forum 3: week of 23 Jan - Lewis II

Fragment of a discussion from Course talk:Phil440A
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Passage 410 of the third edition of Dr. Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations reads “’I’ is not the name of a person, nor ‘here’ of a place, and ‘this’ is not a name. But they are connected with names. Names are explained by means of them. It is also true that it is characteristic of physics not to use these words.” Elizabeth Anscombe, a student of Wittgenstein, who translated Philosophical Investigations to English for publication in 1953, published her own paper titled The First Person [G.E.M. Anscombe (1975). Samuel Guttenplan, ed., Mind and Language (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), pp. 45-65.] In her Post Scriptum to her paper she wrote: “My colleague Dr. J. Altham has pointed out to me a difficulty about the rule about ‘I’ on page 55. How is one to extract the predicate for purposes of this rule in ‘I think John loves me’? The rule needs supplementation: where ‘I’ or ‘me’ occurs within an oblique context, the predicate is to be specified by replacing ‘I’ or ‘me’ by the indirect reflexive pronoun.” Wikipedia, on Anscombe’s First Person paper has the inclusion: “Her paper ‘The First Person’ follows up remarks by Wittgenstein, coming to the now-notorious conclusion that the first-person pronoun, ‘I’, does not refer to anything (not, e.g., to the speaker). Few people accept the conclusion—though the position was later adopted in a more radical form by David Lewis…” On Dualism, WIKI references David Lewis: [Lewis, David (1988) "What Experience Teaches", in Papers in Metaphysics and Epistemology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 262-290.]; with the inclusion “If Mary really learns something new, it must be knowledge of something non-physical, since she already knew everything there is to know about the physical aspects of colour. David Lewis' response to this argument, now known as the ability argument, is that what Mary really came to know was simply the ability to recognize and identify color sensations to which she had previously not been exposed.” In David Lewis’s paper Elusive Knowledge [Australasian Journal of Philosophy Vol. 74, No. 4; December 1996] his closing comments include the paragraph: “In trying to thread a course between the rock of fallibilism and the whirlpool of scep- ticism, it may well seem as if I have fallen victim to both at once. For do I not say that there are all those uneliminated possibilities of error? Yet do I not claim that we know a lot? Yet do I not claim that knowledge is, by definition, infallible knowledge?”

To me David Lewis contradicts his own indefinite propositions, and those of Wittgenstein, and Anscombe with concrete propositions. Excerpt examples: So, next, we need to say what it means for a possibility to be eliminated or not. (If you want to include other alleged forms of basic evidence, such as the evidence of our extrasensory faculties, or an innate disposition to believe in God, be my guest. If they exist, they should be included. If not, no harm done if we have included them conditionally.) It is the Rule of Resemblance that explains why you do not know that you will lose the lottery, no matter what the odds are against you and no matter how sure you should therefore be that you will lose. For every ticket, there is the possibility that it will win. In similar fashion, we have two permissive Rules of Method: Again, the general rule consists of a standing disposition to presuppose reliability in whatever particular case may come before us. The Rule of Attention: Do some epistemology. Let your fantasies rip. Find uneliminated possibilities of error everywhere. Now that you are attending to them, just as I told you to, you are no longer ignoring them, properly or otherwise. So you have landed in a context with an enormously rich domain of potential counter-examples to ascriptions of knowledge. In such an extraordinary context, with such a rich domain, it never can happen (well, hardly ever) that an ascription of knowledge is true. Not an ascription of knowledge to yourself (either to your present self or to your earlier self, untainted by epistemology); and not an ascription of knowledge to others. That is how epistemology destroys knowledge.

07:27, 24 January 2012