Thesis, antithesis, synthesis

342 posts / 0 new
Last post
SatanIsMyCoPilot
Offline
Joined: 22-12-04
Mar 22 2007 13:58
Thesis, antithesis, synthesis

Hegel never used the words 'thesis, antithesis, synthesis', as we all know. I read something recently trhat suggests that the first use f the the term was Marx in the Poverty of Philosophy, ad that Marx picked this up from the Berlin Hegel Club where a recent publication by a Professor Chalybus was being discussed.

Chalybus' book was published in 1843, but I don't know and can't find out what month it was published, and that's an issue because Marx leaves for Paris in October of that year. assuming that he did get the thesis, antithesis, synthesis thing from Chalybus, does anyone kno of any other occasions where he uses it (other than the poverty of philosophy), or where anyone else (Engels, for example) enshrines it as dogma?

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Mar 22 2007 14:04
SatanIsMyCoPilot wrote:
Hegel never used the words 'thesis, antithesis, synthesis', as we all know.

Well I know I sure did...

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Offline
Joined: 9-02-06
Mar 22 2007 14:11
revol68 wrote:
Are in you in full time academia perchance, because otherwise you're mental!

I thought SIMCP was baby Knightrose. Could be wrong though.

SatanIsMyCoPilot
Offline
Joined: 22-12-04
Mar 22 2007 14:47

I am in part time academia, and who is "baby Knightrose"?

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Mar 22 2007 14:48
SatanIsMyCoPilot wrote:
I am in part time academia, and who is "baby Knightrose"?

The poster "knightrose"'s son. But you're not him.

SatanIsMyCoPilot
Offline
Joined: 22-12-04
Mar 22 2007 15:36

I'm very glad indeed

Anywa, does anyone actually have anything sensible to say?

I was hoping the Marx people here would all be falling over themselves at the opportunity to point out the moment at which Engels 'misinterpreted' Marx, enshrined the thesis-antithesis-synthesis formula as an etrenal truth, and thereby gave handed over the stone tablets of dialectical laws to the Soviets like Charlton Heston

EdmontonWobbly's picture
EdmontonWobbly
Offline
Joined: 25-03-06
Mar 22 2007 16:30

I was always under the impression that the model of thesis-antithesis-synthesis was actually first put forward by Fichte and that Marx later on abandoned that model. I think thats what I remember through all of the haze that was my university years.

wangwei
Offline
Joined: 20-09-06
Mar 22 2007 18:18

Marx actually does use synthesis, thesis, and antithesis throughout the "Economoic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844" (EPM), especially in his critique of Hegel. The difference is that Marx uses the terms apart from each other, and not in the traditional, mechanical, manner that has been attributed to it by orothodoxian Marxists.

I also remember him using synthesis, thesis, and antithesis in his "mature" work, such as Capital, but again not in that mechanical order. I find him to use thesis much as "form" is used in the dialectical subcategory of "form and content".

When I find the time, I'll put up some concrete examples, but that's what I can think of for now.

SatanIsMyCoPilot
Offline
Joined: 22-12-04
Mar 22 2007 22:07

...Hegel also uses the words 'thesis, antithesis, synthesis'. Thing is, he doesn't use them as some kind of definitive formula, which is what this became. If Marx does the same thing it's not really an issue; it only becomes an issue when it becomes fossilised into some kind of rigid dogma. Dialectics shouldn't be a pre-existing structure that is then applied to the object of enquiry. Marx does introduce the 'thesis, antithesis, synthesis' formula to define the essentials of Hegel's system in The Poverty of Philosophy, which is presumably what spawned the whole thing.

Anyway, Hegel, he say:

The knack of this kind of wisdom [that of working from formulas] is as quickly learned as it is to practise; once familiar, the repetition of it becomes as insufferable as the repetition of a conjuring trick already seen through. The instrument of this monotonous formalism is no more difficult to handle than a painter’s palette having only two colours, say red and green, the one for colouring the surface when a historical scene is wanted, the other for landscapes.

mikus
Offline
Joined: 18-07-06
Mar 23 2007 05:42

It's been a little while since I've read The Poverty of Philosophy, but as I remember it Marx did not use the formula in a positive sense, nor did he depict it as Hegel's theory. He used it as a sort of a joke, belittling Proudhon's attempt to present dialectics as a study of the "contradiction" between the "good" side of a thing (thesis) and the "bad" side (antithesis), the task being to annul the bad side of things and preserve the good (synthesis).

SatanIsMyCoPilot
Offline
Joined: 22-12-04
Mar 23 2007 10:41

Was reading it last night, and its pretty clear that he's trying to summarise the essentials of Hegel's philosophy (in a fairly caustic way). What he's not doing, however, is describing the 'thesis, antithesis, synthesis' formula as some kind of law of dialectics'; he's just trying to deal with extremely complex concepts quickly and simply.

Economists explain how production takes place in the above-mentioned relations, but what they do not explain is how these relations themselves are produced, that is, the historical movement which gave them birth. M. Proudhon, taking these relations for principles, categories, abstract thoughts, has merely to put into order these thoughts, which are to be found alphabetically arranged at the end of every treatise on political economy. The economists' material is the active, energetic life of man; M. Proudhon's material is the dogmas of the economists. But the moment we cease to pursue the historical movement of production relations, of which the categories are but the theoretical expression, the moment we want to see in these categories no more than ideas, spontaneous thoughts, independent of real relations, we are forced to attribute the origin of these thoughts to the movement of pure reason. How does pure, eternal, impersonal reason give rise to these thoughts? How does it proceed in order to produce them?

If we had M. Proudhon's intrepidity in the matter of Hegelianism we should say: it is distinguished in itself from itself. What does this mean? Impersonal reason, having outside itself neither a base on which it can pose itself, nor an object to which it can oppose itself, nor a subject with which it can compose itself, is forced to turn head over heels, in posing itself, opposing itself and composing itself — position, opposition, composition. Or, to speak Greek — we have thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. For those who do not know the Hegelian formula: affirmation, negation and negation of the negation. That is what language means. It is certainly not Hebrew (with due apologies M. Proudhon); but it is the language of this pure reason, separate from the individual. Instead of the ordinary individual with his ordinary manner of speaking and thinking we have nothing but this ordinary manner in itself — without the individual.

...and:

How does reason manage to affirm itself, to pose itself in a definite category? That is the business of reason itself and of its apologists.

But once it has managed to pose itself as a thesis, this thesis, this thought, opposed to itself, splits up into two contradictory thoughts — the positive and the negative, the yes and no. The struggle between these two antagonistic elements comprised in the antithesis constitutes the dialectical movement. The yes becoming no, the no becoming yes, the yes becoming both yes and no, the no becoming both no and yes, the contraries balance, neutralize, paralyze each other. The fusion of these two contradictory thoughts constitutes a new thought, which is the synthesis of them. This thought splits up once again into two contradictory thoughts, which in turn fuse into a new synthesis. Of this travail is born a group of thoughts. This group of thoughts follows the same dialectic movement as the simple category, and has a contradictory group as antithesis. Of these two groups of thoughts is born a new group of thoughts, which is the antithesis of them.

Just as from the dialectic movement of the simple categories is born the group, so from the dialectic movement of the groups is born the series, and from the dialectic movement of the series is born the entire system.

This latter section is perhaps better, as it emphasises the extent to which the 'thesis' and the 'antithesis' are not separate objects that have been brought together by the analyst/philosopher, but are rather two parts of the same thing

wangwei
Offline
Joined: 20-09-06
Mar 23 2007 13:14
Quote:
Marx does introduce the 'thesis, antithesis, synthesis' formula to define the essentials of Hegel's system in The Poverty of Philosophy, which is presumably what spawned the whole thing.

See, that's what I consider to be a mistake, as Marx didn't introduce the thesis, synthesis, antithesis formula, so much as attack Proudhon for misusing it by turning it into an orhtodox formulaic approach in The Philosophy of Poverty. Marx used the formula as a corrective action against the misuse of the formula by Proudhon's misuse of the Hegelian dialectic.

Quote:
it only becomes an issue when it becomes fossilised into some kind of rigid dogma. Dialectics shouldn't be a pre-existing structure that is then applied to the object of enquiry.

This is correct as the Dialectic is a weapon of critical analysis, and not a religious orthodoxy.

SatanIsMyCoPilot
Offline
Joined: 22-12-04
Mar 23 2007 13:27

Where in the Philosophy of Poverty does Proudhon do this?

fort-da game
Offline
Joined: 16-02-06
Mar 23 2007 15:43
Quote:
The knack of this kind of wisdom [that of working from formulas] is as quickly learned as it is to practise; once familiar, the repetition of it becomes as insufferable as the repetition of a conjuring trick already seen through. The instrument of this monotonous formalism is no more difficult to handle than a painter’s palette having only two colours, say red and green, the one for colouring the surface when a historical scene is wanted, the other for landscapes.

Anyone who has worked in a factory will have experienced life as a reduced palette – life as formulaic. The social relation is crude and mechanical, and also fundamentally unchanging – individual life is materially dominated by formalism – therefore it seems appropriate that theory should be unforgivingly stark if it is to describe this.

The articulations, complexities, progressions which Hegel seems to be defending here are restricted to the level of governance and reproduction and therefore represent a category error if he is proposing historical movement – and act, as in Foucault, as a kind of compensation, or aesthetic. The tendency towards the baroque in Hegel, the ideology of progressions, serves only to obscure the basic stability of the relation (which is based on an irreconcilable contradiction of interest). Under present circumstances, in the relation between human beings synthesis is always forced, and works like clockwork.

Quote:
Just as from the dialectic movement of the simple categories is born the group, so from the dialectic movement of the groups is born the series, and from the dialectic movement of the series is born the entire system.

But the question for those using a dialectical method is how to engage with what is not ‘moving’ but merely proliferating – what is it that they are describing in their theory? How are they to categorise the various levels so that they don’t end up just arguing in favour of continued objective development of the forces of production with the mere tag-along of reflected subjective human existence?

p.

wangwei
Offline
Joined: 20-09-06
Mar 23 2007 20:11
Quote:
Where in the Philosophy of Poverty does Proudhon do this?

Good question. I think I'm quoting the "Mini -Marx Reader" issued by Penguin books. If it's not there, then I'm not sure, and I have to do the research to find out where I'm getting that. Now that I'm thinking about it, it could also be in the introduction to the "EPM 1844", but the introduction to the International edition from the '70s. It could also be in the introduction to my "Poverty of Philosophy" edition.

Quote:
the dialectic is not a fucking weapon you loon.

I disagree. the dialectic is the most powerful weapon that the working class can possess. It's a truth serum for the bourgeoisie's bullshit. I've never quite figured out why so many anarchists eschew the dialectic. It's truly mind boggling.

wangwei
Offline
Joined: 20-09-06
Mar 23 2007 20:32
Quote:
but the dialectic isn't just a mindset you adopt or not, it's not a battle plan, it's an actual process of capital, and one we seek to smash

Are you saying that the dialectic is capitalist? That's quite confusing.

The dialectic is the understanding of the process of change, and how things change. It exists because it does, and it's a method of analaysis.

It's truly boggling to me that anarchists eschew the dialectic and are so hostile to it.

gatorojinegro's picture
gatorojinegro
Offline
Joined: 21-01-07
Mar 24 2007 00:28

The thesis-antithesis-synthesis nonsense is simply implausible. It is supposed to be an account of change through conflict. But if you look at conflicting tendencies in reality, tendency A is often not just in conflict with not-A but with a number of conflicting tendencies -- B, C, D, etc. There is therefore in most cases no one "antithesis". For example, momentum is a tedency to motion in a particular direction, X, but there may be a variety of forces that would deflect in different directions, not just one alternative direction.

t.

wangwei
Offline
Joined: 20-09-06
Mar 26 2007 17:03
Quote:
tendency A is often not just in conflict with not-A but with a number of conflicting tendencies -- B, C, D, etc.

Which is why the dialectic can get confusing so quickly. But, if we establish the thesis of A, and then we can determine what ~A is in contrast to it. Thereby establishing what is the primary contradiction of A. Establishing what is ~A allows us to see what is in fact B, C, and D as poles of antithesis against A.

One major principle of the dialectic to keep is that all that is ~ A is just as important to what is A, as all that is A is to the thesis of A.

The dialectic is much more profound than just a synthesis of thesis and antithesis, though, it does make a handy shorthand. Unity of opposites is the preferred shorthand for those who employ the dialectic though.

gatorojinegro's picture
gatorojinegro
Offline
Joined: 21-01-07
Mar 26 2007 19:37

You miss the point completely. Why believe there is one not-A? In the real world there are often multiple contrary tendencies. If there are multiple contrary tendencies to A, such as B, C, and D, these contrary tendencies are not contradictories of A. In order for B to be a contradictory of A, it would have to be the case that there are no other possibilities other than A and B. But my point is that there are often in fact multiple alternative possibilities. That's what it means to say B is merely a contrary of A. And what does it mean to say that one of the contraries is "primary"? Is this an explanatory primacy? So, if we consider anti-racist and anti-patriarchal and class struggle as all contraries to the prevailing social order, are you going to insist that one must be the "primary contradiction"? The problem with that is it leads to downplaying the ones that are not deemed "primary". If you deem national liberation struggles or anti-racism as the "primary contradiction", then the tendency is to downplay class struggle, and vice versa.

Why can't they all be equally important?

t.

wangwei
Offline
Joined: 20-09-06
Mar 26 2007 20:14
Quote:
You miss the point completely.

No, I don't.

Quote:
Why believe there is one not-A?

There is, and there isn't, and therein is the contradiction. Sam is all that he is -- not Bob, not Sue, not a girl, not gay, not white, not African, not alive. The multiplicities of all that sam is not constitute the thesis of all that is ~ Sam. So, there is one ~ Sam, but that ~ Sam is made up of seperate and distinct things that penterate and interpentrate each other.

For formal logic it would read ~ S = ~ B + ~S1 + ~ G + ~ Ga + ~ W etc. But, all that he is not, clearly define what he is -- "the unbeing and the being of a thing are alike" -- Hegel. In other words

Quote:
But my point is that there are often in fact multiple alternative possibilities.

is completely correct.

And this illustrates the weakness of formal logic and why I embrace the dialectic:

Quote:
If there are multiple contrary tendencies to A, such as B, C, and D, these contrary tendencies are not contradictories of A. In order for B to be a contradictory of A, it would have to be the case that there are no other possibilities other than A and B.

Quote:
Is this an explanatory primacy?

Good question, as it's atually a relative primacy. Relative to the struggles that you are discussing,

Quote:
So, if we consider anti-racist and anti-patriarchal and class struggle as all contraries to the prevailing social order, are you going to insist that one must be the "primary contradiction"?

the answer is that Class struggle is the primary contradiction whereby all of the other social relationships are subordinate to. The concentration of wealth, power, and privelige in the hands of the bourgeoisie requires all of the other forms of exploitation to divide the working class and continue the proletarianization of the working class, the valaorization of capital, and the mode of production of capitalism. Class struggle is the primary thesis of modern society, and is the fundamental contradiction of the world today.

Quote:
The problem with that is it leads to downplaying the ones that are not deemed "primary". If you deem national liberation struggles or anti-racism as the "primary contradiction", then the tendency is to downplay class struggle, and vice versa.

Yeah, the struggle is to understand which actually is the primary contradiction, relative between the subject and the object. The old Socialist movement really played up social forces of production as the object to build towards, yet their social forces of production turned out to be more and more of the same, just with some red paint. National liberation does not hold the object to be a fully classless egalitarian society predicated upon from each according to ability, and to each according to need. The ends are a ways to a means, is a shorthand principle that illustrates a rudimentary dialectic of subject to object to subject.

Just because a contradiction isn't primary doesn't mean that it's not important. If the Nazis were marching tomorrow, I would still kick their fuckin' ass. The struggle against oppresion is good, but it must be contextualized within an overall assault on the state.

Quote:
Why can't they all be equally important?

Because they're not. Without the working class smashing the state, holding state power, and having the ways and means of production within our hands, all of the subordinate contradictions will recreate themselves -- even if the "red" leadership in charge has the best of intentions. The struggle must be through vicious class struggle against capitalism by negating the state once and for all.

Rosa Lichtenstein
Offline
Joined: 30-03-07
Mar 30 2007 17:47

Wangwei, this is not logic, it is a syntactic mess.

And that is the only way you can get away with such sub-Aristotelain theses.

Check out my site for more knock-down arguments against this Hermetic theory than you have ever seen before.

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/

Especially:

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2004.htm

gatorojinegro's picture
gatorojinegro
Offline
Joined: 21-01-07
Mar 30 2007 19:13

me: "Why believe there is one not-A? "
wangwei:

Quote:
There is, and there isn't, and therein is the contradiction. Sam is all that he is -- not Bob, not Sue, not a girl, not gay, not white, not African, not alive. The multiplicities of all that sam is not constitute the thesis of all that is ~ Sam. So, there is one ~ Sam, but that ~ Sam is made up of seperate and distinct things that penterate and interpentrate each other.

For formal logic it would read ~ S = ~ B + ~S1 + ~ G + ~ Ga + ~ W etc. But, all that he is not, clearly define what he is -- "the unbeing and the being of a thing are alike" -- Hegel. In other words

i think we need greater clarity here. So let me introduce some terminology. Sentences and beliefs are either true or false. Sentences and beliefs denote states of affairs. "Sam is white-haired" denotes the state of affairs of Sam's having white hair. Sam isn't true or false because he's neither a belief, thought or sentence. Sam is not a state of affairs either. He's a particular thing.

To get contraries or contradictories, you need to consider attributions of properties to particular things or systems. Here we have two contraries denoted:

Sam is white-haired
Sam is black-haired

These two setences may be true at different times. Sam had black hair when he was younger, and a process ensued that led to his now having white hair. The initial state of affairs reflected a tendency rooted in his DNA. The later state of affairs was due to an aging process that was also an effect of his DNA...not everyone's hair turns white. One tendency pushed out the other over time. This is an example of tendencies that are contraries of each other. But they are not contradictories. The contradictory of

Sam is white-haired

is

Sam is not white-haired.

This statement can be made true by a wide variety of real states of affairs. It would be true if he loses all his hair, it would be true if his hair is black, it would be true if he is a redhead.

Sam is not "made up of" all the features he has. If that were true, all those features would be essential to him....if he loses any of them, Sam would cease to exist. That's because you'd be saying that Sam is:

(1) {A, B, C, D, E}

and if he changes he becomes

(2) {A, B, C, G, H}

But (1) and (2) are not the same entity.

The features that things, or systems, have that they can lose and still exist are accidental to what it is to be that thing or system. These changes occur because of real forces in the world, including tendencies within that thing or system.

Negative statements about Sam cannot *define* what Sam is. That's because the
particular feature that makes "Sam is not white-haired" true is an accidental feature
of him, a feature he could lose. This is shown by the fact that he loses the black
color of his hair over time as his hair becomes white. The sentence "Sam is not
white-haired" happens to denote the state of affairs of his being black-haired, but
it would have denoted some other feature if he'd been redheaded or had no hair.

in response to my question, "Why can't all the various struggles against the various
structures of oppression, such as patriarchy, racism, and class be equally important,
wangwei says:

Quote:
Because they're not. Without the working class smashing the state, holding state power, and having the ways and means of production within our hands, all of the subordinate contradictions will recreate themselves -- even if the "red" leadership in charge has the best of intentions. The struggle must be through vicious class struggle against capitalism by negating the state once and for all.

But it is equally true that class will "recreate itself" endlessly if the struggle against racism does not become a priority so that the class movement takes on the aims of the anti-racist and anti-patriarchy struggles as its own. The class will be divided and thus overthrowing capital and the state will be impossible. The anti-racist struggle is just as necessary to this aim as worker struggle. Racial division and gender division are not just products of capitalism, but existed in other forms before capitalism, tho not in the modern form. It's true that capitalism will opportunistically make use of various methods to divide the working class, from deskilling and wage differentials to exacerbating race and gender divisions. But a movement that can get rid of capitalism also needs to include the specific demands/goals of groups oppressed on a race/national/gender basis or it cannot get past capitalism and the state.

Your argument was that class is primary because class struggle is a necessary condition. But anti-racist struggle is equally a necessary condition.

t.

Rosa Lichtenstein
Offline
Joined: 30-03-07
Mar 30 2007 22:59

gatorojinegro

You are more on the right lines here. Wangwei was unclear whether his 'negation' sign was a sentential operator, a predicate qualifier, a predicate term modifier or a name adjunct.

Sloppy syntax like that allows one to draw all manner of odd conclusions.

But you seem to go wrong somewhere, too. Sentences cannot be equated with beliefs (they are not the least bit alike), and you need to specify whether you are referring to token or type sentences, indicative sentences, etc.

The best candidates for ordinary truth/falsehood are spoken token indicative sentences. Logic of course largely deals with propositions.

And sentences (etc) cannot denote 'states of affairs' or they would be names, and that would prevent them from being true or false.

You do not have to go into a simple model theory to make your excellent points stand.

In fact, as is easy to confirm, dialecticians have been hopelessly unclear as to whether things change because of (1) their internal contradictions (and/or opposites), or (2) whether they change into these opposites, or, indeed, (3) whether they create such opposites when they change.

Of course, if the third option were the case, the alleged opposites could not cause change, since they would be produced by it, not the other way round. And they could scarcely be 'internal opposites' if they were produced by change.

If the second alternative were correct, then we would see things like males naturally turning into females, the capitalist class into the working class, electrons into protons, left hands into right hands, and vice versa. and a host of of other oddities.

And as far as the first option is concerned, it is worth making the following points:

[A] If objects/processes change because of already existing internal opposites, and they change into these opposites, then plainly they cannot change, since those opposites must already exist to be part of the action. So, if object/process A is already a dialectical union of A and not-A, and it 'changes' into not-A, where is the change? A already exists! All that seems to happen is that A disappears. [And do not ask where it disappears to!]

At the very least, this account of change leaves it entirely mysterious how not-A itself came about. It seems to have popped into existence from nowhere.

[It cannot have come from A, since A can only change because of the operation of not-A, which does not exist yet! And pushing the process into the past will merely reduplicate the above problems.]

[B] Exactly how an (internal) opposite is capable of making anything change is somewhat unclear, too. Given the above, not-A does not actually alter A, it merely replaces it!

More details at my site; this topic is dealt with in detail in Essay Eight Parts One and Two.

gatorojinegro's picture
gatorojinegro
Offline
Joined: 21-01-07
Mar 31 2007 00:27

Rosa, when i say that sentences are truth-bearers (are true or false), i am referring to sentence tokens, that is, particular utterances or inscriptions. beliefs and sentences share in common the feature that they are truth-bearers.

Rosa: "And sentences (etc) cannot denote 'states of affairs' or they would be names, and that would prevent them from being true or false."

How would you define "name"? And if sentences are "names" by your definition, why would that prevent them from being truth-bearers? I would say that sentences are true precisely BECAUSE the state of affairs they designate obtains (or is real). States of affairs that obtain (hold, are actual) are facts. I deal with this somewhat in a long entry on states of affairs for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy that i wrote, at:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/states-of-affair

Descriptive sentences and beliefs differ from names in that we use them to attribute properties to the subject of the sentence or belief. We don't use names to attribute properties to things. Hence, it is not the case that only names can denote or designate something. When I say "Bush speaks English", I'm attributing a property -- English-speaking ability -- to G.W. The state of affairs denoted by this sentence is G.W.'s having that ability. If he has that ability then that state of affairs is a fact, and "Bush speaks English" is true. The expression "G.W.'s being able to speak English" is a name, and is neither true nor false, but it is formed by nominalizing (converting into a name) the sentence "G.W. is able to speak English". Both designate the same state of affairs, but they serve a different social communicative function.

if we look at the types of internal conflicts that generate change in things, what we find is we are looking at tendencies, which are potentialities with some actuality that is a necessary condition for the realization of that potentiality. Thus Sam's tendency for his hair to turn white coexists with his current causal tendency to maintain his hair's black color because the first tendency is not the actual whiteness of his hair but its possibility. And the possibility of his hair becoming white is consistent with his hair being actually black. This sort of thing was analyzed by Airstotle over 2,000 years ago. Moreover, Marx was well aware of Aristotle's writings on this subject because Marx's PhD dissertation was on Aristotle's philosophy of science.

t.

Rosa Lichtenstein
Offline
Joined: 30-03-07
Mar 31 2007 02:17

Gatorojinegro:

Thankyou for that clarfication, but when you say

Quote:
beliefs and sentences share in common the feature that they are truth-bearers

You must be mixing up the linguistic expression of a belief with that belief itself. Beliefs are not as such items of language, and cannot therefore be truth bearers.

Quote:
How would you define "name"?

Well, I do not hink we need a defintion of a name to note the different syntactic role designating expressions play from descriptive ones, for example.

Since names cannot be true or false, but propositions can, you have another clear distinction here.

This well brought out by Hartley Slater here:

http://www.ul.ie/%7Ephilos/vol4/frege.html

But he is just rehearsing ideas derived from Wittgenstein.

Quote:
And if sentences are "names" by your definition, why would that prevent them from being truth-bearers?

But I did not define anything, let alone indicative sentences.

I was in fact appealing to what I could reasonably take as common ground.

But, if you think sentences are names then that would introduce a whole series of difficulties you might want to think about, not the least of which is the fact that you can understand sentences you have never heard before, but not names you have never heard before. If both were names, this would not happen.

If you can, try to get hold of Peter Geach's article 'Why sentences aren't names' (unfortunately published in an obscure Polish journal of semiotics).

Quote:
I would say that sentences are true precisely BECAUSE the state of affairs they designate obtains (or is real).

But then (in addition to the problems noted above) you will find it difficult to explain falsehood, for false sentences would then be the 'names' of states of affairs that do not obtain. But if they do not obtain, what then do false propositions actually name? Falsehoods would be be like fictional names (or perhaps not nanes at all), and any larger sentences in which they featured woud become truth-valueless, as senstence depicting say Sherlock Holmes are.

And you would immediately face the difficult Wittgenstein noted in the Tractatus; the sense of your sentences would depend on the truth of another (for your sentence would be true if the said states of affair existed, but senseless otherwise -- so its true/false polarity woud be compromised). Negation would not then turn truth into falsehood, but truth into senselessness. [This is well brought out in Roger White's recent book on the Tractatus.]

In addition it would hopelessly mix up naming with asserting.

And what does this truth name?

"Either Bush speaks English or Paris is on fire."

Quote:
Hence, it is not the case that only names can denote or designate something.

But you can only establish this point successfully by eroding the distinction you yourself depend on, that between naming and describing.

Quote:
Descriptive sentences and beliefs differ from names in that we use them to attribute properties to the subject of the sentence or belief.

What actually happens is we use predicative expressions (and the like) to form true or false sentences by combining them with names; we say things of named individuals in such a way. Sentences do not describe individuals, that is what we do with our use of language, and we use predicate (etc) expressions to achieve that end.

Quote:
If he has that ability then that state of affairs is a fact, and "Bush speaks English" is true. The expression "G.W.'s being able to speak English" is a name, and is neither true nor false, but it is formed by nominalizing (converting into a name) the sentence "G.W. is able to speak English". Both designate the same state of affairs, but they serve a different social communicative function.

Well, I now think you are confusing several more things; facts here with states of affairs (if I understood you aright).

But what makes you think that ""G.W.'s being able to speak English" is a name? Can it be mapped onto a truth by a predicative (etc) expression? That is, can it be used with a one-place predicate expression (for example) to form a true/false sentence?

Has anyone ever been called by this name? If not, why call it one?

You can only make this account of yours work by seriously distorting language in this way, using such monstrosities.

And why nominalise at all?

Quote:
if we look at the types of internal conflicts that generate change in things, what we find is we are looking at tendencies, which are potentialities with some actuality that is a necessary condition for the realization of that potentiality. Thus Sam's tendency for his hair to turn white coexists with his current causal tendency to maintain his hair's black color because the first tendency is not the actual whiteness of his hair but its possibility. And the possibility of his hair becoming white is consistent with his hair being actually black. This sort of thing was analyzed by Airstotle over 2,000 years ago. Moreover, Marx was well aware of Aristotle's writings on this subject because Marx's PhD dissertation was on Aristotle's philosophy of science.

Well, I deny any of this makes much sense, and for the reasons I said.

And what gives such 'tendencise' their power to do whatever it is they do? Yet more 'internal opposites'?

If so, the problems I mentioned in my last post reappear.

If not, then what?

And I am well aware of the metaphysical/mystical origin of these ideas: they were based on the fact that Greek theorists were quite happy to anthropomorphise nature, and to derive profound truths from words alone (since they thought nature was mind, or mind like, or constituted by mind).

We have, I hope, learnt to advance beyond thus.

And Marx's thesis was on Democritus.

gatorojinegro's picture
gatorojinegro
Offline
Joined: 21-01-07
Mar 31 2007 03:17

Rosa: "You must be mixing up the linguistic expression of a belief with that belief itself. Beliefs are not as such items of language, and cannot therefore be truth bearers."

People all the time say things like, "Your belief is false." Just as sentences have intentionality, so do beliefs and thoughts. They have states of affairs as their targets.

"Truth" is a term like "health". Organs or tissues are healthy when they are able to serve their biological function. I agree with Ruth Garrett Millikan that it is a biological function of descriptive sentences to designate states of affairs in the world. If they don't, you'll have a hard time explaining why the sentence production capacity is a product of evolution, an innate biological trait. Why do we have this capacity? It was extremely adaptive for humans to be able to communicate to each other states of affairs they find in the world, as a means to common action.

"False" is sort of like "sick" in that a false sentence fails to perform its function in that it fails to pick out a real state of affairs.

I didn't say sentences are names. In fact i gave a reason for saying they are not names, since names and sentences have different social communicative functions. Names pick out things about which we can talk, attributing or denying properties of them.

Rosa:

Quote:
you will find it difficult to explain falsehood, for false sentences would then be the 'names' of states of affairs that do not obtain. But if they do not obtain, what then do false propositions actually name?

Again, i didn't say sentences were names. I said they denote states of affairs. In regard to false sentences, there are two possible strategies:

(1) I could follow Millikan and say that false sentences don't designate anything. They failed to hit a target.

(2) I could say that false sentences designate possible but unactual states of affairs. We could think of an unactual but possible state of affairs as existing in virtue of something's potentialities or capacities. I don't speak Russian so "Tom speaks Russian" is false. But I could have learned to speak Russian, so speaking Russian is a possibility for me. My having this potential could then be the reality that makes Tom's speaking Russian a possible but unactual state of affairs.

In regard to (1), the problem of false sentences can be solved by the method suggested by Millikan. See my exposition of Millikan's solution at:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/states-of-affairs/biosemantics.html

Rosa: "And what does this truth name?

"Either Bush speaks English or Paris is on fire."

Again, I didn't say that sentences are names, so you can refrain from saying I did.

The state of affairs designed by "Either Bush speaks English or Paris is burning" is Bush's being able to speak English. Designation is not an essential connection between a sentence token and a state of affairs. Sentences can designate different states of affairs in different contexts.

Rosa:

Quote:
What actually happens is we use predicative expressions (and the like) to form true or false sentences by combining them with names; we say things of named individuals in such a way. Sentences do not describe individuals, that is what we do with our use of language, and we use predicate (etc) expressions to achieve that end.

Actually we can use other singular terms besides names to designate things to which we attribute or deny properties. We can use demonstratives ("this", "that") and definite descriptions ("the big dog next door") and event designators ("the assassination of Kennedy"), and so on.
Gerundive nominalizations ("Bush's being able to speak English") are the canonical designators for states of affairs. But things can be picked out, designated, by means other than direct designators such as names, demonstratives, definite descriptions, and the like.

Rosa:

Quote:
Well, I now think you are confusing several more things; facts here with states of affairs (if I understood you aright).

I doubt i am confused about this. I wrote my PhD dissertation on this topic. See the encyclopedia entry I referred to earlier. A fact is a state of affairs that has the property of obtaining or being real. Assuming that one is willing to allow that there ARE unrealized possibilities, states of affairs include both the real ones (the facts) and the unreal ones (the mere possibilities). Our entire capacity for deliberation about what path to follow going forward into the future assumes it makes sense to think about a variety of possible situations that might ensue.

Rosa:

Quote:
But what makes you think that ""G.W.'s being able to speak English" is a name? Can it be mapped onto a truth by a predicative (etc) expression? That is, can it be used with a one-place predicate expression (for example) to form a true/false sentence?

Yes. Here's an example:

G.W.'s being able to speak English was a necessary condition of his conversing with Susie, who only speaks English.

Rosa: "Has anyone ever been called by this name? If not, why call it one?"

Actually, i call it a gerundive nominalization. That is actually the name of this linguistic type. "Nominalization" means "sentence turned into a name". And why should there only be names or direct designators of people?

Rosa: "And why nominalise at all?"

We use this construction at times to talk directly about situations or states of affairs, as when we're talking about explanation or causal relationships. I just gave an example above.

Rosa: "And what gives such 'tendencise' their power to do whatever it is they do? Yet more 'internal opposites'?"

A tendency IS a causal power, like a capacity. The tendency of humans to get wrinkles as they age includes a causal capacity to do so. Now, you can ask reasonbly for an explanation for why something has a tendency or capacity. That will require as a component yet another capacity or tendency. That's because dispositional properties (powers, capacities, tendecies, susceptibilities) are necessary elements in all explanations.

Marx's thesis was on Aristotle's CRITIQUE of Democritus and the other Greek atomists. And Marx sided with Aristotle. Marx was a critic of atomism.

t.

Rosa Lichtenstein
Offline
Joined: 30-03-07
Mar 31 2007 09:53

Gatorojinegro:

Quote:
People all the time say things like, "Your belief is false." Just as sentences have intentionality, so do beliefs and thoughts. They have states of affairs as their targets.

Yes, and they also say things like "I hope you change your mind".

Does that indicate they believe in radical brain surgery?

Quote:
"Truth" is a term like "health".

Well, I'd like to be able to take your word for it, but on this occasion I cannot, but even you are not using it that way.

You are using it to depict a relation that holds between a linguistic expression and a state of affairs. Health cannot work as a relational term.

But to cope with false sentences, you now have to patch this up with talk about 'potentialities'. So the example you give presumably names a potential state of affairs, which does not exist.

So, once more, this 'name', this sentence, is empty, and like "Sherlock Holmes" it denotes nothing.

To give it a denotation you now bring in a potentiality, something called for by the theory, not by our use of negation. So, if I deny that the named individual can speak Russian, I am not denying a potentiality, nor am I admitting one -- except on your say so.

You might like to respond with a claim that it does denote a potentiality in GWB. But, that might be to attribute to him a capacity way beyond his potentialities (excuse the pun). The alleged denotation creates the potentiality you need; you have to magic it into existence to provide a denotation for your sentence. So, a requirement of language alters reality!

But, once more, he might not have this potential. But we still understand the sentence in ignorance of that fact.

So it cannot feature in the sense of that sentence.

But there are several other difficulties with this; your theory will not work except perhaps with a very narrow range of cases.

If I say the following, does it even hint at a potentiality?

"The Nile used to be in Newark, New Jersey, but George W Bush had it moved last week to pay for his glass eye."

This is all in the past, completely false, but readily understandable.

Not a single 'potentiality' in sight.

[And since what it says is in the past, one such would be useless anyway, since the past cannot change.]

If it named (designated/denoted) something, you would not be able to understand it any more than you could understand this:

"Arthur Farfanickle"

You do not seem to have yet grasped the fundamental distinction between naming and saying.

Don't like that one; what about this one?

"Photons change into Cheshire cats every five nanoseconds."

What 'potentiality' does that name, yet you understood it right away.

Now you back-track:

Quote:
I didn't say sentences are names. In fact i gave a reason for saying they are not names, since names and sentences have different social communicative functions. Names pick out things about which we can talk, attributing or denying properties of them.

But you are happy to say the following sorts of things:

Quote:
I would say that sentences are true precisely BECAUSE the state of affairs they designate obtains (or is real).

So, they are names in all but name, then?

They work like names, picking out (designating) an individual (a state of affairs) in reality.

But this implied logic falls foul of the objections I listed.

Failing to use the word 'name' to name them, in no way alters this.

Like a name, if you were not acquainted with that individual (or knew of him/her in other ways), you would not understand a sentence said to you.

[By the way, I tried the 'states of affairs' link you posted, and it was dead.]

Quote:
Actually we can use other singular terms besides names to designate things to which we attribute or deny properties. We can use demonstratives ("this", "that") and definite descriptions ("the big dog next door") and event designators ("the assassination of Kennedy"), and so on.

Quite right, but that does not in any way help your case.

Quote:
A fact is a state of affairs that has the property of obtaining or being real.

Then you must be aware of the difficulties Wittgenstein got into when he tried to go down this route. You either end up with an infinite regress (and thus senseless sentences/propositions), or with a crazy theory of infinite complexity, and hence not one we could ever use (implicitly or otherwise).

[And a PhD does not guarantee you are right. Mine was on Wittgenstein.]

Quote:
Assuming that one is willing to allow that there ARE unrealized possibilities, states of affairs include both the real ones (the facts) and the unreal ones (the mere possibilities). Our entire capacity for deliberation about what path to follow going forward into the future assumes it makes sense to think about a variety of possible situations that might ensue.

One can reason with fiction, and that need have no ontological implications.

I see no need to go off at a tangent into a metaphysic of the sort you seem to be suggesting.

Certainly, none if it requires we treat propositions (or indicative sentences) as if they were names, crippling our capacity to understand falsehood.

Quote:
G.W.'s being able to speak English was a necessary condition of his conversing with Susie, who only speaks English.

Thanks for the example, but what a monstrosity!

We would normally, I think, say:

"GW can speak English, which meant he could speak to Susie, since that is her only language"

No need for a complex ontology of named states of affairs to make that work.

Even if it were false.

And since I do not know if it is true or false, I do not need to know of the state of affair to which it allegedly refers to grasp its content.

Quote:
We use this construction at times to talk directly about situations or states of affairs, as when we're talking about explanation or causal relationships. I just gave an example above.

We certainly do, but why do this in philosophy just to make a theory work?

[Especially if that theory does not work anyway.]

Quote:
A tendency IS a causal power, like a capacity. The tendency of humans to get wrinkles as they age includes a causal capacity to do so. Now, you can ask reasonably for an explanation for why something has a tendency or capacity. That will require as a component yet another capacity or tendency. That's because dispositional properties (powers, capacities, tendencies, susceptibilities) are necessary elements in all explanations.

In that case, as I am sure you must know, we should have an infinite regress, with tendencies to develop tendencies.

But even if you were right, such tendencies cannot be governed by 'internal contradictions' or even 'unities of opposites', since they are vulnerable to the objections I raised.

So, even if you were right, 'tendencies' are of no use to dialecticians.

[And 'tendencies' no more account for things than does the old example: sleeping pills work because of their dormative qualities.]

Quote:
Marx's thesis was on Aristotle's CRITIQUE of Democritus and the other Greek atomists. And Marx sided with Aristotle. Marx was a critic of atomism.

Thankyou for that correction, but its title was:

"The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature"

So your description was not the most accurate one I have ever seen (since it was not about Aristotle, even if he featured in it).

Quote:
Moreover, Marx was well aware of Aristotle's writings on this subject because Marx's PhD dissertation was on Aristotle's philosophy of science.

His dissertation was on Democritus, as I said. Perhaps Marx got the title wrong?

Now try to answer the objections to your theory I raised in my last post (and above).

mitr
Offline
Joined: 1-02-07
Mar 31 2007 11:14

Even though Hegel's study of history can't be organised into triads so easily as the expression naming this thread suggests - it is still useful in that it denotes a continual progress and self-overcoming. Marx on the other hand is dualistic, the bourgeois - i.e. the parasitic, conserving force - is always in conflict with the workers - the progressive, energetic, civilising force in history - there is never a synthesis between the two, and (according to orthodox marxism but not to me) history can eventually end when the battle is won. The utopia, if it existed, would be the final victory of the original fully-revealed thesis.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 31 2007 11:43

i'm pretty sure marx stresses there is an aufhebung, it's not just workers beating bosses, but workers overcoming their condition as workers and becoming free human beings. also marx stresses that the capital is progressive at the same time as regressive - it sweeps away parochial social relations and creates a massively interconnected humanity on a world scale, yet the bulk of that humanity is in chains. so i don't think it's simple dualism, the point isn't just to negate capital, but also to negate ourselves as proletariat.

Rosa Lichtenstein
Offline
Joined: 30-03-07
Mar 31 2007 12:06

You guys are largely right, but we do not (and never did) need Hegel to tell us all this.

In fact, Marx's ideas become clearer if we ditch everything Hegel ever wrote.

The thesis-antithesis-synthesis stuff merely confuses the alleged processes thought has to rehearse (according to Kant) with real processes in reality.

This myth is laid to rest here:

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/other_material.htm

gatorojinegro's picture
gatorojinegro
Offline
Joined: 21-01-07
Mar 31 2007 20:43

Rosa, let me remind you that I agree with you in advising people to ditch the Hegelian thesis-antithesis-synthesis stuff and so-called "dialectics".

Now, i will address your reply to me.

Rosa:

Quote:
Yes, and they also say things like "I hope you change your mind".

Does that indicate they believe in radical brain surgery?

People used that expression before there was brain surgery. That is not a plausible hypothesis about what it means. Your total mental capacities and dispostions, including beliefs, make up your "mind". When you lose one belief, your mind changes. It's as simple as that.

me: ""Truth" is a term like "health"."

Rosa:

Quote:
Well, I'd like to be able to take your word for it, but on this occasion I cannot, but even you are not using it that way. You are using it to depict a relation that holds between a linguistic expression and a state of affairs. Health cannot work as a relational term.

I said that it is a biological function of descriptive sentences to designate real states of affairs. So, you're here suggesting that biological functions can't be relational. But it is the biological function of a sperm to merge with an ovum in conception. That is a relation. Hence biological functions can be relational.

Rosa:

Quote:
But to cope with false sentences, you now have to patch this up with talk about 'potentialities'. So the example you give presumably names a potential state of affairs, which does not exist. So, once more, this 'name', this sentence, is empty, and like "Sherlock Holmes" it denotes nothing.

Why do you find it necessary to attribute to me things i don't say? I've already repeated several times that it is NOT my view that sentences are names.

Are you capable of comprehending English? I also pointed out, to repeat myself again, that there are two ways to deal with false sentences, consistent with Millikan's hypothesis that sentences denote states of affairs:

(H1) We can take false sentences to not designate anything at all. This in fact is Millikan's own view.

(H2) We can take false sentences to designate states of affairs that do not obtain.

By Ockham's razor, hypothesis (H1) is preferable to (H2) but only if it can account for all the evidence. The problem is, I think there are a number of things that hypothesis (H1) cannot account for.

So, let's go with hypothesis (H2). Now, you say that a false sentence such as "G.W. speaks Russian" is "empty", i.e. denotes nothing. That is obviously false. On hypothesis (H2), this sentence denotes the state of affairs of G.W.'s being able to speak Russian. This is a possible but unrealized state of affairs. Since there is something that this sentence denotes, it is not "empty".

Now, you object to this hypothesis as follows:

Quote:
The alleged denotation creates the potentiality you need; you have to magic it into existence to provide a denotation for your sentence. So, a requirement of language alters reality! But, once more, he might not have this potential. But we still understand the sentence in ignorance of that fact.

This is nonsense. We have independent reason to posit such a possibility. All of our causal hypotheses about the world denote dispositional properties. Such properties are an essential ingredient in explanations. All dipsositional properties are possibilities. For example, to say that this chunk of metal is conductive is to say it COULD conduct electricity. This is true even if no actual circuit ever flows thru it. That G.W. had the capacity to learn Russian follows from what we know of human potentialities.

Since you question hypothesis (H2), let me explain one of the reasons in its favor. There is a well-know problem with truth-functional Frege/Russell logic, the logic taught in symbolic logic classes throughout the world these days. The problem is that it is a failure at accounting for the logic of the words "if", "or", "not" and "and" in ordinary language. Yet this was supposed to be its great advance. But it is well-known among logicians that the Frege/Russell logic can validate fallacious arguments. Logicians don't currently have a consensus on a new theory to replace the old Frege/Russell logic. I think relevance logic may be the best replacement. But the semantics for relevance logic requires that there are possible but unreal states of affairs. I'll give an example to illustrate the problem.

The following argument is an instance of inference pattern that logicians call "antecedent strengthening". This is an inference that is provable in the Frege/Russell logic.

(1) If Alfred goes to Richard's party, he'll have a good time.
(2) Hence, if both Alfred and Betty go to Richard's party, Alfred will have a good time.

In the situation I'm thinking of (1) is true but (2) is false. It is therefore an invalid inference. In the situation I'm thinking of, if Betty goes to the party it will ruin it for Alfred. He'll be miserable, given how he feels about Betty. Hence (2) is false.

But in the actual situation there is no chance Betty will go the party. She doesn't know Richard or any of his friends. She has no way to even hear about the party. So (1) is true. Hence this is an invalid argument. But it is an argument that is provably valid in the Frege/Russell logic. Examples like this could be proliferated in large number. The Frege/Russell logic simply cannot account for the logic of conditionals ("if,then" statements) in natural languages. This is a huge failure of the Frege/Russell logic.

Now, how does relevance logic handle this situation? In relevance logic we evaluate an if-then statement by asking whether the consequent (the "then" part) would be true in all the real and relevant possible states of affairs where the antecedent (the "if" part) would be true. And we must use the same set of real and relevant possibilities to evaluate all the premises and the conclusion of an argument. The only real and relevant possibilities where (2) is true are situations where Betty has developed some sort of connection with Richard or the others in the circle who will be partying. A connection that makes it likely she'll be at the party. In those possible situations, (1) is false. Hence, this argument cannot be validated in relevance logic. This is why relevance logic is superior to the Frege/Russell logic.

But the semantics of relevance logic requires that we suppose that there ARE possibilities other than the actual facts, possible courses of events other than what has transpired. Since relevance logic seems to me the best way to account for the logic of conditionals, i think we have reason to go with hypothesis (H2) above, and assume there are possible but unrealized possibilities. This is in addition to the argument I gave about how to understand what capacities and tendencies are.

Now, as to how we "understand" the sentence "G.W. speaks Russian." This is a subject/predicate sentence. The relevant terms are "G.W." and "speaks Russian". These each denote something that exists. "G.W." denotes the imperial command in chief. "speaks Russian" denotes a certain capacity that millions of people have. It is therefore a real property. Humans use predicates to track things in the world. Whatever the mass of English speakers track using a term is the denotation of that term. We also have certain cognitive dispotions or capacities that correspond to these terms. This is how we "understand" the term. We can also understand words that have no denotation. For example, in the 17th century there was a theory of combustion that posited a fire element called "phlogiston." Subsequently that theory was disproved, and the commpeting oxygen theory, which is now accepted, won out. But people understood the term "phlogiston" even tho it denoted nothing.

Rosa:

Quote:
If I say the following, does it even hint at a potentiality?

"The Nile used to be in Newark, New Jersey, but George W Bush had it moved last week to pay
for his glass eye."

It's an empty sentence. We can understand it because the terms denote things, and we have concepts that go with these things. But this combination of terms fails to pick out even a possibility. As I said, sentences can be false either due to denoting nothing (failing to pick out a state of affairs) or due to picking out a possibility that is unrealized but possible. To be able to be false, the linguistic construction must satisfy conditions that are determined by the social functions associated with the various pieces of language. "George quickly John" isn't a sentence at all and fails to have a sense.

Rosa:

Quote:
You do not seem to have yet grasped the fundamental distinction between aming
and saying.

Again, you falsely attribute to me the view that sentences are names. I've already explained the distinction between names and sentences. In a sentence we have a subject and a predicate and we use the predicate to attribute or deny a property of something. We use the names to designate things that we then use predicates to attribute or deny properties to. I've already said this. Now you reply to this as follows:

me: "I would say that sentences are true precisely BECAUSE the state of affairs they designate obtains (or is real)."

Rosa:

Quote:
So, they are names in all but name, then? They work like names, picking out (designating) an individual (a state of affairs) in reality.

No, sentences are not names, nor do they "work like names." See my explanation in the previous paragraph. You need to look at the social function of a linguistic element. The function of a name and of a sentence are different. That's because sentences denote combinational entities. A state of affairs such as G.W.'s being able to speak English consists in G.W. -- a particular animal organism -- having a certain capacity.

The way we claim a state of affairs obtains is by asserting a descriptive sentence in which the property component is attributed to something which we designate with a subject term.

Rosa:

Quote:
Like a name, if you were not acquainted with that individual (or knew of him/her in other ways), you would not understand a sentence said to you.

So, let's say i overhear a conversation in which Alfred and Ricardo are talking about someone named "Alexander." I'm not acquainted with the person they are talking about. So, on your theory I can't understand their sentences. But in fact i do understand their sentences. We don't need to be acquainted with the entity designated by a denoting term to be able to use it to make true sentences.

If you were unable to use the URL i posted for my entry on states of affairs, do a Google search on Stanford University Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The table of contents consists of letters. Select "S" and this will give a list of links to all entries beginning with "S" and you should be able to find my entry on states of affairs.

Rosa:

Quote:
Then you must be aware of the difficulties Wittgenstein got into when he tried to go down this route. You either end up with an infinite regress (and thus senseless sentences/propositions), or with a crazy theory of infinite complexity, and hence not one we could ever use (implicitly or otherwise). [And a PhD does not guarantee you are right. Mine was on Wittgenstein.]

Millikan has a solution to this. When you find my entry on states of affairs at the Stanrord
site, go to the supplemental article I wrote on biosemantics. You might find this interesting, given your interest in Wittgenstein, since i explain there Millikan's solution to the problem with logical atomism that you allude to. Alternatively, you might take a look at John Post's excellent, clear-headed intro to, and defense of, Millikan's view in his little book "Metaphysics: A Contemporary Intoduction." Post defends what I called hypothesis (H1) above, that false sentences denote nothing, but true sentences denote real states of affairs (facts).

I didn't claim that my PhD makes me right. I wasn't giving an argument from authority. Since there is no consensus on this subject in philosophy, such an argument would be inappropriate. i only claimed that it shows that it is unlikely i'm "confused" about states of affairs which was what you claimed. I might be wrong, but a person can be wrong without being confused.

Your suggestion that we treat falsehood like fictional statements is consistent with what I called
hypothesis (H1) above. This is, to repeat, Millikan's view. This is the view that false sentences denote nothing. You've not shown why that hypothesis is mistaken. Yet Millikan's theory says that true sentences denote states of affairs that are real. Now, you deny that sentences denote states of affairs. So, to defend that view you need to not only refuse hypothesis (H2), that false but possibly true sentences denote unrealized possible states of affairs, but also (H1), that false sentences denote nothing. Since you think fictional names denote nothing but fictional discourse can be understood, how are you going to refute Millikan's hypothesis (H1)?

An example i gave: "G.W.'s being able to speak English was a necessary condition of his conversing with Susie, who only speaks English."

Rosa:

Quote:
We would normally, I think, say:

"GW can speak English, which meant he could speak to Susie, since that is her only language"

No need for a complex ontology of named states of affairs to make that work.

I can give many other examples:

The truck's being heavily loaded caused the bring to collapse.
Susy's stealing the bicycle got her into trouble.
The circuit's being energized is a necessarry condition of the bulb being on.

States of affairs are entities we appeal to to explain what happens. We don't need merely possible states of affairs to explain what happens since only actual states of affairs can be causally effective, but actual states of affairs are states of affairs, and the gerundive nominalization is in fact a construction that can be used to construct names of them so that they can be subjects of discussion.

me: "A tendency IS a causal power, like a capacity. The tendency of humans to get wrinkles as they age includes a causal capacity to do so. Now, you can ask reasonably for an explanation for why something has a tendency or capacity. That will require as a component yet another capacity or tendency. That's because dispositional properties (powers, capacities, tendencies, susceptibilities) are necessary elements in all explanations."

Rosa:

Quote:
In that case, as I am sure you must know, we should have an infinite regress, with
tendencies to develop tendencies.

Nope. That doesn't follow. That's because there are basic capacities that are the natures of things, and these require no further tendency or capacity in that thing to account for them. The ultimate laws of the physical cosmos, whatever they are, have no further explanation for them.

We need to posit dispositional properties (capacities, susceptibilities, tendencies) in order to have complete explanations. We cannot get complete explanations simply by pointing to events. If i scratch this match on the sole of my shoe, the match lights. The scratching -- the event -- is not sufficent to explain the outcome. What if the match were wet? What if this was a bad batch of chemistry and the matchhead isn't combustive? What if the match stick has become rubbery so i can't get friction? The hardness of the match, the roughness of the sole of the shoe, the combustivity of the matchhead, the dryness of the matchhead -- these are all dispositional or structural components of the explanation of the event of the match bursting into flame. Ordinary laws denote tendencies or capacities. Ohm's Law, which electricians and electrical engineers refer to all the time, denotes a capacity that all metals have.

Rosa:

Quote:
But even if you were right, such tendencies cannot be governed by 'internal contradictions' or even 'unities of opposites', since they are vulnerable to the objections I raised.

I don't use the language of "internal contradictions" or "unity of opposites". You seem to be confusing me with the advocates of Hegelian dialectic. But as I've made clear, i think, from the beginning of this thread, I don't agree with that stuff.

But you seem to have a problem of not paying close enough attention to what people write so as not to read things in that aren't there.