Monday, April 23, 2018

The Is-Ought Problem #2

I wrote about the is/ought problem almost two years ago here. Therein I said I had decided that an "ought" statement cannot be deduced from an "is" statement – which agrees with David Hume -- but an "ought" statement can be based on an "is" statement.

Hume’s famous statement of it is included here. He denied deducing an “ought” from an “is.” On the other hand, he indirectly denied any connection between the two using reason. This is likely why some call it Hume's guillotine.

I recently saw a video by Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute in which he talks about the is-ought problem. Around 2:00 he talks about generating an “ought” from an “is” and bridging the is-ought gap. I believe these are other ways of saying an "ought" statement can be based on an "is" statement, but they are not by deduction

I also saw this article about Ayn Rand and the is-ought problem. I liked his following syllogisms about is/ought:

“The sole difficulty arises over the derivability of values from facts. 

The following syllogism does not violate Hume's Law:

     One ought not to murder human beings.
     Socrates is a human being.
     Therefore, one ought not to murder Socrates.

On the other hand, the syllogism below does violate Hume's Law:

     Human beings have a right to life.
     Socrates is a human being.
     Therefore, one ought not to murder Socrates.

The second syllogism is defective, for it requires for its conclusion the premise that one ought to respect the rights of others. Add that assumption, and one has a valid syllogism which integrates facts and values” (84-5).

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Personal Knowledge #3

Two conflicting systems of thought are separated by a logical gap. "Formal operations relying on one framework of interpretation cannot demonstrate a proposition to persons who rely on another framework.  Its advocates may not succeed in getting a hearing from them, since they must first teach them a new language, and no one can learn a new language unless he first trusts that it means something. A hostile audience in fact may in fact deliberately refuse to entertain novel conceptions ... because its members fear that once they have accepted this new framework they will be lead to conclusions which they -- rightly or wrongly -- abhor. Proponents of a new system can convince their audience only by first winning their intellectual sympathy for a doctrine they have not yet grasped. Those who listen sympathetically will discover for themselves what they would otherwise have never understood. Such an acceptance is a heuristic process, a self-modifying act, and to this extent a conversion. It produces disciples forming a school, the members of which are separated for the time being a logical gap from those outside it. They think differently, speak a different language, live in a different world, and at least one of the two schools is excluded to this extent for the time being (whether rightly or wrongly) from the community of science" (Personal Knowledge 151).

The above has some resemblance to the idea of different paradigms posited by Thomas Kuhn in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (link). Polanyi's book was published three years before Kuhn's. Kuhn's book refers to Polanyi or Personal Knowledge only about tacit knowledge, which is acquired through practice but not explicitly articulated. However, it seems Kuhn made the gap between the adherents of different schools of thought wider.

Polanyi titled his book Personal Knowledge in contrast to the widely held idea that true knowledge is deemed impersonal and objective. Polanyi holds that tacit knowledge is a significant part of personal knowledge, yet not subjective.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Personal Knowledge #2

The value of a theory may be judged on its fruitfulness. Michael Polanyi wrote the following about truth and fruitfulness.

"You cannot define the indeterminate veridical powers of truth in terms of fruitfulness, unless 'fruitful' is itself qualified in terms of the definiendum. The Ptolmaic system was a fruitful source of error for one thousand years; astrology has been a fruitful source of income to astrologers for two thousand five hundred years; Marxism is a fruitful source of power for the rulers of one third of mankind. When we say that Copernicanism was fruitful, we mean that it was a fruitful source of truth, and we cannot distinguish its kind of fruitfulness from that of the Ptolmaic system, or of astrology, or Marxism, except by such a qualification. To use the word fruitful in this sense, without acknowledging it, is a deceptive substitution, a pseudo-substitution, a Laplacean slight of hand.
     But even when fruitfulness is taken to mean the capacity of leading to new truths, it is an insufficient characterization of truth. Copernicanism could have well been a source of truth ... even if it had been false. But the Copernican system did not anticipate the discoveries of Kepler and Newton accidentally: it led to them because it was true " (p. 147).

"The mark of true discovery is not its fruitfulness but the intimation of its fruitfulness" (p. 148)

I guess that he meant the following by 'intimation': the action of making something known, especially in an indirect way.