Monday, March 30, 2009

Rejection and valuations

After the enjoyable Second Cambridge Graduate Conference on the Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics back in January, I wrote up some remarks I gave responding to a talk by Julien Murzi and Ole Hjortland, based on their 'Inferentialism and the Categoricity Problem: Reply to Raatikainen' (which is coming out in Analysis). Luca Incurvati independently shared my worries about what they say about Smiley and rejection, and had more points to make about their remarks on intuitionism. Putting our thoughts together, Luca and I have come up with a joint paper "Rejection and valuations", now also forthcoming in Analysis: it has, we hope, some stand-alone interest, if you want a steer on what is going on in Smiley's original paper on Rejection. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cameleon report

Well, the Cameleon weekend is over. Something of a success, I think (though the main CMS building at the weekend is a rather bleak empty space, not very conducive to socializing between papers, and the catering-arrangements could have been better; these things matter -- don't they? -- to getting a really good feel to an occasion).

I talked about the incompleteness theorems. The exercise of trying to pack some headline news into three sessions was very useful (to me, at any rate) -- though I'm afraid that I became rather conscious of some inadequacies in my book in the process. Enough of the audience seemed gratifyingly surprised by simple observations that e.g. generic Gödel sentences (fixed points for ¬Prov) can be false, and that there are provable "consistency" sentences, to make it worthwhile going over some basics again. I wrote a 43 page handout, though I think I'd like to tidy it up just a bit before publishing here. So watch this space.

Thomas Forster talked about countable ordinals, and there's a rough-and-ready version of some notes here. I've heard him talk about these things before, but I like his way of thinking about ordinals, and I want to get clearer still about these things before getting back to writing about Gentzen.

John Truss presented some work on countably categorical structures, Fraissé theory, and the "classification of countable homogeneous multipartite graphs", all with enviable lucidity. I don't know enough -- or have the right interests -- to really understand why this might be interesting. I had a sense that denizens of a mathematical zoo were being pointed out and classified (giving, as it were, the natural history of part of the abstract realm). I guess my tastes run to more abstract theory.

For me, though, the high points of the weekend were Wifrid Hodges's talks on the history of logic. His question was: why did modern logic take so long to arrive? And his tour through various episodes from the history of logic, and his diagnosis of some causes for stagnancy from Aristotle to Leibniz, was absolutely fascinating. Do visit his website and look at some of the other historical pieces there too.

Monday, March 23, 2009

An Introduction to Formal Logic

The long saga of the reprint of IFL continues, and the happy ending is in sight. At last, I went in this morning to the CUP offices to check the print-out of the revised version. Famous last words, but it looked OK. I'd forgotten just how much I've changed (though mostly in small ways), but I think the improvements are well worth the effort put in last summer. Their cumulative effect is to make me look with a more kindly eye on the book ... until I spot some additional horror I've now introduced!

When the reprint comes into stock, I'll tell the world (loudly) and then you can all adopt it for your courses/get multiple new versions for the library/buy it as birthday presents ...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Philosophy RAE yet again

I'm sure most people are getting a little bored with this -- but the detailed RAE results for philosophy are now out. I can't conceive why the results weren't given in this form in the first place (three months ago). For as you'll see, the initially published "Overall Quality Profile" scores can be pretty significantly misleading as to relative gradings for the actual Research Outputs we care about. (E.g. a four point difference with 4* ratings for the latter can turn into a fifteen point difference in 4* ratings for the former.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Maddy, Carnap, Quine, etc.

I meant by now to have written here about Maddy on Carnap and Quine. It's not that I've lost interest. To the contrary. I'm finding myself wanting to follow up some of the other literature on Carnap and Quine that Maddy refers to (and more besides). This could take a while. And first, I must write some lectures on Gödel -- which I fear are, at least in level, inevitably going to be way out of step with the other workshop lectures for the upcoming Cameleon meeting. Gulp.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It's only a theory

It's Only a Theory is a new group-blog on the philosophy of science which looks as though it could develop very nicely. There's certainly an impressive line of contributors signed up (and me as well).

Friday, March 13, 2009

TeX update and SyncTeX

\begin{geeky procrastination when I should be writing some Gödel lectures}

I keep the TeXShop editor updated, but the background LaTeX installation just works so smoothly that I haven't bothered to touch it for a while. But I did today get round to uploading the MacTeX 2008 installation. The process is simplicity itself, and then the Tex Live Utility will update the update. (By the way, none of this overwrites the previous installation: you can swap back if need be, and delete the old version later when you are happy to do so.)

Who knows what other under-the-bonnet improvements there are! But the distribution now includes SyncTeX. Tell TeXShop to use this, and this seems to notably improve the synchonization between the editing window and the preview window. Worth the (small) effort of upgrading by itself.

In a TeXie mood, I also played just a bit with the rebarbatively named XeLaTeX (basically, this just adds wonderfully easy font handling to LaTeX). I might report back on this in due course.

\end{geeky procrastination when I should be writing some Gödel lectures}

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Maddy's Second Philosophy: I.4 Kant's transcendentalism

Of course, there are philosophers who have delved into the Critique of Pure Reason and returned to tell a tale in plain prose with crisp arguments. In particular, I remember reading much of Jonathan Bennett's delightfully combative Kant's Analytic with admiration and enjoyment. But the fact that different travellers come back with such very different tales is not a great encouragement to follow them by going back to Kant yourself. After all, if the quite incompatible positions A and B can each be read into Kant by some smart and well-informed commentator, then evidently his writings can't be the best unambiguous developments of A and B. If we are interested in philosophy rather than history, and want to know which of those positions about space or causation or perception or whatever is true, then we might very reasonably think that it is better to seek out the best available modern version instead. So I for one have long since crossed Kant off my reading list.

But it's worse: at least when it comes to the Big Kantian Claims (as opposed to local discussions of particular topics) I don't really grasp the import of supposed cleaned up versions either. Some years ago, I was taking my usual cheerfully realist line on something or other, and a then colleague remarked -- with a patronizing air of scorn -- that obviously I hadn't understood how Kant had shown my sort of realism to be naive and untenable. When I asked how so, I just didn't follow the answer. And that's the trouble: Kantians intimate that their hero has revealed Deep and Difficult (nay, even Transcendental) truths which philistine naturalists fail to grasp. But they seem to have a lot of difficulty explaining these supposed insights in straightforward terms the rest of us can understand. So I simply don't "get" them.

Maddy evidently is a lot more patient about wading into the Kantian mire than I am. But in fact she ends up in much the same position: the Second Philosopher too "finds no compelling motivation for his extra-empirical [transcendental] inquiry", and also regards its supposed methods as obscure and confused.

In more detail: Maddy first distinguishes two kinds of interpretation of Kant's transcendentalism, 'harsh' and 'benign'. The harsh reading takes Kant to be making a distinction between appearances or empirical objects and things in themselves, where these are quite distinct, and the latter are "unknowable but they affect our sensibility to produce appearances, which we can and do know". The harsh reading, in Strawson's words, makes "Kant ... closer to Berkeley than he acknowledges". On the benign reading,

the appearance and the thing in itself aren't two separate items -- one mental, one extra-mental -- but a single object regarded in two different ways. ... The object as appearance is subject to our human forms and categories; it is non-mental, spatiotemporal, subject to causal laws. Thus Kant is an empirical realist, as opposed to Berkeley’s empirical idealist ... On the other hand, the object as it is in itself is not subject to our forms and categories; these are impositions of our minds, not features of the transcendental object. Thus Kant is also a transcendental idealist.
So on this reading, empirical enquiry and transcendental enquiry are two kinds of investigation of the same thing.

Maddy says little about the Kant of the harsh reading (which does seem to give him an entirely unattractive and arguably incoherent position), and concentrates her discussion on the benign Kant. So what is empirical enquiry and what is transcendental enquiry? The first, according to Maddy, is just science as we know and love it:
Unlike Descartes, who thinks ordinary scientific theorizing [at least, in the then prevailing style] needs justification and revision, Kant takes scientific methods to be entirely in order, for the purposes of empirical inquiry. Kant’s message to the Second Philosopher is not that she needs to reform her empirical investigations, but that she should add to them a level of transcendental enquiry. Where Descartes is only selling a new method, Kant is promoting a new purpose.
But what is this new purpose? It's here that the Second Philosopher struggles. By her lights there is just one kind of enquiry, empirically constrained, and she needs to be persuaded that there is another non-empirical level available to be pursued. What is its topic? What are its methods?

Not that she dismisses the very idea of two levels just because it is "unscientific" (for she is, as we've noted before, unhappy about attempts to police boundaries in the sort of way that suggests -- she is always open to new ideas and new methods). So she is happy enough to "respectfully ask Kant to explain what it is that his transcendental psychology studies, and how this study is to be conducted". But she doesn't find the answers persuasive.

Transcendental psychology, we are told, is the study of the nature of the discursive intellect. Sure, says the Second Philosopher, but how we do know that human cognition is discursive in the defined sense without empirical work? Ah, no, we are here engaged in an apriori enquiry: 'This transcendental reflection is a duty from which no one can escape if he would judge anything about things a priori’ (A263/B319). To which the Second Philosopher might well riposte, borrowing Reichenbach's words, 'The evolution of science in the last century may be regarded as a continuous process of disintegration of the Kantian synthetic a priori.' She is very unimpressed by the track-record of so-called a priori enquiries (outside, perhaps, mathematics). It seems that Kant's method for pursuing them just isn't reliable, and she hasn't been told how else transcendental enquiry is supposed to be carried out.

But surely, the Kantian will respond, there are questions about the necessary conditions that must be satisfied if the world is to be experienceable, and philosophers can surely reflect on those. The Second Philosopher needn't disagree, however: of course there are very general facts (as we've discovered them to be) about how our minds work, that have implications about what sorts of worlds can be experienced by minds like those. But she will regard the exploration of such general facts to be just part of psychology done at at a level of abstraction from implementation details: part of science, broadly construed, not part of a different enterprise done at a different level with a different methodology.

The Second Philosopher knows enough of the history of philosophy to be alert to the seductive dangers of neat dualisms, and is rightly suspicious of sales talk about two distinct levels of enquiry here, empirical and transcendental. So pending further enlightment, she rests content with her one-level, empirically constrained, mode of enquiry. And I'm with her on that!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Papers for papers

Like everyone else, I download quite a few journal articles from current issues or from the Jstor archive. Question: just how do you keep the heaps of PDFs organized? What do you use to search across them?

Well, I've belated just discovered Papers (Mac OSX only, I'm afraid), a sort of iTunes for your PDFs. It has been around for over two years -- there's an old explanatory poster here -- and it knocks spots off the various previous solutions I've tried. Here are some high points:
  • You fire up Papers and there in its designated folder is your library of PDFs, neatly listed and sorted. Papers uses the Spotlight engine to do very fast searches. You can then click on items to read them from within Papers (and you can write notes too). And you can open different papers in different tabs, rather than have a clutter of windows.
  • That's very pretty, but Papers really comes into its own when e.g. you want to search and download papers e.g. from Jstor. You can search Jstor from within Papers (early releases of the program only knew about science databases: being able to work with a wider set of sources is the big new feature added in later versions). You can just store the found paper details for later: but click on the found title you want to fetch, and you get to the paper's Jstor download page. Download the paper, and it arrives in your library, with the author/title/year/journal etc. metadata all neatly listed -- and Papers systematically changes the title of the PDF file itself, from Jstor's to your preferred naming system. (I use author, date, first five words of title). So looking in the library folder itself from the Finder, you see a neatly and usefully named set of files.
  • How to you move some previously obtained paper into the library? Or a paper newly downloaded from a current journal issue? No problem, drop the paper onto the Papers icon in the dock, and it will appear in the Library. If it is recent with a DOI identifier, again Papers extracts the metadata and renames the file according to your system. Otherwise you give Papers e.g. the author name and a word or two from the title, and Papers asks Google scholar to find a match: click on the match, and -- whoosh! -- the paper is neatly filed and renamed again.
  • With a library full of papers you can then sort them in various ways, and make various "collections" (smart ones too, if you want). As I said, you can of course search your library from within Papers. And because the PDF library remains just that (i.e. the files aren't messed about with) you can inspect it from e.g. DevonThink if you want to do some much fancier "intelligent" searches.
  • The thing is a joy to use, as I'm discovering. You can of course export BibTex and other citation data if you want. And the interface is really neat. It was won an award for being quintessentially Mac -- which it is, to the point that they don't bother to provide a manual apart from a short getting-started video. Just remember to control-click on any likely-looking button or sidebar item, and you'll get a drop down menu of options.
  • And oh, if you really want, you can sync a collection of your papers to Papers for the iPhone or iPod Touch, to read some PDFs on the move.
All in all, I'm a newly converted enthusiast. Terrific.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Maddy's Second Philosophy: I.3 Hume's naturalism

Has the Second Philosopher been too sanguine in resolutely dismissing scepticism? Here's a thought that might give her pause.

Hume starts off the Treatise as a cheerful naturalist. OK, he's not quite a naturalist of the Second Philosopher's stripe. She "won't follow Hume in placing the science of man (what she thinks of as psychology, sociology, linguistics, etc.) at the foundation of Natural Philosophy (what she thinks of as physics, chemistry, etc.) -- she tends to regard these various natural sciences as complementary parts of one big puzzle": but still she recognizes this Hume as a forerunner. Yet by the end of Book I, Hume's naturalistic starting point has seemingly driven him to a despairing skepticism about the senses. Is there something in his naturalistic stance that contains the seeds of its own undoing? Does this apply to naturalism more generally?

Some of course have argued so. Latterly, for example, Plantinga has argued that the contemporary naturalist will have to regard our cognitive mechanisms as quick-and-dirty adaptive devices which have evolved to get us successfully feeding, fighting, fleeing, and reproducing. And being success-conducive is one thing, truth-conductive is something else. The naturalist, by her own lights, has no good reason to suppose his deep-rooted cognitive habits are better than merely useful, and so should be sceptical about her own scientific endeavours, for scientific reasons.

I'll not discuss this (rather dismal) argument here, and Maddy doesn't either. But she does worry about how things went amiss, as she supposes, for Great Uncle David.

In the most general terms, his line of thought is familiar. We must distinguish between those perceptions and objects "which preserve a continued existence and identity" whether perceived or not. For arguments from the variability of our perceptions are supposed to show that "our sensible perceptions are not possessed of any [external] existence" (for, presenting inconsistent appearances, they can't all have "external existence", and since like effects have like causes, none of them do). The trouble then is, as Hume puts it in the Abstract, "the belief [in external objects], which attends experience" can't be defended by reason, so we are left with "nothing but a peculiar sentiment, or lively conception produced by habit. ... Philosophy wou'd render us entirely Pyrrhonian, were not nature too strong for it."

But what is Hume's conclusion here? That not all our beliefs are based on reason (we are not God-like enquirers, with rational insight into the nature of the world); many of our basic beliefs about the world around us are just produced in us by natural mechanisms operating at the same level as with other animals. So if 'knowledge' is conceived of as requiring reasoned beliefs, then we don't have much 'knowledge'. The naturalist can cheerfully agree with that, however. She doesn't share that concept of knowledge, and so she won't regard Hume's conclusion as sceptical in any worrying sense (for she's long since taken aboard the lesson that reasonable beliefs need not be reasoned beliefs).

Can we get something more alarming out of Hume, however? The Second Philosopher thinks not, or at least easily. Certainly, if some rather plausible-looking naturalist assumptions do lead to scepticism in the worrying sense, the sensible naturalist's first reaction will be to look around to see which dodgy planks on Neurath's boat are revealed on closer inspection to be letting in water, and do some running repairs if she can. For example, Hume writes

Tis this principle [in effect, our ordinary cognitive norms], which makes us reason from causes and effects; and ’tis the same principle, which convinces us of the continued existence of external objects, when absent from the senses. But though these two operations be equally natural and necessary in the human mind, yet in some circumstances they are directly contrary, nor is it possible for us to reason justly and regularly from causes and effects, and at the same time believe the continued existence of matter.
But now why suppose those conflicting principles really are both 'necessary', and then embrace a worrying scepticism (if that's what they lead to in Hume, contrary to the suggestion above)? As Maddy puts it:
[The Second Philosopher's] spirit of open inquiry suggests a different course [from Hume's]: if our cognitive norms lead to a contradiction, shouldn’t we re-examine our cognitive norms? Why should we assume it is impossible to amend or correct them?
Which seems evidently right. Though Maddy adds
... Regarded second-philosophically, the despairing Hume hasn’t fully lived up to his guiding naturalistic impulse.
And that's arguably too flat-footed about Hume. As hinted above I'd say that what the real Hume was giving up on was our supposed capacity for a God-like 'knowledge' as imagined by some of his predecessors (see Edward Craig's The Mind of God and the Works of Man for a lot more on this). And there's nothing despairing about rejecting that: it is exactly what a persistent naturalist needs to do.

Be that as it may, however, as a claim about Hume. And anyway, there are more twists and turns in Maddy's discussion as she confronts more than one Hume found by different interpreters. But she ends up in the same place each time: at least in Hume's writings, "[C]ommon sense and its scientific refinements have not been convicted of undercutting the reasonableness of their own methods."

That looks right. Though, advocating a sublunary naturalistic line on the reasonable, Hume could probably have agreed.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Maddy's Second Philosophy: I.2 Neo-Cartesian skepticism

The Descartes we met in the first section is a methodologist of science with a bad idea about how to improve our scientific success rate. He isn't so very far removed, then, from the Second Philosopher in terms of his general intellectual concerns. She can warmly approve of this Descartes's overall aim of doing science better: she just rejects his failed attempt at securing that aim.

But there's another Descartes (a fictional figure perhaps, but occupying a familiar location on the philosophical landscape). To quote Stroud,

By the end of his First Meditation, [this] Descartes finds that he has no good reason to believe anything about the world around him and therefore that he can know nothing of the external world.
For this Descartes -- or better, for the 'neo-Cartesian sceptic' -- doubt has become more-than-merely methodological. He is not just setting aside received but fallible beliefs about the world, reasonable and unreasonable alike, to locate an indubitable residue: he thinks he has an argument that even the most 'reasonable' received beliefs in fact just aren't reasonable. How does the naturalistically inclined philosopher respond?

Now, speaking for myself, I'm all for a cheerfully resolute response. We have every good reason to suppose that in ordinary life, when our usual criteria indicate that we are wide awake and not dreaming, we are wide awake and not dreaming. And if the sceptic asks me how I rule out the possibility that, for all that, my whole ordinary life is in fact just one big coherent dream (unlike any ordinary dream, of course, a put-up job engineered by an evil demon), I just riposte that I have been given not the slightest reason that to suppose that that is a live possibility. It is one thing to use the evil demon fantasy as Maddy's Descartes does, as an imaginative tool in trying to locate some core of infallible beliefs: it is something else entirely to imagine that the honest enquirer needs to rule out the evil demon scenario before he can regard science as a reasonable enterprise. The scientist just doesn't have to waste her time ruling out myriads of daft hypotheses she hasn't the slightest reason to suppose are true. And for me, pretty much end of story.

Speaking for her Second Philosopher, Maddy is rather more patient in tangling with the neo-Cartesian sceptic (though whether the sceptic will appreciate her efforts is a moot question). I won't go into all the ins and outs. She agrees, of course, that "she can’t justify anything without appeal to her familiar beliefs and methods", but so what? Ah, says Stroud,
... in philosophy we want to understand how any knowledge of an independent world is gained on any of the occasions on which knowledge of the world is gained through sense-perception. So, unlike ... everyday cases, when we understand the particular case in the way we must understand it for philosophical purposes, we cannot appeal to some piece of knowledge we think we have already got about an independent world. [My emphasis]
So now, as Maddy puts it, "it's freely admitted that the skeptic is engaged in a peculiarly philosophical project, distinct from mundane concerns". But what notion of 'philosophy' is in play here? I for one just haven't much grip on what sort of coherent project might be meant here, this special 'philosophical' enquiry that isn't part of science broadly conceived. Maddy offers the following from Stroud:
All of my knowledge of the external world is supposed to have been brought into question in one fell swoop ... I am to focus on my relation to the whole body of beliefs which I take to be knowledge of the external world and to ask, from 'outside' as it were ... whether and how I know it ...
But that gives the game away. If the 'philosophical' project is supposed to involve jumping outside my beliefs and methods, and trying to squint sideways at them from 'outside' as it were, to see how they match up to an external world, then that is just incoherent. (If the sceptic is complaining that the project can't be pulled off, then he's quite right the project is impossible, but quite wrong to complain.)

Maddy puts it this way,
Our Second Philosopher freely acknowledges one poignant aspect of the human condition: we can't step outside our system of beliefs and methods and justify them from an external perspective; the only perspective we can occupy is our own.
But why is that particularly 'poignant'? -- (dictionary: 'evoking a keen sense of sadness or regret'). You can't have a settled feeling of regret that you can't be both 'inside' and 'outside' your own thoughts (thinking them, but squinting at them sideways too) any more than you can sensibly regret that two and two isn't five, or regret that you can't back and kill your own grandfather before he sired your parent. Stroud himself talks of
the desire to get outside that knowledge and that condition, as it were, while somehow retaining all the resources needed to see them as they are.
But again, that is just an incoherent aspiration. And if it is a persistent aspiration, then that just means that it's a bit of intellectual bindweed, and the Second Philosopher shouldn't feel any sadness or regret about resolutely taking the flame-thrower to it.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Maddy's Second Philosophy: I.1 Descartes's first philosophy

Here's a thumbnail sketch of one Descartes.

This Descartes's aim, by the end of Meditations, is -- as Maddy puts it -- to replace the reigning Scholastic Aristotelianism with his own Mechanistic Corpuscularism. For he believes that the then dominant systematic story of the world is in deep error. He has a diagnosis, too, of the source of error -- he sees Aristotelianism as springing from some deeply embedded childhood habits of thought. Radical measures are required to prise us out of such deep-rooted error. The 'Method of Doubt' provides the once-in-a-lifetime jolt needed to shift us out of certain childish thought-habits and to get us adopt better intellectual methods and open the way to improved science. Faced with even the most reasonable-seeming presumptions,

I must withhold my assent from these former beliefs just as carefully as I would from obvious falsehoods, if I want to discover any certainty in the sciences.
For this Descartes, it is not that our former beliefs are all unreasonable: but we are to play along with fantasies about dreams and evil demons as an instrumental step to help us sort out the safe beliefs from the contaminating dross. And then, as Maddy puts it,
The hope is that once we set aside all our ordinary beliefs, reasonable or not, some absolutely indubitable foundational beliefs will then emerge, on the basis of which science and common sense can then be given a firm foundation. The Method of Doubt is the one-time expedient that enables us to carry out this difficult task.
So this Descartes's hope and belief is that, after his strategic retreat, he will still be left with enough indubitable foundational beliefs to provide a secure bridgehead from which he can fight back and recover those common-sense beliefs that don't carry the baggage of disputable theory, and then go on to ground a secure corpuscularian science.

Is this thumbnail sketch true to the historical René Descartes? For all I know, yes. And Maddy appeals to the work of the Descartes scholar Janet Broughton in support of her reading. But I don't suppose that -- as a Second Philosopher -- it matters particularly to Maddy whether the reading does get the real René right. She is after the truth about what there is and how we know it: and getting at those truths about the world is only indirectly aided, if at all, by pursuing the second-order issue of the precise truth about what some relatively remote struggling enquirer happened, with uneven degrees of clarity, to think was the truth about the world.

Let me, by way of aside, say just a bit more about this (speaking here for myself). Why should the philosopher be any more especially interested in the history of her subject than the physicist is in the history of hers? If you take a broadly naturalist line, then I think the answer, to a first approximation, is: there is no good reason. The physicist and philosopher alike should start from the hard-won available theoretical options in their best-developed forms. Of course, philosophy is difficult, there's a danger of foreclosing options too soon, and it is a good to remind ourselves that there may be more theoretical options than the currently most explored ones: the Great Dead Philosophers might provide a useful source we can mine for alternative ideas. So, less approximately, the naturalistic philosopher -- being grateful for all the help she can get in her pursuit of truth -- might occasionally delve into the history of philosophy for inspiration (and she supposes that she's more likely to get inspiration from something like the lines of thought actually pursued by her best predecessors than from straw positions created by incompetent exegesis). Still, by my lights, the naturalistic philosopher's interest in the history of her subject should remain relatively minor and completely instrumental. It perhaps feeds into her thinking about causation or knowledge, or whatever: but it is causation and knowledge that she cares about, and she is interested in Descartes or Hume or Kant only insofar as they offer useful pointers. And as soon as she finds herself at the edge of interpretative swamps -- which is in practice rather soon -- the naturalistic philosopher will typically lose interest: let the historians amuse themselves, and come back and tell her if and when they manage to dredge up any new nuggets of wisdom that will actually help her with her present philosophical problems. She's certainly not holding her breath.

Back though to Maddy's Descartes. How should the Second Philosopher regard his project? Well,
[She] will agree that many of her childhood beliefs were false, and that the judgments of common sense often need tempering or adjustment in light of further investigation, but she will hardly see these as reasons to suspend her use of the very methods that allowed her to uncover those errors and make the required corrections!
And she isn't much impressed with Descartes's assumption that (prior to engaging in the Method of Doubt) we are inevitably stuck in childish ways of thinking. The very existence of modern science seemingly gives the lie to that. So she isn't at all persuaded that pursuing the project of the Meditations is an essential prolegomenon to getting a successful science. Still, the Cartesian meditator does promise something she agrees would be worth having, i.e. a secure method for science. So, even though the Second Philosopher is now very suspicious about whether his methods are going to deliver, in her open-minded way
she might well think it proper procedure to read past the first Meditation, to see what comes next. The unconvincing arguments that follow will quickly confirm her expectation that there is no gain to be found in this direction.
The Second Philosopher, then, sees no reason to follow Descartes steps into the mess he gets himself into. Rather, "she will continue her investigation of the world in her familiar ways, despite her encounter with Descartes and his meditator." As Maddy puts it,
She will ask traditionally philosophical questions about what there is and how we know it, just as they do, but she will take perception as a mostly reliable guide to the existence of medium-sized physical objects, she will consult her astronomical observations and theories to weigh the existence of black holes, and she will treat questions of knowledge as involving the relations between the world -- as she understands it in her physics, chemistry, optics, geology, and so on -- and human beings -- as she understands them in her physiology, cognitive science, neuroscience, linguistics, and so on.
Which seems to me, I must say, just the right way to go!

But others might complain that the Second Philosopher has rather thumpingly missed the true lesson we should draw from her encounter with Descartes. Whether this is so is the topic of the next section.