It is so much a part of “thinking philosophically” to be impressed with the special character of mathematical truth that it is hard to shake off the grip of the Platonic Principle. If, however, we think of “rational certainty” as a matter of victory in argument rather than of relation to an object known, we shall look toward our interlocutors rather than to our faculties for the explanation of the phenomenon. If we think of our certainty about the Pythagorean Theorem as our confidence, based on experience with arguments on such matters, that nobody will find an objection to the premises from which we infer it, then we shall not seek to explain it by the relation of reason to triangularity. Our certainty will be a matter of conversation between persons, rather than a matter of interaction with nonhuman reality. So we shall not see a difference in kind between “necessary” and “contingent” truths. At most, we shall see differences in degree of ease in objecting to our beliefs. We shall, in short, be where the Sophists were before Plato brought his principle to bear and invented “philosophical thinking”: we shall be looking for an airtight case rather than an unshakeable foundation. We shall be in what Sellars calls “the logical space of reason” rather than that of causal relations to objects.
Forum for European Philosophy LSE Literary Festival event
Date: Tuesday 26 February 2013
Venue: Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building
Speakers: David Edmonds, Nigel Warburton
In the 5th century BC Socrates brought philosophy to the marketplace. Can this ancient branch of learning be rejuvenated by the technology of the 21st century?
Philosophy Bites Back is the second book from the team that brings you Philosophy Bites, the hugely successful podcast that has now had 16 million downloads. Philosophy Bites Back is a collection of conversations with leading scholars on major figures in the history of philosophy.
David Edmonds is a senior research associate at Oxford’s Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.
Nigel Warburton is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy and author of A LIttle History of Philosophy.