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.


Wes McPherson said...

Hi Dan,

I seem to see the Benacerraf dilemma as sometimes sounding more like claiming that "you can't know" and not that "there ain't no such thing." I think you think it can seem this way as well?

Like I sort of hinted at today, at some point it seems that pragmatic considerations can get you pretty far. And it seems like the Benacerraf-dilemma-pusher starts to sound like the Kripkenstein skeptic at some point. You are doing work and getting results while they protest.

How does this sound to you? Frankly, I'm still sort of confused. Sorry if I'm way off.

Dan said...

So, what's the Kripkenstein skeptic? You've made reference to that a couple times

Wes McPherson said...

This skeptic is an update of the Humean skeptic on induction. Why do I think the sun will rise? Well, it has in the past. But it is conceivable that it won't. Can I know?

The Kripkenstein skeptic asks about rules. Why do you think that you are following rule A and not rule A'? Well, I've always used A. But it is possible that I was really using A' in the past. Can I know which rule I was following?

So it seems to me that the Benacerraf dilemma pusher starts to sound like this. You are doing A. But isn't A' just as likely a candidate? If you say that you always do A, or have a preference for A, and this makes A preferable to A', they seem to accuse you of being ad hoc, since you have no principled reason for A over A', which is identical to A except for anything from minor to major tinkering.