Although I'm a professor of dogic, I've not had much to say about it so far on this blog. This is partly because I've been busy helping the humans with their strike, and partly because I've been pre-occupied chasing squirrels.
Now that the leaves are returning to the trees, the squirrels are finding it easier to hide, so I have more time to think about my subject. Here I am being thoughtful:
I've been thinking about one of my favourite arguments:
But there's a problem. Imagine a sceptical cat came along (cats tend to be sceptical). The cat says to you "how do you know that it's time for your dinner?" I go through my argument using modus ponens. But the cat says, "fine: but how do you know that the conclusion is true if the premises are true?" I woof that modus ponens is valid. "But how do you know that?" I insist that if the premises are true the conclusion must be true, and that if this holds that form of argument is valid. This does hold, so the form of argument is valid.
"Aha", says the cat, "you've used modus ponens to justify modus ponens: if the conclusion is true when the premises are the argument is valid; the conclusion is true when the premises are, so the argument is valid. But I wanted to know whether modus ponens is an OK form of argument to use, so your justification does nothing to persuade me."
Lewis Carroll, who wrote the Alice books, once told a story about a tortoise which is quite similar to mine about the cat. You can read it here. Myself, I don't think I can answer the cat, and I don't think that I need to. Using modus ponens to reason is just part of what it is to follow the rules for using the word 'if', accepting modus ponens goes hand in hand with understanding 'if'. And as I've said before, I don't think we need to provide a philosophical account of rule-following, for cats or for anything else.
Since moving in with my humans in the Aire Valley, I’ve often been asked about my history – as a rescue dog, it’s often assumed I was taken away from abusive or neglectful owners. Sadly in many cases this is true. In my own case, the situation was a bit different. I was originally bred as a hunting dog, and then given as a present to the breeder’s girlfriend. She thought I was a bit of a
handful, and sent me to the rescue centre. All this happened before I was 5 weeks old.
Since living with my current humans and working in Leeds, they’ve become more aware of the relationship between dogs, health, and other aspects of well-being. As well as improving my humans’ wellbeing, generally and with respect to specific mental health issues such as depression, bipolar and autism, I’m training to become a therapy dog so that I can join the other University therapy dogs in offering mental health support to students and staff. My humans have also volunteered with other local rescue centres, which both look after homeless dogs and cats, and also provide food-banks for people unable to feed themselves and their pets – often humans choose to feed their pets rather than themselves, so dog food donations help both dogs and humans. And I’ve also made friends with a few people in Leeds who are homeless, who say how much they’d like a dog for companionship and safety, but who are unable to afford the adoption fee or cost of feeding and keeping a dog.
Dogs in rescue centres can be there for a number of reasons, including that their owners are ill, mentally or physically, or else can no longer afford to keep a dog. Being unable to keep your dog is also likely to contribute to mental health problems, since it removes a buffer for mental health problems, and increases alienation and loneliness. Homelessness offers one example of the way in which poverty and mental health problems can go hand-in-hand, and also of how these things both affect and are affected by things like an ability to have a dog, even though we don’t normally associate these things with dog ownership.
On 7th July, my humans and I are doing the Muddy Dog Challenge in aid of Battersea Dogs’ Home. Battersea takes in over 7,000 dogs and cats a year, and accepts all dogs and cats, even old or ill ones who are less likely to be adopted. It helps to find new homes for dogs who can't live with their original humans, and reunites dogs to humans who have got lost. If you’re able, it’d be brilliant if you can sponsor us. You can find a link here.
Mental walkies with Lola,