forum 3: week of 23 Jan - Lewis II
I second that problem. As finite beings we can never truly "know" whether a belief we hold is identical to the actual state of things, and similarly we can never "know", definitively speaking, whether relevant alternatives we disregard for rational reasons may actually obtain. It's easy to say that we can't ignore the actual state of things (and also makes sense to say so), but at the same time, unless we are allowed to make large leaps in judgement regarding actuality its difficult to find how practical the Rule of Actuality is.
In a certain capacity, I would argue that his list is somewhat concerned with good method. While Lewis doesn't put forward a strict criteria of knowledge, he still goes to great lengths to seperate relevant from non-relevant alternatives, in the form of general rules. This seems to me to be an attempt to provide guidelines for a first step of knowledge acquisition; what to, and what not to consider.
I agree with you that the rules put forth by Lewis are self-referential, and do not provide much substantive support for his theories. In the limited context of his contextualism, the rules do seem to work and provide some guidance on the proper methods of acquisition of knowledge. However, if one steps back from it all, and examine the rules together as though one had never heard of Lewis or contextualism in the first place, the rules do not make sense no matter how hard or long one looks at them. I think G. E. More was brought up in class recently (I can't remember as a reference to what exactly), and I think his criticisms of philosophical musings apply especially well to Lewis's theories. It's not unlike the ontological argument for God. If you're eased into it one step at a time, the individual steps seem reasonable (as do Lewis's rules and premises of argument). But by the end of it all, you realize this can't be right - these rules can't even be guidelines for gaining good knowledge, and God definitely can't exist by way of logic. There's something just not right in the argument themselves, without necessarily being able to pinpoint exactly what is wrong with it.