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Response to Circular Reasoning claim against empiricism.

Recently I was discussing materialism/physicalism on reddit. We started discussing the metaphysical "alternatives" to empiricism and I said that I would be happy to discuss such alternatives when evidence of their existence was presented. "Some people believe the divine word of god is evidence" was the reply. I responded by saying "Well materialists certainly don't consider that evidence and neither do I." After a brief argument between the semantics of evidence and "valid evidence" I reiterated that the materialist only accepted evidence gained through the scientific method that had verifiable and predictive value. I was then accused of circular logic because I used empiricism to validate empiricism.

I've seen this discussed on the TAE before, but I only partly remember the defense. It was something along the lines of:

In order to have a discussion about knowledge we must make a few assumptions:

1. We exist. 2. This is reality. 3. Our senses are accurate some of the time.

From this we determine that the experiences of our sense, when guided by the scientific method and peer review are the most reliable method for revealing truth.

Is this about right? Did I miss anything?

You cannot get away without making assumptions without proof. Some things like the ones you stated in #1-3 have to be taken on faith. Otherwise, you face either circular reasoning or infinite regress. There is no way to prove with logic or experience that "reality is real", that "I am not a brain in a vat", that "our senses are accurate". These discussions are best left alone. They go nowhere.

We've been down the Matrix or *brain in a vat* rabbit hole before, remember? And all of our dear little imaginary friends know by now that what we think is the "real world" is an illusion. That can be seen throughout the Matrix trilogy, which is filled with references to philosophers who discussed these ideas.

Jean Baudrillard book about Simulacra appears as an object in The Matrix. , Ph.D., French sociologist, cultural critic, and theorist of post-modernity Jean Baudrillard wrote Simulacra and Simulation, which was an attempt to theorize the postmodern with insights on modernity. It was originally published in 1981, Baudrillard's book argues that late-twentieth-century consumer culture is a world in which simulations or imitations of reality have become more real than reality itself, a condition he describes as the "hyper-real". Baudrillard argues that consumer culture has evolved from a state in which we are surrounded by representations or imitations of things that really exist, toward a state in which our lives are filled with simulations, objects that look as if they represent something else but have really created the reality they seem to refer to. In such a situation, the world of simulations increasingly takes on a life of its own, and reality itself erodes to the point that it becomes a desert.

Baudrillard's "Simulacra and Simulation" reminded me of Antony Thomas' "Thy Kingdom Come", which was a documentary that unveils America's Christian Right. This documentary was made for PBS as part of WGBH's Frontline feature, it is two hours long and also covers fundamentalism, televangelism and the politics of the Christian Right. Jim and Tammy Bakker's theme park was shown in the documentary, which is a park with *brand new* old fashioned everything. The commentary was exactly right, it was built to depict an America that probably never existed. Everything in the theme park was fake, but perfect.

Baudrillard's "Simulacra and Simulation" challenges the common beliefs in philosophy and critical theory. Baudrillard's idea is that simulations and their references to an original (without an actual original) is a simulation that becomes something that gains a kind of existence. The original no longer has any reference to the simulation. Like if there is no original source for any god/god/goddesses but we have all of the imagery. The original may no longer have a relation to the simulation like the worship of the sun or sun/god that morphed into the myths and worship of the son of god. It is not real at all it is what Baudrillard calls hyper-real. Baudrillard explains that humankind uses hyper-realities to avoid facing the realities of pain and death through simulations, repressions or disguises in the subconscious mind. Baudrillard asserts in "Simulacra and Simulation" that the prohibition from use of reproducing the likeness of God in the Hebrew Bible is because deep down they know God never existed, that only the simulacrum ever existed, even that God himself was never anything but his own simulacrum.

Baudrillard's greatest philosophical influence was Karl Marx who thought the function of religion was to create a fabricated fantasy land for the poor. Although, the Matrix films do not refer to Marx explicitly, but the individuals entrapped in the Matrix are being exploited through a fantasy. Marx argued that the working class is exploited by the ruling classes, but the working class's exploitation is only possible because it does not perceive itself as being exploited.

According to Baudrillard, consumer culture is what misleads us. The working class misunderstands its own position because of "messaging" that give the common worker a distorted picture of what their position in the world really is. Marx's partner, Friedrich Engels, coined the term false consciousness to describe the working class's ignorance. The common man is ignorant about what is really in their own best interests and exploited by those in power who benefit because of their ignorance.

The theme of virtual reality is covered fairly deeply by Baudrillard (a hollowed-out copy of Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation appears in one of the earliest scenes of the film.) Some people do think that the Matrix is a Baudrillardian fantasy, dealing with hyper-reality, simulation and simulacra however, Baudrillard himself thought it was a misunderstood version of his philosophy.

Philosophical and religious ideas imbued in a science fiction action film is just exactly that, it's not science. Science can study actuality, and answer real questions, and that's where all the answers have and will come from. While the "god of the gaps" has answered nothing and is becoming less and less believable because science is answering more and more about the universe and life in the universe. Using natural causes is the way we have found all of the answers to scientific questions so far. While religion continues to look for supernatural causes but never finds them. That's why they have gone on a philosophical scavenger hunt to create some skepticism about science. None of the answers have come from supernatural causes. Every time we learn or discover something new the "god-of-the gaps" has less credibility.

From the Matrix: Morpheus said, "The Matrix is a system, Neo said. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it."

Frankly, I think that fits what happens when you try to take away (or unplug) the fanatics from their religious fantasy land.

The whole Matrix theory is a preconceived notion about not being able to know what is real and why (we are in a matrix and have always been in a matrix) without providing any actual evidence. That is false skepticism about never being capable of determining anything about the real world. It's based on the metaphysical not a scientific theory with evidence. It is about an assumption not actual knowledge, and the skepticism is about what we actually know scientifically. An argument from ignorance is when you say nobody can prove it isn't true so it must be - like Carl Sagan's Dragon in the garage that can't be detected by any means known to science.

The only massive delusional belief that prevents us from knowing what is real is religion not science.

Re: "Although, the Matrix films do not refer to Marx explicitly, but the individuals entrapped in the Matrix are being exploited through a fantasy."

This is so true. Aren't we all exploited through our fantasies? Isn't this how we are being sold products that we don't need, persuaded to buy houses we cannot afford, or support wars for an illusion of freedom and democracy? Weren't people in Russia exploited by the government for 70 years using a fantasy of communism and the very Marxist theory that you quote? I just don't understand why you blame all this on religion alone. You seem to point out patterns that are far broader than religion. I agree that there is a lot of brainwashing and unscrupulous manipulation in religion. But so there is everywhere else - in politics, marketing, media, even education. Isn't it better to focus our efforts on these problems rather than religion or media themselves?

From: AG (Posted Nov 5, 2012 at 1:25 am)

AG said, "Re: "Although, the Matrix films do not refer to Marx explicitly, but the individuals entrapped in the Matrix are being exploited through a fantasy."

In case anyone's interested this is simply another attempt at leaving off half of what was said to distort it into something a nitwit can answer, and then promote it as the real issue, while the actual issue is not addressed. Why not post the whole thing so that most people, with a few exceptions, that have a lick of sense could grasp the actual meaning.

Linda actually said, "Baudrillard's greatest philosophical influence was Karl Marx who thought the function of religion was to create a fabricated fantasy land for the poor. A hollowed-out copy of Baudrillard's "Simulacra and Simulation" appears in one of the earliest scenes of the film. Some people do think that the Matrix is a Baudrillardian fantasy, dealing with hyper-reality, simulation and simulacra however, Baudrillard himself thought it was a misunderstood version of his philosophy. Although, the Matrix films do not refer to Marx explicitly, but the individuals entrapped in the Matrix are being exploited through a fantasy. Marx argued that the working class is exploited by the ruling classes, but the working class's exploitation is only possible because it does not perceive itself as being exploited." Baudrillard wasn't theorizing about an invisible sky wizard pulling strings and creating our reality for us. One sort of superstition is as stupid as the other. It's really about people willingly allowing themselves to be dumbed down and deluded. A shallow point of view injected into the discussion isn't necessary.

AG said, "This is so true. Aren't we all exploited through our fantasies? Isn't this how we are being sold products that we don't need, persuaded to buy houses we cannot afford, or support wars for an illusion of freedom and democracy?

Spoken like a "fruit loop" possessed by the "holy ghost". The wing-nut fanatics are in the loop on this one, the fruit loop, the idiots really believe that the banks failed because people bought things they couldn't afford. It wasn't because Bush gave tax cuts to the wealthiest people at the top. How could these tax cuts contributed to our economic woes? Or the fact that Bush got us into a war with Iraq that was unnecessary, the cost of that war was not made clear, it was the first war paid for entirely on credit.

Then the banks were not properly taxed on their hedge funds humungous profits. The bankers gave themselves huge bonuses financed by taxpayer bailouts. It's not hard to understand why, even though the majority of the electorate demanded the Bush tax cuts be ended, Obama didn't end them because all of the politicians rely on Wall Street and the super-rich for campaign contributions. Republicans rely heavily on Oil and gas contributions. In America only the rich have political power and nobody represents the common person. We need a third-party and not one financed by some billionaire. Until then those with all the money will have all the political power, and they will continue to use the media conglomerates to misinform the public with their lies.

I'm sure it's hard to constantly proselytize in the face of people who aren't interested, look what happened to Mitt, what's being discussed is the distortion of things in such a way that it makes individuals believe that a lie is more real than reality. That lies are truth, "but the working class's exploitation is only possible because it does not perceive itself as being exploited." So a very important part is to believe that the lie is more "real" than what is "real" or what Baudrillard called "hyper-reality".

AG said, "Weren't people in Russia exploited by the government for 70 years using a fantasy of communism and the very Marxist theory that you quote?"

Russia never had Marxism they had Stalin-ism. I don't get why you are reusing this same old argument. You've done all of this before .... And as I told you on the "Atheist Community of Austin" (topic) "The "absent god" Clarke corollary" you can't grasp the concept that propaganda is not history. And just like you did on Atheist Community of Austin (topic) "Age of the Earth" you tried to garble the issues and answer with half quotes.

Communism evolved over many years, but the two philosophers who shaped the fundamental concepts of communism, as a form of government treating everyone as equals, were Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels.

You are talking about Stalin-ism, not Marxism, since Marxism never materialized in Russia. Propaganda is not history, and this is what you've always done with any topic you failed to understand or can't win an argument about. Marxist ideas were accepted more in industrialized nations like England and France, while Russia was populated mostly by agricultural laborers who knew little about Marxism. Karl Marx left Germany when he learned he was going to be arrested and went to Paris where he began mixing with members of the working class for the first time. While in Paris he became a close friend of Friedrich Engels, who had just finished writing a book about the lives of the industrial workers in England. The revolution in Russia actually began in Paris with a movement started by Marx. The "Communist Manifesto" stated that all men were born free but that society had got to such a state that the majority were in chains. Those who supported Marx said that his beliefs gave the working class hope of a better life. They said that an intellectual who was on their side fighting their cause would inspire the workers. In 1898, the Russian Social Democratic Party was formed to expand Marx's beliefs in Russia.

The conservatism, lack of any education and superstition that existed in the rural areas of Russia meant that Marx was less than enthusiastically welcomed. They can always pull the wool over the eyes of the red necks in any country. Marx support was with industrial workers and the people in Russia had to organize them. They tried to organize trade unions but the police easily infiltrated them. It needed Lenin to make the industrial workers a more dynamic group capable of pushing through a revolution. "Marxism had nothing to do with the Russian communist system or China's communist system." What they actually got was Stalin-ism not Marxism. Initially, from 1923, Trotsky waged the struggle inside the Communist Party of the Soviet Union through the Left Opposition, in an attempt to re-direct the Party away from the road of bureaucratic degeneration and abandonment of Marxism-Leninism, and back to the traditions of the proletarian revolution of October. But the Party was already thoroughly infiltrated by the underlings of Stalin. A pursuit of personal ambition and fear of the dictator was their only motivation. Leon Trotsky and Lenin, the leaders of the 1905 revolution and the October revolution in Russia, fell victim to an assassination expressly ordered by Joseph Stalin. Stalin's counter-revolutionary extermination of a long list of leaders and participants in the October revolution was completed. This is how Stalin took over and instituted an entirely different system under Stalin's communism.

Josef Stalin reformed Soviet communism, to warrant the repression of political dissenters, the "theory of the aggravation of class struggle", Stalin jailed or murdered millions of Russians of all social classes. This was the beginning of the "show trials" first they accuse a dissenter of a crime then they have a very public trial for an example. The USSR got Stalin-ism not Marxism. Leon Trotsky was working to bring about the socialism conceived by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky himself. Stalin ordered Trotsky's and other Marxist's assassinations and that information is sound. There have been investigations and a biography of Trotsky's life and assassination. More than one book has been written about these assassinations. Trotsky was aware that he was on Stalin's hit list. With the help of loyal collaborators, Trotsky made use of every minute of his existence to spread the Marxist revolutionary thinking and denounce before international public opinion and the working masses all the crimes and betrayals of Stalin-ism.

You're still totally ignorant of these facts even though I wrote about all of this on - Atheist Community of Austin (topic) - The "absent god" Clarke corollary - when you were making the same erroneous statements. Oh, well?

AG said, "I just don't understand why you blame all this on religion alone."

As you and the local sock puppets demonstrate over and over, people who aren't focused or do not want to sort something out, can't. I think it's time to take your wisdom, wit and share it with people who might agree with you. Religion is a tool to control the masses, the belief itself is a delusion, but it's not the only tool. It's the belief that we should be waiting for a reward in another life instead of working for social justice, which might happen if the public understood it's the only life they will ever have. With the exploiting of classes there will never be social justice. People will remain zombies with a religion, while looming in the horizon is an amalgamation of government, religion, and corporate interests, gobbling up everything.

AG said, "You seem to point out patterns that are far broader than religion. I agree that there is a lot of brainwashing and unscrupulous manipulation in religion. But so there is everywhere else - in politics, marketing, media, even education."

Clearly, what is being said is that it all goes together. I realized a long time ago that an unholy alliance of religion, business, and political interests controls this country. Too many un-brainwashed people could be very bad for these interests. In this process politics and religion seem to have been reunited. Orwell's '1984' describes how radical fascism mixed with radical religion is very threatening to our liberty and freedom. I now understand why so many people (who should know better) doggedly followed nut case religion, and why most people didn't protest when they started the amalgamation of government, religion, and corporate interests. We have given too much power to this conglomerate that is all interconnected, the book 1984 by George Orwell is a testimony to how subtle their techniques are. People do acknowledge "religious brainwashing", but they are always referring to the victims of some other religion. In America in the 30's extreme fanaticism was predominately in the rural areas, but as they began to move from the farm to the cities they brought their ignorance and superstition with them. They resented the fact that by the 30's educated people were becoming very progressive. They were not interested in holy roller rants. That's what provoked these ignorant fanatics to start a movement determined to reestablish, through the political process, the social support that the group's values once commanded (with ignorant uneducated clods in the sticks.)

AG said, "Isn't it better to focus our efforts on these problems rather than religion or media themselves?"

Gosh! Does this remind you of, "It's the economy stupid"? Talk about being exploited through a fantasy! Why do you think "the common man is ignorant about what is really in their own best interests and exploited by those in power"? Religion and the media are fabricated fantasy lands for the poor. The working class misunderstands its own position because of "messaging" that give the common worker a distorted picture of what their position in the world really is. That's probably because (wink-wink) religion and the media keeps them well informed.

Strange. Even when I agree with you, you have to post fierce arguments. I just generalized your thought to say that people are exploited through their fantasies, but this trick is not used exclusively by religion.

And I did not say that Russia had Marxism. What I said is that Russian government used Marxist theory to exploit people. And the war in Iraq was "sold" to the people as war for democracy. Also, atrocities have been committed throughout history using the idea of "loving and forgiving God".

Anyway, you seem to draw your own meaning from what you read. "We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are."

Pardon my grammar.

As far as we know we can detect what is temporarily real in this plain of existence. Our sight, hearing, touch, all that is (for now) the universal key among humans and other earthly creatures that defines what is "real" for us. Does that go to say that all forms of realities are decifered in this same manner? Absolutley not. It's just the temporary tools we have available to observe and define the reality we currently live in.

I can hypothetically play a scenario out in my head that suggests i can fly in some other universe or world without the need of an aircraft. But sure enough if i go try to jump off a building, the rules of this reality would result my experiment in death.

My ability to use my senses to detect and define things such as gravity allow me to create and store these rules of this reality and therefore define "real" for this temporary life.

There's no sense in not taking advatange of decifering the rules of this world simply because they may not be applicable in another form of existence.

Choose to define real with the tools you have :)

Solving the Matrix: For future reference, just in case anyone is going to use this tired old apologetic "how does anyone know if the world is real or not" here are some excerpts from recent articles that inform - somebody knows what's real.

Daily Mail Online

"Do we live in the Matrix? Researchers say they have found a way to find out Any simulation of the universe must have limits, and finding these would prove we live in an artificial reality, physicists claim.

A team of physicists have come up with a test which they say could prove whether or not the universe as we know it is a virtual reality simulation - a kind of theoretical red pill, as it were.

Silas Beane of the University of Bonn, Germany, and his colleagues contend that a simulation of the universe, no matter how complex, would still have constraints which would reveal it.

Physicists say they have come up with a way of determining whether the world we experience is actually a computer simulation, as imagined in The Matrix trilogy of films.

All we have to do to identify what these constraints is to build our own simulation of the universe, which is close to what many researchers are trying to do on an incredibly miniscule scale.

Computer simulations have been run to recreate quantum chromodynamics - the theory that describes the nuclear forced that binds quarks and gluons into protons and neutrons, which then bind to form atomic nuclei.

It is believed that simulating physics on this fundamental level is equivalent, more or less, to simulating the workings of the universe itself."

LINDA SAID: The whole Matrix theory is a preconceived notion about not being able to know what is real and why (we are in a matrix and have always been in a matrix) without providing any actual evidence. That is false skepticism about never being capable of determining anything about the real world. It's based on the metaphysical not a scientific theory with evidence. It is about an assumption not actual knowledge, and the skepticism is about what we actually know scientifically. An argument from ignorance is when you say nobody can prove it isn't true so it must be - like Carl Sagan's Dragon in the garage that can't be detected by any means known to science.

The only massive delusional belief that prevents us from knowing what is real is religion not science.

Hiya Brian,

Good to meet you!

If I may, the crunch is that your Scientism or Radical Positivism is too parochial and small-minded a theory of knowledge. After all, on this view there is nothing good or evil, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly. But is it tenable to think that there are no aesthetic, moral or metaphysical truths?

On this view there's nothing wrong with raping a little girl to death. Why should we accept such a conclusion simply because of an epistemological constraint? Isn't this a signal that you need to open up the ambit of your theory so as to assimilate other types of knowledge?

Withal, science is suffused with suppositions that cannot be scientifically substantiated, so that an epistemology of radical positivism would abrogate science itself. For instance, the principle of induction cannot be scientifically justified. Trying to provide a good inductive argument for radical positivism is hopeless, since it must presuppose the validity of inductive reasoning.

Even more fatal is that radical positivism is self-refuting. At its heart, this pernicious philosophy tells us that we should not believe any proposition that cannot be scientifically proven. But what about that very proposition? It cannot itself be scientifically tested much less corroborated. Therefore we should not believe it. Your Radical Positivism thus asphyxiates itself.

Maxximiliann (Posted May 6, 2013 at 2:42 am) and it was also (Posted Feb 11, 2013 at 12:52 pm) on "Atheist Community of Austin" title "Is Hawking a Liar?"

MAXXIMILIANN SAID: "The crunch is that your Scientism or Radical Positivism is too parochial and small-minded a theory of knowledge. After all, on this view there is nothing good or evil, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly. But is it tenable to think that there are no aesthetic, moral or metaphysical truths?"

LINDA SAID: You are saying that people need to stop using science to get to find the truth of the matter or positivism (a theory that theology and metaphysics are earlier imperfect modes of knowledge and that positive knowledge is based on natural phenomena) when this is exactly what took us out of the dark ages, and you want to replace agnosticism with utter stupidity.

MAXXIMILIANN SAID: "On this view there's nothing wrong with raping a little girl to death. Why should we accept such a conclusion simply because of an epistemological constraint? Isn't this a signal that you need to open up the ambit of your theory so as to assimilate other types of knowledge?" LINDA SAID: I've heard it all before and it doesn't surprise me. I feel sorry for anyone who would be running a-muck killing and raping people if they didn't "believe in" a sky spook or a book that is chucked-full-violence and nonsense. People who are mentally ill need psychological help not religion, but they will probably get religion.

The danger of scientism and positivism is hurled as an epithet at atheist because the fanatics can't make atheists stop looking for the truth of the matter and just believe it! What they really mean by comparing atheism to scientism and positivism is that you are notably not respectful of religion. However, atheism has nothing to do with those terms. Positivism invented by a French philosopher Auguste Comte (1830), In his Cours de philosophie positive he argued that human thought had passed through three stages. In the first, or theological, stage, humans attributed observable phenomena to the actions of supernatural beings. In the second, metaphysical, stage they put phenomena down to mysterious forces or energies. In the third, scientific, stage, which Comte believed the human race was just entering, they would explain the phenomena by theories based on observation, hypothesis, and experiment.

As far as your little analogy goes, logic, ethics and the law can't be separated, and that's what you are trying to do. It's just another nonsensical argument. Atheists are saying that if you're going to make claims, then it is on you to provide evidence for those claims. People can decide for themselves if they think your evidence is reasonable or if it is possible to use the investigative methods (that everyone regards as legitimate) to prove any of those claims. Religions sources of evidence (such as personal experience or the contents of a holy texts) are not considered valid evidence. People decide what is right or wrong by virtue of their own ethical reasoning, and if you are going to argue that the assertion is false then it is your burden to point to a better way, and to indicate the knowledge provided by that alternate method.

MAXXIMILIANN SAID: "Withal, science is suffused with suppositions that cannot be scientifically substantiated, so that an epistemology of radical positivism would abrogate science itself. For instance, the principle of induction cannot be scientifically justified. Trying to provide a good inductive argument for radical positivism is hopeless, since it must presuppose the validity of inductive reasoning."

LINDA SAID: I think it might help if you contrasted induction with deduction. Deduction is using known facts to determine something. Induction is using observations to determine something. Deductive logic is based only facts that are known to be true, but inductive logic can be based on something that you assume. Induction reasoning or evidence is different from deductive evidence because of induction's failure to preserve truth (true premises may lead inductively to false conclusions) but also by adding true premises to a sound induction could make it false. Our beliefs that come to us through inductive reasoning are in reality not rationally justifiable. You still don't know how science works because science doesn't work that way. We know scientifically that we can assume things that are not true - and that's inductive not deductive. We see the sun go down but because of deduction we now know that is an optical illusion. Science is about finding what's true not making assumptions based on what you think is true.

MAXXIMILIANN SAID: "Even more fatal is that radical positivism is self-refuting. At its heart, this pernicious philosophy tells us that we should not believe any proposition that cannot be scientifically proven. But what about that very proposition? It cannot itself be scientifically tested much less corroborated. Therefore we should not believe it. Your Radical Positivism thus asphyxiates itself."

Some people's atheism has nothing to do with science at all, and that same thing can be said for other secular ideologies. I have already told you that atheism has nothing to do with any philosophy, so, whatever you think radical positivism is; it's not atheism. The arguments that were in the form of paradoxes of the ancient Greek philosophers were based only on logic. These paradoxes were thought up by people who came to the conclusion that the possibility of any gods existence is very slim.

For instance: The Greek philosopher Epicurus paradox (the problem with evil) Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent, Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Certain religious and other interests groups call any conclusions arrived at through logical thinking that differs from theirs (or any kind of secular thinking) radical because they don't want to make it sound like something bad.

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