December 2, 2009

Gupta and Idealism: My Project for the Next Two Weeks

It's been a while since I posted anything, and even longer since I posted anything other than Aristotle quotes - I have been busy trying to get my term papers underway. Since I don't expect to have any more time in the near future than I have had in the recent past, I thought I would keep things going around here by posting an outline of one of my projects. Below is a very rough draft of an introduction to one of my two papers (it doesn't have a working title yet) which describes what I hope to accomplish. Comments welcome.

Anil Gupta frames the project of his Empiricism and Experience as purifying classical empiricism of its tendencies toward skepticism and idealism. In the course of pursuing this end, Gupta develops a novel account of the contribution of experience to knowledge. According to Gupta, experience contributes to knowledge only in the context of a particular view - a conception of self and world. Since empiricism denies that there is anything independent of experience to justify a certain view, Gupta argues that an ideally rational being would begin by considering all of the views which are admissible (in a technical sense defined by Gupta) and watch their evolution under experience. The being would consider itself categorically entitled to a judgment just in case all admissible views converge on that judgment. I argue that Gupta's system fails to stem the tide of idealism and skepticism. Gupta does not have the resources to rule idealistic views inadmissible and the pressure of experience will not transform the most plausible idealist views into realist views or vice versa. As such, convergence will fail for any question on which idealism and realism disagree - such as the existence of a mind-independent external world - resulting in skepticism about these questions.

I proceed as follows. In the first section, Gupta's system is outlined, with emphasis on his three criteria of admissibility: internal coherence, receptivity, and non-rigidity. In section two, I argue that these three criteria are indicative of two theoretical virtues which a finite inquirer can use to allocate its cognitive resources to the consideration of a manageable finite number of views. I also further clarify the consequences of Gupta's system for finite inquirers. Sections three and four examine various realistic and idealistic systems, respectively, from the perspective of the theoretical virtues identified in section two. I argue that there are idealistic views which exemplify the theoretical virtues to at least as great a degree as common-sense realism or scientific realism. Finally, in section five, I argue that, under Gupta's view, it will follow from these considerations that it is unreasonable for us finite human beings to believe in realism, and thus that Gupta's system, like its empiricist predecessors, collapses into either skepticism or idealism.

Posted by Kenny at December 2, 2009 11:43 AM
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