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Wednesday, January 25, 2017


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>>Note to the Astute Opponent:
Sorry only just spotted this. I have been down with the winter virus (not pleasant).

>>Simply put, what makes my thought of Max a thought of Max?

1. Start by assuming that you express your thought, saying ‘Max is black’.
2. If this really does express your thought, then it must be a thought about whatever ‘Max’ refers to.
3. So we can dispense with the intentionality of thoughts, and instead ask about the intentionality of reference.
4. So the question is, what makes ‘Max is black’ a statement about Max?

I.e. if ‘Max is black’ truly expresses a thought of yours, then the object you are thinking about must be the referent of ‘Max’

How does that sound so far? More to come.

Sorry about the virus. Did you get a flu shot in the fall? I have found that that is a very good idea especially as we age.

I am thinking about the precis of your book, and I will try to respond before long.

What you say above sounds self-contradictory. You assume that there is a thought which then is expressed. But this is precisely not to "dispense with the intentionality of thoughts."

Besides, I needn't express my thought in language.

By the way if you scroll down, there is a short entry on mortality that I'd like your comment on.

>>But this is precisely not to "dispense with the intentionality of thoughts."

I mean, precisely, that we don't have to worry about what thought is, hire a clairvoyant etc. On the assumption that the object of the thought = the referent of the singular subject term, we can now ask the same question about the referent. This in my view makes the problem tractable.

This does not rule out the possibility of reference being intentional, and I am sure you would claim it is.

Tying this to the precis thing:

(1) There is a cat in our neighbourhood called ‘Max Black’.
(2) Max is a stray.
(3) Sentence (2) is about Max.
The two fundamental assumptions of the book are (i) that the proper name ‘Max’ in (2) refers back to the first sentence that introduces the name. It could equally be replaced by ‘he’. And (ii) that the same phenomenon is in play in (3). I.e. (3) is true so long as the ‘Max’ also back refers to sentence (2). The thesis is that reference statements which appear to assert a relation between language and reality (e.g. sentence (2) and Max himself) are grammatically misleading. What makes them true is an intralinguistic relation.

Your view so far has been to scoff and assert that ‘Max’ in fact refers to Max. I reply: that is certainly true, and ‘Max’ really really does refer to Max. So we are not disagreeing there. So what are we disagreeing about?

Your other argument is that only pronouns back-refer. OK, but you need to show why sentence (2) does not involve back-reference.

Addis says,

...it is unintelligible to suppose the existence of beings who are using language in all of its representative functions and who are also lacking in conscious states.
What does he mean by all of its representative functions? Would he allow a being using some of the representative functions of language that was lacking in conscious states?


No. It would have been better had he written 'any of its representative functions.'

Suppose you have a robot with a voice synthesizer. The robot is performing tasks in a hot environment. Suddenly the environment gets hotter, the robot senses this, and produces the sounds 'If it gets hotter, my circuitry will melt down.'

The robot lacks conscious states. Addis would say that the robot's sounds do not represent anything to the robot, although we who are conscious will take the sounds as words representing something. The robot is not using language in any representative way.

To me this is obvious. I fear you will disagree completely.

That your robot lacks conscious states is obvious to me too, Bill. But you are making the stronger statement that any use of language to represent must involve consciousness, on pain of unintelligibility. I'm not convinced of this necessary connection. Obviously linguistic representation and consciousness tend to go together in us. But we don't find the puzzles of consciousness in linguistic representation. If the latter is a way of linearising and manipulating a model which guides behaviour then it need not imply our kind of consciousness at all.

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