Home » Sye Ten Bruggencate and Kimmy’s Knowledge

Sye Ten Bruggencate and Kimmy’s Knowledge

Sye Ten Bruggencate finally ventures into actual science and explores how his bible-based theories hold up in reality (This, of course, is fiction). In this scenario, Sye, with his special mind-reading powers, queries a one-year-old girl named Kimmy who is coming to epistemic terms with her environment.
Sye watches Kimmy one morning as she eats the breakfast Mama has prepared. Kimmy is learning about gravity, much to the dismay of her mother, by constantly pushing her bowl of oatmeal off the edge of her tray. Sye, with his mind-reading powers (Sye enjoys informing others of what he “knows” they actually think), assesses Kimmy’s thoughts.
Kimmy: Hmmm. My bowl has crashed to the floor the last 3 times I’ve pushed it off my tray. I starting to think it will crash to the floor if I push it off my tray again.
Sye: That may be true, but you don’t know that it will.
Kimmy pushes the bowl off her tray again, and once again it hits the floor.
Kimmy: I am even more certain now that, every time I push my bowl off my tray, it will fall to the floor.
Sye: The problem is you can never know this without borrowing from my worldview.
Kimmy pushes her bowl of oatmeal off her tray 5 more times as her mother wearily cleans up the messes.
Kimmy: Now I know that unsupported objects fall towards the floor.
Sye: Could you be wrong about that?
Kimmy: Yes.
Sye: Then you don’t know.
Mama: She just dumped her oatmeal onto the floor 9 times, and you’re claiming she does not know what would happen were she to push her bowl off her tray again? Are you serious?
Sye: Kimmy is borrowing from my worldview. She has to ground her knowledge in presuppositions such as her necessary absolute belief in logic that are only true if my god is true.
Mama: Give me a break. Are you claiming my child must unconditionally adopt logic before she can know anything? Why can’t Kimmy, assuming she can even process the notion of logic, provisionally adopt logic, then have her high degree of confidence contingent upon the continued success of that logic?
Sye: Because that does not match my script…I mean, because, if you can be wrong, you can’t know anything.
Kimmy: I know that a bowl of oatmeal pushed off a tray will hit the floor.
Sye: No you don’t know, Kimmy. You’ve already admitted you could be wrong.
Kimmy: Well, I’ve only tried it 9 times, so, yeah, I could be wrong.
Sye: So you don’t know.
Kimmy: How many times do I need to see my bowl hit the floor before I can know it will hit the floor if pushed off my tray?
Sye: Until you can say you can not be wrong.
Mama: Absurd. We’re talking about the inductive process here. By definition, when examining the world inductively, you can never have absolute certainty since the actual number of trials can never equal the number of possible trials.
Sye: I know that.
Mama: Then what are you saying?
Sye: Kimmy must ground her induction in a presupposition.
Mama: Why?
Sye: Because, if you don’t start with a presupposition to ground your induction, you can never be certain you are correct.
Mama: Of course we can never be absolutely certain. Are you telling me that all this time you’ve been telling Kimmy she does not “know”, you are actually departing from the conventional meaning of “know”, and instead mean she does not “absolutely know”?
Sye: That’s right.
Mama: Then shame on you for consciously equivocating between “knowing” as it is conventionally understood and your humanly impossible definition of knowledge.
Sye: How is absolute knowledge impossible?
Mama: You’re human, right?
Sye: Right…
Mama: Then things outside your immediate perception you process subjectively just like the rest of us.
Sye: So?
Mama: You already understand that your physical senses are fallible. Your physical senses and any other senses through which you could possibly derive truth are mechanisms that must be assessed by some mechanism for absolute reliability before you can say any “knowledge” derived through such senses are infallible or “absolute”. And that mechanism must itself be first assessed for absolute reliability by another mechanism. And that mechanism by another mechanism, ad infinitum.
Sye: Well, my god gives me absolute knowledge.
Mama: You can assert that all you’d like. The fact remains, you have to explain how you have assessed the mechanisms through which you’ve arrived at your “absolute” knowledge for their “absolute” reliability. If you fail to do this, your claim is mere fluff.
Sye: See! You used the word “fact”! You yourself claim absolute knowledge!
Mama: Are you kidding? Not even a scientist claims that a fact is “absolutely” known. Once again, you’re dishonestly equivocating between my conventional use of words and your incoherent “absolute” knowledge. You don’t have absolute knowledge.
Sye: Do you absolutely know that?
Mama: I’ve explained how absolute knowledge outside immediate perception of a human is logically incoherent. If you’d like to either explain how you are not logically incoherent, be my guest.
Sye: So you don’t absolutely know I’m wrong, right?
At this point, a smile comes over Sye’s face as he realizes he’s clearly won the argument.
Mama: Ok, yes, I may be wrong.
Sye: Then you don’t actually know I’m wrong just as Kimmy does not know that the next time she pushes her bowl off her tray, it will fall to the floor.
Kimmy: So if Mama could be wrong, that makes you right?
Sye: Out of the mouth of babes….
Mama forcibly removes Sye from her home in clear rebellion against Sye’s god. Sye gives glory to his god for granting him the unassailable arguments he has masterfully employed yet again.

7 Comments

  1. Hello:

    Mama said “Absurd. We’re talking about the inductive process here. By definition, when examining the world inductively, you can never have absolute certainty since the actual number of trials can never equal the number of possible trials.”

    Absolute means a value or principle that is regarded as universally valid or that may be viewed without relation to other things. Why is it the case that General Relativity or Newtonian Universal Gravitation aren’t universally valid when it is know with 100% certainty that reality is Gauge Invariant?

    Many Thanks

    • Robert, you can not have legitimate absolute certainty about anything since you are a fallible human. Both your senses and your cognition are less than infallible. You can not escape this subjective condition, and you therefore can never attain a rational epistemic certainty about anything.

      Your suggestion that “absolute” means what is socially “regarded as universally valid” is clearly wrong since societies have been wrong about innumerable things in the past such as the ether and phlogiston.

      So, contrary to your statement, you can not have a rational 100% certainty about anything as long as you remain a non-omniscient subjective being.

  2. Hi Phil; nice to meet you. Thanks for allowing me to post a comment question on your blog and for accepting my facebook following request. It is my avowed position that people deserve respect, but ideas must earn respect, so in no sense is my disagreement with you indicative of any sort of slight or dispersion against you. I use a citation and response dialog style in blog or forum interactions; with your permission I will attempt to clarify my position. Following Randian Objectivism’s metaphysical observations and epistemic principles takes me on a philosophical trajectory far from modern philosophical skepticism. These sorts of discussions revolve about definitions showcased in deconstructing statements. It will take me a bit of time to compose an essay; please indulge me with a bit of time to do the work. It will take me a couple of days to compose, check, and proof a piece.

    Many Thanks and Best Wishes.

    • Good Morning Phil. In the mean time between now and when I complete a response, the reader, if so inclined, may find Dawson Bethrick’s recent blog “On the Validity of the Senses” of interest to the question of whether sapient self-aware organisms can have 100% certainty due to either perception or conceptual integration. ~ Best Wishes

      http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2013/04/on-validity-of-senses.html

      • Robert, as this is a public blog targeting the average reader, please refrain from encasing your arguments within deep philosophical jargon or layers of philosophical history. If you are simply restating someone else’s arguments, distill them into a comprehensible form that clearly exhibits the logical structure. Thanks.

  3. Hello Phil.Thank you for interacting with me on your blog. Here is my response to your comment.

    Phil wrote: ” Robert, you can not have legitimate absolute certainty about anything since you are a fallible human. Both your senses and your cognition are less than infallible. You can not escape this subjective condition, and you therefore can never attain a rational epistemic certainty about anything.”

    I think all three sentences encode false assumptions. Google dictionary records standard lexical definitions. By Google dictionary, the meaning of ‘absolute’ used in philosophy which I specified is found at

    https://www.google.com/search?q=absolute+definition&oq=absolute+def&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l5.8194j0j8&sourceid=chrome&espv=210&es_sm=122&ie=UTF-8

    and means > a value or principle that is regarded as universally valid or that may be viewed without relation to other things.

    There are universal principles, many of them. Knowledge is hierarchal; we stand upon the shoulders of giants. We know reality is gauge invariant because all of classical and quantum and relativity are derivable from Noether’s theorem as explained by Victor Stenger in “Comprehensible Cosmos” and “Fallacy of Fine Tuning”. Gauge invariance means the way existence self-relates is the same for any observer regardless of where or when she is.

    The common lexical meanings of legitimate are:

    1. according to law; lawful: the property’s legitimate owner.
    2. in accordance with established rules, principles, or standards.
    3. born in wedlock or of legally married parents: legitimate children.
    4. in accordance with the laws of reasoning; logically inferable; logical: a legitimate conclusion.
    5. resting on or ruling by the principle of hereditary right: a legitimate sovereign.

    I think you meant to use ‘legitimate’ in sense four. If so, then you ‘re mistaken. There are universal principles that follow from the laws of reasoning as Emmy Noether showed . Victor Stenger stated:

    “In 1916, an obscure German mathematician named Emmy Noether proved one of the most important theorems in the history of physics. She showed that for every differentiable symmetry there exists a conservation law. This is known as Noether’s theorem.”

    Stenger, Victor J. (2011-05-19). Fallacy of Fine-Tuning, The: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us (Kindle Locations 962-964). Prometheus Books. Kindle Edition.

    The Conservation Laws are universal. They apply throughout all our cosmic domain. This is known Noether’s Theorem extended to physics.

    You’re claim that I’m a fallible human is true, but that in no way dismisses the fact that our senses are axiomatically valid. To argue otherwise, as you do, is to commit a stolen concept fallacy. Here’s what Dr. Leonard Peikoff wrote as cited by Dawson Bethrick on his blog at

    http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2013/04/on-validity-of-senses.html

    **More to the point, we do not have to prove the validity of the senses. Peikoff explains why (Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, p. 39…):

    “The validity of the senses is an axiom. Like the fact of consciousness, the axiom is outside the province of proof because it is precondition of any proof. Proof consists in reducing an idea back to the data provided by the senses. These data themselves, the foundation of all subsequent knowledge, precede any process of inference. They are the primaries of cognition, the unchallengeable, the self-evident.”

    Thus, to answer D.A.N.’s question, any attempt to prove the validity of the senses by means of a deductive argument would itself have to assume their validity, and in this sense such an argument could be said to be circular. But the broader take-away here is the fact that since the validity of the senses is axiomatic, no one needs to prove that the senses are valid in the first place. **

    This is not a complex issue. Although Man’s senses are not capable of providing comprehensive awareness of all aspects of entities in reality, they are capable enough for perception, and that’s all that’s necessary for us to directly know reality is real and the sensed entity is really there because human senses are physical and respond to physical stimuli.

    If you’ve interest in learning how Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism start with Leonard Peikoff’s “Objectivism the Philosophy of Ayn Rand”

    http://www.amazon.com/Objectivism-Philosophy-Ayn-Rand-Library-ebook/dp/B002OSXDB4/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1396034095&sr=1-1&keywords=objectivism+the+philosophy+of+ayn+rand

    and Ayn Rand’s “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology”

    http://www.amazon.com/Introduction-Objectivist-Epistemology-Expanded-Second-ebook/dp/B002OSXD8C/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1396034156&sr=1-1&keywords=Introduction+to+Objectivist+Epistemology

    To observe how Objectivism answers and refutes mystics such as Sye Ted Bruggencate, start with Dawson Bethrick’s Incinerating Presuppositionalism Blog.

    http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2010/08/critique-of-sye-ten-bruggencates.html
    http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2013/08/stb-three-years-and-counting.html
    http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2013/07/sye-ten-bruggencate-vs-absolute-laws-of.html

    How Objectivism handles induction, again Dawson has the goods.

    http://katholon.com/Induction.htm

    Here’s a link, if you so desire, to the public domain pdf of Objectivist author David Kelly’s book “Evidence of the Senses” providing a comprehensive defense of realism and refutation of idealism and skepticism. We can know, at least some things, with 100% certainty.

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6Uib8vbFDOCY3N2S2cwWWVsUjQ/edit?usp=sharing

    Best Wishes and Regards to You and Your Family.

    Robert Bumbalough

    • Robert, you are attempting to impose the dictionary definitions of “absolute” on a context in which “absolute” has been already clearly stipulated. Sye Ten Bruggencate asks “Could you be wrong about everything you know?”. We are not starting in a contextual vacuum. The context is clear, and the context stipulates how we are to use “absolute” if we are to make any progress in this dialog. There are other dictionary definitions of “absolute” that do not match the context of this discussion. They are irrelevant. To invoke dictionary definitions of “absolute” when the context is clear is analogous to suggesting that those claiming to be “gay” on a dating site are perhaps just happy and not homosexual.

      Now let’s deal with the quote from Peikoff.

      “The validity of the senses is an axiom. Like the fact of consciousness, the axiom is outside the province of proof because it is precondition of any proof. Proof consists in reducing an idea back to the data provided by the senses. These data themselves, the foundation of all subsequent knowledge, precede any process of inference. They are the primaries of cognition, the unchallengeable, the self-evident.”

      If Peikoff means the “reliability” of the senses is an axiom when he says “validity”, he is wrong as demonstrated empirically. Our senses can be rendered unreliable by chemicals or mental lesions or deterioration. This is uncontroversial.

      If Peikoff means, as he states, “the validity of the senses is an axiom” is a precondition of “proof”, then he is correct in the notion, but wrong that there can be epistemic “proofs” that warrant 100% confidence. We do not assess the world in a deductive realm in which logical proof can operate. Humans are limited to an inductive world of fallible senses and incomplete data sets of regularly occurring phenomena. To confuse the deductive realm with the inductive realm is a fundamental blunder. Deduction is only a tool consisting of unsubstantiated forms that require instantiation by human observation. Epistemically, induction is logically prior to deduction for humans in the same way mathematical formula tell us nothing about the world until instantiated by actual entities.

      In conclusion, Peikoff is wrong. While an omniscient being could employ deduction in its epistemic activities, humans, with their demonstrably fallible senses and reasoning can not. Humans are confined to a epistemic universe of induction in which deduction is merely a tool wholly dependent on instantiations by inductive processes.

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