Thursday, September 11, 2008

Platonism Again?

So recall that the arguments we considered for Platonism could be resisted if we can make good on something like the true in/true at distinction. But a point that I should have emphasized, as Dan reminded me, is that even if we countenance the distinction, we still need to worry about (e.g.) the actually existing proposition that there are rocks. Does it have a spatiotemporal location? If not, then it seems that it must be acausal, if all things that causally interact are spatiotemporally located. And if it is spatiotemporally located, the obvious question is: ok, where is it? If we can't give a good answer, then perhaps we're stuck with Platonism about propositions in Swoyer's sense. Is that right?


Justin D said...
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Justin D said...

Some arguments (I don't necessarily endorse) to consider.

For those who don't see why it is important that propositions not be acausal, here is an argument against propositions being acausal:
1) Believing some proposition or not believing it can cause people to act in a way they wouldn't have otherwise without countenancing that proposition.
2)If (1), then (3).
3)Propositions can play causal roles.
4)If (3), then (5).
5)Propositions are not acausal.

Just for interest, here is a reason for thinking that causes needn't be spatio-temporal anyways:
1)My not watering my garden caused my flowers to die.
2)If causes must be spatio-temporal, then by (1) it must be the case that my not watering my flowers is spatio-temporal.
3)It is not the case that my not watering the flowers has a spatio-temporal location.
4)Hence, modus tollenserizing, causes needn't be spatio-temporal.

Dan said...

In class we distinguished the thing asserted from the act of you asserting it (replace 'assert' with any propositional attitude you like). I think your act of believing is a better candidate for the major player in the causal role.
The proposition surely makes it possible to commit acts of propositional attitudes, but I doubt propositions cause these acts. We can usually identify the causes of one entertaining a propositional attitude fairly well, and the proposition itself is not among them.

Wes McPherson said...

What I don't get is that even if there are entities which are outside of physical space and time, they still seem to be somewhere. So are Platonic entities supposed to be in Platonic space and Platonic time?

If we take the Eleatic Principle, 'to be is to play a role', then it seems that propositions still play a role, even if 'fundamentally' they are not posited in strictly physical space and time.

Not watering plants, for example, seems to tie into the causal order, in the sense that it plays a role, even if it isn't 'fundamentally' in spacetime.

Wes McPherson said...

I'd just like to add that I think perhaps we should discriminate between a 'broad' and 'narrow' sense of causation. One with a reductive drive may hold that only a narrow sense of causation exists. Such a person may insist that only the fundamental physical stuff is causal. Perhaps we need Platonic stuff to account for minds, sensuous qualia, propositions, etc. Or perhaps we just eliminate these notions.

A broad sense of causation might hold that if minds, sensuous qualia, propositions, etc. play a role in explication, they too have a tie into the causal order as real things. They might just lack the narrow sense of causation. We might hold that birthdays are in the causal order, even if they aren't in space, for example.

Perhaps propositions are just as spatiotemporal as wedding anniversaries and sprints.