Making Sense of Ontological Irrationalism

In his November 17, 2016, post on Siris, “Implying Bottom,”* Brandon Watson casts a critical eye on a paragraph contained in an article by Stephen Maitzen, “The Problem of Magic.”** The two then, in the Comments section, engage in nicely intelligent discussion of a few of the issues at hand; I’m not quite sure that they have wrapped that discussion up.

The present post will be primarily concerned with the opening lines of the paragraph to which Watson draws our attention. They read:

Instead, any theistic explanation of the operation of the laws of logic must say at least this: If God didn’t exist, then the laws of logic wouldn’t hold. But no sense at all can be attached to the consequent of that conditional.

Important though they are, I’m not concerned in this post with either “any theistic explanation” of what Maitzen calls “the operation of the laws of logic” or with the conditional, “If God didn’t exist, then the laws of logic wouldn’t hold,” as a whole. Rather, I will be concerned, first, with offering what I consider a friendly amendment to the wording, and the thought behind the wording, of “the operation of the laws of logic.” Then I will offer a critique of Maitzen’s assertion that “no sense at all can be attached to the consequent of that conditional,” i.e., a critique of the position that “no sense at all can be attached” to the proposition that “laws of logic wouldn’t hold.”

1. First, then, “the operation of the laws of logic”: There is an equivocation pervasive in philosophical thought involving two quite different meanings of the word “logic.” According to the one meaning, logic is a theory of concepts, propositions, and arguments composed of propositions. Or, according to those less comfortable with a theory entailing the existence of conceptual entities, or “beings of reason,” logic is a theory of linguistic entities, terms, sentences or statements, and, again, arguments, but arguments composed of sentences or statements.

The logic with which Maitzen appears to be concerned, however, is a theory of real entities, i.e., extra-conceptual and extra-linguistic entities. That this is so is evident in, among several places, the first half of the second paragraph of his article, in which he treats the thesis that “the universe is intelligible” as sufficiently equivalent for his purposes to that of Bernard Lonergan that “the real is completely intelligible.”

Various philosophers and theologians – including Aquinas, Leibniz, Bernard Lonergan, and Hugo Meynell – see evidence for the existence of God in the fact that the universe is intelligible to us, i.e., the fact that we can understand to an impressive degree how the universe works. As Lonergan says, “If the real is completely intelligible, God exists. But the real is completely intelligible. Therefore, God exists” (2004: 5).***

Maitzen is not, of course, endorsing Lonergan’s argument.

I think it clear that the logic of which Maitzen speaks would be better identified as onto-logic, and better again as ontology, the theory of (real) beings.

2. Maitzen’s laws of logic then are, as I see things, laws of ontology. In what follows I’ll speak only of the law or, as I along with others would have it, the principle of non-contradiction, that, in its traditional formulation:

No being can both be and not be, in the same respect and at the same time.

or, in a more contemporary formulation:

For any existent, x, and any predicable, φ, x cannot both be a φ and not be a φ.

I’ll take it that Maitzen’s assertion that “no sense at all can be attached to the consequent of that conditional,” i.e., of the position that “no sense at all can be attached” to the proposition that “laws of logic wouldn’t hold,” would entail in particular that “no sense at all can be attached” to the proposition that the law or principle of non-contradiction wouldn’t hold. I’ll further take it that to say that the law of or principle of non-contradiction wouldn’t hold is to say that it is not true and that that in turn is to say that its contradiction would be true.

And to this sense can be perfectly well be attached, for we now have what I will dub the thesis of particular contradiction, that:

Some being can both be and not be, in the same respect and at the same time.

or, in a more contemporary formulation:

For some existent, x, and some predicable, φ, x can both be a φ and not be a φ.

Of course that proposition is false, and indeed irrational, even as sense can perfectly well be attached to it. The same can be said for the more radical thesis that is, not the contradiction of the law of contradiction, but its contrary, the thesis of universal contradiction, that:

All beings can both be and not be, in the same respect and at the same time.

or, in a more contemporary formulation:

For any existent, x, and any predicable, φ, x can both be a φ and not be a φ.

While I am in the process of taking note of versions, false but having sense, of what begs to be called ontological irrationalism, I might just as well add a yet more radical one, that:

All beings must both be and not be, in the same respect and at the same time.

or, in a more contemporary formulation:

For any existent, x, and any predicable, φ, x must both be a φ and not be a φ.

A closing note: similar things could be said, mutatis mutandis, of the law or principle of excluded middle, that:

All beings must be or not be, but not both, in the same respect and at the same time.

or, in a more contemporary formulation:

For any existent, x, and any predicable, φ, x must either be a φ or not be a φ, but not both.

I’ll leave the working out of the expressions of the opposed theses to the reader as an optional exercise.

Until next time.

Richard

* http://branemrys.blogspot.com/2016/11/implying-bottom.html

** You can read “The Problem of Magic,” at least as of November 19, 2016, at http://philosophy.acadiau.ca/tl_files/sites/philosophy/resources/documents/Maitzen_TPM.pdf. Maitzen tells us, on his website, that the article is “forthcoming in Does God Matter? Essays on the Axiological Consequences of Theism, ed. Klaas J. Kraay (Routledge).” http://philosophy.acadiau.ca/maitzen_cv.html.

*** Lonergan, Bernard J. F. (2004) Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan, volume 17. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

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Returning to the Fray

Those aspects of life which have come between me and After Aristotle for the past half-year or so seem to be sufficiently diminished in number that putting hands to keyboard makes sense again.

I left off posting having begun an Introduction to Philosophy Initiative, introduced in “Announcing the After Aristotle Introduction to Philosophy Initiative.” For the time being, I will leave that project off to the side, for there are other matters which I wish to explore. And thus my next post.

Until next time, or, rather, soon, very soon.

Richard

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Nagel’s Omission of Theology as a Mode of Theoretical Knowledge

(Last Revised May 20, 2017}

I have already devoted two posts in the present series, the “Nagel’s Comparison and Contrasting of Philosophy and Science,” of April 12, 2016, and the “Nagel’s Comparison and Contrasting of Philosophy and Mathematics,” of April 19, 2016, to an understanding of one telling passage in the opening chapter of Thomas Nagel’s concise introduction to philosophy,*  What Does It All Mean? Further reflection upon the passage, however, tells me that at least one more delving into it will be helpful to the understanding of his scheme of things.

That passage reads (p. 4):

Philosophy is different from science and from mathematics. Unlike science it doesn’t rely on experiments or observations, but only on thought. And unlike mathematics, it has no formal methods of proof. It is done just by asking questions, arguing, trying out ideas and thinking of possible arguments against them, and wondering how our concepts really work.

He has here recognized the existence of three distinct modes of theoretical knowledge, those of science, mathematics, and philosophy. And he has contrasted them. Reading just a bit between the lines, we can discern that, in his view, science differs from mathematics and philosophy in that it relies on experimentation and observation, while they rely on thought and not on experimentation and observation. In turn, mathematics differs from philosophy in that the former possesses “formal methods of proof,” while the latter does not. One might infer that it is Nagel’s view that, while in mathematics we can prove propositions to be true, in philosophy there are no such proofs; in a post to come in the near future, I plan to offer evidence that that is indeed the case.

But the purpose of today’s post is that of drawing attention to and reflecting upon the fact that Nagel’s contrasting of science, mathematics, and philosophy has not included one type of theoretical knowledge, theology, that at least some major thinkers, contemporaneous as well as past, have thought it necessary to extend recognition to.

There is, however, a distinction that needs to be made here between two senses of “theology.” There is, that is, at least in the minds of some of these thinkers, a theology that is a philosophical or natural theology, on the one hand, and a theology that is a supra-philosophical or supernatural theology, on the other.

We can identify philosophical theology as a natural theology because, as a philosophical theology, it is a part of philosophy, that part of philosophy that concerns itself with the existence and the nature of the divine: Does anything divine exist and, if so, what is it? But philosophy is a theoretical discipline that relies exclusively upon strictly human means of attaining knowledge, that is, the means of attaining knowledge that are natural to humans, i.e., that belong to humans by nature. These means include, for, say, philosophers in the Aristotelian tradition of philosophy, both observation, involving our senses, and thought, the activity of our intellect; for some other philosophers, philosophy has to rely on thought alone, ceding to science the use of observation as a means of knowledge.

Yet in either case, the means of knowledge afforded to philosophy, and so to philosophical theology, is or are purely natural. In the case, however, of the supra-philosophical or supernatural theology to which some major thinkers extend a recognition, the knowledge of the existence and nature of the divine is not achieved uniquely by purely natural human means; rather, they hold, at least some humans benefit from a divine grace elevating the natural human means of knowledge to a supernatural level, a level above and beyond the natural.

In the two previous posts mentioned above I observed that Nagel has thus far in the book not offered any arguments on behalf either of his thesis that philosophy does not rely on experiments or observations or any on behalf of his thesis that it is not a demonstrative science. I will now observe that that thus far in the book he has not offered offered one justifying his non-inclusion of theology, whether natural theology or supernatural theology, among the theoretical disciplines to be compared and contrasted.

Now one might well ask whether the author of a book bearing the subtitle, A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy, should be expected to include demonstrations of all of his theses. The answer, of course, would be, “No.” But one could still go on to add that perhaps a better subtitle of the present book would have been, A Too Short Introduction to Philosophy.

Until next time.

Richard

*Thomas Nagel, What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987). The book is readily available for purchase through Amazon.com. You need only click on the following image to be taken to the Amazon site:

*****

Today’s post is one in the series, focusing now on Thomas Nagel’s What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy,* that constitutes the Introduction to Philosophy Initiative introduced in “Announcing the After Aristotle Introduction to Philosophy Initiative.”

There is a post, “Table of Contents,” listing the titles of and links to the posts published in the series, at:

The “Table of Contents” for the “After Aristotle Introduction to Philosophy Initiative”

*****

 

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The Maverick Philosopher’s Maverick on Liberals and the Race Card

(This post is not one of the series of posts constituting the Introduction to Philosophy Initiative introduced in “Announcing the After Aristotle Introduction to Philosophy Initiative.”)

As I have noted in previous posts, such as the “ The Maverick and the Philosopher,” of January 4, 2015, there appears to be a dramatic difference between the maverick of the Maverick Philosopher blog and the philosopher, something close to night and day. Read, for example, the philosopher’s post of April 18, 2016, “On the Status of Thomistic Common Natures,” and his thoughtful responses to the comments the post gave rise to; I very much respect and appreciate in particular his engagement with my comments.

Then, however, read the maverick’s post of May 2, 2016, “Making America Mexico Again.” Therein one reads:

You can always count on a liberal to play the race card.  And so it is part of their reflexive and unreflective nature to label anyone who is not a liberal a racist.  It is a tactic that has proven effective.  So of course Trump is called a racist.  I see no evidence that he is.

Now I know that the maverick can understand the fundamentals of temporal logic. This is evident in his April 30, 2016, post, “It Depends on the Question, Hillary,” where he quotes her as having said, “We must teach our children that guns are never the answer,” even as she is protected by a number of well-armed Secret Service agents. The maverick has very succinctly pointed out that Ms. Clinton has demonstrated amply that she accepts the truth of the proposition, “Guns are at least sometimes the answer,” contradicting her (I assume the attribution is accurate) own thesis, “Guns are never the answer.” Of course we knew that already.

I’ll hazard the guess that the truth lies in the conjunction, “Guns are at least sometimes the answer and guns are at least sometimes not the answer.” More generally, I’ll hazard the reflection that metaphysically contingent things are seldom either always or never the case.

But the maverick has something of a similar problem with his statement, “You can always count on a liberal to play the race card,” i.e., just to be careful, “It is always the case that one can count on a liberal to play the race card.” Again relying, however, on the reflection that metaphysically contingent things are seldom either always or never the case, I’ll hazard the guess that the proposition contradicting his, “It is not always the case that one can count on a liberal to play the race card,” or “It is sometimes not the case that one can count on a liberal to play the race card,” is true; in fact, I’ll not just hazard the guess, I’ll offer a case in point: I am not now playing the race card.

Perhaps the philosopher of the Maverick Philosopher will persuade the maverick to join with me in upholding the conjunction, “It is not always the case that one can count on a liberal to play the race card and it is not never the case, i.e., it is at least sometimes the case, that one can count on a liberal to play the race card.”

There is, however, more, for the maverick also says:

To repeat, a salient feature of liberals and leftists — there isn’t much difference nowadays — is their willingness to ‘play the race card,’ to inject race into every issue. The issue of illegal immigration has nothing to do with race since illegal immigrants do not constitute a race. There is no such race as the race of ‘llegal [sic] aliens.’ Opposition to them, therefore, cannot be racist.

Let us focus on the second and third sentences of the passage:

The issue of illegal immigration has nothing to do with race since illegal immigrants do not constitute a race. There is no such race as the race of illegal aliens.

There are, it is evident, two arguments here. The first is:

There is no such race as the race of illegal aliens.

Therefore, illegal aliens do not constitute a race.

That argument is valid. Moreover, it is sound, since both the premise and the conclusion stand as truths of biological science, albeit truths hardly needing statement.

But the same cannot be said for the second, even though its premise is true:

Illegal aliens do not constitute a race.

Therefore, the issue of illegal immigration has nothing to do with race.

We can perhaps most easily see that the argument is not valid by briefly examining a parallel argument, one bearing on the victims of lynching in the more southerly of the United States. The statement paralleling the second and third sentences of the maverick’s passage will read:

The issue of lynching has nothing to do with race since victims of lynching do not constitute a race. There is no such race as the race of victims of lynching.

There are, it is evident, two arguments here. The first is:

There is no such race as the race of victims of lynching.

Therefore, victims of lynching do not constitute a race.

That argument is valid. Moreover, it is sound, since both the premise and the conclusion stand as truths of biological science, albeit truths hardly needing statement.

But the same cannot be said for the second, even though its premise is true:

Victims of lynching do not constitute a race.

Therefore, the issue of lynching has nothing to do with race.

I will take it as evident that the issue of lynching in the more southerly of the United States had at least something to do with race. The conclusion, then, of the argument is false. Since, however, the premise is true, and an argument of which the premise is true and the conclusion false is an invalid argument, the argument is invalid.

One might then think that perhaps the fact that victims of lynching do not constitute a race does not mean that the issue of lynching has nothing to do with race. Similarly, one might also think that perhaps the fact that illegal aliens do not constitute a race does not mean that the issue of illegal aliens has nothing to do with race.

Until next time.

Richard

 

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Nagel’s Comparison and Contrasting of Philosophy and Mathematics

{Last revised May 31, 2017}

Today’s post is one in a series, devoted for now to Thomas Nagel’s What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy,* a series constituting the Introduction to Philosophy Initiative presented to the world in “Announcing the After Aristotle Introduction to Philosophy Initiative.”

There is a “Table of Contents” listing the titles of and links to the posts published in the series, at:

The “Table of Contents” for the “After Aristotle Introduction to Philosophy Initiative”

*****

One primary question that anyone beginning the study of philosophy should want to have answered is that of just what philosophy is. As I noted in the immediately previous post, “Nagel’s Comparison and Contrasting of Philosophy and Science,” the “Introduction” to What Does It All Mean? offers us three ways of beginning to answer the question. One is that of contrasting the method of philosophy with those of science and mathematics. A second is that of putting before us a set of illustrative problems that fall within the scope of philosophy and that (p. 4) “come up again and again.” The third is that of identifying what he calls (p. 5) the “main concern of philosophy,” which is “to question and understand very common ideas that all of us use every day without thinking about them.”

The immediately previous post just mentioned took up one half of the first way of answering the question, that of Nagel’s comparison and contrasting of the method of philosophy with that of science. The present post takes up the other half, that of his comparison and contrasting of the method of philosophy with that of mathematics.

The latter comparison and contrasting is found in the same passage as the former. In it Nagel tells us (p. 4):

Philosophy is different from science and from mathematics. Unlike science it doesn’t rely on experiments or observations, but only on thought. And unlike mathematics, it has no formal methods of proof. It is done just by asking questions, arguing, trying out ideas and thinking of possible arguments against them, and wondering how our concepts really work.

In the previous post, I pointed out that the proposition, “Unlike science it [philosophy] doesn’t rely on experiments or observations, but only on thought,” is a complex proposition and I went on to break it down into some of its logical components. Similarly, the first task of the present post is that of pointing out that the proposition:

And unlike mathematics, it [philosophy] has no formal methods of proof.

is a complex proposition, implying a conjunction of two propositions. One of the component propositions of that conjunction is the proposition that:

Mathematics has formal methods of proof.

The other component proposition is the proposition that:

Philosophy has no formal methods of proof.

In other words: mathematics is, even strictly speaking, a theoretical discipline capable of genuine proofs, that is:

Mathematics is a demonstrative science.

Philosophy is not, however, strictly speaking, a discipline capable of genuine proofs; that is:

Philosophy is not a demonstrative science.

Repeating, very nearly, word for word that which I said in the previous post about Nagel’s proposition that philosophy does not rely on experiments or observations: The proposition that philosophy is not a demonstrative science brings us to the heart of the present post’s matter. It is, of course, a perfectly respectable philosophical thesis. Indeed, many philosophers for whom one should have the utmost respect agree with it; Nagel is just one of them. But yet one can ask whether it is true, for it is not the only logically possible position that one could hold. One could also hold that:

Philosophy is a demonstrative science.

And indeed many philosophers for whom one should have the utmost respect agree with this latter thesis. There are major traditions in the history of philosophy that uphold the thesis that (discontinuing for the moment my nearly word for word repetition) philosophy is a demonstrative science. One among them is the Aristotelian tradition, some or even most of the members of which have held that there is a genuine philosophical proof, for example, of the existence of God.

Let me interject parenthetically that I myself am not making, here and now, any claim that that argument or any other argument that various members of the Aristotelian or any other philosophical tradition have put forward can stand as a genuine proof or demonstration. Nor am I, here and now, claiming that they cannot. I am, however, promising that, at some point, albeit in the relatively distant future, I will subject that argument in particular and others as well to rigorous examination.

Exiting, then, the parenthetical excursion, I have pointed out that there are two logically possible positions that one can take in answer to the question of whether philosophy is a demonstrative science, the affirmative one that philosophy is a demonstrative science and the negative one, contradicting the affirmative answer and accepted by Nagel, that it is not a demonstrative science.

At least one of the two theses has to be true, and they cannot both be true.

Now, one might be tempted to put forward a criticism of Nagel here; indeed, I myself was so tempted. That is, Nagel has here advanced the thesis that that philosophy is not a demonstrative science as true, without, however, telling us why we should accept that thesis, rather than its opposite, as true. That is, again, he has not presented us with any argument, any setting forth of any reason why the thesis that philosophy is not a demonstrative science should be accepted as true. He has done so even as one who holds that philosophy “is done just by asking questions, arguing, trying out ideas and thinking of possible arguments against them….” Surely, however, the criticism would run, if philosophers should be engaged in “arguing” and “thinking of possible arguments against” certain “ideas,” he himself should have devoted some effort to “arguing” and of “thinking of possible arguments against” the thesis that philosophy is a demonstrative science and in favor of his thesis that it is not. He simply asserts that philosophy is not a demonstrative science; he does not show, demonstrate, or prove it.

But now, a note of caution: all that we can at present say is that he has not yet done so. He may well offer some such argument later on in the book. So, given that, even though he has not yet offered the needed argumentation, he may yet do so, we will have to remain on the “look-out” for it as we continue in our reading.

Where does that leave us now? Well, we can observe that, for Nagel, while philosophy is an argumentative discipline or theoretical activity, it is not a demonstrative science. That observation leaves us with two things that need to be done in posts to come in the relatively near future. One of them is that of spelling out what arguments are, in the relevant sense of “argument,” and what conditions an argument has to meet if it is to be a proof or demonstration; this will constitute one small part of an introduction to logic. The other is that of taking note of some implications that Nagel’s denying that philosophy is a demonstrative science has for the discipline, implications beginning to be evident in the second chapter of What Does It All Mean?, “How Do We Know Anything?”

Before turning to those tasks, however, we need to take up the second and the third of the three ways, noted above, which the first chapter of What Does It All Mean? offers us of determining what philosophy is. In the next post, we will take note of and reflect on the second of the three ways, that of putting before us a set of illustrative problems that fall within the scope of philosophy. In the post following that, we’ll turn our attention to the third of the three ways, that of identifying what Nagel calls (p. 5) the “main concern of philosophy.”

Until next time.

Richard

*Thomas Nagel, What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987). The book is readily available for purchase through Amazon.com. You need only click on the following image to be taken to the Amazon site:

 

 

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Nagel’s Comparison and Contrasting of Philosophy and Science

(Last Revised May 18, 2017}

In today’s post, I begin our systematic engagement with Thomas Nagel’s What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy,* the first step in the Introduction to Philosophy Initiative introduced in “Announcing the After Aristotle Introduction to Philosophy Initiative.”

Let me start by noting that two among the questions that a potential student of philosophy might well have, and indeed should have, are:

Just what is philosophy?

and

What good is philosophy?

In this and the next few posts we will do our best, by examining and reflecting on what Nagel has to say, to attain answers to the two questions. That I say, “we will do our best,” should alert you to the fact that there are some obstacles lying in our path. That I am continuing to write, should reassure you that I think we will make some genuine progress.

Be all that as it may, in the “Introduction,” Nagel offers us three ways of determining more specifically what philosophy is. One is that of contrasting the method of philosophy with those of science and mathematics. A second is that of setting forth a set of problems that fall within the scope of philosophy and that (p. 4) “come up again and again.” The third is that of identifying what he calls (p. 5) the “main concern of philosophy.”

The present post begins the review of the first of those three ways of determining more specifically what philosophy is, the contrast Nagel presents of the method of philosophy with those of science and mathematics. He puts it as follows (p. 4):

Philosophy is different from science and from mathematics. Unlike science it doesn’t rely on experiments or observations, but only on thought. And unlike mathematics, it has no formal methods of proof. It is done just by asking questions, arguing, trying out ideas and thinking of possible arguments against them, and wondering how our concepts really work.

Comparing and contrasting philosophy with science and mathematics is a perfectly appropriate first step to take, for, like science and mathematics, philosophy is a theoretical discipline: it is a discipline within which one seeks to know something; we’ll look more closely at just what it is that one engaged in philosophy seeks to know later in the initiative’s series of posts.

That noted, let us turn then to the main topic of the present post, that which Nagel says about the method of philosophy in contrast with that of science, i.e., the set of disciplines that includes, on the one hand, the natural or physical sciences of physics, chemistry, and biology, etc., and, on the other, the social sciences of the psychology and sociology, etc. We’ll take up what he says about the method of philosophy in contrast with that of mathematics in the next post.

We have read Nagel telling us that, “Unlike science it [philosophy] doesn’t rely on experiments or observations, but only on thought.” This, however, is a complex proposition. One thing it is saying is that:

Unlike science philosophy doesn’t rely on experiments or observations.

A second thing being said is that:

Unlike science philosophy relies only on thought.

But even the first thing being said is complex. One thing it is saying is that:

Science relies on experiments or observations.

Another is that:

Philosophy does not rely on experiments or observations.

This proposition brings us to the heart of the present post’s matter. It is, of course, a perfectly respectable philosophical thesis. Indeed, many philosophers for whom one should have the utmost respect agree with it; Nagel is just one of them. But yet one can ask whether it is true, for it is not the only logically possible position that one could hold. One could also hold that:

Philosophy does rely on experiments or observations.

And indeed many philosophers for whom one should have the utmost respect agree with this latter thesis. There are major traditions in the history of philosophy that uphold the thesis that all human knowledge begins in observation, that is, in sensory experience: as it was classically put, “nihil [est] in intellectu nisi prius fuerit in sensu,” i.e., “there is nothing in the intellect unless it will have first been in the senses.” This thesis, if true, entails the more specific thesis that “there is nothing in the intellect of the philosopher engaged in philosophy unless it will have first been in his or her senses.”

There is also an emerging philosophical school of thought, known as “experimental philosophy,” that holds to the thesis that philosophy relies on, well, experiments. We have to grant Nagel, however, that this school of thought, at least as so named, had not emerged at the time of his writing the book here under review.

There are then two logically possible positions that one can take in answer to the question of whether philosophy relies on experiments or observations, the affirmative one that philosophy relies on experiments or observations and the negative one, contradicting the affirmative answer and accepted by Nagel, that philosophy does not rely on them.

At least one of the two theses has to be true, while they cannot both be true.

Now, one might be tempted to put forward a criticism of Nagel here; indeed I myself was so tempted. That is, Nagel has here advanced the thesis that “philosophy does not rely on experiments or observations” as true, without telling us why we should accept it, rather than its opposite, as true. That is, he has simply asserted that philosophy does not rely on experiments or observations; he has not shown it. That is, again, he has presented us with no argument, no setting forth of any reason why it should be accepted as true. He has done so even as one who holds that philosophy “is done just by asking questions, arguing, trying out ideas and thinking of possible arguments against them….” Surely, however, the criticism would run, if philosophers should be engaged in “arguing” and “thinking of possible arguments against” certain “ideas,” he himself should have devoted some effort to “arguing” and of “thinking of possible arguments against” the thesis that philosophy relies on experiments or observations and in favor of his thesis that it does not. And he has not. But now, a note of caution: all that we can at present say is that he has not yet done so. He may well offer some such argument later on in the book. So, given that, even though he has not yet offered the needed argumentation, he may yet do so, we will have to remain on the “look-out” for it as we continue in our reading.

In the next post I will take up Nagel’s comparison and contrast of philosophy and mathematics.

Until next time.

Richard

P. S. The present post is part of a series of posts, that of the “After Aristotle Introduction to Philosophy Initiative,” devoted for the time being to What Does It All Mean? There is a “Table of Contents” listing the titles of and links to the posts published in the series, at:

The “Table of Contents” for the “After Aristotle Introduction to Philosophy Initiative”

*Thomas Nagel, What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987). The book is readily available for purchase through Amazon.com. You need only click on the following image to be taken to the Amazon site:

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The “Table of Contents” for the “After Aristotle Introduction to Philosophy Initiative”

This post lists the titles of and links to the posts I publish in the series, the “After Aristotle Introduction to Philosophy Initiative,” devoted to Thomas Nagel’s What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).

The list is in the posts’ order of appearance and will be updated with every subsequent post.

I will include a link to this “table of contents” in each post.

0. Announcing the After Aristotle Introduction to Philosophy Initiative. Posted on April 10, 2016

1. Nagel’s Comparison and Contrasting of Philosophy and SciencePosted on .

2. Nagel’s Comparison and Contrasting of Philosophy and Mathematics. Posted on April 19, 2016

3. Nagel’s Omission of Theology as a Mode of Theoretical Knowledge, Posted on May 5, 2016.

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