Re: Hume

From: Ian Wright (ian_paul_wright@HOTMAIL.COM)
Date: Thu Nov 20 2003 - 17:31:25 EST

Hello Andrew,

Thanks for taking the time to reply to my question.

>The usual misinterpretation of my position is that I am after
>*certain* knowledge. This is quite wrong. I am trying to uphold
>philosophically the obvious fact that we have *some* knowledge,
>however weak and fallible.

Yes, I think I have been guilty of that in the past.

>From a practical point of view, acceptance of causal events
>unknowable in principle (i.e. non-material) leads us to doubt obvious
>facts like the fact that I am typing on my computer at the moment.
>This is just silly (to borrow your own falicitous term) but it follows,
>since there maybe an unknown and unknowable causal mechanism,
>or 'force', about to turn my computer into an elephant or I may be a
>brain in a vat or whatever, given the premise in question.

It is a logical possibility that there is a free-floating as
yet undetected agency that with very low frequency rearranges
personal computers into elephants. But as there's no positive
evidence of such an agency then there's no need to waste time
worrying about it. But if there were such a thing, and it did
indeed act, then there is some new, unexplained causal event
that may be the object of scientific inquiry. In your terms,
this would be an example of the action of a hitherto unkown --
but not unknowable -- mechanism. So, if I understand correctly,
you would not object to philosophical theories that admit the
possibility of unlikely events, but philosophical theories that
admit the possibility that some causal events may occur that
in principle could not be explained by human reason. Because
in this case we really could not know the "springs of the
universe", rather than simply not knowing everything. Is this
right, or have I mangled it up? Also, what is the difference
between your approach to the problem of induction, and
straightforward pragmatism, that is by getting our hands dirty
and interacting with the world we gain adequate, useful knowledge
of it? I ask because your mention of idea and object being
united in human labour sounds like that, which seems entirely
sensible (and not silly).

Thanks for your patience.


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