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Hume, Induction Creating Reality and the Value of Descartes’ Limited Conception of the Divine

January 31, 2016

Hume’s induction problem is not a problem in the quantum world. Linear causality seems to exist only because we observe the chain of events. While it is true we can’t infer causality from one billiard ball hitting another, we may be able to infer causality from the act of observing one billiard ball hitting the other. That is, the causality exists by us observing the event, the interaction of one ball and the other.

Induction itself does not make logical sense as a basis for ascertaining universal laws. Induction is not a valid logical chain. However, the method of induction itself, based on observation, may actually create the universal laws. Or, on a weaker claim, it may form reality into a shape by which we can extract usable information that forms the basis of universal laws. Observation increases the probability amplitude of reality taking a shape by which we can use the information from reality.

Descartes, in the Fifth Meditation, provides another proof of God using a parallel to geometric shapes and the associated mathematical properties of those shapes. Take, for example, a triangle. The properties of a triangle, such as all angles summing to 180 degrees (the sum of two right angles) and that larger angles are opposite the longest side, are inherent in the triangle. They are true regardless of whether the triangle exists in his mind or in reality. God’s existence, he argues, is inherent in God. He can conceive of God existing as clearly as he conceives of the triangle’s properties being a definitional part of the triangle.

He mentions he can image a winged horse. However, existence is not inherent in a winged horse. The fact he can image a winged horse does not prove that it exists. Thus his argument falls back to knowing the existence of God is true because of the clear light of the fact that existence is inherent in the idea of God himself. It is firmly rooted in his conception of God.

This parallels the idea of induction as producing usable information. We can say Descartes saw similarity between the nature of information about a triangle and the nature of information about God. In a proof of God he is looking for information that is similar to information he can draw about a triangle. While this seems a vast reduction of what God is, it is useful for Descartes. By reducing the information required for a proof of God (metaphorically, breaking the quantum state, an unknowable state of what God is, as it were) he makes it easier to extract what he sees as useful information about God. This may explain his conception of the Divine. It seems smaller than what a more complex and nuanced conception could be. But for Descartes there is value in have a smaller and more tightly defined conception of the Divine. It allows him to create seemingly rational proofs for what could otherwise be an entity not knowable through reason or logic.

From → Philosophy

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