This radical reading of Wittgenstein's third and last masterpiece, On Certainty, has major implications for philosophy. It elucidates Wittgenstein's ultimate thoughts on the nature of our basic beliefs and his demystification of scepticism. Our basic certainties are shown to be nonepistemic, nonpropositional attitudes that, as such, have no verbal occurrence but manifest themselves exclusively in our actions. This fundamental certainty is a belief-in, a primitive confidence or ur-trust whose practical nature bridges the hitherto unresolved categorial gap between belief (...) and action. (shrink)
As is well known, Wittgenstein pointed out an asymmetry between first- and third-person psychological statements: the first, unlike the latter, involve observation or a claim to knowledge and are constitutionally open to uncertainty. In this paper, I challenge this asymmetry and Wittgenstein's own affirmation of the constitutional uncertainty of third-person psychological statements, and argue that Wittgenstein ultimately did too. I first show that, on his view, most of our third-person psychological statements are noncognitive; they stem from a subjective certainty: (...) a certainty which, though not the result of an epistemic process, is not invulnerable to error in that it is a kind of assumption. I then trace Wittgenstein's realization that some third-person psychological certainties are not merely subjective but 'objective' (which means, as he uses the word, that they are logically indubitable): in some cases, we can be as logically certain that someone else is in pain than we are about ourselves being in pain. This positively reinforces Wittgenstein's rebuttal of other mind scepticism. I conclude with a response to objections about the legitimacy of calling an assurance that is logical (i.e., that does not have uncertainty or doubt on its flipside) a 'certainty', by suggesting that the flipside is to be found in pathological cases, and most pertinently here, in cases of dyssemia: a rare disorder affecting the ability to properly express or recognize basic physical expressions of feeling. (shrink)
Ludwig Wittgenstein's On Certainty was finished just before his death in 1951 and is a running commentary on three of G.E. Moore's greatest epistemological papers. In the early 1930s, Moore had written a lengthy commentary on Wittgenstein, anticipating some of the issues Wittgenstein would discuss in On Certainty. The philosophical relationship between these two great philosophers and their overlapping, but nevertheless differing, views is the subject of this book. Both defended the existence of certainty and thus opposed (...) any form of skepticism. However, their defenses and conceptions of certainty differed widely, as did their understanding of the nature of skepticism and how best to combat it. Stroll's book contains a careful and critical analysis of their differing approaches to a set of fundamental epistemological problems. (shrink)
This anthology is the first devoted exclusively to On Certainty. The essays are grouped under four headings: the Framework, Transcendental, Epistemic and Therapeutic readings, and an introduction helps explain why these readings need not be seen as antagonistic. Contributions from W.H. Brenner, Alice Crary, Michael Kober, Edward Minar, Howard Mounce, Daniele Moyal-Sharrock, Thomas Morawetz, D.Z. Phillips, Duncan Pritchard, Rupert Read, Anthony Rudd, Joachim Schulte, Avrum Stroll, Michael Williams.
Most philosophers, including all materialists I know of, believe that I am a complex thing?a thing with parts?and that my mental life is (or is a result of) the interaction of these parts. These philosophers often believe that I am a body or a brain, and my mental life is (or is a product of) brain activity. In this paper, I develop and defend a novel argument against this view. The argument turns on certainty, that highest epistemic status that (...) a precious few of our beliefs enjoy. For example, on the basis of introspection, I am certain that I am not in fierce pain right now. But if I am a complex thing like a body or a brain, then introspection might be a causal series of events extended in time. And any such process could go awry. So, if introspection is such a process, then I could gain good evidence that the introspective process has gone awry and that I am, contrary to appearances, feeling fierce pain right now. Therefore, the view that I am a complex thing like a body or a brain forces open the possibility that I cannot be certain that I am not feeling fierce pain right now. Since that is clearly not an open possibility, it follows that I am not a complex thing. I conclude by responding to three objections. (shrink)
Giaquinto’s book is a philosophical examination of how the search for certainty was carried out within the philosophy of mathematics from the late nineteenth to roughly the mid-twentieth century. It is also a good introduction to the philosophy of mathematics and the views expressed in the body of the book, in addition to being thorough and stimulating, seem generally undisputable. Some doubts, however, could be raised about the concluding remarks concerning the present situation in the philosophy of mathematics, specifically (...) Zermelo's iterative concept of set as a foundation for set theory, Simpson's reverse mathematics, Feferman’s Predicativist Programme, and the cognitive foundations of mathematics. (shrink)
While Cavell is well known for his reinterpretation of the later Wittgenstein, he has never really engaged himself with post-Investigations writings like On Certainty. This collection may, however, seem to undermine the profoundly anti-dogmatic reading of Wittgenstein that Cavell has developed. In addition to apparently arguing against what Cavell calls ‘the truth of skepticism’ – a phrase contested by other Wittgensteinians – On Certainty may seem to justify the rejection of whoever dares to question one’s basic presuppositions. According (...) to On Certainty, or so it seems, the only right response to someone with different certainties is a reproach like ‘Fool!’ or ‘Heretic!’. This article aims to show that On Certainty need not be taken to prove Cavell wrong. It explains that Wittgenstein, in line with the first two parts of The Claim of Reason, does not reject scepticism out of hand but rather questions the sceptic’s self-understanding. Using arguments from Part Three of The Claim, the article moreover argues that a confrontation with divergence calls for self-examination rather than self-righteousness. Precisely because Wittgenstein acknowledges ‘the groundlessness of our believing’ or, in Cavellian terms, ‘the truth of skepticism’, he is not the authoritarian thinker that some have taken him to be. (shrink)
In this paper, I propose a comparison between some widely accepted Quinian views and Ludwig Wittgenstein's remarks on the logical and the empirical in On Certainty. While Quine's perspective and Wittgenstein's aare not thorougly dissimilar (so that the question of which influence Wittgenstein's thought might have had on the thought of some contemporary philosopher like Quine is both interesting and relevant), there is at least one important difference between them. I submit that Wittgenstein's view on this crucial distinction are (...) more general but ultimately more plausible than the nowadays popular Quinian view. (shrink)
If we agree, along with Arnauld, Berkeley, Descartes, Hume, Leibniz, and others that our occurrent phenomenal states serve as sources of epistemic certainty for us, we need some explanation of this fact. Many contemporary writers, most notably Roderick Chisholm, maintain that there is something special about the phenomenal states themselves that allows our certain knowledge of them. I argue that Chisholm's view is both wrong and irreparable, and that the capacity of humans to know these states with certainty (...) has to do with the contingent cognitive capacities and abilities people have. (shrink)
Certainty: a contemporary question -- Beginnings: questions and debates in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries -- Abba Father: the certainty of salvation -- The spiritual man judges all things: the certainty of exegetical authority -- Are you alone wise?: the Catholic response -- Experientia: the great age of the Spirit -- Unmasking the angel of light: the discernment of the spirits -- Men should be what they seem: appearances and reality.
In this paper, I survey the way Wittgenstein reacts to radical philosophical doubt in his On Certainty. He deems skeptical doubt in some important cases idle, pointless or otherwise negligible. I point out that several passages of On Certainty make it difficult to judge whether Wittgenstein intends to address a skeptic or a metaphysical idealist. Drawing attention to the anti-skeptical nature of Berkeley's idealism, I go on to argue that the question is far from trivial: rather, it affects (...) the way we should evaluate Wittgenstein's arguments in On Certainty in general. I finally attempt to explain why Wittgenstein remained ambiguous about the target of his arguments, and discuss the possibility of making room for the idealism/skepticism distinction in On Certainty's framework. (shrink)
The senses can completely dispel rational grounds for a certain kind of doubt, empirical doubt, but they cannot dispel another kind, sceptical doubt. In the first part of this paper, a hitherto unrecognized kind of knowledge-gathering activity, called sensory exploration, is described and discussed. It is argued, further, that sensory exploration eliminates a certain kind of doubt. In the second part, two kinds of doubt are distinguished in an original way. It is argued that only one of these kinds of (...) doubt can be eliminated by sensory exploration. (shrink)
I argue that being wide awake is an epistemic virtue which enables me to recognize immediately that I'm wide awake. Also I argue that dreams are imaginings and that the wide awake mind can immediately discern the difference between imaginings and vivid sense experience. Descartes need only pinch himself.
CHAPTER I FRANCIS BACON AND SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE Of the great scientific figures of early seventeenth century England - Harvey, Gilbert, and Bacon - none was so often referred to by members of the Royal Society for a statement of the ...
Bringing the views of Grayling, Moyal-Sharrock and Stroll together, I argue that in On Certainty, Wittgenstein explores the possibility of a new kind of foundationalism. Distinguishing propositional language-games from non-propositional, actional certainty, Wittgenstein investigates a foundationalism sui generis . Although he does not forthrightly state, defend, or endorse what I am characterizing as a "new kind of foundationalism," we must bear in mind that On Certainty was a collection of first draft notes written at the end of (...) Wittgenstein's life. The work was unprogrammatic, sometimes cryptic. Yet, his exploration into areas of knowledge, certitude and doubt suggest an identifiable direction to his thoughts. (shrink)
: In his autobiographical account, the Munqidh min al-Dalāl, al-Ghazālī reflects on his conversion from skepticism to faith. Previous scholarship has interpreted this text as an anticipation of Cartesian positions regarding epistemic certainty. Although the existing similarities between al-Ghazālī and Descartes are striking, the focus of the present essay lies on the different philosophical aims pursued by the two thinkers. It is thus argued that al-Ghazālī operates with a broader notion of the Self than Descartes, because it is inclusive (...) of the body. And it is shown that the two philosophers use completely diverging paradigms. While Descartes models his notion of evidence after mathematical certainty, al-Ghazālī draws his famous 'ilm al-yaqīnī (certain knowledge) from a religious context. (shrink)
In On Certainty, Wittgenstein’s reflections bring into view the phenomenon of basic certainty. He explores this phenomenon mostly in relation to our certainty with regard to empirical states of affairs. Drawing on these seminal observations and reflections, I extend the inquiry into what I call “basic moral certainty”, arguing that the latter plays the same kind of foundational role in our moral practices and judgements as basic empirical certainty does in our epistemic practices and judgements. (...) I illustrate the nature and significance of basic moral certainty via critical examination of contemporary philosophical “explanations” of the wrongness of killing. These pseudo explanations, as I show them to be, will be seen to founder in a similar manner to Moore’s “Proof” of an external world, that is, in a manner that discloses the phenomenon of basic (moral) certainty. (shrink)
Coping with everyday life limits the extent of one’s scepticism. It is practically impossible to doubt the existence of the things with which one is immediately engaged and interacting. To doubt that, say, a door exists, is to step back from merely using the door (opening it) and to reflect on it in a detached, theoretical way. It is impossible to simultaneously act and live immersed in situation S while doubting that one is in S. Sceptical doubts—such as ‘Is this (...) really a door?’, ‘Am I really walking?’ — require a reflective withdrawal in thought from the situation at hand. Maintaining sceptical doubt while coping with everyday life requires a split consciousness, a bad faith, with one part of consciousness doubting the existing of things that the other part takes forgranted. For this reason, a sustained lived sceptical doubt is sometimes thought to be impossible. -/- In this article, I examine Wittgenstein's response to scepticism in "On Certainty". I argue that one of his responses is "the response based on action", which is (as other Wittgenstein interpreters have noted) a characteristically pragmatist response. I then evaluate the quality of this pragmatist response to scepticism, noting that actions just as much as representations are susceptible to mis-interpretation. It is argued that despite the insights contained in it, Wittgenstein's contextualism about meaning is inadequate to rescue the Wittgensteinian response to scepticism. (shrink)
Like many discussions on the pros and cons of epistemic foundationalism, the debate between C.I. Lewis and H. Reichenbach dealt with three concerns: the existence of basic beliefs, their nature, and the way in which beliefs are related. In this paper we concentrate on the third matter, especially on Lewis’s assertion that a probability relation must depend on something that is certain, and Reichenbach’s claim that certainty is never needed. We note that Lewis’s assertion is prima facie ambiguous, (...) but argue that this ambiguity is only apparent if probability theory is viewed within a modal logic. Although there are empirical situations where Reichenbach is right, and others where Lewis’s reasoning seems to be more appropriate, it will become clear that Reichenbach’s stance is the generic one. This follows simply from the fact that, if P(E|G) > 0 and P(E|not-G) > 0, then P(E) > 0. We conclude that this constitutes a threat to epistemic foundationalism. (shrink)
Alice Crary claims that “the standard view of the bearing of Wittgenstein's philosophy on ethics” is dominated by “inviolability interpretations”, which often underlie conservative readings of Wittgenstein. Crary says that such interpretations are “especially marked in connection with On Certainty”, where Wittgenstein is represented as holding that “our linguistic practices are immune to rational criticism, or inviolable”. Crary's own conception of the bearing of Wittgenstein's philosophy on ethics, which I call the “intrinsically-ethical reading”, derives from the influential New Wittgenstein (...) school of exegesis, and is also espoused by James Edwards, Cora Diamond, and Stephen Mulhall. To my eyes, intrinsically-ethical readings present a peculiar picture of ethics, which I endeavour to expose in Part I of the paper. In Part II I present a reading of On Certainty that Crary would call an “inviolability interpretation”, defend it against New Wittgensteinian critiques, and show that this kind of reading has nothing to do with ethical or political conservatism. I go on to show how Wittgenstein's observations on the manner in which we can neither question nor affirm certain states of affairs that are fundamental to our epistemic practices can be fruitfully extended to ethics. Doing so sheds light on the phenomenon that I call “basic moral certainty”, which constitutes the foundation of our ethical practices, and the scaffolding or framework of moral perception, inquiry, and judgement. The nature and significance of basic moral certainty will be illustrated through consideration of the strangeness of philosophers' attempts at explaining the wrongness of killing. (shrink)
This paper compares Wittgenstein's conception of ?objective certainty? with Descartes's ?metaphysical certainty?. According to both conceptions if you are certain of something in these senses, then it is inconceivable that you are mistaken. But a striking difference is that for Descartes, if you are metaphysically certain of something it follows both that the something is so and that you know it is so; whereas on Wittgenstein's conception neither thing follows. I try to show that there is a form (...) of ?scepticism? in Wittgenstein's outlook on the concept of certainty, although it is not the familiar Philosophical Scepticism. The Appendix takes issue with a recent essay by John Cook which argues that the ?hinge propositions? of On Certainty are based on ?the metaphysics of phenomenalism? (shrink)
J. H. Lambert proved important results of what we now think of as non-Euclidean geometries, and gave examples of surfaces satisfying their theorems. I use his philosophical views to explain why he did not think the certainty of Euclidean geometry was threatened by the development of what we regard as alternatives to it. Lambert holds that theories other than Euclid’s fall prey to skeptical doubt. So despite their satisfiability, for him these theories are not equal to Euclid’s in justification. (...) Contrary to recent interpretations, then, Lambert does not conceive of mathematical justification as semantic. According to Lambert, Euclid overcomes doubt by means of postulates. Euclid’s theory thus owes its justification not to the existence of the surfaces that satisfy it, but to the postulates according to which these “models” are constructed. To understand Lambert’s view of postulates and the doubt they answer, I examine his criticism of Christian Wolff’s views. I argue that Lambert’s view reflects insight into traditional mathematical practice and has value as a foil for contemporary, model-theoretic, views of justification. (shrink)
§1 Simple Seeing and its Relations §2 Acquaintance, Apprehension, Belief, Knowledge, Action & Externalism §3 Simple Seeing, Sense and Meaning §4 Simple Seeing and Primitive Certainty ...at one time they dispute eagerly over certainty of thought, though certainty is not a habit of the mind at all, but a quality of propositions, and the speakers are really arguing about certitude... (James Joyce, 1903, Occasional, Critical and Political Writing, ed. Kevin Barry, 2000, OUP, 69) Like many others, I (...) believe that to see is not, in the simplest cases, to believe or judge. This is a purely negative thesis. What sort of attitude, then, is involved in simple seeing? The answer set out here is that to see is typically to enjoy a form of primitive certainty which is not any type of belief. In order to make the answer plausible it is important to set out also the relations between seeing, belief, knowledge, and certainty. (shrink)
We ordinarily assume that we have reliable knowledge of our immediate surroundings, so much so that almost all the time we entrust our lives to the truth of what we take ourselves to know, without a moment’s thought. But if, as Karl Popper and others have maintained, all our knowledge is conjectural, then this habitual assumption that our common sense knowledge of our environment is secure and trustworthy would seem to be an illusion. Popper’s philosophy of science, in particular, fails (...) to do justice to the distinction we ordinarily draw between secure knowledge and mere conjecture. But Popper’s philosophy of science, in particular his attempted solution to the problem of induction, is defective. It fails to take into account that physics, in only accepting unified theories, even though endlessly empirically more successful disunified rivals are always available, makes the persistent metaphysical assumption that all disunified theories are false. Once this point is acknowledged, it becomes clear that a new conception of scientific method is required which sees science as making a hierarchy of metaphysical assumptions concerning the comprehensibility and knowability of the universe. This provides a framework of relatively unproblematic assumptions and associated methods of science within which much more problematic assumptions and associated methods can be critically assessed and improved. This hierarchical view seems at first to intensify the problem of distinguishing certainty from conjecture, in that it emphasizes that scientific knowledge, and even humble common sense knowledge, contain usually unacknowledged cosmological conjectures. But actually it explicates the basis we have for drawing the distinction between trustworthy knowledge and mere conjecture, and even goes some way towards providing a rationale for this distinction, in so far as one exists. (shrink)
The Opening Chapter of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, called "Sense Certainty," is brief: 283 lines or about seven and a half pages in the critical edition of Hegel's works (GW 9:63–70). Just over half the text is devoted to a series of thought experiments1 that focus on "the Here" and "the Now" as the two basic forms of immediate sensuous particularity Hegel calls "the This." The chapter's main goal is to demonstrate that, in truth, the object of sense (...) class='Hi'>certainty is precisely the opposite of what it purports to be: "the This" is mediated abstract universality. However, not just the truth of Hegel's claim but its very meaning has been the subject of dispute from early on.2 A currently influential interpretive .. (shrink)
Commentators on the Phenomenology of Spirit have offered careful but conflicting accounts of Hegel’s chapter on sense-certainty, either defending his starting point and analysis or challenging it on its own terms for presupposing too much. Much of the disagreement regarding both the subject matter and success of Hegel’s chapter on sense-certainty can be traced to misunderstandings regarding the nature and role of certainty itself in the Phenomenology of Spirit. Specifically, such confusions can be traced to a failure (...) to appreciate the connection between sense-certainty as a particular way of approaching and knowing the world, and the assumptions regarding the nature of the world it comes to know that Hegel attributes to sense-certainty. The “certainty” of sense-certainty is not so much an explicit attitude or conception it adopts but is rather something implicit in its practice of knowing through immediate or direct sensation. (shrink)
Although Hume's analysis of geometry continues to serve as a reference point for many contemporary discussions in the philosophy of science, the fact that the first Enquiry presents a radical revision of Hume's conception of geometry in the Treatise has never been explained. The present essay closely examines Hume's early and late discussions of geometry and proposes a reconstruction of the reasons behind the change in his views on the subject. Hume's early conception of geometry as an inexact non-demonstrative science (...) is argued to be a consequence of his attempt to discredit geometrical proofs of infinite divisibility of extension by anchoring the meaning of geometrical concepts in inherently inexact qualitative measurement procedures. This measurement-based attack on the exactness and certainty of geometry is analyzed and shown to be both self-refuting and inconsistent with the general epistemological framework of the Treatise. The revised conception of geometry as a demonstrative science in the first Enquiry is then interpreted as Hume's response to the failure of his earlier attempt to discredit geometrical proofs of infinite divisibility of extension. (shrink)
During the 1630s Descartes recognized that he could not expect all legitimate claims in natural science to meet the standard of absolute certainty. The realization resulted from a change in his physics, which itself arose not through methodological reflections, but through developments in his substantive metaphysical doctrines. Descartes discovered the metaphysical foundations of his physics in 1629-30; as a consequence, the style of explanation employed in his physical writings changed. His early methodological conceptions, as preserved in the Rules and (...) sketched in Part Two of the Discourse, pertained primarily to his early work in optics. By the early 1630s, Descartes was concerned with new methodological problems pertaining to the postulation of micro-mechanisms. Recognition of the need to employ a method of hypothesis led him to lower the standard of certainty required of particular explanations in his mature physics. (shrink)
On Certainty remains one the mostprovocative and challenging parts ofWittgenstein's intellectual legacy.Philosophers generally read this text as anassault on the traditional sceptic/anti-scepticdebate. But some commentators identifypolitical – specifically `conservative' –sentiments at work here. Others embraceWittgenstein's (alleged) `pluralism', whilethose less enthused think the latter collapsesinto relativism. Although this mixed receptionis, I will argue, partly due to Wittgenstein'sown troubled engagement with the central themesof On Certainty, the real difficultyand value of this text lies in itsintertwining questions of epistemology,religious belief and (...) ethical-politicaljudgement. (shrink)
This article argues that traditional models of diagnosis are incomplete in their reliance on a models of certainty that are no longer tenable in a postmodern world. Further, it argues that the current form of diagnosis, as applied to psychiatric and affective disorders, reduces patient agency and reinscribes the effects of biopower.
When we engage in practical deliberation, we sometimes engage in careful probabilistic reasoning. At other times, we simply make flat out assumptions about how the world is or will be. A question thus arises: when, if ever, is it rationally permissible to engage in the latter, less sophisticated kind of practical deliberation? Recently, a number of authors have argued that the answer concerns whether one knows that p. Others have argued that the answer concerns whether one is justified in believing (...) that one knows that p. Against both of these, this paper argues that the answer concerns whether p is ‘practically certain’—that is, whether the actual epistemic probability that p differs from epistemic certainty that p only in ways that are irrelevant to the decision one currently faces. (shrink)
This article explores the relation between Descartes’s appeal to God’s veracity and his connected notions of “metaphysical” and “moral” certainty. I do this by showing their roles in his proof of the external world, his position on other minds, and his position on the “beast-machine.” Descartes uses God’s veracity in the first proof, but not in the second or third. I suggest that the reason for this is that extending his appeal to God to other minds would have placed (...) his beast-machine doctrine in jeopardy. I conclude by accounting for some Cartesian passages that might seem incompatible with my reading of moral certainty’s important role in his philosophy.Cet article explore les liens entre le recours à la véracité de Dieu et les notions de certitude «métaphysique» et «morale» chez Descartes. Pour cela, je montre le rôle qu’elles jouent dans sa preuve de l’existence du monde extérieur, sa position sur l’existence d’autres esprits et celle sur l’«animal-machine». Descartes se sert de la véracité de Dieu dans le premier cas, mais pas dans le deuxième ni le troisième. Je suggère que c’est parce que faire à nouveau appel à la véracité de Dieu dans le cas des autres esprits aurait mis en péril sa doctrine de l’animal-machine. Je conclus en me penchant sur des passages de Descartes qui pourraient sembler incompatibles avec l’interprétation que je fais du rôle important que joue la certitude morale dans sa philosophie. (shrink)
This paper examines Ian Hacking's arguments in favor of entity realism. It shows that his examples from science do not support his realism. Furthermore, his proposed criterion of experimental use is neither sufficient nor necessary for conferring a privileged status on his preferred unobservables. Nonetheless his insight is genuine; it may be most profitably seen as part of a more general effort to create a space for a new form of scientific and philosophical certainty, one that does not require (...) foundations. (shrink)
In this essay, I discuss some of the important logical principles governing the concepts of knowledge, certainty and probability. In the first section, I suggest a series of definitions of epistemic terms, employing as primitive the locution ?p is epistemi?cally possible to S? In the second section, I develop an epistemic concept of probability and compare it to the concepts of certainty and knowledge. In the third section, I relate the epistemic concepts of certainty and probability to (...) the quantifiers of traditional logic and to a non?episteznic concept of probability. I conclude by noting similarities and differences between the two concepts of probability. (shrink)
The peoples of the world are now facing movement, mixing and displacement on a larger scale than ever before. We are witness to the rise of new forms of ethnic, cultural and religious identity. Those based in the highly developed countries can extend global influence through wealth and sophisticated technology. Anthropology has inherited a tradition of tolerance and cross-cultural understanding: what light can it throw on the new pursuit of truth? With contributions from leading anthropologists from Germany, the US, Canada, (...) Australia, Malaysia and Britain, The Pursuit of Certainty presents a dozen original case studies which explore this theme. This book demonstrates anthropology's relevance to the contemporary world and its turbulence providing a critical perspective on the new religious movements and current popular orthodoxies about society and culture. Complementing the text-led approaches of history or theology, each chapter offers insights from patient investigative fieldwork, illustrating the way the new ideologies interact with each other and with older ideas in the actual practices of communities. Apart from anthropologists, this volume will attract special attention from students of comparative religion, as well as from ethnic studies. (shrink)
This paper offers a modified version of the certainty equivalence (CE) theory of utility for uncertain prospects and a new set of axioms as its basis. It shows that the CE and the von Neumann-Morgenstern (NM) approaches to uncertainty are opposite in spirit: The CE approach represents a flight from the world of uncertainty to the rules of certainty while the NM approach represents a flight from the world of certainty to one of uncertainty. The two approaches (...) differ even in their treatment of compound prospects and their actuarially identical simple counterparts. (shrink)
Bacon’s project suggests in theory that the obtaining of absolute certain knowledge is possible but in fact such knowledge is revealed to be impossible. Th e description of the human mind on which Bacon’s account is based seems to imply that the impossibility of obtaining absolute certainty does not depend on the contingent historical situation of a preliminary stage of the scientifi c endeavor. Consequently, a gap emerges between the proposed goal of science and the ways to reach it: (...) Bacon tried to obtain absolute certainty but he only could arrive at degrees of certainty and probability both in theories and in facts. Malgrè lui, Bacon shows himself developing in fact a kind of probabilistic science instead of surpassing the limits to knowledge posed by the skeptical arguments. Th at is the reason why many of his followers could develop a mitigated skepticism in the framework of a Baconian science. (shrink)
The prestige of science, derived from its claims to certainty, has adversely affected the humanities. There is, in fact, a “politics of certainty”. Our ability to predict events in a limited sphere has been idealized, engendering dangerous illusions about our power to control nature and eliminate time. In addition, the perception and propagation of science as a bearer of certainty has served to legitimate harmful forms of social, sexual, and political power. Yet, as Ilya Prigogine has argued, (...) renewed attention to the irreducible reality of time has brought us to “the end of certainty”. As we enter the age of uncertainty, there is disagreement about how science should be understood and communicated. Some scientists cling to the ideal of certainty, while others emphasize the creative potential of spontaneity, novelty, and surprise. (shrink)
Peter Klein claims to have explicated the notion of relative certainty and shown how it is related to the notion of absolute evidential certainty in his book Certainty. I argue that he has not succeeded at this because the account of relative certainty provided only applies to a subset of the pairs of propositions about which we make judgments of relative certainty.
The University of Michigan conference “Where Religion, Policy, and Bioethics Meet: An Interdisciplinary Conference on Islamic Bioethics and End-of-Life Care” in April 2011 addressed the issue of brain death as the prototype for a discourse that would reflect the emergence of Islamic bioethics as a formal field of study. In considering the issue of brain death, various Muslim legal experts have raised concerns over the lack of certainty in the scientific criteria as applied to the definition and diagnosis of (...) brain death by the medical community. In contrast, the medical community at large has not required absolute certainty in its process, but has sought to eliminate doubt through cumulative diagnostic modalities and supportive scientific evidence. This has recently become a principal model, with increased interest in data analysis and evidence-based medicine with the intent to analyze and ultimately improve outcomes. Islamic law has also long employed a systematic methodology with the goal of eliminating doubt from rulings regarding the question of certainty. While ample criticism of the scientific criteria of brain death (Harvard criteria) by traditional legal sources now exists, an analysis of the legal process in assessing brain death, geared toward informing the clinician’s perspective on the issue, is lacking. In this article, we explore the role of certainty in the diagnostic modalities used to establish diagnoses of brain death in current medical practice. We further examine the Islamic jurisprudential approach vis-à-vis the concept of certainty (yaqīn). Finally, we contrast the two at times divergent philosophies and consider what each perspective may contribute to the global discourse on brain death, understanding that the interdependence that exists between the theological, juridical, ethical, and medical/scientific fields necessitates an open discussion and active collaboration between all parties. We hope that this article serves to continue the discourse that was successfully begun by this initial interdisciplinary endeavor at the University of Michigan. (shrink)
Some philosopheis (e.g. Ayer, Reichenbach, Lewis) use a version of the argument from illusion to prove that empirical statements are never certain. But this argument, unwittingly, also calls into doubt the certainty of calculations in logic and mathematics. The argument seems to call into question the application of any rule on the grounds that one might at some future time find out that one had misapplied it. But the argument from illusion is only the illusion of an argument.
In his article, “Wittgenstein and Basic Moral Certainty,” Nigel Pleasants argues that killing an innocent, non-threatening person is wrong. It is, he argues, “a basic moral certainty.” He believes our basic moral certainties play the “same kind of foundational role as [our] basic empirical certaint[ies] do.” I believe this is mistaken. There is not “simply one kind of foundational role” that certainty plays. While I think Pleasants is right to affiliate his proposition with a Wittgensteinian form of (...)certainty, he exposes himself to a tension that exists in On Certainty regarding how we acquire it: is certainty natural, is it social? In this paper, I present two ways in which we come to possess certainty: a bottom-up approach, where certainty is part of our instinctual predisposition, and a top-down approach, where certainty is acquired through positive reinforcement by family and culture. (shrink)
In ?Knowledge, Certainty and Probability?, Dr. Heidelberger claims to have shown ?that it is a mistake to assimilate probability and rational belief to knowledge?. The conclusion may be true but his argument is faulty.
The theme « Truth and Certainty » is reminiscent of Hegel’s dialectic of prominent in the Phänomenologie des Geistes, but I want to treat it from a different angle in the perspective of the constructivist stance in the foundations of logic and mathematics. Although constructivism stands in opposition to mathematical realism, it is not to be considered as an idealist alternative in the philosophy of mathematics. It is true that Brouwer’s intuitionism, as a variety of (...) constructivism, has idealistic overtones, but my main concern in this paper is located in the mathematical tradition of constructive mathematics from the Greeks to Fermat, Gauss and Kronecker, and from the logical side, in the finitist doctrine of Hilbert and his followers. (shrink)
Descartes and al-Ghazâlî were led to inquire into the nature of certainty by their experiences of a fragmented world into which they were nurtured. Though theylived five hundred years apart, their searches were similar, to the extent that some have asked whether Descartes was more indebted to al-Ghazâlî than he would have been willing to admit. But despite striking similarities there are significant differences. Descartes found certainty in any experience or concept that overwhelmed him by its clarity and (...) distinctness. Such certainty was achieved in intuition, which is a direct, experiential knowing. God guarantees thatwe shall not be deceived in this. On the other hand, al-Ghazâlî found certainty in a direct experience (dhawq) of God in whom all knowledge resides. For Descartes, God was an outside guarantor; for al-Ghazâlî, God was the very truth experienced inwardly in such a way that it could not be doubted. (shrink)
Professor Franklin is correct to say that there are signiﬁcant areas of agreement between his account of formal science (Franklin, 1994) and my critique of his account. We both agree that the domain-independence exhibited by the formal sciences is ontologically and epistemically interesting, and that the concept of ‘structure’ must be central in any analysis of domain-independence. We also agree that knowledge of the structural, relational properties of physical systems should count as empirical knowledge, and that it makes sense to (...) talk about an empirical ‘science’ of structure. Where we disagree is over the frequency of occasions where ‘practical certainty’ is actually attained: Franklin argues that practical certainty is not uncommon in the formal sciences, while I argue that there are barriers to practical certainty that Franklin fails to appreciate. In Franklin’s response, he brieﬂy presents and offers criticisms of my two main arguments against his central thesis. Franklin asserts that the ﬂaw in my ﬁrst argument is that it does not appreciate that modern mathematical models exhibit structural stability, and thus that many of their predictions are robust under small variations in input or parameter values (and hence, insensitive to the inevitable gaps between estimates and actual values). Nevertheless, what I had in mind in using the term ‘realistic modelling situations’ were models of fairly complex natural systems, such as the dripping faucet, spruce budworm and ecosystem ecology examples. My objection is not that mathematical models of such systems cannot legitimately and accurately describe structural properties that are genuinely predicable of real-world systems, but simply that for.. (shrink)
Philosophers frequently treat certainty as some sort of absolute, while ordinary men typically do not. According to the Theory of Important Criteria, on which the present paper is based, this difference is not to be explained in terms of ambiguity or vagueness in the word ?certain?, but rather in terms of disagreement between ordinary men and philosophers as to the importance of one of the criteria of the ordinary sense of ?certain?. I argue that there is reason to think (...) that certainty is some sort of absolute, and thus that no empirical statement is certain. And in any case, the problem of empirical certainty is not a pseudo?problem, as metaphilosophers like Wittgenstein and Wisdom have thought. (shrink)
Why we need certainty in religion.--Ways of reaching certainty.--The way of authority: or what others can tell us about God.--The way of intuition: or meeting God face to face.--The way of reasoning: or the test of consistency.--The way of experiment: or the practice of the presence of God.--The certainty of to-day and the hope for to-morrow.
This article explores attitudes underscoring arguments I believe are located in Professor Armour's address in the present special issue. I first show how Armour's arguments are intertwined with a resolute belief in the existence of a unique form of knowledge, one particularly attuned to the work of humanities scholars, and then go on to argue this certainty is linked to an antecedent attitude, one of exceptionalism. Spelling out what I find to be troubling about this species of argument leads (...) into thoughts around how a world-humanities might unfold. Such a field must develop as a conscious attempt on the part of scholars to bring about dialogue around how humans can find an appropriate place in the natural world. (shrink)
This article shows how Hegel's 'Sense-Certainty' chapter fills in a gap in Kant's and Sellars's critique of empiricism by supplying an argument that even indexical reference presupposes and is mediated by a larger conceptual framework.
O propósito deste artigo é mostrar como podem ser desenvolvidas explicações robustas de justificação e de certeza no interior do infinitismo. Primeiro, eu explico como a concepção infinitista de justificação epistêmica difere das concepções fundacionista e coerentista. Em segundo lugar, explico como o infinitista pode oferecer uma solução ao problema do regresso epistêmico. Em terceiro lugar, explico como o infinitismo, per se, é compatível com as teorias daqueles que sustentam 1) que o conhecimento requer certeza e que uma tal forma (...) superior de conhecimento é possível, bem como com as daqueles que rejeitam algum ou ambos os conjuntos em 1). Em outras palavras, o infinitismo nem endossa, nem rejeita o ceticismo, tomando-se essa tese como sendo aquela segundo a qual nós não possuímos conhecimento naquelas situações que nos parecem cognoscíveis. PALAVRAS-CHAVE – Certeza. Coerentismo. Fundacionismo. Infinitismo. Pirronismo. Regresso epistêmico. ABSTRACT The purpose of the paper is to show how robust accounts of justification and certainty can be developed within infinitism. First, I explain how the infinitist conception of epistemic justification differs from both the foundationalist and coherentist conceptions. Second, I explain how the infinitist can provide a solution to the epistemic regress problem. Third, I explain how infinitism, per se, is compatible with both the views of those who hold 1) that knowledge requires certainty and that such high-grade knowledge is possible as well as those who deny either or both conjuncts in 1). In other words, infinitism neither endorses nor rejects skepticism, taking that view to mean that we do not have knowledge in those areas commonly thought to be within our ken. KEY WORDS – Certainty. Coherentism. Foundationalism. Infinitism. Pyrrhonism. Epistemic regress. (shrink)
Lennard Davis’s Biocultural Critique of the alleged certainty of diagnosis (Davis Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 7:227−235, 2010) makes errors of fact concerning psychiatric diagnostic categories, misunderstands the role of power in the therapeutic relationship, and provides an unsubstantiated and vague alternative to the management of psychological distress via a conceptually outdated model of the relationships between physical and psychological disease and illness. This response demonstrates that diagnostic knowledge vouchsafes legitimate power to physicians, and via them relief to patients who (...) suffer from psychological distress. The history of medicine and psychiatry demonstrates that psychiatric diagnosis shares many features with physical diagnosis, while there is also reason to believe that the two types will continue to be distinct in some respects. Diagnostic categories in psychological medicine, like those in physical medicine, are provisional, probabilistic, and often uncertain. These features do not detract from the dependence on diagnosis of therapeutic efficacy in both domains. (shrink)
[Time, the fundamental dimension of our existence, has fascinated artists, philosophers, and scientists of every culture and every century. All of us can remember a moment as a child when time became a personal reality, when we realized what a "year" was, or asked ourselves when "now" happened. Common sense says time moves forward, never backward, from cradle to grave. Nevertheless, Einstein said that time is an illusion. Nature's laws, as he and Newton defined them, describe a timeless, deterministic universe (...) within which we can make predictions with complete certainty. In effect, these great physicists contended that time is reversible and thus meaningless. (shrink)
An effective application of thePrecautionary Principle (PP) hinges on thestipulation that, ``a lack of scientificcertainty shall not be used as a reason forpostponing measures.'' The practicalconsequences of this expression are presentlynot clear enough in most contexts of use toenable constructive communication and thereforethe PP is not sufficiently operational now. Apragmatic and fundamental methodology forunderstanding scientific (un)certainty indifferent practical contexts needs to be put inplace to create a communicative basis foreffective precaution. Lack of clarity aboutproblem definition and problem ownershipcreates artificial (...) controversies that willobstruct a precautionary approach. Given thefact that different practical contexts ofscientific (un)certainty exist, it may seemfrom one context as if no precaution iswarranted whereas concerns from anotherrelevant context may suggest otherwise.Therefore, an integrative methodologicalframework for communicating about scientific(un)certainty is sorely needed in internationalpolicy-making. By putting a focus on therelevance of specified research questions forthe objective of taking precaution, acommunicative methodology may be adopted thatis dedicated to the design properties of asustainable future. Precaution cannot beoperationalized without a methodological basisthat allows for effective transparency andevades the stalemates of artificialcontroversy. Existing debate methodologies haveso far not managed to accommodate thesepressing demands. (shrink)
This paper surveys the impact on neuropsychology of Wittgenstein's elucidations of memory. Wittgenstein discredited the storage and imprint models of memory, dissolved the conceptual link between memory and mental images or representations and, upholding the context-sensitivity of memory, made room for a family resemblance concept of memory, where remembering can also amount to doing or saying something. While neuropsychology is still generally under the spell of archival and physiological notions of memory, Wittgenstein's reconceptions can be seen at work in its (...) leading-edge practitioners. However, neuroscientists, generally, are finding memory difficult to demarcate from other cognitive and noncognitive processes, and I suggest this is largely due to their considering automatic responses as part of memory, termed nondeclarative or implicit memory. Taking my lead from Wittgenstein's On Certainty, I argue that there is only remembering where there is also some kind of mnemonic effort or attention, and, therefore, that so-called implicit memory is not memory at all, but a basic, noncognitive certainty. (shrink)
This paper is a companion piece to my earlier paper “Fallibilism and Concessive Knowledge Attributions”. There are two intuitive charges against fallibilism. One is that it countenances the truth (and presumably acceptability) of utterances of sentences such as “I know that Bush is a Republican, though it might be that he is not a Republican”. The second is that it countenances the truth (and presumably acceptability) of utterances of sentences such as “I know that Bush is a Republican, even though (...) I’m not certain that he is”, or “I know that Bush it a Republican, even though it isn’t certain that he is.” In “Fallibilism and Concessive Knowledge Attributions”, I argue that fallibilism in epistemology does not countenance the truth of utterances of sentences such as “I know that Bush is a Republican, though it might be that he is not a Republican”. In this paper, I argue that there are independent reasons for thinking that utterances of sentences such as “I know that Bush is a Republican, though I’m not certain that he is” and “I know that Bush is a Republican, though it’s not certain that he is” are unassertible. More specifically, I argue that these are simply instances of Moore’s Paradox, such as “Dogs bark, but I don’t know that they do.” The right account of Moore’s Paradox does not involve the falsehood of the semantic content of the relevant utterances, but rather their pragmatic unacceptability. So the anti-fallibilist intuitions turn out to have pragmatic, rather than semantic import, and therefore do not tell against the truth of fallibilism. Fallibilism in epistemology is often thought to be theoretically desirable, but intuitively problematic. My purpose with these two papers is to show that fallibilism is not intuitively problematic. (shrink)
Wittgenstein read and admired the work of John Henry Newman. Evidence suggests that from 1946 until 1951 Newman's Grammar of Assent was probably the single most important external stimulus for Wittgenstein's thought. In important respects Wittgenstein's reactions to G. E. Moore follow hints already given by Newman.
So-called 'hinge propositions', Wittgenstein's version of our basic beliefs, are not propositions at all, but heuristic expressions of our bounds of sense which, as such, cannot meaningfully be said but only show themselves in what we say and do. Yet if our foundational certainty is necessarily an ineffable, enacted certainty, any challenge of it must also be enacted. Philosophical scepticism – being a mere mouthing of doubt – is impotent to unsettle a certainty whose salient conceptual feature (...) is that it is lived. I appeal to psychopathology to show that the lived refutation of a basic certainty is not a manifestation of uncertainty, but of madness. (shrink)
My goal in this paper is to develop our understanding of the role the imagination plays in Kant’s Critical account of geometry, and I do so by attending to how the imagination factors into the method of reasoning Kant assigns the geometer in the First Critique. Such an approach is not unto itself novel. Recent commentators, such as Friedman (1992) and Young (1992), have taken a careful look at the constructions of the productive imagination in pure intuition and highlighted the (...) importance of the imagination’s activity for securing the universality of geometry knowledge. Specifically, as their respective examinations bring to light, it is only with due attention to the imagination that we can make sense of how a .. (shrink)
This paper contends that the first argument of Hume's "Of scepticism with regard to reason" entails that humans have no knowledge as Hume understands knowledge. In defending this claim, we also see how Hume's argument anticipates an important aspect of an extremely influential 20th century development: the collapse of the analytic/synthetic distinction.
A debate has simmered concerning the nature of clinical reasoning, especially diagnostic reasoning: Is it a “science” or an “art”? The trend since the seventeenth century has been to regard medical reasoning as scientific reasoning, and the most advanced clinical reasoning is the most scientific. However, in recent years, several scholars have argued that clinical reasoning is clearly not “science” reasoning, but is in fact a species of narratival or hermeneutical reasoning. The study reviews this dispute, and argues that in (...) a theoretical sense, the dispute rests upon a naïve—but very popular—caricature of what constitutes “science reasoning.” But, if the dispute rests upon just such a caricature, why is it so persistent? The study concludes by suggesting that we, as patients and as physicians, have deep psychological tendencies that incline us to adopt the very naïve “science” concept/model of diagnostic reasoning, even if (or when) we understand its inaptness. (shrink)
: This essay highlights how contemporary Muslim fundamentalists reduce Islam's rich and complex intellectual legacy to a set of authoritarian rules. The three branches of classical Islamic education-theology, jurisprudence, and ethics-are particularly targeted. The reductionist pattern applied to these areas is designed to eliminate both the scholarly space of inquiry and the room for individual reflection traditionally granted to its followers by Islamic religion. The essay ends with an analysis of the language used by Osama bin Laden in various documents (...) over the last ten years that show how he has abused Islam's jurisprudential tradition to confer on him a convenient likeness of legality. (shrink)
In this article we contend that attempts to foster democratic education in the United States' public schools rarely include mathematics class in meaningful ways. We begin with Dewey's conception of democracy and then argue that current ways of thinking about mathematics do not provide adequate foundations for democratic mathematics education. Our reconceptualization of mathematics draws on Dewey's uniquely humanistic philosophy of mathematics. We conclude with some implications of democratic mathematics education for school and society. Thus, this project seeks to (...) blur the theory-practice dualism, developing a theoretical argument which draws sustenance from and seeks to contribute back to educational practice. (shrink)
Marcus Giaquinto tells the compelling story of one of the great intellectual adventures of the modern era: the attempt to find firm foundations for mathematics. From the late nineteenth century to the present day, this project has stimulated some of the most original and influential work in logic and philosophy.
Abstract In Reflective Knowledge, Ernest Sosa continues his detailed and intriguing defense of his two level account of knowledge that recognizes both animal and reflective knowledge. The latter more impressive type of knowledge requires a coherent positive epistemic perspective defending the reliability of a source of belief. Viewing Sosa's discussion from the through the lens provided by R.M. Chisholm's treatments of the problem of the criterion, I worry that Sosa's approach is too far in the methodist direction. As a result, (...) it is in danger of being unable to allow that paradigm examples of certain beliefs are indeed certain, e.g., the beliefs normal adults form in simple arithmetic truths under normal circumstances. I urge an approach closer to particularism that grants more weight to such paradigm particular cases. I also suggest that such an approach might actually align well with Sosa's coherentist sympathies. (shrink)
Epistemic and moral certainities like ' This is a hand' or 'Killing people is evil' will be interpreted as constitutive rules of language games, such that they are unjustifiable, undeniable and serving as obliging standards of truth, goodness and rationality for members of a community engaging in the respective practices.
This is a critical exposition and limited defence of a theory of first-person belief transiently held by Roderick Chisholm after giving up the early haecceity theory of Person and Object (1976) and before adopting the late self-attribution theory of The First Person (1981). I reconstruct that 'middle' theory as involving what I call a 'hard-core' approach to de re belief and I rebut objections concerning epistemic supervenience and abnormal consciousness. In my rebuttals, I sketch a variant of (...) the middle theory according to which first-person belief essentially involves the believer's introspective acquaintance with herself. (shrink)
I take issue with Pieranna Garavaso’s contention - lodged in a rapprochement between Wittgenstein and Quine - that for Wittgenstein, there is no sharp categorial distinction between logical and empirical propositions, but only one of degree. I argue that Garavaso’s conclusion results from a misunderstanding of the river-bed analogy in On Certainty (96-99). When Wittgenstein maintains there is not a sharp boundary between propositions of logic and empirical propositions, he does not imply that there is not a sharp categorial (...) difference between them, but that the boundary is permeable. The consequent changeability of status of logical and empirical propositions does not entail the collapse, or even a partial blurring, of their respective categories. I then address Wittgenstein’s puzzlement, in On Certainty, about the logical status of some apparently empirical propositions, and show that he resolves this not, as is often thought, by concluding that some empirical propositions are necessary, but by recognizing the ‘empiricality’ of these propositions as merely apparent. A line is thereby drawn between empirical propositions and framework propositions that only have the form of empirical propositions (OC 401). I conclude that, unlike Quine, Wittgenstein held a foundational view of our system of beliefs, making a categorial distinction between the foundation-walls and the house, and regarding part of these foundations as immovable. (shrink)