« Saturday Night at the Oldies: Jimmy Elledge and Some Other One-Hit Wonders | Main | If you cite a racial fact, are you a racist? »

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Ordinary Christian believer, right here!:-)
I've understood the question from the get-go (OCB's talk like that - yes, I'm kidding :-)) as: "Do a believer and a believer worship the same God?"
In other words, emphasizing the doctrinal, not the ontological.
(I am leery of using the purported "triune-ness" of God as the difference-maker between the beliefs. There are many Christians who do not hold to (what they consider to be) a non-scriptural, speculative and unnecessary doctrine as the trinity, and yet worship the Father and the Son in all their fullness.)
Simply put, for the Christian the difference is Jesus Christ - as I posted in the very first comment on the original thread, where I quoted from Hebrews. teaching makes it clear what God the Christian worships, and it is teaching that no Muslim could accept:

"In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven." Hebrews 1:1-3 NIV)

Those are weighty words that imo speak loudly to the discussion.
OCB, over and out.

Some words disappeared when I hit 'post". The beginning should of course read "a Christian believer and a Muslim believer". When I see the posted item I will look for other missing portions if any.

Btw, here was my original title (probably too long, so the editors changed it):

"Not the Specialists' Turf:
Why You Shouldn't Let Philosophers Tell You That Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God"

Lydia’s article is worth reading. It may be worth extracting the three (negative) arguments she gives for her position.

Argument 1 is a reply to the argument that we can have radically different ideas about the same thing, just as Clark Kent’s co-workers have radically different ideas about him and about Superman. Lydia replies that ‘the analogy assumes there is one being, the same being, with whom Muslims and Christians are both in contact, even if they don’t realize it’. My emphasis on ‘in contact’.

Argument 2 is a reply to the argument that both Muslims and Christians claim to worship the God who spoke to Abraham, as told in the Bible, therefore, they are all worshiping the same God, since they are all referring to the God of Abraham. (My emphasis again). Lydia replies that ‘this argument depends on such a thin notion of “worshiping the same God” that it leads to absurd conclusions. Suppose I invent a religion according to which I, Lydia McGrew, am identical to the One who made special revelations to Abraham as told in the biblical stories. My sincere followers sincerely think they are worshiping the God of Abraham when they worship me. Does that mean Lydians, Christians, and Jews all worship the same God?’

Argument 3 is a reply to the argument that Trinitarianism cannot be relevant to the question of whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God, because Abraham didn’t believe in the Trinity, and modern orthodox Jews reject the Trinity, and Christians nonetheless believe that the God of the Old Testament is one in number with the God of the New Testament. Lydia replies that there are two senses of ‘worship the same God’. In the first sense, if one rejects important truths about God, such as the trinity, then one is not worshipping the same God. In the other sense, a Christian would say ‘the true God who called your forefathers out of the land of Egypt, who gave the law at Sinai, who chose you as his beloved, chosen people, really is the one who sent Yeshua the Messiah to die for our sins’, and in that sense Jews and Christians worship the same God. But she says ‘Nothing like this is true of Islam. God didn’t really reveal himself to Mohammad. Mohammad was not a prophet of God.’ My emphasis, and see below.

I won’t comment on these replies to the arguments, except I think Muslim might say ‘the true God who called your forefathers out of the land of Egypt, who gave the law at Sinai, who chose you as his beloved, chosen people, really is the one who spoke to Mohammed, and who speaks through the Quran’, and he might object ‘Nothing like this is true of Christianity. God didn’t really send Yeshua to die for our sins. Yeshua was a prophet of God, but not the son of God’.

Actually I will comment, in connexion with you point about ‘symmetry arguments’. I’m not entirely sure what a symmetry argument is, but I think it is where you take an apparently sound and valid argument from side A, and by transposing symmetrical terms you get an apparently sound and valid argument from opposing side B.

Thus I commented above, regarding Lydia’s reply 3, that a Muslim could equally well say the same about Christians.

Similarly for reply 1, Lydia objects that it is necessary for one to ‘be in contact’ with God in order to worship the same God, presuming that Christians are in contact with God, but Muslims aren’t. A Muslim could object that it is Muslims who are in contact with God, but Christians aren’t.

Similarly for reply 2, Lydia objects that you must really have revelations from God in order for your followers to worship God. Presumably she assumes that Christ had revelations from God, whereas Mohammed didn’t. But Muslims would say something similar, suitable transposed.

All three arguments depend on Christians being in some privileged position with respect to Muslims, and so we can apply symmetry arguments which reverse this assumption. And I wonder if this underlies the difference between the philosophers and the theologians. Philosophers are interested primarily in the validity of arguments. They see the issue as connected with the logico-philosophical problem of reference, which is not a theological one, and so they cannot accept any argument which depends on taking a privileged philosophical position for one or the other theological position.

It's also worth reading the comments to Lydia's post, and see how many of them take a philosophical position, as opposed to a 'Christian privilege' position.

Ed,

Anent the last paragraph of your first comment, please note a simple point of logic. From

1. The Xs and the Ms do not worship the same God

it does not follow that

2. The Xs worship the true God

nor does it follow that

3. The Ms worship the true God.

I am sure you will agree.

Ed sez:

>>All three arguments depend on Christians being in some privileged position with respect to Muslims, and so we can apply symmetry arguments which reverse this assumption. And I wonder if this underlies the difference between the philosophers and the theologians. Philosophers are interested primarily in the validity of arguments. They see the issue as connected with the logico-philosophical problem of reference, which is not a theological one, and so they cannot accept any argument which depends on taking a privileged philosophical position for one or the other theological position.<<

I don't think so, Ed. Consider the first argument. Her point and mine is that the analogies offered by Beckwith, Tuggy, et al. beg the question. This criticism does NOT rest on Xians being in a privileged position or on Xianity being true.

The same goes for the second argument.

You may have a case with the third argument as she presents it, but not as I present it.

>>Her point and mine is that the analogies offered by Beckwith, Tuggy, et al. beg the question.
Looking at Ed Feser’s argument again, I tend to agree. You and I agree that the underlying problem is about reference. I’m not sure Lydia agrees.

Dave Bagwill >>[scriptural] teaching makes it clear what God the Christian worships, and it is teaching that no Muslim could accept:

This, and many of the comments on Lydia’s post elsewhere, strengthen my belief that the two sides (Bill excepted) are arguing past each other. The ‘Ordinary Christian Believers’ are complaining that the philosophers are stepping into theological territory, citing various points of doctrine. The philosophers complain that this misses the point. Let’s concede the truth of ‘in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son’, which no Muslim would accept. The question is whether in not accepting this, the Muslim wants to deny of God that he has spoken to us through his son, or whether he has denied it of some idol, or has not denied anything at all. That is the true question. And I agree with Bill that the problem of when someone believes something of something, as opposed to having entertaining some indefinite proposition of the form ‘something is such and such’, is the very deepest question, and requires more extensive investigation.

Lydia’s debate with commenter mg31 in her original post is worth looking at. I am with mg31, totally.

Do you have to sign up at Gospel Coalition to see the comments? When I hit the Comments button at the bottom of the article, nothing happens.

>>The question is whether in not accepting this, the Muslim wants to deny of God that he has spoken to us through his son, or whether he has denied it of some idol, or has not denied anything at all. That is the true question. And I agree with Bill that the problem of when someone believes something of something, as opposed to having entertaining some indefinite proposition of the form ‘something is such and such’, is the very deepest question, and requires more extensive investigation.<<

We are basically in agreement here, Ed. To put it in a tendentious and offensively self-serving way, we philosophers are able to penetrate to the heart of these hot-button questions, dispassionately and objectively, while ordinary believers and (many) theologians lack the mental clarity, the intellectual discipline, and the freedom from passion and ideological bias to do so.

They think we are just 'jacking off,' playing word games, being clever, talking about some God of the philosophers distinct from the real God of Abraham, Isaac & Co.

They are wrong. The question really does come down to technical questions about reference, identity, causation, and related topics.

This comment is just a factual, historical point, and does not address the philosophical issue you're discussing, but you are just wrong when you write that "the Jews took no stand on this question" of the trinity. This might be plausible in talking about Jews before the trinity concept had been suggested by anyone, but Jews have emphatically rejected the idea ever since it developed out of Christianity. There might be a small number of people today who call themselves "Jews" who accept the trinity and the New Testament, and some of them may even be ethnically Jewish (most are not, I suspect), but this is not normative Judaism by any means. Perhaps you think the "Messianic Jews" or "Hebrew Christians" are practicing the "real" Judaism, but the overwhelming majority of practicing Jews do not. Also, your approach ignores all of Jewish law and philosophy that followed Christianity, including the Talmud and philosophers such as Maimonides, which emphatically reject the trinity. I take no position on the philosophical issue you raise, but I think it shows little respect to Judaism as a separate tradition to reduce it to a Christian sect.

"We are basically in agreement here, Ed. To put it in a tendentious and offensively self-serving way, we philosophers are able to penetrate to the heart of these hot-button questions, dispassionately and objectively, while ordinary believers and (many) theologians lack the mental clarity, the intellectual discipline, and the freedom from passion and ideological bias to do so.

They think we are just 'jacking off,' playing word games, being clever, talking about some God of the philosophers distinct from the real God of Abraham, Isaac & Co.

They are wrong. The question really does come down to technical questions about reference, identity, causation, and related topics."

Okay, _that's_ where we disagree, Bill.

My own opinion is that any theory of reference worth the name, any that is not ridiculous and trivializing, will _have_ to deal with a question like, "Which properties of an entity, or even an allegedly existing entity, are sufficiently important to that entity's being what it is that, if you deny those properties, you aren't talking about that entity anymore?"

Now, that question, concerning God in particular, is not a question on which philosophers have a special "in." Nor is it a question on which all philosophers involved in this debate have shown dispassion and a lack of bias. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the _haste_ some philosophers have shown to declare that it's _obvious_ that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, and doing so with very poor arguments, or even what sometimes looks like no argument at all, is an indication that at least for some there is some other motivation here besides a dispassionate evaluation of the force of the arguments!

This is also true at the level of ordinary discourse. For example, no philosopher has a special "in" on whether or not, if you say that I was raised by an android, you are still referring to my mother. It's obvious that an intelligent ordinary person (who bothers to consider the question) has at least as much ability as a philosopher to say whether or not he would still use the phrase "my mother" if he became convinced that he was raised by an android, and whether or not it would be reasonable for him to do so.

Similarly, if the "same God" debate is not to be _utterly_ pointless and trivial, it must be about whether various properties of God are of sufficient importance (say, in Christian doctrine) that they ought to be essential to the attribution of a phrase like "the true God" or "the same God we worship" to some being whose existence is postulated and who is worshiped by some religious group. And I don't think that philosophers are *by any means* specially qualified to decide that, nor that they are particularly above bias in so doing.

Well ok, OCB has gotten his come-uppance! I you had asked what the OCB would think about this?
In any case, youse guys sound just as 'passionate' as the OCB. :-)

London Ed wonders whether I would agree that "the underlying problem is about reference." That's a little vague, so I'll say yes and no.

If there is a theory of reference that makes conceptual content irrelevant or almost entirely irrelevant, then I think that it should be deemed irrelevant to this debate, since it seems to me obvious by the natural light that conceptual content is at least _relevant_ to the question, "Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?" and even to "Do Christians and Muslims, in the course of their normal religious practices, refer to the same God?"

Now, I had never thought of causal theories of reference as quite _that_ trivializing. I had thought that the notion of an "appropriate" causal connection to an utterance or claim would at least secure some degree of importance for conceptual content. Now I'm being told various things in the debates about this that seem to me to make those people's version of that theory completely trivial. Or suppose that one's theory of reference is that _any_ overlap between concepts secures reference to the same entity. That's incredibly trivializing. Now, if one doesn't care about that and if one just goes on advocating such a trivial theory, then in that sense, this isn't "about reference" with all theories, including the most trivializing, being on the table.


On the other hand, as to whether the "underlying problem is about reference," consider this thesis: If there is a non-trivial sense in which Muslims and Christians refer to the same God in their ordinary religious practice, then there is a non-trivial sense in which Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

I'm open to that. It doesn't seem to me prima facie unreasonable. So if _that's_ what one means by "whether the underlying problem is about reference"--namely, that deciding "yes" on the reference question for Muslims and Christians will mean a "yes" answer on the worship question, then fine, I'm willing to agree, until and unless I think of some reason to the contrary.

But in _that_ sense, I have serious doubts that technical philosophy is all that much help, beyond general clarity of thinking, ability to observe distinctions, and so forth.

On the question of whether I'm assuming the truth of Christianity in what I write in my TGC article.

Again, at one level yes, at another level no.

Take what I call the historical sense of worshiping the same God: Two groups worship the same God in a significant historical sense if the same real deity actually deliberately founded both religions (say, by progressive acts of revelation).

Saying that that is a legitimate way to approach the issue, or that that defines an interesting and significant sense of "worshiping the same God," doesn't depend on whether you're a Christian or not. Even an atheist could agree that, _if_ a God existed, this would be a significant sense of "worshiping the same God." A non-Christian Jew could agree with this _approach_ and then conclude that there is no such connection between Christianity and Judaism.

But of course since the suggestion itself points us to the question of what has actually happened in the real world--has, in fact, the same God actually founded these religions?--then the answer to the _substantive_ question will vary depending on what you believe about reality. The Jew will say "no" on the substantive question (concerning Christianity and Judaism) and the Christian will say "yes." I was writing the article as a Christian to a Christian audience, so I make no apology for giving what I think is the true answer to the substantive question to the intended audience on the TGC web site. It's only to be expected that I will do that. Of course, defending the truth of Christianity is an apologetic project all its own, which I wouldn't have attempted there but in which I'm keenly interested and deeply involved.

Dave,

My tendentious and self-serving remark was not directed at you. Honestly, I wasn't thinking of you at all.

But now, having read your comments carefully, you do give me an opportunity to say that I don't think you really understand the issue. The question is not whether Muslim and Christian beliefs differ: of course they do, despite points of agreement.

>>In other words, emphasizing the doctrinal, not the ontological.<<

Doctrinally, Christianity and Islam are very different. But that is not the question. Here is the central question:

Do orthodox (normative) Christians and Muslims worship numerically the same divine being despite doctrinal differences? Or are the doctrinal differences so great that they entail that there is no common object of worship?

Now worship presupposes reference. To answer the central question we must answer a logically prior question:

Do orthodox Christians and Muslims refer to numerically the same divine being despite doctrinal differences? Or are the doctrinal differences so great that they entail that there is no common object of reference?

To answer the logically prior question we need to answer strictly philosophical questions:

What is reference? How is it accomplished? And all of the questions that can be unpacked from these questions, some of them strictly ontological, some of them epistemological, some logical, some belonging to the philosophies of language and mind.

Let me also point out, Dave, that while you are entitled to your heterodox views about Xianity, they are not relevant to this discussion, as I made clear in my formulation of the central question above.

Jeffrey S,

Thank you for answering my tech question. Maybe GC doesn't like Mozilla Firefox. I'll try a different browser.

But in future please don't send over such a load of stuff. A link will do.

This is a fast medium. Pith is king.

djf objects:

>> but you are just wrong when you write that "the Jews took no stand on this question" of the trinity. This might be plausible in talking about Jews before the trinity concept had been suggested by anyone, . . .<<

That is what I meant as I made clear in earlier posts. (I have emended the main entry.)

Lydia >> Two groups worship the same God in a significant historical sense if the same real deity actually deliberately founded both religions (say, by progressive acts of revelation).

Did we ever clear up the connection between ‘worship’ and ‘refer’? When we last discussed, I think we agreed that ‘worship’ has the same logic as ‘address’, and so ‘God’ would be in the vocative case if English had a vocative case. I see there are scholarly articles about the Latin in the case of deus, but in any case domine ‘O Lord’ is more common.

In any case, I would say that if that vocative refers to God, then the worshipper is addressing God. I.e. if the worshipper utters Magnus es, Domine, et laudabilis valde, ‘Great are You, O Lord, and greatly to be praised’, and if domine/O Lord refers to God, then he is worshipping God.

This is intimately connected with Kripke’s problem of how we connect assent with belief. Kripke says that if S sincerely and reflectively assents to ‘p’, where ‘p’ is a sentence that is mentioned, rather than used, we can infer that S believes that p, where ‘p’ is now used. I.e. this is how we cross over the border between direct and indirect quotation. There is something similar going on here, surely. When the Jihadist sincerely shouts ‘allahu akbar’/ ‘God is great’, is he claiming that God is great? Can we move from mentioning the name ‘God’, to using it in a that-clause?

Is it fair to characterize the philosophical debate about reference as focusing on the following question:

To what extent is (successful) reference correlated or associated with the conceptual content of our thoughts about the thing we are (trying to) refer to?

Bill V. and Lydia M. think there is a rather significant correlation there. Ed from L. and I think that reference doesn't work that way at all. Ed F. takes a middle position where the conceptual content matters, but not in the same way ("classical theistic" content is what matters).

But once we see the point Lydia has made: that IF it turns out a Kripkean theory is right, then the fact that Muslims and Christians "refer" to the same being when they use the term 'God' is irrelevant to the public debate question, which has everything to do with whether expressing religious solidarity with Muslims is appropriate for Christians, along with associated questions such as soteriological inclusivism, etc; If Kripkean semantics is true, knowing that fact gives us no help answering any of the public questions; once we see that, we can see also that the _reason_ for that state of affairs must be that the question the public is interested in is intrinsically about the Christian and Muslim _conceptions_ of God. Are they basically compatible? Are the differences unimportant? How important are they?

And once we see _this_, we can see that where we land on the philosophical debate is irrelevant to how we answer the public question. To be sure, sameness of reference _is_ relevant to the public question if descriptivism is true. But that's _because of_ the association that holds (on that view) between reference and conceptual content. Conceptual content is in the driver's seat. Perhaps in-house debates about reference among descritivists could be relevant to the public question. But the debate bewteen descriptivism and Kripkean theories is not.

C. McC,

Interesting and potentially important comment. But to evaluate it, I need precise formulations of the public debate questions. I take it that one of your public debate questions is this:

Does salvation require acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died for our sins? Or is salvation as available to the Muslim as to the Christian?

And I take it that it is your view that resolving the strictly philosophical issue between descriptivism and Kripkeanism (even via hybridism) is irrelevant for resolving the above soteriological question.

But now I ask: does the above soteriological question have a clear meaning? 'Salvation' has different meanings for Christians and Muslims. Am I right? The God-Man had to die on the cross to save us from Original Sin. But the Christian notion of Original Sin is foreign to Islam. Am I right?

So a problem of meaning/reference arises right here: Do Christians and Muslims refer to the same state of being saved when they use 'salvation' and equivalents?

Moreover, I suspect we will be driven back to the 'same God' question. For if our predicament here below is as Christians say it is, then only the Christian God can save us.

Ed,

Can one worship God without addressing him? I should think so. In general, one can worship without addressing.

Suppose I idolatrously worship a woman. I can do this 'from afar.' Without communicating with her. She might not even know that I exist.

I should think one can worship God without addressing him, and address him without worshiping him. I would imagine Satan addresses him on a 'daily' basis.

Bill, I've understood and do understand your question, and understand it well - it's not that hard for cryin' out loud - not that I have 'the answer' - but was trying to get back to the original question as I thought it was posed: a question about beliefs. Ok, that's not what the original question really WAS about? - fine with me, but it sure appeared to be.
My mistake, no hard feelings. Carry on.
Heterodox, quotha!!

I'd like to do a little poll here. I hope Bill won't mind. Phil. language has never been my shtick, though to the extent that I've gotten into it the Russellian theory has always seemed to me pretty darned good. But I never thought of the Kripkean/causal theory as _totally crazy_. Until (maybe) now.

Christopher McC has been telling me over at W4 that causal theorists would bite the bullet on what seem to me some pretty wild reductios, so I want to see if this is agreed upon as to what is entailed by such a theory. So, here's my scenario:

I decide to start a religion for power and wealth. I'm a charlatan, but I figure I'll get more followers if I pick up on the existing name of some widely respected deity. I pick "Yahweh." I say that Yahweh has given me new revelations and made me his prophet. I say that the Yahweh I'm preaching is the same one who spoke with Abraham and made promises to him in the Bible story. But here's where it starts to get weird. The "Yahweh" that I'm preaching, I say, is an alien from Mars. He had a father, and he is created. He didn't create all things. (Remember, this is supposed to be the theory on which content is really unimportant, so I don't have to stick to "classical theism" or monotheism or anything like that.) He's part of a pantheon. The Jews just got all that part wrong, because "Yahweh" hates Jews, really, and was messing with their heads by teaching them monotheism. And, by the way, the ten plagues were an illusion, and "Yahweh" actually led the Israelites around the Red Sea somehow. He didn't part it. (This is meant to correspond to the changes Islam makes even in stories it co-opts, such as that Jesus only appeared to die on the cross.) But "Yahweh" _really was_ the one "behind" Abraham's experiences of God's talking to him, and also those of Moses.

Now suppose that the God of Christianity is real. (Just to fill out the scenario.) So there's a real being who spoke to Abraham and Moses and inspired the Old Testament. But of course all that other stuff is false.

Does a Kripkean/causal theory entail that the existence of the _real_ Yahweh, combined with my cynical decision to co-opt an existing name and some parts of some stories (modified), the original versions of which are true of the real God, suffices magically to "fix the reference" of the name "Yahweh" as used by my sincere followers (who believe my whole cockamamie spiel), so that they are "referring to the true God" by using "Yahweh" in the sense that I have taught them?

Because, if that follows, I can't imagine why anybody would ever consider adopting such a theory of reference.

Can I propose a completely different definition of 'same'?

Let me suggest that two things - X1 and X2 - are the 'same' to the extent that accepting p is true of X1 necessarily entails that not-p is false for X2.

For example, I can say lots of things about "the Christian understanding of God". The truth value of these statements is completely unaffected by anything I might say about "the Islamic understanding of God". These two understandings are completely disjoint.

However, consider if I say "Christianity teaches that God is Trinity", and a Muslim counters this by saying "Islam teaches that God is not Trinity". Both these statements are, to the best of my knowledge, true. There's no inherent conflict. However, if we move from talking about 'X's understanding of Y' to talking about 'Y', then these claims come into conflict, and run counter to each other. We are no longer talking about each particular religion's understanding of a concept, but claiming our religion's teaching as evidence that allows us to make fact-claims of a single concept.

Christian and Muslim claims about God do not come into conflict until we accept that they in some manner making contradictory claims about a particular (same) thing.

My understanding of a thing is defined by my claims. The thing is defined by it's own reality, and my claims may or may not bear accurately on that reality. That a philosophical standpoint allows that my claims might be in error does not mean that they are of lesser importance than the claims which are uncontested.

I think the confusion in this discussion comes from people wanting to move from "we make claims about something, some of which are compatible, some of which are in conflict" to "the important thing is the parts we agree on". This is like saying "We both agree that there is a traffic light at the intersection" means that "I think it is showing red" and "You think it is showing green" becomes an issue of minor importance.

Christians and Muslims both agree on the existence of an absolute divine being ("God"). This doesn't imply compatibility, just that this particular point is not a point of contention.

(Caveat: note that even if God does not exist it is still true that Christian and Muslim claims about 'God' come into conflict. All that is required is that the parties involved accept that their claims conflict, not that there is some absolute truth behind the claims. If you don't know if your claims agree or conflict, THEN you don't know if you're talking about the "same thing".)

Bill V.,

Point taken on the comment dump -- my apologies. If you are interested in checking out the comments for yourself, here is the link:

https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2016/01/16/rationalizing-the-same-god/

Great stuff as always!

B. V.,

Imagine a slide rule. The top scale stands for how much Christian and Muslim theologies are "importantly different", for any number of ways of clarifying what we mean by "importantly different". The lower scale stands for the degree to which conceptual similarity is required for sameness of semantic referent (or something like that).

The question, "Do Christians and Muslims semantically refer to the same God?" will (could in principle) depend on the position of both parts of the slide rule. So the answer to that question _is_ relevant to public-debate questions, but only via the relevance of the top scale. If we hold the top scale fixed, and only vary our semantic theory, I can't see how we would arrive at any different conclusions on public-debate questions. (Perhaps our manner of expressing those conclusions would vary, but not the substance.)

"For if our predicament here below is as Christians say it is, then only the Christian God can save us." Whether the Christian God is willing to save Muslims might depend on the degree to which their religion departs from or coheres with true (Christian) religion. But I can't see how it would depend on which semantic theory is true.

Lydia >>Does a Kripkean/causal theory entail that …
Lydia, Bill’s whole point, as I understand it, is that there is considerable doubt about what the right theory of reference is. Kripke’s theory is that causation is not enough. Hearing the name ‘Napoleon’ used to refer to the French emperor, I might decide to call my cat ‘Napoleon’. But that doesn’t mean my cat is a deceased French emperor! So Kripke adds the condition that I must have the intention to use the name with the same reference. So, in your example, you must intend to use the name ‘Yahweh’ to refer to Yahweh, not an alien.

The question is whether the intention condition is strong enough, about which I, probably Bill, have doubts. Bill?

" So, in your example, you must intend to use the name ‘Yahweh’ to refer to Yahweh, not an alien."

But I intend to deceive my followers into believing that the same being who meets _some_ of the descriptions of Yahweh in the Old Testament (but not others) actually is the being I am calling "Yahweh." So, if my deceived followers use the term "Yahweh" to speak of the being about whom I have taught them, do their usages refer to Yahweh in the Old Testament? They use it to mean the being "behind" Abraham's experiences and the burning bush (for Moses) but who actually is an alien, didn't create the world, and faked the plagues of Egypt. What about _their_ usages?

Over at W4, my understanding from Christopher McC is that their usages on a Kripkean view _do_ successfully refer to Yahweh. Which seems crazy to me.

Lydia writes,

>>Does a Kripkean/causal theory entail that the existence of the _real_ Yahweh, combined with my cynical decision to co-opt an existing name and some parts of some stories (modified), the original versions of which are true of the real God, suffices magically to "fix the reference" of the name "Yahweh" as used by my sincere followers (who believe my whole cockamamie spiel), so that they are "referring to the true God" by using "Yahweh" in the sense that I have taught them?<<

The answer is No. As London Ed appreciates, essential to Kripke's account is that, after the initial baptism, each person who receives the name must have the intention of using it with the same reference as the one from whom he received it. Thus is the name transmitted in a way that preserves its rigid designation. This rules out your scenario.

Kripke's theory is essentially as follows.

1. Proper names are rigid designators: they are terms that designate the same object in every poss world in which the object exists.

2. Ordinary proper names cannot be definite descriptions in disguise as Russell thought because def. descriptions are non-rigid: 'the wisest Greek philosopher' picks out different people in different possible worlds. In the actual world it picks out Socrates, but there is a possible world in which it picks out Schlockrates, and another world in which it picks out nothing.

The man who happens to be the wisest Greek philosopher, Socrates, might not have been the wisest Greek philosopher. But surely it is absurd to suppose that Socrates might not have been Socrates. So 'Socrates' is not a definite description in disguise. I believe that is one of K's arguments. I am not now pronouncing upon its soundness.

3. So what make 'Socrates' refer to Socrates to the exclusion of everything else if is not the sense of a name that determines its reference? Well, his parents just tagged him with that name! They just slapped it on him during a direct perceptual encounter. (The "initial baptism," as K. calls it) And then the name was passed on to friends and relatives and passed down to others all of whom used it with the intention of preserving the reference of the one from whom they received it.

4. Please note that the Kripkean theory is not purely causal. (A purely causal theory of reference is an absurdity as I argued a few days ago.) Intentionality is involved in the perceptual situation in which the parents see baby Socrates and slap a name on him. Intentionality is also involved in the transmission of the rigid designation.

5. The theory seems to have the following highly counter-intuitive consequence: My use of 'Socrates' now can have an existing referent even if everything I believe about Socrates is false. This is because the reference of the name has nothing to do with what I understand by the name. For all that is needed for successful reference is an initial baptism and reference-preserving causal chain.

Bill,

Forgive what might seem a silly question, but now I'm confused as to how to reconcile these two statements:

(1) "essential to Kripke's account is that, after the initial baptism, each person who receives the name must have the intention of using it with the same reference as the one from whom he received it. Thus is the name transmitted in a way that preserves its rigid designation."

AND

(2) "The theory seems to have the following highly counter-intuitive consequence: My use of 'Socrates' now can have an existing referent even if everything I believe about Socrates is false. This is because the reference of the name has nothing to do with what I understand by the name."

If in (2) you are not "preserving" the "rigid designation" (presumably because everything you believe about Socrates is false) then how to you maintain reference?

Jeff,

No offense, but you don't seem to have grasped the Kripkean theory. You haven't asked an answerable question.

To grasp it you first have to have some understanding of Frege and Russell. Do you understand Frege's sense-reference distinction? And do you understand what Russell means when he says that ordinary proper names are definite descriptions in disguise? For that matter, do you understand what a definite description is and why (most of them) are non-rigid? For example, do you understand why 'the teacher of Plato' is non-rigid?


"The answer is No. As London Ed appreciates, essential to Kripke's account is that, after the initial baptism, each person who receives the name must have the intention of using it with the same reference as the one from whom he received it. Thus is the name transmitted in a way that preserves its rigid designation. This rules out your scenario."

Because I lied? That is, I knew I was just making up a new religion and didn't sincerely intend to be using it with the same reference as the one(s) from whom I received it?

So if Mohammad just made up his religion (let's say) in a way parallel to my "Yahweh" story, then _that_ would mean that his followers aren't using the rigid designation of "God" in a reference-preserving way by following a reference-preserving causal chain, because the chain was broken by Mohammad?

Correct me if I'm wrong, Bill, but in answer to Jeff's question, I think the point is that the truth about Socrates could have gradually been lost over a couple of thousand years so that you (and everyone in the causal chain) did intend to use the name with the same reference as the person from whom you immediately received it, but what you understand by it is some set of propositions about the person in question that have accidentally ended up being entirely false over time. Like a giant game of telephone. Right?

What about Lydia's scenario makes it the case that she doesn't have "the intention of using it with the same reference as the one from whom [s]he received it?"

Is it merely the fact that she doesn't believe that Yahweh exists?

Suppose I, in my heart of hearts, don't believe Napoleon existed, but I keep this belief to myself. I join a conversation about Napoleon, and I make statements using that name, with the intention of being understood by my hearers as making claims about him (not about my cat). Would Kripke say that I'm not actually saying things about Napoleon?

It seems to me to be not in the spirit of Kripkean theory to push what he said in order to deal with the case of naming your cat Napoleon in this direction.

A simple "fix", if Kripke's theory does have this consequence, would be to say that only publicly discernible intentions count. "Lydia's" publicly discernible intentions, as I understand the scenario, were to say that Yahweh, (i.e., the very being everyone hitherto has been referring to by that name) is a vastly different sort of being from what everyone thought. That is, her publicly discernible intentions were to refer to that being, and make those claims about him, to refer to him.

Lydia @7:30: Something like that.

I was sketching an objection to Kripke's theory.

On a descriptivist semantics, a thoughtful tokening by a person P of a proper name N successfully refers to an individual x just in case there exists an x such that x uniquely satisfies the definite descriptions associated with N by P and the members of his linguistic community.

For example, in our linguistic community, we associate with 'Socrates' such descriptions as 'the teacher of Plato,' the wisest of the Greek philosophers of antiquity,' and so on. Our uses of 'Socrates' refer to whatever satisfies these descriptions, if anything does.

In Fregean terms, reference is routed though sense (Sinn); it is not direct. This implies that names have reference-determining senses and that the meaning of a name is not exhausted by its referent (Bedeutung). Names are not Millian tags.

Now on a Kripkean theory, names do not have senses that determine reference. So what makes 'Socrates' refer successfully? Well, there was this guy and he was tagged 'Socrates.' The name was attached to him directly just by labelling, and not because the guy or the baby satisfied some descriptions. After the baby receives his name, this name gets passed on to others, say, a great grandfather of Socrates. For the grandpappy to refer successfully to Socrates all he has to do is use the same name -- produce a token of the same name-type -- with the intention of preserving the reference the name acquired at the baptismal ceremony. And so on down the chain.

But this theory is surely counterintuitive. For it seems to allow for the possibility that I successfully refer to Socrates using 'Socrates' even if the man fails to satisfy any of the descriptions we all associate with the name. Suppose he did not teach Plato, was unmarried, thought philosophy a waste of time, was not particularly wise, etc. Have I nonetheless referred to Socrates?

I say No. The person I refer to is the person that satisfies the relevant descriptions. If no one satisfies them, then I haven't referred to anybody -- even if the name came down to me in the approved Kripkean manner from an initial baptism.

By the way, Christopher, you asked me on W4 if I've read "Naming and Necessity." I have not. I have, however, read and interacted with Putnam on water and H20. My main interest in the Kripke/Putnam type of semantics was (some years ago) the more general proposition that "Meanings ain't in the head" with examples like "H20 is essentially water" and those debates as the focus. I have also listened to quite a number of papers in the vicinity of this philosophy of language area at a week-long Quine conference some twenty-six years ago, though I won't claim that I understood all of them. I do understand the difference between Fregean "sense" and "reference." I have never looked into the relationship of Kripkean ideas of rigid designation to issues like long-ago human beings and the transmission of reference by rigid designation, lies, non-existent entities, or philosophy of religion.

I would think that the attempted fix Christopher suggests concerning publicly discernible intentions would get much farther into _conceptual content_ than a Kripkean would want to go. For example, in my scenario, one could argue, as Christopher does, that my publicly discernible intentions are to "refer to Yahweh"--that is, to use the term to refer to the same being as those "from whom I received" the term--because I tell my followers that the "Yahweh" I'm teaching about is the being "behind" Abraham's and Moses' experiences.

But one could also argue that my publicly discernible intentions are _not_ to use the term to refer to the same being as those from whom I received the term, because I expressly state that my "Yahweh" didn't actually send the plagues of Egypt or part the Red Sea. So he isn't the "being behind" those events, because I claim that those events didn't happen.

So which "being behind" description is more important to what those "from whom I received" the term intend to do?

Which just takes us directly off into the importance of various descriptions, which I gather is exactly what the Kripkean is trying to avoid! So I wouldn't think that "fix" would be embraced.

If I believe that the person you refer to by 'Abe Lincoln' never visited England, then my claim that "Abe Lincoln once visited England" is evidence that I'm intending to use 'Abe Lincoln' to refer to someone else. This is true regardless of what _you_ believe about whether the person you refer to by 'Abe Lincoln' ever visited England. On the other hand, if I think the person you refer to by 'Abe Lincoln' did visit England then my affirming "Abe Lincoln once visited England" has no such consequence. Indeed the opposite is the case: my claim that he did visit England is evidence that I'm intending to talk about the same being as you, since I think the being you refer to did visit England. This is true no matter how vociferously you insist that he didn't, since, from a Kripkean perspective, your beliefs about Abe Lincoln aren't relevant to determining the referent of your term.

What matters for discerning my intentions is my discernible beliefs about the referent of your term, not your beliefs about it.

It appears on the scenario that "Lydia" believes that the being Christians refer to by 'Yahweh' didn't part the Red Sea. So her claim that "Yahweh didn't part the Red Sea" is evidence _for_, not against, the conclusion that she intends to refer to the being referred to by their term.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 10/2008

Categories

Categories

August 2019

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31
Blog powered by Typepad