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Intro to Phil

by: Chyna Beatty

Intro to Phil PHIL 1000

Chyna Beatty
GPA 3.57

Mark Moffett

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Mark Moffett
Class Notes
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This 6 page Class Notes was uploaded by Chyna Beatty on Wednesday October 28, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to PHIL 1000 at University of Wyoming taught by Mark Moffett in Fall. Since its upload, it has received 9 views. For similar materials see /class/230368/phil-1000-university-of-wyoming in PHIL-Philosophy at University of Wyoming.


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Date Created: 10/28/15
Lecture 23 1 Lecture 5 Inference to the Best Explanation Abduction Abduction is a general form of inference that allows us to infer the truth of one theory over another because it is a better explanation Let T1 and T2 be two theories that account for the same range of phenomena Abduction or Inference to the Best Explanation says that one may justifiably infer that T1 is true if T1 is a better explanation of the phenomena than T2 Thus abduction is sometimes called inference to the best explanation If we are going to be able to use this type of inference we had better be able to say what makes one theory better than another theory 1 Predictivel Adequate One thing we know for sure is that a good theory makes correct predictions Why Well think of it this way Suppose we have a theory T1 e g quantum physics Keynesian economics whatever If this theory is true then the world will look a certain wayithat is certain observations 0 will follow Now suppose that these observations don t hold Then you see that we can conclude that the theory is false Simglicigg Another thing that most philosophers and scientists agree makes for a good theory is that it is simpler than it alternatives Simplicity comes in a number of different guises One kind of simplicity is concegtual simglicim Specifically theory T1 is conceptually simpler than theory T2 iff T1 involves fewer or less radical concepts than T2 I won t try to say exactly what this amounts to But for our purposes one important way in which T1 might involve fewer concepts than T2 is if T2 actually contained T1 If T2 contains T1 then we feel that there had better be a good reason for having the extra stuff in T2 if there isn t we should opt for T1 as the simpler theory Another kind of simplicity is ontological simglicim Theory T1 is ontologically simpler than T2 iff T1 posits fewer kinds of objects than T2 This kind of simplicity is often called Occam s Razor Generaligg Another kind of theoretical virtue is generality T1 is more general than T2 iff T1 correctly predicts everything that T2 predicts plus at least one additional thing without of course losing predictive adequacy Here is an historical example Prior to Newton and Galileo mechanics was broken down into terrestrial mechanics the motions of objects on Earth and celestial mechanics the motions of heavenly bodies Newton achieved theoretical generality when he proposed a way of accounting for both the observed motions of bodies on Earth and the observed motions of heavenly bodies by means of a single theory Of course generality is closely related to Simplicity For the more general theory will typically be both conceptually and ontologically simpler Conservativism Normally we don t just have one theory at a time Rather we have a whole host of theories e g evolutionary theory quantum theory plate tectonics etc Now suppose that T1 and T2 are two competing say biological Lecture 23 2 theories Suppose that while T1 is consistent with the other theories we accept T2 con icts with one of them we will suppose that the con ict is not at the level of observation which would kick us back up to predictive adequacy Then conservatism tells us to choose T1 since it does require us to give up something else we have reason to believe Speci cally T1 is more conservative than T2 iff T1 con icts with fewer of our previously supported beliefs than does T2 Introduction to Logic Argumentation Validity amp Soundness It seems like people are arguing all the time But these arguments rarely involve arguments ie argumentation and when they do they are rarely good arguments SoI claim There are two claims above that we want to look at more carefully The first and less interesting claim is that people can disagree without giving arguments The second is that arguments can be evaluated as better or worse Let s start with the first point Consider the following skit from Monty Python httpwww vmmihe watch7vtel 3rin M Now there is obviously a sense of argument in which the two characters in this skit are having an argument They are after all having a disagreement But Eric Idle s character clearly has something more in mind But what more could be involved As John Cleese says Look if I argue with you I have take up a contrary position And this is right It does seem like a necessary condition for having an argument of any sort that the participants take opposing views But for the sort of argument that is wanted this is not a su icient condition For merely taking up a contrary position is consistent with the disagreement bein merely contradiction the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says Idle s character doesn t want mere contradiction but rational argumentation An argument is not the same as contradiction An argument is a collective series of statements to establish a definite proposition Here we have a pretty good definition of the logician s use of the term argument Here is a first pass at the definition Def 121 An argument is any set of statements one of which the conclusion is supposed to be supported by the remaining statements the premises The essential point here is that when one gives an argument one is giving or at least attempting to give the other person a reason to believe the conclusion that is what the premises are supposed to be doing But we still haven t gotten to the bottom of the issue Consider the following situation suppose thatI tell you that unless you accept the claim that I am the greatest philosopher of all time I will fail you for this class Obviously there is some sense in which I have given you a reason to believe thatI am the greatest philosopher of all time This is not what is intended WhatI have given you is a practical or prudential reason to believe specifically a reason to believe grounded in your selfinterest What we intended however was that an argument provide an epistemic or truthconducive reason to believe That is the premises of the argument are supposed to give us a reason to think that the conclusion is true This makes sense After all to believe something is to believe that it is true We will talk more about this issue later in the semester So we will want to modify our definition of an argument in order to capture this point Def 1b An argument is any set of statements one of which the conclusion is supposed to be epistemically supported by the remaining statements the premises This is the definition I want you to know This brings us to the second point concerning the relative merits of an argument Just as in the case of architecture from which the support metaphor is borrowed the epistemic support provided by the premises can be better or worse To see this consider an egregious sort of ad hominem argument httpwww vmmrhe watchvV5UJOvVoPcw Here Dan Akroyd offers an argument to the effect that Michelle is not deserving of any further financial support from the Actor Lee Marvin While some of his supporting claims may be relevant most are not If we think of Akroyd s tirade as a number of distinct arguments we can put at least one of those arguments as follows 1 The defender of lLichelle s right to the money namely Jane Curtain is an ignorant slut who hops from bed to bed with the frequency of a ham radio 2 Michelle herself is a screeching squealing rapacious swamp sow 3 Therefore lLichelle is not deserving of the any financial support from Marvin The problem here seems to be that while the premises are supposed to be epistemically supporting of the conclusion they don t in fact make the conclusion any more probable And this suggests that the right way to think about the epistemic goodness of an argument is in terms of epistemic strength There have traditionally have been two important and related ways of thinking about the relation of epistemic strength One answer the answer given in deductive logic says that the premises support the conclusion if gm the truth of the premises the conclusion Mst also be true That is if there is no way for the premises to be true and the conclusion to be false The second answer the one given in inductive logic says that the premises support the conclusion if gm the truth of the premises the truth of conclusion is highly probable but not necessary In this course we are going to focus primarily on deductive logic and hence the first answer It will be convenient to introduce a simple term for arguments that provide this kind of support for their premises Def 2 An argument is valid if and only if the conclusion must be true given the truth of the premises It is extremely important to note that the above de nition does not say that the premises of the argument are true In evaluating the validity of an argument we do not concern ourselves with the truth or falsity of the premises Rather we assume that the premises are true and try to determine whether given this fact the conclusion must be true as well Of course valid arguments with false or highly controversial premises are of little real value What we strive for rather are arguments with true and relatively uncontroversial premises Def 3 An argument is sound if and only if the argument is valid and in addition all of its premises are true When people argue they disagree over something Moreover when someone gives an argument they intend to resolve the disagreement one way or the other Consequently it does you no good to give an argument containing a premise that is at least as controversial as the claim you are trying to establish Rather when you give an argument your premises should be common ground between you and your opponent That is when you give an argument your premises should all be claims upon which you and your opponent agree Therefore you should strive to give arguments that are sound and that your opponent agrees to be sound The Epistemic Regress Problem Call a set of propositions R a conditional reason for believing that p iff R logically supports p R logically supports p iff there is a deductively or inductively valid argument in which the propositions in R are taken as the premises and p is taken as the conclusion But it seems clear that we will have a reason to believe that p only if we have someprior reasons R to believe each of the propositions in R And again we will have a reason to believe the propositions in R only if we have some prior reasons R to believe each of the propositions in R An so on Pictographically the situation looks like this P logically supports R r1 r2 rn logically supports logically supports logically supports R1 R2 Rquot flag Illn r2115 rln rnaa Irm The Epistemic Regress Problem is to say how this regress of conditional reasons is to end if it does end There appear to be three possibilities i The regress ends in premises for which no further reasons are available 0 In this case it would seem that we have NO reason to believe that any of the conditionally justified beliefs including the top one are true ii The regress ends in a loop that is in premises that have occurred previously in the structure 0 In this case it would seem that our reasons for believing p are circular and this is usually taken to be a bad thing iii The regress ends in premises that are unconditionally justi ed or selfevident Option iii is the one chosen by foundationalists Suppose that we grant that there are selfevident truths of the sort foundationalists claim Even so the only plausible candidates for selfevident or unconditionally justified truths are going to be things like the following Simple logical principles Simple phenomenal claims such as It seems to me that there is a computershaped object in front of me now Descartes o I think now Descartes o I exist now Descartes If in the course of arguing over various points we have to go all the way back to these sorts of selfevident truths then it is unlikely that most of us can ever really give rocksolid arguments for our beliefs Fortunately very few arguments ever really need to go this far back For the most part we either reach common ground on less basic premises or we discover that we don t really know how to go any further in which case the argument ends in a stalemate But the point I want to drive home is this either of these outcomes ought to make us just a little bit uneasy about where we stand For what is wrong with someoneia philosopher sayipushing us and pushing us to fill in the lacunae in our reasons and being unwilling to accept anything which is less than rock bottom as a starting point If we can t really respond to such a person what does that tell us about our view of the world


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