Dear Marc Champagne,
Thank you for your text about EVER-PRESENT CONSTRAINTS ON KNOWLEDGE.
You EVER-PRESENT CONSTRAINTS ON KNOWLEDGE. has some stories and fables to argue in favor of your point of view.
Your first story about the human in the railroad track does illustrate the kind of knowledge a person has in daily life situations. Most people never walk on railroad tracks, and we would not encourage anybody to do so, but we do understand your point.
You write: ” … The precise terms of my example are dialectically unimportant; what matters is the extremely limited menu of options. The person on the track is, quite literally, cornered. Her train of thought is suddenly coerced by her worldly environment into taking a certain direction—in this case a step sideways. What we have here, in essence, is a case of what the novel andmovie
The Godfather immortalized as “an offer you can’t refuse.” In otherwords, “choose” to do such and such—or die. That’s arguably a peculiar sort of “choice” (in decision theory, this situation is referred to as “Hobson’s choice,” after a man who would allow his horse-renting clients to choose only the horse nearest the stable door). … ”
You give the person in your story only two possibilities. Stay or jump sideways in the right direction when the train comes. But the menu of options is not limited. Will she jump to the left, to the right? Will she try to jump on the train? Will she run forward? Will she scream and stay unmovable? Will she lay down? Will she pray and expect the train to stop? Will she take her mobile phone and message someone to help her? Will she faint? Will the train stop?
Storytelling is fun. But storytelling in a philosophical text is dangerous. We could end up in quibbling about Minnesotan weather. (Mott, P.L. (1978) Verisimilitude by means of Short Theorems. Synthese 38, p 251 and Barnes E.C. (1991) Beyond Verisimilitude a Linguistically Invariant Basis for Scientific Progress, Synthese 88, p 313)
We do agree on knowledge about simple facts of life. I am sitting here and writing this text. Almost nobody does raise questions about these simple facts about me sitting here. Those are not the facts A. Sokal & J. Bricmont do write about. Nor does David Miller, a ‘notorious’ skeptical philosopher. The great discussion on objective knowledge is not so much about these little observable facts, but the big question of the skeptic is about scientific knowledge.
The big question is about generalizing theories, inductive arguments.