View Poll Results: Do humans have an inherent capacity to decide that a conclusion follows necessarily from premises?

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Thread: Do humans have an inherent capacity to decide that a conclusion follows necessarily from premises?

  1. Top | #51
    Contributor Speakpigeon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon View Post

    So a child that doesn't develop a language because he has nobody to talk to him has no inherent linguistic capacity? Then nobody has any linguistic capacity and then how come we all speak some language? You think you don't have an inherent linguistic capacity?
    EB
    You said earlier:
    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon

    We can be incapacitated. It's actually not true that humans have two legs and one nose because some people miss those. Do the British people speak English? Well, no, because not when they're in deep sleep or in drunken stupor. We cannot vote in elections since many people literally can't decide who to vote for.

    Please understand "inherent" to signify that it is in our nature. We have two legs because of our nature but some will be missing one or two because of the imponderables of life.

    I guess whatever capacity we have as individual human beings is best explained by the fact that human beings have inherent capacities due to their nature. I wouldn't want to have to explain the fact that we can communicate with each other using sophisticated languages by leaving our DNA out of the picture.
    Indeed. But on the other hand, say, a capacity to swim is not part of our nature by that standard. Indeed, if a human lives in a mostly deserted area and never finds a body of water where she could swim, she will not learn how to swim, but very much unlike the human who lacks one or two legs, there is no malfunctioning in the person that does not know how to swim.
    In fact, historically one can find entire communities of humans who cannot swim, with no malfunctioning at all. Of course, the same cannot be said about legs.
    I disagree. Like language and logic, and whatever else people do without even thinking about it, we know humans have an inherent capability from the fact that any human put in a situation where he is motivated to develop the relevant skill will develop this skill. Swimming is one such capability. Of course there's no one gene that controls that capability and maybe all these capabilities issue from a unique, more general one or from a small set of more general ones. But we still have these capabilities and they are entirely natural. The fact that we can teach people how to do it is irrelevant. People will develop the relevant skill whenever properly motivated, be it through teaching or through interaction with their environment. A guy in love will learn to swim on the spot (the idiot). It's not logically coherent to claim what we can do we can do it because we are taught. Who taught the teacher? Turtles all the way down? You think there has been a Prime Teacher, perhaps? And again, even for language, without interaction with an environment of other human beings, people don't speak. However, deaf and mute kids will develop on their own a language to communicate with each other (at least some have been observed doing it).
    EB

  2. Top | #52
    Contributor Speakpigeon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Still, that is a side issue. Even if it's not an inherent capacity, it may well be (and it's quite probable, I'd say) that there is only one human logic in colloquial languages - at least, for humans who happen to have that capacity, even if not inherently. This is why I think the question about an inherent capacity is not the right one for the intended task.
    Of course, it's the right question. The idea that logic is an inherent capacity explains very economically why we all seem to accept the validity of Aristotle's syllogisms or of the Modus Ponens. Well, tell me if you disagree with the validity of the Modus Ponens. And remember that whatever idea is proposed, you will usually find more than plenty of people to vehemently disagree with it. I found examples of thinkers, e.g. Descartes, criticising deductive logic on the ground that it would be useless. But I haven't found any disagreement with Aristotle's syllogistic (outside the remarkably myopic critique that it can't prove some inferences mathematical logic can prove).

    The point is in fact rather crucial. If logic is a capability of neuronal systems generally, as I think it is, then, as I often say, it's been made adequate to its object by 525 million years of natural selection. That's an enormously lot more than what mathematical logic could boast: a paltry 170 years of existence, virtually no selective pressure, as evidenced by the fact that there is a motley collection of purported logical methods without any criterion to tell which is correct. Also, it's been thought up by a small bunch of mathematicians, some of them brilliant, no doubt, but without them using the adequate scientific method to investigate. Tell Steve mathematical logic is pure metaphysics, he'll bite. So, the point is crucial. It's also crucial in that it implies that logic predates any formal language by millions of years. It also means that we can trust our logical intuitions (I do and it works) more than any formal method, as the case of mathematical logic abundantly demonstrates. The only limit to our logic seems to be complexity. Logic would work in principle even for very, very complex problems but it seems clear our brain is limited in the degree of complexity it can deal with, or at least this is what suggests the rather short list of logical laws people have been able to discover beginning with Aristotle. Which should motivate scientifically-minded people to search for a proper formal method, although I'm not sure our current computers would do much better in terms of the degree of complexity they would be able resolve in the event. It may well be the case that logic is really much, much more complex than mathematicians currently believe. But at least we should try and I believe it's a more urgent and useful quest than a lot of what science does at the moment. This is a disgrace that so many intellectuals spend their working hours buggering flies, as we colourfully say in French.
    EB

  3. Top | #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon
    I disagree. Like language and logic, and whatever else people do without even thinking about it, we know humans have an inherent capability from the fact that any human put in a situation where he is motivated to develop the relevant skill will develop this skill. Swimming is one such capability.
    Remember, you said earlier:

    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon
    (Inherent capacity: not dependent on formal or informa learning)
    Certainly, swimming is not an inherent capacity, because it does depend on formal or informal language. Is the capacity to ascertain whether a conclusion follows necessarily from premises one of those inherent capacities?
    I do not know, and I do not believe anyone does. Certainly, language is required. But if it is possible for a human community to exist without language (of the sort that is relevant here, with premises etc., not just basic communication calls) and without any malfunctioning, then it is not an inherent capacity, either. Yet, it is unknown whether that is possible.


    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon
    Of course there's no one gene that controls that capability and maybe all these capabilities issue from a unique, more general one or from a small set of more general ones. But we still have these capabilities and they are entirely natural. The fact that we can teach people how to do it is irrelevant. People will develop the relevant skill whenever properly motivated, be it through teaching or through interaction with their environment.
    Sure, but that is not independent on formal or informal learning.

    Of course, here's a problem for your definition of "inherent", because you say that

    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon
    Please understand "inherent" to signify that it is in our nature
    That conflicts with the other part.


    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon
    A guy in love will learn to swim on the spot (the idiot). It's not logically coherent to claim what we can do we can do it because we are taught. Who taught the teacher? Turtles all the way down? You think there has been a Prime Teacher, perhaps?
    Of course, people do not learn (for example) grammar because they're taught. But that does not mean making grammatically correct statements does not depend on formal or informal learning. It does not depend on formal or informal teaching. But surely, that is something that people learn. And it's not part of human nature if there can be humans without it and with no malfunctioning.

    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon
    And again, even for language, without interaction with an environment of other human beings, people don't speak. However, deaf and mute kids will develop on their own a language to communicate with each other (at least some have been observed doing it).
    The question of whether humans can live with no (relevantly complex) language is still open, as far as I know. But if you think that there is conclusive evidence to the contrary, please present your evidence.

    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon
    Of course, it's the right question. The idea that logic is an inherent capacity explains very economically why we all seem to accept the validity of Aristotle's syllogisms or of the Modus Ponens.
    No, that's not true. It might be (for instance) that it's part of human nature that if humans have a language, they also develop this capacity, whereas it's not part of human nature that they develop it (because they might not develop language).

  4. Top | #54
    Contributor Speakpigeon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Remember, you said earlier:

    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon
    (Inherent capacity: not dependent on formal or informa learning)
    Certainly, swimming is not an inherent capacity, because it does depend on formal or informal language. Is the capacity to ascertain whether a conclusion follows necessarily from premises one of those inherent capacities?
    I do not know, and I do not believe anyone does. Certainly, language is required. But if it is possible for a human community to exist without language (of the sort that is relevant here, with premises etc., not just basic communication calls) and without any malfunctioning, then it is not an inherent capacity, either. Yet, it is unknown whether that is possible.
    You misunderstood my definition. It is not the inherent capacity but the performance of a language, indeed of a particular language defined by some standard, which obviously requires a process of training or learning, with or without a teacher.

    The fact that human beings 400,000 years ago presumably didn't benefit from a Prime Teacher teaching them how to speak a human language and that all peoples around the Earth speak some language shows conclusively that humans have a natural capacity to develop and speak a language.
    EB

  5. Top | #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon
    You misunderstood my definition. It is not the inherent capacity but the performance of a language, indeed of a particular language defined by some standard, which obviously requires a process of training or learning, with or without a teacher.

    The fact that human beings 400,000 years ago presumably didn't benefit from a Prime Teacher teaching them how to speak a human language and that all peoples around the Earth speak some language shows conclusively that humans have a natural capacity to develop and speak a language.
    But that's not in line with some of your other claims.

    First, let us begin with the "nature" claims. Now, humans or pre-humans millions of years ago presumably didn't benefit from a Prime Teacher teaching them how to make fire, and yet all peoples around the world know how to make fire. Does that show that humans have an inherent capacity to make fire? But when you replied to rousseau here, you said:

    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon
    It's actually not true that humans have two legs and one nose because some people miss those. Do the British people speak English? Well, no, because not when they're in deep sleep or in drunken stupor. We cannot vote in elections since many people literally can't decide who to vote for.

    Please understand "inherent" to signify that it is in our nature. We have two legs because of our nature but some will be missing one or two because of the imponderables of life.
    But of course, nothing malfunctions in a human who does not know how to make fire. So, it seems humans do not have an inherent capacity to make fire, even though they presumably didn't benefit from a Prime Teacher teaching them how to make fire, and yet all peoples around the world know how to make fire.

    Second, you said earlier

    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon
    (Inherent capacity: not dependent on formal or informa learning)
    Now you say:

    Quote Originally Posted by Speakpigeon
    You misunderstood my definition. It is not the inherent capacity but the performance of a language, indeed of a particular language defined by some standard, which obviously requires a process of training or learning, with or without a teacher.

    The fact that human beings 400,000 years ago presumably didn't benefit from a Prime Teacher teaching them how to speak a human language and that all peoples around the Earth speak some language shows conclusively that humans have a natural capacity to develop and speak a language.
    Well, then, assuming that humans have an inherent capacity to develop and speak a language, similarly you get at best (ignoring the previous part about human nature, that is) that humans have an inherent capacity to develop a system of logic, and learn whether a conclusion follows necessarily from premises according to that system. That, however, does not give you that all normally functioning humans will develop the same system of logic. Now, it is very plausible that they will in colloquial languages (not in formal languages), but still, that only gives you that humans have an inherent capacity to learn to ascertain whether a conclusion follows from premises (much like they have an inherent capacity to learn a language), rather than having an inherent capacity to ascertain whether a conclusion follows from premises (just as the inherent capacity to develop and/or learn a language is not the same as the inherent capacity to speak a particular language).

    In any event, this is not the right question, for the reasons I've explained.

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