[lit-ideas] Re: Presumptive Meanings: Geary vs. Davidson

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  • Date: Wed, 11 Feb 2015 06:29:44 -0500

How global can scepticism be?
Who edited Descartes's "Solipsistic Dialogues"?
Was Donald Davidson wrong?

Is Geary wrong?
Did someone once said that?

What's that?

These are all fascinating questions...
In a message dated 2/10/2015 7:33:25 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes:
"Someone once said [Donald Davidson,  the UC/Berkeley philosopher] was 
wrong about that."

Exactly that the 'that' amounts that can be doublecheck in the original  
post. But that post also included a quote which I should expand now. 
It comes from 
Malpas, Jeff, "Donald Davidson", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy  
(Spring 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), forthcoming URL = 

The whole point was to compare it with Geary's claim about presumptions,  
assumptions, mispresumptions, and what I call orthopresumptions. 
Malpas writes as per below, and we could reconsider how wrong he is in  
rephrasing Donald Davidson's view, and, into the bargain, how wrong Davidson 
(or  Geary for that matter) can be:
Malpas writes:

"Since knowledge of the world is inseparable from other forms of  
knowledge, so global epistemological scepticism — the view that all [...] of 
beliefs  about the world could [or might] be false — turns out to be  committed 
to much more than is  usually supposed."
The implicature seems to be that it might turn out to be committed to a  
paradox, that post-Socratic philosophers love (cfr. Socrates, "All I know is  
that I know nothing") ("Only that Socrates wasn't a post-Socratic 
philosopher,"  Geary marginally notes). 
Malpas continues:
"Should it indeed turn out that [all] our beliefs about the  world  were 
all [...] false, [...] this would not 
only imply [or  entail, as I prefer -- Speranza] the  falsity of [all] our 
beliefs about  others [but as Descartes said, "Never mind others" -- 
"Letters to a Solipsist"],  but it would also have the peculiar [i.e. 
self-contradictory]  consequence of making false [all] our beliefs about 
Which was Geary's point:
"It doesn't matter, of course, but I'd kind of like to know because, well,  
you know, my emotional life, it sort of matters to me and I don't want to 
get  all bent out of shape over a mispresumption."
Note that the keyword is "emotional life", and more specifically, Geary's  
emotional life. It may be argued that Geary's point is more general than  
Davidson, who is only concerned about beliefs. Geary is concerned about 
desires,  too, inter alia. 

Malpas continues:
"— including the supposition that we do indeed hold those particular  false 
i.e. beliefs about ourselves, including the supposition, or  
'mispresumption', as Geary might prefer, that we indeed hold those particular  
beliefs (or mispresumptions, to use again Geary's term).

Malpas indeed grants a point that might be the source for McEvoy's  opinion 
on this point to the effect that someone once said that Davidson was  
Malpas: "Although this may fall short of demonstrating the falsity of  such 
[global] scepticism, it surely  demonstrates it to be deeply  problematic." 
Which is deeply good. If philosophy generated no problems it would be dead, 
 and if it generated the same old problems it would never be alive.
Re McEvoy's "* [Davidson] was wrong -- I am not surprised. It seems the  
exercise of philosophy involves what H. P. G. calls a diagogic approach.
He writes:
"At first sight, more than one distinct philosophical thesis would appear  
to account for the material
and settle the question raised by  it."
Here we may just consider
(GS) Global Scepticism is right.
Davidson, and perhaps Geary, are denying (GS):
~(GS) Global Scepticism is wrong.
Grice notes:
"The way (generally the only way) in which a particular thesis is  
established is thought to be by the
elimination of its rivals,  characteristically by the detection of 

This seems to fit McEvoy's
"Someone once said that he was wrong about that".
Implicating that that someone detected a counterexample to the thesis,  
which would eliminate it.
"It is, however my hope," Grice confesses, "that in many cases, including  
the most important cases, theses can be established by direct evidence in 
their  favour. 
The keyword here is the epagogic-diagogic distinction. An epagogic approach 
 to philosophy is counterexample-based, a diagogic one is not.
Grice: "The more emphasis is placed on justification by elimination of  
rivals, the greater is the impetus given to refutation" -- that Popper loved 
--.  "[P]erhaps a greater emphasis on 'diagogic' procedure ... would have an 
eirenic  effect.
He adds: "If it were _explicitly_ recognised that being interesting and  
fruitful is more important than being right [Grice knew a topologist who was  
seldom right, 'but never ceased to interest me, nor did I ever find his 
research  fruitful'] and may indeed co-exist with being wrong [the word McEvoy 
used when  referring to this someone who objected to Davidson's thesis] 
polemical  refutation [that seemed endless to Popper anyways] might lose some 
its  appeal."
"Anyways" is dialectal (but so is "anyroads"). 

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