Tag Archives: 認知論

Bullshit and Philosophy – Hardcastle and Reisch 廢話與哲學

你沒有看錯,這本書的名字叫「廢話與哲學」。什麼,癈話也有哲學?當然了,甚至是大學哲學系的一門課,這本書便是那科的課本了。這本書是一列系流行文化與哲學叢書的其中一本,與其他的「星球大戰與哲學」,「蝙蝠俠與哲學」,「披頭四與哲學」不同,這本書的水分較少學術成分較高,收錄了十六篇文章,圍繞哲學界貨真價實的經典Harry G. Frankfurt的On Bullshit提出的癈話定義出發作出討論,其中包括了癈話的定義,分析癈話如何影響我們的生活,社會,教育,政治各方面等。這本書面世也有好幾年,書中文章例舉的一些癈話例子已經過時,如布殊入侵伊拉克的藉口,不過也無損這本書幫助我們認清癈話,對抗癈話,又或者反過來用學習成為癈話大師也可以。

以下是我對書中每章的粗略閱讀筆記:

  1. Scott Kimborugh, On Letting It Slide
    癈話便是對真相不在乎的說話,日常生活中我們很多時會容忍癈話,例如禮貌的客套說話,道歉,公關,或廣告等等,但我們絕不容忍謊話。但有些時候我們卻不能容忍癈話,多是在別人毫不講道理,不能以理由說服他時,那我們只能指出他在說癈話,然後我們才可以心安理得地無視他。對社會最大傷害的癈話,卻是說癈話的人自已也相信了的癈話,然後人們不加思索地把癈話傳開去。也有些癈話是情有可原,儘管說的人已盡最大努力去尋找真相,但能力所限或學不能其法,最後得出來結果也是癈話,例如牛頓的鍊金術研究,說穿了也是癈話。當然也有人說哲學本身全是癈話,就算在哲學家當中,不同學派的人也常說別家是癈話。儘管如此,我們還要認清楚真相和癈話的不同,才能夠判斷何時可以合理地使用癈話。

  2. Consuelo Preti, A Defence of Common Sense
    這篇文章用哲學家G.E.Moore的分析哲學(即是李天命的師祖),去教導我們如何分辨癈話。癈話之所以橫行,是因為聽者不關心真相。如果人人也關心真相,追問理解每句說話的意義,沒有人再相信癈話,那癈話不過是嘈音,對社會不會構成傷害。

  3. George Reisch, The Pragmatics of Bullshit, Intelligently Designed
    這篇文章挑戰Frankfurt對癈話的定義,不是所有癈話也對真相莫不關心,最佳的例子便是基督教的智慧創造論。基督教關心是聖經的真理,不是我們關心科學上客觀的真理。他們的癈話便是將他們的真理,包裝成為我們的真理的樣子。這種將真理偷換慨念的手法,在政治和廣告上也很常見,如扮成新聞的宣傳。這解釋了我們為什麼不能容忍謊話但能夠忍受癈話,因為謊話直接對我們有害,但說癈話的人很多時自已也相信自已癈話,甚至真心認為癈話是為你好。我們不要濫指責別人說癈話,很多時間只是我們不同意他們的說話,與其指責他在說癈話,我們更該應指出他們的錯處。

  4. Kenneth Taylor, Bullshit and the Foibles of the Human Mind, or: What the Masters of the Dark Arts Know
    這篇文章提出一些人腦的思考盲點,讓我們未能清楚看穿癈話,易容被說癈話的人操弄。其一便是人只喜歡聽奉迎的說話,只要合心意那管是癈話也照單全收。其二便是人腦不能理性地評估風險,給人兩組相同數字的選擇,只要用不同的說法包裝,利用人害怕失去擁有的心理,便能易輕左右人的選擇。唯有透過理性思考的教育,我們才能夠跳出別人定下的思想框框,看穿他們的癈話伎倆。然後我們還要反攻傳媒陣地,揭破政客廣告商的癈話。

  5. Sara Bernal, Bullshit and Personality
    癈話可以作分為兩大類,第一類是簡接地暗示虛假的大話,第二類是用盡方法去暪蔽真相。癈話也可以分為存心說或無心說兩類,在心說癈話與說謊言的動機是一樣,分別只在於手法。至於無心說的癈話,則多是出於保護自我,找個藉口推搪過去。癈話也可以分對人說和對自已說兩種,最難解釋是對自已存心說的癈話。文章後半部指出說癈話和不同類型精神病的關係,對自已說癈話的人是因為他們有輕度的精神病傾向。說癈話與患精神病一樣,便破壞人與人之間的社會關係,因為關係是建立在真話和信任之上。

  6. Alan Richardson, Performing Bullshit and the Post-Sincere Condition
    論癈話一文認為癈話沒有好事,但有一種口不對心的癈話卻人人說得理所當然,甚至被接受成為社會溝通必須禮儀的一部份,例如公司的mission statement,出於禮貌的道謝,別有企圖的稱讚,冠冕堂皇的開場白等等,因為直說實話基本上是行不通。口不對心的癈話的用途,正是說了就算逃避實質行動的擋箭牌。顧客投訴服務不好,員工只會指著mission statement說,我們不是已經說過要提供良好的服務了嗎?對付這些癈話的方法,就只有用幽默諷刺,拿出比他們更癈的癈話去挖苦他們。

  7. Cornelis de Waal, The importance of Being Earnest: A Pragmatic Approach to Bullshitting
    有別於Frankfurt和Cohen兩大對癈話的不同定義,這篇文章用實用主義哲學家Peirce的理論來定義癈話,追尋真理的相反便是癈話。有一種癈話是先有慨定結論,然後才篩選支持的證據,如科學創造論。另一種癈話是因為先入為主的利益,讓追尋真理時有意無意忽視某些證據,如煙商做的吸煙會否損害健康的研究。還有一種癈話只是因為懶於去追尋真理,便隨口說個藉口推搪過去。現代社會這麼多癈話的理由,是因為人們太少時間去追尋去與他們沒有直接關係的問題,又或人們根不毫不關心那些問題,但每個人卻被要求對每件事也能發表意見,於是只好說癈話來胡混過去。

  8. G.A. Cohen, Deeper into Bullshit
    這篇文章與Frankfurt的「論癈話」齊名,為癈話哲學的兩大經典論文,文章很學術性,讀者要有點分析哲學底子。我很奇怪這篇文章不放在第一篇,因為之前很多文章也有引用。基本上這Cohen認為Frankfurth的癈話定義有問題,他認為癈話與真偽無關,癈話就是沒有意義不能解讀的說話(unclarifiable unclarity),即李天命常說的空癈言詞。

  9. Gary Hardcastle, The Unity of Bullshit
    另一篇很學術的文章,把Frankfurt和Cohen的兩大癈話理論,用奧地利學派哲學家Carnap的理論來整合。我覺得這篇文章有點離題,主要講Carnap批評形上學是癈話,多過講關於癈話的理論本身。

  10. Andrew Aberdein, Raising the Tone: Definition, Bullshit, and the Definition of Bullshit
    又一篇學術的文章,用語言哲學家Frege的理論,拿來分析Frankfurt的理論。幸好我上學期讀了語言哲學,大慨明白文章說什麼。這篇文章很難翻釋,因為我不懂語言哲學專有名詞Term,Tone,Sense,Reference的中文說法。大意一個說話的語境不同,表達的意思也不同,語境才是決定是否癈話的關鍵。

  11. Hans Maes and Katrien Schaubroeck, Different Kinds and Aspects of Bullshit
    這篇文章基本上撮要Frankfurt和Cohen的癈話定義,然後指出這兩個定義的問題,不能應用在迷信這一類癈話上,如星相,命理,風水,水晶等等。導人迷信的人總是煞有介事地說自已那一套迷信是真,而他們亦十分相信自已那一套迷信,不附合Frankfurst癈話不關心真假的定對。那些迷信之言無知婦孺也能聽懂,不附合Cohen癈話難明難懂的定義。所以作者提出第三個癈話的定義,就不可能被任何證據或邏輯否定的就是癈話。可惜作者未能深入研究這個定義的問題,因為如此一來所有宗教就會被歸入癈話之列。

  12. Mark Evans, The Republic of Bullshit: On the Dumbing-Up of Democracy
    這篇文章探討民主政治和癈話的必然關係,眾所周知政客為求勝出選舉,說癈話是家常便飯,甚至絕大部份政治宣傳也是純萃癈話。民主選舉的程序,選民根本沒有足夠的智識作出政治的決定,無可避免要大幅簡化複雜的議題,讓人民能夠投票作出選擇,於是結果便只剩下內容空洞的癈話。不單只政治層面有很多癈話,生活上也出現很多偽專業知識的癈話,例如所謂的管理學語言。作者認為要對抗癈話風潮,只能透過在社會上建立分折哲學的文化,每個人也懂得如何去柝穿癈話。

  13. Vanessa Neumann, Political Bullshit and the Stoic Self
    這篇文章分析政治中常用的癈話。政治與癈話一不離二是因為癈話很有用,可以令自已在選民心中留下好印像,或令對手在選民心中留下壞印像。人類並不是十分理性的動物,投票到最後憑情感多過講理性。政治癈話設計去觸動選民的感情和身份認同感,只要選民感情蓋過理性便不會去計較真假。

  14. Heather Douglas, Bullshit at the Interface of Science and Policy: Global Warning, Toxic Substances, and the Other Pesky Problems
    政府制定一些政策時,需用運用科學數據和理論,可是很多時政治任務掛帥,科學的真相被扭曲,淪為癈話當粉飾政治的工具。第一種科學癈話是以偏慨全,只抽出對自已有利的數據去解讀,作者在文中舉出全球暖化作為例子。第二種科學癈話是苛求不存在的標準,對於任何不喜歡的結論,一律打上不合乎科學標準的罪名,但又不清楚講明如何釐定標準,更甚的那個漂準可以隨意升降。

  15. David J. Tietge, Rhetoric Is Not Bullshit
    很多人把修辭學等同說癈話的學問,如何包垃圾內容包裝為動聽的言詞。根據阿里士多德對修辭學的定義,修辭學就是說服別人的藝術,是一套增加溝通效率的法則。懂得修辭學的法則可以用來修飾說話外,同一套法則亦可以用來檢視別人的說話,看穿別人的癈話。

  16. Steve Fuller, Just Bullshit
    全書最後一篇文章,以不同年代的哲學家如何看癈話作總結,由柏拉圖,阿里士多德開始,到尼采,Thomas Kuhn,維根斯坦,最後以Francis Bacon的科學方法結束。

PHIL201 Epistemology 認知論(上)

認知論是哲學的基礎必修課,差不多任何高年級的哲學課,也要求對認知論有所認識。認知論涉及任何有關知識的課題,例如,何謂知識?人如何獲的知識?如何判定知識的真偽?這科的上半部主要教古典認知論,用Bertrand Russell的The Problems of Philosophy為課本,輔以其他古典哲學家的原文作為參考。下半部教二十世紀認知論的重大發展,課本是那些文集式的磚頭書,不過其實可省錢不用買課本,因為那些近代重要哲學的論文也可在網上找到。

在未探討知識的構成和分類,第一課先要確定最基礎的一點,知識存在並且人類可以獲取。絕對懷疑論者,認為人只能憑五官感覺,獲取思想以外的資訊,但感覺並不是真實,所以外在世界亦不是真實的存在,那亦沒有所謂的知識,人不可能知道任何東西。正常人大慨會認為他們的瘋子,不過讀哲學可不能馬虎,先要解決外在世界如何存在的問題。至於用什麼理論去解釋世界的存在,可直接影響上層不同認知理論的架構,從要發展出關於知識的不同觀念。

「我思故我在」是笛卡兒Descrates的名句,便是其中一個回應懷疑論者的途徑。縱使我可以懷疑世界的存在,但我不可能懷疑我自已的存在。從這個可以肯定的最基礎點出發,笛卡兒一層層地推演,讓新的知識建立在已確定的知識上,從而構成一個完整的知識系統。基礎論的知識系統中,知識是線性推論,所有知識向上推論,最終歸向最核心的無誤真理。在核心的基礎知識是不證自明,不需要亦不能問其何解。Russell亦是一個基礎論者,他認為最核心的知識便是理性本能。人藉著理性本能,把不協調的知識修正,令知識合乎現實的觀測。Moore用另外一個方法去證明外在世界是存在,他認為感覺存在於思想之外,那有感覺存在便足以論實外在世界存在,而每個人也一定感覺到自已的雙手,存在於思想之外的雙手便是外在世界存在的證明了。

外在世界的存在證明了,但外在世界的本質又是什麼呢。我們對物件的感覺,與物件本身的本質,並不一定有任何關連。傳統的科學現實主義,認為物件本質產生我們對物件的感覺,知識便是兩者關係的理論。反現實主義認為知識局限於人對物件的感覺,人並不可能物件的本質的任何東西。結構現實主義,則認為知識並不是關於物件本身,而是關於物件與物件間的關係。Russell認為知識可以分為兩類,第一類是直接從感覺獲取的知識,第二類是從描述中獲取的知識,通過描述把已知的知識,組合申延成為新的知識。

觀測現實能產生理論,理論構成知識,可是休謨Hume指出了用歸納法的問題,便是不論有多少個觀測結果,在邏輯上還是不能推論出理論,在事實與理論兩者之間,有一道深不可越鴻溝。牛頓從蘋果掉下來推論出地心吸力,我們可以用地心吸力的理論,去推論出蘋果會掉下來,但邏輯上並不能保證下一個蘋果一定會掉下來。若出現一個浮空的蘋果,便足以改寫地心吸力的理論。Russell解決歸納問題的方法,便是認為世界是有規律並有一至性,而這些最基礎的定律,是不證自明的基礎知識。接受普世規律也是人類的理性本能之一,因為若不接受定律存在的話,人根本不可能生存。

康德Kant整合了Descrates和Hume的理論,提出理性為先驗性知識的說法,人類的想思受與生俱來的理性笵疇的規畫,人要通過理性,才能把經驗轉化為知識。Russell認為數學和邏輯屬於先驗性知識,不論在任何可能存在的世界,先驗性知識也是必然為真,而其他後驗性知識,則基於我們這個世界的觀測。他認為抽像的物件也是真實,儘管它們並不存在於任何時空之內,先驗性知識便是所有存在與不存在之物的關係。

參考資料:
1. The Problems of Philosophy, Bertrand Russell
2. Human Knowledge Classical and Contemporary Approaches 3rd Edition, Paul K. Moser and Arnold Vander Nat.

哲學功課﹕The Coherence Theory of Empirical Knowledge

在傳統認知論中,知識等於真實的信念加上合理相信的理由。在尋找合理的理由時,我們采用歸納法,從已經被肯定的知識中,推論相信新知識的合理理由。可是這裹有一個問題,若每一項知識也是從先前的知識推論出來,那層層遞進地推論追溯上去,那最初的知識如何肯定呢。傳統上基礎主義認為在知識的最底層,是一些不需論證自我肯定的基礎知識,作為所有知識推論的基礎。調和主羲則否定有基礎知識的存在,所有知論的推論是個巨大的循環,只能檢視整個知識系統的一至性,有沒有內部矛盾或對世界觀測的不協調。這篇功課討論調和主義理論本身的問題,探討調和主義能否成立。

The Coherence Theory of Empirical Knowledge

In this essay, I am evaluating Bonjour’s coherence theory of empirical knowledge (CTEK) against foundational theory of empirical knowledge (FTEK). First, I will outline what is the regress problem and compare the responses from FTEK and CTEK. Then I will examine the objection against CTEK regarding its relationship with external world. I will further extend the objection by arguing CTEK is asserting a fundamental assumption that the external world itself has to be coherent for CTEK to be justified. At last I am going to conclude CTEK is unsuccessful in overcome the objection in strictly epistemological sense but it is successful in practical sense.

Since Plato, traditional view of knowledge is justified true belief. A piece of belief is only qualified as knowledge if it is justified. A belief is justified based on the validity and soundness of its argument, which is implicitly depends on the premises used in the argument are also justified. Each premise on its own is also a piece of belief which required the justification of the premise’s premises. As a result, we have a regression of justifications for premises that keep tracing back, which is known as “the regression problem”. FTEK deals with the regression problem by stating there are some foundation beliefs at the very bottom of chains of premises and the regression terminates when the basic beliefs are reached. There are two version of FTEK. The strong version stated that the basic beliefs are self-justified without the need of further premises. The weak version stated that the basic beliefs are initially credible that are likely to be true. The CTEK rejects the notation of basic beliefs, instead of having the regression of premises go on infinite linearly, the inference is circular. An epistemic system is justified by its internal coherence.

However, the circular nature of CTEK runs into the problem of begging the question, which a belief cannot be justified unless it is already justified. The solution is to reject the linear conception of inferential justification and uses a holistic or systematic conception of inferential justification instead. CTEK separate the justification into two categories, justification of a particular belief and the global justification of the entire cognitive system. The justification of a particular belief appears linear, since the premises regression will soon reached some acceptable beliefs in the context. If no acceptable belief is reached, the premises regression will continue moving in a circle. In this case, the justification of the overall knowledge system comes under questions. In CTEK, the justification of the entire system is based on its degree of coherence. A coherent system must be internally consistence, which means there is no internal conflict, but it has more than just consistency. Coherent is the systemic connection between the components of the system, how observable facts can be explained and predicted. The justified knowledge system is the one with the highest degree of coherences out of all the alternative consistence systems.

In the paper, Bonjour lists three objections to CTEK on questioning the fundamental questions of the connection between coherence and justification. Out of the three objections, Bonjour spends most of the paper in defending against objection number two, the relationship of CTEK and external world. I think this is the strongest objection against CTEK and I also think Bonjour successfully defends CTEK against this objection. However, Bonjour omitted an underlining assumption in his defence that the external world has to be coherent in order to justify his argument. In the following paragraphs, I will first out the objection, go over Bonjour’s response to the objection and illustrate his hidden assumption with a counter example.

The strongest objection to CTEK is that since CTEK is justified only in terms the internal coherence of the beliefs in the system, it does not have any relationship with the external world. A self-enclosed system of beliefs cannot constitute empirical knowledge. Bonjour’s defense is pretty straight forward, it simply link the coherent belief system in CTEK to observable facts from external world. He argues that in CTEK, the coherent system of beliefs must also coherent with reliable observation of the external world in long run. When a particular observation does not coherent with the belief system, CTEK can either neglect the particular observation as an incoherent exception to the belief system or refine the belief system to include the new observation. If there are too many incoherent exception observations accumulated in the belief system, the belief system will become less coherent with the world and eventually it will be replaced by a more coherent belief system. The belief system is continuously updating itself upon new observation to maintain its degree of coherence. The input from external world has causal relationship with the CTEK belief system where the belief system is justified by its coherence with observable facts of the external world. One of the key pieces in Bonjour’s argument is to establish what can be constituted as reliable observations yet at the same time is not a basic belief. He argues that spontaneous introspective beliefs on spontaneous sensa beliefs are very likely to be true. The reliability of cognitively spontaneous beliefs is part of the coherence system along with the observation of the external world. Therefore it is not a prior truth in the sense that it is required as the foundation for justification of the knowledge.

Bonjour based CTEK’s justification on the coherence of the belief system and the reliable observation of external world in long run. Let’s granted that the belief system and the observations are reliable, however Bonjour failed to address the underlining assumption that the external world is coherence in long run. If the external world is not coherence, then no belief system can stay coherent due to CTEK has a causal relationship with the external world. Bonjour uses the spontaneous visual belief a red book and the lack of spontaneous visual of a blue book to illustrate how the belief system is linked to the external world. What if there is a chance that the book randomly change colour every time I observe it? How can I conclude there is a red book on my desk but not a blue book on my desk? Even though I can trust my spontaneous beliefs from my sensa of the book, I cannot trust the object under my observation stays the same between my two observations. It is possible that the cover of the book is made of the latest colour changing e-paper technology, which in the case we can provide a coherent account for the observable fact. However, it is also possible that there is no scientific theory can possible explain why the book change its color. It could be the act of God and it is simply a miracle that the book changed from red to blue for no apparent reason. The CTEK justification adopt an objective clock work world view that rule out the existence of any supernatural power, such as an omnipotent God who defies all laws of physics.
In theory, we cannot epistemological justify the CTEK because we cannot epistemological justify the world is coherent. Hume argues that “Uniformity of Nature”, which is essentially the same as coherence of the world, cannot be justified, yet it is rational and non-optional for us to accept the habit of inductive inference. Practically, we can assume the world is coherent almost all of the time and take it as a weak foundation that it is probably initially true until shown otherwise. CTEK is actually a very weak FTEK in disguise; the base belief of CTEK is that the world is coherence to provide the foundation to build coherent belief systems.

However, it would be totally absurd to argue the world is not coherent. If the world is not coherent, then even FTEK is not possible to have any knowledge system. Just like FTEK cannot convince the ultimate skeptic, CTEK also fail to convince the ultimate skeptic that there is justification on any knowledge. Given the fact that assumption of the world is coherent must dialectically acceptable in the context of any knowledge theory to have any meaning, we can grant this assumption a priori status outside of any epistemic dialog. With this particular exception, I conclude that CTEK is successful in overcoming the objection regarding the relationship of coherent belief system and the external world.

Reference:
[1] Laurence Bonjour, The Coherence Theory of Empirical Knowledge, Philosophical Studies 30 (1976) p281-312

哲學功課﹕Proofing the Existence of External World

苖卡兒(Descartes)說﹕我思故我在。雖然我們可以肯定自己的存在﹐但如何可以證明在我們思想以外的世界也是存在呢﹖如何去證明人生不是一場夢﹐不是只有獨自一個人的意識漂浮在虛無之中。這篇哲學功課的題目﹐大慨正好對號入座哲學給一般人的印象﹐怎麼哲學問這個無聊的問題。其實這個問題只是大問題的其中一環﹐問世界存在的本質是什麼。這篇功課對比了Moore和Russell兩位哲學家的論證﹐前者從康德(Kant)以理論為起點﹐推論出在人與人的意識以外﹐必然存在一個外在的世界。後者則把問題反過來﹐質疑為什麼不接受世界存在﹐畢竟認為世界不存在的人精神有問題。最搞笑是話說某次Russell講學﹐其中有一個聽眾相信世界不存在﹐那當然除他以外的其他人也不會存在。可是他聽得半桶以為Russell在認同他的觀點﹐演講完畢走上台對Russell說﹐他很高興聽到有人認同他認為其他人不存在的觀點﹐一個多麼的自相多盾的說法。我證明世界存在的論証很簡單﹐如果世界不存在的話﹐我就不需要寫這篇文章交功課﹐教授也不需要花時間去改功課。既然我寫了這篇文章出來﹐教授又要花間去改﹐那就證明了世界是存在的了。

In this essay, I am going to evaluate Moore’s and Russell’s proof of the existence of external world. I will first outline Moore’s argument and Russell’s argument respectively. Then I will point out the difference in the scope of claim in the two arguments. Moore’s argument asserts a smaller scope of claim than Russell’s, thus it is more defendable. Furthermore, I will propose counter examples to nullify Russell’s argument. At last, I am going to propose my proof to the existence of external world to address the shortcomings in both Russell and Moore’s argument.

On the surface, Moore’s argument is surprise simple. It is so simple that it does not seem to be very convincing. His argument can be illustrated as the following. By holding out two hands, here is one hand and here is another hand. There are two hands exists in front of you. If those hands exist, which is something you cannot deny, there must be external world. [1-p451]

Let’s us understand Moore’s claim a little bit more. Moore’s claim is actually an argument to convince a skeptic who does not believes there is an external world but maintain the belief that there is still an external mind outside of his own mind. In another word, to begin with he has to at least believe that there is other mind, who is trying to convince him that there is an external world, already exists outside of him. Moore’s claim will not work on soloist who does not even believe there is anything outside of his own mind. Moreover, Moore’s claim is based on Kant’s early doubt that “the existence of things outside of us … must be accepted merely on faith, and that if anyone thinks good to doubt their (here, their refer to the external world, not those people) existence, we are unable to counter his doubts by any satisfactory proof.” [1- p439]. Most important of all, Moore’s claim does not survive Descartes style of self-meditation scrutiny. Moore believe there exists an external world and convince the other minds he experience in his external world to believe there really is an external world, but he can never proof to himself that he is not a sole existence that all the external world he experience are merely a product of his own mind.

Moore’s argument is pretty straight forward. He is playing word games on Kant’s argument by separating the definition of the terms use by Kant. He redefines “things outside of us”, “external things” and “things external to our mind” as three separate terms. (Notice that that he uses the term “things outside of US” instead of “things outside of ME”.) He excluded transcendent things from his argument, since that belongs to the department of metaphysics. Then he flipped the argument to equate “external things” to “things not internal to our mind”. Notice this slight change of term is the slate of hand he played to separate “things that can meet in space” from “physical objects” and here is he introduced the term “present in space” which supposed to have a lesser definition than “things that can meet in space”. He used a few examples like shadows, after image to illustrate his points, but I am not going to repeat the arguments here due to the limitation of space. Now, here he plays the finally trick, he used the “two hands” as a common experience shared between two different minds, which the skeptic cannot deny. Since there is a gap between the two minds and now there is a common experience come form that gap, there must be something existence between the two minds originate that experience, so the external world must exist.

Let’s move on to Russell’s argument, if that is qualified an argument. First of all, Russell’s claim is more ambitious than Moorse’s. Russell actually goes one step more to define the nature of external world, which is the existence of matter. Moorse is smart to leave the external world remains undefined which gives him more room to play with his definition tricks. Instead of arguing for the existence of matter, Russell simply makes the instinctive belief assertions without even bother to argue for it. To begin with, one cannot doubt his own existence and the existence of the sense data he experienced. Russell is quite frank to admit that “we can never prove the existence of things other than ourselves and our experience” [2-p.14], then he immediate follow by asserting that “although this is no logically impossible, there is no reason whatever to suppose that it is true.” and appeal to the common sense hypothesis to assert there are external objects that cause our sensations. Here he had commit the two fallacies. First, the appeal to common sense is begging of question. Second, even given that we can indeed somehow rule out the soloist possibility, his so-call argument still suffered from the false dilemma fallacy. He assumes that if we can rule out the soloist hypothesis, our sense data must come from physical objects, but he forgot the origin of experience can skipped the existence layer and come from the transcendent layer directly. For practical reason, we may operate on the “external object exists” instinctive belief proposed by Russell, but he should at least compare and evaluate all alternatives instincts before concluding his particular version of instinct is most simple thus should be the most possible solution.

In [2-p15] and chapter 3, Russell uses more examples to illustrate his instinctive belief of the existence of external object. In [2-p15], he uses the existence of a cat that is independent of his perception as an example. He thinks it is quite natural to think that a cat will continue to exists and feel hungry regardless of his sense-data. There is a famous counter example which is also a cat, Schrodinger’s cat. According to Quantum theory, the wave equation is only collapse at the moment of observation. Strictly speaking, Schrodinger’s cat are free to seize its existence when there is no observer, except that once when it is being observed, its state variable collapse to a known state and catch up with what supposed to happen during the unobservable moments. The Schrodinger’s cat does not sound nature to most people, but it conforms to the laws of quantum physics. Therefore whether something sounds nature or not cannot be used to justify the intrinsic belief. In chapter 3, Russell uses the common between public space and private space to argument for his existence of matter. I can nullify his arguments with two terms, “Virtual Reality” and “Augmented Reality”. In virtual reality, there is no public space and each one’s private space is truly private to him. In augment reality, although there still a public space, but the sense data of the public space can be augmented and altered before it arrive at the private space. In addition, Russell argues that a blind man cannot experience light. With the latest technology, the vision chip, a blind can actually experience light more or less like a seeing person although he never experience lights. The vision chips implanted in his retina stimulate the visual nerve to send image to the brain. In theory the whole visual process can stay digital and electrical without anything related to light. Therefore light must be something that can be reduced and transformed into a set of computer equations and can be recreated using digital processors.

Both Moore and Russell did not give a satisfying proof of the existence of external world to a soloist. I am going to propose my solution in the last paragraph in an attempt to bridge the gap left open in Moore and Russell’s argument. My proof that I am not a lone existence in this world is very simple. If I am alone in this world, no one is going to mark my philosophy paper and I will have no reason to write it. The very fact that I am writing this philosophy paper is the proof that I am not alone in this world, which imply there must exists an external world. Now, assume that there is a philosophy professor who is marking this philosophy paper. The very fact that he is marking this paper also is a proof of the existence of an external world; otherwise he has no reason to mark this paper. In fact, if there is no external world, why would anyone bother to read a paper trying to proof the existence of the external world? Therefore the mere existence of this philosophical paper on its own is the proof of the existence of the external world. Q.E.D.

Reference:
[1] Paul K. Moser and Arnold Vander Nat, Human Knowledge Classical and Contemporary Approaches, 2003, Oxford Press
[2] Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy, 1912, Feedbacks

On Bullshit – Harry G. Frankfurt 論廢話

On Bullshit On Bullshit嚴格來說不是一本書﹐只是一篇哲學論文。這篇論文二十年前發表﹐一直寂寂無聞沉睡在哲學期刊中。零五年作者把論文印刷成精裝書出版﹐這本薄薄的小書卻平地一聲雷﹐連續高據紐約時報暢銷書榜達半年之久﹐一時間文化界爭相討論Bullshit現像。Bullshit大約可以譯為廢話﹐但中文廢話始終沒有英文Bulshit般傳神。廢話誰人都懂﹐每天我們也聽到不少﹐可是從來沒有人為廢話介定精確的定義﹐亦沒有任何準則去衡量一句廢話有多廢。這篇論作了前無古人的創舉﹐用分析哲學的方法去研究何謂廢話﹐以及廢話對社會的影響。

這本小書始終是學術論文﹐內容艱深難懂涉及大量哲學慨念﹐並不是寫給一般讀者的普羅讀物。不過若果能耐心細閱全文﹐作者的廢話理論很富啟發性。正如典形的學術論文一樣﹐從參考文獻引經據典出發﹐再推論申延出嶄新的理論。論文第一部份考究Bullshit一字的起源﹐追朔至另一英文古字Humbug。作者花了很多篇幅去論述Bullshit和Humbug的微妙差異﹐亦同時指出廢話與謊話是兩個完全不同的慨念。其後作者引用分析哲學大師維根斯坦(Wittgenstein)的方法﹐去介定廢話一詞的定義。作者詳細比較癈話(Bullshit)﹐謊話(Lie)和大話(Buff)的分別﹐指出三者雖然相似﹐但本質上完全不同。三者在講者腦中由不同的慨念構成﹐而聽者腦中亦要用不同慨念去衡量說話的真假。

最後一部份總結廢話理論和提出對現今社會廢話泛濫作出判批。作者認為廢話對真相的傷害﹐遠比謊話還嚴重。說謊話是刻意地誤導他人﹐但說話的人本身先要知道什麼是真相﹐才可以把真相倒轉成為謊言。說廢話的人並不理會說話的真假﹐是真也好是假也好﹐他說廢話只是要達到某些目的﹐說話內容毫不重要。現今社會到處充斥著廢話﹐人們漸漸變得不再關心真假﹐甚至認為根本沒有分所謂的真假﹐完全與追求真理背道而馳。

On Bullshit是本奇書﹐四分一張紙大小印刷﹐薄薄的六十多頁卻要賣加幣七元。買回來不到一個小時就看完﹐起初有點被騙的感覺﹐甚至有點認為這書本身就是一個廢話。除了這本書外﹐我還買了另一本Bullshit and Philosophy﹐成本書二百多頁就是用來解釋On Bullshit的理論。當我再把小書翻讀多一遍﹐才慢慢欣嘗到這篇論文何以被譽為經典。這兩本書同是大學哲學課的課本﹐今個學期沒有時間讀那班﹐行書店買其他課本時看見﹐只好買回來自修學習。廢話與哲學﹐這是一個很有趣的課題啊。

進化論 vs 創造論

二零零五年美國阿肯色洲有一群家長﹐入稟地方法院控告學校局﹐要求在高中生物科中加入創造論﹐與科學界普遍接受的進化論平起平坐。這事件只是自達爾文發明進化論百多年來﹐進化創造兩論爭議的其中一章。很多人對個爭論有所誤解﹐這個爭論不是有關那一個理論是對﹐那一個是錯﹐而是關於什麼是科學。進化論是一個科學理論﹐相信沒有人反對。但是創造論或換湯不換藥的智慧設計論﹐又是不是科學呢﹖
讓我們先從科學哲學的角度﹐去介定什麼是科學﹐再對檢視這兩個理論。一個科學理論﹐必需要乎合以下三個條件。

1) 可驗證 (verifiable)
2) 有解釋力 (explanation power)
3) 可被否定 (falsifiable)

第一﹐一個科學理論的最基礎條件是必需可驗證﹐有足夠的證據去支持理論。進化論的證據多不勝數﹐從有腳魚的石化﹐到實驗室中的病菌異變﹐到有名的倫敦飛蛾變色﹐無一不合乎進化論提出的理論和假設。反之創造論沒有任何實在證據﹐從來沒有人看見造物者創造新的生物。而創造論支持者的所謂證據﹐大多只是指出進化論的不足之處。對的﹐目前進化論還不是完美﹐還有侍改進的地方。但就算進化論是完全錯誤﹐也不代表創造論就一定是對﹐物種的起源還可以有其他很多解釋﹐例如地球就像神一樣是自有永有﹐又或者像古代神話般﹐生物不是被創造出來﹐而是神死後的屍體上生長出來。

第二﹐一個科學理論除了要合乎現實的觀測外﹐還必須對觀測作出解釋﹐並能準確預測下一個實驗的結果或數據。進化論預測了每代生物之間﹐必需有一個媒介去傳播訊息﹐直接引導出後來基因(DNA)的發現。進化論可以解釋紐西蘭奇異鳥為什麼沒有翼﹐人為什麼會有盲腸﹐不怕抗生素的超級病菌為什麼出現﹐以及其他種種不同的生態現像。可是創造論面對這些問題時﹐唯一的答案就只有神是這樣設計﹐這個答案是完全的廢話﹐根本不能告訴我們任何有用的資訊。

第三﹐一個科學理論最重要的條件﹐就是可被否定性﹐既在某可能現的情況下﹐這個理論會不再適用﹐亦即是科學理論是必需要局限性。說個例子﹐牛頓的物理學定律﹐在極大的空間中給愛因斯坦的相對論推翻了。愛因斯坦的相對論﹐在極小的空間中給量子力學推翻了。同樣的進化論也是有其局限性﹐現今普遍科學界的共識﹐就是進化論不用適於最初的生命。進化論不能夠解釋在盤古初開時﹐化學物質如何演變出第一個蛋白質生命體。可是偏偏創造論的支持者﹐就最愛用這點攻擊進化論。創造論是一個沒有可能被否證的學說﹐不論反對者提出什麼理據﹐創造論也可以用超出自然界限制的造物主來解釋。例如問為什麼有恐龍化石﹐答案會是造物主特別造假化石出來考驗人的信心。在這方便﹐創造論和占星學是性質也是一樣﹐同樣都是吹出來的。

在美國阿肯色洲的那個案件中﹐幸好遇上的法官是明白事理的人。他聽了科學家和科學哲學家上述的解釋﹐認同創造論不是科學﹐不應該在高中的科學課中教授﹐並駁回那群盲目家長的指控。雖有創造論是一個很好聽的故事﹐但它絕對不是科學﹗

最後想補充一點﹐進化論和宗教信仰不一定有衝突。天主教和聖公會﹐就不反對進化論﹐他們認為進化論的對錯是科學的問題與神學無關。人類的肉身如何來不重要﹐最重就是人類的靈魂是由神所創造。還有另外一個說法就是神導進化論﹐神用進化的方法間接地創造人﹐就像神經網絡(neural network)的程式的培育出來﹐而不是逐行行寫出來一樣。作為一個開明有理性的基督徒﹐智慧設計論(或曰智障設計論)不是唯一的選擇。

PHIL300 哲學入門

這個學期我在大學修讀了我的第一門哲學課﹐是PHIL300哲學入門。讀這科可以說是純為興趣﹐今個學期我已經做完碩士論文等畢業﹐橫豎有公司交學費不要浪費﹐便找門有興趣的課來讀讀。這門課是三年級的課程﹐不過是以非哲學本科生為對象開設﹐若已經讀了一年級哲學入門課﹐便不能再讀這科取學分。雖說是哲學入門﹐其實嚴格來說只是認知論(epsitemology)入門﹐因為選用的課本和教授哲學家的想思﹐也都是屬於這哲學三大分支之一。其他兩門分支是形上學(metaphysics)和價值論(value theory)

認知論就是探討知識的學問﹐去理解究竟知識是什麼﹐人如何可以獲得知識﹐應該怎樣去分辨知識的真假﹐及至科學的定義﹐什麼才算是科學理論等等。聽起來好像很無聊的東西﹐但卻能夠幫助我們明白和認識清楚世界﹐知道很多我們平時以為天公地義的事﹐背後原來殊不簡單﹐一個不小心﹐很容易就會給存心欺騙的人矇閉。最重要的是這門課讓我大開眼界﹐發現以前聽過一磷半抓的思想學說﹐每個也有出處跟據﹐絕非所見般簡單。例如Matrix這套電影的世界觀好像很創新﹐發現原來只是抄二百幾年前﹐完美經驗派哲學家Berkeley的想法﹐用新的包裝重新推出來拍戲。

這課的形式是每個星期的一堂﹐紹介一名死鬼哲學家以及他的思想學說。由啟蒙時代的Descarte開始說起﹐先後介紹理性主義和經驗主義的代表人物﹐再到把兩者整合哲學中的巨人康德(Kant)﹐還有後來的實用主義和自然主義﹐再到組成二次大戰後的維也納圈的邏輯學派﹐和其相對的科學哲學理論。其實也不是全部哲學家也是死掉的﹐最後幾堂也有教還在生的人。最出名就是發明Paradigm Shift這個名詞的Thomas Khun﹐這個字現在給那些商管人用到爛用到悶﹐最初的本意其實原來是另一回事。

對我來說課堂並不沉悶﹐因為每一名哲學家的思想對我也是新奇的﹐也都刺激我去思考一些以前沒有想過的問題。教授不算是太悶﹐不過就欠缺一點互動討論的積極性 ﹐如果不是包括我在內的幾個學生問問題﹐他可以講完一個哲學家講另一個不停教下去﹐也不理我們是不是真的明白。這課並不難讀﹐也不用花很多時間﹐可能其一是我是求學不是求分數﹐其二是每個星期我溫習時﹐在咖啡店當是看課外書地享受閱讀。平均每個星期要看五十多頁﹐大慨用一個晚上兩個小時就足夠了。這科只有兩份功課﹐是兩篇千多字的文章﹐外加期中考和大考。不知是不是我讀理性寫不慣文科的文﹐雖然我好肯定我完全明白課文內容﹐兩篇功課和其中考也是只得個C+﹐相信大考的分數也不會例外。這科是我讀大學以來﹐成績最差的一科﹐文科真的比理科難拿高分。

選讀這科的人大部份是鬼仔鬼妹﹐也有幾個同學和我一樣是上了年紀的學生。亞洲人特別是香港人﹐大慨對這種不能賺錢﹐沒有實際用途的學科不感興趣。至於在一班三十幾個同學中﹐有幾多個是對哲學有興趣而讀﹐又有幾多個是因為以為這科容易取得必修選項的學分而讀呢﹖大慨整個學期堂一句聲也不出的那些是後者﹐會一邊聽書一邊嘴嚼內容﹐總會找機會去問教授問題﹐尤其是以問到他答不出來為樂則是前者。我讀這一科的經驗﹐相信對下學期我開始兼讀哲學文憑課程會有幫助。至少我知道﹐要合格不難但以高份很難﹐最緊要是我知道自己會喜歡讀哲學。

哲學功課: Problem of Induction

David Hume has introduced one of the problems in epistemology that baffled many philosophers for ages. In his argument about the problem of induction, he made the claim that inductive inference cannot be rationally justify. Many philosophers had proposed solutions to this problem, such as Hume’s own psychological solution and Kant’s synthetic a priori knowledge solution. However none of them can solve the problem of induction with a satisfaction. This problem is finally resolved by 20th century philosopher Karl Popper by introducing a paradigm shift in the definition of knowledge. This article will first outline Hume’s claim about the problem of induction and the implication of this problem, then it will present Popper’s solution to this problem.

The problem of induction arrived from Hume’s position as an empirical philosopher. Hume believes the source of human knowledge is experience from outside world instead of from reason within our mind. He uses Hume’s fork to divide all human knowledge into two groups, either “relations of ideas” or “matter of facts”. The “relations of ideas” is a prior proposition that can be verified with reason alone. For example, “a circle has no angle” and “pork is pig meat”. The “matter of facts” is a posterior proposition that can only be verified by experience and observations. For example, “the sun always rises from the east” and “it has 400cm of snow in Whistler”. The cause and effect of “matter of facts” are the only concerning matter in human knowledge. Every piece of information in the “matter of facts” has a cause. We know it is going to rain from the dark clouds in the sky. We know that we can take sky train and bus from downtown Vancouver to SFU from the transmit map. Therefore human does not have intelligent without understand the causality between difference pieces of knowledge.

Hume points out the causal connection between two events are discovered by experience but not by reason. Thought induction, we can establish the connection between two events. Induction is generalization work by inferring a claim about an entire population of objects from data about a sample of those objects. We have observed many people die from eating cyanide, so that we can conclude cyanide kills people. However Hume claims that we didn’t actually observe the casual connection between the two events. We only observe a sequence of two events happens one after another all the time and come to the conclusion that there is a causal relationship between them. If we in fact we cannot assert the one event will always leads to another, how can claim we have know anything at all. For example, for many years all birds observed by men have wings. We took it for granted that birds must have wings, until we discover the wingless kiwi bird in New Zealand. Therefore no matter how many winged birds we have observed, we cannot guarantee all birds have wings. The same principle can apply to any other knowledge we have. How can we prove that we will have a full moon next month? We merely expect future events will follow the past experience. We are just assuming the external world is uniform and consistence over time so that all natural phenomena are expected to repeat themselves. This is circular reasoning that we beg the question by assuming the answer we are looking for. Since all our knowledge is based on this assumption that we cannot rationally justify, Hume has shown that we in fact don’t know anything.

Karl Popper is probably the most notable philosopher in the 20th century. His philosophy works changed how the field of epistemology perceives knowledge. For the past two hundred years, the laws of physics discovered by Newton have shaped how philosophers viewed science and knowledge. Science facts are the most reliable form of knowledge in human society. Once a scientific fact is discovered and verified by rigorous experiments, it is thought that the science theory or law will not change. Many great philosophers in the modern age believe that the scope of human knowledge will expand over the time as we discover more scientific facts and add to the existing pool of knowledge. However at the turn of the 20th century, the discovery of a genius scientist Albert Einstein has shaken the foundation of the Newtonian world of physics. His famously relativity theory is compatibility with Newton’s theory. Einstein’s theory is confirmed by the eclipse observations to show that light from distant stars can be bended by the sun’s gravitational field. The consequence of this discovery to philosophy makes us reconsider our understanding of knowledge. We can no longer guarantee the certainty of what we know as any piece of knowledge can call in to question and later shown that it is wrong after all.

Popper’s philosophy shines new lights on the view of science by replacing the traditional static view of science with a more dynamic approach. First he begins with identifying the difference between science and pseudo-science, and defines the properties of a proper scientific theory. Human develop theories to explain the cause and effect between difference events from our experience and attempted to predict the expected result of similar events. Popper thinks that what makes a theory science is not whether the theory is verified to be true nor it is good. A scientific theory has to be falsifiable, namely stated the hypothetical condition that this theory is no longer valid. For example, creationism is not a scientific theory because there is no observation or test could falsify the claim that God created the world in literally 7 days, provided that God can fake any evidences showing the Earth is several million years old . On the other hand, the theory of evolution is science because we can prove it wrong if one day God or some aliens shows up and tell us they had indeed created the Earth. However, Popper didn’t go as extreme as Hume claiming all metaphysics or pseudo science theories meaningless.

Popper has changed the concept of knowledge in philosophy by realizing that there is no certainty in science. Instead he said “science is perhaps the only human activity in which errors are systemically criticized and in time corrected”. Science not only adds new knowledge to the domain, it also replaces existing theories with better ones. It is impossible to prove a scientific theory is ultimately true, we can only claimed that the theory has a tentative status quo, until new there are challenges. When new challenges arise, the old theory either have to be revised to cope with the new findings or limited its scope of assertion to remain useful. The progress of science comes from trial and errors, the continuous regression of hypothesis and observation. Every theory in science not secure, they are open for revision or rejection. All scientific knowledge could probably be false, yet it aspires eventually to the truth. Newton’s theory classical physics is still valid over in the everyday life. Its prediction breaks down when comes to the world of very large scale where Einstein’s relativity theory supplement and correct Newton’s theory. Then along come the quantum theory that is incompatible with both Newton’s and Einstein’s theory on very small scale. The three contradicting theories cannot all be right at the same time. In fact, it is very likely that all of them are wrong. However each theory is served as a stepping stone for a more accurate theory to describe our external world. Although Hume showed that it is not possible to infer a theory from induction of observations, but this does not affect the possibility or falsifying a theory from new observations. Therefore, Popper has solved by problem of induction by changing our concept of knowledge to a more practical and realistic view. Instead of knowing more about knowledge with absolute certainty, we are getting closer to the true nature of knowledge by reducing the degree of uncertainty.