Been meaning to post these notes I made in regard to a Daniel Davies post
that Mark linked when we were discussing
"What do philosophers talk about these days?" Was holding off until I got a chance to read the Crispin Wright piece that Davies' cited, but decided to go ahead anyway, Wright unread, so that Mark can see this before going on holiday:
This interchange among Davies and crew does indeed point at a lot of what philosophers are or are not discussing. Also, I'll note rather irrelevantly that either Davies mistyped or he thinks the Tractatus
was published forty years later than it actually was. In any event, here are three other points, possibly related:
(1) Following blog and comment-thread etiquette,* neither Davies nor any of his commenters states any of the ideas they are discussing; rather, they just refer to the ideas, by naming a broad field of endeavor or by naming a person who holds the idea. There are only a few exceptions, which are:
(a) several sentences about Clive Granger.** ("These people are fully aware of Granger. They take it as a principle that making inferences from data to claims about causal relationships can't be done on the basis of purely statistical assumptions; one needs non-statistical premises about the possible structure of causal dependencies. The analysis of causality that Granger offered can be seen as acknowledging that point, but only to a limited extent: the non-statistical assumption on which Granger causality depends in [is?] just the (true) assumption that effects can't temporally precede their causes. That's fine as a structural constraint on causal inference, but it's a very weak one, and one can only get so far without additional causal premises.")
(b) the example given by Davies from a paper by Crispin Wright ("t1 Sue: 'Bill could be in Boston' Ted: 'Actually, I just saw him board a flight to Houston' t2 Sue: 'Oh. Then I was wrong.' Apparently it is very difficult to fit this sort of thing into a consistent logical framework"); but Davies doesn't then detail Wright's idea, though he does provide a download link.
(c) Davies' main complaint, which is that, while this formal highly abstract work has the most prestige and gets the most attention in high-end [Anglo-American?] philosophy departments, it doesn't address any substantive issue. Davies draws an analogy to the situation in modern economics, where, he believes, the highly abstract work doesn't address the problems it says it addresses. Not quite sure if he's also saying exactly
that about Wright's paper and its ilk, though that may well be what he intends. But there's a difference between saying on the one hand that Wright is working on an unimportant problem and, on the other, that Wright isn't addressing the issue he thinks he's addressing - the latter can result in the former; still, it's a different argument.
My problem here is that Davies doesn't
say, "This is Wright's idea X, it doesn't seem to apply to situation Y or anything like it, so just what's the point of working on X?" And then in the comments, although Brian from Rutgers does say, wait, Wright's work can
potentially be applied, Brian doesn't go on to say, "Wright's idea X can potentially be applied to situations X1
, and X3
, and here's how." So even if I do get around to reading Wright's piece, I won't know how Davies and Brian interpret it, much less why or where they think it can or can't be applied. Fortunately, I also don't know that Davies and Brian won't
follow through, whereas the vagueness that afflicts my 'hood exists so that people can avoid following through.( The frequent dependence of exemplars on disciplinary matricesCollapse )
*Yes, I am being sarcastic. It's not etiquette but cluelessness, and not necessarily
on Davies and crew's part, since they all seem to assume that they and the people they're addressing know the ideas and don't need them re-explained, and unlike in my neighborhood of the 'Net, their assumption may be correct.
**Whom I'd never heard of, but that's not his fault.( footnote 3Collapse )