Statements about the past. Ayer, A. J. In Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, volume 52, pages i–xx. 1952.
abstract   bibtex   
[first paragraph] IT is characteristic of philosophers that they exercise their scepticism not so much upon particular statements or beliefs, as upon whole classes of them. They are indeed inclined to dispute the particular statements that are made by other philosophers ; but apart from these special cases they are interested in particular statements only as examples. The weaknesses which they detect in them are those that they are supposed to share with all the members of the class of which they are taken as typical representatives. And it is this lack of discrimination that gives to philosophic doubt both its frivolity and its strength. A scientist may come to doubt some general hypothesis because the evidence for it does not meet his requirements, but his standards are not so rigorous that no hypothesis can satisfy them. It is left to the philosopher to put in question the validity of any generalization whatsoever, to cast doubt upon a general statement not because of any special weakness of its own but simply because it is a generalization. In their relations with one another men often display a lack of understanding ; one does not always know what another person is thinking or feeling. But neither does one always live in an atmo- sphere of mystery. Not all human beings are equally inscrutable, any more than they are equally perspicacious : a man who can conceal his thoughts or feelings on one occasion may not be able to conceal them on another. But the philosophical sceptic ignores these distinctions. He invokes the doubt whether any two people, irrespective of their character or situation, can ever know what is going on in one another's minds. Again, it sometimes happens that people are deceived by their senses ; not all perceptions are reliable : some account must be taken of the conditions in which they are made. But the philosopher is interested in the general question whether perception ever gives us " knowledge of an external world". His scepticism bears not upon the truth of some perceptual judgments as opposed to others, but upon the truth of any perceptual judgment whatsoever.
@incollection{Ayer1952,
abstract = {[first paragraph] IT is characteristic of philosophers that they exercise their scepticism not so much upon particular statements or beliefs, as upon whole classes of them. They are indeed inclined to dispute the particular statements that are made by other philosophers ; but apart from these special cases they are interested in particular statements only as examples. The weaknesses which they detect in them are those that they are supposed to share with all the members of the class of which they are taken as typical representatives. And it is this lack of discrimination that gives to philosophic doubt both its frivolity and its strength. A scientist may come to doubt some general hypothesis because the evidence for it does not meet his requirements, but his standards are not so rigorous that no hypothesis can satisfy them. It is left to the philosopher to put in question the validity of any generalization whatsoever, to cast doubt upon a general statement not because of any special weakness of its own but simply because it is a generalization. In their relations with one another men often display a lack of understanding ; one does not always know what another person is thinking or feeling. But neither does one always live in an atmo- sphere of mystery. Not all human beings are equally inscrutable, any more than they are equally perspicacious : a man who can conceal his thoughts or feelings on one occasion may not be able to conceal them on another. But the philosophical sceptic ignores these distinctions. He invokes the doubt whether any two people, irrespective of their character or situation, can ever know what is going on in one another's minds. Again, it sometimes happens that people are deceived by their senses ; not all perceptions are reliable : some account must be taken of the conditions in which they are made. But the philosopher is interested in the general question whether perception ever gives us " knowledge of an external world". His scepticism bears not upon the truth of some perceptual judgments as opposed to others, but upon the truth of any perceptual judgment whatsoever.},
author = {Ayer, A. J.},
booktitle = {Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society},
file = {:Users/michaelk/Library/Application Support/Mendeley Desktop/Downloaded/Ayer - 1952 - Statements about the past.pdf:pdf},
number = {1},
pages = {i--xx},
title = {{Statements about the past}},
volume = {52},
year = {1952}
}
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