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I have a question about Verificationism. As I understand it Verificationists

I have a question about Verificationism. As I understand it Verificationists criticise theists whose beliefs aren't verifiable. How would they respond to the following scenarios; (1) A theist determines her belief based on a single coin toss. It came up heads this verifying her belief in God. She went into the test accepting it could come out either way and saying she would genuinely disbelieve if it came out tails and genuinely believe if it came out heads. (2) She repeats this process every morning. And thus ends up some days believing others not. Or, something different; (3) A particular believer believes Christ will return in 10, 000 years. Thus his belief is meaningful and verifiable, one needs only wait a very long time. Would they say he should remain in a suspension of belief? I have heard of the theory of eschatological verification, did verificationists disregard this too? On what grounds?

Verificationists typically say that for a claim to be meaningful it must be empirically testable. Tossing a coin might test claims about gravity, mechanics, or the symmetry of the coin, but it does not test an unrelated claim.
It is probably meaningful to believe that Christ will return in 10,000 years (so long as we're specific about what "Christ" and "return" mean) but that does not mean it is plausible.
In thinking about what is rational to believe we need to consider both meaningfulness and plausibility.

Verificationists typically say that for a claim to be meaningful it must be empirically testable. Tossing a coin might test claims about gravity, mechanics, or the symmetry of the coin, but it does not test an unrelated claim. It is probably meaningful to believe that Christ will return in 10,000 years (so long as we're specific about what "Christ" and "return" mean) but that does not mean it is plausible. In thinking about what is rational to believe we need to consider both meaningfulness and plausibility.

When are conditional statements actually true?

When are conditional statements actually true? I am getting contradicting answers. Please help. One resource, a geometry book, says that to prove a conditional statement true, you must show the conclusion is true every time the hypothesis is true. On the contrary, however, a discrete mathematics book says a conditional statement is true unless the hypothesis is true and the conclusion is false. These methods for checking the truth of a conditional statement do not produce the same results, however. For example, consider the conditional statement (1) If today is Saturday, then 5 + 5 = 6. Under the first method, this (1) is false, because when there is a time when the hypothesis is true (It is Saturday), but the conclusion is false (5 + 5 never equals 6). A counterexample exists, as they would say. But under the second method, the statement's truth value changes with time. It is true when it is not Saturday since the condition for falsehood, that it is Saturday and 5 + 5 does not equal 6, is...

You are confusing truth and logical validity. Your geometry book is writing about the logical validity of conditional arguments. Your math book is talking about the truth of conditional statements. Logical validity is much more than truth: it is truth that is independent of the truth or falsity of the premises.

You are confusing truth and logical validity. Your geometry book is writing about the logical validity of conditional arguments. Your math book is talking about the truth of conditional statements. Logical validity is much more than truth: it is truth that is independent of the truth or falsity of the premises.

Is it true that before 2006 Pluto was a planet, and now it no longer is? Or was

Is it true that before 2006 Pluto was a planet, and now it no longer is? Or was Pluto never a planet by IAU's post-2006 definition, and still is a planet by the pre-2006 definition? You can't change what something is just by changing a definition right?

Many concepts in science are at least in part socially constructed. That does not mean that the world is socially constructed, just that our concepts about the world are devised by scientific communities. "Planet" is one of those terms that is partially socially constructed. Over the last 5 years that social construction has become visible in the debate over Pluto's status. "Planet" was first used to mean "object revolving around the sun." But then all kinds of small objects--comets and meteorites--also revolve around the sun, and the decision was made not to call them all planets, but only to call the sizeable ones planets. "Sizeable" reflects our interests as Earth inhabitants in revolving objects of about the same size as we are. But then in the late twentieth century thousands of celestial bodies of the same size or larger than Pluto were found in the Kuiper belt. Scientists could have decided to call them all planets, so that we would have thousands of planets in the solar system, but they prefered (for aesthetic reasons?) a smaller number. So they made up another condition that effectively rules out the thousands of planets in the Kuiper belt, but also ends up making Pluto no longer a planet (the condition was "effectively cleared its neighbouring region of planetismals"). Pluto is the same old lump of rock. It is classified as just one of the planetismals in the Kuiper belt.

The IAU voted on adding this condition, and the majority of voters supported it. There is continuing opposition to the condition from several astronomers who would have preferred to have thousands of planets than to drop Plato for seemingly arbitrary (aesthetic?) reasons.

Many concepts in science are at least in part socially constructed. That does not mean that the world is socially constructed, just that our concepts about the world are devised by scientific communities. "Planet" is one of those terms that is partially socially constructed. Over the last 5 years that social construction has become visible in the debate over Pluto's status. "Planet" was first used to mean "object revolving around the sun." But then all kinds of small objects--comets and meteorites--also revolve around the sun, and the decision was made not to call them all planets, but only to call the sizeable ones planets. "Sizeable" reflects our interests as Earth inhabitants in revolving objects of about the same size as we are. But then in the late twentieth century thousands of celestial bodies of the same size or larger than Pluto were found in the Kuiper belt. Scientists could have decided to call them all planets, so that we would have thousands of planets in the solar system,...

Why is it that, in so many languages, the same word (in English, "wrong") can

Why is it that, in so many languages, the same word (in English, "wrong") can mean both "false" (e.g., in "that answer is wrong") and "improper" (e.g., in "it is wrong to steal")? Is there some important thing common to falsity and immorality? And is "wrong" the word for it?

You make an insightful observation. Perhaps one reason is that there is a close coincidence between lying (which is often although perhaps not always morally wrong) and telling falsehoods. Perhaps another is that we sometimes regard the search for the truth (in science or other fields) as morally praiseworthy, which might lead to thinking of falsehoods as improper conclusions to inquiry. In any case, I think you are correct to distinguish what philosophers call epistemic correctness from moral correctness.

You make an insightful observation. Perhaps one reason is that there is a close coincidence between lying (which is often although perhaps not always morally wrong) and telling falsehoods. Perhaps another is that we sometimes regard the search for the truth (in science or other fields) as morally praiseworthy, which might lead to thinking of falsehoods as improper conclusions to inquiry. In any case, I think you are correct to distinguish what philosophers call epistemic correctness from moral correctness.

Is the definition of marriage changing?

Is the definition of marriage changing?

I couldn't agree more with what Miriam says here. But let me add a bit. First, the common talk one hears about the "definition of marriage" seems to me to be confused. One might reasonably speak of a definition of the word "marriage", but marriage, the civil or cultural or religious institution, is not something that is "defined" in the way a word is defined. For this reason, among many others, the common refrain one hears, that we can look in a dictionary to find out what marriage is, and in particular to find out whether two men can marry, is just silly. (And, if it weren't silly enough, of course dictionaries change.)

That said, one might seek something like a characterization of the institution of marriage, as it has existed in (say) American society over the last few hundred years. One might want to know what marriage is, as one might want to know what goldenrods are. As Miriam says, such an investigation would likely find that there was a good deal of variation, across religious groups to be sure, and across many other divisions, as well. And marriage, as a civil institution, is pretty clearly whatever the law says it is. And those laws, as I'm about to emphasize, both vary and change.

The institution of marriage has undergone tremendous change over the last few decades. Not very long ago, a woman who married was all but selling herself into slavery. So much so, that a century or so ago it was not at all uncommon for progressive thinkers to condemn the institution of marriage as fundamentally unjust. And since this is askphilosophers.org, I should mention that one of the most famous such condemnations was by Bertrand Russell, in his book Marriage and Morals. This aspect of marriage has profoundly changed, at least in most of the industrial western democracies, in ways I would hope we could all applaud. Once, marriage was essentially a form of ownership and control, so much so that it was legally impossible in many jurisdictions for a man to rape his wife. (You may recall that this sort of issue arose recently in Afghanistan.) Now we prefer to think of marriage as a partnership of equals, and the law has changed to reflect that conception.

It seems to me that the change I have just described is, in a way, at the root of the in-progress change to which Miriam referred. It was essential to marriage as it was known to Russell that it be between a man and a woman. Otherwise, how would one know who owned whom? But once we have abandoned that conception of what marriage is, and once it is seen as a partnership of equals, then one might naturally be led to ask whether there really is any substantial reason that it must be restricted to "one man and one woman". This is the central question that the Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts discusses in its opinion in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the decision that legalized `gay marriage' in Massachusetts. The Court observed that there simply wasn't anything about the laws governing marriage in Massachusetts that actually required the parties to be of different sexes, other than that the law said that they did. The fact that the parties were of different sexes was, in effect, a completely isolated and inert aspect of the existing laws, a vestige of the sexism that was, not so very long ago, inherent in the institution of marriage. And so, the Court held, it had no legal basis and so was ipso facto discriminatory.

The court was quickly proved right, at least as far as their claim about the nature of the law was concerned. To open the institution of marriage to same-sex couples, no more was required than that the restriction to different-sex couples should be removed. The laws governing divorce, for example, did not need to be re-written. The laws governing divorce, as they existed in 2004, did not treat the male and female partners differently simply on the ground of their sex. Such differential treatment would nowadays be regarded as plainly sexist, and as plainly unjust. But that is itself an example of the kind of earlier change that made same-sex marriage possible: A century ago, divorce law most certainly did treat men and women differently, just on that ground.

Let me make one final remark. One often hears it said that, if marriage is opened to same-sex couples, then why not to polygamous triads? I won't try to answer this question, but will instead ask my own question. Suppose we did decide to open marriage to polygamous triads. Would it also be the case that the only thing we would have to do, legally, was say, "Well, OK, then"? Or would there be other legal issues, concerning divorce law, or inheritance, or something else connected with the "rights and responsibilities or marriage", that would also have to be addressed and resolved? If the answer to this latter question is "yes", then the kind of argument the Supreme Judicial Court gave in favor of permitting same-sex couples to marry simply cannot be made in favor of allowing polygamous triads to marry.

There never was a "definition of marriage." Marriage is an ancient human institution that occurs in multiple forms (temporary, permanent, monogamous or open, polygamous or polyandrous) with several possible functions (parenting, property rights, companionship, politics, possession). I don't think that even in our (pluralistic) society, at this time, it has a single meaning, function or definition. One of the things about marriage that does seem to be changing right now is the idea that it has to be between a woman and a man (this idea has been stable in Western society for some time, although it is probably not a human universal). One of the benefits of this wide range of possibilities is that individuals have some freedom to create their own meanings of marriage (whether or not they marry).