THE INFLUENCE OF PHILOSOPHERS. As I have acknowledged, in the breakdown of our family duties, my wife Mary Jane is responsible for doing the philosophy. She was much amused some years ago when I was reading Peter Gay’s THE ENLIGHTENMENT and exclaiming that so many of the ideas that I considered common sense or received wisdom had originated with the Enlightenment. I argued here that public policy could and should be debated in terms of the probabilities the speakers attached to their beliefs (e.g., “90% certain” is more helpful than a verbal formulation, such as “it’s a slam dunk.”). I have learned from Anna Wierzbicka that John Locke believed that we usually deal with probabilities and that speakers should express their “degree of assent” with a proposition. Once again I find that I have been shaped by a philosopher.

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  1. Mary Jane Schaefer says:

    To have been raised in the Roman Catholic Church in the 1950’s is to have been raised with a medieval world view. Therefore, Enlightenment ideas, to such a person, appear to be what they are: an historical development, not absolute truth shining out like an eternal beacon. Then, if you take that person and immerse her in Victorian studies, that natural development of the Enlightenment, where the medieval hangover is turned into a form of decoration but mercilessly challenged by primitive but persistent science, and you get inklings of the modern world.

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