Friday, August 28, 2009

OEN Interview

Ben Dench at the liberal-progressive OEN (OpEdNews) web news service conducted and published an extended interview of me on a variety of topics. It's now available online. We discuss the future of Christianity, the role of secularism in improving society, my beefs with professional philosophy, and my proposal that a lottery for congress would be superior to the current election process. And a few other things besides.

149 comments:

WAR_ON_ERROR said...

Read that a few weeks ago. Great stuff.

jcm said...

The internet is already radically changing the game. It is now no longer possible for any evangelist or preacher to make any claim without the hearer being able to check it almost immediately against worldwide knowledge and opinion.

I credit the Internet, in part, for my own break with religious fundamentalism (which, in my case, was Orthodox-Jewish, rather Christian). However, it hasn't had the same effect on my erstwhile coreligionists. Perhaps they were more invested in religion than I was, or (as some research, comparing liberals and conservatives, suggests) perhaps we were of different personality types.

Nonetheless, I agree that easy access to critical information makes the task of maintaining the ghetto walls all the more challenging. But I would qualify that with the old saw about "leading a horse to water." Fundamentalists (and religious conservatives of lesser degrees) have their own ways of adapting to new technologies (e.g. by circumscribing their use or, if feasible, avoiding them altogether).

Perhaps the most important role that secular humanists (and atheists, in general) play in counteracting these strategies is in maintaining the flow of information (along with a little marketing), which requires both intent and effort. After all, whatever one's theory of (human) history, it doesn't happen without us.

Landon Hedrick said...

I'm interested in the paper you said you submitted to a philosophy journal. What was the topic, and did you revise it and resubmit?

Andrew said...

I haven't paid much attention to philosophers or read widely on the subject, so I'm no expert, but when I recently looked at some of Plantinga's writings (prompted by a debate on a theist's blog) I was somewhat shocked by just how bad some of the reasoning was.

Loren said...

I find it interesting what RC says about the church model, as it may be called, that it's declining because of alternatives. Others have found something similar. Steve Bruce in his book "God is Dead" noted that the amount of religiosity is greatest in rural areas, and less in urban areas and remote areas. In rural areas, there aren't many alternatives, while in urban areas, there are lots of them.

I also like his proposal of education in how to do things, rather than nothing but rattling off facts and figures. But one has to be careful to avoid absurdities like "New Math", which IMO introduced an excess of abstraction.

RC has some interesting takes on academic philosophy, but I suspect that that another reason for the "renaissance" could be the abandonment of academic philosophy by those who find other fields more productive. This would then left the field open for the theologians to move in.

Richard Carrier said...

Landon Hedrick said... I'm interested in the paper you said you submitted to a philosophy journal. What was the topic, and did you revise it and resubmit?

Ethical theory. And no. Because what journals are asking for is absurd and a waste of my time. I have too many other things to do that are more important and pressing to me than researching and regurgitating the dull and trivial history of recent (mostly terrible) philosophy. Indeed, ironically, doing so would double the length of the paper, thereby exceeding most journals' word limits on submissions, producing a Catch-22. It seems the only way I'll ever get it academically published is to do a second Ph.D. in philosophy and build it out as my dissertation thereto. But that's not going to happen any time soon.

I am considering cutting it up into small, childlike units, and trying to get the units published separately in journals that will publish short logical papers (and thus don't have room to be stuck on this fad for replacing philosophy with history of philosophy), and then put out a short paper unifying them (thus end-rounding their stupid requirements). But I have too many other things I want to get done first, so that project is back-burnered for now.

I would, however, be keen to have some philosopher (someone with a philosophy degree and publication record of his or her own) take on the project as co-author (even as the primary), and do all the annoying work the journals require (or spin out the spoonfeeding plan I'm thinking of). I would provide the core materials, suggest revisions to meet demands, and advise on perfecting each submission (and provide editing and authorial assistance), for a co-author credit.

Anyone who fits that bill, send me an email and we'll talk. There's no money in it, though.

Richard Carrier said...

Andrew said... I haven't paid much attention to philosophers or read widely on the subject, so I'm no expert, but when I recently looked at some of Plantinga's writings (prompted by a debate on a theist's blog) I was somewhat shocked by just how bad some of the reasoning was.

Almost high school, in fact--if it weren't for the advanced elegance of his vocabulary and sentence construction, his writings would be positively cartoonish.

I actually did a survey study in preparation for a possible book on this topic of how philosophy almost universally sucks now, although other projects have intervened so I never got back onto that project (and I'm actually starting to see some changes in the field that may make that book moot--possibly a lot of philosophers have started sharing my complaints and are doing something about it; this used to be rare, and such philosophers were ignored, e.g. Mario Bunge's Philosophy in Crisis and a few others even lesser known, like James Taylor's "The Future of Practical Philosophy," but now I'm seeing hints of more attention to this, though it's too early to tell).

Anyway, in my prep survey I randomly selected a hundred articles from the whole range of peer reviewed philosophy journals still in print, all published in a single (very recent) year. The results were sad beyond belief. I was going to compile statistics documenting this, but that's been shelved for now.

Richard Carrier said...

Loren said... But one has to be careful to avoid absurdities like "New Math", which IMO introduced an excess of abstraction.

Indeed, that is exactly the kind of stupid idea that has ruined education's utility. By making math more technical, it made it more pointless and unintelligible. Honestly, set theory and the theory of non-base-ten number systems are almost useless in the real world, and only ever of use at advanced levels.

Math should start with practical real-world application and work from there to underlying theory and principles, and only then what is needed to understand the practical applications and why they work. A good example of this is the textbook The Mathematical Palette, which was designed for liberal arts students, but anyone can see it is exactly what every student should be using as their textbook.

Loren said... I suspect that that another reason for the "renaissance" could be the abandonment of academic philosophy by those who find other fields more productive. This would then left the field open for the theologians to move in.

Well, no, I can confirm that hasn't happened. There are plenty of secular philosophers, in fact by far most academic philosophers are such (numbering over a thousand in the U.S. and Canada). The theologians are actually a very small front overall (I doubt more than a hundred could be found). They just get more attention precisely because they are so unusual.

PhysicistDave said...

Richard,

I’ve linked to, and commented on, some of your criticisms of contemporary academic philosophy from your interview with Dench on my own blog (homeschoolphysicist.blogspot.com).

I think your comments on academic philosophy were certainly spot-on, but I wonder if you have written anywhere on why academic philosophy is such bad straits? It seems to me a big part of the problem is the idea that “philosophy” can be a distinct discipline hermetically sealed from natural science and religion.

Ernest Gellner argued that modern philosophy arose in the seventeeethn century as a response to the growth of modern science and science’s challenge to religion.

It seems to me that he was right on that point, and that philosophy isolated from questions about science or religion therefore has little purpose.

Dave Miller in Sacramento

PhysicistDave said...

Richard wrote:
>Indeed, that [New Math] is exactly the kind of stupid idea that has ruined education's utility. By making math more technical, it made it more pointless and unintelligible. Honestly, set theory and the theory of non-base-ten number systems are almost useless in the real world, and only ever of use at advanced levels.

Richard and Loren, I was one of those who went through “New Math” and it actually was quite useful for me in later years: I hold some patents on error-correction codes as applied to computer and satellite-communication systems, and all that stuff uses what might be called an advanced form of “clock arithmetic” run wild.

For those of us who were bright and mathematically inclined, New Math was fine. Indeed, I wish that I had had much more along the same lines.

The problem was with the bottom half of the students, who were having trouble even grasping long multiplication: having also to deal with Venn diagrams, etc. was pretty overwhelming for them (and their parents).

Dave

P.S. I see I managed to type my own blog name wrong in my prior comment: it’s http://homeschoolingphysicist.blogspot.com .

Landon Hedrick said...

Richard,

Thanks for the comment. I'm having a hard time agreeing with your criticisms of academic philosophy, and one philosopher that I know has plainly said that you don't know what you're talking about (though whether or not that's the case will have to be something you two dispute with each other, I guess).

I'm curious now about some other related issues. You said that you met the editor of a journal who published a bad paper, and I'm wondering if you could tell me what the paper was titled and what the glaring error was. Also I'm curious about knowing what the thesis of your ethics paper is--though if you'd prefer to only give that through email I understand.

Regarding the specialization that has taken place in philosophy, Dr. Field (who you met in March) had this to say:

"As for the specialization he complains about, well that train has left the station and its not coming back. And it is worthwhile recalling what this specialization was a reaction to in the early part of the 20th century. It was a reaction to the mammoth system builders of the 19th century who attempted to offer the all-encompassing system, and would fail themselves to make any progress, and were superficial when it came to the details."

PhysicistDave said...

Landon Hedrick wrote to Richard:
> I'm having a hard time agreeing with your criticisms of academic philosophy, and one philosopher that I know has plainly said that you don't know what you're talking about (though whether or not that's the case will have to be something you two dispute with each other, I guess).

Actually, it would be pretty simple to test Richard’s central point.

If you randomly got a dozen physicists or a dozen biologists or a dozen geologists together, it would be quite easy to get them to list some scientific results during the last century that were significant, generally accepted, and almost certainly correct (by overwhelming current consensus in the field) – the structure of DNA, plate tectonic, particle physicists’ standard model, etc.

So, let’s just get a group of a dozen randomly chosen philosophers together and ask them to list the significant results in philosophy during the last century that were significant, generally accepted, and almost certainly correct (by overwhelming current consensus in the field of philosophy).

Do you think we would get even one single result in philosophy that met those straightforward criteria?

Let’s face it: the truth about the failure of philosophy is obvious to anyone who is honest.

It is simply considered a faux pas to publicly point out that truth.

Dave Miller in Sacramento

GJ said...

Dave,

Your comments betray a misunderstanding of the nature of philosophy. Philosophical problems are radically unlike scientific problems, and philosophy cannot be construed as methodologically continuous with science. Philosophers don't conduct empirical studies to confirm (or disconfirm) their hypotheses. On the contrary, philosophical "hypotheses" (I don't like to call them that) are tested in the court of reason, and the people in this court come to the table with wildly divergent fundamental assumptions. But make no mistake, we've come a long way since Thales. There is progress in philosophy; only, it's extremely slow.

In any case, your point is altogether unclear. You speak of the "failure of philosophy." What does that mean? What, exactly, has philosophy failed to do? Give us "results"? What kind of results, and how would philosophy achieve these results?

Also, you seem to be suggesting that there are no widely accepted truths in philosophy, which is absurd. Verificationism is a dead letter in analytic philosophy, and so is Cartesian dualism, idealism, orthodox Platonism, etc. There are philosophers on the fringe who still defend variants of these hoary old views, but there are also physicists on the fringe who still defend the hoary old steady state theory.

jcm said...

In general, you need the right kind of secularism: freethinking, critical, honest, and respectful of liberty. Marxist societies have in practice abandoned all four of those qualities, and thus are perfect examples of a doomed model of secularism that will only make things as bad as in any theocracy.

Having recently read Marx's Capital Vol. 1, I'm prepared to say that I've read better critiques of capitalism (especially of its "pure", laissez-faire form). However, I'm also prepared to say that Marx has been co-opted and abused by some pretty ruthless demagogues over the past century, usually in political contexts that were already difficult to characterize as "freethinking, critical, honest, and respectful of liberty". [I suppose a Trotskyist might compare the Stalinist abuse of Marx to the Nazi abuse of Darwin during WWII, but that comparison gives more scientific credit to Marx than I'm willing to give.]

In any case, I think a less partisan observation is that dogmatism needn't be theistic in order to threaten our values of liberty, justice, and democracy (although it does seem to be so often enough to make you wonder).

PhysicistDave said...

GJ wrote to me:
>Your comments betray a misunderstanding of the nature of philosophy. Philosophical problems are radically unlike scientific problems, and philosophy cannot be construed as methodologically continuous with science. Philosophers don't conduct empirical studies to confirm (or disconfirm) their hypotheses.

Interesting how often apologists for theology and philosophy claim that any critics must simply be suffering from ignorance!

Sorry, but I am well aware that philosophy is not “methodologically continuous with science.”

That’s why philosophy is a colossal, stupendous failure.

Contemporary science (once called “natural philosophy”) and contemporary philosophy developed from the same root. Science is the shoot that proved to be fruitful; contemporary philosophy is the shoot that proved to be barren.

GJ also wrote to me:
> In any case, your point is altogether unclear. You speak of the "failure of philosophy." What does that mean? What, exactly, has philosophy failed to do? Give us "results"? What kind of results, and how would philosophy achieve these results?

Au contraire, I was quite clear and explicit.

I wrote:
>So, let’s just get a group of a dozen randomly chosen philosophers together and ask them to list the significant results in philosophy during the last century that were significant, generally accepted, and almost certainly correct (by overwhelming current consensus in the field of philosophy).

That is an actual doable experiment, quite clear indeed. Of course, it is hardly worth the effort, since we already know the result!

GJ also wrote:
>Also, you seem to be suggesting that there are no widely accepted truths in philosophy, which is absurd. Verificationism is a dead letter in analytic philosophy, and so is Cartesian dualism, idealism, orthodox Platonism, etc. There are philosophers on the fringe who still defend variants of these hoary old views, but there are also physicists on the fringe who still defend the hoary old steady state theory.

You really think you can find a physicist who still defends steady-state theory?

Hmmmm….. I see you know little about science.

As I expected.

I do agree with your implication that the one thing you can get philosophers to agree on is that most other philosophers are wrong.

That is not a positive result – after all, who, except someone deceived by philosophers in the first place, ever denied that?

You also wrote:
> But make no mistake, we've come a long way since Thales. There is progress in philosophy; only, it's extremely slow.

Fine. Then please tell us a half-dozen *positive* results in philosophy, generally accepted in the field of philosophy. Note the emphasis on *positive*. I know you can say: “Hegel was wrong,” “Plato was wrong,” Aquinas was wrong,” etc. I’d like to know a half-dozen *positive* results.

You know that we scientists can easily list dozens of positive results – well-established, important, even breath-taking.

But, if you can just give us a half-dozen positive, significant, results in philosophy that have been generally accepted over the last half century, I’ll concede you have a point.

Of course, we all know you can’t do that, now don’t we?

I know it is unkind for me to point out in public that your emperor has no clothes, but you did choose to discuss this publicly, you know.

Dave

PhysicistDave said...

The failure of philosophy seems to be a hot topic on the Web currently. I’ve just posted a discussion of essays by two of my fellow physicists, the “fighting Czech” Lubos Motl and my former professor, the Nobel laureate Steve Weinberg, on the topic.

I wonder why this seems to be getting attention in recent months. After all, the failure of philosophy has been obvious for a very long time.

See, e.g., David Stove’s amusing essay “What Is Wrong With Our Thoughts” in his The Plato Cult and Other Philosophical Follies: Stove concludes that “there is simply no avoiding the conclusion that the human race is mad.” Since his evidence comes from surveying the thought of philosophers and theologians, he should properly have said that “philosophers and theologians are mad.”

Stove was a philosopher.

Dave

GJ said...

Dave,

You seem to have simply reasserted your original claims, and you're still operating on the faulty assumption that philosophical problems are like scientific problems. I wonder if a scientist can tell us what the necessary and sufficient conditions for games are.

And funny you should cite David Stove in an attempt to bolster your absurd view. Stove was a philosopher, a great one, and as a philosopher he understood the nature of philosophy, explicitly denying that philosophy was a failure in any sense. In fact, he wrote an essay called "Why Have Philosophers?" (published in his Cricket Versus Republicanism), in which he argues that philosophy is indispensable.

GJ said...

I can't help but comment on this howler:

"Sorry, but I am well aware that philosophy is not 'methodologically continuous with science.' That's why philosophy is a colossal, stupendous failure."

The argument here is:

(1) Philosophy isn't methodologically continuous with science.
(2) Therefore, philosophy is a stupendous failure.

Notice the huge chasm between the premise and the conclusion.

Also, isn't it the case that a lot of modern physics, especially quantum theory, insofar as some of its claims cannot (even in principle) be empirically verified or falsified, is more philosophical than scientific?

Loren said...

According to GJ,

...philosophical "hypotheses" (I don't like to call them that) are tested in the court of reason, and the people in this court come to the table with wildly divergent fundamental assumptions.

So philosophy is like mathematics?

I make that comparison because mathematics is not an empirical science, but is instead based on pure reason.

Jim who is slightly balding said...

Professional philosophers? I didn't know they existed outside of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

"We'll go on strike!"

"That's right, you'll have a national philosophers strike on your hands."

"Who will that inconvenience?"

Pikemann Urge said...

Loren, AFAIK, maths is the only science - science being simply the study of nature - where absolute proofs can exist. Maths does have axioms (e.g. x-y=z always equals x-z=y for most classes of numbers) but so does physics (we live in the universe and we can learn something about it and from it).

I'm not sure how maths is not empirical. Little help?

Anyways it does seem that Richard is onto something. It's like a philosopher is not allowed an original thought and that he must base his thoughts on his predecessors.

I wonder if Plato and his contemporaries would ever be able to get a paper published today. That could be a paper in itself!

Richard, I think you're dead on with maths education. I'm surprised that the British Empire didn't suffer too greatly from their learn-by-rote approach. Maybe that's because most engineers actually learned their trade outside of school? Not that engineers shouldn't go to university today, though.

You seem to fall into a common trap of believing that you know what the future holds. Of course you are not ignorant of that problem and so I'm sure you have some kind of reasoning behind you. But just because I know what abcx equals doesn't mean I know what abcxy equals, y being something that will only be revealed with time.

Example: suppose you are among the first late Victorians to build a reliable motor car. You got your cooling sorted, your lubrication sorted, your air-fuel mix supply sorted and so on. Do you know what cars will be like in 2009?

Actually... wait a minute. You'd have a fair idea, I must admit. After all, cars have not progressed since the '80s. And not much before then, either. So maybe you are onto something here...

Richard Carrier said...

Pikemann Urge said... Example: suppose you are among the first late Victorians to build a reliable motor car...Do you know what cars will be like in 2009? Actually... wait a minute. You'd have a fair idea, I must admit.

As I'm sure you know, I discuss the prospects and limitations of futurism, and how to make sound predictions like this (and avoid unsound ones), in another blog (Are We Doomed?).

Richard Carrier said...

JCM said... I'm also prepared to say that Marx has been co-opted and abused by some pretty ruthless demagogues over the past century

I agree there is a difference between what he actually said, and what people claim he said. But there is an even more important difference between what he proposed, and what outcomes those proposals actually have when realized. Marx's greatest failure was not in having nefarious ideas, but in having lofty ideas that simply will never work in practice. The very fundamental principle of Marxism (the abolition of private property) produces an inevitable centripetal force that will always result in a Cuba or China or USSR. It reminds me of the plot to 2010, in which the malfunction of Hal 9000 in 2001 is explained by saying that Hal was told to conceal the truth from the crew, but is programmed not to lie, resulting in the only remaining option: to kill the crew to prevent it learning the truth. Unintended consequence to be sure, but that kind of inevitable SNAFU is what will become of any attempt to realize Marxism even as originally conceived.

Richard Carrier said...

PhysicistDave said... I wonder if you have written anywhere on why academic philosophy is such bad straits?

No. I was actually planning a book on that, and have piles of notes, which I was going to co-author with a philosopher (he may have forgotten by now, I've put it off so long), but so many other projects fell on my plate I've postponed it indefinitely. Recent trends, like I said, may even make it moot. But for critiques that are in print, read the Bunge and Taylor items I linked above. They are highly technical, but still spot-on.

Richard Carrier said...

Landon Hedrick said... ...one philosopher that I know has plainly said that you don't know what you're talking about...

That's exactly what my opponent (a philosopher) on the RRS show I mentioned said. Then we started talking. And by the end he wasn't so sure I was wrong. And I'm not the only one saying it. Bunge and Taylor are accomplished philosophers, and they were saying it before I was.

I should reiterate, though, that the last five years have appeared to show signs of a shift in the very direction I was arguing for back then. It's still too early to tell, but I can find more counter-examples now, than I could then. Even so, compared to the total academic output of philosophy, these examples are still atypical, but hopefully getting less so. Unless things have changed radically since my journal article survey a few years ago, progress is slow.

I'm curious now about some other related issues. You said that you met the editor of a journal who published a bad paper, and I'm wondering if you could tell me what the paper was titled and what the glaring error was.

Okay. No insult intended to the journal, I'll just direct you to the paper: Michael Almeida, "The New Evidential Argument Defeated," Philo 7.1 (Spring-Summer 2004): 22-35. For what's wrong with it, see my refutation in Philo 10.1 (Spring-Summer 2007): 85-90. My only remedy was submitting a refutation through peer review, and the latter is what came of that. But I still don't believe the original paper should ever have survived peer review. I have seen other philosophy journals let through similar stinkers, and one thing I wanted to do was conduct an audit to see how many fallacious papers get through peer review in philosophy, but again I shelved that project for other priorities. I'd still like to see it done.

Also I'm curious about knowing what the thesis of your ethics paper is--though if you'd prefer to only give that through email I understand.

Quoting the first sentence: "This paper shall demonstrate the proposition 'there are true moral facts' is true for at least one definition of 'true moral facts' and therefore the proposition 'there are no true moral facts in any possible sense' is false."

Of course you could reduce that sentence to mean something trivial, but I do not argue for a trivial interpretation (and to that end I stipulate definitions of every term, etc.). Though the paper didn't argue for any particular moral facts, it argues that some must exist (and therefore absolute moral antirealism is necessarily false).

"As for the specialization he complains about, well that train has left the station and its not coming back."

I hope that's true. It wasn't true even five years ago. But if it's changing, then this would be another one of those positive signs I have been seeing in other respects.

It was a reaction to the mammoth system builders of the 19th century who attempted to offer the all-encompassing system, and would fail themselves to make any progress, and were superficial when it came to the details.

And yet no one sought to remedy this problem by actively pursuing progress and depth of detail.

That's exactly my point. To "run away" from system building is exactly the wrong thing to do, and indeed constitutes abdicating the responsibility of a philosopher. Because you can't do philosophy without resting on a worldview (you must have an epistemology, a metaphysics, an ethics, a politics, an aesthetics, etc., simply because they are required for each other and entail each other, and these all must cohere with each other or else your worldview is incoherent), so you have only two options: rest on an unexplored, poorly thought-out, untested, even unarticulated worldview, or get your sh*t together. Obviously doing anything but the latter is simply irresponsible. I still have not seen positive signs of philosophers doing this yet. I hope there are some you or Dr. Field can point me too. It would lighten my spirits.

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... Dave, Your comments betray a misunderstanding of the nature of philosophy.

No, they don't. But they do exaggerate. I think the experiment he suggests would produce a short list of widely accepted results for the 20th century, it just would not be very impressive, mostly obscure, and far from sufficient to meet the obligations philosophers ought to be embracing. If you expand the time period to a few centuries, then you'll get the slightly bigger list you suggest yourself, but that's a pretty lame list, all things considered. It's as if all that zoologists had to show for two hundred years of thousands of researchers devoting their whole lives to discovering new animals was a few beetles and an odd lizard.

If philosophy has no professional consensus on standards of truth to measure progress by (and if such standards exist, where are they published?), then it's just a cathedral of fiction and fancy, not anything of use to the human race. If that's what it is trying to be, then we are quite right to criticize it for that. I'd rather philosophers got down to establishing a consensus regarding what counts as progress, and then bearing down on the task of making that progress on every issue of importance.

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... Philosophical problems are radically unlike scientific problems...

That isn't true. All empirical claims are fundamentally the same, differing only in access to data and thus in certainty of results. And analytical claims are already the domain of science, as theory formation and interpretation of results are in actual fact philosophical analysis, even if no one calls it that and it uses a vocabulary philosophers never learned. And those two sets of claims constitute all claims to truth there can be.

That "philosophical problems are radically unlike scientific problems" is false is proven by the fact that science has solved more philosophical problems than philosophers ever have: look at the content of Aristotle's corpus and then add up all the claims he made that science has refuted or even confirmed. It's a vast, impressive list.

Mind-brain problem? Cognitive science has answered more questions in that subject than philosophers. Theory of mind? Of happiness? Of belief? Of behavior? Psychology has made and continues to make impressive progress in those subjects; philosophers, not so much. Epistemology? Look at the canons of scientific method and probability theory, and all we’ve learned in both subjects that we take for granted now. Theory of time? Einstein made more progress there than any philosophers have. Structure of the universe? Structure of matter? Origins of life? Honestly, need I go on?

Science is philosophy: the only successful branch of it (apart from formal logics). Philosophy used to be divided into physics (which included metaphysics), ethics (which included politics and aesthetics), and logic (which included epistemology as a whole). There were various other divisions, but they could all be correlated under the same triad. Physics was called natural philosophy. Philosophers expert in that subject embraced a stripped-down epistemology and dubbed the result 'experimental philosophy' which produced 'natural knowledge' aka (from the Latin for "knowledge") 'natural science'. Over time (during the 19th century) people just dropped the 'natural' and used 'science' as shorthand. But it's still philosophy, using a successful epistemology, to get increasingly correct knowledge about what exists, including the nature of the universe, the nature of man, and the nature of his mind. It wasn't until the mid 19th century that scientists stopped calling themselves philosophers (the word 'scientist' was only invented c. 1835 and hadn't become popular until c. 1895).

There is no legitimate excuse for not doing the same to every other branch of philosophy. Ethics can and should be rigorized as a science. Otherwise it should be abandoned as indefensible opinion mongering. Metaphysics can be explored as scientific hypothesis exploration (and in fact already is, by scientists). Otherwise it's just pseudoscience (or science fiction, depending on how seriously you take its results). We already know how to make politics scientific, idealogues just don't like its results (or the skills and labor it requires) so they rest on dogmas and passions and "platforms" instead. And science is already clearing the field in aesthetics, making real progress where philosophers simply floundered before. If only more philosophers paid attention.

Philosophy as such can and should bridge the gap between ignorance and fully-vetted science by using scientific methods as far as possible and simply accepting less probable results. Embracing the successful epistemology of science, even when softened in certainty of results, is the only plausible way philosophy will ever make significant progress, or contribute to that progress.

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... Philosophers don't conduct empirical studies to confirm (or disconfirm) their hypotheses.

Yes, they do--when they are doing their jobs. Hop on over to my other blog and the attached comments between Tom Clark and I (on Free Will) and see some examples (esp. where Clark in comments shows there are exceptions to my claim that it was only being done badly). The fact that few philosophers are doing this (and some scientists trying it are screwing up for lack of sound guidance from philosophers) is exactly what's wrong with philosophy: it's the very grounds for my indictment, not their defense!

Moreover, much of science is as conceptual as philosophy, it just doesn't claim to have a conclusion until its conceptual proposals can be tested. That's just good philosophy. If philosophy is to consist of merely untested assertions, it is, again, a useless field and should be done away with. Alas, we need not be so drastic, because philosophy does not have to consist of merely untested assertions--it's just philosophers who think it does. And that's what's wrong with them.

Even so, one need not do full-on science to empirically test hypotheses in philosophy: you can do as much as you can, and attenuate the certainty of your results accordingly, and use that outcome as a platform from which to propose more definite experiments and observations to increase that certainty (or overcome it with opposing results).

Philosophers should be far more engaged with science, not only with what science has already learned (which actually has already solved many philosophical problems, if philosophers bother to notice, and has the tools to solve many more, if philosophers would only use them), but also with what science should be doing: every philosophy paper that claims to be proposing any matter of fact should have as one of its explicit aims guidance to scientists as to how to make further progress in the matter. The rest of philosophy should consist of analyzing the warranted and possible meaning of scientific discoveries, so as to either limit what can be inferred from those facts or propose how further scientific inquiry could limit that further, narrowing down what we can conclude from what we know.

I disagree with Dave (and Weinberg, whose chapter he links to) that philosophy is useless. Scientists desperately need to acknowledge that they are philosophers, and thus are obligated to be good philosophers. At the very least, this entails learning and applying the skills of sound philosophical analysis when designing experiments and interpreting results. The example I give in my other blog entry (linked above) is apposite: scientists frequently design lousy experiments and interpret the results fallaciously precisely because they are bad philosophers. Combine their scientific methods with good philosophical thinking and their results would not only be good science, it would be good philosophy, too, accomplishing what philosophers themselves seem to erroneously think can't be done or isn't their job to do.

GJ said...

"That 'philosophical problems are radically unlike scientific problems' is false is proven by the fact that science has solved more philosophical problems than philosophers ever have..."

Science hasn't solved philosophical problems. On the contrary, science has solved scientific problems that were once thought to be philosophical.

GJ said...

Richard Carrier, in response to my claim that "philosophers don't conduct empirical studies to confirm (or disconfirm) their hypotheses," said:

"Yes, they do--when they are doing their jobs. Hop on over to my other blog and the attached comments between Tom Clark and I (on Free Will) and see some examples (esp. where Clark in comments shows there are exceptions to my claim that it was only being done badly). The fact that few philosophers are doing this...is exactly what's wrong with philosophy: it's the very grounds for my indictment, not their defense!"

Philosophers who conduct empirical studies to confirm (or disconfirm) their "hypotheses" aren't doing philosophy at all; they're doing science. The view that philosophy just IS science is misconceived. Consider Bennett and Hacker's work on the philosophical foundations of neuroscience. Their aim is to provide a critical overview of the conceptual difficulties endemic to much current psychological and neuroscientific theorizing. In the process of providing such an overview, B&H point out, rightly, that psychological predicates apply, logically, to the whole living animal, not to its constituent parts. Notice that this is a point of logical grammar (which means, minimally, that it can't be invalidated by empirical considerations). Indeed, to ascribe a psychological predicate to the constituent part of a creature is not to say something false, for to say something false is to say something that makes sense. Rather, to ascribe a psychological predicate to the constituent part of a creature is to say something that transgresses the bounds of sense. Philosophers (and here's the upshot of all this) are, if they're doing their job properly, in the business of delineating the bounds of sense, of clarifying our conceptual scheme. Scientists are free to use the conceptual analyses philosophers provide. They ignore such analyses at their peril.

GJ said...

Richard Carrier said:

"Mind-brain problem? Cognitive science has answered more questions in that subject than philosophers. Theory of mind? Of happiness? Of belief? Of behavior? Psychology has made and continues to make impressive progress in those subjects; philosophers, not so much. Epistemology? Look at the canons of scientific method and probability theory, and all we’ve learned in both subjects that we take for granted now. Theory of time? Einstein made more progress there than any philosophers have. Structure of the universe? Structure of matter? Origins of life?"

Cognitive science has said nothing about the mind-body problem. Tell me: is there a consensus among cognitive scientists regarding the problem of whether mental states have immaterial properties? If so, what kind of evidence do cognitive scientists adduce to support this consensus? It's not that such evidence is difficult to come by; the problem is that we have no idea what such evidence might even look like. Epistemology? What kinds of experiments are scientists conducting to determine the necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge? The question is silly, of couse, because determining the necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge is a quintessentially philosophical problem. Origins of life? Structure of matter? Yes, science has made more progress in these areas than philosophy because the problem of, say, how life originated is a quintessentially scientific problem.

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... Science hasn't solved philosophical problems. On the contrary, science has solved scientific problems that were once thought to be philosophical.

Nice bit of Bizarro Whiggism. So the inventors of philosophy, the very people who named it, were "mistaken" as to what their own subject was about?

Give me a break.

You just ignored my history lesson: the idea that science was even something "different" from philosophy only began in the 19th century and wasn't even fully mainstream until the 20th. And even that is a sham. It merely conceals what science and philosophy have really always been, and should be again.

Philosophers who conduct empirical studies to confirm (or disconfirm) their "hypotheses" aren't doing philosophy at all; they're doing science.

You can't escape fact with semantics. You may want to define philosophy as "not science," but that defies the entire history and original conception of philosophy. And I am criticizing philosophers for doing exactly that: abandoning the original conception of philosophy. Because it is only that conception that has any human utility. Everything else is just pointless games and puzzles. Maybe fine for a game show, but of no real importance to man.

Yes, philosophy can be useful by providing analysis of use to the progress of science, but only if it is fully integrated and engaged with science, uses science or scientific methods to resolve all questions of fact, and produces analytical results directly assisting the advancement of science.

But that's not enough. In addition to that, philosophy should be what it once was: a quest for wisdom and understanding about the nature of man and the universe and how to know either and what to do about it. By your definition, philosophy does none of those things. And if that's what philosophy is now, then philosophy is even deader than I feared.

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... Philosophers (and here's the upshot of all this) are, if they're doing their job properly, in the business of delineating the bounds of sense, of clarifying our conceptual scheme.

That's exactly the kind of thinking that killed philosophy. That has never been all that philosophy was about, not from the beginning, not for two thousand years. It was only Positivists who tried to restrict philosophy with that silly definition, and in consequence nearly killed it. Yet they were never the whole field--even in their heyday there were philosophers not buying it, and not many do now.

Yes, philosophy should be about analysis and "delineating the bounds of sense," but that's not, and has never been, all it's about. The word means "love of wisdom," and that's what it's about. Science is just a specialization of the whole program that is philosophy. Just as there were experts in ethics, there were experts in physics, but both were philosophers. And that is still the case. Scientists ought to act like philosophers (and thus analyze concepts and data with philosophical rigor), and philosophers ought to act like scientists (accepting that the scientific method can be adapted even to data that produces less certainty, and that all matters of fact can only gain in certainty as they gain in scientific precision).

Even apart from my normative complaint, the facts don't support you. Philosophers even now debate whether free will exists or whether determinism holds, for example. Most philosophers agree it's both, and that compatibilism is the correct analysis of the facts, but many still hold out and debate the matter. Clearly they do not act like philosophy is only about delineating bounds of sense--they think it can justify true beliefs about matters of fact. And they are right about that (even if they are wrong, as they often are, about what particular beliefs it justifies).

Similarly, philosophers debate what the true moral facts are, not just what the word "moral" means. They debate whether God exists, not merely how to define God. They debate whether qualia are epiphenomenal or entail a dualist ontology, not merely what those possibilities are. And so on.

Pick up any philosophy journal and you'll find one article at least in which some matter of fact--not a mere matter of semantics or sense--is being argued. Your fantasy about what philosophy is, simply doesn't hold up to history or even contemporary observation.

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... GJ said... Cognitive science has said nothing about the mind-body problem.

It has not only said a great deal, but proven it. Just read, for example, Vision Science: Photons to Phenomenology to see all the questions it has answered along the entire causal chain from physics to qualia, in the domain of visual experience. Read what split brain and brain damage studies have resolved in the matter (countless books cover it). That's all far from nothing. To the contrary, what we've learned makes Descartes' philosophy of mind look like the craftwork of a retard.

Tell me: is there a consensus among cognitive scientists regarding the problem of whether mental states have immaterial properties?

Actually, there is. Just ask some, and find out what they think about that. Of course it depends on what definitions you are working with (what makes a property "material"?).

But your question in principle is, are there things we haven't nailed down yet? Certainly. The fact I'm referring to is how much we have nailed down, not that it's all sewn up. And it's science that made all that progress, not philosophy.

For example, Descartes posited philosophically that the soul is separable from the brain and interacts with it via the pineal gland. We have refuted both hypotheses: the pineal gland does not mediate rational thought or indeed hardly any mental operations, and the soul is demonstrably not separable from the brain (see my cascade of evidence-categories confirming this in Sense and Goodness without God, with CogSci biblio). Science discovered what philosophy could only twaddle on about.

But unlike Dave, I don't see this as science showing philosophy the door, because I still recognize, as history and reason teaches, that science is philosophy, just a branch of it that has been more successful than others, though for no good reason, as those others, e.g. ethics, could and should follow the same tune, and some, e.g. aesthetics, now do, as we've learned more about the nature and causes of beauty and beauty experience through science than philosophers ever achieved despite their spilling a great deal of ink on the subject.

If so, what kind of evidence do cognitive scientists adduce to support this consensus?

The same kind of evidence aeronautical engineers adduce to support their consensus that invisible gremlins do not cause plane crashes.

The problem is that we have no idea what such evidence might even look like.

If you mean vis-a-vis the causes and ontology of qualia (only one tiny aspect of the theory of mind and of the mind-body problem), CogSci is developing ideas of what the evidence might look like. They have a research program in place (e.g. answering why red looks red is already known to be a function of answering what the synaptic circuit looks like that causes the experience of red and how it physically differs in construction from the circuit that causes the experience of blue or of sound). What are philosophers doing? Playing catch-up.

Just consider the precedents: the mind-body problem used to include the difficulty of explaining how rational decisions could cause motor action in the muscles (hence Descartes' theory). We'll, guess what...CogSci has answered that question, and solved the problem. Rational decisions are made using physical computation in the cerebral cortex of the brain (fully measurable in terms of cycle rate and processing speed and physical location and energy consumption), setting off a measurable cascade of electrochemical causes producing computed coordination of muscles. There is no "problem" any more, because every component of the process, from data input, to decision processing, to motor output is physically locatable and connected.

That's just one of hundreds of cases. The remaining open questions bear a very high prior probability of going the same way. Philosophers need to pay attention to this, not pretend it hasn't happened.

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... Epistemology? What kinds of experiments are scientists conducting to determine the necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge?

Actually, a vast number. For example, the discovery of the logical necessity of control groups: testing a causal claim against a control is a necessary condition for knowledge. And the discovered and demonstrated importance of replication (by different observers) and novel predictions (whose probability of expectation in the absence of a theory's truth is demonstrably small) are examples as well.

Science itself is a global application of what we have come to discover are the sufficient conditions for knowledge--we now know the sufficient conditions to know which methods of bridge construction will probably hold up against earthquakes, which medicines will probably effect cures, where particular mental functions and phenomena are processed in the brain, how to improve our self-contentment and relationships with others, and so on. Thanks to science, we now know that necessary conditions are fewer and more general, while sufficient conditions vary by subject of inquiry. And on and on.

Indeed, almost everything we now take for granted today in epistemology, was logically and empirically demonstrated by science.

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... Consider Bennett and Hacker's work on the philosophical foundations of neuroscience. Their aim is to provide a critical overview of the conceptual difficulties endemic to much current psychological and neuroscientific theorizing.

All well and good, if they are informed and fully engaged with the science, and producing results that advise scientists how to proceed, because then that's good philosophy. In effect, if so, then they are doing science (as scientists already do this analysis when philosophers do not), to help other scientists (who are philosophers with the means and specialization to make the requisite observations and tests).

If that is what Bennett and Hacker are doing, then bravo. As long as they aren't doing it in isolation, but are relying on a well-thought out system of philosophy (epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, etc.), and as long as they are truly engaging with the science and aiming to improve it, and not just pontificating from the armchair.

...this is a point of logical grammar (which means, minimally, that it can't be invalidated by empirical considerations).

Yes, it can: lexically.

Grammar is a human invention. We can make it do whatever we want. But if you want to use it so others will understand you, you have to use it the way it is conventionally used. And the way it is conventionally used is an empirical matter. Hence their argument can certainly be invalidated by empirical considerations: if we empirically confirm that their grammar and definitions don't align with actual human linguistic convention (especially scientific convention within the specialist field they are analyzing), then their argument is invalidated.

They could say poo-poo to convention and pretend to have invented their own grammar and vocabulary and hence their own conventions, but then they would just be talking to themselves. Intellectual masturbation may entertain them, but it's of no use to us. I can only hope that's not what they're doing, but what you describe is not encouraging.

Rather, to ascribe a psychological predicate to the constituent part of a creature is to say something that transgresses the bounds of sense.

My clipped nails do not feel emotion.

The truth and comprehensibility of that sentence refutes what you just said. Let's please hope you are misstating their thesis.

Indeed, we could have real fun with this...

Visual experience occurs in the forebrain, not in the testicles.

A woman's fetus is as much a part of her as her limbs (it is as fully attached to her body as any of her organs, it shares her blood and plasma, all it's cells are composed of her cell walls and the majority of its DNA, counting nucleus and mitochrondria, is hers), yet it can hear and experience sound by the 32nd week. Her toe cannot.

An amputated man's personality and phenomenal experience are located in his brain, therefore his amputated legs contained neither of those things and thus their loss subtracted nothing from them.

vs.

The feeling that our limbs belong to us has a specific location in the brain, such that when that brain matter is removed, we fail to perceive that our limbs belong to us.

My sweat is a part of me. I am happy. Therefore my sweat is happy. [False]

vs.

My brain is a part of me. I am happy. Therefore my brain is happy. [True]

Need I go on? (don't get me started on Siamese Twins)

The fact that these distinctions are not only true, but entirely within the bounds of sense, seems to refute what you claim they argue. Again, hopefully you've just miscommunicated.

Pikemann Urge said...

I've probably learned more about philosophy in this one thread than in the whole of the past five years. I am, however, guilty of not trying and not knowing whom to ask or where to look.

jcm said...

The very fundamental principle of Marxism (the abolition of private property) produces an inevitable centripetal force that will always result in a Cuba or China or USSR.

I must confess that, while reading Capital Vol. 1, at no point did I surmise that to be Marx's fundamental principle. What I did surmise was Marx's frustration with the literary genre of "political economy" of his time, the legacy of which we would today likely call "laissez-faire (or free-market) capitalism" or "neoliberalism."

To be sure, I can recall Marx having many harsh words for capitalists and "bourgeoisie", but they are invariably owners of the "means of production" - in particular, factories and large farms - and their advocates among the intelligentsia and in government. It would be a big mistake to confuse the "means of production", as Marx defined it, with "private property", as we commonly think of it (e.g. my house, car, tooth brush, and classic rock CD collection).

Again, none of this is necessarily an endorsement of Marx's views (although, IMO, he's at his best when he sounds more like Dickens). But let's at least make an effort to get it straight who said what and what they intended.

Richard Carrier said...

You need to read his other writings, then. Marx is pretty clear that he intends abolition of all private property (e.g. see here), "communism is the positive expression of annulled private property" and "The abolition of private property is therefore the complete emancipation of all human senses and qualities."

Even in Communist Manifesto he says "the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property."

He goes on to explain (in rather artful ways) that in the communist state, laborers will have only that property they need to subsist, and this will be ensured by the state, for Communism intends the "abolition of buying and selling."

Marx tends to regard all property (all land, all money, all goods, even wives) as means of production. He thus makes no distinction between owning factories and farms, and owning houses and horses.

WAR_ON_ERROR said...

Marx is pretty clear that he intends abolition of all private property

Wow. Has any communist country ever gone all the way with that? Other than Obama's America of course.

Ben

GJ said...

Richard Carrier said:

"My brain is a part of me. I am happy. Therefore my brain is happy. [True]"

This argument, even if the conclusion made sense (it doesn't...it's gibberish), is invalid. As far as I can tell, all you've done is asserted that B&H are wrong. Behavioural criteria are the main ground for ascribing psychological predicates to whole creatures; indeed, these behavioural criteria are partly constitutive of the meaning of the predicate. If a person smiles profusely, shouts out "Yippee!," and jumps up and down, we take such behaviour as justifying grounds for ascribing a state of delight or happiness to that person. Notice that brains cannot exhibit such behaviour.

GJ said...

Richard Carrier, in response to my claim that the mereological principle--the principle that, logically, psychological predicates apply only to the whole creature--is a principle regarding "logical grammar (which means, minimally, that it can't be invalidated by empirical considerations)," said

Yes, it can: lexically.

Sure, but then one isn't invalidating the principle by empirical considerations, but rather by STIPULATION. And nobody's denying that the rules of grammar can be changed by stipulation.

GJ said...

"Indeed, almost everything we now take for granted today in epistemology, was logically and empirically demonstrated by science."

This is patently silly. Plato showed that a justified true belief regarding x is a necessary condition for knowing x; and today most philosophers take for granted that a justified true belief regarding x is necessary for knowing x. But certainly science didn't demonstrate the truth of this assumption. Or does the assumption fall outside "almost everything we take for granted today in epistemology"?

GJ said...

Richard Carrier, in response to my claim that "science has solved scientific problems that were once thought to be philosophical," said:

"Nice bit of Bizarro Whiggism. So the inventors of philosophy, the very people who named it, were 'mistaken' as to what their own subject was about?"

Yes, more or less. But Plato knew what philosophy was about; and he knew that (or at least would have argued that) it isn't anything like what we now call science. His masterful analysis of the concept of justice is the first bit of ordinary language philosophy.

"You can't escape fact with semantics. You may want to define philosophy as 'not science,' but that defies the entire history and original conception of philosophy."

And you can't escape fact by appealing to what some dead folks thought philosophy was.

"Because it is only that conception [philosophy as science] that has any human utility. Everything else is just pointless games and puzzles. Maybe fine for a game show, but of no real importance to man."

This is like arguing that since literary studies, film studies, etc. aren't methodologically continuous with science (or aren't a kind of science) they have no real importance for humankind.

jcm said...

You need to read his other writings, then. Marx is pretty clear that he intends abolition of all private property...

This is probably a subject for serious Marxologists (of which I am certainly not one) to debate. But I'll say this much:

Marx was young when he co-authored the Communist Manifesto (and even younger when he wrote the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 that you refer to), whereas Capital Vol. 1 was published nearly two decades later (viz. in 1867, the latter two volumes of which were published posthumously from his notes and are less well organized). A lot can happen in that time.

Here's an example from Capital Vol. 1: In Ch. 32, Marx denounced capitalism as an "expropriation of the immediate producers", or a "transformation of scattered private property, arising from individual labor, into capitalist private property". Given his millenarian tendency, he believed that this transformation would inevitably lead to another transformation - one that will be characterized by "socialized property."

I would agree that "socialized property" (or "co-operation and the possession in common of the land and of the means of production" as Marx envisioned it) is fraught with practical difficulties (as history bears out). But, conceptually, it is not "abolition of all private property" in the extreme sense that you suggest, such that, under no circumstances, does one deserve to own personal possessions (e.g. not even one's own toothbrush, to repeat my earlier caricature). I'm not even sure that the young Marx intended that message. But, if he did, he seems to have outgrown it.

Richard Carrier said...

JCM said... Marx was young when he co-authored the Communist Manifesto (and even younger when he wrote the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 that you refer to), whereas Capital Vol. 1 was published nearly two decades later (viz. in 1867, the latter two volumes of which were published posthumously from his notes and are less well organized). A lot can happen in that time.

But if the thing you propose is one of those things that "happened," we should find an explicit retraction or correction of his earlier views on this point in Capital affirming exactly the distinction you propose. Otherwise, you have no basis for assuming he changed his mind about it (much less where exactly he drew the line later on between acceptable and unacceptable private property).

And if he didn't say it, none of his subsequent followers would have any reason to think it. A change of mind that's never articulated is no better than a change of mind that never happened.

Here's an example from Capital Vol. 1: In Ch. 32, Marx denounced capitalism as an "expropriation of the immediate producers", or a "transformation of scattered private property, arising from individual labor, into capitalist private property". Given his millenarian tendency, he believed that this transformation would inevitably lead to another transformation - one that will be characterized by "socialized property."

Exactly: the elimination of private property (that which a laborer buys, hence "arising from individual labor") and its replacement with "community" property that is merely assigned as the community sees fit.

But, conceptually, it is not "abolition of all private property" in the extreme sense that you suggest, such that, under no circumstances, does one deserve to own personal possessions (e.g. not even one's own toothbrush, to repeat my earlier caricature). I'm not even sure that the young Marx intended that message. But, if he did, he seems to have outgrown it.

Where does he reveal having outgrown it? You haven't shown a single quote to that effect. A laborer can't own a toothbrush if he can't buy one, and Marx provides no means for him to buy one. Marx is explicitly against individual buying and selling, as that entails the very capitalist system he is against (wages enslave the laborer and induce him to buy capitalist-produced goods like toothbrushes thus perpetuating the system; Marx clearly envisioned the laborer being given a toothbrush by the community, rather than buying one, much less earning wages for the purpose). Likewise, a laborer can't manufacture his own toothbrush, because the trees and land belong to the state, not to him, and only the state can decide how these means of production shall be used. And so on.

Unless you can find Marx explicitly saying otherwise, all his writings are quite consistent and clear on this point.

Richard Carrier said...

Still Defending Lousy Philosophy...

GJ said... Richard Carrier said: "My brain is a part of me. I am happy. Therefore my brain is happy. [True]" This argument, even if the conclusion made sense (it doesn't...it's gibberish), is invalid.

It isn't gibberish to me, so we must be speaking different languages.

But I did not claim to be making a complete deductive argument. I was merely making observations that in some instances the concluding statement is true and in others it is false, a fact that contradicts the argument you were defending.

Obviously if you want the complete deductive argument:

P1. My brain is a part of me.

P2. My brain is a part of me that thinks and feels emotions, and it is the only part of me that thinks and feels emotions.

P3. If I feel an emotion, then any part of me that feels emotions feels that emotion.

P4. I feel happy.

C1. Therefore, my brain feels happy.

In contrast:

P5. My big toe is a part of me.

P6. My big toe is a part of me that does not think or feel emotions.

P7. If I feel an emotion, then any part of me that does not feel emotion does not feel that emotion.

P8. I feel happy.

C2. Therefore, my big toe does not feel happy.

If a person smiles profusely, shouts out "Yippee!," and jumps up and down, we take such behaviour as justifying grounds for ascribing a state of delight or happiness to that person. Notice that brains cannot exhibit such behaviour.

Good lord I hope their argument isn't that asinine. That's like saying we take a car's moving forward up a hill as justifying grounds for saying the car runs, but since car engines don't roll forward (they don't even have wheels!), therefore car engines never run.

Obviously outward signs only count as indications of mental states if they are caused by internal brain states. Were that not the case, we would never ascribe mental states to those outward signs. If people jumped up and down smiling and yipping when their brains experienced no emotional state at all, then we wouldn't say a person behaving that was was happy. We'd say they were suffering a spastic seizure or something. Indeed, I'm sure they'd be just as perplexed as we were at why their body was contorting so bizarrely in the absence of any mental reason to do so. By contrast, a person can be in an otherwise identical mental state of happiness and not smile or leap or yell at all.

To test the theory is easy: temporarily paralyzing their legs and facial muscles won't stop them being happy, but paralyzing their brain will. You don't need legs and a face to feel happy, but you do need a brain. Hence make a brainless body jump and smile and yip, and saying that that body was happy would be factually false. But run a functional MRI on a motionless person, and you will see iron clad evidence from brain activity that they are happy, and thus you will be able to say they are happy. Pointing the MRI at any other part of their body will never permit such a conclusion to be reached.

Richard Carrier, in response to my claim that the mereological principle--the principle that, logically, psychological predicates apply only to the whole creature--is a principle regarding "logical grammar (which means, minimally, that it can't be invalidated by empirical considerations)," said "Yes, it can: lexically." Sure, but then one isn't invalidating the principle by empirical considerations, but rather by STIPULATION. And nobody's denying that the rules of grammar can be changed by stipulation.

You misunderstand my point. Stipulation is what violates the lexical evidence of convention--unless it agrees with it. So either the conclusion you promote follows from the lexically correct definition of the terms involved, or it follows only for bogus stipulated definitions that have no correspondence to any real human language. In other words, we can empirically test whether they are saying correct things about English grammar. As far as I can tell, they are not.

Richard Carrier said...

Plato Was Retarded (and other fun facts)...

[Richard said,] "Indeed, almost everything we now take for granted today in epistemology, was logically and empirically demonstrated by science." This is patently silly. Plato showed that a justified true belief regarding x is a necessary condition for knowing x; ... But certainly science didn't demonstrate the truth of this assumption. Or does the assumption fall outside "almost everything we take for granted today in epistemology"?

First, please point to where Plato "showed" the principle you describe. I find it a bit strange of you to claim this, since formal logic was invented by Plato's pupil, Aristotle. It didn't yet exist when Plato wrote. So I'm not sure what you mean by "showed," or where you have in mind him "showing" that specific principle.

Second, epistemology consists of an array of methodologies, not just one trivial principle (which is hardly more than a tautology). For example, epistemology concerns what justifies a belief, in which Plato got almost nothing right (indeed, almost everything he argued was true, has turned out to be false). It took several centuries of advances to finally get a workable method, and even that was mainly accomplished by scientists, and still quite flawed, except in math and logic in which almost all the advances were also made by scientists (Aristotle was a scientist, unlike Plato; so, too, Euclid, Posidonius, Hipparchus, Archimedes, Galen, etc., who all made important advances in math and logic, and proved the validity of their application scientifically).

When it came to refining the most secure epistemology for attaining empirical knowledge, we had to await the Scientific Revolution and all subsequent advances since in scientific methodology, to learn how to tell the true from the false in every sphere of human interest. Once scientists started working the problem, and in the right way, they left philosophers in the dust. Now we simply take scientific methods for granted. Almost everything we now believe about the right way to find out if something is true comes from science.

Richard Carrier, "So the inventors of philosophy, the very people who named it, were 'mistaken' as to what their own subject was about?" Yes, more or less.

Okay. Then you are just talking rot. If you are going to ignore the entire history of philosophy, then you are just making sh*t up. I have no interest in fantasies and fabrications. I am talking about the real philosophy as it was invented and pursued in the real world. You can talk about your useless fake philosophy elsewhere.

But Plato knew what philosophy was about; and he knew that...it isn't anything like what we now call science. His masterful analysis of the concept of justice is the first bit of ordinary language philosophy.

More antifactual fiction. Try reading the Timaeus, for example. Then the Republic and the Theaetetus and Phaedo. If Plato knew what philosophy was about, then you are refuted.

Stop trying to rewrite history. Not only are you making sh*t up about Plato, you are ignoring the fact that formal philosophy was invented by his pupil, Aristotle, the first extant author to develop philosophy as a systematic field of knowledge. Modern philosophy is still conducted along the basic framework Aristotle established, not Plato. (Indeed, Aristotle's philosophy is miles more credible than the pile of baloney Plato proposed).

I really hope you don't represent the average professional philosopher. Because otherwise, all you are doing is proving how securely dead philosophy really is. Which would only prove my point even more forcefully than I imagined.

Richard Carrier said...

More Lousy Philosophy...

[Richard said,] "You can't escape fact with semantics. You may want to define philosophy as 'not science,' but that defies the entire history and original conception of philosophy." And you can't escape fact by appealing to what some dead folks thought philosophy was.

I am not escaping fact, I'm asserting fact. You are not. You are just making sh*t up. I'm observing how formal philosophy was articulated and defended by its very inventor (Aristotle) and how it has been practiced every century since, up to and including the present day, by most actual philosophers. You are rejecting that whole reality and inventing a fiction in its place. If you reject reality, you have no business pretending to discuss it.

[Richard said,] "Because it is only that conception [philosophy as science] that has any human utility. Everything else is just pointless games and puzzles. Maybe fine for a game show, but of no real importance to man." This is like arguing that since literary studies, film studies, etc. aren't methodologically continuous with science (or aren't a kind of science) they have no real importance for humankind.

Non sequitur. I said only a worldview-conception of philosophy gives philosophy any human utility. I didn't say that this held for all subjects (as if medicine had to explore worldview theory to be useful), only for philosophy, because, I argued, if you take that away from philosophy, all that then remains of philosophy is useless games and puzzles. Since literary studies, film studies, etc. do not consist of useless games and puzzles, the same does not follow for them.

I can see from this and everything else you've said so far that you're a lousy philosopher. It's quite rich hearing someone this prone to fallacy and this disdainful of factual reality trying to define the field of philosophy. I think your ineptitude is reason enough to abandon your ideas of what philosophy should be. Either you have no business speaking for philosophers, or you actually represent them, which latter would entail the true death of philosophy indeed, and hence the very thing I am arguing: in hands like yours, philosophy has died; I want to bring the real thing back.

You can disagree until you're blue in the face. All that will do is consign you and your vision to irrelevance, while the rest of us move on and actually get something done.

GJ said...

Would that bare assertion constituted a good philosophical argument.

Richard Carrier said:

"You don't need legs and a face to feel happy, but you do need a brain. Hence make a brainless body jump and smile and yip, and saying that that body was happy would be factually false."

Nobody's denying, of course, that a necessary condition for seeing, hearing, etc. is a well-functioning, oxygenated brain. But a necessary condition for running, whistling, hailing cabs, etc. is a well-functioning, oxygenated brain; and brains don't run, whistle, or hail cabs.

"But run a functional MRI on a motionless person, and you will see iron clad evidence from brain activity that they are happy, and thus you will be able to say they are happy."

Yes, precisely: we'll be able to say THEY are happy (not their brain)! Brains can no more be happy than pieces of driftwood.

Familiarize yourself with the work you denounce before you careen off another conceptual cliff.

Pikemann Urge said...

GJ: "But a necessary condition for running, whistling, hailing cabs, etc. is a well-functioning, oxygenated brain; and brains don't run, whistle, or hail cabs."

Dude, I am not a philosophy expert by any means. But running, whistling etc. are controlled within the brain, are they not? And did Richard not make an apt analogy with the car/engine?

GJ: "Yes, precisely: we'll be able to say THEY are happy (not their brain)! Brains can no more be happy than pieces of driftwood."

Well, I'm all for gestalt. But is the brain not a valid indicator of happiness? I'm not sure a Buddhist monk would have a problem with that. What's the big deal?

Looking forward to some education!

GJ said...

Pikemann Urge said, "Dude, I am not a philosophy expert by any means. But running, whistling etc. are controlled within the brain, are they not? And did Richard not make an apt analogy with the car/engine?"

No, he didn't make an apt analogy with the car engine. The analogy is hopelessly confused. There are predicates that apply both to the whole creature and to its parts (e.g., "has gangrene"), but the range of predicates under consideration here--viz., psychological predicates--have no intelligable application to parts of a creature.

And as I said to Richard, nobody's denying that a necessary condition for seeing, hearing, thinking, feeling happiness, etc. is being in the appropriate neural state. So a brain scan might be a reliable indicator of happiness (though not, to be sure, as reliable as a subject's sincere report of her experience). But it by no means follows that brains literally feel happiness. To literally ascribe happiness to the brain is to utter a nonsensical string of words. YOU feel happiness, not your brain; YOU see the computer screen in front of you, not your brain; and so on.

"...running, whistling etc. are controlled within the brain..."

Being in the appropriate neural state is necessary for one to be able to run, whistle, etc., but it's altogether unclear what you think is supposed to follow from this.

Pikemann Urge said...

"But it by no means follows that brains literally feel happiness."

No disagreements here.

"YOU feel happiness, not your brain"

We're talking about mind vs. brain, right? And I certainly see how obvious it is that an individual is more than just his brain.

"Being in the appropriate neural state is necessary for one to be able to run, whistle, etc., but it's altogether unclear what you think is supposed to follow from this."

Nothing! It was a statement of fact. Perhaps I've misunderstood what the hell you and Richard are actually arguing about.

I don't fully agree with what Richard said here though:

"My brain is a part of me. I am happy. Therefore my brain is happy. [True]"

However, I would restate that, not cast it as false. It might read better as, "My brain is a part of me. I am happy. Therefore my brain will indicate happiness."

jcm said...

Richard, all I conceded was that I haven't read all of Marx's works. Have you (e.g. have you read his magnum opus, Capital)? I didn't even concede that your interpretation of his earlier work was accurate. All I conceded was the possibility (even likelihood) that Marx's views could have evolved over the decades.

And must I really stress that you're asking me to equate his magnum opus (Capital, aka Das Kapital) with a short essay that he wrote during his youth? Even if there were a real contradiction between the two, I wouldn't expect any author (let alone someone as reputedly proud as Marx) to lay out a list of corrections to everything he had ever written (if he could even remember that far back).

And, no, ownership of the "means of production" (MOP), let alone land, is not the same as private consumption, or even job choice (where, even in real-world socialist economies, laborers earn wages or a share of profits). The simplest definition I can give for MOP is "things used by human laborers to create products". So, while Marx's definition of "social property" does indeed suggest movement away from individual ownership, it is individual ownership of "land and of the means of production".

If you want to insist that I use my toothbrush or CD record collection to "to create products", then go right ahead. I doubt that many would agree with you (at least not without stretching the definition of "production" to include every aspect of life, which Marx did not do, at least not in Capital, as I recall), but you're entitled to your opinions.

jcm said...

Postscript: An anonymous blog (even one devoted to economic theory and thought) is hardly the last word on the subject, but I think the following statement is relevant:

"There are many that believe that Marx advocated abolition of ownership of all private property. Unfortunately, this is a mistake. When Marx discussed private property, he did not mean property meant for individual ownership and personal consumption; he was only talking about the means of production such as the land, tools, machines, and buildings, etceteras, that were used in production."

Perhaps we've uncovered a real division among readers of Marx: those who assign more weight to the Communist Manifesto (and other terse and assertive treatises), which Marx wrote during his 20's and early 30's, and those who assign more weight to Capital, a monstrous (and, except for Volume 1, largely unfinished) work of critical analysis, which he labored over during the latter part of his life and until his death.

If so, then the quotation above (whose argument is basically the same as mine) strikes me as belonging to the latter school.

jcm said...

Post Postscript:

Despite what I wrote in my last postscript, I just noticed that, if you read a bit further in the Communist Manifesto (which, admittedly, I have not read in years), you'll find the following qualification of the "abolition of private property":

---
We Communists have been reproached with the desire of abolishing the right of personally acquiring property as the fruit of a man's own labor, which property is alleged to be the groundwork of all personal freedom, activity and independence.

Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property! Do you mean the property of petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of property that preceded the bourgeois form? There is no need to abolish that; the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it, and is still destroying it daily.
---

The manifesto then goes on to attack what it calls "modern bourgeois private property" or "that kind of property which exploits wage labor".

I don't know about you, Richard, but I consider such personal possessions as my toothbrush, CD collection, house, car, and wardrobe to be "hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property", about which the manifesto explicitly says "there is no need to abolish that".

I might quibble with the part that says "the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it" (after all, just because I'm employed by a capitalist firm doesn't mean that my salary & benefits are insignificant), but then I never claimed that I was a Marxist (let alone an orthodox one).

Landon Hedrick said...

Richard,

I would be interested in reading your ethics paper sometime.

Regarding your desire to have philosophy more science-like, I wonder if you've read any work being done in Experimental Philosophy. Stephen Stich is one of the founders and leading proponents of the field, and he gave two talks at my school last week. His first talk called into question the naive use of "intuitions" as evidence in philosophical arguments, since there is now empirical evidence that people's stated intuitions vary given certain background factors. For example, I think one example he gave was that people who are asked what they think in certain ethical cases were more morally judgmental if they were in a dirty room. His other talk argued something that I think you would disagree with: that even given idealized conditions (in which individuals were fully informed, fully rational, etc.), there would still be moral disagreements. This he takes to be evidence against certain moral realist theories that are around today. He made his argument on the basis of empirical work that has been done regarding people's moral beliefs.

If this is the kind of thing you think is necessary for philosophy to move forward, then you should read up on Stich and the other experimental philosophers (and those individuals in other fields who do the empirical research but who are not themselves philosophers).

I do wonder, though, whether you think a list of necessary and sufficient conditions for 'knowledge' can be found using some sort of scientific methodology. I'm sure you're aware of the post-Gettier discussion about the conditions for knowledge, and it seems to me like this is not really answerable by science.

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... Would that bare assertion constituted a good philosophical argument.

Itself a bare assertion, that an actual argument was a bare assertion. Nice.

...a necessary condition for running, whistling, hailing cabs, etc. is a well-functioning, oxygenated brain; and brains don't run, whistle, or hail cabs.

Which is the most bizarre non sequitur I've yet read. Slap your face, shake your head violently, then try to remember what we were talking about.

I may need an instrument to do x or y, but that doesn't mean I am the instrument. But the brain is not merely an instrument: it's who I am. I can hail a cab with any instrument available to me, even from an electrode in my brain connected to a radio antenna. But I can't be "me" with any old instrument--a wire to a radio antenna won't do. The "instrument" that makes me "me" has to do the very specific thing of embodying and operating my memory, character, reasoning, perceptual centers, etc. Only the brain does that. Not my whistling lips nor my running legs nor my cab-hailing arm.

To put it another way, restrain me from being able to hail a cab by taking away my body and slapping my brain in a vat and you have not destroyed me at all: everything I am remains, everything that defines me as a person. But take away my brain, and I cease to exist.

QED.

The analogy is hopelessly confused.

You appear to be hopelessly confused. The analogy is not.

Being in the appropriate neural state is necessary for one to be able to run, whistle, etc., but it's altogether unclear what you think is supposed to follow from this.

You are confusing ability with action. It is not merely necessary for me to be able to do these things, it is necessary for me to actually do them. And let me re-emphasize: it is necessary for me to actually do them. Take my brain out of my body and put in a remote control that makes my body hail a cab, and in no sense whatever have "I" hailed a cab. Take my body away and stick an antenna in my brain that summons a cab, and "I" (= "my brain") can use that antenna to hail a cab. But the antenna is not me. The brain is.

There are predicates that apply both to the whole creature and to its parts (e.g., "has gangrene"), but the range of predicates under consideration here--viz., psychological predicates--have no intelligable application to parts of a creature.

Argument from assertion. Funny how you keep using the tactics you yourself denounce.

To literally ascribe happiness to the brain is to utter a nonsensical string of words.

Then you don't understand these words. The rest of us don't see nonsense. We see a perfectly intelligible sentence. The problem would appear to be with your comprehension, not our language. You seem to be confusing what you "want" words to mean, with what we actually intend them to mean. Words can mean whatever we want. You really can't tell us we're using them wrong, unless to say we aren't using them the way the general population uses them. But guess what: as soon as you start down that road, you'll be losing this argument right quick. Because this is how everyone speaks. So what option do you have? To redefine words contrary to convention, and then browbeat us by insisting we're wrong because we haven't redefined those words your way? That's retarded.

YOU feel happiness, not your brain; YOU see the computer screen in front of you, not your brain; and so on.

And since I am my brain, the law of commutation applies.

I've demonstrated this.

You have yet to demonstrate that I am not my brain. You just keep asserting it. But all you are asserting is an arbitrary semantic rule of your own invention. The rest of us are speaking English. Participate.

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... ...we'll be able to say THEY are happy (not their brain)! Brains can no more be happy than pieces of driftwood.

Remember what you said about arguments from assertion?

If you organized the components of that driftwood so as to have the interactive neural-net capacity to generate awareness and emotions, then guess what, we'd be able to say even pieces of driftwood are happy.

There really isn't any way out of this conclusion, other than petty word games. But changing the names of things still won't change what they are. So you'll lose that argument before you even begin it.

it by no means follows that brains literally feel happiness.

If my hand can feel warm, and an ant can feel a twig, why can't my brain feel happiness? My brain is a system of sensory organs, one of which senses emotional states, and thus feels, the same way any nerve does.

Pikemann Urge said... I certainly see how obvious it is that an individual is more than just his brain.

Insofar as we include in the definition of "brain" the pattern of its arrangement and its active operation, then there is no sense in which an individual is more than just his brain (except in metaphorical senses, e.g. in which we can say an individual is also his job, his pet, his wife, his books, etc., but here we are talking about the actual person himself, not the satellite of life and environment he's created and interacts with).

I would restate that, not cast it as false. It might read better as, "My brain is a part of me. I am happy. Therefore my brain will indicate happiness."

Indicate it to whom? Some mysterious ectoplasmic soul separate from the brain?

That's not a rhetorical question. You really need to answer it. Because if you can empirically demonstrate the answer is anything but "to the rest of your brain" you will have a Nobel prize in your future.

Whereas if the answer is (as science so far confirms) nothing other than "to the rest of your brain," then we are our brains.

QED.

Richard Carrier said...

Marx Said What? (I)

JCM said... all I conceded was that I haven't read all of Marx's works. Have you (e.g. have you read his magnum opus, Capital)?

That's irrelevant. The issue is simply that Marx plainly says what I said he did, and you have yet to demonstrate he said anything to the contrary. If there is some writing of his I haven't scanned in which he does, tell me. Otherwise, concede the argument.

And, no, ownership of the "means of production" (MOP), let alone land, is not the same as private consumption, or even job choice (where, even in real-world socialist economies, laborers earn wages or a share of profits). The simplest definition I can give for MOP is "things used by human laborers to create products". So, while Marx's definition of "social property" does indeed suggest movement away from individual ownership, it is individual ownership of "land and of the means of production".

That is a non sequitur. Shares do not constitute individual ownership. The statements I adduced are pretty clear Marx never imagined individuals owning their own land, owning their own homes, owning their own animals and tools. The Marxist credo is "from each according to his means, to each according to his need," and everything he describes about his imagined economic system adheres to that principle, even in regard to how wages are doled out and what they can be used to buy.

It does no good to try and go all "biblical fundamentalist" on me and "reinterpret" the text to say what it doesn't say just because you are uncomfortable with what it really says. Because the fact is, all subsequent enactors of Marx's system didn't see in the text what you now claim to. And there is no direct indication Marx did either. Maybe he was just the worst communicator in the universe. That's at least conceivable, since he's not God, and his texts are anything but coherent. But if you rest on the premise that he miscommunicated his point, you no longer have any basis for ascertaining what his point then really was.

"There are many that believe that Marx advocated abolition of ownership of all private property. Unfortunately, this is a mistake. When Marx discussed private property, he did not mean property meant for individual ownership and personal consumption; he was only talking about the means of production such as the land, tools, machines, and buildings, etceteras, that were used in production."

All land is used for production. Marx even said making children was a means of production. The reality is, all labor is a means of production. Cooking food in your kitchen is a means of production. Forks are tools. Hence when Marx says he is for "abolition of buying and selling" there can be no mistaking his point. It's nice to claim he "meant" to exclude "individual ownership and personal consumption," but until you can find anywhere, ever, in the whole of his voluminous writings where he says that, you are just building a fantasy of what you wish Marx had said, not what he really did.

Richard Carrier said...

Marx Said What? (II)

JCM said... I don't know about you, Richard, but I consider such personal possessions as my toothbrush, CD collection, house, car, and wardrobe to be "hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property", about which the manifesto explicitly says "there is no need to abolish that".

The quotation you excerpt does not have Marx defending this. To the contrary, he says communism doesn't have to abolish this property because the current system already does. Which is great rhetoric. But notably, what he does not say against the charge that communism will abolish it, is that communism won't abolish it. That means he is conceding that communism will abolish it.

Perhaps we've uncovered a real division among readers of Marx: those who assign more weight to the Communist Manifesto (and other terse and assertive treatises), which Marx wrote during his 20's and early 30's, and those who assign more weight to Capital, a monstrous (and, except for Volume 1, largely unfinished) work of critical analysis, which he labored over during the latter part of his life and until his death.

That's mere rhetoric unless you can find an actual passage in Capital where he reinstates private property against his condemnations of it in the Manifesto. If your hypothesis is that he changed his mind, you have to be able to prove it. Otherwise, in the technical jargon of my field, you're just making shit up.

And don't forget the most relevant text of his old age: his treatise on Socialism. This says his aim is to replace the capitalist system of monetary trade and exchange with "socialized production upon a predetermined plan," which entails the state will decide what you get to have, and if it decides you have too much, it will take it away and give it to whoever has less. Thereby this new "development of production makes the existence of different classes of society thenceforth an anachronism." No one is rich or poor because the state ensures everyone has the same, which he elsewhere explains is whatever people need to subsist and little more (much of his attack is against useless commodities, i.e. things we don't need, and against wages and money as forms of slavery and producers of inequity).

There is nothing in here about "you get to own your own land and house and kitchenware and douvet." That appears to be a modern fantasy, born of the fact that what Marx actually argued was incoherent and largely indefensible, and all religious believers try to "reinterpret" what their holy men said, when they realize what they did say is bollocks.

Richard Carrier said...

Landon Hedrick said... I would be interested in reading your ethics paper sometime.

There is a possibility a condensed and improved version will appear in a forthcoming anthology by Loftus. We're in discussions now.

Regarding your desire to have philosophy more science-like, I wonder if you've read any work being done in Experimental Philosophy.

Yes. And I'm always keen to hear about more. It's one of those signs I was referring to, that my complaints many years ago were evidently shared and the zeitgeist may be on its way to changing. There are just still too many armchair philosophers resisting the trend. But as Kuhn would say, on any relevant historical scale of time, they'll all be dead soon. Let's just hope their bankrupt zeitgeist dies with them.

Stephen Stich is one of the founders and leading proponents of the field, and he gave two talks at my school last week. His first talk called into question the naive use of "intuitions" as evidence in philosophical arguments, since there is now empirical evidence that people's stated intuitions vary given certain background factors.

Certainly. Although this isn't entirely a novel insight. This has been an argument against intuitionism for over a century now. That philosophers still naively overtrust their intuitions is a testimony to their failure to embrace any model of progress, not to our ignorance of the defects of trusting intuition. But good science is being done on intuition now--I cite some of it in my book Sense and Goodness without God. Note that it isn't refuting the reliability of intuition, but qualifying it: intuition is actually sometimes reliable, even more reliable than deliberative reason, it's just limited and thus the conditions and limits of its reliability need to be studied. That most philosophers have never read a single book or article on the science of intuition is thus exactly the kind of thing I'm complaining about.

For example...his other talk argued something that I think you would disagree with: that even given idealized conditions (in which individuals were fully informed, fully rational, etc.), there would still be moral disagreements. This he takes to be evidence against certain moral realist theories that are around today. He made his argument on the basis of empirical work that has been done regarding people's moral beliefs.

From the examples I've seen, the conditions were never realized, so his conclusion is invalid. One pitfall of attempting to use science to do philosophy, is that there is a tendency to do it badly. I've discussed several examples here and elsewhere on my blog before. Pick any actual study he cites, and I'll show you that the subjects were either not fully informed, not fully rational, or not in fact reporting moral judgments (as there is a tendency to conflate aesthetic with moral judgments or to confuse a sense of propriety with actual moral facts, etc.).

Bad experiment design is sadly too common, but as a young science, not unexpected. Just look at how hosed psychology was sixty years ago. But we need to criticize bad science until they get it right (as that is how every other science did, including psychology, and some make a valid point that psychology still has a way to go).

I'll give some examples I was involved in last year...

Richard Carrier said...

Examples of Bad Experimental Design

One example is an experiment I actually participated in, in which moral intuitions were tested. Two scenarios were compared, one involving a doctor and another someone else, involving sacrificing an individual for the greater good. The experimenters clearly were operating on the assumption that the two scenarios were morally equivalent, when in fact they were not: doctors, unlike ordinary folk, have a special duty of care to their patients, created by the social niche they have volunteered for and been assigned. In short, if doctors were known to sacrifice individual patients for the greater good, no one would go to doctors, and the medical system would collapse, and thus fail to produce any social benefit. Thus, doctors must place individual patients over the greater good, except in instances the whole society already sanctions (e.g. quarantine).

Average Joes, by contrast, are not under the same duty of care, because society does not expect or need the same things from them as they do doctors. In other words, since bystanders not serving an individual patient's interests over the greater good would not do any harm to the functioning of the society's medical system, bystanders have a different duty of care than doctors.

Had the experimenters studied more, particularly consulting legal experts who have dealt with exactly these moral distinctions for centuries, they would have realized their experiment trades on a false analogy, a textbook fallacy. Their results are thus scientifically invalid.

Another example of bad experiment design is forcing test subjects into selecting from among false dichotomies (another textbook fallacy). There is a common test question, for example, involving helping a village hang an innocent to avoid a greater harm (either help, or refrain and see the villagers do something worse). And yet the one answer not available to the text subject is the only genuinely moral response: to attack and kill the villagers.

Philosophers who want to use the scientific method (as they ought to do) need to learn how to do it correctly. Just because they are doing "experimental philosophy" doesn't mean they are doing it well. It's a mark of progress that they are doing it at all. But we need to keep kicking them in the ass until they also do it right.

Richard Carrier said...

I do wonder, though, whether you think a list of necessary and sufficient conditions for 'knowledge' can be found using some sort of scientific methodology. I'm sure you're aware of the post-Gettier discussion about the conditions for knowledge, and it seems to me like this is not really answerable by science.

First, you have to define what it is you want to classify as "knowledge." The first error philosophers make is to create an artificial definition that fails to track actual human needs and concepts. Second, once you've defined what it is you want to accomplish (to ascertain, say, "warranted true beliefs" from "warranted false beliefs"), then it is a simple matter to empirically determine what best accomplishes that. Like surgery or agriculture, no method will be flawless, but there will always be a better method, and perhaps a best method, and it is certainly discoverable. I discuss the conditions for this in the early epistemology section of Sense and Goodness without God, supplemented by the metaphysical section on the nature of knowledge.

Gettier problems are rather silly, IMO. They commit basic fallacies, and thus are not problems at all. For example, his Case I examples all commit the fallacy of equivocation. This would be obvious if instead of treating them in the abstract, anyone attempted to create a real-world instance of any of them. Since they are fallacious, they are not counterexamples to conditions of "justified true belief" (though I prefer "warranted" since "justified" carries too much in the way of inaccurate baggage, and a sound analysis of warrant leads to a proper theory of knowledge).

Likewise, his Case II examples involve fallacious disjunctions.

jcm said...

The quotation you excerpt does not have Marx defending this. To the contrary, he says communism doesn't have to abolish this property because the current system already does. Which is great rhetoric. But notably, what he does not say against the charge that communism will abolish it, is that communism won't abolish it. That means he is conceding that communism will abolish it.

Since you're such a stickler for smoking gun arguments (at least from folks who contradict you), where does Marx express a desire to abolish what he called "Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property"? Again, I saw no indication of this in Capital (which you show no evidence of ever having read), and nor do I see it in the Communist Manifesto, despite its much shorter, more dogmatic style. So, I think the burden is on you to produce the smoking gun. (This ought to be good: Marx denigrating a worker's right to the fruit of his own labor — who'da thunk it?!)

But, again, as a non-Marxist, I have no ideological investment in this argument one way or the other. I simply believe that we should hold a person accountable for what s/he actually said, and not what some propagandist (either for or against) would have us believe that s/he said.

jcm said...

PS: You might be tempted to resubmit the same word bites as "smoking gun" evidence for your claim.

Take, for example, your citing the Manifesto for asserting that the "the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property." Perhaps I should emphasize that my counter-evidence began with that quote and merely added to it the next few sentences, which go on to distinguish "private property" from "Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property" and qualify it as "modern bourgeois private property" (or "that kind of property which exploits wage labor" and "is based on the antagonism of capital and wage labor"). No, no.

Your assignment (should you choose to accept it) is to produce evidence for me of Marx's praising the capitalists for destroying (as he claims) "the property of petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of property that preceded the bourgeois form."

That wouldn't necessarily mean that his concept of "socialized property"* entails the abolition of personal property (like toothbrushes, clothing, TV's — or even larger items, like cars and houses), as you would have us believe.** But it would strengthen your case just a little bit, insofar as it bears on how we interpret that Manifesto excerpt. But, thus far, you haven't even done that.

* Again, vaguely defined in Capital as "co-operation and the possession in common of the land and of the means of production."

** Perhaps this is because you haven't read Capital, where Marx goes on at length about the difference between "use value" and "exchange value." You don't have to agree with his distinction (although I personally find it to be about as controversial as the distinction between "commercial" and "residental" real estate), but it is an egregious error on your part to claim that Marx himself recognized no such distinction.

jcm said...

PPS: If you want something to attack in Marx's writings, may I suggest some actual concepts of his, which have deservedly received a lot of critical attention over the years (not that he invented them all), like: proletarian revolution, the law/tendency of a falling rate of profit, the labor theory of value, and certains aspects of historical materialism (e.g. its economic reductionism and determinism or, as Popper argued, its unfalsifiability)?

I would also add to these butts his dialectical method, which I found repetitive (and is partly why Capital is so long) and often dull (or "actuarial", as someone else put it). Even worse, there is his tone of scientific certainty over what really amount to debatable moral/ethical postures (e.g. regarding tension between market rules/outcomes vs. philosophical concepts of social justice). Partly for this reason, Marx never really took the trouble to translate his theory into a detailed model of a successor to capitalism (leaving that task, for the most part, to the Marxists), as if his role were to prophetically reveal the inexorable laws of history that would inevitably lead to socialism and then communism (vaguely defined as a classless society, in which the state has whithered away — despite all of the historical evidence of an actual increase in social stratification and differentiation over time).

On all of these matters, I would readily agree with your characterization of Marx's theory as "bollocks". Unfortunately, you chose to beat up on a tired straw man, instead — apparently, stemming from a shallow confusion over Marx's (& Engels') choice of jargon.

Pikemann Urge said...

RC said: "Whereas if the answer is (as science so far confirms) nothing other than "to the rest of your brain," then we are our brains."

Does this answer change if we take into account the body's I/O system, i.e. senses?

A brain, to have any value in any way, needs a sensory I/O system to examine and express. Imagine a brain, right from the beginning, with no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin or other nerves. Will such an isolated brain develop anything beyond the consciousness of a foetus?

I don't think I'm expressing my idea correctly, but the 'self' is a product of outside events and its reactions to it. There is no 'I' without the world other than and outside of 'I'. I take it that you are taking this into account?

Landon Hedrick said...

Richard,

Regarding the ethics paper you're considering for the anthology Loftus is putting together, I would recommend that at the very least you see if you can get some feedback on it from some metaethicists first. Above all else, I would recommend you do the relevant reading and research of the work that has been done in this field already. (I think you commented that the referee who read your paper told you that you should interact more with the other work that's already been done on the problem, and I agree with him. You seemed to just simply say "I don't have the time to read all of that stuff, most of which is crap anyway."--and that is a paraphrase.) My point is that if you want your work in metaethics to be taken seriously, you need to engage with the scholars in that field, and try your best to get it published in a philosophy journal. An anthology by Loftus is not a good substitute for the journals, unless you just care about convincing the layman and not the philosophers who hold different views than your own.

So best scenario: you work on the project and get it published in a peer-reviewed journal. But at the very least, I think you ought to solicit comments from some metaethicists.

Regarding experimental philosophy, I don't have any comments about your general point. But I did mention Stich's talk against moral realism, and alluded to some studies he discussed. In response you say that in the studies you've looked at, "the conditions were never realized, so [the] conclusion is invalid." But of course the conditions were never realized. Not even the experimental philosophers doing these experiments would think that the subjects are "fully informed, fully rational, etc." They have to make an inference based on limited information regarding moral disagreements, knowing full well that we can't idealize the subjects and see if they still disagree. So your point against Stich on this issue should not be to simply say "but those people aren't fully informed and aren't fully rational." Your response needs to be "but how are you concluding from that kind of moral disagreement that such a disagreement would probably persist even given idealized conditions?"

Regarding your discussion of epistemology, I don't have much to say. I really don't know what you mean by your analysis of knowledge when you just call it "warranted true belief." In your discussion of the Gettier cases, you say that his cases are not genuine cases of "justified true beliefs," but then you say that you prefer to use the word "warranted" instead of "justified," as if you're just re-naming the same concept Gettier was talking about.

Some epistemologists have argued that Gettier's cases are not genuine cases of justified true belief, but as I understand it most philosophers have thought that they were genuine. That's just a sociological point, and I might be wrong about it. I don't know why you think Gettier committed fallacies. You just sort of name what the fallacies are and say that Gettier's paper does not pose a problem for JTB. Can you refer me to a philosopher who has dealt with Gettier in the way that you agree with? Or did you come to your position on your own?

Richard Carrier said...

JCM said... where does Marx express a desire to abolish what he called "Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property"?

I already directed you to all the evidence, and I already told you that if you want him to have said something else, you are the one who needs to produce evidence he said it. I've already made my case.

Marx denigrating a worker's right to the fruit of his own labor — who'da thunk it?!

Every Marxist in human history. That's who. If you think Marx didn't intend this as a consequence of his arguments, then you need to prove so. Otherwise, it is demonstrably a consequence of his arguments, as I have shown, and he nowhere ever says otherwise. At least you have yet to find such a passage.

I'll reiterate: if Marx "meant" something else, then how do you know this? You can't produce any evidence of it. So why are you so sure you know what he meant? You can't criticize people for taking Marx at his word, and I've shown you what his word is. Thus, present your evidence, or drop your criticism. You have no other option.

You can't keep doing the following...

Richard Carrier said...

JCM: You seem fond of ignoring what I've proven: that Marx says he wants to abolish all existing property relations, and when he responds directly to the accusation that he wants to abolish even ownership of the fruit of a man's labor, he doesn't deny the charge!

Here is the complete statement of Marx, in context, with nothing left out. I can see no other way to read it:

The abolition of existing property relations is not at all a distinctive feature of communism.

All property relations in the past have continually been subject to historical change consequent upon the change in historical conditions.

The French Revolution, for example, abolished feudal property in favour of bourgeois property.

The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property. But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products, that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few.

In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.

We Communists have been reproached with the desire of abolishing the right of personally acquiring property as the fruit of a man’s own labour, which property is alleged to be the groundwork of all personal freedom, activity and independence.

Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property! Do you mean the property of petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of property that preceded the bourgeois form? There is no need to abolish that; the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it, and is still destroying it daily.

Or do you mean the modern bourgeois private property?

But does wage-labour create any property for the labourer? Not a bit. It creates capital, i.e., that kind of property which exploits wage-labour, and which cannot increase except upon condition of begetting a new supply of wage-labour for fresh exploitation. Property, in its present form, is based on the antagonism of capital and wage labour.


You have no example of his ever qualifying this in any way, for any thing. So far, your "qualifications" appear to be completely a fabrication of your own imagination.

It is clear Marx will not countenance the private ownership of land, for example, nor does he support the existence of wages or buying and selling (as I have shown him saying elsewhere). And here he says private property of the worker is "alleged" and already doesn't exist, making clear he has no plans to restore it. He even says all products of labor are "bourgeois private property" so he even denies outright the distinction you pretend he made.

Indeed, you absurdly read the sentence "The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property" as if he is distinguishing the two and saying he doesn't intend to abolish the former, but that is exactly what he isn't saying here. To the contrary, he is not saying Communism won't abolish "property generally," he is saying that this abolition is not what is distinctive of Communism, in other words he approves of all abolition of property, and what makes Communism new is only that it now intends to abolish the present system, which he distinguishes from the feudal, which had already been abolished by the bourgeois system. When he is then asked (by his own rhetorical interlocutor) if this doesn't then mean even laborers can't own what they make, he only agrees with them!

There is no other way to read this. And you have certainly produced no passage anywhere where Marx says anything different.

So you have no reasonable ground for saying people who conclude this are making a straw man of Marx. To the contrary, unlike you, they are actually reading what he said.

Richard Carrier said...

Pikemann Urge said... RC said: "Whereas if the answer is (as science so far confirms) nothing other than "to the rest of your brain," then we are our brains." Does this answer change if we take into account the body's I/O system, i.e. senses?

No. The I/O system is not a part of our identity as persons (which is why the deaf and blind are still persons, but eyes and ears are not).

Imagine a brain, right from the beginning, with no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin or other nerves. Will such an isolated brain develop anything beyond the consciousness of a foetus?

Yes, if there is no input of any kind, then the brain cannot develop. It would not even be at the level of organization of a third trimester fetus (whose brain already has inputs and is organizing in response to them). Since electrical activity is possible internally, it is theoretically possible for a completely isolated brain to develop, but since it's internal signals are random and not linked to any real world, it can't learn anything, and certainly nothing coherent.

But we can say the same of blood, air, food, etc. Without these things the brain can't live or develop, either, yet they do not define the person. They just make it possible for them to live. They are tools.

Hence even the blind can "see" things, just things invented by the brain (which are not well programmed due to never having received any organized input)

This is even a documented fact, but as you note, because the signals are not connected to any constraining reality, they remain incoherent, and nothing can be learned from them.

There is no 'I' without the world other than and outside of 'I'.

That just happens to be contingently true of the universe we're in. That is, because we need brains and air and food and must have evolved in an environment and so on, we can only have existed in an external world and much of what we are is molded and defined by that world. But we are not that world.

If any nonphysical (i.e. supernatural) mind can exist, then it can exist without any external world. It only needs, minimally, a "place" to exist, but if the only place that exists is the place fully occupied and governed by that mind, then that place is fully a part of that mind, and hence there is nothing external to that mind, in this imaginary scenario. But that kind of speculation is idle, IMO. Some philosophers (most notably Antony Flew, in the last days of his sanity) argue that such a mind is logically incoherent. I'm not convinced. It's possible they are right, they just haven't proven it. In the meantime, we have no good reason to believe we are such a mind, and ample reason to believe our minds are the contingent products of an external world that isn't us.

Richard Carrier said...

Landon Hedrick said... I would recommend that at the very least you see if you can get some feedback on it from some metaethicists first.

That's already planned. In some respects it has already been in progress for a few years. But I intend to have the final paper vetted by several experts, and to answer whatever objections they raise.

The advantage of a book chapter is that I don't face the same word count restrictions of journals--which forced me into a Catch-22: by their requirements, either I had to say so much the journal can't publish for word count, or I had to say less and they would say I didn't say enough. There is no way around this problem that I can see. Thus, evidently, I cannot use a journal venue for this.

But one criticism I won't waste any time answering is the "you must discuss Mr. Nobodygivesashit's theory" variety. Any objection that a work of philosophy is not a work of history of philosophy, is not a valid objection at all. If they cannot identify a logical or factual flaw in my paper, then they will not have identified any valid objection to its argument.

Above all else, I would recommend you do the relevant reading and research of the work that has been done in this field already.

I have done this considerably (my bibliography even in Sense and Goodness without God is by no means idle), but it's not really a valid requirement. 99% of what's been written on this subject is an absolute waste of anyone's time to read. If I present a logically valid argument with all demonstrably true premises, there is no "but you didn't read x" that can ever be a valid objection to the conclusion. That's a fallacy long known as a non sequitur.

I think you commented that the referee who read your paper told you that you should interact more with the other work that's already been done on the problem, and I agree with him.

I don't. It's a vacuous request. It replaces philosophy with history of philosophy. Because it doesn't matter what anyone has ever said or written if you have a valid argument from true premises.

Don't confuse appeals to sources in support of rebuttal evidence to premises, with what I faced. The referees didn't say "so and so refuted or challenges your premise x." They just said I was supposed to mention them and discuss what they said. Hence they were making the vain request that I do history of philosophy, and ignoring the actual philosophy I was doing. They wanted me to just name drop and prattle on about how my view relates to theirs. Ironically, I always get a different list of names from everyone I've discussed this with--hence pleasing everyone would require writing a thousand volumes. That is a pernicious disease in the entire philosophy community, and as I have noted here already, I am not the only one to have said so.

My point is that if you want your work in metaethics to be taken seriously, you need to engage with the scholars in that field, and try your best to get it published in a philosophy journal.

Since the standards of such journals evidently bear no relation to publishing valid and sound arguments, this is a request I cannot meet. They want history of philosophy. I want valid and sound arguments. Until philosophy journals start wanting to publish the latter, I'll have to give them amiss. With my next chapter (still a long way off before I even begin this, much less see it published), I will bypass the broken philosophy journal system by procuring my own expert peer reviewers and asking them to use the very standards philosophy journals ought: Is the argument of this paper valid and sound? Period.

Then I can at least point philosophers there, as can anyone else. And if they respond with vacuous complaints, I'll ignore them. If any respond by identifying factual or logical errors, then we'll finally be making progress. Otherwise, as I complain in the OEN interview, I fear philosophy is dead.

Richard Carrier said...

Landon Hedrick said... In response you say that in the studies you've looked at, "the conditions were never realized, so [the] conclusion is invalid." But of course the conditions were never realized.

You misunderstand what I mean: the conditions he claimed had been realized (in the experiment) were never realized. In other words, his arguments were formally unsound (because his premises were not supported by his evidence, despite claiming otherwise).

Not even the experimental philosophers doing these experiments would think that the subjects are "fully informed, fully rational, etc." They have to make an inference based on limited information regarding moral disagreements, knowing full well that we can't idealize the subjects and see if they still disagree.

If that were true, then no argument against moral realism can be sustained this way, hence his project is invalid from the start. You can't refute a thesis you admit you will never test.

But it isn't true. We don't need omniscient subjects. All we need is relevantly informed people who are making rational decisions, both facts that can be confirmed by empirical observation. It is harder work than these tests involved, but "science is hard" is not a valid excuse for not doing it.

For example, it is not enough to just test people's hunches. You have to then interact with them and explore why they disagree with other subjects. Then you can discover if those differences are founded on differences of information or logically invalid (i.e. fallacious) reasoning. If the latter, you teach the subject their error and re-conduct the test: now that they are reasoning coherently, now what conclusion do they come to? If the former, you teach the less informed subject what the more informed subject knew, and re-conduct the test: now that they have the same information, now what conclusion do they come to?

Pursuing this method, I guarantee you (and this is a firm, testable prediction), you will erase most moral disagreements, thus refuting the conclusions Stich reached with his shitty science, by having done real science. Then once you have gotten that far, you can explore why any differences remain, using the same methods, only at that level it will be much harder, as you'll need to develop more sophisticated psychological instruments, but this process has been followed by psychologists in many other areas of inquiry, so it can be done here.

With real science, we can actually test the theory of moral realism, because that theory predicts that moral disagreements will be eliminated precisely to the extent that an agent reasons more coherently and informedly. The only way to test that prediction is to actually go out and test it. From what I've seen, Stich has not.

I have considerable field experience of this very prediction being confirmed, so I expect any formal study will confirm what I've already seen. But certainly, no one can claim this prediction won't be born out by such a study until they actually conduct it. Hence my call in Sense and Goodness without God for more actual scientific research in ethicology.

Richard Carrier said...

Landon Hedrick said... Regarding your discussion of epistemology, I don't have much to say. I really don't know what you mean by your analysis of knowledge when you just call it "warranted true belief." In your discussion of the Gettier cases, you say that his cases are not genuine cases of "justified true beliefs," but then you say that you prefer to use the word "warranted" instead of "justified," as if you're just re-naming the same concept Gettier was talking about.

Don't be distracted by that. Even using his definition, his examples are fallacies.

I'm just saying that I also avoid his concept of justification, merely to make sure I don't give you the impression otherwise.

Can you refer me to a philosopher who has dealt with Gettier in the way that you agree with? Or did you come to your position on your own?

On my own. It's obvious. First, go take a look at them yourself. For each of his two cases, think through an actual concrete case (i.e. try to implement his abstractions in an imagined real-world case in your head). If you don't immediately see the fallacy in each of his two cases, then come back and ask me to point them out to you.

jcm said...

To the contrary, he is not saying Communism won't abolish "property generally," he is saying that this abolition is not what is distinctive of Communism, in other words he approves of all abolition of property...

No, he approves of the abolition of a particular type of property. I’ll say more on that later, but first, here’s another quote to consider from that same section of the Manifesto:

"The average price of wage labor is the minimum wage; i.e. that quantum of the means of subsistence, which is absolutely requisite to keep the laborer in bare existence as a laborer. What therefore the wage laborer appropriates by means of his labor, merely suffices to prolong and reproduce a bare existence. We by no means intend to abolish this personal appropriation of the products of labor, an appropriation that is made for the maintenance and reproduction of human life, and that leaves no surplus wherewith to command the labor of others. All that we want to do away with is the miserable character of this appropriation, under which the laborer lives merely to increase capital, and is allowed to live only in so far as the interest of the ruling class requires it.”

I feel that I should emphasize: “We by no means intend to abolish this personal appropriation of the products of labor…”, although the rest of the excerpt is relevant, too.

Is it possible that your argument hinges on semantics; e.g. a definition of “property” that necessarily excludes the object of a “personal appropriation of the products of labor”, even if it “leaves no surplus wherewith to command the labor of others.” If so, then I would argue that your argument amounts to a distinction without a difference, and maintain that Marx had no intention of abolishing claims to personal possessions (such as my contemporary examples, a toothbrush, music collection, etc.), whether they meet your definition of “property” or not.

If not, and instead you’re trying to point out some logical flaw in Marx’s theory, then we might actually reach some kind of agreement. As I’ve mentioned before, there is plenty to criticize in Marx’s writings. For example, much of his analysis in Capital Vol. 1 is premised on the out-dated labor theory of value, which is the basis for the reference above to “surplus” (or “surplus value”). But my response to that defense would simply be this: Marx’s views don’t have to be logically sound in order for him to have held them. Also, I thought we were arguing, not whether Marx was right or wrong, but whether he believed what you or I claim he believed.

Marx apparently had no problem dividing the concept of property into different categories, like “personal”, “private” (a.k.a. “capitalist” or “modern bourgeois”), and “socialized” (a.k.a “social” or “common”), and then judging each one differently. Whether or not his categorization and judgment was warranted in this case, I think that we can agree that he advocated the replacement of private property with socialized property. I also think we can agree that such advocacy is not equivalent to advocating a restoration of “the property of petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of property that preceded the bourgeois form.” His attack on “petty bourgeois socialism” later on in the Manifesto makes that disposition clear.

But our contention still boils down to the toothbrush (or how to define it within a Marxian framework) doesn’t it? I believe that Marx, were he alive today, would define my toothbrush as personal property, or a “personal appropriation of the products of labor, an appropriation that is made for the maintenance and reproduction of human life, and that leaves no surplus wherewith to command the labor of others.” Again, the definition needn’t be logically flawless or useful in practice in order to establish my point. It need only flow from Marx.

jcm said...

Some more quotes (most of which actually precede the one above) follow here, but these are just to add some more support to what I wrote previously. [I had an unusual amount of free time today, and you’ve managed to rekindle my interest in the subject.]

"To be a capitalist is to have not only a purely personal, but a social status in production. Capital is a collective product, and only by the united action of many members, nay, in the last resort, only by the united action of all members of society, can it be set in motion. Capital is therefore, not a personal, but a social power." [Note: The italics on "status" appears in my edition of the Communist Manifesto, as do the italics that appear in quotes below.]

Not surprisingly, Marx recognized that capitalists have personal possessions just like anyone else (more on that below). What this statement establishes is that personal property is insufficient to meet the Marxian definition of a "capitalist"; i.e. the owner of "modern bourgeois private property", the form of property that Communists explicitly seek to abolish. [Note: Engels supplements the definition of “capitalist”, used interchangeably with “bourgeois”, in a footnote to the previous section: "By bourgeoisie is meant the class of modern capitalists, owners of the means of social production and employers of wage labor."]

"When, therefore, capital is converted into common property, into the property of all members of society, personal property is not thereby transformed into social property. It is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses its class character."

What kind of “class character”? Presumably, that which Marx/Engels associated with “the giant,modern industry; the place of the industrial middle class by industrial millionaires, the leaders of the whole industrial armies, the modern bourgeois”, according to the previous section. In other words, there is not only a commercial nature implied in this kind of property, it is also of an industrial scale, large enough to make millionaires (even in their time) of its owners.

I would concede, however, that this emphasis on commercial/industrial property does not necessarily advise Communist/proletarian revolutionaries against expropriating and redistributing the personal wealth of the capitalist class (heck, even liberal egalitarians do that!), given their low opinion of how that wealth was obtained. Indeed, I think it’s reasonable to infer that a different distribution of wealth would characterize a Communist society (or even a non-Communist, socialist one, for that matter), relative to a bourgeois/capitalist one. (The history of real-world Communist revolution seems to bear that scenario out.) But, conceptually, the distribution of personal property is an entirely different matter than its abolition altogether, which would be an absurd conclusion even if it weren’t explicitly denied in the text.

In any case, it seems clear to me what Marx/Engels believed (rightly or wrongly): that, with the abolition of private property, i.e. when “capital is converted into common property”, “personal property is not thereby transformed into social property.” Nor, in my direct experience with these texts (nor from the testimonies of card-carrying Marxists), do they suggest that such a transformation is desirable.

If they do so elsewhere, then I leave it to you (Richard) to produce the evidence. I certainly haven’t seen it (despite having other grounds to reject Marxism, especially its more orthodox forms).

Landon Hedrick said...

Richard,

Thanks for your responses. I've had my say on the issue regarding your work in meta-ethics. I'm glad you'll be at least interacting with some philosophers who specialize in this topic. And regarding the discussion about experimental philosophy (Stich, moral realism, etc.), your comment was helpful at clarifying what you were getting at.

I want to focus my comment on the Gettier/epistemology issue. It's not entirely clear to me what is wrong with Gettier's concept of justification (or even what precisely his concept of justification is supposed to be). He works from two assumptions in his paper: we can be justified in believing things that are false and justification is closed under logical entailment. (In other words: fallibilism and the closure principle). Some philosophers reject the closure principle, which might help them get out of Gettier counter-examples. Some reject fallibilism. I still don't know where you stand on this.

In your last comment to me you recommend that I take a look at Gettier's paper for myself. Fortunately, I'm already sufficiently familiar with the paper. What I don't understand is this comment of yours:

"For each of his two cases, think through an actual concrete case (i.e. try to implement his abstractions in an imagined real-world case in your head)."

What I don't understand is why the examples Gettier gave in his paper are supposed to be "abstractions" that need to be applied to concrete cases. I thought they were just descriptions of possible concrete cases. That being the case, I don't immediately see the fallacy you're talking about.

For example, suppose Smith has very good reason to believe that Jones owns a Ford. Then Smith has very good reason to believe "Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in _____" (filling in the ____ with some randomly chosen location). This is because being justified in believing P entails that you are also justified in believing (P or Q). As the story goes, Jones actually doesn't happen to own a Ford, despite all of the evidence that he does own one, but by chance Brown does happen to be in Barcelona.

There's nothing in this story that strikes me as a non-concrete "abstraction" (other than the fact that it's a made up story, but that shouldn't matter). So I'm not sure what you're getting at yet.

jcm said...

Despite our disagreement over whether or not Marx distinguished between private (or bourgeois) property and personal property, I must admit that there is tension between my contemporary examples of personal property (not so much the toothbrush as the more luxurious ones, like the TV and car) and Marx’s suggestion in my quote above that, under communism, the worker’s consumption level would be quantitatively comparable to that which it is under wage labor (i.e. that which “merely suffices to prolong and reproduce a bare existence”).

In other words, it’s one thing to abolish “the miserable character of this appropriation [of the products of labor], under which the laborer lives merely to increase capital, and is allowed to live only in so far as the interest of the ruling class requires it”, assuming one accepts Marx’s premise that capitalism is inherently exploitative (see reference below). But it’s quite another to raise his/her material living standards. Judging from my earlier quotes, that’s not even an explicit communist goal. At most, I can recall from the Manifesto the suggestion that economic development is a means to political liberation (e.g. from a couple of the items in its ten-point plan, as well as its injunction that the proletariat “increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible”).

Similarly, in Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program, one can find references to “the productive forces” having “increased with the development of the individual” and “all the springs of co-operative wealth” that “flow more abundantly”, which lead to the realization of the ethic, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!" While these phrases imply greater per capita wealth as a potential, fringe benefit, they do not logically necessitate it (e.g. if the population happens to increase faster than the rate of economic growth). At best, we can infer from such rosy language that Marx assumed that, under communism (or at least its “higher phase”), individual needs are, by definition, satisfied. (Hard to believe that Marx didn’t recognize this vision as utopian, isn’t it?)

But he does not, to my knowledge, specify whether individuals should or should not own, say, their own means of transportation (vs. collective ownership). Rather, it seems that, as long as one’s property “leaves no surplus wherewith to command the labor of others” (whereby “surplus” means that said property has been put to a productive or commercial purpose), one does not violate Marx’s idea of bourgeois exploitation. (See pg. 3 in this encyclopedia entry on “Socialism” by Yale economist John E. Roemer for more on Marx’s definition of exploitation.)

Richard Carrier said...

jcm said... We by no means intend to abolish this personal appropriation of the products of labor

Yes: the state will provide him with all he needs (to each according to his need, from each according to his means). That is not an advocacy of private property. You are reading into the text what isn't there, and ignoring the entirety of the treatise.

You keep doing that, which makes this debate pointless. If you are going to see things that aren't there, it makes no more sense to debate this with you, than to argue with a psychotic who believes he sees Napoleon.

I believe that Marx, were he alive today, would define my toothbrush as personal property, or a “personal appropriation of the products of labor, an appropriation that is made for the maintenance and reproduction of human life, and that leaves no surplus wherewith to command the labor of others.”

Only insofar as the state deemed you in need of a toothbrush, and provided it. That's the entire point of his entire model of communism: that instead of buying toothbrushes with wages earned from labor, you would be given a toothbrush by someone who had too many. Which translates to: someone would make toothbrushes for the state, the state would meet all their needs in return, and then distribute those surplus toothbrushes according to need--anything else is a war of capital: if you get to buy as many toothbrushes as you want, you are hoarding capital; and if you get to sell a toothbrush you're supporting the entire slave wage system by forcing a worker to earn wages to get the toothbrush that he actually, according to Marx, deserves, and thus shouldn't have to earn wages to pay for.

Hence Marx specifically does not say in the passage you quote that the wage earner will get to keep earning his minimum subsistence wage, that instead all his needs should be met without his having to earn a minimum wage to pay for them. That's the entire point of the passage. Read carefully:

“We by no means intend to abolish this personal appropriation of the products of labor [not wages, products--Marx is not saying we'll still get paid and take that money down to the store and buy a toothbrush, he is saying we will be given the means to get a toothbrush without that evil system of wages], an appropriation that is made for the maintenance and reproduction of human life [again, only what he needs], and that leaves no surplus wherewith to command the labor of others” [hence he is specifically saying there will be no surplus, i.e. no wages that he can save to buy anything extra, and thus "command the labor of others": he'll only be given what he needs, and not by being paid a wage but by being given the products he needs directly, since Marx rejected the model referred to in the first sentence: he intends to replace the "wage laborer" with one who can procure what he needs without being enslaved to a wage system, exactly as was realized in the Soviet Union: the state will decide what you need, and supply it; if you have too many, it gets to take the surplus away and give it to someone else--hence you do not have any "property" claims in this system].

Now, you want to believe that's not what Marx is saying. That's fine. You can keep your faith. It's just that in the universe I live in, I can plainly see that what you claim Marx said, is not what Marx said.

only by the united action of many members, nay, in the last resort, only by the united action of all members of society, can it be set in motion. ...etc.

None of your interpretations correspond to the words you are quoting. Indeed, they appear to say exactly the opposite, supporting my every point. You seem lost in a fantasy I can't rescue from. You see Napoleon. I do not. There is no arguing with you. Your delusion is unbreachable.

jcm said...

Yes: the state will provide him with all he needs (to each according to his need, from each according to his means). That is not an advocacy of private property.

That's the entire point of his entire model of communism: that instead of buying toothbrushes with wages earned from labor, you would be given a toothbrush by someone who had too many.

Of course, the toothbrush in question is not "private property" in the Marxian sense (which is commercial or productive in nature); rather, it’s what Marx & Engels termed “personal property.” But most of us use “private property” more broadly to include personal possessions or non-commercial consumable goods. For me, that really is where the debate begins and ends. Whether I’ve convinced you or not, I am even more confident in that proposition than when we started. (Thanks.)

Having said that, I’m willing to go further and concede that it’s unclear (at least from what I can recall) what Marx would have a communist society do to protect personal property against theft. Or was he so naïve as to believe that the problem would simply go away after the revolution? (My impression: yes.) I would also agree that, without wages or markets, huge economic problems arise, which Marx (to my knowledge) never addressed in any rigorous way. Some Marxist economists have since made a valiant effort at addressing these problems, but often by contradicting one or more of Marx’s criticisms of wages, markets, and the state. Yes, even the state.

I’ll follow up on that in the next post.

jcm said...

Marx wrote in his Critique of the Gotha Programme, Part IV:

“Freedom consists in converting the state from an organ superimposed upon society into one completely subordinate to it; and today, too, the forms of state are more free or less free to the extent that they restrict the "freedom of the state".”

Even more strongly, Engels wrote in a related letter:

"The people’s state has been flung in our teeth ad nauseam by the anarchists, although Marx’s anti-Proudhon piece and after it the Communist Manifesto declare outright that, with the introduction of the socialist order of society, the state will dissolve of itself and disappear. Now, since the state is merely a transitional institution of which use is made in the struggle, in the revolution, to keep down one’s enemies by force, it is utter nonsense to speak of a free people’s state; so long as the proletariat still makes use of the state, it makes use of it, not for the purpose of freedom, but of keeping down its enemies and, as soon as there can be any question of freedom, the state as such ceases to exist."

Of course, there are lots of problems with this belief—which, despite the swipe at anarchists, seems to share their long-term goal of a stateless society (or at least one with very limited government), even if they differ sharply in terms of political strategy.

But, for that matter, even in the economic short term (i.e. prior to the “higher phase of communist society” in which the “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” ethic is supposed to finally take effect), Marx allows tools that bear resemblance to wages and markets:

“What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges. Accordingly, the individual producer receives back from society -- after the deductions have been made -- exactly what he gives to it. What he has given to it is his individual quantum of labor. For example, the social working day consists of the sum of the individual hours of work; the individual labor time of the individual producer is the part of the social working day contributed by him, his share in it. He receives a certificate from society that he has furnished such-and-such an amount of labor (after deducting his labor for the common funds); and with this certificate, he draws from the social stock of means of consumption as much as the same amount of labor cost. The same amount of labor which he has given to society in one form, he receives back in another.” (Gotha, Part I)

In other words, the labor certificate may be redeemed for shares in the “social stock of means of consumption”—essentially, a store where I could “buy” my toothbrushes (assuming I had earned certificates through my own contributions). True, at this phase, the state, as the agent of the “proletariat,” is likely involved somehow (e.g. printing the certificates and operating the stores). But we’re still talking about “buying toothbrushes with wages earned from labor”, as opposed to my receiving from the state “a toothbrush by someone who had too many” for free. The latter act may still occur (after all, redistribution occurs even in real-world capitalist societies), but it’s not the primary means by which most people acquire personal property, which is via labor—even in Marx’s lower phase of communist society, before the state has “withered away” (or died out, as Engels suggested—see his Anti-Dühring ).

Richard Carrier said...

You are falling victim to semantics. The people cannot run an economy without governing, and that is a state. They are thus using a semantic trick whereby they are pretending "government by the people" is not a state. Perhaps, as you suggest, they were so stupid as to think there really was a difference, but IMO they mean something different by "state" than you and I do. The result is the same: the people as a community will decide who gets what. There are no property rights in that system, and that was exactly what Marx intended to be the case.

Richard Carrier said...

Landon Hedrick said... It's not entirely clear to me what is wrong with Gettier's concept of justification... Some philosophers reject the closure principle, which might help them get out of Gettier counter-examples. Some reject fallibilism. I still don't know where you stand on this.

For example, suppose Smith has very good reason to believe that Jones owns a Ford. Then Smith has very good reason to believe "Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in _____" (filling in the ____ with some randomly chosen location). This is because being justified in believing P entails that you are also justified in believing (P or Q).

That's a fallacy. Fill in the blank and it's a straightforward non sequitur. From the premise "Smith has very good reason to believe that Jones owns a Ford" it in no possible universe follows that "Smith has very good reason to believe Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in the Moon."

Hence when you translate the abstract into a concrete, the fallacy becomes apparent, and (as the link I pointed you to states), "This led some early responses to Gettier to conclude that the definition of knowledge could be easily adjusted, so that knowledge was justified true belief that depends on no false premises."

Exactly.

In other words, it is not the case that "being justified in believing P entails that you are also justified in believing (P or Q)." Because "P and Q" and "P and not Q" are both coherent propositions, as well as "P or Q," but the warrant for believing P does not provide any warrant for believing any one of the three possibilities regarding Q (= or Q, and Q, not Q) over any other.

You can’t get a justified belief from an unjustified premise. Yet Gettier’s “problem” assumes you can. Since that is bullshit, so is Gettier’s problem.

Richard Carrier said...

Landon Hedrick said... As the story goes, Jones actually doesn't happen to own a Ford, despite all of the evidence that he does own one, but by chance Brown does happen to be in Barcelona.

But the premise was false, so this is a pointless observation. Since Brown could be in Barcelona even if Jones owns a Ford, therefore "Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona" is a statement with no warrant whatever (i.e. it is a statement that is itself unjustified, even if Jones has fully justified belief that Jones owns a Ford). Hence Gettier problems are bullshit, and afford no argument against justification.

If we revise Gettier's 2nd problem so Jones has justified belief in "Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona" (i.e. he has enough evidence to warrant believing that if Jones doesn't own a Ford, then Brown must be in Barcelona), then his case has no value as an argument against justification. And since that is the only occasion in which Jones could have such a justified belief, that eliminates Gettier’s problem.

Gettier wanted to say that we can have a bullshit fallacious belief like "Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in the Moon" and just by accident it could be right, so he would have a justified true belief that doesn’t appear to be knowledge, but that's a semantic mistake: because belief in the disjunction is not justified, a coincidental match between reality and the disjunction does not produce justified true belief. He is bootstrapping. Once you disallow the fallacy of bootstrapping (it is a non sequitur to use an unjustified premise to get a justified conclusion), Gettier problems vanish.

The same goes for his case 1 example. If you go beyond the abstract and try to imagine a real world scenario in which Smith is actually justified in believing "Jones will get the job" and "Jones has 10 coins in his pocket" (i.e. what evidence would he actually need to believe those things, and how would that evidence entail those beliefs), you find the fallacy: when Gettier boostraps from those premises to "the man who will get the job has 10 coins in his pocket [even if Jones doesn't get the job]." The bracketed term is actually entailed by the evidence that warrants Smith's two beliefs, but Gettier, by playing in the abstract and never testing it out in a real world case, is unaware of that entailment, and thus fallaciously drops that term, and gets his bogus result, which he calls a "problem." A problem for Gettier, yes: he needed to get his head out of his ass and live in the real world for a minute or two.

Richard Carrier said...

jcm said... I’m willing to go further and concede that it’s unclear (at least from what I can recall) what Marx would have a communist society do to protect personal property against theft. Or was he so naïve as to believe that the problem would simply go away after the revolution?

Maybe (after all, if all needs are met, who would steal?). But otherwise I'm sure his solution would be obvious enough: the state would just issue the victim a new toothbrush and attempt to apprehend and reform the thief.

Richard Carrier said...

JCM, In your quotation of Gotha you are omitting the fact that that shares system was his imagined transition system, not the Marxist state being transitioned to (see the Wiki on this).

Those shares are also given by the state, and the stores are run by the state, and the prices of things are set by the state. And there is no discussion there of what rights you have to what you acquire in this system. But from his overall argument he intends that the state retains the right to redistribute as it pleases, and you cannot sell what you have. Hence, in Gotha, Marx declares, "nothing can pass to the ownership of individuals."

That's fairly point blank.

jcm said...

You are falling victim to semantics. The people cannot run an economy without governing, and that is a state...

I agree (not to the accusation of “falling victim to semantics”, but to the part about the relationship between governance and running an economy – at least above the scale of a hunting & gathering band). In fact, I think there is recognition of this reality revealed in the Engels quote, where it says that “the state as such ceases to exist” [emphasis mine], implying a specialized (“bourgeois”) nuance in his use of “state.” [This kind of sectarian jargon is analogous to the way they used “private property.”] Nonetheless, there is also an assertion in these writings that the state, historically, stood for the coercive protection of ruling class privilege against the rest of society. (Come to think of it, that’s Marx’s theory of historical materialism in a nutshell.) This class antagonism is supposed to be resolved under communism, thereby nullifying the role of the state as Marx & Engels portrayed it.

I wouldn’t say that theory or vision made them “stupid” (as you put it) – more like: naïve or misguided.

Maybe (after all, if all needs are met, who would steal?). But otherwise I'm sure his solution would be obvious enough: the state would just issue the victim a new toothbrush and attempt to apprehend and reform the thief.

If you’re as skeptical as I am of Marx’s “higher phase of communist society”, then I think we agree that it’s unlikely we’ll ever find out. But I also have seen little evidence of Marx’s confronting hard, practical questions like these regarding how that phase is supposed to work. In fact, from his cornucopian descriptions of that phase, I get the distinct impression that he believed that crimes such as these, if they existed at all, would be negligible, and certainly no serious threat to any individual’s material well being.

I’ll reply to your remarks on Marx’s lower/transitional phase of communism (or what others now call “socialism”) in another post.

jcm said...

Those shares are also given by the state, and the stores are run by the state, and the prices of things are set by the state. And there is no discussion there of what rights you have to what you acquire in this system. But from his overall argument he intends that the state retains the right to redistribute as it pleases, and you cannot sell what you have. Hence, in Gotha, Marx declares, "nothing can pass to the ownership of individuals."

Let’s finish the sentence: “…except individual means of consumption.” And to finish the paragraph: “But as far as the distribution of the latter among the individual producers is concerned, the same principle prevails as in the exchange of commodity equivalents: a given amount of labor in one form is exchanged for an equal amount of labor in another form.”

In other words, in Marx’s lower/transitional phase of communism, individuals may own whatever consumable goods (and presumably services) they can purchase with their earnings. These sound like “property rights” (or state-protected claims) to me, even if they are only components of a transitional system.

Also, we know from the Communist Manifesto that, at this phase, the state (or “proletariat organized as the ruling class”) owns the “instruments of production.” And, in Gotha, we see a rough outline of an economic system in which “the same principle prevails as that which regulates the exchange of commodities, as far as this is exchange of equal values.” Now, one could argue that, even in the real world, every state “retains the right to redistribute as it pleases” (as you characterized Marx’s state). If so (and, after all, what’s to stop it, besides a fear of provoking civil unrest?), then, insofar as it respects the principle of “exchange of equal values” (as Marx asserts), it’s far from obvious that it would act on that right, except perhaps to correct systemic failures (not unlike what occurs in the real world).

Perhaps it would be more likely to do so when society reaches the higher phase of communism (i.e. when it supposedly outgrows the principle of “exchange of equal values”). But then Marx leaves that vision so vague and undeveloped that it’s difficult to do more than to speculate on how that would work (i.e. assuming it even can, say, outside of an ant community). All I can gather from his romantic language is that it’s some kind of utopia (even though Marx bristled at that word), where enough people work because they love to do so, and they are so productive relative to society’s demands, that any suggestion of the state’s forcibly redistributing wealth seems out-of-place, like an intrusion from another novel.

Richard Carrier said...

JCM: Basically, you've gone from denying Marx called for the "the abolition of private property" to theorizing that his ideal system, once fully in place, "might" have preserved some vestiges of property rights (even though he never says this and repeatedly implies the contrary). Even if I granted the latter speculation, Marx still did not say any property rights would be respected, and he still routinely attacked property rights as the cause of all the problems his system, he said, would solve. And it is that very concept (even if attached to some trivial vestiges of ancillary property rights) that produces the inevitable centripetal force I described in the first place. So I don't see any evidence I've mischaracterized what Marx said (only its consequences, I already admitted, he did not foresee).

jcm said...

Basically, you've gone from denying Marx called for the "the abolition of private property" to theorizing that his ideal system, once fully in place, "might" have preserved some vestiges of property rights (even though he never says this and repeatedly implies the contrary).

Just to be clear: There's no denying that Marx & Engels called for the "abolition of private property" -- it just wasn't the broad definition of "private property" that you seemed to suggest. Rather, they confined their definition to what we might call "commercial" or "industrial" (profit- or rent-seeking) property (or what M&E variably called "modern bourgeois private property", or the "means of production" or "instruments of production", while in the hands of the "industrial millionaires", to be expropriated by the proletarian/workers' state). They explicitly distinguished this type of property from that which is "personal", or consumable by individuals (which is where my toothbrush example comes from). Perhaps the strongest evidence of that distinction to be found in this thread is the quote that you started, and which I completed: "nothing can pass to the ownership of individuals except individual means of consumption."

Now, we might disagree over a related topic, which is whether or not the latter, personal type of property qualifies, in Marx's mind, as a "right" that deserves to be protected by law and, if necessary, by force. I fully admit that, from the outset, I am not sure of the answer myself. I certainly cannot recall reading offhand any specific pronouncements on that topic, leaning one way or the other. Judging from his utopian reflections on communinism's projected "higher phase", I get the impression that he believed that such enforcement would eventually become unnecessary. But during the transitional phase (which is as far as any real-world attempt ever got)? He did acknowledge (in Gotha) that such a society would "still be stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges."

jcm said...

Part II:

...And it is that very concept (even if attached to some trivial vestiges of ancillary property rights) that produces the inevitable centripetal force I described in the first place.

I assume that you're referring to your claim (from the interview you gave) that "Marxist societies have in practice abandoned" the qualities of "freethinking, critical, honest, and respectful of liberty", which you and I (and, presumably, anyone else likely to read this thread) share. If so, then I suspect that there's too much there for us to unpack here (especially given that neither of us are experts in this topic), which is partly why I've focused on your far more modest claim (which came later on, in response to one of my comments) about what Marx & Engels meant by "abolition of private property."

That textual dispute aside (which may or may not survive), I would certainly agree that allowing individuals to own their "means of consumption" (i.e. personal possessions, like toothbrushes, clothing, entertainment devices, etc.), while the state (even one claiming to represent the working class) essentially owns the "means of production" (or what Lenin called the "commanding heights of the economy"), provides no guarantee of the desirable qualities that you listed. So, I don't think there's any disagreement between us there.

If, however, you mean to suggest that enforcing the concept of private property rights somehow does provide such a guarantee, then I strongly doubt that.

We know is that Marx saw capitalist accumulation as a type of class exploitation (e.g. factory owners extracting economic surplus produced by others' labor). Whether we buy that premise or not, according to the Yale economist John Roemer (see link above), two traditions developed out of it: one, "initiated by the Bolshevik revolution, was brought to power by the communist party which rule undemocratically, and shunned the use of markets"; the other, "social democracy, in which parties representing workers won state power through democratic means, and attempted to tax profits for the purpose of investment and augmenting workers' consumption (the so-called social wage)." The latter path "did not as a principle abolish private ownership of capital assets, although some firms were nationalized."

I suppose one could argue that the former (Soviet-style) tradition was more "Marxist" than the other (social-democratic) tradition. But, at least for now, I'll just say that both claim Marx as an early influence, and the latter seems to have done a much better job of living up to those four qualities.

Richard Carrier said...

Indeed. European socialism looks nothing like the society envisioned by Marx. It's actually fundamentally capitalistic, with government as a system of redistribution of a fraction of the wealth dividend on that capitalism. Marx would be appalled. And that's my point. Marxism, as even Marx himself prescribed, is unlivable and self-destructive.

And that's even if we grant your still unproven and highly dubious claim that Marx made any sort of distinction between classes of private property (you can only "extract" such a notion by "biblically interpreting" obscure phrases taken out of context that say no such thing in context). But you are just repeating yourself on that point over and over again, so clearly I'm not going to fix that broken record in your brain.

jcm said...

Robert,

I would agree that Marx would not be satisfied with today's "European socialism" (e.g. that of the Nordic countries). So much the worse for Marx, IMO. (Of course, he may still prefer it to the laissez-faire model of capitalism that he critiqued in Capital, but then the same could be said of Keynes, who wrote after Marx's death and who was also dismissive of his work.)

But I did not say that Marx "made any sort of distinction between classes of private property". As I recall (it's been many months since we last communicated), I said that he distinquished between personal property, private property, and social property. If I had claimed that Marx subsumed personal property under private property (as he defined these categories), then we would have already resolved this dispute. After all, we agree that he aimed to abolish private property (again, as he defined it, not as you do).

jcm said...

Sorry, Richard, for mistakenly calling you Robert.

Richard Carrier said...

No worries.

Richard Carrier said...

Are We Our Brains?

Pikemann Urge said... A brain, to have any value in any way, needs a sensory I/O system to examine and express.

But any will do. You can fully replace yours with mine and it wouldn't change you as a person. That's because our I/O system only produces raw, uninterpreted data (a bare signal, with no personality or decisions stamped on it), which only our brain converts into intelligible perceptions (like shapes and colors), just as only our brain produces output signals that constitute products of you as a person (e.g. speech). Hence if a singer loses her larynx she doesn't become a different person, just the same person with a lost tool.

The only middle case is muscle memory and autonomic nervous functions, which are built into the spinal cord and peripheral nerves, but again none of that constitutes you as a person (if you become paralyzed you do not cease being you, you just become you with a broken locomotion system).

Imagine a brain, right from the beginning, with no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin or other nerves. Will such an isolated brain develop anything beyond the consciousness of a foetus?

Obviously a mind needs data to develop as a person. That's not necessarily the case (i.e. we could build a mind that was designed to generate it's own data or came pre-packaged with data), it's just what evolution gave us (for obvious reasons). That has nothing to do with what constitutes you as a person. The I/O system is no more a part of you than the universe that that I/O system interacts with (e.g. imagine a brain with eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin or other nerves, but no universe to interact with them--the effect is identical).

The 'self' is a product of outside events and its reactions to it.

I agree, but that's irrelevant to the proposition "you are your brain." What molded your brain to become you is not you, it's the thing that made you.

There is no 'I' without the world other than and outside of 'I'.

Yes, but it does not thereby follow that "the world outside of you" is also "you."

Richard Carrier said...

What's Wrong with Philosophy These Days

Landon Hedrick said... I think you commented that the referee who read your paper told you that you should interact more with the other work that's already been done on the problem, and I agree with him.

Which would make sense if I were writing about the whole of metaethics as a field. But when I have a logically valid syllogism and every premise is factually confirmed, it's as stupid to then ask me to address the whole field of metaethics as it would have been to insist Einstein address the entire history of the study of gravity and all studies thereto in his paper proposing special relativity.

So best scenario: you work on the project and get it published in a peer-reviewed journal.

As I've discovered, that's impossible, because of a Catch-22 the stupid standards of the field created: any paper that addresses all the things the reviewers want must necessarily become longer than the word limit on every journal. Thus it's physically impossible to get my theory published in peer reviewed philosophy journals. Either they greatly expand their word limits (which would be absurd) or they stop making such elaborately excessive requirements to add wordage (which there is no sign of their planning to do).

The bottom line is, a valid syllogism none of whose premises can be denied should be accepted by peer review. Period. Any field that rejects that standard is bankrupt. If I have to bypass that bankrupt system to get such an argument published, that's what I have to do. As I've already said, I'll get metaethicists to vett the work. But I'll be setting the standards: if they can find no errors of logic or fact, then I count the paper a pass. No bullshit about "but I still think you should address Dr. Nobodygivesashit and his Harebrainednonsense Theory of Nobodycarees."

Not even the experimental philosophers doing these experiments would think that the subjects are "fully informed, fully rational, etc."

That's not what I meant. What I meant was, the conditions they implied had been met, were not met. In other words, they incorrectly reported what had actually happened in their experiment--hence their conclusion was invalidly reached.

You were the one who said "his other talk argued something that I think you would disagree with: that even given idealized conditions (in which individuals were fully informed, fully rational, etc.), there would still be moral disagreements." In other words, you were the one who said the experimental philosophers doing these experiments would think that the subjects are "fully informed, fully rational, etc." I'm not the one who said that, you were. So it's nice to see you agreeing with me, by now refuting what you yourself had earlier said. Thanks. Now we're on the same page: no experimental philosopher has created that condition, thus none can have reached any valid (empirical) conclusions about what would obtain in that condition. That's what I said.

Richard Carrier said...

Gettier's Goofs

Landon Hedrick said... In your discussion of the Gettier cases, you say that his cases are not genuine cases of "justified true beliefs," but then you say that you prefer to use the word "warranted" instead of "justified," as if you're just re-naming the same concept Gettier was talking about.

No, I'm not. That's my point. What he's talking about is unobtainable. What I'm talking about is what we actually have, and thus what we actually pursue and obtain.

I don't know why you think Gettier committed fallacies.

It's self-evident. I'll cover each case following...

Richard Carrier said...

Gettier's Goofs, Volume I

Smith has applied for a job, but, it is claimed, has a justified belief that "Jones will get the job". He also has a justified belief that "Jones has 10 coins in his pocket". Smith therefore (justifiably) concludes (by the rule of the transitivity of identity) that "the man who will get the job has 10 coins in his pocket". In fact, Jones does not get the job. Instead, Smith does. However, as it happens, Smith (unknowingly and by sheer chance) also had 10 coins in his pocket. So his belief that "the man who will get the job has 10 coins in his pocket" was justified and true. But it does not appear to be knowledge.


Start with this: How can Smith have a "justified true belief that Jones will get the job"? This must be accounted for (i.e. he can't believe this willy nilly for no reason, as just stipulated it's supposed to be justified and true). For example, the interviewer says Jones will get the job. And to be a "true" belief, what the interviewer says must in fact come true. This is Gettier's own stipulation.

Then ask this: How can Smith have a "justified belief" that "Jones has 10 coins in his pocket"? This must also be accounted for. Moreover, for Gettier's argument to be formally valid, Smith must have "justified true belief" that "Jones has 10 coins in his pocket," not merely a "justified belief" that such (otherwise, the premises do not commute to the conclusion, i.e. he cannot have a justified true belief that the man who will get the job has 10 coins in his pocket if he has no justified true belief that Jones has 10 coins in his pocket; and Gettier is saying the conclusion follows that he has a justified true belief that the man who will get the job has 10 coins in his pocket). How would Smith have a justified true belief in this? For example, Smith put the 10 coins in Jones' pocket only moments before the interviewer tells Smith Jones will get the job, and for this belief to be "true" it necessarily follows nothing can have then happened to those coins. Again, that's all what Gettier is stipulating. He can't claim otherwise without committing a fallacy of equivocation.

But then Gettier changes the rules and says the belief he stipulated was true (that Jones would get the job) is false. That's self-contradictory. It can't be false if it was true. So which is it? If it was a false belief, it was never "justified true belief" and thus never knowledge (according to Gettier). And we shouldn't be surprised if we discover Jones lacked knowledge because he had false beliefs. That's exactly what we should always expect!

Gettier is thus saying that Smith had a justified true belief that was false. Which is incoherent. If, instead, we drop this nonsense about "justified true beliefs" and just talk about warranted beliefs, we can get this: Smith was warranted in believing that Jones would get the job and that Jones would have 10 coins in his pocket, which entails the belief that the man who would get the job would have 10 coins in his pocket if and only if Jones is the man who gets the job (otherwise, the belief that the man who would get the job would have 10 coins in his pocket is not entailed by those other beliefs, and what isn't entailed by warranted beliefs is not a warranted belief).

Richard Carrier said...

Gettier's Goofs, Volume II

Even worse is case II:

Smith, it is claimed by the hidden interlocutor, has a justified belief that "Jones owns a Ford". Smith therefore (justifiably) concludes (by the rule of disjunction introduction) that "Jones owns a Ford, or Brown is in Barcelona", even though Smith has no knowledge whatsoever about the location of Brown. In fact, Jones does not own a Ford, but by sheer coincidence, Brown really is in Barcelona. Again, Smith had a belief that was true and justified, but not knowledge.

Stop and pay attention here. Look up the rule of disjunction introduction. What does it require? The rule (if A, then A or B or {A and B}) requires that A be true. But Gettier is saying it isn't true ("in fact, Jones does not own a Ford"), therefore the rule of disjunction introduction doesn't apply. So how can Smith have had a justified TRUE belief that Jones owns a Ford, when Gettier is stipulating that that belief is not true?

See the problem? Again, Gettier's argument is self-contradictory.

If you redefine "justified true belief" so that the beliefs in question don't have to actually be true to be called "justified true beliefs" (perverse, but what the hell), then you eliminate the contradiction (i.e. Gettier can now consistently say "a belief that A is false" and at the same time "the belief that A is justified and true"), but in so doing, you eliminate the problem the case is supposed to produce.

Here, in that case, all that Gettier would be stipulating is that if Smith believes (even falsely) that Jones owns a Ford, then Smith can justifiably believe (even falsely) "Jones owns a Ford, or Brown is in Barcelona" (or both--remember, the rule of disjunction introduction requires this trichotomy). In no way does it follow that Smith believes Brown is in Barcelona--i.e. that belief in no way follows from the proposition "either Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona" and in fact if Smith believes Jones owns a Ford, he must believe either Brown is not in Barcelona or that he is (i.e. if "either Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona" and Jones owns a Ford, then Brown is not in Barcelona--hence the rule of disjunction introduction requires a trichotomy, "Jones owns a Ford, or Brown is in Barcelona, or both," so if Jones owns a Ford, then either Brown is not in Barcelona (i.e. "not both," i.e. if only x or y, then if x, then not y), or he is in Barcelona (i.e. "both")). So where here does Smith end up with any belief that Brown is in Barcelona? It never comes up.

Try as you might, you'll never get any logical argument out of this. Gettier problems are logically incoherent nonsense.

GJ said...

Your treatment of the Gettier problem is almost too malformed to assess.

In the Gettier II case, the following proposition is true:

Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona.

Smith believes that this proposition is true, and he's justified in believing it's true. The falsity of the first disjunct doesn't render the proposition false; and it's the entire proposition that's true, and justifiably believed to be true, not the first disjunct.

So the obvious response to your question:

"[H]ow can Smith have had a justified TRUE belief that Jones owns a Ford when Gettier is stipulating that that belief is not true?"

is: "He can't!"

And this is because, as Gettier has constructed the case, Smith has a justified TRUE belief that:

Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona.

Nothing you've said comes even remotely close to establishing that Gettier's argument is "self-contradictory."

GJ said...

"As I've discovered, that's impossible, because of a Catch-22 the stupid standards of the field created: any paper that addresses all the things the reviewers want must necessarily become longer than the word limit on every journal. Thus it's physically impossible to get my theory published in peer reviewed philosophy journals."

And yet dozens of talented philosophers get THEIR metaethical theories published in peer reviewed philosophy journals every month. Odd, that. Ever entertained the possibility that your theory is a load of bunk?

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... In the Gettier II case, the following proposition is true: Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona. Smith believes that this proposition is true, and he's justified in believing it's true. The falsity of the first disjunct doesn't render the proposition false; and it's the entire proposition that's true, and justifiably believed to be true, not the first disjunct.

That's not the problem. The Gettier problem is what is then presumed to follow from this observation. If all we're talking about is the paragraph above, there is no problem.

So the obvious response to your question: "[H]ow can Smith have had a justified TRUE belief that Jones owns a Ford when Gettier is stipulating that that belief is not true?" is: "He can't!"

Exactly my point. Hence his conclusion doesn't follow, as I explained.

And this is because, as Gettier has constructed the case, Smith has a justified TRUE belief that: Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona. Nothing you've said comes even remotely close to establishing that Gettier's argument is "self-contradictory."

You clearly don't understand Gettier's argument. You didn't even mention the conclusion to Case II! The conclusion is that Smith has justified true belief that isn't knowledge.

As you just characterized the problem, this conclusion simply isn't produced. You never even tried to produce it--and you won't be able to, that's my point. That's what's logically incoherent: the claim that the facts you just ennumerated entail that Smith has justified true belief that isn't knowledge.

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... And yet dozens of talented philosophers get THEIR metaethical theories published in peer reviewed philosophy journals every month.

Entire metaethical theories in a journal article? (every month even!?)

I'm calling you on that one. Name one case.

And be advised: I'll check.

GJ said...

"You clearly don't understand Gettier's argument. You didn't even
mention the conclusion to Case II! The conclusion is that Smith has
justified true belief that isn't knowledge."

Huh? I said, and I quote:

"Smith has a justified TRUE belief that: Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona."

Now I didn't, to be sure, add that, according to Gettier, Smith's justified true belief that Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona doesn't constitute knowledge, but I presumed you could fill in that blank. It turns out you couldn't.

YOU'RE the one who doesn't understand--doesn't even come close to understanding--Gettier's argument. His argument purports to show that a subject can justifiably believe a true proposition without knowing that proposition. In the case under consideration, the subject, Smith, knows a true disjunction. To make good on your claim that Gettier (and pretty much every other epistemologist on the planet) has embroiled himself in "self-contradiction," you have to demonstrate that the disjunction is false, that Smith doesn't believe the disjunction, or that Smith isn't justified in believing the disjunction.

But, of course, you've done nothing of the sort. You seem to want to argue that Smith isn't justified in believing the disjunction, but that's bogus (or at least a proponent of Gettier's argument could say it's bogus): he's justified in believing it because it follows directly from a proposition (i.e. that Jones owns a Ford) that he is uncontroversially justified in believing.

GJ said...

"Entire metaethical theories in a journal article? (every month even!?)"

ENTIRE metaethical theories, depending on what you mean by this, are typically found in books (Smith's 'The Moral Problem', Shafer-Landau's 'Moral Realism', etc.). But you know as well as I do that there are literally hundreds (thousands?) of articles in top philosophical journals in which philosophers propound their metaethical views, and sometimes in rich detail.

What is more, a number of metaethicists have at least encapsulated their overall views in journal articles. E.g.: Shafer-Landau, "A Defence of Motivational Externalism" (Phil Studies); Wong, "Internal and External Reasons" (PPR); Fantl, "Is Metaethics Morally Neutral?" (PPQ); Stevenson, "The Emotive Meaning of Ethical Terms" (can't remember the original source of this one, but it's much-anthologized).

Those are off the top of my head.

GJ said...

Correction:

In my post above, re Gettier, it should read:

"In the case under consideration, the subject, Smith, justifiably believes..."

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... Now I didn't, to be sure, add that, according to Gettier, Smith's justified true belief that Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona doesn't constitute knowledge, but I presumed you could fill in that blank. It turns out you couldn't.

No, you are missing the point. The proposition "A or B" is only true if A; if ~A, then it's logically possible that "neither A nor B" and since a disjunct that excludes a logical possibility is an invalid disjunct, the proposition "A or B" is false when A is false. We can never have a "justified true belief" in a false proposition. Thus, at no point does Smith have a justified true belief that isn't knowledge. Either he has no justified true belief, or he has a justified true belief that is knowledge. Take your pick. There is no third option.

Seriously. Try it. Try to get the third option from Gettier's scenario. You won't be able to. That's my point.

Richard Carrier said...

GJ To make good on your claim that Gettier (and pretty much every other epistemologist on the planet) has embroiled himself in "self-contradiction," you have to demonstrate that the disjunction is false

I did. The disjunction "A or B" is only true if A is true. That's a requirement of the rule of disjunction introduction (I even linked to the explanation of that rule; you evidently don't know the rule and didn't check that link). For the reason I just stated above (I assumed you knew that, so I didn't think I had to state it, but now I have, so follow along).

Thus if "Jones owns a Ford" is false (ergo A is false), the proposition "Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona" (ergo "A or B") is false (because if A is false, then "neither A nor B" is possible, i.e. "neither does Jones own a Ford nor is Brown in Barcelona," and if that's possible, it's no longer the case that "Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona").

So Gettier can't produce his conclusion. Either Jones' belief in A is false (and thus is not justified true belief) or it's true. If it's true, his belief in "A or B" is knowledge. If it's false, his belief in "A or B" is neither knowledge nor justified true belief.

Again, this is because "A or B" is only true if A, by definition. Indeed, it becomes justified to believe "A or B" only on the conditional "If A, then A or B," such that if not A, then the consequent doesn't follow and thus was never justified. But even worse, it's not only not justified, it's also not true. Maybe it will help to state it in probability theory: P(A or B|A) = 100%, but P(A or B|~A) = 0%, and that which has zero probability of being true can never be true and thus can never be a true belief.

Catch 22. As I said.

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... You seem to want to argue that Smith isn't justified in believing the disjunction, but that's bogus (or at least a proponent of Gettier's argument could say it's bogus): he's justified in believing it because it follows directly from a proposition (i.e. that Jones owns a Ford) that he is uncontroversially justified in believing.

The Gettier problem doesn't follow from his merely being justified in believing it. It follows from it being justified true belief. Emphasis on true. If we allow that he has a justified untrue belief, then the problem goes away. No one has any problem accepting that a justified untrue belief isn't knowledge. Indeed, by definition it isn't knowledge (since Gettier is defining knowledge as justified true belief; if we redefine knowledge as merely justified belief, then Smith has knowledge, and the problem goes away again).

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... ENTIRE metaethical theories, depending on what you mean by this, are typically found in books

Exactly.

Hence you evidently didn't understand what I was talking about.

This shouldn't have to be the case. An entire metaethical theory can be defended with a simple set of syllogisms if all the premises are uncontroversial or easily established (i.e. established by existing scholarship that need merely be cited, or by the direct observation of the reader). Thus there is no reason they can't appear in journal articles. Except for the irrational requirements they set, which necessitate belaboring what should be a simple point.

But you know as well as I do that there are literally hundreds (thousands?) of articles in top philosophical journals in which philosophers propound their metaethical views, and sometimes in rich detail.

Not really. I'll start with the first example you listed (if you insist the others are relevantly different, I'll take up the next example, and so on, until you get the point).

Shafer-Landau, "A Defence of Motivational Externalism" (Phil Studies 97, 2000) This is a piece of history of philosophy. He does not actually defend any metaethical theory (he fully admits he is addressing only one counter-view, and doesn't even refute it but merely shifts the burdon onto it--which he needs 10,000 words to accomplish!). In actual practice the article just surveys different views and opinions (it name drops like crazy), and thus talks at length about thinkers and their thoughts, and criticizes them and makes proposals, but never actually completes a defense of anything.

That's exactly the opposite of what I am doing, which is establishing a conclusion from unarguable premises. What peer reviewers insist I do is what Shafer-Landau did, which isn't in fact philosophy, but history of philosophy. He doesn't even end up with a conclusion other than what "may come" from the sort of thinking he suggests throughout. Indeed, he outright says, "The best we can do in the compass of a short essay is to develop presumptive considerations that locate a burden of proof." That's pretty lame. If peer reviewers didn't require him to talk at inordinate length about everyone else and their concerns and claims, but instead just let him present a system of syllogisms derived from unarguable premises, he could have actually "defended" motivational externalism. Instead, the stupid requirements of his field cowed him into coming nowhere near doing that and instead even claiming it can't be done!

Progress is impossible in a field held to such self-defeating standards.

GJ said...

I retract my claim that your treatment of the Gettier problem is almost too malformed to assess.

You've got me thinking.

My reaction stemmed from the simplicity (perhaps "elegance" is more apt) of your response--it seemed too easy. It's true that, according to the rule for disjunction introduction, we have to assume that the premise is true. In the Gettier II case, however, the premise turns out to be false, and so it would seem that Gettier isn't entitled to say that it's true that Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona (since he arrives at the 'truth' of this disjunction via disjunction introduction on 'Jones owns a Ford', which is false.)

Here's a possible response on behalf of Gettier. My initial reaction after reading your response to my post was to say, "Well, yes A is false, but since B is true, 'A or B' is true." There is something intuitive about this, and Gettier himself exploits it.

Perhaps a response could be mustered on the basis of this intuition.

Actually, nevermind...I can't see how it would work.

GJ said...

It's true that philosophical journals typically require that authors demonstrate familiarity with the work of others, but there's a reason for this. Given the large number of philosophical journals, editors want to avoid publishing pieces containing arguments that have been published elsewhere. In short, they want to ensure that their journal publishes articles that make an original contribution. An author's showing that he's familiar with x, y, and z's work helps accomplish this.

But really: most of the 'history of philosophy', as you call it, can be done in footnotes. How much were you asked to add? And why didn't you just send the article to a different journal?

The bottom line is that if you have a good metaethical theory, you can publish it. You may have to play the game a little, and you may not get the piece into, say, Phil Review or JPhil (those two really are trashy 'history of philosophy' journals, i.e. journals that publish horribly long-winded articles in which philosophers simply talk about each other's views), but what about the dozens of other good philosophical journals?

GJ said...

On the topic of publishing in philosophy, why haven't you (perhaps you have) written a paper that sets out your response to Gettier and sent it to 'Analysis'?

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... It's true that, according to the rule for disjunction introduction, we have to assume that the premise is true. In the Gettier II case, however, the premise turns out to be false, and so it would seem that Gettier isn't entitled to say that it's true that Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona (since he arrives at the 'truth' of this disjunction via disjunction introduction on 'Jones owns a Ford', which is false.)

It's not that "Gettier isn't entitled to say that it's true that Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona" but that Gettier is wrong to conclude that Smith has a justified true belief that "Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona." In the scenario Gettier posits, Smith has no such belief (i.e. he might have the belief, but it won't be justified or true, or if somehow justified, it nevertheless won't be true).

Thus there is no problem. Smith doesn't have knowledge, because his belief that "Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona" wasn't true.

My initial reaction after reading your response to my post was to say, "Well, yes A is false, but since B is true, 'A or B' is true." There is something intuitive about this, and Gettier himself exploits it.

No, that won't work, because Gettier already posits that Smith knows nothing about Brown (hence nothing about B), i.e. he has no justified true belief that Brown is in Barcelona. Therefore he cannot have a justified true belief that A or B from having a justified true belief that B, because he doesn't have a justified true belief that B.

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... It's true that philosophical journals typically require that authors demonstrate familiarity with the work of others, but there's a reason for this.

That reason is invalid. Just as it is invalid in science (hence my Einstein example earlier). Let that be done in history of philosophy journals. Actual philosophy journals should be doing philosophy, just as actual science journals do science. If you've ever seen a history of science journal, you'll see what I mean: the articles therein look exactly like the philosophy articles you are trying to defend. That's because they're doing history, not philosophy.

I'm not the first to notice this. Mario Bunge's Crisis and Reconstruction in Philosophy (which I highly recommend) mentions this as well as several other things I've noted (here and on OEN). And he has a Ph.D. in philosophy and an impressive cv. So it's not just me.

Given the large number of philosophical journals, editors want to avoid publishing pieces containing arguments that have been published elsewhere.

That doesn't require the method you are defending. Science journals have exactly the same interest, yet don't do this. Indeed, in my experience, philosophy journals don't even succeed at that even by this stupid method, since unlike science, there is no comprehensive database establishing what has been argued where and whether it has been vetted or by whom.

Basically, if a journal's peer reviewers already know what articles an author hasn't mentioned, they don't need him to mention them to know if his article is novel, whereas if they need the author to tell them what's already been published, then they aren't qualified to say his article is novel (since if he missed something, so then will they).

But really: most of the 'history of philosophy', as you call it, can be done in footnotes.

It can be done in history of philosophy journals. Full stop.

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... How much were you asked to add?

More than the word count limits of all extant journals.

And why didn't you just send the article to a different journal?

I did. That's the problem: every one sent a different list of "you didn't talk about X" requirements (which is perverse: they can't even agree who I'm supposed to mention and discuss; and satisfying both would double the work and word count needed to satisfy the field's bloated requirements).

On the topic of publishing in philosophy, why haven't you (perhaps you have) written a paper that sets out your response to Gettier and sent it to 'Analysis'?

If I had the time. Remember, they will require me to read and cite and discuss everything written by Gettier on this and about Gettier on this. History of philosophy. Alas. I'm not wasting my time on that bullsh*t. Even if they'd let me just publish the simple statement I provided, maybe it would be worth the time, but then for all my luck they'll just tell me it's been done already (and it's just that, there being no comprehensive database, no one knows it). For example, if you have the time, read the section in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Gettier problems--I notice there is a long section there on analytical responses. Perhaps what I said is already said there. But it's just too trivial to warrant my concern. However, if it's of enough interest to you (we all have different interests, I don't begrudge that), do report back what you find.

GJ said...

I know a bit (by no means a lot--I don't do epistemology) about the Gettier problem, and my impression is that virtually all epistemologists think that Gettier showed that the JTB account of knowledge fails (or at least needs to be amended). More to the point, I don't know of any published article in which it's argued that Gettier's argument is logically faulty. I'll take a closer look, though. If I find anything, I'll let you know.

This may bore you, but I'm wondering if your approach to the Gettier problem can handle all Gettier-style cases. In Clark's early response to Gettier, we're asked to suppose that Smith believes, on the basis of Brown's say so, that Jones owns a Ford. This is good evidence for Smith because Brown is a good friend and has always been honest. But now suppose that Brown has slipped up and has confused Jones with someone else. Further suppose, however, that Jones has just bought a Ford. In this case, Clark argues, Smith justifiably believes, but doesn't know, the following true proposition:

(a) Jones owns a Ford.

It's not the case that (a) is false, since Jones does own a Ford, and it's not the case that Smith doesn't believe (a), since, well, he does. Would you argue that, since Brown got lucky about Jones's owning a Ford, it's not the case that Smith JUSTIFIABLY believes (a)?

My apologies if this has already been discussed on this thread.

GJ said...

As it turns out, what you've said about the Gettier problem may have been said before (roughly). One article that I came across, Levi's 'The Gettier Problem and the Parable of the Coins' (Philosophy, 1995), comes close, though I only skimmed it.

McGrew & McGrew's 'Internalism and the Collapse of the Gettier Problem' (Journal of Philosophical Research, 1998) also seems to say something similar, though I just read the abstract.

GJ said...

A final kick at the can. You say:

"It's not that 'Gettier isn't entitled to say that it's true that Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona' but that Gettier is wrong to conclude that Smith has a justified true belief that 'Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona.' In the scenario Gettier posits, Smith has no such belief (i.e. he might have the belief, but it won't be justified or true, or if somehow justified, it nevertheless won't be true)."

But something's awry here. You claim that, in the scenario Gettier posits, the following proposition is false:

(a) Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona.

But it's simply NOT the case that (a) is false. It's true in virtue of the truth of the second disjunct. If you want to claim that it's false, then you have to deny that a disjunction is true just in case one (or both) of its disjuncts is true; in other words, you have to deny a basic logical truth.

I think my earlier assessment was correct, namely, that, on your analysis of the problem, Smith doesn't JUSTIFIABLY believe (a). This is the only option, since Smith believes (a) and (a) is true.

Earlier you said:

"Thus if 'Jones owns a Ford' is false (ergo A is false), the proposition 'Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona' (ergo 'A or B') is false (because if A is false, then 'neither A nor B' is possible, i.e. 'neither does Jones own a Ford nor is Brown in Barcelona,' and if that's possible, it's no longer the case that 'Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona')."

It's true that if A is false, then neither A nor B is possible, but, again, in the envisaged scenario, B is true (i.e. Brown is in Barcelona). Hence the disjunction of which "Brown is in Barcelona" is a part is true.

Landon Hedrick said...

Richard,

I was surprised by some of your recent comments to me, since they seemed to cover the same ground we had already covered before. For example, we had already come to a resolution on the issue of your metaethics paper (just re-read the back-and-forth comments and you'll see that our discussion about that had already come to a close), and we also had concluded our discussion of the experimental philosophy issue as it related to moral realism (again, look back at the comments). So it was weird that you went back and quoted my earlier statements and replied to them yet again. Did you forget that we had already had that discussion?

I will defer to my previous comment regarding your metaethics paper and the experimental philosophy issue. (Though I originally planned on writing a bit of a response to your recent dig on the latter issue, since I think you've misunderstood what I've written. I don't think I "refuted myself", since I didn't ever claim--or intend to claim, at least--what you interpreted me as claiming. You and I are probably in agreement on the issue as a whole, from the looks of it.)

Landon Hedrick said...

As for the Gettier issue, I see you've had a bit of a conversation with a professional philosopher here. I think I might spend some time going through everything and offering a more thorough analysis, but if I do that it will have to be later. My judgment at present is that you're either pushing an objection to Gettier cases that was raised and answered decades ago, or else you're just confused. But I might be wrong, since I haven't studied your replies in detail yet. I see that GJ (a professional philosopher) has said that there might be something to your objection after all, so I won't say anything definitive about the issue until I've had more time to think about your objection.

In addition to my basic present judgment, which isn't worth much without more elaboration, let me follow up on something GJ has brought up, which I've been thinking about the entire time. What about the other "Gettier cases" that are found in the subsequent literature? Many of the early responses to Gettier can be avoided by different examples. For example, what do you make of this case:

You're driving down some country roads somewhere you've never been before. You occasionally see things that look to you exactly like barns. Little do you know, this is "fake barn country," which is a place where inhabitants have erected barn facades to make it look like there are more barns than there really are. From the road, they look exactly like regular barns. As you pass a real barn that happens to be in the area, you form the belief "That's a fine barn." (If you're concerned about the "fine" judgment affecting the truth value, just change the belief to "that's a barn.") The belief happens to be true, as this is actually one of the real barns in the area. And the belief seems to be justified, since you know what barns look like, your eyesight is normal (and pretty reliable), etc. Indeed, it seems natural for the rest of us to say that your belief was justified and true, but that it was just not knowledge because it was only 'accidentally true. But this is not a case of knowledge, despite being a justified true belief.

Now you can either say that this is not a belief, that it is not true, or that it is not justified. By hypothesis, the only route available to you is to deny that it is a justified belief. And if you do this, it looks like your qualifications for justification are rather demanding, since if this belief isn't justified, then most of our beliefs probably won't be either. After all, this looks like a clear case of a justified belief. You might object that it would normally be justified to believe such a thing, but just not when you're in fake barn country. From your own subjective point of view, though, you're in exactly the same circumstances either way, since you don't know you're in fake barn country. (If you did know you were there, then you would have a defeater for your belief, and it would obviously be an unjustified belief.)

It looks like what you'll end up doing is holding to a strong view of justification called "infallibilism." Basically it's the view that you can only be justified in believing things that are true, so there cannot be justified false beliefs. This would indeed solve the Gettier cases, but accepting such a solution would not show that Gettier was an idiot (as you seem to think he is), since he recognized this himself in his paper! He says right up front that the argument rests on the assumption that you can have justified false beliefs.

Maybe you would say something else about this case. I'd be interested in seeing how you'd respond. By the way, GJ is correct (I think) in his claim that basically all epistemologists think Gettier cases refute the JTB account.

GJ said...

"It looks like what you'll end up doing is holding to a strong view of justification called 'infallibilism.' Basically it's the view that you can only be justified in believing things that are true, so there cannot be justified false beliefs. This would indeed solve the Gettier cases, but accepting such a solution would not show that Gettier was an idiot (as you seem to think he is), since he recognized this himself in his paper! He says right up front that the argument rests on the assumption that you can have justified false beliefs."

I agree that, according to Richard's approach to the Gettier problem, the subjects don't justifiably believe the relevant proposition (if this is, in fact, the view you're ascribing to him). As I've already mentioned, this is the only way to (charitably) construe his approach, since the relevant propositions (e.g., 'Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona') are true (contra Richard) and the subjects believe them.

However, I'm not sure he's committed to infallibilism (a view which is obviously false--of course we can have justified false beliefs). Take the Gettier II scenario. Isn't it simply the case that Smith isn't justified in believing that Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona because he arrived at that true belief on the basis of luck (i.e., his guess that Brown is in Barcelona turned out to be true)? Gettier's argument fails, on this account, because he hasn't given us a case of justified true belief, but rather a case of mere true belief.

I've recently discovered that this kind of response to Gettier has been in the wind for a long time. And it's not clear if all Gettier-style cases can be rebutted along these lines (probably not, though a case could be made, I think, that the subject in the barn case you adduced doesn't have a justified belief).

GJ said...

Richard, I've pinpointed the problems with your argument for the claim that the disjunction in the Gettier II case is false.

As I mentioned earlier, the disjunction cannot be false, since, in the scenario Gettier posits, one of the disjuncts (i.e. Brown is in Barcelona) is true.

In response to my claim that you didn't demonstrate that the disjunction is false, you said:

"I did. The disjunction 'A or B' is only true if A is true. That's a requirement of the rule of disjunction introduction...Thus if 'Jones owns a Ford' is false (ergo A is false), the proposition 'Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona' (ergo 'A or B') is false..."

No. A or B can still be true if B is true; and in the Gettier II case, B is true (i.e. Brown is in Barcelona).

In anticipation of this response, you go on to explain why you think it follows that A or B is false:

"...(because if A is false, then 'neither A nor B' is possible, i.e. 'neither does Jones own a Ford nor is Brown in Barcelona,' and if that's possible, it's no longer the case that 'Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona')."

This is muddled. It's true that if A is false, then neither A nor B is possible, but why suppose that this possibility has been borne out? Again, in the Gettier II case it hasn't, since Brown is in Barcelona.

Later you put your argument this way:

"Again, this is because 'A or B' is only true if A, by definition. Indeed, it becomes justified to believe 'A or B' only on the conditional 'If A, then A or B,' such that if not A, then the consequent doesn't follow and thus was never justified."

Here you betray your confusion. It's true that one is justified in believing A or B only on the conditional "If A, then A or B," but even if A is false, it doesn’t follow that A or B is false. You've committed the fallacy of denying the antecedent. Specifically, you say:

"'If A, then A or B,' such that if not A, then the consequent doesn't follow..."

No. To repeat, even if A is false, A or B could still be true. At the risk of being tedious, this is a fallacious inference:

If A, then A or B.
~A
Therefore, ~(A or B)

Notice how, in the above quote, you talk about one's being justified (or not) in believing A or B. What you've perhaps shown, if anything, is that Smith isn't justified in believing A or B. You haven't shown that A or B is false. And this, of course, you can't show, since it's patently true (in the Gettier II case).

It bears mention that, if, in fact, one's conclusion is true, the pattern of inference one uses to arrive at that conclusion doesn't affect the truth of that conclusion. E.g., if I concluded, on the basis of an illegitimate pattern of inference, that 2 + 2 = 4, it wouldn't follow that it's false that 2 + 2 = 4. Similarly, Smith, in the Gettier II case, seems to arrive at the truth of A or B using an illegitimate pattern of inference, but it doesn't follow that A or B is false.

Landon Hedrick said...

GJ,

I'm not sure that infallibilism is "obviously false." It strikes me as pretty implausible, but I think it is defended by some philosophers (e.g. Clayton Littlejohn). By the way, Linda Zagzebski has argued in "The Inescapability of Gettier Problems" that any theory of knowledge retains the assumption of fallibilism will run into Gettier counter-instances.

Regarding the Gettier II case, I suppose Richard could simply claim that the process that Smith has used to arrive at his belief has made it a lucky belief, which is unjustified. But it still looks like he has to deny one of Gettier's two assumptions (fallibilism and closure) in order to get out of Gettier's conclusion. Closure gets you from a justified belief in "A" to a justified belief in "A or B", since by hypothesis "A" is justified. Maybe the disjunction introduction does something tricky here, I'm undecided at the moment. In any case, Richard presumably does not just want to criticize Gettier's examples, but all examples of JTB not equaling knowledge. Or at least that was the sense that I got from our exchange. So the disjunction introduction examples can be chucked if we think that might pose a problem, and we still have cases of JTB that does not equal knowledge.

Regarding the barn case, it would be interesting to see if people do indeed think that the belief is unjustified! From a subjective standpoint, if you're not justified in this case then it looks like skepticism is knocking at the door. Of course, the case is special since you're in fake barn country, and maybe that is supposed to take away your justification. Why it would take away your justification is not exactly clear.

But other cases can be used as well. You see what looks exactly like a sheep in a field, so you form the belief "There's a sheep in that field." As it happens, you're looking at a realistic hologram, but by chance there is a sheep out of view behind a hill in that very field, so your belief is true, but accidentally true. You can't escape this case by arguing that some error in the reasoning process has made you lose justification, since there was no reasoning process--you just saw the sheep hologram and immediately formed the belief. Richard could say that this is unjustified, but then we can just fix it up until it looks absurd to call it unjustified. It seems like the only way to call it unjustified will be to make it such that false beliefs can't be justified. And if this is the route Richard takes, then it looks like Gettier anticipated that way out after all. At the very least I think Richard is wrong to say that Gettier had his head up his @** and whatever else he said. It seems to me that Gettier was no dummy, and neither are all of the thousands of philosophers who ultimately agree that Gettier examples disprove the JTB analysis of knowledge.

I could dig up other cases, but I'm interested in finding out if Richard's general response to the problem is to deny fallibilism. That might very well be what he wants to do.

I wish I had more time to devote to this conversation, but as you know the fall semester is looming near and I still have summer grading to do.

GJ said...

Landon,

"Closure gets you from a justified belief in 'A' to a justified belief in 'A or B', since by hypothesis 'A' is justified. Maybe the disjunction introduction does something tricky here, I'm undecided at the moment."

Disjunction introduction does do something tricky here, but, like you, I'm not sure what.

"Regarding the barn case, it would be interesting to see if people do indeed think that the belief is unjustified! From a subjective standpoint, if you're not justified in this case then it looks like skepticism is knocking at the door."

Scepticism can be disregarded (contrary to what epistemologists would have us think, it does no theoretical good), so I'm not worried about that. But you're right that it would be tough to make a case for the claim that the subject's belief is unjustified. I read an article a while ago by William Lycan called 'The Gettier Problem problem', and he argues (if I remember correctly) that the subject knows that there's a barn in her visual field. Perhaps she does. Intuitions diverge on this.

I think the so-called Gettier problem isn't really a problem at all, but rather a philosophical pseudo-problem engendered by conceptual confusion. The whole problem persists because of, and is indeed predicated on, a highly dubious assumption, namely, that the concept of knowledge admits of analysis in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions. This assumption is rarely questioned (Oswald Hanfling is an exception), and there's no reason to think it's true.

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... (a) Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona. But it's simply NOT the case that (a) is false. It's true in virtue of the truth of the second disjunct.

(a) is false because Jones doesn't own a Ford; it doesn't matter where Brown is. You are confusing the empirical premise (where Brown actually is) with a logical disjunct, which does not say anything about what is actually the case (e.g. a true premise "Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona" requires Jones to own a Ford for it to be true; as only then Brown either is or is not in Barcelona--it does not say where Brown is; see what I said about this above but if you've gotten lost, read the wikipedia explanation of The Rule of Disjunction Introduction). A disjunction introduction (A, therefore A or B) is only ever true if A is true. If A is false, then the disjunct is false. In other words, you do not have a rule of disjunction introduction, and it is false to believe the rule applies. Gettier requires the rule to apply (and he requires Smith to believe the rule applies; that's the only way Smith can get a justified belief out of it). Thus Smith's belief cannot have ever been justified.

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... I'll take a closer look, though. If I find anything, I'll let you know.

I genuinely appreciate that. (So thanks for the refs. you posted further on; if this ever comes up again I'll look them up)

This may bore you, but I'm wondering if your approach to the Gettier problem can handle all Gettier-style cases.

Just FYI as a general rule, nothing that may require me to revise my philosophy will bore me. It only gets boring once I see it's illogical. Then I don't care anymore (or at least, not enough to do the hours upon hours of work that's required to research a paper on it that the field will accept for publication--the number of illogical arguments in philosophy is so huge it may even be measured in cardinalities; I certainly have no time for that).

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... In Clark's early response to Gettie...Clark argues, Smith justifiably believes, but doesn't know, the following true proposition: (a) Jones owns a Ford.

Correct. It isn't justified true belief. It is only true belief.

Would you argue that, since Brown got lucky about Jones's owning a Ford, it's not the case that Smith JUSTIFIABLY believes (a)?

Why do you even have to ask? Isn't the answer obvious?

Smith's "justification" for his belief is:

P1. Brown said 'Jones owns a Ford'
P2. Brown does not err or lie about such things.
P3. Therefore that statement is neither an error or a lie.
P4. If that statement is neither an error nor a lie, then it is true.
P5. Therefore I should believe Jones owns a Ford.

P2 is false (as is P3). Therefore P5 is not validly established. The belief therefore fails a justification test.

Now, if someone adopts a perverse system of justification, in which invalidly-reached conclusions can be considered justified, then that epistemology may be tanked here, but that kind of result is precisely why such epistemologies should be rejected.

Richard Carrier said...

Landon Hedrick said... You can't escape this case by arguing that some error in the reasoning process has made you lose justification, since there was no reasoning process--you just saw the sheep hologram and immediately formed the belief.

There was a reasoning process, it just wasn't conscious. Your brain forms belief by straightforward computation. That computation either maps onto a valid inference model or not. If not, you lack JTB.

Nevertheless (and thanks for this, because this gets us back to where this conversation started), this is why I said earlier I don't define knowledge as JTB, but define knowledge as warranted belief. Because of what you just noted: most of our logical inferences are done by our brains without our conscious awareness. People just don't work or speak the way JTB models depict. So what use are they? Philosophers need to track and describe reality.

Thus in my epistemology, your belief that there is a sheep there is knowledge: because given what you knew at the time, there was a very high probability that a sheep was there. This is especially so if we are talking reality here and now, in which such convincing holograms have an extraordinarily low prior probability; but even in fantasy future scenarios, only when its prior is high is our belief no longer warranted, precisely because we should know we could be looking at a hologram and our belief should reflect that possibility by being qualified accordingly (with a lower probability assignment, ergo a lower certainty, coupled with a higher epistemic probability in the back of our mind that it's a hologram, e.g. we may believe it's 60% / 40%, in which case what we "know" in that scenario is that there is a 60% chance a sheep is there and a 40% chance it's a hologram; which is how people actually think in the real world, e.g. when cops pursue an armed suspect into a building, you will see exactly that kind of close hedging belief acted out in real time).

Jefferys famously proved that this reasoning reduces to JTB, but only when you retain the premise that knowledge is probabilistic, i.e. in the "here and now" case, the probability that there wasn't a sheep there was extraordinarily low, yet still not zero. And when pressed we all acknowledge this (i.e. "well, yes, it's possible I'm wrong and there's no sheep there"), which is precisely the sort of thing JTB models fail to account for. Thus when we say we "know" a sheep is there, what we really mean is "there is a very high probability that a sheep is there, given all I know at this time," which, it can be shown, actually is JTB (using Bayes' Theorem), precisely because you are not claiming it is 100% certain that a sheep is there (nor that the probability you do assign is independent of what you know), and when we realize that that is how knowledge actually works in the real world, even the sheep scenario produces JTB.

Richard Carrier said...

Just a technical clarification, when I say "If A is false, then the disjunct is false. In other words, you do not have a rule of disjunction introduction, and it is false to believe the rule applies," that only refers to the scenario in which Gettier says the facts are such that Jones does not really own a Ford (because then A is false, and not merely "not established"; if A is fully false, then the disjunt introduction isn't true and thus can be no part of JTB).

As to the scenario in which Jones does own a Ford unbeknownst to Smith, then the disjunct is true, but Smith's knowledge that the disjunct is true is not justified (per my analysis of the Clark example addressed above).

GJ said...

Note: I've been trying to post the same comment for quite some time now, but the system won't let me. It appears for a few seconds and then disappears. If the same comment ends up appearing several times, that's why.

GJ said...

I'll give it one more shot:

"(a) is false because Jones doesn't own a Ford; it doesn't matter where Brown is. You are confusing the empirical premise (where Brown actually is) with a logical disjunct, which does not say anything about what is actually the case (e.g. a true premise 'Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona' requires Jones to own a Ford for it to be true; as only then Brown either is or is not in Barcelona--it does not say where Brown is; see what I said about this above but if you've gotten lost, read the wikipedia explanation of The Rule of Disjunction Introduction). A disjunction introduction (A, therefore A or B) is only ever true if A is true. If A is false, then the disjunct is false. In
other words, you do not have a rule of disjunction introduction, and it is false to believe the rule applies. Gettier requires the rule to apply (and he requires Smith to believe the rule applies; that's the only way Smith can get a justified belief out of it). Thus Smith's belief cannot have ever been justified."

Yes, Smith's belief isn't (or can't ever have been) justified. On that we agree. But that's not the issue at hand. The issue at hand is whether (a) is true. And, of course, it is.

Your reasoning to the contrary is opaque. I've already demonstrated where you went wrong in your initial argument for the falsity of (a), a demonstration you've conveniently simply ignored, and it seems that you're making the same mistakes in this argument as you did in that one.

There's no need to keep referring to the rule of disjunction introduction--I understand it fully. And both Landon and I mentioned that perhaps the rule is doing some funny work in the Gettier II case. But, as I've already remarked, it doesn't matter how Smith arrives at (a). It's still true; it's true in virtue of the truth of the second disjunct. Suppose Smith arrived at (a) by affirming the consequent. It wouldn't matter; it would still be true. As you know (I hope), invalid arguments can have true conclusions.

The facts are these. Smith arrives at the following conclusion using disjunction introduction:

(a) Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona.

As it happens, the disjunct with which Smith started – 'Jones owns a Ford' – is false. But it doesn't matter: since Brown is in Barcelona, (a) is still true. To deny that (a) is true is to deny a basic logical truth, namely, that a disjunction is true if and only if one or both of its disjuncts is true. I can't put it any more plainly.

Perhaps you should take your own advice and imagine the Gettier II scenario unfolding in the real world. Imagine you have a justified belief that Jones owns a Ford. Further imagine that, just for kicks, you form the above disjunction. Finally, imagine that, as luck would have it, Brown is in Barcelona. How would you react? You would react, presumably, by noting that, through sheer luck, you arrived at a TRUE disjunction.

Now, it's clear that nothing I say (or can say) will convince you, so I suggest that you consult with a logician; heck consult with hundreds of them. They'll all tell you the same thing, i.e. that a disjunction can't be false if it has a true disjunct. If that doesn't convince, you might consider asking Marilyn vos Savant. (As you may know, she's the
one who managed to convince the world that it's best to switch doors in the Monty Hall dilemma.)

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... Note: I've been trying to post the same comment for quite some time now, but the system won't let me. It appears for a few seconds and then disappears. If the same comment ends up appearing several times, that's why.

That's because Blogger just today (indeed, just an hour ago or two) initiated a new spam killing program in comments, and your posts kept getting tagged as spam. I don't know why.

They didn't even tell me they were going to start doing this. So it caught me by surprise. I hope all your copies were the same. I kept one of them and marked all the others as not spam before deleting them so hopefully to train the spam system not to kill your posts. (It's a totally new comments management system now.)

In future, if this happens again, email me (rcarrier@infidels.org), and I'll just pull the post out of the spam folder and it will publish.

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... Yes, Smith's belief isn't (or can't ever have been) justified. On that we agree. But that's not the issue at hand. The issue at hand is whether (a) is true. And, of course, it is.

No, it's not. Please go to the Wiki link I directed you to and refresh yourself on disjunction introduction. Here is your (a):

(a) Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona.

Now. Think about this. It can be the case that neither Jones own a Ford nor Brown is in Barcelona. Right? So if that case is true, then "either Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona" is false. Right?

Try it this way:

"Either I have blonde hair or I have red hair."

Is that true? No. Because I may be a brunette. This is called a false disjunct (or a false dichotomy). It violates the law of excluded middle (which entails all possibilities must be enclosed in any disjunction; nothing "in between" can be left out, like other hair colors).

That's why the disjunct "Either x or y" is never true unless x is true or x and y exhaust all logical possibilities. The first case is the rule of disjunct introduction (and formally it's not "either x or y" but "x or y or both"; I've been assuming you knew that, but if you don't, see again the Wiki explanation of the rule).

Thus "[either] Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona [or both]" is false if it's possible neither Jones owns a Ford nor Brown is in Barcelona. And if Jones does not own a Ford (i.e. if "Jones owns a Ford" is false), then it's possible neither Jones owns a Ford nor Brown is in Barcelona. Therefore, if "Jones owns a Ford" is false, then so is (a).

QED.

Understand?

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... But, as I've already remarked, it doesn't matter how Smith arrives at (a).

I assume you mean it doesn't matter as regarding the truth of (a). Because if Smith's belief in (a) is not JTB, then neither can be any conclusion Smith deduces from (a), even if (a) is true. You said you agree with that, so I'm hoping that means we agree the Gettier problem claims Smith has JTB when in fact (by its own description) Smith does not have JTB, and therefore the problem is incoherent, and therefore Gettier's conclusion is not validly arrived at. Yes?

As to the entirely separate matter of the truth of (a) see my previous post.

GJ said...

"Now. Think about this. It can be the case that neither Jones own a Ford nor Brown is in Barcelona. Right?"

Yes, of course.

"So if that case is true..."

But in the envisaged scenario (the Gettier II case), it isn't.

"So if that case is true, 'either Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona' is false. Right?"

Right. In that case, both disjuncts are false, and so the disjunction itself is false. But, again, in the Gettier II case, Brown IS in Barcelona. Why do you insist on ignoring the TRUTH (in the envisaged case) of this disjunct?

"'Either I have blonde hair or I have red hair.' Is that true? No. Because I may be a brunette. This is called a false disjunct (or a false dichotomy). It violates the law of excluded middle (which entails all possibilities must be enclosed in any disjunction; nothing 'in between' can be left out, like other hair colors)."

The fallacy of false dichotomy is irrelevant to the discussion we're having. The relevant disjunction in the Gettier II case is: "Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona"; and since one of the disjuncts is true, the disjunction itself is true.

"That's why the disjunct 'Either x or y' is never true unless x is true or x and y exhaust all logical possibilities."

Presumably you meant "the disjunction." But your claim here is false. Truth-conditional semantics for disjunctions says that "x or y" is true iff x is true, or y is true, or both x and y are true; and this is the rule you violate when you say that it's false that Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona.

"Thus '[either] Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona [or both]' is false if it's possible neither Jones owns a Ford nor Brown is in Barcelona. And if Jones does not own a Ford (i.e. if 'Jones owns a Ford' is false), then it's possible neither Jones owns a Ford nor Brown is in Barcelona."

Nobody's denying that it's possible, but, again, in the envisaged scenario, this possibility hasn't obtained.
You evidently didn't read my earlier post in which I pinpointed the problems with your reasoning.

I'll repeat that post below so you don't have to go back and find it.

GJ said...

Here's what I wrote in an earlier post:

Richard, I've pinpointed the problems with your argument for the claim that the disjunction in the Gettier II case is false.

As I mentioned earlier, the disjunction cannot be false, since, in the scenario Gettier posits, one of the disjuncts (i.e. Brown is in Barcelona) is true.

In response to my claim that you didn't demonstrate that the disjunction is false, you said:

"I did. The disjunction 'A or B' is only true if A is true. That's a requirement of the rule of disjunction introduction...Thus if 'Jones owns a Ford' is false (ergo A is false), the proposition 'Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona' (ergo 'A or B') is false..."

No. A or B can still be true if B is true; and in the Gettier II case, B is true (i.e. Brown is in Barcelona).

In anticipation of this response, you go on to explain why you think it follows that A or B is false:

"...(because if A is false, then 'neither A nor B' is possible, i.e. 'neither does Jones own a Ford nor is Brown in Barcelona,' and if that's possible, it's no longer the case that 'Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona')."

This is muddled. It's true that if A is false, then neither A nor B is possible, but why suppose that this possibility has been borne out? Again, in the Gettier II case it hasn't, since Brown is in Barcelona.

Later you put your argument this way:

"Again, this is because 'A or B' is only true if A, by definition. Indeed, it becomes justified to believe 'A or B' only on the conditional 'If A, then A or B,' such that if not A, then the consequent doesn't follow and thus was never justified."

Here you betray your confusion. It's true that one is justified in believing A or B only on the conditional "If A, then A or B," but even if A is false, it doesn’t follow that A or B is false. You've committed the fallacy of denying the antecedent. Specifically, you say:

"'If A, then A or B,' such that if not A, then the consequent doesn't follow..."

No. To repeat, even if A is false, A or B could still be true. At the risk of being tedious, this is a fallacious inference:

If A, then A or B.
~A
Therefore, ~(A or B)

Notice how, in the above quote, you talk about one's being justified (or not) in believing A or B. What you've perhaps shown, if anything, is that Smith isn't justified in believing A or B. You haven't shown that A or B is false. And this, of course, you can't show, since it's patently true (in the Gettier II case).

It bears mention that, if, in fact, one's conclusion is true, the pattern of inference one uses to arrive at that conclusion doesn't affect the truth of that conclusion. E.g., if I concluded, on the basis of an illegitimate pattern of inference, that 2 + 2 = 4, it wouldn't follow that it's false that 2 + 2 = 4. Similarly, Smith, in the Gettier II case, seems to arrive at the truth of A or B using an illegitimate pattern of inference, but it doesn't follow that A or B is false.

GJ said...

Here's a sound argument:

(1) A disjunction is true iff one or both of its disjuncts is true.

(2) In the Gettier II case, one of the disjuncts in the disjunction 'Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona' true.

(3) Therefore, in the Gettier II case, the disjunction 'Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona' is true.

Premise (1) is a basic rule of truth-conditional semantics.

Premise (2) is obviously true - Brown IS in Barcelona (in the case under consideration).

(3) follows directly from (1) and (2). QED.

Richard Carrier said...

GJ said... Right. In that case, both disjuncts are false, and so the disjunction itself is false. But, again, in the Gettier II case, Brown IS in Barcelona. Why do you insist on ignoring the TRUTH (in the envisaged case) of this disjunct?

Because in that case, the disjunct is "If A, then A or B" = "If Brown is in Barcelona, then either Brown is in Barcelona or Jones owns a Ford," and it is A that Smith has no JTB of.

It's one or the other. Either (a) is false (and thus not true belief) or Smith's belief that it's true is not justified (and thus not JTB). You can't get around this.

Gettier can produce no coherent problem out of this.

Richard Carrier said...

GJ:

I'm so sorry the blogger spam net keeps nixing your posts. That must be frustrating as hell. I keep telling it your not spamming me, so hopefully it will "learn" soon.

Do know that the posts that disappear on your end, do actually make it to my blog, they just get shunted to comment moderation. So you don't have to keep re-sending. I'll go in, see it's not spam, and "approve" it, and it will post.

Landon Hedrick said...

Richard,

First, I don't understand your confusion on the issue you're debating with GJ. It looks to me like what he's trying to do is clear up a small and relatively unimportant error on your part while conceding that your main point might be right (though I doubt he agrees with even that).

Now the clear error you've made is denying that the following statement is true in the Gettier case: "Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona." You have (bizarrely) claimed that this is actually false. Now let's concede for the moment that maybe your argument does show that Smith doesn't have a JTB here. Maybe his belief isn't justified, because of some error in his reasoning. Okay. But you still went on to claim that the belief itself is false.

Now what does it take for a disjunction to be false? If a disjunction is false, then all of its disjuncts are false. If one or more of the disjuncts is true, then the disjunction itself is true. That's just what "or" means. If your wife tells you "Either I'll be making dinner tonight, or we'll go out to eat," and you end up going out to eat, then her statement was true. This should be plainly obvious.

Now maybe I'm wrong. I think it's clear that if one disjunct is true then the disjunction as a whole is true, but maybe I'm just mistaken. If you still think you're right, I'd like to ask you one further thing. If we ask around among philosophers and logicians whether or not the belief in Gettier's case is true, do you think they would agree with me and GJ or do you think they'd agree with you?

Regarding the sheep in a field case, it's odd that your epistemology says that this is a genuine case of knowledge. The common intuition here, I think, is that this is a clear case of a true belief that's not knowledge. The reason is that your justification came solely from a hologram, and just by sheer luck there was a sheep in the field out of view. It's strange that you want to say that the person has knowledge in that case.

And I don't see how it helps that, for you, knowledge is just something like "high probability." In fact, look at how you've defined knowledge in this passage:

Thus when we say we "know" a sheep is there, what we really mean is "there is a very high probability that a sheep is there, given all I know at this time,"

If this is supposed to be what knowledge really is, then we have a problem. Because it's possible that I could then "know" something (e.g. "There's a duck in the water") when it is in fact false. So this would deny that truth is even a criterion of knowledge!

You may be comfortable with that, since you define knowledge as warranted belief, and you don't stipulate that the belief has to be true. Now you could build truth into warrant by denying fallibilism--in other words, you could ensure that any warranted belief will be true. But doing this would get around Gettier cases in a way that Gettier already anticipated, since he states outright that fallibilism is an assumption which is needed for the argument to go through.

Of course, you could always respond that you didn't mean to give any sort of analysis of knowledge here, but instead you just meant to given an analysis of what we ordinarily mean when we say we "know" something. But that's of course irrelevant to the important point, since you meaning that when you say that you "know" the sheep is in the field doesn't change the fact that you don't really know it.

Richard Carrier said...

You both might have lost track of my point. Gettier Problem II says:

"Smith has a justified belief that 'Jones owns a Ford'. Smith therefore (justifiably) concludes (by the rule of disjunction introduction) that 'Jones owns a Ford, or Brown is in Barcelona', even though Smith has no knowledge whatsoever about the location of Brown. In fact, Jones does not own a Ford, but by sheer coincidence, Brown really is in Barcelona. Again, Smith had a belief that was true and justified, but not knowledge."

Is that a valid conclusion? It is not. Because what such belief does Smith have? That Brown is in Barcelona? No. Smith does not here believe that. Because 'Jones owns a Ford, or Brown is in Barcelona' entails either Brown is or he isn't in Barcelona. So if Smith believes 'Jones owns a Ford, or Brown is in Barcelona' he doesn't believe Brown is in Barcelona--he only believes that either both are true ('Jones owns a Ford and Brown is in Barcelona') or only the one is true ('Jones owns a Ford').

So where is Gettier's problem?

Please work this out before replying. Hopefully doing so will get you to see my actual point. Particularly in light of...

Richard Carrier said...

Landon Hedrick said... Now the clear error you've made is denying that the following statement is true in the Gettier case: "Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona." You have (bizarrely) claimed that this is actually false.

No, I said it's either a false belief or an unjustified belief. And therefore one way or the other Gettier's problem doesn't arise. See my actual comments again: above). As to whether GJ's (a) is false objectively is not what I was referring to, but whether Smith can have JTB in (a) when the reason Smith believes (a) is false (i.e. (a), as "A or B", is only true if A; therefore if ~A, then Smith never had a justified true belief that "A or B"). See what I actually said here.

Now let's concede for the moment that maybe your argument does show that Smith doesn't have a JTB here. Maybe his belief isn't justified, because of some error in his reasoning. Okay. But you still went on to claim that the belief itself is false.

Sure, if you can divorce the belief "either A or B or (A and B)" from the reason for believing it. Such accidental agreements between random statements and reality does not present any problem for a JTB definition of knowledge. There is no problem there, much less a "Gettier" one. I was only discussing the scenario in which it's supposed to be a problem. Perhaps that led to confusion?

If we ask around among philosophers and logicians whether or not the belief in Gettier's case is true, do you think they would agree with me and GJ or do you think they'd agree with you?

If you phrase it like that, then even I agree with you and GJ. I was speaking of whether Smith was justified in believing it was true (i.e. I was speaking from the position of Smith, what Smith would conclude about (a)). Although I see now how my wording could be mistaken otherwise.

Richard Carrier said...

Landon Hedrick said... Regarding the sheep in a field case, it's odd that your epistemology says that this is a genuine case of knowledge. The common intuition here, I think, is that this is a clear case of a true belief that's not knowledge.

That depends on what you mean by "knowledge." I mean what ordinary people actually mean in practice when they say they know things. Not what philosophers arbitrarily decide the word will mean.

The reason is that your justification came solely from a hologram, and just by sheer luck there was a sheep in the field out of view. It's strange that you want to say that the person has knowledge in that case.

It's not strange at all. As long as my belief is "there is probably a sheep there, because holograms (etc.) are improbable" then I know "there is probably a sheep there." Only when you mistake my belief as "there is a sheep there with absolute certainty" does an oddity result. But no one thinks like that (not really).

This is because "there is probably a sheep there, because holograms (etc.) are improbable" is true regardless of whether there is really a sheep there. Hence there really being a sheep there is irrelevant and has nothing to do with whether my belief is true. That's the difference between ordinary JTB knowledge and knowledge as warranted belief (call it WB). Here's why...

If this is supposed to be what knowledge really is, then we have a problem. Because it's possible that I could then "know" something (e.g. "There's a duck in the water") when it is in fact false. So this would deny that truth is even a criterion of knowledge!

No. Because the "knowledge" is "there is PROBABLY a sheep there, BECAUSE holograms (etc.) are improbable" (let's stick with the fully described example and not shift to mysterious ducks). Which is true. Thus truth remains a criterion of knowledge. You are confusing the statement "A is probable given B" with the statement "A is true (full stop)." You do recognize that if I say there is a 95% chance a duck is there, a duck's not being there does not contradict that statement at all?

jcm said...

Richard,

Sorry if I'm beating a dead horse, but I have a little free time today, and (for some reason) I feel like using it to elaborate some on my last (or penultimate) reply to you.

Apart from our dispute over what Marx meant by "private property", I sense that you also doubt Marx's influence on social democracy (if not in the past, perhaps only in the present). In other words, you seem to suggest that the social democratic trait of taxing "private capital...at a rate sufficiently high that, although rates of exploitation would not be zero, they would be small" (as Roemer put it) would not qualify as "Marxist", since (after all) private capital nonetheless survives. (So much for the Marxist dream of abolition of private property, right?)

If so, then perhaps it would help for me add that, to my mind (and apparently Roemer's, as well), a basic and central premise in Marx's work (be it true or false) is that of capitalist accumulation & exploitation of the working class. In other words, given Marx's idea that "capital is scarce relative to the available supply of labor, and workers must bid for the right to use that scarce capital" (as Roemer put it), the capitalist class bears a privileged status, relative to the rest of society. If one accepts this premise (admittedly, a big "if"), then one is not necessarily required to accept any other premise that Marx
proposed (e.g. with respect to praxis or policy). In fact, Roemer (in the same essay) goes on to mention "several ways of ending exploitation short of collectizing ownership in the means of production..." (one of which is called "people's capitalism"), which Marx probably would have balked at. (After all, he balked at several varieties of "socialism" that were in circulation during his day - which he seemed to feel competed with his purportedly more "scientific" version, "communism.") But such a dispute with Marx would lie chiefly in the domain of praxis (or application), not theory.

If you check out this link on social democracy, I think you'll find that it supports Roemer's suggestion of a theoretical Marxian influence on this political ideology (although Roemer's claim is somewhat more specific).

I also think that it bears on your earlier claim that "Marx's greatest failure was...in having lofty ideas that simply will never work in practice." In particular, it seems that, in order for me to agree with that claim, I am obliged to either deny Marx's influence on social democracy or admit that social democracy owes no credit to Marx for its successes, only blame for its failures (whatever they may be).

I suppose that another option is for you to qualify your claim, such as to discount whatever credit Marx is owed for social democracy's successes from whatever list of "lofty ideas" that you had in mind. If so, then I might actually agree with you, in that I see nothing particularly "lofty" about the idea of capitalist accumulation & exploitation of the working class itself. Rather, I think its "loftiness" depends entirely on what actions it inspires in people, and, in the case of social democracy, I suspect that you would agree with me that the actions have had relatively positive consequences (e.g. based on various measurements of social well-being). If a different idea (or set thereof) were to inspire the same actions with the same consequences, that would only seem to enlarge the set of "lofty ideas" that actually work in practice (at least in the appropriate situation).

jcm said...

PS: Partly because it speaks to your area of expertise, I'm tempted to draw an analogy here between the Communist/Social Democratic split and the Jewish/Christian split. The disanalogies are obvious (e.g. secular vs. religious and modern vs. ancient), so I'm only thinking about the hereditary (or sibling) relationships between distinct (sometimes opposing) ideological groups.

However, because it's closer to my own background (as an apostate of Judaism), I'm even more tempted to draw an analogy here between the orthodox/reformist (read: Communist/Social Democratic) split within Marxism and the Orthodox/Reform split within Judaism. The linguistic similarities in this case are possibly more than coincidental, given that one sibling really does seem (or claim) to adhere more closely, consistently, and exclusively to the teachings of their shared parent, whereas the other seems to take a more selective, critical, and syncretic approach to those same teachings. Plus, both of these splits originally developed in 19th Century Germany.

Richard Carrier said...

That makes sense.