Thursday, January 12, 2012

First Salvo

Focusing at the outset on their immediate bearing, my program comes now to be launched by a hitherto missing chapter – featuring a three-fold “incredulous stare” extending beyond David Lewis to Graham Priest and Timothy Williamson – that could hardly be closer to home.  So much closer in fact that, far from harking back to what we conventionally call “history of philosophy”, this incredulous stare on steroids might well be felt to challenge us with hot off the press “philosophy proper”, sticking with the convention.
            With the original incredulous stare seen to be addressed to Lewis’s modal realism, it must surely be elicited at least as much by Priest’s insistence that the Liar Paradox succeeds in delivering a sentence that is at once true and false.  Ditto for Williamson’s insistence that, absent a single penny, a rich man can cease to qualify as rich.  Even without any precipitous decline in the nation’s currency.
            As to whether we might combine our three philosophers into something more than a mere potpourri, distinguish between the varying extension of “rich” in all relevant worlds and its constant intension pegged to its single-penny sharp line dividing non-rich from rich.  Although Lewis insists, tendentiously, on singling out our world as the only “actual” one, anyway relative to us, this proves to be hardly more than a verbal distraction when elucidating how Humphrey would have won the presidential election over Nixon, by calling him out for his behind-the-scenes, illegal approaches to the Viet Cong.  Relying on “Actuality entails possibility” as the only substantive, uncontroversial principle of modality, a very real duplicate of Humphrey but for the fact that he really does call out a duplicate Nixon for approaching a duplicate Viet Cong, in a world the laws of nature of which duplicate our own, Lewis does succeed in providing plausible truth conditions for this “would have”.  Even Quine, despite his famous misgivings over modality, might concede as much, even while protesting that in the absence of any independent, robust evidence for the “actual”, temporally as well as spatially disconnected existence of these duplicates.  Lewis’s rationale for contrary-to-fact modality must wither in the face of . . . an incredulous stare.
            That an omnibus three fold version of this stare threatens to undermine the logico-linguistic core of analytical philosophy itself, only goes to show how, even now, we might understand what it would be like for someone to be actively engaged in writing a first draft of “The Last Chapter in the history of philosophy”.  In a quite personal vein, let me just add that I should be very surprised to learn that I have written this first draft.  To the contrary, I look forward to fighting in the trenches, keeping that outcome at bay.

1 comment:

  1. Will this be a series here? I look forward to that possibility.