Hesperus is Bosphorus

A group blog by philosophers in and from Turkey

Archive for the ‘Turkish language and philosophy’ Category

Epistemic Realism and the goal of Epistemology

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I’m teaching a class this Semester on ‘The British Realist Tradition from Reid to Williamson’, and I tell my students that I’m an ‘Epistemic Realist’ and this post is an attempt to work out what I mean by this. Anyway here’s a first, inadequate, stab at explaining what I mean by epistemic realism: “There is such a thing as knowing, and one central goal of epistemology is to understand more clearly what sort of thing it is”.  I think that knowledge is something like a mental natural kind (or perhaps a set of distinct natural kinds) and the task of epistemology is not primarily to get a better understanding of our concept of “knowledge”, but to discover truths about knowledge and to provide a better conceptualization of this aspect of the mental. A central question for an epistemic realist has to do with the relationship between our epistemic language and epistemic facts – and on this I’m sympathetic to Thomas Reid.

Following Reid: (1) I’m a believer in the defeasible authority of common sense. (2) I think that it is not immediately clear what belongs to common sense and what does not. And (3) I take the fact that a certain distinction is found in all natural languages to be a defeasible indication that the distinction is part of common sense. Thus I think that if a distinction is to be found in all languages, this is a good indication that it reflects a real distinction in the world. (I discussed this briefly in a previous post here)

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Written by Lucas Thorpe

March 11, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Common Sense and Seduction by Grammar.

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In the Genealogy of Morals Nietzsche suggests that because, grammatically, every verb requires a subject we naturally think that every deed requires a doer. This natural belief he argues is a result of being seduced by grammar; we confuse the need for a grammatical subject with the existence of a real subject. Nietzsche’s argument here is reminiscent of Kant’s argument in the Paralogisms of Pure Reason that rational psychology is the result of confusing the need for a logical subject of thought with the intuition of a real subject. Similarly, in “On Denoting” Russell argues that philosophers need to look beyond the surface grammatical structure of natural language to discover the underlying logical structure. In my previous post (here), I suggested that many contemporary philosophers have been seduced by a contingent feature of the grammar of Indo-European languages.

My argument might suggest that I am sceptical of appeals to the way natural languages work in philosophy. Unlike, Nietzsche, however I am not, in general, a sceptic about appeals to natural language in philosophy. Like Thomas Reid I I am sympathetic to the view that we can use certain features of natural language as defeasible evidence for (or against) philosophical positions. Although Reid is often seen as a forerunner of ordinary language philosophy I think that it is more plausible to describe him as a “universal language philosopher”, for what has philosophical significance for Reid is the agreement of all languages on a certain point, not the contingent features of a particular language.

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Written by Lucas Thorpe

February 22, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Knowledge is not a Propositional Attitude (at least, not in Turkish)

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I’m writing a paper at the moment arguing that knowledge does not entail belief.  Part of my argument is that knowing is not a propositional attitude, whereas believing is. I think there is a clear ontological distinction between facts and propositions and that what can be known are facts (and perhaps also states of affairs, and  Objects) whereas the objects of belief are propositions. The essential difference between facts and propositions is that facts are not truth apt, whereas propositions are. Amongst philosophers today the claim that knowing is not a propositional attitude is extremely idiosyncratic, however  historically something similar to the position I defend was probably the view of the majority of philosophers. In a later post I’ll give some evidence to back up this historical claim. In this post I want to point out that what I believe to be one of the strongest motivations for the claim that knowing is a propositional attitude is based on a contingent feature of English (and other Indo-European languages).

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Written by Lucas Thorpe

February 18, 2012 at 4:56 pm