X-Message-Number: 10215
Date: Tue, 11 Aug 1998 14:30:53 EDT
Subject: compass

Rand Simberg (#10212)insists that one cannot prove the validity of the
"rational" approach without first taking rationality as one's premise, which
voids the alleged proof, because then the statement "proved" is the same as
the premise. He likens this to Goedel's Incompleteness Theorem(s).

As to Goedel, yes, he was wrong--not in the development, but in his own
premises or definitions. And from snippets of biography he seemed to suspect
this himself! 

In fact, Goedel likened his theorem to the Epimenides or "liar"
"paradox"--e.g. in the form "This statement is false." (Admittedly, some other
writers say it is not a valid analogy, but they are wrong too.) The "Liar"
paradox is easily shown to be merely a confusion of language and of no
importance--despite its persistent status.

Because of press of business of more immediate concern, I don't yet have the
technical refutation of Goedel in a form I am satisfied with, but it is easy
enough to make the point that--even in mathematics--definitions can be tricky
and can lead to nonsense. A well known example is the "set of all sets." In
fact, many definitions which include the words or symbols "all" or "any" can
sometimes lead to nonsense. GIGO.

But to see the failure of the point made by Mr. Simberg (and Mr. Delaney
etc.), we don't need any really sophisticated argument. Basically, advocates
of the "rational" approach (which includes almost everyone in almost every
practical situation) are simply saying that you have the best chance (or your
prediction has the best chance) if you allow yourself to be guided by
experience (and if you are honest and thorough and competent in your
evaluation of experience). 

To be sure, there will be occasional disagreements as to the direction in
which the compass of experience is pointing. Also, some people will claim the
equivalent of personal revelation which bypasses argument. All this is
irrelevant to the main point--that science and logic have done a lot for us,
and no competitor comes close. 

Additionally, science and logic offer a COMPLETE framework, whereas any
alleged competitor, such as unexamined inner conviction, always offers merely
alleged direction in special and limited circumstances, still requiring
science and logic for most activities. 

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society

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