So someone supports some well defined (in how it applies consistently to this world) philosophical position P including the present time, not only the future (ethics might be an obvious example, but do not restrict it there), however the person does not live according to said philosophical position consistently or at all (nor anyone else does nor did), thus in practice P is not realizable, it cannot be maintained in "real life", in this world, at this instant.

Assume failure to maintain the position is independent of others' opinion (eg one is not bullied to some view, one can act freely) and the view is held sincerely (ie one really wants to realize the position and can utilize anything to realize it consistently). Thus failure to maintain P consistently is solely due to what we can term other "objective" reasons, even though we might not be able to pinpoint precisely which combination of those reasons is responsible for the failure.

What does that mean for P? Can we say it is falsified as a result? Even if we can't talk about the future absolutely or unconditionally, can we say that as long as the world has certain characteristics similar to the present, which make the stance unmaintainable, P is falsified as a result?

P.S. For example solipsism cannot be maintained consistently, nor radical skepticism, etc. Can this be used as refutation?

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    – Philip Klöcking
    Jun 21, 2022 at 13:20
  • "The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth — i.e. the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking that is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question." - K. Marx.
    – Nikos M.
    Jan 23, 2023 at 0:09
  • "A belief cannot be true if it cannot be consistently acted upon." - C. S. Peirce.
    – Nikos M.
    Jan 23, 2023 at 7:20

3 Answers 3


Is a philosophical position necessarily false when it cannot be maintained?

Well, falsehood depends on the source of the problem. Suppose the position says that a human being should do something, but in reality a human cannot do so. Then something likely went wrong during the initial analysis and creation of the philosophical position. Most likely there is some false premise either about human capability or about the potential reaction of others if the position were put into practice.

If false premises are the problem, then the overall position is falsified, necessarily, when the premises collide with reality.

  • Of course. Suppose for the sake of argument, that we cannot phrase an exact argument against P about the reasons it might fail, but we know as fact beyond the shadow of doubt that P cannot be consistently applied or maintained in this world. What does that make P?
    – Nikos M.
    Jun 20, 2022 at 7:37
  • 1
    That scenario makes P invalid. Whatever the truth or falsehood of the premises, it is known to a certainty that the conclusion (P can be consistently applied in the real world) is false. Jun 20, 2022 at 18:12
  • Indeed I think this indirect method is refutation of P (at least so far as it claims to hold here and now)
    – Nikos M.
    Jun 20, 2022 at 18:27
  • Can you rephrase your answer along these lines and ponder on the question so it is relevant?
    – Nikos M.
    Jun 20, 2022 at 18:52
  • I suppose I can. But it is not clear to me what you are looking for. Jun 20, 2022 at 19:03

No. It's apparently called a tu quoque fallacy or "Just because you're a hypocrite doesn't mean you're wrong".

Like an addict might tell you that taking drugs is bad for your health and still continue to take drugs. Does that means that taking drugs is not bad? No he's right it's actually bad for his health.

thus in practice P is not realizable, it cannot be maintained in "real life".

No it's not unrealizable, it's just not realized (yet). That's a very important difference one is arguing that it can never under any circumstances happen the other says that it so far hasn't happened.

Now if it can never, under any circumstances, happen then it will not have happened yet, so that is a necessary condition. But it is not a sufficient one to prove that it can't happen. For that you'd either need to test EVERY option in which it could happen, which could be physically impossible or you'd need to find some underlying flaw in the logic that helps you to prove that it could indeed never happen. But just pointing to a few examples will not do the trick. You're arguing with strong all-quantifiers like always or never and in that case 1 single counter example and your claim is defeated.

Even if we can't talk about the future absolutely or unconditionally, can we say that as long as the world has certain characteristics similar to the present, which make the stance unmaintainable, P is falsified as a result?

No, to claim it's falsified is making a generalized statement with a strength that is not matched with the strength of your argument. You could try to generalize conditions that would make it impossible and then argue that under those conditions it's impossible. Though continued failure alone under present condition is still a weak argument in that regard. You'd still need to make a valid argument for your proposition.

The thing is with falsificantions you're talking about logic and there are more rigorous rules than in colloquial usage.


Perhaps no philosophical principles have timeless realizeablity. About the only one I dare believe might be universal and timeless is something like Aristotle’s Principle of determination: when we think, we think of one particular thing and not the rest. It’s the antecedent to the more modern law of non-contradiction, which has numerous applications where it doesn’t hold. Read up on Graham Priest for one detractor of the LNC.

I don’t think a principle must have practitioners to be useful. I don’t absolutely believe the principle of determination and I don’t care to, but it is incredibly useful for think about. Same for the principle of sufficient reason. I’m similarly cautious about it, some deny it, and yet it helps to see which theories it applies to and which it doesn’t.

Back to solipsism. Maybe it’s just wrong. But which principle will you appeal to to demonstrate it being so? Another principle which will probably be knocked down eventually?

This just highlights, belief in or practice of a principle, is not the only reason to study them or to hold them in our lexicon. You’re playing a game not everyone agrees upon. That if you can’t realize it, we should refute it. Maybe it’s better to not waste time absolutely refuting and follow the more fruitful paths instead.

What is your goal

  • I am simply describing the experimental method to test claims about this world. A claim about this world is a philosophical position. Really there is nothing more to it. Noone seems to have grasped it. Regardless..
    – Nikos M.
    Jun 21, 2022 at 15:55
  • What I am contending is “claim about the world” as if that is the only way to entertain a philosophical principle. You are subjecting philosophical and metaphysical principles to a different method than perhaps they were intended to be studied under. That and realize we can’t even agree if motion violates the law of noncontradiction. We clearly can’t and don’t need to study these principles just on the basis of experimental refutation.
    – J Kusin
    Jun 21, 2022 at 16:37
  • I did not claim it can be used as test on anything conceivable.
    – Nikos M.
    Jun 21, 2022 at 16:39
  • @NikosM. Then what objectively prevents someone from maintaining a principle (which you claim is possible)? Tell me how to objectively refute transcendental idealism, solipsism, LNC. There are rousing debates constantly.
    – J Kusin
    Jun 21, 2022 at 17:14
  • 1
    @NikosM. Okay, but the practical differences do not mean we need to provide exactly how the principle relates to the world. Maybe G.P. studies diethalism partly because he thinks certain thought experiments can be solved with those logics. How do these thought experiments of infinite devils relate to the world? Who knows.
    – J Kusin
    Jun 21, 2022 at 17:36

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