Re: practical reasoning and strong SSA

From: Christopher Maloney <>
Date: Wed, 02 Jun 1999 20:23:16 -0400

I tried to post this before but I had some trouble.
Note that my email address has changed.

Wei Dai wrote:
> When I learn a new way to thinking I tend to forget how to think the old
> way. I just typed into Mathematica "N[Pi]" and it displayed to me
> "3.14159". So I think that gives me reason to believe the first 6 digits
> in the decimal expansion of Pi is 3.14159 because if it wasn't the case
> my current experience would be very atypical. More formally, the
> probability that I am reading "N[Pi] = 3.14159" given that the first 6
> digits of Pi is not 3.14159 is very small compared to the probability that
> I am reading "N[Pi] = 3.14159" given that the first 6 digits of Pi IS
> 3.14159.
> This and similar kinds of reasoning depend on the Strong SSA (as defined
> by Hal and Nick). I think it's strange that something that seems vital to
> any kind of reasoning that takes into account sense experiences does not
> have a more prominent place in philosophy.

Well, I'd say discussions of this sort certainly *do* have a prominent
place in philosophy. I'm not an expert, but I think that the whole
skepticism idea - in which the philosopher's started to question why
knowledge seems to "work" - started with Hume, and has been hotly
debated ever since.

> How do people who have never
> heard of the Strong SSA or do not accept it justify believing that the
> first 6 digits of Pi is 3.14159 (assuming they have evidence but not proof
> of this fact) without reference to the Strong SSA?

Chris Maloney
"Knowledge is good"
-- Emil Faber
Received on Wed Jun 02 1999 - 17:43:18 PDT

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