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« Moral Expertise and The Distribution of Knowledge | Main | A second query: what are the actual costs and benefits of early-career blogging? »

07/28/2015

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Michel X.

I think you're right about the bulk of their arguments and theories *not* being widely accepted. Few people today drink their Quine, Carnap, Goodman, Davidson, or even their Lewis unwatered (or, at least, untampered with). I don't think that's a mark of the failure of their arguments, theories, or research programs, however. I think it's fair to say that many of them succeeded in changing the tone or direction of discourse on a number of issues, and that's the real testament to their "greatness". It would be unthinkable to omit them from a survey of whatever topic(s) they contributed to, precisely because their contributions are so important. Without Goodman, the nominalist project and the philosophy of art are in very bad straits indeed; without Anscombe and Davidson, the philosophy of action starts to look pretty sparse, and so on. Who cares if we think they were wrong?

I guess I'm not particularly bothered by faddishness. Part of the reason is my conviction that faddishness is just the historical norm, and that the further removed in time one is from a given point or figure, the more easily those fads drop out of the picture. The medievals had all kinds of bizarre notions and obscure disagreements amongst themselves, but historical prioritizing has washed most of them out. The same will happen to us, too.

Another part of the reason, I think, is that it just seems *right* to me: it's one way of making progress, of testing ideas and finding their merits and demerits. The proliferation of JTB+X positions in epistemology since Gettier's paper strikes me as exactly the way to proceed once one realizes that JTB isn't quite sufficient for knowledge. The turn-over was pretty high for a while there, but I think we got a lot out of it, and cleared a lot of ground.

So, in the end, I suspect the deaders would actually find contemporary work fascinating, for the most part. The current situation just seems to me like it's what you're bound to get when a discipline is sufficiently mature and has so many active participants in such easy contact with one another.

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