[lit-ideas] Re: Causality theory of (not)knowing

  • From: Adriano Palma <Palma@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 9 Mar 2015 19:20:32 +0000

I fail to see any interest in the comparison of laws of nature (f is ma or e is 
m times c square) and laws of self defense-
If, e.g. c were not constant the law is false while if anybody applied wrongly, 
e.g., deadly force the law is not falsified by anything. Hence theft, stupidity 
or corruption do not falsify laws that sought to reduce stealing, incompetence 
idiocies, e.g. in nominations to judicial bench, or in fraud and larceny.
The debate is a misnomer.

From: lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On 
Behalf Of Omar Kusturica
Sent: 09 March 2015 21:16
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Causality theory of (not)knowing

 Well, for one thing, the laws of physics can be - and primarily are - 
expressed by mathematical formulae. E=mc2 can be rephrased in English language 
roughly as stating that: "the universal proportionality factor between 
equivalent amounts of energy and mass is equal to the speed of 
light<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light>squared" but such a paraphrase is used 
for pedagogical purposes and the like and it is not what the physician operates 
with professionally. Insofar as I am aware, I don't think that physicists 
typically argue, or need to argue, about the meaning of "E" or of "c2."

In contrast, the laws of human societies are expressed verbally, and based on 
verbal definitions, such as:

ยท         Imperfect 
self-defense<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperfect_self-defense>: In some 
jurisdictions, a person who acted in self-defense with an honest but 
unreasonable belief that deadly force was necessary to do so can reduce a 
murder charge to one of voluntary manslaughter or deliberate homicide committed 
without criminal malice. Malice is found if a person is killed intentionally 
and without legal excuse or mitigation.

If there is a way to express this legal definition via a mathematical equation 
I would be delighted to know about it.   Until such a mathematical formula is 
supplied, one can hardly help noticing that the concept of Imperfect 
self-defense is defined in terms of other verbal concepts such as 
'self-defense,' 'honest but unreasonable belief' 'intentionally' etc. whose 
meaning is far from self-evident or indisputable and that stand themselves in 
need of a definition. In fact at least the conceptual meaning of 
'intentionality' has been frequently disputed among philosophers, without any 
concensus having been reached on it.Thus any practical dispute that arises as 
to the application of these terms can hardly help engaging the issue of what 
they mean in the first place.

As to whether all this is useful, it depends... This is not a group for 
exchanging cooking recipees, and I am not certain that I am obliged to 
demontrate the usefulness of every remark I make, particularly when 
'usefulness' itself is not defined. How should it be useful, and to whom ?


On Mon, Mar 9, 2015 at 6:55 PM, Donal McEvoy 
<donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx<mailto:donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>> wrote:
This was posted earlier in another thread but appears to have been there 
blocked (again).

> I don't understand why saying that x is y must be taken to mean that it is 
> 'merely' y. If I say that a cat is white, I do not necessarily mean that it 
> is 'merely' white and that it cannot be male, large, a feline and so on. In a 
> similar way, legal discussions have conceptual dimensions as well as other 
> dimensions.>

We need to check whether uttering "This is conceptual" or "There is a 
conceptual element to this" is a useful kind of talk - or whether, to borrow 
W's metaphor, it is just language spinning unconnected to any useful mechanism. 
How do these utterances achieve more insight, or say anything more worthwhile, 
than the utterances "This is linguistic" or "There is a linguistic element to 
this", uttered every time something is expressed in language?

We need also to seriously consider whether languages or "concepts" are merely 
instruments or vehicles or whether they have a more important status than this?

> I am not sure that a comparison with physical formulae is helpful because a 
> different sort of conceptuality is involved.>

Please explain how a "different sort of conceptuality is involved"? I mean, 
that is a massive claim to make and one that requires significant 
'justification'. [And just because different concepts are involved would not 
mean "a different sort of conceptuality is involved".]

Please explain all this in a way that removes or lessens the suspicion that 
this kind of talk is clearly mere language spinning without connection to any 
worthwhile working mechanism of thought.


On Monday, 9 March 2015, 17:06, Omar Kusturica 
<omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx<mailto:omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx>> wrote:

A few more remarks on the causality theory of knowledge. As a reminder, the 
theory stipulates that, for me to say"I know that X," the following three 
conditions need to be met:

1. X is true
2. I believe that X
3. There is a causal relation between the state of affairs X and my belief

At present, I am not taking issue with 1. or 2. - it is only 3. that is in 
dispute. Thus, I am not disputing that, for me to say that "I know that the 
snow is white," the condition 1. needs to be fulfilled, i.e. that the snow is 
white. What is disputed is the causal relation.

When we speak of causality in the physical world, we generally mean sufficient 
conditions. My pushing the door is a sufficient condition for the door to open, 
barring some hindrance on the other side. It is not a necessary condition, 
since the door will open when someone else pushes it as well.

In contrast, Venus being hot is clearly not a sufficient condition for me to 
know that it is hot. Instead it turns out to be a logically necessary condition 
- I cannot know it unless it is true - which is covered by 1. But calling this 
a cause is like saying that the cause of the door opening is the door, since if 
it there were no door it wouldn't open. A causal relation has to be established 
in empirical not in logical terms. In empirical terms, the cause of my 
knowledge that Venus is hot is that I read it in a book.

On a related note, there is some confusion here between the truth of a belief 
and its ground or justification. For the Gricean theorist they are one and the 
same, hence strictly speaking the only justification that he can offer for the 
belief that the snow is white is to (re) assert that the snow is white. But if 
one were to offer a rational reason for believing x, one needs to offer some 
ground or explanation distinct from x.


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