[lit-ideas] Re: Geary And What's Right With Philosophy Never Being Wrong

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" for DMARC)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 27 Jul 2015 10:32:01 -0400

We are discussing Geary's proposition:

i. Philosophy is the only field of study wherein there is no definitely
RIGHT theory.

This is a development of his earlier view,

ii. Philosophy is the only field of study wherein there is no definitely
WRONG theory.

(He adds: "I admit 'wrong' was a typo.")

In a message dated 7/27/2015 4:59:42 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes:

"All theories" are propositional and all theoretical propositions have a
negation (which is also a "theory"). Either the theory/proposition or its
negation must be true (it follows that there are just as many true
propositions/theories in philosophy as there are false ones, for every true
proposition/theory has a correspondingly false negation and every false
proposition/theory has a correspondingly true negation).
... We may be definite (as definite can be) that it is not the case that
all theories are wrong (see 1) but admit all might be wrong, in the sense
that we cannot be definite as to which are wrong: but it cannot be the case
that all theories might be definitely (i.e. provably) wrong (for this is to
assert that where one of two propositions must be right [e.g. a p and non-p]
we can nevertheless prove both wrong).

Granted. Sir Peter (the late Sir Peter, one might add) F. Strawson would
object to that (Grice would not). For Sir Peter (Grice's tutee, alas), there
are what Quine once called (but the expression stuck), 'truth-value gaps'.

E.g.

iii. Julius Caesar is a prime number.

Seeing that (iii) is nonsense (and Ramsey used to say that "all philosophy
is SERIOUS nonsense"), (iii) is neither true nor false. Its negation:

iv. Julius Caesar is NOT a prime number: he was an Ancient Roman general.

is however true. Strawson's example was:

v. The present king of France is bald.

Hardly nonsense -- although perhaps nonsensical for Witters for whom,
wrongly, meaning = use --. Yet Strawson wants to say (he possibly mislearned a
thing or two from his tutor Grice here) that both (v) and its negation:

vi. The present king of France is not bald.

are neither true nor false, but 'lack a truth-value'. The keyword then is
'truth-value gap', which might add a qualification to our original premise
by Geary, to the effect that

i. Philosophy is the only field of study wherein there is no definitely
RIGHT theory.

Incidentally, while in the Malagasy language, as R. Paul commented on this
same thread, you COULD say "They were going to marry" (to wit: "izy ireo
handeha hanambady") and "Theirs is a happy marriage" (to wit, "Azy ny
tokantrano sambatra"), it might be argued that their concept of 'happiness'
differs from Aristotle -- but yes, lemurs come out at night ("Lemurs avy
amin'ny
alina'"), and unmarried, too.

Cheers,

Speranza

-- McEvoy: "JLS notes: "For Popper all theories might be definitely wrong."
This is almost definitely wrong. And for several reasons. For Popper:
1) "All theories" are propositional and all theoretical propositions have
a negation (which is also a "theory"). Either the theory/proposition or its
negation must be true (it follows that there are just as many true
propositions/theories in philosophy as there are false ones, for every true
proposition/theory has a correspondingly false negation and every false
proposition/theory has a correspondingly true negation).
2) We may draw a fundamental distinction between a theory being
"wrong"/false and it being "definitely wrong", where "definitely" means
something
like "conclusively", "provably" or "demonstrably". We may be definite (as
definite can be) that either a theory or its negation is "wrong" but be not at
all definite as to which is "wrong".
3) We may be definite (as definite can be) that it is not the case that
all theories are wrong (see 1) but admit all might be wrong, in the sense
that we cannot be definite as to which are wrong: but it cannot be the case
that all theories might be definitely (i.e. provably) wrong (for this is to
assert that where one of two propositions must be right [e.g. a p and non-p]
we can nevertheless prove both wrong).
These are just preliminaries, and more important points will be found in
Popper's works."


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