Ideas of Paul O'Grady, by Theme

[Irish, fl. 2002, At Trinity College, Dublin.]

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1. Philosophy / C. History of Philosophy / 5. Modern Philosophy / d. Contemporary philosophy
There has been a distinct 'Social Turn' in recent philosophy, like the earlier 'Linguistic Turn'
     Full Idea: The Social Turn is as defining a characteristic of contemporary philosophy as the Linguistic Turn has been of the earlier twentieth century period.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.1)
     A reaction: A helpful observation. It ties in with externalism about concepts (Twin Earth), impossibility of Private Language, and externalism about knowledge.
2. Reason / A. Nature of Reason / 4. Aims of Reason
Good reasoning will avoid contradiction, enhance coherence, not ignore evidence, and maximise evidence
     Full Idea: The four basic principles of rationality are 1) avoid contradiction, 2) enhance coherence, 3) avoid ignoring evidence, and 4) maximise evidence.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.5)
     A reaction: I like this, and can't think of any additions. 'Coherence' is the vaguest of the conditions. Maximising evidence is still the driving force of science, even if it does sound quaintly positivist.
2. Reason / E. Argument / 7. Thought Experiments
Just as maps must simplify their subject matter, so thought has to be reductionist about reality
     Full Idea: A map that is identical in all respects with that which is mapped is just useless. So reductionism is not just a good thing - it is essential to thought.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.6)
     A reaction: A useful warning, when thinking about truth. It is folly to want your thoughts to exactly correspond to reality. I want to understand the world, but not if it requires being the world.
3. Truth / A. Truth Problems / 1. Truth
To say a relative truth is inexpressible in other frameworks is 'weak', while saying it is false is 'strong'
     Full Idea: Weak alethic relativism holds that while a statement may be true in one framework, it is inexpressible in another. Strong alethic relativism is where a sentence is true relative to one framework, but false relative to another.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.2)
     A reaction: The weak version will be Kuhn's 'incommensurability' of scientific theories, while the strong version will be full Protagorean relativism, saying all beliefs are true.
The epistemic theory of truth presents it as 'that which is licensed by our best theory of reality'
     Full Idea: The epistemic theory of truth presents it as 'that which is licensed by our best theory of reality'.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.2)
     A reaction: Dangerous nonsense. This leaves truth shifting as our theories change, it leads to different truths in different cultures, and no palpable falsehood in ignorant cultures. Don't give it house-room.
5. Theory of Logic / A. Overview of Logic / 6. Classical Logic
Logical relativism appears if we allow more than one legitimate logical system
     Full Idea: Logical relativism emerges if one defends the existence of two or more rival systems that one may legitimately choose between, or move back and forth between.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.2)
     A reaction: All my instincts rebel against this possibility. All of Aristotle's and Kant's philosophy would be rendered meaningless. Obviously you can create artificial logics (like games), but I believe there is a truth logic. (Pathetic, isn't it?)
5. Theory of Logic / D. Assumptions for Logic / 1. Bivalence
A third value for truth might be "indeterminate", or a point on a scale between 'true' and 'false'
     Full Idea: Suggestions for a third value for truth are "indeterminate", or a scale running from "true", through "mostly true", "mainly true", "half true", "mainly false", "mostly false", to "false", or maybe even "0.56 true".
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.2)
     A reaction: Anything on a sliding scale sounds wrong, as it seems to be paracitic on an underlying fixed idea of 'true'. "Indeterminate", though, seems just right for the truth of predictions ('sea-fight tomorrow').
5. Theory of Logic / E. Structures of Logic / 2. Logical Connectives / a. Logical connectives
Wittgenstein reduced Russell's five primitive logical symbols to a mere one
     Full Idea: While Russell and Whitehead used five primitive logical symbols in their system, Wittgenstein suggested in his 'Tractatus' that this be reduced to one.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.2)
     A reaction: This certainly captures why Russell was so impressed by him. In retrospect what looked like progress presumably now looks like the beginning of the collapse of the enterprise.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 4. Anti-realism
Anti-realists say our theories (such as wave-particle duality) give reality incompatible properties
     Full Idea: The anti-realist says we have theories about the world that are incompatible with each other, and irreducible to each other. They often cite wave-particle duality, which postulate incompatible properties to reality.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.3)
     A reaction: Most physicists, of course, hate this duality, precisely because they can't conceive how the two properties could be real. I say realism comes first, and the theories must try to accommodate that assumption.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 8. Facts / a. Facts
What counts as a fact partly depends on the availability of human concepts to describe them
     Full Idea: What counts as a fact partly depends on human input, such as the availability of concepts to describe such facts.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.1)
     A reaction: The point must be taken. I am happy to generalise about 'The Facts', meaning 'whatever is the case', but the individuation of specific facts is bound to hit the current problem.
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 5. Individuation / a. Individuation
We may say that objects have intrinsic identity conditions, but still allow multiple accounts of them
     Full Idea: Those defending the claim that objects exist with identity conditions not imposed by us, do not have to say that there is just one account of those objects possible.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.3)
     A reaction: This seems right, but the test question is whether the mind of God contains a single unified theory/account. Are multiple accounts the result of human inadequacy? Yes, I surmise.
10. Modality / D. Knowledge of Modality / 1. A Priori Necessary
Maybe developments in logic and geometry have shown that the a priori may be relative
     Full Idea: A weaker form of relativism holds that developments in logic, in maths and in geometry have shown how a relativised notion of the a priori is possible.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.4)
     A reaction: This is non-Euclidean geometry, and multiple formalisations of logic. Personally I don't believe it. You can expand these subjects, and pursue whimsical speculations, but I have faith in their stable natural core. Neo-Platonism.
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 4. Sense Data / d. Sense-data problems
Sense-data are only safe from scepticism if they are primitive and unconceptualised
     Full Idea: The reason sense-data were immune from doubt was because they were so primitive; they were unstructured and below the level of conceptualisation. Once they were given structure and conceptualised, they were no longer safe from sceptical challenge.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.4)
     A reaction: The question of whether sense-data are conceptualised doesn't have to be all-or-nothing. As concepts creep in, so does scepticism, but so what? Sensible philosophers live with scepticism, like a mad aunt in the attic.
13. Knowledge Criteria / A. Justification Problems / 1. Justification / a. Justification issues
Modern epistemology centres on debates about foundations, and about external justification
     Full Idea: The two dichotomies which set the agenda in contemporary epistemology are the foundationalist-coherentist debate, and the internalist-externalist debate.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.4)
     A reaction: Helpful. Roughly, foundationalists are often externalists (if they are empiricists), and coherentists are often internalists (esp. if they are rationalists). An eccentric combination would make a good PhD.
13. Knowledge Criteria / A. Justification Problems / 3. Internal or External / a. Pro-internalism
Internalists say the reasons for belief must be available to the subject, and externalists deny this
     Full Idea: Internalism about justification says that the reasons one has for a belief must be in some sense available to the knowing subject, ..while externalism holds that it is possible for a person to have a justified belief without having access to the reason.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.4)
     A reaction: It strikes me that internalists are talking about the believer being justified, and externalists talk about the belief being justified. I'm with the internalists. If this means cats don't know much, so much the worse for cats.
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 5. Coherentism / a. Coherence as justification
Coherence involves support from explanation and evidence, and also probability and confirmation
     Full Idea: Coherentist justification is more than absence of contradictions, and will involve issues like explanatory support and evidential support, and perhaps issues about probability and confirmation too.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.4)
     A reaction: Something like this is obviously essential. Is the notion of 'relevance' also needed (e.g. to avoid the raven paradox of induction)? Coherence of justification will combine with correspondence for truth.
13. Knowledge Criteria / E. Relativism / 1. Relativism
Ontological relativists are anti-realists, who deny that our theories carve nature at the joints
     Full Idea: Ontological relativists are anti-realists in the strong sense; they hold as meaningless the view that our theories carve nature at the joints.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.3)
     A reaction: This pinpoints my disagreement with such relativism, as it seems obvious to me that nature has 'joints', and that we would agree with any sensible alien about lots of things.
13. Knowledge Criteria / E. Relativism / 2. Knowledge as Convention
Contextualism says that knowledge is relative to its context; 'empty' depends on your interests
     Full Idea: Contextualist about knowledge say that "to know" means different things in different context. For example, a warehouse may be empty for a furniture owner, but not for a bacteriologist or a physicist.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.4)
     A reaction: There is obviously some truth in this, but we might say that 'empty' is a secondary quality, or that 'empty for furniture' is not relative. We needn't accept relativism here.
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 5. Commensurability
One may understand a realm of ideas, but be unable to judge their rationality or truth
     Full Idea: It is possible to conceive of one understanding the meaning of a realm of ideas, but holding that one cannot judge as to the truth or rationality of the claims made in it.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.5)
     A reaction: I think Davidson gives good grounds for challenging this, by doubt whether one 'conceptual scheme' can know another without grasping its rationality and truth-conditions.
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 5. Meaning as Verification
Verificationism was attacked by the deniers of the analytic-synthetic distinction, needed for 'facts'
     Full Idea: Verificationism came under attack from empiricists who were friendly to the banishment of traditional metaphysics, but unfriendly to the analytic-synthetic distinction, on which the idea of a 'factual statement' depended.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.3)
     A reaction: I don't accept this move because I don't consider the 'facts' to be language-dependent. They are pre-linguistic, they outrun that capacity of our language, and they are available to animals.
19. Language / E. Analyticity / 3. Analytic and Synthetic
If we abandon the analytic-synthetic distinction, scepticism about meaning may be inevitable
     Full Idea: There may be no way to avoid scepticism about meaning if you abandon the analytic-synthetic distinction in the way Quine does.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.3)
     A reaction: My suspicion was always that Quine's proposal began the slippery road to hell. It appears to be pragmatists who are most drawn to Quine's idea. The proposal that all my analytic propositions could be treated as synthetic totally baffles me.
19. Language / F. Communication / 6. Interpreting Language / a. Translation
Early Quine says all beliefs could be otherwise, but later he said we would assume mistranslation
     Full Idea: In his earlier work, Quine defended the view that no belief (including logic) is in principle unrevisable, but in his later work (1970) he took the conservative view that we would always impute mistranslation rather than deviancy.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.2)
     A reaction: I take it he was influenced by Davidson's 'principle of charity'. He says that if someone asserts 'p and not-p', we would assume a misunderstanding of 'and' or 'not'.
19. Language / F. Communication / 6. Interpreting Language / c. Principle of charity
Cryptographers can recognise that something is a language, without translating it
     Full Idea: It makes sense to think that one could recognise that something is a language without necessarily being able to translate it; cryptographers do this all the time.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.5)
     A reaction: Maybe, but cryptographers usually have a lot of context to work with. If we met extraterrestrials if might not be so clear. One can only spot patterns, and crystals have those.
29. Religion / D. Religious Issues / 1. Religious Commitment / e. Fideism
The chief problem for fideists is other fideists who hold contrary ideas
     Full Idea: The chief problem for fideists is other fideists who hold contrary ideas.
     From: Paul O'Grady (Relativism [2002], Ch.4)
     A reaction: The other problem is trying to find grounds for sticking to the object of one's faith, rather than changing from time to time.