Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A general form of philosophical argument


This is a bit cynical, but while reading Spinoza I was really struck by the prevalence of the following implicit line of philosophical argument, not just in Spinoza:
  1. My theory cannot handle Xs.
  2. So, there are no Xs.
It seemed obvious to me that the thing for Spinoza to do was not to conclude that there is no contingency, but to conclude that his theory was inadequate to handle contingency.

I use this form of argument myself.  Perhaps too much.  It takes wisdom to know when the thing to say is that the theory is inadequate to handle Xs and when to conclude that there are no Xs.

2 comments:

Mike Almeida said...

we're talking about spinoza, right? i don't think i have binoculors strong enough to interestingly shorten the philosophical difference between spinoza and the rest of us.

Andrew said...

Alex,
I think this also has other implications as well. I think it amounts to 'problems' of whether to take an argument as a reductio or not. For example, in ethics, arguments that lead to the conclusion it is permissible to kill newborn infants, I take to be incredibly strong reductios. But, surely Tooley wouldn't agree.

The problem is