Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Dec 12, 2013

Yet Another Example of Bad Epistemology

I ran across this post today on Futility Closet and I just had to laugh, because the solution, which this UCLA professor claims he can't come up with, is so simple: have you ever encountered a fictional work that *created* a self-aware character?  No?  Then on what basis can you make the claim that you, a self-aware person, MIGHT be a fictional character in somebody else's work?

This is what bad epistemology will do to a person.  One little out-of-context bit of nonsense and they're thrown into total confusion, unable to grasp how any knowledge is arrived at or verified.  If it really were impossible to distinguish fiction from reality, we'd have no such concept as "fiction".  The two are clearly different.  Fictional characters don't do boring, pointless shit.  Their lives are full of action and adventure.  They don't have to wait in line at the DMV or do their taxes (or if they do, something interesting happens).  Does your life skip instantly from one moment of interest to the next with no boring bits or pointless detours or wasted time?  No?  Well, then.

This simple verification should convince anyone, but here's the bit of epistemology that throws many for a further loop: people have free will.  They are not automatons operated by arguments (or mystical authors), so they have the ability to still say "I'm not convinced" and claim that this demonstration, while brief, is somehow "insufficient".  That doesn't mean it is, merely that they've chosen to reject it on the basis of . . . nothing.

This is a form of reversal of the burden of proof.  Nobody is required to prove to you that reality exists or that it "really is" this or that.  If you posit that reality is an illusion, it's up to you to prove that it IS, not up to anyone else to prove that it is NOT.  I can sit here and spin nonsense all day but not one random utterance implies that someone has the responsibility to demonstrate that the moon ISN'T a magical egg laid by the Sun Goddess.  Reality is self-demonstrating.

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