Combining Philosophers

All the ideas for Pierre Gassendi, A.E. Taylor and Alvin I. Goldman

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23 ideas

2. Reason / A. Nature of Reason / 6. Coherence
If the only aim was consistent beliefs then new evidence and experiments would be irrelevant [Goldman]
     Full Idea: If mere consistency is our aim in achieving a coherent set of beliefs, then new evidence and experiments are irrelevant.
     From: Alvin I. Goldman (The Internalist Conception of Justification [1980], §VIII)
     A reaction: An important reminder. What epistemic duty requires us to attend to anomalous observations, instead of sweeping them under the carpet?
6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 4. Using Numbers / c. Counting procedure
Children may have three innate principles which enable them to learn to count [Goldman]
     Full Idea: It has been proposed (on the basis of observations) that young children have three innate principles of counting - one-to-one correspondence of number to item, stable order for numbers, and cardinality (which labels the nth item counted).
     From: Alvin I. Goldman (Phil Applications of Cognitive Science [1993], p.60)
     A reaction: I like the idea of observed patterns as central (which is the one-to-one principle). But the other two principles are plausible, and show why pure empiricism won't work.
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 4. Mathematical Empiricism / a. Mathematical empiricism
Rat behaviour reveals a considerable ability to count [Goldman]
     Full Idea: Rats can determine the number of times they have pressed a lever up to at least twenty-four presses,…and can consistently turn down the fifth tunnel on the left in a maze.
     From: Alvin I. Goldman (Phil Applications of Cognitive Science [1993], p.58)
     A reaction: This seems to encourage an empirical view of maths (pattern recognition?) rather than a Platonic one. Or numbers are innate in rat brains?
7. Existence / E. Categories / 2. Categorisation
Infant brains appear to have inbuilt ontological categories [Goldman]
     Full Idea: Infant behaviour implies inbuilt ontological categories of thing, place, event, path, action, sound, manner, amount and number. ...There is an algebra of relationships between them.
     From: Alvin I. Goldman (Phil Applications of Cognitive Science [1993], p.109)
     A reaction: Interesting. We would expect the categories in infant brains to have instrumental value, but we don't have to accept them as true. Adults (even Aristotle) are big infants.
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 8. Properties as Modes
Modes of things exist in some way, without being full-blown substances [Gassendi]
     Full Idea: Modes are not nothing but something more than mere nothing; they are therefore 'res' of some kind, not substantial of course, but at least modal.
     From: Pierre Gassendi (Disquisitions [1644], II.3.4), quoted by Robert Pasnau - Metaphysical Themes 1274-1671 260
     A reaction: This is the great modern atomist talking pure scholastic metaphysics. He's been reading Suárez. Gassendi seems to accept more than one type of existence.
If matter is entirely atoms, anything else we notice in it can only be modes [Gassendi]
     Full Idea: Since these atoms are the whole of the corporeal matter or substance that exists in bodies, if we conceive or notice anything else to exist in these bodies, that is not a substance but only some kind of mode of the substance.
     From: Pierre Gassendi (Syntagma [1658], II.1.6.1), quoted by Robert Pasnau - Metaphysical Themes 1274-1671 22.4
     A reaction: If the atoms have a few qualities of their own, are they just modes? If they are genuine powers, then there can be emergent powers, which are rather more than mere 'modes'.
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 3. Representation
Elephants can be correctly identified from as few as three primitive shapes [Goldman]
     Full Idea: An elephant may be fully represented by nine primitive shapes ('geons'), but it may require as few as three geons in appropriate relations to be correctly identified.
     From: Alvin I. Goldman (Phil Applications of Cognitive Science [1993], p.7)
     A reaction: Encouraging the idea of the mind as a maker of maps and models
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 5. Interpretation
The way in which colour experiences are evoked is physically odd and unpredictable [Goldman]
     Full Idea: A unique yellow experience may be evoked with monochrome light of 580nm, or a mixture of 540nm and 670nm. ..Our interpretation of colour experience is a highly idiosyncratic artefact of our visual system.
     From: Alvin I. Goldman (Phil Applications of Cognitive Science [1993], p.117)
     A reaction: This confirms what I have always thought - that colour (as qualia) is strictly a feature of minds, not of the world.
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 2. Associationism
Gestalt psychology proposes inbuilt proximity, similarity, smoothness and closure principles [Goldman]
     Full Idea: Gestalt psychology claims that there are at least four unlearned factors in perceptual grouping - the principles of proximity (close things), of similarity, of good continuation (extending lines in a smooth course), and closure (which completes figures).
     From: Alvin I. Goldman (Phil Applications of Cognitive Science [1993], p.103)
     A reaction: This offers a bridge between Hume's associationism and rationalist claims of innate ideas
13. Knowledge Criteria / A. Justification Problems / 3. Internal or External / a. Pro-internalism
A belief can be justified when the person has forgotten the evidence for it [Goldman]
     Full Idea: A characteristic case in which a belief is justified though the cognizer doesn't know that it's justified is where the original evidence for the belief has long since been forgotten.
     From: Alvin I. Goldman (What is Justified Belief? [1976], II)
     A reaction: This is a central problem for any very literal version of internalism. The fully rationalist view (to which I incline) will be that the cognizer must make a balanced assessment of whether they once had the evidence. Were my teachers any good?
We can't only believe things if we are currently conscious of their justification - there are too many [Goldman]
     Full Idea: Strong internalism says only current conscious states can justify beliefs, but this has the problem of Stored Beliefs, that most of our beliefs are stored in memory, and one's conscious state includes nothing that justifies them.
     From: Alvin I. Goldman (Internalism Exposed [1999], §2)
     A reaction: This point seems obviously correct, but one could still have a 'fairly strong' version, which required that you could always call into consciousness the justificiation for any belief that you happened to remember.
Internalism must cover Forgotten Evidence, which is no longer retrievable from memory [Goldman]
     Full Idea: Even weak internalism has the problem of Forgotten Evidence; the agent once had adequate evidence that she subsequently forgot; at the time of epistemic appraisal, she no longer has adequate evidence that is retrievable from memory.
     From: Alvin I. Goldman (Internalism Exposed [1999], §3)
     A reaction: This is certainly a basic problem for any account of justification. It will rule out any strict requirement that there be actual mental states available to support a belief. Internalism may be pushed to include non-conscious parts of the mind.
Internal justification needs both mental stability and time to compute coherence [Goldman]
     Full Idea: The problem for internalists of Doxastic Decision Interval says internal justification must avoid mental change to preserve the justification status, but must also allow enough time to compute the formal relations between beliefs.
     From: Alvin I. Goldman (Internalism Exposed [1999], §4)
     A reaction: The word 'compute' implies a rather odd model of assessing coherence, which seems instantaneous for most of us where everyday beliefs are concerned. In real mental life this does not strike me as a problem.
13. Knowledge Criteria / A. Justification Problems / 3. Internal or External / b. Pro-externalism
If justified beliefs are well-formed beliefs, then animals and young children have them [Goldman]
     Full Idea: If one shares my view that justified belief is, at least roughly, well-formed belief, surely animals and young children can have justified beliefs.
     From: Alvin I. Goldman (What is Justified Belief? [1976], III)
     A reaction: I take this to be a key hallmark of the externalist view of knowledge. Personally I think we should tell the animals that they have got true beliefs, but that they aren't bright enough to aspire to 'knowledge'. Be grateful for what you've got.
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 5. Coherentism / c. Coherentism critique
Coherent justification seems to require retrieving all our beliefs simultaneously [Goldman]
     Full Idea: The problem of Concurrent Retrieval is a problem for internalism, notably coherentism, because an agent could ascertain coherence of her entire corpus only by concurrently retrieving all of her stored beliefs.
     From: Alvin I. Goldman (Internalism Exposed [1999], §3)
     A reaction: Sounds neat, but not very convincing. Goldman is relying on scepticism about short-term memory, but all belief and knowledge will collapse if we go down that road. We couldn't do simple arithmetic if Goldman's point were right.
13. Knowledge Criteria / C. External Justification / 3. Reliabilism / a. Reliable knowledge
Justification depends on the reliability of its cause, where reliable processes tend to produce truth [Goldman]
     Full Idea: The justificational status of a belief is a function of the reliability of the processes that cause it, where (provisionally) reliability consists in the tendency of a process to produce beliefs that are true rather than false.
     From: Alvin I. Goldman (What is Justified Belief? [1976], II)
     A reaction: Goldman's original first statement of reliabilism, now the favourite version of externalism. The obvious immediate problem is when a normally very reliable process goes wrong. Wise people still get it wrong, or right for the wrong reasons.
Reliability involves truth, and truth is external [Goldman]
     Full Idea: Reliability involves truth, and truth (on the usual assumption) is external.
     From: Alvin I. Goldman (Internalism Exposed [1999], §6)
     A reaction: As an argument for externalism this seems bogus. I am not sure that truth is either 'internal' or 'external'. How could the truth of 3+2=5 be external? Facts are mostly external, but I take truth to be a relation between internal and external.
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / j. Explanations by reduction
We observe qualities, and use 'induction' to refer to the substances lying under them [Gassendi]
     Full Idea: Nothing beyond qualities is perceived by the senses. …When we refer to the substance in which the qualities inhere, we do this through induction, by which we reason that some subject lies under the quality.
     From: Pierre Gassendi (Syntagma [1658], II.1.6.1), quoted by Robert Pasnau - Metaphysical Themes 1274-1671 07.1
     A reaction: He talks of 'induction' (in an older usage), but he seems to mean abduction, since he never makes any observations of the substances being proposed.
16. Persons / C. Self-Awareness / 1. Introspection
Introspection is really retrospection; my pain is justified by a brief causal history [Goldman]
     Full Idea: Introspection should be regarded as a form of retrospection. Thus, a justified belief that I am 'now' in pain gets its justificational status from a relevant, though brief, causal history.
     From: Alvin I. Goldman (What is Justified Belief? [1976], II)
     A reaction: He cites Hobbes and Ryle as having held this view. See Idea 6668. I am unclear why the history must be 'causal'. I may not know the cause of the pain. I may not believe an event which causes a proposition, or I may form a false belief from it.
17. Mind and Body / A. Mind-Body Dualism / 2. Interactionism
Things must have parts to intermingle [Gassendi]
     Full Idea: If you are no larger than a point, how are you joined to the whole body, which is so large? …and there can be no intermingling between things unless the parts of them can be intermingled.
     From: Pierre Gassendi (Objections to 'Meditations' (Fifth) [1641]), quoted by Jaegwon Kim - Philosophy of Mind p.131
     A reaction: As Descartes says that mind is distinct from body because it is non-spatial, it doesn't seem quite right to describe it as a 'point', but the second half is a real problem. Being non-spatial is a real impediment to intermingling with spatial objects.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / h. Respect
Religious experience deserves the same respect as our other key experiences, and is best called 'holy' [Taylor,AE, by PG]
     Full Idea: We respect the religious experience of others in a similar way to our respect for their artistic or sense experiences, and the quality which makes them seem authentic can only be called 'holy'.
     From: report of A.E. Taylor (Vindication of Religion (extract) [1926], III) by PG - Db (ideas)
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 6. Early Matter Theories / g. Atomism
Atoms are not points, but hard indivisible things, which no force in nature can divide [Gassendi]
     Full Idea: The vulgar think atoms lack parts and are free of all magnitude, and hence nothing other than a mathematical point, but it is something solid and hard and compact, as to leave no room for division, separation and cutting. No force in nature can divide it.
     From: Pierre Gassendi (Syntagma [1658], II.1.3.5), quoted by Robert Pasnau - Metaphysical Themes 1274-1671 03.2
     A reaction: If you gloatingly think the atom has now been split, ask whether electrons and quarks now fit his description. Pasnau notes that though atoms are indivisible, they are not incorruptible, and could go out of existence, or be squashed.
How do mere atoms produce qualities like colour, flavour and odour? [Gassendi]
     Full Idea: If the only material principles of things are atoms, having only size, shape, and weight, or motion, then why are so many additional qualities created and existing within the things: color, heat, flavor, odor, and innumerable others?
     From: Pierre Gassendi (Syntagma [1658], II.1.5.7), quoted by Robert Pasnau - Metaphysical Themes 1274-1671 22.4
     A reaction: This is pretty much the 'hard question' about the mind-body relation. Bacon said that heat was just motion of matter. I would say that this problem is gradually being solved in my lifetime.