23 February 2009

Avoiding the Myth of the Given

I've attempted, once again, to get a grip on "Avoiding the Myth of the Given". I'm pretty happy with how this turned out. I just ignore the part I hate!

If the formatting is a little odd, it's because it didn't copypasta quite right.
In a retrospective account of “Mind and World” McDowell writes that

“Trying to spell out [the possibility that we can regard judgements as being justified by experiences, conceived of as actualizations of conceptual capacities], which I found missing from Davidson's picture, I made one of the assumptions I have here [in this article from 2008] renounced: that if experiences are actualizations of conceptual capacities, they must have propositional content. That gave Davidson an opening for a telling response. Davidson argued that if by "experience" we mean something with propositional content, it can only be a case of taking things to be so, distinctive in being caused by the impact of the environment on our sensory apparatus. But of course his picture includes such things. So I was wrong, he claimed, to suppose there is anything missing from his picture. I want to insist, against Davidson, that experiencing is not taking things to be so." (p.268/9 of “Avoiding the Myth of the Given”)

Here McDowell rehearses one of Davidson’s responses to “Mind and World”: if an experiencing is something which can provide reasons for believing that things are thus and so, then it must be something to which the subject attaches a subjective probability – the subject must associate the content of the experience with some degree of credence. But then the experiencing must just be a belief. In this article, McDowell grants to Davidson that this is the correct thing to say if one does not distinguish “propositional content” from a novelty McDowell introduces in “Avoiding”, called “intuitional content”: "If we avoid the Myth [of the Given] by conceiving experiences as actualizations of conceptual capacities, while retaining the assumption that that requires crediting experiences with propositional content, Davidson's point seems well taken. If experiences had propositional content, it is hard to deny that experiencing is taking things to be so, rather than what I want it to be: a different kind of thing that entitles us to take things to be so." (p.269) It thus seems that, as of his most recent publications, McDowell is of the opinion that his new distinction between “intuitional” and “propositional” content is essential to making clear what’s missing from Davidson’s system. Without it, if one simply speak as McDowell had been of “experiences possessing propositional content”, the point is ceded to Davidson: experiences can only be more beliefs (albeit ones distinguished by a peculiar causal history). This is precisely what Davidson wants to say about perception, if he has to speak of it at all: “To perceive that it is snowing is, under appropriate circumstances, to be caused (in the right way) by one’s senses to believe that it is snowing by the actually falling snow. Sensations no doubt play their role, but that role is not of providing evidence for the belief.” (Introduction to Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective p.xvi) (Earlier comments in this introduction make it clear that Davidson is keen to deny that sensations provide evidence so as to ensure that perception can be direct, offering us unmitigated contact with reality – the actually falling snow, in this case. He notes that he ought to have been giving credit to Sellars’s “Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind” for making him sensitive to this, years and years ago. Davidson thus opposed McDowell in order to secure something McDowell takes himself to be securing for us.)

Given that the position articulated in “Avoiding” is McDowell’s most recent position, and given that he here cedes to Davidson that his main criticism hit its target, it is worth trying to work out what McDowell’s new position is supposed to be. It will turn out that it’s not clear that McDowell’s new position is coherent as stated, but it is suggestive of a position that McDowell could adopt to evade Davidson’s criticism. (Many exasperating details of “Avoiding” will be sidestepped in this presentation, since I think they can come apart from this revision of McDowell’s position. The other revision seems to me to simply be a mistake, and I will pretend McDowell never brought it up.)

First off, in changing his mind about what kind of content experiences have, McDowell has not given up the claim he’s most famous for, that the content of experiences is “unboundedly conceptual”: "it is right to say the content unified in intuitions is of the same kind as the content unified in judgements, that is, conceptual content." (p.264) In “Avoiding” as in his earlier position in “Mind and World”, McDowell urges us to regard experiences as passive actualizations of a subject’s conceptual capacities, where conceptual capacities are paradigmatically those capacities actively utilized in acts of judgement. But in “Avoiding” McDowell regards these two actualizations of a subject’s conceptual capacities as involving two different kinds of unity. The contents of intuitions have intuitional unity, and the contents of judgements have propositional unity. The main contrast between the two seems to be whether the content is articulated or merely articulable. McDowell continues to speak of the former as “propositional content” (or “discursive content” – in both cases the sort of content involved in judgements is intended); the latter he calls “intuitional content”. The kinds of unity are just the kinds that belong to the kinds of content.

"Discursive content is articulated. Intuitional content is not." (p. 262) This should not be taken as saying that intuitions involve some kind of content which is utterly foreign to judging: "an intuition's content is all conceptual, in this sense: it is in the intuition in a form in which one could make it, that very content, figure in discursive activity." (p.265) Problems should be coming into view: if the “very content” which is present in an intuition is capable of being part of the content of a judgement, and if the content of a judgement is both discursive and articulated, then must not the content of the intuition be likewise? This formulation is not the only place in the article where McDowell seems to slip up, either: "Whether by way of introducing new discursive capacities or not, the subject of an intuition is in a position to put aspects of its content, the very content that is already present in the intuition, together in discursive performance." (p.264)

Talking of aspects of “the very content” of an intuition as also being (potentially) the content of a judgement is something natural for the McDowell of “Mind and World” to say. It is given to me in experience (in an intuition) that there is a red cube in front of me, and so I can knowledgeably judge that there is a red cube in front of me. But if one of the main points of “Avoiding” is to avoid saying that intuitions have the same kind of content as judgements, it seems simply incoherent for McDowell to continue to speak this way. He should rather speak elliptically: Part of the content of my experience is such that, were I to articulate it discursively, I should articulate a claim to the effect that there is a red cube in front of me. The content of an intuition as such is unarticulated and non-discursive. Hence I cannot express it by directly mentioning a sentence (such as there is a red cube in front of me), for sentences are already articulated and discursive entities – they are ready-made to make claims with. Intuitional content can only be understood on analogy with sentences, on pain of losing the distinction between intuitional and propositional content which McDowell now thinks is so important. Or, perhaps less enigmatically, McDowell might say that a particular intuition has the content that would license a claim that there is a red cube in front of me; the removal by one level would thus distinguish it from a judgement, which might have the content that there is a red cube in front of me, while also making it perspicuous how the two contents are supposed to be related. It would also make clear the difference between knowledge gained by experience and knowledge gained by testimony: the content of a piece of testimony is of the that there is a red cube in front of me form. It is literally a claim, whereas experiences only “so to speak” contain or make claims (to echo a claim of Sellars’s that McDowell claims is “wrong in letter, but right in spirit”; I think that one can read Sellars’ claim as right even in letter, if one puts a proper stress on the “so to speak”).

Read this way, McDowell’s position does not appear to have changed since “Mind and World”, or at least not so substantially as he implies in “Avoiding”. McDowell can still say something like “Seeing (veridically) that there is a red cube in front of one is being in a state such that one is licensed to believe that there is a red cube in front of one, provided one believes that one is in normal lightning conditions etc., or else to (unlicensedly, but rationally) believe that it merely appears to one as if there were a red cube in front of one, or to suspend judgement between these two.” Such a state is not a belief, but is internally related to beliefs. It is not itself taking a stand on how things are, but being in the state makes a certain kind of stand rationally justified to take up (namely judging that there is a red cube in front of one). Such a state also provides a “ground” for justifications in the sense McDowell wanted in “Mind and World” and Davidson wanted nowhere: forming a belief on the basis that one is in a state of seeing that things are thus-and-so is not the sort of thing one can ask for further justification regarding; a skeptic has to shift ground and question whether or not one is really in that state, and not another. For forming a belief that things are thus-and-so on the basis of a veridical experience is not something that could need further grounding: it is a case of the world making itself manifest to a subject. Taking experience at face value like this is only possible with a background of beliefs of an appropriate sort (about normal lighting etc.) and with an accompaniment of beliefs of an appropriate sort (that one is in a state of seeing that there is a red cube in front of one, for instance), but the belief formed on the basis of experience is not an inference from any of these. And so there is no question of its inferential credentials: it comes from no premises, and so there is no question about the truth of the premises from which one reasoned in coming to hold it.

This sort of position would give McDowell what he did not find in Davidson, while also making clear why Davidson’s response does not win the day: it is a method of justifiably forming beliefs which is noninferential, yet which is an exercise of a subject’s rationality. And so it is neither a case of forming a belief on the basis of another belief, nor forming a belief through simply being “struck” with one due to the causal impacts of the world. It is simply not something Davidson gives any account of, though the parenthetical “in the right way” in which beliefs have to be formed to count as “perception”, by Davidson’s definition, probably would demand something like this account to flesh it out. For it is hard to believe that “deviant causal chains” would be avoidable in any other way of fleshing out the story than experiences “so to speak, containing claims” which they licensed their subjects to take at face value. Without the “right way” involving forming beliefs because they are how things are disclosed to one in experience, it also seems implausible that our perceptual contact with objects would be “direct”, as Davidson wished it to be. Hence for Davidson to be right, he has to be wrong: if he wants to account for direct perception of objects & events in the world within his system, he must modify it to include the sort of picture of experience McDowell offers us. Without modification, his system leaves it mysterious how perception is supposed to fit into things, and thus we can feel a sense of vertigo: What if the objects I behold in perception just have no relation to the things I believe? And this is just the fear of “frictionless spinning” that McDowell lays out as one end of the teeter-totter in “Mind and World”.

22 February 2009

Davidson's Conceptual Dualism

A citation from a post from a while back at "Frame/Sing":

Here I want to refer to my friend and former colleague at Warwick University Tim Thornton, a Wittgensteinian. He told me years ago that he never understood why Davidson was a conceptual dualist. Why stop at two conceptual spheres or modes of description? Why is the distinction between the mental and the physical so much more compelling than any other way that we can think of to describe the world? Would it not be sensible to say that all situations can, in some way, be described as moral? Tim Thornton thought that conceptual pluralism made more, Wittgensteinian, sense. (footnote, p. 27, Davidson and Spinoza: Mind, Matter and Morality, Floris van der Berg)

This actually comes up in one of the "Davidson in Conversation" interviews, with Stuart Hampshire. Here's a quote from Davidson:
I certainly think that we have more than two ways of conceiving reality. I often sound as if I think there are just two, natural science and psychology or something, but, no, there are a lot of natural sciences, and they have different ways of describing things, perhaps irreducibly different…. I don’t know how you’d count potential conceptual schemes, so I don’t see that one should boggle at them [like Spinoza did].
So ,it seems that Thornton’s point was appreciated by Davidson. He just wrote as if he hadn’t thought of it a lot of the time, because the only relevant schemes in the context were the mental & the physical (the rational and the nomic).

Incidentally, this is a nice instance of Davidson talking about "conceptual schemes" in a way that doesn't involve the scheme-content dualism. Later in the same interview, he notes that in physics we plausibly "don't have the best conceptual scheme for the task" (of formulating laws with no exceptions etc.) and that we can advance by changing our scheme. So it seems that Davidson was fine with talking about "conceptual schemes" in a basically Kuhnian way. Which is interesting. Certainly a lot of people have worried about a tension between the two. (I know I have.) Davidson doesn't seem to feel a tension -- he just uses "conceptual schemes" here, without comment.

There's a lot of interesting things in the "In Conversation" videos. I wish they were more easily accessible; only the Rorty one is online, as far as I can tell.

19 February 2009

Counterfactual Wittgenstein

From section 3 of the epilogue to Brandom's Between Saying and Doing:

"One constant in Wittgenstein's thought, early and late, is his denial of methodologically monistic scientism[, the idea that the only way knowledge can be gotten is the way the natural sciences, especially physics, give us knowledge]. "Philosophy is not one of the natural sciences," he says in the Tractatus, and this view seems to be part of what lies behind the theoretical quietism of the later work. In fact, I think Wittgenstein thinks that if systematic philosophical theorizing were possible, it would mean that philosophy is an empirical science. Since it is not, philosophers must eschew theorizing, restricting themselves instead to light, local descriptions of discursive practices, where such descriptions might provide helpful reminders in freeing ourselves from the sorts of misunderstandings and puzzlements that arise precisely from the theories implicit in inherited pictures of what is going on when we talk and think. Whether or not Wittgenstein himself reasoned in this way, I take it that it is common for his admirers to see him as presenting us with a forced choice: either embrace scientism about philosophy of the methodologically monistic sort -- that is, take philosophy to be an empirical, scientific discipline -- or give up the idea of systematic philosophical theorizing once and for all.

I think this is a false choice. Rejecting scientism of the methodologically monistic sort does not entail giving up the possibility of systematic philosophical theorizing about discursive practice.... I want to claim that what is objectionable about the methodologically monistic form of scientism is its exclusivity. Rejecting that at least leaves open the question of whether, and which, features of natural scientific investigation, explanation, knowledge, and understanding ought also to be counted among those useful and appropriate in philosophy. After all, description is also a central and essential element of scientific methodology, and even the most rigorous versions of Wittgensteinian quietism allow philosophers to describe features of our linguistic practices.
I've bolded the part that struck me; I've quoted the rest for context, and because I liked the passage.

My initial response to Brandom's hypothetical was to agree: Wittgenstein probably did think something like this. The natural sciences (including the social sciences) are engaged in theory-building, hypothesis testing, etc.; philosophy doesn't do this sort of thing (and when it tries to, it does so out of confusion). But it's a weird counterfactual. You have to imagine that what Wittgenstein took philosophy to be also involved what Wittgenstein categorically thought philosophy was not. Tricky business, if you can manage it at all.

After thinking about it a bit more, I'm inclined to say that Brandom skips over the therapeutic nature of Wittgensteinian philosophy -- therapeutic is opposed to constructive in roughly the way quietistic is opposed to theorizing, after all. It's not just that Wittgenstein doesn't give general accounts with theoretically posited entities as explananda; it's that he's not interested in doing that, even if it is possible. Or rather, stronger than that: even if Wittgensteinian philosophy does provide general accounts, with theoretical posits, the point of doing so is to ease some antecedently felt philosophical tension. To keep us from feeling obliged to answer other sorts of philosophical questions, Wittgensteinian philosophy asks and answers questions of its own. (The questions may be rhetorical, the answers obvious. But they are still posed, and they have right and wrong answers. And the therapy can misfire if the questions become points for debate, when they were supposed to be anodyne.) So he's wrong to think that Wittgenstein thinks there's a forced choice between anti-theoretical "quietism" and scientism. (To be fair, he hedges his claims here. But he seems to do so not because he's unsure that they do justice to his understanding of Wittgenstein, but because he wants to avoid offending those who read him differently.)

In any case, I thought his discussion of the issues was interesting. It's a good epilogue.

16 February 2009

Thompson Puzzles

From "Naive Action Theory", footnote 33:

It is interesting that the examples through which Anscombe attempts to illustrate the idea of "many descriptions of the same" do not actually illustrate it: it is the rare act of moving an arm that can be classified as a replenishment of a house water-supply.
I have no idea what's supposed to be wrong with Anscombe's example (from ss23 of "Intention"). It looks to me like a perfectly fine case of redescribing an action in multiple ways. The rest of the footnote seems to imply that Thompson wants to say that "replenishing the house's water-supply" has "moving my arm" as a proper part, rather than this being something it's identical to. But this doesn't seem right. Moving my arm, in these circumstances, just is my replenishing the house's water-supply. It's not a part of something else I do; the only thing I do to replenish the house's water supply is move my arm (while holding the pump-handle). Once the event that is my moving my arm is in view, there's nowhere else to look to see me replenishing the house's water supply. (Though you might need to look elsewhere to get the necessary background in view to recognize that I am in fact replenishing the house's water supply by moving my arm. Taking in this background is not taking in more actions performed by me. It's seeing that the house has functioning plumbing, and that my hand is holding the pump-handle.)

The preceding footnote also mystifies me:
Mention of this great paper [Davidson's "Agency"], in the present context, invites the remark that its account of the concept of agency fails to take proper account of actions with parts. Surely it will be "agency" in the sense Davidson means to capture if the agent sinks the Bismark, or ruins her finances, by doing A, B and C, each of them intentionally. But the events falling under the descriptions A, B and C need not fall severally under the description "a sinking of the Bismark" or "a ruining of her finances", as the case may be; none by itself, we may suppose, adds up to that. And so it might be that nothing done intentionally falls under that description, and thus that something "done", in the emphatic sense Davidson means to elucidate, isn't done intentionally under any description.
I can't see how this argument is supposed to work. Suppose {A,B,C} are things like "moved her arm towards the firing button", "moved it even closer to the firing button" and "pushed the firing button". The third would be identical to a sinking of the Bismarck (in the sense of "sinking" which people do, as opposed to what boats do). Standard "pulling-the-trigger-is-killing-Jones" sort of example. But that doesn't fit Thompson's criteria. He needs items {A,B,C} such that none of them is identical to a sinking of the Bismarck. So, none of them can be anything like "pushing the button that launches the torpedo that sinks the Bismarck". Suppose we change C to "moved her arm closer still to the firing button" -- now we have intentional actions {A,B,C} such that none of them is a sinking of the Bismarck, but each of them are done as part of the agent's attempt to sink the Bismarck. But this doesn't work, either, since she doesn't sink the Bismarck by doing A, B, & C; she sinks the Bismarck by doing A, B, C, and D (where D gets her the rest of the way to the button and has her pushing it). I'm not able to think of any {A,B,C} that actually fit Thompson's criteria.

The "ruining her finances" bit seems like it might work a little better: Sue can do A, B, and C such that any two of them would not ruin her, but all three bankrupt her if done together. But then it seems like whichever happens to be the third will be identical with her ruining her finances -- as the straw that breaks the camel's back. Thompson's "none by itself adds up to that" seems to obscure this feature of Davidson's theory of action: what casual relations an event ends up standing in can determine what descriptions are true of it. "By itself" an event doesn't tell you what descriptions are true of it. Other events are relevant for that.

Another thought I had was: it's a gestalt thing. Whole is more than its parts. Maybe nothing she did was, by itself, "ruining her finances", but she just ended up with ruined finances after doing various things. But here it looks like either there is no action of hers which is a ruining of her finances, or else the thing she did which is a ruining is composed of the other things she did. In the former case, there is no action to account for; in the latter case, the fact that no part of the action is describable as a ruining doesn't cut against Davidson, that I can see. For there is an action which is describable as a ruining: the event composed of A, B, and C (or whatever went it to the relevant gestalt in this case). If there are gestalt-y actions, then I'm not seeing why Davidson has any problems with that.

Also: saying "this is no worse than the Sorite's paradox" does not seem like much of a help when trying to defend a doctrine. But this seems to be what Thompson says here:
Such an appeal to the idea of vagueness carries with it a number of theoretical difficulties, but supposing them handled, the same vagueness would no doubt then be found to infect the division of our nested classes of descriptions into "pre-intentional" and intentional. In that case, my conjecture ── viz., "Acts of moving something somewhere intentionally always have an initial segment which is also an act of moving something somewhere intentionally" ── could again be sustained, if only it were given the sort of construction that an adequate theory of vagueness would supply for such sentence as "No one is made bald by the loss of a single hair".
I'm not sure how such a construction could work for Thompson's conjecture. Avoiding the Sorite's requires mathematical induction breaking down at some point (or else removing hairs one at a time until they're all gone does not give you a bald head). It seems plausible that vague terms are like this. Induction with them only works for a bit, then it shades off into not working anymore. You take a hirsute head, remove a hair (not bald), remove a hair (not bald), and then eventually he's bald. (What you say in the details of this are, as far as I can tell, generally still up in the air.) It doesn't strike me as very plausible that Thompson's terminology her employs vague terms. "Initial segments of acts" is not the sort of phrase that you pick up from ordinary language (the usual home of vagueness); it's a technical term in the theory of action. More to the point, I don't know how the vagueness story would go, here. You identify an initial segment of an action (which gives you another action), and then an initial segment for that action, and then at some point you can't? (This also seems to cut against Thompson's "quasi-Kantian" defense of his claim, which rests on the "Axioms of Intuition"'s claim that what is given in intuition is always an extensive magnitude. Thompson seems to offer two different and incompatible defenses for his weird view.)

12 February 2009

A Note on Triangulation

While rereading Rorty's response to Ramberg in "Rorty and His Critics", I had a thought about why McDowell doesn't seem to like the notion of "triangulation". Davidson introduces the notion as something that doesn't require language. Monkeys can triangulate -- they react one way to snakes, another way to lions, and another way to eagles, and monkeys can notice these different reactions, and in this way avoid predators. Which makes it seem like the point of the notion is to explain animal behavior, primarily; human behavior is then a type of animal behavior that it explains. I've reread several of Davidson's later essays recently, and he pretty consistently uses it in ways that can be read like this: triangulation is something generic to rational and non-rational animals, and in interpretation of a rational animal some additional factor is brought into view. Triangulation + Language = Rational Animals.

Davidsonians seem to speak a bit differently (though I'd argue that they simply bring forth what's already present in Davidson's texts). Here's the bit from Davidson that Rorty, in his response to Ramberg, said he had previously found "utterly opaque":

We depend on our linguistic interpretations with others to yield agreement on the properties of numbers and the sort of structures in nature that allow us to represent those structures in numbers. We cannot in the same way agree on the structure of sentences or thoughts we use to chart the thoughts and meanings of others, for the attempt to reach such agreement simply sends us back to the very process of interpretation on which all agreement depends.
And here's Rorty:
I did not understand the second sentence in this passage until I read it in Ramberg's way. Read that way, it can be paraphrased as saying "Whereas you can, in the course of triangulation, criticize any given claim about anything you talk about, you cannot ask for agreement that others shall take part in a process of triangulation." The inescapability of norms is the inescapability, for both describers and agents, of triangulating.
This is a far cry from "running when the other monkey hoots, climbing a tree when he hollers". If McDowell reads "triangulation" in the more generic sense, this might explain why he misses some of the more Gadamerian elements of Davidson.

In addition, rereading Rorty's response has reminded me just how fantastic this volume is. This stuff is just captivating. Really terrific.

11 February 2009

"Active Thoughts?" What?

Here is a description from the UChicago time schedule from this quarter:

51603. Active Thought. A widely accepted historical narrative celebrates the liberation achived by the modernist Fregean understanding of predication from the Aristotelian pre-modernist conceptions. The pre-modernist saw the inner composition of thoughts as displaying an intellectual act. Frege according to this widely accepted narrative had discredit this pre-modernist picture and gave us an act-free conception of logical unity of thoughts. Thus according the post Fregean understanding a person—a soul is logicaly speaking, non-active substance. On the face of it, the considerations Frege brought against the pre-modernist conception were strong. Yet we shall that by accepting them as conclusive modernist philosophy took a wrong turn. We present a conception of active thoughts which is not susceptible to the Fregean objections against the traditional conception. We shall consider the implications active conceptions of thoughts to our understanding of the nature of the soul and of Being. Professor Irad Kimhi.

When looking at courses for the coming quarter last December, the consensus was that this paragraph was totally incomprehensible. It started off like something you understood, and then it suddenly got weird, and then... well, you can read that last sentence. Kimhi totally means it.

I have been sitting in on the course (we had our sixth meeting this afternoon); it is wild.

I'd already typed up my notes for the first class (weeks ago, right after it got out); I have put them under the fold. The weird examples are Kimhi's. (A more recent class had "humans cannot eat and drink at the same time". He retracted it when it was pointed out that they can in fact do that. He changed it to "cannot breath and drink at the same time", which is at least closer to true.) I've polished them up only slightly, for readability. I think they give a good impression of the course so far: a whole slew of... things... and some vague feeling that there is something important, somewhere, in all of it.

also: a quotation from Kimhi, from 1995. Still hilariously accurate.

There was a handout of quotations (four pages).
Aristotle, Metaphysics Gamma III 1005b 15-30.
J. Lukasiewics, "The Three Versions of the Principle of Non-Contradiction" (Kimhi is supposed to put this on Chalk).
De Interpretatione 16b26, 16b33, 17a25, 17a26.
De Anima 426b29.
J. Lukasiewics, "Aristotle on the Law of Non-Contradiction" (from "Articles on Aristotle 3. Metaphysic. ed. J Barnes, M. Schofield, R. Sorabji)
S. Cavell, "Aesthetic Problems of Modern Philosophy", MwM p.91
G. Frege, Negation (extract not read in first class) [we spent the next two classes talking about Frege's "Negation" at great length. Great, great length. The thing Kimhi was interested in was pretty much what Geach was interested in in "Assertion". The thing about conditionals.]
B. Spinoza, Ethics II P49 Scholium.

1)The Shulamite is dark;
2)The Shulamite is pale.
-This pair of beliefs cannot coexist in one consciousness -- the psychological law of noncontradiction (PLNC). They are psychologically incompossible.

-These states of affairs cannot coexist -- they are incompatible. The ontological law of noncontradiction (OLNC). They are logically/metaphysically impossible.

What is the relation between PLNC and OLNC?

Four possibilities:
Psychologism: Reduce OLNC to PLNC.
"Logopsychism": Reduce PLNC to OLNC.
Psychological Dualism: PLNC =/= OLNC
Psychological Monism - Spinoza, where Kimhi wants to put Wittgenstein. AKA "Immanentism". [Six weeks in, we are still waiting to hear how this works.]

Three versions of the law of noncontradiction (Lukasiewics):
(1) The Ontological: it is impossible for the same thing both to belong and not to belong at the same time to the same thing and in the same respect.
(2) The Psychological: it is impossible for the same person at the same time to believe the same thing is and is not.
(3) The Logical (Semantological): "The most certain of all principles is that contradictory assertions are not true at the same time" Met. Gamma VI 1011b13-14.

(3) and (1) collapse into one another given the T-schema, ["p" is true IFF p].

The LNC involves simple predication for Aristotle. In "The Shulamite is dark" the predicate "is dark" is affirmed of the Shulamite. The LNC is a restriction on what can be predicated.

A common trope in modern philosophy: take an ancient concept, make a modern distinction. This is not a return to the ancient concept.

For Aristotle, sentences are things like prayers and assertions -- acts. Sentences are not selfstanding entities.

For Aristotle, "S is P" = affirmation that S is P = belief that S is P.
Contrasted with Frege, where affirmation/belief that S is P is a complex entity: a proposition plus a force (assertional force + proposition = affirmed proposition).

Kimhi claims that Lukasiewics, Husserl and Frege all endorse "psychological dualism".

Lukasiewics criticizes Aristotle for treating mental acts as things standing in logical relations.

Comment made in response to Cavell quote, regarding "psychological monism": "you have to depsychologize psychology and psychologize logic". Kimhi makes a comparison to Heidegger, where "fundamental ontology" just is "the existential analytic of Dasein", and to Aristotle's claim that "the soul is all being". Investigation of the soul is investigation of all being.

Immanentism collapses into logopsychism if you do not psychologize logic.

For Frege judgement has two components -- a content, a truthbearer, and an act of affirmation.
A properly logical component (stands in logical relations) and a psychological act.

One question the course is meant to address: What is the force you face when you cannot avoid a certain conclusion?

(The pressure of a logical law.) [We read "What The Tortoise Said to Achilles" for the third class, and have discussed it a great deal. Kimhi thinks that Frege is not entitled to say the Tortoise is doing anything wrong, except in the sense that he is doing what he ought not to do. He is doing what he says, accepting "P" and "P>Q" and rejecting "Q" etc.]
Luk. says Aristotle regards this as a logical pressure. Accuses Aristotle of confusing logic with psychology.

Luk. understands "belief" like Frege does: propositional attitude + proposition as its object

on the subjective side, the attitude. Force.

on the objective side, the proposition (truthbearer, sentence). Content.

Kimhi: Desire treated as a force directed at a proposition rather than a state of affairs. Specifying a proposition not specifying a state of affairs. [Kimhi taught a seminar on Lacan last quarter; I am guessing this is related to Lacan's discussion of desire in "The Signification of the Phallus". When I realized I'd drawn a connection to something in Lacan I'd read, part of me died inside. ;__; ]

One view is that specifying a proposition is specifying a possible state of affairs.

Desire not towards a state of affairs, but to a state of affairs obtaining (on the Fregean picture). [the preceding lines were in response to a question from Gabriel Lear -- there are six-to-eight professors attending this course, and then are a great deal of fun to watch. Robert Pippin is the happiest man on the planet. And Kimhi's feet get held to the fire often.]

Modern conception of sentences: Sentences are forceless things. Forces given from outside.
Aristotelian view: Sentence is a product of an act. Force characterizes the act.

Aristotle -- can believe that P and can hope that P. Not enough to force decomposition into force and propositions.

Kimhi calls the entity/act distinction a "metaphysical dualism"

One thing Kimhi wants to achieve is a proper understanding of the distinction between act and entity.

Searle's denial that belief/fear/hope are "mental acts"
Sellars's "Science and Metaphysics" p.74, section 33, "Intentionality" (both these were read to us by Kimhi)

Intentional action not a *type* of action.
Intentional/nonintentional a seperate question from question of type of action.
Raising of arm, unintentional raising of arm.

Sellars: Nonsense to speak of taking something to be the case on purpose.

"Act" as in "actuality" not "action". Energeia and Dunamis. Metaphysics Theta VI & X.

Carpenter in energeia is a carpenter in action.

Metaphysics Theta has a discussion of truth and falsity in a book about actuality/potentiality (energeia/dunamis)

actuality -- not something that can be done intentionally or unintentionally

[Kimhi has said a bit more about this sort of thing since then -- the Aristotelian idea of "actuality" looms large in his thought. An assertion or a negation is an actualization of a "determinable"; the assertion or denial can be true or false, but the determinable cannot. Only acts are truthbearers, for Kimhi. "Nothing spatial-like can be a truthbearer." He is like, a for-real Spinozist.]

PLNC: Affirmation and denial cannot coexist in one consciousness.

Witticker (sic?) -- the real subject of "De Interpretatione" is the contradictory pair. [I don't know if I spelled this guy's name right, or what the article referred to is.]

Not that contradictory pair is a more specific sense of assertion; study of assertion is study of contradictory pair.

A distinction that is often not made: Set of inconsistent beliefs, and set of beliefs that are psychologically incompossible.
We all have inconsistent beliefs; no one can have incompossible beliefs.

Not all incompossible sets are inconsistent:
{~P, I believe that P}; {P? P}
(two examples of incompossible sets)

First is incompossible, but not inconsistent.
Second: I cannot wonder if P and believe that P.

The psychomodal relation of two members of an inconsistent pair is incompossibility.

Inconsistent pairs are incompossibles which are not incompossible with a third.

Meg is blonde; Meg is brunette. Also excludes "Meg is a redhead".
Not contradictory, but incompossible.

Contradictories need some form of excluded middle.

Thinker never in a position in which both of a pair are incompossible with existing beliefs and the pair are incompossible: this can serve as a definition of inconsistent pairs.

[For anyone who read this far, trivia: Kimhi spent the first half of our fourth class with his fly down. While standing at the front of the class to lecture. An hour and a half like that.]

are a contradictory pair IFF
of compossible beliefs
No such that
incompossible and

Never in a position to reject both members of a contradictory pair or to accept both.

Two views of the "act form" of a contradictory pair:
Pair of contradictory acts are affirmation and denial: same content, different forces
Pair of contradictory acts are affirmation of P and affirmation of ~P: different contents

Classical: + -----> <------ -
Modern: -------> <+>
-------> <->

[Kimhi draws a lot of whiteboard diagrams. They are hard to reproduce in ASCII art okay ;__; ]

Classical: Negation sign not part of content. Displays force of act.
Frege: Negation sign part of the content.

Aristotle: Cannot assert P & ~P, as cannot present oneself as knowing both P and ~P.

Assertion holds subject and predicate together.
Denial holds subject and predicate apart.

Descartes: Affirmation is an act of the will. Intellect can grasp an idea, then will can go on to affirm it. (Spinoza criticizes Descartes's dualism of intellect and will.)

"Propositionalism" -- "Combination theory" (two names for Kimhi's target)

Aristotle: Affirmation creates unity of truthbearer.
Descartes: Logical unity of truthbearer independent of affirmation or denial.

Descartes middle figure between Aristotle and Frege.

Views of contradictory pairs:
Combination-Seperation theory (Aristotle)
Only combination with negative and positive predicates (Hobbes)
Combination theories: positive or negative attitude towards object (Descartes)
Only affirmation. Negation part of content of propositions. (Frege)

An aporia in Spinoza's criticism of Descartes: If the two members of an inconsistent pair do not share a common content, how do they oppose one another (Kimhi emphasized the point by slapping his fists against one another). First class ended with this aporia.

reading those notes again, it actually does make more sense now (five weeks later). Still, lots of weirdness in this course.

07 February 2009

too good to be buried in the middle of a sea of scraps

From a recent post at Siris:

"Logic makes us reject certain arguments, but it cannot make us believe any argument." Lebesgue
- the editors of Lakatos, Proofs & Refs (p. 53n4) claim that modern logic shows this is false if taken literally; we can determine, precisely, that some arguments are valid, & therefore logic can make us believe the argument even if not the conclusion.
- But what we can characterize precisely is validity for a domain; and thus we are back at Lebesgue, for one can say that we still have the question of whether the domain is rightly chosen. The editors have slipped, either they have forgotten Lakatos for the moment or think logic works differently from mathematics.
-I see by their further note on Lakato's historical note (56n) that this is their considered opinion. Disappointingly unimaginative and uncritical; what is worse, they think they can have this for free: infallible arguments without infallible principles. This is simply absurd; it is pulling certainty out of a hat.

Incidentally, if anyone was wondering about the short piece on Lakatos in the recent Quine collection, here's a summary: "This is a book about Euler's formula. It is a lot of fun and I enjoyed it." About the only point of substance was: Quine liked that mathematics looked like it was being revised like happens in the other sciences. Apart from that, it's pretty much "This is fun, you should read the book if you like things that are fun." Which is a reasonable way to do a book review.