Comments about "Coherentism" in Wikipedia

This document contains comments about the article Coherentism in Wikipedia
In the last paragraph I explain my own opinion.




The article starts with the following sentence.

1 Definition

As an illustration of the principle, if people lived in a virtual reality universe, they could see birds in the trees that aren't really there.
People don't live in a virtual reality world. The concept is not clear. Examples based on non existing situations is considered 'poor' science.
Not only are the birds not really there, but the trees aren't really there either.
Every thing that is written about this surrealistich example becomes unrealistisch.
The people may or may not know that the bird and the tree are there, but in either case there is a coherence between the virtual world and the real one, expressed in terms of true beliefs within available experience.
All of this is 'poor' science.
It therefore falls into a group of theories that are sometimes deemed excessively generalistic, what Gabor Forrai calls 'blob realism'.
It is 'blob realism' and 'blob science'

2 History

3 The regress argument

Both coherence and foundationalist theories of justification attempt to answer the regress argument, a fundamental problem in epistemology that goes as follows.
Given some statement P, it appears reasonable to ask for a justification for P.
First of all the statement P must be clear. To be clear the statement P must contain concepts which are already agreed upon.
For Example: The cat is dead. Or it rains.
What is meant with justification?
The justification, for both sentences, is that is what is observed.
If that justification takes the form of another statement, P', one can again reasonably ask for a justification for P', and so forth.
Yes you can do that, but what is the purpose?
There are three possible outcomes to this questioning process:
(1) the series is infinitely long, with every statement justified by some other statement.
IMO this is impossible. A real example would help.
(2) the series forms a loop, so that each statement is ultimately involved in its own justification.
IMO also impossible. A justification can never be the original statement. For example: statement "I'm a human being" justification "I'm a human being"
(3) the series terminates with certain statements having to be self-justifying.
Also this requires a real example.
But otherwise, it must be assumed that a loop 'begs the question', meaning that it does not provide sufficient logic to constitute proof.

This whole paragraph about The regress argument is not very clear and convincing about its purpose.

3.1 Foundationalism's response

One might conclude that there must be some statements that, for some reason, do not need justification.
That is correct. The problem is that if you want to explain something, you must always start from something simpler, you think that all readers assume that that is true, without any prove.
For example: when you want to discuss astronomy, you can start from the assumption that the readers agree that there are stars and planets.
For instance, rationalists such as Descartes and Spinoza developed axiomatic systems that relied on statements that were taken to be self-evident: "I think therefore I am" is the most famous example.
To start with self-evident is a good starting point, however such self-evident statement should never include some form of a loop. As such the statement "I think therefore I am" contains twice the word "I" and as such is not clear. Self-evident statement should be very simple.
For example: There is a universe. The universe contains objects. One of these objects can be a human being. Humans have a brain. With the brain they can think.
Similarly, empiricists take observations as providing the foundation for the series.
Empiricists use emperical evidence. Empiricism in the philosophy of science emphasises evidence, especially as discovered in experiments.
Foundationalism relies on the claim that it is not necessary to ask for justification of certain propositions, or that they are self-justifying.
This sentence (by itself an assumption) requires a clarification.
The problem is that certain assumptions clearly require a justification.
For example is astronomy you can take Newton's law generally speaking as self-evident. At the same time you can also claim that certain observations are in disagreement with that theory. In order to solve this problem Einstein based on certain assumptions developped Special Relativity and General Relativity. However these assumptions clearly require a justification because they are in conflict with the assumptions of Newton's Law.
Reflection 2 - Special Relativity
Coherentists argue that this position is overly dogmatic. In other words, it does not provide real criteria for determining what is true and what is not.
This sentence requires the definition of the concepts: dogmatic, true and not true.
True is what the results are of experiments.
For example, if someone makes an observational statement, such as "it is raining", the coherentist contends that it is reasonable to ask for example whether this mere statement refers to anything real.
Anyone making an observational statement, by definition, refers to something physical real. Not to something virtual.
What is real about the statement, it turns out, is the extended pattern of relations that we call justifications.
This sentence is difficult to understand. Requires clarification.
But, unlike the relativist, the coherentist argues that these associations may be objectively real.
This sentence requires the definition of the concept relativist This sentence is difficult to understand. Requires clarification.
Coherentism contends that dogmatic foundationalism does not provide the whole set of pure relations that might result in actually understanding the objective context of phenomena, because dogmatic assumptions are not proof-theoretic, and therefore remain incoherent or relativistic.
This sentence is difficult to understand. Requires clarification.
Coherentists therefore argue that the only way to reach proof-theoretic truth that is not relativistic is through coherency.
In some sense this sentence explains nothing.
The previous sentence 'explains' what coherentism not is
This sentence does not 'explain' what coherentism is.

Also second paragraph starting from (*) Coherentists argue is not very clear.
In some sense this is sad, because we are discussing here the "phylosophy of science" i.e. how to perform science and such an article should be clear an unambigous.

3.2 Coherentism's response

Coherentism denies the soundness of the regression argument.
The regression argument makes the assumption that the justification for a proposition takes the form of another proposition: P" justifies P', which in turn justifies P.
For coherentism, justification is a holistic process.
Inferential justification for the belief that P is nonlinear.
This means that P" and P' are not epistemically prior to P. Rather, the beliefs that P", P', and P work together to achieve epistemic justification.
If you want to make something clear, explain something that we can understand, the text should be clear. The text is not.
Usually the system of belief is taken to be the complete set of beliefs of the individual or group, that is, their theory of the world.
This sentence is not clear and requires modification.
It is necessary for coherentism to explain in some detail what it means for a system to be coherent.
Every article writen by anybody should be coherent,
At the least, coherence must include logical consistency.
That is what coherent means.
It also usually requires some degree of integration of the various components of the system.
All components require a certain degree of integration in order to get the whole system or article coherent.
A system that contains more than one unrelated explanation of the same phenomenon is not as coherent as one that uses only one explanation, all other things being equal.
IMO to have two completely unrelated explanations (or two completely different explanations) for the same phenomena seems not logical. In reality there can only be one explanation.
A real example should clarify this point.
Conversely, a theory that explains divergent phenomena using unrelated explanations is not as coherent as one that uses only one explanation for those divergent phenomena.
What are divergent phenomena (compared to convergent, where everything goes to one point).?
Finally, the greater the number of phenomena explained by the system, the greater its coherence.
This sentence is not clear and requires a better clarification.
It is maybe better to remove this sentence, because the same more is more or less discussed above.

3.3 Problems for coherentism

A problem coherentism has to face is the plurality objection.
? Let us see what comes next.
There is nothing within the definition of coherence that makes it impossible for two entirely different sets of beliefs to be internally coherent.
Two different articles can each be coherent.
Their could be a problem if both articles discuss the same subject, specific if the conclusion of the two articles is different.
In such a case both articles should be compared specific to what extend they agree and where they disagree. This last part is the most important.
But if one supposes—in line with the principle of non-contradiction—that there can only be one complete set of truths, coherentism must therefore resolve internally that these systems are not contradictory, by establishing what is meant by truth.
Generally speaking each process requires its own description. The problem is that it is often not easy to write such a description, specific not at enough detail that is required. This is not so much an issue related to coherentism, but more about how to perform science.
A typical case is the heating up of the temperature here on earth and specific what we can do about this.

4 See also

Following is a list with "Comments in Wikipedia" about related subjects

Reflection 1 - foundationalism versus coherentalism (relativism and empiricism)

Coherentalism, as the name implies, has to do with the concept of coherency.
Every article we write, every book we write, every movie we make, every sentence we speak should be coherent. It should be connected total, which as a total says more than it individual parts. Of course it should be true. Of course the to this total picture more detail can be added. It should not contain unsolved issues, because if you know these solutions it can have repercusions to the whole story.

The main question in order to write a coherent article is how to start to write such an article. In principle each chapter should be coherent and each paragraph should be coherent. That is where foundationalism steps in, what are the fundametels or foundations. In fact this is the most difficult part: how do you make all the parts of the book logical connected and understandable from bottum up.

Starting point for any article can be certain common accepted facts.
Like: There exist an univers. In the univers there are objects. One of the objects are human beings. Human beings observe the state of the univers in the past.
A very important tool to understand how the univers evolves in more detail is by performing experiments. Specific different experiments. The importance is unmistakable.
One approach, often followed, is to make assumption how a certain process internally operates. By defining specific experiments to test each assumption. Observing the results the assumptions can be clasified and be used to govern future experiments in a certain direction.

A different type experiments are what is called thought-experiments. Thought-experiments are not performed in real but from one or more assumptions. The idea is to depict the experiment in your mind or on paper, with the question: is this what will happen in real.
See for more: Reflection 2 - Special Relativity

Reflection 2 - Special Relativity

The two concepts "foundationalism" and "coherentalism" are unmistakable an issue in relation to Special Relativity.
Special Relativity leans very much upon assumptions and it is the question to what extend this is allowed.
` The main problem with SR is that there exists no coherent story which explains the full story of SR ar a certain level of detail.

To understand any process you start from certain accepted facts or an accepted theory. In the case of SR this is Newton's Law. Starting point to change a theory are observations which the theory does not explain. (the movement of the planet Mercury). To solve that discrepancy a more thourougly investigation is required. Next partly based on assumptions a new theory is build. This new theory should be coherent story. This is what Einstein did. The next step is define new experiments in order to prove this new theory. The whole question is to what extend the results of these experiments are prove that the new theory, including the assumptions, is correct

One experiment to test SR involves an experiment with two clocks. Both are original at rest. The experiment involves, 'conceptual', that one clock is placed in a space shuttle. The space shuttle is initially accelerated and there after travels with a constant speed in a straight line towards the right. After a certain distance travelled the space shuttle is deaccelerated until the space shuttle stops. This whole process is repeated in the opposite direction untill the space ship is back to its original position. Now the two clocks are compared and what is the result: the count of the moving clock is less than the clock which stays at rest. How come?

The best way to perform the experiment with a moving clock.

The previous discussed way is not the optimum way to perform the experiment with a moving clock, because the moving clock moves both forward and backward.
The best way is to start with a set of identical standard clocks all equally spaced along a straight track. All these clocks are considered 'at rest' and should be synchronised.
The experiments involves moving a clock along this straight track with equally spaced standard clocks.
The result will show that the clock count of the moving clock will be different as the clock count of the clocks considered 'at rest', when two clocks meet.
There are two possible outcomes:
  • The moving clock shows a lower clock count as the clocks considered 'at rest'. In that case the experiment should be repeated with a slower speed of the moving clock. A different set up is to move the clock in the opposite direction.
  • The moving clock shows a higher clock count as the clocks considered 'at rest'. In that case the moving clock becomes the new clock 'at rest' and all the standard clocks should be synchronised using this new clock 'at rest'

The cause is rather simple. Both clocks work on the principle of lightsignals, which bounces forward and backward between two mirrors.

Does this say anything about the concept time?
The physical behaviour of a clock does not say anything, about our feelings when we humans speak about time. Time as part of our feelings is more or less a universal concept and has to do with the age of the universe. That age concept and if you want, the fact that the universe becomes older has nothing to do with the fact that two clocks under certain circumstances don't tick synchronuous.

Does the behaviour of a clock says anything about SR?
In fact there are two issues:

What is the lesson learned? The most important way to perform science is by performing experiments.
The second lesson is that IMO the only assumption is that locally (as far as this experiment is considered) the speed of light is the same in all directions. However that does not say anything if the speed of light globally is the same in all directions.

Reflection 3 - General

Special Relativity is based on two assumptions, also called postulates.
The problem with those two postulates is that they are incorporated into SR almost without any justification or prove. The question is, is that allowed as a good practice.
This Wikipedia document, about the two concepts Foundationalism and Coherentalism, tries to answer this issue related to science in general. Sorry to say, but a lot of what is written is not very clear.


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Created: 22 February 2020
Modified: 27 February 2020

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