Thanks to McEvoy for his reply. We were considering the 'given',
simpliciter, and not just as in 'datum', in sense datum, and whether epistemic
justification can be conceptually analysed in terms of "sufficient"
comprehensiveness and coherence?
Sextus Empiricus, in "Against the Mathematicians" (Loeb Classical Library)
invokes similes that illuminate our issue, such as the following:
"Let us imagine that some people are looking for gold in a dark room full
"None of them will be PERSUADED that he has hit upon the gold even IF he
has in fact hit upon it."
"In the same way, the crowd of PHILOSOPHERS has come into the world, as
into a vast house, in search of TRUTH."
"But it is reasonable that the man [PHILOSOPHER] who GRASPS the TRUTH
should doubt whether he has been successful."
In a message dated 4/5/2016 1:55:24 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx comments on Sextus's analogy:
------- = ----------------------
"This is an excellent formulation which crucially separates out the issue
of being correct from the issue of being justified."
It _is_ a rather good analogy, but I take it more as an exploration of what
being a sceptic means.
"Most traditional approaches to "knowledge" are justificationist [e.g. JTB
theory], and regard the issues of being correct and being justified as
inextricably linked. Popper's pov on "knowledge" is non- or
anti-justificationist: it does not see the issues as inextricably linked
(because we can be
correct without being justified), and further argues that we cannot have
justification in the traditional sense - and also that we do not need it. The
crux is this:- human W3 "knowledge" (of which science is perhaps the best
example) works via a critical approach focused on being "correct" (or
approximately so) and not at being "justified", and correctness is sought
rigorous 'trial-and-error(-elimination)' and not by seeking infallible
grounds that justify knowledge."
While this is an excellent elaboration, in terms of the 'letter', I see
Sextus's goal as being not as ambitious. A man in a dark room will never know
if he has hit gold (because gold is perceived through the sense datum of,
say, 'colour' -- also that it dissolves in aqua regia, etc. Analogously, a
philosopher (or a man? Sextus is unclear here, because when he starts his
analogy he has two sentences: the first concerns the philosophers in a vast
house; the second a man) will be reasonably doubtful as to whether he has
grasped 'the truth'.
I must say that as a nominalist, I find Sextus's wording too abstract. He
should have provided one single example of a true proposition. Cfr.
i. There will be a naval battle tomorrow.
(neither true nor false, for Aristotle).
ii. Socrates is a man.
iii. Socrates is a man or Socrates is not a man.
iv. Socrates is Socrates.
and so on.
So, once we are given this or that proposition whose truth-value to
consider, the degree of reasonable doubt seems to vary.
"The search for infallible grounds within 'experience' is not only doomed
but leads to philosophers offering as likely candidates some thin-sliced
aspect of sense-experience [e.g. "raw feels"] that by themselves would offer
barren ground on which to base far-reaching conjectures. Our far-reaching
conjectures are not grounded in sense experience but may far transcend it:
within science, 'experience' [in the form of 'observation'] is used to check
Not so much in mathematics, if a science it is, with
iv. Socrates is Socrates.
iii. Socrates is a man or Socrates is not a man.
Intuitionists (even beyond mathematics) doubt this, but they are a
*special* _crowd_ what Sextus never knew!
"The thought of Sextus has a precursor in Xenophanes. Fragments quoted by
Popper provide an earlier formulation of what is a linchpin of the
non-justificationist approach: Xenophanes points out that as for truth no human
known it (in a justified sense), and even if we were to utter a truth
(correctly) we would never know it (in a justified sense). In Xenophanes'
version that is because justification (in this infallible sense) is knowledge
only given to the "gods""
"... whereas Popper's is a neo-Kantian version where the lack of human
"god-like" knowledge is explained by human limitations - but the similarity is
immense. Though Xenophanes' version might be given an anti-realist and
sceptical interpretation (doubting 'ultimate truth' and viewing human ideas as
only conventions relative to culture), Popper's reading emphasises how
Xenophanes thinks we can combine non-justificationism with realism and
non-scepticism - using the idea we can increasingly approximate to the truth."
And one wonders what Xenophanes's M-intention was! ("M-intention" is just a
Griceianism for what Xenophanes intended to mean).
"This is not meant as a detour from sense-data. Its relevance is that
sense-data approaches are largely versions of justificationism where
justification bottoms out in infallible aspects of 'experience' ['experience'
cannot be wrong]."
The keyword being INCORRIGIBILITY. Strictly: cannot be corrected.
"It is not surprising these approaches nearly always turn into a form of
idealism [even Russell's "neutral monism" being a form of
idealism-in-disguise as its "elements" are not really "neutral" but
they cannot provide any infallible link between 'experience' and what it
pertains to in an external world, and so become trapped in taking the
foundations of "knowledge" to be subjective experience. For Popper this is a
the justificationist's own making and a preposterous one from a realist
pov: 'experience' is never its own end-point but has its (evolutionary) point
in adapting us to an external world."
Well, as with Grice saying that it's apples, not sense data of apples, that
But we may need to explore under what conceptual analysis of 'true'
Xenophanes and Sextus are working. They seem to be supposing a mere
'correspondence' theory of true. Recall that for Ramsey, '... is true' is
is true that it is raining" and "It is raining" being equivalent, in that
the prefix "It is true that...' is, as Grice and Albritton would have it,
'otiose'. For Grice, following Strawson here, "It is true that..." merely
conversationally implicates that your interlocutor has put forward that
proposition and you are endorsing your co-conversationalist view: the 'ditto'
theory of truth.
"The way this adaptive knowledge [that we call 'experience'] works is not
by having a foundation of infallibility"
or incorrigibility. The other keyword usually going in pair with this is
"privileged access" --
"... but by having a complex hierarchical structure where errors are
eliminated and controlled for: in this approach, sense data as traditionally
conceived play no role."
This presupposes that 'aletheia' (that Xenophanes and Sextus are talking
about) relates to 'empirical' knowledge (which I doubt) and that they are
presupposing a correspondence theory of truth. It is true that Grice, while
allowing that Strawson is right in advocating for a 'ditto' theory of truth
alla Ramsey, what truth amounts to in fact is what he calls 'factual
satisfactoriness' (In Aspects of reason, he changes his mind in that he wants
apply the crucial concept of 'satisfactoriness' that Tarski uses in his
analysis of 'true' to other modalities -- and thus he comes up with 'alethic
satisfactoriness', or /--satisfactoriness, where /- is the Frege stroke, and
practical satisfatoriness, or !-satisfactoriness. He even explores some
implicatures of the latter:
v. Touch the beast and it will bite you.
Grice is concerned with the satisfactoriness of this. The first conjunct
seems to be imperative:
vi. Touch the beast!
not something we usually would call 'true' (or 'false' for that matter). He
concludes that while imperative in form, this first conjunct, along with
the second conjunct, may just involve althetic satisfactoriness ("If you
touch the beast, it will bite you," or "If you touch the beast ) It will bite
you", where ")" is the horseshoe operator.
For the record, Xenophanes's wording (B34):
"…and of course the clear and certain truth no man has seen
nor will there be anyone who knows about the gods and what I say about all
For even if, in the best case, one happened to speak just of what has been
brought to pass,
still he himself would not know. But opinion is allotted to all."
J. L. Austin was so fascinated by this that when Urmson and Warnock decided
to reprint his (Austin's Philosophical Papers) they included an
unpublication by Austin which provides a diagramme of how 'opinion', 'truth',
'episteme' all fit in. I guess Austin loved, "opinion is allotted to all", and
amused by the plural -s in 'gods', Austin being officially C. of E., you
And so on.
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