Authors Citing this Paper: Millican (Peter)
- Introduction: How Can I Know Anything at All? Link.
- Each week Melvyn Bragg is joined by four guests with different backgrounds to discuss a really big question. This week he's asking 'How can I know anything at all?'
- Helping him answer it are physicist Tara Shears, lawyer Harry Potter, philosopher Clare Carlisle and neuropsychologist Paul Broks.
- For the rest of the week Tara, Harry, Clare and Paul will take us further into the history of this idea with programmes of their own. Between them they will examine:
- David Hume's debunking of miracles;
- Wittgenstein2's attempt to prove that other people have minds;
- Karl Popper's idea of falsification, which underpins the scientific method; and
- George Berkeley's approach to a famous philosophical problem - If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
- Talk 1: Lawyer Harry Potter on Eyewitness Testimony: Link.
- Barrister Harry Potter asks whether we can believe the evidence of our own eyes. It's a vital question for the justice system today and Harry traces it back to the work of 18th century Philosopher David Hume. Hume, a key figure in the Scottish Enlightenment, wrote about miracles, arguing they were most likely the product of wishful thinking and faulty perception. His arguments are still important for barristers, judges and juries still reliant on eye witness testimony to decide guilt or innocence.
- To find out how our eyes deceive us, Harry meets professor Amina Menon, expert in eye witness evidence at Royal Holloway, University of London. And Harry visits professor of philosophy Peter Millican at Oxford University to ask whether Hume's methods can help us overcome our inbuilt biases.
- Talk 2: Physicist Tara Shears on Falsification: Link.
- Science is based on fact, right? Cold, unchanging, unarguable facts. Perhaps not, says physicist Tara Shears.
- Tara is more inclined to follow the principles of the Anglo-Austrian philosopher, Karl Popper. He believed that human knowledge progresses through 'falsification'. A theory or idea shouldn't be described as scientific unless it could, in principle, be proven false.
- Raised in a Vienna in thrall to Marxism and Freudianism, Popper bristled against these 'sciences' which could adapt and survive to prevailing political and social conditions. They could not be proven false and so they were not science. The ideas of Einstein, by contrast, could be tested scientifically and might one day be proven false.
- An interesting principle certainly, but potentially demoralising for a scientist who could see her life's work dissolve in front of her eyes. Tara joins her colleagues at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva to ponder the implications of Popper's work. She also meets Popper's former student, John Worrall and string theoretician David Tong.
- Talk 3: Philosopher Clare Carlisle on Reality and Perception: Link.
- If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
- That's the kind of head-scratching question that's popularly believed to occupy the time and brains of philosophers. It relates to the ideas of immaterialism proposed by Bishop George Berkeley who asserted that the only things that exist are minds and ideas in those minds. He said that matter didn't really exist and that, in any case, it was unnecessary to complicate things with such a concept. For Berkeley, "to be perceived is to be".
- But what happens to "things" when they are not being perceived? Did Bishop Berkeley really believe that his bed disappeared when he gets up in the morning and left the room? The answer is no, because there is the over-arching mind of God and God is always perceiving all things even when we are not. When Berkeley leaves the room God is still perceiving the bed so it doesn't pop out of existence.
- To try and get to grips with this Clare Carlisle talks to Dr John Callanan, a lecturer in philosophy from Kings College London and hears a neat limerick on the subject by Robert Knox. She also talks to the filmmaker Carol Morley whose documentary, Dreams of a Life, explored the story of a 38 year old woman, Joyce Vincent, whose body was found in her flat amongst half wrapped Christmas presents, the TV switched on. She had been dead for 3 years and nobody had noticed she wasn't there.
- Talk 4: Neuropsychologist Paul Broks on Wittgenstein3: Link.
- Paul Broks looks at the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and the problem of "other minds". How do I know you are not a zombie who behaves like a human but actually has no consciousness? Even if you are conscious, how can I tell that what I experience as red, you do not experience as blue? I know what's going on in my own mind, but I can never have direct access to what's going on in yours.
- Such questions have troubled philosophers for centuries, but Wittgenstein4 thought that most of these tough problems were caused by nothing more than a "bewitchment by language". He didn't claim to be able to solve them; rather, he invented a method which he thought of as a kind of philosophical therapy that would cause the problems to melt away. The aim, he said, was to "show the way out of the fly bottle". In the case of the "other minds" problem, he imagined trying to invent a "private language" to describe one's own private mental states, and then showed (he thought) that such an idea was incoherent.
- Is the fly out of the fly bottle? Paul Broks suspects not, and psychologist Nicholas Humphrey argues that philosophy took a disastrous turn in the 20th century when it started focusing on language. Humphrey argues that the privacy of our individual minds is a stark and unpalatable fact about human existence which has driven much of our culture.
- Omnibus: How Can I Know Anything at All? Link.
- Four Brief Animations
- David Hume on Miracles: Link
- Esse Est Percipi: Link
- Karl Popper’s Falsification: Link
- Wittgenstein5’s “Beetle in the Box” Analogy6: Link
- Introductory Seminar:
- After a general introduction by Melvyn Bragg, the four contributors give a brief resume of their talks-to-be7:-
- Tara Shears (Physicist8):
- We know things by investigating the world using the scientific method, ie. observation → theory → predictions → test → either we’ve extended our understanding or “our theory is toast”.
- This is the method of Karl Popper: you can never prove a theory – only one disagreement is required to “throw the theory out of the window”.
- So, a successful theory is one that is falsifiable but which hasn’t been falsified.
- A theory that good is how9 we understand the world.
- Paul Broks (Neuropsychologist10):
- Is interested in the old philosophical “problem of other minds”. How can we know, despite being able to infer from their behaviour? Where’s the proof?
- Broks will look at (neuro-)psychological arguments in favour of the thesis that other people do have minds, albeit they may be impenetrable.
- He will invoke Ludwig Wittgenstein, who was trying to collapse the subjective and the objective, the inner and outer aspects.
- Harry Potter (Lawyer11):
- As a criminal lawyer, his work is predicated on jurors being able to find people guilty “beyond reasonable doubt” – to be sure – in contrast to the “balance of probabilities” in civil cases.
- He’s interested in David Hume, who was writing at the same time as the development of trial advocacy & cross examination.
- Hume placed great stress on the importance of human testimony and wanted to know whether knowledge and proof can arise from it. Potter thinks that Hume thought that testimony justifies the balance of probabilities rather than being sure. So, can juries ever be sure?
- Potter’s job as a criminal defence lawyer is to undermine the prosecution’s evidence. We have had honest eyewitnesses who we know beyond doubt were wrong.
- Clare Carlisle (Philosopher12):
- Raises the traditional problem of whether the tree falling in the uninhabited forest makes a sound.
- This is difficult to imagine because we’re trying both to imagine the forest empty of observers, but also imagining ourselves present listening for a sound.
- We can’t step outside of our own minds, and as soon as we draw the distinction between what we perceive, and what’s out there to be perceived, a mismatch is possible.
- This distinction between appearance and reality is the starting-point of philosophy itself.
- In her talk she’ll look at George Berkeley, who closed the gap by claiming that all that exists are minds and their ideas, denying the existence of matter.
- We now move on to a round-table discussion, which naturally proceeds to discuss the last speaker’s outrageous claims!
- Paul Broks starts off – by claiming that the falling tree doesn’t make a sound if no-one’s there to observe it – to think it does involves a misunderstanding of the word “sound”. We don’t know the world directly, but reconstruct it through the operations of the brain.
- Clare Carlisle replies that the whole of Berkeley’s scheme is dependent on belief in God, and is always perceiving – so he watches and hears the tree fall. So – for Berkeley – God is the guarantor of the persistence of things that none of us perceive; maybe the scheme (idealism) falls down if God is removed.
- Harry Potter observes that Hume funds his knowledge claims either on direct experience or on the testimony of others. But, while human experience is important, there are intrinsic problems with it as well.
- Tara Shears maybe loses the plot by giving the common-sense / scientific account of sound as sound-waves, so of course the falling tree makes a sound. We could devise an experiment to test were we not physically present.
- Paul Broks takes issue with this – an experiment would just be another observer – a surrogate13 brain, ears, etc. Without this there’d be just pressure-waves. Tara Shears insists that sound is objective – movement of molecules in the air – but Paul Broks insists that this isn’t sound, and Tara Shears maybe comes round to his viewpoint – “abstraction is the problem”- but the discussion gets a bit confused.
- Clare Carlisle pops back in – we all sort-of agree that the falling tree makes a sound, but Hume would say that it’s not possible to be certain – we just have to take it on trust14. Harry Potter agrees – we have to get on with our lives, so have to follow our own and other people’s experience.
- Melvyn Bragg now changes the subject (though to an idea more central to the series of talks. Socrates said that “all I know is that I know nothing”. Do the panellists agree with the sentiment?
- Clare Carlisle agrees – it’s this realisation that is the start of philosophy – the realisation that there’s a task to be performed.
- Harry Potter refers to the “modest arrogance of the intellectual” but says that Socrates’ point is that the more one knows about the world, the more one realises how fallible one can be15. This is a superior position to one who’s “absolutely certain – maybe based on religious16 belief or the tradition of the tribe”. “The wise person realises they may be wrong”.
- Melvyn Bragg interjects17 with the “Newton’s pebbles” meme before the “ocean of unknowing”.
- Tara Shears picks this up – after an aside18 to the effect that to claim that you know nothing is already to claim to know something. The scientific method isn’t satisfied with casual observation. But our body of proven knowledge has been acquired within a limited range of experience. Beyond that, while we could say we know nothing, we have ideas – and our theories may become knowledge when we’ve worked out how to test them. But there is a determinate body of facts she claims as our knowledge.
- The discussion ends with a rather silly suggestion from Paul Broks that scientists ought to crave uncertainty as it gives them something to do. Max Plank – science proceeds funeral by funeral. Tara Shears returns to Popper: we can never absolutely know something, because there’s an infinity of knowledge we don’t possess.
- Talk 1: Lawyer Harry Potter on Eyewitness Testimony: Link
- Examples of cases where we are sure we saw x, when in fact not-x.
- In criminal trials the jury has to be sure that the defendant did the crime, didn’t act in self-defence, … but how can they be sure if reliant on eye-witness testimony? Honest witnesses can be convinced – and convincing – that they have re-identified the suspect, and yet be wrong: disproved by CCTV, DNA, fingerprinting.
- David Hume put eyewitness testimony – my own and others – at the centre of his philosophy. Potted biography – trained in law but found its practice “nauseous”. Enlightenment; rise of scientific method, with reason – rather than religious belief or received wisdom – exalted as the way to true understanding. A hard time for those seeking certainty. Sceptics claimed all so-called knowledge – including scientific knowledge – to be mere opinion.
- Hume was in the middle of all this. Peter Millican19 discusses Hume’s arguments against miracles. Can we ever have good reason to believe a miracle has occurred on the basis of other people’s testimony? What if people we normally take to be reliable tell us something happened that is completely contrary to our experience? We then have conflicting evidence from experience. Hume’s claim was that we should only believe testimony for a miracle if the falsity of the testimony would require an even greater miracle. And, of course, he thought this would never be the case, given our experience of mistakes, self-deceit, gullibility. Does this call in question testimony in general?
- Hume’s point is that we need to assess testimony by taking into account the factors that make it more or less credible. Experience tells us that massive concurrence in reportage is correlated with truth. Hesitancy is correlated with falsity. So the weight to be attributed to testimony depends on the kind it is. So, you just need to be discerning.
- The case of Adolf Beck20: mistaken identity – one John Smith had been the real culprit. A dozen victims icked out the wrong man. How?
- The psychologist Amina Menon21 suggests there are several reasons. We find it difficult to recognise faces seen fleetingly or once, and Beck and Smith were strikingly similar in appearance. There was also a dodgy handwriting expert who fell afoul of the forensic22 confirmation bias.
- Harry Potter gives one of his own examples, which Amina Menon (doubtfully, in my view as no evidence of this was presented) puts down to witness collusion. The point is that memory is reconstructive; with a lot of information to process, we take short-cuts. We are subject to racial stereotyping. People do not just encode events as they see them, but are forming judgements which may be based on preconceptions.
- How much of human fallibility did Hume spot? Amina Menon is asked to “mark” his insights in the light of modern cognitive psychology:-
- People of a religious persuasion have a predisposition to believe miracles occur, and so are more likely to say they’ve seen one: Amina Menon agrees, but in a rather bumbling way.
- Reliability of testimony rises with the degree of cultural sophistication: Amina Menon disagrees – while most research has been on university students, there’s no significant difference when cleaners are chosen23.
- Courts have real problems assessing between truth and falsehood: Amina Menon agrees – Hugo Münsterberg24 - at the start of the 20th century – alerted the courts not to rely uncritically on testimony, and was resisted – no-one could see what was scientific about his claims – but subsequent experience has shown he was right.
- Since Hume’s time, counterbalances to human frailty have been brought in – the court of criminal appeal, the intervention of judges in warning of potential misidentification, psychological studies to expose other forms of unreliable testimony.
- Would Hume think that modern juries can be sure? Peter Millican thinks that Hume would be a great supporter of cognitive psychology. We need to know (in general) how reliable people are (for instance) at recognising people. But he thinks – in the case of testimony that is usually reliable – that Hume would say that we can be sure beyond reasonable doubt.
- Talk 2: Physicist Tara Shears on Falsification: Link
- We know things by the application of the scientific method: theory → predictions → test by experiment → proof / disproof.
- Method exemplified at CERN / LHC: interacting proton beams → record data → compare behaviour against the Standard Model25.
- If there’s a mismatch, we’re on the road to something new.
- Brief description of the Standard Model – “the best way of describing the universe and everything in it”.
- Pippa Wells26: Higgs field – how particles acquire mass – predicts, in passing, the Higgs Boson27. They have been looking for the final state of particles that would have been produced by the Higgs Boson. Eventually, enough data to say it had been discovered.
- So, how do we know this is true – that the Higgs Boson exists? Well, according to Popper I don’t. We are exposed to the possibility that someone will subsequently show that the “Higgs Boson” we’ve found is nothing to do with the particle predicted, which would “blow apart the standard model”.
- Interlude on Popper: drew distinction between Einstein’s theories – which “could be tested to destruction” – and the “pseudo-science” of Freudianism which “claims to be able to explain every form of human behaviour”.
- John Worrall: A convert to Philosophy from Statistics, having heard Popper at the LSE. Have we learnt Popper’s lesson? Depends who “we” are – Einstein and Bohr never needed the lesson, but there is still a lot of pseudo-science around – especially “scientific creationism” and “intelligent design”, which is not falsifiable. Worrall gives an account of Gosse and God hiding fossils to test the faithful’s belief in the age of an Earth created in 4004 BC.
- What about the threat to scientists and their theories? Popper talks about progress to the truth through theories that are – strictly speaking – false. Einstein and theories living on as limiting cases of better theories – and Newtonian dynamics is still used by NASA.
- We don’t yet have a falsifiable theory of everything because we don’t yet know how to describe gravity in terms of QM – GR doesn’t work at very small distances, and we have no worked-out theory of quantum gravity.
- The most promising candidate is String Theory28.
- David Tong29: potted account of string theory. Problems with falsifiability – while it’s a mathematical theory with predictions we can test – and in principle it’s like any other – it’s not likely to be seriously tested in our lifetime because the distances are 1015 times smaller than those currently investigated by the LHC. We might be lucky – maybe some signature of String Theory shows up in the LHC or “in the Big Bang”. Any theory purporting to be an all-encompassing theory of the universe is going to run into the same problem. We’re asking the hardest questions there are, and asking ambitious questions is always going to involve risks (that there will be no resolution in your career).
- While String Theory is far from passing Popper’s falsifiability test, Tara Shears “likes it that way”. There are always more questions to answer, and we can never really know anything – and to claim otherwise is to delude ourselves.
- This process always leads to more questions – you can never get to the end of your understanding, but you can always understand more – which is “compelling and amazing”.
- Talk 3: Philosopher Clare Carlisle on Reality and Perception: Link
- Life may be too short to investigate this further.
- Talk 4: Neuropsychologist Paul Broks on Wittgenstein30: Link
- Dr. Liz Coulthard31: A patient could see her husband, could see he looked as he always had done, but who she thought was inhabited by a zombie. She didn’t believe it was him, despite his familiar behaviour. She didn’t know where he had gone, but wondered who was inhabiting his body. This is known in the literature as Capgras32 phenomenon.
- Broks: What makes us think other people have minds? This is “the Problem of Other Minds”, one of the thorniest problems33 in the history of philosophy. All you can see in another person is their behaviour.
- Stephen Mulhall34: since we never directly perceive the mind of any person other than our own, why is that organism35 not a zombie?
- Potted introduction to Ludwig Wittgenstein: one of the first philosophers of language, he makes an important connection between experience and language, “pointing out36” that the only way we have of learning about the experience of others is through the language they use to describe it.
- Wittgenstein37 has a go at the problem of other minds in what has become known as the Private Language Argument38.
- Mulhall39: Wittgenstein40 argues that the claim that we know our own pain makes no sense. It hinges on the words “know” and “private”. He doesn’t deny that we can have a pain. But can I communicate just what it is when I feel pain?
- The argument41 against logical privacy goes something like this:-
- If bodily sensations were logically private, then it would be possible to construct a private language by associating in your mind a particular sign or word with a particular sensation.
- You inwardly point to the feeling and give it a name, S.
- If this is to be a usable definition of the word’s meaning, then it must work as a standard of correctness for future uses of the sign S.
- So, suppose we imagine a new candidate sensation and ask oneself “is this another S”?
- In order to make that judgement you’re going to have to recall the original sample sensation that you Christened S and use it as a point of comparison to decide whether the candidate experience is or isn’t S.
- But, in order to rummage through your memory and find the right one you have to identify that memory of S, rather than of T, U, …
- But in order to do that, you already have to know what the word S means, otherwise you couldn’t pick out S-memories from T-memories.
- But the whole process is what’s supposed to deliver – at the end of it – the meaning of the word S. You can’t presuppose that you already understand it as part of the process of establishing that meaning.
- Paul Broks asks how deception fits in. Mullhall replies that deception is something you learn to do when you find your place in the world and see the advantages of deception.
- Broks tries again – he’s thinking of an apple – OK? But, no, he was really thinking of a strawberry. What’s all this in Wittgenstein42’s terms? I can think what I like, but t tell anybody.
- Mulhall counters that this is not logical privacy. There’s nothing metaphysically guaranteed about my incomprehension – you’ve just deliberately created it.
- It’s – says Mullhall – a bit of an exaggeration to say that Broks is “happy” with that reply!
- Broks soliloquises, trying to get his own thoughts straight – Wittgenstein43 is not denying that we have sensations, but he thinks he’s saying that the framework of language doesn’t extend far enough to include sensible discussion of sensations. So, he can’t tell whether Wittgenstein44 is saying something fairly simple – that we can’t talk sensibly about these interior things – or whether he’s saying we’re fundamentally wrong about the nature of these interior sensations.
- Isn’t there a debate45 about whether there’s a meaningful distinction between interior and exterior? So, we can only make meaningful statements if we don’t go into this interior, as language doesn’t go there, and we can’t talk about it – whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must remain silent. The fly is still stuck in the fly-bottle!
- Broks now moves on to Nicholas Humphrey46: who,
- Has been disappointed by the input of philosophers to the problem of other minds.
- The whole debate got hijacked by linguistic philosophy, in particular Wittgenstein47 who made the point that words are only useful if they are publicly verifiable as having the same referent, which can be done for cats, tables and the like, but not for feelings.
- The real mistake Wittgenstein48 was making was to suppose that language is all-important. When I say that I know what it’s like to be in pain – and therefore what it’s like for you to be in pain – I’m not going via sentences in order to make that attribution.
- Linguistic Philosophy was basically a disaster for Western philosophy.
- Broks: Wittgenstein49 wouldn’t have denied that there were private sensations, would he?
- Humphrey: Well, it’s unclear, and he comes close to it; but even if there are, we can’t say anything about them.
- Broks: why do we need consciousness, and what’s its function?
- Humphrey: some philosophers argue that it’s totally without function, but this must be wrong. My own answer is rather simple: it changes our sense of who we are, our investment in our own lives, our sense of self, and so on. It makes life more worth living: more interesting, more puzzling. We begin to value ourselves as creatures who transcend our brains and material existence – for how could mere matter produce (qualia)? We fid our individual consciousness very special; we’re puzzled by the fact that it’s our own and no-one else’s.
- Broks: but in practical terms it wouldn’t make any difference if you saw red as I see yellow?
- Humphrey: the colours you see may not be the colours I see, but that’s interesting as a possibility. Children play games with such ideas until they’re taught not to ask unanswerable questions. However, as soon as children realise their own minds are closed off from others’ – and vice versa – they relish that paradox. It’s lonely and distressing.
- Yates and the “perpetual virginity of the soul” – we don’t know “what it was like50 for you”.
- All this means that we are even more important than we thought we were – if my life comes to a stop, something of cosmic significance has come to a stop. Much human culture centres around the issue of the individuality of consciousness and therefore the huge importance of denying that it could ever cease. This arises from our realisation at some point that we’re on our own.
See BBC: A History of Ideas for the BBC home-page for this series of talks.
- This is a series of 4 short talks (10 minutes or so) – one each by the main contributors – in the BBC Radio 4 Series A History of Ideas hosted by Melvyn Bragg.
- There is a short introductory seminar, which I think pre-empts the talks somewhat.
- The “omnibus” edition just concatenates the 5 sessions.
- This is the last of 12 weekly series. Some of the others look interesting. The other 11 (with links to the omnibus podcasts) are:-
- What is Love? BBC: What is Love?
- How Should We Live Together? BBC: How Should We Live Together?
- "Smith (Barry C.), Broks (Paul), Kennedy (A.L.) & Evans (Jules) - What Does It Mean to Be Me?": BBC: What Does It Mean to Be Me? Omnibus
- What Is Justice? BBC: What Is Justice?
- How Do I Live a Good Life? BBC: How Do I Live a Good Life?
- How Has Technology Changed Us? BBC: How Has Technology Changed Us?
- What Makes Us Human? BBC: What Makes Us Human?
- How Did Everything Begin? BBC: How Did Everything Begin?
- How Can I Tell Right from Wrong? BBC: How Can I Tell Right from Wrong?
- Why Are Things Beautiful? BBC: Why Are Things Beautiful?
- What Does It Mean to be Free? BBC: What Does It Mean to be Free?
Footnote 7: But not in the same order as the talks will be delivered.
- This is an argument that there’s nothing more to sensations than their public expression, just as if we all talked about the “beetle” we had hidden in our boxes, the “beetles” would “cancel out” because we can’t get at them.
- I’m unimpressed. There might be a lot more about the beetles that we were either ignorant of or which we couldn’t express in language.
- Who’s to say that my beetle’s the same as yours? Or that I react to my beetle in the same way you do to yours?
- There’s a fact of the matter about beetles – we could let them out of their boxes. But, maybe, there isn’t about qualia: they can’t be experienced other than by the experiencer.
- But – just maybe – as we get better at understanding – and observing – brain events, we might observe correlations and come to know what experiences must be being experienced in response to particular neurological events.
Footnote 8: See Tara Shears.
Footnote 9: This is all well and good, but we don’t really carry on like that.
Footnote 10: See Paul Broks.
- We resist recalcitrant data for well-established theories until we have no other option – and (especially) until an alternative theory is found. After all, some data that appears to falsify a theory may itself turn out to be unreliable, or to be explicable after further reflection.
- It’s standard practice to tweak a theory to accommodate awkward data, at least until the number of epicycles shows the theory to be on the wrong track.
- Some theories – eg. Newtonian Mechanics – while strictly-speaking falsified are good-enough for daily use.
- Some pairs of theories – eg. GR and QM – are (it is said) mutually inconsistent, but we hold on to both of them pending an over-arching theory.
- She doesn’t actually say what’s involved in “testing” a theory. It doesn’t necessarily involve manipulating the world, as in the laboratory. In cosmology or theories about the past we are not capable of doing so. But observations that hadn’t been made prior to the theory’s development that fail to falsify the theory – but which might have done so were the theory false – increase our confidence in its truth.
Footnote 11: See Harry Potter.
Footnote 12: See Clare Carlisle.
- My view on this is that the recording would be sound only when a real brain interpreted it. The equipment is an observer of pressure-waves, but not of sound.
- This differs from the equipment which is used to record the results of quantum-mechanical events. This equipment is a primary observer – one that collapses the wave function – and doesn’t need to await a conscious mind to observe the print-out for the physical event to occur.
Footnote 15: This may be true, but it’s hardly Socrates’ (or Plato’s) position – which is very much a priori.
- This seems to a different case to that of whether the fridge-light is off when the door’s shut.
- Normally we’d take this on trust too – but we could perform experiments.
- But it’s not the same sort of conceptual issue of whether sound-waves that aren’t interpreted by brains are “sound”.
- Indeed, it’s not always clear which question the “falling unobserved tree” question is trying to address.
Footnote 16: An interesting remark, based on Harry Potter’s background.
Footnote 17: He appears to suggest an “alliance” between Chaucer and Newton; presumably he meant Socrates. That’s certainly how it’s taken forward.
Footnote 18: Reminiscent of anti-positivist “bootstrapping” arguments.
Footnote 20: See Wikipedia: Adolf Beck case, etc.
- Peter Millican is a regular consultant in this series.
- See Peter Millican.
Footnote 21: For Amina Menon, see Link.
Footnote 24: See Wikipedia: Hugo Münsterberg.
- I’m suspicious of what’s being tested.
- I doubt there’s any difference in the reliability of first-hand testimony, but maybe the degree of credulity in the testimony of others is correlated with educational sophistication.
- Yet the credibility of what is attested depends on the context – Catholics are more likely to believe miracles supporting Catholicism than are Protestants, whether educated or not.
Footnote 25: For the Standard Model, see:- Footnote 26: See, for example, Link.
Footnote 27: See Wikipedia: Higgs boson, etc.
Footnote 28: See Wikipedia: String theory and Link.
Footnote 29: See his DAMP page: Link.
Footnote 32: Footnote 33: Footnote 34: See Stephen Mulhall.
- Heads up the Research into Memory, Brain Sciences and Dementia Group at Bristol University.
- See Link.
Footnote 35: He’s careful to say this, as a zombie isn’t (he supposes) a person!
Footnote 36: This language (of the narrator) is very tendentious as this claim can be – and is – disputed.
Footnote 38: Footnote 39: With some interjections from Broks.
Footnote 45: Footnote 46: Footnote 50: Ref: the behaviourist joke along the lines “it was good for you, what was it like for me?”
- This sounds like a Socratic dialogue. How do we pick anything out unless we already know the meaning of the word, and how do we know the meaning but by picking out exemplars?
- To be convincing, the argument needs to show how the private case is different from language-acquisition generally when it comes to sensations.
- You learn a pain word based on what other people assign your actions to, but we still don’t know whether your pain is the same as the generic pain the word describes.
- And, of course – as will be pointed out later – why has language anything to do with sensations in the first place? Might we not have a (private) sensation that we can’t talk about?
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