Author Topic: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?  (Read 1483 times)

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Offline median

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Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
« Reply #29 on: August 29, 2013, 10:51:23 AM »
These answers are great. I love it! My point in this exercise was NOT to argue that we can't trust the senses. On the contrary, I just wanted to point out (and have everyone chime in) that this argument from Christians (that if there is no God, and matter/energy is all there is, then we can't trust our senses) is bullshit.

Thank you for helping me achieve this goal.

Cheers!
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Offline Azdgari

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Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
« Reply #30 on: August 29, 2013, 03:04:21 PM »
Not to mention that that argument, like so many with its general structure, assumes that things would be any better with a deity added to the equation.  On what basis does it assume this?  Faith?
The highest moral human authority is copied by our Gandhi neurons through observation.

Offline median

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Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
« Reply #31 on: August 29, 2013, 06:08:59 PM »
Not to mention that that argument, like so many with its general structure, assumes that things would be any better with a deity added to the equation.  On what basis does it assume this?  Faith?

Maybe. But most the apologists I've heard would attempt to argue that without "God", as the ultimate standard and one who 'sustains' the universe (and his creation) there is no foundation for trusting the senses. "Without God we just can't trust that our senses are actually going to get us through this life" etc, etc. "It is only WITH God that we have a foundation for trusting that our sense are reliable b/c God is the creator and sustainer of those senses/cognitive apparatuses."
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan

Offline Boots

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Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
« Reply #32 on: August 29, 2013, 09:07:01 PM »
And how would those apologist reply to "and how do we know we're 'with god'--what sensory input can we use to determine that, and how can we trust it?"
* Religion: institutionalized superstition, period.

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Online Graybeard

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Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
« Reply #33 on: August 30, 2013, 09:21:43 AM »
If you are only made up of matter/energy, why do you trust your senses as generally accurate (if you do)?

The answer would seem to be, "Because those are all we have." It is not possible to gain any experience without the senses. We therefore are constrained and this becomes our real reality.

It would not matter if, in truth, the universe were completely different from the way we perceive it -> we have been successful so far based upon how our senses tell us it is.

we have been successful so far based upon how our senses tell us it is.

According to our senses. :P

But - and this is the clincher for me - our measures and understanding of success ALSO come via our senses.
<snip>

Serious opinion time:
Everything comes via our senses, which is why arguments like median's are pointless. While it is true that trusting our senses is circular logic[1], it's pointless to think if we can or can't trust our senses, since we'll be using our senses to judge that point.
 1. We can trust our senses because, according to our senses, we can.

I think we are in agreement... ; )
RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable. Ambrose Bierce

Offline median

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Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
« Reply #34 on: August 30, 2013, 11:19:59 AM »
And how would those apologist reply to "and how do we know we're 'with god'--what sensory input can we use to determine that, and how can we trust it?"

In short, "Because the bible tells me so!" LOL
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan

Offline One Above All

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Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
« Reply #35 on: August 30, 2013, 11:23:03 AM »
I think we are in agreement... ; )

I'm glad.
The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
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Online ParkingPlaces

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Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
« Reply #36 on: August 30, 2013, 01:05:45 PM »
I thought of something else. I trust my senses because the feedback I get seems tolerably useful.

I was washing some dishes in the sink last night and knew that included in the stuff under the soapy were two sharp knives. Because I trust my senses I had no trouble reaching into the water and pulling stuff out to wash, including the knives. If I couldn't trust my senses, putting my hands in that water would have scared me silly.

So essentially, I guess senses are generally practical, as long a person understands that they can easily be fooled under some circumstances, and allow for that.

If senses are practical, I can trust them. It doesn't matter if they don't represent reality with any exactness, so long as I don't end up getting cut. If I can avoid trauma simply because I can sense enough info to avoid it, I'm fine with that.
Not everyone is entitled to their own opinion. They're all entitled to mine though.

Online jaimehlers

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Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
« Reply #37 on: August 30, 2013, 01:43:25 PM »
Serious opinion time:
Everything comes via our senses, which is why arguments like median's are pointless. While it is true that trusting our senses is circular logic[1], it's pointless to think if we can or can't trust our senses, since we'll be using our senses to judge that point.
 1. We can trust our senses because, according to our senses, we can.
A better way to put it is that we may not be able to absolutely trust our senses (they have sharply-curtailed limits, and there are situations where the information we get from them is incorrect), but there is nothing else we can use to gather real information about the actual world besides the senses.  Logic and doctrine don't fly for gathering info, the best we can hope for is to to reach conclusions that can be validated by gathering info.

In short, we don't trust our senses so much as we trust our experience using those senses.

Offline Mooby

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Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
« Reply #38 on: September 02, 2013, 07:06:24 PM »
Any consistency at all shows that our senses are receiving input that is non-random.  Whatever reality is confining input to a non-random pattern, that is what our senses are "mapping" to.  We could be brains in vats receiving virtual-reality programming.  In which case, that's the reality our senses are mapping to.
I disagree with this for 2 reasons:

  • We don't know that we're mapping to anything at all, and even if we are mapping to something, consistency of output does not indicate consistency of input.  Consider the graph of y=1: x could be anything from negative infinity to infinity and the output is still consistent.  Or consider the graph of y=sin(x): you could receive an input of x from 0 to ?, then from -5? to -4?, then from 100? to 101?, and it would look like you were receiving a continuous input when in reality the input is quite discontinuous.  For you to claim the pattern is non-random you have to know in advance that the input to output is 1:1, and we don't even know that the input exists.
  • Even if we assume a consistent external reality, that's not a great reason to trust our senses.  In your virtual reality example, the vats could be designed such that the things we sense as positive in the virtual world are actually causing damage to the brain in the real world, and the things we sense as negative in the virtual world are actually making our brains more healthy.

Quote
That's not really what I was getting at to begin with though.  I was questioning whether our models of reality in our minds - obtained and formed with or without sensory input - can have anything to do with reality, other than as predictive models.
Our brain's entire job is to model reality, so I don't know to what degree we could say that our model of reality is realism.  Even if our senses are accurately mapping, what we see as red isn't seen as red by creatures who see in black and white, or by creatures who can see more colors than us (birds.)  We can analyze electromagnetic wave frequency but that's not how we model it, and it's not even entirely certain whether your model of "red" is the same as my model of "red." 

Rather, someone held up an object they modeled as red and said, "Hey Azdgari, model this.  Now call that model red.  Now Mooby, model this.  Now call that model red."  And now we are able to talk about "red" as it applies to our own individual models, but what exactly does that mean?



First, I don't even know what not trusting my senses (generally speaking) would even look like. So as far as that is concerned I really have no choice but to trust them generally speaking.
I see what you did there.  But really, not being able to imagine the consequences is a type of appeal to consequences, in this case unimaginable ones.  Also, whether or not you feel like you have an alternative to trusting your senses does not make them any more or less trustworthy.  Personally, I'm inclined to have less trust when I'm coerced into doing things, and I don't see why that should change with what you're implying is the biggest coercion of all.



It is also a huge appeal to ignorance. By what measure do we show our senses as unreliable except by other sensory imput? So to distrust them as completely unreliable would be to base our decision on something WE HAVE NO INFORMATION ON.
I'm not advocating we distrust our senses as unreliable.  I'm saying we have no reason to trust them.  My position on this is completely neutral, which is what one would expect when they have no information in either direction.  Trusting senses as reliable due to lack of information would be an appeal to ignorance, as would distrusting them due to the same lack of information.

These answers are great. I love it! My point in this exercise was NOT to argue that we can't trust the senses. On the contrary, I just wanted to point out (and have everyone chime in) that this argument from Christians (that if there is no God, and matter/energy is all there is, then we can't trust our senses) is bullshit.

Thank you for helping me achieve this goal.

Cheers!
Those who advance it are usually basing it around the evolutionary argument against naturalism[1], which is a related argument but isn't quite the same thing.
 1. Though I find this argument interesting I am not a proponent of it.
"I'm doing science and I'm still alive."--J.C.

Offline Boots

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Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
« Reply #39 on: September 02, 2013, 09:23:53 PM »
  • Even if we assume a consistent external reality, that's not a great reason to trust our senses.

Do you have an alternative to suggest?
* Religion: institutionalized superstition, period.

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Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
« Reply #40 on: September 03, 2013, 04:32:43 AM »
I'm not advocating we distrust our senses as unreliable.  I'm saying we have no reason to trust them.  My position on this is completely neutral, which is what one would expect when they have no information in either direction.  Trusting senses as reliable due to lack of information would be an appeal to ignorance, as would distrusting them due to the same lack of information.

Trouble is, for that to be the case you have to entirely discount all sensory input - and I've never met a single person who genuinely keeps that open mind in practice.  As a philosophical position in a comfy armchair, sure - but once the argument stops, everyone trusts that what they sense is what is actually going on, and responds accordingly.  It has to be an all or nothing deal, and for most of us it is.  We type our messages to this forum, rather than thinking them hard at the screen, for instance.

That said, I can see exactly what you mean, and I have a lot of sympathy with it.  But in practical terms, it all falls apart.

Take for example that I perceive I that I "cut" my "hand" with a "knife".  Now....that may be an acurate depiction of reality.  It may be that - in reality - the Vl'hurg scientist has stimulated part of my brain in its jar to feel that kind of pain.  It may be that my soul has been bitten by the insubstatial Hounds of Tindalos.  Or it may be that the universe is out of balance, and as the caretaker it has informed me of that and requries me to rebalance the universe by applying a bandage.

Reality could be all those things.  But I know that if I slash what I perceive to be a sharp knife across my hand, I will feel pain, and see a wound, and bleed. 

Similarly with every other aspect of my life: if I feel "hunger", I know that "eating food" will remove the sensation.  I watch films.  I read books.  I know that boarding what I perceive to be an aircraft will result in my soon perceiving myself to be in a foreign country.  Everything I perceive, and every way I react, leads to consistent and predictable results, so for all practical purposes, what I experience is what "really is".

I understand that for the severely mentally ill, what they perceive is not what really is (at least so far as us disinterested observers would hold it to be), so we have precedent that senses do not necessarily correctly interpret reality.  Yet even then, their view is internally consistent, as they see it.  They experience better days if they count to 100 in 4s when they awake, so even then they can "rely" on their senses.

I think that's the bottom line for me.  Reality could be anything at all.  But when I ignore my senses and try to act as if reality were different to the world they present to me, it doesn't work.

Reality COULD be entirely different to what we perceive.  But as I've said before - if we have no way of detecting that "real" reality, and if everything we experience supports (and impacts on us) as if the sensory perceived reality is real……does it matter?

And perhaps more importantly, given there is apparently no way we can detect or determine this "real" reality anyway…..what makes us decide to question our senses in the first place?
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
Why is it so hard for believers to answer a direct question?

Offline median

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Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
« Reply #41 on: September 05, 2013, 02:06:59 PM »
First, I don't even know what not trusting my senses (generally speaking) would even look like. So as far as that is concerned I really have no choice but to trust them generally speaking.
I see what you did there.  But really, not being able to imagine the consequences is a type of appeal to consequences, in this case unimaginable ones.  Also, whether or not you feel like you have an alternative to trusting your senses does not make them any more or less trustworthy.  Personally, I'm inclined to have less trust when I'm coerced into doing things, and I don't see why that should change with what you're implying is the biggest coercion of all.
information.

My argument is not an appeal to a consequence. It is the lack of knowledge of one (aka - no other foreseeable option). An appeal to consequences is a fallacy from emotion etc, where one appeals to desirable or undesirable results as a basis for arguing whether or not a given proposition is true or false, but I haven't done that at all. So it's a false charge. I haven't stated that we should trust our sense due to some desired consequence.

Regarding the second statement, can you please clarify this a bit more. I'm not confident that I follow what you are trying to convey.

Those who advance it [the OP argument] are usually basing it around the evolutionary argument against naturalism[1], which is a related argument but isn't quite the same thing.
 1. Though I find this argument interesting I am not a proponent of it.

I used to use Plantinga's argument a lot years ago, although I look at it much differently now and no longer find it that convincing.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan

Offline Boots

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Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
« Reply #42 on: September 06, 2013, 07:28:33 AM »
Quote from: Mooby
Personally, I'm inclined to have less trust when I'm coerced into doing things, and I don't see why that should change with what you're implying is the biggest coercion of all.

Mooby, here you seem to be implying that you don't trust your senses.  If that is the case, can you explain how you function in day-to-day life?  What is my alternative to trusting my senses (to the extent I've learned they're trustworthy)?
* Religion: institutionalized superstition, period.

"Many of my ultra-conservative Republican friends...have trouble accepting the idea God is not a Republican. " ~OldChurchGuy

"We humans may never figure out the truth, but I prefer trying to find it over pretending we know it."  ~ParkingPlaces