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Saturday, March 19, 2022


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Hi Bill. I’m back in San Diego. Thanks again for your hospitality. We had a good time engaging in our own kind of peripatetic philosophy!

This was an interesting discussion. On the drive home, I thought about what you wrote here:

“It is reasonable to maintain that such types are necessarily tied to their respective languages, English and German, in the sense that, were the languages not to exist, then neither would the types exist. But 'surely' human languages are contingent in their existence. If so, then the linguistic types are contingent in their existence, in contradiction to the strong tendency to view them as platonica, and thus as necessary beings.”

The argument is something like this:

1. The existence of a linguistic-type is modally tied to the existence of its corresponding language.
2. All languages exist contingently.
3. Thus, all linguistic-types exist contingently.
4. Thus, no linguistic-type is an abstract/platonic object.

I agree that there is a strong tendency to view linguistic types as platonica. To support this tendency, what if we distinguish between a language-type and a language-token? English and German are historically developed systems of communication and therefore contingent language-tokens. But suppose there are language-types, such as English-type and German-type, and that these exist as platonica. With this distinction, it seems we can argue:

A. The existence of a linguistic-type is modally tied to the existence of its corresponding language-type.
B. All language-types exist necessarily.
C. Thus, all linguistic-types exist necessarily.

One problem with the idea of a language-type is that the relation between type and token is usually a one-to-many relation. But the relation between a language-type and a language-token seems to be a one-to-one relation. What's the deal with that? Perhaps one could address this problem by positing just one language type but many language tokens, such as English, German, etc.

Another problem with the idea of a language-type is that it raises a host of difficult questions similar to the ones you noted about sentence-types and how they relate to sentence-tokens.

Hi Elliot,

I am happy to hear that you made it home safely. It was great meeting you and the three days were memorable. I hope we do it again.

Setting aside dialects, let us suppose we are dealing with one well-defined language system such as Hochdeutsch, high German, with its vocabulary and formation rules. And I suppose that we would have to relativize that system to a time since languages evolve. I am having trouble understanding how that language system viewed as a type could have even one token. Who could possibly token it? I 'll think about this some more. No time now.

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