Monday, February 25, 2008

The Sun Also Rises

Landesman surveys the possibilities for what color is (color skepticism, color nihilism [or extreme skepticism], and color realism), and finds himself torn between good Humean habits for realism and compelling arguments for nihilism. He concludes chapter two with a kind of delicate suspension between these two

Perhaps his balancing act is unnecessary. A half millenium ago, the phrase "the sun rises" would have been a straightforward, literal description of an experienced event. It finally dawned on us, and today it is a metaphor, among educated people, for the rotation of the earth bringing the sun into view. There is a meaningful sense in which these descriptions contradict each other, but a deeper sense in which they are simply the same phenomenon described from different perspectives -- and neither is false. In Aristotelian logic they are infact subcontraries, not contradictories, so there is no problem with them both being true.

Moreover, the sun rising (likelemons looking yellow) is in a category of appearances that I'm inclined to call durable appearance (as contrasted with mere appearance) in the sense that the literal explanation of their fine structure or underlying causes does not diminish at all the robustness of them appearing the way they do. Call this non-reductive explanation. Mere appearances, like hallucinations, typically vanish when you see through them; durable appearances go right on looking the way they do from the perspective of a normal procedure, creating no real contradiction.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hume's Critique of Reason

In the section of the Enquiry called "Of the Academical or Skeptical Philosophy," Hume says again that only the sciences of quantity and number (presumably mathematics) are the proper objects of knowledge and demonstration, and that matters of fact, existence, and experience thus fall outside the sphere of knowledge and reason. Yet he does not seem to think this commits him to any invidious form of skepticism. On the contrary, he thinks we can live our lives just fine on the basis of our unargued presuppositions -- such as that there is an external world behind our perceptions -- and make our judgments of probability without claiming more for them than that they seem to work for us now.

Pete has suggested all along that Hume has made the simple error of confusing reason as such with deduction, and that even his challenge to inductive reason itself rests on induction (as David Stove suggests). Is this right, or does Hume have a point that we would be better simply stop trying to dignify mere lucky guesswork with the honorific title of reason?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Taking on Hume

I have yet to hear from most of you about the projects you are working on vis-a-vis Hume. This blog might be a good place to toss out ideas and questions for all of us to play with.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Turn Off Verification!

Please go to dashboard/settings/comments, and turn off the "word verification" option in your blogs. This will make it much easier for others to post comments. Thanks.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Problem of Induction

Here is a link (thanks to Dave Johnson) to a review of a book by the late Australian philosopher David Stove on the problem of induction. Stove is a controversial thinker, but his arguments here seem pretty compelling: