Friday, October 29, 2010

Valid Enough

The essence of analytical philosophy is the presentation of a valid argument. But often the result is a lot of boring nonsense, many of us find. Why? Well, the reason may be that we are encouraged to work with an absurd definition of ‘valid’. A technically valid argument is, for example, since x and y, therefore x.
......But what about, since the sky is blue, and there’s little wind, I won’t need my umbrella? Technically, that’s invalid because it’s not impossible that it suddenly clouds over and rains. Some philosophers would therefore call it an induction. But I don’t see any generalisation over lots of observations there. And while such a generalisation may well be one of the argument’s many implicit premises, surely it is all the obvious implicit premises that make the argument sufficiently valid for human communication.
......Or, for a more philosophical example, consider Moore’s argument: Since that looks like a tree, therefore that is a tree. Now, we usually make such a deduction subconsciously, but nevertheless, surely such arguments are usually valid enough. And even in more rigorous contexts, how else are we to do science except by taking our readings to be as we read them? What would make such arguments invalid is something like bad lighting, not the mere possibility that we’ve just been taken into the Matrix.
......Indeed, even if we had been, our argument might be valid enough, because we would then be using words in a new external world, and ‘tree’ would usually refer to the new object. Our argument would only be invalidated if we were aware that we were in the Matrix, and if that aspect of our situation was the most apposite.

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