Thesis, antithesis, synthesis

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Rosa Lichtenstein
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Joined: 30-03-07
Mar 31 2007 22:32

Gatorojinegro:

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People used that expression before there was brain surgery.

Given that the ancient Egyptians used to operate on the brain, I think you might find this hard to prove.

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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.

It seems to me that you are confusing linguistic expressions with other things now.

So, I am finding it difficult to fathom how you can equate a biological function with a relational expression.

This is quite apart from the fact that all this looks like amateur a priori superscience to me.

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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.

Forgive me for that, but the way you speak about them makes it hard to tell them apart.

That is why I made my original allegation: the way you talk, sentences are indistinguishable from names.

You only thought to deny that in a later reply.

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

Well, you can make stuff up as you go along, but in this case that just makes truth and falsehood asymmetric, severing their logical connection.

This is a rather large price to pay for defending an implausible theory.

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(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)

Neither seems appealing to me. Both are only suggested to you by your penchant for treating sentences as if they were name-like - a theory you have merely plucked from thin air (or from others who did likewise).

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This is nonsense

Perhaps I have been modelling myself on you too much then?

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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 dispositional 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.

What you mean is that there is a tradition in philosophy that likes to use such empty and grandiose language -- as I said: these 'potentialities' have been magicked into existence to support other hair-brained ideas, but in this case you co-opt it to defend the odd view that false sentences denote potentialities.

And all this is wasted effort; I had to study this too as part of my PhD:

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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.

On the contrary, I think relevance logic is a rather unlikely replacement for Frege or Russell's logic.

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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.

And this is, of course, its Achilles heel, for what is to count as 'relevant'? In a totally fictional case like this, nearly anything could.

So, and on the contrary, perhaps Betty has no connection with Richard, and is a suicide bomber/serial killer/tax inspector/private detective/professional party crasher/violent drunk/total bore/carrier of the plague....

Good luck trying to fill in those dots!

All of those might ruin the party.

But, who is to say, Richard might enjoy the ensuing chaos?

As I said, 'relevance' logic is not so much a dead end, as a journey into oblivion.

But, since I did not introduce conditionals in my reply to you, what is the relevance of this detour?

I used a disjunction to challenge your denotational model. I checked, but I could not see a response from you on that.

Perhaps you thought all that 'relevance' logic would hide that fact?

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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.

Why do you have to model every aspect of language of the name-bearer relation --, or, on the 'it must denote something' model?

Predicates are not denoting expressions -- check out the Hartley Slater paper I referenced earlier.

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Again, you falsely attribute to me the view that sentences are names.

Not so, I merely pointed out that you have not yet grasped the distinction between naming and saying -- that is why, for you, everything has to 'denote', or it is meaningless (I presume?).

I could have said that you had not yet grasped the distinction between denoting and saying, but since the name-bearer relation seems to dominate your thought, what I did say was more to the point.

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No, sentences are not names, nor do they "work like names.

But, once more, you model their semantics on that of names: names designate, so do sentences: they just happen to designate different things in reality.

But they are both based on the word-bearer model.

Gilbert Ryle's 'Fido-Fido fallacy' fits this to a tee.

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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.

Nice try; but:

1) I specifically did not confine my remarks to acquaintances, I allowed for other ways of knowing who/what a name stood for.

2) In this case, you would be trading on the facility all competent speakers have of knowing when a word is being used as a name for a man/woman.

3) You have to embed your choice of word in a sentence. On its own, a word would not necessarily be understood as a name; but sentences are typically comprehensible that way.

If I now type 'George W Bush', you would know who that was; if I typed 'Weorge B Gush', you would not. You might not even recognise it as a name of a man. It could be a disease, a new planet, a wine.

And it would be no use responding that this is not a well-formed name; except in extreme cases, we have no rules for wff names.

If I now type 'K Mart', and you were from somewhere where this store had never been heard of, you would not understand any sentence in which it occurred.

If I typed: 'K Mart welcomed the Bogomils', you would be in the dark unless someone explained those words to you.

4) You say I/you/everyone would understand a sentence containing 'Alexander', but that is not necessarily so:

"Alexander lasts for 3 hours"

What does that mean?

[Clue, I was referring to the film. If you did not know the special denotation here of that word, you would not be able to make much sense of it.]

Or:

"Alexander is fruitier than Gush"

What does that mean?

[Here 'Alexander' is the name of a sherry, and 'Gush' is the name of a brandy.]

Or:

"Alexander has just lost 3%."

Haven't a clue what this means?

Work it out for yourself -- on your theory, you should be able to!

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Millikan has a solution to this. When you find my entry on states of affairs at the Stanford
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 Introduction." Post defends what I called hypothesis (H1) above, that false sentences denote nothing, but true sentences denote real states of affairs (facts).

Yes I am aware of Millikan's theory; it falls into traps that Wittgenstein managed to avoid in the Tractatus. Some advance!

Check out Roger White's latest book for more background on this.

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Your suggestion that we treat falsehood like fictional statements is consistent

This was not my suggestion; it was part of an objection to your view!

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I can give many other examples:

The truck's being heavily loaded caused the bring [bridge?] to collapse.

Susy's stealing the bicycle got her into trouble.

The circuit's being energized is a necessary condition of the bulb being on.

All these nominalisations are unnecessary, hence the view they allegedly support cannot claim them as such in a non-question-begging manner.

I have no doubt there are millions of nominalisations of this sort; but apart from padding your response out, I am not sure what that proves.

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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.

So you say, and I can see why -- otherwise you would have an infinite regress!

Hence, and once more, you have to help yourself to a linguistic fix to bail your theory out.

And it does not even do the job you hoped for it.

There are no 'ultimate laws' in nature; and this can be said with some confidence, for to suppose that laws govern nature would be to anthropomorphise it.

Of course, if you are an Idealist, no problem; but I suspect you are not.

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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.

Well, I am very glad to hear it, but you will forgive my unfortunate inference, since you did not make your objection to what I said 100% clear.

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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.

Perhaps, too, you have a 'basic' tendency to be unclear?

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gatorojinegro
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Apr 1 2007 05:39

Rosa, Your latest reply seems to be mainly nitpicking and doesn't do much to address the earlier points substantively.

Your idea that people are referring to brain surgery when they talk about people "changing their minds" is just silly. If a person "changes their mind" then in virtue of some activity of that person, their mind now has a different property than it had before. If we think of all of a persons' beliefs, desires, cognitive abilities, emotions, and so on making up a person's "mind," their mind changes if they now have a belief they didn't before or they have given up a belief they formerly held.

Rosa:

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That is why I made my original allegation: the way you talk, sentences are indistinguishable from names. You only thought to deny that in a later reply.

Now you're making things up. I never said sentences were names. I said they designate states of affairs. I pointed out that names and sentences have different social communicative functions.

me: "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:

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It seems to me that you are confusing linguistic expressions with other things now. So, I am finding it difficult to fathom how you can equate a biological function with a relational expression.

You're confusing language with non-linguistic things. I had said that truth is like health. That's because I said it is a biological function of sentence tokens to designate a real state of affairs. When it serves that function, it is true, false otherwise. You objected to this as follows:

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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.

If this is an objection to my statement about the biological function of sentences, then it seems you are claiming their aren't biological functions that are relational. But i just pointed to one, namely the biological function of sperm, which is relational. A sperm has this function even if there is no ovum it ever merges with, just as it is a function of sentences to be true -- that is, to designate a real state of affairs -- even if some don't serve this function, just as some sperm don't serve their function.

me: "We can take false sentences to not designate anything at all. This in fact is Millikan's own view."

This was a reference to the hypothesis I called (H1). I differentiate two different ways to handle false sentences consistent with the view that sentences designate states of affairs. You reply:

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Well, you can make stuff up as you go along, but in this case that just makes truth and falsehood asymmetric, severing their logical connection.

What relation are you claiming to be asymettric? And why does Millikan's (H1) lead to logical difficulties? You've not shown that there are any difficulties. A large part of your reply just consists in calling ideas names ("Fido-'Fido' fallacy" etc). That isn't a cogent argument but suggests you have none. And how do you know that the example about Richard and Betty is a fictional case? Are you at all familiar with the method of logicians? It seems not. Logic is not about whether conclusions or premises happen to be true or false. Logic is about the connection between premises and conclusion in an argument in virtue of which the premises convey their truth to the conclusion, or at least the probability of that. What i pointed to is an example of an invalid argument that is an instance of the inference pattern that logicians call "antecedent strengthening." Any argument that exhibits this form is provable in the Frege/Russell logic taught in colleges, such as the tidy little truth-tables. Truth tables would tell us that argument is valid. But it isn't. Now, this happens to be a real problem for logicians. I know because I used to teach logic. You can be dismissive if you like, but that doesn't address the problem.

Now, you ask why i talk about conditionals. The reason is because you allege that there is no reason to suppose there are possible but unreal states of affairs to be the entities that false sentences denote. If a theory that is the most plausible theory to account for something requires certain entities, that is a reason to suppose there are such entities. That is how a lot of entities made their way into the physical sciences.

The thesis that sentences denote real states of affairs (an assumption shared in common by the hypotheses H1 and H2) is part of a theory of truth. States of affairs are taken to be the entities that make sentences or beliefs true. If you dislike this theory, do you have another to offer in its place?

Rosa:

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I used a disjunction to challenge your denotational model. I checked, but I could not see a response from you on that.

Check again. Here is what I said about that:

"The state of affairs designated 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."

This is explained more fully in the essay on biosemantics that i referred to earlier.

me: "Again, you falsely attribute to me the view that sentences are names. "
Rosa:

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Not so, I merely pointed out that you have not yet grasped the distinction between naming and saying -- that is why, for you, everything has to 'denote', or it is meaningless (I presume?).

On the contrary, i've explained the difference between direct designation and attribution of a property. As I pointed out, names are not the only items used to designate things. We also use demonstratives ("this", "that"), definite descriptions ("the big dog next door"), event designators ("the assassination of Kennedy"). Meaning has several different forms or levels. Designation is a semantic relationship. There are social functions associated with terms. These imply rules concerning the use of terms, and are created by a stable critical mass of native speakers using a term to track certain things, like "black" to track a color. These rules can only be figured out by the method of hypothesis -- we can try to make a hypothesis about what would explain the actual practice of use. Such practices may be held together by propagation, as when a name is introduced for someone or something and then propagates to others who know that person and so on, as when children are first named, or new streets are named, etc. Language is a social practice and thus meaning in this sense here is sustained by social communicative practice, especially the ongoing use of terms in sentences.

Then there is another level of meaning. People acquire concepts when they acquire the ability to use a term. The concept is a capacity or brain "program" in someone that adapts that person to the social practices. Then there is yet a further level of meaning. Millikan suggests a distinction between concepts and conceptions. A conception is simply all the things about something that you belief it to exhibit. Conceptions change as we learn, despite the concept remaining the same.

So, no, there are levels of meaning apart from the thing designated.

To say that it is the "Fido-'Fido' fallacy" to regard sentences as denoting states of affairs is merely to assert that this idea is wrong. You can assert whatever you like. But providing a cogent argument for your assertions is something else again, and they are noteworthy by their absence from your latest reply.

Your discussion of names and our acquaintance with the things they designate (whatever that amounts to) is clever but tangential to the topic at hand. We agree there are names...I would say there are also other designating terms, demonstratives, definite descriptions, event designators, gerundive nominalizations. So, we agree that names denote things. Great. Now, how does that bear on hypotheses H1 and H2, and the view that sentences are true if they designate a real state of affairs? And if you disagree with that theory of truth, do you have any other to offer in its place?

You claim that predicates do not denote properties. I see no reason to accept that claim. I think we use predicates to attribute properties to things or deny properties of things, and in so doing we are also picking out a particular property to so attribute or deny.

Laws denote capacities. So I should have said there are ultimate capacities in nature. You say:

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There are no 'ultimate laws' in nature; and this can be said with some confidence, for to suppose that laws govern nature would be to anthropomorphise it.

I never said "laws govern nature." What I did say is that laws denote capacities. So Ohm's Law denotes a capacity that all metals have. I also pointed out that capacities and dispositional proeprties in general (powers, tendencies, etc) are only one component in explanations. This means they don't cause any events by themselves.

You claim that Millikan has fallen into mistakes Wittgenstein avoided. It seems to me, on the other hand, she avoided problems Wittgenstein fell into. Of course, you could always try to provide an argument.

And so, we come to the end of your latest reply. I provided quite a few reasons why we need to suppose there are dispositional properties (as philosophers call them): capacities, tendencies, powers, susceptibilities. You know of course that Marx also thought this...his work refers to things like "the tendency for the rate of profit to fall" or "the laws of motion" of a particular social forumation. You cast aspersions on this whole idea but no good arguments against as far as I can see. You'd need to provide an account of causal explanation that doesn't make reference to these properties. Good luck on that one!

t.

Rosa Lichtenstein
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Apr 1 2007 11:13

Gatorojinegro:

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Rosa, Your latest reply seems to be mainly nitpicking and doesn't do much to address the earlier points substantively.

Well, much of your last post was an irrelevant digression into 'relevance' logic, a nice ironical turn, that!

So, there was little of substance to address.

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Your idea that people are referring to brain surgery when they talk about people "changing their minds" is just silly.

I agree, but you perhaps do not know of 'reductio...'

I made that remark to point out that only a very naive person will base a philosophical theory on what people say. If you were to do so, you would have to believe that people think they can change their brains, for example.

Not that there is anything wrong with what people say, it just cannot be used to base theories on; but it is very useful for criticising them, or for reducing them to absurdity -- as here.

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Now you're making things up. I never said sentences were names. I said they designate states of affairs. I pointed out that names and sentences have different social communicative functions.

We can do this all day long, or longer, if you like.

You treat every expression we have discussed so far in the same way: as if it were being used in the name-bearer sense.

You might like to disguise that by the use of 'designate', but a ruse by any other name is still a ruse.

The only difference is that they 'designate' different 'things' in reality. But that does alter their logic, just how you try to sell the idea.

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You're confusing language with non-linguistic things. I had said that truth is like health. That's because I said it is a biological function of sentence tokens to designate a real state of affairs. When it serves that function, it is true, false otherwise. You objected to this as follows:

That's a nice way to prove that what you accuse me of, you do yourself, for in the very same paragraph you confuse a linguistic/logical concept with a 'physical' condition.

Unless. of course, you think truth is extra-logical/linguistic'?

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If this is an objection to my statement about the biological function of sentences, then it seems you are claiming their aren't biological functions that are relational. But i just pointed to one, namely the biological function of sperm, which is relational. A sperm has this function even if there is no ovum it ever merges with, just as it is a function of sentences to be true -- that is, to designate a real state of affairs -- even if some don't serve this function, just as some sperm don't serve their function.

Yet again, you are confusing an objection I made to things you seem to believe with my own views; I raised this to put your position under pressure. I was certainly not advocating this view. Your response suggests it sailed right over your head, though.

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What relation are you claiming to be asymmetric?

No relation at all; read what I said.

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Well, you can make stuff up as you go along, but in this case that just makes truth and falsehood asymmetric, severing their logical connection.

See, no occurence of the word 'relation'.

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Are you at all familiar with the method of logicians? It seems not. Logic is not about whether conclusions or premises happen to be true or false. Logic is about the connection between premises and conclusion in an argument in virtue of which the premises convey their truth to the conclusion, or at least the probability of that. What i pointed to is an example of an invalid argument that is an instance of the inference pattern that logicians call "antecedent strengthening." Any argument that exhibits this form is provable in the Frege/Russell logic taught in colleges, such as the tidy little truth-tables. Truth tables would tell us that argument is valid. But it isn't. Now, this happens to be a real problem for logicians. I know because I used to teach logic. You can be dismissive if you like, but that doesn't address the problem.

I am well aware of what logic is; but I was advancing a philosophical criticism of points you tried to advance. In that case, it is to the point to show that what you tried to assert could not be true.

I could ask now if you are familiar with philosophical criticism, but I am not that impertinent.

Why you keep digressing this way I cannot fathom, except it seems to give you a chance to show how much logic you know.

I also know logic, but I know when to use it and when not, and when it is mere padding.

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Now, you ask why i talk about conditionals. The reason is because you allege that there is no reason to suppose there are possible but unreal states of affairs to be the entities that false sentences denote. If a theory that is the most plausible theory to account for something requires certain entities, that is a reason to suppose there are such entities. That is how a lot of entities made their way into the physical sciences.

Not so, I merely said you had to make these up to bail your theory out; I made no comment about my own views.

I also said you were trying to do your own a priori superscience.

And so it seems you are.

In that case, when are you going to carry out the relevant (super) experiments?

----------------------------------------------------

Apologies, I did check, but I must have missed this somehow:

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"The state of affairs designated 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."

Now, this is what we in philosophy call 'special pleading'.

You superscientists probably do not know of it.

So, on your view, it seems that sentence tokens designate when it suits you, otherwise not.

In that case, I was wrong in calling this a 'superscience'; I should have called it 'Mickey Mouse science', instead!

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On the contrary, I’ve explained the difference between direct designation and attribution of a property. As I pointed out, names are not the only items used to designate things. We also use demonstratives ("this", "that"), definite descriptions ("the big dog next door"), event designators ("the assassination of Kennedy").

Sure, there are all manner of referring and 'designating' terms in language; but your theory has everything designating, that is, everything modelled on the name-bearer relation.

And that is why I am perseverating on this point.

Indeed, the more you write the more correct this allegation becomes.

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Language is a social practice and thus meaning in this sense here is sustained by social communicative practice, especially the ongoing use of terms in sentences.

You are preaching to the converted on that one; I just deny you need this implausible theory (in fact, it would, prevent communication).

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To say that it is the "Fido-'Fido' fallacy" to regard sentences as denoting states of affairs is merely to assert that this idea is wrong. You can assert whatever you like. But providing a cogent argument for your assertions is something else again, and they are noteworthy by their absence from your latest reply.

And you can deny all you like; the more I hear from you, the more 'Fido' seems to apply.

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Now, how does that bear on hypotheses H1 and H2, and the view that sentences are true if they designate a real state of affairs? And if you disagree with that theory of truth, do you have any other to offer in its place?

It doesn't bear on it; I would not touch those 'hypotheses' with someone else's barge pole.

And that is not just because they seem irrelevant.

And, I offer no alternative theory; indeed, I hold that no philosophical theory makes a blind bit of sense, least of all this one.

[I am a Wittgensteinian -- and not of the 'Millikan' sort, either.]

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You claim that predicates do not denote properties. I see no reason to accept that claim. I think we use predicates to attribute properties to things or deny properties of things, and in so doing we are also picking out a particular property to so attribute or deny.

Where did I claim this?

I merely said that if you claim this, that would make predicates work like names, in which case they cannot be predicates. In turn, they could not 'designate' properties, which predicates supposedly express, if this were so.

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Laws denote capacities.

Well certain, shall we say, 'metaphysical brochures' make such claims, and I see you have read far too many of these for your own good.

But, once more, what you say would make laws operate like names, and as such they'd cease to be 'laws'.

Ooops!

You really must learn the difference between naming/designating and saying/describing.

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I never said "laws govern nature." What I did say is that laws denote capacities. So Ohm's Law denotes a capacity that all metals have. I also pointed out that capacities and dispositional properties in general (powers, tendencies, etc) are only one component in explanations. This means they don't cause any events by themselves.

I am glad you do not believe 'laws' 'govern' nature, but you appear to think capacities (etc) do, for that is what your words seem to indicate.

In which case your denial is not much of a denial. You still have to anthropomorphise nature to make this 'theory' work.

If you deny this (as I hope you will), then your theory will now lack a motor, for the things you speak of would, in that case, not be able to do anything.

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You claim that Millikan has fallen into mistakes Wittgenstein avoided. It seems to me, on the other hand, she avoided problems Wittgenstein fell into. Of course, you could always try to provide an argument.

I'll pass on that one; we have enough here to distract you as it is.

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You cast aspersions on this whole idea but no good arguments against as far as I can see. You'd need to provide an account of causal explanation that doesn't make reference to these properties. Good luck on that one!

Not so, I need no theory at all to continue to cast aspersions on yours or any other theory I encounter.

Not a one makes any sense.

[I note that you have ignored the sentences I posted that blew your ideas out of the water. I’d do that too, if I were you.]

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

gatorojinegro's picture
gatorojinegro
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Apr 1 2007 20:58

Rosa,

I can't see you've provided any new arguments. You say you reject all "philosophical theories", yet you assert a number of things that appear to be philosophical and theoretical claims. As I see it, a theory is a set of hypotheses to explain things we encounter in the world. Whether or not a hypothesis is acceptable depends on whether it holds up through practical test. Practical test can include seeing, through logical debate, whether it is consistent with other hypotheses we have reason to accept. Our knowledge about the world is overwhelmingly based on the method of hypothesis and test,or inference to the best explanation.

Your assertion that i was basing the hypotheses i defended on "what people say" is ridiculous. And saying that truth and falsehold are "symmetrical" or "asymmetrical" i don't understand. What do you mean by that? Millikan's theory of truth (H1) says that sentence tokens or beliefs are true if they designate a real state of affairs. False sentences and beliefs don't designate anything. So, maybe your statement that H1 makes truth and falsehold "asymmetrical" is just a way of sayng that true sentences have a property false sentences don't have, i.e. denoting a real state of affairs. But that's not an argument. You're just saying you don't like this aspect of H1. so what?

Maybe when you say you reject all "philosophical theories" you mean to differentiate the "philosophical" from something else. Presumably you're not rejecting all theory. If so, then what is it that makes a theory "philosophical" and therefore subject to being rejected by you? And what is the reason for rejecting a "philosophical" theory over non-philosophical theories? A number of your own statements have been theoretical statements that are philosophical, like your claim that sentences don't designate states of affairs.

I reject the idea that there is any apriori knowledge. I take a "naturalistic" view of "philosophical" issues. I don't think there is any fundamental difference between philosophy and the sciences or knowledge that ordinary folks acquire via our native cognitive equipment, which includes the method of hypothesis and test (a method that people constantly use in real life without knowing they're using it, because it's an inferential capacity hard-wired in humans). It's not only people called "scientists" who use this method. Scientific communities are merely more self-conscious about it, and develop and clarify the techniques.

Explanation is an actual phenomenon. We can actually explain things. The traditional alternative view of what explanation is, if you reject the reality of capacities, powers, tendencies, etc., is the radical empiricist view, going back to David Hume, and developed in the logical positivists in the early 20th century. That view takes "laws" to be sentences that are generalizations about links between events. That's because Hume had proposed to replace capacities, tendencies, powers etc with mere corelations or patterns in occurrences of events. But it's well-known that this view of laws won't work. It can't differentiate between accidental corelations and real law-like relationships in nature.

Marxists have almost always rejected this radical empiricist view. Radical political economy is based on the idea that socities, or social formations, have structures, such as the class system, and the institutions it is based on in a particular society. Similarly structural racism and structural gender inquality are other structures. These structures impart powers to people. Capital itself is a power relation, in radical political economy. Hence radical political econoomy is committed to structural explanations.

A structural explanation means you differentiate between the course of events, and the structural context, of powers, tendencies, capacities. Thus the likely fallout of certain social events will differ depending on the structure of that society, such as its class system.

This method of explanation is inconsistent with the radical empiricist view of causality as just patterns in the corelations among events. What we want to know is, Why are there certain relationships among events? I'll repeat an example i gave before. I scratch a wood kitchen match on the leather sole of my boots, and the match bursts into flame. There are two occurences here:

(1) my scratching the match on the learther sole of the boots
(2) the match's bursting into flame

(Note the gerundive nominalizations i've used here to refer to two occurrences.)

We'd say that (1) caused (2). But the occurrence of (1) isn't sufficient to explain the occurrence of (2). That's because the matchstick might have been defective and split apart or bent like spaghetti when i tried to strike it. Or I might have had a type of sole that was very slick and couldn't generate enough friction. If i were an astronaut and did this match striking in space, here'd be no oxygen; hence no flame. Or the match might have been wet. Or this batch of match heads at the factory may have had a bad chemistry in that it isn't combustible enough to light. So, a complete explanation has to assume a whole series of structural states of affairs: the match being dry, the sole of the boots being rough enough to generate the needed friction, the matchhead's being combustible, the presence of oxygen in the region where the striking took place, etc.

Every adequate explanation will include reference to structural factors that are part of the explanation of why event E had the effects it had.

t.

Rosa Lichtenstein
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Apr 2 2007 01:39

Gatorojinegro:

Quote:
I can't see you've provided any new arguments.

You have yet to reply to my earlier ones, so I do not wonder you failed to see the new material.

Quote:
You say you reject all "philosophical theories", yet you assert a number of things that appear to be philosophical and theoretical claims.

Point them out, and if you are right, I will withdraw them immediately, and apologise profusely.

Quote:
Your assertion that i was basing the hypotheses i defended on "what people say" is ridiculous.

Earlier you accused me of not being able to read English with any accuracy; well it seems you are guilty of that 'crime'; nowhere do I assert this. I put what I said in the subjunctive mood, a mood I am sure you understand -- except here, of course!

Quote:
And saying that truth and falsehood are "symmetrical" or "asymmetrical" i don't understand. What do you mean by that? Millikan's theory of truth (H1) says that sentence tokens or beliefs are true if they designate a real state of affairs. False sentences and beliefs don't designate anything. So, maybe your statement that H1 makes truth and falsehood "asymmetrical" is just a way of saying that true sentences have a property false sentences don't have, i.e. denoting a real state of affairs. But that's not an argument. You're just saying you don't like this aspect of H1. so what?

Well, this is exactly the problem Wittgenstein tackled in the Tractatus; I suggest that you familiarise yourself with his reasons (there is an excellent summary in Roger White's recent book on that work).

You and Millikan are not alone; as far as I can see all philosophers who try to 'theorise' about reality fall into the same trap, and they continue to do so even after it has been pointed out to them (see below – you are still doing it!).

They try to do a priori superscience, and then spend their time special pleading as the 'problems' mount up -- as you do.

The solution is to stop doing the superscience. It isn't to do more and better superscience.

To give you a clue, Wittgenstein's point revolves around his statement that unless the world had 'substance', the sense of a proposition would depend on the truth of another.

That is the bind you are in: you have to specify conditions (in further sentences) which must truly obtain for your other sentences to have a sense (a true/false polarity).

The question now is, what gives those further sentences their sense?

W later abandoned this sort of talk, but it still appears in his later work on the arbitrariness of grammar.

This is the rock on which all metaphysics (superscience) founders. [More on this below.]

And far more details at my site. [Links below too.]

Quote:
Presumably you're not rejecting all theory. If so, then what is it that makes a theory "philosophical" and therefore subject to being rejected by you? And what is the reason for rejecting a "philosophical" theory over non-philosophical theories? A number of your own statements have been theoretical statements that are philosophical, like your claim that sentences don't designate states of affairs.

I did not come here to expound my ideas, but to help trash dialectics; if you want to know what I think, visit my site.

Quote:
I reject the idea that there is any a priori knowledge. I take a "naturalistic" view of "philosophical" issues.

Except you keep telling us what must be the case with certain expressions, and what they must designate in re for your theory to be correct.

A priori superscience, as I said.

You can call it 'philosophical naturalism' if you like, but your practice belies your propaganda.

Classic example:

Quote:
Why are there certain relationships among events? I'll repeat an example i gave before. I scratch a wood kitchen match on the leather sole of my boots, and the match bursts into flame.

The brute facts of nature are not enough for you, so you try to delve where science cannot go.

You do a priori superscience as I said.

Philosophers have been doing this for nigh on 2500 years, and have got precisely nowhere.

You are merely following in an ancient profession that has nothing to recommend it, except a reasonably convincing demonstration of how to go nowhere slowly.

Baker and Hacker sum this up rather well:

Quote:
"Empirical, contingent truths have always struck philosophers as being, in some sense, ultimately unintelligible. It is not that none can be known with certainty…; nor is it that some cannot be explained…. Rather is it that all explanation of empirical truths rests ultimately on brute contingency -- that is how the world is! Where science comes to rest in explaining empirical facts varies from epoch to epoch, but it is in the nature of empirical explanation that it will hit the bedrock of contingency somewhere, e.g., in atomic theory in the nineteenth century or in quantum mechanics today. One feature that explains philosophers' fascination with truths of Reason is that they seem, in a deep sense, to be fully intelligible. To understand a necessary proposition is to see why things must be so, it is to gain an insight into the nature of things and to apprehend not only how things are, but also why they cannot be otherwise. It is striking how pervasive visual metaphors are in philosophical discussions of these issues. We see the universal in the particular (by Aristotelian intuitive induction); by the Light of Reason we see the essential relations of Simple Natures; mathematical truths are apprehended by Intellectual Intuition, or by a priori insight. Yet instead of examining the use of these arresting pictures or metaphors to determine their aptness as pictures, we build upon them mythological structures.

"We think of necessary propositions as being true or false, as objective and independent of our minds or will. We conceive of them as being about various entities, about numbers even about extraordinary numbers that the mind seems barely able to grasp…, or about universals, such as colours, shapes, tones; or about logical entities, such as the truth-functions or (in Frege's case) the truth-values. We naturally think of necessary propositions as describing the features of these entities, their essential characteristics. So we take mathematical propositions to describe mathematical objects…. Hence investigation into the domain of necessary propositions is conceived as a process of discovery. Empirical scientists make discoveries about the empirical domain, uncovering contingent truths; metaphysicians, logicians and mathematicians appear to make discoveries of necessary truths about a supra-empirical domain (a 'third realm'). Mathematics seems to be the 'natural history of mathematical objects' [Wittgenstein (1978), p.137], 'the physics of numbers' [Wittgenstein (1976), p.138; however these authors record this erroneously as p.139, RL] or the 'mineralogy of numbers' [Wittgenstein (1978), p.229]. The mathematician, e.g., Pascal, admires the beauty of a theorem as though it were a kind of crystal. Numbers seem to him to have wonderful properties; it is as if he were confronting a beautiful natural phenomenon [Wittgenstein (1998), p.47; again, these authors have recorded this erroneously as p.41, RL]. Logic seems to investigate the laws governing logical objects…. Metaphysics looks as if it is a description of the essential structure of the world. Hence we think that a reality corresponds to our (true) necessary propositions. Our logic is correct because it corresponds to the laws of logic….

"In our eagerness to ensure the objectivity of truths of reason, their sempiternality and mind-independence, we slowly but surely transform them into truths that are no less 'brutish' than empirical, contingent truths. Why must red exclude being green? To be told that this is the essential nature of red and green merely reiterates the brutish necessity. A proof in arithmetic or geometry seems to provide an explanation, but ultimately the structure of proofs rests on axioms. Their truth is held to be self-evident, something we apprehend by means of our faculty of intuition; we must simply see that they are necessarily true…. We may analyse such ultimate truths into their constituent 'indefinables'. Yet if 'the discussion of indefinables…is the endeavour to see clearly, and to make others see clearly, the entities concerned, in order that the mind may have that kind of acquaintance with them which it has with redness or the taste of a pineapple' [Russell (1937), p.xv; again these authors record this erroneously as p.v, RL], then the mere intellectual vision does not penetrate the logical or metaphysical that to the why or wherefore…. For if we construe necessary propositions as truths about logical, mathematical or metaphysical entities which describe their essential properties, then, of course, the final products of our analyses will be as impenetrable to reason as the final products of physical theorising, such as Planck's constant." [Baker and Hacker (1988), pp.273-75.]

I connect this approach to Marx’s claims in the German Ideology:

Quote:
"The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance. The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch. For instance, in an age and in a country where royal power, aristocracy, and bourgeoisie are contending for mastery and where, therefore, mastery is shared, the doctrine of the separation of powers proves to be the dominant idea and is expressed as an 'eternal law.'" [Marx and Engels (1970), pp.64-65.

And, in a remarkably 'Wittgensteinian' passage:

Quote:
"For philosophers, one of the most difficult tasks is to descend from the world of thought to the actual world. Language is the immediate actuality of thought. Just as philosophers have given thought an independent existence, so they had to make language into an independent realm. This is the secret of philosophical language, in which thoughts in the form of words have their own content....

"...We have shown that exclusive, systematic occupation with these thoughts on the part of ideologists and philosophers, and hence the systematisation of these thoughts, is a consequence of division of labour, and that, in particular, German philosophy is a consequence of German petty-bourgeois conditions. The philosophers would only have to dissolve their language into the ordinary language, from which it is abstracted, to recognise it as the distorted language of the actual world, and to realise that neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life." [Marx and Engels (1970), p.118.

[References at my site.]

How and why I do this you can find explained here:

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/Why%20I%20Oppose%20DM.htm

And in more detail here (but this is just a summary of a 100,000 word essay on this topic I will be publishing later this year):

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%20016-12.htm

Where I link philosophical theory to ruling class ideology (which is one more reason why I reject them all).

I am not sure that much else of what you say is relevant to our discussion, even though I have read and heard this sort of stuff more times than George W has put his foot in it.

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gatorojinegro
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Apr 2 2007 02:23

Rosa,

You don't provide any counter-arguments to what i said, as far as I can see. That's a good sign, in a way, since it suggests you don't have any.

I've said i don't think there is any apriori knowledge, but you say I'm here doing "apriori superscience." I think you have in your head some canned critique of traditional philosophy and since you can't think of something to say that actually responds to what i say, you decide to just throw at me whatever is at hand, including pasting large chunks of irrelevant verbiage.

I gave a simple example of an explanation. An explanation of a match bursting into flame. This is really an everyday empirical type of cognitive activity, of explaining events that happen. Yet, bizarrely, you reply:

"The brute facts of nature are not enough for you, so you try to delve where science cannot go.
You do a priori superscience as I said."

Your last sentence is obviously false. That's because the argument i gave was an empirical argument, an inference to the best explanation. If the match burst into flame, then it must have not been wet, must have had a combustible chemical composition in the matchhead, etc. Nothing here is apriori. It's a question of how we understand empirical explanation.

And what is a brute fact of nature? Is evolution a brute fact of nature? Does Ohm's Law denote a brute fact of nature?

me: "I reject the idea that there is any a priori knowledge. I take a "naturalistic" view of "philosophical" issues. "

rosa:

Quote:
Except you keep telling us what must be the case with certain expressions, and what they must designate in re for your theory to be correct.

Empirical hypotheses do this. Do you think that Ohn's law doesn't say that there MUST be a certain change in voltage if the amperage is the same but the resistance increases?

Attributions of necessity follow from empirical theories. Physical theory says that metals MUST conduct electricity. Other empirical hypotheses talk about what is most likely, which also rules out the impossible.

Millikan's theory, which I agree with, posits that the biological function of sentences is to denote real states of affairs in the world. This is an empirical theory.

And as to contraries exluding each other such as the color green exluding the color red, even this is an empirical hypothesis for Millikan.

You paste in some lengthy gorp from Baker and Hacker, but since i make no appeals to "principles of reason", it seems completely irrelevant.

The quote from Marx was a critique of 19th century German idealism which developed out of Kant. One of Kant's aims was to try to defend the realm of apriori speculation. But I'm not a Kantian or a German idealist, so the text is irrelevant.

I could also find plenty of quotes in Marx where he talks about "laws of motion", and "tendencies" and other language of structural explanation.

t.

Rosa Lichtenstein
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Apr 2 2007 02:44

Revo68:

Quote:
The brute facts of nature are only ever accessble within a matrix of relations and signifiers ie what does it mean to light, what does it mean to strike the match, hence any appeal to pure empiricism is itself bound up in meta physics or apriori superscience, albeit one that like post modernism seeks to deny it's own apriori assumptions.

Sound like more a priori superscience to me.

[I am not an empiricist, or a post modernist, I am a nothing-whatsoever-ist.]

Rosa Lichtenstein
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Apr 2 2007 03:10

Gatorojinegro

Quote:
You don't provide any counter-arguments to what i said, as far as I can see. That's a good sign, in a way, since it suggests you don't have any.

Once more, your selective blindness seems to have returned.

I'd stick to this tactic, it means you can ignore what I say.

Quote:
I've said i don't think there is any a priori knowledge, but you say I'm here doing "a priori superscience." I think you have in your head some canned critique of traditional philosophy and since you can't think of something to say that actually responds to what i say, you decide to just throw at me whatever is at hand, including pasting large chunks of irrelevant verbiage.

Once more, your actions/statements belie this propaganda.

Quote:
Your last sentence is obviously false. That's because the argument i gave was an empirical argument, an inference to the best explanation. If the match burst into flame, then it must have not been wet, must have had a combustible chemical composition in the match head, etc. Nothing here is a priori. It's a question of how we understand empirical explanation.

I quoted a passage of yours that indicates that the above is not the entire truth; I suggest you re-read it and try to overcome this acute bout of cognitive dissonance as best you can.

Although psychologists tell us that the more you are challenged the deeper the dissonance will become.

Quote:
And what is a brute fact of nature? Is evolution a brute fact of nature? Does Ohm's Law denote a brute fact of nature?

Look. I can't solve all your problems for you!

At some point, you are just going to have to do some hard thinking for yourself.

You ignore what I have to say anyway; so there's little point in me trying to help you out here.

Quote:
Empirical hypotheses do this. Do you think that Ohm’s law doesn't say that there MUST be a certain change in voltage if the amperage is the same but the resistance increases?

Once more, you seek to go beyond this, and aim to do yet more a priori superscience.

I can understand your consternation, though, now that you have been rumbled.

Quote:
Attributions of necessity follow from empirical theories. Physical theory says that metals MUST conduct electricity. Other empirical hypotheses talk about what is most likely, which also rules out the impossible.

This is merely a metaphysical gloss you a priori superscientists like to put on such 'laws'.

And you can put the 'must' in capitals, block it in colour, or shout it from the roof tops, that won't change a thing.

Moreover, I merely quoted Marx to indicate I am pushing his ideas much further than he did.

And, your knowledge of Marx seems to be none too secure (as we found out earlier); I hope you are not suggesting that his comment about ruling-ideas (etc) only applied to German Idealism!

[Incidentally, I read your article at SIEP; it was excellent, I thought.

I need to read it again very carefully, since I think you gloss over difficulties Wittgenstein tackled 80 years ago, before he decided this approach was wrong-headed.

Even so, it was a nice summary of current a priori superscience.]

Rosa Lichtenstein
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Apr 2 2007 03:14

Revol68:

Quote:
LOL, thanks you couldn't have illustrated my point better. The only thing more ideological than ideology is a denial of ideology.

And your point being, I presume: you can make up anything you like, and then any denial of such lies merely confirms them.

Is that it?

You should write dossiers for Blair and Bush; you are a natural.

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gatorojinegro
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Apr 2 2007 03:53

There is nothing to respond to in Rosa's latest since it doesn't provide any arguments. When an intelligent person starts trying to psychologically analyze you or tells you to "think it out for yourself", i think we can safely conclude she's run out of arguments.

revol is right that explanation is always contextual, we need to look at the event in a matrix of conditions. Radical critique of capitalist society has always presupposed this because we seek to get beyond what is superficial to the underlying structural causes of what happens.

when a disease is diagnosed, doctors look for a hypothesis that can explain the symptoms -- events or conditions in the patient -- such as some agent or st ructural condition (such as a genetic condition) as well as events (such as a car crash). viruses or bact eria are evaluated as potential explainers in virtue of their known causal propensities.

I think that so-called "dialectics", the thesis-antithesis-synethesis model, the talk of "internal contradictions" and so on only leads to confusion. But i do think there are real phenomena that people who talk like this are pointing to.

I suggested that these things can be understood without the confusing lingo of "dialectics." For example, instead of the Hegelian language of "contradictions", we can recognize that things -- people, animals, physical and social systems -- can have tendencies that are in conflict with each other. The simple example I gave was the biological tendency of a person's hair color to be replicated over the years despite constant cell replacement, a fact explained by DNA structure and various homeostatis body mechanisms. But there is another tendency, to age, and this ultimately may lead to a change in cell structure.

But Rosa wants to toss out all talk of tendencies and powers in things, and the contextual nature of explanation of events, and then I suggest we're not going to be able to articulate adequate explanations. Rosa is throwing the baby of structural explanation out with the bathwater of confusing Hegelian lanaguage.

And, oh, Rosa, "Wittgensteinianism" is the name of a philosophical theory.

t.

Rosa Lichtenstein
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Apr 2 2007 04:05

Gatorojinegro, no longer addressing me, but a world eager to see what he will try to ignore next, apparently:

Quote:
There is nothing to respond to in Rosa's latest since it doesn't provide any arguments. When an intelligent person starts trying to psychologically analyze you or tells you to "think it out for yourself", i think we can safely conclude she's run out of arguments.

Once more, your selective blindess is protecting you, and that nasty bout of cogntive dissonance I mentioned is getting worse (as I predicted).

Quote:
But Rosa wants to toss out all talk of tendencies and powers in things, and the contextual nature of explanation of events, and then I suggest we're not going to be able to articulate adequate explanations. Rosa is throwing the baby of structural explanation out with the bathwater of confusing Hegelian lanaguage.

Whereas you want to anthropomorphise nature.

Quote:
And, oh, Rosa, "Wittgensteinianism" is the name of a philosophical theory.

And that would be a really good point if I declared I was into 'Wittgensteinianism', but I did not.

Any more irrelevant comments like this to add?

And all this from one who seems to be a veritable Pope of 'relevance' logic.

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gatorojinegro
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Apr 2 2007 04:46

What exactly do you mean by "anthropomorphizing nature"? If I say that
gold is dissolvable in hydrochloric acid, I am attributing a causal power or
propensity to gold. If i point out that methane is flammable, i'm attributing a
dispositional trait to methane. If I say that a chunk of metal can conduct
electricity, I'm attributing a tendency or capacity to the metal. Why is this
"anthropomorphizing nature"?

t.

Rosa Lichtenstein
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Apr 2 2007 10:09

Gatorojinegro:

Quote:
What exactly do you mean by "anthropomorphizing nature"?

I know you now look to me to help you understand stuff like this, but you are really going to have to do some work yourself.

After all, according to you this sentence designates a state of affairs (SOA).

So, access this SOA, and all should be clear to you.

[You will find a clue in Bertrand Russell's 'On the notion of a cause' with more details in several reference at my site.]

And I am glad you are no longer addressing the world at large (much as they will miss your words of wisdom), but me.

Some progress then?

Rosa Lichtenstein
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Apr 2 2007 14:41

Revol68:

Quote:
how can he find a clue from some words, surely that requires some sort of relationship beyond what is immediately expressed.

sounds like more apriori prescience to me.

Oh dear, I really rattled your chain didn't I?

And you can't even make up your own weak insults, but had to copy my ideas.

And it 's quite clear from the few thoughts you tried to string together here that you haven't read this paper by Russell. but we already know you like to make stuff up.

You might like to accuse me of stock-piling WMD -- that's about your level, isn't it?

Quote:
you silly twat.

Yes, I have to confess there is some truth in this, but I have to confess further that I learnt how to be one by observing you, the master, far too closely.

Sorry, but as hard as I try, I honestly do not think I'll ever quite match your high standards in this area.

Do you give lessons?

You should; you are definitely the twatmeister around here.

babeuf
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Apr 2 2007 15:48
revol68 wrote:
you silly twat.

revol68, you're clearly the kind of person who when he feels the waters closing over, and his lungs starting to fill with water, uses his last gasps to abuse those who are offering him a lifebelt.

Rosa has offered you a consistent materialist approach, drawing from Marx and Wittgenstein, while you, imagining yourself to be a materialist all the time prefer this:

gator0jinegro wrote:
But Rosa wants to toss out all talk of tendencies and powers in things ...

Well of course Rosa does, because unlike you, Rosa doesn't aspire to be a witchdoctor.

Love & kisses,

babeuf

Rosa Lichtenstein
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Apr 2 2007 17:43

Revol68

Quote:
how about you discuss how there can be an empirical event or fact that is not dependent on a wider matrix of relational symbolism and meaning.

Eh?

Quote:
There's a reason why Wittgenstein moved on to understand meaning as being fluid and all ways in relation to something else. Hence there can be no bare facts that are not contingent on wider meaning and assumption.

Eh?

Now, what about those lessons?

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gatorojinegro
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Apr 2 2007 17:49

I responded to you, Rosa, because you're the one trying to argue against a realist understanding of explanation. So, you don't know what you mean by "anthropomorophizing nature." And Russell was an extreme empiricist on this subject, like Hume. But it's well-known nowadays that the aspects of reality denoted by laws cannot be reduced to correlations of events. That's because mere corelations explain nothing.

Moreover, the empiricist idea that our experience of events is somehow direct and unmediated, without interpretation, different than the causal propensities that we attribute via hypotheses to explain what happens, is also regarded as discredited nowadays. It's called "the Myth of the Given". There is no unmediated access to reality. Even sensory experience of things has built-in interpretation. And your toady babeuf can only add some name-calling. I think babuef doesn't know what "materialism" is. that would be a "philosophical theory" and Rosa doesn't believe in philosophical theories.

t.

Rosa Lichtenstein
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Apr 2 2007 18:25

Gator:

Quote:
So, you don't know what you mean by "anthropomorophizing nature."

I rather think you do not.

You were the one who had to ask.

Quote:
And Russell was an extreme empiricist on this subject,

Yes I know, that is why I said a 'clue' could be found there, but not the answer.

Quote:
But it's well-known nowadays that the aspects of reality denoted by laws cannot be reduced to correlations of events. That's because mere corelations explain nothing.

You will be telling me grass is green next.

Why are you informing me of the obvious?

Quote:
Moreover, the empiricist idea that our experience of events is somehow direct and unmediated, without interpretation, different than the causal propensities that we attribute via hypotheses to explain what happens, is also regarded as discredited nowadays. It's called "the Myth of the Given". There is no unmediated access to reality. Even sensory experience of things has built-in interpretation. that would be a "philosophical theory" and Rosa doesn't believe in philosophical theories.

You obviously like to lecture people; as I said, my PhD was on Wittgenstein, so I do know about such things. But thanyou for sharing this neurosis of yours.

Quote:
And your toady babeuf can only add some name-calling. I think babuef doesn't know what "materialism" is.

Whereas you seem to think that material objects/processes are controlled by human-like 'capacities'.

Quote:
that would be a "philosophical theory" and Rosa doesn't believe in philosophical theories

As I said, you are into a priori superscience, despite your denials.

Except in your case you like to animate nature into the bargain.

So, it's more like a priori superstition with you.

babeuf
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Apr 2 2007 18:47

Hallo, Gator!

gatorojinegro wrote:
And your toady babeuf can only add some name-calling.

Well I'm not the one who thinks that language is nothing but name-calling (a.k.a. denoting, a.k.a. whatever other variations you propose), but if you mean "name-calling" in the sense of abuse, I plead not guilty - I was quite civil, and "witchdoctor" was my attempt to describe your position - as I expected, you don't accept it, but that doesn't make it mere abuse.

You ascribe "powers and tendencies" to what I, as a materialist, would call inanimate things, but evidently you think they're animate. I thought you were claiming some expertise in this area, which was why I suggested you were a witchdoctor, but if you're happy to settle for lay status, then OK, you're just an ordinary-Joe animist - will that do?

And you believe in "laws" that force inanimate objects to do their will.

And you (together with your guru Millikan) think that inanimate objects have intrinsic "functions" - in keeping, I suppose with your animistic view of the world.

(I'm using "inanimate" from a materialist point of view in these statements - clearly it's not your point of view.)

Far be it from me to pee on your religion - clearly it gives you some comfort in a troubled world - but do please allow me to object when you claim that it's materialism.

Excuse me now, I've some more toadying to do. xxxooo, babeuf

Rosa Lichtenstein
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Apr 2 2007 19:06

revol68:

Quote:
you don't actually believe they are two different people do you?

No, you seem to believe whatever takes your fancy, don't you?

[Ask one of the admins to check our IP addresses, if you do not believe me.]

At last, an attempt to 'argue'!!!

Quote:
I think this is where you are getting confused, it's not that we think that material objects/processes are controlled by human like 'capacities' but rather they are only accessible through human capacity, that is as always already socially mediated. In your crude 'materialist' attempt to assert the 'concreteness' of objects you only manage to idealise subjectivity into a view from nowhere, that is suspsended above all fields of discourse and interpretation. Your hard materialism reifies into neo platoism.

I see you have the jargon down to a tee, but I really could not make much sense of it.

Laclau's Martian was entirely opaque, too.

Perhaps you (and Laclau) do not have the 'capacity' to be clear.

[And I am a Historical Materialist, not a crude one.

May I remind you that you are the one who emits all the crudities around here.]

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gatorojinegro
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Apr 2 2007 19:19

You confuse empiricism with materialism. They're not the same thing. I didn't say that powers or tendencies "force" something. Powers, susceptibilities, tendencies don't cause anything on their own. They are part of the context that explains events. Ohm's Law denotes a tendency that a piece of copper wire possesses. It is true of that copper wire even if no circuit is flowing thru it currently. But if a circuit does flow through the wire, there is no chance it will behave contrary to Ohm's Law.

"Materialism" is an outdated term. That's because in the 18th and 19th centuries it was used to denote two different views: realism and physicalism. Physicalism is the view that everything is ultimately composed of, and explained in terms of, the properties of physical things and physical laws. In the 19th century "materialism" also was used to refer to the view that the physical world ostensibly revealed in experience exists independently of human experience and consciousness. Now, i happen to be both a physicalist and a realist.

Many empiricists were not realists, and therefore not materialists.

t.

Rosa Lichtenstein
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Apr 2 2007 19:43

Gator:

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But if a circuit does flow through the wire, there is no chance it will behave contrary to Ohm's Law.

And, once you try to fill the details in why that is so, you will have to start to attribute to this ensemble human capacities (as the relevant items force their will on those poor electrons). What is to stop these electrons doing their own thing, and violating this 'law'?

As far as I can see, the only way to avoid the animism implicit in your use of words is to opt for a mere description, and not an explanation -- that is, to appeal to 'brute facts' (as the Hacker and Baker piece you were sniffy about predicted) -- you will just have to say that that is what electrons do, and offer no explanation.

No good appealing to probablity, that is descriptive too.

The rest of what you say is just more of the 'grass is green' stuff we have come to know and fall asleep in, from you.

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gatorojinegro
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Apr 2 2007 19:53

One more point. says babeuf:

Quote:
And you (together with your guru Millikan) think that inanimate objects have intrinsic "functions"

Nope. Didn't attribute functions to non-biological entities.

We do attribute biological functions to biological entities. Evolutionary biology has a definition of "function" that is consistent with materialism as it does not imply any purpose or design.

Let's say that F is an activity of a biological structure A. A was created through a biological copying process. If the ancestors of A performed behavior F, and their doing so explains why structure A continued to be replicated in descendants (by making an organism with structure A more likely to survive and have offspring), then F is a function of A. So, sight is a function of the eye in this sense because providing sight explains why eyes continue to be propagated down through the generations. Sight is highly adaptive for the animals that have it and help them to survive and live to have offspring.

Plants also have structures that have functions. But non-biological reality doesn't have functions.

Now, we can also understand a notion of social function in an analogous way. An area where there is a copying process is in the use of words. The predicate "is green" continues to be copied in the sense that English speakers continue to use it, it is replicated over time, over and over. What explains this replication? Communicative success is higly useful to humans. We use sentences to convey information to others about the various situations in the world that we learn about. How do we explain why the predicate "is green" continues to be replicated? Well, we can account for past success in communication using that predicate if we assume it was being used to track a certain color, and human interest in talking about that color and past success using the predicate "is green" to track that color, explains why the use of "is green" continues to be replicated. Hence we can say that tracking or designating that color is the social function of the predicate "is green".

The social function of a term in language is part of its meaning.

t.

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gatorojinegro
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Apr 2 2007 20:26

me: "But if a circuit does flow through the wire, there is no chance it will behave contrary to Ohm's Law."

Rosa:

Quote:
And, once you try to fill the details in why that is so, you will have to start to attribute to this ensemble human capacities (as the relevant items force their will on those poor electrons). What is to stop these electrons doing their own thing, and violating this 'law'?

What "human capacities" might these be? And if you think there are human capacities, then you agree there are capacities. And why suppose only humans have capacities? Or are humans somehow so unique they aren't explicable in terms of what we know about physical reality? And how is that consistent with materialism?

Denying that there is such a thing as explanation implies that you are a radical sceptic. The way we know about the world around us is thru the method of coming up with explanatory hypotheses to account for what we run into. It's part of our basic cognitive equipment. If i go outside my dwelling at night and look down the street and see lights on at Sami's market, i may infer "Sami's market is still open." This is an inference to the best explanation. The market's still being open would explain why the lights are on. I might be wrong of course. Maybe Sami had to leave in a rush and forgot to turn off the lights. So i walk down the block and see if the store is in fact open...that's how i test my hypothesis.

Why should anyone accept your brand of extreme scepticism? To live our lives, we need to make assumptions about the powers and potentialities of things in our environment. If i didn't assume that the asphalt would hold my weight, i wouldn't step off the curb. if i didn't assume that the green light won't just flick back to red in a couple seconds, i wouldn't try to cross the street. If i didn't think Jack was trustworthy, I wouldn't loan him 10 bucks. And so on.

Scepticism is inconsistent with our basic human practices, with the things we must do to live. It can't account for how we know what we know.

t.

Rosa Lichtenstein
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Apr 2 2007 22:19

Gator:

Quote:
What "human capacities" might these be?

The ones you need to make this animistic theory work.

Quote:
And why suppose only humans have capacities? Or are humans somehow so unique they aren't explicable in terms of what we know about physical reality? And how is that consistent with materialism?

Translated this means; yes I have to anthropomorphise nature.

Quote:
Denying that there is such a thing as explanation implies that you are a radical sceptic.

You are gettimg desperate now, since I did not deny this, I merely said you would not be able to explain why anything actually happened in nature without anthropomorphising it.

Is English your first language?

You seem to be making an awful lot of errors.

Should I type more slowly to help you get the point?

Quote:
Why should anyone accept your brand of extreme scepticism?

Yes I am sceptical, but only of your capacity to account for anything in nature without projectimg human capacities onto it.

So, and once again, 90% of your last post was either 1) irrelevant or 2) not something with which I would want to argue.

Why do you keep padding your responses out with banalities?

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Tojiah
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Apr 2 2007 22:32
Rosa Lichtenstein wrote:
Translated this means; yes I have to anthropomorphise nature.

What's wrong with anthropomorphising nature? Except for "anthropomorphise" being such an unwieldy verb; in Hebrew it's very short: "haanasha".
I mean, after all, we anthropomorphise each other all the time.

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gatorojinegro
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Apr 2 2007 22:37

Rosa,

You're not responding to my points. You say I attribute "human capacities" to nature, but implies there are capacities. If humans have capacities why don't other non-human things have capacities? Human beings are merely very complex physical systems.

And if you think explanation doesn't require positing tendencies, capacities, susceptibilities, powers in particular things, and physical and social systems, how do explanations occur? What are the conditions that must be satisfied to have an adequate explanation? In other words, if you dislike the theory or understanding of explanation i offer, what is your alternative?

t.

Rosa Lichtenstein
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Apr 2 2007 22:59

Gator:

Quote:
You're not responding to my points.

If that is so, then I must have learnt that trick from you.

You do it all the time.

Quote:
You say I attribute "human capacities" to nature, but implies there are capacities. If humans have capacities why don't other non-human things have capacities? Human beings are merely very complex physical systems.

Once more, and I am typing this v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, as I said I should: this just means that to make this work you will have to take these human capacities and project them onto nature. That would make you an idealist/animist.

All you are doing is confirming that fact by the above sorts of comments; and these:

Quote:
And if you think explanation doesn't require positing tendencies, capacities, susceptibilities, powers in particular things, and physical and social systems, how do explanations occur? What are the conditions that must be satisfied to have an adequate explanation? In other words, if you dislike the theory or understanding of explanation i offer, what is your alternative?

Once more, I do not have one, and do not want one (for the reasons I have already given).

Now, I have said this several times already; which language do you want me to write this in if plain English is no good?

On wider issues to do with nature, however, I am happy to leave this to genuine scientists, not amateur armchair superscientists.

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gatorojinegro
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Apr 2 2007 23:11

no, i don't project peculiarly human capacities onto nature. I don't suppose that mountains generate sentences or try to think up explanations for things. The ability of plants to convert CO2 to oxygen through photosynthesis isn't a specifically human capacity. Of course humans do have some capacities or tendencies they share with non-human things, like the tendency to fall toward the earth if they fall of the roof of a building.

Since you can't offer an offer of what an explanation is, you have no valid grounds for rejecting the view i offer.

And, by the way, it is rank elitism to say that only "scientists" come up with explanations. The capacity to come up with an explanatory hypothesis is a general human cognitive capacity. It comes with having a human brain normally.

t.

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Tojiah
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Apr 2 2007 23:20
gatorojinegro wrote:
And, by the way, it is rank elitism to say that only "scientists" come up with explanations. The capacity to come up with an explanatory hypothesis is a general human cognitive capacity. It comes with having a human brain normally.

Naw, man, there are parts of your mind that only open up when you get that piece of paper that says Ph.D. on it. Then it's like, woah, dude, you can explain things scientifically! Also, there's a secret handshake, I think.