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Saturday, January 02, 2016

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I was about to say I reject (B), but then you say

>>London Ed will presumably endorse (B)-rejection

Quite right, and I am glad you remembered this.

Naturally I disagree with the section where you argue that “reference to an individual or particular is not direct but mediated by properties”. Kripke argues that reference can be passed on by a chain of reference, where the receiver must use it with the same reference as the person he heard it from.

E.g. consider the story of the road to Emmaus. This is as far as I know the only place where Cleopas is mentioned. His name cannot be imposed by acquaintance (he died long ago). Nor by description: the only suitable description would be ‘the man who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus, after Jesus had died’, yet a non-believer in the resurrection can still understand statements about Cleopas. A simpler explanation would just be that the name occurs in the gospel of Luke with the intention to refer to a certain person who may or may not have met Jesus after he died. Anyone familiar with that text can then pass on the name with the same intention, and thus refer to Cleopas. As I am doing right now!

Here's a suggestion that's a little different. (Off the cuff. Might be wrong but I think is worth considering.)

The word "reference" and phrases like "refers to" in A and B are ambiguous as between meanings like "Conceives of," "discusses," "talks about," etc. and meanings like "Picks out in the real world," "Points to in the real world," etc.

If we take "reference" and its cognates in the former sense, then A is true and B is false, as you suggest.

If we take "reference" and its cognates in the latter sense, then A is false and B is true.

I admit that I'm not seeing any real hole in this analysis right now, and it's kind of neat for it to arise directly from saying, "Distinguo!"

Bill,

Is 'worship' being used univocally in (A) and (C)? It seems to me that there is a distinction between 'true worship' and 'false worship.' True worship entails successful reference, as I take (A). And successful reference entails existence, as I take (B). But (C) seems to recognize false worship, whereas (A) seems to recognize only true worship.

You write

>> But presumably all gods have been worshipped by someone; ergo, being worshipped does not entail existence.<<

and

>>And I should think that (C) is obviously true. The idolater worships a false god, something that does not exist. As Peter Geach points out, the idolater does not worship a hunk of gold, say, but a hunk of gold as God, or God as a hunk of gold. But then he worships something that does not exist and indeed cannot exist. <<

I'm inclined to say that the idolater falsely worships a false god. His is a double-error: the false act of worship and the unsuccessful reference to the false object of worship.

Consider the following NT passage:

Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:21-24)

It seems to me that this passage suggests at least four senses of 'worship':

(1) true worship with knowledge (JTB) of the object of worship;
(2) true worship without knowledge (JTB) of the object of worship;
(3) false worship with knowledge (JTB) of the (false) object of worship;
(4) false worship without knowledge (JTB) of the (false) object of worship.

Do you agree that there are these different senses? How are you using 'worship' in (A) and (C)?

>>Now if the properties in terms of which I prayerfully think of God include the property of being triune, and the properties in terms of which a Muslim thinks of God include the property of not being triune, then no one thing can be our common mental referent. For in reality outside the mind nothing can be both triune and not triune.<<

I agree. This seems right. In reading through Chapter 2 of Sameness and Substance Renewed (David Wiggins, 2001), I found a quote from Leibniz about identity:

"I have said that it is not possible for there to be two particulars that are similar in all respects - for example two eggs - for it is necessary that some things can be said about one of them that cannot be said about the other, else they could be substituted for one another and there would be no reason why they were not called one and the same. Moreover, if they have diverse predicates the concepts too, in which these predicates were contained, will differ." (Wiggins, p. 62)

The last line from Leibniz appears to underscore your point.

One might elaborate on your point as follows.

Suppose God is a being who is essentially and necessarily a being of unconditional and self-giving love (love as "willing the good of the other"). So, if a worship-reference is directed to a referent that is not such, then that worship-reference is in some sense unsuccessful.

The Christian conception of God is of a triune deity who lovingly enters into the human experience to save fallen humans from ignorance, depravity, and misery. The Muslim conception is of a non-triune (unitarian) deity who does not do this (at least not in the same way).

Arguably, a triune God is essentially/necessarily loving whereas a unitarian God is not, for a triune deity can eternally/necessarily love in a self-giving way, whereas a unitarian God cannot. Thus, a worship-reference to a unitarian God would seem to be directed to a referent that is not essentially/necessarily a being of unconditional and self-giving love. But God cannot be both essentially/necessarily loving and not essentially/necessarily loving. The (Christian) conception of an essentially/necessarily loving God and the (Muslim) conception of a God who is not essentially/necessarily loving are fundamentally different conceptions. There is no common mental referent, it seems.

Lydia,

An ambiguity does infect 'refers' and this may be a source of some of our problems.

There is a use of 'refers' that could be called intralinguistic. This use does not involve a word-world relation or even the intention of establishing such a relation. And then there is a use of 'refers' that could be called extralinguistic. It either succeeds in establishing a word-world relation or tries to set up such a relation.

To illustrate. Suppose you say that Ed made a good point. I might say, 'To whom are you referring, Ed Feser or London Ed?' If you answer by saying 'London Ed,' then you answer me 'without going outside language.' You simply hand me another bit of language, 'London Ed.' So it seems that there is a use of 'refers' that is intralinguistic.

On this intralinguistic use, reference does not entail existence. Suppose -- God forbid! -- that London Ed ceased to exist a few minutes ago. That sad fact would not affect your intralinguistic reference. Or suppose I make mention of a purely fictional detective. You say, 'To whom are you referring?' I say, 'Sherlock Holmes.' My reference in this case does not require the existence of Sherlock.

If memory serves, it was I who first introduced the moniker 'London Ed' years ago. It was then handed down to the rest of you who use it with the intention of referring to the same man that I referred to when I baptized him 'London Ed.' So there is this causal chain extending from those fog-enshrouded early days of the blogosphere down to the present. But this transmission, after the baptism, is all transpiring intralinguistically.

Now are we all referring to the same London Ed? Well, yes, in the intralinguistic sense that we are all using 'London Ed' with the intention of picking out the same entity that I baptized 'London Ed' long ago. But if extralinguistic reference is determined by sense as on a descriptivist semantics, then it might be that we are not all referring to the same entity. Those of you who think that he is a robot are not referring extralinguistically to anything at all.

Do Christians and Muslims refer to the same God? The question may be ambiguous as between:

1. Do Muslims use 'God' (and equivalents, 'Allah,' etc.)with the intention of referring to the same being that Christians referred to or thought they were referring to with 'God' and equivalents?

2. Do Muslims refer extralinguistically to the same God that Christians refer to extralinguistically?

Seems to me that an affirmative answer to the first is consistent with a negative answer to the second.

Bill,

You do a reasonable job of summarising the London 'intralinguistic' theory of reference.

I am looking forward with interest to your comments on the causal theory of reference, to which the London theory bears some affinity.

(Except that the London theory adds the insight that the original cause, the referent at the beginning of the causal chain, is really unnecessary. All we need is to use the name with the same reference it had when received. Kripke says something about an aardvark called 'Napoleon').

>>The Christian conception of God is of a triune deity who lovingly enters into the human experience to save fallen humans from ignorance, depravity, and misery. The Muslim conception is of a non-triune (unitarian) deity who does not do this <<

Well-stated, Elliot. And thus it follows that either the Xian conception or the Muslim conception is instantiated in reality outside the mind and outside language, but not both. If Xianity is true, nothing in reality answers to the Muslim conception. Therefore Xian and Muslim do not worship one and the same God. What Muslims worship does not exist.

The fact that the different conceptions overlap cuts no ice. For the overlapping conception is insufficient to determine a reference to a concrete individual.

Ed,

That should happen in a separate post.

>>All we need is to use the name with the same reference it had when received.<<

I fear that you are not only a nominalist, but als a linguistic idealist.

You seem to be denying that reference has anything to do with an actual, or merely intended, word-world relation.

Lydia,

I think your good point about the different senses of 'refer' neatly gets at what I was trying to say about the different senses of 'worship.'

Bill,

I think your good answer to Lydia about the different senses of 'refer' neatly addresses what I was trying to say about the different senses of 'worship.'

It seems to me that 'true worship' is analogous to 'extralinguistic reference.' Maybe there are at least four senses of worship:

(1) successful extralinguistic (true, word-world) worship with knowledge (JTB);
(2) successful extralinguistic (true, word-world) worship without knowledge (JTB);
(3) merely intralinguistic (false, no word-world) worship with knowledge (JTB);
(4) merely intralinguistic (false, no word-world) worship without knowledge (JTB).

I think (off the cuff) that what Bill V. means by "intralinguistic" reference is usually (always?) going to be extensionally equivalent to what I meant by "thinking about" or "conceiving of."

I also completely agree that a "yes" answer to Bill's question #1 is consistent with a "no" answer to his question #2.

I do question whether the answer to his question #1, as a matter of history, intention, and usage, is an unequivocal "yes."

His question 1 is,

" Do Muslims use 'God' (and equivalents, 'Allah,' etc.)with the intention of referring to the same being that Christians referred to or thought they were referring to with 'God' and equivalents?"

Surely the correct historical answer would be, "In one sense yes, but in another sense no." Yes in the sense that they presumably _believe_ that there exists a single real being who appeared to Abraham (whom Christians thought they were speaking of) and that he is really the same being who chose Mohammad as his prophet. (In this sense, Muslims' relationship to the history of Judaism and Christianity is somewhat like Christians' relationship to Judaism: "The God who kicked off your religion is the same one who later kicked off our religion, even though you don't believe this.") On this point, of course, Christians disagree with them, which is one reason why Christians should give a "no" answer to question #2.

But no, in another sense Muslims don't use the word with the intent of referring to the same being as Christians are referring to--i.e., in the sense that Muslims presumably know that Christians think that God is triune and was incarnate in Jesus Christ, that many if not most Christians include this in what they commonly _mean_ by "God," and that Muslims intend to _exclude_ those aspects of the divine character from their meaning of the word, though those aspects are included in the Christian conception of the being they (the Christians) are speaking of.

>>You seem to be denying that reference has anything to do with an actual, or merely intended, word-world relation.<<

I am saying that the queer 'direct reference' relation, understood as a non-descriptive non-mediated relation between language and reality, leads to many well-known problems, and is a confusion. This is not to say that we cannot say true and false things about the world. Prior ("Oratio obliqua", Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supp. Vol. 37 (1963) 115-26, reprinted in Papers in Logic and Ethics, London:Duckworth, 1976) says

When we describe our ordinary historical belief as a belief that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, the words "Julius Caesar" do not have reference but only cross-reference. Proper names may acquire intelligibility either through our being introduced in some way to their bearers, or by being incorporated into a story – "Once upon a time someone lived in Rome who was called "Julius Caesar", and this Julius Caesar conquered Gaul, crossed the Rubicon, and so forth". We believe that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon in the sense that we believe the relevant part of this story; there is no one to whom we are related as believing the whole story of him, but we identify the subject of the later part of the story, ultimately, as simply the "someone" with whom the story begins. ... there is no one of whom I say that he crossed the Rubicon; but I do say that someone crossed the Rubicon, and I have previously said (among much else) that this same someone was called "Julius Caesar".

Of course we have a mass of historical documentation concerning Caesar, and a further, even greater mass of documentation about other people of his era, with multiple cross-references between them. We can extend this documentation by writing a biography of Caesar, using the same method of cross-reference, i.e. reference to historical documentation, which makes the name meaningful. Taking all the historical documentation as a whole, including later speculations which attempt to remove contradiction or inconsistency, then you have a massive indefinite description of reality. ‘Caesar crossed the Rubicon’ is definite, of course, but only because of this cross-reference.

Is this intra-linguistic? Surely not. For that historical documentation gives us information about the past. Think of cross-reference as a neat way of locating information. (Perhaps you could think of history as a massive set of old-fashioned metal filing cabinets, where you can make ‘singular reference’ to individual sections of a cabinet, and check for cross-references.

>> If Xianity is true, nothing in reality answers to the Muslim conception. Therefore Xian and Muslim do not worship one and the same God. What Muslims worship does not exist.
You need to add the premiss “And what Muslims worship is what corresponds to the Muslim conception”. I deny this, of course.

Can we agree whether it is datanic or Moorean that I can e.g. refer to Moses? This book is called ‘The Life of Moses’. I picked it at random and haven’t checked inside but I imagine it contains hundreds of tokens of the proper name ‘Moses’, all or most of which refer to Moses himself. So the authors of those tokens are referring to Moses. Also, when I say “the authors of those tokens are referring to Moses”, I myself am also referring to him, and my use of the pronoun ‘him’ just now also has the same referent, etc etc.

If it is so easy for the authors of that book, and for me, to refer to Moses, why should it be any more difficult for the author of the Quran to do so? E.g. 20:11 “Have you heard the story of Moses?’ Is it not Moorean/datanic that the Quran here, and many other places, is referring to Moses?

Lydia:
>>[[Bill’s] question 1 is, " Do Muslims use 'God' (and equivalents, 'Allah,' etc.) with the intention of referring to the same being that Christians referred to or thought they were referring to with 'God' and equivalents?" Surely the correct historical answer would be, "In one sense yes, but in another sense no." Yes in the sense that they presumably _believe_ that there exists a single real being who appeared to Abraham (whom Christians thought they were speaking of) and that he is really the same being who chose Mohammad as his prophet.<<

Again, it’s not just that the author of the Quran had the mere intention of referring to God, but I contend that he actually does refer to God, i.e. the God of Abraham. There is no question that he succeeds. The fact of the reference is Moorean, and no more to be doubted than the fact that John Van Seters, in his book The Life of Moses, is referring to Moses. The whole scholarly industry depends on such reference. I too can do the same thing. When I say “Van Seters is referring to Moses”, I too am referring to Moses. So can you. Have you ever succeeded in referring to Moses? Trust me, it’s really easy. Utter the name in the right context, and I, and Bill, and any other informed reader of this blog will understand who you are talking about. That’s all you need for reference to succeed. It’s so simple, like walking or sleeping.

Ed,

Thanks for the useful Prior reference. You quote him as saying " Proper names may acquire intelligibility either through our being introduced in some way to their bearers . . ."

But isn't that a case of what you deny, "non-descriptive non-mediated relation between language and reality"?

>>Again, it’s not just that the author of the Quran had the mere intention of referring to God, but I contend that he actually does refer to God, i.e. the God of Abraham. There is no question that he succeeds. The fact of the reference is Moorean, and no more to be doubted than the fact that John Van Seters, in his book The Life of Moses, is referring to Moses.<<

There are atheists, Ed. So it is not a Moorean fact that the author of the Koran successfully refers to God.

You are obviously using 'refers' in an extremely anemic way, a way having little in common with the robust way the rest of us are using it.

You seem to want to eke by on cross reference alone, when that is parasitic upon robust reference.

Ok, is it Moorean that Seters and I and others refer to Moses? Let's start with something we can agree on.

>>Thanks for the useful Prior reference. You quote him as saying " Proper names may acquire intelligibility either through our being introduced in some way to their bearers . . ." But isn't that a case of what you deny, "non-descriptive non-mediated relation between language and reality"? <<

I hold that even demonstrative reference is descriptive. It may be that Prior has a different conception of demonstrative reference of course.

>>You seem to want to eke by on cross reference alone, when that is parasitic upon robust reference.<<

Which is precisely what I deny. You need to make this 'robust reference' idea intelligible. We agreed after all that we can refer to Sherlock Holmes, yes?


London Ed: Well, I did disambiguate senses of "refers." If one treats "the God Christians refer to" as similar to a mere literary figure, like, "The guy who appeared to Abraham in the Bible, whoever that was" and if by"refers" one merely means "talks about," then in that extremely limited sense Muslims (because they think Allah appeared to Abraham in the story in the Bible) "refer to God" as Christians "refer to God."

But that is both quite a weak sense of "refers" and also (as in my "in one sense, yes, in another sense, no") a very weakened sense of "the God Christians refer to." Even in the sense of "talks about," the God Christians talk about is not a mere literary figure with an extremely limited number of appearance that fix the "literary" reference to him, and Muslims know this. That's why nobody thinks that, if you believe that the Flying Spaghetti Monster really appeared to Abraham and Moses in the events recorded in the Bible, you're "referring to" the same God by talking about God as the FSM who also happened to carry out those actions attributed to Yahweh in the Bible.

Great post, Bill. And I'm inclined to think that Lydia and others are right to say that there is an ambiguity in "reference" etc. But let's stipulate that we mean a relation to something real, as it were picking that thing out.

Why isn't this aporia in your post resolved by the ambiguity of "worships"? It may mean something going on solely in the worshiper, or it may imply a personal relationship, with action of some sort by both worshiper and worshipee. Call the first Worship1 and the second Worship2. Then we have 2 triads of claims:

A. Worship1 Entails Reference: If S worships1 x, then S refers to x.
B. Reference Entails Existence: If S refers to x, then x exists.
C. Worship1 Does Not Entail Existence: It is not the case that if S worships1 x, then x exists.

A here is false, as one may Worship1 the Flying Spaghetti Monster, of course, failing to refer (in the relevant sense). B & C are true.

Again,

A. Worship2 Entails Reference: If S worships2 x, then S refers to x.
B. Reference Entails Existence: If S refers to x, then x exists.
C. Worship2 Does Not Entail Existence: It is not the case that if S worships2 x, then x exists.

A and B are true now, but C is plainly false. If worship2 is a two-way interaction, then the object of worship2 must exist.

Problem solved?

Ed sez: >>I hold that even demonstrative reference is descriptive.<<

I point to the prosciutto and say to the counter man: 'Give me a pound of this!' Are you saying that the reference of 'this' is determined by the sense of 'this'? Just what are you saying?

Similar questions arise in connection with pure indexicals such as 'I' (the first person singular pronoun).

Dale writes, >>Why isn't this aporia in your post resolved by the ambiguity of "worships"? It may mean something going on solely in the worshiper, or it may imply a personal relationship, with action of some sort by both worshiper and worshipee.<<

Suppose God receives my worship by say hearing my prayer and judging it sincere, but takes no action: does not answer my prayer in any way. That would fall between your two senses, wouldn't it?

But you are on to something important. Worship is at least potentially an I-Thou relation in Martin Buber's sense, not an I-It relation. Or perhaps I should say that SOME worship is potentially I-Thou. After all, idolatry is a form of worship, as in the worshiping of a golden calf, but in that case there is no possibility of an I-Thou relation.

And so the waters become ever muddier. We don't agree on how to use 'worships' and we don't agree on how to use 'refers.'

You say (A) is false, but I say it is true. How can I worship something without referring to it? Surely I cannot worship the FSM without referring to it. I have to bring it before my mind. And if I bring something to mind it doesn't follow that the thing brought to mind exists. You are assuming that reference entails existence. But it doesn't. Surely we refer to things that don't exist. Reference is at bottom just intentionality and it is a commonplace that the intentional object need not exist.

More later. Time for chess club!

>>I point to the prosciutto and say to the counter man: 'Give me a pound of this!' Are you saying that the reference of 'this' is determined by the sense of 'this'? Just what are you saying? <<

Not by the sense of 'this', which is just a marker, but rather by sensory data. Have you seen That Obscure Object of Desire?

Lydia: so are you saying that Muslims believe the god they worship is somehow not identical numerically with the God referred to in the Quran? Wouldn't that be heresy (I'm not an expert in Muslim heresy, but I think it would).

"Suppose God receives my worship by say hearing my prayer and judging it sincere, but takes no action: does not answer my prayer in any way. That would fall between your two senses, wouldn't it?"

No, as I think of it, that's all the action that's required for Worship2. Granted, we don't normally perceive this, but if we did, we'd be satisfied that our request was considered.

"You say (A) is false, but I say it is true. How can I worship something without referring to it?"

I stipulated at the start that I was talking about the kind of reference that requires the object to exist. Remember, as concerns Worship1, all the action is on the side of the supplicant - so, there needn't be any object at all.

If you're going to open the door to the sort of reference which doesn't require the object to exist, then let's reformulate. "Attempted reference"?

A. Worship Entails Attempted Reference: If S worships x, then S attempts to refer to x.
B. Attempted Reference Entails Existence: If S attempts to refer to x, then x exists.
C. Worship Does Not Entail Existence: It is not the case that if S worships x, then x exists.

Here, A and C are true (at least, C is true if we mean Worship1), but B is false.

It seems to me that Dale is right in pointing out that there is at least a two sense ambiguity of the term 'worship' in Bill's A-C, as well as a somewhat similar ambiguity in 'refers' (as Dr. McGrew and others pointed out). Hence Bill's A-C may have a fairly large number of possible interpretations that disagree on which statement(s) from Bill's triad are true and which false.

Dale,

I appreciate the spirit of your reformulation. Perhaps there are three notions of reference in play.

ANEMIC REFERENCE: Consider the sentence, 'Pegasus is winged and he is a horse and he flies and his flying over you is a cause of concern.' The two occurrences of 'he' and the occurrence of 'his' are pronominal back references to 'Pegasus' and thus wholly intralinguistic such that any burden of extralinguistic reference would have to be borne by 'Pegasus.' But this name does not refer to anything extralinguistic (not even to a Meinongian nonexistent object!). So reference in this sentence is wholly intralinguistic. Now extend this to all sentences and I think you have London Ed's theory.

ROBUST REFERENCE. A term robustly refers if it purports to refer to something extralinguistic and there exists something extralinguistic that it picks out.

PURPORTED OBJECTIVE REFERENCE. This is when one uses a term with the intention of referring to something extralinguistic.

Dale's comments are consistent with mine about the different senses of 'worship.'

By the way, Bill posted a link to the Official Blog of the Tyndale UC Philosophy Department. On that same blog, there is an article containing similar reasoning about the Calvinist conception of God.

"Though of course many Christians are Calvinists, scarcely any Christian philosophers are. No doubt there are many reasons for this. As Christian philosophers, here’s how we look at the issue." (end of first paragraph)

"And since God, if he exists, is essentially just and fair, but Calvinism implies that he’s not, it follows that Calvinism actually entails atheism: the non-existence of God. That’s why we’re not Calvinists; it’s because we’re theists." (end of penultimate paragraph)

http://tyndalephilosophy.com/2013/04/25/a-demonstration-against-calvinism-2/

According to this article, apparently, a conception of God that ignores an essential property of God is a conception that entails atheism.

Bill – you have roughly the story-relative theory (the one you call ‘anaemic’).

We still haven’t reached agreement on whether (a) ‘The Quran refers to Moses’ is true and (b) true in Moorean way. Similarly for any other proper name common to both Bible and Quran. (With the possible exception of ‘God’ – I regard ‘God’ in the Bible as simply another name among names of characters who appear there, who happens to have supernatural powers. It is widely recognised that the earlier parts of the OT have a more ‘anthropomorphic’ God. E.g. Genesis 3:8 where God walks in the garden ‘in the cool of day’. Exodus 4:24, where Moses stops at an inn where God meets him and tries to kill him).

If we can’t agree on (a), you need to explain how it is possible that I use the term ‘Moses’ in the paragraph above. Am I successfully referring? Do people here know which Moses I mean?

Ed,

Here is a Moorean fact we can agree on: The Quran contains tokens of 'Moses' (or its Arabic equivalent).

>> Here is a Moorean fact we can agree on: The Quran contains tokens of 'Moses' (or its Arabic equivalent).
Excellent. Then some more questions

1. Do the OT and NT also contain tokens of 'Moses' (or Hebrew or Greek or Latin equivalent)?

2. Do the OT tokens of ‘Moses’ refer to Moses?

3. Does a ‘yes’ answer to the question immediately above, where I use the name ‘Moses’ also answer the question of whether I can refer to Moses?

4. Do the NT tokens of ‘Moses’ refer to Moses?

5. Some passages in the Quran (not all) that use tokens of ‘Moses’ are clearly quotations from the OT. If we agree that the OT passages refer to Moses, do we also agree that the quoted passages in the Quran also refer to him?

6. If we don’t agree that the quoted passages using ‘Moses’ refer to Moses, what happens if a Muslim printer publishes a copy of the OT? Does the reference failure result from identity or religious beliefs of the person printing or copying all or part of the OT? What happens if a Muslim printer publishes an annotated edition of the Quran which copies (as footnotes) the OT passages verbatim? I.e. does the reference of ‘Moses’ in an OT passage depend on its printed location?

7. If we agree that the passages in the Quran which quote the OT ‘Moses’ passages do refer to Moses, what about the passages which are not obvious quotes. Do they also refer to Moses, or not?

8. If we answer ‘no’ to the question immediately above, what about such passages which are not quotations from OT, but which use pronouns such as ‘he’ to refer back to passages which are quotations? If we agree that in the quotation passages the tokens of ‘Moses’ refer to Moses, is any subsequent pronominal back-reference also a reference to Moses?

"Lydia: so are you saying that Muslims believe the god they worship is somehow not identical numerically with the God referred to in the Quran? Wouldn't that be heresy (I'm not an expert in Muslim heresy, but I think it would)."

Oh, come.

No, of course not. The Quran itself (if we assume Muslim "official" doctrine to be self-consistent) teaches an absolute monotheism strictly incompatible with the incarnation and the Trinity. The Quran makes the assertion that this deity who cannot be triune *was in fact* the God who appeared to Abraham. Muslims know that this is incompatible with the Christian concept of God. Hence, in that sense (remember, I distinguished two senses), they do not (or should not, given their theology) think that they worship the same being that Christians worship. In another sense (remember, I gave two senses) they think that the God referred to in the Quran, that God who cannot be incarnate, *actually* lies behind the experiences of Abraham. And they know that Christians claim to worship that being. If you reduce the being just to "the being, whoever it was, that lies behind the experiences of Abraham," then in that sense Muslims would say that they worship "the same God" who lies behind both Judaism and Christianity. If you don't reduce the concept of God to this extremely anemic pointing to a biblical allusion (which would also be compatible with FSM worship), as Muslims and Christians and Jews all typically do not, particularly in their worship, then they would say that the God of the Quran is not the same being (in essential nature) as the God worshiped by, say, St. Paul and described in some theological detail (which includes the concept of the incarnation of Jesus Christ) in Philippians and Colossians.

BV wrote, "I might say, 'To whom are you referring, Ed Feser or London Ed?' If you answer by saying 'London Ed,' then you answer me 'without going outside language.' You simply hand me another bit of language, 'London Ed.' So it seems that there is a use of 'refers' that is intralinguistic."

I'm unclear on why we are calling this "intralinguistic". Suppose Lydia is in other circumstances able to refer robustly to London Ed as a extralinguistic entity. It seems to me the natural thing to think is that when she says "London Ed" in the conversation above she does that very thing. Her intent is to indicate to BV that this extralinguistic entity, this person, and not the other, is the one she was talking about. To be sure, she did this merely by handing him a bit of language, but we aren't just _assuming_ that human use of language never reaches outside itself. So we have no reason to think that that bit of language fails to do so on that occasion.

If we have reason to think Ed doesn't exist, then perhaps we will want to say that that bit of language fails to reach outside itself. Or maybe we could say it reaches but fails to grasp. But in any case I don't see why this would propagate outward to a global rejection of the extralinguistic character of referring expressions in contexts like that, even in cases when the obvious candidates for extralinguistic reference do exist. In the former cases, the failure is due to the absence of the object and not to anything lacking in the linguistic situation itself.

Ed wrote, "when I say “the authors of those tokens are referring to Moses”, I myself am also referring to him, and my use of the pronoun ‘him’ just now also has the same referent"

This seems obviously true to me. And also obviously not "intralinguistic". Personal pronouns refer to persons. Persons are not intralinguistic entities.

What about fictional characters? Suppose I say "Holmes lives in Baker St." Taken literally, this makes a false claim. It purports to assert of a real human, Sherlock Holmes, that he lives in Baker Street. Sherlock Holmes, if he existed, would be a real person, not some kind of intralinguistic entity. Of course he doesn't exist. Which is why the sentence is false. So this is the same sort of situation as the failure of 'London Ed' to "grasp" a referent in the situation where Ed doesn't exist.

Of course, if I utter that sentence, I probably don't mean it to be taken literally. I'm not asserting that Holmes really existed. Rather than asserting it, I'm pretending to assert it. Which is a different sort of speech act. But that's a matter of pragmatics; it wouldn't alter the semantics. 'Sherlock Holmes' either (1) refers to an extralinguistic human being who happens not to exist, or (2) fails to refer only because there is no such person, but it attempts to refer, and would refer to an extralinguistic entity if only there were such a person as Holmes.

Fiction is a kind of pretence. Suppose a child is pretending to be an elephant. If we know what pretending is and we know what elephants are, we know what the child is doing. We don't need a _new_ concept of "pretend elephant." Here's a sentence Wittgenstein would like:

There are three kinds of elephants: African elephants, Asian elephants, and pretend elephants.

The point I'm making holds also for pretend assertions, which include pretend attempts at reference.

CC,

Here is an example of what I was getting at. 'John left the party saying he was ill.' A use of 'John' makes an extralinguistic reference to some guy who is not a part of speech or a bit of language. 'He' also refers extralinguistically. But the pronoun inherits its referent from the noun of which it is the antecedent.

This is an example of anaphora. The pronoun 'he' has no independent referential role to play, no role independent of that of 'John.'

I am resisting London Ed who seems to have the bizarre view that there is no extralinguistic reference, that all reference is something like cross-reference.

Tolkien, his readers, and lit-crit specialists all refer (in one sense of 'refer') to the same Frodo. There is no question whether the Frodo of Tolkien's early readers is the same Frodo as that of T's later readers. I take it Ed thinks that the same holds for 'God' across OT, NT and Quran.

I say, however, that the real question has to do with extralinguistic reference.

So perhaps 'text-immanent' and 'speech-immanent' reference is better than 'intralingusitic reference.'

The back reference of the pronoun to its antecedent transpires within language and is in that sense intralinguistic.

CC
>>What about fictional characters? Suppose I say "Holmes lives in Baker St." Taken literally, this makes a false claim.

Correct, but 'According to Conan Doyle', Holmes lives in Baker St.' is a true claim, no? And of course you have to know who Holmes is in order to understand my 'according to ...' sentence, so the reference is not pretend, since my use of the term 'Holmes' really and genuinely tells you which fictional character I am talking about. The pretence theory originated with Kendall Walton, although my own teacher (CJF Williams) also endorsed it.

>>I am resisting London Ed who seems to have the bizarre view that there is no extralinguistic reference, that all reference is something like cross-reference.

Dear Bill, it’s not bizarre at all, it has great explanatory value, unlike the ‘extralinguistic’ theory, which is deeply bizarre. The EL theory proposes some weird relation between things that never existed (Pegasus), which used to exist but don’t any longer (Caesar), which may one day exist but don’t now (Antichrist) etc etc. Indeed, on an orthodox (Direct Reference) interpretation of the EL theory, empty names have no meaning at all, which is truly bizarre. Yet 99% of the proper names we use concern individuals with whom we have had no acquaintance whatsoever. Moreover the EL theory is vulnerable to all sorts of longstanding difficulties, such as Frege’s probem, Kripke’s puzzle etc. In its orthodox form it can’t even explain ‘there is no such thing as Pegasus’. Your version of it explains empty names has referring to an ‘intentional object’, but that strikes me as equally weird.

>>So perhaps 'text-immanent' and 'speech-immanent' reference is better than 'intralingusitic reference.'

I call it 'story relative reference'.

PS Bill two of my comments disappeared today.

>>PS Bill two of my comments disappeared today.<<

You put them in the earlier thread. They were approved.

Lydia (my emphasis added) >>I am saying that they [Muslims] are trying unsuccessfully to co-opt the _God_ who appeared to Abraham, but are radically changing his nature and attributing to him essential properties that are not his as well as foundational religious acts (e.g., speaking to Mohammad) that are not his. Hence, their usual use of "God" does not successfully refer to the same being that Christians and Jews are talking about.<<

This again seems contradictory. You say “Muslims are attributing to him essential properties that are not his.” Now your pronouns (‘him’, ‘his’) refer back to ‘the _God_ who appeared to Abraham’, as you used it. Yet in order for a Muslim to attribute properties that are not God’s, he must utter a subject-predicate sentence like 'God is childless' or something like that. But who does the subject ‘God’ refer to? Well, if the Muslim is really attributing to him essential properties that are not his, where both pronouns, as used by you, refer to your God, then the Muslim's use of ‘God’ must also refer to him. If not, i.e. if their use of ‘God’ does not so refer, then they are not ‘attributing to him essential properties that are not his’.

Bill
>>You put them in the earlier thread. They were approved.
Ah yes, thanks. (Oops wrong thread, my mistake)

Ed asks Lydia, "But who does the subject ‘God’ refer to?" in the sentence 'God is childless.'

It doesn't refer to anything. Better: it does not succeed in referring to anything, i.e., there is no referent of 'God' as used and understood by Muslims.

Where is the contradiction? The identifying definite description that Muslims have in mind when they use 'God' and equivalents is not satisfied by anything in reality. Why can't Lydia say that?

So you see I am right as against Beckwith, Tuggy, Feser, et al who think that this problem is easily solved. It is not because it all comes down to one's theory of reference.

>> It [‘God’] doesn't refer to anything. Better: it does not succeed in referring to anything, i.e., there is no referent of 'God' as used and understood by Muslims.

But Lydia said “Muslims are attributing to him essential properties that are not his”, intending to secure successful reference for her use of the pronoun 'him'. Yet if ‘God’ as used by a Muslim doesn’t refer to anything, then the sentence 'God is childless’ as used by a Musim cannot “attribute to him essential properties that are not his”,contrary to what Lydia claims.

You can’t have it both ways. If Muslims can attribute such properties via simple subject predicate statements, then they are successfully referring. Yet such attribution is weirdly taken as an argument that they can’t successfully refer.

>>The back reference of the pronoun to its antecedent transpires within language and is in that sense intralinguistic.

Not really.

(*) Moses dropped the staff on the ground, and then he spoke to Pharoah

What that sentence is saying is that the predicates ‘dropped the staff on the ground’ and ‘spoke to Pharoah’ are satisfied by a single thing. The pronoun 'he' effects this. What makes both propositions true is a fact outside language.

If I change 'he' to 'someone', then a different proposition is asserted. Both propositions could also be true if the predicates were satisfied by different persons.

Ed,

I don't think there is any point is discussing this with you any further. You obviously didn't bother to read what I said in response to CC.

So let's just cool it for while, OK?

"This again seems contradictory. You say “Muslims are attributing to him essential properties that are not his.” Now your pronouns (‘him’, ‘his’) refer back to ‘the _God_ who appeared to Abraham’, as you used it."

See, I believe in a real God, not just a literary character God. Muslims think there's a real God who *both* appeared to Abraham and who *also* can't be incarnate, ever. I think that the real God who appeared to Abraham can be incarnate and that any term intended to refer in the real, outside, objective world to a God who both appeared to Abraham and can't be incarnate fails to connect to any real being. So they are right in thinking that a real God appeared to Abraham but wrong to think that the real being that appeared to Abraham has essential properties that, in fact, the real God who appeared to Abraham doesn't have.

>>You obviously didn't bother to read what I said in response to CC.
Do you mean the response at Monday, January 04, 2016 at 11:29 AM? I read that carefully. I saw a claim, but no argument for it.

>>I don't think there is any point i[n] discussing this with you any further.

Perhaps we can park it for a while. There are strong and compelling arguments for the story-relative view, but the present discussion does not hang upon it.

The present discussion is an interesting one.

Lydia: “So they are right in thinking that a real God appeared to Abraham but wrong to think that the real being that appeared to Abraham has essential properties that, in fact, the real God who appeared to Abraham doesn't have.”

My point stands – if your ‘the’ is intended to indicate definite reference, i.e. if you mean that Muslims are thinking of the God who appeared to Abraham that he has essential properties that the real God doesn’t have, and are thus mentally attributing to him essential properties that are not his, then this is contradictory.

It depends precisely on what you mean by attributing something to someone, or thinking something of them, or about them. The prepositions ‘to’, ‘of’ and ‘about’ typically indicate a relation of some kind. If it is the reference relation, as many philosophers believe, then what you say seems contradictory.

Bill,

Is it fair to summarize the debate between the descriptivist theorist and the causal theorist as follows?

Both the descriptivist theorist and the causal theorist assume that 'God' is a proper name, and that worship presupposes reference.

Descriptivist Theorist

Either the descriptivist theory of reference (D) or the causal theory of reference (C) is correct. (Suppose this for the sake of the debate, although there are other theories such as hybrids.) Not C. (The descriptivist can provide good reasons to reject C, such as the problem of unintentional naming, or the lack of a corresponding theory of meaning). Thus, D. But if D, then reference is mediated via an accurate conceptual description to a referent that satisfies that description. So, reference is mediated this way. But if reference is mediated this way, then Christians and Muslims don't worship the same God because their conceptual descriptions are essentially different, and thus their referents are different. So, Christians and Muslims don't worship the same God.

Causal Theorist

Either D or C is correct. (Suppose for debate.) Not D. (The causal theorist can provide good reasons to reject D, such as Kripke's 'epistemic,' 'modal,' and 'semantic' problems). Thus, C. But if C, then a proper name refers directly to its referent. So, a proper name refers directly to its referent. But if reference works this way, then Christians and Muslims worship the same God because they use the same (or cognates of the same) name, and thus their referents are the same. So, Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

Elliot,

This is pretty good, except that your characterization of the causal theory is a bit off.

The idea is not that the Js and the Xs and the Ms refer to the same God because they use the same name or equivakents, but because after the name 'Yahweh' was first attached to God by Abraham in what Kripke calls (pleonastically) an "initial baptism" (were there subsequent baptisms?!), the name is handed down via a causal chain to latter-day users.

So what makes my reference to God successful is not the existence of an x such that x satisfies the description I associate with the name, but the fact that I received the name via the unbroken causal chain each link of which used it with the intention of referring to the same thing the one from whom he got the name thought he was referring to. At the beginning of the chain, the name achieves reference simply by Abraham's tagging God with it.

It's a theory rife with difficulties to be explored in subsequent posts.

Thanks for the elaboration, Bill. I look forward to your posts on the causal theory, since it seems the problem about worship boils down to the problem of reference.

As you say, there are difficulties with the causal theory. One, it seems to me, is that the causal theorist needs to provide an account of meaning -- and in this case, the meaning of 'God.' The tagging by Abraham, and every link in the chain thereafter, is an intentional use of the name of God. But since there is intentional usage, there is intentionality. That intentionality is meaningful. Abraham had some meaning in mind at the baptism.

So the causal reference requires a meaning of 'God,' not merely the linguistic use of a name, right? Abraham's use of the name must have been linked with some conceptual content, and presumably more than just "the one who sent me from Harran in Mesopotamia to the land of Canaan." (Genesis 12)

If this is right, then the causal theorist needs to deal with the essentially different meanings of 'God' held by Xs and Ms, supposing these meanings are part of the same chain. Perhaps the causal theorist can appeal to "reference change." But that explanation seems implausible for the meaning of 'God.'

>>So what makes my reference to God successful is not the existence of an x such that x satisfies the description I associate with the name, but the fact that I received the name via the unbroken causal chain each link of which used it with the intention of referring to the same thing the one from whom he got the name thought he was referring to.

Presumably you have read John Searle's penetrating critique of this idea (“Proper Names and Intentionality”, Intentionality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983) pp. 231-61)?

Funny you should mention it, Ed. I re-read that chapter early this morning.

Another paper which you may find useful in this context is Irene Heim’s seminal dissertation from 1982, ‘The Semantics of Definite and Indefinite Noun Phrases

She mentions Kripke’s 1977 paper ‘Speaker’s Reference and Semantic Reference’. (Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 2, 1: 255–276). His notion of speaker reference seems to reflect your claim that it is people, not guns, that refer. The notion of semantic reference, by contrast, seems closer to my conception of reference. ‘Whether an utterance of an expression has semantic reference, and what its semantic referent is, is purely a matter of the rules that define the language in which the utterance is made.’

Heim had a strong influence on the direction of my work.

I see you have just posted your Searle-y post. I am off to bed.

I would say that there would not be any semantic rules in the first place -- e.g., the rule that 'I' refers to the speaker -- if it weren't for the primacy of speaker's and ultimately mental reference.

Sleep well.

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