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Thursday, February 09, 2017

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Hi Bill,

You asked in the previous thread whether I understood your Objection 2, whether I agreed with it, and how I might explain it. I do understand it, and I agree with it, and I don't think I can explain it in a way sufficiently different from your explanation. If I managed it, I suspect what the explanation might gain in novelty would be at the cost of clarity.

The Noble Opponent claims that your account of these matters "utterly mystifies" him. I must confess that his own account utterly mystifies me. According to the Noble Opponent, Sam is poor because he is identical to some particular poor person. But, according to the Noble Opponent again, it is not the case that Sam is poor because he is identical to himself. That is, (1) is true but (2) is false. But the only way I can make sense of this is as follows: there must be some particular poor person *other than Sam* to whom Sam is identical, and in virtue of which identity Sam is poor. But how could there be a person *other than Sam* to whom Sam is identical? That sounds like nonsense.

The Noble Opponent claims that 'Poboy' is introduced as a proper name for Sam. This is why he rejects Bill's claim that when Sam becomes rich, Sam ceases to be identical to Poboy. Because 'Poboy' is just another name for Sam, Sam never ceases to be identical to Poboy. When Sam becomes rich, Poboy does too. (Poboy also becomes inaptly named, but that's of no metaphysical concern.)

But Bill does not say that 'Poboy' is introduced as a proper name for Sam. Bill says that 'Poboy' is introduced as a proper name for that particular poor man to whom Sam is identical (in virtue of which identity Sam counts as poor). Thus, 'Poboy' is not just another name for Sam. It is a name for that poor man, other than Sam, to whom Sam is supposed to be identical. So, when Sam becomes rich, Poboy does not. Instead, Sam ceases to be identical to Poboy.

This difference in how 'Poboy' is introduced seems to me central for understanding the dispute between Bill and The Noble Opponent. And while I am initially sympathetic to The Noble Opponent's idea that Sam can become rich without ceasing to be identical to Poboy (since 'Poboy' is just another name for Sam), I think that ultimately the view does not make sense, for the reasons Bill suggests. To sustain the idea that 'Poboy' is just another name for Sam, and that it is not because of Sam's identity to some *other* poor man that Sam is poor, The Noble Opponent has no option but to say that it is Sam's identity to *himself* that makes him poor. That is, to avoid the nonsensical result above, I suspect The Noble Opponent must accept (2). To genuinely *explain* Sam's poverty, there has to be some poor man other than Sam to whom Sam is identical. But then Bill's point becomes clear: *that* poor man cannot become rich. Sam, of course, can become rich, but in doing so he must no longer be identical to the poor man who made him poor.

None of this applies to Bill's property theory. He can legitimately accept (1) but not (2) because (1) is merely a biconditional with no explanatory factor included. Thus, he can say that Sam is poor if and only if Sam is identical to some poor man, but the poor man in question *just is* Sam. What explains Sam's poverty is his instantiating the property of poorness. So Bill can accept (1) but deny (2). The Noble Opponent cannot, on pain of explanatory failure.

I hope you'll forgive some of the tortured locutions in the foregoing paragraphs (e.g., being identical to some other thing). I don't see any way to avoid them. So goes most discussions of personal identity.

This is more subtle than I originally thought. The Realist holds that there really is only one sort of name, the proper name, but two kinds of copula. ‘Cicero is poor’ should be analysed as ‘Cicero has poorness’, where ‘Cicero’ is the proper name of one individual, ‘poorness’ the name of another. We use the copula ‘has’ because we are not saying the individual Cicero is identical with the individual poorness, but rather lies in the relation of having. The verb ‘is’ is used for identity, as in ‘Cicero is Tully’.

The Nominalist, on the other hand, believes there are really two types of name, namely common and proper, but one kind of copula, ‘is’. Thus ‘Cicero has poorness’ is but a grammatical variant of ‘Cicero is poor’.

Note that neither party has to deny the truth of what is expressed in either grammatical form. The Realist does not deny the truth of ‘Cicero is poor’, but thinks that the true interpretation should be ‘Cicero has poorness’. The Nominalist does not deny the truth of ‘Cicero has poorness’, but thinks that the true interpretation should be ‘Cicero is poor’. There is a deeper disagreement though. The Realist thinks that while Cicero and another men could perish, so that the universe failed to contain them, individuals such as ‘poorness’ are imperishable and eternal. The Nominalist disagrees. The universe could conceivably be completely empty.

Turning to the Realist objection to the so-called ‘identity theory’. The objection as I understand it is that if there is only one type of proper name, then ‘Cicero is poor’ should be analysed as ‘Cicero is Poboy’, where ‘Poboy’ is a proper name for an individual who is poor. But ‘Cicero is Poboy’ simply expresses an identity between individuals, and does not tell us whether Cicero is poor or not.

The Nominalist replies: you are begging the question, in assuming that there is only one kind of name. Nominalists assert that there are two types of name, and one copula. Thus ‘Cicero is poor’ asserts that both ‘poor’ and ‘Cicero’ denote some individual. The fact that ‘poor’ denotes this individual gives us more information than the fact that ‘Poboy’ also denotes this individual. This is where the distinction between connotation and denotation is crucial. Common names connote, i.e. give more information than proper names. Proper names are just tags. Common names are not just tags.

The Realist needs to bring a case which does not assume that which had to be proved. We cannot assume there is only one type of name.

Bill, You write,

What in the world makes-true 'Sam is a poor man'? [] The answer has to be, on the theory under discussion: the numerical identity of Sam with Poboy.
Is said numerical identity an in-the-world fact? I think not. Having observed that 'Sam' denotes exactly one of the denotata of 'poor man', you have declared that 'Poboy' is also to denote this individual. Thus the co-denotation of 'Sam' and 'Poboy' (aka the identity of Sam and Poboy) is an intra-linguistic phenomenon. Hardly the extra-linguistic fact required for a truth-maker.

Hi John,

Thanks for your detailed and very clear response. Any unclarity in it reflects the difficulty of the subject matter. As Frege famously remarks at the beginning of one of his seminal papers, "Identity challenges reflection."

Gentlemen,

This paper by Benson Mates is highly relevant to what we are discussing.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/4182070?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Have you read it? He argues against the distinction between two senses of 'is,' the predicative and the identitarian.


@John
>> According to the Noble Opponent, Sam is poor because he is identical to some particular poor person.

No!!! I don’t use the word because. I don’t understand this logical connective. I claim

Sam is poor iff Sam is some poor person.

Proof: (1) If Sam is poor, he cannot be a person who is not poor. That proves the ‘only if’. And (2) If Sam is not poor, he cannot be some poor person. That proves the ‘if’. Ergo etc.

>> But, according to the Noble Opponent again, it is not the case that Sam is poor because he is identical to himself.

Again, I don’t use the word ‘because’. I say that we cannot infer ‘Sam is poor’ from ‘Sam is Sam’.

>>That is, (1) is true but (2) is false.

Correct.

>>But the only way I can make sense of this is as follows: there must be some particular poor person *other than Sam* to whom Sam is identical, and in virtue of which identity Sam is poor.

I don’t understand the logical connective ‘in virtue of which’.

>> (Poboy also becomes inaptly named, but that's of no metaphysical concern.)

As JS Mill says ‘Dartmouth’ still names Dartmouth. Kripke also mentions this.

Opponent,

There is a lot to discuss, but not enough time right now. Later in the day.

>>There is a deeper disagreement though. The Realist thinks that while Cicero and another men could perish, so that the universe failed to contain them, individuals such as ‘poorness’ are imperishable and eternal. The Nominalist disagrees. The universe could conceivably be completely empty.<<

You are mixing different topics that need distinguishing.

A realist needn't hold that universals are "imperishable and eternal." Armstrong posits universals, but they exist only if instantiated. He is a proponent of immanent universals, not transcendent universals. Plus, he is a naturalist. So if every physical thing passed out of existence, the same fate would be shared by every universal, and every property if properties are universals.

More later.

I think we are all agreed that the following argument is very bad logic.

Sam is poor because he is identical with some poor person.
That poor person = Sam
Sam is poor because he is identical with Sam.
The disagreement is about who is guilty of the bad logic.

David,

Thanks for your pithy comment! I hope to respond later in the day. I need to attend to some mundane matters right now.

>> I plead innocent of the charge of having committed a logical mistake.

On the contrary, and numbering your assertions:

[1] On the other hand, 'Sam is poor' is equivalent to 'Sam is a poor man.' What we have done is replace the adjective with a (common) name. This lends sanction to the notion that our original sentence can be construed to express an identity between the denotatum of 'Sam' and exactly one of the denotata of 'poor man.' [2] We can give this poor guy a (proper) name: 'Poboy.' [3] I now ask: what is the truth-maker of 'Sam is a poor man' given that the 'is' expresses numerical identity? What in the world makes-true 'Sam is a poor man'? (If the Opponent declares that there is no need for a truth-maker for this obviously contingent true sentence, then Game Over, and we have nothing more to discuss.) The answer has to be, on the theory under discussion: the numerical identity of Sam with Poboy. Since Sam and Poboy are one and the same, this amounts to saying that the truth-maker of 'Sam is a poor man' is Sam's being Sam.

This amounts to the following attempt at reductio:
[1] (Ass) Sam is poor iff Ex x = Sam & denotes(‘poor’, x)
[2] (EI) Poboy = Sam
[3] Sam is poor iff Poboy = Sam
[4] (Ass) But it is false that Sam is poor iff Poboy = Sam
[5] Therefore ~ [1] is false
The argument is obviously invalid. Both [1] and [4] are true. The error is at step [3]. It should be:

[3*] Sam is poor iff Poboy = Sam & denotes(‘poor’, Sam)


I also have some mundane matters to attend to right now, but I wanted to add briefly that I am not sure what The Noble Opponent means when he says that he doesn't understand logical connectives like 'because' (e.g., his comment above @ 4:13). He uses precisely that connective @4:23.

Perhaps a better way to put my worry is this: Bill and I are concerned about what *explains* Sam's poverty. The Noble Opponent sometimes seems concerned with this (as @ 4:23), but sometimes doesn't (as @ 4:13).

We all agree that on any reasonable view, Sam is poor if and only if Sam is identical to some poor person. We all also agree that it is false that Sam is poor *because* he is identical with Sam. So, the question arises: what *explains* why Sam is poor? It cannot be his self-identity. But if the poor person to whom Sam is identical is just himself, then Sam's identity to some poor person cannot *explain* why Sam is poor.

For this reason, Bill and I insist on invoking the property of poorness. We can explain Sam's poverty by saying that Sam instantiates this property.

The Noble Opponent resists invoking properties to explain Sam's poverty. But he also agrees with Bill and me that Sam's self-identity cannot explain his poverty. So it looks as though The Noble Opponent has no resources to explain Sam's poverty. All he can say is that Sam is poor if and only if Sam is identical to some poor man. But that is entirely uncontroversial and does no explanatory work.

Perhaps The Noble Opponent will deny the need to do any explanatory work. Then it looks as though he is going in for what is sometimes called ostrich nominalism, a view which may count Peter Abelard as an ancestor. (See, e.g., John Marenbon's discussion of Abelard on accidents in his The Philosophy of Peter Abelard.) I think ostrich nominalism is false, but I also think that if we can at least pinpoint ostsrich nominalism as our point of disagreement, that will be an advance in the debate.

John writes,

>>Perhaps The Noble Opponent will deny the need to do any explanatory work. Then it looks as though he is going in for what is sometimes called ostrich nominalism . . . <<

Very good, John. This is a major point of disagreement. I am committed to the truth-maker principle for at least some truths, and it appears you are too. You and I think it legitimate to ask for the truth-maker of 'Sam is a poor man.' We are comfortable with non-causal uses of 'because' and 'in virtue of.' We seek a certain sort of explanation which is distinct from an empirical-causal explanation.

An example of the latter would be: Sam is poor because he lost his job and has no emergency fund. This is quite different from 'Sam is poor' is true because or in virtue of Sam's instantiating the property of being poor. What the Opponent says seems like nonsense to us because we read him as saying that 'Sam is poor' is true in virtue of Sam, or Sam's existences, or Sam's being Sam. And then we say: how could this be! If Sam alone is the T-maker, then he alone also makes true 'Sam is rich.'

This difference goes so deep that one wonders how to proceed. This is why, above, I said that if the Opponent denies the T-maker principle, then Game Over.

The Opponent's position is even more radical than that of the Ostrich Nominalist. (I'll call him the 'ostrich' despite the fact that there are also ostrich realists, van Inwagen being one of these animals.)

Suppose 'red' is true of A. What grounds the correctness of the predication of 'red' of A? The ostrich will say: nothing. You and I will say: A exists extralinguisically, and there are properties extralinguistically, and A instantiates one of these properties. To us, the view of the ostrich seems crazy. "So you are saying that A is red because English speakers predicate 'red' of it? And so it is not red for the French since they use 'rouge'? And nothing has properties before there were speakers of languages? And nothing has properties in possible worlds in which there are no predicates?"

I say the position of the Opponent is even more radical since he denies that there is anything outside of language at all. For him, all reference is intralinguistic like the back reference of 'he' in 'Peter is happy because he is about to meet his girl friend.'

Another difference is that I say we predicate properties, not predicates. He implies we predicate predicates.

Another difference is that he apparently sees no difference between specifying truth-conditions and specifying truth-makers.

So, John, I think you have diagnosed part of the source of the disagreement. The Opponent is an ostrich!

>>For this reason, Bill and I insist on invoking the property of poorness. We can explain Sam's poverty by saying that Sam instantiates this property.<<

My actual view is that no solution works!

David writes,

>>Thus the co-denotation of 'Sam' and 'Poboy' (aka the identity of Sam and Poboy) is an intra-linguistic phenomenon. Hardly the extra-linguistic fact required for a truth-maker.<<

I am sorry, but this makes no sense by my lights. The names are intralinguistic, but their common denotatum is not.

Hi Bill,

You write: "My actual view is that no solution works!" I apologize for misrepresenting your view.

Looking back at your initial post, one of the worries you raise for the idea that we can explain Sam's poverty by appealing to his instantiating the property of poorness is that it turns an intrinsic change into a merely relational change.

But that seems true only if universals are transcendent. If universals are on the contrary immanent, then it looks as though Sam's going from poor to rich still counts as an intrinsic change.

The doctrine of immanent universals has drawn the ire of metaphysicians since Plato's Parmenides, but I'm inclined to think it is the right view about universals. (I have a very rough paper on this, for what that's worth.) (Also, interestingly, if we think of immanent universals as constituents of their instances, we depart in important ways from Aristotle. Although Aristotle, in the Categories, denies the existence of uninstantiated universals, and clearly thinks that universals are immanent in primary substances in some sense, he denies that they are parts of primary substances (Categories 1a24-25). Are constituents different from parts? I think this is an important question.)

>>What the Opponent says seems like nonsense to us because we read him as saying that 'Sam is poor' is true in virtue of Sam, or Sam's existences, or Sam's being Sam. And then we say: how could this be! If Sam alone is the T-maker, then he alone also makes true 'Sam is rich.'

Then you read him incorrectly.

I wrote a long reply to the comments above, but I think the short reply would be a request to avoid this caricature of my position. (1) I do not deny there is anything outside of language at all. (2) I don’t deny that ‘Sam has poorness’ is true, although I say a better analysis that reflects its logical form is ‘Sam is poor’. ‘Poorness’ is not a proper name of an individual. (3) My position is logically consistent, if you think not then give a reductio in numbered steps. (4) I distinguish between truth conditions and truth makers in that there is a distinction between propositions and verbal nouns. I.e. ‘Sam is poor’ is a proposition that is capable of truth or falsity. ‘Sam’s being poor’ is a verbal noun. So ‘Sam is poor’ in virtue of Sam’s being poor, if you like.

No problem, John.

I distinguish between the distinctions immanent-transcendent and constituent-nonconstituent. Let us suppose that properties are universals, not tropes.

A universal U is immanent =df U cannot exist uninstantiated.
U is transcendent =df U can exist uninstantiated.

Suppose individual x has U. (Sam has P-ness.) Then x can have U by containing it as a constituent (ontological part) or by instantiating it. If the latter, then U is not a constituent of x, but stands in a relation to it.

So we have two distinction pairs that 'cut perpendicular' to each other.

>>But that seems true only if universals are transcendent. If universals are on the contrary immanent, then it looks as though Sam's going from poor to rich still counts as an intrinsic change.<<

But take the case where U (e.g. poorness) is immanent (as defined above) but not a constituent of Sam. Clearly, U does not need Sam to exist; it needs only some individual or other.

So it seems -- though this is not entirely clear -- that the intrinsic accidental change in Sam when he goes from being poor to being rich is, on the theory under consideration, a relational change.

That properties be immanent universals is not enough to rebut my point. They must be immanent constituent universals. But then other problems arise. There are problems with Armstrong's view that Sam is a state of affairs (thick particular) and with the view that Sam is a bundle of universals.

Yet another set of problems arises if we think of properties as tropes whether we adopt a trope bundle theory or a trope substratum theory.

John,

What is your argument against ostrich nominalism?

This is just to point out that Oppo's (if I may abbreviate him thus) logic at 06:13 AM is very nearly perfect. Introducing the name 'Poboy' as witness for the existential in [1] gives us

[3**] Sam is poor iff Poboy = Sam & denotes ('poor', Poboy)
Bill and John are ignoring the second conjunct on the RHS. They thus load all their explanatory requirements on to the identity conjunct, Poboy=Sam. They understandably find this lacking. The explanatory power in Oppo's theory lies almost entirely in the denotes () relation, and we should concentrate our inquiries on this. In the meantime I think we can see Oppo's proposal as an axiomatic theory of truth for predication sentences in which the denotes () relation appears as an undefined term. That denotes () is opaque to us contributes to Bill's sense that Oppo's theory is ungrounded.

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