[lit-ideas] Re: Back to Popper (and further back to Hume)

  • From: John Wager <john.wager1@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 23 Nov 2006 08:17:04 -0600

Donal McEvoy wrote:

You are given a proposition: "All swans are white".

You are given three boxes to test the proposition.

You open Box 1: in it is a white swan.

Box 2: is empty.

Box 3: you are not allowed to open. Until, that is, you have found a way to
say _as a probability_ what should _probably_ be in the box.

Can I say "as a probabillity" what is NOT in the box? "Probably" there is NOT a swan of either color, because in my experience ("probability") boxes don't contain swans. We are left with just one swan, a white one.

There is thus SOME evidence for the proposition that "all swans are white" but not enough to either confirm or
disconfirm it as a generality.

Now, on to another kind of bird: the turkey! It has to go into the oven in five minutes.

(Even Turkeys don't come in boxes; they come in feathers or in plastic bags. Unless you call an "oven" a "box,"
but I think that's cheating too.)

(Maybe only the one time a swan is in a box, it's white; both might be highly unusual.)

( Maybe swans outside boxes are all black, but being put into a box is so traumatic that their feathers all turn white?)

(I just hate "hypotheticals" where the assumptions that set up the hypothetical are not themselves subject to the same
logical analysis as the supposed hypothetical itself.)

"Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence and ignorance." -------------------------------------------------
John Wager                john.wager1@xxxxxxxxxxx
                                  Lisle, IL, USA

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