Friday, May 27, 2011

Something older, something newer. Both borrowed.

I found this passage strange:
Prepared by a clearer view of the justification in question, we are in a position to identify the nature of the truth connection. A proposition is epistemically justified to someone when it is evident to the person that the proposition is true.

From Earl Conee's paper, "The Truth Connection". To my ear (admittedly, unreliable at times), the claim that it is evident to so and so that some proposition is true sounds like it says that the proposition in question has to be true. So, this is a strange thing to say after spending the earlier parts of the paper arguing that a proposition can be justified and justifiably believed even if it is false. Any thoughts on what "evident" means?

Anyway, it is evident to me that the following remarks are all true:
Roderick Chisholm has, to my mind, developed the foundationalist theory of justification in more detail, with more precision, and with a deeper systematic understanding of the issues involved than any other defender of this general position. At the same time, he has produced a theory of such technical intricacy that the reader lacking Providential guidance sometimes feels like Herr K striving to reach the castle, occasionally catching glimpses of it, but always being shunted into side streets. Beyond this, Chisholm often introduces principles and definitions (and subtle qualifications of such principles and definitions) without explaining their underlying motivation. Chisholm's philosophy is played close to the vest. Furthermore, he often assigns ordinary words technical senses that depart in significant ways from their ordinary senses, and then uses these terms to define other terms. For all these reasons, Chisholm is often hard to understand and easy to get wrong.

--That was from Fogelin's Pyrrhonian Reflections on Knowledge and Justification.


Anonymous said...

Where is the Chisholm quote from?

Clayton said...

Hey Anon,

Fogelin's Pyrrhonian Reflections on Knowledge and Justification

Branden Fitelson said...

'evidently' is not (always) factive. It has a very common usage which is synonymous with something like 'apparently'. For instance, one could felicitously say something like 'evidently, this patch is darker than that one' in a case where a visual illusion is being experienced (and the patches have identical shades). This is the charitable reading of the Conee passage, I'd say.

Branden Fitelson said...

To wit, patches A and B in this image:

Michael said...

I haven't read the Conee but sounds like 'evident' on his usage must mean 'supported by evidence [to some important degree or other]' -- presumably including the requirement that the subject is disposed to accept the proposition on the basis of that of evidence (a fortiori that he is aware of it.)

Clayton said...

Hey Branden and Michael,

Good points. I was wondering about the link between evidently and apparently. Wonder if the difference between adverbs and adjectives matters here. I also wonder if evidently really captures what Conee is after. For someone to say (truthfully) "Evidently, the butler was in the kitchen", does the speaker have to have strong evidence that the butler was in the kitchen? I think that's the view that Conee is driving at, but still wonder if it's well-expressed on the more charitable reading. (Not that it's a mystery what the view actually is. He's pretty clear that justified beliefs are supported by strong evidence and there's nothing useful to say about strength except that these are beliefs we do not harbor reasonable doubts about. (And that's not even helpful.))

Still better than Chisholm, I think, who will sever all ties between a word's meaning and the meaning he assigns it and then uses his own private language to define further terms. (Reminds me of the scene from _In the Loop_:

Karen Clarke: Yes, Assistant Secretary, on point six, it feels like there's already been an assumption that we're invading and don't you think that we should discuss the practical implications? I mean, this is, after all, the War Committee.

Linton Barwick: This is the Future Planning Committee.

Karen Clarke: Well, unofficially, it is called the War Committee.

Linton Barwick: Well, Karen, unofficially, we can call anything whatever we want. I mean, unofficially, this is a shoe, but it's not, Karen, it is a glass of water. And this is the Future Planning Committee.

Branden Fitelson said...

Yeah -- I love that scene!