[lit-ideas] Re: Popper and Peacocke on representation

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 13 Apr 2014 21:47:11 +0100 (BST)

(unrepentantly) wrote:
>As well, all concur - save for a student of a student of Dick Hare
- that to know that P is true (or not) is to believe that P is true (or not)
and that Davidson would agree. Yes, I choose my drinking companions

We may agree that there is a
sense in standard English where this is the case – though it is the case only by
a kind of stipulation or consensus as to what it is 'to know', and this sense
of ‘to know’ is not exhaustive. 

This "sense" is typically so for
first-person avowals of 'I know p': for we may say that if someone claims 'I
know p' and they do not really believe p, then their avowal is insincere and a
sham, and so they do not really "know" p (even if p should be true);
and we may stipulate that if p is false, then even if they believe p then they
do not really "know" p (i.e. we may concede there are times we
restrict “know” in meaning, so that falsely knowing is definitionally

But we need not (and should
not) equate all "knowledge" with this stipulated sense. If we switch
from "I know p" to "I have knowledge that p" then we can
easily, and consistent with standard usage, have a non-JTB sense of
"knowledge": for it is not against standard usage to say "I have
some knowledge that this computer virus may spread to any other computer using
the same router, though I am not sure I believe this, and my knowledge is of a
conjectural sort here and may be false". 

Once we accept that all (or
most) of our knowledge is fallible (i.e. not infallible) then the proper sense
of "knowledge" must include "conjectural knowledge"
- knowledge that may be false and yet has the status of "conjectural
knowledge", even should it be false and even if it is never quite

Of course this will not
abolish the practical usefulness of having a sense of "know" whereby
persons should not be claiming they "know" when they are insincere
(i.e. believe otherwise). [That is, a “sense” where we hold people to account
because it is inappropriately misleading for them to use “know” where this 
either their belief or their ‘justification’.]

But when the police knock at
my door and say "Do you have any knowledge of Walter's
recent whereabouts?", I cannot hide behind the fact I have no firm beliefs
or my conjectures may be false - it would be dissembling on my part to say
"No", even if my relevant belief is neither unequivocal nor
infallible nor correct. A more honest answer would be "I had heard, from
Walter himself, that he was drinking in a pub in Oxford recently" - and
this would be some "knowledge",
even if Walter had fibbed to me and it were false Walter was in such a pub, and
even if I were entirely equivocal as to whether I believed Walter or not, and 
even if I were mistaken that I had heard from Walter because I actually heard 
from someone impersonating him on this list.

So not only does the correct
epistemic account of "knowledge" transcend any JTB-based account: but
even ordinary usage, as per the police' question above, uses
"knowledge" in ways that clearly transcend a JTB-based account. If
this is consistently overlooked by some philosophers it is perhaps because they
are hidebound by their definition or conceptual restriction of what constitutes
“knowledge” and “knowing”: and only see what they stipulate can be seen.* 
According to
the philosopher Paul Simon, in “The JTB Boxer”, “A JTB man sees what he wants
to see, and disregards the rest.”
On Saturday, 5 April 2014, 18:27, Walter C. Okshevsky <wokshevs@xxxxxx> wrote:
Here at the Rose and Crown on North Parade Street, Oxford, Arkansas, consensus
amongst philosophers and the philosophically-inclined has it that Davidson
never maintained that a sentence (statement) must be believed (or not) to be
what it is. As well, all concur - save for a student of a student of Dick Hare
- that to know that P is true (or not) is to believe that P is true (or not)
and that Davidson would agree. Yes, I choose my drinking companions carefully.

Walter O
conferencing away at New College

Quoting Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx:

> Omar K. was wondering about a reference to Davidson:
> "Well, if  Davidson really thought "that you cannot have a 'sentence' ("The 
> cat sat   on the mat") without the BELIEF (or opinion) to the effect that 
> the cat sat  on  the mat." he must have been stark mad. I am thinking that 
> this is  probably a misunderstanding. [...] Okay, we might say that lying, if
> successful,  requires at least one person to believe it, but if there is no 
> way of accounting  for jokes, fictions, second/language teaching examples, 
> examples on Lit/ideas  etc., without presupposing 'belief' in the 
> proposition, this is basically  ridiculous."
> A bit of context may be in order.
> The reference to Davidson came from P. Enns, who was quoting Davidson as,  
> as it were, a way to illuminate the prose of Heidegger (specifically 
> Heidgger's  writings on the nature of language -- the early and the later 
> Heidegger, in  conjunction). Let us have that first-hand quote again.
> Perhaps after  that, we can immerse onto the question of the priority or 
> alleged priority (as  per Davidson) of opinions over utterances that Omar K.
> is, in my reading,  addressing:
> P. Enns had written:
> "Alongside the importance of  Heidegger's essay, 'The question concerning 
> technology', which discusses  instrumental reason and the role of technique 
> [...,] I would also add  Heidegger's work on language in *Being
> and Time* as well as his later essays,  such as 'The way to language'. In 
> these writings, Heidegger explores the ways in  which language is 
> constitutive of understanding and the intelligibility of the  world, not as
> a tool or lens with which we encounter the world, as though  language were 
> something through which we picture, represent or refer to the  world, but 
> rather as being human. Whether it is in his discussion of how  language is a
> necessary condition for human life in the world, or the way in  which 
> language precedes our understanding of the world, Heidegger tries to show  us
> that 
> language is much more than a means of communication. While the later  
> Heidegger does occasionally indulge in a mystification of language,
> in both  the early and later writings, his aim, to borrow a phrase from 
> Davidson, is to  re-establish unmediated touch with the familiar objects
> whose 
> antics make our  sentences and opinions true or false."
> To re-word:
> To re-establish unmediated (i.e. _sans_ representation?) 
> touch with the familiar objects
>  (such as cats and mats) 
> whose antics (notably the cat) make our sentencs AND OPINIONS 
> [my emphasis -- Speranza] true [...]."
> We now corroborate, thanks to  P. Enns, that the quote comes from 
> Davidson's sort of famous 'conceptual  scheme' essay.
> In trying to elaborate on the Davidson quote, I ended up  emphasising the 
> role of 'representation' (not a word Davidson uses  admittedly).
> And I thought of bringing in Peacocke (who's written extensively on  this, 
> and, in my view, brilliantly).
> And, I thought of ALSO bringing, 'into the bargain', as it were, Popper --  
> since McEvoy has a serious interest in this philosopher and it looked as if 
>  Popper's Kantianism may contradict some of Davidson's points -- and _a  
> fortiori_, Heidegger: that there is such a thing as an unmediated touch with 
> stuff. (I hope my phrasing is clear!)
> Omar notes:
> "Well, if Davidson really thought "that you cannot  have a 'sentence' ("The 
> cat sat  on the mat") without the BELIEF (or  opinion) to the effect that 
> the cat sat on  the mat." he must have been  stark mad. I am thinking that 
> this is probably a misunderstanding. ... Okay, we  might say that lying, if 
> successful, requires at least one person to believe it,  but if there is no 
> way of accounting for jokes, fictions, second/language  teaching examples, 
> examples on Lit/ideas etc., without presupposing 'belief' in  the
> proposition, 
> this is basically ridiculous."
> Yes. 
> It may be interesting to emphasise that Davidson is speaking of  'sentences 
> and opinions' in the quoted passage
> -- where 'opinion' must stand for belief (or some such 'cognitive'  
> psychological attitude -- versus a conative one such as 'desire', which are 
> fulfilled or not, rather than true or false). 
> But this should perhaps trigger, if we are in the right philosophical  
> mood, a broader question. 
> It is easy enough, after all, alla Davidson, to ascribe truth to sentences  
> -- rather than to opinions. 
> This is the Tarski schema. Yet, in some conceptions of knowledge (notably  
> the one one and again contradicted by McEvoy) it is _beliefs_ that are 
> primarily  true, not sentences -- Plato's Theaetetus, the earliest source 
> possibly, as  cited by Gettier. 
> Davidson has gone on record as a symmetricalist: he cannot have an opinion  
> without a sentence and vice versa -- this is for him both an 
> epistemological AND  an ontological point. (I was inspired into this
> interpretation of 
> Davidson's  philosophy by Anita Avramides DPhil dissertation at Oxford,
> advised 
> by  Strawson). 
> On the other hand, for those philosophers who have explored  the idea of 
> content (as Peacocke has -- as in his book, "Content", Blackwell,  but also
> in 
> his inaugural lecture as Waynflete Professor of Metaphysics at  Oxford), 
> the role of representation becomes crucial. 
> In Peacocke's case, it is perceptual content that counts, which may brings  
> a dose of scepticism to Davidson's realist (if that's what it is, even  
> scientific-realist) idea that there is or should be or could be an unmediated
> touch with familiar things and their antics -- I would NOT use 'object' 
> which  presupposes a full epistemology alla Kant).
> Alston (in his classic "Philosophy of Language") famously (or is it  
> infamously cites Grice (a favourite philosopher of mine) as an 'ideationist',
> alla Locke. For Locke, indeed, there is 'mediate' signification, and 
> 'immediate'  signfiication. And this may relate to Davidson's use of
> 'unmediated' in 
> the  quote provided by Enns. 
> Locke, Alston says, holds that words SIGNIFY, immediately, the IDEAS in the 
>  mind of he or she who uses them -- but they signify, or aim at signifying, 
>  mediately, the THINGS for which these ideas stand -- hence (I think) what  
> Popper, elsewhere, refers to as the new 'way of ideas' (which becomes,  
> eventually, the title of Grice's posthumous book). 
> Perhaps talk of representation as keyword here sounds pretentious. It  
> shouldn't, I hope! 
> Cheers,
> Speranza
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