A Puzzle About Reductios

I finally got my internet connection back up at home now. Turns out I had a bad cable out on the side of the appartment building. Now all I have to do is get to the backlog of super interesting comments! I hope I’ll have some time to do that this weekend.

 In the meantime here is something I was puzzeling about today. Consider the following argument

If P then P
Not P
So, not P

Is this a valid argument? That would depend on whether it is an instance of modus tollens or denying the antecedent; but how can we tell which one it is an instance of? We have the same problem for modus ponens and asserting the consequent.

If P then P
Therefore, P

So what are we supposed to say about this? I suppose one could deny ‘p –> p’ since it is equivelent to the law of the excluded middle (~p v p) and there are those who would deny that it is true but that doesn’t seem to solve the problem. We still won’t be able to tell what argument form this is an instance of and so can’t know if it is valid or not. But if that is the case then we may be commiting a fallacy when we infer that a sentence must be true because its negation can’t be true and that would mean that reductio arguments have a deep problem.

So, any thgoughts on whether these are valid arguments or not?

Ontological Arguments

The ontological argument for the existence of God is often greeted with skepticism by atheists and theists alike. I don’t want to talk about particular versions of the argument, but about why people are suspicious of them. It seems to me that we are quite ready to accept ontological arguments in other areas.So, consider geometry. Why can’t there be any square circles? Because the very concept is contradictory. We infer from this that reality must be a certain way; it contains no square circles.  Isn’t the basic strategy behind the ontological argument for God the same? Why must there be a God? The concept of God’s non-existence is contradictory. Infer from that that reality must be a certain way. Now, I don’t mean to be saying that the ontological argument is a good argument or not. I only mean to point out that ontological arguments aren’t as strange as they seem.

Progress in Philosophy? Well, I Never!

I finally got around to looking at the recent Philosophers’ Carnival and I was struck by Richard Chappell’s post at Philosophy, etc where he lists what he takes as ‘examples of solved philosophy’. He offers these up as counter-examples to claims made, by people like me, that there are no solved problems in philosophy. He says that by ‘solved’ he means that they are ‘as established as ordinary scientific results’. This in itself causes problems, for one might wonder how well established scientific results are… 

Now, I tend to think that every one of the so-called ‘solved’ issues really begs some question somewhere and so all we can mean by ‘solved’ is ‘generally agreed to be true by philosophers/philosopher X’ but it was number eight that got my hackles up.  This is the claim that it is metaphysically necessary that cats are animals, though ‘cats are animals’ is not analytically true (i.e. that Kripke is right). The ‘evidence’ for this is that, should we find out that what we call ‘cats’ were not animals but demons instead we wouldn’t want to say that we had found out that cats don’t exist. We must surely think that we have found out something new about cats; viz. that they are not animals. But since we have (already) found out that they are animals, we must conclude that they are necessarily animals. But why must we agree with the intuition that ‘we have found out something new about cats’. No reason for this is ever given. It has always seemed to me that we would have found out that there were no cats. So, until intuitions are reliable guides to semantic/metaphysical truths gets ‘solved’ number eight isn’t either; and this is no where near happening any time soon.

So, are there examples of solved philosophy? Well, only in the sense that Richard actually points out. That is, only in the sense in which ordinary scientific clams are thought of as ‘solved’ and that amounts only to this: Given certain assumptions about what counts as evidence at all and what it means for some kind of evidence to be better evidencethan some other kind, there is more evidence for claim a than claim b. But this will always involve substantial begging the question. This is why, I take it, that David Chalmers has recommended that with respect to the dualist/materialist debate the best thing to do is just for each camp to retire to their corners and try to develop their respective theories (I actually forget where he says that at, though…so I may be misremembering the jist of the passage). These issues are only solved from a theoretical standpoint, and no particular standpoint is forced on us.

Word Up

I was watching this commercial recently that depicted a family playing scrabble and the young daughter and hip Grandmother are spelling out ‘rofl’ and ‘lol’ and the like. The mother is exasperated and protests that ‘rofl’ is not an English word.

This was sunrising to me.  I had never thought about it before but I found myself disagreeing with this mother (I know it’s supposed to be a joke to sell phones, but you know philosophers!). Apparently I had been implicitly assuming that they were English words. I mean, aren’t acronyms words? ‘FBI’ is a word in English, right? I think so, though I guess we could debate this. But ‘laser’ is an English word and it is an acronym so there is nothing fundamentally at odds with ‘lol’ being a word.

So does anyone have any reason for thinking that ‘lol’ isn’t an English word?