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

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, John Wager <john.wager1@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 27 Nov 2006 21:49:27 -0800

John Wager wrote:

If one ONLY takes the three boxes on face value, without looking at who set > them up, one has far less to work with.

Alas, the story teller tells us only what he tells us. And he refuses to tell us
more. In the story, there are only swans and boxes and emptiness (and an
impresario who remains inscrutable).

But I'd be willing to bet that one can make some kinds of predictions of the contents of the third box based on the "tell" of the person creating the problem. Buddhists would LOVE a box full of nothing. Zoologists might be tempted to stuff a black swan into the third box just because people would then see what one looked like. (Of course, given that the first box contains a swan, we would already have a partial "tell." The person setting up the problem seems to have no compunctions about boxing swans, increasing the likelihood that the third box might contain swan too. If I thought that the person setting up the boxes was a naturalist that valued eco diversity, I might bet that the third box was swanless.

This is so appealing that it's hard to see who could deny it. But for someone
who has doubts about 'logical induction,' the tics and predilections of various
sorts of people would be--wouldn't they?--just more of the same. 'In the past
when he's been bluffing, he's stared in the middle distance...'

Robert Paul
Reed College

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