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Beyond Criticism?

The Retreat To Commitment, by William Warren Bartley III, p 123:
There may, of course, be other nonlogical considerations which lead one to grant that it would be pointless to hold some particular view as being open to criticism. It would, for instance, be a bit silly for me to maintain that I held some statements that I might make—e.g., "I am over two years old"—open to criticism and revision.

Yet the fact that some statements are in some sense like this "beyond criticism" is irrelevant to our problems of relativism, fideism, and scepticism.
The claim that some statements are beyond criticism is anti-fallibilist and anti-Popperian.

It is not at all silly to maintain that the example statement is open to criticism. It's essential. Not doing so would be deeply irrational. We can make mistakes, and denying that has consequences, e.g. we'll wonder: how do we know which things we can't be mistaken about? And that question begs for an authoritarian, as well as false, answer.

You may be thinking, "Yes, Elliot, but you are over two years old, and we both know it, and you can't think of a single way that might be false." But I can.

For example, my understanding of time could contain a mistake. Is that a ridiculous possibility? It is not. Most people today have large mistakes in their understanding of time (and of space)! Einstein and other physicists discovered that and space are connected and it's weird and doesn't follow common sense. For example, the common sense concept of two things happening simultaneously at different places is a mistake: what appears simultaneous actually depends where you watch from. If some common sense notions of time can be mistaken, why laugh off the possibility that our way of keeping track of how much time has passed contains a mistake?

Another issue is when you start counting. At conception? Most people would say at birth. But why birth? Maybe we should start counting from the time Bartley was a person. That may have been before or after birth. According to many people, brain development doesn't finish until age 20 or so. In that case, a 21 year old might only have been a full person for one year.

Of course there are plenty of other ways the statement could be mistaken. We must keep an open mind to them so that when someone has a new, counter-intuitive idea we don't just laugh at him but listen. Sure the guy might be a crank, but if we ignore all such ideas that will include the good ones.

Elliot Temple at 6:10 PM on March 12, 2010 | Permalink

Comments

This is the part I find absurd about Popper.

"We can make mistakes, and denying that has consequences, e.g. we'll wonder: how do we know which things we can't be mistaken about? And that question begs for an authoritarian, as well as false, answer."

Why does it beg for an authoritarian answer? It begs for a tentative answer, like any other question.

The fact you exist is not open to criticism. How do we know that?

I also don't see how it would be necessary to criticise "I'm writing in English."

Anonymous at 2:17 PM on March 17, 2010 | Permalink
What's the purpose of declaring those things not open to criticism?

If no one thinks of a criticism there is no harm in considering them potentially open. If someone does think of a criticism, then why assume in advance they are mistaken and you are right?

Elliot at 2:21 PM on March 17, 2010 | Permalink
You cannot criticise your existance without existing. So that's one thing not open to criticism.

So I think the question "how do we know which things we can't be mistaken about?" is worth answering, because there's at least that one thing we can't be mistaken about.

Anonymous at 6:47 AM on March 18, 2010 | Permalink
People can be mistaken about, for example, what existence is. If they are, then they can be mistaken about what exists.

People can also be mistaken about how to determine what exists or not. Hence UFO believers, but also many more subtle errors.

Elliot at 8:47 AM on March 18, 2010 | Permalink
You can't say you don't exist, because by saying it, you imply it.

Anonymous at 12:16 PM on March 18, 2010 | Permalink
> You can't say you don't exist, because by saying it, you imply it.

That is according to your understanding of existence, which could be mistaken.

It's also according to your understanding of what makes a good argument, or an invalid one, which also may contain mistakes.

Elliot at 12:21 PM on March 18, 2010 | Permalink
I can't even start to understand anything if I don't exist.

Anonymous at 12:26 PM on March 18, 2010 | Permalink
You are still assuming that you have a correct understanding of existence, including the consequences of not existing.

As far as I know, you are correct. I have no criticism. But there is no reason to rule out the possibility that someone finds a flaw in present day understanding of this issue, and finds a new way to understand it that *isn't ridiculous*.

You're insisting on being closed minded, just b/c you claim an open mind is pointless on issues where you can't imagine being mistake. But look, if you are mistaken that'd be bad! And if you aren't, being open to criticism will do no harm!

Elliot at 12:49 PM on March 18, 2010 | Permalink
I have to exist to imagine. I would only be mistaken if I was dead and then I wouldn't know.

I think you persuaded me out of bothering with reading Popper. Thanks. Maybe when I don't exist, I'll bother.

Anonymous at 12:57 PM on March 18, 2010 | Permalink
I'll make you a bet.

I bet if we both write down what we think is the correct way of deciding which things exist, and which don't exist, our answers will be very different.

And that will demonstrate that existence isn't so obvious that people can't have disagreements about it.

My criterion of existence won't be a weird one I made up for this conversation, but rather the same one I've used for years.

Want to try it?

PS See how quickly closed mindedness can spread? First it was only about existence, now it's about all of Popper too (FYI: I'm not Popper). You won't even read his books on the presocratics or the open society now? :(

Elliot at 1:00 PM on March 18, 2010 | Permalink

Of course they have to be open to criticism

Why did Bartley choose 'over 2 years' for his example, in preference to 'over two seconds', 'over twenty years' or 'under ninety years', or 'I can feel the force of gravity right now'?

It must have been because he decided that it would best make his point because it was the most obviously true, the least ambiguous, the least vulnerable to 'gotcha' misinterpretations etc., of all the propositions he considered using.

To determine how obviously and unambiguously true each of those candidate propositions were, he would have had to criticise them: attempt to think of ways or reasons that they might conceivably be false or ambiguous. He chose 'two years' because it survived this criticism best of all the propositions he chose.

Had he held it immune from criticism, he would have had no way of arriving at that conclusion.


David Deutsch at 1:35 PM on March 18, 2010 | Permalink
>>The claim that some statements are beyond criticism is anti-fallibilist and anti-Popperian.<<

Are you making this claim about Bartley? He clearly puts the words in quotations, and he is responding to an imaginary interlocutor.

He's trying to give their ideas as much credence as possible, and then respond to them. I guess. I certainly don't think Bartley would disagree with your assertion that no statement is beyond criticism.

We have to tread a little carefully here, because we don't want to become essentialists, asking ourselves, well, "what is criticism, exactly?" And what is "holding our views open to criticism" exactly?

We know well enough what we mean, and that's sufficient for now. Some things at least superficially appear above criticism, so? It's not a problem for Bartley's philosophy.

Matt D. at 7:13 PM on March 19, 2010 | Permalink
Bartley says that some statements are, in some sense, beyond criticism. Right? And he says:

> It would, for instance, be a bit silly for me to maintain that I held some statements that I might make—e.g., "I am over two years old"—open to criticism and revision.

What's unclear about this?

Are you saying Bartley does not believe that holding the >2 statement open to criticism is silly?


Elliot at 7:28 PM on March 19, 2010 | Permalink
Your entire question rests on a minute reading of each of Bartley's words. I don't have the book in front of me, nor can I get at it right now.

Obviously Bartley holds his positions open to criticism, that's why he called his philosophy completely critical rationalism. He takes things even further than Popper does.

Note your question depends on what Bartley *meant* when he said, "beyond criticism" and put it in quotes.

You aren't concerned with any real problem here, except for one of meanings.

There are particular views out there that would *seem* pointless to hold open to criticism.

The moon isn't made of green cheese.
It's raining right now as I write this.
The light is on.

Okay, those positions *seem* pointless to criticize to me. So? Are you going to tell me I'm wrong and that these positions do *seem* meaningful to question? But I'm just reporting to you my feelings, my impressions. Do you want to tell me what my impressions should be like? If I decide to embrace completely critical rationalism as my philosophy, it's not allowed that certain things might *seem* pointless to criticize? It's not enough that in a philosophical sense I'm willing to question a proposition when the need arises, but in the interim I'm not even supposed to allow certain statements to *seem* pointless to criticize. That's a bit much isn't it? Bartley is just trying to reach out to see the other person's viewpoint on such issues.

His point is that just because it *seems* pointless to hold some position open to criticism in some way, that doesn't mean it is pointless in some philosophical sense.

Shall we argue over what he means by "seems" next?

Matt D. at 12:48 PM on March 20, 2010 | Permalink
> Okay, those positions *seem* pointless to criticize to me. So? Are you going to tell me I'm wrong and that these positions do *seem* meaningful to question?

Yes!

See David's argument!

How did you pick those examples (moon isn't green cheese, raining, and light on), and not others? By subjecting all the candidates, including those examples that survived, to criticism.

And how come you added the second example? Did you think the first one wasn't good enough alone? i.e. you had a criticism of it?

Not only can they be meaningfully criticized, you did so while writing your post.

Elliot at 1:16 PM on March 20, 2010 | Permalink
You seem to just be playing with words.

There was a problem, which assertions might best exemplify something that *seems* pointless to criticism. I rattled off a few stuff

Now because I gave more than one example, this means they might not have been adequate. (You're offering psychological theories about my mental state at the time.) There's an argument that David made that I'm supposed to look at, but I don't see it. (I don't disagree with anything he said, as I understand it.)

So it's up to me to argue the word *meaningful* now, as well as *seems*. This doesn't seem productive to me. I fail to see the point you are making.

We don't want to be like the Grand Inquisitor probing the depths of people's soul to make sure they hold every position open to criticism. In general, as long as a position doesn't present a problem to me, I'm happy to regard it as *seeming* beyond criticism until such a problem arrives. I don't doubt you do the same. But then, what do I *mean* by that?

This is only an argument about meanings as best I can understand it. Where's the beef?

I don't see Bartley as having been anti-Popperian, much less anti-Bartley. Are you still making this assertion?

Matt D. at 2:41 PM on March 20, 2010 | Permalink
I'm not trying to talk about words. Statements such as "i am over 2 years old" can be subjected to criticism, and by doing so we can learn useful things. Doing so is not silly, bad, pointless, useless, a waste of time or anything like that. It's normal, natural, common sense, good, helpful, productive, etc. the difference between these two views -- that it's good or it's bad -- is not a verbal quibble but is substantive.

That is what David said above, and then I repeated his argument using a different example.

When Bartley wrote:

> It would ... be ... silly for me to maintain that I held some statements ... —e.g., "I am over two years old"—open to criticism and revision.

He's taking a different view than I am about the usefulness of criticizing that statement and others like it. Bartley thinks that statement shouldn't be criticized, and it's silly to criticize it. David and I think it should be criticized, it's useful to criticize it, and we think that Bartley did criticize it.

Elliot at 2:51 PM on March 20, 2010 | Permalink
>>We must keep an open mind to them so that when someone has a new, counter-intuitive idea we don't just laugh at him but listen.<<

Your focus is on a problem separate from what Bartley was addressing. Having taken down the book and read the passage further, I see no problem with what Bartley is saying.

" ... But I do not *have* to* do so logically: *I do not have to be dogmatic* about any of these matters ... Holding such statements as beyond criticism in a practical sense has nothing to do with stemming an infinite regress."

Right. If you didn't hold some things dogmatically, you couldn't get through the day. But then what do I mean by that? Obviously, I don't mean that I hold these positions dogmatically. Why is that such a hard point to make?

Clearly I can be dogmatic and not dogmatic at the same time. Why? Because I mean different things in each case.

Your point is we should be open minded and pay attention when someone serious has a few counter-intuitive ideas, you and I and Bartley all agree on this.

Matt D. at 2:55 PM on March 20, 2010 | Permalink
I'm saying that holding things beyond criticism, in a practical sense (or, indeed, *any* sense), is a serious mistake (and, yes, anti-fallibilist).

What about this is unclear or purely verbal?

Elliot at 3:01 PM on March 20, 2010 | Permalink
My last comment was not a response, but a further comment.

>>Statements such as "i am over 2 years old" can be subjected to criticism, and by doing so we can learn useful things. Doing so is not silly, bad, pointless, useless, a waste of time or anything like that.<<

First, I don't disagree with you, nor does Bartley as I read him.

Second, it depends on the context.

Thirds, we don't have to be constantly questioning every assumption we have. It's not practical. Bartley is addressing a practical concern here, not a philosophical one.


Matt D. at 3:04 PM on March 20, 2010 | Permalink
Let S be the statement about being over 2 years old.

I maintain that I hold the statement S open to criticism. If anyone has a criticism of S, I'm open to that.

Bartley directly says that my previous paragraph is silly. I shouldn't maintain that b/c maintaining it is silly.

Yes?

So he thinks one of my ideas is silly. So we disagree.

Elliot at 3:09 PM on March 20, 2010 | Permalink
Our comments are a bit juxtaposed now. Sorry. My fault.

We're just viewing things slightly differently. I view it like riding a bicycle. I'm constantly applying numerous assumptions as I go through the day. I'm riding my bicycle. I don't think about it. I just do it.

However, a problem might arise. (In real life, I noticed some how the way I sat on my bicycle caused small holes to form in the seat of my pants after a period of weeks.) Once that problem arises we then question things. (I noted that if I adjusted the way I sat on my bike, I didn't end up with the holes.)

I don't bother to question the way I ride the bicycle until the need arises. I ride it dogmatically. When a problem forms I go back and look at things again, I question my previous assumptions.

If I had to constantly question the way I rode a bicycle it would require too much work, I wouldn't get anywhere. That's all I mean. That's pretty much how I understand Bartley. He's addressing a practical concern. Not a philosophical one.

Note, I've exemplified my view here with a *real* example. If you could do likewise, it would help.

Matt D. at 3:14 PM on March 20, 2010 | Permalink
>>I maintain that I hold the statement S open to criticism. If anyone has a criticism of S, I'm open to that.

Bartley directly says that my previous paragraph is silly. I shouldn't maintain that b/c maintaining it is silly. <<

That's just not a fair reading, as I see it.

It's not the statement it's how we deal with it. Bartley's saying in some contexts, it's silly to question some statements. He's right.

You're saying something like, there's *always* *some* context where we might find it useful to question our theories. Do you really think Bartley would disagree with that?

You're just making a separate claim. Give a real life example of where you think Bartley would not be open-minded because of his philosophy, but where you would be?

Matt D. at 3:28 PM on March 20, 2010 | Permalink
In your example, the entire time, your view about how to sit on your bike is open to criticism, should it be criticized. It is never beyond criticism, just tentatively accepted and not thought about while unproblematic and uncriticized.

That is a good approach which I agree with.

But it's not what Bartley said.

You have consistently ignored what Bartley said, even as I've requoted it. And you have not given a rival interpretation of what he meant in the specific passage about "silly" which I've highlighted.

In the silly passage, Bartley says ... well literally he says it's silly to call myself open to criticism about S, as I said in a previous comment, and you didn't respond to.

What about reading between the lines? What did he mean? Here is what he meant: Certain things are so obvious[1] that while they are logically open to criticism, as a practical matter it's not going to happen. It's so silly to even think of debating them that we shouldn't even call them open to criticism or we'll look foolish. They are, realistically and practically, beyond criticism. An error in that area is so unlikely that'd it'd be dumber to say, "well, i keep an open mind" than just to admit "yeah, there's no error here, even if as a matter of logic there might be and as a matter of logic the former dumb attitude is permissible".

In contrast to Bartley's view, I think errors are *extremely common* even in areas where we're *extremely confident* we're right. I think people make errors, all the time, about issues like whether they exist, whether it's raining somewhere, whether a light is on, what age someone is, and so on. Errors like this happen, say, once a week (per person). Maybe once a month for people who follow a very predictable routine all the time. And that's not counting repeat errors where they have a mistaken theory they consider super obvious and use all the time. Everyone makes that sort of error daily.

As a real life example, I saw Derren Brown do a magic trick where a light bulb, which was not plugged in and which was sealed in a plastic basic, turned on. Was it really on, or was that a trick? I don't know. So that is an example of how a light being on came under criticism just last night.

So I say again, Bartley thinks a certain thing is silly, and I think it's anything but silly.

And just to be clear, I'm not saying we should question all our ideas at all times. I never said anything about that. Holding an idea open to criticism, and exerting effort criticizing it, are not the same.

[1] That's why he chose an example that would be considered super obvious and beyond question by almost everyone. And it's why you did too with your green cheese example.

> It's not the statement it's how we deal with it. Bartley's saying in some contexts, it's silly to question some statements. He's right.

But that's just plain not what he says. Where is the textual evidence? How are you interpreting the phrase "maintain that I held some statement" to fit your story?

> You're saying something like, there's *always* *some* context where we might find it useful to question our theories. Do you really think Bartley would disagree with that?

I claim he said he does in his book. So, yes. This argument begs the question.

> You're just making a separate claim. Give a real life example of where you think Bartley would not be open-minded because of his philosophy, but where you would be?

How about the example of whether Bartley was over 2 years old when he wrote that passage.

Elliot at 3:32 PM on March 20, 2010 | Permalink
Elliot,

Do you also disagree with Bartley when he states, "We can assume or be convinced of the truth of something without being committed to its truth." on page 121.

Even if your position is correct, and Bartley thinks it's a bit silly to question the assertion he was over two years old, are you saying he was committed to the truth of this assertion?

Are you saying, if some new theory about time or physics or someone brought criticism to bear on it, Bartley would miss out, because of what he stated in his book? I doubt this very much.

It seems to me Bartley is trying to separate out our feelings/convictions from our active decision to commit or not commit to a particular position. He's arguing against commitment. He's not saying we still can't find ideas silly or not. There's no idea out there you find silly? You don't ever *feel* there's a position that *seems* beyond criticism. You don't ever feel certainty?

Obviously he's presenting an idea that was very radical and still is very radical. He's also at the same time struggling with critics (who might have themselves presented the example.) Maybe if he had a chance, he'd admit he could have worded himself a little better.

But, yeah, like Bartley, I am *not* committed to the position, "I'm over two year old." But yeah, it *SEEMS* silly to assert there's a good criticism of it, so?

We all clearly agree you shouldn't make a commitment to any position.

Look, Bartley says:

"Implicit in such a non-justification approach are a new philosophical program and a new conception of rationalist identity. The new framework permits a rationalist to be characterized as one who is willing to entertain any position, and holds *all* his positions, including his most fundamental standards, goals, and decision, and his basic philosophical position itself, open to criticism ..." page 118.

He says over and over again, we should keep all our positions open to criticism. That's his philosophy.

So you have this one outlier sentence where he says, "There may, of course, be other nonlogical considerations which lead one to grant that it would be pointless to hold some particular view as being open to criticism."

And so you think he's not being open-minded?

I agree with you, the way I've presented Bartley's thoughts may not be what he was specifically stating here, but certainly your presentation isn't either. Otherwise, Bartley is flat out contradicting himself.

You have a choice:
A. Either understand Bartley is using "being open to criticism" in two separate ways here.
- or -
B. Coming to the conclusion Bartley was just contradicting himself.

That is, why if Bartley's position was to be "open to criticism" (his philosophical approach) do you think he explicitly states he's not "open to criticism" here?

I think he's making a point very similar to when he says, "We can assume or be convinced of the truth of something without being committed to its truth." How else could you interpret the passage?

Matt D. at 4:42 PM on March 20, 2010 | Permalink
You are now commenting on Bartley's view in general. Yes indeed it contradicts the passage I quoted, as well as the one you just quoted (with the word "nonlogical)". That is not relevant to what the "silly" passage says. The methodology "he meant what he said elsewhere" is invalid.

> But, yeah, like Bartley, I am *not* committed to the position, "I'm over two year old." But yeah, it *SEEMS* silly to assert there's a good criticism of it, so?

You've fudged it. You now speak of whether there is a good criticism. This is both ambiguous (a good known criticism or a good possible criticism) and not what Bartley said in the "silly" passage. You've made a new passage, with some similar words, and a different meaning, but you still haven't given a literal style interpretation of what Bartley actually said that's compatible with it not being mistaken. In particular, you've removed the part about "held ... open to criticism and revision" which was rather an important part.

Perhaps you will now, again, accuse me of making a purely verbal argument and get bored.

It is possible for verbal mistakes to obscure non-verbal arguments. If you stop fudging what Bartley said, I think you will find it is substantively mistaken.

You have hinted several times that even if Bartley meant what I think he does, that isn't a substantive mistake, and perhaps isn't a mistake at all.

> Okay, those positions *seem* pointless to criticize to me.

You think it seems pointless to criticize them. I think anything but. That is a disagreement about how common mistakes are in "obvious" truths, and how fruitful criticism in such areas is. That is an epistemological issue.

Elliot at 5:05 PM on March 20, 2010 | Permalink
>>But that's just plain not what he says. Where is the textual evidence?<<

I then furnish textual evidence ... to which you say.

>>You are now commenting on Bartley's view in general. Yes indeed it contradicts the passage I quoted, as well as the one you just quoted (with the word "nonlogical)". That is not relevant to what the "silly" passage says. The methodology "he meant what he said elsewhere" is invalid. <<

This is not clear.

You say the two quotes contradict each other. Are you saying Bartley is contradicting his *own* views?

Matt D. at 5:21 PM on March 20, 2010 | Permalink
I asked for textual evidence about your rival interpretation of the "silly" passage, which you have refused to give.

Yes Bartley contradicts his own views. One passage contracts another. Such things are common. People make mistakes, even about "obvious" truths like what their own views are, which is a nice example of my general point.

Elliot Temple at 5:24 PM on March 20, 2010 | Permalink
"I may in fact hold some such views as beyond criticism; but I do not *have to* do so logically: I do not have to be dogmatic about any of these matters." page 123

Again same passage minus a little bit:
"I may in fact hold some such views as beyond criticism; ... I do not have to be dogmatic about any of these matters."

He's holding some views beyond criticism but not dogmatically.

That sounds like a contradiction. Do you think it is? If not, what do you think Bartley means?

Matt D. at 5:42 PM on March 20, 2010 | Permalink
Saying a view doesn't have to be held beyond criticism, logically, but that you do hold it beyond criticism, is not a contradiction. It is a mistake because it violates the spirit of fallibility.

> "I may in fact hold some such views as beyond criticism; ... I do not have to be dogmatic about any of these matters."

That isn't a contradiction. He says he (or any person) may be dogmatic (in real life) in the first half, and then in the second half says he (or anyone) doesn't have to be dogmatic (logically).

Both those statements are true. But if anyone does the thing in the first half, that is a mistake.

> He's holding some views beyond criticism but not dogmatically.

The quotes don't say that. But supposing they did:

The first part (holding views beyond criticism) is a mistake, but it may not be a dogmatic mistake. The person making the mistake might change his mind, rather than stubbornly repeat himself, should it come to an actual discussion with real life criticism.

There is perhaps a contradiction in some greater sense. If we look at the implications of these views, and consider more issues like fallibilism and CR, it doesn't all fit together into a nice picture. There are mistakes and some could be pointed out in the form of contradictions.

What's important, I think, is that it is an epistemological mistake to hold any view beyond criticism in any sense for any reason -- or in other words it's an epistemological mistake to think some views are obviously true, or to think it's impractical to simultaneously, passively hold all our views open to criticism. It's also an epistemological mistake to think that errors are rare, or not worth worrying about, including in areas where we are most confident. And it is a mistake to think fallibility is technically true but shouldn't be a guiding principle in practical decision making -- it should be.

It's also a mistake to make statements about how the fallibilist attitude, in its full and explicit form, applied to certain statements, is silly. Because fallibilism is not silly, and does not seem silly, or anything like that. Or perhaps I'm mistaken, but either way that is an important epistemological issue.

Elliot Temple at 5:57 PM on March 20, 2010 | Permalink
I appreciate what you are saying. I'm not sure I fully understand it or agree.

>>That isn't a contradiction. He says he (or any person) may be dogmatic (in real life) in the first half, and then in the second half says he (or anyone) doesn't have to be dogmatic (logically).<<

He also says earlier:
"We can assume or be convinced of the truth of something without being committed to its truth."

Is he saying the same thing here, or something substantially different?



Matt D. at 6:15 PM on March 20, 2010 | Permalink
> We can assume or be convinced of the truth of something without being committed to its truth.

I think that statement is saying that we can hold theories tentatively (i.e., open to criticism, with respect for fallibilism, with the ability to change our mind).

Which is in line with saying that we don't have to be dogmatic, logically.

I like that attitude.

I disagree with the idea that using the above attitude is silly in any cases (e.g. the 2 year old case, or the well known "i exist" case discussed above). I think it should be used all the time.

Elliot Temple at 6:20 PM on March 20, 2010 | Permalink
When you say "above attitude", you are talking about not being dogmatically logically, right?

But then when Bartley says something is "beyond criticism" he's talking about something nonlogical. (Like conviction?)

I think Bartley was expressing some really difficult ideas in his book, and I'm guessing that Popper's three worlds model help to clarify a lot of these issues. But unfortunately, I don't have time right now to *test* my own idea by opening up _Objective Knowledge_ and begin rereading the relevant passages.

I'm letting this go for now, but will be happy to take it up in the future at some point. I'll definitely go through the thread again later.

Thanks for sharing your ideas, Elliot.

Matt D. at 6:55 PM on March 20, 2010 | Permalink
> When you say "above attitude", you are talking about not being dogmatically logically, right?

I don't know what dogmatically logically is. I meant above within that comment, the most descriptive sentence is the first one:

I think that statement is saying that we can hold theories tentatively (i.e., open to criticism, with respect for fallibilism, with the ability to change our mind).

> I think Bartley was expressing some really difficult ideas in his book

So perhaps you should not be surprised or doubtful about the idea that he made some mistakes.

Elliot Temple at 7:02 PM on March 20, 2010 | Permalink
Although the proposition "Elliot is older than 2 years" is, in principle, open to criticism, that doesn't mean I, you, Matt, or Bartley should expend time and energy trying to criticise it. I venture that none of us expect this proposition to ever become problematic, even though, in principle, it could. Thus, for pragmatic purposes it is "beyond criticism," in the sense that we are probably never going to spend our time criticising it.

Perhaps a distinction should be made between "beyond criticism" and "beyond openness to criticism." A theory which nobody has (or will) ever think of is, in a sense, beyond criticism, even though it isn't beyond openness to criticism.

Lee Kelly at 6:52 AM on March 22, 2010 | Permalink
Lee,

But as David pointed out above, Bartley criticized the age proposition while writing his book in order to choose between it and other candidates.

Also, in the original quote -- the sentence with "silly" -- Bartley speaks of whether he holds it *open* to criticism. He did use the "open" version of the statement.

Elliot at 9:23 AM on March 22, 2010 | Permalink
Elliot,

I don't understand the point of your objection. You seem to be interpreting Bartley in the least generous way possible, especially given everything else that he wrote in the same book. If I thought for a moment that Bartley believed the things you are attributing to him, then I would disagree with Bartley. However, I instead find myself in disagreement with your interpretation of his comments.

Lee Kelly at 8:23 AM on March 23, 2010 | Permalink
I can think of a number of criticisms of the proposition that "Elliot is over 2 years old" that, on the face of it, are not "silly". There is no "essense" of Elliot. "Elliot" refers to a bunch of things, and these things are different in many ways. If Elliot is viewed as the cells that make up his body, then the material in Elliot's body is constantly being replaced; new cells form and old cells die, so some parts of Elliot's body are less than 2 years old. If Elliot is viewed as a collection of ideas, then there is a constant replacement of ideas due to the process of conjectures and refutations, so there are many ideas in Elliot's brain that have resided there for less than two years. The Elliot of now might even say that he is not the Elliot of two years ago because his ideas are completely different. Moreover, Elliot-at-a-moment-in-time exists timelessly, for, according to our best physical theories, we live in a block universe. The Elliot of now does not blink out when the "now" passes, for time does not flow. It can't be said that these moments are greater or less than two years old, for time does not apply to them. If we say that the totality of Elliot's moments up to now is greater than two years, we must remember that "now" and "moment" are relative to where we are and other observers may see these differently.

I think that trying to criticise the proposition is not only not silly, but it is fun as well!

Brian Scurfield at 9:48 AM on March 23, 2010 | Permalink

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