[lit-ideas] Re: The retreat to commitment

  • From: Mike Geary <jejunejesuit.geary2@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 14 Feb 2015 14:51:04 -0600

Some day I'm going to read this piece about Gonville and Caius and I will
reply straightaway,  don't you dare doubt that.


On Fri, Feb 13, 2015 at 11:37 AM, Redacted sender Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx for
DMARC <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> In a message dated 2/9/2015 5:56:10 A.M. Eastern Standard Time,
> donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes in "The worlds of Sir Karl Popper":
> "afaik,  Popper
> revised his OSE approach to rationalism in the light of William Bartley's
> criticism. This revision occurred in the 1960s. The nub of Bartley's
> elaborate
>  criticism is that it does not matter so much whether adopting a rational
> attitude is a product of a rational or non-rational process or
> 'commitment',
> or  even an irrational 'commitment': what matters is that adopting a
> rational  attitude (or the rational attitude so adopted) can be defended on
> rational  grounds - rather than merely on non-rational or irrational ones.
> A most
> important point is that this defence does not depend on justifying
> 'rationalism', in the traditional way of philosophy, but it is sufficient
> if
> 'rationalism' itself withstands rational criticism. If rationalism can be
> so
> defended, then it is "comprehensive" in that it owes no debt to
> non-rationalism
>  or irrationalism in terms of its defence. In some ways Bartley's pov is
> implicit  in Popper's early work where that early work accounts for the
> rationality of  science not in terms of the 'rational production' of
> scientific
> theories (in  contrast to inductive accounts which pretend to do so) but in
> the application of  a rational/critical methods to testing theories
> (irrespective of whether their  production is, or is not, part of a
> 'rational'
> process).In this light, Popper's  position in OSE might seem surprising -
> as it
> might seem to fail to keep apart  the issues of the production of a
> 'rational
> attitude' and issues of whether a  'rational attitude' is itself rationally
> defensible (paralleling the distinction  between issues as to whether the
> production of scientific theories is 'rational'  and issues as to whether
> such
> theories are rationally defensible). ... So  whether the OSE is "early" or
> not, in Popper's "mature" philosophy Bartley's  criticism is acknowledged
> and
> there is no needless concession that there is a  priority of irrationalism
> or non-rationalism in terms of the defence of  rationalism."
>
> One of the fascinating things about W. W. Bartley, III's The retreat to
> commitment, is that it diverges slightly with his dissertation under
> Popper on
>  the bounds of reason. Bartley had been previously educated under White and
> Quine  at Harvard and, unlike H. P. G., he attended not Oxford, but
> Cambridge: Gonville  and Caius (*) to be more specific.
>
> Another fascinating thing about "The retreat to commitment" is that for the
>  second edition, W. W. Bartley, a good Protestant, protested against his
> critics,  and, to their satisfaction, added six appendices. The one point
> raised by McEvoy  above I believe W. W. Bartley, III, addresses in
> connection
> with Bartley's  detailed critique of Post, who had specialised in liar
> paradoxes. Some excerpts  in ps.
>
> Cheers,
>
> Speranza
>
> *****
>
> (*) Geary played inferentially with Gonville and Caius.
>
> Bartley attended Gonville and Caius
> Therefore, Bartley attended Gonville.
>
> ("But this is anti-Cantabrigensis." (**))
>
> ----
> W. W. Bartley, III, writes:
>
> "Post [who also studied under Quine] contends that my position — that all
> positions, including my own, are open to criticism — produces semantical
> paradox, and generates an uncriticizable statement."
>
> "What is involved is not an antinomy but what Post, following Quine, calls
> a "veridical paradox" -- Geary prefers "horizontal".
>
> "Post's "uncriticizable" statement is, after all, criticizable."
>
> "Post concentrates on one particular element of my discussion to which I
> myself happened to give some importance — namely, the claim that
> "Everything
> is  open to criticism"".
>
> Cfr. "What if everything is a mispresumption?" Geary, "Confessions [Kindle
> Edition]."
>
> "The argument revolves around my contention, set forth in this book, that
> all positions are open to criticism — including the position that all
> positions  are open to criticism."
>
> Take the following two claims:
>
> A: All positions are open to criticism.
>
> B: A is open to criticism.
>
> Bartley: "Since B is implied by A, any criticism of B will constitute a
> criticism of A, and thus show that A is open to criticism."
>
> "Assuming that a criticism of B argues that B is *false*, we may argue: if
> B is false, A is false."
>
> "But an argument showing A to be false (and thus criticizing it) shows B to
>  be true."
>
> "Thus, if B is false, B is true."
>
> "Any attempt to criticize B demonstrates B."
>
> "Thus B is uncriticizable, and A is false. And hence, so Post would
> contend, my position is refuted."
>
> But Bartley goes on: it ain't.
>
> "Even if someone did make an article of faith or dogma out of (B), there is
>  virtually nothing he could do with it."
>
> "B has insufficient content to be used to justify other claims."
>
> "Post claims that pancritical rationalism rests on this principle."
>
> A: Every rational, noninferential statement is criticizable and has
> survived criticism.
>
> From A, there immediately follows, as Post argues:
>
> B: Every rational noninferential statement is criticizable.
>
> All this can be formalised. Post suggests that "T5X" stand for
>
> "S is a potential criticizer of X."
>
> Thus X will be criticizable just in case
>
> {3S)PSX.
>
> 'RX'
>
> stands for
>
> 'X is rational and non-inferential in the present problem- context K'.
>
> Thus B becomes:
>
> (X) (RX -^ {3S)PSX).
>
> Since B itself is supposed to be criticizable, there follows:
>
> C. {3S)PSB.
>
> To elicit a paradox from these, Post needs 2 additional premises:
>
> 1. (S) {PSC -^ PSB)
> 2. (S) {PSB -^ -PSC).
>
> "Post introduces 1 & 2 as if they were just two additional premises,  and
> neglects to mention the quite extraordinary role they play."
>
> "For these premises, taken together, prove that PSC -^ —PSC; or — C ^  C."
>
> "And thus C is always proved, no matter what A, B, and C may happen to
> be."
>
> "Thus the two premises are themselves a recipe for paradox."
>
> "The first premise means that every potential criticizer of C is a
> potential criticizer of B."
>
> "The second premise, on the other hand, means that no potential criticizer
> of B is a potential criticizer of C."
>
> "If a statement S were specified which, if accepted, would count as a
> criticism of B, then that would also show the truth of C, and thus could
> not
> count against C."
>
> "That is, any criticism of the statement that B is criticizable would be a
> criticism of B; and any criticism of B would provide an example of, and
> hence  confirm, the criticizability of B — i.e., C, the statement that B is
> criticizable."
>
> But from premises (1) and (2) together, there follows:
>
> (3) -{3S)PSC.
>
> That is, C is allegedly NOT criticizable.
>
> "If we assume that C is rational and noninferential, however, it follows
> that B is false."
>
> "And thus — so Post argues — pancritical rationalism is refuted."
>
> "The claim that all rational statements can be criticized is incorrect, for
>  the claim that this claim can be criticized itself cannot be criticized."
>
> "Post goes on to argue that C, although uncriticizable, is demonstrably
> true; that B, which is criticizable, is self-referentially consistent but
> invalid."
>
> "Post adds that any given statement X is a rational statement if and only
> if a rational man is entitled to
> accept it — that is, if and only if X is  "rationally acceptable"".
>
> Hence A could presumably be rewritten:
>
> A1 : Every noninferential statement that a rational man is entitled to
> accept is criticizable and has survived criticism.
>
> Presumably A could also be rewritten, as Post interprets it, as follows:
>
> Az.
>
> Every rationally acceptable noninferential statement is criticizable and
> has survived criticism. and that A, which is also criticizable, is invalid
> and  self-referentially inconsistent.
>
> B could be restored to validity, and A to self-referential consistency,
> only by withdrawing the claim that C is rational.
>
> "But in that case A would be incomplete, contrary to the comprehensive aims
>  and claims of pancritical rationalism."
>
> "This leads Post to his "Goedelian theorem" that all reason theories in a
> certain class that includes my own (and also Popper's)^'' are either
> self-referentially inconsistent or inherently incomplete."
>
> "Post demands that any criticizable statement must meet certain other
> requirements. Post has wishes to construe criticizability not as semantic
> but
> only as "partly semantic""
>
> Take Post's statement A:
>
> A. Every rational, noninferential statement is criticizable and has
> survived criticism.
>
> "Post means this as a report of my remark that a position may be held
> rationally without needing justification — provided that it can be and is
> held
> open to criticism and survives severe examination."
>
> That is,
>
> A': Every position which is held open to criticism and survives
>
> severe examination may be held rationally
>
> "And there is no need to go into the question of its justification."
>
> "A and A' are, however, very different."
>
> "Even if we allow my position to be interpreted by his statement, Post's A
> reverses and crucially alters A'."
>
> "Post's B does not follow from my A'"
>
> "Nor does a reversed version of B follow from A'".
>
> "Thus someone who holds A' need not hold B'."
>
> B': Every criticizable statement is rational and noninferential.
>
> "Nor does Post's C follow from my A'"
>
> "Thus Post's alleged paradox, as originally constructed, does not  capture
> pancritical rationalism."
>
> Post's reformulated the first premise, Al, to read as  follows:
>
> Al.
>
> Consider a person P, a context K, a time t, and an attitude, belief, or
> position X (expressible or not) which is problematic (or up for possible
> revision) for P in K at t. Then P holds X rationally in K at ? only if: P
> holds
> X open to criticism at ^, and (so far as P can then tell or guess) X has at
> t so  far survived criticism.
>
> From Al there follows Bl:
>
> Bl:  P holds X rationally at t only if P holds X open to criticism at  t.
>
> We then also obtain CI :
>
> CI. There is a (potential) criticism of Bl, which might someday be produced
>  and be seen to be successful.
>
> "Go through a similar line of argument as before and his alleged refutation
>  of my claim is restored."
>
> "Post's line of argumentation, however, seems to rest on (or at any rate to
>  stem from) the assumption (so far unexamined) that for a statement to be
> criticizable is for it to be possibly false. If I were to accept this
> assumption, I would be forced to maintain that all positions are possibly
> false."
>
> "But this position — that all positions are possibly false — is, so it
> seems to me, obviously false."
>
> -------
>
> W. W. Bartley, III, attended Gonville and Caius, Cambridge.
>
> Gonville and Caius are often referred to simply as "Caius" which displeases
>  the descendants of Gonville
>
> There's a long association of Gonville and Caius with first-rate teaching,
> especially due to John Caius, who gave the college the caduceus in its
> insignia.
>
> The foundation of Gonville and Caius, as the name implicates, was founded
> by Gonville.
>
> When Gonville died, he left, alas, no money.
>
> In 1557 it was decided that Gonville could be refounded, by Royal  Charter.
>
> The name "Gonville and Caius" was proposed, unoriginally, by John Caius
> himself.
>
> Caius was master of Gonville and Caius from sometime in 1559 until  shortly
> before his death in 1573.
>
> Unlike Gonville, Caius provided Gonville and Caius with significant  funds.
>
> On top of that, during his time as Master, Caius accepted no payment.
>
> He insisted, however, on several unusual rules.
>
> Caius insisted that Gonville and Caius admit no scholar who “is  deformed,
> dumb, blind, lame, maimed, mutilated, or suffering from any grave  illness,
> or an invalid, that is sick in a serious measure”.
>
> Caius also built a three-sided court, Caius Court, “lest the air from being
>  confined within a narrow space should become foul”.
>
> Caius did, however, refound Gonville and Caius as a strong centre  for
> study.
>
> On the re-foundation by Dr Caius, the college was expanded and updated. In
> 1565 the building of Caius Court began, and Caius planted an avenue of
> trees in  what is now known, unoriginally, as the Tree Court.
>
> He was also responsible for the building of the college's three gates,
> symbolising the path of academic life.
>
> On matriculation, one arrives at the Gate of Humility (near the Porters'
> Lodge).
>
> In the centre of the college one passes through the Gate of Virtue
> regularly.
>
> And finally, graduating students pass through the Gate of Honour on their
> way to the neighbouring Senate House to receive their degrees.
>
> The Gate of Honour, at the south side of Caius Court, though the most
> direct way from the Old Courts to the College Library (Cockerell
> Building), is
> only used for special occasions such as graduation.
>
> The students of Gonville and Caius commonly refer, apparently with a
> jocular intent, to the fourth gate in the college, between Tree Court and
> Gonville Court, which also gives access to some lavatories, as "The Gate of
> Necessity".
>
> Caius also has one of the largest libraries in Oxbridge, the Cockerell
> Building. It is cited as 'the hottest library in Cambridgeshire.'
>
> Gonville and Caius is one of the most traditional places  in Cambridge.
>
> Gonville and Caius is one of the few places that still seek to insist  that
> its members attend communal dinners, known as "Hall".
>
> Consisting of a three-course meal, Hall takes place in two sittings, with
> the second known as "Formal Hall", which must be attended wearing gowns.
>
> At Formal Hall, the students rise as the fellows proceed in, a gong is
> rung, and a Latin grace or benediction is read.
>
> The boat club is not called the Gonville and Caius Boat Club but simply the
>  Caius Boat Club. It is particularly strong, with the men's 1st VIII
> remaining  unbeaten in a number of seasons. And so on.
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