This is a response to Paul Boghossian ’s paper: What is inference?. The paper and the abstract originate from a symposium at the Pacific Division Meeting of the APA in San Diego in April 2011. John Broome was a co-commentator.
This is a response to Paul Boghossian’s paper: What is inference?. The paper and the abstract originate from a symposium at the Pacific Division Meeting of the APA in San Diego in April 2011. John Broome was a co-commentator.
§1 To many in or on the edges of the Academy, ”Relativism” is a word with overtones of sinister iconoclasm, representing a kind of intellectual and ethical free-for-all in which the traditional investigative virtues of clarity, rigour, objectivity, consistency and the unbiased pursuit of truth are dismissed as illusory and the great scientific constructions of the last two hundred years, together with our deepest moral convictions, rated merely as ‘our way of seeing’ the world, more elaborate and organised but otherwise (...) on all fours with the cosmology and customs of primitive tribes. In his short book, Paul Boghossian aims to address, and to expose as bankrupt, the idea that there is even a coherent, let alone defensible philosophical stance about truth and knowledge that can underwrite these ‘pluralist’, or ‘postmodernist’ tendencies. But since it is crucial to his project that his style of discussion make it available to non-specialists, much of the recent more technical, less emotional debate within analytical philosophy about relativism’s renaissance as a particular form of semantic theory is passed over unmentioned. Part of my aim in what follows is to illustrate how Boghossian's discussion connects quite straightforwardly with relativism in its contemporary analytical philosophical livery—what I have elsewhere called New Age relativism1— and how some of his critical arguments may be presented in that setting. My main contentions will be, first, that when relativism about epistemic justification, and about morals, are couched in the currently canonical sort of form, they still remain in range of artillery that Boghossian positions in chapter 6 of his book; second, that there is evasive action that they can.. (shrink)
This paper addresses three problems: the problem of formulating a coherent relativism, the Sorites paradox and a seldom noticed difficulty in the best intuitionistic case for the revision of classical logic. A response to the latter is proposed which, generalised, contributes towards the solution of the other two. The key to this response is a generalised conception of indeterminacy as a specific kind of intellectual bafflement-Quandary. Intuitionistic revisions of classical logic are merited wherever a subject matter is conceived both as (...) liable to generate Quandary and as subject to a broad form of evidential constraint. So motivated, the distinctions enshrined in intuitionistic logic provide both for a satisfying resolution of the Sorites paradox and a coherent outlet for relativistic views about, e.g., matters of taste and morals. An important corollary of the discussion is that an epistemic conception of vagueness can be prised apart from the strong metaphysical realism with which its principal supporters have associated it, and acknowledged to harbour an independent insight. (shrink)
This is a short, and therefore necessarily very incomplete discussion of one of the great questions of modern philosophy. I return to a station at which an interpretative train of thought of mine came to a halt in a paper written almost 20 years ago, about Wittgenstein and Chomsky, hoping to advance a little bit further down the track. The rule-following passages in the Investigations and Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics in fact raise a number of distinct issues about (...) rules, meaning, objectivity, and reasons, whose conflation is encouraged by the standard caption, "the Rule-following Considerations". So, let me begin by explaining my focus here. (shrink)
This comment focuses on Chapter 9 of The Boundary Stones of Thought and the argument, due to William Tait, that Ian Rumfitt there sustains for the indeterminacy of set. I argue that Michael Dummett’s argument, based on the notion of indefinite extensibility and set aside by Rumfitt, provides a more powerful basis for the same conclusion. In addition, I outline two difficulties for the way Rumfitt attempts to save classical logic from acknowledged failures of the principle of bivalence, one specifically (...) for his treatment of the set-theoretic case, the other of more general bearing but especially germane to the case of vagueness. (shrink)
The central contentions of this paper are two: first, that contextualism about knowledge cannot fulfil the eirenic promise which, for those who are drawn to it, constitutes, I believe, its main attraction; secondly, that the basic diagnosis of epistemological scepticism as somehow entrapping us, by diverting attention from a surreptitious shift to a special rarefied intellectual context, rests on inattention to the details of the principal sceptical paradoxes. These contentions are consistent with knowledge-contextualism, of some stripe or other, being true. (...) What follows will not bear directly on that. (shrink)
"Dogmatism" is a term renovated by James Pryor  to stand for a certain kind of neo-Moorean response to Scepticism and an associated conception of the architecture of basic perceptual warrant. Pryor runs the response only for (some kinds of) perceptual knowledge but here I will be concerned with its general structure and potential as a possible global anti-sceptical strategy. Something like it is arguably also present in recent writings of Burge 1 and Peacocke.2 If the global strategy could succeed, (...) (...) it would pre-empt any role in the diagnosis and treatment of sceptical paradoxes for the kind of notion of entitlement (rational, non-evidential warrant) I have proposed elsewhere [Wright 2004]. But my overarching contention will be that Dogmatism is, generally and locally, too problematic a stance to be helpful in that project. (shrink)
The essay addresses the well‐known idea that there has to be a place for intuition, thought of as a kind of non‐inferential rational insight, in the epistemology of basic logic if our knowledge of its principles is non‐empirical and is to allow of any finite, non‐circular reconstruction. It is argued that the error in this idea consists in its overlooking the possibility that there is, properly speaking, no knowledge of the validity of principles of basic logic. When certain important distinctions (...) are observed, for instance that between recognising that Modus Ponenes is sound and recognising that it is proof against the competent discovery of basic counterexamples, the case for thinking that there is indeed no space for genuine recognition of the validity of Modus Ponens becomes increasingly impressive. It is argued however that, the impossibility of knowledge notwithstanding, we are, in an important sense, entitled to take it that Modus Ponens is sound and that this notion of entitlement can help break the trichotomy ‐ intuition, inference, experience ‐ which imprisons our ordinary thinking about logical knowledge. (shrink)
This book is an important collection of new essays on various topics relating to realism and its rivals in metaphysics, logic, metaethics, and epistemology. The contributors include some of the leading authors in these fields and in several cases their essays constitute definitive statements of their views. In some cases authors write in response to the essays of other contributors, in other cases they proceed independently. Although not primarily historical this collection includes discussions of philosophers from the middle ages to (...) the present day, from Aquinas to Wittgenstein. No one seriously interested in questions about realism, whether as a general philosophical outlook or as a particular position within specific debates, can afford to be without this collection. (shrink)
The rule-following debate, in its concern with the metaphysics and epistemology of linguistic meaning and mental content, goes to the heart of the most fundamental questions of contemporary philosophy of mind and language. This volume gathers together the most important contributions to the topic, including papers by Simon Blackburn, Paul Boghossian, Graeme Forbes, Warren Goldfarb, Paul Horwich, John McDowell, Colin McGinn, Ruth Millikan, Philip Pettit, George Wilson, and José Zalabardo. This debate has centred on Saul Kripke's reading of the rule-following (...) sections in Wittgenstein and his consequent posing of a "sceptical paradox" that threatens our every day notions of linguistic meaning and mental content. These essays are attempts to respond to this challenge and represent some of the most important work in contemporary theory of meaning. They examine the notion of meaning; whether it is possible to find a suitable meaning-constituting fact from our previous behaviour or mental histories; objections to, and defenses of, dispositional accounts of meaning; the plausibility of non-factualism about meaning; our attempts to develop non-reductionist accounts of meaning; and the sources of the normativity which attaches to meaning, such as the linguistic practice of the community or the dispositions of the individual. With an introductory essay and a comprehensive guide to further reading the book is an excellent resource for courses in philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, Wittgenstein, and metaphysics, as well as for all philosophers, linguists, and cognitive scientists with interests in these areas. Contributors include Simon Blackburn, Paul Boghossian, Graeme Forbes, Warren Goldfarb, Paul Horwich, John McDowell, Colin McGinn, Alexander Miller, Ruth Garrett Millikan, Philip Pettit, George. M. Wilson, Crispin Wright, and José L. Zalabardo. (shrink)
What I am calling New Age Relativism is usually proposed as a thesis about the truth-conditions of utterances, where an utterance is an actual historic voicing or inscription of a sentence of a certain type. Roughly, it is the view that, for certain discourses, whether an utterance is true depends not just on the context of its making—when, where, to whom, by whom, in what language, and so on—and the “circumstances of evaluation”—the state of the world in relevant respects—but also (...) on an additional parameter: a context of assessment. Vary the latter and the truth-value of the utterance can vary, even though the context of its making and the associated state of the world remain fixed. (shrink)
This paper is a reply to George Boolos's three papers (Boolos (1987a, 1987b, 1990a)) concerned with the status of Hume's Principle. Five independent worries of Boolos concerning the status of Hume's Principle as an analytic truth are identified and discussed. Firstly, the ontogical concern about the commitments of Hume's Principle. Secondly, whether Hume's Principle is in fact consistent and whether the commitment to the universal number by adopting Hume's Principle might be problematic. Also the so-called `surplus content' worry is discussed, (...) which points out that the conceptual resources to grasp Hume's Principle vastly outstrip the conceptual resources employed in arithmetical reasoning. And lastly whether Hume's Principle is in bad company with other unsuccessful implicit definitions. In the last section, an account towards our entitlement to Hume&'s Principle is sketched. (shrink)