|In answer to my question about his background, Laj replied,|
"I'm Nigerian. When I started posting on SOLO, I initially didn't use my real name partly because I have a couple of relatives who are hardcore Objectivists (ARI types) and also because my name is so foreign. Now I do use it, risks and all, and it's hilarious that The-Great-Infector who went bananas about my not giving my real name now goes bananas complaining that my real name is not my real name. I guess that I can't win."
Fascinating! How many Nigerian (or African) Objectivists do you think there are? It would be interesting to see the percentage of Objectivists in other countries. Most are probably in the U.S. But I'm always encouraged when I meet Objectivists (and libertarians) from other lands. Btw, who is The-Great-Infector?
I wrote: "If 'truth' is the correspondence of a proposition to reality, then whether or not the proposition is true has nothing whatever to do with how similar people's minds and brains are. It has only to do with whether or not the proposition correctly describes what it purports to describe."
You replied, "Yes, but how does that make my argument that some propositions are only true if they describe what people think, and that judgments about what people think, even when true or in error, are a part of reality? What people think can change, so the truth can change. This doesn't destroy objectivity, but it can make objectivity a much more complicated question for people who want to answer empirical questions.
"However, let's say that your main problem with the way that I use the word 'truth' is that it sounds like I am denying that there is an objective state of affairs independent to some degree of what I think about it (I cannot wish that state of affairs away). No, I'm not doing that, but on the other hand, aspects of how I think about that state of affairs may depend on my individual constitution, and those aspects seem incontrovertibly true to me given the epistemic tools I bring to the problem, even if from an wider epistemic perspective, they might not be true. And from my perspective, I see no need to revise them."
It seems to me that you're making truth a function of people's perspectives, when it's simply a function of whether or not a proposition conforms to the facts of reality.
I wrote: "Of course, there are certain conventions that people adopt and sustain by agreement. But truth is not a convention. A rose is a sign of endearment, because its significance depends on being recognized as such, but that doesn't mean that the proposition "A rose is a sign of endearment" is true only because people ~agree~ that it's true. Do you see the difference? The proposition cannot be true only because people agree that it's true, for in order to agree that it's true, they must first recognize its truth independently of such an agreement."
You replied, "I never said truth was convention, and if that is how you read my statements, I must be saying something wrong. I said that the truth value of some judgments depend on some conventions or some things subjective about individuals. And this is what many individuals refer to when they are talking about a statement being 'true for them'."
Oh, okay. If that's what you meant, fine. It wasn't clear to me that that's what you were saying.
I wrote, "But if one of us is right, he has to be right ~about something definite and specific~. If he is not right "in quite the fashion that he has in mind," then he is not right."
You replied, "This is what the Gettier problem addresses. I may say that exactly one of the employees has a white car, but my basis for that judgment might be something misleading (I saw a man's wife drop him off in a car that I didn't realize was a car rental) but in the end, I am still right (another employee bought a white car yesterday)."
But that's precisely the point. What are you right ~about~? You are right about the fact that one of the employees owns a white car, but you are not right about the fact that the employee whose wife dropped him off in a rental owns a white car.
In any case, Gettier is concerned with knowledge not with truth. As you indicate, he is critiquing the classical definition of knowledge as "justified, true belief." I read Gettier's essay several years ago and was not impressed! In his example, we are justified in believing a proposition that is true, we believe it is true, and it is true. But it turns out that the proposition is true for altogether different reasons than we suppose. Gettier then argues that although we have satisfied the conditions for the classical definition of knowledge - i.e., justified, true belief - we still cannot say that we possess knowledge, because we don't believe the proposition for the right reasons. But if, as he says, the proposition is true for altogether different reasons than we suppose, then we aren't really justified in believing it -- at least not in the sense of "justified" that is relevant to the classical definition. "Justified," in that definition, ~means~ "true FOR the reasons we believe."
That doesn't mean that I agree with the classical definition of knowledge. I too think that it comes up short, ~but for altogether different reasons~! ;-) Knowledge is not "justified, true belief," because knowledge is not belief. The objects of knowledge are facts, and one does not "believe in" facts; one "believes in" propositions or ideas, whereas one ~knows~ facts. In my view, the proper definition of knowledge is the one found in Objectivism.
In ITOE (p. 35), Rand refers to "knowledge" as "a mental grasp of a fact(s) of reality, reached either by perceptual observation or by a process of reason based on perceptual observation." The "Glossary of Objectivist Definitions" published by Second Renaissance Books, an ARI affiliate, refers to this statement as her "definition" of knowledge. Unfortunately, Rand's statement, which includes only the distinguishing characteristics of the concept of knowledge, was not intended as a definition, since the latter requires both genus and differentia.
However, since Rand regards knowledge as a product of a psychological process (ITOE, 35), a good definition from her perspective, would be something like the following: "knowledge is a product of a psychological process involving a mental grasp of a fact(s) of reality, reached either by perceptual observation or by a process of reason based on perceptual observation."
This is not to suggest that all belief is irrational or a matter of blind faith, for one can believe in true propositions for eminently rational reasons, nor is it to suggest that a belief that is both justified and true does not ~represent~ knowledge. But it is still ~propositions~ that one "believes in" and ~facts~ that one "knows."
I wrote, "But we can both be completely in error ~about the judgment at issue~."
You replied, "What's the difference between being "in error" and being "completely in error"? Doesn't this admit something that your arguments have been unwilling to cede so far, since you've argued in the past that something is either true or it isn't? Or is this just careless language?:
Excuse me, Laj, but "completely in error" was ~your~ term, not mine. I was simply accepting your language; I assumed that the modifier "completely" was one that you had added for emphasis. Of course, there ~is~ no difference between being "completely in error" and being"in error" with respect to a given statement.
I wrote: "But is it not your ~philosophy~ that "without a real problem (scientific/experimental) to fix the context and check the ideas with experiments...philosophy is a waste of time"?! That is a philosophy, is it not?! The only question is: Is it true? How do you "check the ideas" if not through a procedure that is itself dependent on certain principles of evidence and verification? How do you confirm your experiments if not by a valid process of scientific induction, which depends on your philosophy of science, which in turn depends on your metaphysics and epistemology? It can't be done. Philosophy is not some pointless exercise in idle speculation. It is the queen of the sciences and an inescapable prerequisite of ethics and politics."
You replied, "Bill, believe it or not, many people who have never read a deep philosophical text on ethics and politics make moral and electoral decisions everyday (whether that is good or not is another story) - how inescapable is that?"
Of course, but their philosophy is implicit. The point I was making is that in order to ~justify~ one's ethical and political views, one requires a philosophical foundation. You don't disagree with that, do you?
You write, "The biggest confirmation/verification/evidence for any idea is encapsulated in the following two words: "IT WORKS!" The rest, as they say, is philosophy (or economics, or some other field that just talks and talks and talks without creating avenues for testing and investigation)."
Let me see if I understand you. The biggest confirmation/verification/evidence for the idea that the earth is round is that "IT WORKS"? The best evidence for the idea that the defendant is guilty is that "IT WORKS"? What could that possibly mean? Verification of an idea consists in showing that it conforms to the facts, not that it works. Of course, you can verify the idea that something works by showing that it does in fact work, but here you're process of verification consists simply in showing that the idea describes what it purports to describe.
Again, isn't your argument that philosophy is all talk and no real knowledge self-refuting? Aren't you implying that you have somehow confirmed and/or verified this philosophical fact, even as you claim that no such confirmation is possible? The idea that certain kinds of testing and investigation are required for verification is itself a philosophical idea. So how do you purport to justify it? By your criteria, you can't. But then on what grounds do you claim it as true?
You mention economics as not creating avenues for testing and investigation. But economics relies on certain directly observable facts of human nature, such as the fact that human action is goal-directed, that it is motivated, that incentives matter, that people tend to buy more at a lower price and to supply more at a higher price, etc. These principles are all empirically verifiable, both introspectively and extrospectively. So I don't see your argument. What am I missing?