Sunday, January 9, 2011

On practical decision-making once again

While I concede that I may not, in fact, know anything at all -- and that my senses cannot be used to validate themselves -- beyond this initial concession of potential ignorance, I will still pragmatically make decisions as though they are the best -- even in the absence of absolute evidence in my favor, or a way of absolutely verifying the integrity of my actions. For example, I can claim that my senses appear to indicate that there is no god, or that suffering is valuable, without knowing these things for certain, because, by living, I appear to be continuously acting, and my senses give me "leads" of potential validity. You can claim that my lack of certainty precludes my justifying any action -- and that, consequently, all actions are equally invalid, capable of being chosen at random based on no metric of value whatsoever -- but do you really practice this? Of course not, as it's impossible to be sentient while doing so, unless schizophrenic, psychopathic, et al.

Let's use a less abstract, practical example, instead of god or suffering: A plane in the midst of crashing is headed right for where you're standing. You may not know for certain that the plane will crash into you and kill you, but that does not make the idea that you will survive, or that the plane doesn't actually exist, somehow equally as justifiable as the idea that it's best to move out of the way. It's okay to concede that you don't really know whether it's best to get out of the way while still getting out of the way, and no one would really do otherwise outside of some useless, abstract world of irrelevant philosophizing. For as long as you live, there is no such thing as "not choosing." Further, while it's certainly possible that standing still and getting out of the way are equally valid in this scenario, no one would ever act at random upon realizing this, making it completely irrelevant to our lives.

The opposite approach -- certainty of belief -- is a fundamental cause of human conflict, for it promotes static systems, and denies the process of scientific refinement, or the prospect of being in error. It doesn't matter whether the generalization-borne conflict in question is the Holocaust, an argument between you and your girlfriend, or someone rolling their eyes at a creationist for "not knowing what they're talking about"; it's the same exact error in every instance.

Furthermore, the idea that nothing is justifiable is itself something implicitly justified by the senses, and is thus a statement of absolute certainty lacking in any kind of solid basis whatsoever. When asked how they know that no action can ultimately be justified, proponents of this view will simply respond, "Because they don't appear justifiable." In what way is appearance ever justifiable, other than as a potential lead? How do you know that nothing can be known, and if you can't know this, then why should our senses and absolutely nothing be put on equal grounds? Finally, how do all actions not appear justifiable? From what are we deriving this conclusion? Plenty of actions appear perfectly justifiable to me, given variable constraints, problem scope, etc.; if you disagree, then this is where some form of scientific consensus via repetition and peer review comes into play.

The realm of sensory data and and its interpretors may be limiting, but we are enslaved by it, whether we like it or not.

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