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You can prove a negative.

kp98
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11/9/2015 5:06:35 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/9/2015 4:25:10 AM, LiberalProlifer wrote:
The sun is not cold, the earth is not flat, cats are not dogs, and so on.

Of course you're right. I've often wondered how 'You can't prove a negative' ever got started, because obviously it isn't true - never was true, never will be true.

Yet it has become a cliche, so I suppose we're stuck with it - annoying though it is.
dylancatlow
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11/9/2015 5:16:15 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
When people say "you can't prove a negative" they mean that it's impossible to disprove the existence of something. They don't mean that you can't disprove any statement whatsoever. So, for instance, they would accept that the earth is not flat, but they wouldn't accept a statement which says that it's definitely not true that there's an exact copy of earth somewhere in space.
kp98
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11/9/2015 5:35:51 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
When people say "you can't prove a negative" they mean that it's impossible to disprove the existence of something.

If only! In my experience people say it all the time regardless of context and only very rarely where it might actually apply. Better off ignoring it completely.
HarveyMeale
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11/9/2015 7:42:53 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
One would think it is very possible to disprove the existence of something, no? There is no brown cow inside the room in which I currently reside.

And if we disagree on that simply because nothing has a 0% possibility in terms of quantum mechanics, then we're really just making an excuse for ignoring the semantics of the statement.
skipsaweirdo
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11/9/2015 10:03:56 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/9/2015 4:25:10 AM, LiberalProlifer wrote:
The sun is not cold, the earth is not flat, cats are not dogs, and so on.
You do realize the statement you cannot prove a negative is a negative. People who don't see it as self defeating are logically inept. Just like the phrase "change the future". By definition in order for something to be called the "future" it is something that will absolutely happen. I.e. if you "changed" it, then saying it was the future would have been a lie. Therefore logically , the phrase is self defeating and cannot be within an argument that is logically sound.
The argument "God can change the future" is inherently a contradiction and is incoherent. Doesn't mean that the future is set in stone. I'm not implying that position at all just to be clear and I'm not saying the opposite either.
And "cannot change the future" is redundant. People miss the little things that are obvious sometimes.
Wylted
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11/9/2015 11:42:49 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/9/2015 4:25:10 AM, LiberalProlifer wrote:
The sun is not cold,

Maybe your perception is off, and you feel things opposite of what they are.

the earth is not flat,

Yes it is or people would fall off the bottom

cats are not dogs, and so on.

Cats are pets and dogs are pets. Therefore they're both the same thing
Chrysaor
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11/9/2015 4:29:13 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/9/2015 4:25:10 AM, LiberalProlifer wrote:
The sun is not cold, the earth is not flat, cats are not dogs, and so on.

Of course you can -- and nobody claims otherwise. The "proving a negative" fallacy arises when somebody says the positive is true because you can't prove the negative. The negation of something is assumed as true unless the positive is proven, per this viewpoint in epistemology,
dylancatlow
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11/10/2015 1:00:47 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/9/2015 5:35:51 AM, kp98 wrote:
When people say "you can't prove a negative" they mean that it's impossible to disprove the existence of something.

If only! In my experience people say it all the time regardless of context and only very rarely where it might actually apply. Better off ignoring it completely.

Tell those people that they are catastrophic spiders.
sdavio
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11/10/2015 11:02:40 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/9/2015 5:16:15 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
When people say "you can't prove a negative" they mean that it's impossible to disprove the existence of something. They don't mean that you can't disprove any statement whatsoever. So, for instance, they would accept that the earth is not flat, but they wouldn't accept a statement which says that it's definitely not true that there's an exact copy of earth somewhere in space.

Disproving a statement and disproving the existence of something are essentially the same where that statement refers to a state of affairs and isn't purely self referential like in logic. If we assume that proof is possible, then disproof is possible to exactly the same degree; we can prove the non-existence of something just as much as we can prove existence.

This is provable purely via grammar: A negative / positive statement (or one of existence vs non-existence) can be replaced by a different statement of the opposite kind.. like how "A is above B" can be replaced by "B is below A". If I open a box and look inside, and then inform you that "There's nothing in this box," then what I'm describing is a 'positive' account of my visual experience of seeing the insides of an empty box (which is equally as provable as the statement that there's some object inside it), and my negative statement could theoretically be replaced by that positive account, however the negative version is simply pragmatically preferable in that case. It's not due to something epistemologically remarkable about negative statements.

"they wouldn't accept a statement which says that it's definitely not true that there's an exact copy of earth somewhere in space."

This seems to presuppose the most philosophically strict (and empty) definition of "definitely", which is that something is absolutely self-evident. It is not absolutely self-evident that there is even one earth somewhere in space: it relies on our perception and powers of reasoning to come to this conclusion, so the distinction isn't a binary one of certainty, but a question of degrees of available evidence.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
dylancatlow
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11/10/2015 9:10:44 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/10/2015 11:02:40 AM, sdavio wrote:
At 11/9/2015 5:16:15 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
When people say "you can't prove a negative" they mean that it's impossible to disprove the existence of something. They don't mean that you can't disprove any statement whatsoever. So, for instance, they would accept that the earth is not flat, but they wouldn't accept a statement which says that it's definitely not true that there's an exact copy of earth somewhere in space.

Disproving a statement and disproving the existence of something are essentially the same where that statement refers to a state of affairs and isn't purely self referential like in logic. If we assume that proof is possible, then disproof is possible to exactly the same degree; we can prove the non-existence of something just as much as we can prove existence.


It's possible to disprove a statement asserting a certain state of affairs only when that statement is specific enough to be falsified by a certain observation. For instance, the claim that the moon doesn't rotate around the earth can be falsified by observing that it does in fact do so. Those kinds of statements can be falsified. But statements like "elves exists (or have existed)" cannot be falsified because there's literally no amount of observations which could show that. You can't observe the lack of elves in general, only their absence within certain areas and over a certain timeframe.
ShabShoral
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11/11/2015 2:01:54 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/10/2015 9:10:44 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 11/10/2015 11:02:40 AM, sdavio wrote:
At 11/9/2015 5:16:15 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
When people say "you can't prove a negative" they mean that it's impossible to disprove the existence of something. They don't mean that you can't disprove any statement whatsoever. So, for instance, they would accept that the earth is not flat, but they wouldn't accept a statement which says that it's definitely not true that there's an exact copy of earth somewhere in space.

Disproving a statement and disproving the existence of something are essentially the same where that statement refers to a state of affairs and isn't purely self referential like in logic. If we assume that proof is possible, then disproof is possible to exactly the same degree; we can prove the non-existence of something just as much as we can prove existence.


It's possible to disprove a statement asserting a certain state of affairs only when that statement is specific enough to be falsified by a certain observation. For instance, the claim that the moon doesn't rotate around the earth can be falsified by observing that it does in fact do so. Those kinds of statements can be falsified. But statements like "elves exists (or have existed)" cannot be falsified because there's literally no amount of observations which could show that. You can't observe the lack of elves in general, only their absence within certain areas and over a certain timeframe.

Wrong. An omnipotent being would be able to disprove the existence of elves quite easily - just because your tiny spider-brain can't doesn't mean a thing.
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dylancatlow
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11/11/2015 2:08:40 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/11/2015 2:01:54 AM, ShabShoral wrote:
At 11/10/2015 9:10:44 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 11/10/2015 11:02:40 AM, sdavio wrote:
At 11/9/2015 5:16:15 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
When people say "you can't prove a negative" they mean that it's impossible to disprove the existence of something. They don't mean that you can't disprove any statement whatsoever. So, for instance, they would accept that the earth is not flat, but they wouldn't accept a statement which says that it's definitely not true that there's an exact copy of earth somewhere in space.

Disproving a statement and disproving the existence of something are essentially the same where that statement refers to a state of affairs and isn't purely self referential like in logic. If we assume that proof is possible, then disproof is possible to exactly the same degree; we can prove the non-existence of something just as much as we can prove existence.


It's possible to disprove a statement asserting a certain state of affairs only when that statement is specific enough to be falsified by a certain observation. For instance, the claim that the moon doesn't rotate around the earth can be falsified by observing that it does in fact do so. Those kinds of statements can be falsified. But statements like "elves exists (or have existed)" cannot be falsified because there's literally no amount of observations which could show that. You can't observe the lack of elves in general, only their absence within certain areas and over a certain timeframe.

Wrong. An omnipotent being would be able to disprove the existence of elves quite easily - just because your tiny spider-brain can't doesn't mean a thing.

You catastrophic spider!
ShabShoral
Posts: 3,234
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11/11/2015 2:09:11 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/11/2015 2:08:40 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 11/11/2015 2:01:54 AM, ShabShoral wrote:
At 11/10/2015 9:10:44 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 11/10/2015 11:02:40 AM, sdavio wrote:
At 11/9/2015 5:16:15 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
When people say "you can't prove a negative" they mean that it's impossible to disprove the existence of something. They don't mean that you can't disprove any statement whatsoever. So, for instance, they would accept that the earth is not flat, but they wouldn't accept a statement which says that it's definitely not true that there's an exact copy of earth somewhere in space.

Disproving a statement and disproving the existence of something are essentially the same where that statement refers to a state of affairs and isn't purely self referential like in logic. If we assume that proof is possible, then disproof is possible to exactly the same degree; we can prove the non-existence of something just as much as we can prove existence.


It's possible to disprove a statement asserting a certain state of affairs only when that statement is specific enough to be falsified by a certain observation. For instance, the claim that the moon doesn't rotate around the earth can be falsified by observing that it does in fact do so. Those kinds of statements can be falsified. But statements like "elves exists (or have existed)" cannot be falsified because there's literally no amount of observations which could show that. You can't observe the lack of elves in general, only their absence within certain areas and over a certain timeframe.

Wrong. An omnipotent being would be able to disprove the existence of elves quite easily - just because your tiny spider-brain can't doesn't mean a thing.

You catastrophic spider!

Whelp.
"This site is trash as a debate site. It's club penguin for dysfunctional adults."

~ Skepsikyma <3

"Your idea of good writing is like Spinoza mixed with Heidegger."

~ Dylly Dylly Cat Cat

"You seem to aspire to be a cross between a Jewish hipster, an old school WASP aristocrat, and a political iconoclast"

~ Thett the Mighty

"fvck omg ur face"

~ Liz
Fly
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11/11/2015 4:58:38 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/9/2015 7:42:53 AM, HarveyMeale wrote:
One would think it is very possible to disprove the existence of something, no? There is no brown cow inside the room in which I currently reside.

There isn't? Prove it.

And if we disagree on that simply because nothing has a 0% possibility in terms of quantum mechanics, then we're really just making an excuse for ignoring the semantics of the statement.
"You don't have a right to be a jerk."
--Religion Forum's hypocrite extraordinaire serving up lulz
sdavio
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11/11/2015 6:21:43 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/10/2015 9:10:44 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 11/10/2015 11:02:40 AM, sdavio wrote:
At 11/9/2015 5:16:15 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
When people say "you can't prove a negative" they mean that it's impossible to disprove the existence of something. They don't mean that you can't disprove any statement whatsoever. So, for instance, they would accept that the earth is not flat, but they wouldn't accept a statement which says that it's definitely not true that there's an exact copy of earth somewhere in space.

Disproving a statement and disproving the existence of something are essentially the same where that statement refers to a state of affairs and isn't purely self referential like in logic. If we assume that proof is possible, then disproof is possible to exactly the same degree; we can prove the non-existence of something just as much as we can prove existence.


It's possible to disprove a statement asserting a certain state of affairs only when that statement is specific enough to be falsified by a certain observation. For instance, the claim that the moon doesn't rotate around the earth can be falsified by observing that it does in fact do so. Those kinds of statements can be falsified. But statements like "elves exists (or have existed)" cannot be falsified because there's literally no amount of observations which could show that. You can't observe the lack of elves in general, only their absence within certain areas and over a certain timeframe.

A finite being could never *totally* prove nor disprove anything. The existence of "this rock" is always based on a partial experience which is always to some degree inductive. That is the lesson of Descartes' doubt. What you said about the claim needing to be specific applies equally here: Absolute proof of positive existence is impossible where we allow for claims as broad as Descartes' demon. Existence and non-existence are just the same in this regard.

For your claims about falsification, I'm not sure how this distinguishes anything, either. "X exists" and "X doesn't exist" are in principle falsifiable to exactly the same degree. This may vary for individual examples but certainly it rules out the absurd idea that non-existence is completely impossible to prove. If we know that the show Seinfeld was written by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, and was intended as a work of fiction, that constitutes evidence, which 'falsifies' the claim that the events depicted in that show actually 'existed' as real events.

Some objects are more easily shown to exist due to being easily available, but this doesn't hold as a universal principle. In fact the opposite holds for others.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
sdavio
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11/11/2015 6:28:05 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
No claim a human being makes can be applied as absolute truth at the level of 'the entire universe' and be expected to remain coherent. This just becomes more clear with statements of non-existence, but anything you point out about the nature of statements of non-existence in principle, can be shown to apply equally well to 'positive' statements.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
Ore_Ele
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11/12/2015 12:20:26 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/9/2015 5:06:35 AM, kp98 wrote:
At 11/9/2015 4:25:10 AM, LiberalProlifer wrote:
The sun is not cold, the earth is not flat, cats are not dogs, and so on.

Of course you're right. I've often wondered how 'You can't prove a negative' ever got started, because obviously it isn't true - never was true, never will be true.

Yet it has become a cliche, so I suppose we're stuck with it - annoying though it is.

It is because there are some negatives that cannot reasonably be proven.

For example "there are no alien body snatchers inhabiting human bodies" cannot be proven without testing every single person. As such, because of the inability to really "prove" it, the burden is naturally shifted towards the positive claim, rather than the negative claim.
"Wanting Red Rhino Pill to have gender"
kp98
Posts: 729
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11/12/2015 9:23:29 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
It should be 'You can't a negative - except for those you can'. It's like 'i before e except after C.... except for wierd, species, financier, seizure, Cassopeia, caffein... etc.'. There are more exception to the rule than followers of it.

'You can't prove a negative' is probably more often untrue that not and its hard to think of a good reason for it being such a cliche. Sensible people wouldn't use it (at least not in it's unvarnished form) and anyone who uses it in earnest needs a good talking to!
Emgaol
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11/18/2015 12:56:15 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/9/2015 5:16:15 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
When people say "you can't prove a negative" they mean that it's impossible to disprove the existence of something. They don't mean that you can't disprove any statement whatsoever. So, for instance, they would accept that the earth is not flat, but they wouldn't accept a statement which says that it's definitely not true that there's an exact copy of earth somewhere in space.

It is no more a fallacy to try to prove the non-existence of an entity than it is to try to prove its existence. In order to prove either, one must seek evidence of its existence. If there is no evidence forthcoming that it exists then one must simply acknowledge that there is no evidence that it exists. Without any evidence, one can neither assert that it does exist nor that it doesn't exist.

A real life proof:
The Michaelson/Morley experiment showed how a claim that luminiferous aether, "an invisible and infinite material with no interaction with physical objects", was proven to not exist. The generalisations that one can't prove a negative, or that one can't prove universal or absolute non-existence [of something], have been disproven. They are false statements.

I need only one example to disprove the generalisations, just as a single black swan refutes the assumption that all swans are white.
Pase66
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11/23/2015 2:43:04 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/9/2015 4:25:10 AM, LiberalProlifer wrote:
The sun is not cold, the earth is not flat, cats are not dogs, and so on.

To me, I like to think of it as "you're not able to prove the non- existence of something". You can only prove how likely it is not to exist, but you truly can't prove something doesn't exist. For example, based on physical laws, there is a high likelihood that flying unicorns don't exist. But objectively, I can't say "Unicorns don't exist", for I truly don't know that. For all I know, there could be a flying unicorn outside the observable universe...
Check out these Current Debates
It Cannot be Shown that The Qur'an is Revelation from God
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Double_R
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11/23/2015 3:59:36 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/9/2015 4:25:10 AM, LiberalProlifer wrote:
The sun is not cold, the earth is not flat, cats are not dogs, and so on.

How about this one...
http://www.debate.org...
Emgaol
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11/23/2015 1:50:03 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/23/2015 2:43:04 AM, Pase66 wrote:
To me, I like to think of it as "you're not able to prove the non- existence of something". You can only prove how likely it is not to exist, but you truly can't prove something doesn't exist. For example, based on physical laws, there is a high likelihood that flying unicorns don't exist. But objectively, I can't say "Unicorns don't exist", for I truly don't know that. For all I know, there could be a flying unicorn outside the observable universe...
Hi Pase66,
You say that objectively, you can't say "Unicorns don't exist", and that you truly don't know that. I can understand your scepticism, and I agree. However, can you say that unicorns do exist? Are you able to prove the existence of unicorns? Or, are you only able to prove how likely it is that they do exist?
Emgaol
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11/23/2015 2:08:22 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/23/2015 3:59:36 AM, Double_R wrote:
How about this one...
http://www.debate.org...
Hi Double_R
I hope you enjoyed yourself with the debate. I enjoyed reading it. I'm afraid I wouldn't have taken you on because I'd have to know what it is that you knew about Bob the Magical Fairy.
For example:
1. How do you know his name is Bob?
2. How do you know he has "Magical" powers?
3. How do you know that he is a fairy? and
4. What evidence do you have that he did what you accuse him of doing?
Pase66
Posts: 775
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11/23/2015 4:58:01 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/23/2015 1:50:03 PM, Emgaol wrote:
At 11/23/2015 2:43:04 AM, Pase66 wrote:
To me, I like to think of it as "you're not able to prove the non- existence of something". You can only prove how likely it is not to exist, but you truly can't prove something doesn't exist. For example, based on physical laws, there is a high likelihood that flying unicorns don't exist. But objectively, I can't say "Unicorns don't exist", for I truly don't know that. For all I know, there could be a flying unicorn outside the observable universe...
Hi Pase66,
You say that objectively, you can't say "Unicorns don't exist", and that you truly don't know that. I can understand your scepticism, and I agree. However, can you say that unicorns do exist? Are you able to prove the existence of unicorns? Or, are you only able to prove how likely it is that they do exist?

For me, I can prove the existence of a unicorn by finding a unicorn. But to prove their nonexistence, that would be impossible. It's possible to show that it's highly unlikely they exist, though...
Check out these Current Debates
It Cannot be Shown that The Qur'an is Revelation from God
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Emgaol
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11/23/2015 5:11:55 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/23/2015 4:58:01 PM, Pase66 wrote:
For me, I can prove the existence of a unicorn by finding a unicorn. But to prove their nonexistence, that would be impossible. It's possible to show that it's highly unlikely they exist, though...
If and when you find a unicorn, then and only then, you can prove it's existence.
In the meantime, can you say, "Unicorns exist"?
Chaosism
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11/23/2015 5:43:08 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Well, no universal synthetic proposition is technically provable, only disprovable by proving the opposing particular. Particular statements can be proven. As such, I think that the statement in the subject line of this thread is technically invalid, but it is alluding to universal negatives. (Ax) or ~(Ex) propositions.

[A] Universal Affirmative: "All S are P" <---> [O] Particular Negative: "Some S are not P"
[E] Universal Negative: "No S are P" <---> [I] Particular Affirmative: "Some S are P"

"God does not exist." [A]
P1) ~(Ex) (x=g > Xx)
P2) (Ax) ~(x=g > Xx) [P1, Change of Quantifier]
P3) ~(g=g > Xg) [P2, Universal Instantiation]
P4) ~Xg [P3, Law of Reflexivity & Modus Ponens]

P1) "It is not the case that there exists a thing, where if that thing is God, then this thing exists."
P2) "For all things, it is not the case that if this thing is God, then this thing exists."
P4) "It is not the case that God exists."

"God exists." [I]
P1) (Ex) (x=g > Xx)
P2) ~(Ax) ~(x=g > Xx) [P1, Change of Quantifier]

P1) "It is the case that there exists a thing, where if that thing is God, then this thing exists."
P2) "For no things, it is not the case that if this thing is God, then this thing exists."

More un-provable statements:

"All whales have fins." [A]
P1) (Ax) (x=w > Fx)
P2) ~(Ex) ~(x=w > Fx) [P1, CQ]

"There exists no cat that barks." [E]
P1) ~(Ex) (x=c > Bx)
P2) (Ax) ~(x=c > Bx) [P1, CQ]

"Unicorns do not exist." [E]
P1) (Ax) ~(x=u > Xx)
P2) ~(Ex) (x=u > Xx) [P1, CQ]
kp98
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11/23/2015 5:44:52 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Of course I can say "Unicorns exist."- and so can anybody else with a voice. You don't mean 'Can you say, "Unicorns exist"?' so why not write what you do mean?

It possible to say 'unicorns exist', and it even possible to believe "unicorns exist" - if you learned your zoology from a 17th century bestiary. I am sure you have some meaning in mind, but what meaning is it?
Emgaol
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11/23/2015 5:54:21 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/23/2015 5:44:52 PM, kp98 wrote:
Of course I can say "Unicorns exist."- and so can anybody else with a voice. You don't mean 'Can you say, "Unicorns exist"?' so why not write what you do mean?

It possible to say 'unicorns exist', and it even possible to believe "unicorns exist" - if you learned your zoology from a 17th century bestiary. I am sure you have some meaning in mind, but what meaning is it?

Hi kp98
I was alluding to Pase66's comment: "But objectively, I can't say "Unicorns don't exist", for I truly don't know that. For all I know, there could be a flying unicorn outside the observable universe..."
Pase66
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11/23/2015 6:36:49 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/23/2015 5:11:55 PM, Emgaol wrote:
At 11/23/2015 4:58:01 PM, Pase66 wrote:
For me, I can prove the existence of a unicorn by finding a unicorn. But to prove their nonexistence, that would be impossible. It's possible to show that it's highly unlikely they exist, though...
If and when you find a unicorn, then and only then, you can prove it's existence.
In the meantime, can you say, "Unicorns exist"?

Well, the possibility of a flying unicorns existence is very, very slim. It would break so many physical laws, that it almost hinges into the domain of the impossible. But as of now, technically speaking, one must say the possibility is very low, but in everyday speak, one could say "Unicorns don't exist".
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It Cannot be Shown that The Qur'an is Revelation from God
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