[lit-ideas] Re: Popper's Unsolved Problems
- From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
- To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 13 Mar 2016 21:44:50 +0000 (UTC)
Excuse me if I leave St. Patrick and the snakes out of it.
I would not think that 'fact' has more than one sense.>
Would JLS assert that it would never make sense to say "It is a fact that the
murder of innocent children in that part of the war was not justified as part
of the military campaign and indeed hampered the military campaign because it
swung support to the other side"?
If not, wouldn't JLS accept this 'fact' has quite a different sense to 'fact'
in the proposition "It is a fact that influenza cannot be spread
telepathically"? And that this last proposition, even if empirical/falsifiable,
may differ from a 'fact' like "There is no elephant in my living room" or a
'fact' like "An elephant is a larger animal than a mole" or a 'fact' like "The
skin of an elephant is never green and pink polka dots" or a 'fact' like "This
elephant has no tusks"?
Even if all these 'facts' (except the wrongness of murdering children) are
empirical/falsifiable by observation they are not logically therefore the same
kind of 'fact' - we may argue that they are distinct kinds of empirical 'fact'
because their logical character differs, as may be seen by looking at
differences in the (logical) character of their class of potential falsifiers.
On Sunday, 13 March 2016, 21:11, "dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx"
Popper would say that 'solved problem' is perhaps always an exaggeration.
Is he exaggerating?
In a message dated 3/13/2016 1:24:06 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes: "In addition to where solutions can be "true"
(because they correspond to the facts)"
Since Patrick's Day is approaching (that saint, as he then wasn't), I was
thinking of one particular problem and its solution he faced: how to banish
all snakes from Ireland. Can his solution be dubbed _true_?
"[S]olutions can also be better or worse in a normative field [e.g. law]
even if their being "better or worse" is also a normative question and not
based only on correspondence to "facts" in the non-ethical sense of "facts"
(e.g. the sense of "facts" in the natural sciences)."
-- or non-ethical 'way'. I would not think that 'fact' has more than one
sense. Oddly, for the Ancient Romans, 'a fact' was something done -- from
'factum'. So Cicero would certainly challenge Tarski that it is a fact that
snow is white --.
"This "better or worse" in the normative field cannot be identified with a
utilitarian ethics or reduced to a utilitarian ethics - it is not as if
utilitarian ethics exhausts the field of normative possibilities or must
ethically trump other normative possibilities."
--- INTERLUDE ON A WORD (Vide Grice, Way of Words)
'trump', cognate with Provençal tromba, Italian tromba, all probably from a
Germanic source (compare Old High German trumpa, Old Norse trumba
"Although both of Trump's parents were born in Germany, Trump told friends
and acquaintances for decades after World War II that the family was of
Swedish origin. According to his nephew John Walter, "He had a lot of Jewish
tenants and it wasn't a good thing to be German in those days."
--- end of interlude on a word.
"If there is a position in grave danger of becoming a "category mistake"
here it is not a problem-solving approach but "utilitarian ethics": for a
utilitarian ethics cannot be ethical if it is based only on utility but only
if it is based on an ethical case for using "utility" as a basis for
morality - in other words, a merely utilitarian or "utility"-based case for
utilitarianism could not be a genuine ethical case because it lacks a genuine
Touché. Of course the utilitarian ethicist or meta-ethicist would say that
he is proposing a reductive or reductionist conceptual analysis.
1912, “Does Moral Philosophy Rest on a Mistake?” Mind, 21: 21–37.
1929, “Duty and Interest,” Inaugural Lecture (Oxford: Clarendon Press).
Problem with a reductionist conceptual analysis here is that we might not
know what the analysans is.
Mill for example believed "mystelf to be the first person who brought the
word utilitarian into use" he acknowledged that he never invented the word,
but saw it in passing in Mr. Galt's "Annals of the Parish," "if you are
into that sort of reading" (and even if you aren't, I add). The sad thing is
that Mill was to discreet to revise personal correspondence. Had he done
that, he would have been aware that Bentham had previously used the word
'utilitarian' in his 1781 private letter to George Wilson, and, also
in Bentham's 1802 private letter to Dumont, where Bentham claimed that
'utilitarian' was the proper name for his new creed.
Of course it all has Graeco-Roman bases.
For Bentham is all about 'happiness', and hedonistic philosophical
societies (from 'hedone', happiness) flourished during the Roman era. The poet
Lucretius is its most known Roman proponent. By the end of the Roman Empire,
having undergone Christian attack and repression, hedonism had all but died
out, and would be resurrected in the 17th century by the atomist Gassendi.
Some hedonists consider the epic poem On the Nature of Things by Lucretius
to present in one unified work the core arguments and theories of hedonism.
Many of the papyrus scrolls unearthed at the Villa of the Papyri at
Herculaneum are hedonistic texts.
"That is, there cannot be a wholly non-ethical basis for any genuine
ethics.The reality is that most of us, given a range of specific ethical
problems, would use some elements of utility-based considerations - and
utility-based considerations might even be decisive in some cases - but we
give weight to considerations that were not utility-based. But the more
fundamental point is this: even where we gave weight to utility-based
considerations, we would only be being ethical in so doing if those
were given weight for ethical reasons beyond the utility of giving them
I see. Which brings us back to Patrick (as he then wasn't a saint, and his
problem solving strategies in banishing all snakes from Ireland.
The absence of snakes in Ireland is proof, to some that they have been
banished by Patrick, a saint.
Patrick faced a problem:
i. There are snakes in Ireland.
He looked for a solution: falsify (i) so that
ii. There are no snakes in Ireland.
becomes true, rather than its contrary.
MEANS to achieve the solution:
Patrick simply chased all the snakes into the Irish sea.
To justify his action, Patrick said that all the snakes had attacked him
during a 40-day fast he was undertaking on top of a hill.
"It was self-defense."
Was Patrick's problem vacuous?
All evidence -- that would turn (i) true -- suggests that there is none.
Post-glacial Ireland never had snakes, and Patrick could not have been
fasting on to of a hill in pre-glacial Ireland.
While serprents are common in Scotland -- the venomous adder, the grass
snake, the smooth snake, to name a few -- but no Scottish (or English or
Welsh) serpent has been proved to migrate successfully across the Irish sea to
Ireland from Scotland (unless artificially, by someone carrying the
serpent on a ship or a plane). (In Patrick's days, it has been argued, Ireland
was only some 12 miles from Scotland, and a very small boat may have
transported the snakes that Patrick said attacked him).
Nigel Monaghan, keeper of natural history at the National Museum of Ireland
in Dublin, who has searched extensively through Irish fossil collections
and records notes: "At no time has there ever been any suggestion of snakes
in Ireland, so [there was] nothing for St. Patrick to banish".
So, in what 'way' can he be said to have 'solved' a problem? One theory
goes that he is using 'snake' figuratively and referring to the 'tattoo' of a
snake -- and it was these people wearing these snake-tattooes who attacked
him. In which case we would have a different problem (posed figuratively by
Patrick) and a different solution. "Banish" implicates some sort of
'intentional' behaviour on the part of the addressee of the banish, and this
turns Patrick's solution a much subtler one, even if still strictly
in spirit -- unless proved otherwise!
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