ch 4-6 - Knowledge and Reality Notes on Chapters 4-6 Chris...

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Preamble to Chapter 4: Objectivism about Facts Vs. Social Constructivism Objectivism about facts is the position that the world is the way it is (and, in addition, history is the way it is) regardless of what we believe to be the case –– i.e., that the facts don't dependent on or change as a result of our beliefs. They are what they are. We can either be right about them, or we can be wrong about them. But no matter what we believe, the facts won't change. Boghossian offers us the example of Jupiter's moons. Suppose I believe that Jupiter has sixteen moons. My belief that Jupiter has sixteen moons can either be true or false. What are the conditions under which my belief is true? My belief that Jupiter has sixteen moons is true (1) if Jupiter has sixteen moons, and (2) only if Jupiter has sixteen moons. There are no other conditions under which that belief could be true. One intuition that people seem to share is that the number of moons orbiting Jupiter does not de- pend on our beliefs about the number of moons orbiting Jupiter (or anything else). Suppose I believe that Jupiter has sixteen moons, and suppose I convince everyone else in the world to believe this. All people now believe that Jupiter has sixteen moons. Now suppose I change my mind, and I convince everyone else in the world to change their mind, such that everyone now believes that Jupiter has forty moons. It doesn't make much sense to say that there are now twenty-four more moons orbiting Jupiter than there used to be, since all people changed their minds about how many moons Jupiter has. We have a good understanding of how moons are formed (either through accretion or, like our moon, colli- sion), and no one has ever thought that moons can be formed just by believing that they're out there. So the number of moons orbiting Jupiter does not change when my (or anyone else's) beliefs about the number of moons changes. Some facts are not like this. Boghossian points to a good example –– money. The fact that a piece of metal with George Washington's proFle on one side and an eagle on the other side is worth 25¢ in the United States is not a fact that is independent of society's beliefs. If everyone stopped believing that this sort of object was worth 25¢ (and started believing it was worth nothing), then it would no longer be worth 25¢ –– we would not be able to exchange it for 25¢ worth of stuff. It would be just a piece of metal. Similarly, if everyone started believing that each strand of my hair was worth $40, then people would be able to exchange a strand of my hair for $40 worth of stuff (and I'd be rich!). The fact that something is money is a socially constructed fact. We believe that one sort of thing is money, so it is. We might have believed that some other sort of thing was money, and so it would have been.
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ch 4-6 - Knowledge and Reality Notes on Chapters 4-6 Chris...

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