Essay:Observational vs Universal viewpoints

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When you talk to a philosopher and talk to a scientist, chances are you will get wildly different answers to what are normally simple, straightforward questions. This has caused me to develop two basic ways of dealing with my views of the world around me, which for simplicity's sake I've organized into two viewpoints, based on two different interpretations of rulesets.

Note: I feel I must add that these two views are actually only 2 of what could be many systems of assumptions and truths. You could have anything in between the two (different levels of assumptions), these are just two umbrella categories I've come up with.

Rule Sets[edit]

First, terms such as "logic", "proof", "truth", and "rule-set" have to be defined in the scope of the essay. A ruleset is any given system of logic, deduction, or, obviously, rules, which are then used to set up a system of logic for determining what is true, and the proof of that.

It's easier to define with an example, so we'll take a near-universally known ruleset, mathematics, and use that for an example. Within the ruleset, every number (1,2,3...n-1,n) has an implied definition. They are static, and part of the ruleset itself, and thus are implied or assumed "truths". Likewise, mathematical symbols, such as "+", "-", "=", and "≈" are also constant and part of the system of rules used by mathematics. As such, the statement "2 + 2 = 4" is very easy to define as a "truth", as the proof of it goes to the definitions of each symbol, where plus combines the predefined 2's, which has a value = to 4, by definition.

This defines a ruleset as any overarching system of "logic", a "truth" as something shown to not contradict said ruleset, and a "proof" as a system that shows the truth of something by breaking it down to the basic rules of the ruleset and then using logic to show that the rules prove the statement, as given by the example above (A rather simple and straightforward, but valid example)

Note that although 2 + 2 = 4 is indeed true in its mathematical domain, it does not actually PROVE anything outside of that, as explained below.


Given a ruleset, we may attempt to apply that ruleset to things outside of its own jurisdiction to better understand it. For instance,, our way of inferring how physics work and effect the world around us relies in no small part on mathematics. Through experimentation, we can show a link between 2 + 2 = 4, and 2lbs + 2lbs = 4lbs. We cannot prove this, however, as when working in any unknown ruleset, a "fact" is merely a consensus, something that experimentation leads credence to. But for all we know, gravity is incorrect, and some other force is giving us the idea of what a pound is.

This forms the basis of the second view of the essay. Mathematics is the ruleset used to infer logic, while other forms of logic are the rulesets for how we infer reality.

Observational View[edit]

Some things are taken as accepted fact among the Scientific world. Genetics, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics have evolving, but fairly stable rules, based off of continued development of theory and testing.

However, these rules generally are based off of a few 'definite' rules, things nobody would question, whether they believe in Evolution, Intelligent Design, or some other crazy theory, as follows.

1) That which we view can be trusted to have actually occurred.

2) That which is generally agreed upon to have happened (based off of mass viewings and recorded facts), is trustworthy

3) In general, things are "what they seem"

In other words, most sciences rely on an "Observational" view (More commonly called Empiricism, a good topic to research to further your knowledge on this subject, although it should be noted I differ on a few factors), or rather, a view that takes for granted that the world is real, that we are not in a computer simulation, and we were not created 5 seconds ago with a plethora of memories in mind. Of course, what things "seem" is a constant point of debate among scientists and pseudoscientists alike.

However, it can generally be agreed that if our senses tell us something while in a healthy state, it can be regarded as true. This only implies the raw properties of something, though, your eyes tell you that grass is green, not that the grass is green because god made it that way or that chlorophyll causes a green coloration in plants containing it. It can perhaps be argued what is defined as observable, but generally at least everything we see in real time is actually happening. Some might say an experiment can prove an observable fact, whereas others say the only Observable truths in an experiment are defined by every variable that went into it (Assuming said variables are also observable fact).

Personal Observational Views[edit]

In my personal views, taking an Observational set of assumptions, an Atheistic view of the world becomes an obvious choice, as 'That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence', as said by Christopher Hitchens. That being the case, only things with an Observational Scientific basis should be added top one's own world view.

In other words, the default view of one only given facts and scientific views in life tends to be an Atheistic view (For the sake of argument, we'll say a Weak Atheistic view). With no religious influence, why would one default to a religious view, which relies on faith and lack of observable evidence?

As such, given weak atheism as a default starting point, we can safely say that without evidence to the contrary, an "Observational Atheism" becomes the default view of educated individuals with no religious influence.

Those that read further into it may develop into an Observational Strong Atheism. Most Abrahamic viewpoints have many self contradictory views of their God (these contradictions are easy to find so I will not bother listing them here. The bets place to look might be Richard Dawkin's The God Delusion), thus proving their impossibility. Other religions present the possibility of gods that don't quite contradict themselves, but again, without evidence the opposite can be safely assumed on an Observational standpoint.

Of course, these views are based on the above Observational assumptions. A more ambiguous view is detailed below.

Universal View[edit]

An Observational viewpoint relies on several rulesets. For one, it relies on the senses as a universal assumption, that we begin proof through what our senses tell us (sight is more or less the '+' operative of reality). This system is fine for everyday proofs, logic, science, and overall understanding, but it is still a case of applying a human-defined ruleset to a different, unknown one. This more ambiguous view states that the ruleset we operate in is at best, not fully known, and at worst defined completely incorrectly, as evidenced by the errors the observational view applies to reality:

1) That which we view can be trusted to have actually occurred.

Says who? It may all be an illusion. Can you prove your eyes are seeing the correct thing, that your brain is receiving the correct signals, etc etc?

2) That which is generally agreed upon to have happened (based off of mass viewings), is trustworthy

What about the possibility of mass conspiracies, Divine changing of records, or even the possibility that we were created with these false records already in place?

3) In general, things are "what they seem"

Prove it

In general, this view states that since we operate in an unknown ruleset, we can not state anything as a "fact", because we have no actual constants or rules known to us to build up the proof (or deduce down to, as some might say). We could all be gremlins under a wizard's spell, physics may be manipulated by god constantly, with memories of past physics wiped form our brains, and we may not even exist.

Some may immediately go against that last assertion, quoting Descartes' work, and the basic truth of "I think, therefore I am", that when one begins to doubt their own existence, said capability of doubt proves it in the first place.

However, this relies on conventional logic as the ruleset we operate under, and relies on a base assumption created by humans. But who says some sort of influence hasn't given us an incorrect logical set of rules, that any conclusion we make can't actually be considered false logic, since the ruleset actually governing us is known?

That may sound illogical (or silly) to some, but any proof defining logic as our governing ruleset relies on logic to prove it, and while it is certainly proof within its own rules, it is not proof outside of that, becoming circular in its nature when used to infer reality. It may seem like an odd thought, but philosophically speaking, we can not prove anything outside of its own ruleset, because to start any proof in a set of rules, we must rely on an assumption of some sort, and when working with a ruleset we don't know, we have no assumptions that we can make.

Personal Universal Views[edit]

Given the above, I come to the conclusion that Strong Agnosticism ("We cannot know") is the only logical place to go. This contradicts Strong Atheism that might be the conclusion of some given an Observational viewpoint, but so long as both are kept with their correct category (For instance, calling oneself Observationally Atheist and Universally Agnostic is not contradictory, and is actually a very valid view to have), they work together to form a full viewpoint.


Overall, most religious, scientific or similar views are formed on an Observational basis, but there is also an underlying argument of possibility for pretty much anything. My own views fall under Strong Observational Atheism and Strong Universal Agnosticism, but other theories can be proven equally valid in the same way.