Combining Philosophers

All the ideas for Kenelm Digby, Samir Okasha and J Baggini / PS Fosl

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31 ideas

2. Reason / B. Laws of Thought / 2. Sufficient Reason
The Principle of Sufficient Reason does not presuppose that all explanations will be causal explanations [Baggini /Fosl]
     Full Idea: The Principle of Sufficient Reason does not presuppose that all explanations will be causal explanations.
     From: J Baggini / PS Fosl (The Philosopher's Toolkit [2003], §3.28)
     A reaction: This sounds a reasonable note of caution, but doesn't carry much weight unless some type of non-causal reason can be envisaged. God's free will? Our free will? The laws of causation?
2. Reason / B. Laws of Thought / 3. Non-Contradiction
You cannot rationally deny the principle of non-contradiction, because all reasoning requires it [Baggini /Fosl]
     Full Idea: Anyone who denies the principle of non-contradiction simultaneously affirms it; it cannot be rationally criticised, because it is presupposed by all rationality.
     From: J Baggini / PS Fosl (The Philosopher's Toolkit [2003], §1.12)
     A reaction: Nietzsche certainly wasn't afraid to ask why we should reject something because it is a contradiction. The 'logic of personal advantage' might allow logical contradictions.
2. Reason / C. Styles of Reason / 1. Dialectic
Dialectic aims at unified truth, unlike analysis, which divides into parts [Baggini /Fosl]
     Full Idea: Dialectic can be said to aim at wholeness or unity, while 'analytic' thinking divides that with which it deals into parts.
     From: J Baggini / PS Fosl (The Philosopher's Toolkit [2003], §2.03)
     A reaction: I don't accept this division (linked here to Hegel). I am a fan of analysis, as practised by Aristotle, but it is like dismantling an engine to identify and clean the parts, before reassembling it more efficiently.
4. Formal Logic / B. Propositional Logic PL / 2. Tools of Propositional Logic / e. Axioms of PL
'Natural' systems of deduction are based on normal rational practice, rather than on axioms [Baggini /Fosl]
     Full Idea: A 'natural' system of deduction does not posit any axioms, but looks instead for its formulae to the practices of ordinary rationality.
     From: J Baggini / PS Fosl (The Philosopher's Toolkit [2003], §1.09)
     A reaction: Presumably there is some middle ground, where we attempt to infer the axioms of normal practice, and then build a strict system on them. We must be allowed to criticise 'normal' rationality, I hope.
In ideal circumstances, an axiom should be such that no rational agent could possibly object to its use [Baggini /Fosl]
     Full Idea: In ideal circumstances, an axiom should be such that no rational agent could possibly object to its use.
     From: J Baggini / PS Fosl (The Philosopher's Toolkit [2003], §1.09)
     A reaction: Yes, but the trouble is that all our notions of 'rational' (giving reasons, being consistent) break down when we look at unsupported axioms. In what sense is something rational if it is self-evident?
5. Theory of Logic / D. Assumptions for Logic / 1. Bivalence
The principle of bivalence distorts reality, as when claiming that a person is or is not 'thin' [Baggini /Fosl]
     Full Idea: Forcing everything into the straightjacket of bivalence seriously distorts the world. The problem is most acute in the case of vague concepts, such as thinness. It is not straightforwardly true or false that a person is thin.
     From: J Baggini / PS Fosl (The Philosopher's Toolkit [2003], §3.03)
     A reaction: Can't argue with that. Can we divide all our concepts into either bivalent or vague? Presumably both propositions and concepts could be bivalent.
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 2. Reduction
Multiple realisability is said to make reduction impossible [Okasha]
     Full Idea: Philosophers have often invoked multiple realisability to explain why psychology cannot be reduced to physics or chemistry, but in principle the explanation works for any higher-level science.
     From: Samir Okasha (Philosophy of Science: Very Short Intro (2nd ed) [2016], 3)
     A reaction: He gives the example of a 'cell' in biology, which can be implemented in all sorts of ways. Presumably that can be reduced to many sorts of physics, but not just to one sort. The high level contains patterns that vanish at the low level.
9. Objects / C. Structure of Objects / 4. Quantity of an Object
Quantity is the capacity to be divided [Digby]
     Full Idea: Quantity …is divisibility, or a capacity to be divided into parts.
     From: Kenelm Digby (Two treatises [1644], I.2.8), quoted by Robert Pasnau - Metaphysical Themes 1274-1671 04.1
     A reaction: 'Quantity' is scholastic philosophy is a concept we no longer possess. Without quantity, a thing might potentially exist at a spaceless point. Quantity is what spreads things out. See Pasnau Ch. 4.
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 3. Relative Identity
If identity is based on 'true of X' instead of 'property of X' we get the Masked Man fallacy ('I know X but not Y') [Baggini /Fosl, by PG]
     Full Idea: The Masked Man fallacy is when Leibniz's Law is taken as 'X and Y are identical if what is true of X is true of Y' (rather than being about properties). Then 'I know X' but 'I don't know Y' (e.g. my friend wearing a mask) would make X and Y non-identical.
     From: report of J Baggini / PS Fosl (The Philosopher's Toolkit [2003], §3.17) by PG - Db (ideas)
     A reaction: As the book goes on to explain, Descartes is guilty of this when arguing that I necessarily know my mind but not my body, so they are different. Seems to me that Kripke falls into the same trap.
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 4. Type Identity
'I have the same car as you' is fine; 'I have the same fiancée as you' is not so good [Baggini /Fosl]
     Full Idea: If you found that I had the same car as you, I don't suppose you would care, but if you found I had the same fiancée as you, you might not be so happy.
     From: J Baggini / PS Fosl (The Philosopher's Toolkit [2003], §4.17)
     A reaction: A very nice illustration of the ambiguity of "same", and hence of identity. 'I had the same thought as you'. 'I have the same DNA as you'.
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 7. Indiscernible Objects
Leibniz's Law is about the properties of objects; the Identity of Indiscernibles is about perception of objects [Baggini /Fosl]
     Full Idea: Leibniz's Law ('if identical, must have same properties') defines identity according to the properties possessed by the object itself, but the Identity of Indiscernibles defines identity in terms of how things are conceived or grasped by the mind.
     From: J Baggini / PS Fosl (The Philosopher's Toolkit [2003], §3.16)
     A reaction: This is the heart of the problem of identity. We realists must fight for Leibniz's Law, and escort the Identity of Indiscernibles to the door.
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 3. Types of Necessity
Is 'events have causes' analytic a priori, synthetic a posteriori, or synthetic a priori? [Baggini /Fosl]
     Full Idea: Of the proposition that "all experienced events have causes", Descartes says this is analytic a priori, Hume says it is synthetic a posteriori, and Kant says it is synthetic a priori.
     From: J Baggini / PS Fosl (The Philosopher's Toolkit [2003], §4.01)
     A reaction: I am not sympathetic to Hume on this (though most people think he is right). I prefer the Kantian view, but he makes a very large claim. Something has to be intuitive.
12. Knowledge Sources / A. A Priori Knowledge / 1. Nature of the A Priori
'A priori' does not concern how you learn a proposition, but how you show whether it is true or false [Baggini /Fosl]
     Full Idea: What makes something a priori is not the means by which it came to be known, but the means by which it can be shown to be true or false.
     From: J Baggini / PS Fosl (The Philosopher's Toolkit [2003], §4.01)
     A reaction: Helpful. Kripke in particular has labelled the notion as an epistemological one, but that does imply a method of acquiring it. Clearly I can learn an a priori truth by reading it the newspaper.
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 4. Foundationalism / b. Basic beliefs
Basic beliefs are self-evident, or sensual, or intuitive, or revealed, or guaranteed [Baggini /Fosl]
     Full Idea: Sentence are held to be basic because they are self-evident or 'cataleptic' (Stoics), or rooted in sense data (positivists), or grasped by intuition (Platonists), or revealed by God, or grasped by faculties certified by God (Descartes).
     From: J Baggini / PS Fosl (The Philosopher's Toolkit [2003], §1.01)
     A reaction: These are a bit blurred. Isn't intuition self-evident? Isn't divine guarantee a type of revelation? How about reason, experience or authority?
14. Science / A. Basis of Science / 3. Experiment
Not all sciences are experimental; astronomy relies on careful observation [Okasha]
     Full Idea: Not all sciences are experimental - astronomers obviously cannot do experiments on the heavens, but have to content themselves with careful observation instead.
     From: Samir Okasha (Philosophy of Science: Very Short Intro (2nd ed) [2016], 1)
     A reaction: Biology too. Psychology tries hard to be experimental, but I doubt whether the main theories emerge from experiments.
Randomised Control Trials have a treatment and a control group, chosen at random [Okasha]
     Full Idea: In the Randomised Controlled Trial for a new drug, patients are divided at random into a treatment group who receive the drug, and a control group who do not. Randomisation is important to eliminate confounding factors.
     From: Samir Okasha (Philosophy of Science: Very Short Intro (2nd ed) [2016], 2)
     A reaction: [compressed] Devised in the 1930s, and a major breakthrough in methodology for that kind of trial. Psychologists use the method all the time. Some theorists say it is the only reliable method.
14. Science / A. Basis of Science / 6. Falsification
A proposition such as 'some swans are purple' cannot be falsified, only verified [Baggini /Fosl]
     Full Idea: The problem with falsification is that it fails to work with logically particular claims such as 'some swans are purple'. Examining a million swans and finding no purple ones does not falsify the claim, as there might still be a purple swan out there.
     From: J Baggini / PS Fosl (The Philosopher's Toolkit [2003], §3.29)
     A reaction: Isn't it beautiful how unease about a theory (Popper's) slowly crystallises into an incredibly simple and devastating point? Maybe 'some swans are purple' isn't science unless there is a good reason to propose it?
The discoverers of Neptune didn't change their theory because of an anomaly [Okasha]
     Full Idea: Adams and Leverrier began with Newton's theory of gravity, which made an incorrect prediction about the orbit of Uranus. They explained away the conflicting observations by postulating a new planet, Neptune.
     From: Samir Okasha (Philosophy of Science: Very Short Intro (2nd ed) [2016], 1)
     A reaction: The falsificationists can say that the anomalous observation did not falsify the theory, because they didn't know quite what they were observing. It was not in fact an anomaly for Newtonian theory at all.
Science mostly aims at confirming theories, rather than falsifying them [Okasha]
     Full Idea: The goal of science is not solely to refute theories, but also to determine which theories are true (or probably true). When a scientist collects data …they are trying to show that their own theory is true.
     From: Samir Okasha (Philosophy of Science: Very Short Intro (2nd ed) [2016], 2)
     A reaction: This is the aim of 'accommodation' to a wide set of data, rather than prediction or refutation.
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 1. Scientific Theory
Theories with unobservables are underdetermined by the evidence [Okasha]
     Full Idea: According to anti-realists, scientific theories which posit unobservable entities are underdetermined by the empirical data - there will always be a number of competing theories which can account for the data equally well.
     From: Samir Okasha (Philosophy of Science: Very Short Intro (2nd ed) [2016], 4)
     A reaction: The fancy version is Putnam's model theoretic argument, explored by Tim Button. The reply, apparently, is that there are other criteria for theory choice, apart from the data. And we don't have to actually observe everything in a theory.
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 5. Commensurability
Two things can't be incompatible if they are incommensurable [Okasha]
     Full Idea: If two things are incommensurable they cannot be incompatible.
     From: Samir Okasha (Philosophy of Science: Very Short Intro (2nd ed) [2016], 5)
     A reaction: Kuhn had claimed that two rival theories are incompatible, which forces the paradigm shift. He can't stop the slide off into total relativism. The point is there cannot be a conflict if there cannot even be a comparison.
14. Science / C. Induction / 1. Induction
Induction is inferences from examined to unexamined instances of a given kind [Okasha]
     Full Idea: Some philosophers use 'inductive' to just mean not deductive, …but we reserve it for inferences from examined to unexamined instances of a given kind.
     From: Samir Okasha (Philosophy of Science: Very Short Intro (2nd ed) [2016], 2)
     A reaction: The instances must at least be comparable. Must you know the kind before you start? Surely you can examine a sequence of things, trying to decide whether or not they are of one kind? Is checking the uniformity of a kind induction?
The problem of induction is how to justify our belief in the uniformity of nature [Baggini /Fosl]
     Full Idea: At its simplest, the problem of induction can be boiled down to the problem of justifying our belief in the uniformity of nature.
     From: J Baggini / PS Fosl (The Philosopher's Toolkit [2003], §1.03)
     A reaction: An easy solution to the problem of induction: we treat the uniformity of nature as axiomatic, and then induction is all reasoning which is based on that axiom. The axiom is a working hypothesis, which may begin to appear false. Anomalies are hard.
14. Science / C. Induction / 4. Reason in Induction
How can an argument be good induction, but poor deduction? [Baggini /Fosl]
     Full Idea: The problem of induction is the problem of how an argument can be good reasoning as induction but poor reasoning as deduction.
     From: J Baggini / PS Fosl (The Philosopher's Toolkit [2003], §1.03)
     A reaction: Nicely put, and a good defence of Hume against the charge that he has just muddled induction and deduction. All reasoning, we insist, should be consistent, or it isn't reasoning.
14. Science / C. Induction / 6. Bayes's Theorem
If the rules only concern changes of belief, and not the starting point, absurd views can look ratiional [Okasha]
     Full Idea: If the only objective constraints concern how we should change our credences, but what our initial credences should be is entirely subjective, then individuals with very bizarre opinions about the world will count as perfectly rational.
     From: Samir Okasha (Philosophy of Science: Very Short Intro (2nd ed) [2016], 2)
     A reaction: The important rationality has to be the assessement of a diverse batch of evidence, for which there can never be any rules or mathematics.
14. Science / D. Explanation / 3. Best Explanation / a. Best explanation
Abduction aims at simplicity, testability, coherence and comprehensiveness [Baggini /Fosl]
     Full Idea: There are some 'principles of selection' in abduction: 1) prefer simple explanations, 2) prefer coherent explanations (consistent with what is already held true), 3) prefer theories that make testable predictions, and 4) be comprehensive in scope.
     From: J Baggini / PS Fosl (The Philosopher's Toolkit [2003], §2.01)
     A reaction: Note that these are desirable, but not necessary (pace Ockham and Ayer). I cannot think of anything to add to the list, so I will adopt it. Abduction is the key to rationality.
To see if an explanation is the best, it is necessary to investigate the alternative explanations [Baggini /Fosl]
     Full Idea: The only way to be sure we have the best explanation is to investigate the alternatives and see if they are any better.
     From: J Baggini / PS Fosl (The Philosopher's Toolkit [2003], §3.01)
     A reaction: Unavoidable! Since I love 'best explanation', I now seem to be committed to investigation every mad theory that comes up, just in case it is better. I hope I am allowed to reject after a very quick sniff.
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 5. Rationality / a. Rationality
Consistency is the cornerstone of rationality [Baggini /Fosl]
     Full Idea: Consistency is the cornerstone of rationality.
     From: J Baggini / PS Fosl (The Philosopher's Toolkit [2003], §1.06)
     A reaction: This is right, and is a cornerstone of Kant's approach to ethics. Rational beings must follow principles - in order to be consistent in their behaviour. 'Consistent' now requires a definition….
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 7. Later Matter Theories / b. Corpuscles
Colours arise from the rarity, density and mixture of matter [Digby]
     Full Idea: The origin of all colours in bodies is plainly deduced out of the various degrees of rarity and density, variously mixed and compounded.
     From: Kenelm Digby (Two treatises [1644], I.29.4), quoted by Robert Pasnau - Metaphysical Themes 1274-1671 22.5
     A reaction: We are still struggling with this question, though I think the picture is gradually become clear, once you get the hang of the brain. Easy! See Idea 17396.
27. Natural Reality / A. Classical Physics / 1. Mechanics / b. Laws of motion
Galileo refuted the Aristotelian theory that heavier objects fall faster [Okasha]
     Full Idea: Galileo's most enduring contribution lay in mechanics, where he refuted the Aristotelian theory that heavier bodies fall faster than lighter.
     From: Samir Okasha (Philosophy of Science: Very Short Intro (2nd ed) [2016], 2)
     A reaction: This must the first idea in the theory of mechanics, allowing mathematical treatment and accurate comparisons.
27. Natural Reality / G. Biology / 5. Species
Virtually all modern views of speciation rest on relational rather than intrinsic features [Okasha]
     Full Idea: On all modern species concepts (except the phenetic), the property in virtue of which a particular organism belongs to one species rather than another is a relational rather than an intrinsic property of the organism.
     From: Samir Okasha (Darwinian Metaphysics: Species and Essentialism [2002], p.201), quoted by Michael Devitt - Resurrecting Biological Essentialism 4
     A reaction: I am in sympathy with Devitt's attack on this view, for the same reason that I take relational explanations of almost anything (such as the mind) to be inadequate. We need to know the intrinsic features that enable the relations.