Re: The Meaning of Life

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Sun, 25 Feb 2007 12:10:14 +1100

On 2/24/07, Tom Caylor <> wrote:

> On Feb 23, 8:51 pm, "Stathis Papaioannou" <> wrote:
> > On 2/24/07, Tom Caylor < > wrote:
> >
> > > I agree that positivists don't like metaphysics, and they actually
> > > don't believe in it either. The problem with this is that science is
> > > ultimately based on (and is inescapably in the context of) some kind
> > > of metaphysics, since it is in the context of the universe as a whole.
> >
> > > There are some ways of sorting out metaphysics. In fact these
> > > criteria are mostly the same as how we sort out science (since, again,
> > > science is based on metaphysics). These are such things as
> > > fundamentality, generality and beauty. However, the fact that science
> > > conventionally has been limited to the "material" (whatever that
> > > means!) implies that the criteria of naturality (a viscious circle
> > > actually!) and reproducibility (another vicious circle) that we have
> > > in science cannot be applied to the universe as a whole or to
> > > metaphysics.
> >
> > > [Side note: But even more important is to recognize that metaphysics,
> > > as well as science, is filtered for us: we are part of the universe
> > > and we are limited. So this filters out almost everything. This
> > > limits more than anything the amount of "sense" we can make out of
> > > Everything.]
> >
> > > However the criterion that you are trying to enforce, that of all
> > > things having a cause even in the context of Everything and Everyone,
> > > is a positivist criteria, treating metaphysics as science. It assumes
> > > that Everything has to be part of this closed system of cause and
> > > effect. There are plenty of criteria to sort out Everything (as I've
> > > mentioned above) without getting into the positivist viscious circle.
> >
> > The universe is not under any obligation to reveal itself to us. All we
> can
> > do is stumble around blindly gathering what data we can and make a best
> > guess as to what's going on.
> This is a metaphysical judgment. There are those who strongly
> disagree on rational grounds.

One of the problems with the verification principle of logical positivism
was that it, itself, cannot be verified by the verification principle, and
hence is subject to the charge of being part of the hated metaphysics (and,
I suppose, if it could be verified it would be subject to the charge that it
was a circular argument). But I would get around the problem by stating the
principles by which science works thus: IF you want to predict the weather,
build planes that fly, make sick people better THEN you should do such and
such. By putting it in this conditional form there is no metaphysical

> Science is just a systematisation of this
> > process, with guesses taking the form of models and theories.
> So science is a just systematisation of a metaphysical judgment. I
> agree.
> > However, it's
> > all tentative, and the scientific method itself is tentative: tomorrow
> pigs
> > might sprout wings and fly, even though this has never happened before.
> I
> > would bet that pigs will still be land-bound tomorrow, because there is
> no
> > reason to think otherwise, but I have to stop short of absolute
> certainty. A
> > metaphysical position would be that flying pigs are an absurdity or an
> > anathema and therefore pigs absolutely *cannot* fly. But it is arrogant
> as
> > well as wrong to create absolute certainty, absolute meaning, or
> absolute
> > anything else by fiat, just because that's what you fancy. If there are
> some
> > things we can't know with certainty or can't know at all, that may be
> > unfortunate, but it's the way the world is.
> >
> > Stathis Papaioannou
> Looking over my previous post, I cannot see why you are bringing up
> absolute certainty. Also I don't know what "absolute meaning" means,
> unless it means knowing meaning with absolute certainty in which case
> I don't hold that view.

Sorry if I have misunderstood, and if I have been unclear or tangential.
Several posts back you spoke of positivism being deficient because "a closed
system which is supposedly totally explainable will always have at least one
fixed point that is unexplainable". I read into this an implication that God
would solve the problem because he could be outside the system, indeed
outside all possible systems. But this runs into two problems. The first is
that positivists are in fact very modest and make no claim to explain
everything; the very opposite, in fact. The second is that the concept of an
entity outside all possible systems, and therefore requiring no cause,
design, meaning or any of the other things allegedly necessary for the
universe and its components constitutes a restatement of the ontological
argument for the existence of God, an argument that is 900 years old and has
been rejected as invalid even by most theists.

Stathis Papaioannou

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Received on Sat Feb 24 2007 - 20:10:20 PST

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