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Sunday, April 04, 2010

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>> [Alan] if "Peter" denotes a certain thick particular, namely, "hungry Peter", i.e., Peter's having the non-essential intrinsic property *being hungry*, then it seems to me to do the job.

What is the meaning of the word 'denotes' here? It can't mean 'signify', otherwise 'Peter exists', in circumstances where Peter was hungry would signify Peter's being hungry, but would not signify this in circumstances where Peter was not hungry, i.e. the signification of 'Peter' would change according to circumstances, which is not the nature of signification. But if it is not 'signify', then what has all this to do with truth? For the truth or falsity of a proposition depends on its meaning. 'Snow is white' is true if 'white' means white, but false if it means red, black, brown and so on.

>>[Bill] there are possible worlds in which Peter exists, but *Peter is F* (where 'F' picks out an accidental property) is false.

Alan could object that the worlds where Peter is F are the worlds where 'Peter' denotes Peter-as-an-F, and the worlds where Peter is not F are the worlds where 'Peter' denotes Peter-as-a-non-F. But that commits us to the absurd position that the denotation/signification of a proper name changes as the nature of the 'thick particular' changes.

William,

Alan could say that, but then your objection would kick in. Presumably the reference of 'Peter' does not change as he gains and loses properties in the actual world; and presumably we want to say that there is transworld identity as well. But I think you go to far when you say that it is "absurd" that denotation changes when thick particular changes.

Could it not be that Peter is a diachronic bundle of temporal parts such that, at different times, 'Peter' refers to different temporal parts? (One could alternatively claim that 'Peter' refers to the whole diachronic collection.) And could it not be that Peter does not enjoy transworld identity, but instead has counterparts in other worlds?

Bill,

I'm not sure I follow the argument in your (2) that Peter cannot be the truth-maker of *Peter is sunburned*, etc. The picture I have is of ordinary particulars 'generating', as it were, true propositions. If, as the TMP seems to claim, the sole proposition generated by Peter is *Peter exists* then indeed we seem not to have the resources in the category of propositions to deduce *Peter is sunburned*. Unless, of course, the 'Peter' in *Peter exists* brings with it, so to speak, all of Peter's properties, so we get *Peter is sunburned* etc, piggy-backing on 'Peter'. In which case the TMP plays no explanatory role at all. Is this the gist of your position?

Could you also say a little more about how we get from ordinary particulars to concrete states of affairs? You seem to be suggesting that they are identical, so if states of affairs play a truth-making role then so also do ordinary particulars. On the other hand, if they aren't identical, what exactly are states of affairs (I think I understand ordinary particulars), and isn't there a new 'correspondence problem' between them and OPs?

Hi Bill,

I'm not sold on your argument in (2). It seems to me to presuppose a "non-thick" conception of Peter. Thus, to suppose that Peter can vary across possible worlds with respect to being hungry is to suppose that being hungry is not included in what *Peter* denotes. But then we're considering Peter in abstraction from some of his intrinsic properties, i.e., we are considering Peter non-thickly.

On my view, thick particular only have trans-world identity with respect to extrinsic properties. Variations in intrinsic properties are to be understood in counterpart-theoretic terms.

As for Peter gaining and losing intrinsic properties in the "actual" world, I don't believe there is any such thing as "the" actual world which remains constant through time. Rather, I believe that with every intrinsic change that takes place a new actual world comes into being. (I'm a pretty thoroughgoing presentist, as you can see.) Thus, I deny that metaphysically possible worlds necessarily include a complete, linear history. Of course, that opens another huge can of worms. ;-)

Alan, I am a long way from understanding this. As far as I do understand, you are saying that what makes 'Peter is hungry' true is a complex entity, the relevant bits of which include the connection between Peter and hungriness. But this complex entity cannot be what is signified by 'Peter', because 'Peter' signifies any complex entity which contains Peter, and there have been or will be or could be many such entities which do not include any such connection with hungriness (namely, all complex entities which make 'Peter is not hungry' true).

Bill:>>I think you go to far when you say that it is "absurd" that denotation changes when thick particular changes.

It is absurd that the *signification* (i.e. the meaning) of a name changes when the corresponding thick particular changes. But I am not sure how Alan is using the word 'denote' here. Either he means some non-essential accidental relation between a name and an individual, which is satisfied whenever that individual exists, and whose signification does not include any 'thick' properties. But in that case the name will denote the same individual after he has eaten, and thus no longer hungry, and thus it seems wrong to say that 'what the name denotes' is the truthmaker of "Peter is hungry". Or he means some essential non-accidental relation between the name and an individual, which is holds only when the individual is hungry. But then 'Peter' fails to denote the same individual after he has eaten (or it does denote, but its signification changes.

Hi William,

What makes *Peter is hungry* true is (I say) a complex entity that I would equate with a certain thick particular, call it *hungry Peter*, which particular includes the concrete state of affairs *Peter's being hungry*.

Or, to put matters more precisely, what makes *Peter is hungry* true is the existence of some token of a certain type of thick particular, each token of which includes the state of affairs *Peter's being hungry* as a constituent. The tokens of this type include, for example, *hungry, fat, and bald Peter*, *hungry, skinny, and hairy Peter*, and so on for every possible combination of non-essential intrinsic properties that a hungry Peter could have. These tokens cannot be identical with each other because they differ intrinsically. Hence, the type corresponds to a class of Peter-counterparts. *Peter is hungry* is true if and only if one of those counterpart-Peters exists.

Alan,

We may not be disagreeing at all if your view is, or is close to, what I sketch in #3 of the main entry. If a thick particular is a concrete state of affairs, then, as I said in earlier posts, Peter can be the T-maker of *Peter is sunburned* and the like.

Hi David,

You write, >>I'm not sure I follow the argument in your (2) that Peter cannot be the truth-maker of *Peter is sunburned*, etc. The picture I have is of ordinary particulars 'generating', as it were, true propositions. If, as the TMP seems to claim, the sole proposition generated by Peter is *Peter exists* then indeed we seem not to have the resources in the category of propositions to deduce *Peter is sunburned*. <<

I would avoid the word 'generate' which has causal overtones. It is not the case that *Peter exists* is the only proposition made true by Peter. Those who claim that Peter by himself makes true *Peter exists* also claim that he makes true *Peter is human,* *Peter is rational,* *Peter is an animal,* *Peter is self-identical,* and indeed all essential predications about Peter.

David and Alan,

It looks as if neither of you are grasping the very simple point I am making. It is that a concrete individual such as Peter (taken together with his properties and not as a bare particular) -- but also not construed as a state of affairs -- cannot be the truthmaker of propositions like *Peter is sunburned.*

Alan, thank you for the comment but it completely fails to address the point I was making. Let's make the point in another way. The following propositions are inconsistent.

1. 'Peter' denotes Peter

2. 'Peter' denotes the truth-maker of 'Peter is hungry'.

3. Peter is not hungry

I expect you will reply that the 'Peter' in (3) above denotes another type of thick particular, each token of which includes the state of affairs *Peter's NOT being hungry*. But as I have argued, in that case 'Peter' will have changed its denotation, which is not plausible. The 'Peter' in (3) clearly denotes Peter.

Thanks, Bill, I see it now. Entailment is necessary implication. In each possible world *Peter exists* implies a set of propositions each of the form *Peter is X*, such as *Peter is human*, *Peter is rational*, and (in some but not all PWs) *Peter is sunburned*. The set of props entailed by *Peter exists* is the intersection of this family of sets, and cannot contain the prop *Peter is sunburned*. It looks as if those of us who feel that Peter is sufficient to make true *Peter is sunburned* will have to take issue with this formulation of TMP.

Brightly: >>In each possible world *Peter exists* implies ...

Unless of course the name 'Peter' denotes something different in each possible world (or in each past or future state of the world), and so 'Peter exists' implies something different. But as I have argued, the proper name 'Peter' always denotes Peter.

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