Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Moore's Paradox

Another post inspired by my recent reading of Philosophical Investigations (specifically IIx): Moore's Paradox is that although it may be true both that S is P, and that you don’t believe that S is P, whence it might not seem to be self-contradictory to think: “S is P, although I don’t believe that S is P,” nonetheless that thought is self-contradictory. That is not much of a paradox (if we do not have an implausible theory of mind), no more paradoxical than that we might accidentally tell the truth by lying; but still, I wonder if we might sometimes, quite reasonably, assert such thoughts. E.g. upon seeing a spider, an arachnophobic might say, “I know that Spiders are not a serious threat to me. I know that… but still I believe that they are.” Now, maybe that does not count (as it is irrational) but still, I might more rationally say, “Our wills are not ever really free, I know, now that you’ve convinced me to believe in determinism, but still, when I think about such things, as I’ve been doing, I know that I presuppose that I’m free to make up my mind; that is, I actually believe that my will is, in some respects, free,” or more simply “Our wills are not free, but I believe that mine is.” Or suppose that I've learnt that the Battle of Hastings was in 1066, and suppose that I’m being orally tested on my knowledge of History. Still, suppose that the Battle was actually in 1067 (that the history books are slightly wrong about that date), and further suppose that I’m a bit psychic (which may not be logically impossible), so that I have a sudden sense of certainty that the Battle was actually in 1067. Then I might think, or say, “The Battle of Hastings was in 1067, although I know that it wasn’t...” That is, there might be many ways in which we believe the propositions that we express publicly…

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