Paul vs Paul

Best paraphrase:

Krugman: You want to go back decades ago in time.

Ron Paul: You want to go back a thousand years, two thousand years, to Roman and Greek times!

It’s interesting to see that Krugman understood exactly what Paul was saying and attempted to deny his support for the Emperor Diocletian’s policies, although Diocletian-style inflation precisely what he’s advocating. And if we’re not sure where the line between money and non-money is, how on Earth can we expect to correctly manage the economy through the use of precise interest rates?


Dissecting the skeptics V

Having completed my critique of To Know Our Unknowing, I’ll now proceed to examining the second of Delavagus’s two posts on Pyrrhonism, entitled To Unknow Our Knowing:

My previous post ended with the self-defeating conclusion that, as far as we know, we don’t know that we know anything (with the correlate that, insofar as we’re constrained by rational norms, we’re constrained to abjure knowledge-claims). This conclusion was reached a priori: by attempting to think our thought, reflect on our reflection, know our knowing.

For as long as there have been skeptical arguments of this sort, there have been two stock counter-arguments: the peritropē, or self-refutation, argument; and the apraxia, or impracticability, argument. Sextus Empiricus, the only ancient Pyrrhonian whose texts (or some of them, anyway) have come down to us, was perfectly aware of these objections; he argued that they are only effective against an incomplete or distorted understanding of Pyrrhonism. The short version is that Sextus concedes self-refutation, but denies that it constitutes a counter-argument against Pyrrhonism (indeed, the self-refutatory character of skeptical arguments is central to his use of them), but he outright rejects impracticability arguments. Pyrrhonism is not (or at least is not merely) a philosophy; it is an agōgē, a way of life. Sextus characterizes the Pyrrhonian agōgē in terms of living adoxastōs, meaning without opinions or beliefs. In this post, I want to suggest a way of understanding what it means to live adoxastōs.

As I said, Sextus embraces the self-refutatory character of his arguments. He likens them to purgative drugs, which drain themselves away along with the humors they were administered to treat, or to a ladder one kicks away after having climbed up over it (an image appropriated, though probably at second- or third-hand, by both Nietzsche and Wittgenstein). Those who charge Pyrrhonism with self-refutation think that it falls into a dilemma: either the skeptic accepts her own arguments, which (given their self-refutatory character) is logically impossible, or the skeptic doesn’t accept her own arguments, in which case she must also reject (or at least not endorse) their conclusions. But the self-refutation charge overlooks two crucial features of the Pyrrhonian strategy: first, that charging the skeptic with self-refutation amounts to charging philosophico-rational thought as such with self-refutation; and second, that the target of Pyrrhonian arguments at their most general is not any particular content of philosophico-rational thought, but rather the very framework of such thought.

As I showed in Dissecting the skeptics IV, Delavagus’s conclusion to his first post is not self-defeating, but rather invalid, because his suddenly universal claim about the human lack of knowledge is totally dependent upon a peculiar philosophical definition of knowledge and is undermined by no less than eight specific errors in his reasoning. In his second post, Delavagus doesn’t waste any time before resorting to what we have observed is his customary handwaving. Apparently he expects us to simply accept Sextus’s outright rejection of the apraxia argument on the basis of his ancient authority, which of course we can no more do than we can expect Delavagus to accept the historical existence of the Olympian gods on the ancient authority of Homer. So, is Sextus’s outright rejection of the impracticability argument justified?

Well, yes, as it turns out, but only because Sextus makes it very clear that the Pyrrhonian agōgē does not actually entail living by skeptical principles. In Chapter IX, The Criterion of Scepticism, he writes:

“It is evident that we pay careful attention to phenomena from what we say about the criterion of the Sceptical School. The word criterion is used in two ways. First, it is understood as a proof of existence or non-existence, in regard to which we shall speak in the opposing argument. Secondly, when it refers to action, meaning the criterion to which we give heed in life, in doing some things and refraining from doing others, and it is about this that we shall now speak. We say, consequently, that the criterion of the Sceptical School is the phenomenon, and in calling it so, we mean the idea of it. It cannot be doubted, as it is based upon susceptibility and involuntary feeling. Hence no one doubts, perhaps, that an object appears so and so, but one questions if it is as it appears. Therefore, as we cannot be entirely inactive as regards the observances of daily life, we live by giving heed to phenomena, and in an unprejudiced way. But this observance of what pertains to the daily life, appears to be of four different kinds. Sometimes it is directed by the guidance of nature, sometimes by the necessity of the feelings, sometimes by the tradition of laws and of customs, and sometimes by the teaching of the arts. It is directed by the guidance of nature, for by nature we are capable of sensation and thought; by the necessity of the feelings, for hunger leads us to food, and thirst to drink; by the traditions of laws and customs, for according to them we consider piety a good in daily life, and impiety an evil; by the teaching of the arts, for we are not inactive in the arts we undertake. We say all these things, however, without expressing a decided opinion.”

In other words, the Pyrrhonian is eminently practical, because he lives his daily life by giving heed to nature, his feelings, the tradition of laws and customs, and by the teaching of the arts, without any concern for his suspension of judgment or inability to express a decided opinion. The philosophy cannot be impractical because the skeptic maintains a firewall of sorts between his reason and his daily life. This means, of course, that the oft-seen attempts of the modern skeptics to utilize skepticism as a weapon in order to influence these phenomena is a breach of the firewall and therefore intrinsically non-Pyrrhonian. But regardless, we can conclude that Sextus does successfully address the apraxia even if it calls into question the behavior of many of those who claim, incorrectly it would appear, to be Pyrrhonians.

As for the defense against the peritropē charge, I previously explained its flaws in response to an earlier request from Delavagus. Sextus’s argument against peritrope fails on three counts. First, Sextus erroneously conflates the subset of his particular philosophy with the set of all philosophico-rational thought; because we can observe there is philosophico-rational thought that is not Pyrrhonian skepticism, all refutation of the latter cannot automatically be taken as any refutation of the former. Second, even if Sextus were correct and charging the skeptic with self-refutation actually did amount to charging philosophico-rational thought as such with self-refutation, that doesn’t change the fact that if the charge is substantiated and all philosophico-rational thought is, in fact, self-refuting, then the charge of peritrope against Scepticism must also be correct! If the set is refuted, then the subset is refuted as well. So, it’s not a valid defense against the charge. Third, Delavagus doesn’t realize that the intended target of Pyrrhonian skepticism is irrelevant with regards to its self-refuting nature; it doesn’t matter what Sextus is intending to target when it can be shown that the same arguments can be used just as effectively against his own clearly stated aims.

In that earlier exchange, Delavagus attempted to respond to the first point by claiming that Pyrrhonism is not a philosophy and therefore not a subset of all philosophico-rational thought. He wrote: “Pyrrhonism is a metaphilosophy, not a philosophy: it is philosophizing about philosophy itself, about rational thought as such. On my view, it contains no first-order philosophical claims whatsoever. In other words, it is NOT a member of the ‘set’ ‘Philosophies’; it is a critique of the set-as-such.”

But this is another inept attempt at a bait-and switch, because even if we accept his contention that Pyrrhonism is not a philosophy, it still specifically purports to be rational thought, as shown by Delavagus’s heavy reliance upon the Agrippan Trilemma, and therefore remains a subset of the set of all philosophico-rational thought. Moreover, Delavagus’s view that Pyrrhonism is not a philosophy is provably wrong, as in Chapter I, The Principal Differences between Philosophers, Sextus writes:

“It is probable that those who seek after anything whatever, will either find it as they continue the search, will deny that it can be found and confess it to be out of reach, or will go on seeking it. Some have said, accordingly, in regard to the things sought in philosophy, that they have found the truth, while others have declared it impossible to find, and still others continue to seek it. Those who think that they have found it are those who are especially called Dogmatics, as for example, the Schools of Aristotle and Epicurus, the Stoics and some others. Those who have declared it impossible to find are Clitomachus, Carneades, with their respective followers, and other Academicians. Those who still seek it are the Sceptics. It appears therefore, reasonable to conclude that the three principal kinds of philosophy are the Dogmatic, the Academic, and the Sceptic. Others may suitably treat of the other Schools, but as for the Sceptical School, we shall now give an outline of it, remarking in advance that in respect to nothing that will be said do we speak positively, that it must be absolutely so, but we shall state each thing historically as it now appears to us.”

So, Delavagus is clearly wrong, both in claiming that Pyrrhonism is not part of the set of all philosophico-rational thought and in claiming that it is not a philosophy. Indeed, Sextus not only declares skepticism to be a philosophy, but one of “the three principal kinds of philosophy”. (I suspect he’s also wrong to say it “contains no first-order philosophical claims whatsoever”, but we will examine that assertion in a future post.) And therefore, Delavagus’s attempted defense of my attack on Sextus’s argument against peritrope clearly fails, as does the argument against peritrope.

Finally, with regards to Delavagus’s claim that Pyrrhonism is more than a philosophy, but is an an agōgē, a way of life, as well, I note that it is a very strange way of life that makes explicit claims to have nothing to do with the way the philosopher actually lives his daily life, but it is nevertheless true. Still, it should be kept in mind that it is entirely possible for something to fail as a philosophy, but not as a way of life, or vice-versa. In any event, when the aims of Pyrrhonism are taken into account, it becomes readily apparent that the agōgē is nothing more than a form of anti-intellectual, morally neutral stoicism.

Sextus writes in Chapter XII: “We confess that sometimes [the Sceptic] is cold and thirsty, and that he suffers in such ways. But in these things even the ignorant are beset in two ways, from the feelings themselves, and not less also from the fact that they think these conditions are bad by nature. The Sceptic, however, escapes more easily, as he rejects the opinion that anything is in itself bad by nature. Therefore we say that the aim of the Sceptic is imperturbability in matters of opinion, and moderation of feeling in those things that are inevitable.”

It is here that I cannot help but note the irony of Delavagus’s claim to be a modern Pyrrhonist while at the same time confessing to be both depressed and infuriated by my “unbounded arrogance”. He clearly possesses neither imperturbability nor moderation of feeling, regardless of whether one concludes my arrogance is merely an opinion or an inevitable force of nature. Skeptic, doubt thyself! As for the matter of living without opinions or beliefs, we shall save that for the next post.

Next section
Dissecting the skeptics VI

Previous sections
Dissecting the skeptics I
Dissecting the skeptics II
Dissecting the skeptics III
Dissecting the skeptics IV


The death of a coroner

Andrew Breitbart’s death gets curiouser and curiouser with a suspiciously convenient death:

Medical examiners in Los Angeles are investigating the possible poisoning death of one of their own officials who may have worked on the case of Andrew Breitbart, the conservative firebrand who died March 1, the same day Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced probable cause for forgery in President Obama’s birth certificate. Michael Cormier, a respected forensic technician for the Los Angeles County Coroner died under suspicious circumstances at his North Hollywood home April 20, the same day Breitbart’s cause of death was finally made public. “There are mysterious circumstances surrounding his death,” said Elizabeth Espinosa, a news reporter for KTLA-TV. “We’re told detectives are looking into the possibility that he was poisoned by arsenic.”

Now, I actively subscribe to the conspiracy theory of history, but there is one giant question about this particular purported conspiracy that I find troubling. Was Andrew Breitbart really that important? I mean, in terms of pundits, opinion leaders, and intellectuals influencing global public opinion, I don’t think I’d have had him in my top 100. It strikes me rather like trying to change the course of the NFL season by assassinating the punter for the Cleveland Browns.


WND column

An Austrian in the Lion’s Den

It may be one of the greatest and most courageous speeches ever spoken. It is arguably one of the most important speeches ever given in the United States, considering the current fragility of the national economy and the central position that the financial system presently plays in American society. Earlier this month, Robert Wenzel of the Economics Policy Journal spoke to the New York branch of the Federal Reserve. In his speech, he called the central bankers to account for their complete failure to provide the economy with either of their two responsibilities set by the U.S. Congress, price stability and full employment.


The primacy of history

Daniel Abraham attacks the idea of historical authenticity in fantasy:

The idea that the race, gender, or sexual roles of a given work of secondary world, quasi-medieval fantasy were dictated by history doesn’t work on any level. First, history has an almost unimaginably rich set of examples to pull from. Second, there are a wide variety of secondary world faux-medieval fantasies that don’t reach for historical accuracy and which would be served poorly by the attempt. And third, even in the works where the standard is applied, it’s only applied to specific, cherry-picked facets of the fantasy culture and the real world.

This is a fascinating assertion. We need less authenticity in fantasy? Let’s begin by looking at Abraham’s three initial assertions. First, history does not have “an almost unimaginably rich set of examples to pull from”. In fact, those of us who study history either professionally or on an armchair basis tend to be impressed by the way in which the historical patterns tend to repeat themselves. For example, the economic notions of the Mongol ruler Gaikhatu Khan, whose issuance of paper currency in 1294 promised reduced poverty, lower prices, and income equality, eerily prefigured both the General Theory of John Maynard Keynes as well as most of the Federal Reserve statements since 2008. Granted, neither Bernanke nor Geithner met with the unfortunate fate of the Khan’s chief financial officer, but as they say, history rhymes rather than repeats.

Read the rest at the Black Gate.


Dissecting the skeptics IV

As we enter the home stretch and approach the grand conclusion of To Know Our Unknowing, we’ve now identified seven errors and demonstrated that Delavagus’s answer to the question he originally posed is incorrect. And yet, we have not seen a single example of the definitional bait-and-switch that we anticipated from the start. Could it be that Delavagus, however flawed his arguments, is nevertheless more intellectually honest than we originally suspected? Is it possible for him to salvage the conclusions towards which he has been building in such an observably flawed manner?

Where does this leave us? It seems to leave us with the conclusion that, as far as we know, we know nothing.

But that can’t be right, for if we know that we do not know whether we know anything, then we know something.

We’ve run aground on peritropē: self-refutation. I’ll continue the story in a later post…

What I’ve tried to show here is just that, even sitting in our armchairs, reflecting on our epistemic predicament, it’s possible to illuminate for ourselves the cognitive knots in which our thinking entangles itself—to know our unknowing.

We’re all idiots. The more we accept this—the more we become good at not knowing—the more learned we will be.

Building on the false foundation of his fatal seventh error, Delavagus gets off to a questionable start, but since it is essentially the same error, I won’t count it as a separate one. It doesn’t seem “to leave us with the conclusion that, as far as we know, we know nothing”, but rather, to confirm our original opinion that Delavagus should have respected the problem of the criterion and abandoned his definition of knowledge in favor of one of the other nine available options. Still, to his credit, he rightly identifies what I, and many others, view as the intrinsic incoherence and self-refuting nature of skepticism. The fifty-cent word for this is peritropē, which is very important if you are going to demonstrate that you have been taught to regurgitate this information by a professor rather than figuring it out for yourself. Of course, he proceeds to claim that skepticism isn’t really self-refuting in the next post that we’re critiquing, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

His intentions notwithstanding, what Delavagus actually ended up showing us was the cognitive knots in which his own thinking is entangled, rather than a general epistemic predicament that necessarily affects everyone. To paraphrase Tonto speaking to the Lone Ranger when surrounded by hostile Indians, “who is this ‘our’, white boy?” And the titular phrase which sounds so very philosophical is shown to be nonsense by the very argument he has produced, as his belief in our “unknowing” is clearly neither true nor justified.

It’s not until the final line of his argument that he finally presents us with the long-anticipated bait-and-switch and confirms our suspicions of his intellectual dishonesty. After severely narrowing his definition of knowledge to a specialized philosophical one, repeatedly ignoring objections that he himself admits are at least potentially valid, and relying upon a) spurious non-arguments against self-evident justifications and b) erroneous arguments against external justifications, Delavagus promptly attempts to switch back, without any warning or justification, to make his argument broad and universally applicable by claiming “we’re all idiots”.

But how can we all be idiots when virtually no one outside of the world of the professional philosopher accepts or utilizes his flawed philosophical definition of knowledge and the definition of idiot – “an utterly foolish or senseless person” – has absolutely nothing to do with ANY definition of knowledge? A lack of knowledge is not synonymous with a lack of sense, after all. We have no choice but to conclude that despite his native intelligence and advanced education, Delavagus is both intellectually incompetent and intellectually dishonest. Not only has he failed to make his case, he hasn’t even seriously attempted to make it! In failing to correctly answer the initial question he posed and in failing to even attempt to make a case for his ultimate conclusion, the modern skeptic only manages to demonstrate his own foolishness. What purports to be a reformulation of ancient skepticism turns out to be little more than a projection of the modern skeptic’s own lack of sense onto all of humanity.

It’s appropriate that he concludes with an absurd, but Socratic-sounding statement on how the less we know, the more learned we become. After all, as I showed in my critique of the so-called Euthyphro Dilemma, Socrates was no slouch as an intellectual snake himself.

I will close my critique of Delavagus’s first post with a selection from a quote that he himself provided.

“Blameworthy ignorance thus comes with a lack of self-knowledge of a peculiar kind. To think that you are wiser than you are is similar to enjoying the idea that you are more beautiful or richer – or a better driver, or more genuinely kind – than you are. These images of ourselves mislead us into overly confident claims to knowledge and expertise. I shall refer to this kind f phenomenon as Transferred Ignorance: blameworthy ignorance involves a transition from an inflated self-image to an inflated view of one’s ability to assess matters other than oneself. Even worse, when we, thus encouraged, put forward what we claim to know, we often formulate ideas that figure in our thoughts because we picked them up from others. While we indulge in our overly optimistic self-image, we forget that we do not even comprehend what we say.”
– Katja Vogt

Setting aside the legitimacy of my critique or the validity of Delavagus’s argument, I think it should be readily apparent that the thoughts I have expressed here were not picked up from anyone else, but are entirely original even if they happen to be identical to those expressed by others before, whereas Delavagus’s lack of precision and error-plagued arguments tend to indicate that the thoughts he has expressed in his post were, for the most part, picked up from the professors under whom he is still studying. I therefore leave it up to those who have followed this critical analysis to determine towards whom a charge of blameworthy ignorance and an inability to comprehend what we say can be more aptly applied.

Next section
Dissecting the skeptics V

Previous sections
Dissecting the skeptics I
Dissecting the skeptics II
Dissecting the skeptics III


NFL Draft 2012

I’m quite happy with the Kalil (OT) pick, as well as the trade that helped them pick up some extra picks late in the draft. Both Smith (S) and Robinson (CB) appear to be sensible picks at positions of dire need, since the Vikes have a pair of decent cornerbacks that weren’t able to stay on the field last year. Safety has been a problem for years, so here’s hoping Smith works out. I do NOT understand the Jarius Wright pick, as he’s another short receiver in the Percy Harvin slot receiver mode. Since they’ve already got Harvin, I don’t see how Wright makes sense. And a FB in the fourth round? Seriously? It makes more sense for the Vikes and their running-heavy offense than for most teams that don’t even use FB much, but still, it seems hard to believe there weren’t any more pressing holes to fill. The second receiver picked, Childs, makes more sense given his 6’3″ height.

All in all, it looks like a pretty good draft, with the potential to be an excellent one if it gives Minnesota even an average secondary to pair with a very good defensive line and if the new lineman and receivers help Ponder develop from “rookie with real promise” to “borderline elite NFL quarterback”. His first-year performance was particularly impressive in light of how he spent good parts of it on the run.


Dissecting the skeptics III

Rather than admitting his demonstrated errors or attempting to defend them, our intrepid champion of ancient skepticism has once again vowed to run away rather than engage his critics. Regardless, I shall continue with my critical analysis of his attempt to answer the question “what, if anything, do we know?” by examining the third section of To Know Our Unknowing with or without the benefit of his illuminating commentary. So far, we’ve identified five errors in his argument. Will there be more? Let’s read carefully and see.

The constraints on justification outlined in (2)–called the Agrippan Trilemma–come down simply to this: merely assuming that something is true is not a rational reason to maintain that it’s true; therefore, any putative justifier must itself be justified, from which it follows that an infinite regress of justifications (where x is justified by y, which is justified by z, on and on forever) fails, as do circular justifications (where x is justified by y, which is itself justified by x).

There’s a sense in which the Agrippan Trilemma sums up the problematic of the entire history of epistemology. Foundationalist theories attempt to end the regress by appealing to some privileged class of self-justifying justifiers. Coherence theories, on the other hand, attempt to make a virtue of circularity by claiming, roughly, that we are justified in holding a set of beliefs if those beliefs evince the requisite degree of internal coherence.

Despite centuries–millenia!–of ingenious epistemological tinkering by generations of staggeringly intelligent people, it is hard to see, on the face of it, how any theory can escape the Agrippan Trilemma without giving up on rational justification altogether. The very idea of a self-justifying justifier is, if not incoherent, at least deeply suspicious. Such ‘foundations’ to our knowledge are often said to be ‘self-evident.’ But as the Devil’s Dictionary points out, ‘self-evident’ seems to mean that which is evident to oneself–and no one else. (Making the same point with far more plausibility, and much less humor: ‘self-evident’ seems to mean nothing more than what a particular cultural tradition has taught its members to accept without reasons.)

As for coherence theories, it may be the case that the greater the coherence of a set of beliefs, the more reason we have, ceteris paribus, to think those beliefs true. But the game of truth is not horseshoes or hand-grenades. Given that knowledge means justified true belief, then by claiming knowledge of x, we’re claiming that x is true, not that x is more or less likely to be true by virtue of belonging to a more or less coherent set of beliefs. There might be all sorts of interesting uses for coherence theories, but they are not theories of truth.

Finally, some epistemologists endorse ‘externalism,’ according to which (roughly) knowledge does not require that the knowing subject know that she knows. Here’s one way of putting it: as long as a belief was acquired by means of a reliable mechanism (a mechanism that is known to ‘track the truth’), then the belief is justified regardless of the ‘internal’ state of the subject. Externalists will want to argue that I (and other pesky skeptics) are demanding too much, namely, not just that we know x, but that we know that we know x.

Think about it for a minute, though. What does ‘externalism’ come down to? Just this: “It might very well be the case that many of our beliefs are justified even if we have no way of knowing that they are.” For consider: unless the externalist, or someone, is able to adopt the third-person perspective—the perspective from which it is possible to determine that Beatrice has arrived at belief x by means of a reliable, truth-tracking mechanism, and thus that she knows x (even though she does not know that she knows x)—then externalism amounts to saying, “It might be the case that we know all sorts of stuff.” Fine. I accept that, Sextus accepts that—all ancient skeptics do (at least in the externalist’s sense of having a true belief that is in fact justified in some way that escapes us). But without specifying what we know and how we know it (what justifies it), then externalism simply does not answer the question.

On the other hand, if externalists think that they (or someone) can adopt the justification-identifying third-person perspective, can identify (e.g.) reliable truth-tracking mechanisms, then their account of justification would have to be an account of the justification of those mechanisms—that is, an account of how it’s known that those mechanisms are truth-tracking. Externalism, then, if it is to contribute anything to the conversation, must collapse into internalism.

It is not enough to ‘know’ something in the externalist’s sense. Unless we’re in possession of a justification for a belief we hold, then we do not know that we know it, in which case we have no warrant for crowning it Knowledge.

There is no need to dispute Delavagus’s summary of the Agrippan Trilemma, especially since in the current argument, it has no bearing on any form of putatative justification except those that purport to be rational. And even in the current argument, bringing it up would do little more than rehash the already dismissed problem of the criterion. Delavagus could, of course, simply wave his hand a third time and declare, for the sake of argument, that we shall agree that assuming something is true is a rational reason to believe it is true, but this time he elects not to do so and accepts the limitations that he previously ignored.

Nor do I see any reason to take exception to his assertions about self-evidence and coherence theories, even though I note in passing that he doesn’t actually provide any reason to invalidate the former beyond citing Ambrose Bierce and his opinion that self-evidence seems to reflect cultural traditions. I tend to agree with his statements concerning the latter; they are not relevant here. However, when he attacks externalism, it is apparent that we have to look more closely at what he’s saying and apply his definition of “knowledge” in order to be perfectly clear about it. When we refer to his definition of knowledge, the externalist claim concerning the skeptic’s demand is not just that we possess justified true belief concerning x, but that we possess justified true belief concerning our justified true belief concerning x. Which of course, represents yet another return to the problem of the infinite regress. We need not trouble ourselves with all the tedious detail to see that externalism, as Delavagus describes it, amounts to a claim that a true belief can be justified without the subject being aware if his justification is valid or not.

And it is here that the problem arises. In his attempt to show externalism must collapse into internalism, Delavagus engages in a very shady attempt to move the goalposts, a move that is so blatantly shady that we must declare it to be his sixth error. Remember, the original question which Delavagus intended to answer was this: “What, if anything, do we know?” So, if an individual possesses knowledge, defined as justified true belief, then reason dictates he possesses it regardless of whether he happens to be aware of the validity of the justification for his true belief or not. What do we know? Those true beliefs that are justified, whether we know they are justified or not. All that matters is that the belief is true and the justification is valid. So, Delavagus is quite clearly wrong and externalism answers the very question that he asked because there is no need for the putative knower to justify his justification in order for him to legitimately possess the justified true belief. Therefore, whether we know that we know or not, we can and do know, even according to the philosophical definition of knowledge. The infinite regress is avoided.

His goalpost-moving leads Delavagus to commits his seventh error in his erroneous final statement. Whether we are in possession of the justification for the true belief or not, whether we even know the belief is true or not, we very much have a warrant for crowning our possession of justified true belief as knowledge for two reasons. First, because Delavagus did not define knowledge as “self-aware justified true belief”, and second, because he did not pose the question “how can we know that we know?”, but rather “what, if anything, do we know?” And the correct answer to that question, according to his chosen definition, is beliefs that are both true and justified, regardless of whether we know they are true or how they are justified.

Next section
Dissecting the skeptics IV

Previous sections
Dissecting the skeptics I
Dissecting the skeptics II


Yes, divorce is bad for children

It’s even a serious problem for many adult children:

Twenty years after her in-laws’ messy and bitter divorce, Tammy, 35 — a print company manager who lives in Chesterfield, Derbyshire — and her husband Paul, 32, who works in hotel management, are still struggling with the fallout.

If anything the challenges have become worse as Paul’s parents have grown older. The continuing bad feeling between Tom and his ex-wife Mary, 78, impacts on the whole family, including their grandchildren, Alexander, eight, and Savannah, 15.

So bad is the animosity that many family events have been spoiled by it.

Like the growing numbers of other adult children in the same situation, Tammy and Paul have found that the passing of time does not heal the emotional wounds.

In fact it makes the issue of divided loyalties ever more acute, not least because of the increasing loneliness and frailty of their parents.

Much has been written about the trauma that people of any age feel when their parents decide to split. But little thought has been given to the fact that problems caused by broken marriages can actually deepen with time.

And if you throw much-loved grandchildren into the equation, then all-out war can ensue.

Speaking as a child of parents who divorced when I was an adult, I can testify that while the problems presented by parental divorce are real, there is an excellent solution to them. Move to a different continent. It makes life significantly less complicated and significantly more tranquil. Penguins or divorced parents? The choice practically makes itself.


Sitting in a glass house, hurling stones

I don’t think a society in which a statistically significant percentage of the female porn revolves around necrophilia has a lot of leeway to criticize the purported “farewell law”:

Alleged proposals to allow Egyptian husbands to legally have sex with their dead wives for up to six hours after their death have been branded a ‘complete nonsense’. The controversial new ‘farewell intercourse’ law was claimed, in Arab media, to be part of a raft of measures being introduced by the Islamist-dominated parliament. They reported it would also see the minimum age of marriage lowered to 14 and the ridding of women’s rights of getting education and employment.

I was always a bit skeptical about the reality of this supposed law anyhow. Six hours? Any mortician can tell you that dead bodies are perfectly useful for at least 48 postmortem. The link is perfectly SFW, but I wouldn’t recommend clicking on any of the other comics. As a wise woman once said, 95 percent of all the world’s weirdness comes from Japan. True science fact.