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Sunday, January 10, 2016

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I still don’t follow how we can refer to something in a way that logically implies it has certain attributes. E.g. ‘The Christian God is triune’. Are you saying that is true in virtue of its meaning? Consider

A: Michelle is the tallest girl at St Claire’s
B: No she is not.

Does ‘the tallest girl at St Claire’s’ refer to some girl in reality, who therefore has the essential property, in being so referred to, of being tallest person, and does A’s statement predicate being identical with Michelle of her? Or is he predicating being the tallest girl of Michelle?

And who does ‘she’ refer to, uttered by B? Surely Michelle. B is not predicating non-identicality with Michelle of the girl who (he thinks) is the tallest in the class.

It all comes down to how we refer to God. If ‘God’ is a logically proper name, then no essential or intrinsic attributes are implied by the use of the name. If it is a definite description with embedded attributes like ‘triune’, ‘omnipotent’ etc, then you may be right.

>> Are there good grounds here for solubility-skepticism when it comes to philosophical problems? <<

A rough sketch of an answer:

Yes, one can construct a strong inductive argument to support the claim that philosophical problems are insoluble by human minds.

A concern:

The insolubility claim is itself a philosophical problem. If philosophical problems can't be solved, and the insolubility claim is a philosophical problem, then it can't be solved either. Still, one can have good reasons to believe that philosophical problems are insoluble.

Another concern:

If knowledge is JTB, then if one has a reasonable argument that, say, the human will is free in a libertarian sense, if he believes his conclusion, and if his conclusion turns out to be true, then he knows that LFW. And if he knows (if he has JTB), it seems he has in some sense solved the problem, although he lacks certainty. He may know but not know he knows. He may have solved the problem but not know he solved it.

However, if knowledge is JTB plus certainty that one has knowledge, then it seems that at least some philosophical problems are insoluble. We lack certainty about these problems, even if we have JTB.

What is knowledge? (Another big philosophical problem!) And if one knows the answer to a philosophical problem, but is not certain he knows, has he thus solved it? What does it mean to solve a philosophical problem?

More interesting questions to think about!

Elliot,

The insolubility ISSUE, not claim, is indeed a philosophical problem, a meta-philosophical problem. If all phil probs are insoluble, then the same holds for the insolubility problem. I accept the consequence. As I must!

You are also right to raise the second concern.

Suppose one can know without knowing that one knows, and that I know, in this sense, that the will is L-free. After all I do believe it and I have good arguments for it, and if it turns out true, then I have knowledge.

But it doesn't follow that I have solved the phil problem. For I haven't solved it to the satisfaction of all competent practioners. Their disagreement strikes me as a good reason to think I haven't solved it.

But as you appreciate, it all comes down to what it means to solve a phil problem.

Good comment, Ed.

>>It all comes down to how we refer to God. If ‘God’ is a logically proper name, then no essential or intrinsic attributes are implied by the use of the name. If it is a definite description with embedded attributes like ‘triune’, ‘omnipotent’ etc, then you may be right.<<

Yes. As I have been arguing all along, the ultimate resolution, if one is to be had, must come from the phil of lang.

It seems to me that a logically proper name is a mere tag whose meaning is exhausted by its reference, which implies that it has no meaning if it has no referent. That is to say: logically proper names have no (Fregean) sense.

Now: could 'God' as used in these discussions be a mere tag? Impossible. It has to have some sense: the thing worthy of worship; the first cause; the ultimate source of obligation, something along these lines.

Obviously, to ask whether God exists is not to ask whether x exists, where 'x' is a free variable. If you ask me whether God exists, I will ask you what you mean by 'God.' You will have to proffer a (definite) description since you obviously can't point to anything, although perhaps a reductive pantheist could make a sweeping gesture with his arm to ostend the physical cosmos. But even then I wouldn't know what you were referring to -- the sky? the trees?

So I say that 'God' cannot be a logically proper name. It must be a definite description is disguise.

Ed sez: >>I still don’t follow how we can refer to something in a way that logically implies it has certain attributes.<<

But if I refer to you as 'Edward' does that not imply that you are male?

>>E.g. ‘The Christian God is triune’. Are you saying that is true in virtue of its meaning?<< Yes, it is true in virtue of its SENSE (Sinn). For that is what an orthodox Christian means by 'God.'

But 'God is triune' is not true in virtue of the sense of 'God.'


>> A: Michelle is the tallest girl at St Claire’s
B: No she is not.

Does ‘the tallest girl at St Claire’s’ refer to some girl in reality, who therefore has the essential property, in being so referred to, of being tallest person, and does A’s statement predicate being identical with Michelle of her? Or is he predicating being the tallest girl of Michelle?

And who does ‘she’ refer to, uttered by B? Surely Michelle. B is not predicating non-identicality with Michelle of the girl who (he thinks) is the tallest in the class.<<

You may be asking whether A is making an identity claim or instead a predication. I would say that A is predicating of Michelle being a girl than which no girl is taller at St Claire's.

I may be missing your point.

>>It seems to me that a logically proper name is a mere tag whose meaning is exhausted by its reference, which implies that it has no meaning if it has no referent. That is to say: logically proper names have no (Fregean) sense.<<

OK suppose we exhaust that horn of the dilemma (I don’t necessarily agree, but let’s suppose). Then the proper name ‘God’ must have some kind of descriptive sense. But that’s the whole problem. Many if not all of the objections raised by Kripkeists apply in the present case. If the name has a meaning at all, order for Christians and non-Christians and atheists to communicate, there must be, in Kripke’s words, a ‘conventional, community-wide connotation’ of ‘God’. But the whole discussion here suggests there isn’t one. Lydia has one view, other Christians might have a different one, and there is the whole question of what description Muslims might give. Yet it seems given – datanic – that we can communicate.

Note that Mark (chapter 15) says ‘a man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising’, and later says ‘the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead’. That’s all Mark says, and the other three gospel writers say little more. So that’s the only mention of Barabbas in all of human history. Yet I am referring to him now. Not by a ‘tag’, because Barabbas might not have existed, and in any case he is not here for me to tag him. Not by a description, because we could deny, using Barabbas’s name, any of the descriptions that are conventionally ascribed to him. There is no record of an insurrection in 33 AD, so we could deny that Barabbas was an insurrectionist. We could deny that Barabbas committed murder – perhaps this was a detail added by the gospel writer to implicate the Jews. Perhaps Barabbas was never in prison. Indeed, perhaps there was no such person as Barabbas. So the name cannot be a description (‘insurrectionist of 33AD, imprisoned by Pilate, murderer’) for it would be logically impossible for a murderer not to be a murderer, or an imprisoned man not to be imprisoned.

So the name ‘Barabbas’ cannot possibly be a tag or a description. And ‘once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth’. You have said that the intralinguistic theory is bizarre, and presumably improbable. But isn’t that what is left over, and mustn’t it be the truth? Why can’t ‘a man called Barabbas’ be a sort of introduction or initial baptism, and why can’t all subsequent occurrences of the name, used in that sense, refer back to him? You haven’t given any argument yet against this, apart from saying it is bizarre.

>>But if I refer to you as 'Edward' does that not imply that you are male?

Boy named 'Sue'.

Bill,

You are right. The insolubility issue is the phil problem. I misused 'claim.'

>>it all comes down to what it means to solve a phil problem.<<

That would be an interesting discussion. It could include a conversation about what it means to satisfy a competent practitioner. Some practitioners accept beliefs based on good arguments for those specific beliefs. Others, it seems, accept beliefs because they are committed to a worldview that requires those beliefs, even though they lack good arguments for the beliefs. Some, apparently, take positions because they think that taking them is career-enhancing. And it seems others hold positions due to peer-pressure, political correctness, or emotional satisfaction.

>>Boy named 'Sue'.<<

Clever response, but not entirely clear. Presumably the man named his son 'Sue' with the intention of toughening him up precisely because 'Sue' is a girl's name, one that implies that its bearer is female.

If 'Sue' were a senseless tag, how could the boy's bearing that name get him bullied and ridiculed?

>>If the name has a meaning at all, [in] order for Christians and non-Christians and atheists to communicate, there must be, in Kripke’s words, a ‘conventional, community-wide connotation’ of ‘God’. But the whole discussion here suggests there isn’t one.<<

There isn't a sense that determines a reference to an individual, but there is a broad sense sufficient to make communication possible. This is the common concept that I have repeatedly referred to.

Kripke's theory is arguably hopeless. Suppose what Abraham dubbed 'God' was a feeling of tremendous anxiety. So is that what we have been referring lo these many centuries?

>>So the name ‘Barabbas’ cannot possibly be a tag or a description. And ‘once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth’. You have said that the intralinguistic theory is bizarre, and presumably improbable. But isn’t that what is left over, and mustn’t it be the truth? Why can’t ‘a man called Barabbas’ be a sort of introduction or initial baptism, and why can’t all subsequent occurrences of the name, used in that sense, refer back to him? You haven’t given any argument yet against this, apart from saying it is bizarre.<<

Well, just as one cannot tag what doesn't exist, one cannot baptize what doesn't exist. So it seems you shouldn't speak of baptism initial or otherwise. Moreover, you can baptize a man, but not his name! Granted, 'a man called Barabbas' introduces a name into the discourse of the NT. Subsequent occurrences of the name back-refer, not to Barabbas, but to 'Barabbas.' Are you perhaps confusing the name with the bearer? It looks that way to me!

Back-reference is not reference. Reference is extraliguistic; back-reference is intralinguistic. You could say it is 'story-immanent.'

Consider these two sentences:

'Sherlock Holmes lives in London, and he likes it there.'
'Ed Buckner lives in London, and he likes it there.'

I would say that 'he' functions in exactly the same way in both sentences: it picks up the extralinguistic reference, if any, of its antecedent, By itself, 'he' bears no burden of objective (extralinguistic) reference. It is simply a device for back-reference. It functions like a bound variable.

'Sherlock Holmes lives in London, and for any x, if x = Sherlock Holmes, then x likes it there.'

I could accuse you of changing the subject. I have talking about extralinguistic reference and worrying about its nature. You have changed the subject to something that it not extralinguistic reference: back-reference or cross-reference.

I further suggest that there is no genus of which extralinguistic reference and back-reference are species.

>>I could accuse you of changing the subject. I have talking about extralinguistic reference and worrying about its nature. You have changed the subject to something that it not extralinguistic reference: back-reference or cross-reference. I further suggest that there is no genus of which extralinguistic reference and back-reference are species. <<

Likewise, there is no genus of which demonic possession and bipolar disorder are species. If we are talking about exactly the same thing under different guises, there is no common genus.

>>Subsequent occurrences of the name back-refer, not to Barabbas, but to 'Barabbas.' Are you perhaps confusing the name with the bearer? It looks that way to me!

No. Rather, we are talking about the same phenomenon under different guises.

A cagey response. So you agree that extralinguistic reference is different from back-reference?

>>A cagey response. So you agree that extralinguistic reference is different from back-reference?

In the sense that demonic possession is different from bipolar disorder, yes. Same phenomenon, different guise.

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