By Norman Swartz

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Extra info for Beyond Experience: Metaphysical Theories and Philosophical Constraints (Toronto Studies in Philosophy)

Sample text

Mother or Father leaving the room) or one object passes behind another object, the obscured object does not ‘go out of existence’ ([115], 451-3). But what exactly do we mean when we say that the infant ‘catches on’ to the fact that most material objects persist (continue to exist) even though obscured from view by some other physical object? The most natural way to explicate this notion of ‘catching on’ is to say of the infant that she has posited* the hypothesis (constructed the theory) that obscured physical objects continue to exist, and that, by experimenting, has come to accept this hypothesis.

I use all these terms, “guess”, “conjecture”, and “hypothesis”, almost interchangeably. The only difference is that while all hypotheses are guesses, not all guesses are hypotheses. ” If the brother tries, using his knowledge of his sister’s typical behavior, to figure out in which hand she is likely to have concealed the candy, then he is constructing a hypothesis. But if he chooses at random, makes a stab in the dark as we say, he is merely guessing, not hypothesizing. The difference is that a hypothesis is something more, but often little more, than just a guess.

Experience cannot tell us, for example, whether a human being, in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease, who has lost all ability to recognize and interact with other human beings, is still a person. Experience cannot tell us, for example, whether a (future) computer which perfectly imitates the behavior of a human being is conscious. Experience cannot tell us, for example, whether human beings have free will. And experience cannot tell us whether human beings have immortal, immaterial souls.

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