forum 2: week of 16 Jan - Lewis

Fragment of a discussion from Course talk:Phil440A
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In response to question 2, "What do you make of the rule of attention? That's what really gives his contextualism. Is it well motivated, or just pulled out of a hat?"

Lewis' Rule of Attention maintains that any possibility that is ignored is properly ignored. He then says that a possibility not ignored (or relevant alternative) is not properly ignored. The problem I find with this is that any possibility can potentially be brought to attention in some conversational context. So it seems to me that any possibility that Lewis would call 'rightfully ignored' is really just a possibility that hasn't yet been brought to attention. But given enough time all possibilities could eventually be brought to attention and would therefore be considered relevant alternatives according to Lewis' own definition. Since any possibility brought to attention becomes a relevant alternative what could be left as properly ignored or an 'irrelevant alternative'?

The way he resolves this is by saying if an unwanted possibility comes into conversation "we might quickly strike a tacit agreement to speak just as if we were ignoring it and after just a little of this, doubtless it would really be ignored." Maybe Lewis and I have different understandings of the word 'ignore', but if one is 'actively ignoring' a possibility surely he has paid attention to it at one time instantly transforming it into a relevant alternative, a process that I doubt can be undone based on Lewis' prior definition of a possibility 'not properly ignored' as a possibility 'not ignored'.

04:00, 19 January 2012