forum 2: week of 16 Jan - Lewis

Fragment of a discussion from Course talk:Phil440A
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In relation to the second question, I have tried finding Lewis's solution to the actual possibilities (that is, possibilities that actually obtain) that the subject just happens not to know, and therefore cannot turn his or her attention to it. Could one still properly ignore it? That is, the subject may be informed on all other relevant alternatives except for this one actual possibility; but the subject never had a chance to ever even conceive of this possibility, and therefore it has never been brought to his or her attention. Would the two rules then be in conflict? It seems possible (pun not intended) for this situation to occur without breaking any of the other rules that Lewis proposes. Or am I missing something here?

07:32, 17 January 2012

As a parallel of epistemology thinking between Ludwig Wittgenstein, and David Lewis, I would like to refer to the April 16 2010 paper presented by Post Doctoral Researcher Giacomo Sillari, of the University of Pennsylvania. The event was the Synthese Conference, at Columbia University. The title of the conference was Epistomology and Economics.

The title of Dr. Sillari’s paper is: Rule-following as coordination: A game-theoretic approach A few excerpts of Dr Sillari’s paper are as follows:

Make the following experiment: say “It‟s cold here” and mean “It‟s warm here”. Can you do it? Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, §510. I can‟t say “it‟s cold here” and mean “it‟s warm here”—at least, not without a little help from my friends. David Lewis, Convention.

"In fact, a different way to state the claim of this article is to say that Wittgensteinian rule-following deals with situations identifiable insofar as a there is a custom. Thus, while not all rules are interpretable as Lewis-conventions, all rules pertinent to Wittgensteinian rule-following16 involve a conventional element and hence can be analyzed as pertaining to situations in which individual preferences regarding their actions are conditional. Such situations are consistent with Lewis‟s analysis of convention in terms of coordination and in fact, as the rest of the article will show, are best understood as recurrent coordination problems.

"Game theory sheds new light on the notoriously obscure pages of the Investigations dealing with rule-following. Taking at face value Wittgenstein‟s indication that following a rule requires that a convention be in place, I have used David Lewis‟s game-theoretic account of convention to clarify how rule-following presupposes agreement an coordination in a community. In so doing, the role played by the community is made more perspicuous, and in particular we have seen that the strategic component is crucial 35 of a full understanding of rule-following. Game theory and the Lewisian analysis of social conventions shed light also on two notions related to rule-following. The notion of Lebensform is illuminated if looked at next to the technical notion of common knowledge, and the notion blind action is clarified in the evolutionary approach. As I have already stated above, I am not claiming that game theory can cover all subtle nuances in Wittgenstein‟s notion of language-game, and neither I claim that hard interpretative issues (for instance that of solipsistic vs. communitarian reading of rule-following) can be settled by game theory once and for all. However, I do believe that I have singled out a group of notions in the Investigations which find precise counterparts in normal game-theoretic ones. Finally, if my analysis does not of course purport to be historical in character, still it highlights that the later Wittgenstein already contains seeds of a philosophy of social sciences that has found voice first in David Lewis‟s seminal study and that, today, continues to grow at the intersection of philosophy and game theory. 36"

I like Dr. Sillari’s claim that David Lewis’s philosophy is an extension of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophy.

08:57, 17 January 2012

The Rule of Belief captures propositions that the speaker never thought of and yet are possibilities(which include actualities according to Lewis). It can be argued that evidence and arguments would back up any possibility P of that nature, whether or not speaker S believes it, but only if we can provide evidence and arguments for every fact of the world, ie. some principle of sufficient reason. So any P which can be supported by evidence and arguments may not be properly ignored. But this would be of help only if not believing P includes ignoring P altogether.

I think the Rule of Attention might be interpreted to be claiming more than it actually is. Lewis is not claiming that if a possibility is not a feature of the conversation context, then it is properly ignored. He is saying only that a possibility may not be properly ignored if it is a feature of the conversational context. And so a possibility P, if supported by arguments and evidence, may not be properly ignored, even if no attention is paid to it.

But you say there may be a fact that, in principle, S could not draw his attention to, meaning it cannot be the case that S had not drawn his attention to P(else that wold be circular). This would happen when certain evidence and arguments are unavailable for S. Maybe it's true in some sense that certain things are beyond S's understanding, therefore he can't grasp them and they would not count as proper justification. I don't buy it though,.

15:02, 19 January 2012

I am troubled by Lewis' web of rules as well. I think the troubles comes from his method in trying to achieve his goals of reconciliation. His methods in many ways want to mirror empirical ways people come to acquire knowledge. He largely shuns armchair philosophizing in favor or armchair psychology. This is troubling in two ways. First, he is assuming that people fundamentally have a good way of acquiring beliefs and knowledge, and that he is simple trying to come up with a coherent way of explaining an existing phenomena in much the way same science explains nature. So he is not proposing some grand theory which if adopted by everyone, would magically the quality of knowledge in human society. Second, he is trying to cover too many moving and contradictory parts at the same time, and these forces are pulling his argument apart. This makes his argument arbitrary. He has all these rules which, while superficially rendering these disparate views compatible, do not do much to explains their overall coherence. The lack of overarching thematic narratives makes the whole project lack rhyme and reason. The faux-empiricism and arbitrariness makes Lewis's paper a confounded enigma.

23:56, 20 January 2012