[hist-analytic] A Scientist's Landscape

Roger Bishop Jones rbj at rbjones.com
Thu Jul 23 14:55:23 EDT 2009

I had a lot of difficulty understanding what Steve is
saying about pseudo-problems.

On Wednesday 22 July 2009 12:28:27 Baynesr at comcast.net wrote:

>It may be the case that all philosophy is is a conflation
>of "pseudo-problems," but I think this is the easy way
>out. All you have to do is develop some criterion for
>being a "pseudo-problem," e.g. verifiability, etc and then
>you can just apply your mechanical pseudo-problem
>solver and all is well.

I thought a pseudo-problems didn't have answers!
How could it be an easy way out to believe that
most philosophical problems are psedo-problems?
Surely you then have the difficult problem of
identifying real (and worthwhile) problems to solve.

>I know of no "pseudo-problem
>detector" that doesn't rely on a linguistic approach to
>traditional problems. I, myself, make serious use of
>linguistic techniques for trying to solve a problem, but
>rarely if ever (a few exceptions) consider linguistic
>solutions. Rather it is a methodology in attempting to
>unearth connections.

I'm going to try to represent Carnap in this, because
he is the only one whose views on this I know anything

For Carnap a pseudo problem is one which he is unable
to comprehend.  I don't believe he had some "linguistic
technique" to detect them.  You just try to understand
a problem, and if you fail and come to doubt that it is
meaningful you label it a pseudo problem.
Of course, your philosophical beliefs about what makes
a sentence meaningful are significant, and in his most
radical phase when he identified meaning with conditions
for verification one might think that this myopic conception
of meaning blinded him to the content of many meaningful
sentences.  However, later his conception of meaning
came closer to truth-conditions, and it is harder to
dismiss this in the areas which he was considering.
Still, we don't so much have a method for solving
problems as a stipulation of some preconditions for
attempting a solution.

It seems to me quite essential be very careful about
what kinds of problem you take seriously, and I think
its also a good idea to be as explicit as you can be
about the criteria involved, even though my own
criteria are a little more liberal than Carnap's.

It seems to me that your nominalistic tendencies are
much the same kind of thing.  You decline to consider
explanations which invoke entities about whose existence
you are sceptical.  How does this differ from the
rejection of pseudo-problems?

>On meaning: I think Grice actually allows us to set this
>notion aside for the most part and pursue philosophy.

Are you saying that Grice thinks that all putative
problems deserve to be taken seriously by philosophers?

>Let's not confuse logic and language. Logic supplies
>a good tool. But if you look at the history of philosophy
>of science you find instances where a preoccupation
>with meaning has had a stultifying effect. A good
>example in my opinion is the issue of causation.
>Here the notion of a law becomes a linguistic notion.
>This leads to the appearance of progress, then
>falters; there being no where to go.

I'm afraid I don't understand the issue here.

>You solve the problems with a linguistic or logical
>"gizmo" without even understanding what is at issue,
>once that is the "pseudo-problem" detector buzzes.

Any chance of you spelling this out for me,
what is "the problem" here, why is it considered
a pseudo problem, how does that constitute a
solution and why is that a bad thing? 


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