried, we can say we “know” that bachelors are unmarried. What we really “know,” here, though, is that people who are unmarried are not married, and that we use the term “bachelor” as a name for people who are not married. What’s going on is not that we have some supernatural insight into a meaning inherent in the word “bachelor,” as, in my opinion, philosophers sometimes imply, but rather than we can engage in introspection and understand our own concepts, and that we have some basic logical tools such as “a is a,” which I think can be derived from almost any experience.

    You say definitively that a priori reasoning is a ‘logical game’ adding the modifier ‘merely’ to (maybe) imply that ‘aprioristic reasoning can not help one understand their world better because logical games don’t help us understand our world’ (but you don’t say what a ‘logical game’ is… Soduku, perhaps?). If this is your argument, my rebuttal would of course be that (‘merely’) changing the name of ‘aprioristic reasoning’ to ‘something that sounds unhelpful’ is not an argument… but surely this isn’t your argument? Could you tell me what a ‘logical game’ is, and what differences (if any) there are between logical games and a priori reasoning?

    When I bring up games, I mean to point out that we have imaginations, and that we can use our imaginations to not only come up with fantastical objects, (like unicorns or leprechauns,) but fantastical systems, (like Sudoku or the rules of most board games, computer games, sports, and so forth.) We can certainly stipulate, for example, that in a fantastical system of our own invention collecting coins results in 3 points a piece, or that one can not be both a cook and a mermaid, or that self-ownership need not entail a “right” to sell oneself into slavery and thus lose one’s self-ownership, or lots of other things. Within the rules we come up with we can start with axioms and draw conclusions, deriving theorems based on some starting points and some principles about what new theorems we can generate from other axioms and theorems we already possess. Thus we can know that, given a system in which we start with the axiom “k” and the principle that from “k” we can derive “q”, we can derive “q” successfully within our system.

    Whether the theorems we derive within our system can tell us anything about the real world, or whether it is simply a collection of stipulations, is something we must learn through our experiences. (What alternative is there?)

    And then, of course, ultimately I’m wanting to know what it is that prevents a priori reasoning (or ‘logical games’ if they turn out to be identical) from being useful in understanding the world?

    I do distinguish between “a priori reasoning” and “logical games.” The sorts of logical games I just described, in which one starts with some stipulated axioms and principles and derives theorems in accordance with the stipulated principles, are useful when trying to understand the world. We can, for example, come up with theories about physics through the use of mathematics that can then give us particular predictions about the world which we can test through experimentation. Without this ability, it would be much more difficult to come up with theories and hypotheses to test, and thus more difficult to understand reality.

    However, when doing things like that the starting point for our knowledge is still experience. We have to have experiences to map our theories onto, and through this mapping we have to come up with new hypotheses to test. We know what we have experienced, and we can know that our theories and conceptual frameworks map onto our experiences to such and such a degree of accuracy, but we can’t gain knowledge without experience, through any methodology I can conceive of.

    Further, and as kind of an aside: if I understand your personal theory of ‘real’ knowledge correctly, then I don’t see how a priori reasoning doesn’t meet your criteria for ‘real’ knowledge? The ‘predictions’ of apriorism are the ‘objects of knowledge’ that meet the experiential component of your theory, and when a mind is making/considering these ‘objects of knowledge’ that mind is ‘causally interacting’ with those ‘objects’ such that new ‘knowledge/patterns’ emerge in that mind (and/or existing ones change), thereby satisfying all your conditions for ‘real knowledge’. Or, no?

    I don’t think I understand fully what you’re saying here.

    We can come up with systems, e.g. mathematical or logical systems, in which we stipulate that from some particular starting point we can reach some end points, and we can know through introspection that we have imagined the system as we have. We can then play around with that system, deriving theorems in accordance with our stipulated principles, and we can know that we have derived these theorems in accordance with the principles we’ve stipulated. We can therefore also know that we can derive particular theorems within the artificial confines of the system we’ve invented, and we can describe this by saying we know a particular theorem is derivable, (or “provable,”) within that system.

    Where I think many philosophers err is when they map their systems onto real objects other than the system and then proceed to “prove” theorems that, when used to make claims about the real objects they’re mapped onto, turn out to be false. It is this inability to distinguish between the provability of a theorem within an abstract logical or mathematical system and the truth of the claim one gets by mapping the logical system, and its associated theorems, onto real world objects in a particular way, that I believe I see in philosophers like Murray Rothbard and Hoppe, and that concerns me so greatly.

    I think we’ll need to continue this discussion to be able to work this out, as I think my own way of thinking about the world is heterodox enough to be difficult for me to convey to most people.

    • #885

      Spooner Bookman
      Participant

      While I am sure this paraphrasing was a sincere and well-meant attempt…

      Never attribute to malice…

      . . .

      What I said is significantly different.

      Yet your only alteration was replacing ‘knowledge necessitates language and language necessitates experience’ with ‘knowledge necessitate thought and thought necessitates experience.’ Maybe we have significantly different ideas as to what ‘significantly different’ means? Regardless, I was trying to distill your argument rather than paraphrase it, but to try and demonstrate I grasp your meaning, at least as you’ve conveyed it so far, I’ve laid it out as best I can below. Let me know what I’ve got wrong this time?

      . . .

      The Question: Wouldn’t I be limiting my understanding of the world if reject synthetic a priori reasoning in at least some areas of life (e.g., economics)?

      Notes: (1) The ‘real’ world here refers to the one we are experiencing, i.e., disregarding a matrix scenario. (2) Your ‘Parts of the Real World’ and ‘Objects of Knowledge’ are generally abbreviated to just ‘objects’ in the following.

      Observation (A Direct Experience): Thoughts can only be thought in ‘terms of’ experience, i.e., no ‘experience’ means no thought.

      Thesis (Emerging ‘Pattern’ Based on Above Direct Experience): All ‘real’ knowledge ‘directly requires experience’ because without it, no thought at all is possible, let alone knowledge.

      (Definitely Not Synthetic A Priori) Reasoning: Useful knowledge (of course) relies upon the existence of human thought. Human thought is (in the briefest of terms) comprised of ‘patterns’ that emerge in the ‘mind’ from the direct interaction of a mind with objects. If this is so, it must follow that useful knowledge necessitates this presence of this direct interaction — this ‘causal connection’ between objects and the patterns that make up (the thoughts that make up) knowledge. With synthetic aprioristic reasoning, there is no ‘causal connection’ to the objects that caused the patterns to emerge — the mind is not interacting with real world objects (but something else entirely) and consequently the result, whatever it is, cannot be considered useful knowledge as it does not satisfy the criteria for useful knowledge.

      Put differently: synthetic aprioristic reasoning is not useful because in using it, one imagines axioms to be true regardless of whether or not they are true (like in Soduku), which is to say it does not matter whether or not they are causally connected to any real world objects and, insofar as synthetic a priori reasoning is dealing with such connection-less axioms, it is dealing (solely) with ‘imaginary systems’ and not the ‘real’ world. It is this lack of a ‘causal connection’ to the real world that makes it useless for gaining ‘real’ knowledge, as the knowledge gained would/could only apply to whatever imaginary system is being considered at the time.

      Summary: Synthetic apriorism can and often does lead to mapping parts of an imaginary, causal-connection-less system onto the ‘real world’ in a way that does not (and can not except accidentally) accurately line up with the real world. Considering this is so, for one to then try and ‘prove’ — using only the imaginary system’s map — the theorems derived from this (often inaccurate) map are true not just for the imaginary system but also for the ‘real world’ would be to commit an error that ‘greatly concerns me’.

      That’s gotta be pretty close?

    • #886

      Spooner Bookman
      Participant

      Experience is the starting point for ‘real’ knowledge.

      The ‘starting point’ of knowledge being experience doesn’t change my question.

      . . .

      I don’t know how synthetic a priori reasoning could be used to understand reality, or be used as a source of useful knowledge.

      Is this something you’d be interested in learning more about?

      . . .

      Why do you think some knowledge can be obtained only via synthetic a priori reasoning?

      As I said in the previous reply, “…no one has claimed that ‘real’ knowledge could be got solely via a priori reasoning.”

      . . .

      Synthetic a priori reasoning is not useful because we can not use it to gain knowledge of any kind but something that is (kind of) useful in understanding our own ‘concepts’ is analytic a priori reasoning.

      I was asking about the type of reasoning used in the (exceedingly commonplace) example I provided. For the purposes of the current discussion, you can call this synthetic, analytic, or bootylicious — I am more concerned with the content of the argument rather than the nomenclature.

      . . .

      I don’t think I understand fully your argument that synthetic a priori reasoning meets my criteria for ‘real’ knowledge.

      Coming to an understanding of it would be instructive.

  • #887

    Jacob
    Keymaster

    Yes, that summary is quite close, thank you.

    What I said is significantly different.

    Yet your only alteration was replacing ‘knowledge necessitates language and language necessitates experience’ with ‘knowledge necessitate thought and thought necessitates experience.’ Maybe we have significantly different ideas as to what ‘significantly different’ means? Regardless, I was trying to distill your argument rather than paraphrase it, but to try and demonstrate I grasp your meaning, at least as you’ve conveyed it so far, I’ve laid it out as best I can below. Let me know what I’ve got wrong this time?

    I think language and thought are significantly different things, but I guess you see them as closer than I do? People can certainly think in terms other than language, (e.g. images, sounds, feelings, and probably tastes and smells as well.)

    I don’t know how synthetic a priori reasoning could be used to understand reality, or be used as a source of useful knowledge.

    Is this something you’d be interested in learning more about?

    Certainly. Feel free to offer book recommendations on the subject, as well as other explanations you think helpful. I think I have already mentioned having an interest in what you would think of Jesse Prinz’s book Furnishing the Mind. I imagine it would take you some time to find a copy and read it, (it’s not light reading,) but I hope you may do so some day and discuss it with me.

    I hope I can convey, convincingly, that this is indeed something I have thought about in the past. As such, I hope you won’t mind that I expect you to be unable to convince me.

    I think that, if you have made any mistakes in summarizing my views, I have failed to see them and will have to point them out later in the discussion if and when I see them.

    • #888

      Spooner Bookman
      Participant

      If you have made any mistakes in summarizing my views, I have failed to see them and will have to point them out later in the discussion if and when I see them.

      Great!

      I’m sure there are some mistakes in my understanding that, as you say, can be pointed out as the discussion continues. With an eye towards that, I’m going to do a new rephrasing of the argument where I somewhat exaggerate what I see as major problems with your argument as you’ve conveyed it thus far. This exaggeration tactic should (hopefully) have the effect of bringing one or more of my mistakes into high relief, such that you can easily address them:

      I directly experience that ‘accurate thought’ (Y) requires ‘real experience’ (Z), and separately, I directly experience that ‘useful knowledge’ (X) requires Y. Having had these direct experiences, I will now choose to leave the arena of ‘direct experience’ (and observation of ‘parts of the real world’ and ‘objects of knowledge’) behind me and instead enter into an imaginary world inside my own mind where I imagine that X requires Z, even though I of course have no ‘direct experience’ (Z) for this Y – this Y has no causal connection to any ‘object of knowledge’ or ‘part of the real world’ according to my theory. Further, I (of course) can never acquire direct experience of this ‘knowledge’ because doing so would first require directly experiencing (as if this was even possible) that all Y’s only ever result from Z’s (as my imaginary axiom states), because if any Y ever diverges from what I have imagined in my mind to be true, then my imaginary axiom does not and cannot ‘map’ accurately to the real world (except by accident). One obvious reason it is impossible to directly experience all Y’s only ever resulting from Z’s is because it requires examining the Y’s that emerge from the ‘direct experience’ (Z) of observing Y’s which of course must then also be observed via Z, which of course would cause more Y’s to emerge, which of course must then also be observed via Z, which would of course… Well, you get the picture. All that to say: my inability to directly experience any ‘object’ that is ‘causally connected’ to the knowledge I am claiming is real and useful means the claim – the knowledge – cannot be considered ‘real’ or ‘useful’ as it is just imaginary. It is just a logic game, which can be fun, but I am capable of distinguishing between logic games – like my own theory of knowledge — and actual, useful, ‘real’ knowledge. In short, my claim that ‘useful knowledge requires direct experience’ is a claim that according to my beliefs, ironically, provides no useful knowledge.

      Surely you can now identify one or more of the mistakes I’m making and set me straight?

      . . .

      I would like book recommendations on how synthetic a priori reasoning can be used to better understand our reality.

      Great! While recommending a book is (of course) not an argument, the first book that comes to mind is Hoppe’s ‘Economic Science and the Austrian Method’ (where the quote from the original post comes from). Clocking in at less than 70 very-small pages of actual content, it shouldn’t take more than an hour or so to read. While not ‘light’ reading, it can be quickly digested as Hoppe is able to concisely and clearly convey complicated views in an unpretentious and uncomplicated manner such that they can be understood even by these so-called ‘most people’ that you have mentioned – a sure sign of a first rate intelligence, as all honest observers would agree.

      . . .

      I would like to hear explanations as to how synthetic a priori reasoning can be used to better understand our reality.

      Great!

      Would it be ok if I first gain an understanding of your argument and then explain my view? (For one thing, some explanations will necessarily be forthcoming as part of the discussion of your view, and then also, once I understand your argument, I may agree with you thereby foregoing the need for me to explain my soon-to-be defeated position, accept as an academic exercise.)

      . . .

      I want to know what you think of Jesse Prinz’s book ‘Furnishing the Mind’. You can find a copy in a matter of seconds, though it may take several hours to read. I hope you read it and discuss it with me.

      While I greatly appreciate the recommendation and am not in any way opposed to reading it, I have — as I’m sure you can relate! — researched thousands upon thousands of books and have decided to spend what little time I have left in this plane of existence reading from a diligently researched, highly curated, and painstakingly prioritized list of books. Hopefully you can understand that before inserting your recommendation into the list, and certainly before moving it anywhere near the top of the list, I would have to know (in order to calculate the opportunity cost of reading the book): what is it about our conversation that made you make the recommendation? (Why this book, and why now? From a quick glance/search, it doesn’t appear to relate directly to this topic? That is: I’m not seeing how it would answer my question? Again, that’s just from a cursory look at it…)

      . . .

      On a personal/emotional note, I don’t see how it’s not obvious that I’ve worked super hard to hear, understand, and consider each and every last one of your words? I would wager a dollar that few people you’ve ever encountered have ever cared as much about your opinions as I have? Yet, somehow, all this effort doesn’t provoke in you even the tiniest hint of kindness or respect, but instead a relentlessly cold, unforgiving, exasperated condescension. The thing is, I can find a seemingly infinite number of people online that, instead of advancing an argument, will choose instead to tell me (in so many words) that I’m a fucking retard. If you continue to use this mind numbingly common approach, as you have in every fucking post, then I don’t want to play anymore. It’s up to you whether or not we continue – no hard feelings on my end if you’d like to stop?

  • #889

    Jacob
    Keymaster

    On a personal/emotional note, I don’t see how it’s not obvious that I’ve worked super hard to hear, understand, and consider each and every last one of your words? I would wager a dollar that few people you’ve ever encountered have ever cared as much about your opinions as I have? Yet, somehow, all this effort doesn’t provoke in you even the tiniest hint of kindness or respect, but instead a relentlessly cold, unforgiving, exasperated condescension. The thing is, I can find a seemingly infinite number of people online that, instead of advancing an argument, will choose instead to tell me (in so many words) that I’m a fucking retard. If you continue to use this mind numbingly common approach, as you have in every fucking post, then I don’t want to play anymore. It’s up to you whether or not we continue – no hard feelings on my end if you’d like to stop?

    Hmm.

    I’m sorry I have come across that way. Given that you disagree with me, and given that you apparently draw a lot from the work of both Murray Rothbard and Hans Herman Hoppe, my own feeling is that you are attempting to somehow trick me into saying something that you can then point to to try and claim I have engaged in a performative contradiction, with my alleged doing so “winning” the debate for you. I find the performative contradiction arguments of Rothbard and Hoppe not only nonsensical but extremely frustrating, because I feel like they are designed to tangle opponents forever in attempts to figure out what in the world Rothbard and Hoppe are actually saying to the point that anyone who is not a true believer just on faith becomes so exasperated that they leave the argument, leaving the faithful to tell themselves that this means they have emerged victorious. From the conversations you have had with others and posted here it appears that I am not the only person to get this feeling of dread about being tricked from the sort of Socratic dialogue you use.

    Tell you what though, I do appreciate your work in keeping these conversations going and trying to clearly understand the different points, so I will try to set aside these worries.

    Regarding my condescension, it was a defense mechanism on my part. You, yourself, responded to my “I don’t know how synthetic a priori reasoning could be used to understand reality, or be used as a source of useful knowledge.” with “Is this something you’d be interested in learning more about?” I submit that this was condescending, at least as condescending as me emphasizing that I have thought about this before and expect to not be convinced. To me this framed our disagreement as both ignorance on my part and as a failure on my part.

    Of course our conversation is in part about whether or not it is possible for anyone to gain knowledge through synthetic a priori reasoning in the first place, and your question presupposes, in my opinion, that it is possible, and thus that you hold the correct position while I hold the erroneous one. This is why it seems condescending to me.

    I did of course leave open the possibility that it is ignorance on my part through my own wording. If I say “it is impossible,” this would be a poor wording, in my opinion, as it implies that I have some sort of a priori proof of the claim, so instead I say I know of no way of doing it, leaving open the possibility that it can be done. This is actually, in my opinion, the more humble way of wording it, as it implies that I would be willing to change my belief that it is probably impossible, whereas talking of irrefutable proofs, (as Hoppe never tires of doing,) seems the more condescending tactic.

    My coldness, I expect, is just the feeling I give by attempting to adhere as strictly as possible to my own methodology in intellectual discussions. If I am to ensure, to the best of my own ability, that my own claims are accurate, I must sort through everything I say and determine whether or not my claims are describing, directly or indirectly, the empirical evidence available to me, or whether they can not be defended based on this evidence. One false step could lead me down an erroneous path, with the discovery of my error requiring me to backtrack a great deal. I navigate intellectual discussion with the cold, strict, intense and critical methods you observe precisely because I am acutely aware at all times of my own fallibility and, through my brutally empiricist methods, I seek to minimize my own errors to the greatest extent that I can.

    It actually surprises me to hear that my coldness bothers you. I have gotten the impression from discussing various intellectual topics with moderate-leftists, (modern liberals and progressives,) that it bothers them to an extreme degree. I had thought, however, that the secular “right,” especially fans of Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, and Hoppe, preferred a colder rationality. Ayn Rand, in her book Philosophy: Who Needs It, actually compares philosophy to military training and tactics, if I recall correctly, saying that, just as soldiers train physically to strengthen their bodies, students of philosophy must train their minds to think rationally. Her whole outlook is extremely strict and, in my opinion, cold. I have taken this page from her book, so to speak, but in doing so I have rejected many of her own arguments as being on far too shaky ground, empirically, and I have adopted a strict skepticism and empiricism as my methods.

    I am not sure how to discuss intellectual topics in a less cold way without also making a great many more errors and producing less clear explanations. Perhaps you can point out the things I have said that came across as the most cold and condescending, and I can try to learn from that to avoid similar missteps in the future? I do, indeed, want to continue the discussion, as I want to understand your own thinking and, perhaps, persuade you of my own positions.

    While I greatly appreciate the recommendation and am not in any way opposed to reading it, I have — as I’m sure you can relate! — researched thousands upon thousands of books and have decided to spend what little time I have left in this plane of existence reading from a diligently researched, highly curated, and painstakingly prioritized list of books. Hopefully you can understand that before inserting your recommendation into the list, and certainly before moving it anywhere near the top of the list, I would have to know (in order to calculate the opportunity cost of reading the book): what is it about our conversation that made you make the recommendation? (Why this book, and why now? From a quick glance/search, it doesn’t appear to relate directly to this topic? That is: I’m not seeing how it would answer my question? Again, that’s just from a cursory look at it…)

    If we libertarians could just get the government to let go of the healthcare industry, perhaps we could see, in our lifetimes, the development of medical practices to help people live a great deal longer, and thus we could have far more time to spend reading books. (This is something I think about unhealthily often. 😉 ) I can, indeed, relate to having researched a great number of books, and I thank your for looking up this one.

    The book does not deal directly with epistemology, but it develops a theory of how human beings form, change, and use concepts, and of the structure of concepts, based on evidence from, primarily, experimental psychology and neuroscience. It is from this book, primarily, that I draw the idea of causal connections between objects and our knowledge of those objects. The book also discusses how people could, arguably, form various different concepts from their experiences, rather than having them innately, and it discusses the relationship between empiricism and skepticism, pointing out that the inability to come up with empirical defenses of various philosophical ideas, (such as morality,) was one reason many people rejected empiricism, believing that it led to an unacceptable sort of skepticism.

    As I am deeply interested in artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and the philosophy of mind the book was vital reading material for me. It was the best explanation of how people form concepts and of how concepts are structured in people’s minds that I have read to date. It also develops the thesis through analysis of empirical evidence, which I of course like, while other books I have read about cognitive science or epistemology did this to a lesser degree. It is certainly possible that you would find the book far less interesting, and I am fine if you decide not to read it because of that, especially as it is a heavy read.

    Great!

    Would it be ok if I first gain an understanding of your argument and then explain my view? (For one thing, some explanations will necessarily be forthcoming as part of the discussion of your view, and then also, once I understand your argument, I may agree with you thereby foregoing the need for me to explain my soon-to-be defeated position, accept as an academic exercise.)

    I am fine with this. One of the reasons I asked for an explanation was because I thought it might help me know how to explain my own theory better, at the moment I am less sure what else to say by way of explanation. I could, perhaps, talk about the famous thought experiments philosophers have used to argue that “justified, true belief” is not the same as “knowledge,” as beliefs could come to be accurate through accident, in some cases, and people do not, generally, intuitively think of them as examples of knowledge in those cases. (A quick search informs me that these are called “Gettier Cases.” I could delve off into various other esoteric directions as well. I’m just trying to figure out what would be the most helpful course to take.

    Great! While recommending a book is (of course) not an argument, the first book that comes to mind is Hoppe’s ‘Economic Science and the Austrian Method’ (where the quote from the original post comes from). Clocking in at less than 70 very-small pages of actual content, it shouldn’t take more than an hour or so to read. While not ‘light’ reading, it can be quickly digested as Hoppe is able to concisely and clearly convey complicated views in an unpretentious and uncomplicated manner such that they can be understood even by these so-called ‘most people’ that you have mentioned – a sure sign of a first rate intelligence, as all honest observers would agree.

    Sounds good, short is cool. I imagine mises.org probably has a free copy? Free is also cool, and mises.org usually has free copies of Hoppe and Rothbard’s work.

    Anyway, thank you for the suggestion.

    I directly experience that ‘accurate thought’ (Y) requires ‘real experience’ (Z), and separately, I directly experience that ‘useful knowledge’ (X) requires Y. Having had these direct experiences, I will now choose to leave the arena of ‘direct experience’ (and observation of ‘parts of the real world’ and ‘objects of knowledge’) behind me and instead enter into an imaginary world inside my own mind where I imagine that X requires Z, even though I of course have no ‘direct experience’ (Z) for this Y – this Y has no causal connection to any ‘object of knowledge’ or ‘part of the real world’ according to my theory. Further, I (of course) can never acquire direct experience of this ‘knowledge’ because doing so would first require directly experiencing (as if this was even possible) that all Y’s only ever result from Z’s (as my imaginary axiom states), because if any Y ever diverges from what I have imagined in my mind to be true, then my imaginary axiom does not and cannot ‘map’ accurately to the real world (except by accident). One obvious reason it is impossible to directly experience all Y’s only ever resulting from Z’s is because it requires examining the Y’s that emerge from the ‘direct experience’ (Z) of observing Y’s which of course must then also be observed via Z, which of course would cause more Y’s to emerge, which of course must then also be observed via Z, which would of course… Well, you get the picture. All that to say: my inability to directly experience any ‘object’ that is ‘causally connected’ to the knowledge I am claiming is real and useful means the claim – the knowledge – cannot be considered ‘real’ or ‘useful’ as it is just imaginary. It is just a logic game, which can be fun, but I am capable of distinguishing between logic games – like my own theory of knowledge — and actual, useful, ‘real’ knowledge. In short, my claim that ‘useful knowledge requires direct experience’ is a claim that according to my beliefs, ironically, provides no useful knowledge.

    Surely you can now identify one or more of the mistakes I’m making and set me straight?

    I think what you are bringing up here is the problem of induction, and of how we can derive abstract principles, such as “useful knowledge requires direct experience,” from our experiences. I think this because of this part:

    Further, I (of course) can never acquire direct experience of this ‘knowledge’ because doing so would first require directly experiencing (as if this was even possible) that all Y’s only ever result from Z’s (as my imaginary axiom states), because if any Y ever diverges from what I have imagined in my mind to be true, then my imaginary axiom does not and cannot ‘map’ accurately to the real world (except by accident).

    If I belief in a particular principle and I have an experience that falsifies that principle, (e.g. finding something that I would intuitively consider knowledge that has come from a source other than experience of the object it is knowledge about,) then of course I would, indeed, come to believe that the principle did not accurately map onto the real world, as my experience would demonstrate exactly this.

    Let me try to explain how I believe we can derive the principle we’re discussing. I include both extrospection and introspection under the umbrella of “experience.” I can interact with, say, a pencil, picking it up and dropping it to the floor. I can also come up with a mental model of the pencil and how it behaves. For example, each time I drop it I can observe that it falls to the floor. I can shape my model to mirror this, at which point my model predicts that if I drop the pencil it will fall.

    In the course of my life I have developed countless such models, and one observation I have made is that the predictions my models produce do not always match what actually happens. Perhaps someone ties a piece of magician’s string to their finger and a pencil and thus shows me that they can drop it without it falling to the floor, instead hovering in mid-air. Perhaps someone shows me a video of people playing with pencils in space, or in an airplane being flown in such a way as to simulate zero-gravity environments.

    I can observe, (through introspection,) that I make mistakes in my predictions in various cases, and, constructing a model of my own thought processes and the relation between myself and the world, I can come to predict that some of my predictions will turn out not to match my experiences. I can also, for that matter, predict that some of them will.

    Switching from ‘I’ to ‘we’, (because of course you and others can make similar observations,) we can go even further, developing quite complicated, and decently accurate, models of our own relationship with the world in which we live. The models we create, both of the world and of ourselves, (and we are, of course, part of the world,) are not things we can place 100% certainty in, at least not rationally, because we can observe our own models making false predictions all the time. Our models are just tools, and we must create them and test them against our experiences at every moment. The fact that they may make predictions that fail to match our experiences does not render them entirely useless, we can still use them to interact with the world and achieve our goals, we simply must be aware of our own fallibility if we do not want to end up acting as though the world is one way when it is really a different way.

    All these principles we’re deriving are just the best theories we can produce at any given time. We don’t need them to be infallible in their predictions, and thus we don’t need to observe every possible variant of something in order to infer principles. We don’t need to observe, e.g. “that all Y’s only ever result from Z’s,” because upon close inspection we are not actually claiming “that all Y’s only ever result from Z’s,” in any given case. I know of no way of justifying such a claim. I can not even conceive of a way of justifying such a claim, and the problem you bring up here leads me to think that I probably will never discover one.

    But I’m ok with this. We can still develop imperfect models, fallible ones, and try to make them as accurate as possible, (by changing them to reflect our experiences as we experience them.) We can still predict, or make an educated guess, that when we find a Y it has come from a Z, based on our experiences before where Y’s have come from Z’s and, to our knowledge, never from anywhere else. I accept that I could have a new experience that does not match this prediction, and, at that point, I will have a new experience to use to create a more accurate model. Until I have such an experience I can only do so much.

    These sorts of fallible models can, I believe, both be created from our experiences and help us interact with the world, (i.e. be useful.) It is the more absolute and supposedly irrefutable claims that I know of no way to demonstrate the truth of. Of course, without knowing of a way to demonstrate a claim as true I also have no reason to think it is useful to me in interacting with the real world.

    I am not entirely satisfied with this explanation, particularly because I don’t think you will find it satisfying, but I hope to be able to come up with a better one after reading your response.

    • This reply was modified 3 weeks, 1 day ago by  Jacob.
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    • #896

      Spooner Bookman
      Participant

      Pardon my emotional outburst. I blame biting my tongue around family for the holidays. That is of course no excuse for my behavior, I’m definitely embarrassed, and I apologize.

      “If the cost of something goes up, all things being equal, demand for it will go down – that’s useful, practical (common sense) information about the world that can be deduced – only – aprioristically, right? If that’s right, then to understand the world as best I can, I *must* make full use of all reasoning, including reasoning like this, right?”

      It is deceptive to claim the preceding is merely a ‘part’ of our conversation, as it is the entirety of the question I put before you. (When I ask about N, you may of course respond indirectly by bringing up Q, P, R, Z, and M, and much more besides, as opposed to simply answering the question. But, from your mentioning of all these non-N topics it does not follow that N is now only a ‘part’ of a conversation that is now about Q, P, R, Z, and M, in addition to N. It just means that you have brought up other topics.)

      You say your reason for bringing up other topics and not answering the question is that you are afraid to answer the question. I have no doubt this is true. But, because I find it revealing, and since you enjoy logic games, play this one with me: what would be the ‘worst case scenario’ of why, instead of just answering the question, you are bringing up ‘the starting point of knowledge’ (Q), talking about ‘how thoughts are formed’ (P), accusing me of ‘tricking’ you (R), telling me I should read a book (Z), telling me how hard it is to convey your views (M), etc.? To make a good guess, let me give you my analysis of your rhetorical behavior, and again, for the sake of the worst-case-scenario game we are playing, I’ll assume the absolute wors cast this analysis in an overly harsh, negative light:

      * Focuses on tangents, avoiding answering the question.
      * Questions my motives, putting me on the defensive, and not answering the question.
      * Invokes authority, like Prinz, without answering the question.
      * Claims he is ‘one who knows’ (unlike ‘most people’) without saying what it is.
      * Simply says it ain’t so without demonstrating how or why.
      * Paints the affair as too complex to discuss.
      * Broadly/vaguely criticizes thinkers/authors (Hoppe, Rothbard) without answering the question.

      This spot-on (if overly harsh for the sake of the game) analysis of your tactics is copied straight from a list of tactics allegedly employed by paid disinformation agents. Which is to say, if I were to assume the absolute worst thing I could assume about you, I’d assume you were a piece of shit that is trying to ‘trick’ me. I would assume that getting me to abandon the argument in exasperation via the use of rhetorical ‘tricks’ would be your primary goal — if I were to assume the absolute worst in you.

      But I would never assume you (or anyone) piece of crap, especially not without providing evidence for the accusation along with my claim. I would never actually accuse you of using the above tactics on me, even if it is astonishing how well they describe exactly what it feels like from my perspective to discuss things with you. Instead, I assume there is an honest answer for your obfuscation, and I now take you at your word that the reason you won’t answer is, as you say, fear of giving an answer. Considering how much we’ve talked, it would be absolutely irrational to assume that either of us is trying to ‘trick’ the other.

      But I do find the ‘fear’ excuse interesting, and that it comes from feeling the Socratic method is a trick being used against you. You say you fear the method as it is designed to tangle you (‘forever’) in attempts to figure out what in the world two particular thinkers (one of whom has not been mentioned by me and the other only in passing) are actually saying. You also say the fear stems from you being convinced my aim is to get you to the point that – because you are not a ‘true believer just on faith’ — you become so exasperated that you abandon the argument, such that I can then claim ‘victory’ over you. Do you have any evidence that these two fears are rational? (You say ‘others’ share your fears, but as people share irrational fears all the time, that is not evidence/proof they are rational.)

      Don’t get me wrong, I can see how the method can appear to be a ‘trick’, but if a magician tells you in advance what trick they are about to perform, and how it works, is it really a trick? The socratic method is quite different from a trick: when I Socratically question your beliefs, I have no idea what the outcome will be — unlike with a ‘trick’. To say that this is a trick would be to say that I’m a pretty terrible trickster! (Moreover, by calling my method a trick in which you fear the outcome, I’d argue you are giving me way too much credit, and further still, it is incongruous with your attitude that I am not smart enough to understand your heterodox views: I, on the one hand, am so dumb as to not understand you, but on the other hand, am so brilliant I can manipulate you into eating out of the palm of my rhetorical hand? Hardly adds up.)

      If your answers to my questions end up leading you to make contradictory claims, it does not mean I am tricking you into holding contradictory views, it just means you hold contradictory views. If you do hold contradictory views but you are afraid of finding this out then you are definitely talking to the wrong person.

      “…‘Is this something you’d be interested in learning more about?’ I submit that this was condescending as it framed our disagreement as both ignorance on my part and as a failure on my part.”

      Your acknowledgement that you not only did not understand my position, but that you believed you were unable to even ‘conceive’ of my position did, to put it mildly, frame our disagreement as one of ignorance on your part. But, to be sure, I am not the one who framed it this way, you did. Further, you were unclear as to how you felt about your ignorance: it sounded like you were saying that your inability to conceive of my position was one of your evidences that my position was incorrect — that the limit of your understanding is the limit of human understanding and therefore if you can’t conceive of something, it therefore does not exist. I assumed no one could be so arrogant as to hold such an opinion, but I couldn’t figure out any other way of reading it. So instead of assuming the worst, I just — humbly — asked if you were even interested in hearing my position. Asking a question is not condescending. Similarly, you say that my entire post is condescending in that I asked if you wanted to discuss something that we disagree on, of course assuming/implying I am correct and you are incorrect — this is not condescending, it is just the nature of disagreements, there is nothing I can do about that. Again, asking a question is not condescending. Further, even if I granted one possible reading of my question is a condescending one (which I would probably grant with some prodding), it is still only one possible reading and requires one to assume maliciousness in order to read it that way. In contrast, there is no other reading of your condescension. So, when you say:

      You are at least as condescending as my emphasizing that I have thought about this before and expect to not be convinced.

      Then I say, ‘Great!’ Considering that your emphasis here is only an attempt to avoid putting forward an argument by declaring something that is both obvious and already acknowledged in the original post, then this could only mean I’m not being condescending at all, as this is not condescending at all.

      . . .

      “It actually surprises me to hear that my coldness bothers you.”

      I didn’t say your coldness bothers me, I said your relentless, cold condescension combined with your disrespectfulness bothers me. You, of course, did not find this surprising in the least.

      Further, I find your choice to parrot literally the worst thing about Ayn Rand in affecting a cold, disrespectful condescension to be a strange strategy considering your professed aim of bringing people together. You’ll catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar. But hey, your choice, I shouldn’t have got so emotional about it, and again, my apologies for my outburst.

      As far as thinking that I am both a fan of Ayn Rand, and a member of the ‘secular right’, I can’t help but wonder how many assumptions you have to get wrong before you start asking more questions and stop making so many assumptions?

      . . .

      “…so to speak…”

      LOL! You have no idea how happy this made me!

    • #897

      Spooner Bookman
      Participant

      THE ACTUAL ARGUMENT, FROM THE TOP

      You said elsewhere, prior to my initial post, that you ‘reject synthetic apriorism’. I was curious to improve my understanding of both apriorism as well as your own views, so I made my original post in order to find out what exactly is it you disagree with when it comes to this kind of reasoning. I began my effort at understanding you by (very straightforwardly) asking if you would agree that at least some knowledge was obtainable via synthetic a priori reasoning. I asked this because I figured you would concede at least this much, and then, from this starting point of common ground, I could move towards a better understanding of where we differ.

      So, is at least some useful knowledge obtainable via synthetic a priori reasoning? Your initial response was ‘No’ (and I’m directly quoting you here):

      “…we can not use it to gain knowledge of any sort.

      I found it surprising that you would speak in terms of such irrefutable absolutes. (You now say ‘I did of course leave open the possibility that it is ignorance on my part through my own wording’ — but this is dishonest, as demonstrated from the quote. You somehow managed to reference my phrasing as if it were your own, which I discuss below.) Regardless, I had a hard time understanding how the reasoning couldn’t produce some kind of knowledge, but, I don’t arrogantly assume that just because I can’t conceive of a thing it must therefore not exist. So, I did what any honest truth seeker would do and I asked for evidence for your claim to see if I could come to ‘conceive’ of your view. And you gave me a piece of evidence. Now, I thought — incorrectly — that your initial evidence for your surprising claim went like this:

      ‘All real knowledge comes from direct experience as proven by the fact that knowledge can’t be had without language, and language can’t be had without experience.’

      But you said this was an incorrect reading of your evidence, so you corrected me, and I read back to you what I was hearing as:

      “All ‘real’ knowledge [X] ‘directly requires experience’ [Z] because without it, no [accurate] thought [Y] at all is possible, let alone knowledge.”

      You then agreed that this was a good reading – at the very least, there were no obvious or glaring mistakes. Of course, you reserved the right to point out hidden mistakes if they popped up and you exercised this right when you say (and I quote you directly here):

      “I never claimed that [useful knowledge only ever results from direct experience as evidence by] all accurate thought [Y] only ever results from direct experience [Z].”

      You say what was ‘quite close’ moments ago is now something you never claimed? No worries, honest mistake! We agreed you could correct mistakes as they arose, so here you make a correction. All good. But, then, what exactly is the correction? If neither of these first two attempts is evidence for your claim, then what is your evidence for your claim? Why is it that useful knowledge (X) only comes from direct experience (Z), if it is not for the reasons you stated thus far? Your response now is that what I took to be your claim is not your claim at all – you now contend that you never put forward this claim (that I directly quoted from you above) when you say:

      “I am not claiming that useful knowledge only ever comes from direct experience.”

      Ok, that explains why the evidence you were putting forward wasn’t making sense to me: I was trying to map the evidence you were providing for your claim to the claim you were making (what a crazy idea!). But if your original claim is no longer your claim, what the heck is the claim you are making? What is your response to my initial question, if it is no longer the unequivocal ‘NO’ that you first responded with? You have now changed your answer from ‘NO’ to ‘YES’ – a priori reasoning can in fact result in useful knowledge. Quite the turn of events.

      Further, and remarkably, you now say that my claim (apriorism can and often does produce useful, practical, ‘real’ knowledge) is a ‘humble’ claim, whereas your claim — where you (and only you) are ‘talking of irrefutable proofs’ — is a condescending claim. You seem to (remarkably) miss that this is you changing your view on this (or at the very least, you changing the way you communicate your view) within the space of this discussion. Further still, you are now categorizing your (now) former view (or way of communicating it) as condescending, and you are now adopting my view (and/or way of communicating) as your own, patting yourself on your back for your humility, without a trace of the cognitive dissonance affecting you. Remarkable. At least, if I am not missing something. Am I missing something?

      If I’m not, then here is what we have accomplished thus far in our lengthy conversation:

      We agree that synthetic a priori reasoning can be utilized to produce useful knowledge, and rejecting it outright would in fact limit (even if only a tiny bit) our ability to understand the world. Or, to put it in your words:

      “We can use [predictions generated from synthetic a prioristic reasoning] to interact with the world and achieve our goals.”

      I couldn’t agree more.

      In conclusion, is there any doubt that we agree on this, the one and only question that has been put to you thus far, and we are now ready to move forward?

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