Let us calculate.

Arne Næss (1912-2009)

with 5 comments

Via LogBlog I found out that Arne Næss has passed away. He was the last living associate of the Vienna Circle, an accomplished mountain climber, an influential philosopher and teacher in Norway and the founder of deep ecology.

He was also probably the first experimental philosopher. In 1938 he published a book called „Truth” as Conceived by Those Who Are Not Professional Philosophers, for which he polled 300 people with questions about their understanding of the truth concept. The book was reviewed in the Journal of Philosophy a year later by „E.N.” (Ernest Nagel?) [JSTOR link].

Among Næss’ conclusions were that there is no unique common-sense concept of truth, and that apart from jargon, all philosophical truth-theories are readily available to the laypersons. As the reviewer notes, one of the main objectives of the work was the introduction of a new method in philosophy: philosophers

should go about their job as does the experimental biologist; they should not „solve” such problems by making vague pronouncements not based upon or controllable by publicly determined facts, but should instead devote themselves to the history and logic of science as well as the psychology and sociology of research, and so discover the function of these terms in their concrete settings. (p. 79)

The book caught Tarski’s attention, who mentioned it in his famous 1944 paper „The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics” [JSTOR link], in the section called „Conformity of the semantic conception of truth with philosophical and common-sense usage”, where he wrote (at p. 360):

I happen to believe that the semantic conception does conform to a very considerable extent with the common-sense usage — although I readily admit I may be mistaken. What is more to the point, however, I believe that the issue raised can be settled scientifically, though of course not by a deductive procedure, but with the help of the statistical questionnaire method. As a matter of fact, such research has been carried on, and some of the results have been reported at congresses and in part published. [fn. referencing Næss’ book omitted]

However, Tarski’s favorable nod towards this kind of approach to philosophy has been the exception until quite recently. In the review, E.N. rightly prophesized that for the moment

most philosophers will not be prepared to undertake the sort of „dirty work” to which Dr. Ness invites them, [so] he will no doubt remain an outcast from the philosophic community and will have to find what solace he can in being a „mere” scientist. (p. 79)

I’d be curious to learn whether someone is trying to pick up Næss’ experimental work on truth, and perhaps other topics in the philosophy of logic and language (incidentally, most of the topics discussed by experimental philosophers seem to fall into metaphysics, epistemology and ethics, with the exception of the infamous cross-cultural semantics paper).

[ Oslo University notice here; obituary in the Norway Post here]

[Incidentally, Tarski would’ve been 108 today]


Written by Stefan Ionescu

ianuarie 14, 2009 la 12:34 pm

5 răspunsuri

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  1. dude, doar acum am vazut postarea asta. so, referitor la itnrebarea ta. nu stiu despre chestii experimentale pe ´truth´- that is a dead topic anyway 🙂
    dar exista, mai nou, o multime de experimental work in pragmatica. de fapt, e intreg subfield-ul asta de experimental pragmatics: is tot felul de experimente pe scalar implicatures, pe relevance theory, sentece processing, implicature processing, etc. pot sa iti trimit material. acum lucrez pe implicaturi scalare si chiar ma gandesc cum sa fac un experiment pt modulatie…

    Mortariño El Socialisto

    februarie 9, 2009 at 5:36 pm

  2. Eu am găsit niște chestii pe adevăr & Næss, dar n-am apucat încă să mă uit peste ele (Anthony Appiah a discutat despre Næss în adresa prezidențiala la APA-E în 2007 [pdf], și Joseph Ulatowski și Robert Barnard pregătesc un articol despre Tarski și Næss [pdf]).

    Acum, cred și eu că există o sumedenie de experimente pe pragmatică și ce mai spui tu acolo — se cheamă psiholingvistică :p… în general psihologii au o grămadă de studii empirice care se leagă mai mult sau mai puțin cu teoriile filosofice (e.g., privind conceptele, categorizarea, inducția, etc.)


    februarie 9, 2009 at 5:57 pm

  3. da, da e pisicolinghistica sau ce naiba, dar sunt chestii venite dinspre filosofia limbajului… so, cum ti’am zis vreau sa bag in experiment pt modulatie, dar trebuie sa ma gandesc bine cum sa fie facut… bling bling!

    Mortariño El Socialisto

    februarie 9, 2009 at 7:18 pm

  4. Da’ ce vrei să faci tu? te-ai apucat de studiat metode experimentale? sau scrii vignette cu întrebări și aștepți sa-ți facă altcineva calculele? 🙂


    februarie 9, 2009 at 7:30 pm

  5. For some reason, only recently have I been alerted to this blog post in which Stefan, a commentator, mentions my work with collaborator, Robert Barnard. The author might be interested to note that one of our articles, „Truth, Correspondence, and Gender,” has been accepted for publication in Review of Philosophy and Psychology. It should appear in the September or December issue of the journal.

    This is not Bob and I’s only empirical work on the ordinary conception of truth. We have drafted numerous articles on the ordinary conception of truth, and in each of these articles we cite the fine work of Arne Naess. If you’d like to review any of these and provide us with your comments, criticisms, questions, etc., we’d be happy to forward you a copy.

    Thanks for the hat-tip too!

    All the best,

    Joseph Ulatowski

    iulie 29, 2013 at 10:40 pm

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