SORITES, ISSN 1135-1349
Issue #14 -- October 2002. Pp. 3-6
Abstracts of the Papers
Copyright © by SORITES and the authors
Abstracts of the Papers
On the Analysis of Conditionals
Conditionals carry a conversational implicature that if their antecedant is unassertible, then their consequent is unassertible. The recognition of this implicature allows a single conversational analysis of counterfactual and other conditionals based upon the truth conditions of material implication.
Water, Phlogiston, Brains, and Vats
Ted Warfield has presented a new version of the Putnamian argument for the conclusion that we are not brains in a vat. This version is intended to avoid reliance on some questionable background assumptions which other versions have made. It seems that Warfield's argument fails, for reasons pointed out by Anthony Brueckner. However, in this paper I present a new version of the argument -- my version relies on assumptions no more objectionable than Warfield's, yet it is immune to Brueckner's objection.
Robots and If...then
Ronald A. Cordero
How shall we have robots handle conditional statements? In this paper I argue that we absolutely cannot let them use several of the presently accepted rules of inference involving conditional statements if we want to avoid odd, preposterous, or even disastrous results. I discuss several kinds of problems that could be encountered and suggest alterations to certain rules of inference to prevent such problems from arising.
A Dilemma for Robust Alethic Relativism
Robust alethic relativism is the thesis that no truth bearer is objectively true or false. According to the robust alethic relativist, the most we can ever say of any truth bearer (statement, belief, proposition, etc.) is that it is true or false relative to
some conceptual framework, worldview, or other parameter (i.e. that it is «true-for-X
»). In this paper, I will argue that robust alethic relativism is either self-refuting, or an entirely trivial and uninteresting thesis that cannot coherently serve as a theory of truth. I hope to show that Socrates understood this difficulty for the full-blooded relativist, and that his attack on alethic relativism is more effective than some have recognized.
Can a Localist and Descriptive Epistemological Naturalism Avoid Dogmatic Foundations?
It is argued that epistemological naturalism is the result of a holist thesis plus a high valuation of empirical science. Epistemological naturalism criticizes the sceptic for entertaining unjustified global doubts and naturalism tries to avoid scepticism by taking for granted as non problematic our background scientific knowledge and by recommending only a localist or piecemealist mending of our corpus of knowledge, these corrections will be motivated by limited and justified questions.
It is argued that the epistemological naturalist:
i) Cannot justify without vicious circularity the most basic methods of science nor epistemological naturalism's localist recommendation.
ii) That if epistemological naturalism intends to be a description of genuine scientific methods then naturalism tacitly takes for granted, i.e., without justification, some epistemic norms.
iii) That natural science itself (evolutionary biology) produces traditional sceptic doubts, and therefore epistemological naturalism cannot avoid scepticism.
iv) That naturalism can neither avoid sceptic doubts by substituting an argumentative theory of justification with a reliabilist theory.
Cartesianism and the private language argument
In this paper, I argue that neither the #257 argument nor the #258 argument in Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations undermines the coherence of the Cartesian Model, according to which a sensation word, such as `headache' or `tickle', gets its meaning in virtue of an act of `inner' association or ostensive definition. In addition, I argue against the standard assumption that the diarist's language of #258 is logically private.
A Trio on Truth
Truth is an embattled concept; many different positions have been put forward. One widely influential contribution has been Donald Davidson's theory. Although it has been derived from Alred Tarski's formal account of truth it has been claimed to offer a pragmatical solution to the problem by e.g. Richard Rorty. This dialogue explores the attraction Davidson's theory offers to philosophers of realist as well as relativist persuasion. There seems to be a core position useful to any of those philosophical schools: Truth occurs at the interface of two languages or two usages of a language. Some consequences of such a point of view are discursively explored.
Futility and the Meaning of Life Debate
Brooke Alan Trisel
Are all human endeavors futile, as futilitarians contend? What does it mean when someone claims that «life is futile»? Although meaninglessness has been explored in great detail, the concept of futility, as used in the context of the debate about whether there is a «meaning of life,» has remained largely unexplored. Futility is a combination of the concepts of ordinary causation, failure, and repetition and is the opposite of effectiveness. Just as it would not make sense to claim that «life is effective,» it does not make sense when someone claims that «life is futile.» Life could be objectively futile only if there was an objective purpose of life, which there is no evidence thereof, and we were somehow failing to achieve this purpose. Striving to achieve a particular goal can be subjectively futile for an individual, but whether or not it is futile largely depends on how high an individual has set his or her expectations.
On The Fourfold Root Of Philosophical Skepticism
Philosophical skepticism challenges us to demonstrate that knowledge is possible. Most often this challenge is made by questioning whether the attempts at justifying our epistemic claims are sufficient. In effect, then, the philosophical skeptic should be seen as arguing that knowledge is impossible because one of the necessary conditions for knowledge (justification) does not obtain. Some work in analytic epistemology suggests that knowledge has three additional necessary conditions, namely, that it must be the case that knowledge claims are believed, true, and that some additional concept obtains which rules out «Gettier-type» counter-examples. It is argued that if we accept that knowledge has three additional necessary conditions (in addition to the justification component) then this opens up the possibility for three additional types of philosophical skepticism. Skepticism based on the idea that our knowledge claims lack truth I term `alethic skepticism'; skepticism based on the idea that the belief condition does not obtain I term `noetic skepticism'; and finally, I term `gettier skepticism' the view that our knowledge claims do not rule-out Gettier-type counter-examples.
Fodor's Epistemic Intuitions of Analyticity
This paper argues that Jerry Fodor fails to adequately motivate his informational semantics because he does not exclude molecularism, a principal rival to his account of concepts. Supporting my position are Fodor's inability to explain away the strong intuitions often held on behalf of analyticity and his not offering a convincing argument for his claim that there is no way of making a principled analytic/synthetic distinction. Since he wishes to defend necessity and a prioricity, both of which are condemned by the Quinean anti-analyticity arguments, while denying analyticity, Fodor must provide an anti-analyticity argument of his own if his informational semantics is to be accepted. The result is that we have no reason to abandon the claim that there are meaning-constitutive interconceptual connections in favor of Fodor's atomistic informational semantics.
Wittgenstein: Transcendental Idealist?
John M. Weyls
In Jonathan Lear's and Barry Stroud's essay «The Disappearing We,» Lear presents Wittgenstein as transcendental idealist and parallels him with Kant. Stroud, while willing to grant some degree of Kantianness to Wittgenstein, is unwilling to press the parallel as far as Lear does. I will argue that both Lear's account of Wittgenstein as Kantian, and Stroud's objections as to the extent to which the parallel can be taken, are fraught with difficulties. I will attempt to show that the difficulties center on what I take to be Wittgenstein's paradoxical relationship with synthetic a priori judgments. If, like Kant, Wittgenstein holds them to undergird the sciences, then, contrary to what he maintains, he is not entitled to hold that concepts different from the ones we are used to are intelligible. On the other hand, if Wittgenstein rejects them and, consequently, their foundational status, he is committed to either one of two views, both of which he seems to reject -- that mathematical statements are revisable in light of empirical facts, or that they are mere tautologies.