The biological account of the self-evident

One account of the self-evident is to see it as biological necessity, which opens the possibility that this necessity does not reveal the way things are. To realize this possibility would mean that we were stuck necessarily thinking P even though we had good reasons for thinking ~P. Noam Chomsky* argues¬†that this is the case for our idea of “physical” and “material”, sc. that we cannot but think that physical causality involves immediate contact, and yet our physical theories have been unable to explain the physical in light of this ever since Newton. Those of us who hold to traditional philosophies of nature ought to figure out what we are going to do with these sorts of claims.

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*The lecture makes no mention of any of his political beliefs.

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1 Comment

  1. Ed L said,

    December 23, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    yet our physical theories have been unable to explain the physical in light of this ever since Newton.

    It’s interesting that while the theories have been widely interpreted as disposing with action at a distance, the “major players” have all rejected action at a distance as unphilosophical. Newton famously rejects this interpretation in his “Letter to Bentley”:

    ‘Tis unconceivable that inanimate brute matter should (without the mediation of something else which is not material) operate upon and affect other matter without mutual contact; as it must if gravitation in the sense of Epicurus be essential and inherent in it.

    Similarly, in the development of the theory of the electromagnetic fields, Maxwell and Faraday’s rejection of action at a distance was crucial to the discovery of the force laws.


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