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10 Robert Spillane Replies

Robert Spillane's latest email didn't directly reply to what I said previously. Here it is with my new comments which attempt to get discussion back on track:

1. '3 am in the morning' is a pleonasm and thus necessarily true.

2. '3 am in the afternoon' is an oxymoron and thus necessarily false.

We need to conclude our discussion of whether 1+1=2 is a necessary truth before opening a new, similar topic. My answer to the 3am issue is similar to my answer to 1+1=2, which is the easier case to discuss and which I already wrote an explanation of. I await your next reply about that.

If I end up conceding the point about 1+1=2, I expect I'll also concede about the 3am issue without any additional arguments. And if you concede about 1+1=2, then I think your reasoning will be relevant to the 3am case and make it easier.

3. 'Induction exists' cannot be falsified.

Why? My position (which is also Popper's) is that induction has never had any set of followable instructions (steps) with the properties claimed by inductivists. So no one has ever done induction since inductivists have never defined any set of possible steps someone could do that would constitute doing induction. There are also arguments for why no such set of steps could be invented in the future. This is why I've asked questions about how to do induction (what the steps are).

4. 'Inductive logic' can be rejected if one argues that 'inductive logic' is an oxymoron. But since you don't accept oxymora, you have to argue that you reject 'inductive logic' on empirical grounds. How do you do that without distorting the meaning of 'empirical'?

I can use logical arguments. There's nothing wrong with logic. I just said the laws of logic are based on the laws of computation which are based on the laws of physics, and physics is an empirical science.

5. If you can't reject it on empirical grounds, all that is left to you are your feelings - and they are irrelevant since one cannot argue with feelings.

I agree that feelings are irrelevant. I haven't brought them up.

6. It is a truism that inference from experience is not deductive. A proposition may imply another proposition, but an experience cannot imply another experience. But you deny that there can ever be an inference from experience? That is untenable. What do you think 'inference' means?

Inference means "a conclusion reached on the basis of evidence and reasoning."

Induction refers to some specific ways of learning using experience. CR says those are poorly defined and actually impossible to do, and there are other ways to learn from experience which work instead (conjectures and refutations – evolution).

7. If Popper rejected induction, he has to be a deductivist - what else could a philosopher who calls himself a (critical) rationalist be?

A person who thinks most arguments are neither inductive nor deductive. Both induction and deduction are pretty specific categories which most arguments don't fit into. More on this below. BTW this has been noticed by a lot of people – e.g. it's the issue "abduction" is intended to address.

8. In his Unended Quest (Fontana, 1977, p.79) Popper writes: '...I could apply my results concerning the method of trial and error in such a way as to replace the whole inductive methodology by a deductive one. The falsification or refutation of theories through the falsification or refutation of their deductive consequences was, clearly, a deductive inference (modus tollens)...

That doesn't say Popper could or did replace the whole of thinking or arguing with deduction. Popper is just saying that if you accept basic (observation) statements then you can deduce to reject theories which they contradict.

9. You repeatedly claim that I do not engage with your position. But what exactly is the position of a person who rejects necessary truths and falsehoods, rejects induction and yet claims not to be a deductivist?

Why don't you quote what I write and reply to quotes more? I have asked you direct questions – e.g. the two about induction – and you haven't replied in this email. I also asked, again, for criticism of my position regarding 1+1=2 not being a necessary truth, and you didn't reply to that.

I take specific things you say and reply directly to them. But you mostly don't use that method when you respond to me.

I attempted to explain my position about non-deductive, non-inductive arguments with the price controls and socialism example. You didn't discuss it. I tried again by commenting on your argument about "mental illness" which you claimed was deductive, and you stopped discussing that too. If you will continue discussing one of the issues – especially if you quote what I say and reply directly to it – then I think we could make progress. I don't think it's a good idea to open another, new attempt to discuss the matter instead of continuing one of the discussions we were already having.

10. Where do your conjectures come from, since you deny they come from experience? And how do you refute them if not by deduction?

Brainstorming involves generating random variants of existing ideas. This is like genetic evolution which generates random variants of existing genes.

Many ideas are interpretations of experience. Interpreting experience is different than being guided by experience. Observations are passive data which can't tell us what to think. Instead we think for ourselves and some of our reasoning references observations, e.g. by critically pointing out that an idea contradicts an observation, or more mundanely e.g. by saying "I'm not going to go that way because I saw a cliff over there and I don't want to fall."

Ideas are refuted (in the context of a particular CR-problem) by criticism. A criticism is an explanation of why an idea doesn't solve a CR-problem(s). A "CR-problem" is very broad and refers to any type of achieving a goal or purpose, answering a question, etc – accomplishing anything you'd want an idea to succeed at. (I prefixed the word "problem" because it's Popper's terminology, I don't know a better word, but you objected to it previously so I don't want CR-problems to be mixed up with "problems" in your terminology.)

Explanation is a key part of thinking and arguing which is covered by neither deduction nor induction. Explanations discuss why and how. Statements following a "because" are generally explanations.

If you carefully analyze the arguments from most thinkers, including Szasz and your own books, you'll find many of them don't follow the rules of deduction or induction, and involve explaining why some idea fails to solve a CR-problem(s).

This would involve carefully defining what qualifies as both induction and deduction. I've asked you questions about this regarding induction.

Regarding deduction, it's CR-problematic too. Deutsch discusses that some in FoR ch. 10, the chapter I referred you to previously. In short, people don't actually agree about what the rules of deduction are, and it's a very hard CR-problem to address. You may define "deduction" as only Aristotle's syllogisms, but then you'll find you can't prove much and you won't be able to classify very many arguments as deductive. If you want a broader deductive system, you'll have to specify it and address issues like Godel's incompleteness theorem.

You'll also have to face the CR-problem that you won't be able to rely on deduction to argue for your deductive system against rival deductive systems, or criticisms of why it's a poor system, or that'd be circular. My solution to that issue is that arguments about which deductive system is correct are regular critical arguments, just as people usually use. But since deduction and induction are your only tools, you will have a harder time figuring out how to make arguments regarding deduction itself without circularity.


Elliot Temple on July 30, 2017

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