Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A treatise on brute facts

Two years ago I wrote a post geared towards a refutation of the existence of brute facts and what this entailed for naturalism. Since this time I have engaged in many discussions with naturalists regarding this very topic, and as a result of those discussions I have (slightly) altered and polished my argument. And because of this I have, for a while now, wanted to write up another, more systematic, post which attempted to demonstrate the impossibility of brute facts. So, here goes.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines a brute fact as synonymous with an unexplainable fact. [1] In the same vein, Wikipedia states, "a brute fact is a fact that has no explanation. More narrowly, brute facts may instead be defined as those facts which cannot be explained (as opposed to simply having no explanation). " Right away we see that we can distinguish between two types of brute facts--those in practice (extrinsic), and those in principle (intrinsic). An extrinsic brute fact is a fact that we currently do not have an explanation for. An example of this would be the origin of life. We believe that the fact of life's origination has an explanation, we simply do not know currently what that explanation is. On the other hand, an intrinsic brute fact is a fact that has no explanation, at all, in principle. Considering an intrinsic brute fact, it's not that we don't know the explanation for X, but that X doesn't have an explanation to be known in the first place.

Now, nobody disputes the existence of extrinsic brute facts; we all agree that there are things we don't know. The point of contention, and our domain of focus in our discussion of brute facts, is whether or not intrinsic brute facts actually exist or whether they are even possible. This is what is to be considered presently.

What should be noteworthy at this point is the notion of a brute fact is defined in terms of explanation. And, as we'll see below, the concept of explanation, and what it entails, is crucial in determining whether or not brute facts are possible. So, what constitutes an explanation? Well, the problem with defining this term is that an explanation can be given in many different domains and contexts. Take these different cases of explanations: the teacher explains the lesson; Susan explains what she meant; the nail explains why the tire is flat; the nonzero net force explains the change in velocity; the premises explain the conclusion etc. Notice that in each of these cases the presence of something--e.g. someone doing the explaining, an object, a force, an abstract concept or proposition--is the reason for, and clarifies, that which, in the absence of that something, would be unclear--the lesson, the meaning, the flat tire, the change in velocity, the conclusion.

The important concepts just utilized are reasons and intelligibility. When some fact is explained, there is a reason, account, or justification--which can be grounded in many things, from an object to an abstract proposition, as we saw above--which imparts some form of clarity and intelligibility to the thing that was heretofore unclear. Therefore, I maintain that the proper definition of "explanation" that should be utilized is "a reason whereby something is rendered intelligible." [2]

Now, from this definition is entailed a crucial inference: something being explained is not the same thing as something actually having an explanation. The former is an action, dependent on minds doing the explaining, while the latter is not. Return to a couple of my examples above--namely, the teacher explaining the lesson, and the premises explaining the conclusion. The teacher explaining the lesson is an example of something actually being explained, and we could call this a case of explanation in practice (extrinsic). The premises explaining the conclusion is an example of something, the conclusion, having an explanation while not necessarily being explained to anyone currently, and we could call this a case of explanation in principle (intrinsic). (Note at this point that there is an identical differentiation here between the different types of explanation and brute facts.)

Not only are intrinsic explanations not equivalent to extrinsic explanations, but the latter actually presuppose the former. Intrinsic explanations are a necessary condition for extrinsic explanations. That is to say, in order for one to be able to explain something, there has to be an objective explanation available in the first place. It is incoherent to claim that something was explained that had no explanation. The teacher cannot give reasons that render a lesson intelligible if the lesson doesn't have a reason for its intelligibility. This is important because many of my interlocutors have claimed that explanation should only be focused on explanation in practice, yet this is nonsense, since, to reiterate my point, explanation in practice presupposes harboring an explanation in principle.

Another concept that is embedded in the notion of explanation is that of intelligibility, and just like explanation and brute facts, it comes in practice and in principle. For something to actually be made intelligible in practice means that someone has actually comprehended it. For something to be intelligible in principle means that it's possible that it could be comprehended, even if it never actually is. For example, the mechanism of gravity was unintelligible in practice for many decades, even though it was always intelligible in principle--that is, there always was an account for the mechanism of gravity. And once again, just like explanation, intelligibility in principle is a necessary condition for intelligibility in practice. For in order for someone to comprehend X, it is a necessity that its possible that X be comprehended in the first place.

Now, since we're currently interested in intrinsic brute facts, and not extrinsic brute facts, this entails that we are likewise interested in the nature of intrinsic explanation and intrinsic intelligibility, and not extrinsic explanation and extrinsic intelligibility. For since we're attempting to determine whether facts can be unexplainable in principle, we need to examine the nature of explanation in principle and see if this is something that can be done away with whilst a fact remains intelligible in itself. We will not go the way of the PSR and merely dogmatically assert that all things must have an explanation, rather we need only delve deeper into the nature of explanation and infer its entailments.

To begin, let us consider an example, similar to the example I utilized in my original post, of explanation in principle. In physics acceleration represents the rate of change of velocity with respect to time. Now, if we are curious as to the explanation of acceleration in principle, we can find this in the concept of velocity, since acceleration is literally defined in terms of velocity. And if we go further and ask for the explanation of velocity, we find this in the concept of the rate of change of position. Therefore, acceleration is explained by velocity which is in turn explained by position. What this means is that acceleration is granted intelligibility by the concept of velocity, which is granted intelligibility by position, so on and so forth.

This entails something very important: acceleration is ultimately explained by position. In the specific explanatory chain that we are considering, all the concepts that lead up to position are only ultimately imparted their intelligibility by position itself. If position is dropped, then so are all the subsequent concepts--if position is rendered unintelligible, then so is acceleration.

All of this entails something else that's even more important: explanatory chains are essentially ordered series. An essentially ordered series is a series wherein each member derives whatever efficacy it has from higher members--unless it is the highest member--such that if a member is lost, all the lower members will also be lost. This obviously fits like a glove with the example of position and acceleration above.

In any event, the notion that should be highlighted here when speaking of essentially ordered series is that of derivation or of "being imparted". That is, when A explains B, this means, per our definitions, that B is rendered or imparted intelligibility by A, that B would be unintelligible were it not for A. To return to our example, acceleration would be unintelligible were it not for velocity and thus acceleration derives its intelligibility from velocity. But, again, this is the case for any subsequent members of an explanatory chain with regards to a specific member. That is to say, if A explains B which explains C which explains D, then D ultimately derives its intelligibility from A, and only proximately derives its intelligibility from B and C.

What this likewise entails is that if A does not impart intelligibility to B, then B does not impart any to C, and likewise for D. And this is where consideration of brute facts come in. For where would a brute fact fit in such a chain of explanation? Surely it cannot be the highest member of an explanatory chain, because since a brute fact has no explanation then, by definition, it has no reason whereby it is rendered intelligible, and thus it would be unintelligible. But a reason needs to be intelligible itself if it is to render something else intelligible. (Again, consider acceleration and velocity, the latter has to be intelligible if it is to impart any intelligibility to acceleration.) Therefore, A being intelligible is a necessary condition for A to be an explanation for any B. Logically, this means that if A is unintelligible then it cannot be an explanation for any subsequent fact B. Thus, a brute fact cannot be the first member in an explanatory chain, for it would not explain anything while being itself unexplained. [3]

However, while a brute fact might not be the highest member in an explanatory chain, is it possible that it be a member somewhere in the middle? That is, can we have a chain A, B, C, D...wherein C is a brute fact? I don't see how, since, to reiterate the above point, C would not be able to explain D, and C could not be subsequent to B since B would then have to explain C--otherwise C wouldn't be in the chain to begin with--which would contradict our original premise for the nature of C--namely, its having no explanation. What we see, then, is that there is no place in an explanatory chain for a brute fact,  and if there is no place in an explanatory chain for a brute fact then it would seem that brute facts are impossible.

In addition to dispelling the notion of brute facts participating in the nature of explanation, we can add another argument--call it the argument from intelligibility. The argument can be formulated as follows: If a member F of an explanatory chain M is intelligible, then no members antecedent to F in M can be brute facts. Why can we deduce this? Well, if F is intelligible then it has a reason whereby it is rendered intelligible--otherwise it wouldn't be part of an explanatory chain, since it wouldn't have an explanation. And since intelligibility is imparted down through the members of  explanatory chains, we can say that for F to be intelligible, every member of M must also be intelligible--otherwise intelligibility is not imparted at some point in the chain. But if every member is intelligible, then every member must have a reason whereby it is rendered intelligible--again, otherwise it wouldn't have an explanation. And this means that every member does in fact have an explanation and cannot be a brute fact. Based on this line of argumentation, we can reach an interesting conclusion: if a fact is intelligible, then it cannot in any sense be linked to a brute fact, and thus we cannot posit a brute fact from anything that exists.

Now, attentive readers may have noticed something that it seems I have forgotten: namely, that there can be multiple explanations for something, and that these multiple explanations can form multiple explanatory chains that are interconnected, and thus, it would seem, my account of explanation and explanatory chains is too simplistic. I do agree that something can have multiple explanations and that there can be multiple interconnected explanatory chains that stretch across different domains. However, I maintain there is nothing about multiple explanatory chains that changes the nature of an explanatory chain in itself--and thus there is nothing that calls my conclusions into question.

To illustrate this, consider a case of combustion, perhaps a candle that is lit. What is the explanation for this lit candle? Well, we can think of a couple. One explanation is the fact that somebody actually lit the candle, from. Another explanation is an oxidizing agent and a chemical reaction. These are both genuine explanations since they are both reasons wherein the lit candle is rendered intelligible. And here we also have two explanatory chains that converge on a single state of affairs. So, we have a situation where one explanatory chain (...A, B, C) converges with another chain (...X, Y, C) at the fact of C--the lit candle.

The question that should be considered presently is whether or not the existence of C changes the nature of explanation considered above. It's difficult to see how it would change everything we've considered, since we still have something (C) which derives its intelligibility from antecedent members, such that, in the absence of such members, it would be rendered unintelligible. The only "new" notions that need be introduced are partial intelligibility and partial explanations. For if C is missing one explanation, out of two, then it is only partially intelligible, and thus the explanation it has is only a partial explanation. But notice that none of this changes the nature of explanation itself. It is still the case that in order for C to be intelligible in any sense, it needs to have at least one reason whereby it derives its intelligibility--even if this is only a partial intelligibility. And, more importantly, the fact that C derives its intelligibility from something else means it has to, at least, be a member of an essentially ordered explanatory series, which means that all our conclusions from above still hold true.

To substantiate this even further, consider the question at the forefront of this post: can a brute fact be part of a convergence of multiple explanatory chains? This doesn't seem possible since, again, a brute fact cannot have an explanation, by definition, and therefore it cannot have antecedent explanatory members. That is to say, a brute fact cannot be reliant upon another fact for its intelligibility, much less multiple facts. Furthermore, based on our intelligibility argument above, what we can also say is that if C is intelligible, then, even if it is part of multiple interwoven explanatory chains, we can safely say that none of the antecedent members in these chains contains a brute fact.

In summarization we've concluded many things. First, because of the nature of explanation itself, as well as essentially ordered explanatory series, brute facts are simply impossible. There is, logically, nowhere they can fit in chains of explanation, and a chain of explanation is the only place they would go if they were possible, since brute facts are defined in terms of explanation. Second, because of the nature of explanatory chains, if a fact or state of affairs is intelligible, then it follows that it cannot be associated with a brute fact. Third, no matter how interconnected and interwoven multiple explanatory chains are, they still retain their nature as essentially ordered series and our notion of explanation--with which the whole post is founded on--and our conclusions regarding the impossibility of brute facts remain intact.
[1] See the article on the Principle of Sufficient Reason
[2] Let it be noted that this is one of the most crucial points in my argument. For everything from here on out follows from, and is entailed by, this definition.
[3] Note that neither can a brute fact be the lowest member in an explanatory chain, since in order to be the lowest member, some member would come before it and this member would have to explain it, which would contradict the definition of a brute fact. Yet I don't think anybody would entertain this idea since usually a brute fact is seen to occur at the beginning of a long line of explanations, and not at the end.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A review of Sean Carroll's The Big Picture: Part III

Let us continue our review of physicist Sean Carroll's book The Big Picture. In this installment of the review I will be focusing mostly on the section of the book labeled Essence, however, let it be noted that I will also be surveying material from other sections as they seem to fit with many of the topics under discussion presently -- also some material from this section in the book will be held-over and reviewed in the subsequent installment -- mostly that which deals with the philosophy of mind.

In this section of the book Carroll delves into how he believes the world works according to Core Theory and quantum mechanics. He uses these determinations as a springboard into discussing why the universe exists, and how God fits into this picture, or doesn't, as well as the discussion regarding whether there is a soul, and whether or not life will continue after death.

Abducting or deducting God?
Carroll begins to consider worldviews that would oppose his "poetic naturalism" -- one such worldview being that of theism. And what happens when we are confronted with two opposing ontologies that are situated on the same domain? Well, for Carroll it's the method of Bayesian reasoning and abductive logic all the way:
[F]or purposes of this discussion let's imagine that the prior credences for theism and atheism are about equal. Then all the heavy lifting will be done by the likelihoods -- how well the two ideas do in accounting for the world we actually see. (p. 146)
So Carroll's plan is to look at the world and attempt to determine which ontology provides the best explanation for what we see, or don't see. We see evil in the world, then that scores points for atheism. We see consciousness in the world, chalk up a point for theism. Etc.

This might seem a good way to go about inferring which worldview is most reasonable to assume, but I maintain that's it's completely wrongheaded in this instance. First, as I mentioned in one of the previous reviews, abductive (Bayesian) reasoning is not the only kind of reasoning, and more importantly it's not the best kind of reasoning that should be utilized in this discussion. In everyday life and scientific reasoning, abduction is your best friend. If you're a scientist and you find that the liquid in a test tube has changed color, you use inference to the best explanation, plain and simple. But if you're attempting to determine whether the square root of two is a rational or an irrational number, abduction is the wrong tool to use -- you need deduction.

So, why then, should we use deduction when determining whether theism or atheism is true, and not pure abduction, as Carroll would have us do? Well, it comes down to who has the burden of proof: the theist. The theist is saying that there is in fact some positive reality that exists, and it is their burden to prove this. And how do they usually go about attempting to prove it? Through (mostly)logical deduction -- at least that's how the classical theists did it before Paley. [1] Thus, when weighing theism vs atheism, one needs to take the arguments that are being given by theists, which are deductive in nature, and determine whether they hold any merit. Appealing purely to abduction won't do any good, just like appealing to abduction to argue that the square root of two is rational will not be entertained by any mathematician. Contrary to Carroll, the heavy lifting is not done by likelihoods, but by deduction.

The point is that if theistic deductions are valid and sound then no amount of abductive inference will call this into question. And thus what needs to be determined is precisely the matter of if theistic deductions are indeed valid and sound or not -- which, again, is a job of deductive inference.

The more important point is that there are simply some beliefs that are so fundamental and metaphysical that a pragmatic method simply cannot comment on. Like it or not, abduction won't solve the realism/skepticism debate. It won't solve the free will/determinism debate. And it certainly will not solve the theism/atheism debate. Carroll wants to use a screwdriver for every job, when some jobs require a sledgehammer.

Whence the universe?
Carroll commits a whole chapter to exploring the question of why the universe exists, and why there is something rather than nothing. He begins by contemplating the answer of a necessary being in that of God but quickly casts it aside:
Poetic naturalists don't like to talk about necessities when it comes to the universe. They prefer to lay all the options out on the table, then try to figure out what our credences should be in each of them. (p. 196)
First, it's irrelevant that poetic naturalists like Carroll "don't like" to talk about necessities when it comes to the universe. The relevant question is whether talk of necessity is appropriate when it comes to questions of fundamental metaphysics -- of which existential questions like "why is there something rather than nothing?" are a subset -- and surely it is. So, the fact that Carroll is allergic to necessity/contingency talk is not sufficient to cast that talk aside as if it were irrelevant -- and neither has Carroll given any warrant for doing so.

Second, and more importantly, the question being dealt with here is, again, of a significant metaphysical stature, and I don't see that abduction is the right tool to use here. When asking why there is something rather than nothing, what's really being asked is why existence should ontologically precede a complete lack of existence, and this is a deeply metaphysical question in nature, which most likely will have to yield to some type of existential necessity or brute fact -- if you believe in such nonsense. And the fact of the matter is that delving into the nature of existence is commonly a deductive, and not an abductive, endeavor. Thus, the poetic naturalist way of going about answering this detective story is already wrong-headed to begin with.

Nevertheless, let's see the blueprints that Carroll lays out to proceed in answering this question:
Let's start with the relatively straightforward, science-oriented question: could the universe exist all by itself, or does it need something to bring it into existence? [...] All we want to know is "Is the existence of the universe compatible with unbroken laws of nature, or do we need to look beyond those laws in order to account for it?" (p. 196-197)
These are very relevant and important questions to our current inquiry. Carroll attempts to answer these questions by turning to science to settle the debate regarding whether or not the universe had a beginning -- his answer eventually terminating in a modest "we don't know."

The problem here, though, again stems from the fact that Carroll is ignorant to the fact that these are simply not the questions that science can answer in the first place -- "these" questions being the original questions he posed. For even if we could mathematically describe our universe as self-sustaining or existing by itself, this wouldn't actually make any progress in answering the existential question. For science only describes the behavior of that which already naturally exists, and it cannot tell you why the universe behaves in that way in the first place, or why it behaves this way as opposed to another way. To put it in a different vein, in order to have a behavior to describe you first need something which exists and does the behaving, and this means that existence is ontologically prior to behavior. Therefore, no description of behavior (which is all that science is) is sufficient to explain the existence of what does the behaving, and thus, science cannot in principle answer the question of why there is something rather than nothing. Sorry Carroll.

What this also entails, once again, is that Carroll is looking for an answer to the existential question utilizing the wrong tools. Since science cannot aid us in determining why something exists rather than nothing then it is irrelevant, to say the least, when it comes to this particular question -- sorry Lawrence Krauss.

However, Carroll is prepared (or so he thinks) to take on this line of thought:
For questions like this, however, the scientific answer doesn't always satisfy everyone. "Okay," they might say, "we understand that there can be a physical theory that describes a self-contained universe, without any external agent bringing it about or sustaining it. But that doesn't explain why it actually does exist. For that, we have to look outside science." (p. 201)
Yes, this is exactly what I would say. Let's see how Carroll is going to set me straight:
Sometimes this angle of attack appeals to fundamental metaphysical principles, which are purportedly more foundational even than the laws of physics, and cannot be sensibly denied. In particular, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Parmenides put forward the famous maxim ex nihilo, nihil fit -- "out of nothing, nothing comes." [...] According to this line of thought, it doesn't matter if physicists can cook up self-contained theories in which the cosmos has a first moment of time; those theories must necessarily be incomplete since they violate this cherished principle.
 This is perhaps the most egregious example of begging the question in the history of the universe. We are asking whether the universe could come into existence without anything causing it. The response is "No, because nothing comes into existence without being caused." How do we know that? It can't be because we have never seen it happen; the universe is different from the various things inside the universe that we have actually experienced in our lives. And it can't be because we can't imagine it happening or because it's impossible to construct sensible models in which it happens, since both the imagining and the construction of models have manifestly happened.  (p. 201-202)
Alright, there's a lot to unpack here. First, notice that Carroll has actually side-stepped the original point that he was claiming to address -- namely, that talk of scientific models doesn't actually address the question of why something exists in the first place. (Note that he does later on say that we may never know why the universe exists, and that its existence might simply be a brute fact. You know what my response is.)

Second, to appeal to fundamental metaphysical principles to call scientific models into question, or to highlight their incompleteness, is not to beg the question. For these principles are seen, by those promulgating them, as necessary conditions of reality; that is, they're seen as conditions that hold in any possible world and are the things that even make science possible in the first place. Thus, to claim that a scientific model cannot overthrow them is not to beg the question. It would beg the question if the individual promulgating said principles had no justification for their necessity. But this would have to be demonstrated by the likes of Carroll, which, to give him credit, he does attempt to do, which brings me to my next, and third, point.

Carroll asks a good question: how does one know that metaphysical principles like the law of causality are immutable? The answer is that we know this because those very propositions are formed through relations of concepts that we abstract from reality, which, as we saw in the last post, we must have objective knowledge of -- on pain of contradiction. Another way to put it is that our knowledge is dictated by reality, and not the other way around, and thus the reason why we know that principles like the law of causality are immutable is because these principles are themselves grounded in the objective nature of reality. [2]

Fourth, it is actually Carroll who begs the question here, though he does it so well that it's hard to catch. To revisit my first point above, he claims that to address the fact that scientific models don't answer the "Why?" of existence, individuals sometimes resort to metaphysical principles. But how does he argue against these principles? By appealing to the very physical models of the universe he already utilized and was questioned on! That is to say, based off of Carroll's argumentation, we could construct the following conversation:

Carroll: We can easily construct physical models of the universe which are self-sustaining.

Me: But those models are purely descriptive and incomplete, and don't answer why something exists in the first place.

Carroll: Where are we to look for this "Why?"

Me: To metaphysical principles like "that which is moved from potency to act is moved by that which is already actual."

Carroll: But this principle is false, since we have already constructed physical models which are self-sustaining.

Round and round we go. Hopefully the attentive reader notices that Carroll would simply keep begging the question regarding his self-sustaining physical models.

Furthermore, the more crucial point is that since science is only quantitatively based, it does not, in its equations, capture notions of causality -- something Carroll has articulated multiple times in the book. Therefore, even though we might be able to construct a model of reality that is self-sustaining, and self-contained, as far as physics is concerned, this does not actually equate to forming a model of the universe that is not contingent upon, and not caused by, anything else. Thus, Carroll's self-sustained models are actually completely irrelevant to the current discussion.

Carroll then briefly returns to the notion of God as an answer to the existential question:
Theists think they have a better answer: God exists, and the reason why the universe exists in this particular way is because that's how God wanted it to be. Naturalists tend to find this unpersuasive: Why does God exist? But there's an answer to that, or at least an attempted one, which we already alluded to at the beginning of this chapter. The universe, according to this line of reasoning, is contingent; it didn't have to exist, and it could have been otherwise, so its existence demands an explanation. But God is a necessary being; there is no optionality about his existence, so no further explanation is required. 
Except that God isn't a necessary being, because there are no such things as necessary beings. All sorts of versions of reality are possible, some of which have entities one would reasonably identify with God, and some of which don't. We can't short-circuit the difficult task of figuring out what kind of universe we live in by relying on a priori principles. (p. 203)
Again, there's a lot to unpack here. First, I want to focus on Carroll's comments on God as a necessary being, for he's only begging the question here. He literally gives absolutely no justification or substantiation for the claim that no necessary beings exist. He hasn't even come close to attempting to do the philosophical leg-work that would warrant him in making such an audacious claim.

Second, the only semblance of an argument Carroll does give in favor of God not being a necessary being is that of the fact that we can conceive of other possible worlds where there no such God. But again, Carroll hasn't done the leg-work to demonstrate this. For if we arrive at a logical deduction of what God is, as classical theists claim we can, then by "God" we literally mean "that whose essence is to exist," which means that by definition God cannot not exist. But this entails that there actually is no world of which we can conceive where God does not exist [3], and thus Carroll is wrong.

Third, Carroll actually refutes himself here when dismissing talk of a priori principles. Remember that Carroll is big on empiricism, and believes that the only way we can have genuine knowledge is to actually look at reality -- thus, a priori philosophy is moot in his eyes. However, Carroll's point in his latter paragraph is predicated on "all sorts of versions of reality" being ontologically possible -- that is, he's employing the notion of modal logic, an a priori endeavor. How does Carroll know that reality enjoys various ontological "possibilities"? He might say, "because of the fact we can imagine them" -- he seems to say as much on page 203. But that immediately commits one to the idea that possibility is grounded in the imagination; yet how would Carroll ground that idea? That is, why does Carroll believe that our imagination is capable of telling us anything true about the nature of reality? The point here that I'm trying to make is that any answers to these questions will necessarily be founded on a priori principles, the very thing Carroll is allergic to and vehemently opposes, as we saw last review. But, were he to give his beliefs a little more thought, he'd see that he ends up falling on his own sword, as it were.

In any event, Carroll conjures up no answer to the existential question of why the universe exists in the first place; though he should not be faulted for this. What he is to be faulted for is his sloppy logic utilized to throw opposing answers, like that of theism, under the bus. And thus it doesn't seem like his poetic naturalism is properly justified.

[1] Don't get me wrong. I know that many theists have attempted to persuade individuals that God exists by telling them to look at the stars, or the beauty that we perceive in the world etc., and this no doubt is done in the vein of abduction. But this is usually not done to satisfy one's burden of proof, at least in the sense of what we mean by "proof".

[2]Carroll also visits this idea earlier in his book on page 116 wherein he claims that "[beliefs] aren't (try as we may) founded on unimpeachable principles that can't be questioned." But this is false. If you push back on the justifications for propositions of knowledge further and further, you will arrive at a foundation of first principles that are axiomatic and, contrary to Carroll, cannot be questioned.

[3] Note that to imagine is not to conceive, in that I can conceive of something without imagining it and vice versa. Carroll constantly conflates the two throughout his book.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Where have I been?

My posting has been sparse as of late, to say the least, and this is due to a multitude of reasons. First, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks ago, and my wife has been taking it pretty hard, as would be expected. The good news is that her prognosis is extremely favorable, and most likely in a few weeks she'll be completely cancer free. The Lord is good, in his own analogous way.

Second, my wife and I have been doing some major landscaping to our house. We decided to install sod in our 2000 square foot backyard by ourselves, or should I say by myself. Anyway, the job was extremely stressful because our backyard soil needed to be tilled and sifted because of all the rock and debris due to the fact that we live by the mountains -- this is all incredibly fascinating, I know. And the sod had a deadline of when it was to be shipped so I needed to have it ready by that deadline -- no pressure. Oh yeah, and did I mention I was working in the 105 degree heat, to prepare said soil?Yay El Paso! But, the sod was delivered and installed this past week, and I'm freaking glad that's done with.

Third, I was barely informed a few weeks ago that I will also be teaching physics this upcoming year, which I was stoked about. However, that means that I have to prepare lessons, and labs, before school starts -- because I'm a good teacher, dammit.

Anyway, there's been plenty on my plate as of late, but I promise that I will start blogging more. In fact, I have the next installment of my review of Carroll's book coming out in just a few days, so stay tuned.