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Main Discussion Zone => Science => Topic started by: median on August 28, 2013, 02:38:35 PM

Title: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: median on August 28, 2013, 02:38:35 PM
This is really a philosophical question regarding Epistemology. Many Christians (and other religious people) claim that if men/women are only made up of matter and energy (controlled by the laws of physics) then there is no reason to trust our senses (cognitive faculties) to accurately assist us in obtaining truths about reality - roughly (as their reasoning sometimes goes) because random atoms bumping into one another (in our brains) cannot be trusted to accurately portray what is true to us.

The late Scottish philosopher David Hume actually dealt with this problem in his paper An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding. (http://18th.eserver.org/hume-enquiry.html)However, I'd like to get your thoughts before discussing Hume's answer.

If you are only made up of matter/energy, why do you trust your senses as generally accurate (if you do)?




Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Dante on August 28, 2013, 02:54:00 PM

If you are only made up of matter/energy, why do you trust your senses as generally accurate (if you do)?

Because they've been consistent, and have yet to be proven untrustworthy. Unlike godbelief.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: median on August 28, 2013, 03:17:38 PM
Some apologists might reply that your answer is circular b/c you are relying upon your senses to in order to state why you trust them. In other words, if we say we trust our senses because they have been reliable in the past we are begging the question being asked.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/induction-problem/ (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/induction-problem/)


"Our knowledge of such contingent truths could only be grounded in our experience.  But the principle of the uniformity of nature isn’t something that we can just “see” to be true.  As a result, it appears that we could only have inductive evidence to support it.  So it seems that the only way we could justify anything like the inductive principle is through induction.  [That is, inductive reasoning works because it’s always worked.]  But this just seems “flagrantly circular.” (Hume, p. 198; Salmon, p. 233)" [1]
 1. http://faculty.unlv.edu/beisecker/Courses/Phi-101/Induction.htm
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Boots on August 28, 2013, 03:23:05 PM
Because there is no other way for us to interact with our environment?  If we do not trust our senses, we would be too afraid to walk, open our eyes, eat/drink, etc...
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: median on August 28, 2013, 03:26:04 PM
Because there is no other way for us to interact with our environment?  If we do not trust our senses, we would be too afraid to walk, open our eyes, eat/drink, etc...

This is a generally good answer indeed (at least according to me) and it is similar in form to the one Hume gives (we have to live in this world) - although there have been many philosophical attempts to answer "Hum's Problem of Induction" since then.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Mooby on August 28, 2013, 04:05:45 PM
Because there is no other way for us to interact with our environment?  If we do not trust our senses, we would be too afraid to walk, open our eyes, eat/drink, etc...

This is a generally good answer indeed (at least according to me) and it is similar in form to the one Hume gives (we have to live in this world) - although there have been many philosophical attempts to answer "Hum's Problem of Induction" since then.
It cannot be considered a logically good answer, though, because it is:
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Boots on August 28, 2013, 04:41:44 PM
Because there is no other way for us to interact with our environment?  If we do not trust our senses, we would be too afraid to walk, open our eyes, eat/drink, etc...

This is a generally good answer indeed (at least according to me) and it is similar in form to the one Hume gives (we have to live in this world) - although there have been many philosophical attempts to answer "Hum's Problem of Induction" since then.
It cannot be considered a logically good answer, though, because it is:
  • Appeal to consequences (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_consequences) - We must trust our senses because not doing so leads to undesirable consequences (fear of walking, fear of opening eyes, fear of eating/drinking, not interacting with environment)
  • Begging the question (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question) - One must assume the conclusion (our senses are trustworthy) is true to determine the premise is valid (that there exists an environment to interact with; that we can walk, open our eyes, eat/drink)

I don't quite agree with 2.  You can test your premise ("can I trust my sense?"), at least to a certain extent.

but I feel, Mooby--and this is NOT a dig on you, but on the arguments you present--that it's a bunch of philosophical hooey.  If we don't trust our senses, we might as well commit suicide.  Each of us is experiencing something.  Starting from a postulate that "we sense stuff" and going from there seems reasonable.

in fact, this is an example of one of my problems with religion!  Not sure I can explain it correctly in the limited time we have...

it's language.

I believe that the development of language is the one and only thing that truly sets us apart from non-thinking animals.  we don't have a soul, but we can describe something as intangible and amorphous (and imaginary) as a soul.  All it takes is the ability to assign labels to abstract concepts, and there you have it--higher thought.  Bears and dogs don't wonder whether they can trust their senses--they just DO.  The arguments given simply lend credence to my opinion that humans are outsmarting evolution (to our detriment)
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Mooby on August 28, 2013, 05:16:25 PM
I don't quite agree with 2.  You can test your premise ("can I trust my sense?"), at least to a certain extent.
How does one do that?

Quote
but I feel, Mooby--and this is NOT a dig on you, but on the arguments you present--that it's a bunch of philosophical hooey.  If we don't trust our senses, we might as well commit suicide.
Again, this is an appeal to consequences.

Quote
Each of us is experiencing something.
Considering the subject matter of this thread, I cannot agree that this is self-evident.  Do you have anything to back up this claim?

Quote
Starting from a postulate that "we sense stuff" and going from there seems reasonable.
If you're going to take the trusting of your senses as axiomatic, then you have no real justification for trusting your senses.

Quote
I believe that the development of language is the one and only thing that truly sets us apart from non-thinking animals.  we don't have a soul, but we can describe something as intangible and amorphous (and imaginary) as a soul.  All it takes is the ability to assign labels to abstract concepts, and there you have it--higher thought.  Bears and dogs don't wonder whether they can trust their senses--they just DO.  The arguments given simply lend credence to my opinion that humans are outsmarting evolution (to our detriment)
Bears and dogs don't trust their senses; they simply are operators of their senses.  And I think it's fairly self-evident that if senses exist, then those of us engaging in this discussion are operators of our senses too.  But the mere fact that you operate your senses is not evidence that your senses are reliable or trustworthy.

The distinction is important, because in not considering whether they can trust their senses bears and dogs do not consider the possibility that their senses can be wrong.  And a claim that we shouldn't consider it either might be reasonable (if not logically rigorous) if our senses told us our senses are reliable.  However, observations made with our senses tell us that our senses are not always reliable (http://www.cracked.com/article_20391_5-mind-blowing-ways-your-senses-lie-to-you-every-day.html) and that our memories of our senses are not reliable (http://www.cracked.com/article_18704_5-mind-blowing-ways-your-memory-plays-tricks-you.html).

Now that you've had your fill of Cracked articles, consider the little old lady in the nursing home looking for a crossing guard to help her cross the street, or the person knitting an invisible rug who will yell at you for accidentally stepping on it.  These people are also operating based on their senses, but your senses tell you that their senses are untrustworthy.  Of course, this requires your senses to be infallible, which you're taking as axiomatic... but so are they.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Boots on August 28, 2013, 07:31:59 PM
I dunno Mooby...I do understand your arguments, and see the validity.  Here are my problems.

1) I'm not a student of philosophy, so I'm not equipped to counter these arguments.
2) I find these arguments to be useful in an academic sense, but useless in a real-world scenario.  I find no meaningful use in questioning whether I can trust my senses.  I cannot function if I don't trust my senses, at least to the extent to which I've learned they're trustworthy (I know, for example, that "hearing things" is a possibility, and the human brain fills in gaps with patterns even when there are no patterns).

so, I have no problem conceding that the philosophical argument is beyond my capability to counter, but I choose to ignore the question because I think it's not relevant.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Azdgari on August 28, 2013, 08:31:50 PM
Mooby, the question is incomplete, isn't it?  "Are our senses reliable or trustworthy"...at accomplishing what, exactly?

A known liar can be relied on, or trusted, to lie if it suits him.  In that sense, he is reliable and trustworthy.  It's all a matter of what he's being relied on or trusted to do.  What is the question, then?  Whether our senses reliably convey information about an objective reality?  Or something else?

The former may not be testable without circular reasoning, but the latter might be.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: ParkingPlaces on August 28, 2013, 08:39:18 PM
If you're talking about trusting our senses to give us absolutely accurate information about the various things sensed, no, we can't trust them. If you're talking at a practical level, they ordinarily seem quite competent when it comes to informing us about our surroundings. At least by our own standards.

For instance, color doesn't exist. At least as we experience it. Our brains take sensory information and make up shit. And we think we're seeing. And we are, to a certain extent, but not as well as we think. Yet it works most of the time. And as long as it works long enough for us to procreate and raise our young, then that's about all the better our senses really need to work. Everything else is a bonus.

And it doesn't even do much good to walk around aware that our senses are incomplete. We can see only a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, and would have much more information about the world if our senses could be broadened to include things like infrared. (Which of course we can do, artificially.) We hear a limited portion of the sounds in our environment. Our sense of smell is putrid (I'm proud of that one). Our sense of touch varies but is probably pretty accurate, overall, and our sense of taste is nice but probably reinterpreted by the brain in much the same way as light is. On top of that, our brain has to process the incoming data in such a way that it makes sense to us consciously. So those things we do sense are not always presented to us in things like chronological order, because our head can't handle it. If you clap your hands, you see it first, hear it second, feel it third, yet your brain tells you all three happened simultaneously. Which is cute, but not accurate enough to applaud.

So no, we shouldn't trust our senses. However, we have little choice. So we do. With caveats that not everyone is aware of.

Of course, when discussions like this start, we should also ask: Do we trust our philosophers? And why?  :)



Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Azdgari on August 28, 2013, 08:42:48 PM
... Which is cute, but not accurate enough to applaud. ...

I see what you did there.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Mooby on August 28, 2013, 10:02:49 PM
Mooby, the question is incomplete, isn't it?  "Are our senses reliable or trustworthy"...at accomplishing what, exactly?
The question, as posed in the OP, is actually:
"If you are only made up of matter/energy, why do you trust your senses as generally accurate (if you do)?"

I take "accurate" to reference how well our senses map to reality.  For instance, I see a green, circular table beside me; does this observation map to an objective object with a given set of attributes?  And if tomorrow I see a different green, circular table, will that observation map to a different objective object with a similar set of attributes?

Taking it a step further, does there exist an objective set of entities (reality) that our senses can map to?  Do our senses mapping to anything? (http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/a-dream-within-a-dream/)

I'm still not following where you're going with testing, though.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Azdgari on August 28, 2013, 10:25:09 PM
The question, as posed in the OP, is actually:
"If you are only made up of matter/energy, why do you trust your senses as generally accurate (if you do)?"

Yeah, but you were building on that question and I was addressing more what you'd said, rather than going back to what the OP had said.

I take "accurate" to reference how well our senses map to reality.  For instance, I see a green, circular table beside me; does this observation map to an objective object with a given set of attributes?  And if tomorrow I see a different green, circular table, will that observation map to a different objective object with a similar set of attributes?

Well, it's pretty easy to demonstrate that they map to a reality, just by their consistency, right?  Whether they map to the reality is untestable but, in practice, trivial.

Taking it a step further, does there exist an objective set of entities (reality) that our senses can map to?  Do our senses mapping to anything? (http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/a-dream-within-a-dream/)

I'm still not following where you're going with testing, though.

I wasn't going anywhere with the testing, really.  You've gone where I was going, anyway:  Is our whole idea of our brains mapping reality, an accurate one, even granting that our senses are sensing things about an objective reality?  Our brains create a predictive model - a complex theory, in effect - but what does that have to do with what is?  Isn't it just a model that soothes our intuitions about how reality responds to us?

I ask this not to pose an argument, but because I value your input on the matter.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: lotanddaughters on August 28, 2013, 11:12:18 PM
Many Christians (and other religious people) claim that if men/women are only made up of matter and energy (controlled by the laws of physics) then there is no reason to trust our senses (cognitive faculties) to accurately assist us in obtaining truths about reality - roughly (as their reasoning sometimes goes) because random atoms bumping into one another (in our brains) cannot be trusted to accurately portray what is true to us.
The more fully one is aware of his/her and others' sensory limitations(such as optical illusions) and psychological weaknesses(such as belief in Christ), the better one can properly distribute trust and distrust.

As for the random atoms? If they can't see how it is matter and energy, and they strongly feel that something deeper and special is a key ingredient, I'm willing to grant them that, as long as they are willing to accept that all animals have souls, because of the varying degrees of applied trust within the animal kingdom.

Because if humans were the most intelligent animals, and all of the other animals had equal intelligence, it would be one less argument against them. But, since we see varying intelligence not only between different species, but also different individuals, it takes the "specialness" factor right out of their stupid-ass argument, because the varying levels of intelligence appear to be randomly distributed.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Mooby on August 28, 2013, 11:15:58 PM
Yeah, but you were building on that question and I was addressing more what you'd said, rather than going back to what the OP had said.
It was actually Boots who asked if we could trust our senses.  My responses were based on my interpretation of that question.

Quote
Well, it's pretty easy to demonstrate that they map to a reality, just by their consistency, right?  Whether they map to the reality is untestable but, in practice, trivial.
How does consistency show they map to anything?  It could be the case that multiple things on our end map to one thing on the other end (similar to a function), or that everything maps to nothing (a dream within a dream), or that the mapping is only apparent.  Also, our senses tell us that our senses are not all that consistent anyways.

Quote
I wasn't going anywhere with the testing, really.  You've gone where I was going, anyway:  Is our whole idea of our brains mapping reality, an accurate one, even granting that our senses are sensing things about an objective reality?  Our brains create a predictive model - a complex theory, in effect - but what does that have to do with what is?  Isn't it just a model that soothes our intuitions about how reality responds to us?
Pretty much, assuming our brains exist.  In which case, why should we trust our senses?
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: lotanddaughters on August 28, 2013, 11:40:58 PM
Pretty much, assuming our brains exist.  In which case, why should we trust our senses?
Because they're all we've got, whether they exist in a dream within a dream or not.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Azdgari on August 29, 2013, 12:29:58 AM
How does consistency show they map to anything?  It could be the case that multiple things on our end map to one thing on the other end (similar to a function), or that everything maps to nothing (a dream within a dream), or that the mapping is only apparent.

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.

Also, our senses tell us that our senses are not all that consistent anyways.

Another branch of the topic, partly addressed below.

Quote
I wasn't going anywhere with the testing, really.  You've gone where I was going, anyway:  Is our whole idea of our brains mapping reality, an accurate one, even granting that our senses are sensing things about an objective reality?  Our brains create a predictive model - a complex theory, in effect - but what does that have to do with what is?  Isn't it just a model that soothes our intuitions about how reality responds to us?
Pretty much, assuming our brains exist.  In which case, why should we trust our senses?

Because they have a non-random consistency to them which demonstrates the existence of a reality that is the source of their input.  If that's a dream, then it's a pretty trustworthy dream, and that's our reality.  Etc.

I fail to see anything in what I said, and that you agreed with, that suggests we should not trust that our senses are sensing something real.

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.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: median on August 29, 2013, 01:05:37 AM
Because there is no other way for us to interact with our environment?  If we do not trust our senses, we would be too afraid to walk, open our eyes, eat/drink, etc...

This is a generally good answer indeed (at least according to me) and it is similar in form to the one Hume gives (we have to live in this world) - although there have been many philosophical attempts to answer "Hum's Problem of Induction" since then.
It cannot be considered a logically good answer, though, because it is:
  • Appeal to consequences (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_consequences) - We must trust our senses because not doing so leads to undesirable consequences (fear of walking, fear of opening eyes, fear of eating/drinking, not interacting with environment)
  • Begging the question (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question) - One must assume the conclusion (our senses are trustworthy) is true to determine the premise is valid (that there exists an environment to interact with; that we can walk, open our eyes, eat/drink)

Neither of these rebuttals actually deals with my response (nor Humes for that matter). 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. So it has nothing to do with an appeal to consequences. But second, even if it did that wouldn't necessarily make it any less valid. Similar to the often touted Appeal to Authority fallacy, there are in fact exceptions to that card being played - and this in fact may be one of them. Besides that, the statement wasn't an argument, or anywhere near it. So you are attacking a Strawman. Now THAT is a fallacy.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Anfauglir on August 29, 2013, 02:52:56 AM
If you are only made up of matter/energy, why do you trust your senses as generally accurate (if you do)?

I think my response would normally be: "as opposed to.....?"

Whatever reality actually is, sensory input appears to be the only way we can experience and acqure knowledge of it.  In the absence of another method of acquiring that knowledge, I will go with sensory input, which has so far presented a consistent picture of what I perceive to be reality.

Bottom line though, I don't care that much.  "Reality" could be anything - but I know that if I treat perceived reality as being correct, I can minimise pain and maximise happiness.  Does it REALLY hurt when an apparent hammer falls on my apparent foot?  Who knows?  What I DO know is that it apparently causes me significant pain....so I act as if what apparently happened is reality, and endeavour not to do it again.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Mrjason on August 29, 2013, 05:29:45 AM
If you are only made up of matter/energy, why do you trust your senses as generally accurate (if you do)?

Because my senses interpret the other matter/energy in a way that is meaningful for me.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Boots on August 29, 2013, 07:11:42 AM
If you are only made up of matter/energy, why do you trust your senses as generally accurate (if you do)?

Wait, wait...how is "only made up of matter/energy" relevant?  I think this question, as it's constructed, is a non sequitur.  (why *wouldn't* I trust my senses, whether I'm matter/energy, or not?)

did I phrase "non sequitur" correctly?  :-)
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Graybeard on August 29, 2013, 07:24:54 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.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Boots on August 29, 2013, 07:27:37 AM
Yeah, but you were building on that question and I was addressing more what you'd said, rather than going back to what the OP had said.
It was actually Boots who asked if we could trust our senses.  My responses were based on my interpretation of that question.

The OP asked if we could trust our senses, not me.  I was giving my answer.  :-)
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: One Above All on August 29, 2013, 07:27:57 AM
we have been successful so far based upon how our senses tell us it is.

According to our senses. :P
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Anfauglir on August 29, 2013, 07:49:51 AM
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.

By doing "A", we may be succeeding or failing in "reality" - but all the results we experience come via our senses from the reality we perceive.

Does it matter if you win or lose a game you not only didn't know you were playing, but will never know you ever played and you will never discern any effects of that game upon your life?  I'm sticking with "no".
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: One Above All on August 29, 2013, 07:53:08 AM
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.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Hatter23 on August 29, 2013, 07:57:00 AM
Because there is no other way for us to interact with our environment?  If we do not trust our senses, we would be too afraid to walk, open our eyes, eat/drink, etc...

This is a generally good answer indeed (at least according to me) and it is similar in form to the one Hume gives (we have to live in this world) - although there have been many philosophical attempts to answer "Hum's Problem of Induction" since then.
It cannot be considered a logically good answer, though, because it is:
  • Appeal to consequences (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_consequences) - We must trust our senses because not doing so leads to undesirable consequences (fear of walking, fear of opening eyes, fear of eating/drinking, not interacting with environment)
  • Begging the question (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question) - One must assume the conclusion (our senses are trustworthy) is true to determine the premise is valid (that there exists an environment to interact with; that we can walk, open our eyes, eat/drink)

Neither of these rebuttals actually deals with my response (nor Humes for that matter). 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. So it has nothing to do with an appeal to consequences. But second, even if it did that wouldn't necessarily make it any less valid. Similar to the often touted Appeal to Authority fallacy, there are in fact exceptions to that card being played - and this in fact may be one of them. Besides that, the statement wasn't an argument, or anywhere near it. So you are attacking a Strawman. Now THAT is a fallacy.

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.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: jaimehlers on August 29, 2013, 08:39:41 AM
What else do we trust, if not our senses?
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: median 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!
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Azdgari 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?
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: median 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."
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Boots 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?"
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Graybeard 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... ; )
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: median 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
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: One Above All on August 30, 2013, 11:23:03 AM
I think we are in agreement... ; )

I'm glad.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: ParkingPlaces 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.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: jaimehlers 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.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Mooby 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:


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? (http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/health/some-women-may-see-100-million-colors-thanks-to-their-genes-450179/)



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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Boots 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?
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Anfauglir 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?
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: median 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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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.
Title: Re: Why Do You Trust Your Senses?
Post by: Boots 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)?