Reason, Truth and Reality

Reason, Truth and Reality

DAN GOLDSTICK
Copyright Date: 2009
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442689855
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  • Book Info
    Reason, Truth and Reality
    Book Description:

    Basing consideration upon a characterization of reason in its deductive, inductive, and ethical functioning, Goldstick asks what must hold good for reason so characterized to be a dependable guide to truth.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8985-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Part One: Introductory

    • 1 Introduction
      (pp. 3-20)

      Suppose you were given the task of compiling two lists, each of them as full as possible: one a list of truths and (as far as possible) of truths only; the other just listing whatever you believed. And suppose you did compile both lists simultaneously, to the best of your ability. That, in such a case, the two lists would have to contain exactly the same entries as each other is a truism.¹ For it is the very same thing to believe anything consciously (whether more confidently or less confidently) and (whether more confidently or less confidently) to take it...

    • 2 On Moore’s Paradox
      (pp. 21-25)

      If I were to say,

      ‘It is not raining outside, but I believe that it is,’

      I would commonly be taken to have contradicted myself, although I would not have asserted anything logically impossible.² This suggests a wider sense of ‘self-contradiction’ than the customary technical sense oflogical falsity.

      Just what is the trouble with a locution like this? Clearly, the basis for finding fault with it lies in the fact that it is involved in the meaning of an English declarative sentence like ‘It is not raining outside,’ that asserting it is a conventional linguistic means of expressing a...

    • 3 On Factuality
      (pp. 26-36)

      In the years between the two world wars, the Wittgensteinian and logical positivist philosophies assaulted the ears of the traditionalminded by flatly denying there to be any ‘fact of the matter’ at all (to put it in the idiom of a later generation) on any of the great questions of ethics, ‘metaphysics,’ theology, and even logic and mathematics. In a straightforward sense, they were denying that any ethical, ‘metaphysical,’ theological, or even logical or mathematical thesis was ever ‘true’ in that sense in which it might be correct, in favourable conditions, to call a police officer’s testimony ‘true’ or to...

    • 4 On the Canons of Deductive Inference
      (pp. 37-58)

      Without doubt, the above is a highly selective selection of quotations.Aristotle certainly did have other things to say as well, as far as the Principle of Non-contradiction goes, and those other things may have been more important to his systematic philosophy. But the passages quoted, at any rate, can perhaps be summarized fairly in the following points:

      1 It is impossible to be mistaken as to the truth-value of the Noncontradiction Principle. Indeed, to make a claim that anybody both believes something and simultaneously believes its contradictory too, is to speak inconsistently (to assert a ‘logical impossibility,’ as we would...

    • 5 Preliminary Assault on the Philosophy of Empiricism
      (pp. 59-78)

      There are, at most, three kinds of beliefs which can pass muster with empiricism. In the first place, something can be believed because, whether directly or on the basis of a deductive proof, it has been perceived to be tautologous. But such a belief, of course, is neversynthetic. Secondly, there is the sort of case where even the fullest statement of that which is believed only reports what has actually been experienced. But such belief is, of course, nevergeneral.¹ And thirdly, there is belief held on the basis of inference from what has been experienced, whether the inference...

  5. Part Two: On the Canons of Induction

    • 6 Preliminary Considerations
      (pp. 81-84)

      According to the traditional account of the history of philosophy, David Hume propounded a Problem of Induction. He maintained that, if forecasts of the future are to have any chance of being rational, they must be based ‘inductively’ (to use a word he did not) – that is, they must be based upon the identification of some pattern in what has been observed, and the anticipation that this pattern will continue on. Such a procedure presupposes, Hume thought, the proposition that ‘the course of nature continues always uniformly the same’ or that ‘the future will resemble the past’ (to employ two...

    • 7 Sensationalism
      (pp. 85-88)

      Has any philosopher ever dared to maintain that sense-experience by itself isso‘theory-laden,’ or empirical theories so useless, as to make all inductive inference unnecessary? Is there anyone around who really views induction as being completely dispensable? There are people who seem to say that but turn out to mean by ‘induction’ some specific, more narrowly defined sort of inference than we are discussing here.

      It was, indeed, a different story with Karl Popper, who always insisted on the dispensability of induction inscience, from which he apparently excludedapplied science, since he was willing to speak inThe...

    • 8 Naturalism
      (pp. 89-103)

      By inductive ‘naturalism’ I mean the view that it is possible using deductive reasoning alone to derive expectations for the future, for example, from information about the past and present only. The philosophical objection to any such deduction should call to mind the parallel claim in meta-ethics (see chapter 21) that any attempt to deduce a moral judgment from morally neutral premises will necessarily involve a ‘naturalistic fallacy.’ Of course, whatever premises actually did entail a moral judgment would not then be morally neutral; but what morally neutral propositions are there? In particular, are empirical propositions all morally neutral, as...

    • 9 Inductivism
      (pp. 104-106)

      Is it possible to justify induction inductively? There can be no question about the favourable tendency of the available empirical data. Very, very often in the past, and certainly far more often than not, inductive methods have proved to yield correct predictions, which (from all inductive indications) have been and will continue to be absolutely essential for human survival. But is there, as David Hume thought, necessarily a vicious circularity in reasoning like this? To say no, one must either deny, like J.S. Mill, that the reasoning required has to be circular,¹ or else insist, like R.B. Braithwaite, that, even...

    • 10 Pragmatism
      (pp. 107-112)

      In our planning for the future, we all rely heavily on inductively based predictions, and we therefore by and large have a strong interest in those being, as far as possible, predictions which will come true. The inductive pragmatists’ aim is the rational vindication of our reliance on induction, but, as committed empiricists (with no place in their philosophy for anything synthetica priori), they undertake to achieve this using deductive reasoning only. Nevertheless, it is perhaps best not to classify them as inductive naturalists, because they make a point of stressing that no conclusion about the future, not even...

    • 11 Nihilism, Scepticism, and Decisionism
      (pp. 113-118)

      If cratylus actually held what Aristotle says he did, he denied the truth of anything whatever that would assume the world’s continuing on as in the past. A partial inductive nihilist, on the other hand, such as the sort of fideist fundamentalist discussed in chapter 8, would only assert the falsity ofsomeinductively supported statements. It is noteworthy that almost all actual fundamentalists really maintain, rather, that the weight of the inductive evidence does in fact tell in favour of their claim that everything the Bible states is literally true. Indeed, even avowed fideists and irrationalists usually turn out...

    • 12 Possibility, Probability, Negation, and Change
      (pp. 119-126)

      Just what does necessity add tode factouniversality? Uncontroversially, that holds good necessarily which both holds good in all actual instances, past, present, and future, and would hold good as well in any additional instances if there were to be any. But just what does it mean to say that somethingwouldhold good if a certain condition were to obtain? In a paper entitled ‘The Truth-Conditions of Counterfactual Conditional Sentences,’ I argued for an epistemic interpretation, in general, of the statement that if A were to be the case then C would be the case: that is, for...

    • 13 Causality and Impermanence
      (pp. 127-137)

      Consider a knife slicing through a potato. Why are we apter to think of the knife, not the potato, as ‘causative’ of the result which ensues? After all,eachof them, given the other, is both necessary and sufficient in the circumstances for the production of that result. Of course, we are apt to think of the knife as ‘active’ and the potato as ‘passive’ here. For, anyway, what contribution does the potato make to the end result beyond just being there at the required time? Whereas the knife, on the other hand, contributes by virtue of its own process...

    • 14 Simplicity
      (pp. 138-150)

      From universal impermanence to a principle of (relative) permanence. As has often been observed, in effect, the essence of the Simplicity Principle is the presumption of (relative) local homogeneity through time and space in any single respect. When it comes to the passage of time anywhere, this is a presumption against the occurrence there of any significant change during that time in any given respect(s).² Other things being equal as between two conflicting accounts of the same time period somewhere, the less ‘eventful’ of the two accounts will be thesimplerone, in the relevant sense, and hence the likelier...

    • 15 How to Reason Inductively
      (pp. 151-161)

      Like speaking one’s native tongue, reasoning inductively is something which comes easily. Indeed, induction may be even easier than speech if Hume is right that non-human animals do it too.² Perhaps it is better, though, to reserve talk of ‘reasoning capacity’ only for something more sophisticated than bare conditionability, even if that psychological trait does contain the germ of all our inductive reasoning. And, certainly, even with human beings, to say that it is easy to do something isn’t at all to say that it’s easy to do it well. To be able to reason inductively at all, however, clearly...

    • 16 The Case for Universal Impermanence
      (pp. 162-173)

      That all things pass is, as previously remarked, no novel observation about the ways of the world. The fact of transience is so manifest that, in the tradition, any exemption from mortality was reserved for the gods, or at any rate the divine order; and, indeed, such an order was touted expressly on that account. Early natural science tended quite consciously to see discovering laws of nature as a way of contributing to the comprehension of that divine order: no wonder scientists imputed reality to such laws. But the actual historical path of science is littered thickly with the whitened...

    • 17 That Determinism Is Incontrovertible
      (pp. 174-189)

      I think wide agreement could be obtained on the following six points as necessary conditions of the warrantability of inductive inference. (Not that these are supposed to be all logically independent of one another.)

      i Where an event x has been observed to occur followed by an event or state y after lapse of time t without any occasion having been observed on which event x was not followed by event or state y after lapse of time t, it is in consequence more probable than it would otherwise be, on the occasion of any additional occurrence of event x,³...

    • 18 The Pitfall of Metaphysics
      (pp. 190-194)

      It isn’t like fifty years ago, when it would have been possible to count on an unfriendly reaction to the word ‘metaphysics’ from readers not only of more advanced but of moderate views also. Positivists, pragmatists, existentialists, Marxists all deprecated, disparaged and dissociated themselves from ‘metaphysics’ in no uncertain terms, even if they did give differing accounts of what the nub of the offence was.² To brand an idea, claim, or outlook ‘metaphysical’ then was not a bad way to relegate it as pretty hopelessly unintelligent – provided, of course, the label could be made to stick convincingly. Today in academic...

  6. Part Three: On the Canons of Morality

    • 19 Preliminary Considerations
      (pp. 197-215)

      Contrary to the views expressed in the quoted epigraph, ethical rationalists have endeavoured to maintain that in the field of morality, at any rate, truth does ‘have an executive’; or at least that therecognitionof truth – like its erroneous misrecognition – is something inherently motivating. Their opponents have commonly agreed that moral convictions are psychologically motivating, but on that very account have denied that they can ever, in so far, qualify as beingtruein the way ‘factual’ opinions can. This accordingly poses the question with some urgency as to whatmoral convictionsare. A question, you might think, of...

    • 20 Sensationalism
      (pp. 216-217)

      It is no uncommon thing to observe an action somebody takes and experience instant outrage – ‘instant’ at any rate, insofar as no conscious thought processes lie behind the sense of outrage felt. Those who dissent from sensationalism will argue, of course, thatinferenceneed not always be conscious, and the conclusion that the action observed here is outrageous has indeed beeninferredfrom (apparent) features of the total situation experienced more directly – features fully describable, for their part, in language which is morally neutral. For sensationalism, on the other hand, the outrageousness of the action observed is included in the...

    • 21 Naturalism
      (pp. 218-223)

      In a 1995 lecture, Frank Jackson was bold enough to defend the deducibility of ‘ought’ from ‘is,’ putting forward a complex ‘descriptivist’ account of what an ethical term like ‘right’ means and commenting (in the subsequent print version of his argument:

      Just as we can sensibly doubt the result of a long complex numerical addition by virtue of its making sense to doubt that the addition was done correctly …, so we can make sense of doubting the result of the complex story that … leads from the descriptive to the ethical.³

      Jackson was in effect prepared todefine‘rightness’...

    • 22 Inductivism
      (pp. 224-232)

      Moral theories are often tested in thought experiments, against imagined examples; and, as Harman notes, trained researchers often test scientific theories in the same way. The problem, though, is that scientific theories can also be tested against the world, by observations or real experiments; and, Harman asks, ‘can moral principles be tested in the same way, out in the world?’ (p. 4)

      This would not be a very interesting or impressive challenge, of course, if it were merely a resurrection of standard verificationist worries about whether moral assertions and theories have any testable empirical implications, implications suitable [‘statable’?] in some...

    • 23 Pragmatism
      (pp. 233-234)

      As often remarked, such a statement as Bentham’s here is either false or tautological. It is tautological if it says only that people will never freely do anything unless motivated by something that makes it seem to them a good thing to do, and in just that sense ‘advantageous’ from their standpoint – apt to be beneficial to what they care about. But the statement is manifestly false if it means that what is morally right, or the welfare of others, is never valued by anybody for its own sake, and never moves anybody to action accordingly. Let us understand considerations...

    • 24 Nihilism, Scepticism, and Decisionism
      (pp. 235-238)

      ‘What magisterial and permanent authority are we to attribute to them?’ the philosopher asks. But (strictly speaking) that is different from ascepticalchallenge to according them any credence at all, rather than making oneself (if such were possible) completely opinionless. And the reader will not have failed to notice that, in the sentence quoted, Montaigne is speaking of opinions in general, not just our moral sentiments.

      Nevertheless, Montaigne’s rhetorical question here corresponds to what is surely a principal objection to ethical objectivity claims. The diversity of moral attitudes from society to society, subculture to subculture, and even individual to...

    • 25 Ethics and Induction
      (pp. 239-239)

      Yes, there is apt to be more room for disagreement over moral questions than over questions resolvable inductively, if only because answering most moral questions is dependent in large measure on determining inductively some potentially controversial empirical facts, but settling those still could leave the pertinent moral issues unresolved....

    • 26 Mores
      (pp. 240-259)

      As social animals, humans are more like bees or wolves than they are like snails or bears. Human beings, in fact, are genetically adapted to living in communities. Ournativeendowment is signally skimpy as far as any means for personal survival in isolation are concerned. But by way of compensation, our capacities forlearning, above all, equip us biologically for successful social life.

      Becoming a member of any society, of course, involves learning its rules. We can trace out a three-way division of these rules intousages,mores, andlaws and regulations. Usages are rules like fork-on-the-leftknife-and-spoon-on-the-right or the...

    • 27 ‘Consciencelessness’
      (pp. 260-269)

      Ever the spokesman of self-seeking, Hobbes hates to admit that people can indeed care seriously about truth-telling, say, for its own sake (rather than just for the sake of remaining nobly unbeholden). But Hobbes does not explain how it would happen (if nobody cared about faithfulness for its own sake) that even a ‘rarely found’ gallant would particularlymindowing contentment of life, or even life itself, to fraud and breach of promise, any more than to eating and drinking.

      Such rare nobleness aside, in a Hobbesian society the only motivation for obeying the rules (where it isn’t otherwise advantageous)...

    • 28 Utility
      (pp. 270-291)

      Whatever the actual specifics of passing a culture on from one generation to the next, according to chapter 26 putting oneself imaginatively in somebody else’s place has a key role to play in the whole process of learning to take up the moral point of view. At that rate, it is no surprise that the moral outlook so produced should be apt to involve taking a sympathetic attitude to the interests of people besides oneself. Indeed, is there any ethic that’s at all influential which does not give some weight to an imperative enjoining a stance of unprejudiced, humane concern?...

    • 29 comparing Utilities
      (pp. 292-301)

      Aggregating utility considerations for comparative purposes is all very well in practice, one is inclined to say, but will it really work in theory? If not – that is, if talk of seeking to maximize people’s well-being overall cannot even be given any coherentmeaning– then the difficulty posed will be fatal not only for utilitarianism but for any ethic at all which recommends the promotion of overall utility as at least one end worth furthering, whether for its own sake or not.

      The ethical theory of utilitarianism understands what is beneficial and what is harmful to people ultimately in terms...

    • 30 Population
      (pp. 302-308)

      ‘Be fruitful and multiply,’ God said to Adam and Eve (Genesis 1: 28); or, as theNew English Biblehas it, ‘Be fruitful and increase, fill the earth ... ’ But the Bible doesn’t sayhow fullto fill the earth. In the abstract, it is not hard to imagine a deontological prescription which incorporated a specific limiting formula (or which opposed any limitation whatsoever). But it is harder to imagine a non-consequentialistrationalefor such a prescription.

      It really doesn’t seem as if we can get very far with any appeal to people’s rights here. How could those who...

    • 31 ‘Hypocrisy’ Stipulatively Defined
      (pp. 309-310)

      We’re all hypocrites. From time to time, we all pretend to be better persons than we are. Occasionally the pretence is even justified. A role model for the younger generation does the future no favour by misbehaving in full view.

      But hypocrisy does have a bad name. Especially the hypocritical censure of others. Objectively speaking, though, it cannot really detract from the correctness of any moral criticism someone voices that in the same situation the speaker would really do no better than the individual criticized.

      For our purposes, let us call a person’s moral condemnation of someone’s act of commission...

    • 32 Utilitarianism Proved
      (pp. 311-317)

      No, kant was not a utilitarian. The point of highlighting this quotation from him is his express identification ofmoral agentsandmoral ends. A moralagentis a potential wrongdoer, one on whom (breachable) moral obligations fall. From the standpoint of utilitarianism, moralendsare those beings for whose sole benefit, ultimately, all moral obligations exist. Someone steeped in kantian ethics might well regard the identifi-cation of the two as self-evident. But, whether it is self-evident or not, this chapter claims toprovethe equation.

      Can an ethic’s content be identified with the demands which it makes on people?²...

    • 33 conclusion: We Each Sit in Judgment
      (pp. 318-320)

      Diogenes the cynic is said to have countered Zeno’s arguments for the impossibility of motion by simply walking around.² Did Diogenes refute Zeno? His action certainly didn’t uncover any flaws in Zeno’s argumentation. But by showing unmistakably that Zeno’s conclusion was false he did show that the argumentation must be flawed. Thus, although we certainly have learned things from Zeno’s arguments, what we’ve learned isnotthat motion is impossible.

      Something similar can be said of sceptical arguments in philosophy. Their stated conclusions being untenable, anything we learn from them has to be something else. kant liked to maintain that...

  7. Appendix 1: ‘Tautology’
    (pp. 321-326)
  8. Appendix 2: ‘Desire’
    (pp. 327-332)
  9. Index
    (pp. 333-337)