Blue Devil Knight wrote:
Under those assumptions, EM would make knowledge impossible (not just scientific knoweldge!). So, if EM is true, either knowledge is not possible, or the above philosophical account of knowledge gets it wrong. Which seems more likely? Perhaps it would just point out that philosophy needs an epistemology that is actually sensitive to neuropsychological details, not just detritus from the days of philosophical conceptual analysis.
But I believe I do know what knowledge is. Justified true belief may not be sufficient, but it is a darn good start. Amplification of my understanding of knowledge based on neuroscience is one thing. Being given a scientific story that essentially changes the subject and calling that an account of knowledge is a completely different thing. I like the way Fodor put it:
If it isn’t literally true that my wanting is causally responsible for my reaching, and my itching is causally responsible for my scratching, and my believing is causally responsible for my saying ..., if none of that is literally true, then practically everything I believe about anything is false and it’s the end of the world.
A Theory of Content and Other Essays. Cambridge, Mass.: Bradford Books/MIT Press, (1990) p. 156.
Luckily for progress, most scientists make free use of math, language, words such as "truth", and the like, without worrying about their ultimate ontology or truth-conditions. Does using X imply an implicit endorsement of certain philosophical ideas about X? Clearly not.
Clearly yes, it seems to me, unless a face-saving alternative analysis is on the horizon. And not a subject-changing one. If I am going to argue with you, I am presupposing that there are arguments, and that it is logically possible for you to be persuaded by them. Otherwise, I'll try brainwashing.
As for Churchland's view, Paul is a realist with a pragmatic attitude (his first book, Scientific Realism and Plasticity of mind, lays this out, as he also does in his edited volume Images of Science, where he and a bunch of people gang up on van Frasen).
How he handles truth, or its mental homologue, is that it is a mapping between brain models and the world. Such models can match up better or worse. We make such judgments all the time in science (how well does our model fit the data). The internal brain models are not propositional, but high-dimensional internal neuronal maps (exactly analogous to street maps: it isn't the intrinsic features of the street map that are important, but the metric relations among features of the street map).
From reading the van Fraassen essay it looked as if "realism" was simply a refusal to accept a van Fraassen-style non-realism in which we treat scientific claims about observables as true and claims about unobservables as only empirically adequate. Churchland rejects that distinction, so that makes him a realist??? Truth, as we know it and understand it traditionally, seems to be explicitly set aside. Yes, there can be better or worse mappings from a pragmatic standpoint, but it is the utility of those maps, and not the correspondence between the propositional contents and reality, that make it real knowledge as opposed to not knowledge.
As an aside, if you are that much of a pragmatist, how do you resist Pascal's Wager?
One more thing. Churchland thinks that, because our future psychology, which will dovetail with neuroscience, will be much more pragmatically useful than belief-desire psychology. Its explanatory resources will be much richer, and people will willingly abandon the explanitorily anemic resources of propositional-attitude psychology mainly because it is more useful for understanding their own minds and behavior.
No thank you. I think I'll pass on the Brooklyn Bridge.