Friday, 27 September 2019

What do words mean? - Semantic change and definitions

Phenomenal, Chair, Bebeflapula.

What do these words mean – and – who gets to decide?

This posts serves as an introduction to semantics, the linguistic and philosophical study of meaning in language. It also serves as an introduction to the fresher and more interesting problems in modern philosophy of language.

It’s common for people to sometimes just assume that meanings are these fixed things that never change and hence words are always to be understood in just a certain fixed sense that is dictated by definitions or the origin of a word. We’ll see how that holds up.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Introduction to the Scientific Realism Debate

This post is a short introduction to two influential arguments in the scientific realism debate (basically this is a transcription of the attached video):

When you think about the world, at some point you have to ask yourself – what to make of science and the supposed body of knowledge it has acquired?

Is science merely a very successful tool for controlling nature, but says nothing about the underlying structure of the world? Or do certain scientific theories at least to some degree capture the actual truth?

The answer to this question determines how you are going to view the mind, think about language and talk about the metaphysics of space and time. Where you’re going to position scientific beliefs in your philosophical system, will have a significant effect on it.

The most commonly held view (at least by people in general) is that yes, scientific theories do tell us the truth, even if it’s just an approximation of what the world is actually like. We call this view scientific realism, which normally consists of the claim that:

  1. “Our best scientific theories about the world are approximately true – an approximation of what the world is actually like."

Monday, 9 September 2019

Inductive reasoning and Cross-induction

This post is an introduction to the method of inductive reasoning and the problem of induction. It also introduces an interesting answer to the problem, called cross-induction (this post is more or less a transcription of a video that I made a couple of months ago, feel free to check it out:)

Why do you think there's going to be a tomorrow? The future is uncertain. You don’t know what it brings. But still you make claims about it. Claims like:

  1. The sun will rise tomorrow.

We don’t know that. But still, we all believe that. Why? What’s our rational justification for believing anything about the future?

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Occam's razor (and why we use it)

This post provides an explanation of Occam's razor and why we use it - again, it's basically a transcription of a video that I made a couple of months ago (feel free to check it out):

Suppose you hear a vase break.

You go to the living room and there's little Jimmy, next to the broken vase. He says that a cat did it.

But you don't even have a cat in this household.

So, Jimmy says, some cat must have sneaked in from the outside.

You remember closing all the windows and doors.

So, he says, it must have entered the house before you closed them.

Russell's Teapot

This post provides a short explanation of Russell's teapot and is basically a transcription of a video that I made a couple of months ago (feel free to check it out):

Imagine I make the following claim:

  1.  There is a teapot - which is too small to be seen by telescopes - and it orbits the sun somewhere around mars.

Let's say I don't offer any proof or evidence for my claim. Would you take my claim to be true?

This analogy was put forth by Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), who wanted to demonstrate that even though no one can disprove the existence of such a teapot (since we said that it's too small to be observed anyways), he would expect no one to believe in its existence either.