Countering the Philosophical Skepticism of Former Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin

In an April 30, 2018, New York Times Opinion page article, “Philosophy Prepared Me for a Career in Finance and Government,” former Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin singled out his undergraduate Harvard University Professor Raphael Demos for special praise, telling us:

Professor Demos would use Plato and other great philosophers to demonstrate that proving any proposition to be true in the final and ultimate sense was impossible. His approach to critical thinking planted a seed in me that grew during my years at Harvard and throughout my life. The approach appealed to what was probably my natural but latent tendency toward questioning and skepticism.

Rubin then went on to say:

I concluded that you can’t prove anything in absolute terms, from which I extrapolated that all significant decisions are about probabilities. Internalizing the core tenet of Professor Demos’s teaching — weighing risk and analyzing odds and trade-offs — was central to everything I did professionally in the decades ahead in finance and government.

I myself have to admit to having a “tendency toward questioning and skepticism,” if, though natural, hardly latent. Here and now, for example, I cannot help doubting that Professor Demos was able to “use Plato and other great philosophers to demonstrate that proving any proposition to be true in the final and ultimate sense was impossible,” at least in “the final and ultimate sense.” Or, I’ll put it directly: There is no way to prove in absolute terms that it is impossible to prove anything in absolute terms.

On the other hand, one can prove that one can prove that at least some propositions are true in “the final and ultimate sense” by presenting the actual proofs that they are true, for whatever is actual must be possible. I have in fact presented such very genuine philosophical proofs or demonstrations in the pages of this very blog. I invite you to peruse the:

A Proof That at Least One Thing Can Be Proven in Philosophy,” of March 6, 2018;

Sathya Sai Baba. The Man Who Was God,” of February 20, 2018; and

A Diagram of the Trinity,” of February 8, 2018.

There are also some earlier posts related to the Trinity, links to which can be found in the three posts listed.

I’ll close by repeating the claim I made in the last of the aforementioned posts:

My arguments, I submit, are valid, in that their conclusions must be true if their premises are true. Moreover, they are not only valid, but sound, in that their premises, and therefore their conclusions, are true. Moreover still, they are not only sound, but apodictic or demonstrative, in that their premises, and therefore their conclusions, are not just true but necessarily true.

Until next time.

Richard

About Rchard E. Hennessey

See above, "About the Author/Editor."
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