• From: Adriano Palma <Palma@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 15 Feb 2015 08:18:23 +0000

Who is gonville?

From: lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On 
Behalf Of Mike Geary
Sent: 14 February 2015 22:51
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: The retreat to commitment

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<mailto:Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx> for DMARC 
<dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx<mailto:dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>> wrote:
In a message dated 2/9/2015 5:56:10 A.M. Eastern Standard Time,
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx<mailto: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 
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.




(*) 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

"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



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

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

"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:


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:


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  

"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

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

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

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'

In the centre of the college one passes through the Gate of Virtue

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

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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