Thursday, September 23, 2010

Necessity and Inference

Inference is of course just one of many mental processes. And the influence of necessity shown in inference can be traced to other mental processes.

Not that it's presence in other processes is equally plain. And I don't expect this anyway. Inference is concerned with necessity in a unique way.

But necessity, no matter what our first impressions are, is a matter of degree. Between a complete demonstration and a mere accidental conjunction it might be present in many degrees. Rigorous inference approximates a complete demonstration, and assocation by mere contiguity is just an accident.

And between demonstration and accidental conjunction there are many processes in which there is more contingency than in inference, but more necessity than in association.

A painter is painting a landscape that is half-completed, and he finds himself moved to put a tree in the foreground. Is that kind of development normally intelligible? Most painters would not say so.

And it's not an example of pure necessity, but clearly falls somewhere in between.

Let's say someone is afraid of dogs. Through psycho-analysis they discover that at an early age they were badly injured by the attack of a dog. It may come to them as a quasi-intuitive insight that it was this that caused the fear. And let's assume they're right. I can't claim how the fear arose is unintelligible to them.

"Why are modest men grateful? Because they think lightly of their own deserts. This implies a syllogism in Barbara.

All who think lightly of their own deserts are grateful,


Modest men think lightly of their own deserts." (Joseph, Logic, 306)

Does the major premise

All who think lightly of their own deserts are grateful.

express a causal connection or a logical connection?

It expresses both.

If someone we know has low self-esteem becomes grateful for someone else's esteem, is that as surprising, unpredictable, and unintelligible, as if they had started speaking in a Sumerian language or become violent?

I'm not saying that between thinking lightly of oneself and being grateful there is the same simple abstract connection that one finds in geometry. I can't isolate in human nature the precise reciprocating conditions of gratitude, or formulate the rule in anything better than a statement of tendency.

But tendency is after all not utter darkness. We do have some insight into why the person of low self-esteem should be grateful for the esteem of others.

We can see and to some extent really understand why an insult tends to anger, why love leads to grief if the object of one's love dies or is untrustworthy, why a success should give pleasure, why the anticipation of physical pain should arouse fear. It does seem more reasonable on other than inductive grounds to suppose that if Ann loves Bob that will tend to make her sorry when Bob dies than to suppose that it will make her intensely glad. . . . At any rate anybody who denies altogether the insight for which I am contending will have to hold that it is just as reasonable to think of love as causing intense joy at the death of the person loved, except that this does not happen in fact.

If the regularity view were true, all practical life would be nonsense. All practical life assumes we can do things and are moved by motives and desires.

For example, to say that some actions are motivated by power is more than saying that some actions generally follow a desire for power.

It is saying:

"Some actions are driven by the desire for power."

does not merely follow, but is itself determined by the desire for power.

Causation is not merely regular sequence, but intrinsic connection as well.
(Ewing, Idealism, 176-178, 161-162)


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