## Friday, February 28, 2014

### The Argument for Idealism versus Realism

I’ll try once again below to evaluate the argument for idealism, but first properly describe the argument for idealism and in formal terms.

Let us just note that legitimate forms of argument must use the following forms:
(1) Deduction, yielding necessary truth (e.g., various types of syllogism)
(2) Induction, yielding probable truth, and further divided into
(1) induction by simple enumeration;
(2) inductive argument by analogy;
(3) statistical syllogism, and
(4) induction to a particular.
(3) Inference to the best explanation/abduction, yielding probable truth.
One should note that “inference to the best explanation” is frequently considered a form of inductive argument, but some classify it as a sui generis form of reasoning. Whatever the classification one choices, however, the fact remains that it is (1) an important and legitimate form of reasoning and (2) firmly in the same general category as induction as a method of argument that yields non-necessary truth.

The idealist and indeed the realist can appeal to direct personal experience as a posteriori evidence of the following:
Proposition 1: the only things I have direct and immediate experience of are
(i) my own mind, and
(ii) ideas that are presented to the mind, further divided into
(a) ideas over which I have control (imaginations, thoughts expressed in language, etc.) and
(b) ideas over which I have no control (some perceptions of the senses).
So from this the idealist can establish a posteriori the following proposition:
There exist ideas in my mind over which I have no control (perceptions of the senses).
But, furthermore, the idealist or realist can continue and construct an inductive argument, to support the idea that other minds exist.

To do this, an inductive argument by analogy can be used, and such arguments have the following general form:
a, b, c, d all have the properties P and Q
a, b, c all have the property R
Therefore d probably has the property R

where a, b, c, d are things or events, and P, Q, and R are properties of the former things.
Therefore we can construct the following argument:
“a, b, c, d, … n have the properties P, Q, R, S
a has the property of T
Therefore b, c, d, … n probably have the property of T,”

where a = myself
b = a thing that appears to be a person with a mind
c = a second thing that appears to be a person with a mind
d = a third thing that appears to be a person with a mind, etc. to
n = 14th thing that appears to be a person with a mind.

P = speaks language,
Q = seems to have emotions
R = responds to pain
S = can report descriptions of objects seen
T = a conscious mind.
Of course, you could extend the analogy to every person you meet and strengthen the argument, but the induction by analogy is clear: it is probable that the humans we experience who claim to have other minds really do have conscious minds in the same way any individual person who experiences consciousness directly does.

Note that this inductive argument has no necessary truth: it has only probable truth, and certainly does not exhaust the list of possible explanations for our experience of things that claim to be minds like us.

For example, the idealist is also subject to the Cartesian evil demon argument: how can the idealist know that all his perceptions of objects he cannot control are not caused by some malevolent force that is deceiving him? After all, he has already given an inductive argument that it is probable that other minds exist, but that argument has no necessary truth. It might be that only some of the things that claim to be other minds really have minds, or that there are only two minds: myself and the evil demon.

We could list other possible reasons:
(1) an evil demon is deceiving me;

(2) I do have a single mind, but I am dreaming or hallucinating all other minds (by some process internal to my mind that I do not understand), and other minds do not exist.

(3) I am some entity like a “brain in a vat” whose consciousness is given to me by some unknown minds for reasons unexplained.
This does not exhaust the possibilities. You can construct increasingly outlandish ones that nevertheless might be possible as long as they are at least logically possible.

So how can the idealist justify the view that his inductive argument by analogy is the best explanation of the things that seem like other minds, when such minds might not exist and be delusions? How can the idealist (or realist) answer the radical skeptic? This is not a trivial point, but a fundamental one.

It is at this point that we need to invoke the type of reasoning called inference to the best explanation (Harman 1965; Vogel 1990; Scruton 1994: 20), a form of induction or (alternatively) a legitimate non-deductive reasoning like induction.

That is, if you can provide good reasons why your theory offers a better and systemic explanation of the evidence, and show why the rival theories do not (or show that they explain very little at all), then you are rationally justified in choosing the theory that is the best explanation.

First, the evil demon. If the skeptic refuses to give reasons for why the demon caused experience x or y, or why the demon consistently causes us to have belief z, and says merely that the demon just causes them and nothing more, we already have a good reason for believing that the “demon theory” makes for a poor explanation. Even when ad hoc explanations are offered in response to such questions, things are not much better. By contrast, we can construct better explanations for so many experiences involving other minds using the theory that they exist and are not there to deceive us. We can even predict many types of behaviour of other minds based on our theory.

Furthermore, “demon theories” really do have no systemic explanation of why and how the demon deceives. After all, many experiences do not turn out to be obviously deceptive or inconsistent in the way you would expect if some force was really trying to deceive you.

Idea (3) above has less explanatory value than (1), for it openly admits that things happen for unexplained reasons.

If we move to (2) above, we can argue that dreams and hallucinations have different properties than what we call conscious, non-dreaming existence: dreams are usually more fragmented, less clear, and often inconsistent, and lack the constancy we find in “waking” conscious existence. Does the dreaming hypothesis offer a powerful explanatory theory for many aspects of the consistency of waking life, as compared with the hypothesis that waking consciousness contains other minds like ours? Not really.

By inference to the best explanation, one can argue that the behaviour, properties and consistency of our experience of other minds suggest that they do exist and other explanations are inferior on present evidence.

Note how, as we have seen, even the idealist must invoke a non-deductive inference to the best explanation to choose between competing theories and overcome the skeptics.

Now let us proceed to the next proposition that the idealist must accept:
“There are ideas over which I have no control with a causal origin external to me.”
The idealist must accept this, as it follows on logically from his rejection of the sceptical “dreaming” theory above.

For it is possible that, although I exist as a real mind, my entire conscious life might be a dream generated by some internal process inside my mind that I do not understand. Why? The reason is that it is clear, by direct personal experience, that we do not understand many aspects of our cognition and thought (e.g., why do we make Freudian slips, or sometime forget things we easily remember on other occasions?). There is no reason a priori why our latter “dreaming” explanation is necessarily false.

So the idealist is committed to the view that some external cause is the explanation for those ideas over which we have no control (e.g., constant perceptions of the senses).

How does he provide a rational justification for this? Again, it is by inference to the best explanation: the other theories positing a mere unknown internal cause of the ideas over which we have control are judged to be inferior explanations.

We now have three propositions:
Proposition (1): There are ideas over which I have no control (perceptions of the senses).

Proposition (2): It is probable that the humans we experience who claim to have other minds really do have conscious minds in the same way any individual person who experiences consciousness directly does.

Proposition (3): There are ideas over which I have no control with a causal origin external to me.
But notice how these propositions can be accepted by any realist too, who will have used the same type of arguments to defeat the Cartesian skeptic. It is at this point that the idealist and indirect realist part company.

For the question is now:
What is the external cause which is the causal origin of those ideas over which we have no control?
Some of the earlier sceptical theories are still relevant. But the list of possible explanations or theories is larger.

If we have given an inductive argument for the probability of an external cause, then no logically possible external cause can be ruled out a priori.

Here the skeptic will demand that his theories at least be considered as possibilities, but also the theistic idealist, non-theistic idealist, realist and panpsychist will add other theories too:
(1) an evil demon is the external cause (skeptic);

(2) we are “brains in a vat” whose consciousness is given by some unknown minds for reasons unexplained (skeptic);

(3) a god of classical theism is the mind that is external cause (theistic idealist);

(4) a “super-mind” that is not the god of classical theism is the external cause;

(5) we live in a purely mental world, but every object of our perception is invested with a mind and hence there are multiple external causes for all constant objects we perceive (a variant on panpsychism);

(6) there are non-mental objective external objects that are the causal origin of our perceptions of them (indirect realist).
Other possibilities could be added of course, but these make a useful list.

Can the idealist rule out any of these other possibilities a priori without simply begging the question by already assuming idealism is true? I do not think so.

All must be regarded as at least possibilities.

And at this point it is induction and inference to the best explanation that must be invoked to decide which one is true.

The idea that the indirect realist does not use legitimate logic or induction is untrue, for we need only consider the induction by analogy arguments that can be invoked by the realist or the idealist:
(1) the idealist:
We observe directly things that claim to be minds that probably have minds (e.g., people). On analogy, there might be an unobserved super-mind that is the external cause.

(2) the realist:
We observe directly in our minds objects that appear to have no minds and probably do not have minds (e.g., tables, chairs, rocks, books). On analogy, there may be unobserved non-mental objects that are the external causal origin of our perceptions of these things.
These are both inductions by analogy: in this step, the realist and idealist are on the same epistemological ground.

But who is right? We now need to move beyond this to inference to the best explanation.

Does the idealist theory of the super-mind explain the vast set of experiences and evidence we see around us?

E.g.,
(1) what are fossils under the idealist theory? Presumably they are mere ideas that existed in the super-mind in the past.

(2) but this just raises the question: why did the super-mind create in its thought a world 541 to 485 million years ago devoid of human minds with Cambrian aquatic animals and plants? To what purpose?

For some unexplained reason the super mind imagined all these animals. Then thought of the idea of “mass extinctions.” But then thought of vast numbers of new animals in later eras, only to cause more “mass extinctions” by its ideas. Why?
The questions that the idealist cannot give coherent answers to multiply to huge numbers quickly:
(1) did dinosaurs have minds?

(2) when did animals first have real minds? Did the “mass extinctions” cause suffering to animals if they had minds?

(3) why did the super-mind “destroy” the dinosaurs?

(4) why are some humans colour blind?
When pressed, there is little the idealist can say in response precisely because his theory has poor explanatory power. These questions remain mysterious puzzles.

But, as I have shown in the last post, the indirect realist materialist has an interpretation of the natural sciences that has great explanatory power and can give coherent and powerful explanations of all these questions and thousands more, and is superior to the idealist theory.

The universe really exists as a material external world and requires no god or mind for its existence and operation. Nor will it do for the idealist to say that idealism just follows natural science in its explanation of the world but stripped of matter: for natural science says the universe is an independent entity and has autonomous natural laws that do not require any god or super-mind to create events and objects in it. That is the whole thrust of modern science since Newton!

All life on earth exists in an external world and evolved by Darwinian natural selection: the result of (1) chance mutation or combination of real DNA and (2) the deterministic process of survival of fitter animals.

DNA is a real external object that creates animals by genetics and biochemistry.

And of course once realism is accepted it is but a short step by inductive evidence to the probable conclusion that minds are causally dependent on brains.

There is a vast research literature about animal minds: they are dependent on the complexity of brains that really exist inside the organisms as external objects in the real world. We have a probable inductive theory about why the dinosaurs died out: a chance contingent event caused their destruction when an asteroid hit the earth. Precisely the type of chance event that can happen in a real external universe like ours with real asteroids flying around our solar system.

Human beings experience colour blindness because of genetic defects and disease, and so on, and so forth.

In short, an inference to the best explanation supports realist materialism as the most powerful explanatory theory. It is rational, powerful and supported by evidence.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Harman, Gilbert H. 1965. “The Inference to the Best Explanation,” Philosophical Review 64: 88–95.

Moser, Paul. 1990. “Two Roads to Skepticism,” in M. D. Roth and G. Ross (eds.), Doubting: Contemporary Perspectives on Skepticism. Kluwer, Dordrecht. 127–139.

Scruton, R. 1994. Modern Philosophy: An Introduction and Survey. Penguin Books, London.

Vogel, Jonathan. 1990. “Cartesian Skepticism and Inference to the Best Explanation,” The Journal of Philosophy 87.11: 658–666.

1. (1) I note that the term "materialism" has fallen out of the conversation which is odd because that is what this is all about. For example,

"(2) the realist:
We observe directly in our minds objects that appear to have no minds and probably do not have minds (e.g., tables, chairs, rocks, books). On analogy, there may be unobserved non-mental objects that are the external causal origin of our perceptions of these things."

What does "external causal origin" consist of here? I am saying that there is an "external causal origin" too. And I am placing it in the super-mind. Where are you placing this "external causal origin"?

Is it in matter? Or have you given up recourse to matter? Because this is the crux of the issue.

(2) The rest of the post about dinosaurs and so on I do not understand at all. I would have identical explanations for ALL those things that you have. I do not know why you think otherwise. I literally don't know where you are getting this stuff from. I can only assume that you have misunderstood the idealist position. But I don't even know what the misunderstanding is. So, I cannot answer to it.

1. "What does "external causal origin" consist of here? ... Where are you placing this "external causal origin"?

= things not directly observed that I have called "unobserved non-mental objects": external physical objects of some kind we never have immediate access to it, just as you never have immediate access to the super-mind.

Yes, of course what science calls matter (elementary particles mediated by forces) are what probably make up the "external physical objects" I postulate.

Your super-mind is a hypothesis just like mine.

The possibility of "external physical objects of some kind" (probably made of matter) is clearly logical possible and straightforwardly supportable by induction.

Just as you inductively infer that:
"We observe directly things that claim to be minds that probably have minds (e.g., people). On analogy, there might be an unobserved super-mind that is the external cause."

These are both arguments by analogy.

My argument (1) uses an inductive argument by analogy just like yours and (2) clearly uses logical reasoning.

2. I don't think it is...

You cannot describe matter. I can describe the super-mind. That is what I keep saying.

If you want to prove me wrong simply describe matter. (Particles etc. are just ideas that we encounter, "matter" is the supposed substance that underlies them...). So, describe matter without recourse to ideas or minds. I don't think you can.

3. "You cannot describe matter. I can describe the super-mind.

But of course I can describe it: once I accept by inference to the best explanation that my theory is better , it is probable that everything that science says about the elementary particles mediated by the fundamental forces in the standard model is our description of what matter is.

As I said in the last thread: the counterargument that we never have direct and immediate access to "matter" doesn't refute me nor does Berkeley's master argument, because I never claimed that we have direct and immediate access to it, only indirect.

4. But you aren't describing matter. You are just describing ideas. You cannot describe the substance. So, why assume a substance exists that you cannot even begin to describe?

I can describe all the substances that I assume to exist (minds and ideas) but you seem unable to describe one of the substances that you assume to exist.

5. "I can describe all the substances that I assume to exist (minds and ideas) but you seem unable to describe one of the substances that you assume to exist."

I think we get what ideas are, sure, but here's your definition of mind:

"Mind = that entity that I think of as self-same and which acts and reacts to ideas. This is not an idea because it is that which reacts to ideas."

And yet you cannot express it independently of ideas: "act," "react," even the very idea of the "that" which performs the above operations on ideas.

Far from muddying up the water, though, this might be helpful; we now have a clear case in which an idea is a transitive/indirect object -- an idea "of" something intransitive and beyond itself. Therefore, we have an ideal basis for drawing analogies to other intransitive referents for ideas, e.g., an independent external world of which "mind" is only one object.

2. Can you clarify

“a, b, c, d, … n have the properties P, Q, R, S
a has the property of T
Therefore b, c, d, … n probably have the property of T,”?

As it seems likely to lead to false results of the type

"birds, cats, dog, sheep...have the properties of breathing, eating, reproducing etc
birds have the property of flying
therefore cats, dog, sheep probably have the property of flying."

Its not clear how you could calculate (or guess at) the degree of probability of sharing a further attribute just from sharing some other attributes in common

1. (1) Of course inductive arguments can't yield certainty and can be fallible!

(2) But just look at your examples: ""birds, cats, dog, sheep."

Those are different species of animal, so of course your induction is much less secure.

But I invoke individual members of the same species:

where a = myself
b = a thing that appears to be a person with a mind
c = a second thing that appears to be a person with a mind
d = a third thing that appears to be a person with a mind, etc. to
n = 14th thing that appears to be a person with a mind.

(3) I don't claim that you can give any objective probability from these inductions: only non numeric epistemic probability.

But I contend that my use of individual members of the same species increases the soundness and probability of my argument being true.

2. Yes, you can see that the human brain has probably evolved to make decisions based on these kind of "non numeric epistemic probability" inductions quite efficiently.

And the conclusion "The universe really exists as a material external world and requires no god or mind for its existence and operation" is (I assume) also based on such "non numeric epistemic probabilities" as well as having greater explanatory powers than competing theories.

But this conclusion can never be proven.

BTW: Great article and I agree with this conclusion (if I have understood it correctly).

3. Thanks, and of course my arguments above are non-deductive: realist materialism remains a probable theory only, never certain.

4. I'm not sure though that the "super-mind" theory actually lacks any explanatory power over the "material external world" theory. For example as long as you have the super-mind "remembering" whether dinosaurs had minds or not and presenting the right perceptions at the right time then the theory is co-coherent.

Its just (in my view) more complex and less elegant than the materialist view.

5. The argument is not that the idealist "super-mind" theory has zero explanatory power, but that relative to the realist materialist one it has quite poor explanatory power on many issues.

3. I agree with your three main forms of argument for the most part but I'm not sure about your breakdown of induction. Perhaps you can elaborate a bit.

I would characterize induction as an inference from a sample to a population. Then, of course, we can talk about good sampling procedures.

Let me break down my concerns here and you can clarify a bit more what you mean.

1) enumeration

i) If we're enumerating the entire population wouldn't that be a deduction?

ii) If it's a sample then by what technique are we sampling?

Ideally it should be a random sample from the entire population. Then how is that different from (3) statistical syllogism?

I suppose you can tolerate a "representative" sample but to actually determine if the sample is "representative" you'd have to know quite a bit about the population.

If by enumerate you mean going through every single occurrence we encounter ("this dove is white", etc) then I guess I'd be inclined to question what makes it a good argument at all. On what grounds could you conclude that the sample is anything like the population at all?

(4) Regarding induction to a particular, what do you mean by this? Do you mean starting from an inductive generalization and then deducing a particular? Or something else? (The former I would still classify as deductive.)

(2) I suspect my criticism of analogy will be along the lines of anonymous above. I would suggest that either:

i) this isn't an argument at all (or at least a lousy one)

or

ii) it's just another form of abduction.

In your response to Anonymous you suggest it's critical that they are different species. But can we say they are all animals? Here we have a sample of animal types and we note they all have certain properties. And birds have all of those properties plus one additional property. To the extent that this is an inductive argument, it's an induction based on a sample size of 1. We're inferring that all animals can fly based on the fact that birds can fly.

But the thing I don't get is this: What's a "thing that appears to be a person with a mind"? What does that mean? My best guess is that it means that it possesses properties P, Q, R and S.

. . . which is why I suspect this is just an abductive argument in disguise. I think this could be done in a couple of ways. The way I might approach would be this:

We infer that other persons are conscious because positing that other persons are conscious (if granted true) would explain why they can do P, Q, R and S.

But we might approach it like this:

We might posit something more general: say being "human". And being human entails properties P, Q, R, S and T. We note that b, c, d, e, . . ., n possess P, Q, R and S. So we posit that they are human (as it would explain why they possess P, Q, R and S). Then we can infer that they also possess T.

1. (1) My list of the standard, different forms of inductive argument comes straight from Copi, Irving, Cohen, Carl and Kenneth McMahon. 2011. Introduction to Logic (14th edn.). Prentice Hall, Boston, Mass. and London.

You'll find the same list in any standard textbook of logic.

So presumably reading a good book on logic would be your easiest and most enlightening solution to questions about inductive argument.

(2) "We might posit something more general: say being "human". And being human entails properties P, Q, R, S and T."

That would just reduce the statement "being human entails properties P, Q, R, S and T" to an analytic a priori proposition.

The whole point of the argument used above is to infer that other humans are conscious by inductive argument, not simply define humans as conscious in a lazy tautology.

2. I think you're missing my point here. I don't consider analogy to be a distinct form of argument. And you seem to be using it in either one of two ways which is either an induction from one observation or you're offering an abductive argument.

Q1: Is your population "a thing that appears to be a person with a mind", "human" or something else?

I ask because in your response to anonymous you suggested it was important they were of the same species and not different.

I also wanted to know what you meant by "things that appear to be a person with a mind" because I suspect that's going to be related with your properties P, Q, R and S which gets to question 2. . .

Q2: Why did you choose properties like "speaks language" instead of things like "has two nostrils"?

The way you present the structure of the analogical argument suggests that the argument should be indifferent to what properties I include. So either using properties like "has two nostrils" would be equally valid or there's something missing from the structure of the argument.

To use an example, consider the following argument:

x is a dove and x is white.
y is a dove and y is white.

Now what conclusion should I draw from this?

Can I say all doves are white? How about all white things are doves?

I would suggest that sampling procedures are relevant here. My sample size of 2 doves (or even a million doves) is hardly representative of the entire population of white things (certainly not random).

So if I were to say that this describes the structure of an inductive argument:

x is S and x is P
y is S and y is P
Therefore all S are P

you could argue that it does not take into account all of the salient features of the argument. It ignores the sampling procedures which is why we infer all doves are white instead of all white things are doves.

As far as I can tell, given the structure you present, Anonymous' argument that dogs can fly is a perfectly valid argument which is why I think the structure you present fails to capture all of the salient features of the argument. And that's why I'm inquiring about what filler you need so on to question 3. . .

Q3: What's the filler to your argument?

What I was suggesting was that the filler amounted to: these two things are similar therefore they are the same category (and by extension, they possess all of the features of that category). I consider this entirely to be an abductive argument (we're postulating they are the same category which explains why they are similar). I think this requires a sort of "natural kind" belief. Arbitrary categories wouldn't allow any sort of inference.

My preferred suggestion was that you were making the abductive inference that positing these other entities were conscious would explain why they possess properties P, Q, R and S.

Now the other option is that there is no filler. What we instead have is an inductive argument of a sample size of one since only one part of your sample possesses the relevant property. I'm not sure how much credibility can be given to such arguments (I wouldn't give much.)

Last Example

This should further illustrate why the structure of the argument doesn't take into account all of the salient features you're utizing.

a ("you"), b, c, d, etc (others) have properties P, Q, R and S.
You have this DNA.
Therefore b, c, d, etc all have the same DNA.

Would you consider this a valid analogical argument? Or does it fail to capture something in it?

4. A couple comments that may be more on your main topic.

I think there's a bit of irony with Berkeley as one of his criticisms (I can't find the quote at the moment) of the new sciences amounted to a criticism of abduction (IIRC, he criticized the fact that their conclusions amounted to assumptions) and yet his postulate of God is an abductive argument to resolve object permanence with his "to be is to perceive" bit. (Granted, the fact that I can't even find the quote means I might be misrepresenting him.)

. . .

1) There are two things regarding abduction in the sciences that I think are typically lacking in metaphysics. The first is that the abductions in the sciences (particularly physics) give very specific predictions on what's being postulated. Consider the postulates of both Neptune and Vulcan in which we could make very specific characterizations about their mass and orbits.

And the second thing (and perhaps partly as a consequence of the first) is that it provides us with follow-up questions that we can research and either confirm or rule out.

I suspect "explanatory value" means something different in metaphysics than it does in, say, physics.

2) This discussion seems to be a quarrel between idealism and materialism. But what about, say, Heisenberg's form of Aristotelianism?

3) All of these arguments ultimately start with classical empiricism (Berkeley, Hume and the 20th century followups with phenomenalists and positivists) or as I like to refer to it: garbage empiricism. There's an argument that can be made that this is a horrible place to start which might go like this:

1) Classical empiricism offers a poor description of scientific practice.
2) Scientific practice has been more fruitful in expanding our knowledge than classical empiricism.

Therefore, we should reject classical empiricism.

I'll admit my instrumentalist sympathies might somewhat show through here but I don't see why starting with "sense impressions" need be "foundational" for knowledge. We can start with any foundation we find useful and abandon them as they wear out that usefulness.

I'm also skeptical of philosophies that begin "all things are X" where X is (matter, ideas, water, etc) because I think the term then loses meaning. I mean, if everything is X then can I really say I have some criteria by which I can distinguish between X and not X? *shrug*

5. 1. The general form of your inductive argumentis problematic.

Quote: “a, b, c, d, … n have the properties P, Q, R, S
a has the property of T
Therefore b, c, d, … n probably have the property of T,"

In the empirical sense, one can only say that a,b,c,d,...n are associated with a certain frequency with properties P,Q,R,S,

then the rest of argument.

That fact lends to to have a question about your properties of

P = speaks language,
Q = seems to have emotions
R = responds to pain
S = can report descriptions of objects seen
T = a conscious mind.

Aren't all of these time dependent descriptions based on a human scale time frame of reaction?

If a supermind existed why would you assume that manifestation of P,Q,R,S,T would be recognized within the normal frequency frames of the human mind's preconception of these things?

If the effects of the thought of the supermind "move" at light speed how would one judge them in terms effects of that which has mass less than the universal mass and since human must be limited to direct interactions of things slower than light?

You assumptions aren't rational. They are sensually biased toward human physiological responses to stimuli not necessarily reality for another other kind of intelligent mind.

You've brought Newton's absolute time into your definition of what counts as evidence as the actions of mind.

The nihilist "God is dead" i.e. supermind(s) are unknowable may seem tempting at this point now that realist facade is shown to nothing more than sensual biases but do believe that history has shown that it is in fact the essence of the human to discover and "know" that which it does not perceive via directly empirical sensing. i.e. the laws of planetary motion, the principle of gravitation, etc...

At this point, I don't believe we have looked seriously for "superminds" or that we necessarily have the tools to make such claims either way.

The only conclusion we can make is that people should be free to consider such ideas as part of the process of generating hypothesis for science as
I think science is the art of adducing that which must be from the counter factual phenomena learn from inductive comparison.

To limit oneself away conceptions of a reality that is not currently considered perceivable isn't good science or thinking.

Great Topic by the way.