By Nicholas Unwin (auth.)
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Extra resources for Aiming at Truth
As we have seen, no word can do the trick. Theatrical utterances and quotations are too different from assertions for this to be a problem worth worrying about, but with expressions of acceptance the matter is different. When engaged in a scientific discussion, it can be quite difficult to tell how a given utterance is to be understood. No doubt, we could introduce a non-verbal convention to indicate full-blown assertion analogous to the way in which fingercrooking indicates quotation – placing our fingers together in the shape of a Fregean assertion sign ‘ –’, perhaps!
A non-sceptic will claim that, in many situations, we should believe that p, given such-and-such evidence and given that we are interested in the question. The interest clause is important. It may be that my perceptual evidence licenses the belief that there are exactly 100 books in my bookcase. This does not oblige me to hold that belief on pain of scepticism, however, if I am simply not interested in how many there are, and consequently feel no need to pay attention to the evidence. Nevertheless, if I still refuse to hold the belief even if I do acquire an interest, then I am now being sceptical in the sense that concerns us, and it is this scepticism that conflicts with our ordinary justificatory norms.
Perhaps we shall never fully attain it, but this should not stop us from trying. In any case, the correct response to the Martian scenario, surely, should be a deep humility. Lacking any neutral method of adjudicating disagreements, we should instead say that we simply do not as yet know which of us is actually right. Maybe we never will. There certainly does seem to be something a bit odd with the idea that our perspective is just the ‘right’ one, and theirs the ‘wrong’ one; so why should we want say it at all – even with reduced assertoric force?
Aiming at Truth by Nicholas Unwin (auth.)