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Sunday, November 13, 2011

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#1 sounds eerily like early Derrida's "differential" postmodernism, a.k.a. deconstruction. (In his later years, Derrida apparently backpedaled from the implications of "il n'y a pas de hors-texte.")

Could we start by stepping back a little, and asking about "extralinguistic fact or state of affairs that makes it true that Tom is smoking"

It's the status of the 'makes' that puzzles me. You say it is not a causative 'make'. What kind of 'make' is it? If we are going to deny anything, we have to be clear what it is we are supposed to be denying.

Hi Kevin,

It's been a long time. Yes, #1 is bullshit, like most of Derrida . . . But it's a possible view in the sense of 'possible' I explained.

You like to walk. Did you see The Way? I loved it and it made me want to hike across the North of Spain on El Camino de Santiago de Compostela. But it would be good to have a companion, preferably one who speaks Spanish. I am looking at September-October of next year.

Ed,

See my comment in the earlier thread about the several senses of 'because.'

The use of 'makes' in metaphysics deserves a separate post. I am as little Procrustean about 'makes' as I am about 'because.'

Time to eat.

A (slightly) more considered answer to your question. I hold all the following statements are equivalent, though syntactically different.

(A) “Socrates sits” is true because of Socrates’ sitting.
(B) “Socrates sits” is true because Socrates’ sitting is a fact
(C) “Socrates sits” is true because it is true that Socrates sits
(D) “Socrates sits” is true because “Socrates sits” is true

Working backwards from a point of possible agreement. The last is trivially true, so the ‘because’ is trivial. The third (C) is equivalent to it, because of the equivalence between sentential and that-clause predication (there is room for hair-splitting, though). (B) is equivalent to (C) and (D) because predicating ‘is a fact’ of a noun-phrase is equivalent to both that-clause and sentential predication. I suspect there may be little disagreement on the triviality of the last three of the four statements.

I suspect the disagreement will be on the equivalence of (A) to the other three. Realists will hold there is a non-trivial ‘because’ in (A). Correct?

Now to your question: “If you deny that there is any extralinguistic fact or state of affairs that makes it true that Tom is smoking, then what is your positive theory?” Actually I don’t deny this. However my interpretation of ‘some extralinguistic fact or state of affairs makes it true that Tom is smoking’ is “Tom X’s because Tom smokes”. I.e. I am not denying is that we can substitute ‘smokes’ for ‘X’. But that is entirely trivial. I expect realists will say it is not trivial.

In summary, where we disagree is probably on the interpretation of statements like ‘some extralinguistic fact or state of affairs makes it true that Tom is smoking’.

Ed,

Why did you leave out

(E) 'Socrates sits' is true because Socrates sits?

Yes, I would say that the 'because' in (A) is non-trivial. As I said in the other thread, there are different senses of 'because.' (D) features a narrowly logical sense, while (B) and (C) are semantic trading as they do on the meanings of 'true' and 'fact.' (A) is quite different since an explanatation is being proffered which moves us outside the circle of representations.

I had wanted to see "The Way," but I guess I'll have to wait for it to appear on iTunes.

One of the people I met during my 600-mile walk in 2008 was also planning on doing the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. I wonder whether he did it, and how it went.

You're slippery fish, Ed. You most certainly do deny that there are facts. I explained about 20 times what a fact is and you deny that there are facts in the sense explained.

Trouble is, you haven't stated a clear alternative to the view I have been defending.

Ed,

Meteorologist predicts that it will rain tomorrow.

Question: What conditions in the world have to occur so as render the meteorologist's prediction correct?

Surely the conditions that would render the prediction correct include that it is raining at the time and place so predicted. And rain is an extralinguistic sort of thing (words alone do not make for wetness). Thus, the 'because' relevant to truth making can be stated as follows:

(*) Sentences/statements/propositions express the conditions in the world under which they are true (we are now considering only contingent propositions). The world either satisfies these conditions, in which case the sentence etc., is true or it does not.

The *conditions* stated above are the T-makers. Thus, T-makers are the sort of entities (facts, state-of-affairs) in the world such that their occurrence in the world satisfies these conditions. When a T-maker occurs that satisfies the conditions, the sentences, etc., is true; o/w false.

Which part you deny?

>>Why did you leave out (E) 'Socrates sits' is true because Socrates sits?

Well, I hold that is broadly equivalent to (D), and therefore to (B)-(D). I expect you will want to assimilate it to (A).

>>(D) features a narrowly logical sense, while (B) and (C) are semantic trading as they do on the meanings of 'true' and 'fact.'

So we are broadly agreed, then, on the triviality of (B)-(D)

>>You're slippery fish, Ed.

I don't think I am being slippery. I am trying to isolate areas of possible agreement from areas of possible disagreement. With the former, we can shake hands and perhaps sit down and have a beer in the shade (or out of the rain if you are in London). With the latter, we can hike on, after the beer.

At least we can now agree that the locus of disagreement is (A) versus the rest. In particular, the disagreement is about whether (A) means the same as (B).

(A) “Socrates sits” is true because of Socrates’ sitting.
(B) “Socrates sits” is true because Socrates’ sitting is a fact

>>I explained about 20 times what a fact is and you deny that there are facts in the sense explained.

I looked for your explanations and found some here http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2011/11/butchvarov-semi-realism-and-facts.html. As I understand it, you say that ‘Al is fat’ is true because Al is fat, in a non-trivial sense of because. I agree with your ‘because’ statement, but I hold that it is a trivial sense of ‘because’. The non-trivial sense of why ‘Al is fat’ is true, i.e. why Al is fat, involves external considerations like diet, exercise, genetics etc.

By the way, to forestall any cavills, I didn’t understand your distinction between a truthmaker and a fact.

>> Trouble is, you haven't stated a clear alternative to the view I have been defending.

No alternative is needed, in my view. And anyway I do not understand your view in the ‘good faith’ sense of ‘do not understand’. The because is not trivial, nor is it causal. I really don’t understand!

Peter: >>Which part you deny?

No part, properly interpreted. Proper interpretation

“‘John sits’ has a truthmaker” = “John sits”

Some propositions have truthmakers = some propositions are true.

I.e. all talk about 'truthmakers' is just a roundabout and circumlocutory way of expressing truths.

It seems that Ed is plumping for View #1 above. As I put it, "There is no more to a true sentence than the sentence."

And that is an alternative to my view.

Ed's view is a version of the redundancy/deflationary theory of truth.

So here is where the discussion ends. Ed thinks that one cannot coherently ask why 'John sits' is true given that one is not asking for the empirical causes of his sitting. Peter and I think that one can coherently ask that question and coherently propose an answer.

The discussion must end here because we must take Ed at his word when he says that he does not understand my view.

A new discussion could begin about the nature of disagreement and about the hguman predicament in which good faith disagreements are seemingly inevitable on a wide range of topics.

I will take it as further evidence of our fallen condition. Peter will protest! (And maybe Ed will join him in protesting.) And so we will disagree about THAT -- which is exactly what we should expect if our condition is a fallen one and reason is infirm.

Hello, William.

Have you read the debate between Edward Feser and Stephen Law over "The Evil God Challenge"? One of the last pieces of discussion can be found here: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/11/broken-law.html

To my taste, Ed's arguments are better, but, as non-philosopher, I would like to hear you opinion on this topic.

Cheers,

Mateus

>>It seems that Ed is plumping for View #1 above. As I put it, "There is no more to a true sentence than the sentence."

This is not my view. If the sentence "snow is white" is true, there is something more than just the sentence, because a sentence is a linguistic item. Snow is not a linguistic item, for example, and if the sentence is true, there is such a thing as snow.

Neither of you have addressed my question about truthmakers of future tense propositions. Does the truthmaker for 'it will rain tomorrow' exist today, or tomorrow, given that it will rain tomorrow? It's that case more than any other that the notion of truthmaker is incoherent.

Mateus,

Thanks for the link. I'll take a look.

Ed,

Excellent! You accept the existence of snow, and you grant that its existence has something to do with the truth of 'Snow is white.'
So I'll put you down as a subscriber to Veritas Sequitur Esse.

Having granted that there is something in reality corresponding to the mass term 'snow,' why don't you also grant that there is something in reality corresponding to the predicate 'white'? Give me your reasons.

We don't have to answer any questions about future tense propositions since all we are concerned to show at the moment is that SOME present tense propositions have truth-makers.

Suppose presentism is true and only present items exist. If you are suggesting that a presentist cannot be a truth-maker theorist then that would be a bad mistake IMHO.

If future tense propositions are neither true nor false, then of course they do not need truth-makers.

I might even go as far as to say that there is something in reality corresponding to snow’s being white! My point, however, is that this is semantically equivalent to ‘snow is white’. I.e.

(A) something in reality corresponds to snow’s being white
(B) snow’s being white is a fact
(C) “snow is white” is true
(D) snow is white

are all semantically equivalent. Thus the ‘because’ of ‘”snow is white” is true because something in reality corresponds to snow’s being white’ is the same as the ‘because’ of “snow is white because snow is white”. A trivial ‘because’.

On the reality corresponding to “white” I’ll give Ockham’s answer again. He would say that ‘Snow has whiteness’ ‘Snow is white’ is equivalent to the plain ‘snow is white’. Thus "there is something in reality corresponding to the noun 'whiteness'" says no more than that some things are white.

------------------------------
>>We don't have to answer any questions about future tense propositions since all we are concerned to show at the moment is that SOME present tense propositions have truth-makers.

But if it can be shown that SOME propositions do NOT have truth makers, i.e. it is possible to explain truth and falsity without truthmaking entities, then I invoke Ockham’s principle: it is futile to explain with more what can be explained by less. Why should we have to explain ANY proposition by invoking truthmaking entities?

Of course, if there is some important distinction between present tense and future tense propositions, then I concede your point. But that needs to be shown.

Future tense propositions may also help to illustrate your point about causality. Suppose I say ‘there will be an eclipse tomorrow’. We know this will happen because we have accurate information about the paths of the sun and the moon and the earth, so the proposition is true, now. But I take it that the present course of heavenly bodies is not a truthmaker for it, per te. Is the proposition neither true nor false? If so, how can we make a meaningful distinction between future predictions involving accurate scientific measurement, and divination using tealeaves or entrails? We need the concept of ‘accurate prediction’. But ‘accuracy’ involves truth and falsity.

Sorry, Ed, but you are not talking sense. If something in reality corresponds to 'Snow is white,' then obviously this something cannot be semantically equivalent to anything: it is not a meaning,a sense, a proposition, or anything semantic.

What prevents you from grasping this utterly simple point?

Besides, you're jumping the gun. I didn't ask you whether anything corresponds to the whole sentence, I asked you whether anything corresponds to the predicate.

One step at a time.

I'll answer the rest later.

So, both sides are sticking to their guns and the salvoes resume. Is there any way of integrating the London view and the Phoenix view? Perhaps. Suppose we say that the L-view and the P-view are 'dual' in the mathematician's sense of being equally viable but mutually exclusive. In the L-view there are objects and actions. Things do. This is very close to the ordinary language sentence structure of nouns and verbs. Just as my primary school teachers did, Ls will insist that every sentence has a subject and a verb. Not so the P-view. The P-view of the world seems to be one in which entities pop in and out of existence. They don't do anything, they just are. As the only verb in the P language is 'to exist' we can drop it altogether. In P-lang 'Socrates's sitting' counts as an assertive sentence, 'Socrates's sitting?' counts as a question, and 'Socrates's sitting!' counts as a command. I find I can just about sustain the P-view if I think of P-lang terms as denoting processes. Thus when Socrates gets up from his armchair the process 'Socrates-sitting' comes to the end of its existence and the process 'Socrates-standing' comes into existence. [Does the notational change from apostrophe to hyphen make a difference?] The P language is rather unfamiliar but I think it works. L-lang and P-lang are inter-translatable. What we mustn't do is mix them up. Unfortunately we get confused because English does allow us to intermix them. What happens then can feel like double-counting. The Ls say, 'here is Socrates, sitting'. The Ps say 'here is Socrates-sitting'. Are there then two entities? Not really, just two ways of saying the same thing.

Bill,

One question is what Ed means by "semantically equivalent". For instance, if he simply means that two sentences are semantically equivalent just in case a biconditional formed with them is true, then his B and C would be semantically equivalent. However, then so will be

(*) Snow is white if and only if grass is green.

I suspect that in the end Ed is a linguistic idealist.

peter

Except that he says that he is not a linguistic idealist. And he has already admitted that snow exists independently of language. Having got him to concede that, my strategy is to try to get him to admit that there are properties in the world as well, and from there to the admission of facts.

I wonder if he thinks that snow, which he admits is extralingusitic, is semantically equivalent to something.

>>For instance, if he simply means that two sentences are semantically equivalent just in case a biconditional formed with them is true,

No he doesn't mean that.

>>Except that he says that he is not a linguistic idealist. And he has already admitted that snow exists independently of language. Having got him to concede that, my strategy is to try to get him to admit that there are properties in the world as well, and from there to the admission of facts.
<<

This is a better strategy than any other so far. I am surprised no one has come up with better objections to my 'translation' tactic. The tactic is to translate from sentences which use apparently referring noun phrases (snow has whiteness) to ones which don't (snow is white).

There are at least 2 classic realist objections to this strategy that no one has come up with yet. (I've been studying chess again while teaching my son, and it occurred to me that the different variations on e.g. the Sicilian could be compared to different tactics in the nominalist-realist debate.

>>Sorry, Ed, but you are not talking sense. If something in reality corresponds to 'Snow is white,' then obviously this something cannot be semantically equivalent to anything: it is not a meaning,a sense, a proposition, or anything semantic.
<<

I didn't say that the 'something in reality' is semantically equivalent to anything. I said that the sentence 'something in reality corresponds to snow’s being white' is semantically equivalent to the sentence 'snow is white'. I am saying that the sentences are semantically equivalent.

>>Besides, you're jumping the gun. I didn't ask you whether anything corresponds to the whole sentence, I asked you whether anything corresponds to the predicate.

Many things correspond to the predicate, namely all white things.

David says "The Ls say, 'here is Socrates, sitting'. The Ps say 'here is Socrates-sitting'. Are there then two entities? Not really, just two ways of saying the same thing."

This strikes me as too close to the London view to be acceptable to Phoenix (but I am guessing).

It looks as if Ed is about to become embroiled in the difficulties with which I taxed Hennessey.

Is 'snow' refers to snow, and 'white' refers to all white things, then Ed needs to complete his account by telling us how 'is' functions. What does it express?

Granted, there is no need to say 'Snow exemplifies whiteness' when we can just say 'Snow is white.' And I grant that our ability to say the first by no means commits us to the existence of an exemplification relation or to a universal, whiteness.

Ed now needs to finally come clean and tell us what we are ontologically committed to by the truth of 'Snow is white.' Ed says he is not a linguistic idealist. Now he has to prove it by listing the entities in the world that correspond to the sentence in question.

Sorry, David. I don't recognize my view in what you say at all.

I'm off to Scotland tomorrow. Catch up at the end of the week?

Have a safe trip, Ed.

Hello Bill,
Let me try again at somewhat greater length. My understanding is that we are discussing terms like 'Socrates's sitting', 'Al's being fat' that we can readily derive from the corresponding contingent singular assertions 'Socrates sits', 'Al is fat'. The proposal in play is that these terms refer to entities, variously classed as 'facts' or 'states-of-affairs', that are the truthmakers of the corresponding assertions. That is, they refer to entities whose existence entails the truth of the said assertions. Consequently we are obliged to admit this class of entity to our ontology. So, in addition to the entity of Socrates, who happens to be sitting, we also have the entity of Socrates's sitting. Am I OK so far?

I contend that this amounts to double-counting and I think I can explain how it comes about. I start with the idea that we can analyse the world in two distinct ways. One way is first to break matter into individual objects and then accommodate motion by having objects perform actions. A language suited to describing the world in these terms takes the familiar noun-verb form of 'Tom runs', for example. The second way is to start with the motion and then individuate what matter undergoes the motion. A language suited to this analysis takes the gerund-of-noun form of 'the running of Tom', for example. We can think of these as the object-oriented and process-oriented views/languages. I claim that these views are dual to one another. Each view is as good as the other and sentences in either language are readily translated into the other language. English contains both as sub-languages but we are biased in favour of the object-oriented language. Although 'the running of Tom' is a perfectly adequate way of asserting in the process language that Tom runs, we see this as a noun-phrase that needs an explicit verb to make an object language sentence, so we say 'the running of Tom exists/occurs/holds'. This effect camouflages the duality of 'Tom runs' and 'the running of Tom', seen as elements of the respective sub-languages. The duality re-emerges clearly when we add in an adverb. 'Tom dances clumsily' is equivalent to 'Tom's dancing is clumsy'. The qualifier attaches to the motion not the matter and an adverb in the object language passes over into an adjective in the process language.

So, my contention is that terms like 'the running of Tom' do not refer to unfamiliar entities in an object ontology that we posit to furnish truthmakers. Rather they refer to familiar entities in a dual ontology of processes. English is an expression of both ontologies and hence the possibility of double-counting arises.

Do we have such a process ontology? I think we find it useful in expressing causation. The flying of the brick caused the shattering of the window. Al's being fat worsened his heart condition and worried his wife. A gentle breeze [itself a process] produced a rustling in the leaves. The flooding of the Nile enriches the soil. The perceivability of facts may be called into question but surely we have no trouble sensing these familiar processes. We are able, after all, to be in causal contact with them.

I was following you until this sentence: "The second way is to start with the motion and then individuate what matter undergoes the motion. A language suited to this analysis takes the gerund-of-noun form of 'the running of Tom', for example."

The first way is an ontology of objects and actions/process. So it seems to me that the second way, if it is to be the dual of the first, is an ontology of actions/processes and adverbial modifications of actions. Thus, instead of 'the running of Tom' we get 'running Tom-ly'

Accordingly, 'Tom runs' can be analyzed in two ways as

1. The fact of Tom's running occurs

or as

2. The process Running is modified Tom-ly.

What about 'Tom runs clumsily'? One could parse that as Running is modified Tom-ly-clumsily.'

So my first problem is that I find what you are saying obscure. My second problem has to do with method.

You start by sketching two different ontologies. But the place to start is not with the world but with sentences. We start with sentences we take to be true, and THEN we ask what the world has to be like for those sentences to be true. What does the truth of 'Wisdom is a virtue' commit us to ontologically? Same with with 'Al is fat' What sorts of entities must we posit to account for the sentence's being true?

This, I think, is the right way to proceed. The difference between Ed and me is that Ed thinks that all one needs to posit in reality are concrete particulars -- what you are calling 'objects.' So all we need is Al. I say that can't be right. We need the fact of Al's being fat.

Bill,
To expand a little more: I think of 'Tom runs' as 'the matter we call Tom moves in a way we call running'. The dual of this is 'the way of moving we call running occurs in the matter we call Tom' which I contract to 'The running of Tom occurs', though 'a running occurs in Tom' might be better. 'Tom' identifies which instance of the motion-concept 'running' we refer to. These existentially generalise to 'something runs' and 'running occurs in something'. The latter contracts to 'a running occurs'. I understand modifiers as refinements. 'Running clumsily' is a more specific way of moving than mere 'running'. 'Running Tom-ly' I would see as running in a way characteristic of Tom, so 'Running Tom-ly occurs in Al' makes sense. Hence I'm having trouble with your (2) 'the process Running is modified Tom-ly'. As I see it, this confuses instantiation with refinement. Also, I'm finding it hard to appreciate why you see adverbial modification as a natural dual. My approach can be thought of as just commutation of the precedence of noun and verb. An interesting aspect is that there are processes (rain, waves, flames, for example) in which we don't or can't identify the relevant matter. It just 'flows through' the process without aggregating into an object. In these cases we say 'raining occurs'. The dual of this is highly non-specific about the matter involved too. We say 'it rains'. And just as we can assert a motion occuring without saying what matter is involved we can dually assert the existence of something without saying how it is moving: 'Tom exists'.

We do disagree, I think, over aims, and hence method. Your project is the Cartesian one that starts with mental contents, your 'datanics', and works outwards. Mine is the naturalistic one of trying to see if language could work in the world that physics gives us. I think you risk remaking the world in the image of language ('facts must have proposition-like structure'). I risk building in too much or the wrong stuff right from the start. Is that a fair assessment?

Yes, we disagree about aims and method. This is a daunting topic! But I agree that your assessment of our differences is basically fair.

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