Monday, December 15, 2008

Reason and childhood

Every so often I attempt to explain to my kids what I do all day. This tends not to go very well. This evening I attempted to introduce R to some interesting paradoxes. She was telling me how if someone says 'I am telling the truth' this is good evidence for the fact that they are lying. Shrewd, I thought, but then I also took the opportunity to ask her whether someone who says 'I am lying' is telling the truth or not. She would have none of this and just told me I was being silly.

So I tried to persuade her of the powers of reason by explaining how I could prove she cannot cross the room. Then I gave her a version of Zeno's dichotomy paradox. Again, the answer was that I was just being silly (she was getting quite cross with me by now) and that she would prove me wrong as soon as she got out of the bath by crossing the room easily. Such an empiricist, my daughter...

What should I conclude from this? Yes, I suppose she was right that I was being silly. BIt is certainly not clear that doing more philosophy would allow R to have a better reaction to puzzles of this sort. Her current attitude is probably, all things considered, the right sort of thing to say. If that's right, I wondered if trying to persuade anyone to do anything other than dismiss this kind of thing is really a good idea... I really need the vacation to come soon.

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