By Rom Harré (auth.)
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Extra info for An Introduction to the Logic of the Sciences
For certain purposes it may be more convenient to have our knowledge in a different form. This device of using axioms to contain all the more specific forms of knowledge is of enormous value as we can, by picking our original forms skillfully, represent whole fields of learning in a few basic principles. By applying the rules of logic appropriate to the sort of axioms we have any specific item of information can be deduced. In this way we reduce our knowledge to deductive systems. This method of forming systems is quite different from the two we examined above, for those systems depended for their structure upon the actual order of events and our classification on the real properties of things.
However the single indicative generalization above is not sufficient to justify the general subjunctive conditional 'If anyone were a Chinaman he would be honest', still less will it serve to justify 'If there were Chinamen they would be honest'. In the latter case by our use of the subjunctive mood we (i) imply that there are now no Chinamen, (ii) delimit a universe of discourse in which such people may be envisaged. Since we have no generalizations about these people their characteristics must be derived from some general laws of nature by means ofwhich we can predict how people of a certain kind, if they existed, would behave.
I may tell you that an object is brittle without smashing it in front of your eyes or that a now placid old gentleman is irascible without provoking him. 'Brittle', 'irascible' and others of the same family must include in their analyses statements of the form 'So and so would happen if ... '; that is subjunctive, conditional elements. g. g. it would shatter. The justification of the conditional element in the analysis of dispositional predicates may be more or less general. It is less general when the grounds for ascription are the previous experiences we have had of the realized possibilities in similar cases, more general when the consequences of realized possibilities can be deduced from theory.
An Introduction to the Logic of the Sciences by Rom Harré (auth.)