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LECTURE 13 VARIETIES OF ANTI-REALISM AND VAN INWAGEN’S EXAMPLE.

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Presentation on theme: "LECTURE 13 VARIETIES OF ANTI-REALISM AND VAN INWAGEN’S EXAMPLE."— Presentation transcript:

1 LECTURE 13 VARIETIES OF ANTI-REALISM AND VAN INWAGEN’S EXAMPLE

2 WHAT’S WRONG WITH WEAK VERIFICATIONISM? CONSIDER AGAIN THE CLAIMS OF SCIENCE. THE CONFIRMATION OF A STATEMENT (SAY, EINSTEIN’S GENERAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY) INVOLVES ALSO ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT MEASUREMENT AND THE ACCEPTED CONSEQUENCES OF OTHER THEORIES. A STATEMENT IS NEVER JUST CONFIRMED BY ITSELF, BUT ONLY AS IT IS EMBEDDED IN A (SOMETIMES ELABORATE) THEORY. IT IS WORTH NOTICING THAT MORAL CLAIMS DO NOT HAVE THE APPROPRIATE KIND OF TESTABLE CONSEQUENCES. VERIFICATIONISTS (CONSISTENTLY) CONCLUDED THAT SUCH SENTENCES ARE “COGNITIVELY” MEANINGLESS.

3 WHEN WEAK VERIFICATIONISTS TRIED TO EXPLAIN “CONFIRMATION AS PART OF A THEORY,” THEY FOUND THAT ANY SENTENCE COULD BE CONFIRMED AS PART OF A THEORY FOR EXAMPLE, LET GENERAL RELATIVITY PLUS (NN) “THE NOTHING NOTHINGS” BE CALLED “HEIDIGGERIAN GENERAL RELATIVITY”. THIS THEORY IS CONFIRMED BY ITS CONSEQUENCES JUST LIKE GENERAL RELATIVITY. “WELL, YOU DON’T NEED THAT WEIRD PART TO GET THE CONSEQUENCES!” TRUE, BUT THE SAME HOLDS FOR OTHER SENTENCES OF THE THEORY. ANYWAY, WE CAN PERVERSELY HIDE (NN) IN THE THEORY IS SUCH A WAY THAT YOU WOULD HAVE TO USE SOMETHING CONTAINING IT TO GET TESTABLE CONSEQUENCES.

4 WE OMIT HISTORICAL DETAILS OF THE ATTEMPTS TO REPAIR (WV) THE UPSHOT WAS THAT ALL THE ATTEMPTS TO EXPLAIN CONFIRMATION AS USED IN (WV) EITHER RULED OUT LARGE PARTS OF SCIENCE OR LET IN LARGE PARTS OF METAPHYSICS (SOME OF WHICH REALLY DOES SEEM MEANINGLESS). VERIFICATIONISTS CERTAINLY WOULD NOT ACCEPT THE CLAIM THAT SCIENCE IS MEANINGLESS. THEY WANTED TO RULE OUT ALL (OR LARGE PARTS) OF METAPHYSICS. BUT THE BABY SEEMED TO GO OUT WITH THE BATH WATER. THE MOST PROMINANT PHILOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY THAT PURSUED THIS IDEA WAS THE LOGICAL POSITIVISTS (A.K.A. “LOGICAL EMPIRICISTS.”)

5 MAYBE THIS IS JUST A TECHNICAL GLITCH MAYBE SO, BUT WEAK VERIFICATIONISM DOES NOT YIELD A PLAUSIBLE THEORY OF MEANING (AND TRUTH) IN ANY CASE. THERE ARE MANY OTHER PROBLEMS. “CONFIRMABLE BY WHOM?” “IS WV ITSELF CONFIRMABLE (AND SO MEANINGFUL BY ITS OWN LIGHTS)?” “THERE IS A CERTAIN PIECE OF SPACE DUST OUT BEYOND ANDROMEDA GALAXY THAT HAS SUCH AND SUCH A MASS.” IS THIS CONFIRMABLE? THE STORY IS NOT OVER. THERE ARE MODERN VERSIONS OF VERIFICATIONISM THAT ARE STILL ALIVE (AND, MAYBE, WELL).

6 SOME FELLOW TRAVELERS RICHARD RORTY SAYS THE TWO OPTIONS ABOUT TRUTH ARE: (1) “TRUTH IS …WHAT OUR PEERS WILL LET US GET AWAY WITH SAYING.” (PRAGMATIC-RORTY CONCEPTION) (2) “TRUTH IS CONTACT WITH REALITY.” (REALIST CONCEPTION) ONE OUGHT TO CHOOSE BETWEEN THESE TWO CONCEPTIONS. THE FORMER TAKES TRUTH TO BE “WHAT IS GOOD FOR US TO BELIEVE”(?)

7 SOME OBJECTIONS TO “RORTY - TRUTH” (1) ALSTON THINKS THAT (AT BOTTOM) RORTY IS APPEALING TO THE “VEIL OF PERCEPTION” ARGUMENT BASED ON A KIND OF VERIFICATIONISM. (THIS PART OF RORTY’S ARGUMENT IS NOT INCLUDED IN OUR READING) (2) WE MIGHT ADD: PEOPLE HAVE DIFFERENT PEERS. MY PEERS WOULD LET ME GET AWAY WITH SAYING “GOD DOES NOT EXIST” BUT THE PEERS OF MANY PEOPLE, SAY IN THE RURAL MIDWEST, WOULD NOT LET THEM GET AWAY WITH SAYING THAT. SO IS IT BOTH “RORTY- TRUE” AND “RORTY-FALSE”? IS THIS REALLY A KIND OF TRUTH? (3) RORTY’S PEERS HAVE NOT LET HIM GET AWAY WITH SAYING THAT TRUTH IS WHAT YOUR PEERS WILL LET YOU GET AWAY WITH SAYING.

8 WITTGENSTEIN AND THE “LANGUAGE- GAME THEORY” OF JUSTIFICATION LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN

9 WITTGENSTEIN HELD THAT DIFFERENT “LANGUAGE-GAMES” OR “FORMS OF LIFE”HAVE DIFFERENT STANDARDS OF JUSTIFICATION SCIENTIFIC THEORIZING, RELIGIOUS DISCOURSE, EXPERIENTIAL REPORTS, … CONSTITUTE DIFFERENT ‘LANGUAGE GAMES’ AND THEY HAVE DIFFERENT STANDARDS OF JUSTIFICATION. QUICK RESPONSE: EVEN SO, UNLESS WE IDENTIFY JUSTIFICATION WITH TRUTH (A KIND OF VERIFICATIONISM), IT DOESN’T FOLLOW THAT THERE ARE DIFFERENT ‘KINDS’ OF TRUTH. MANY RELIGIOUS PEOPLE THINK THAT ‘GOD EXISTS’ IS JUST, WELL, TRUE IN THE OBJECTIVE SENSE (WHATEVER THEY MAY THINK OF THE STANDARDS OF JUSTIFICATION OF SUCH A STATEMENT).

10 ALSTON’S POSITIVE ARGUMENT FOR REALISM WITH RESPECT TO TRUTH ALSTON THINKS THAT OUR ORDINARY UNDERSTANDING OF THE CONTENT OF A (MEANINGFUL, DECLARATIVE) SENTENCE ALREADY ENTAILS A COMMITMENT TO A REALISTIC ACCOUNT OF TRUTH. THIS MEANS THAT THE ANTI-REALIST MUST FIND A DIFFERENT WAY TO INTERPRET SUCH SENTENCES. SEMANTIC PRINCIPLE: IN A SUBJECT-PREDICATE SENTENCE, ‘S IS P’, THE SUBJECT TERM ‘S’ PICKS OUT SOMETHING OR OTHER AND THE PREDICATE ‘P’ EXPRESSES A PROPERTY THAT IS ATTRIBUTED TO WHAT THE SUBJECT TERM PICKS OUT.

11 IT SEEMS INEVITABLE THAT SUCH A SENTENCE IS TRUE IF AND ONLY IF THE THING PICKED OUT HAS THE ATTRIBUTE ATTRIBUTED. ALTERNATIVE ACCOUNTS OF TRUTH MUST HOLD THAT THE SENTENCE DOES NOT HAVE THE CONTENT REQUIRED BY THE SEMANTIC PRINCIPLE. ALSTON GOES ON TO EXAMINE SOME OF THE ATTEMPTS TO RE-INTERPRET (ACCORDING TO ALSTON) ORDINARY DECLARATIVE SENTENCES. WE WON’T GO INTO THESE. TO ALSTON, THEY ALL SEEM TO MIS-INTERPRET THE SENTENCES.

12 VAN INWAGEN’S “MOUNTAIN EXAMPLE” VAN INWAGEN GIVES AN EXAMPLE OF SOMETHING HE CLAIMS IS JUST OBJECTIVELY TRUE AND CONSIDERS ANTI-REALIST OBJECTIONS. TO SIMPLIFY, LET’S USE (PRETEND OR READ AS “AT LEAST”): “MT. EVEREST IS 8000 METERS HIGH” THIS IS JUST A GEOLOGICAL TRUTH, HAVING NOTHING TO DO WITH HUMAN KNOWLEDGE, SOCIAL CONSTRUCTS, PEER AGREEMENT, AGREEMENT IN THE LONG RUN, VALIDATION, OR… ANY ANTI-REALIST SUBSTITUTES FOR OBJECTIVE TRUTH.

13 OF COURSE, THE INTENTION IS THAT ONE TAKE THIS AS JUST PLAIN TRUE ACCORDING TO THE SEMANTIC PRINCIPLE, THIS IS TRUE IF THE MOUNTAIN REFERRED TO BY THE SUBJECT HAS THE PROPERTY EXPRESSED BY THE PREDICATE. ANTI-REALIST OBJECTION : “ IT IS A HUMAN CONVENTION THAT THIS NAME IS USED AND THAT A CERTAIN (ARBITRARY) STANDARD OF MEASUREMENT IS BEING USED. THESE ARE HUMAN CONSTRUCTIONS OR CONVENTIONS.”

14 REALIST REPLY IT IS OF COURSE CONVENTIONAL THAT THE NAME REFERS TO A CERTAIN MOUNTAIN AND THAT THE OTHER WORDS MEAN WHAT THEY DO IN ENGLISH. BUT THE FACT EXPRESSED IS NOT THEREBY MADE CONVENTIONALLY TRUE. “EL MONTE EVEREST ES OCHO MIL METROS DE ALTURA.” “MOUNT EVEREST YN WYTH MILIWN METR UCHEL.” EXPRESS THE SAME FACT AND WHAT (ALL THREE OF) THESE SENTENCES SAY WOULD BE TRUE EVEN IF IT IS NOT SAID IN ANY LANGUAGE: A CERTAIN MOUNTAIN HAS A CERTAIN OBJECTIVE HEIGHT.

15 ALTHOUGH THE ANTI-REALIST WILL NOT AGREE, ALSTON SEEMS CORRECT IN SAYING WE ALWAYS PUT FORWARD SUCH CLAIMS AS OBJECTIVELY TRUE. SOME ANTI-REALISTS HAVE TRIED TO CONSTRUCT A DIFFERENT KIND OF SEMANTICS, CLAIMING THAT THE NON- REALIST SEMANTICS IS REALLY WHAT IS MEANT. THE STRUGGLE IS NOT OVER BETWEEN REALISTS AND ANTI-REALISTS


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