Archives For counterfactual approval

Author Information:Martin Beckstein, University of Zurich,

Beckstein, Martin. “Traditions and True Successors: A Few Pragmatic Considerations” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 3 (2014): 30-36.

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Building upon previous work by John Williams, David-Hillel Ruben has launched an exciting discussion about traditions and true successors that Williams and Ruben themselves, as well as Samuel Lebens and Jonathan Payton, have taken several steps further. In particular, I consider Payton’s proposal for the concept of inheritance of a tradition through a causal-similarity chain convincing (Payton 2013a, 43, “Inheritance*”). While I also concur with Payton in regard to his proposed modifications of Ruben’s initial concept of true succession (Payton 2013a, 41, “Successor*”), I suggest that some further modifications be made. These modifications include, on the one hand, that we incorporate a causal connection into the concept of true successorhood and, on the other hand, that we exclude the possibility that a true successor may develop a retrograde or degenerate version of the predecessor’s cultural heritage. Moreover, I propose to make a small change in the wording, in order to make the concept slightly more flexible and perhaps accommodate to some extent a point made by Lebens. (This change in the wording should, analogically and for the same reasons, be made with regard to the concept of inheritance of a tradition.)  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Samuel Lebens, University of Notre Dame,

Lebens, Samuel. 2013. “Counterfactual Approval and Idiosyncratic Counterfactual Approval” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (11): 65-69.

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Jonathan Payton (2013) has done a great deal to clarify and sharpen the various concepts developed by David Hillel Ruben’s (2013) account of traditions and true successors (who was, in turn, building upon work already done by John Williams (1988)). Among Payton’s most valuable contributions is his revised notion of inheritance, which ensures that identity of traditions over time should be a transitive relation (even though similarity, one of the relations that inheritance is defined in terms of, is intransitive).

Furthermore, by distinguishing sharply between notions of inheritance and notions of successorhood, Payton is able to yield the following intuitive results:

  • Members of the analytic tradition of philosophy, despite holding views that vary greatly from the founders of that tradition, have an equal claim to be called its inheritors, as long as their views stand to the views of those founders in the right chain of causal similarities

E.g.: Wittgenstein’s views caused Anscombe to hold similar views to his own, whose views, in turn, caused Dummett to hold similar views to Anscombe, whose views, in turn, caused Dorothy Edgington to hold similar views to Dummett. And, even though Dorothy Edginton’s views may be very dissimilar to Wittgenstein’s, the chain that I have described, entitles her to be an inheritor of the tradition that Wittgenstein partly founded.

  • Only thinkers with views very similar to the early Wittgenstein can be said to be true-successors of the early Wittgenstein. True-succession, for Payton, is not transitive. Dorothy Edgington may be an inheritor of Wittgenstein’s tradition, but she isn’t a true successor to Wittgenstein’s early views.

These two results seem absolutely right, and, to the extent that Payton’s conceptual clarification has allowed us to achieve these results, he is to be congratulated. Continue Reading…