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Thursday, January 08, 2015

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>>Whereas what Ed says above is somewhat mushy, what I have said is razor-sharp. All of the cards are on the table and you can see what they are. We seem to agree that there is a genuine problem here.<<

Yup I did begin by saying I was struggling to fit it into that style. It is clear and sharp once you have the formulation, but the formulation is often a challenge.

>>[You could try an 'asymmetrical' theory: in the case of true singular sentences, the proposition expressed is Russellian, while in the case of false singular sentences the proposition expressed is Fregean. Of course that is hopeless.]
<<
Surely you mean ‘in the case of empty singular terms’?

------------------------
This is a real puzzle and it is time we solved it.

>>It is true that acts of thinking are private: you have yours and I have mine. But it doesn't follow that the thought is private. We can think the same thought, e.g., that Sharia is incompatible with the values of the English.

Well anything that is private can be revealed, of course. And two thoughts can be the same in the sense that two shapes can be the same, or two people the same height. The thoughts can have the same form. But the material, the substrate, must be different, if we are wedded to the hypothesis that thoughts and propositions are essentially the same kind of thing.

And if thinking is an action, what exactly is it acting upon? Surely we are thinking thoughts, or entertaining them.

Ed,

You are failing to make an elementary distinction. And surely you know that mental acts are not to be confused with mental actions. See here for detailed discussion:

http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2011/02/mental-acts-versus-mental-actions.html

>>Suppose I note that the front door of an elderly neighbor's house has been left ajar. That noting is a mental act, but it is not an action. I didn't do anything to bring about that mental state; I didn't decide to put myself in the state in question; I just happened to see that the door has been left ajar. There is nothing active or spontaneous about the noting; it is by contrast passive and receptive.
<<
Right I've got that. I don't understand why the terminology: actus in Latin is a driving or impulse or setting in motion, none of which is passive or receptive.

But turning back to thinking and its object. The thinking is active, not passive. I deliberately entertain a series of propositions, so in your terminology is a mental action. Now turning to the product of that action. That is the thought, no?

Dr. Vallicella,

If it doesn't take you too far off the topic, could you say a little more about the correspondence relation? Isn't Frege right that "truth cannot tolerate a more or less" (Der Gedanke)? If so, it's easy to see why construing the correspondence relation as identity is attractive, i.e. since one cannot be "more or less" identical. Is there a way to understand a correspondence relation that (1) doesn't admit of a more or less; and (2) is not identity?

Bill,

I sense that there is an equivocation throughout your aporetic hexad regarding mind-dependent/independent. There are at least two different senses of 'mind-dependent'; 'mind-independent'. According to one sense, to say that x is mind dependent is to say that x could not exist unless minds existed. Thus, chairs could not exist unless minds existed. According to a quite different sense, to say that x is mind dependent is to say that x is a mental item (e.g., the act of having a thought is mind dependent in this sense because a thought is a mental item).

Now, consider your example of 'I am hungry' uttered by BV, which you claim leads to a contradiction. But the contradiction is only apparent and this appearance is caused by the equivocation in the phrase 'mind-dependent/independent'. You, all 190lb and all, is mind independent, in the sense that you are not a mental item. This seems to me compatible, logically, with you being mind-dependent, in the first sense; namely, that you could not exist unless some minds existed.

Therefore, it is possible that x is a constituent of a proposition and thus x could not exist unless minds existed, yet x itself is not thereby a mental item.


I am not endorsing the view that there are any objects that are mind dependent in the first sense. I am simply claiming that there are these two senses (at least) of the concept of mind-dependent/independent.

Thank you for the comment, Josh.

First, isn't it true by definition that if x corresponds to y, then x is not identical to y?

Setting that aside, let me irenically concede for the moment that identity is the zero-case of correspondence (to speak with the mathematicians).

To answer your question, suppose there are abstract propositions and concrete facts, and that some of the propositions correspond to facts. Then it would seem that both of your conditions are satisfied.

We have the proposition *Al is fat* whose truth-maker is the fact of Al's being fat.

Here we have correspondence, not identity, and the correspondence does not admit of degrees.

Of course, this is not Frege's view. He did not admit facts into his mature ontology. Declarative sentence for him have referents, but the referents are truth values.

Peter,

There is no equivocation on any term in my pentad and you missed the point entirely.

Change the example to 'This is a rock.' Call the object denoted 'Rocky' and substitute 'Rocky' for 'BV' in my example.

Ed,

If you read the whole of the linked post you will see what mental acts are so-called.

>>The thinking is active, not passive. I deliberately entertain a series of propositions, so in your terminology is a mental action. Now turning to the product of that action. That is the thought, no?<<

You really should read that post carefully. I showed that there is a difference between mental acts and mental actions. So it is simply false that thinking in the broad Cartesian sense in play here is in every case active.

WHY they are so-called.

Why then can't thinking be occurrent and active? Your first para contrasts active with passive, your second contrasts occurrent with dispositional.

Then you further characterise act in the sense of actuality, as opposed to presumably potentiality, so forgive me if I am confused.

There is a further sense of 'act' meaning a deed, something done.

One distinction is between the occurrent and the dispositional. The other is between mental acts and mental actions. What's not to understand?

>>What's not to understand?

Again, why can't thinking be occurrent and active, and why can't it leave a trace? You have drawn two separate distinctions without justifying which quadrant thinking belongs.
For example, if I think the thought 'Socrates is sitting', then it seems to me that my mental activity happens through time. Moreover it leaves something behind, a bit like an echo, and that is the thought. Moreover the thought is composed of parts corresponding to the words, a bit like footmarks on the sand. So my activity produces something, no? It is in no way ‘passive and receptive’, as you put it.

Admittedly Lichtenberg said ‘it thinks’, just as ‘it rains’. But was he correct?

Josh,

Frege thinks of correspondence as admitting of more or less. Something like fitting or fit. If I try on a pair of pants they may be too loose or too tight, etc. They will correspond more or less well to the shape of my lower body. But that is not the way other correspondence theorists think. They think of correspondence as structural isomorphism, which does not admit of more or less. Also, structural isomorphism implies that the proposition and the state of affairs are not identical.

You may be toying with an identity theory of truth.

Ed,

Suppose you are scheduled to meet somebody at noon, but you forget the appointment until just two minutes before noon. Then you suddenly realize: I have to meet Jones in two minutes!

That sudden realization is a thinking and there is nothing active about it. It is not a mental action, though it is a mental act. The thought occurs to you: you don't create it or produce it.

Your reference to Lichtenberg suggests that you are confusing the point I am making with the idea that thoughts are subjectless. That's a separate question.

I never said that thinking cannot be both occurrent and active. Trying to remember someone's name is an occurrent mental process involving mental action.

Something like (5) appears regularly in these discussions and I always have trouble understanding it. For it seems to conflate meaning with reference. I understand 'direct reference' in contrast with 'indirect reference' as reference unmediated by a sense or description that can be rendered in words. This leaves room for reference by other means. Suppose Peter says to me,

There's a philosopher called 'Bill'; Bill is hungry.
This is perfectly meaningful to me, but although Peter no doubt has a referent for 'Bill' in mind, I have none. At best I can narrow the reference down to one of the hungry philosophers. Or Peter might say,
There's a philosopher called 'Bill'; Bill says. "I am hungry,"
and I understand perfectly well that this 'Bill' chap, whoever he is, is saying that he's hungry. In both examples, meaning and reference for supposedly directly referential terms have separated. It seems quite wrong to say that in direct reference, 'the meaning of the singular referring term is exhausted by the term's denotatum', because we can have meaning without reference.

Bill,

"There is no equivocation on any term in my pentad and you missed the point entirely."

So, I suppose you missed the point of the charge of equivocation I made, to which you did not respond. My point was not about an example, a rock or all 190lb of you. The point was about the clear equivocation in your use of 'mind-dependent/independent' throughout your argument. Do you deny the two senses I have delineated? Yes or no!!!

I still don't follow the act/action thing, but I wonder if it matters.

David Brightly has the main point. In both his examples the singular term has a meaning. But in neither case does it have to have a referent. Whether the thoughts are a trace which we deliberately leave, or whether the footprints appear in the sand as if by an invisible person, there is always a distinguishable print made by the singular term.

David,

What would be a description that *cannot* be rendered in words? You lost me with your italicized phrase. If you delete that phrase, then I will conclude that you understand the direct vs. indirect distinction.

And what do you mean by reference by other means?

There is meaning as sense and meaning as reference.

You understand the meaning of "There's a philosopher called 'Bill'" because you understand the sense of those words and how they combine to form a compound sense.

Please note that "a philosopher called 'Bill'" is an indefinite description. It applies to many different people.

Now consider "the man named 'David Brightly' who lives in London, England, owns two dogs, works in information technology, is interested in philosophy of language, and comments at the weblog *Maverick Philosopher*" That is a definite description. It singles you out: there is one and only one person in the actual world who satisfies the description. When I think of you, I think of you via that description (or a very similar one) and, so thinking, refer to you. Or at least that is the sort of theory that Russell and others held.

>> It seems quite wrong to say that in direct reference, 'the meaning of the singular referring term is exhausted by the term's denotatum', because we can have meaning without reference.<<

Of course there can be meaning without (unique) reference. Your indefinite description above has a clear sense, hence it has meaning, but it lacks a unique referent. It doesn't pick out any particular person.

There can also be meaning without reference unique or not. 'Unicorn' has a sense but refers to nothing. It has an intension but no extension. (Being a mathematician you may prefer to say that it has the null set as its extension.)

Our topic is singular reference not general reference. I hope you are not confusing the singular/general distinction with the direct/indirect distinction.

On a direct reference approach a singular term such as proper name or an indexical or a demonstrative or even a (bound) variable lacks a reference-mediating sense. Lacking such a sense, the term's meaning is the object referred to (the denotatum).

Isn't it clear that the meaning of 'this' is the object demonstrated and that 'this' has no reference-mediating sense, no sense satisfaction of which would constitute successful reference to the object demonstrated?

Peter,

Something can be mind-dependent without being mental (have the nature of a mind). For Berkeley, the tree in the quad is mind-dependent but not a mind.

Is that the distinction you have in mind? If yes, then my argument does not run afoul of that distinction.

From the earlier thread, I don't think you really understand the difference between direct and indirect reference theories and what they imply as to the nature of propositions.

The real issue here concerns the nature of propositions.

Thanks for the responses.

Right, I agree that correspondence theorists would advocate some kind of structural isomorphism between proposition and "fact", which would allow for each side of the correspondence relation to be be dissimilar in certain respects (e.g. one is "linguistic" or "mental", and one is not).

Would you be comfortable in saying, with Thomas, for example, that there is at least something like a formal identity between proposition and "fact" (Thomas would never say fact, of course, but res)? If not, I'm not sure what the structural isomorphism consists in.

I must say that I share Frege's aversion to facts--smells to me like we're trying to smuggle what properly belongs to linguistic propositions into the "real" world.

Bill,

I'm happy to drop the that can be rendered in words phrase if you can find me an example of a 'sense' that isn't a construction out of words. For me, the name 'Tilly' refers to one of our dogs not through some verbal formula, but, I suspect, through the knowledge I have of her by acquaintance with her. This is what I'm hinting at by 'reference by other means'.

This, though, is incidental to the point I want to make. Your claim (see second last para of above reply and the slogan 'There is meaning as sense and meaning as reference', is that the meaning of a singular term is either a reference-mediating sense or the denotatum itself. Ed and I think this is too narrow simply because we can find examples where singular terms (such as the second 'Bill' in my first example, and the 'I' in the second) seem meaningful to the hearer but are without reference, either direct or indirect. Your hexad is inconsistent because (5) is too restrictive.

Regarding 'this', consider

Bill said, pointing to something out of view, "This is the one I want".
Here 'this' is meaningful---one isn't left wondering what 'this' means in the context (roughly, the imperative to follow the gesture for more specificity)---but it lacks a referent or a reference-mediating sense for both speaker and hearer.

I think David perfectly understands that "a philosopher called 'Bill'" is an indefinite description. The question is about the second sentence "Bill is hungry", and David did make that clear.

You are probably going to say that when proper names, when 'introduced' by an indefinite description like that, are a form of definite description. Yes?

David sez:

>> Your claim . . . is that the meaning of a singular term is either a reference-mediating sense or the denotatum itself.<<

Not exactly. On a Fregean approach, a singular term can have both a sense and a referent. 'Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus' each have a sense and a referent. The senses are different but the referent is the same, Venus.

>> Ed and I think this is too narrow simply because we can find examples where singular terms (such as the second 'Bill' in my first example, and the 'I' in the second) seem meaningful to the hearer but are without reference, either direct or indirect.<<

First example: There's a philosopher called 'Bill'; Bill is hungry.

You take this as a counterexample to my (5):

5. If reference is direct, then the meaning of the singular referring term is exhausted by the term's denotatum so that a proposition expressed by the tokening of a sentence containing the singular referring term (e.g, the sentence 'I am hungry') has the denotatum itself as a constituent.

But I can neutralize your counterexample by making a very simple repair:

5*. If reference is direct, then the meaning of the singular referring term is exhausted by the term's denotatum -- IF IT HAS ONE --so that a proposition expressed by the tokening of a sentence containing the singular referring term (e.g, the sentence 'I am hungry') has the denotatum itself as a constituent.

By the way, you say my hexad is inconsistent. Well of course. It is supposed to be. I rigged it that way.

>>Regarding 'this', consider

Bill said, pointing to something out of view, "This is the one I want".

Here 'this' is meaningful---one isn't left wondering what 'this' means in the context (roughly, the imperative to follow the gesture for more specificity)---but it lacks a referent or a reference-mediating sense for both speaker and hearer.<<

That's interesting, but one cannot point to what is out of view. A meaningful use of 'this' is one in which both speaker and hearer see the item being pointed at, ostended, demonstrated.

Imagine going to a deli counter and saying, "I want a pound of this" while adding "The meat I want is not in either of our visual fields." The attendant would think you are either crazy or joking or didn't understand how the demonstrative 'this' is used in English.

Josh sez: >>I must say that I share Frege's aversion to facts--smells to me like we're trying to smuggle what properly belongs to linguistic propositions into the "real" world.<<

Well, Frege does have a theory of facts (Tatsachen). A fact is a true proposition where a proposition is an item in the realm of sense.

Suppose it is true that Al is fat. Doesn't there have to be something in what you call the 'real' world that makes that true? And how could that be a bare thing, or res? Could Al be the truth-maker of 'Al is fat'? Arguably not. What is needed is a state of affairs, Al's being fat.

Furthermore, doesn't the intrinsic intelligibility of the world require that there be proposition-like entities in the world?

Suppose for the sake of argument that there are no philosophers called 'Bill'. Can we agree that

There's a philosopher called 'Bill'; Bill is hungry
is meaningful, though false, and that the second 'Bill' has no referent? Whence then the meaningfulness of the second 'Bill'?

The target of Bill's pointing can be out of view to Peter who is reporting on Bill's deli purchase.

"Could Al be the truth-maker of 'Al is fat'? Arguably not. What is needed is a state of affairs, Al's being fat."

Yes, I think Al is the truth-maker of "Al is fat," but could be persuaded otherwise. I'm not sure what objections you have in mind for that position.

There are two things I'm worried about with "facts" and "states-of-affairs" talk (maybe you can allay them):

1. It's difficult to see how they can allow for substances and accidents to "be" in different ways. If we are forced to accept that Al's "fatness" is or even exists in the same way and the same respect as Al himself exists, then I'm getting uncomfortable quickly.

2. A related point: I'm not sure how we can have a real distinction between esse and essentia if I'm right about worry (1). This is another irresistible point for my stubborn intuitions, i.e. that something's thatness is really different from its whatness. If it's true, for example, that "Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist", I don't see how this distinction can be admitted.

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