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Knowledge, Reality, and Value Book Club Replies, Part 2

Summary:
All of the last set of comments were directed at Huemer, but I’ll add a few comments of my own. Anon: 1.To my mind, part of the problem with questions like “Is there a God?” is not that they are meaningless or that they have no answer. Rather, it’s that they are unanswerable. Are questions like, “Does Bigfoot exist?” answerable?  How about, “Did aliens build the pyramids?”  Or how about, “Do ghosts exist?”  My answer to all of these is, “Almost certainly not.”  Am I wrong? Hellestal: In order to create an accurate description of “only” the brain in its vat, the scientists, and the brain apparatus — as if that were all that existed, without relying on the simple rules of physics playing out from a (presumably simple) original condition — you would need an absolutely

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All of the last set of comments were directed at Huemer, but I’ll add a few comments of my own.

Anon:

1.To my mind, part of the problem with questions like “Is there a God?” is not that they are meaningless or that they have no answer. Rather, it’s that they are unanswerable.

Are questions like, “Does Bigfoot exist?” answerable?  How about, “Did aliens build the pyramids?”  Or how about, “Do ghosts exist?”  My answer to all of these is, “Almost certainly not.”  Am I wrong?

Hellestal:

In order to create an accurate description of “only” the brain in its vat, the scientists, and the brain apparatus — as if that were all that existed, without relying on the simple rules of physics playing out from a (presumably simple) original condition — you would need an absolutely absurd quantity of description. Overwhelming.

Doesn’t it depend on the required degree of accuracy?  Yes, it would be immensely difficult to simulate every detail down to 10 decimal places of accuracy, but most people are barely paying attention to most stuff anyway, much less measuring stuff with any precision.  I say a lot of novels contain more details about what the characters are experiencing than most of us typically pay attention to in real life.

Henri Hein:

I sympathize both with the skeptical view and the defenders of knowledge. I think the skeptic’s claim that we cannot know anything with 100% certainty must be correct.

At risk of sounding like a 17-year-old Objectivist, “must be correct” sounds about the same as claiming to “know with 100% certainty.”

Bryan Caplan
Bryan Caplan is Professor of Economics at George Mason University and Senior Scholar at the Mercatus Center. He has published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the American Economic Review, the Economic Journal, the Journal of Law and Economics, and Intelligence, and has appeared on 20/20, FoxNews, and C-SPAN. Bryan Caplan blogs on EconLog.

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