1 Russell s Problems of Philosophy UNIVERSALS & OUR KNOWLEDGE OF THEM F e b r u a r y 2 Today : 1. Review A Priori Knowledge 2. The Case for Universals 3. Universals to the Rescue! 4. On Philosophy Essays 5. Next Lecture
2 1.0 Review A Priori Knowledge The Question How is a priori knowledge possible? 2 Analytic/Synthetic Distinction A vixen is a fox true by definition Predicate obtained by analysing subject Maid Marion is a vixen not true by definition No analysis of subject reveals the predicate Analytic truths are a priori because they re trivial; synthetic truths are not trivial they invoke a substantial connection between their constituents This means they allow us to extend our knowledge in non-trivial ways!
3 1.0 Review A Priori Knowledge The general principles upon which we rely to reach beyond the things with which we re acquainted needed to be a priori because otherwise we could have no grounds for affirming them 3 In order to deliver genuinely novel, non-trivial information, these principles need to be synthetic too But then it appears mysterious that the synthetic principles upon which we rely to escape from our immediate environs should be a priori at all
4 1.0 Review A Priori Knowledge The Synthetic A Priori Problem 4 The general principles upon which we rely to reach beyond our acquaintances need to be a priori, otherwise we could have no grounds for affirming them We lack acquaintance with things that aren t immediately given to us & such principles aren t immediately given to us In order to deliver genuine, non-trivial information, these principles need to be synthetic too So why think the synthetic principles we rely on are a priori?!?!?
5 1.0 Review A Priori Knowledge Russell thinks Kant gives a bad solution to this problem 5 Kant s Subjective Solution synthetic truths are only ever a priori because the objects they are about don t exist independently of us, but are constituted by our appreciation of them Russell s Objection Kant s account of synthetic a priori truths doesn t explain their universal & necessary character Our nature is as much a fact of the existing world as anything, and there can be no certainty that it will remain constant. It might happen, if Kant is right, that tomorrow our nature would so change as to make two and two become five. (PoP) The Upshot our a priori knowledge is not merely knowledge about the constitution of our minds, but is applicable to whatever the world may contain, both what is mental and what is no-mental. (PoP)
6 2.0 The Case for Universals 6 Russell s Solution A priori knowledge concerns universals The fact seems to be that all our a priori knowledge is concerned with entities which do not, properly speaking, exist, either in the mental or the physical world. These entities are such as can be named by parts of speech which are not substantives; they are such entities as qualities or relations. (PoP) Chapter 9 tells us about the nature of universals; Chapter 10 argues that, because our minds have the capacity to grasp universals (and the immutable interconnections between them), a priori knowledge is possible Russell s theory of universals is an elaboration of Plato s
7 2.0 The Case for Universals What do these have in common? 7 They re all tables! But what is this tableness they all have? They must all, in some sense, partake of a common nature, which will be found in whatever is [a table] and in nothing else. This common nature, in virtue of which they are all [a table], will be [tableness] itself, the pure essence the admixture of which with facts of ordinary life produces the multiplicity of [tables]. (PoP)
8 2.0 The Case for Universals Consider every square thing what is the squareness they have in common, marking them out from the non-squares? Can t just be the fact that (in English) we call them square, because it s arbitrary what term we use could have called them round, snarfblat Nor can it be just that we happen to think of them as square, since square things are square even if we never think of them Nor that it is something mental, because then squareness would lose the universal character it requires to bestow a common nature upon the things that participate it in Instead, it must be something else something independent, nonmental, but which is shared by all the square things This entity is the universal squareness Particular thing with same kind of nature as what is given in sensation Universal shared by particulars, grounds groupings 8
9 2.0 The Case for Universals According to Russell, the logical/grammatical category of the expression used to pick something out tells us whether it is a particular or a universal Proper names stand for particulars, other substantives, adjectives, prepositions and verbs stand for universals Adjectives and common nouns express properties of single things Prepositions and verbs express relations between two or more things red & table (properties) vs. in & places (relations) 9 A Linguistic argument for Universals Every sentence include at least one word adjective, common name, preposition, or verb that denotes a universal Thus all truths involve universals, and all knowledge of truths involve acquaintance with universals. (PoP)
10 2.0 The Case for Universals A Linguistic Argument for Universals 1. Universals are denoted by adjectives, prepositions, and verbs 2. Sentences require adjectives, prepositions, verbs, etc. Otherwise, they d merely be a list of names! John George Paul Ringo??? 3. True propositions are expressed by sentences 4. So all true propositions must involve universals BGI1 Propositions are composed of parts; these parts correspond to the things denoted by the words that make up the sentence that expresses them BGI2 Principle of Acquaintance Every proposition which we can understand must be composed wholly of constituents with which we are acquainted 5. Therefore, whenever we grasp a true proposition, we must have acquaintance with universals 6. Since we grasp propositions, universals must exist! 10
11 2.0 The Case for Universals Not everyone buys into all (or even any!) universals Monism (Bradley, Horgan) there is only one thing, so there are no relations Monadism (Leibnitz) there are many things, but no relations Nominalism (Berkeley, Hume, Quine) there are no universals 11 Russell aims to undermine this trio by establishing the existence of at least one relation resemblance Russell s argument can be broken down into three stages Stage 1 establish the prima facie case that the nominalist is committed to a universal of resemblance
12 2.0 The Case for Universals Stage 1 Nominalist commitment to resemblance 1. According to nominalism, x is red just in case it resembles other red things 2. Since there are many red things, this resemblance must hold between many pairs of red things This means resemblance is a one-overmany across these pairs 4. So, instead of avoiding universals, the nominalist presupposes at least one namely, the universal of resemblance!
13 2.0 The Case for Universals Stage 2 Russell considers & rejects a nominalist reply Nominalist: Resemblance is not a one-over many because there is a different resemblance for each pair of resembling things Russell: These different resemblances need to resemble each other, otherwise they re not resemblance which means we need to take resemblance as a one-over-many once more 13 Stage 3 Russell generalises his conclusion If one universal is admitted, there s no reason to deny the existence of the others! Russell s fallacy just because there is no reason to admit one universal, it does not follow that there is reason to admit many (one alone might do!) Even so, if the nominalist requires at least one universal, they aren t really in a position to deny that it is never necessary to deny universals
14 2.0 The Case for Universals Having shown there are universals, Russell goes on to show that they are not mental they are mind independent Russell gives another version of the earwig argument at the end of Chapter 8 Edinburgh is north of London states a relation between two places Edinburgh and London 14 This relation holds even if there were no human beings around to know about North and South, or even if no minds existed anywhere in the universe But this relation cannot be a particular a concrete thing with a distinctive embodiment at a place and time Relation isn t in Edinburgh or London is neutral between them Relation isn t at a particular time for the same reason So the relation radically different than Edinburg, London, etc.
15 3.0 Solving SAP Universals to the Rescue! 15 In Chapter 10, Russell maintains that we have acquaintance with some universals those had by sense-data but adds that abstraction plays a role in becoming so acquainted When we see a white patch we are acquainted in the first instance with the particular patch; but by seeing many white patches, we easily learn to abstract the whiteness which they all have in common, and in learning to do this we are learning to be acquainted with whiteness.universals of this sort many be called sensible qualities. They could be apprehended with less effort of abstraction than any others, and they seem less removed from particulars than other universals are. (PoP) An example might help to characterize abstraction
17 3.0 Solving SAP Universals to the Rescue! 17 A more complicated form of abstraction enables us to learn about relations by comparing pairs (or triplets, or ) Our knowledge of such relations, though it requires more power of abstraction than is required for perceiving the qualities of sense-data, appears to be equally immediate, and (at least in some cases) equally indubitable. Thus there is immediate knowledge concerning universals as well as concerning sense-data. (PoP) Problem does the need for abstraction compromise the immediacy of our knowledge of sensible qualities? Regardless, our acquaintance with these universals provides a foundation for our a priori knowledge
18 3.0 Solving SAP Universals to the Rescue! Russell focuses on statements of pure arithmetic 18 We needn t (and couldn t!) have knowledge of all the couples in the universe in order to know that the general proposition 2+2=4 is true Since the proposition isn t about particulars, it must be about universals! It expresses a relation between the universal 2 and the universal 4 Since we know that 2+2= 4 is true, it follows that we have the power of sometimes perceiving such relations between universals, and therefore of sometimes knowing general a priori propositions such as those of arithmetic and logic. (PoP) As arithmetical and logical truths are synthetic, this power allows us to have synthetic a priori knowledge!
19 3.0 Solving SAP Universals to the Rescue! A priori knowledge looked problematic, because it seemed to presupposed acquaintance with particulars beyond our epistemic ken 19 If synthetic truths are a priori, then we had to explain how we could get such information through reason which looks hard if such truths pertained to particulars (knowledge of which we get via experience) But when we realize that such claims concern universals, it becomes intelligible how a priori knowledge is attainable We do so via grasping the relations between universals So we solve the SAP Problem via our knowledge of universals and the relations that hold between them!
20 4.0 On Philosophy Essays 20 A philosophy essay is a reasoned defence of a clearly stated thesis, using compelling arguments, explicated in detail Thesis the point the essay is arguing for For the essays, this will be your answer to the set question Russell s solution to the problem of induction is unsuccessful, in that it does not in fact resolve the problem. Argument the case made in support of the thesis Philosophers are argument-machines feed in coffee, cigarettes, ideas, etc., and they out-put arguments! This is because Russell s so-called solution begs the question by assuming the Uniformity of Nature Principle the very principle the problem of induction targets.
21 4.0 On Philosophy Essays 21 Introduction & Thesis Exposition & Set-up Main Argument Objections Responses to Objections Conclusions Bibliography
22 The Intro 4.0 On Philosophy Essays Do! Jump straight into the claim that you are defending Do! State the thesis clearly, concisely, and succinctly Do! Provide a structure or roadmap DO NOT! Start with Since the dawn of time, Russell was born Thesis Do! Tell your reader what your thesis/conclusion is early and often DO NOT! Leave your thesis as a surprise to the end Exposition Expound on the relevant issues, explain & define key points in own words, employ judicious use of quotation for support 22 Signpost add a sentence or two to remind your reader where you are & where you are going next
23 4.0 On Philosophy Essays Evaluate the arguments Challenge their validity, truth of the premises, motivation for premises Remember to offer reasons for whatever you argue! Consider possible objections to your claims/arguments And respond to them! Conclusion Summarize what you have defended and how you ve done so 23 Assume your audience is lazy, stupid, and mean Lazy won t work to figure out convoluted metaphors/sentences Stupid can only understand simple, direct language Mean offers no charity, so be as clear and explicit as possible Not Uninformed! if you can assume some things as background, do so
24 Originality 4.0 On Philosophy Essays You do not have to be ground-breaking or make a completely original contribution to human thought Your originality can manifest itself through Thoughtfulness of discussion and responses Presentation of argument/criticisms How you structure the debate 24 How you develop existing ideas and arguments Bottom line you need to come up with your own arguments; merely summarizing/repeating what others have said is not enough Answer the Question Answer the whole question! Answer the set question!
25 4.0 On Philosophy Essays 25 Question 1 In The Problems of Philosophy, Russell argues that our sense perceptions provide good grounds for our belief in the existence of a world of matter. Is this argument effective? Why or why not? Thesis should say (a) whether R s argument is effective, and (b) why/not! This essay will argue that Russell s abductive argument for the existence of physical objects is ineffective, because it turns on a notion of best explanation that is not clear enough to support Russell s conclusion Argument should provide support for Thesis! Should provide some definitions e.g. matter, abductive argument Should explicate Russell s argument (otherwise, how can you evaluate?) Should evaluate otherwise, not answered the whole question!
26 4.0 On Philosophy Essays Question 2 Russell distinguishes between knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description. What is the difference between these two types of knowledge? What, according to Russell, can be known by acquaintance? What can only be known by description? Is Russell correct in these claims? Thesis can focus on last part of question does the distinction work like Russell thinks it does? If so, why? If not, why not? Russell s distinction does not apply as he thinks it does, because he is wrong concerning what we are acquainted with. This will be shown by Argument should provide support for thesis Requires some definitions know. by acquaintance, know. by description, acquaintance Requires detailing distinction & how Russell thinks they apply 26
27 5.0 Next Lecture 27 Tuesday 7 February 12:00 13:00 Joseph Black 419 Truth Read Problems of Philosophy, Chpts. 11 & 12 Take care and see you on Tuesday!
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