Archive for September, 2006

Philosophical Thought of the Day: Sept. 17th

Actuality and the Laws of Logic
Often in discussions with people, when the laws of logic come up, the conversations seems to run into problems. Especially around the question of conditionals. It seems some people have a problem with unactualized conditionals–in other words conditionals that either have false antecedents & consequents or conditionals that have indeterminate antecedent & consequents.

People seem to be under the impression that a conditional can only be true, if its antecedent & consequent is true. I think the general view can be put as follows,

(A) For any proposition P, if P is a conditional, then P is true if and only if the antecedent P1 and consequent P2 are true. P (P1 & P2) = T

It is ironic that this principle would need a true antecedent and consequent in order to be true — but nevermind that for now. Let’s suppose that is not a problem. Principle A face other problems — it is clearly false.

Example: If my car is out of gasoline & no one puts any more gasoline in the tank, then the car won’t start.

The example just given is true, whether the antecendent & consequent are true or not. In other words, I could be driving my car at a particular time t — in other words the antecedent & consequence are false — and the example is still true. Conditional statements are true independently of their parts for the simple reason that conditionals state what will happen in the event that their parts (antecedent and consequent) are true.

How we know conditionals to be true is another question — an epistemic (knowledge) question. That we know a conditional is true is another matter, and clearly possible.

September 18, 2006 at 6:24 am 1 comment

Philosophical Thought of the Day: Sept. 16

Often when I tell people I am a philosophy major & after I have explained what philosophers do — what it means to be a philosopher — they often ask me why. ‘Why do you want to be a philosopher? Why do you want to philosophize?’ Of course often they are refering to what they think of as a bad financial and career decision.

But sometimes they are refering to the philosophizing itself — why should one philosophize about anything? Why ask about minds, existence or knowledge? Don’t we already know what those things are? Don’t I already know that p, and don’t I already know that I know it? So what is the point? It seems as if people are saying, for any (so called) philosophical puzzle, if everyone already knows that p, then it shouldn’t be taken seriously be philosophers. We already know that p. Therefore, p shouldn’t be discussed by philosophers.

Let us grant that people generally know that p — whatever p turns out to be. But that doesn’t mean that philosopher’s shouldn’t take about ‘knowing that p.’ After all, philosophers often talk just as much about what is known than what is unknown. Philosophers discuss the ordinary in a new way, and challenge conventional ways of thinking and knowing. Additionally there is something more to p, than knowing that p. It is knowing how S knows that p. How does S know that p?

Simply saying that S knows that p just restates the problem of how. By what means — what way — does S know that p. So even if we grant that everyone — or most everyone — knows that p, it leave unanswered the question of how S knows that p. In other words, there is still more for philosophers to discuss.

And as far as I can tell, philosophers will always have work to do. It’s more about the process than the conclusion!

September 16, 2006 at 10:16 am Leave a comment


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