Austin by G.J. Warnock

By G.J. Warnock

This ebook is accessible both separately, or as a part of the specially-priced Arguments of the Philosphers assortment.

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Sample text

If you ask me as a doctor whether I am sure that the prescribed medicine is safe for children, I may reply that I know that it is; and in so replying I give you my word as a medical man, my professional authority, for that: that is what I do. But what if you tell me that George is coming to lunch, and I say unexcitedly ‘Yes, I know’? In so saying I surely do not ‘give you my authority’: in such a case, after all, you do not need my authority, since you for your part already know (perfectly well) that George is coming to lunch, as you have told me: all I have done is to tell you that I know that too.

It seems to be ‘a distortion’ to suggest that we are disposed in general to accept what people say because we have—or that we are ‘justified’ in so doing only in so far as there is—an inductive argument which shows that to be the rational thing to do. The question, in general, simply does not arise in that way. And it seems fantastic to suggest that our ‘belief’ that there are people besides ourselves with Knowledge and Other Minds 33 whom communication is possible is just a theory that fits in well with the experience we have.

I need not in fact always be abashed by this, even if I admit it to be true, for the (usefully) vague expression ‘by its red head’ does not mean simply ‘by the fact that its head was red’. If I had said the latter, I would indeed have implied, no doubt mistakenly, that no other (small British) kind of bird has a red head; but ‘by its red head’ is more naturally and properly taken as saying only that there was something about its red head, not necessarily just its being red—and I may be quite unable further to specify what—which enabled me to tell that this was a goldfinch.

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