Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Useful fictions

Does the evolution of our mind and our sensory faculties make it probable that our most basic intuitions about the world are true? Our basic intuitions that there are regular sized objects such as basketballs, cars, people, etc seem out of the question common sense and obviously true.

You can made an argument that evolution makes it probable that truth has survival and fitness value; that is, those creatures whose faculties track truth are able to better adapt to their environment and thus fitter than creatures whose faculties do not and thus our common intuitions about very basic metaphysical claims are true (metaphysical skepticists and nihilists notwithstanding).

However, it may be the case that evolution has not endowed us with truth tracking faculties but with faculties that give us equally useful intuitions about the world that posit useful fictions. Surely there are many useful fictions and for any truth, there are likely just as many fictions that are pragmatically equally useful but strictly speaking false. So long as there is a kind of functional isomorphism (leave that term loose and undefined for now but the basic meaning I am using should be conveyed). So from a purely probablistic standpoint, since a useful fiction is just as good as truth and useful fictions are more numerous than truth for any one intentional stance, it is far more probable that our basic metaphysical intuitions are false. So long as useful fictions "does the job" of insuring survival, even if they are inaccurate at representing reality, they may be good enough for the evolutionary filter.

Perhaps that is the basic moral we should take from quantum mechanics; that the structure of reality may be so odd that we lack the basic perceptual, conceptual faculties to even think about them in a completely truthful way. Maybe that is the reason physicists and laymen alike have such a hard time making sense of quantum mechanics, the most basic description of physical reality we have. Perhaps due to these innate limitations, we, as humans will never completely accurately have a truth conception of reality. reality is just simply too bizarre for us to grasp.

Will fundamental and common sense metaphysical intuitions go the way of moral intuitions and mathematical intuitions as some philosophical skepticists have claimed for these other domains?

Perhaps we are just digital minds in an analog world (just how metaphorical is this metaphor?).