Clarification of my argument

My goal is to find answers.  I don’t like raising questions just for the sake of raising questions.

Through some one-in-a-zillion-chance accident, a cow gives birth to a shark.  What is it? A cow? A shark? A cow-shark? We can answer specific questions like, does it have cow or shark DNA? Does it moo? But someone (probably a philosopher) can always ask, “but is it really a cow, or a shark, or a cow-shark?” Pragmatists point out that this relies on a biological essentialism that no good Darwinian can take seriously.  The question is a bad question.

I take pragmatists to be making the same point about knowledge and the distinction between justification and truth.  If we distinguish justification from truth and ask for something beyond justification, we will ask silly questions.  The most obvious example I can think of is: does qualia exist? Dennett points out again and again that we can’t have – and by the definition of qualia, could never have – a reason to believe that qualia exists.  Yet philosophers of mind keep asking, does qualia exist? This silliness would stop if we adopted pragmatism.

So I take my point to be twofold:
-I disagree w/ Daniel that we should have a correspondence theory of truth, b/c pragmatist epistemology (if you can call it that) can ask and answer all of the same questions, but with the benefit that it won’t ask ridiculous cow-shark questions.
-I disagree w/ Ross b/c I think that we can have better or worse justifications for an argument or a claim, and I think this is entirely consistent with pragmatism.  Indeed, I think pragmatism has strong justifications.

I think that, in a desire to avoid Gordonesque skepticism, one might opt for a correspondence theory of truth.  But my argument is that pragmatism can avoid Gordonesque skepticism while also avoiding the disadvantages of a correspondence theory of truth.


3 Responses to Clarification of my argument

  1. joeyglick says:

    I want to clarify my hastily written, obviously offensive and unfair comment from last night. My point was a way too short generalization.

    There were two arguments going on–between Ross and Daniel, and between me, and Ross and Daniel. Ross and Daniel’s argument seemed to be about explanatory power, and I wanted to evade the question entirely.

    I think your post just happened to be very unlucky. It seems that you have been working and thinking about these ideas long before you read these most recent posts, and so they only tangentially referred to the argument at hand. This is, I emphasize again, no fault of your own. I don’t want this to be a big deal at all.

    If we were to use a debate metaphor, Ross attacked Daniel’s AC, I provided a counterplan, and you read an NC. Theres nothing wrong with that.

    I also have an intellectual point for this Reply. I don’t know what can pragmatism offer to non-intellectuals, and I feel like it has become a rhetorical problem evasion technique that makes a lot of sense, but only towards a very small subset of problems. I am not convinced, though, that Pragmatism is necessary. I haven’t experienced an overwhelming proof that has answered all relevant questions.

    For example, I am not sure that I want to allow Dennett to say that a two-bitser has derived intentionality. I don’t think that anything, strictly speaking, has derived intentionality. I think that concept is somewhat incoherent, and creates a faulty intuition pump for when Dennett compares humans to a more sophistocated two-bitser. I think derived intentionality is somewhat incoherent because it is a mere pragmatic linguistic habit that has accidentally entered our belief system. I don’t think its fair to draw Dennett’s conclusion, when I think it is entirely possible for humans to still possess intrinsic intentionality.

  2. mcdonaldb says:

    Thank you for the apology. I happily accept it.

    I freely admit that my post was the product of thoughts and ideas I’d been having long before Daniel’s and your posts, and I would eventually have posted something similar to what I wrote even if Daniel’s and your posts hadn’t been written. However, I think my arguments are relevant to that debate. You pointed out that Daniel and Ross were arguing about explanatory power, and that you were attempting to evade the issue through redescription. I think it is a direct implication of my post that we don’t need to evade the issue because we can settle it: neither pragmatism nor the correspondence theory of truth has more explanatory power.

    I agree with you that neither pragmatism nor the CTT has anything to offer non-intellectuals, and I don’t think that’s a problem. I do think though that pragmatism is more than a rhetorical evasion strategy, and I think that my two posts explained why. I also don’t understand your point about Dennett and intentionality. Dennett makes it very clear in chapter 2 of The Intentional Stance that intentionality as he defines it is a pattern that can be recognized by adopting the intentional stance, and this can be used to predict and control an intentional system. What makes you doubt this? Do you predict the behavior of your friends and professors by recording the position and velocity of every particle that composes them and then use Newton’s laws of motion to calculate future physical events? No, you adopt the intentional stance – since he believes X, and desires Y, he’s going to do Z.

    In general, I feel like I am philosophically closer to Daniel than to you and Ross, mainly because you both like to play with forms of skepticism (postmodernism and the quonundrum, skrapticism) that have always seemed incomprehensible to me. Reading Rorty and arguing with Ross about epistemology was useful for me because it caused me to give up an indefensible realist position. But my own recent “revelation” was, to drastically oversimplify, that now that I have given up realism, Rorty is on “my side” of this debate: pragmatism gives us all breathing room we need for rigorous scientific investigation while dissolving the pseudo-problems of skepticism, qualia, and other unmotivatable ideas.

  3. joeyglick says:

    I don’t understand why you say that “I think it is a direct implication of my post that we don’t need to evade the issue because we can settle it: neither pragmatism nor the correspondence theory of truth has more explanatory power.”

    I don’t understand the conception of “settling” this issue. If you presume CTT, then you think it has more explanatory power. If you presume pragmatism, then it has more explanatory power. How, without taking a step back into something like Skrapticism, is it possible to make a claim about the explanatory power of either?

    Also, it seems that while you like to say that you agree with Daniel more than Ross and I, but I can’t think of any substantive issue that we disagree on. I think the reason that you feel closer to Daniel intellectual is because you aren’t actually a pragmatist. I think you like pragmatism because it can resolve various philosophical problems, without forcing you to abandon any single part of your belief about the CTT. While, on the other hand, Ross and I are pragmatists/Skrapticists (I don’t want to speak for him, so he can correct me if he desires), because we actually see the world through the lens that Rorty and others do. We view concepts because they are useful for certain purposes, rather than the Daniel/Brian view that there are certain puzzles that are fun to play with.

    Does this make sense?

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