Oddjob39A
Badges: 15
Rep:
?
#1
Report Thread starter 13 years ago
#1
Hey, I've been coming across this 'way' of thinking more often now that the exams are finished and I'm starting to dip into more obscure elements of academic Philosophy, you know, just for kicks untill everyone else is finished with their exams (more than a desperate way to stave off boredom 'till the summer piss-up carnage starts)

I keep 'trying' to bring it up in various threads but nobody seems to have anything to say on the matter, c'mon people, this is TSR, EVERYONE has an opinion on EVERYTHING here. Please lets have some sort of thread about it? I find it infinitely intriguing but strangely repellent at the same time. However, although it just doesn't 'seem right' I can't really nail down any sort of coherent response to it :confused: Apart that is, from saying that the point of closure for cognitive capability seems decidedly arbitrary.

Points, anyone?

(If anybody doesn't know what I'm reffering to when I say Cognitive Closure, just google it and also keep in mind people like Mcginn and parts of Wittgenstein)

Here's a brief wiki entry, although there is a lot more to this than is portrayed on the bastion of knowledge that is wikipedia.com, as is often the case. . . .

Cognitive closure refers to the possibility or belief that the human mind is "closed" to some facts--that there are things human beings are simply not able to know, not because there is not enough time to figure them out, but because the human mind does not have the capacity to comprehend them. Thomas Nagel mentions the possibility of cognitive closure of the subjective character of experience and the implications that it has for materialist reductionist science in his essay "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?". Another notable defender of the cognitive closure thesis is philosopher Colin McGinn.

Is this defensible? Indeed, is it even refutable?
0
reply
Jacck
Badges: 0
Rep:
?
#2
Report 13 years ago
#2
what can't be reflected in the mirror, can't be reflected in the mirror. this thesis is pretty much a tautology, laced with a substantial necessary truth. questions like 'what is it like to be a bat?', or 'can jill can have the same sensation jack is now having?' (lol..) produce a sort of mental cramp (and i don't mean the sort produced when you're trying to work out a difficult maths problem or something, as that can be defined in psychological terms), as we don't know what to point to, or what criterion of identity we should use to define 'like being a bat' or 'jack's sensation' - indeed, we can't know. this thesis poses the possibility that there is something stopping humans knowing these things, and so implies that it is possible to know them.

the problem with this conclusion become clear when we inquire as to how the cognitiveclosurist (or what ever you want to call them) can hold such an ostensive position (ostensive because it leaves open the possibility that these things can be known, by something). On what basis can he do so? But then, to abandon his thesis all together - to just accept that we cannot know whether something is limiting our epistemic capabilities or not, produces a sort of intellectual vertigo. that is not to say that this response is incoherent, just that we can only see a cloud of thick dust below us when questioning whether such questions are founded 'in reality'.

l'll look up McGinn. i've never read a convincing defense for this.
0
reply
Brevity
Badges: 11
Rep:
?
#3
Report 13 years ago
#3
I'm going to be extremely dull and quote Wittgenstein when I say this is just one of those things that one cannot know, and therefore shouldn't talk about.

This is a bit like how Kant said that it is impossible to really know reality, since everything is mediated by the senses. Theoretically, there may be a 'real' world out there, but there's no way to know anything about it.

In the same way, it's impossible for humans to know what it's like to be a bat, even though it would theoretically be possible for something to know what it's like to be a bat. Also, since the hypothesis is unfalsifiable, there's just no way to meaningfully talk about this.
0
reply
Oddjob39A
Badges: 15
Rep:
?
#4
Report Thread starter 13 years ago
#4
Oh well, it seems that the general conclusion is one which I came to myself; undefensible and yet also irrefutable i.e. Nonsense

It does indeed make me wonder how and perhaps more importantly WHY people are still advancing such projects even after Wittgenstein showed such notions to be pretty much meaningless.....

Although to be fair, Wittgenstein did advance certain elements of the cognitive closure thesis himself i.e. in regards to his answer to the question 'why is there something rather than nothing?'
0
reply
Rigg_Morm
Badges: 0
#5
Report 13 years ago
#5
If anything I believe Wittgenstein would support an idea like cognitive closure. If language is in some way limited in its ability to explain then surely our minds are closed to certain ideas, in that they simply cannot be taught or comprehended by us (using our current language). Then again I suppose Wittgenstein was open to the idea of the development of new language, but that seems like a monumental challenge and furthermore it may well be that cognitive closure is such that we cannot actually develop a language of that sort.

Also to all those who say this thesis is essentially unable to be demonstrated, consider a concept like nothingness or infinity. The human mind is unable to imagine "nothingness" (try and imagine what existed prior to the big bang for example) and similarly it we cannot imagine an infinitude of objects. Now although these things can be talked about, we are hard pressed to simulate them internally. So I do think that it is not impossible that we are cognitively "closed" to certain ideas but it is unfortunately a probalistic arguement rather than a verifiable one.
0
reply
Oddjob39A
Badges: 15
Rep:
?
#6
Report Thread starter 13 years ago
#6
(Original post by Rigg_Morm)
If anything I believe Wittgenstein would support an idea like cognitive closure. If language is in some way limited in its ability to explain then surely our minds are closed to certain ideas, in that they simply cannot be taught or comprehended by us (using our current language). Then again I suppose Wittgenstein was open to the idea of the development of new language, but that seems like a monumental challenge and furthermore it may well be that cognitive closure is such that we cannot actually develop a language of that sort.

Also to all those who say this thesis is essentially unable to be demonstrated, consider a concept like nothingness or infinity. The human mind is unable to imagine "nothingness" (try and imagine what existed prior to the big bang for example) and similarly it we cannot imagine an infinitude of objects. Now although these things can be talked about, we are hard pressed to simulate them internally. So I do think that it is not impossible that we are cognitively "closed" to certain ideas but it is unfortunately a probalistic arguement rather than a verifiable one.
I think the key to understanding where it is exactly that cognitive closure 'goes wrong' is to appreciate Wittgenstein's stance, as you touch on.

Yes Wittgenstein believed questions pertaining to the existence of existence itself before the Big Bang to be fundamentally unanswerable. However, he believed, or rather held, that such questions are unanswerable from our current perspective, because we are thinking of the logical image they portray in the wrong manner. Indeed, as you point out, given Wittgenstein's language games, the 'truth' can indeed be uncovered once we have adjusted our stance.

Where I think people like Mcginn go wrong is in asserting that 'this' stance i.e. this metaphysical and linguistic ideation is the only stance we can adopt. However, as I point out above, given Wittgenstein's notion of changing our cognitve orientation, it may be possible that only one passage or one way of thinking is 'closed' but it doesn't follow that all stances are 'closed' as in the case of paradigmatical shifts in emprical science i.e. Quantum Theory.

As such, Cognitive Closure seems at best tautological and at worst self-defeating. Is it really saying anything more than what we already know? For instance; are people who cannot read 'cognitively closed' to script language because they lack the cognitive capability or because they lack the neccessary cognitive 'shift' i.e. developmental maturation? If so, who is to say that certain questions we simply appear unable to answer e.g. the problem of induction are simply unanswered because we lack the required linguistic/metaphysical/scientific 'nudge' down the required cognitive alley-way rather than that we are simply 'closed' to them? It all seems increadibly arbitrary to me.
0
reply
Brevity
Badges: 11
Rep:
?
#7
Report 13 years ago
#7
Whilst my answer to this question itself is fundamentally unverifiable (but then if we get right down to it this is all pretty close to speculation) it seems that there are some things which are cognitively closed due to biology, rather than scientific or linguistic immaturity.

The human mind is a complex machine, but it's built to perceive the world in certain ways, and it seems to me that no matter what our advancements in science, logically some things will simply be nonsense linguistically.

So, if we take the Big Bang example, I'm sure that's more like infinity and nothingness in that one day, given sufficient empirical shifts, we will be able to talk intellectually about it (solve problems with it, and so forth). However, with the bat example, I fail to see what advancements could be made to further our ability to experience things as a bat does.
0
reply
Rigg_Morm
Badges: 0
#8
Report 13 years ago
#8
(Original post by Oddjob39A)

Where I think people like Mcginn go wrong is in asserting that 'this' stance i.e. this metaphysical and linguistic ideation is the only stance we can adopt. However, as I point out above, given Wittgenstein's notion of changing our cognitve orientation, it may be possible that only one passage or one way of thinking is 'closed' but it doesn't follow that all stances are 'closed' as in the case of paradigmatical shifts in emprical science i.e. Quantum Theory.

As such, Cognitive Closure seems at best tautological and at worst self-defeating. Is it really saying anything more than what we already know? For instance; are people who cannot read 'cognitively closed' to script language because they lack the cognitive capability or because they lack the neccessary cognitive 'shift' i.e. developmental maturation? If so, who is to say that certain questions we simply appear unable to answer e.g. the problem of induction are simply unanswered because we lack the required linguistic/metaphysical/scientific 'nudge' down the required cognitive alley-way rather than that we are simply 'closed' to them? It all seems increadibly arbitrary to me.
It seems though that it things that we can not resolve or understand currently such as the problem of induction are no more likely to be solved than they are to be cognitively blocked. I admit that this idea of cognitive closure is never going to be a full-proof, verifiable arguement but it does present an interesting counter to the prevailing scientific opinion that "everying is solveable". I've always thought this far too optimistic and unrealistic, it is just as possible that we will never solve certain problems and furthermore there may be unsolveable problems which we will never know to exist.

Incidentally, its funny you mention the problem of induction as I see an arguement of this sort falling into a similar trap. We assume that due to science solving problems in the past, such as the leap to Quantum mechanics, that other issues will be solved and any other issue we may encounter we will find. There is simply no way to assert this. Nor is there anyway to argue that certain areas are cognitively closed to us, since they may well be "unblocked" in the future. As I said earlier its a purely probalistic arguement but I don't think it should be discounted just because it doesn't assimilate into the current scientific dogma of "know all, solve all".
0
reply
The Bachelor
Badges: 13
Rep:
?
#9
Report 13 years ago
#9
To clarify, I'm arguing from an idiot's perspective.

(Original post by Oddjob39A)
Cognitive closure refers to the possibility or belief that the human mind is "closed" to some facts--that there are things human beings are simply not able to know, not because there is not enough time to figure them out, but because the human mind does not have the capacity to comprehend them. Thomas Nagel mentions the possibility of cognitive closure of the subjective character of experience and the implications that it has for materialist reductionist science in his essay "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?". Another notable defender of the cognitive closure thesis is philosopher Colin McGinn.
I can see a parallel or two to Godel's Incompleteness Theorem:

Spoiler:
Show
In that one, it was shown that for each arithmetic axiom system (to be very vague) there exists some proposition for which the system cannot decide whether it is true, but it is in fact, true. In layman terms, the proposition would be something like "The system cannot answer whether this sentence is true." If the system answers true, or false, then it just contradicted itself. So it in fact cannot answer anything. But because it can't answer anything, the sentence is actually true!


But I don't suppose "the human mind cannot answer whether this sentence is true" will be treated as anything other than a language game
0
reply
RawJoh1
Badges: 14
Rep:
?
#10
Report 13 years ago
#10
(Original post by Oddjob39A)
Oh well, it seems that the general conclusion is one which I came to myself; undefensible and yet also irrefutable i.e. Nonsense
I'd wary of calling any thesis that big guns like Nagel take to be true nonsense.

Don't know myself - not a fan of philosophy of mind.
0
reply
Oddjob39A
Badges: 15
Rep:
?
#11
Report Thread starter 13 years ago
#11
(Original post by Ancient Runes)
To clarify, I'm arguing from an idiot's perspective.



I can see a parallel or two to Godel's Incompleteness Theorem:

Spoiler:
Show
In that one, it was shown that for each arithmetic axiom system (to be very vague) there exists some proposition for which the system cannot decide whether it is true, but it is in fact, true. In layman terms, the proposition would be something like "The system cannot answer whether this sentence is true." If the system answers true, or false, then it just contradicted itself. So it in fact cannot answer anything. But because it can't answer anything, the sentence is actually true!


But I don't suppose "the human mind cannot answer whether this sentence is true" will be treated as anything other than a language game
As I say, I just don't understand 'what' the cognitivists are trying to say. Yes, I can never know what it is like to be a bat, but that is a truism; I'm not a bat and of course I will never be a bat and as such - will never experience what it is like to be a bat.

It really is just 'bewitchement' of language, again. By saying 'ah but you don't know what its LIKE to be a bat' one is trying to add this extra layer of linguistic expression which really doesn't exist. I simply don't see how it then follows that some problems are 'cognitively' closed to the human mind, it seems entirely arbitrary and unjustified.

p.s. Problem of induction - I by no means meant to give the impression that I thought the scientific method will answer everything. I simply took issue with the fact that Mcginn et al seem hugely mistaken in deciding what can never be answered due to 'cognitive closure' and as I say; appear to come to these decisions as to what will never be answered in a wholly arbitrary manner.

To be perfectly honest I view these cognitivists as sharing more than a passing resemblance to those naive Victorians who proclaimed 'everything that needs to be invented and discovered has been achieved' and also that certain Historian who proclaimed the 'end of history' due to American world dominance....
0
reply
RawJoh1
Badges: 14
Rep:
?
#12
Report 13 years ago
#12
(Original post by Oddjob39A)
As I say, I just don't understand 'what' the cognitivists are trying to say. Yes, I can never know what it is like to be a bat, but that is a truism; I'm not a bat and of course I will never be a bat and as such - will never experience what it is like to be a bat.

It really is just 'bewitchement' of language, again. By saying 'ah but you don't know what its LIKE to be a bat' one is trying to add this extra layer of linguistic expression which really doesn't exist. I simply don't see how it then follows that some problems are 'cognitively' closed to the human mind, it seems entirely arbitrary and unjustified.
It's not unjustified though, is it? You seem to accept that there's something that it's like to be a bat. So, the question "what is it like to be a bat?" as a truth value. But, you can only have epistemic access to the answer if you actually are a bat. Given that humans are not bats, it follows that humans cannot have epistemic access to the answer to the question "what is it like to be bat?". Therefore, at least one (sensible) question is unanswerable.

Like I say previously, I'm not a fan of philosophy of mind. But that sounds right to me.
0
reply
Oddjob39A
Badges: 15
Rep:
?
#13
Report Thread starter 13 years ago
#13
(Original post by RawJoh1)
It's not unjustified though, is it? You seem to accept that there's something that it's like to be a bat. So, the question "what is it like to be a bat?" as a truth value. But, you can only have epistemic access to the answer if you actually are a bat. Given that humans are not bats, it follows that humans cannot have epistemic access to the answer to the question "what is it like to be bat?". Therefore, at least one (sensible) question is unanswerable.

Like I say previously, I'm not a fan of philosophy of mind. But that sounds right to me.
But the question itself cannot be asked because there is nothing for the question to ask it of. It's unanswerable because it is not even a meaningful question.

'What is it like to be a bat?' - 'You' cannot be a bat, because 'you' are not a bat. If 'you' were a bat then 'you' wouldn't be the 'you' to be asked the question of what it was like for 'you' to be the bat that 'you' now are.

It's just linguistic trickery and in no way supports the thesis of cognitive closure, in my view at least. The question implies an artificial dimension of experential content that simply does not and can never exist.

There is a difference between A) What I can never know and B) What I may be able to know but appear unable to ever know and (to me) it seems the cognitivists blur this distinction. Supporters of cognitive closure need type B) elements to support their arguments but the bat question is a type A) but even then, I can only 'never' know it because there is 'nothing' for me to know.

We are then left with the ridiculous proposition that type B) even exists; but how can we know that they can?!
0
reply
Darling~
Badges: 0
Rep:
?
#14
Report 13 years ago
#14
Cognitive closure refers to the possibility or belief that the human mind is "closed" to some facts--that there are things human beings are simply not able to know, not because there is not enough time to figure them out, but because the human mind does not have the capacity to comprehend them. Thomas Nagel mentions the possibility of cognitive closure of the subjective character of experience and the implications that it has for materialist reductionist science in his essay "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?". Another notable defender of the cognitive closure thesis is philosopher Colin McGinn.
with no reference to any philosophers (not that i know many anyway) i think it's perfectly possible. but increased time would mean bigger capacity to comprehend, if the rate of 'learning and gaining knowledge' is kept constant, no? if there is such thing as 'capacity' anyway, i sometimes think it's almost limitless.
0
reply
Oddjob39A
Badges: 15
Rep:
?
#15
Report Thread starter 13 years ago
#15
(Original post by Darling~)
with no reference to any philosophers (not that i know many anyway) i think it's perfectly possible. but increased time would mean bigger capacity to comprehend, if the rate of 'learning and gaining knowledge' is kept constant, no? if there is such thing as 'capacity' anyway, i sometimes think it's almost limitless.
Indeed, 'cognitive closure' seems wholly arbitrary to me.

The human mind will almost certainly have a 'cut off point' i.e. a mouse will never understand the Special Theory of Relativity, but simply pointing to questions and saying 'we will never know them' is a bit facile as we will only know we can never know them once we understand why we will never know them and as yet; most of the questions we appear unable to answer do not have a corrollary explanation as to 'why' we can never know them (apart from the bat example, but keep in mind my previous post concerning the fact that there is 'nothing' to know, that is why we cannot know it)
0
reply
Norfolkadam
Badges: 18
#16
Report 13 years ago
#16
When I read the definition it made me think of Plato and The Forms. Normal people are not able to access the "greater understanding" but Philosophers, supposedly, can. Does anyone else draw this comparison?
0
reply
Oddjob39A
Badges: 15
Rep:
?
#17
Report Thread starter 13 years ago
#17
Yes we 'can' but (to play devil's advocate) the cognitivist is arguing that there is always an unassailable element of actually 'being' the bat that cannot be captured - no matter how hard you replicate the behaviour, thought processes, sensory input/qualia i.e. just 'being' the bat.

However, as I outline above, this is not a problem of cognitive closure; simply a problem of phrasing and linguistic expression.

Norfolkadam: I see what you are trying to say but Mcginn et al would reply that the Forms are fallacious because we can never 'know' their true nature i.e. Kant and Noumena.
Last edited by RK; 1 year ago
0
reply
Rigg_Morm
Badges: 0
#18
Report 13 years ago
#18
(Original post by Oddjob39A)

p.s. Problem of induction - I by no means meant to give the impression that I thought the scientific method will answer everything. I simply took issue with the fact that Mcginn et al seem hugely mistaken in deciding what can never be answered due to 'cognitive closure' and as I say; appear to come to these decisions as to what will never be answered in a wholly arbitrary manner.

To be perfectly honest I view these cognitivists as sharing more than a passing resemblance to those naive Victorians who proclaimed 'everything that needs to be invented and discovered has been achieved' and also that certain Historian who proclaimed the 'end of history' due to American world dominance....
Well I'd certainly agree with that. I think its perfectly likely that there may be things we will never understand or even know of, although obviously something like this is unproveable but to arbitarily say "such-and-such knowledge will never be understood by us" is a mistaken belief. To me it seems that we are more likely to be cognitvely closed to problems we will never know exist than problems which we can't seem to solve at the present moment. Obviously thats an irrefutable arguement, but there is always that possibility (it does all begin to sound a lot like Kant, but you say they deny this?)
0
reply
Oddjob39A
Badges: 15
Rep:
?
#19
Report Thread starter 13 years ago
#19
(Original post by Rigg_Morm)
Well I'd certainly agree with that. I think its perfectly likely that there may be things we will never understand or even know of, although obviously something like this is unproveable but to arbitarily say "such-and-such knowledge will never be understood by us" is a mistaken belief. To me it seems that we are more likely to be cognitvely closed to problems we will never know exist than problems which we can't seem to solve at the present moment. Obviously thats an irrefutable arguement, but there is always that possibility (it does all begin to sound a lot like Kant, but you say they deny this?)
I think the cognitivists would be on the side of Kant in regards to noumena
0
reply
X

Quick Reply

Attached files
Write a reply...
Reply
new posts
Back
to top
Latest
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

Personalise

Do you think receiving Teacher Assessed Grades will impact your future?

I'm worried it will negatively impact me getting into university/college (210)
43.57%
I'm worried that I'm not academically prepared for the next stage in my educational journey (56)
11.62%
I'm worried it will impact my future career (36)
7.47%
I'm worried that my grades will be seen as 'lesser' because I didn't take exams (103)
21.37%
I don't think that receiving these grades will impact my future (50)
10.37%
I think that receiving these grades will affect me in another way (let us know in the discussion!) (27)
5.6%

Watched Threads

View All