Skip to main content

English speaking epistemologists

According to Leiter Reports, the most important English-language world epistemologists since 1945 have been:

W.V.O. Quine  (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)
2. Alvin Goldman  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 131–100
3. Roderick Chisholm  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 145–90, loses to Alvin Goldman by 117–90
4. Wilfrid Sellars  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 142–80, loses to Roderick Chisholm by 110–106
5. Timothy Williamson  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 148–100, loses to Wilfrid Sellars by 122–118
6. Ernest Sosa  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 152–95, loses to Timothy Williamson by 123–107
7. Tied:
Fred Dretske  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 156–78, loses to Ernest Sosa by 121–90
Edmund Gettier  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 160–78, loses to Ernest Sosa by 114–105
9. Donald Davidson  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 158–53, loses to Fred Dretske by 120–93
10. William Alston  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 164–70, loses to Donald Davidson by 99–96
11. Tied:
Laurence BonJour  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 164–64, loses to William Alston by 88–82
Nelson Goodman  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 163–50, loses to William Alston by 98–96
13. Robert Nozick  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 169–52, loses to Laurence BonJour by 102–90
14. Gilbert Harman  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 176–41, loses to Robert Nozick by 94–90
15. John McDowell  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 168–58, loses to Gilbert Harman by 95–89
16. Tyler Burge  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 170–49, loses to John McDowell by 91–88
17. Alvin Plantinga  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 173–62, loses to Tyler Burge by 99–73
18. Barry Stroud  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 173–39, loses to Alvin Plantinga by 95–78
19. Keith Lehrer  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 175–42, loses to Barry Stroud by 81–78
20. Crispin Wright  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 183–34, loses to Keith Lehrer by 84–76
21. Keith DeRose  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 179–41, loses to Crispin Wright by 82–78
22. Robert Audi  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 176–42, loses to Keith DeRose by 81–72
23. David Armstrong  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 179–28, loses to Robert Audi by 70–67
24. Paul Boghossian  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 179–40, loses to David Armstrong by 74–66
25. Richard Feldman  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 175–47, loses to Paul Boghossian by 75–72
26. Philip Kitcher  loses to W.V.O. Quine by 176–33, loses to Richard Feldman by 74–72

I'm afraid some of these names don't mean anything to me at all, and that is true even of some of them fairly high up on the list. If I am going to run a blog with the name of this blog, I ought to do a better job keeping track. Timothy Williamson, Crispin Wright. Paul Boghossian? Not even names to me.

Ernest Sosa, John McDowell, Tyler Burge, on the other hand, ARE all names to me, but only that. I couldn't give a coherent explanation of the context in which I discovered them. 

Some names on this list have an appropriate prominence in my own mental inventory. Quine, of course. Nozick. Plantinga/ Armstrong. Check, Check, and Check.

But in essence the list tells me I have work to do. Let's get started with those three names that meant nothing. I'll run down something quick on each of them.

Timothy Williamson: known for taking knowledge as a primitive term. This is one way of responding to Gettier problems. Knowledge is a primitive notion, requiring no definition, and other notions, such as truth and belief,  should be defined with reference to knowledge, not vice versa.  

Crispin Wright: Associated with neo-Fregeanism, a/k/a neo-logicism in the philosophy of mathematics. Frege tried to derive arithmetic from logic. His views are often thought to have been buried by Russell, Russell's barber, and/or Godel. But Wright and some others have dusted them off. 

Paul Boghossian: Author of Fear of Knowledge (2006). a blast against Rorty, relativism, and constructivism. (Why is Rorty not on the list?). 

So now I know that much, anyway.


Popular posts from this blog

England as a Raft?

In a lecture delivered in 1880, William James asked rhetorically, "Would England ... be the drifting raft she is now in European affairs if a Frederic the Great had inherited her throne instead of a Victoria, and if Messrs Bentham, Mill, Cobden, and Bright had all been born in Prussia?"

Beneath that, in a collection of such lectures later published under James' direction, was placed the footnote, "The reader will remember when this was written."

The suggestion of the bit about Bentham, Mill, etc. is that the utilitarians as a school helped render England ineffective as a European power, a drifting raft.

The footnote was added in 1897. So either James is suggesting that the baleful influence of Bentham, Mill etc wore off in the meantime or that he had over-estimated it.

Let's unpack this a bit.  What was happening in the period before 1880 that made England seem a drifting raft in European affairs, to a friendly though foreign observer (to the older brother…

Cancer Breakthrough

Hopeful news in recent days about an old and dear desideratum: a cure for cancer. Or at least for a cancer, and a nasty one at that.

The news comes about because investors in GlaxoSmithKline are greedy for profits, and has already inspired a bit of deregulation to boot. 

The FDA has paved the road for a speedy review of a new BCMA drug for multiple myeloma, essentially cancer of the bone marrow. This means that the US govt has removed some of the hurdles that would otherwise (by decision of the same govt) face a company trying to proceed with these trials expeditiously. 

This has been done because the Phase I clinical trial results have been very promising. The report I've seen indicates that details of these results will be shared with the world on Dec. 11 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. 

The European Medicines Agency has also given priority treatment to the drug in question. 

GSK's website identifies the drug at issue as "GSK2857916," althou…

Francesco Orsi

I thought briefly that I had found a contemporary philosopher whose views on ethics and meta-ethics checked all four key boxes. An ally all down the line.

The four, as regular readers of this blog may remember, are: cognitivism, intuitionism, consequentialism, pluralism. These represent the views that, respectively: some ethical judgments constitute knowledge; one important source for this knowledge consists of quasi-sensory non-inferential primary recognitions ("intuitions"); the right is logically dependent upon the good; and there exists an irreducible plurality of good.

Francesco Orsi seemed to believe all of these propositions. Here's his website and a link to one relevant paper:

What was better: Orsi is a young man. Born in 1980. A damned child! Has no memories of the age of disco!

So I emailed him asking if I was right that he believed all of those things. His answer: three out of …