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Unread January 19th, 2006, 08:59 PM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

> All of this seems to boil down to whether there is objective truth and whether we can know it...

In philosophy we distinguish two different fields of inquiry:

1) Metaphysics - the study of what is, what exists.
2) Epistemology - the study of knowledge, what (if anything) we can know about it.

It would seem that either phi is finite or it is infinite regardless of whether we ever manage to construct a proof either way.

Sometimes people think they are intimately connected so, for example, it is senseless to talk about a reality that is beyond our grasp as a matter of principle. But it seems to make sense that either there is a super-natural entity or there is not (which is to say there is a fact of the matter) regardless of whether we can ever know that fact or not.

Kant distingushed between two senses of reality that roughly map on to my mind-independent / inter-subjective distinction. Noumena (things in themselves) are beyond our grasp as a matter of principle. Phenomena (how things appear to be) are within our grasp, however. If you add up all the observers observations of the world... Then you get inter-subjective reality. What does an experiment purport to show us but 'if you did the experiment then you too would observe these same results'. If we consider science to be the investigation of mind-independent reality, then radical scepticism will always be a problem. Radical scepticism appears as the question 'how do you know things are (in themselves) the way they appear to us to be?' We simply cannot grasp mind-independent realilty (how things are in themselves) as a matter of principle. This is because to grasp it is to bring the mind into it once more. If we consider science to be the investigation of inter-subjective reality (so that the aim is convergence on observations) then radical scepticism isn't a problem. I think that mind-independent reality isn't really what interests us anyway. I think that we are more interested in inter-subjective reality. We are more interested in what we are likely to observe in the future (predictions) and explanations for our observations. We aren't so much interested in the essential nature of the world as we are interested in our experience of the world (though all of this is controversial).

> mathematics seems to explain the physical world amazingly well

Does mathematics 'explain' or does it describe? Does mathematics tell us what exists and does not exist, or does it merely describe what is observed and provide a formula that when applied to our observations delivers fairly accurate predictions on what will be observed in the future?

> the issue is whether 1 + 1 = 2 is real and objectively true, or whether it’s merely social constructivism. As I see things, 1 + 1 = 2 is an objective truth—mathematical realism holds that mathematical entities exist independently of the human mind, that we don’t invent mathematics but rather discover it, and that any other intelligent beings in the universe would presumably do the same.

Given the meanings of the terms '1', '+', '=', '2' the statement is true by definition in the same way that 'p=p' is true by definition or 'either p or not p' is true by definition. It is contingent / arbitrary (or a social construction if you like) that we have assigned those meanings to those terms, but given the fact that we have assigned those meanings to those terms the statement is true by definition.

> Many working mathematicians, and certainly all the great ones, are/were mathematical realists (essentially Platonists, if not openly then certainly in their hearts); and I suspect the same could be said of the greatest physicists.

Platonic realism is typically considered (in philosophy circles) to be old, outdated metaphysics. Consider 'redness'. Does redness exist? Would redness exist if there weren't any red things? Consider 'seven'. Does seven exist? Would seven exist if there weren't seven things? Why posit an entity that resides in a Platonic realm of forms? Why consider that redness or seven would exist if there weren't any red things or if there weren't seven things? We don't believe in an ideal table existing in Plato's realm of forms, we don't believe in redness existing in Plato's realm of forms, so why believe in the number seven existing in Plato's realm of forms?
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