Friday, December 5, 2008

Deustch and Russel's paradox

Consider the following philosophical rule of etiquette:
(E) If a paradox is bad for everybody, don't use it to refute your opponents unless you personally have a solution.

I believe Deustch has violated (E). That's bad not only because it's rude, but because it's begging for a tu qoque response. I'll give that here.

Deustch thinks that any structured proposition theory is inconsistent because of the following argument:
Consider a set of propositions w, such that a proposition p is in w just in case the following obtains:
a) for some set of propositions m, p is the proposition that everything in m is true
b) p is not in m
He then asks that you consider the following proposition:
(P) everything in w is true

The argument goes as follows
1) Propositions have constituents
2) (1) -> (3)
3) Those constituents must exist if the proposition exists
4) (P) exists
5) w exists (3&4)

I'll divide the argument up for clarity. Here's to establish that if P is in w, then p is not in w, therefore p cannot be in w:
6) P is in w (assume for reductio)
7) The set of propositions such that P is the proposition that everything in it is true is w
8) P is not in w (6&7, by the conditions under which a proposition is in w)

To establish that P is in w:
9) P is not in w
10) there's a set of propositions such that (a) and (b) hold of (P) (9, w satisfies a and b for P)
11) P is in w (10, conditions under which a proposition is in w)

main argument:
12) P is in w and P is not in w (8, 11)
13) ~(1) (closed reductio)

Deustch contrasts this with the main objection against unstructure proposition theory, which is Soames' objection we saw earlier this term. Soames' objection applies directly to unstructured proposition theorists and nobody else. Deustch can only frame this as the main objection to structure proposition theory if it only applies to them. If it applies to unstructured proposition theory as well, his game is over.
This argument, of course, is a version of russel's paradox. This paradox springs up pretty much any place in which there's some principle of unrestricted composition (things can always combine to make bigger/more complex things). We see this in set theory, mereology, when formulating what properties are, possible worlds, everywhere. As for this particular formulation, the unstructured proposition theorists would deny (1) (of course). However we don't need a premise as strong as (1) to get the paradox going. Consider the same argument except replace premises (1), (2) and (3) with the following:
(1') Propositions are about things
(2') (1') -> (3')
(3') The things propositions are about exist
The argument goes through exactly as before. So the unstructured proposition theorist can't simply deny one. In fact, Deustch takes a different route when resisting the paradox. Here's what Deustch says about this:
"The essential assumption is that if a and b are distinct objects, then the propositions having them as constituents differ.[15] This is not true of possible worlds semantics, since e.g. the propositions expressed by "Jones wears a hat or he doesn't" and "Smith wears a hat or he doesn't" will express the same proposition whether or not Smith and Jones are identical.[16]"
This can be seen as a rather convoluted rejection of (7). Just because (P) is 'about' w over here, doesn't mean it's 'about' w over there. However, if one is going to be wishy-washy with aboutness facts, then plausibly propositions aren't (intrinsically) about anything (perhaps they're about something relative to a mode of presentation or something). This leads to a denial of (1'). This is already biting the bullet big time, but I can make things worse. Consider just talking about sentences, not propositions. Let (P) just be the sentence, not the proposition expressed. Let w be a set of sentences, m be a set of sentences etc. Replaces (1'), (2'), (3') and (4) with:
(1'') Proper names have referents
(2'') (1') -> (3')
(3'') If S is a well-formed sentence of non-fiction, the referents of all the proper names in S exist.
(4) (P) is well-formed sentence of non-fiction

With the proper modifications in the rest of the argument (just chanings 'proposition' to 'sentence' in each case) the argument goes through. Again, the denial of modified (7) would pretty quickly lead to the denial of (1''). Alternately the unstructured proposition theorist could deny (4), or (2''). However, the denial of these is a hefty cost.

A proponent of structured proposition theory may deny (2) (meinongianism, gappy proposition theory), or they could deny (4). For dealing with the modified arguments, they have similar options as the unstructured proposition theorist. These would also be costs, but the costs would be comparable to the costs of unstructured proposition theory.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

correction to last post

Sorry. Premise 4 below should read:

4) ~ [(2) & (3)]

King on propositions and changing truth values

King kind of confuses me right at the start of chapter 6 when he talks about how propositions "must and must not change truth value across time and location". He makes this claim before he even starts laying out his position, but I am still trying to see the problem that he is so adamant about.

My understanding of where King starts from:

1) If the truth value of propositions is determined by the semantic value (relative to context) of sentences, then (2) & (3).

2) Propositions, according to his 'in Carnelian Bay' example, change truth value over different worlds, locations, and times.

3) Propositions, according to his 'Santa Monica based belief' example, do not change truth value over time or location.

4) ~ [(1) & (2)]

5) Therefore, further inquiry into the relation between propositional truth value and the semantic value of sentences is required.

I am having trouble with the examples that King is using in (2) and (3). In (2), he says (referring to the sentence "In Carnelian Bay there is a boat launching ramp") that "If 'there is a boat launching ramp' expressed a proposition (relative to that context) that didn't vary its truth value over locations, the locational operator 'In Carnelian Bay' would be vacuous, and the sentence would "feel" like 'In Carnelian Bay arithmetic is incomplete.' But it doesn't!" (pg 166).

I have no idea what King means when he says that the two sentences would "feel" the same. Furthermore, from what I understand, I think King has the example backwards. If propositions did not change their truth value over location, then wouldn't changing "In Carnelian Bay" with any other location (operator) result in "the same feeling" as the original sentence (instead of changing the proposition and keeping the location the same)?

For example, what King should have said is that if propositions do not change their truth value over location, then "In Carnelian Bay there is a boat launching ramp" (where the truth determining context lies in 'there is a boat launching ramp') would "feel" the same as "In the Sahara Desert there is a boat launching ramp". This poses much more of a problem because here the vacuous operator should not affect the truth of the proposition (being that the context of 'there is a boat launching ramp' stays with 'there is a boat launching ramp') but the truth value has obviously changed. I don't think, however, that in King's example the two sentences necessarily "feel" different.

If this line of thought is true, then it is an objection to (2) and the argument is no longer valid.

Now to address (3).

Again, King confuses me with the example that he uses. He says that he is in Santa Monica right now and when he says "I believe the sun is shining" it is about Santa Monica right now. From this he claims that if he were to change location or time, the proposition would still be about "Santa Monica at this time" and so would not change in truth value. I think King is either confusing two different propositions or is being lazy in his speaking. Technically speaking, when King asserts "The sun is shining", he is not asserting anything about Santa Monica; or at the very least that he is implying that the context he is in at the time he says that sentence is to be taken as part of the proposition itself (some kind of non-spoken magically attaching part). Basically, I think King is just trying to get away with being lazy when it comes to saying when you really meant when you expressed a proposition.

The proposition King actually said was: "The sun is shining".

The proposition King intended the listener to understand was: "The sun is shining where I am right now", or "The sun is shining in Santa Monica right now", or "The sun is shining in Santa Monica at 3:05pm", etc. etc. etc.

When you blur this distinction, but then claim that people are wrong to say that your belief is not about Santa Monica when you say "The sun is shining", you are just confused by your own vagueness (and laziness - which is not a bad thing because speaking would become lengthy, tedious, and robotic if we were to speak as precisely as is needed in order to avoid these shortcuts in meaning).

If this line of argument is true, then it is an objection to (3) and King's starting argument is invalid.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Harry D.

Harry D. asks some questions. He isn't sure King can answer them. I will try to, though I may do a poor job because I don't really understand the questions in question.

(Q1) King's use of models.

(1) King says that propositions are not mathematical objects.
(2) King's motivation for (1) is Benacerrafian reasons which entail (3).
(3) King doesn't think there are any mathematical objects.
(4) But he uses diagrams for propositions.
(5) And these diagrams have to be mathematic objects. They are a certain kind of graph.
(6) But we cannot identify propositions with the graphs.
(7) So King has not answered: What are propositions?

(A1) I don't think (7) follows.

I'm not so bothered by (6). I don't think that it entails (7) I'm not bothered by introducing things via models. I might say that atoms are like little marbles that dance when heated. I don't mean to identify atoms with marbles or heating with dancing.

But maybe we still have to ask, nice model aside, what the atoms are. And so too with propositions. But if atoms and propositions are non-observables, I'm not sure how we can talk about them with the use of models and diagrams unless we give some attempt at representation. My scientific commitments are that the observables are all eliminable and reducible to the unobservable. So I'm not bothered by being able to talk about the essence of something, but not being able to pictorially show it. (6) seems to be taken to show King can only hint at what propositions are. (7) takes this to be invalid. I don't think it is invalid.

I'm not sure about (3). I don't think King denies that there are 'mathematical objects'. He certainly thinks that there are objects with which mathematics is concerned. I don't see how a structuralist / functionalist about numbers is a number-hater. I don't think that being non-platonistic about something makes you deny that it exists.

About (4): It seems like the model King uses is a representation of the proposition. A proposition seems to be a representation + semantic contents. And it seems that agents have to add the semantic contents. So we can never fully map what a proposition is in a diagram or model. But I don't see this to be a big deal.

(Q2) What is language?

(1) King never tells us what a language or a sentence of a language is ontologically.
(2) Whatever else English is, we know it is productive. One can produce novel sentences.
(3) On King's view, the propositions don't exist until the words get said.
(4) (3) should strike us as odd. The Chisholm style theory doesn't have this worry.
(5) King's account closes the door a priori on animals thinking propositionally.
(6) So King is vague about language, and his conclusions are counter-intuitive.

(A2) I think we can deny (6).

It seems easy to supply a King friendly account to attack (1). I think we can use some Sellars here to help King out. Language exists in the narrowly physical causal order. It is scribbles and squawks. But language is also in the broadly construed physical causal order. We don't just hear sounds, we hear words. We don't just understand sounds, we understand words.

I think the same problem could be posed for maps. Maps are in a sense just designs, blips, dots or scribbles. But when one knows how to read a map, the map is much richer. We don't just see the representation. We see what is represented.

About (2) - (4): Productivity doesn't seem to be an issue. Given the atomic bits of English, one can construe novel combinations. Given the rules of English, one can construe novel acceptable combinations. We don't need the propositions to have existed prior, we only needed the constituents to have. I don't need all the numbers to exist in order to do any math. I only need '1', '2', etc., '9', '0'. I can just reuse these numbers to get '12' or '124'. I don't see any problem with this.

I think (5) is a silly concern. I don't think it is bad that King closes the door a priori on animals thinking propositionally. It is still an open question, in a sense, even if we so close the door. But I think there are pre-theoretical reasons to doubt this anyways. Some people don't. There is reason, even if King is right, for one to argue that animals have an animal language or a private language, so they could think propositionally even if King were right.

(Q3) Vagueness on properties and relations.

(1) King assumes that there are properties and relations.
(2) He doesn't say what they are.
(3) He should.
(4) So it's not clear how propositions can exist in his sense, since he doesn't tell us what properties and relations are.
(5) Why cannot we think of propositions as being properties of the actual world?

(A3) I think one could deny (4), since even if he doesn't tell us what properties and relations are, it seems easy to figure out.

I guess I don't have a lot to say here. About (2): I think that the ideas of properties and relations is common enough. A property is a feature or character of a thing. A thing is hot or cold, small or large. I relation is a feature or character between things. A thing is next to another, distant from another.

One could be process ontology oriented. A 'property' like 'being tall' is a way for a thing to be intrinsically. So Wes is tall because there is a tallness going on. A 'relation' like 'being a brother' is a way for a thing to be extrinsically. So Wes is a brother because there is a thing he is related to via brotherness. These things are in space and time and enduring things so they seem non-spooky and physical.

I hope that isn't poorly stated. But it doesn't seem to be contrary to King's view.

About (5): Since propositions are representational, it seems the cannot be properties of the world in the way Harry D. wants. But maybe we can say that since they exist, like the CN Tower and my breakfast, they are properties of the world.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

C1 and C2 wonder

I think King's motivation for his C1 and C2 distinction is good. I'm motivated to accept something like what he wants, though I would want to avoid his problems. I think the classical empirical-foundationalists also want something like what he has.

The motivation behind C1, rationally reconstructed, seems to be one's being able to get into the space of reasons, make material inferences, paraphrase, justify, etc. one's use of language.

The motivation behind C2, rationally reconstructed, seems to be one's being able to reliably report, assert, identify, etc. One has to be able to use the words correctly.

Someone like CI Lewis is going to say that C1 is basically being able to know what is logically implied by a term; and, it seems, what is analytically implied. Lewis thinks these are distinct, but King could be said to just conjoin a term's 'connotation' and 'signification' as Lewis uses the words (roughly).

Lewis would say that C2 is one's being able to recognize instances. One has to know what the term picks out, and all consistently thinkable cases where the term would pick out those things. Again, King could be said to just have conjoined the ideas of 'denotation' and 'comprehension' as Lewis uses the words (roughly).

Maybe Russell-Mill would take C1 to be one's knowing connotations, C2 knowing denotations.

These people all want to cash out 'word-meaning' and 'sense-meanings'. It seems that something like this distinction between 'inter-linguistic transitions' and 'language-entry transitions' is good to have. Even for Quine we need stimulus-meanings 'in presence' and 'in absence'. HH Price likes this notion of 'in presence' and 'in absence' so he would want C1 to be something like 'thinking of a term in absence' and 'thinking of a term in presence'.

So even if we don't like King's formulation, shouldn't we look to keep a sort of C1 and C2 distinction for linguistic competency?

The Guy's Talk

I think that guy with his cut between:

1. Intentionality
2. Representationality
3. Propositionality

Is a little odd. If the him / Prof B. dudes claim that someone like me or King run together (1) and (3) I think the natural response is that for someone like me or King we cut it:

1. proto-intentionality
2. Representationality (intentionality)
3. Propositionality (intentionality)

I wanted to say something about Dan's question, but can't remember what it was. Could someone (preferably Dan himself) remind me of what that was?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Readings

Scott Soames, "The Unity of the Proposition"

Jeff Speaks, "Facts, Properties, and the Unity of the Proposition"

Matthew Davidson, "Propositions as Structured Entities"

Harry Deutsch, "Review of Jeffrey C. King, The Nature and Structure of Content

Timothy Williamson, "Necessary Existents"

Proto-intentional states intuition pump

I was thinking how to explain things to myself. Maybe someone else will find this helpful, or can give comments that may be helpful to me.

I think it's easy to use the toy Rylean ancestors of Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind. We can always just add the Myth of Jones to the Myth of our Rylean ancestors and get a better account.

So the Rylean ancestors in question have Rylean views about the world and human beings. They roughly adopt the following picture:

`````````````````*proposition that-p
*thinking that-p ➡ *saying that-p

Roughly, intentionality dwells primarily in language. Propositions are only expressed by language. A thought is the inner state which accompanies or causes the saying which expresses the proposition.

So the Ryleans here think that baby Bailey has no intrinsic thoughts. Baby Bailey is taught via direct method / stimulus-response English by his parents, mommy Bailey and daddy Bailey. Baby Bailey begins to make noises, and then after a while begins to associate contents with his sayings. When baby Bailey is making noises, he has certain brain states in his brain. Eventually, he has some thinking that-p brain states whenever he has a saying that-p utterance. His saying that-p utterances also come to express the proposition that-p.

The Ryleans basically have a verbal behaviorism. We can think to ourselves because we can have the brain states which cause speaking, but fail to have the speaking. But we always just analyze brain states as if they came to fruition in verbal behavior.

It seems that with this stuff in mind, we can give a good account of what proto-intentional states are. When the baby learns to make noises, he isn't tokening sentences. It seems like he's tokening noises. So these noises seem to be proto-linguistic to me. They aren't tokens of English sentences, really. They are tokens of the same noises that English sentences are noises of. Something like that.

And so when baby Bailey is making proto-linguistic noises, he will be having proto-thoughts in his brain. His brain will be making states which cause the proto-linguistic noises. At some point, when the noises become English sentences, those proto-thoughts will become thoughts.

I guess the question is how thoughts or sentences come to express propositions at all. I suppose that the thoughts or sentences provide structures to which we pencil in semantic contents. Like a map, it seems that we need an agent to bestow an interpretation upon the structure. No map-reader, and then the map is just a sort of proto-map.

Perhaps it is like this:


This inscription might represent something. I have something in mind which it does represent, but if I don't tell you, it seems you can only imagine that it represents something. It is a sort of candidate for representation, or perhaps, a candidate for interpretation.

Maybe because we are all skilled and grown up, being told what it means allows us to jump right into taking it to be representational. Baby Bailey may not be so quick, and so may have an extended period of mastering inscription interpretation. Learning by direct method seems to have this sort of extended period of mastery as well. This period would seem to be the period of proto-states talked about above.

I guess it's like teaching someone to play chess. I can play effortlessly, so I play full-blooded chess. But Mr Noob has to do a lot of thinking and wondering. He isn't so sure of himself. He's always checking up rules in the rule book, say. So he's only proto-playing. He's in the midst of learning a game, so he's missing a lot of things that are obvious to others because he hasn't been conditioned to look for them.


Distant Past Wonder

This may be more timely for next time, but I wanted to ask it anyhow.

It seems that for truth we need correspondence. So we have a fact-in-the-world bit on the one side, and a representation-of-a-fact bit on the other. So:

(1) •Snow is white• is true iff it is the case that snow is white.

Or, it seems,

(2) •It was temperature d at time t• is true if it is the case that it was temperature d at time t.

It seems that we can still have the fact-in-the-world bit going on in the absence of propositions. Propositions are just going to be the representation-of-a-fact bit. So the left-hand side bits of (1) and (2) might not be there. But this seems consistent with the right-hand side bits may still have obtained.

Doesn't it seem plausible that something might be the case, even though it fails to be represented as being true or false?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

King's good intentions.

The first objection King looks at is an objection against the origins of propositions. It looks like this:

1) Propositions need to exist in order for people to have propositional attitudes.

2) People having propositional attitudes is pre-supposed to propositions existing.

3) 1 +2, therefore propositions, according to King, are both pre-supposed-to and caused by people having propositional attitudes.

The problem is rooted in King's belief that there were no propositions before language.

King offers 2 solutions.

King solution 1:

4) People could have had 'mental sentences/language' which was not public.

5) This mental language could be the 'vehicle for the expression of propositions'.

6) If (6), then propositions could have been around before public language.

This is an argument against (3) above because if King is correct, then propositions could have been around before public language, but still not attached to it (instead being attached to 'mental language').

I think this is a bad response. It looks to me like King is passing the buck. Wouldn't he then need to give an account of how 'mental sentences' came to be the vehicle for the expression of propositions? All King has done is take the objection from 'public language' and put it onto 'mental language'.

Secondly, I thought an essential part of the nature of a proposition was for it to be shareable. If everybody had their own 'mental language' which propositions were associated with, then nobody would have been able to understand anybody else ever; they would have been talking past each other using different propositions for the same expressions, and the same expressions for different propositions.

King solution 2:

7) people could have had 'proto-intentional states' before the existence of propositions (proto-beliefs, proto-intentions, etc).

8) Proto-intentional states are not attached to propositions, but can become complex enough over time (by attaching lexical items to semantic values) to eventually create both propositions and intentional states (real ones) at the same time.

9) If 1 + 2, then (3) is false (as well as (1) and (2)) because nothing is pre-supposed or caused; it happens at the exact same time.

A few problems with this response:

Premise (8) is a nice idea and all, and King says that it's obvious to him that some animals have these proto-intentional states, but if he is going to rest his whole theory on this then he had better flesh out exactly how lexical items attach to semantic values. Maybe they don't do it without help, or maybe they don't "attach" at all. Also, how would this create propositions (because maybe some people don't believe that it would). Bottom line, he is trying to pass the burdon of proof onto a process that he has not given any information about. He has to expand on how this happens before this response is credible.

Next, There seems to be something funny altogether about 'proto-intentional states' in general. I would like King to show me an animal that has them, and how he knows they are 'proto' states and not just extremely simple (maybe basic) real intentional states. Again, I think King needs to provide more proof (or atleast show good reason) for believing in these 'proto-intentional states'.


Maybe this is an attempt at a question about scope.

(1) That first order logic is undecidable


(2) Not that first order logic is undecidable

both seem to have the proposition that first order logic is undecidable as bits. Is negation included in the second proposition?

(1) That first order logic is undecidable


(3) That first order logic is not undecidable

seem to have different proposition, since negation seems clearly to be a part of the proposition's make up.

Is it plausible to say that (1) and (2) contain the same proposition, but that (2) says of the same proposition as in (1) that it is false? It seems so to me, and that the proposition in (3) is not the proposition in (1) or (2).

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Thought Out Loud

It seems to me that propositions are made up out of objects, properties and relations. Let us take (P) and (NP).

(P) Mary Swims

(NP) Mary doesn't Swim

It seems that the propositions differ. In the one case, we get Mary* and Swims* as constituents; and in the second it is Mary* and Doesn't* and Swims* we get.

The syntax are also different. We get instantiation in the one case, ~instantiation in the other.

Likewise for (1) and (2). I'll not do the LF stuff since it is too much...

(1) First order logic is undecidable

(2) It is not the case that first order logic is decidable

The proposition in (1) is made up of first order logic, the being relation, and undecidability. In (2) it is negation, first order logic, the being relation, and decidability.

Seems like quite different propositions.

I think my thinking is fine here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Is King's account too fined grained?

Is King's account too fined grained?

King considers whether his view individuates propositions too finely across languages. He wants us to think about the following three possibilities:

(A) At least some proposition(s) can be expressed in different natural languages.
(B) At least some proposition(s) expressed in one natural language can be expressed in any natural language.
(C) All propositions that can be expressed in one natural language can be expressed in any other.

Which do we accept?

1. If King's view is correct, then a proposition Q is expressible in different natural languages L and L' iff

(i) they contain sentences SL and SL1, whose syntactic structures at the relevant level of syntax are identical.

(ii) the semantic significance of these syntactic relations are the same.

(iii) the semantic values of the lexical items occurring in the same places in the syntactic structures associated with SL and SL' are identical.

2. King's view is correct.
3. So (A) entails a substantial empirical claim about the syntactic of the languages in question.
4. So (B) entails all languages to have sentences that are syntactically identical.
5. So (C) entails all languages to be structurally identical at the level of LF.

It seems we should conclude that (B) and (C) entail successively stronger and implausible claims about the LFs of natural language.

6. Thus, the entailments from (A) and (B) and (C) are too strong.
7. Because King's view makes them too strong, King's view is false.

This would, of course, make King unhappy. To see our way past this objection, we need to see that (A) differs from both (B) and (C) in its pretheoretical plausibility.

(A) is a sort of constraint on any theory of propositions. It is desirable for any theory of propositions to yield the result that 'Scnhee ist weiss' and 'Snow is white' express the same proposition.

1. If (A) is true then 'Scnhee ist weiss' and 'Snow is white' express the same proposition.
2. They do.
3. So (A) is true.

(B) and (C) contrast strikingly with (A). They are lacking pretheoretical plausibility.

Perhaps a more natural pretheoretical reading would be

(B') Some sentences of some language can be translated into any other language
(C') Any sentence of any language can be translated into any other language

Sadly, these rewrites only suppose the originals given a further assumption. We need to add that translation is pairing sentences which express the same proposition. So we need to ask: What is the evidence for (B') and (C')? How plausible is the additional premise?

Sometimes we do make strict translations, like in the case of 'Scnhee ist weiss' and 'Snow is white'. But usually in practice we make loose translation. We make what are closer to paraphrases.

It seems that the looser sense of translation is used to give a push for the pretheoretical plausibility of (B') and (C'). But this doesn't seem to help us bolster the case for (B) and (C), since they seem to rest upon the strict sense of translation.

To our questions we must answer: The evidence for (B') and (C') is the loose sense of translations. The additional premise is plausible given the strict sense of translation.

King thinks that it is a virtue of his theory that if we want to figure out whether (B) or (C) is true, we only need to look at the empirical evidence about language and do some theorizing about propositions. This lets King block the objection (6) above. (A) seems to be common-sense, and we should accept it. Whether (B) or (C) is true or not is an open question, perhaps.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

'Elementary' trouble with King

In chapter 7, King lays out his version of philosophical analysis. I'm going to briefly go over it until I run into some problems that I'd like to talk about.

King major claim is: There is such a thing as philosophical analysis, and my model can answer the five questions that (I think) a good theory of analysis should be able to answer (see chp 7 for these 5 questions).

For his theory of analysis to work, King requires that we accept three 'elements':

1st element: That "one must accept an account of propositions on which complex predicates contribute to propositions complex sub-propositional constituents that have properties and relations at their terminal nodes and that represent other properties".

2nd element: That "some properties and relations are complex, and have other properties and relations as components".

Here, King likes to use the example of the word "bachelor". He says that "bachelor" might be built up out of 1) being adult, 2) being male, and 3) being unmarried; and these are all in the conjuction relation. He also notes that properties can be built in ways other than conjunction (and he gives an example). Lastly on this point, he notes two more things:

1) That he does not have to explain how properties like this combine to make other properties, just as long as he can say it is part of a properties nature to be made up of combined properties like this.

2) That he is not necessarily committed to their being 'simple properties' (but he thinks there are - pg 200).

I think the latter of these two would make for some interesting discussion and controversy, but that would seem a little besides-the-point right now. Instead I would like to focus more on the 3rd element.

3rd element: That "there are three categories of words such that the words in a given category are all governed by the same standards of linguistic competence; but words in different categories are governed by different standards of linguistic competence".
Category #1) Linguistic competence: "one must be able to specify the componets of the property or relation expressed by the word and how those components are combined in the property expressed by the word".

Category #2) Linguistic competence: "one be able to reliably determine whether a given entity possesses the property expressed by e and to thereby know whether e applies to the entity or not"

At this point he notes that a category 1 word cannot be a category 2 word as well.

Category #3) Linguistic competence: He doesn't say what the linguistic competence is of category 3 words, just that they are "natural kind terms like water, tiger, aluminum...". These are words that fail to be governed by the standards of competence of C1 +C2.

I have problems with King's three categories. I think that category 2 words are not as distinct from category 1 words as King says they are. The linguistic competence for C1 words is that someone knows what properties they are 'built up out of', and the linguistic competence for C2 words is that someone knows everything (has sufficient information) about an entity so that they know whether it possesses a certain property or not. It seems to me that if you know exactly what a word is built up of (including the relations it has - something King conveniently leaves out of his discussion on purpose), then you should also have sufficient information to know whether it has a certain property or not. In fact, the 'sufficient information' would be precisely the properties and relations that you had to know for C1 words. In this respect, C2 linguistic competence would supervene on C1 linguistic competence, making the two categories really one and the same.

Without the ability to distinguish between category 1 and category 2 words (we don't even have to look at category 3 words now), King loses the ability to answer some of the questions he said an account should be able to.

I guess more formally:

1) If King's 3 word categories lose their distinction, element 3 must be rejected.

2) King's 3 word categories lose their distinction

3) 1 +2, therefore element 3 must be rejected

4) If King's theory of philosophical analysis is correct, then all 3 elements must be accepted

5) element 3 is not accepted

6) 4 + 5, therefore King's theory of philosophical analysis is not correct.

Paradox of Analysis

I'm doing this from memory so I will use Sellars' version:

1. The concept Male Parent is the analysis of the concept Father
2. The concept Father = the concept Male Parent
3. The concept Father is the analysis of the concept Father

What leads us to befuddlement is that (1) should be true. (3) should be false. So what about (2)?

We might argue: "Look, (1) is true. The concept Male Parent and the concept Father mean the same thing. So (2) is true." But then we should think that (1) and (3) express the same sort of information. But they don't. So maybe (2) is false. But then how can (1) be true? If we can analyze concept X in terms of concept Y, don't X and Y have to mean the same thing?

Thus, befuddlement.

It should be easy to argue that (1) is true. We have a complex concept, being a Male Parent, and a simple concept, being a Father. We are analyzing the complex one into the simple one. Let us say that this isn't a logical truth, but an analytic one.

So then (2) has to be false. It is saying that a complex concept is identical to a simple one. This is false.

So then we can deny (3). An analysis is supposed to break down a complex concept into a simple one.

King considers examples like:

4. If x is a father, then x is a male parent
5. If x is a father, then x is a human adult male with offspring

When we explicate their logical form, we get

6. For all x [ [x is a father] iff [ [x is a male] & [x is a parent] ] ]
7. For all x [ [x is a father] iff [ [x is a human] & [x is an adult] & [x is a male] & [x is a parent] ] & [for some y [ y is an offspring of x] ] ] ]

So while both (4) and (5) are kinds of analysis for what it is to be a father, (5) is deeper. This is shown by (6) and (7).

If we consider the original example:

1. The concept Male Parent is the analysis of the concept Father
2. The concept Father = the concept Male Parent
3. The concept Father is the analysis of the concept Father

It seems we should indeed deny (2). I think Frege would appeal to there being two different senses. Sellars to there being to distinct functional classes, a •Father• and a •Male Parent•. King, it seems to me, two different concepts.

We can also see that the property of being a male parent is different from that of being a father. One is simple, one is complex. The concepts are likewise different. This is why we call (1) an analysis, whereas (3) is not. And if we were to take (3) to be an analysis at all, it would be an incredibly shallow one. As (4) - (7) shows, we can have various levels of analysis.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

a couple of snags for King

King really trades on the TRUE/true-at distinction in chapter 3. To avoid the mystery, he clearly defines true-at(P.83):
1. A proposition < o,p> is true at w iff o is in the extension of P at w; otherwise it is false at w.
2. A propositions < not,< s>> is true at w iff NOT(Vsw)=T where Vsw is a truth value of S at w; otherwise it is false at w.
3. A proposition < < some,p>,Q> is true at w iff is in the extension of SOME at w; otherwise it is false at w.
4. A proposition < possibly,< s>> is true at w iff POSSIBLY(S,w)=T

This is an account of true-at that does not require that a proposition exist at the world at which it is true. This is a major move for King, but I think there are a couple snags that still get him into trouble.

Snag 1: Narrow Metaphysical Acceptability
King is admittedly and actualist, which means he believes that all possible worlds actually exist. However, I think his view of propositions limits what sorts of things you can take to be possible worlds, i.e. he can't take possible worlds to be maximal sets of propositions. Here's an argument for that:
1) There are some things that cannot be asserted in currently existing languages
2) (1) -> (3)
3) There are some ways the world might be such that no proposition represents the world being that way
4) (3) -> (5)
5) Maximal sets of propositions contain insufficient information to be possible worlds
I won't defend each premise here, I'll just give the gist. Suppose we could have had different phenomenal experiences than those we actually do. We are (plausibly) unable to represent those experiences in our language. But by hypothesis we could have had those experiences. But if King is right, there are no propositions that assert (of the particular experiences) that we have or do not have them.
If King has general nominalistic tendencies, he'll shy away from the alternate view that possible worlds are maximal ways the world could have been. These properties are un-instantiated, and spooky!

Snag 2:
Related to my paper topic, I'll just point out that King is comitted to the following being true:
'Possibly every proposition is false'
'Possibly every proposition is true'
'Possibly every proposition is both true and false' (this will be true if worlds devoid of propositions are possible)
'There are no propositions expressed by hypothetical languages with sufficiently different syntax' (not as long as the language remains hypothetical anyway)
'The proposition that mary swims could have been true at a world at which mary doesn't swim' (this would be the case if we used the proposition that mary swims to represent something else)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

King's response to objection 2

In chapter 3, King goes over some objections to his theory of propositions. I am going to go over the second objection he addresses.

Objection 2 looks something like this:

1) According to King, propositions came into existence at a certain time in the past (namely, at the time when language, semantic values, and the like were invented).

2) If (1), then there was a time, before which propositions did not exist.

3) Propositions are the bearers of truth and falsity.

4) If (2) and (3), then before propositions came into existence, nothing was true or false.

5) But, obviously some things were true and false before propositions came into existence.

6) (4) and (5), therefore King's theory of propositions is flawed.

The time that King uses as an example of when propositions did not exist is right after the big bang. At this time there were no sentences or language of any kind, yet according to (5) there were still things that were true (such as the fact that particles had certain charges and certain masses).

To respond to this objection, King looks at it from two different viewpoints; presentism and eternalism.

King's presentist response:

Basically, King says that the presentist could claim that the objector fails to distinguish between two similar, but different, claims:

i) Nothing was true in the remote past.

ii) Things weren't a determinate way in the remote past.

King says that the presentist could reject claim (i) while accepting claim (ii). The reason he gives for this is that facts and propositions are separate according to his theory. There is no reason why there could not be facts (ways the world is, states of being, etc...), while at the same time there being no propositions. In a way, King bites the bullet here and says "it is the case that nothing was true or false before propositions came around... but it does not matter/it does not affect us".

I like King's line of thought here, but there is a way to respond to it. Someone in favour of objection 2 might say that King has not actually denied any premise in the objection, he has simply softened the blow a bit. If someone were to hold steady to the idea that "things were true and false before propositions existed", King would still have to provide evidence for why we should accept the distinction he offers. He would not be able to say "we should think that there is a distinction between truth values and factual states because it is in line with my theory of propositions".

King's eternalist response:

I am pretty sure I understand King's response here, but please correct me if I am wrong.

King says that the eternalist holds that anything that has, does, or will exist exists at all times, but in different temporal locations. This means that a propostion could actually be true (have properties) at a time where it does not exist. This might seem to support the objection (that things were true and false before propositions existed). However, King says that in the end "the objector incorrectly inferred that on the present view propositions in the remote past were not true from the fact that on the present view they are not temporally located in the remote past" (pg 79). What this means is that objection 2 is based on there being truths and falsities without propositions, whereas the eternalist is still able to attribute truth and falsity to propositions even though they do not exist. More formally:

i) Objection 2 assumes that there are true and false things before the existence of propositions.

ii) The eternalist holds that propositions can be true and false even at times when they do not exist.

iii) Therefore, objection 2 does not apply to the eternalist view.

I think this is a good response to premise (5) of the objection and I can't really see anything wrong with it at this time. The best way to support objection 2 would be to press King for a better explanation on why we should accept the distinction his position offers of truth values and factual states.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

King: The Objection from Origins.

This strikes me as also being The Problem of Emergence.

The question is: How did propositions come to be?

The objector wants to stick King on his non-Platonic account of propositions.

1. On King's view, the facts that are propositions came into existence in part as a result of lexical items acquiring semantic values and syntactic relations coming to encode certain functions.
2. But when we attempt to explain how our proto-linguistic ancestors brought it about that words had semantic values and sentential relations encoded certain functions, we will appeal to the beliefs and intentions they had.
3. On King's view, prior to the existence of language there were no propositions, which are the objects of attitudes like intending and believing.
4. But propositions must exist in order for creatures to have propositional attitudes.
5. So King's account of how propositions came into existence will have to presuppose that creatures had propositional attitudes prior to propositions existing. (1 - 5)
6. So King's view is contradictory and should be rejected.

King will want to deny (5). "The fundamental thought behind the present view of structured propositions is that the vehicle by means of which propositions are expressed consist of entities standing in relations and that these very relations provide all of the significant structure to the propositions expressed by those vehicles."

If, for example, "mental sentences" exist, these too will count as vehicles for the expression of propositions. This gives reason to deny (3), since "there may be propositions even in the absence of any public language."

While this would make someone like Sellars upset, it would make someone like Chisholm happy. Sellars thinks that intentionality primarily dwells in language, whereas Chisholm think that intentionality primarily dwells in thought. (Roughly.)

King might argue:

7. Mental sentences exist and encode propositions.
8. Propositional attitudes only exist if there are propositions.
9. Mental sentences can exist independently of any public language.
10. So Propositions and propositional attitudes can exist in the absence of any public language. (7 - 9)

Therefore, King can reply: "If there is a language of thought, and if our proto-lingusitic ancestors thought in it, propositions could have existed, and our ancestors could have had attitudes towards them, prior to the existence of public language."

While this might make someone like Chisholm happy, it does not make King happy: "I am not happy resting my response here on the claim that there is a langauge of thought and our proto-linguistic ancestors though in it."

King would rather assume that the claim in (7) is false. Let us deny that there is a language of thought.

11. If our pre-linguistic ancestors had propositional attitudes, propositions must have existed.
12. For propositions to have existed, our pre-liniguistic ancestors must have either had a public language or a language of thought.
13. Our pre-linguistic ancestors could have had neither a public language or a language of thought.
14. So our pre-linguistic ancestors had no propositional attitudes. (11 - 13)

This would make someone like Chisholm unhappy, someone like Sellars happy. King is happy too: "We must say that strictly speaking our proto-linguistic ancestors did not have propositional attitudes, hence propositions didn't exist then."

King appeals that our proto-linguistic ancestors "had some 'proto-intentional' states: proto-beliefs and proto-intentions." He adds that this should not be so strange, since: "it seems to me likely that many animals currently have only states of this sort and so it wouldn't be surprising that in our pre- and proto-linguistic stages we were rather like them in this respect."

We can make a Sellarsian appeal to back King up here. As I had noted before, Sellars says that there are two senses of 'meaningless utterance': "(1) Those utterances which are meaningless if they do not token a properly formed expression in a language. (2) Those utterances which are uttered parrotingly by one who does not know the language."

We might construe the following as an example of (1):

frettk taete34t ln4wti4j6a46

and the following as an example of (2):

When it is 5:00pm my computer says: "It is five o'clock."

Proto-intentional states would seem to not be of the first kind, but of the second. Let us assume that there are inner as well as outer linguistic utterances. Perhaps in a proto-intentional state, one utters in one's mind •it is five o'clock• or utters aloud •it is five o'clock•. Now to the person in question, the utterances here are meaningless. We might take them to be •it is five o'clock•s, but it is impossible that the proto-utterer does so.

A true in / true at distinction here would seem to help. But in any case, for King: "The idea would be that these proto-intentional states were enough to begin to attach lexical items to semantic values and more generally to do what had to be done to bring propositions into existence." That is, the inner our outer utterances would shift from proto- to full-blooded when agents attached semantic values to them. Agents have to move from Humean Representational Systems (stimulus-reponse / inductive systems), to Aristotlean Representational Systems (material inferential / deductive systems), to use the Sellarsian lingo.

King can use this reasoning to deny (5): "So propositions and real intentional states with propositional content came into existence together." There is no need to presuppose that propositional attitudes had to exist prior to propositions at all! "It is enough to suppose that they had proto-intentional states not too different in kind from those had by many animals today."

Again, along Sellarsian lines we can argue that animals have 'meaningless inner utterances' and 'meaningless outer utterances'. Human beings simply developed a level of complexity which led to our having 'meaningful inner utterances' and 'meaningful outer utterances.'

In King's terminology, I think that the above is a paraphrase of: "animals have proto-intentional states. Human beings simply developed a level of complexity which led to our having intentional states."

Finally, against someone like Chisholm who wants to be a Platonist about propsitions, King argues:

15. If propositions exist eternally, then there was a time at which no creatures had mental states with propositional content.
16. So then some account must be given of how creatures managed to get into cognitive contact with propositions.
17. So some account must be given of how some creatures came to have propositional attitudes.
18. So it seems that one could still have to invoke proto-intentional and proto-intentional action.
19. So in this respect, King's view is not in any worse shape than an account on which propositions are eternal.

I think that this little aside from King is rather weak, as the friend of Chisholm will perhaps object to (15) on the grounds that we intuit propositions, we do not have mental states which have propositional content. Mental states are going to turn out to be something like abstract entities, or graspings of abstract entities.

Maybe that objection doesn't amount to much, but against (16) we can deny that there is any need for our getting into contact with propositions to be cognitive. We might have some primitive pre-cognitive, direct access to them. (17) might be denied by appealing to an unstructured account of propositions which has all creatures having propositional attitudes, at least with Given propositions. So (18) can be objected to because intentional states are all or nothing. Perhaps all creatures have them; perhaps all minded creatures have them. So there is no need to appeal to proto-intentional states or actions.

So the friend of Chilsholm will argue that King's view is in much worse shape. But the friend of King will point out that King's view is sensible. So the further the eternalist moves from King, the further they move from being sensible.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Two wonders.

A. If we rerun "The Objection from Cognitive Significance" with (i) reading:

(i) 'It rains' is a •it rains•

and (ii) reading:

(ii) 'Es regnet' is a •it rains•

is it really enough for the Russellian to just say: "But I don't speak German!" I get that using:

(i) Ice-T is Ice-T.
(ii) Ice-T is Tracy Lauren Marrow.

avoids the problem of objecting that I don't understand the words being used. But I don't see how anything else is different about the cases. I suppose one might argue that since Ice-T and TLM are both understood to be self-identical, but not understood to be identical to each other.

But I don't see how this is really so different from the German - English case. I suppose the only real difference is that one might think that 'Es regnet' is just a silly made-up word. But why cannot one think that 'Tracy Lauren Marrow' is a silly made-up word as well?

B. If on the second objection, "Pegasus is make-believe" is supposed to turn out to be meaningless since 'Pegasus' has no referent and hence no semantic content, what about a case where I utter "He is Saul Kripke" pointing at no one? I suppose that the semantic content of 'he' is supposed to be the referent, and since there is no referent there is no semantic content.

What happens if I am confused, being messed with by Descartes demon? I see Saul Kripke standing next to me. I ask you if you see him, and you ask who I am talking about, I might say: "Him. Saul Kripke." Do we want to say that I am saying something false, or something meaningless? I suppose the objector wants to push that the Russellian has to say that it is meaningless.

I wonder if the distinction between speaker and attributive reference helps at all. When I talk about Pegasus or Kripke, I am trying to refer to something. But it turns out that I am referring to nothing at all. Hearing me speak, you may take me that I am trying to refer to something, even though you might recognize that I am in fact talking about nothing at all. Perhaps, no thing, not nothing.

This would seem to suggest to me that something gappy and not something meaningless is being asserted. Or maybe something false, for the same reason that "The present king of France is bald" is false.

But all this seems to give some reason to think that "Pegasus is make-believe" or "Here is Kripke (said pointing to a spot which is lacking a Kripke)" is not a meaningless assertion under a Russellian view.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wessy Thoughts 2

I just wanted to elaborate some thoughts I had at the end:

1. If R is correct, then the SC of a proper name is just its reference.
2. If SC of pn is just its referent, then for all S, if S contains a pn with no reference, S is meaningless.
3. It’s not the case that they are all meaningless.
4. So R is false.

So we can consider: "Pegasus is make-believe". Doesn't this turn out to be as meaningless as "Blart mook tuk ne oonto"?

A. I guess that (2) should be denied automatically. "is make-believe" seems to be a fine bit of language. "Pegasus" seems to be referentless, so "Pegasus is make-believe" seems to have a gap:

Pegasus is make-believe.

So I think we can resist that is meaningless. It's just gappy. It seems that a sentence like: "My (said by Wes) son will be a boy" is like this too. I don't think we have a semantic content of my son. I think it would be queer to call this sentence meaningless. Maybe the phrase / name 'My son' and 'Pegasus' is meaningless, in some sense, but this just leaves a gap in the otherwise fine proposition.

B. The less sensible view I was pushing was that we have to object to (2) on the grounds of an ambiguity in 'existence'. The quantification-existence, and the predicate-existence. So if someone claims:

Pegasus doesn't exist

we can ask: Do you mean that we cannot quantify over Pegasus? This seems false. Perhaps you mean that there is nothing such that it meets our criteria for being a concrete, extended thing.

So we might have reason to think that we can quantify over numbers, but they don't exist. Tables and chairs exist. Or maybe particles exist. Or whatever. We just quantify over tables and chairs like we quantify over numbers and Pegasus. We just say of tables and chairs that they exist, while numbers and Pegasus don't.

So why should a sentence with a non-existing thing named in it be meaningless? We can still quantify over the thing, so it is still meaningful. "Blart mook tuk ne oonto" is meaningless. "Pegasus is make-believe" just contains a non-existing-but-quantifiable term which lacks semantic content.

I guess that (B) is like (A), but (A) seems less weird.


Wessy Thoughts

I take it from today that the whole issue of "The Objection from Cognitive Significance" has been satisfied. I'll just note something interesting (to me). Consider CI Lewis' notion of a sense-meaning. So the sense-meaning of a red apple is the sensory states I have in the presence of a red apple. Let's not over-think this now, since the view is robustly concept empiricist and not too attractive. But we can re-run the argument:

1. If Russellianism is true, and ‘Ice-T’ and ‘Tracy Lauren Marrow’ co-refer, then (i) and (ii) encode the same proposition:
(i) Ice-T is Ice-T.
(ii) Ice-T is Tracy Lauren Marrow.
2. The proposition expressed by (i) is uninformative, true in virtue of meaning (analytic), is knowable w/o empirical investigation, etc.; and the proposition encoded by (ii) is not any of these things.
3. If (2), then SC1 ≠ SC2.
4. So SCI ≠ SC2.
5. So either Russellianism is false or ‘Ice-T’ and ‘TLM’ don’t co-refer.
6. But they do co-refer.
7. So, Russellianism is false.

Lewis would make sense of (i) by slotting in the sense-meaning of Ice-T; the sensations I get when I look at (or whatever) Ice-T. So it is easy to see how (i) is analytic, since I have a sense-meaning of Ice-T and this is identical to itself!

Lewis would make sense of (ii) by slotting in the sense-meanings of Ice-T and TLM; the sensations I get when I look at (or whatever) Ice-T and TLM. So it is easy to see how (ii) is analytic; the same sense-meanings get slotted in.

But (i) seems to be a logical truth; (ii) does not. I might not know that I have a sense-meaning of TLM. Lewis is a descriptivist of sorts, so maybe he thinks that the semantic content is a sense or something; so lets say a Lewis-concept. A sense-meaning is what gives me a concept. I might hold that the man I am looking at now (or have looked past in the future, or would be looking at how if I were looking at Ice-T) is clearly Ice-T. This is the sense meaning of Ice-T. But I might not know that this is the sense meaning of TLM.

I think Lewis would argue that the sense-meanings are the same, but we have different concepts involved. A concept would be something like the denotation, the connotation, the signification, and the comprehension.

Roughly, the 4-modes for 'Ice-T' are:

1. Denotation: the class of actual Ice-Ts, past, present and future.
2. Connotation: those other words logically implied by the words ‘Ice-T’.
3. Signification: those universals which signify the qualities and relations in the thing, picked up in the connotation of the term.
4. Comprehension: consistently thinkable possible Ice-Ts, the consistently thinkable possible beings.

So (2) will pick up that being Ice-T is logically implied by being Ice-T, but not by being TLM.

Dubious, for many reasons, but Lewis can argue that the Russellian is wrong. The sense-meanings may be the same, but the concepts are different.

So what is true is:

(1) The sense-meaning of 'Ice-T' is the sense-meaning of 'TLM'.
(2) What has the same sense-meanings are synonyms.
(3) 'Ice-T' and 'TLM' are synonymous.


(4) The concept of Ice-T is not the concept of TLM.
(5) What have different concepts have different meanings.
(6) The concept of Ice-T and the concept of TLM have different meanings.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

King and Syntax

In chapter 2 (around page 34), King claims that the syntax, or syntactic concatenation, provides instructions as to how to evaluate the truth of a sentence. He kind of takes this for granted and as far as I can tell his argument for this goes something like:

1) The sentence "Rebecca swims" is true iff Rebecca instantiates the property of swimming.

2) The way we know if Rebecca instantiates the property of swimming is by looking at the syntactical make-up/organization/concatenation of the sentence (Syntactically concatenating a name with a one-place predicate in English in the manner of "Rebecca swims" has the result that we evaluate the sentence as true if the semantic value of the name instantiates the semantic value of the predicate).

3) So, this syntactic concatenation in (3) provides instructions as to how to evaluate the sentence.

Summed up: The way that a sentence is built syntactically (it's syntactic make-up) is the instructions on how to evaluate whether the sentence is true or false. Put another way, when we look at a sentence, the syntactic concatenation tells us what to look for in the world to know if the sentence is true or false.

King says that even if you do not want to grant existence to propositions, you would still have to admit this "instructional quality" of a sentence's syntax. He kind if leaves it at that from what I can see.

I have two objections to this claim.

The first is an objection to the argument as a whole. I want to point out the leap King makes from the premises to the conclusion. King goes from saying that the syntax of a sentence in a way "sets the parameters for" or in some way "determines" the truth value for the proposition in question, to saying that the syntax "provides instructions on how to go about figuring this out". This is just plain false. An example that I think illustrates this is that of a map. If you give someone a map of a city and point out to them the spot on the map where they are right now, and point out where you want them to end up, the map does not 'give instruction' on how to get there even though it does contain all the information they need in order to make the trip.

The line I am drawing here is very thin and precise and I could understand how some people might think the difference in negligible. I am not sure how to press this point further. There must be some procedure or cognitive process pre-existing and functioning correctly in order for the person to utilize the map for the purpose of direction. Otherwise it is just a bunch of names and lines on paper. The same goes for the syntax of a proposition. Even though the syntax might give you the information you need in order to evaluate the truth of a proposition, it does not direct you how to do so.

Without the ability to instruct people how to find truth or falsity, I think King still has to account for how we come to know the truth of a sentence based on its syntax (I think he would probably have to add some cognitive process of "deriving instruction from...").

My second objection is against premise 2 of the above argument.

It seems to me that the syntactical structure of a sentence is independent of it's context or intent, and therefore cannot be used to evaluate truth value. For example, when I say "Oxygen is good for us" in the context of right now it is true. Over time, however, "Oxygen is good for us" is false (over the course of a lifetime is causes cellular decay, tissue oxidation, cellular reproductive defects, etc...), even though it has the exact same syntactical make-up and truth conditions (I picked this example because it can illustrate two different contexts without changing the speakers location in space or time, thus eliminating possible responses from King).

I think that this objection shows an obvious problem with premise 2 and is more difficult for King to respond to that simply saying "evaluation changes relative to the context the syntax is in". I have clearly shown that the same syntax can have 2 different evaluations at the same location, time, but different contexts. Basically what I am saying is that if syntax can be the same (independent) in 2 different contexts, how can you know which evaluation to use when looking for truth value? Therefore the syntax must not instruct us in regards to evaluation.

King and Structure

King says that there is something that binds together the constituents of propositions and imposes a structure on them.

King assumes that individuals, properties and relations are the constituents of propositions.

1. Names, demonstrative pronouns, and indexicals contribute the individuals they designate in contexts to the propositions expressed in those contexts by sentences in which they occur.
2. n-place predicates contribute n-place relations to propositions.
3. Truth functional sentential connectives contribute truth functions to propositions.
4. Determiners contribute to propositions two-place relations between properties.

There are two important constraints for how these constituents are bound together:

5. Any account of what holds together the constituents of propositions should leave no mystery about what propositions are and should give us confidence that propositions so construed really exist.

6. The account should shed light on the question of how it is that propositions are able to have truth conditions and so represent the world as being a certain way.

(5) is important because we have to show that these things really exist. (6) because that is what they are supposed to do.

King runs with the Tractatus notion of propositions as being facts. The proposition-fact has to map onto a world-fact to be true. So we can consider:

7. Rebecca swims.

The proposition expressed by (7) has Rebecca and the property of swimming as constituents. King claims that the proposition that Rebecca swims is a fact that has Rebecca and the property of swimming as components. But that proposition is not the fact consisting of Rebecca possessing the property of swimming.

So if Rebecca had failed to possess the property of swimming, that is, if there were no fact consisting of her possessing the property of swimming, the fact that is the proposition that Rebecca swims would still obtain, but sadly it would be false.

I think what King has in mind is that given the existence of certain things, like Rebecca and the property of swimming, there are possible worlds where Rebecca has the property of swimming; or there are regions of logical space where Rebecca and the property of swimming connect. (I guess it depends on how you like your metaphors.) So propositions are like 'possible states-of-affairs'. They encode possibilities. If those possibilities obtain, the propositions are true.

King holds that the best way to satisfy (5) and (6) while making use of his assumptions (1) - (5) is his way. Let us consider the sentence:

8. Rebecca loves Carl.

We can represent this sentence is tree form:


Rebecca loves Carl.

Now we only need to add the semantic values.


Rebecca* loves* Carl*

So then we have built the proposition (B) out of the relations the sentence has (A). Plus there is little room to doubt that these propositions really exist. So (5) is met. (B) is just our proposition!

It is also easy to see how (6) has been satisfied.

I'm sort of tired and lazy with other things to do, so I hope you don't mind me not elaborating...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

King's historical digression

A component of King's view is that propositions represent externally. That is, we use propositions to represent objects standing in instantiation relations to properties. Not only that, he claims that we use the facts he describes in chapter two to do this representation. This struck me as odd, leaning on what seems to be an empirical fact(that we actually do this). He says a couple other odds things that are meant to bolster his point, I think he could've supported it better. He says (page 60):
" As should by now be clear, the existence of sentences such as 'Rebecca swims' brings into existence facts such as 4b'' where, let us suppose, the propositional relation doesn't yet encode the instantiation function, but the sentenctial relation of 'Rebecca swims' does. Since we now claim that the propositional relation encoding the instantiation function is part of the fact that is the proposition that Rebecca swims, 4b'' is not yet that proposition. Indeed, neither the proposition that Rebecca swims, nor, we may suppose, any other proposition exists yet... However sentences have truth conditions, in part in virtue of the sentential relations encoding functions"
So, on this view we can have a totally functional language with truth conditions for sentences without ever having propositions. The only time we need propositions is when we start having propositional attitude verbs, modal operators and that-clauses.
I think this is a bad route for King to take. Consider a world in which there is a language as rich as english, but there are still no propositional attitude verbs, modal operators and that-clauses. Most of the arguments in favor of propositions still apply, though in a different way. Recall that King has to make rampant use of the true-in true-at distinction. Since I get these confused, let's say a proposition is true-in a world iff that proposition exists at that world and is true of that world. Let's say a proposition is true-at a world iff the proposition exists in the actual world and is true of the significant counterfactual world.
Ok, suppose we have this counterfactual world and we have ben and marry. They have a little discussion:
Ben: I love you
Marry: You love me
It is true-at this world that Ben and Marry share a belief. But for this to be so, they must bare a common attitude to something. It's not any sentence, since they express their beliefs using different sentences. It must be a proposition. But that means that propositions must not only be true-at that world, there must be propositions true-in that world. Otherwise it would be false-at that world that Ben and Marry share a belief.
Thankfully for King, I don't think he has to be committed to this strange view. He can hold that when we have truth-conditions for a sentence, we have a proposition that sentence expresses that has the same truth conditions. But if he says this then much of the motivation for thinking that we in fact use this propositional relations to represent propositions falls away. I'll give the crux of his support found on page 61:
"As speakers began to attempt to talk about structured contents by means of that-clauses, they implicitly took these contents to have the same truth conditions as the sentences with those contents."
If speakers were already using propositions in a representational way, then the further occurrence of the use of that-clauses described here is irrellevant for arguing what they were using to represent. If King were to digress and say that speakers implicitly took the propositions to have the contents he described back when the language was created, he is at pains to motivate us to think they were using propositions in this representational way. It's clearer to see how representation is bestowed upon propositions when propositions are the things being talked about, it is less clear when they are not.
Furthermore, he supposes that those who speak of propositions speak of structured propositions implicitly. I think it would be hard to walk up to... say... Robert Stalnaker and tell him "you Robert Stalnaker are talking about structured propositions" and have that be compelling. Since he takes everyone to be talking about propositions as described in his view, the same would apply to anyone with a view contrary to his.
This dilemma is by no means a knock-down argument against his view. However I think it shows that his view does not have a virtue that he thinks it has.

Benacerraf & Russell wonder

I'm curious about the example in class:

(1) The student in the classroom 384 is smiling.

If I was right in the previous post, we have to distinguish between a sense of indeterminacy and underdeterminacy for (1).

Should we read the Benacerraf dilemma as posing:

(2) It is not clear which student, if any, is the student in question, so there is no such student. (1) could be about any student, so it is about no student.


(3) It is not clear which student, if any, is the student in question, so there is no way of telling if (1) is true or false. (1) could be about any student, so it is not clear which student it is supposed to be about.

It seems like a defense of the reading of (2) would be to appeal to Russell's notation:

(4) (∃x)((Fx & (∀y)(Fy → y = x)) & Gx)

and since just as there is no unique king of France, there is no unique student in the classroom 384, the sentence is false. Nothing is there to satisfy the definite description, so the sentence has to be false.

A defense of the reading of (3) would seem to appeal to a 3-valued logic. There are true sentences, false sentences, and yet-to-be-determined sentences. If we suspected that a spy was in the classroom, and an intelligence agent told us that "The spy is the man who is smiling" it would seem absurd to conclude since there is no unique smiler, that isn't any spy at all. Why wouldn't the agent just say that in that case?

Or imagine a police detective who finds a murder victim. He might construct a story to explain the murder, that a unique individual entered through the bathroom window and hit Jones over the heat with a frozen banana. The detective might conclude that there was some unique x who did this. How would he react if we told him that since anyone could satisfy this condition, no one could?

The defender of the reading of (3) might argue that in reality, not everything is as clear cut as knowing plainly that there is no king of France. We have to wait to see for many claims.

The defender of the reading of (2) might argue that we still in principle have a 2-valued logic, but admit that we have trouble answering about some claims.

It almost seems like the difference between (2) and (3) is whether we need to have evidence to rule something in, or rule something out. (2) seems to argue that if we have no principled reason to accept the claim as true, it must be false. (3) seems to argue that if we have no principled reason to accept a claim as true or to accept a claim as false, we should stay agnostic.

Does anyone have a preferred reading?

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I think I may have (tried to) state this before, but it seems like there are two interpretations of the Benecerraf dilemma. A strong one and a weak one. The strong one can be called a 'indeterminacy reading' and the second a 'underdeterminacy reading'.

It seems like in some cases, like when someone shows me photos they claim were taken at a haunted house, and point to some glossy flares they call 'orbs', the person is claiming that some shaky evidence should convince us of something's objection. In a case like this, it seems indeterminate what those 'orb' things are. They could be anything, so they are nothing. That is, 'orb' is being applied to a tokening of a candidate for being an orb. But something seems funky about the identifying of the tokening as an orb.

Sometimes the Benacerraf dilemma seems to run like this. If you want to identify numbers with abstract entities, you have to say something about those entities. You seem to leave it indeterminate as to what they are. If you face multiple interpretations or multiple candidate objects, it seems indeterminate which one to choose.

But in some cases, like when a scientist sees a cloud of particles under his microscope, he simply has evidence that is underdeterminate. He clearly has some candidates in mind, and some principled reasons to select some interpretations of candidate entities over others. Or, if a policemen found Jones dead, he might be sure that there is a murderer, even though the evidence underdetermines who that murderer is. In some sense I guess who the murderer is is indeterminate. But it seems wrong to think that anything could have killed Jones. It seems we can at least narrow it down to a someone.

It seems then that the lover of propositions only needs to appeal to common-sense intuitions that are consistent with the existence of propositions. What propositions are doesn't seem to be indeterminate, in the sense that we have no principled way of finding out what they are. We may simply have evidence which is underdetermined.

If I'm playing chess, for example, I can ponder at a •pawn• token. So I can have a wooden pawn, a metal pawn, a pawn shaped like a bear, a pawn shaped like a pillar, etc. There is something here, a shared structure of all the shapes I want to call pawnness, or a •pawn•. The 'pawn functional class'. Whatever. It seems odd to take the strong reading of the Benacerraf to claim that since anything could play the role of a pawn, that is, anything could be a pawn, nothing can be a pawn. It seems better to admit that the list of pawns is open ended, since it is underdetermined what pawns are in some sense. Anything could be used as a pawn!

It seems the same sort of move could be made with propositions. A shaky notion seems fine. We plead guilty to underdetermination. But this isn't the same as accepting indeterminacy. That many things might be pawns or propositions doesn't mean that nothing is.



Frege's views seem to have crazy results, yes. But if we look back in time to the pre-Kripkean philosophers, we can see that there is lots of craziness. Frege may have a structured account of propositions and of thought, but he seems to have the same craziness.

Let me pick on Santayana, since he as much as anyone is a good candidate for being a 'Locke-Plato,' as Sellars calls them. Santayana holds roughly:

1. The only meaningful language is private language.
2. Knowledge is just faith mediated by symbols.
3. Intuition is direct access to Universals.

Givenness is super important for Santayana. The Given from sensation, and from thought.

The philosopher's aim, for Santayana, is just to have an aesthetic experience with contemplation. It's fun to ponder the Universal triangularity. Life is crappy and unhappy, but the life of reason offers some escape. The Indian mystics are pretty good, but the Greek notion of cultivating a higher man is a better notion.

Right. So this is crazy. But consider the problems we though Frege faced today. Santayana thinks that the only meaningful language is my language. So he'd be an individualist about senses. When other people make noises, I only understand what I hear; my meanings are used. But usually I just behavioristicly respond in animal faith.

Now I can have all sorts of wrong descriptions of people, so I may think that I am thinking about Einstein but really am thinking about the inventor of the atomic bomb, whoever that is. But this is just a case of non-thinking! This is just me dumbly using symbols governed by animal faith.

So even when I think I'm thinking, I'm not. The real Thinking is the intuiting Universals bit. I am Given Universals in experience or Thought. But I can bumble around in animal faith making squeaks and squawks and what have you. That doesn't bother Santayana. Real Thinking, not animal thinking, is hard to do. Most people never do it because they are clouded by animal faith.

It strikes me that Frege is a sort of bridge away from some poor Platonism combined with an unstructured view of propositions and thinking. And strange other views. But an old-school philosopher (pre-Kripkean) might not see anything wrong with that. We might take these aspects of Frege as a reductio against him, but people with the 'right' intuitions I don't think would be bothered at all.

The history here is interesting to me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Objections to Russell's facts and propositions

In his chapter on facts and propositions, Russell starts off by talking about the sorts of things he thinks are undoubtable. The first of these is that the world contains facts and beliefs (and that beliefs have reference to facts). He holds that a fact is the kind of thing that makes a proposition true or false, but that facts themselves cannot be true or false; they simply just are. The example he uses is the proposition "It is raining". The proposition is true or false depending on the fact if it is raining: "the condition of weather that makes my statement true (or false) is what I should call a 'fact'" (pg. 182). Russell also says that no particular thing just by itself makes any proposition true or false; a 'fact' is expressed by a whole sentence, not by a single name.

At this point, it seems to me like Russell runs into some problems. So far it looks like Russell argues:

1) All facts are expressed by propositions.

2) All facts are expressed by a whole sentence.

3) 1 +2, therefore: All facts expressed by propositions are facts expressed by a whole sentece.

The conclusion of (3) seems to put too much importance on the structure of the language being spoken. Couldn't you express a fact without using a whole sentence? Did cavemen not express facts when they were speaking broken-up-non-perfect-language? Not only that, but consider the ease of which people can still understand which fact you are referring to when you speak improper english. For example, after writing a test someone just learning to speak english might say to you "I think that test do good?", and any normal person would interpret this (probably correctly) as "I think that I did well on the test". Here, Russell would have to say that this person was not expressing a proposition, as well as not expressing any fact. I think that clearly they are expressing both a version of the that-style propostion "that I did well on the test" as well as a version of the fact I did well on the test (which could still prove the proposition true or false).

Moving on, Russell gives examples of the different types of facts and then starts on symbols. I do not want to focus on the details of these parts, but rather on the argument Russell seems after the examinations. Russell eventually comes to the conclusion that propositions are not names for facts. He says people who think this have mistaken types of symbols. He finishes by suggesting that names are the proper symbols for a person (or other things I imagine) and a sentence (or proposition) is the proper symbol for a fact. Russell takes care to show that propositions cannot name facts. Here is his argument:

1) All Propositions bear a 3 place relation

2) All names bear a 2 place relation

3) 1 + 2 therefore, No propositions are names

In support of premis 1, Russell claims that all propositions are either true, false, or meaningless. So there are 3 possible relations propositions can have toward something. Names on the other hand, as premis 2 suggests, can either name the thing they are relating to or be meaningless (a name is not true or false). He says that if a name does not name anything, then it is simply a sound. From the difference in the nature of propositions and names, Russell derives his conclusion that the two are completely different.

I would like to raise an objection to premis 1. I do not think that propositions bear a 3 place relation. I would like someone to show me a proposition that is meaningless. It seems impossible to do. Any proposition you can put together (let's use Russell's guidelines from earlier and say that any proposition must be a sentence) is either true, false, or not a proposition (not meaningless as he would suggest).

I think that this objection to premis 1 takes one leg out from Russells argument. I haven't quite figured out how to reconcile the fact that propositions are true and false, and names either 'name' or 'do not name'. If this difference could be shown to be negligible, or that somehow naming something and not naming something is the same as being true or false then Russell's position would completely reverse. He would have to accept that propositions are (or can) name facts.

The closest thing I can think of to reconciling these two relations is that it is either true or false that something is the name for something else. I think this line of reasoning looks promising, and Russell cannot sit contently forever on his position that propositions cannot name facts.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Better Russell Bit

It occurred to me last night that I should do a better job of giving Russell's position. Now, certainly this isn't perfect; but it should hopefully be better!

Russell assumes:

1. Propositions meaningful are non-linguistic entities.
2. Meanings are non-linguistic entities.

I happen to not agree with this so much, but I presume it is obvious to everyone else and stands in no need of defense.

But there is a tradition of British philosophy which denies this as well. They would argue:

3. Language stands for ideas having meanings.

This is a concept Empiricism: the basic words and concepts, basic ideas, are extracted from experience. So a private sensory language exists which is meaningful because it is about our ideas. (So when a baby sees a red patch, his private language gives meaning to his sensations and gives him ideas.)

This is a most queer view, but nonetheless was historically popular. It is further held that:

4. In every judgement there is something, the true subject of the term, which is not an idea and does not have meaning.

The motivation here is clear: we don't want to be idealists, with only ideas and meanings existing in the mind. So there are some transcendentally real objects, even if we can only idealize them. Kant or Locke would want this. There are 'unknowables' or 'I-know-not-whats' to deal with.

But this line of thinking brings the conclusions:

5. So meaning is linguistic (or experiential).
6. So propositions, to have meaning, must be linguistic (experiential).

I add "(or experiential)" since a good Empiricist will argue for all sorts of non-linguistic knowledge, awareness, etc. grounded in the magical power of experience... as you can tell I do not accept this view. But an empiricist like CI Lewis will argue in defense of (5) that sense-meanings are essential for any meanings to exist at all, and in defense of (6) that propositions are only meaningful if they phenomenologically reduce into statements about immediate experience.

Yes, Lewis is a phenomenalist. It seems that (3) and (4) commit us to Kantian transcendental idealism if we want to be 'realists' and phenomenalism if we are happy to be solipsists. We can argue for 'realism' is we are unhappy with being solipsists.

But now we see that:

7. ~( (1) & (6) )
8. ~( (2) & (5) )

So something has to give. Even thought I don't like (1) or (2) so much, I don't like (3) or (4) either! What is wrong with (3) and (4)?

3. Language stands for ideas having meanings.

4. In every judgement there is something, the true subject of the term, which is not an idea and does not have meaning.

I don't like (3) because it give meanings primarily to ideas, which later get hooked up to language. So there are pre-linuistic means and concepts acquired directly through experience. This violates the Myth of the Given. This view isn't in favor of innate ideas, but has the same basic picture in mind.

I don't like (4) because subjects have meanings. Lewis would even argue that they have sense-meanings. Something like direct reference will show that I can refer to something directly, even if I cannot access it with sensations or if I only know some contingent facts about it. I mean Jones when I say 'Jones' or point at him. Does it make sense to say 'the real Jones' is hidden, meaningless, etc.? That seems queer. That is Jones there, damn it!

Russell makes the point that:

5. Words have meaning, in the simple sense that they are symbols which stand for something other than themselves.

So there is a psychological and logical element to meaning. The defender of (3) and (4) are getting these messed up. Ideas seem to relate to psychological meaning, which is distinct from denotation which relates to a logical meaning.

This confusion is evident if we consider (6):

6. Propositions, unless they are linguistic, do not themselves contain words, only containing entities indicated by words.

Propositions do have meanings, but are not word-things. But this isn't a contradiction!

Agents are talkers. Words are talkings and entities are talk-eds. We shouldn't confuse the talkings and talk-eds! A proposition is not a talking at all, it is a talk-ed. A talking simply represents it.

To motivate (5) and (6) we can appeal to denotation as a kind of meaning, distinct form psychological or empirical notions of meaning. A poor Empiricist like Kant may wonder how I can have an idea of a thing-in-itself, the real deal object behind my sensations and ideas. Russell sees that I still denote that thing, even though I cannot experience it, such that I have no idea of it and it is 'meaningless' to me. This lets us conclude:

7. Meaning, in the sense in which words have meaning, is irrelevant to logic.


8. Meaning, in the sense in which propositions have meaning, is relevant to logic.

And this non-psychological sense of meaning is denotation!

So Russell seems to accept the limitations of language and of ideas, of empirical notions of meaning. But this isn't a defect, since there are more robust systems of representation in logic and propositions, which are non-empirical and non-psychological notions of meaning.

A criticism here that I won't fully cash out is this: the traditional Empiricist appeals to the Givenness of sensation to do the heavy lifting. The traditional Rationalist appeals to the Givenness of intellect to do the heavy lifting. It strikes me that Russell wants to accept the Givenness of acquaintance, coupling the traditional Empiricist and the traditional Rationalist together.

I hope this is better than the last formulation of Russell's argument.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Russell, Berkeley attacking

Russell tells us that it is (was) customary to regard all propositions as having a subject, an immediate this, and a predicate, a general concept attached to it by way of description.

Some people argued:

1. All words stand for ideas having meanings.
2. In every judgement there is something, the true subject of the term, which is not an idea and does not have meaning.

But Russell thinks this notion of meaning confuses logical and psychological elements. It makes sense to argue:

3. Words have meaning, in the simple sense that they are symbols which stand for something other than themselves.

But then this means that:

4. Propositions, unless they are linguistic, do not themselves contain words, only containing entities indicated by words.

And it seems that:

5. Meaning, in the sense which words have meaning, is irrelevant to logic.

So there has to be another sense of meaning:

6. The concept a man is symbolic: it denotes.

This means that when a man occurs in a proposition, the proposition is not about the concept a man.


7. Concepts have meaning in a non-psychologial sense.

This notion of meaning as denotation is more robust, so only those things which denote have meaning. The confusion over meaning is due to the notion that words occur in propositions, which in turn is due to the notion that propositions are essentially mental and are to be identified with cognitions.

I think that this is a good argument against some forms of concept empiricism which do seem to naturally lead to idealism or solipsism. Though, as an interesting side note, Russell seems to get stuck in solipsism with the Given.

If someone were inclined to accept British Empiricist theories of concept acquisition and of meaning, such that basic concepts are abstracted from experience and meaningful concepts originate in experience, it is easy to see how we can get the notion that:

8. Concepts are only meaningful if they have meanings.
9. Meanings are given in experience.
10. So concepts are only meaningful if they are given in experience.

But substance isn't given in experience: so Berkeley says that substance is meaningless. Substance is not an idea, and so doesn't have a meaning.

So a Lockean might have to admit that ideas and concepts are mental, so are meanings mental. Substance being non-mental, is not meaningful. Berkeley things we cannot have ideas which are non-meaningful, and I'm sure Locke or even Russell would appeal to instrumentalism in science to get it in there. (inferential realism.)

But it seems like Berkeley will just run a Benacerraf dilemma. What is good for Jubien in terms of abstract entities will be good for Berkeley in terms of abstract general ideas.

1. For there to be substances, a theory of substance must be true.
2. A theory of substance is either a mathematical theory or an ontological theory).

3. For a mathematical theory to be true, it must either offer a model of what substance is or given a real account of what substance is.

4. If a mathematical theory of substance only provides a model of what substantial existents are, then it has not answered the question of what substance is.
5. If a mathematical theory argues that the model is identical to substance, then they face a Benecerraf dilemma.

6. Therefore a mathematical theory of substance is not true. (4 - 5)

7. An ontological theory of substance has to offer a real account of what substance is.

8. To give a real account of substance, we have to analyze our general idea of substance.

9. A general idea is either a singular idea or an abstract general idea.
10. If our general idea of substance is a singular idea then it is Given in experience.
11. Our idea of substance is not Given in experience.
12. So our idea of substance is not a singular idea. (10 - 11)

13. So our idea of substance is an abstract general idea. (9, 12)

14. Abstract general ideas are contradictions.

15. So an ontological account of substance is a contradiction. (13, 14)

16. Any theory that is a contradiction is false.

17. So the ontological theory of substance is false. (15, 16)

20. Both mathematical and ontological theory is false. (6, 17)

21. So there is no true theory of substance. (2, 20)

22. So there are no substances. (1, 21)

Berkeley will assume:

1. We can only know those things Given in experience.
2. Substance cannot be Given in experience.
3. So we cannot know about substance.

He'll accept Wittgenstein's: "A nothing would do well as a something about which we could say nothing."

If we adopt an instrumentalism or realism for a philosophy of science, Berkeley will say that we are still accepting 1 - 3, so substance is just mental after all.

So both Berkeley and Russell will deny (2):

1. All words stand for ideas having meanings.
2. In every judgement there is something, the true subject of the term, which is not an idea and does not have meaning.

B. will claim that something without a meaning is nothing. But the idea of meaning is correct. R. will claim the notion of meaning is wrong. Substances have denotation.

But I think B. will still run a Benacerraf dilemma. What are we denoting, these non-meaningful things?

B. is a crafty bastard. Our concept a man is clearly originated in experience. But what of mind-independent material thing? What of our concept is a proposition? etc.

There is more to say, but I'm sure that this is enough for now.