Tuesday, November 25, 2008
My understanding of where King starts from:
1) If the truth value of propositions is determined by the semantic value (relative to context) of sentences, then (2) & (3).
2) Propositions, according to his 'in Carnelian Bay' example, change truth value over different worlds, locations, and times.
3) Propositions, according to his 'Santa Monica based belief' example, do not change truth value over time or location.
4) ~ [(1) & (2)]
5) Therefore, further inquiry into the relation between propositional truth value and the semantic value of sentences is required.
I am having trouble with the examples that King is using in (2) and (3). In (2), he says (referring to the sentence "In Carnelian Bay there is a boat launching ramp") that "If 'there is a boat launching ramp' expressed a proposition (relative to that context) that didn't vary its truth value over locations, the locational operator 'In Carnelian Bay' would be vacuous, and the sentence would "feel" like 'In Carnelian Bay arithmetic is incomplete.' But it doesn't!" (pg 166).
I have no idea what King means when he says that the two sentences would "feel" the same. Furthermore, from what I understand, I think King has the example backwards. If propositions did not change their truth value over location, then wouldn't changing "In Carnelian Bay" with any other location (operator) result in "the same feeling" as the original sentence (instead of changing the proposition and keeping the location the same)?
For example, what King should have said is that if propositions do not change their truth value over location, then "In Carnelian Bay there is a boat launching ramp" (where the truth determining context lies in 'there is a boat launching ramp') would "feel" the same as "In the Sahara Desert there is a boat launching ramp". This poses much more of a problem because here the vacuous operator should not affect the truth of the proposition (being that the context of 'there is a boat launching ramp' stays with 'there is a boat launching ramp') but the truth value has obviously changed. I don't think, however, that in King's example the two sentences necessarily "feel" different.
If this line of thought is true, then it is an objection to (2) and the argument is no longer valid.
Now to address (3).
Again, King confuses me with the example that he uses. He says that he is in Santa Monica right now and when he says "I believe the sun is shining" it is about Santa Monica right now. From this he claims that if he were to change location or time, the proposition would still be about "Santa Monica at this time" and so would not change in truth value. I think King is either confusing two different propositions or is being lazy in his speaking. Technically speaking, when King asserts "The sun is shining", he is not asserting anything about Santa Monica; or at the very least that he is implying that the context he is in at the time he says that sentence is to be taken as part of the proposition itself (some kind of non-spoken magically attaching part). Basically, I think King is just trying to get away with being lazy when it comes to saying when you really meant when you expressed a proposition.
The proposition King actually said was: "The sun is shining".
The proposition King intended the listener to understand was: "The sun is shining where I am right now", or "The sun is shining in Santa Monica right now", or "The sun is shining in Santa Monica at 3:05pm", etc. etc. etc.
When you blur this distinction, but then claim that people are wrong to say that your belief is not about Santa Monica when you say "The sun is shining", you are just confused by your own vagueness (and laziness - which is not a bad thing because speaking would become lengthy, tedious, and robotic if we were to speak as precisely as is needed in order to avoid these shortcuts in meaning).
If this line of argument is true, then it is an objection to (3) and King's starting argument is invalid.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
(Q1) King's use of models.
(1) King says that propositions are not mathematical objects.
(2) King's motivation for (1) is Benacerrafian reasons which entail (3).
(3) King doesn't think there are any mathematical objects.
(4) But he uses diagrams for propositions.
(5) And these diagrams have to be mathematic objects. They are a certain kind of graph.
(6) But we cannot identify propositions with the graphs.
(7) So King has not answered: What are propositions?
(A1) I don't think (7) follows.
I'm not so bothered by (6). I don't think that it entails (7) I'm not bothered by introducing things via models. I might say that atoms are like little marbles that dance when heated. I don't mean to identify atoms with marbles or heating with dancing.
But maybe we still have to ask, nice model aside, what the atoms are. And so too with propositions. But if atoms and propositions are non-observables, I'm not sure how we can talk about them with the use of models and diagrams unless we give some attempt at representation. My scientific commitments are that the observables are all eliminable and reducible to the unobservable. So I'm not bothered by being able to talk about the essence of something, but not being able to pictorially show it. (6) seems to be taken to show King can only hint at what propositions are. (7) takes this to be invalid. I don't think it is invalid.
I'm not sure about (3). I don't think King denies that there are 'mathematical objects'. He certainly thinks that there are objects with which mathematics is concerned. I don't see how a structuralist / functionalist about numbers is a number-hater. I don't think that being non-platonistic about something makes you deny that it exists.
About (4): It seems like the model King uses is a representation of the proposition. A proposition seems to be a representation + semantic contents. And it seems that agents have to add the semantic contents. So we can never fully map what a proposition is in a diagram or model. But I don't see this to be a big deal.
(Q2) What is language?
(1) King never tells us what a language or a sentence of a language is ontologically.
(2) Whatever else English is, we know it is productive. One can produce novel sentences.
(3) On King's view, the propositions don't exist until the words get said.
(4) (3) should strike us as odd. The Chisholm style theory doesn't have this worry.
(5) King's account closes the door a priori on animals thinking propositionally.
(6) So King is vague about language, and his conclusions are counter-intuitive.
(A2) I think we can deny (6).
It seems easy to supply a King friendly account to attack (1). I think we can use some Sellars here to help King out. Language exists in the narrowly physical causal order. It is scribbles and squawks. But language is also in the broadly construed physical causal order. We don't just hear sounds, we hear words. We don't just understand sounds, we understand words.
I think the same problem could be posed for maps. Maps are in a sense just designs, blips, dots or scribbles. But when one knows how to read a map, the map is much richer. We don't just see the representation. We see what is represented.
About (2) - (4): Productivity doesn't seem to be an issue. Given the atomic bits of English, one can construe novel combinations. Given the rules of English, one can construe novel acceptable combinations. We don't need the propositions to have existed prior, we only needed the constituents to have. I don't need all the numbers to exist in order to do any math. I only need '1', '2', etc., '9', '0'. I can just reuse these numbers to get '12' or '124'. I don't see any problem with this.
I think (5) is a silly concern. I don't think it is bad that King closes the door a priori on animals thinking propositionally. It is still an open question, in a sense, even if we so close the door. But I think there are pre-theoretical reasons to doubt this anyways. Some people don't. There is reason, even if King is right, for one to argue that animals have an animal language or a private language, so they could think propositionally even if King were right.
(Q3) Vagueness on properties and relations.
(1) King assumes that there are properties and relations.
(2) He doesn't say what they are.
(3) He should.
(4) So it's not clear how propositions can exist in his sense, since he doesn't tell us what properties and relations are.
(5) Why cannot we think of propositions as being properties of the actual world?
(A3) I think one could deny (4), since even if he doesn't tell us what properties and relations are, it seems easy to figure out.
I guess I don't have a lot to say here. About (2): I think that the ideas of properties and relations is common enough. A property is a feature or character of a thing. A thing is hot or cold, small or large. I relation is a feature or character between things. A thing is next to another, distant from another.
One could be process ontology oriented. A 'property' like 'being tall' is a way for a thing to be intrinsically. So Wes is tall because there is a tallness going on. A 'relation' like 'being a brother' is a way for a thing to be extrinsically. So Wes is a brother because there is a thing he is related to via brotherness. These things are in space and time and enduring things so they seem non-spooky and physical.
I hope that isn't poorly stated. But it doesn't seem to be contrary to King's view.
About (5): Since propositions are representational, it seems the cannot be properties of the world in the way Harry D. wants. But maybe we can say that since they exist, like the CN Tower and my breakfast, they are properties of the world.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
The motivation behind C1, rationally reconstructed, seems to be one's being able to get into the space of reasons, make material inferences, paraphrase, justify, etc. one's use of language.
The motivation behind C2, rationally reconstructed, seems to be one's being able to reliably report, assert, identify, etc. One has to be able to use the words correctly.
Someone like CI Lewis is going to say that C1 is basically being able to know what is logically implied by a term; and, it seems, what is analytically implied. Lewis thinks these are distinct, but King could be said to just conjoin a term's 'connotation' and 'signification' as Lewis uses the words (roughly).
Lewis would say that C2 is one's being able to recognize instances. One has to know what the term picks out, and all consistently thinkable cases where the term would pick out those things. Again, King could be said to just have conjoined the ideas of 'denotation' and 'comprehension' as Lewis uses the words (roughly).
Maybe Russell-Mill would take C1 to be one's knowing connotations, C2 knowing denotations.
These people all want to cash out 'word-meaning' and 'sense-meanings'. It seems that something like this distinction between 'inter-linguistic transitions' and 'language-entry transitions' is good to have. Even for Quine we need stimulus-meanings 'in presence' and 'in absence'. HH Price likes this notion of 'in presence' and 'in absence' so he would want C1 to be something like 'thinking of a term in absence' and 'thinking of a term in presence'.
So even if we don't like King's formulation, shouldn't we look to keep a sort of C1 and C2 distinction for linguistic competency?
Is a little odd. If the him / Prof B. dudes claim that someone like me or King run together (1) and (3) I think the natural response is that for someone like me or King we cut it:
2. Representationality (intentionality)
3. Propositionality (intentionality)
I wanted to say something about Dan's question, but can't remember what it was. Could someone (preferably Dan himself) remind me of what that was?
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Jeff Speaks, "Facts, Properties, and the Unity of the Proposition"
Matthew Davidson, "Propositions as Structured Entities"
Harry Deutsch, "Review of Jeffrey C. King, The Nature and Structure of Content
Timothy Williamson, "Necessary Existents"
I think it's easy to use the toy Rylean ancestors of Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind. We can always just add the Myth of Jones to the Myth of our Rylean ancestors and get a better account.
So the Rylean ancestors in question have Rylean views about the world and human beings. They roughly adopt the following picture:
*thinking that-p ➡ *saying that-p
Roughly, intentionality dwells primarily in language. Propositions are only expressed by language. A thought is the inner state which accompanies or causes the saying which expresses the proposition.
So the Ryleans here think that baby Bailey has no intrinsic thoughts. Baby Bailey is taught via direct method / stimulus-response English by his parents, mommy Bailey and daddy Bailey. Baby Bailey begins to make noises, and then after a while begins to associate contents with his sayings. When baby Bailey is making noises, he has certain brain states in his brain. Eventually, he has some thinking that-p brain states whenever he has a saying that-p utterance. His saying that-p utterances also come to express the proposition that-p.
The Ryleans basically have a verbal behaviorism. We can think to ourselves because we can have the brain states which cause speaking, but fail to have the speaking. But we always just analyze brain states as if they came to fruition in verbal behavior.
It seems that with this stuff in mind, we can give a good account of what proto-intentional states are. When the baby learns to make noises, he isn't tokening sentences. It seems like he's tokening noises. So these noises seem to be proto-linguistic to me. They aren't tokens of English sentences, really. They are tokens of the same noises that English sentences are noises of. Something like that.
And so when baby Bailey is making proto-linguistic noises, he will be having proto-thoughts in his brain. His brain will be making states which cause the proto-linguistic noises. At some point, when the noises become English sentences, those proto-thoughts will become thoughts.
I guess the question is how thoughts or sentences come to express propositions at all. I suppose that the thoughts or sentences provide structures to which we pencil in semantic contents. Like a map, it seems that we need an agent to bestow an interpretation upon the structure. No map-reader, and then the map is just a sort of proto-map.
Perhaps it is like this:
This inscription might represent something. I have something in mind which it does represent, but if I don't tell you, it seems you can only imagine that it represents something. It is a sort of candidate for representation, or perhaps, a candidate for interpretation.
Maybe because we are all skilled and grown up, being told what it means allows us to jump right into taking it to be representational. Baby Bailey may not be so quick, and so may have an extended period of mastering inscription interpretation. Learning by direct method seems to have this sort of extended period of mastery as well. This period would seem to be the period of proto-states talked about above.
I guess it's like teaching someone to play chess. I can play effortlessly, so I play full-blooded chess. But Mr Noob has to do a lot of thinking and wondering. He isn't so sure of himself. He's always checking up rules in the rule book, say. So he's only proto-playing. He's in the midst of learning a game, so he's missing a lot of things that are obvious to others because he hasn't been conditioned to look for them.
It seems that for truth we need correspondence. So we have a fact-in-the-world bit on the one side, and a representation-of-a-fact bit on the other. So:
(1) •Snow is white• is true iff it is the case that snow is white.
Or, it seems,
(2) •It was temperature d at time t• is true if it is the case that it was temperature d at time t.
It seems that we can still have the fact-in-the-world bit going on in the absence of propositions. Propositions are just going to be the representation-of-a-fact bit. So the left-hand side bits of (1) and (2) might not be there. But this seems consistent with the right-hand side bits may still have obtained.
Doesn't it seem plausible that something might be the case, even though it fails to be represented as being true or false?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
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'.
(1) That first order logic is undecidable
(2) Not that first order logic is undecidable
both seem to have the proposition that first order logic is undecidable as bits. Is negation included in the second proposition?
(1) That first order logic is undecidable
(3) That first order logic is not undecidable
seem to have different proposition, since negation seems clearly to be a part of the proposition's make up.
Is it plausible to say that (1) and (2) contain the same proposition, but that (2) says of the same proposition as in (1) that it is false? It seems so to me, and that the proposition in (3) is not the proposition in (1) or (2).
Monday, November 17, 2008
(P) Mary Swims
(NP) Mary doesn't Swim
It seems that the propositions differ. In the one case, we get Mary* and Swims* as constituents; and in the second it is Mary* and Doesn't* and Swims* we get.
The syntax are also different. We get instantiation in the one case, ~instantiation in the other.
Likewise for (1) and (2). I'll not do the LF stuff since it is too much...
(1) First order logic is undecidable
(2) It is not the case that first order logic is decidable
The proposition in (1) is made up of first order logic, the being relation, and undecidability. In (2) it is negation, first order logic, the being relation, and decidability.
Seems like quite different propositions.
I think my thinking is fine here.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
King considers whether his view individuates propositions too finely across languages. He wants us to think about the following three possibilities:
(A) At least some proposition(s) can be expressed in different natural languages.
(B) At least some proposition(s) expressed in one natural language can be expressed in any natural language.
(C) All propositions that can be expressed in one natural language can be expressed in any other.
Which do we accept?
1. If King's view is correct, then a proposition Q is expressible in different natural languages L and L' iff
(i) they contain sentences SL and SL1, whose syntactic structures at the relevant level of syntax are identical.
(ii) the semantic significance of these syntactic relations are the same.
(iii) the semantic values of the lexical items occurring in the same places in the syntactic structures associated with SL and SL' are identical.
2. King's view is correct.
3. So (A) entails a substantial empirical claim about the syntactic of the languages in question.
4. So (B) entails all languages to have sentences that are syntactically identical.
5. So (C) entails all languages to be structurally identical at the level of LF.
It seems we should conclude that (B) and (C) entail successively stronger and implausible claims about the LFs of natural language.
6. Thus, the entailments from (A) and (B) and (C) are too strong.
7. Because King's view makes them too strong, King's view is false.
This would, of course, make King unhappy. To see our way past this objection, we need to see that (A) differs from both (B) and (C) in its pretheoretical plausibility.
(A) is a sort of constraint on any theory of propositions. It is desirable for any theory of propositions to yield the result that 'Scnhee ist weiss' and 'Snow is white' express the same proposition.
1. If (A) is true then 'Scnhee ist weiss' and 'Snow is white' express the same proposition.
2. They do.
3. So (A) is true.
(B) and (C) contrast strikingly with (A). They are lacking pretheoretical plausibility.
Perhaps a more natural pretheoretical reading would be
(B') Some sentences of some language can be translated into any other language
(C') Any sentence of any language can be translated into any other language
Sadly, these rewrites only suppose the originals given a further assumption. We need to add that translation is pairing sentences which express the same proposition. So we need to ask: What is the evidence for (B') and (C')? How plausible is the additional premise?
Sometimes we do make strict translations, like in the case of 'Scnhee ist weiss' and 'Snow is white'. But usually in practice we make loose translation. We make what are closer to paraphrases.
It seems that the looser sense of translation is used to give a push for the pretheoretical plausibility of (B') and (C'). But this doesn't seem to help us bolster the case for (B) and (C), since they seem to rest upon the strict sense of translation.
To our questions we must answer: The evidence for (B') and (C') is the loose sense of translations. The additional premise is plausible given the strict sense of translation.
King thinks that it is a virtue of his theory that if we want to figure out whether (B) or (C) is true, we only need to look at the empirical evidence about language and do some theorizing about propositions. This lets King block the objection (6) above. (A) seems to be common-sense, and we should accept it. Whether (B) or (C) is true or not is an open question, perhaps.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
King major claim is: There is such a thing as philosophical analysis, and my model can answer the five questions that (I think) a good theory of analysis should be able to answer (see chp 7 for these 5 questions).
For his theory of analysis to work, King requires that we accept three 'elements':
1st element: That "one must accept an account of propositions on which complex predicates contribute to propositions complex sub-propositional constituents that have properties and relations at their terminal nodes and that represent other properties".
2nd element: That "some properties and relations are complex, and have other properties and relations as components".
Here, King likes to use the example of the word "bachelor". He says that "bachelor" might be built up out of 1) being adult, 2) being male, and 3) being unmarried; and these are all in the conjuction relation. He also notes that properties can be built in ways other than conjunction (and he gives an example). Lastly on this point, he notes two more things:
1) That he does not have to explain how properties like this combine to make other properties, just as long as he can say it is part of a properties nature to be made up of combined properties like this.
2) That he is not necessarily committed to their being 'simple properties' (but he thinks there are - pg 200).
I think the latter of these two would make for some interesting discussion and controversy, but that would seem a little besides-the-point right now. Instead I would like to focus more on the 3rd element.
3rd element: That "there are three categories of words such that the words in a given category are all governed by the same standards of linguistic competence; but words in different categories are governed by different standards of linguistic competence".
Category #1) Linguistic competence: "one must be able to specify the componets of the property or relation expressed by the word and how those components are combined in the property expressed by the word".
Category #2) Linguistic competence: "one be able to reliably determine whether a given entity possesses the property expressed by e and to thereby know whether e applies to the entity or not"
At this point he notes that a category 1 word cannot be a category 2 word as well.
Category #3) Linguistic competence: He doesn't say what the linguistic competence is of category 3 words, just that they are "natural kind terms like water, tiger, aluminum...". These are words that fail to be governed by the standards of competence of C1 +C2.
I have problems with King's three categories. I think that category 2 words are not as distinct from category 1 words as King says they are. The linguistic competence for C1 words is that someone knows what properties they are 'built up out of', and the linguistic competence for C2 words is that someone knows everything (has sufficient information) about an entity so that they know whether it possesses a certain property or not. It seems to me that if you know exactly what a word is built up of (including the relations it has - something King conveniently leaves out of his discussion on purpose), then you should also have sufficient information to know whether it has a certain property or not. In fact, the 'sufficient information' would be precisely the properties and relations that you had to know for C1 words. In this respect, C2 linguistic competence would supervene on C1 linguistic competence, making the two categories really one and the same.
Without the ability to distinguish between category 1 and category 2 words (we don't even have to look at category 3 words now), King loses the ability to answer some of the questions he said an account should be able to.
I guess more formally:
1) If King's 3 word categories lose their distinction, element 3 must be rejected.
2) King's 3 word categories lose their distinction
3) 1 +2, therefore element 3 must be rejected
4) If King's theory of philosophical analysis is correct, then all 3 elements must be accepted
5) element 3 is not accepted
6) 4 + 5, therefore King's theory of philosophical analysis is not correct.
1. The concept Male Parent is the analysis of the concept Father
2. The concept Father = the concept Male Parent
3. The concept Father is the analysis of the concept Father
What leads us to befuddlement is that (1) should be true. (3) should be false. So what about (2)?
We might argue: "Look, (1) is true. The concept Male Parent and the concept Father mean the same thing. So (2) is true." But then we should think that (1) and (3) express the same sort of information. But they don't. So maybe (2) is false. But then how can (1) be true? If we can analyze concept X in terms of concept Y, don't X and Y have to mean the same thing?
It should be easy to argue that (1) is true. We have a complex concept, being a Male Parent, and a simple concept, being a Father. We are analyzing the complex one into the simple one. Let us say that this isn't a logical truth, but an analytic one.
So then (2) has to be false. It is saying that a complex concept is identical to a simple one. This is false.
So then we can deny (3). An analysis is supposed to break down a complex concept into a simple one.
King considers examples like:
4. If x is a father, then x is a male parent
5. If x is a father, then x is a human adult male with offspring
When we explicate their logical form, we get
6. For all x [ [x is a father] iff [ [x is a male] & [x is a parent] ] ]
7. For all x [ [x is a father] iff [ [x is a human] & [x is an adult] & [x is a male] & [x is a parent] ] & [for some y [ y is an offspring of x] ] ] ]
So while both (4) and (5) are kinds of analysis for what it is to be a father, (5) is deeper. This is shown by (6) and (7).
If we consider the original example:
1. The concept Male Parent is the analysis of the concept Father
2. The concept Father = the concept Male Parent
3. The concept Father is the analysis of the concept Father
It seems we should indeed deny (2). I think Frege would appeal to there being two different senses. Sellars to there being to distinct functional classes, a •Father• and a •Male Parent•. King, it seems to me, two different concepts.
We can also see that the property of being a male parent is different from that of being a father. One is simple, one is complex. The concepts are likewise different. This is why we call (1) an analysis, whereas (3) is not. And if we were to take (3) to be an analysis at all, it would be an incredibly shallow one. As (4) - (7) shows, we can have various levels of analysis.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
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!
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)
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Objection 2 looks something like this:
1) According to King, propositions came into existence at a certain time in the past (namely, at the time when language, semantic values, and the like were invented).
2) If (1), then there was a time, before which propositions did not exist.
3) Propositions are the bearers of truth and falsity.
4) If (2) and (3), then before propositions came into existence, nothing was true or false.
5) But, obviously some things were true and false before propositions came into existence.
6) (4) and (5), therefore King's theory of propositions is flawed.
The time that King uses as an example of when propositions did not exist is right after the big bang. At this time there were no sentences or language of any kind, yet according to (5) there were still things that were true (such as the fact that particles had certain charges and certain masses).
To respond to this objection, King looks at it from two different viewpoints; presentism and eternalism.
King's presentist response:
Basically, King says that the presentist could claim that the objector fails to distinguish between two similar, but different, claims:
i) Nothing was true in the remote past.
ii) Things weren't a determinate way in the remote past.
King says that the presentist could reject claim (i) while accepting claim (ii). The reason he gives for this is that facts and propositions are separate according to his theory. There is no reason why there could not be facts (ways the world is, states of being, etc...), while at the same time there being no propositions. In a way, King bites the bullet here and says "it is the case that nothing was true or false before propositions came around... but it does not matter/it does not affect us".
I like King's line of thought here, but there is a way to respond to it. Someone in favour of objection 2 might say that King has not actually denied any premise in the objection, he has simply softened the blow a bit. If someone were to hold steady to the idea that "things were true and false before propositions existed", King would still have to provide evidence for why we should accept the distinction he offers. He would not be able to say "we should think that there is a distinction between truth values and factual states because it is in line with my theory of propositions".
King's eternalist response:
I am pretty sure I understand King's response here, but please correct me if I am wrong.
King says that the eternalist holds that anything that has, does, or will exist exists at all times, but in different temporal locations. This means that a propostion could actually be true (have properties) at a time where it does not exist. This might seem to support the objection (that things were true and false before propositions existed). However, King says that in the end "the objector incorrectly inferred that on the present view propositions in the remote past were not true from the fact that on the present view they are not temporally located in the remote past" (pg 79). What this means is that objection 2 is based on there being truths and falsities without propositions, whereas the eternalist is still able to attribute truth and falsity to propositions even though they do not exist. More formally:
i) Objection 2 assumes that there are true and false things before the existence of propositions.
ii) The eternalist holds that propositions can be true and false even at times when they do not exist.
iii) Therefore, objection 2 does not apply to the eternalist view.
I think this is a good response to premise (5) of the objection and I can't really see anything wrong with it at this time. The best way to support objection 2 would be to press King for a better explanation on why we should accept the distinction his position offers of truth values and factual states.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
The question is: How did propositions come to be?
The objector wants to stick King on his non-Platonic account of propositions.
1. On King's view, the facts that are propositions came into existence in part as a result of lexical items acquiring semantic values and syntactic relations coming to encode certain functions.
2. But when we attempt to explain how our proto-linguistic ancestors brought it about that words had semantic values and sentential relations encoded certain functions, we will appeal to the beliefs and intentions they had.
3. On King's view, prior to the existence of language there were no propositions, which are the objects of attitudes like intending and believing.
4. But propositions must exist in order for creatures to have propositional attitudes.
5. So King's account of how propositions came into existence will have to presuppose that creatures had propositional attitudes prior to propositions existing. (1 - 5)
6. So King's view is contradictory and should be rejected.
King will want to deny (5). "The fundamental thought behind the present view of structured propositions is that the vehicle by means of which propositions are expressed consist of entities standing in relations and that these very relations provide all of the significant structure to the propositions expressed by those vehicles."
If, for example, "mental sentences" exist, these too will count as vehicles for the expression of propositions. This gives reason to deny (3), since "there may be propositions even in the absence of any public language."
While this would make someone like Sellars upset, it would make someone like Chisholm happy. Sellars thinks that intentionality primarily dwells in language, whereas Chisholm think that intentionality primarily dwells in thought. (Roughly.)
King might argue:
7. Mental sentences exist and encode propositions.
8. Propositional attitudes only exist if there are propositions.
9. Mental sentences can exist independently of any public language.
10. So Propositions and propositional attitudes can exist in the absence of any public language. (7 - 9)
Therefore, King can reply: "If there is a language of thought, and if our proto-lingusitic ancestors thought in it, propositions could have existed, and our ancestors could have had attitudes towards them, prior to the existence of public language."
While this might make someone like Chisholm happy, it does not make King happy: "I am not happy resting my response here on the claim that there is a langauge of thought and our proto-linguistic ancestors though in it."
King would rather assume that the claim in (7) is false. Let us deny that there is a language of thought.
11. If our pre-linguistic ancestors had propositional attitudes, propositions must have existed.
12. For propositions to have existed, our pre-liniguistic ancestors must have either had a public language or a language of thought.
13. Our pre-linguistic ancestors could have had neither a public language or a language of thought.
14. So our pre-linguistic ancestors had no propositional attitudes. (11 - 13)
This would make someone like Chisholm unhappy, someone like Sellars happy. King is happy too: "We must say that strictly speaking our proto-linguistic ancestors did not have propositional attitudes, hence propositions didn't exist then."
King appeals that our proto-linguistic ancestors "had some 'proto-intentional' states: proto-beliefs and proto-intentions." He adds that this should not be so strange, since: "it seems to me likely that many animals currently have only states of this sort and so it wouldn't be surprising that in our pre- and proto-linguistic stages we were rather like them in this respect."
We can make a Sellarsian appeal to back King up here. As I had noted before, Sellars 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."
We might construe the following as an example of (1):
frettk taete34t ln4wti4j6a46
and the following as an example of (2):
When it is 5:00pm my computer says: "It is five o'clock."
Proto-intentional states would seem to not be of the first kind, but of the second. Let us assume that there are inner as well as outer linguistic utterances. Perhaps in a proto-intentional state, one utters in one's mind •it is five o'clock• or utters aloud •it is five o'clock•. Now to the person in question, the utterances here are meaningless. We might take them to be •it is five o'clock•s, but it is impossible that the proto-utterer does so.
A true in / true at distinction here would seem to help. But in any case, for King: "The idea would be that these proto-intentional states were enough to begin to attach lexical items to semantic values and more generally to do what had to be done to bring propositions into existence." That is, the inner our outer utterances would shift from proto- to full-blooded when agents attached semantic values to them. Agents have to move from Humean Representational Systems (stimulus-reponse / inductive systems), to Aristotlean Representational Systems (material inferential / deductive systems), to use the Sellarsian lingo.
King can use this reasoning to deny (5): "So propositions and real intentional states with propositional content came into existence together." There is no need to presuppose that propositional attitudes had to exist prior to propositions at all! "It is enough to suppose that they had proto-intentional states not too different in kind from those had by many animals today."
Again, along Sellarsian lines we can argue that animals have 'meaningless inner utterances' and 'meaningless outer utterances'. Human beings simply developed a level of complexity which led to our having 'meaningful inner utterances' and 'meaningful outer utterances.'
In King's terminology, I think that the above is a paraphrase of: "animals have proto-intentional states. Human beings simply developed a level of complexity which led to our having intentional states."
Finally, against someone like Chisholm who wants to be a Platonist about propsitions, King argues:
15. If propositions exist eternally, then there was a time at which no creatures had mental states with propositional content.
16. So then some account must be given of how creatures managed to get into cognitive contact with propositions.
17. So some account must be given of how some creatures came to have propositional attitudes.
18. So it seems that one could still have to invoke proto-intentional and proto-intentional action.
19. So in this respect, King's view is not in any worse shape than an account on which propositions are eternal.
I think that this little aside from King is rather weak, as the friend of Chisholm will perhaps object to (15) on the grounds that we intuit propositions, we do not have mental states which have propositional content. Mental states are going to turn out to be something like abstract entities, or graspings of abstract entities.
Maybe that objection doesn't amount to much, but against (16) we can deny that there is any need for our getting into contact with propositions to be cognitive. We might have some primitive pre-cognitive, direct access to them. (17) might be denied by appealing to an unstructured account of propositions which has all creatures having propositional attitudes, at least with Given propositions. So (18) can be objected to because intentional states are all or nothing. Perhaps all creatures have them; perhaps all minded creatures have them. So there is no need to appeal to proto-intentional states or actions.
So the friend of Chilsholm will argue that King's view is in much worse shape. But the friend of King will point out that King's view is sensible. So the further the eternalist moves from King, the further they move from being sensible.