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“How to Make Our Ideas Clear”. Philosophy 1 Spring, 2002 G. J. Mattey. Clear and Distinct Conceptions. Logicians distinguish between conceptions in two ways Clear vs. obscure Distinct vs. confused A clear idea is one that is recognized whenever it is met with

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how to make our ideas clear

“How to Make Our Ideas Clear”

Philosophy 1

Spring, 2002

G. J. Mattey

clear and distinct conceptions
Clear and Distinct Conceptions
  • Logicians distinguish between conceptions in two ways
    • Clear vs. obscure
    • Distinct vs. confused
  • A clear idea is one that is recognized whenever it is met with
    • Never mistaken for another (rare)
    • So familiar that there is no hesitation in using it (common)
  • A distinct idea is one that has nothing unclear in it
a priorism
A Priorism
  • Familiarity and abstract distinctness are outmoded as means of perfecting thought
  • Descartes tried to pass from the method of authority to that of a priority using clarity and distinctness as a sign of the a priori
  • He did not distinguish between being clear and seeming to be so
  • Leibniz got no further by trying to understand all conceptions in terms of definition
  • The easiest way to have clear ideas is to have meager and restricted ones
  • Those who have rich conceptions, primarily youth, are led astray
  • Intellectual maturity will help, but often it comes too late
  • Many people’s intellectual lives are ruined by their pursuit of unclear ideas
thought and belief
Thought and Belief
  • Doubt is hesitancy, and it stimulates the mind to action
  • It is overcome by a decision to act in a certain way, i.e., by belief
  • Active thought is primarily directed toward the production of belief, which is thought at rest
  • But application of belief raises new doubts
  • The ultimate end of thought is action
  • Beliefs which produce the same action are the same
  • Different meanings are a function of different practices
  • We mean by our conception of wine the effects it has on our senses
  • Consideration of practical effects allows the highest degree of clarity
an example freedom
An Example: Freedom
  • Could I have resisted temptation and not done something of which I am ashamed?
  • The answer depends only on the possible arrangement of facts
  • Relative to the question of blame, yes
    • If I had willed to do otherwise, I would have done so
  • Relative to the question of the power of temptation, no
    • Some temptations have an irresistible effect
an example force
An Example: Force
  • Philosophers try to distinguish between force as acceleration and as cause of acceleration
  • Some say that force is an unknown cause
  • These distinctions make no practical difference
  • To know the accelerations and the laws governing them is to know what force is
  • There are three grades of clarity in our conception of reality
    • Familiarity: a child’s conception is clear in this way
    • Distinctness: the real is that whose characteristics are independent of what they are thought to be by any individual
    • Practice: the real is that which is destined to be agreed upon by all who investigate
ideal agreement
Ideal Agreement
  • There is no conflict between the criteria of distinctness and practice
  • The real is independent only of what individuals think
  • The practical criterion is an ideal one, not depending on what any one individual may think
  • Even though the criterion of reality involves remote considerations, it gives us a clear conception of what reality is