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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Some defence for Stalnaker against Richard

In Mark Richard's Structure, he talks about Stalnaker's unstructured view of propositions. One particular idea of Stalnaker's that he argues against early in his paper is that the acquisition of deductive knowledge is putting one's separate belief states together. He argues that this supposed advantage of unstructured propositions is not possible because it commits one to certain beliefs that one does not necessarily have. Richard sums it up as follows:

"When a collection of premises entails distinct propositions p and q, one may see one entailment, but not the other".

He gives one of Stalnaker's responses to this problem; that perhaps it is because the merging of belief states is done in a sequential manner that does not necessarily entail the not-believed conclusion. (I will illustrate with the same example from the text):

(1) Barbers shave only those who do not shave themselves
(2) The barber Jones shaved all those who attacked Lionel
(3) 1+2 --> No one who shaves himself attacked Lionel
(4) Anderson shaves himself
(5) 3+4 --> Anderson did not attack Lionel

Here, Stalnaker is showing that from 1, 2, and 4 "Smith" can deductively (through the sequential merging of belief states) conclude that Anderson did not attack Lionel (5) without realizing (or believing at some point) that Jones did not attack Lionel.

Richard thinks Stalnaker is mistaken. He thinks that according to the unstructured propositionalist, "Jones did not attack Lionel" cannot be avoided by sequential deduction. Richard's argument is:

(6) (1) and (2) entail the conjunction of (1) and (2), not (3)
(7) The conjunction of (1) and (2) entails that Jones did not attack Lionel (while at the same time entailing that Anderson did not attack Lionel when combined with (5))
(8) If the conjunction of (1) and (2) can lead Smith to deduce that Jones did not attack Lionel (even though they also entail that Anderson did not attack Lionel, then Smith must realize (and believe) that Jones did not attack Lionel

And of course, if (8) is the case then Stalnaker is stuck with the problem of deduction.

There are a few oversights in Richards objection that I would like to point out. Richard (and all supporters of this line of objection) seems to be assuming that the entire process of merging belief states takes place instantaneously (that once a part of a belief state starts to merge with another, the entire belief state is immediately merged). What if is the case that parts of belief states can merge quickly while other parts take more time to merge (more deductive reasoning, etc..). This would allow for certain deductions to be made while others do not occur to you right away. Or what if certain parts of belief states did not merge at all (like in the case of incompatible belief states).

Someone might try to point out that belief states are platonic in nature and are not restricted by time limitation in such ways. To this I would respond by pointing out two things:

A) For belief states to merge, there would have to be a time where they were not merged, which suggests some sort of being-in-a-state-at-time-x-versus-at-time-y distinction.

B) The part of our brain that pulls the magic trick of interaction with an abstract object is bound by spacetime limitations, and would take time to "catch-up" to an immediate belief state merger (and it is in this "catching-up" transition where certain deductions could happen non-uniformly, or maybe even not at all).

If belief states do not in fact merge instantaneously, then I think (7) and (8) of Richard's argument are not as sound as they seem. At the very least, it is reason to question the problem of deduction in the sequential deduction position.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sellars, Soames and a little Frege

Sellars holds that candid meaningful linguistic utterances express thoughts.

But the term "express" and the related phrase "express a thought" is 'radically ambiguous'.

1. If candid meaningful linguistic utterances express thoughts, then (A) or (B) is true.

(A) To say of an utterance that it expresses a thought is to say, roughly, that a thought episode causes the utterance.

(B) To say of an utterance that it expresses a thought is to say that the utterance expresses a proposition (i.e., a thought in Frege's sense (Gedanke)—an "abstract entity" rather than a mental episode).

2. Candid meaningful linguistic utterances express thoughts.
3. So (A) or (B) is true. (1, 2 MP)

Sellars is motivated to say (A) is true.

If we distinguish between these two sense of "express" as the "causal" and the "logical", we should distinguish between two sense of "thought" by referring to thinkings and propositions.

So we can draw a diagram thusly:

````````````````````✸ proposition that-p
Thinking that-p ✸ ➝ ✸ speaking that-p

This picture has a mental episode which causes a verbal episode, which expresses an abstract entity.

But something seems to be funny here. What is the relation between thinking that-p and the proposition that-p? Maybe we should treat the relation between speaking and the proposition as the logical produce of the causal relation between the speaking and the thinking and a relation between the thinking and the proposition, thus:

``````````````✸ proposition that-p
Thinking that-p ✸ ➝ ✸ speaking that-p

This roughly means that for a speaking to mean that-p is for it to be caused by a thinking that-p.

Or the first diagram could be used to show that to be a thinking that-p is to be an episode of a sort which causes speakings which express the proposition that-p.

These considerations are based in our trying to make sense of (B).

Sellars would rather work with a more complex framework in which the idea that thinkings belong to "inner speech" is taken seriously, and combined with the idea that expressions in different languages can stand for (express in the logical sense) the same proposition. So we can roughly make the following diagram:

```````````````````````````✸ proposition that-p
`````````````````````❘`````_______❘_______ overt proposition
Mental sentence (type) ✸````✸ sentence in L1 (type) ✸ sentence in L2
`````````````````````⇡````⇡`````````````````````` (type)
```````Thinking that-p ✸ ➝ ✸ speaking that-p

On this account, neither the relation of the speaking to the proposition nor the relation of the thinking to the proposition is to be analyzed as a logical product along the lines of the other diagrams. Sellars intends this claim to be compatible with the idea that there is an internal relation between the idea of a speaking expressing a certain proposition and the speaking being caused, ceteris paribus, by a thinking which expresses the same proposition.

And a footnote to this 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.

So what of meaningless mental utterances? We might not call it a thinking, but it would stand to thinkings as meaningless utterances stand to "saying something."

It seems that one could in some sense "say" while "saying nothing" or "think" while "thinking nothing", but then this isn't really saying or thinking in the full-blooded sense. This is what I take Sellars to be hinting at.

Now what Sellars is hinting at here is that intentionality is the mark of the mental but also of language. So thoughts and speech instantiate propositions; but not all brain states or utterances instantiate propositions. So maybe in some sense animals think or speak, but this isn't the intentional stuff that instantiates propositions; non-propositional and non-intentional brain states and utterances can be explained on Sellars' view.

Now it seems to me that Soames has objections to (B) as well, and accepts something roughly like (A). Soames probably would not like Sellars' modeling of thoughts on language, etc. Maybe he'd see what Sellars is hinting at and he'd agree. I don't know.

An important similarity I see is that for both, human beings have to get into the representing game for their thoughts our utterances to encode propositions. It is not that thoughts are intrinsically intentional and later get linked up with language; or that propositions are intrinsically intentional and later get linked up with language.

Instead, thoughts and utterances happen. Sure, so in some sense 'thoughts' and 'language' emerges at some point. Let us call these 'proto-propositional' events. Then at some point, due to human representational activity, 'proto-propositional' events are taken to be propositional. That is, certain things, like thoughts and speech, become taken to be representational.

I just find this interesting and thought I'd share. If what I have said is vague or shady, it is simply because this isn't for marks!

Soames and Mapping

A. Soames brings up a pretty interesting objection to propositions:

1. According to the Frege-Russell view, propositions are the meanings we assign to sentences, formulas and the like, when we interpret them.
2. So it makes no sense to say that propositions have meanings or get interpreted by us. (from 1)

Soames concludes from this misunderstanding that:

3. The Frege-Russell view has a confused discussion of "the unity of the proposition" which makes it impossible to ask the question "What makes propositions representational, and hence capable of being used to interpret sentences and provide their meanings?" because this question violated a fundamental feature of what they took propositions to be.

And this has the result that:

4. If by 'proposition' we mean what Frege and Russell meant, then there are no propositions. (from 3)

But given that there are propositions, the Frege-Russell view must be wrong.

B. Soames offers an alternative way of thinking of propositions as the meanings of sentences, bearers of truth value and objects of attitude:

5. Propositions are structured entities, the constituents of which are objects and properties.
6. To say that certain constituents make up a complex is to say that, in it, the constituents stand in certain relations to one another.
7. So a proposition (the complex) is, in effect, the standing of objects and properties (the constituents) in those relations. (from 5 - 6)

For our discussion here, Soames says that we need no further discussion of details here. What these relations are, of course, will depend on the specific abstract structures we take propositions to be.

C. Soames gives an example:

8. A is different than B.

(8) expresses a proposition which is a complex in which a, b and the difference relation stand in a certain relation R.

Given Soames' view, we can see that a's and b's standing in R to difference represents a as being different from b because of the interpretation we place on R, and thereby on the structure as a whole.

This means that our use of R is such that for a and b to stand in R to difference is for us to take the proposition as representing a as different from b.

We can think of propositions as functioning as something like maps:

Imagine a map with two dots. One is labeled "Winnipeg" and one is labeled "Calgary". The "Calgary" dot is to the left of the "Winnnipeg" dot. This represents Calgary as being to the west of Winnipeg, and Winnipeg as being to the east of Calgary. The dots are 13.28 centimeters apart. This represents that Winnipeg and Calgary are 1328 kilometers apart.

How does the map represent? It represents Calgary as being 1328 kilometers to the west of Winnipeg, in part, because of the interpretation we give to the relation being 13.28 centimeters and to the left of on the map.

A proposition, like a map, is something we interpret. We interpret the propositional relation R, in interpreting the complex in which a and b stand in R to difference.

D. The major conclusion I draw from Soames is this insight:

So while Russell's multiple-relation theory of judgement takes the role of agents to be crucial in unifying the constituents of judgements, we now have reason to take agents to be crucial in endowing propositions with the representational properties that allow them to serve as objects of judgement, and other attitudes.

I am reminded of a (surprise!) Sellarsean idea here: for representations we need representers, representings and represent-eds. Or, to say consistent with Soames, mapers, mapings and map-eds. That there might ever be mapings, and thereby map-eds, without mapers strikes me as preposterous.

I see the issue of models and commentaries useful here as well. Consider:

9. Winnipeg↗

This model, say, could represent anything. It seems that it certainly needs someone to interpret it for it to mean anything. I do not understand how this map could map anything without a mapper!

But what commentary should be provided? Perhaps it means that if you want to go to Winnipeg, you should go north-by-north east. To go to Brandon north-by-north west. Maybe. Perhaps it means that you are currently in between Winnipeg and Brandon and there are roads going in those directions. Maybe. Perhaps it means that Winnipeg is awesome and Brandon is sucky. Maybe.

I suppose that there are natural readings and unnatural ones, in the sense that some possibilities seem more intuitively plausible than others. I doubt (9) means that Hitler was German and that sandwiches involve bread. But I suppose, if we thought we should interpret it that way, it may well do so.

Wittgenstein complained of Moore and Russell that "they only ever look at the logical form of words, and never the uses of those forms." It seems like an interesting point to note. How could we merely study the logical form of (9) and understanding anything at all about it? It seems that we must take into account how (9) is being used.

I presume we do not need explicit rules of interpretation or commentaries, but that we only need to know how to read sentences or maps in order to know how to interpret them pretty well. We just need, as it were, some simple map-reading skills to be mappers. Then we can read into maps what they are about. It seems that if I show you a map of Winnipeg or tell you the proposition that Frege is bearded, you look past the map itself or the proposition itself, and instead you attention is drawn toward what is represented, i.e. Winnipeg and Frege.

So I think we answer the question: "What makes propositions representational, and hence capable of being used to interpret sentences and provide their meanings?" by noting the need of representers, mappers and interpreters for there to be representations, maps, and interpretations and represent-eds, map-eds, and interpret-eds.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Worry, yes. Insight? Maybe.

I had a bit of a crisis of faith over propositions this morning, and a resolution. I thought I'd share. Were the worries worth the worry? Is the solution satisfactory?

I began by considering:

(A) Dan is a philosophy student.

(B) Dan-eun chul-hak saeng-ibnida.

I thought that it was a mistake to assume:

(1) If A in L1 translates into B in L2, then A expresses the same proposition that B expresses.


(C) Gutentage.


(D) Bonjour.

and neither (C) or (D) expresses a proposition.

Perhaps (1) could be amended:

(2) If A in L1 translates B in L2, and if A and B both express propositions, then A expresses the proposition that B does.

But given some reasonable assumptions (like Frege) we might feel that (A) and (B) express different propositions, even if the sentences and their propositions play the same sort of functional role. I was tempted to think that (A) and (B) were equal expressions but not identical; and so with the propositions expressed.

I worried that this would make propositions into wheels idly turning.

(E) Wes is a bachelor.


(F) Wes is unmarried.

both presumably 'mean' or 'say' the same thing (in the sense of 'equality') without 'meaning' or 'saying' the same thing (in the sense of 'identity').

But this strikes me as queer. How could distinct token-classes of the same type, like (A) and (B) .or. (E) and (F), express distinct propositions? Shouldn't we tie propositions to types and not token-classes?

It seems more plausible to reason:

1. (A) and (B) are of the same type.
2. Token-classes of the same type express the same proposition.
3. (A) and (B) express the same proposition.


4. (E) and (F) are distinct token-classes.
5. Distinct token-classes express distinct propositions.
6. (E) and (F) express distinct propositions.

It seems a Sellarsean move helps. Let us picture the state of affairs that it rains thusly:

(G) 〪〭〫〬

This will stand for the state of affairs that it rains, in a 'minimally linguistic manner'. We could imagine an ostensive definition instead, a scientific model of rain, etc. But we can explicitly put this state of affairs into language:

(H) It rains.


(I) Es regnet.

We can say that (H) and (I) are distinct token-classes of the •it rains• type. And the •it rains• type encodes (G).

It seems reasonable to conclude:

7. In the case of (A) and (B), (C) and (D), (E) and (F), and of (H) and (I), there are two sentences of distinct token-classes, but of the same type.
8. We can translate the sentence A in L1 into the sentence B in L2 iff A in L1 and B in L2 are of the same type.
9. If A translates B, then A and B are different ways of saying the same thing.
10. So (A) is a different way to say (B), (C) is a different way to say (D), (E) is a different way to say (F), and (H) is a different way to say (I).

What do (A) and (B) both say? They both encode, say, the same type. So (C) encodes •good day• and so does (D). On top of this translation principle, it seems we can note that some types encode states of affairs. So (C) translates (D) but they express nothing. They say the same thing but encode nothing. (Or not a state of affairs in any case.) But (H) and (I) are both of the same type; and this type encodes the state of affairs that it rains. Thus we might rewrite (2):

(3) If A in L1 translates B in L2, then A in L1 and B in L2 are of the same type. If a type expresses a proposition, then all tokens of token-classes of that type expresses that proposition.

Thus I satisfied myself and ended my worry.

I will lastly note:

11. That it rains is a state of affairs.
12. States of affairs can be encoded in language as propositions, or can be actualized in the world as facts.
13. If it rains is a fact, then •It rains• is true.
14. If it rains is not a fact, then •it rains• is false.

So it seems we get a nice little correspondence theory of truth, flush with propositions, facts, states of affairs, sentence-types, and translation rules. Yay!

The theory of Stickiness

Concerning the problem of how a thought and its constituents bind together and how this binding imposes structure on the thought, Frege appears (according to King) to posit the following theory:  the senses of words in a sentence are the constituents of a thought.  These senses bind together to build a thought by means of an unsaturated sense being completed or saturated by other senses.  Finally, the way the words are structured in a sentence is mirrored by the structure of the senses in a thought.  For Frege, a thought must contain an unsaturated sense to hold the constituents (the other senses) together; it is the binding glue, so to speak.  An unsaturated sense must be completed by some other sense to have a thought.  Without going into detail how this works, I will turn to the criticism that King makes of this binding glue. 

King notes that while it appears we have been given an answer to the concerning problem, we have in fact been given very little to account for the binding of the constituents of a thought.  Attributing the binding power simply to the unsaturatedness of some constituent of a thought seems no better than claiming that the constituents of a thought hold together because some parts of a thought are “sticky”.  If this criticism holds than what is needed is a substantive theory of stickiness to provide a real account of binding, but we do not have this substantive theory, so Frege’s original theory seems at a loss of explaining.  We may construct the problem as follows,

1.  Either we do not have a real account of binding or we have a substantive theory of stickiness.

2.  If we do not have a real account of binding, then it is not the case that constituents of a thought bind together due to the unsaturatedness of some its parts.

3.  We do not have a substantive theory of stickiness.

4.  Therefore, we do not have a real account of binding. (1,2 DS)

5.  Therefore, it is not the case that constituents of a thought bind together due to the unsaturatedness of some its parts.(2,4 MP)

This argument seems to follow, and I agree with King that were we at a loss for some theory of stickiness beyond thinking that sticky parts hold a thought together, then we would lack a real account of what binds the constituents of a thought together.  However, it seems that we may resist granting truth to premise (3) by the following considerations.  To my untrained eye it seems that Frege still has some room to provide at least a proto-theory of stickiness which essentially derives its explanatory power from syntax rules pertaining to the language and sentences therein.  So, we can say for instance, that since concept words are predicative, then things that are predicative in a language constitute unsaturated concepts which contribute senses to our thought in question.   Also, just as is required by our syntax that a predicate alone does not make a sentence, then we require something else, either a subject, or another unsaturated concept, or a relation, etc to combine to make a sentence.  And each part contributes its part to the sentence which then expresses the thought. 

However this seems a little too obvious and so simple a referral to be a suitable consideration as a solution.  Perhaps I have not grasped the gravity or complexities of simply relying on syntax to determine how constituents of thoughts may be held together.  Furthermore, this would of course not solve much, since the problem of the arbitrariness by which we chose syntax rules arises and we have no absolute reason for why syntax rules should determine how things are ordered and held together.  Any suggestions?    

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Frege and the reductio

I always seem to get confused when I get just passed the first third of pg 185 of Frege's On Concepts and Object. But there was a reductio raised in an earlier post (Wes) that I agreed with so I will talk about that. It has been summed up a few times already, so I will give a really short interpretation of Frege's argument before the reductio.

All the examples Frege gives seem to imply that anything which can be used as an adjective is a concept, and anything that cannot is an object. Concepts have instances in objects, but objects cannot have instances in concepts. When Kerry objects and says that there are situations where concepts seem to play the part of objects, Frege does two things: 1) he says that because of the inadaquacy of language certain paradox's will arise, 2) that there are situations where second-order concepts can have instances in first-order concepts.

I totally agree with the reductio Wes gives against Frege's work:

1. Frege uses the resources of language to explore language

2. The resources of language are inadaquate to fully explore language

3. Therefore, Frege is unable to fully explore language.

At first I considered, in Frege's defense, that he never actually claimed that he was going to fully explore language. He claimed that it was precisely because of this inadaquacy of language that he would not actually give a definition of his 'bedeutung'; he would only give a feeling of, or clues to, what it is like. Wouldn't this preface have to be applied then to everything that follows in Frege's argument?

4. Frege's concept-object distinction is central to his idea of Bedeutung

5. Frege's idea of Bedeutung is not fully fleshed out or defined, but is still useful

6. Therefore, Frege's concept-object distinction is not fully fleshed out or defined, but is still useful (4,5 MP)

However, upon review I think that 4 is backwards. Frege comes to his idea of what Bedeutung is precisely because of the relations between subjects, predicates, objects, and concepts. His argument for Bedeutung is like this:

7. Objects are incapable of being used as a grammarical predicate themselves.

8. Objects can play a role in part of a concept (ex: "no other than Venus" he says is a concept, and yet 'Venus' is part of that concept).

9. If the whole of the object were in the makeup of a concept, the object would in fact be a concept.

10. If 9, then part of an object must stay wholly an object while said object plays a role in a concept.

The part of the object which can only be an object is called the Bedeutung. This clearly shows that the idea of Bedeutung relies on the concept-object distinction. I cannot really think of a way to defend Frege from the reductio. I think he has to atleast concede that his concept-object distinction is sitting on unsound foundation.

Does this mean that he has to give up his position entirely though? If he admits to the fact that his concept-object distinction does a lot of the work, but is not consistent in a few specific instances where language gets weird and self-reflexive, it still may be a very useful theory. Couldn't you say his theory is workable pending further developments in the constructs of language. Lots of accepted theories rest on unstable grounds, such as the theory of gravity (where what we learn in school breaks down at quantum levels), or even the laws of thermodynamics (in recent cosmological models). What he cannot say however, is that his concept-object distinction is flawless and in no need of further development.

A Comment on Dan's Proposal, and a Question about Frege

I’d like to comment on Dan’s comment on Dan below, and then pose a question about Frege. Dan’s proposal was that properties are fusions of properties of a certain type, and that Benacerraf worries about which entity is the proposition encoded by a sentence can be avoided if we note that certain complexes of properties have a more legitimate claim to being the meaning of a sentence than others. The proposal has it that the sentence (1)

(1) John loves Jane

encodes a proposition, and that this proposition is a complex C consisting of the properties being-John and loving, loving, and being-Jane and being-loved. Dan noted, correctly, I think, that a view according to which the proposition encoded by (1) is C is still going to be vulnerable to a Benacerraf worry. After the talk on Friday, I asked Dan why he didn’t include the considerations voiced last class about which properties might help the propositionalist avoid this worry. Roughly, the idea was that some properties have a stronger claim to being included in the proposition encoded by (1). If I recall correctly, these were properties such as being John and occupying the first position in the fusion, loving and occupying the second position in the fusion, and being-Jane and occupying the third position in the fusion. Let’s call the complex consisting of these properties C’. It seemed like a view according to which (1) encodes C’ might avoid Benacerraf worries, since now we have a fusion of properties that is relevantly similar to the surface structure of the sentence.

But it seems like this won’t work if we want the same proposition to be encoded by synonymous sentences of distinct natural languages that have different surface grammars. Consider (2) and (3)

(2) Dan is a philosophy student.

(3) Dan-eun chul-hak saeng-ibnida.

(2) and (3) mean the same thing, but they have a radically different grammatical structure (for instance, in (3), the copula is the last term. Were we to translate each term of (3) individually, the English equivalent would be something like ‘It is of Dan that philosophy student he is.’ It won’t do to say that the proposition encoded by (2) is something like a fusion consisting of the properties of being-Dan and occupying the first position in the fusion, being and occupying the second position in the fusion, being a philosophy student and occupying the third position in the fusion, since it would be implausible to hold that (3) encodes this same fusion of properties. But (2) and (3) do mean the same thing; since a propositionalist wants this to be the case in virtue of (2) and (3) encoding the same proposition, this seems like a problem for the proposal.

Frege’s view might be subject to similar worries. Frege holds that (i) proper names express saturated senses; (ii) predicates express unsaturated senses; (iii) BBC is true, and (iv) MC is true. Crucially, with respect to (ii), Frege thinks that the ‘degree’ of unsaturatedness of a sense expressed by a predicate corresponds to the adicity of that predicate. Now, the sense of a sentence is a thought for Frege. If BBC is true, then this means that the thought expressed by (1) is going to be built up out of the senses expressed by ‘John,’ ‘loves,’ and ‘Jane.’ If we let ‘S’ denote ‘sense-of’, the thought expressed by (1) will look something like (T):

(T) {S(John), S(loves), S(Jane}.

On Frege’s account, it is the (doubly) unsaturated sense of ‘loves’ that holds (T) together, in virtue of having the saturated senses of ‘John’ and ‘Jane’ filling in its unsaturated positions. But we might wonder why (T’) is not an equally good candidate for the thought expressed by (1):

(T’) {S(loves), S(John), S(Jane)}.

The reason why (T’) is not a candidate for the thought expressed by (1) is that for Frege, MC is true. And MC tells us that the structure of the words in a sentence mirrors the structure of the thought that it expresses. Since (1) has the structure it does, the thought it expresses must have the structure of (T) and not (T’).

But if MC is true, then it seems like Frege is committed to holding that (2) and (3) express distinct thoughts. Is this a worry?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Soames Represents!

In Soames' paper "The Unity of the Proposition" he takes up the task of figuring out what the '<', the '>' and the ',' mean when we say . He gives what I take to be a sound refutation of Frege and Russel, and then sketches a view of his own. If I understand Frege and Russel right, I believe they are correct about something that Soames denies. I'll start by reiterating the sketch that Soames lays out.
(S) Propositions are structured entities, the consituents of which are individuals and relations. These consituents compose a special complex C (which is, for Soames, the proposition).
(R) C is the consituents' standing in the R relation to each other.
Soames commits himself to (S) on page 16:
"We retain the idea that propositions are structured complexes, the consituents of which are objects and properties"
Two sentences down he commits himself to (R):
"The complex is, in effect, the standing of the consituents in those relations"

Soames thinks that we use the relation R to represent the way in which the constituents are put together. The idea here is subtle, so let's see if we can tease it out a bit. I'd like to say that for this account to work, the consituents of a proposition must actually stand in the relation R to each other.
1) my bed, the inside of relation, and chaos do not stand in relation R to each other (assume for reductio)
2) (1)->(3)
3) my bed, the inside of relation, and chaos are merely represented as standing in the R relation to each other.
4) ~(3)
5) ~(1)
The idea is, if there is a proposition then if Soames is right it somehow involves them being related by R. However if they do not actually stand in relation R, then they must at least be represented as doing so (premise 2). However, I think if R indeed had this representational capacity, we could do away with it altogether and place that representational capacity on whatever it is we take R to represent. For instance, if R represented predication and R didn't actually hold of the consituents of a proposition, we would be representing the consituents as bearing R to each other, which in turn would represent them bearing the predication relation to each other. It would be much easier just to represent them bearing predication to each other and do away with R. Therefore, I take (4) to be true, and I take Soames to imply that the consituents of a proposition actually do bear R to each other.

So we have that is R(my bed)(in)(chaos). We interpret R to be the predication relation, and thus R(my bed)(in)(chaos) represents that there's chaos in my bed.

So assume (according to this picture) we interpret R to be R' (for instance, R' could be the predication relation). That would be a good band name: "The Predication Relation". Anyway, Soames doesn't assert this, but I would presume than this sort of account would take a proposition Rab to be TRUE iff R'ab. This has some unintuitive consequences. For instance, if we weren't around to represent R as being R', then Rab would have no truth value. Thus, if we weren't around, it wouldn't be true that snow is white etc. This is similar to King's account, and while controversial, not everyone would find it bad. It would however have to exploit the true in/true at distinction.
Also, to avoid some more unintuitive results, this R relation would have to hold of the constituents of propositions necessarily. If it did not, and if the proposition that Fa really was just RFa, then the proposition that Fa couldn't be RFa at a world in which ~RFa for the same reasons that we need RFa to be true here for it to be the proposition that Fa. That that world at which ~RFa could be similar enough for us to use language in pretty much the same way. If this is right, it would be odd that we would use a different R to represent R' in that world.
Admittedly, these are sort of weak jabs at Soames' sketch. The more knee-jerk reaction I had was "I don't use R to represent anything, I don't even know what R is!". So I propose an alternative that more suits my intuitions about what's going on:
I use 'There's chaos in my bed' to represent chaos standing in the inside-of relation to my bed. The sentence is true iff the representation is accurate. 'Yesh balagan b'mita sheli' means the same thing in virtue of representing the same thing. It may be objected "what is this representation you speak of. Surely it's not chaos standing in the inside-of relation to your bed, for in fact chaos does not stand in any such relation." My response would be to say that it's surely possible to have a representation. Soames has one, namely Rcib, where R stands for predication. I would simply have the sentence itself represent, and the proposition be the object of representation (a platonic entity I suppose). So 'There's chaos in my bed' would represent which would be chaos being in my bed. It's false since there's no chaos in my bed (at the moment), though one could say that chaos being in my bed exists (though is perhaps uninstantiated, or doesn't obtain, or something).
Since my view is contrary to that of Soames, I'm sure I've gone wrong somewhere.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A tidbit

Recall early in the semester we breifly considred a position that identified what is asserted with sentences of a language. The main objection to that position came from the translation principle (the principle that a sentence of a different language can have the same meaning as a sentence in the first language). The objection went as follows:
1) 'There's chaos in my bed' and 'yesh balagan b'mita sheli' assert the same thing
2) A statement of 'yesh balagan b'mita sheli' does not assert 'there's chaos in my bed'
3) A statement of 'there's chaos in my bed' does not assert 'yesh balagan b'mita sheli'
4) (2)&(3)
5) If declarations of sentences assert sentences, then (1)->~(4)
6) ~[(1)->~(4)] (1,4)
7) It's not the case that declarations of sentences assert sentences

The idea behind (5) is that if what is asserted is a sentence, then the most plausible candidate for what is asserted is the sentence used to make the assertion. If this is right, (2) and (3) are plausible. But if (1) is true, and either one of the given sentences must be what is asserted, either (2) or (3) must be false.
One major consideration for accepting (4) is that to choose (2) to be false or (3) to be false would be an arbitrary choice. In other words, there's no principled way to choose what sentence is asserted by a sentence of a given meaning (indeed, what is asserted by ALL sentences with that meaning).
But this is (on the face of it) is just a benaceraf dilema. A proponent of the view could look a few classes forward and say to the proposition theorist that she will face benaceraff dilemas anyway. That is no reason to reject the view at hand.
Obviously the analogy is a bad one, but why?

The Tractatus on Propositions

I had shared this in an email with Adam, and he suggested I share it with everyone such that we could discuss the useful and not so useful aspects of Wittgenstein's Tractatus as it relates to propositions. I sort of made some references to this work in my last post, so it might be more valuable than ever to post the email:

For fun I thought I'd take another stab at what the Tractatus is all about.

1. There are facts.
2. There are fact-stating propositions.
4. If a fact-stating propositions states a fact that obtains, it is true. If it fails to obtain, it is false.
5. If a sentence doesn't express a proposition it is nonsense.
6. If a sentence expresses a proposition then it is one of two kinds.
7. "This is my hand" states that this is my hand. If this is my hand, then the fact states by the proposition obtains and the sentence expressing the proposition is true.
8. A proposition which states a fact that might or might not obtain has sense.
9. A sentence like (7) isn't nonsense, but it doesn't seem to meet the standards of (8), and is thus senseless.
10. So propositions are either senseless or have sense.
11. So meaningful sentences express propositions.
12. That 1 + 1 = 2 or that A or ~A is the case, these are propositions which are senseless.

So sentences either express propositions or do not; if they state propositions the propositions are either senseless and are analytic truths which are transcendental (necessary in all worlds). So senseless propositions show what is the case but say nothing, while propositions with sense say what is the case and show something as well. Thus, "This is my hand" if true shows that this is my hand, and that this is not a tree. But it only says that this is my hand.

I hope that this is roughly clear. There are fact stating sentences. But that sentence that tell us that isn't fact stating in the same manner. So there are two sorts of propositions which meaningful sentences can express.

Wittgenstein thinks that Frege and Russell should have to adopt a sort of solipsism where the propositions which are Given to us are true. The rest don't fact state! Thus, the only propositions with sense are the immediate propositions, and those are the ones an empirical language uses. So facts are only now, so the world is only now. Thus, talking about the past or future is nonsense, we can only hint at things but cannot explicitly say them.

So basically, Wittgenstein thought that there are fuzzy sentences and clear sentences. Empirical science is concerned with clear sentences. So the only things that it makes sense to talk about are the empirical sciences. Philosophy is a clarification of language because we have to demarcate sense from nonsense, from showing and saying. There is nothing wrong with nonsense because it can provide hints. It can show what cannot be said. Because what can be said are only the propositions of empirical sciences.

Maybe this is all fuzzy still, but I hope it can make some sense. (See, this cannot be clearly stated because it is fuzz and nonsense itself!)

So philosophy for the Tractatus is like a stop-smoking program. I write some stuff, like 12 steps, that the smoker finds informative and meaningful. They learn the steps and then live them. Once they live them, they stop smoking. So the program loses all meaning and can be thrown away. Now that I quite, what need have I of quitting?

Frege Comment Paper

Frege is concerned with how to explain how the parts of a proposition "hold together". To do this, Frege thinks that we need a distinction between the sense and the referent of a predicate on the one hand, and those of a proper name (singular terms and sentences) on the other.

1. There predicates.
2. There are proper names.
3. The there are senses.
4. There are referents.

We can conclude immediately, given how the terms are introduced:

5. Predicates and proper names are distinct.
6. Senses and referents are distinct.

This means that we can conclude:

7. A predicate has a sense and a referent.
8. A proper name has a sense and a referent.

Frege also holds that:

9. The sense of a predicate is unsaturated.
10. The referent of a predicate is a concept.
11. The sense of a proper name is saturated.
12. The referent of a proper name is an object.

But despite this, it remains a "vexed question" whether or not saturated senses can ever be referents of proper names and so qualify as objects. We certainly have reason to think that unsaturated senses cannot be referents of proper names and so cannot be objects.

This means we have reason to believe the truth of (13):

13. Proper names cannot have as referents unsaturated senses, so unsaturated senses cannot be objects.

But we have to take seriously that:

14. If proper names can have as referents saturated senses, then saturated senses qualify as objects.

But it is not clear that Frege would allow that we can have a proper name which refers to the sense of a proper name, or that we can have saturated senses which are objects. The motivation for (5) would seem to be the same as (6): that something that is a sense is logically ruled out as being a referent, just like something that is a predicate is logically ruled out as being a proper name. But it seems that we could have a sense which is made a referent, even though we cannot have a referent which is made a sense.

Given this rough view, Frege starts by taking singular terms and sentences as basic features of language, characterizing predicates as being an expression obtained by removing one or more occurrences of singular terms.

15. Singular terms and sentences are basic features of language.
16. We can derive predicates as expressions by removing one or more occurrences of singular terms.
17. If we remove one or more occurrences of singular terms, we are left with "gaps" in our language.

Thus, we have something with gaps which need to be filled out to form a sentence.

But we must be careful not to think that the sense of a predicate is something which stands in need of similar completion. Frege retreats to the idea of an unavoidable "awkwardness of language" that limits us severely when we try to apply language to its limits, since we only have meager linguistic resources which we are trying to apply to language itself.

This would seem to set up a reductio of Frege's project.

(18) Frege deploys the resources of language to explore language.
(19) The resources of language are inadequate to fully explore language.
(20) So Frege's theory is unable to adequately and fully explore language.

But Frege sees this "fog of paradox" as nothing against the doctrine engulfed in it, but due to the unspeakable depths being plunged. We just have to accept that language has limitations which inhibit an exploration of its own foundation.

It seems to me that Frege wants to have a nice distinction and clear cut between predicates and proper names, hence (5); and that he would like this nice distinction and clear cut to be mirrored between senses and referents, hence (6). But this nice distinction and clear cut seems to be lacking, since I might refer with a proper name to a sense, thus having something that is a sense, but that is also a referent to something else. And Frege just seems to think this is a general problem when we use language against itself.

This reminds me of two general notions: those of Rorty and those of Wittgenstein's Tractatus.

Rorty attacks metaphysical doctrines, particularly foundationalism and logical atomism, as introducing a notion of "B class entities" which are only meaningful insofar as they are reducible to "A class entities". So everything that is meaningful is reductive to a common base. But, oops, "A class entities" are not reducible to themselves. So the Tractatus makes this sort of mistake by holding that meaningful sentences reduce to atomic sentences, which themselves are not reducible. And hence not meaningful? No, they have to be meaningful in a special way. For Rorty, this shows how flawed and ridiculous the whole enterprise was in the first place. But Frege sounds here like the Wittgenstein of the Tractatus. It's just a general problem with the nature of our investigation, not with the specifics of our investigation itself.

The Wittgenstein of the Tractatus was very Fregean, and I see some interesting parallels. Perhaps in Frege's defense we could appeal to the Tractatus' quietism. There is only so much work that saying can do. The foundation of things is a showing, which is more rich than a saying. Instead of trying to talk about the limits and foundations of language, we should rather realize that we can never have any such meaningful talk; and then this shows us something. We can try to talk and fail, hence the "fog of paradox" due to the unspeakable depths being plunged. But then this "fog" and the "unspeakable depths" make themselves manifest by showing themselves, not by being explicitly said.

So the natural response to Rorty is that "B class entities" are the 'sayers' and the "A class entities" are the 'showers'. So of course the sayers get reduces to the showers, and the showers are irreducible. But then again, this may just seem like a reductio of this way of looking at things. The Wittgenstein of the Tractatus thought it was, and that a Fregean way of looking at things is only useful for bringing up the problems it does in order to show us something unsayable. This was not something Frege understood at all, and if he did understand it I am sure he would not be at all happy with that interpretation.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Objection to Dan's proposal

My proposal was that propositions are a fusion of properties of a particular type. I'll illustrate with an example:
'John loves Jane' expresses the fusion of the following properties:
Being John&Loving, Loving, being Jane and being loved
I argued that this is a characterization that most accurately describes the meaning of the sentence, and thus is the best candidate for being the proposition.
This too is ambiguous. Consider the following:
The property of being Jane & being loved by John
The property of being John & Loving Jane
These are (prima facie) distinct properties. Each are equally good candidates for being the proposition expressed by 'John loves Jane'. Apply Bennaceraf.
One way to respond is by saying that english doesn't parse things this fine, and that most sentences are ambiguous between a few very related propositions. Another way to respond is to say that despite appearances, the two properties described above are the same. This is totally implausible, since one property is had by John and the other is had by Jane.
I think the moral of the story still stands. A benacceraf dilema only shows that there's a bit more work to do describing the proposition (fully). It doesn't show that there is no proposition. Moreover, we might not even need a full description of the proposition, a partial one will often do. If that's the case, proposition theory stands, and the benacceraf dilema doesn't support any non-existence claims.