Monday, April 16, 2012

On Seeing the Non-Distinction Between Science and Art

I figured out a better way to put this.

One day I decided to properly settle a question. I'd found one of my critical assumptions, and I was going to bloody damn well question it proper.

And yeah, I got the usual mess of contradictory bullshit. It was something like 30% what I thought, 30% the opposite of that, 20% some third thing, and 20% unadulterated mess.

Thing is, I don't have to try to take a representative sample of my assumptions. I can test them exhaustively. So I did. I still habitually look for new assumptions to add to the pile.

Yes, a lot of them are a mess. Some of them aren't. I also have a class of things which are so obviously right that nobody thinks to question them, even once they think of questioning things.

I have a computer in front of me. To the left is a cup. They're on a table. I have hands. The hands have skin. You're looking at words. Reading them, in fact. You're looking at a display. (Did that make you look away?)

In fact, this subjectively different category is some 99.1% or something of things I know. (After writing this I found an example of the differences between men and women in this category, available on request.) They're not assumptions or beliefs or conclusions, just observations. Objectively, I couldn't at first see any difference, as they're still bits stored in neurons, but it certainly feels different. And people act differently about it. And the information seems to relate differently to evidence and doubt.

So I checked. And they are different.

I am questioning the idea I have a computer in front of me. Why stop there? Why not question whether I'm questioning?
Doesn't that seem bizarre and stupid? Because it is. Hopefully the contradiction is clear - if I can't question, then I wouldn't think to question whether I'm questioning.

There's a layer of 100% certainty at the bottom. Near it, in fact most things in absolute terms, have negligible uncertainty. Only actual insane people get them wrong. If you doubt whether you ate food in the last year...yup. Bonkers. Such people tend to remove themselves from the discussion. By dying of starvation, for example.

The interesting thing about this is that certainty can be transmitted upwards. Some of the class of assumptions that aren't a mess can be absorbed by the observation class. Moreover, having checked every assumption I can get my hands on, these assumptions follow patterns. Some of these patterns are found in the messier assumptions.

For example, the opposition on the not-messy assumptions tend to contradict themselves, often within sentences or paragraphs. But let me do the opposites first.

One of the spurious examples is the 'Aristotle believed it' pattern. It isn't too useful generatively and is of negative use in the cases where Aristotle was wrong.

Having a lot of people agree is not one of these patterns. Yes, it is common among observation-class beliefs. However, that's getting the causation backwards. The primary cause of a belief never being questioned at all is that literally no one disagrees, and so it never occurs to anyone a difference of opinion is possible. One cause having no one disagree, in turn, is that everyone is right. (I have hands. They have skin.) This is not the only cause.

However, what if everyone believes morality exists, because it does? What would that look like? Ditto free will? Ditto the soul? Well, if so, then anyone explaining how they don't exist should contradict themselves, especially if they go into details. What else?

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