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Thursday, April 17, 2014


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Apart from quibbles about (c), which I won't even mention for fear of the inevitable distraction, you have captured my position very well. But our email discussion was about presentation and exegesis. Any discussion of the subject should proceed in this order.

1. The facts that most people would agree as Moorean. (I think you and are agreed on these, I am not sure about others).

2. A background to the disputed facts. Here are what other people have said on the subject, without any speculation as to what is true or false, and as neutrally as possible.

3. What you call 'positive theory', i.e. speculative material.

"Once he presents it in a form clear enough to be discussed" - coming shortly.

"then I will show why it is unsatisfactory." I think not.

Have a good Easter weekend.

Hello Ed,

Delighted that you are returning to this topic.

On the issue of presentation, can I make a suggestion? I know it's the convention in philosophical writing to first survey the field of existing solutions before offering a novel idea, but in this case I think it would be a pedagogical mistake. Existing solutions seek to explain naming in terms of reference, seen as a primitive word-world relation, despite its problems. Your notion of 'intra-story' reference is radically 'thinner' and involves no word-world relation. It would be a mistake to prime the reader with the conventional notion of reference, I think. This is why I have had such trouble in underestanding your position. What caused me to see the light was your argument from the semantic indistinguishability of fact from fiction. I think you should begin with this Moorean fact, understood as the need for the linguistic machinery to work in all possible worlds. The problem, as Bill suggests in his next to last paragraph, is then to explain how the conventional pseudo-relation of word-world reference arises. How come some stories fit the world and others do not. You haven't said much about this so far.

Hi David. It is for good reason that an idea that first occurred to me in 1984 has not yet surfaced as a book-length work. Part of the problem is matters of detail. But most of the problem is exigetical. The core subject of reference and individuation is closely connected with other philosophically core subjects of existence, identity, truth, predication etc.

>> What caused me to see the light was your argument from the semantic indistinguishability of fact from fiction.

I think you are right on that one, however there are creatures called ‘externalists’ who will crawl out of the woodwork at this point, arguing that what seems indistinguishable is not really indistinguishable.

There is also the problem that a positive theory needs to explain truth somehow. If there is no semantic ‘word-world’ relation, how do we explain truth and falsity? Obviously a Ramseyan ‘no truth’ theory is what is required, but that requires careful treatment.

I think Berkeley’s approach was best. He presented the whole of his positive theory in a few short chapters, then spent the rest of the book addressing hypothetical objections. Other approaches are Hume’s, of a long and comprehensive prolegomena with the main thesis buried in the middle. Or Locke, who takes the ‘fake textbook’ approach, i.e. present your radical and novel theory as though a training manual, which no one will possibly challenge.

>>How come some stories fit the world and others do not.

Well, they don’t really ‘fit’ the world, otherwise there would be word-world relations after all. To say a story is true is simply to retell it, or to express agreement with it. I reject all forms of correspondence theory.

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