Pratchett on Truth: Trust, Responsibility, and Truth

Ilkka Pättiniemi A bit of levity for this week, but with serious undertones.  In the 25th book of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, The Truth, there is a discussion between the commander of Ankh-Morpork’s city watch, Vimes, and an intrepid journalist William de Worde on trust and responsibility: Vimes said, ‘I don’t trust you, Mr deContinue reading “Pratchett on Truth: Trust, Responsibility, and Truth”

Addendum on Vagueness, Bivalence, and Science

Ilkka Pättiniemi For this week’s installment I will tie up some loose ends from my post on vagueness, as there is always more to say.  Thing the first: bivalence and realism.It seems clear that scientific realism requires bivalence, but does bivalence (or the demand for bivalence) imply (a demand for) realism? Simply put: no. TheContinue reading “Addendum on Vagueness, Bivalence, and Science”

An Addendum on Classification

Ilkka Pättiniemi Last week in considering the realist and conventionalist arguments about the nature of classification, I ended up putting a weak – or perhaps even silly! – argument in the conventionalists mouth. Namely, I had the conventionalist claim that the following is an ampliative inference: “upon encountering a Dewey decimal for a previously unknownContinue reading “An Addendum on Classification”

They Are Merely Conventional Signs!, or, Realism, Conventionalism, and Classification

Ilkka Pättiniemi When it comes to the subject of classification, a conventionalist view might at first blush seem quite welcoming. After all, many classificatory systems are in place for our convenience, and as such we should be free to change them if a new system seems to be doing a better job (given our needs).Continue reading “They Are Merely Conventional Signs!, or, Realism, Conventionalism, and Classification”

The Trouble With Counterfactuals

Ilkka Pättiniemi An important type of statements are counterfactual statements, that is statements about what would be the case if a fact of the matter were different than it actually is. “If a massive meteor had not hit the Earth at around the KT-boundary, birds would not be the only extant dinosaurs” is a counterfactualContinue reading “The Trouble With Counterfactuals”

Rorty on Truth: Truth, What is it Good For?

Ilkka Pättiniemi Welcome, dear reader, to the third installment of Rorty on Truth. This time around I will take a look at what the concept of ‘truth’ can be good for, at least according to Rorty. Let’s start with a caricature. (I’m not sure that this in fact is a caricature, but am perfectly willingContinue reading “Rorty on Truth: Truth, What is it Good For?”

Are You Serious?! Zeno’s Paradox and the Impossibility of Movement

Ilkka Pättiniemi In a recent piece on Starts With a Bang, Ethan Siegel takes up Zeno’s paradox and argues that it takes physics to solve it. Here I will not so much look at Siegel’s piece as take it as an opportunity to look at the absurdity of Zeno’s paradox seriously. Again this will takeContinue reading “Are You Serious?! Zeno’s Paradox and the Impossibility of Movement”

Rorty on Truth: Putnam and Relativism

Ilkka Pättiniemi Recall, dear reader, last week’s installment, and Rorty’s thoroughly sociological view of justification. I will take this view for granted for present purposes. That said, it’s time to get on with our story. Hilary Putnam was  one of the great pragmatists of the late 20th and the early 21st Centuries, and as suchContinue reading “Rorty on Truth: Putnam and Relativism”

Rorty on Truth: Conant, Orwell, and the Facts

Ilkka Pättiniemi Richard Rorty is infamous for his views on truth. Indeed, his insistence that truth is not, nor can it be, the goal of enquiry, and that truth is not an explanatory term (e.g. Rorty 1998), has caused some to call him a relativist, to say that he is anti-science, and so on. IContinue reading “Rorty on Truth: Conant, Orwell, and the Facts”

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Natural Language

Ilkka Pättiniemi In his classic paper “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences” (1960), Eugene Wigner tells a story of two friends meeting after a long while. One of them has become a statistician working in population trends. He shows a reprint of his recent paper to his friend, who, upon seeing aContinue reading “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Natural Language”

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