Tuesday, November 18, 2008

King's good intentions.

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

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

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

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

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

King offers 2 solutions.

King solution 1:

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

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

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

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

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

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

King solution 2:

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

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

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

A few problems with this response:

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

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

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