Re: virus:Other Reality

Bill Godby (
Thu, 09 May 1996 11:02:18 -0400

John, you must read Hume's Treatise. Hume argues convincingly regarding
causation that although we are able to see action and reaction, seemingly
cause and effect, we never actually witness anything other than a
relationship of ideas. There is nothing that you see when one billiard ball
collides with another (his famous example) that tells you that the other
must move. But by the fact that it does you infer that it will again and
again. This is the foundation of fundamental human knowledge of the world,
it is inference, there is nothing seen other than the relationship of one
thing to another. Hume, who spends a great deal of time on belief, points
that our beliefs are formulated in this very same way, none-the-less we rely
upon them out of necessity of survival. Consider this definition: belief is
a state of mind in which confidence, trust, faith is placed in a person,
idea, or thing (Dictionary of Philosophy).
At 10:43 PM 5/8/96 -0500, John A wrote:
>David McFadzean wrote:
>> Some things are inferred, not from direct observation, but from their
>> effects. Mendel wrote about genes 50 years before anyone tied them to DNA
>> sequences. Perhaps the same is true for memes. We spend a lot of time
>> about them as if they exist, but no-one knows what they "really" are on a
>> physical level. Do memes exist?
>Something related to this was discussed on the "definition of belief"
>thread. I don't remember exactly who expressed what views, but I
>remember quite a problem with the true existance of belief. Someone said
>something to the effect that "If one believes in x, then one acts as
>though x is true". This was questioned with "What if belief in x
>necesitates no observable action?" This can be rephrased for our current
>discussion; what if the existance of x leaves no observable evidence of
>it's existance?

How in the world do you speak of the existence of something that doesn't
apparently exist? Isn't existence scientifically defined by observation? It
interesting that you say this since it demonstrates the problem with
inference and knowledge. Once it was thought that all Geese were white
because all Geese ever seen were white, however when Australia was
discovered so were black Geese, demonstrating that yes we have a problem
with inference. We don't know that x doesn't exist because we haven't seen
it, but I agree with Hume that this scepticism isn't very useful regarding
action, rather our actions must be guided by what we know today, not
precluding that tomorrow it may change. The scepticism is useful in
recognizing the character of human knowledge.

Bill Godby