Helen & the Scissors

stiggy wiggy

Well-known member
You and Helen Keller are tied to chairs bolted to the floor six feet away from a table upon which sits a pair of scissors. Your hands are free and your chairs are close enough together so that by the sense of touch your are able to communicate some hope to Helen with regard to the existence of the scissors. But Helen thinks you are either hallucinating or lying. She demands empirical proof. Your inability to offer any is disparaged by Helen as indicative of your deception regarding the scissors. What do you do?

stiggy wiggy

Well-known member
What was I thinking? The sense of hearing can be intact. Substitute Stevie Wonder for Helen Keller if you prefer.

Gus Bovona

Well-known member
You and Helen Keller are tied to chairs bolted to the floor six feet away from a table upon which sits a pair of scissors. Your hands are free and your chairs are close enough together so that by the sense of touch your are able to communicate some hope to Helen with regard to the existence of the scissors. But Helen thinks you are either hallucinating or lying. She demands empirical proof. Your inability to offer any is disparaged by Helen as indicative of your deception regarding the scissors. What do you do?
That scenario is not analogous to any general issue with empiricism. For instance, here's how a blind person can verify the existence of sight without relying on their sight.

Set-up: A sponsor who is blind offers a sighted person (S) and another blind person (B) a million dollars each to conduct an experiment. S gets two balls that are identical in every way except one is a different color. B verifies that the balls are identical through every sense that B has (which is all of them except sight). One ball also has a small thumbtack stuck in it. S tells B the color of the ball with the thumbtack.

The experiment: A test volunteer (V) is brought in and promised \$100 to identify the ball with the color of the ball that has the thumbtack. The thumbtack is not visible to V but can be touched by B. B and S verify that the volunteer was correct, and the volunteer is paid. Repeat with as many volunteers as necessary to ensure statistical validity. At that point B and the sponsor are rational to conclude that there must be something that the sighted are calling sight that enables the sighted to distinguish the balls.

stiggy wiggy

Well-known member
That scenario is not analogous to any general issue with empiricism. For instance, here's how a blind person can verify the existence of sight without relying on their sight.

Set-up: A sponsor who is blind offers a sighted person (S) and another blind person (B) a million dollars each to conduct an experiment. S gets two balls that are identical in every way except one is a different color. B verifies that the balls are identical through every sense that B has (which is all of them except sight). One ball also has a small thumbtack stuck in it. S tells B the color of the ball with the thumbtack.

The experiment: A test volunteer (V) is brought in and promised \$100 to identify the ball with the color of the ball that has the thumbtack. The thumbtack is not visible to V but can be touched by B. B and S verify that the volunteer was correct, and the volunteer is paid. Repeat with as many volunteers as necessary to ensure statistical validity. At that point B and the sponsor are rational to conclude that there must be something that the sighted are calling sight that enables the sighted to distinguish the balls.
So? That little story in no way provides Helen with any means whereby she can sense the reality of the scissors. Try again.

Gus Bovona

Well-known member
So? That little story in no way provides Helen with any means whereby she can sense the reality of the scissors. Try again.
So what? Why is your story about Helen determinative with regard to grounding empiricism?

stiggy wiggy

Well-known member
So what? Why is your story about Helen determinative with regard to grounding empiricism?

It illustrates the fallacy of LHA's contention that it is foolish to hold a belief not founded on empirical evidence.

Gus Bovona

Well-known member
It illustrates the fallacy of LHA's contention that it is foolish to hold a belief not founded on empirical evidence.
OK. Can you explain how you get from your Helen scenario to non-empirical beliefs? I don't see it - no pun intended, but it's a good pun anyway.

stiggy wiggy

Well-known member
OK. Can you explain how you get from your Helen scenario to non-empirical beliefs? I don't see it - no pun intended, but it's a good pun anyway.

My fictional Helen, like LHA, discounts all beliefs which cannot be verified by the senses she possesses and thereby fallaciously declares the non-existence of the scissors.

Gus Bovona

Well-known member
My fictional Helen, like LHA, discounts all beliefs which cannot be verified by the senses she possesses and thereby fallaciously declares the non-existence of the scissors.
Great, thank you. So, there's no reason that empirical knowledge has to be limited by the sense of any individual person, as my scenario indicated, in which I set up an experiment that relies on the empirical knowledge of sighted persons and yet can still be rationally relied on by the blind through the incentives built in.

Similarly, all empirical knowledge that is accurately known is not limited by the empirical knowledge possessed by any particular person, whether it's not limited by experiences not experienced, senses that don't function, etc.

stiggy wiggy

Well-known member
Great, thank you. So, there's no reason that empirical knowledge has to be limited by the sense of any individual person,.........

I gave you an example where it was. I have no beef with the validity of your valid but quite irrelevant example. But just as in my example, Helen's knowledge IS limited, you and LHA cannot rule out the possibility that there is an unseen realm which y'all are currently incapable of discerning and that others are.

Tiburon

Well-known member
You and Helen Keller are tied to chairs bolted to the floor six feet away from a table upon which sits a pair of scissors. Your hands are free and your chairs are close enough together so that by the sense of touch your are able to communicate some hope to Helen with regard to the existence of the scissors. But Helen thinks you are either hallucinating or lying. She demands empirical proof. Your inability to offer any is disparaged by Helen as indicative of your deception regarding the scissors. What do you do?
If neither of you can reach the scissors then who cares?

stiggy wiggy

Well-known member
If neither of you can reach the scissors then who cares
The "you" in the scene.

Tiburon

Well-known member
The "you" in the scene.
Ok. So If neither of 'us' can reach the scissors then who cares?

The Pixie

Well-known member
You and Helen Keller are tied to chairs bolted to the floor six feet away from a table upon which sits a pair of scissors. Your hands are free and your chairs are close enough together so that by the sense of touch your are able to communicate some hope to Helen with regard to the existence of the scissors. But Helen thinks you are either hallucinating or lying. She demands empirical proof. Your inability to offer any is disparaged by Helen as indicative of your deception regarding the scissors. What do you do?
Like all such apologists' thought experiments, you have built "God exists" into the premise, and then, Wow! you show God exists. Incredible.

A better analogy would be if the existence of scissors was uncertain and furthermore it did not fit with our usual expectations about the world.

Suppose you are the blind woman tied to the chair. A guy is near you. He claims he too is tied up, and he also claims to have magically conjured up a pair of scissors on the nearby table. Why should she believe him?​

4tune8chance

Member
You and Helen Keller are tied to chairs bolted to the floor six feet away from a table upon which sits a pair of scissors. Your hands are free and your chairs are close enough together so that by the sense of touch your are able to communicate some hope to Helen with regard to the existence of the scissors. But Helen thinks you are either hallucinating or lying. She demands empirical proof. Your inability to offer any is disparaged by Helen as indicative of your deception regarding the scissors. What do you do?
Play "I spy"

stiggy wiggy

Well-known member
Ok. So If neither of 'us' can reach the scissors then who cares?
Whoever comes along to pick them up and cut 'us' loose.

stiggy wiggy

Well-known member
Like all such apologists' thought experiments, you have built "God exists" into the premise, and then, Wow! you show God exists. Incredible.

WRONG! The story does NOT show that God exists. It merely shows the foolishness of claiming He doesn't, based on your inability to see or hear Him.

A better analogy would be if the existence of scissors was uncertain and furthermore it did not fit with our usual expectations about the world.

WRONG, since to me the existence of the scissors correlate (God) IS certain.
Suppose you are the blind woman tied to the chair. A guy is near you. He claims he too is tied up, and he also claims to have magically conjured up a pair of scissors on the nearby table. Why should she believe him?​

She shouldn't. Just like no one should believe me if I claim to have magically conjured up God.

The Pixie

Well-known member
WRONG! The story does NOT show that God exists. It merely shows the foolishness of claiming He doesn't, based on your inability to see or hear Him.
That supposed foolish is based on whether or not God exists. In your analogy, you have built that in, by declaring the scissors are there.

WRONG, since to me the existence of the scissors correlate (God) IS certain.
As long as we are clear this analogy only works for those who already believe God exists.

She shouldn't. Just like no one should believe me if I claim to have magically conjured up God.
Or a magically raised Jesus.

The Pixie

Well-known member
You and Helen Kellerblah blah blah
Another analogy to consider.
You and Helen Keller are tied to chairs bolted to the floor six feet away from a table with nothing on it. However, you are suffering from delusion, and are utterly convinced there is a leprechaun on the table. Your hands are free and your chairs are close enough together so that by the sense of touch your are able to communicate some hope to Helen with regard to the existence of the leprechaun. But Helen thinks you are hallucinating - and of course she is right. She demands empirical proof. Your inability to offer any is disparaged by Helen as indicative of your deception regarding the scissors. What do you do?​