Discussion:
  1. John Nolt (2008). Truth as an Epistemic Ideal. Journal of Philosophical Logic 37 (3):203 - 237.
    Several philosophers—including C. S. Peirce, William James, Hilary Putnam and Crispin Wright—have proposed various versions of the notion that truth is an epistemic ideal. More specifically, they have held that a proposition is true if and only if it can be fixedly warranted by human inquirers, given certain ideal epistemic conditions. This paper offers a general critique of that idea, modeling conceptions of ideality and fixed warrant within the semantics that Kripke developed for intuitionistic logic. It is shown that each (...)
    Direct download (6 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
Back    All discussions

2009-04-15
Nolt on Epistemic Ideals

             

From MATHEMATICAL REVIEWS.

MR2398883

Nolt, J. 2008 Truth as an Epistemic Ideal. Journal of Philosophical Logic. 37: 203-237.

 

            The abstract of the paper being reviewed is as follows.

“Several philosophers—including C. S. Peirce, William James, Hilary Putnam, and Crispin Wright—have proposed various versions of the notion that truth is an epistemic ideal. More specifically, they have held that a proposition is true if and only if it can be fixedly [sic] warranted by human inquirers, given certain ideal epistemic conditions [emphasis added]. This paper offers a general critique of that idea, modeling conceptions of ideality and fixed warrant within the semantics that Kripke developed for intuitionistic logic. It is shown that each of the two plausible notions of fixed warrant faces difficulties and that, moreover, “truth” defined in terms of either of them is distressingly dependent on one’s conception of idealized inquiry and perhaps also upon one’s standards of warrant.”

            As can perhaps be inferred from the abstract’s use of unexplained idiosyncratic terminology, some readers might find this paper difficult to follow. The abstract seems to be about a necessary and sufficient condition for a proposition’s truth in terms of the proposition’s being warranted by people. Thus, according to the thesis apparently being discussed in the abstract, the truth of a proposition is characterized in terms of people’s being able to assert the proposition responsibly and to warrant (stand behind) their assertion, perhaps to pledge their reputations. This conception is not mentioned in the paper itself; the paper is about a proposition’s being warranted for people, i.e. about people’s being justified in believing the proposition. This is especially clear on page 204 where the paper states that “a proposition may at the same time be warranted for one inquirer and not for another…” [emphasis added]. There is no discussion of the relation of propositions warranted by inquirers to those warranted for inquirers.

            The paper does not explain what it takes propositions to be and it does not establish its implicit premise that the four philosophers in question regard propositions as the entities to which truth and falsity apply: Peirce uses the word ‘statement; James uses ‘idea’. Moreover, the paper does not establish whether the cited quotations it relies on were meant as definitive formulations or whether they were meant as casual, possibly exaggerated rhetoric.  One of the most misleading features of the article is its debatable, one-sided interpretation of C. S. Peirce (1839–1913), widely regarded by historians as America’s most creative native born logician. According to another interpretation, Peirce did not hold that the nature of truths per se was to become believed by the community of objective investigators; rather Peirce’s view was that it was the nature of the community of objective investigators to ultimately come to believe truths. There are infinitely many truths and only finitely many beliefs. Moreover, many truths are irrelevant to the interests of the community of objective investigators. See the article by Peter H. Hare “Pragmatic Theory of Truth”, page 747, in T. Honderich, Ed. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy.2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2005.

            It would seem plausible that the following might be considered a necessary and sufficient condition for a proposition to be true: were any objective observers capable of seeing whether the proposition is true to actually look, they would see that it is true. This condition would evidently be circular if considered definitional. The same view can be rephrased so that the condition’s use of the concept of truth is less evident. The following might be considered a necessary and sufficient condition for a proposition to be true: were any objective observers capable of judging the proposition to actually judge, they would accept it. But even this would not imply that by saying that a proposition is true a person’s meaning necessarily refers to objective observers. The paper does not distinguish the unique meaning of an unambiguous property expression with the infinitely many necessary and sufficient conditions for its holding. In order for an integer to be odd it is necessary and sufficient for qualified mathematicians to find it to be the sum of two consecutive integers were they to check. In order for an integer to be even it is necessary and sufficient for qualified mathematicians to find it to be adjacent to the sum of two consecutive integers were they to check. It does not follow that an assertion about odd (or even) integers necessarily refers to qualified mathematicians. See the entry ‘Material adequacy’ in R. Audi, Ed. The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  1999. J. Corcoran, Buffalo.