Wednesday, November 5, 2008

a couple of snags for King

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

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

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

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

1 comment:

Wes McPherson said...

I wonder about the first snag. 'Being unable to speak about' seems ambiguous to me:

1. We cannot speak about some kinds of sensory states we do not have because we do not currently have words in English to describe them.

2. We cannot speak about some kinds of sensory states we do no have because we could never have words in English to describe them.

It seems that (2) is false. (1) seems true. But then this seems to suggest to me that there are certain predicates we do not have, but which we could have.

I take it that King accepts something like the Sellarsian distinction between represent-ers, represent-eds, and represent-ings. The represent-eds can exist without the represent-ings or represent-ers. But the represent-ings need represent-ers.

So it seems that certain states could exist in animals and that those animals could not represent them. If we imagine those states in those animals, it seems that we are representing them.

I guess for King there are always going to be more constituents of propositions than propositions.

I hope I haven't missed your point.