Finding out the Truth

Finding out the Truth - Finding out the Truth James W. Lamb...

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Finding out the Truth James W. Lamb Suppose you want to find out the truth about some matter. Any matter. Is Matt running a fever? Are there black swans? What caused the dinosaurs to disappear? Is there a greatest prime number? Does God exist? Does taking echinacea help prevent the common cold? How did life on earth begin? Will the S&P 500 index increase over the upcoming year? Do gravity waves exist? Is Aunt Flo’s tumor malignant or benign? Do some people have the power of telepathy? Is there an afterlife? Was Vicki at the party last night? Is there intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? Is Anna in her bedroom? Did O.J. Simpson kill Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman? Did Jesus of Nazareth come back to life after being executed? What caused the Tunguska Event of 1908? Is there some truth to astrology? Will I live to 90? Was Oswald the lone assassin of John F Kennedy? Sometimes finding out the answer is straightforward. If you want to find out whether Anna is in her bedroom, look and see. If you’re curious about black swans, check the encyclopedia. If you’re wondering whether Vicki was at last night’s mixer, try remembering if you saw her there. And if you suspect Matt is running a fever, take his temperature. In each case you find out the truth by acquiring evidence: evidence of the senses (seeing Anna in her room), testimonial evidence (reading in the Encyclopedia Britannica about black swans), evidence of memory (remembering that you spoke to Vicki on the stairs), and the evidence of measurement (the thermometer’s reading 102 degrees F). Straightforward cases look like this: A question is raised, competing hypotheses are contemplated, and evidence is acquired confirming one of the hypotheses. But other questions are not so readily answered. You cannot travel back in time to see how life on Earth developed. No crystal ball will tell you how the stock market will do this year. And no encyclopedia settles the question whether Oswald was the lone assassin of President Kennedy. So how do you go about answering such questions?
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This note was uploaded on 04/16/2008 for the course PHIL 1300 taught by Professor Lamb during the Spring '08 term at SMU.

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Finding out the Truth - Finding out the Truth James W. Lamb...

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