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Tuesday, May 15, 2018


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Hi Bill,
Just a few clarifying points, to start, replying to some of your comments...

1. "But you are not using the proposition to represent the fact. Your intending the fact is routed through the proposition which is the sense of the corresponding declarative sentence."

I guess I just don't understand the difference. If there is a fact that p, and I "intend" the fact by means of the sense of a sentence to the effect that p, how is that any different from my having in mind a proposition that I take to represent how the world is--in this case, the fact that p? Or, in other words, how is my doing the first thing or the second any different conceptually from my simply thinking that p? I feel I don't know what we're talking about, how these theoretical posits such as "the proposition" or "the fact" are adding anything to the bare statement that I think that p.

2. "I think you are missing the point that the proposition is a semantic and epistemic intermediary; it is not the direct object of a mental act. You are not thinking that Snow is white is true; you are thinking that snow is white via the propositional content Snow is white."

Again, I don't really know how to understand this latter idea. There is a propositional content (expressed in words by 'Snow is white' or 'that snow is white') and I am "thinking that snow is white via the propositional content". Okay. But what is all that supposed to amount to if not simply the statement that I think that snow is white? I'm happy to imagine some kind of abstract 'thing' that 'mediates' but in the end I don't know what it's _doing_ other than just thinking the same thought for me (so to speak). And then I want to know how my thinking that thought is 'explained' by positing this impersonal or abstract thing, which is not a thinker, but which seems to be in effect having my thought for me.

3. "Do you have a reference in the literature for me?"

Peter Hanks' book 'Propositional Content' defends the idea that predicative acts are primary truth bearers. Basically, he thinks these acts are correct or incorrect, which is equivalent to truth and falsity; then propositions are types of acts. It seems vacuous to me. What is it to predicate F of a if not just to think that a is an F? And that's just restating the original mystery in some grammatically or logically different form.

4. "I apply the predicate 'sober' to Elliot. But Karl can say the same thing by applying the predicate 'nuechtern' to Elliot. So I don't see how token acts of predication could be the ultimate truth-bearers."

Right, if we're talking about linguistic predicates. The idea is instead that people 'predicate' properties (not the linguistic terms that express or correspond to properties). But it's vacuous. If I predicate the property of F-ness, and my act is 'correct' because the object really is an F, we now have to ask what it is about my act that makes it representational--what am I doing in 'predicating' that isn't simply mentally listing F-ness and some object? It all seems like a silly game with words.

5. No, I don't think there's no real problem or mystery. I don't think a Wittgensteinian attitude is right here. Maybe there are propositions, and they are needed to answer these questions. What bugs me is rather that people seem content with 'theories' or 'explanations' that are obviously not real explanations of anything. For example, if Frege was right then a Thought has a concept as some kind of constituent. We can analyse things using his model. But we still don't really understand what we are _doing_ when we think that F(a). We're just _describing_ this mysterious thing--intentionality, representation, truth--using a specific model or vocabulary. At least that's how it seems to me. I'd be content to say it's an insoluble problem or deep mystery and leave it at that. Or try to figure out what follows from its being insoluble and deep. But instead philosophers pretend they have it figured out. That's what's bugging me. I wonder if I'm missing something. Is there actually some explanatory power to these 'theories' that I'm not appreciating?

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