Philosophy 1010 Class #8 7/22/2010 Title: Introduction to Philosophy



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  • Philosophy 1010
  • Class #8 - 7/22/2010
  • Title: Introduction to Philosophy
  • Instructor: Paul Dickey
  • E-mail Address: pdickey2@mccneb.edu
  • Website: http://mockingbird.creighton.edu/NCW/dickey.htm
  • Due Today:
  • One paragraph statement of your essay topic with a brief summary of the argument you will give in your essay. (worth five points if it is turned in at the beginning of class)
  • Essay Due – 8/12/2010
  • Any questions on your essay?
  • For Thursday, 8/5/2009
  • Questions on page 396 (11th edition) –
  • #5 and #10
  • Reading Assignment:
  • Chapter Seven -- Ethics
  • Electronic/Online Course/Instructor Feedback
  • 10/SS Availability
  • until
  • August 9, 2010
  • Hand out instruction sheets!!!
  • Group
  • Activity:
  • Theists vs. Agnostics
  • vs. Atheists
  • Chapter Six:
  • TRUTH
  • (with a bit ABOUT KNOWELDGE TOSSED IN FOR FREE)
  • Knowledge requires a belief. It would be nonsensical to say that “I know that my car is in the parking lot, but I do not believe it.”
  • Of course, we can believe something that we do not know, but we cannot know something that we do not believe. Example: “I believe that I am in good health but I haven’t had a thorough checkup for five years.”
  • Knowledge appears to be more than a simple belief. It requires evidence or justification. One would not take seriously a person’s belief for which there is no evidence – for example, “I know the stock market will crash this week because I just know it.”
  • What is Knowledge?
  • That is, a belief must be warranted to count as knowledge.The criteria for when a statement is warranted depends on the type of statement.
  • Some beliefs are “a priori” and others are “a posteriori”, that is, “prior to” experience or “after experience.” Some beliefs are considered to be “foundational” and others not.
  • For example, the basis for justification of all the following beliefs is different –
      • “A rose is a rose.”
      • “No circle is a square.”
      • “John loves Sam.”
      • “John feels embarrassed by what happened.”
  • What is Knowledge?
  • 1. Logical Warrantability.
    • This pencil is either 4” long or it is not.
  • 2. Semantic Warrantability.
    • A circle is not a square.
  • 3. Systemic Warrantability.
    • Two plus two is four.
  • 4. Empirical Warrantability.
    • This bird that I am looking at right now is a robin.
    • John Kennedy was a President of the U.S.
  • What is Warranted Belief?
  • But all warranted belief is not true. You only know what is warranted and “TRUE”. You do not know your car is in the parking lot even if you believe it is and your belief is warranted (you parked it there just before class), but in fact I am looking out the window here and (I hate to tell you this but) campus security just towed you car off campus.
  • In the above example, you can only claim to know that your car is in the parking lot if it is true that it is in the parking lot.
  • Generally speaking, knowledge is understood thus to be warranted, true belief.
  • What is Knowledge?
  • However, is true, warranted belief enough? Consider the following “thought experiment”:
    • 1) John who is a trustworthy person goes to the store intending to buy a gallon of low-fat milk.
    • 2) As a joke on his friend Sam or by mistake, he tells Sam that he is going to buy whole milk.
    • 3) At the store, John mistakenly buys whole milk by getting distracted by how sexy the store manager is.
  • Now, did Sam know that John was going to buy whole milk?
    • 1) Sam believed John was.
    • 2) Sam’s belief appeared to be warranted. It is what John said he was going to do & John usually does what he says.
    • 3) And in fact, it is what John did.
  • What is Knowledge?
  • Video:
    • Does Science Give Us Truth?
  • Break!
  • Truthiness:
  • Theories of Truth
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNHqX27hlz8
  • (just for fun)
  • There are three Fundamental Theories of Truth:
  • 1) the correspondence theory of truth says that a belief is true when it corresponds to what is “out there” in the real world.
  • 2) the coherence theory argues that a belief is true when it fits in consistently with our other beliefs and meanings.
  • 3) the pragmatic theory suggests that what is true depends on what gets us what we want.
  • What are the Traditional
  • Theories of Truth?
  • The Correspondence Theory specifies that truth is an agreement between a proposition and a fact.
  • Thus, the correspondence theory assumes the existence of an external, material world which is composed of facts.
  • The view was first proposed by Aristotle and then by Aquinas. The most formal, systematic presentation of the view was by the 20th century philosopher, Bertrand Russell.
  • Russell argues that truth and falsity are properties of beliefs, but that property depends on the relationship of the belief to the world of facts.
  • The Correspondence Theory may seem to be obviously right and implied by common sense, but actually it has serious difficulties.
  • First of all, it assumes there is an external world, i.e. a particular metaphysical position and seems to beg the question of “how can we we ever get outside our sensory experiences to know what the facts are.”
  • Secondly, there is the problem about what a fact is, anyway. How can a fact even be identified or discussed without referring to the proposition that it is meant to be the conditions for it being true? Thus, the very notion of “facts” appears to be circular.
    • For example, to what fact does the proposition “The cat is on the mat” refer? The fact that the cat is on the mat? But isn’t this circular reasoning?
  • The Correspondence Theory of Truth
  • Finally, the theory is based on the notion of “correspondence.” But it is objected by critics, what does this really mean? What is the nature of correspondence?
  • Clear examples of correspondence are:
    • resemblance like a paint chip resembles the color of paint on your wall, or
    • portrayal like when a picture copies the scene it copies
  • But neither of these can be the kind of correspondence that is being asserted when we say a statement in a language corresponds to a state of affairs in the world.
  • The Correspondence Theory of Truth
  • The Coherence Theory specifies that a statement is true based on its consistency with other statements that considered as a whole we regard as true. This coherence is the fundamental factor, not coherence of a single statement with a single state of the world.
  • Geometry is the perfect example of the coherence theory, but also science understood as general theories also demonstrate the principle.
  • Brand Blanshard (1892-1987) argued that the correspondence theory itself presupposes the coherence theory. He argues that we can verify one statement only by using other statements.
    • For example, to say that “the chair is red” is validated only with other statements that give testimony to the reliability of our sense perception abilities.
  • The Coherence Theory of Truth
  • Of course, the Coherence Theory is not also without its problems.
  • Critics point out that in the past of course, societies accepted statements that were quite consistent with the belief systems but were false such as that the sun revolved around the earth.
  • Critics also ask how a fundamental set of statements about the world can come to be accepted with a Coherence Theory when there is no group of statements to which they could cohere.
  • The Coherence Theory of Truth
  • The Pragmatic Theory says that a belief is true if it works and is useful.
    • Looking for truth is looking for beliefs that will help you get what you want…. Richard Rorty
  • According to the Pragmatists, there are no abolute and unchanging truths. A statement is true if it is useful to believe it.
  • The classic Pragmatic view of truth was formulated by William James.
  • James argued that truth existed in its practical consequences. True ideas are those that we can assimilate, validate, corroborate, and verify.
  • An idea is validated if by believing it, we find experiences that are “progressive, harmonious, and satisfactory.”
  • James challenged the traditional correspondence view by asking: What difference does it make in someone’s life for an idea to be true?” What is the “cash value?” What different experiences should we be expected to have?
  • Richard Rorty suggests that it is improper however to refer to a Pragmatic Theory of Truth. For him, the Pragmatist position only is a claim about individual statements that are good and proper to believe it or not. Pragmatism is not a general theory of Truth (with a capital T).
  • In Rorty’s view, different truths emerge from different communities having different procedures of verifying appropriate statements to use.
  • The Pragmatic Theory of Truth
  • The primary criticism of the Pragmatic approach is that it makes truth entirely relative to the potential mistakable judgments of human communities.
  • Pragmatism equates truth with justified belief of a community.
  • But surely just because we once believed the earth was flat, it wasn’t really flat.
  • The pragmatist could reply that what is true is what an ideal community would be justified in believing if continuing its investigations indefinitely.
  • But this notion seems to be “metaphysical” in the very sense that Pragmatism wished to reject.
  • The Pragmatic Theory of Truth
  • The theory of truth that you hold may determine whether a given claim is true or not.
  • Only the Correspondence Theory of Truth holds that truth is absolute. Both the Coherence Theory and the Pragmatic Theory hold that truth is relative to the group who is making the claim.
  • By rejecting an objective theory of truth, the latter two theories allow for the potentiality of views to be accepted as true that normally we would consider aberrant, e.g. racist, sexist, immoral, etc.
  • On the other hand, one might argue for a relativist theory that it is more tolerant of cultural differences. One culture does not have a monopoly on truth.
  • Does Your Theory of Truth Matter?
  • Perhaps an example of the coherence theory of truth occurs on this video. Listen carefully to what Dr. Tom Osborne says about when he will make a decision about a new football coaching staff at UNL:
    • http://www.ketv.com/video/14416674/index.html
    • (at about 4:00)
  • Consider the statement:
    • Tom Osborne has made up his mind that a new coaching staff at Nebraska is needed. Is he telling us the truth in this interview?
  • Note that which of the two theories of truth we have discussed that you accept may change your determination whether a given statement is true.
  • Is Tom Osborne telling the TRUTH? What is the truth he is telling?
  • Perhaps we should simply understand that all three views have validity and are suggestive within different realms of knowledge.
  • In this account, the Correspondence theory is strong when explaining the empirical world, the Coherence theory helps us to understand logical and mathematical truths, and the Pragmatic theory gives us the better guidance to deal with value judgments.
  • The attempt to find one characterization of truth that covers every kind of truth, seems doomed to failure. ….Hilary Putnam
  • Ultimately however, such a resolution may be too easy and not truly satisfying for most philosophers. It seems to many as not fully answering the paradoxes posed by the subsequent consequences of each theory.
  • A Reconcilation?
  • There are fundamentally three views which attempt to allow science to say that a theory is true, roughly corresponding to the three theories of truth.
  • First of all, the Instrumentalist view argues that a theory is true if it makes accurate predictions. The view thus, is closely aligned with the pragmatic theory of truth.
  • The instrumentalist view does not assert that the theoretical and unobservable entities that we posit in our theories in order to explain observable events actually do exist.
  • In the instrumentalist view, science is not required to describe the world. To say that the earth revolves around the sun is a useful framework or schema simply to calculate the positions of the planets.
  • Does Science Give Us Truth?
  • The Instrumentalist View
  • A second option is the Realist view which relies on the correspondence theory of truth. According to this view, a scientific theory is true or false based on how it describes reality.
  • Historically, Galileo was condemned for heresy indeed because he claimed that the Copernican view was real, not just a mathematical calculation as it had been assumed Copernicus had thought.
  • The realist view asserts that scientific theories make accurate predictions because they are true, that is they “correspond” with things in the world and not the other way around.
  • For the realist, scientific theory is discovered. For the instrumentalist, it is invented for the sake of continuing productive scientific activity.
  • Does Science Give Us Truth?
  • The Realist View
  • The third option is the conceptual relativist view which relies on the coherence theory of truth. According to this view, a scientific community theory provides a paradigm consisting of theories, research methods, programs, and values that a “conceptual framework” which is true.
  • The leading proponent of this view is Thomas Kuhn.
  • According to this view and in contrast with instrumentalism and realism, theories cannot be checked against independently observed reality for all observation is theory-laden.
  • Scientific paradigms are replaced by “conceptual “revolutions,” however when that happens one cannot necessarily say the changes occurred for rational reasons or that the new paradigm is “more true.”
  • Does Science Give Us Truth?
  • The Conceptual Relativist View
  • Break!
  • But science is not the only type of knowledge that relies on a notion of truth.
  • We talk about the truth of the Bible or other sacred scriptures, the true meaning of the constitution of the United States, and even the true interpretation of a poem. But what is that?
  • Previously we have have talked about “truth” being a property of a statement in a language. But what about the notion of the truth or meaning of a written document or a text?
  • This philosophical study is called hermeneutics, the study of the interpretation of words and actions. The term goes back to the Greeks who struggled to interpret what they believed the gods were saying to them.
  • Hermeneutics &
  • Interpretations of Text
  • With Judaism and Christianity, there was a clear need to understand scriptures, which were understood to be the Word of God. However, it was not always clear what was the correct or true interpretation.
  • In the Middle Ages, philosophers and theologians suggested many new interpretations of different scriptures. This created the problem of how does a believer know which interpretation to accept.
  • Thomas Aquinas argued that scripture had many interpretations, all of which could be true. To resolve the problem about what to believe, Aquinas argued that it was only the Church that could decide what interpretations were to be followed and to say what God actually intended.
  • But this is really no solution to the philosophical puzzle, for it does not give us understanding on how the Church was to make such judgments.
  • Hermeneutics & Interpretations of Text
  • Martin Luther rejected this notion, arguing that there is only one true interpretation, that is, the literal meaning.
  • Friedreich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) agreed with Luther. For him, there is one meaning and that meaning of the text is a product of the history or culture of the person who wrote it.
  • Such a position is based on the correspondence theory.
  • To determine, the true meaning of a text (whether it be holy scripture, the U. S. constitution or the work of a human poet), we must unveil what the author(s) intended.
  • Hermeneutics
  • William Dilthey (1833-1911) agreed with Schleiermacher that the true interpretation of a text is the meaning that the author intended and thus, we must study the historical context in which he or she lived.
  • Also consider, Supreme Court Justice – Antonin Scalia and his approach known as Originalism.
  • http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/04/24/60minutes/main4040290.shtml?source=mostpop_story
  • (Through 6:40)
  • Hermeneutics
  • Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002) argued that trying to determine an author’s original intention is often impossible.
  • The reader of any text relies on their own experience and culture, even their “prejudices.” People living in different times or in different societies may interpret a text differently, yet both may be as true as the other.
  • Interpreting a text is to establish a dialogue with the text. As that discussion proceeds, the meaning of the text emerges. That meaning will be an assimilation of the cultural setting of the original text and the views, perceptions, and beliefs of the current readers.
  • Hermeneutics
  • Such a position is based on the coherence theory.
  • Watch Justice Ginsburg’s short segment of the CBS 60 minutes video
  • In response, E. D. Hirsch argued that Gadamer’s view confused “meaning” with “significance” and that meaning was still “what the author intended.”
  • Hermeneutics & Interpretations of Text
  • Pop Quiz



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