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On the Assertion of Philosophical Doubt*

  • Evan Simpson (a1)

Extract

Despite impressive evidence to the contrary, there remains nagging doubt that between language and the world there is sufficient cleavage for philosophical doubt to slip in. The apparent incommensurability of reality and knowledge of it has, indeed, a certain quasi-logical foundation which it is interesting to explore.

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1 S may be formally represented: (x) (Fx ⊃ ♢ (FxGx)) → ♢ (x) (FxFxGx). For a similar point see Purtill, R. L., “Moore's Modal Argument,” American Philosophical Quarterly, III (1966), p. 236.

2 Austin, Thus J. L., “The human intellect and senses are … inherently fallible …, but not … inveterately so,” and again, “‘You cannot fool all of the people all of the time’ is analytic,” Philosophical Papers (Oxford, 1961), pp. 66 and 81n.

3 Formally: (x)(Fx ⊃ ♢ (FxGx)) → ˜ ♢ (x) (FxFxGx), ‘F’ being restricted in the way indicated in the text following.

4 Rigorous statement of these restrictions would finally dispose of such objections to the view summarized in D as are put, for example, by Roderick Chisholm in the third section of “Philosophers and Ordinary Language,” The Philosophical Review, 60 (1951), 317–328.

5 It is interesting that Aristotle, On the Heavens, II, 2, criticizes the Pythagorean use of the principle, not on the grounds that it is objectionable, but on the grounds that it is inapplicable to the music of the spheres in virtue of known physical laws.

6 Contrast Oliver A. Johnson, “Begging the Question,” Dialogue 6 (1967), 135-50. Johnson’s claim that epistemological theories must be based on logically self-evident principles need be entertained only if a diversity in kinds of linguistically based necessity goes unrecognized.

7 This and any sentence derived from D may be formally represented by expressing all modal operators in terms of'♢ and ‘˜’ and inscribing an ‘a’ in the diamonds. The impossibility that everything is red may then be written: ˜ (x) Rx. Mr. David Hitchcock has pointed out that this may plausibly be paraphrased as: ˜ ♢ (P.(x)Rx), where ‘P’ stands for pragmatic conditions governing the use of ‘R’. If there were no such conditions, a statement of the form “˜ …” would be equivalent to the corresponding statement of the form “˜ ♢…” as sceptical views commonly presuppose.

* An earlier version of this paper was delivered under the title “Residual Scepticism” at the Meetings of the Canadian Philosophical Association at York University, June 14, 1969. It has gained much from the illuminating criticism of Professor Rolf A. George.

On the Assertion of Philosophical Doubt*

  • Evan Simpson (a1)

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