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Saturday, November 18, 2023

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AH.....Fernando! A great song from a great band...

Good points Bill (note you have my email address showing, please remove).

(1) Knowledge by acquaintance is presupposed by meaning-empiricism. It is simply the having of (or “being acquainted with”) sensible ideas, according to the empiricist. So change my (1) above to “Whatever counts as knowledge is either expressible in language as a proposition, or is knowledge by acquaintance of what the terms of the proposition signify”. On knowledge how, cats could certainly explain to you how they open doors, if you understood cat-language.

(2) Thanks for reminding me of tensing. Is “the watch was on the table at 12:30 GMT on 1 October 2023”, uttered after that date, the same as the proposition “the watch is on the table” uttered at 12:30 GMT on 1 October 2023?

(4) What is the meaning of “The meaning of any term is derived from experience”? Good question. First, it is a universally quantified proposition, whose two terms are ‘term’ and ‘experience’. “Do the terms of this proposition signify a sensible idea?” I.e. do ‘term’ and ‘experience’ each signify a sensible idea?

Well a term (in scholastic semantics) is a written or spoken word, and such words are clearly sensible. But parrots (as Locke notes) are capable of producing articulate sounds, but not language. Language requires the concept of signification, and I expect that you will object that the concept of signification is not acquired by experience. Am I right?

OK, I will bite. Let the proposition be “every term signifies an idea of sensation or an idea of reflection”.
Locke’s argument (Essay II.i.5) is

5. All our ideas are of the one or the other of these [viz. ideas of sensation and ideas of reflection]. The understanding seems to me not to have the least glimmering of any ideas which it doth not receive from one of these two. External objects furnish the mind with the ideas of sensible qualities [=ideas of sensation], which are all those different perceptions they produce in us; and the mind furnishes the understanding with ideas of its own operations [=ideas of reflection].
I think it’s a bad argument but interested in your view.

OZ,

My knowledge of Locke is limited. Does 'idea of sensation' refer to ideas of outer sense only or also to ideas of inner sense? Without pulling the Essay off the shelf I am going to guess that his 'ideas of reflection' are ideas presented to inner sense. Locke may be conflating inner sense with reflection, something that Brentano does not do.

And what exactly is a term? In the sentence, 'Max is black,' 'Max' is a term. Is the adjective 'black' a term? Or is it elliptical for the genuine term 'a black thing'?

Judgment is an operation of the mind as when I judge that Max IS black. 'Is' is not a term, I take it, but a syncategorematical or synsemantic element for Locke and for you: it does not by itself signify anything, whether a simple idea or a complex idea or anything else. It seems obvious that we cannot sense by outer sense or inner sense the copulative tie. I cannot literally see, or otherwise sense, the having of black/blackness by Max.

'Max is black' is equivalent to 'Black Max exists.' It is obvious to me that, while I have no doubt that my black cat exists, I cannot see or otherwise sense his existence. Existence is not an empirical quality like being black or being furry.

>>the mind furnishes the understanding with ideas of its own operations [=ideas of reflection].<< Now judgment is a mental operation. There is, hover, no idea corresponding to the copulative tie. But without copulation there is no judgment. The judgment expressed by 'This red thing is sticky' is not the complex idea 'red sticky thing' but the judgment that this red thing IS sticky.

What I am driving at is that Locke cannot explain along empiricist lines how objective judgments are possible. Kant addresses this problem at CPR B141 ff. with this doctrine of the objective-synthetic-transcendental unity of apperception which will raises the hairs on the back of the head of every true-blue empiricist.

Bedtime in London but here is Locke, more later.

3. The objects of sensation one source of ideas. First, our Senses, conversant about particular sensible objects, do convey into the mind several distinct perceptions of things, according to those various ways wherein those objects do affect them. And thus we come by those ideas we have of yellow, white, heat, cold, soft, hard, bitter, sweet, and all those which we call sensible qualities; which when I say the senses convey into the mind, I mean, they from external objects convey into the mind what produces there those perceptions. This great source of most of the ideas we have, depending wholly upon our senses, and derived by them to the understanding, I call SENSATION.

4. The operations of our minds, the other source of them. Secondly, the other fountain from which experience furnisheth the understanding with ideas is,- the perception of the operations of our own mind within us, as it is employed about the ideas it has got;- which operations, when the soul comes to reflect on and consider, do furnish the understanding with another set of ideas, which could not be had from things without. And such are perception, thinking, doubting, believing, reasoning, knowing, willing, and all the different actings of our own minds;- which we being conscious of, and observing in ourselves, do from these receive into our understandings as distinct ideas as we do from bodies affecting our senses. This source of ideas every man has wholly in himself; and though it be not sense, as having nothing to do with external objects, yet it is very like it, and might properly enough be called internal sense. But as I call the other SENSATION, so I Call this REFLECTION, the ideas it affords being such only as the mind gets by reflecting on its own operations within itself. By reflection then, in the following part of this discourse, I would be understood to mean, that notice which the mind takes of its own operations, and the manner of them, by reason whereof there come to be ideas of these operations in the understanding. These two, I say, viz. external material things, as the objects of SENSATION, and the operations of our own minds within, as the objects of REFLECTION, are to me the only originals from whence all our ideas take their beginnings. The term operations here I use in a large sense, as comprehending not barely the actions of the mind about its ideas, but some sort of passions arising sometimes from them, such as is the satisfaction or uneasiness arising from any thought.

5. All our ideas are of the one or the other of these. The understanding seems to me not to have the least glimmering of any ideas which it doth not receive from one of these two. External objects furnish the mind with the ideas of sensible qualities, which are all those different perceptions they produce in us; and the mind furnishes the understanding with ideas of its own operations.


The judgment that Max is black purports to be objectively true, true independently of my, or anyone's, psychological states. Of course, it does not follow that the judgment IS true. So a better way of putting is this: The judgment that Max is black purports to have an objective truth-value.

How is this possible? Can "the celebrated Locke" explain the objective purport? Kant can, but it involves trasnscendental machinery which generates its own problems.

And now I recall Brentano's doctrine of Anerkennung und Verwerfung ) To judge that Max is black is to accept the presentation 'black Max.' to judge that Max is not black is to reject the presentation 'black Max.'

But this won't cut the mustard as I argue in "Brentano on Existence," History of Philosophy Quarterly, July 2001, vol. 18, no. 3, 311-327.

More later

[Bill you forgot to close the italics.]

> what exactly is a term? In the sentence, 'Max is black,' 'Max' is a term. Is the adjective 'black' a term? Or is it elliptical for the genuine term 'a black thing'?
Locke, like all the early moderns, borrows the Aristotelian ‘two term’ view of the semantics of the proposition. Two categorical terms (e.g. ‘man’, ‘rational’) with ‘syncategorematic’ quantifiers attached, plus a (tensed) copula ‘is’.

Locke’s empiricist thesis is that every term signifies either an idea of sensation (=sensible idea) or an idea of reflection. See the quote above.

> The judgment that Max is black purports to have an objective truth-value.

I don’t see the difference between having a truth value, and having an ‘objective’ truth value, moreover I don’t see any objection here to the empiricist thesis itself, namely that every categorical term signifies either an idea of sensation or idea of reflection.
I regard Kant’s discussion of ‘objective validity’ as deeply muddled.

Ed,

How does Locke account for the difference between the complex idea *red sticky thing* and the judgment (whether true or false) *This red thing is a sticky thing*?

Hi Bill. Locke was educated at Oxford where a form of scholasticism still prevailed, and his account of the proposition resembles the scholastic one, i.e. where affirming is a joining of two terms, and denial is a disjoining of them.

Truth, then, seems to me, in the proper import of the word, to signify nothing but the joining or separating of Signs, as the Things signified by them do agree or disagree one with another. The joining or separating of signs here meant, is what by another name we call proposition. So that truth properly belongs only to propositions. (EssayIV.v.2)
To your question, ‘red sticky thing’ is a term, so does not assert truth or falsity. By contrast, ‘This red thing is a sticky thing’ joins the terms ‘this red thing’ and ‘a sticky thing’ by the copula ‘is’. Conversely, the proposition ‘This red thing is not a sticky thing’ disjoins the two terms.

According to Locke, a joining proposition (an affirmation) is true when the significates (i.e. “ideas”) of the terms agree, and false when they disagree. Conversely, a disjoining proposition (a denial) is true when the significates disagree, and false when they agree. This is not a good theory, because it fails to explain ‘agree’. The Aristotelian account of truth is better: “To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true” (Metaphysics, 1011b 25). So (1) the proposition ‘This red thing is a sticky thing’ says that this red thing is a sticky thing, and (2) this red thing is a sticky thing, so the proposition is true.

The weakness of all early modern theories of truth, including Kant’s, is the semantics based on ‘ideas’. This means turning the proposition (a type of sentence capable of truth and falsity) into a ‘judgment’, i.e. a combination of ideas, making it impossible to give a satisfactory account of truth.

Kant on Locke:

[B118] Nevertheless, in the case of these concepts [space and time], as in the case of all cognition, we can search in experience, if not for the principled of their possibility, then for the occasional causes of their generation, where the impressions of the senses provide the first occasion for opening the entire power of cognition to them and for bringing about experience, which contains two very heterogeneous elements, namely a matter for cognition from the senses and a certain fonn for ordering it from the inner source of pure intuiting and thinking, which, on the occasion of the former, are first brought into use and bring forth concepts. Such a tracing of the first endeavors of our power of cognition to ascend from individual perceptions to general concepts is without doubt of great utility, and the famous Locke is to be thanked for having first opened the way for this.

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