Archive for ‘epistemology’

November 9, 2013

Convention (4) – Biological species

by Neil Rickert

This series of posts on convention originated with my comment to a post by John Wilkins, that I see species as being determined by convention.  See the first post in this series for links.  John disagrees with me, and gave reasons for his objections.  I plan to discuss those objections in the next in this series.  Today’s post will discuss why I take the designation of species to be conventional.

Categorization

Biological classification is an example of categorization.  I take categorization to be a dividing up of the world into manageable parts.  This is often described as “carving the world at the seams.”  However, there aren’t enough seams to account for how we carve up the world.

As an example, consider the dividing of the USA into fifty states.  Some of the state borders are along rivers.  Some are survey lines.  We could perhaps think of rivers as natural diving lines, or seams, except that we often don’t use them even when rivers are available.

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November 7, 2013

Convention (3) – why we need conventions

by Neil Rickert

In this post, I shall give a couple of examples to illustrate why we use and need conventions.

3D Space

For the first example, consider 3-dimensional space as discussed by mathematicians and scientists.  We usually represent objects in space in terms of coordinate axes.  We typically use an x-axis in the left-right direction, a y-axis in the forward (away from me) direction, and a z-axis which is vertical.

The first thing to notice about this choice of axes,  is that the choice is rather arbitrary.  When I am at home, the x-axis is in a north-south direction, because my desk happens to face east.  And at work, where my desk faces roughly north, the x-axis is close to an east-west orientation.  The direction of the vertical axis also changes with location, due to the curvature (the spheroidal shape) of the earth.

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November 3, 2013

Convention (2) – word usage vs. behavior

by Neil Rickert

This continues the series that I started at

Today’s post distinguishes between conventions of word usage, and conventions of other kinds of behavior.  Word use is, of course, a kind of behavior.

I’ll give an example of each.

A word use convention

In his “Truth by convention,” Quine writes:

A contextual definition sets up indefinitely many mutually analogous pairs of definienda and definientia according to some general scheme;  an example is the definition whereby expressions of the form ‘sin —/cos —‘ are abbreviated as ‘tan —‘.

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November 2, 2013

Convention (1) — introduction

by Neil Rickert

I am starting a series of posts on the idea of conventions, as in social conventions.  It has long been clear to me that conventions are important.  This, however, seems to be controversial.  As best I can tell, philosophers are deeply suspicious of convention.

As a self-declared heretic about philosophy, I am not troubled by opposing what seems to be the conventional view of convention among conventional philosophers.

Here’s some background reading:

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July 16, 2013

My view of knowledge

by Neil Rickert

In my posts on consciousness, I indicated that I saw knowledge as an important issue.  Today, I will say more about my view of knowledge.

Not JTB

The traditional account of knowledge by philosophers, is that knowledge is justified true belief (or JTB for short).  That has always seemed wrong to me.  It is my experience that when I express disagreement with that view, I get blow back.  So the JTB idea seems to have a lot of support, though I find it hard to understand why.

When people support JTB, they usually acknowledge the need for some additional requirement to deal with the Gettier problem, though they rarely say what that additional requirement should be.  Personally, I don’t worry much about the Gettier problem, since for me, the whole idea of knowledge as natural language statements seems mistaken.

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March 11, 2013

Turning epistemology upside down

by Neil Rickert

Epistemology is a core area within philosophy.  It is concerned with questions of knowledge, information, description and truth.  And it is part of what I would like to see turned upside down.  That is to say, the way that I see questions of knowledge, information, description and truth is very different from what we find in the traditional literature.

Epistemology from a design stance

As mentioned in my earlier “upside down” post, I see traditional philosophy as based on a design stance, while I would prefer a more evolutionary stance.  So let’s start by looking at how the design stance seems to work.

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November 30, 2012

RTH4 – Correspondence with reality

by Neil Rickert

In my previous post in this series, I explained why I thought there were problems with truth as correspondence to the facts.  In this post, I will discuss the idea of truth as correspondence with reality.

There’s an intuitive sense in which “correspondence with reality” seems to be about what we think we mean when we talk about the truth of a statement.  The biggest difficult, though, is that we would need a good account of what “correspondence” means before we could ever get started with using truth.

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November 27, 2012

RTH3 – Correspondence with facts

by Neil Rickert

In my third post on our debate on Putnam’s “Reason, Truth and History” I will discuss the idea of truth as correspondence with the facts.  There are two versions of the correspondence theory that I see mentioned from time to time.  Those are:

  • truth is correspondence with the facts;
  • truth is correspondence with reality.

Of those, by far the most common is the first.  I’ll discuss the second version in a future post.

The idea of truth as correspondence with the facts leaves me shaking my head.  It makes no sense to me.  One of the participants in our online debate expressed the problem by saying it is glib and vacuous, a comment that he attributed to Strawson.  You can find that yahoo groups message here.  And that “glib and vacuous” pretty much sums up my view.

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November 17, 2012

Reason, truth, history

by Neil Rickert

As mentioned in an earlier post, I have been engaged in a discussion of the correspondence theory of truth.  The discussion took place on the Quick Philosophy yahoo group, where we started looking at Putnam’s book “Reason, Truth and History.”  The full discussion began on Aug. 20, 2012.

Here, I will give some links into the discussion.  I may say more on my own views of the topic in future posts.

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July 3, 2012

On conceptual schemes

by Neil Rickert

In an earlier post, I hinted that I might take up the question of conceptual schemes, and the question of whether conceptual relativity should be seen as a problem.  Donald Davidson has argued that the idea of a conceptual scheme is incoherent.  I disagree, and will explain why.

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