• Shawn
    11.8k
    In many ways, by using language, we commit ourselves to a ontology, as seen with examples like Pegasus or Santa Claus over at the North Pole, and many other examples.

    I have a specific question regarding this aspect of language and why it arises to the reader... Namely, why is this such a prominent feature of language to posit an ontology for Pegasus or Santa Claus? Related the this question, why do we posit the same kind of existence to ontological placeholders like nouns and names like Pegasus or Santa Claus?

    In my own words, I believe that it is necessary to attribute or demarcate the language of fiction, such as Pegasus or Santa Claus with their own ontological category of "fictional entities". Meaning that when we speak about such questions like, "What does Santa Claus refer to?", the natural response should or ought to be concluded as, "To a fictional entity of course!". Yet, strangely enough people are bewitched by these nouns as I've observed from other threads, and don't seem to infer that Santa Claus is a fictional character or even Pegasus, a literary entity.

    Of course I am bewitched by this and demand a response. :eyes:
  • Manuel
    1.6k


    I agree with you that we should keep in mind the distinction between fiction and non-fiction, while keeping in mind that these very distinctions aren't always clear cut. At least not as neatly as we would initially suppose.

    But I don't personally agree with the idea that by using language we are committing ourselves to anything. Unless you assume that words stand in for things in the world, which I don't think is the case most of the time. Sometimes we do posit an object in the world, say, a tree, and I can point to the tree I have in mind. Most of the time, we don't posit an object for our language use.

    If we drop ontological commitment, we can speak of these fictional entities with a bit less difficulty.

    However, we soon enter into very obscure territory, it seems to me. When we speak of Pegasus or Santa Claus, we have in mind an idea, not an object. So ideas and how they relate to the world is crucial here.

    Yet, even if Pegasus and Santa Claus don't exist ontologically, we can go to a shopping mall during Christmas and say "that person" is Santa Claus. Well, not exactly. Likewise, we can point to a statue of Pegasus and say "that is Pegasus", but again, not really. These are representations, in the everyday use of the word, of our fictitious ideas.

    It is a complicated topic.
  • bongo fury
    1.2k
    "fictional entities"Shawn

    Scary quotes :scream:
  • RussellA
    199
    why is this such a prominent feature of language to posit an ontology for Pegasus or Santa Claus?Shawn

    Perhaps this is what Wittgenstein was talking about in para 58 of Philosophical Investigations, where I think he is saying that a name such as "Santa Claus" is part of the language game, not an ontological part of the world.
  • Shawn
    11.8k
    Yet, even if Pegasus and Santa Claus don't exist ontologically, we can go to a shopping mall during Christmas and say "that person" is Santa Claus. Well, not exactly. Likewise, we can point to a statue of Pegasus and say "that is Pegasus", but again, not really. These are representations, in the everyday use of the word, of our fictitious ideas.

    It is a complicated topic.
    Manuel

    I'm not sure it's that complicated. It's elucidating that you say that certain features or pictorial objects can stand for or represent a name, such as, Pegasus or Santa Claus...

    Does this not necessitate the use of language towards the descriptions of these fictions or literary figures in apparent reality?

    Of course, if a child were to ask the following;

    'Where is Santa Claus?'
    'At the North Pole, of course, my child!'

    , then, nothing further can be said, than what was told was a lie. So, there's an ontological commitment once treated as a statement or proposition, that can be elucidated when treating these fictitious entities as non-existent or truth apt.

    If we really want to take this seriously, then we simply state the ontological "area"/"region"/"place" where they exist as fictitious entities or literary figures, no? I see this as a necessary condition when talking about things such as Pegasus or Santa Claus, no?
  • Shawn
    11.8k
    Perhaps this is what Wittgenstein was talking about in para 58 of Philosophical Investigations, where I think he is saying that a name such as "Santa Claus" is part of the language game, not an ontological part of the world.RussellA

    It's not enough to state that they are part of a language game, in my opinion. I believe that they should be stated for what they are in terms of where they existentially reside. The process of determining their commitment as ontological entities seems important to say as clear as possible, that they are a fiction.

    So, the next question is, what's the problem with treating them as fictions...? None?
  • Torus34
    33
    Hi, Shawn!

    It's a wise parent who knows just how to answer children depending upon the age and sophistication of the child.

    Some answers are, in themselves, things of beauty. A friend of mine from years past was asked by his young son, "Daddy, how high is the sky?" His answer; "Exactly 50 feet higher than the top of the rainbow."

    Regards, stay safe 'n well.
  • Shawn
    11.8k
    It's a wise parent who knows just how to answer children depending upon the age and sophistication of the child.

    Some answers are, in themselves, things of beauty. A friend of mine from years past was asked by his young son, "Daddy, how high is the sky?" His answer; "Exactly 50 feet higher than the top of the rainbow."
    Torus34

    Of course, the sky is very high. But, it's interesting that you invoke ordinary language in the discussion. I seem to think that in ordinary language, Santa or Pegasus have some realm of ontological residency, to sound a little strange.

    But, it doesn't strike me as odd to say that when treating an utterance such as:

    Where does Santa Claus live?

    with the response being:

    At the North Pole.

    As being devoid of any truth, no?
  • Manuel
    1.6k
    Does this not necessitate the use of language towards the descriptions of these fictions or literary figures in apparent reality?

    Of course...
    Shawn

    It is closely connected with the issue of language and thought. The question would be to what extent is thought exclusively connected with language? I don't know. But I don't think all thought is expressible in language.

    Where is Santa Claus?'
    'At the North Pole, of course, my child!'

    , then, nothing further can be said, than what was told was a lie. So, there's an ontological commitment once treated as a statement or proposition, that can be elucidated when treating these fictitious entities as non-existent or truth apt.
    Shawn

    In the fiction that is Santa Claus - to my knowledge, which is very limited here - Santa Claus lives in the North Pole, just like Sherlock Holmes lives at 221B Baker Street. This is a fiction. A lie would be to say that Santa Claus lives in Mars or that Sherlock Holmes is a woman.

    We are keeping to the fiction of these characters' universes and we can speak about fictitious entities with no problem if we drop an ontological commitments.

    If we include these commitments, then it is a problem to say that Santa Claus lives in the North Pole, because Santa Claus does not live in this world of facts.

    If we really want to take this seriously, then we simply state the ontological "area"/"region"/"place" where they exist as fictitious entities or literary figures, no? I see this as a necessary condition when talking about things such as Pegasus or Santa Claus, no?Shawn

    Yes, I agree we need to speak of "area" or "place" or "realm" for fiction. But I don't see this as an ontological problem, if by "ontology" you are speaking about mind-independent things.
  • RussellA
    199
    The process of determining their commitment as ontological entities seems important to say as clear as possible, that they are a fiction.Shawn


    The fictional "Santa Claus" has an ontological existence,
    The name "Santa Claus" exists within fiction, fiction exists within language, language exists within the physical structure of the brain, the brain exists as part of the world and is not separate to it, meaning that "Santa Claus" does have an ontological existence in the world.

    Where "Santa Clause" exists depends on the ontological nature of relations
    The question as to whether relations between parts has an ontological existence in the world is not agreed.

    Wittgenstein in para 60 of Philosophical Investigations discusses composite objects composed of parts in relation to each other.

    The mind is only able to contemplate a fictional character - Santa Claus, unicorns, Bart Simpson, etc - if the mind already has priori knowledge of the real parts that make up the mereological whole. For example, Santa Claus may be a fictional character, but its parts are known a priori as having ontological existences in the world - plump, white-bearded, red-suited, jolly, old, man, Christmas presents, children. IE, the mind cannot invent parts for which it does not already have a priori knowledge.

    Either relations don't have an ontological existence in the world or they do.

    If they don't, then relations exist only in the mind and not the world. Such that tables, being a relation between a table top and table legs, don't exist in the world but only in the mind. Similarly, Santa Claus, being a relation between plump, white-bearded, etc doesn't exist in the world but only in the mind.

    If they do, then not only tables but Santa Claus exists in the world as mereological objects

    Admittedly the parts of Santa Claus are physically separated, but then so are the table top and the table legs, which combine to form a table, and so are the broomstick and the brush in Wittgenstein's example, which combine to form a brush. The parts combine into a "simple" whole. And the "simple" whole ontologically exists in the world.

    It could be argued that one problem with mereological objects that every possible combination of parts becomes an object, such that my pen and the Eiffel Tower becomes a "peffel". However, it is in the nature of the mind to name only those mereological objects that it finds pragmatically useful, discarding the uselessness of the concept "peffel" for the usefulness of the concept "table". Therefore, human vocabulary is a mirror of those concepts that the human pragmatically requires in order to evolve within the world.

    IE, if relations don't have an ontological existence in the world, Santa Claus only exists in the mind. But if relations do have an ontological existence in the world, then Santa Claus exists in the world.
  • Shawn
    11.8k
    IE, if relations don't have an ontological existence in the world, Santa Claus only exists in the mind. But if relations do have an ontological existence in the world, then Santa Claus exists in the world.RussellA

    I think it's really anti-Frege at this point with Santa Claus and psychologism, no?

    As in more detail, that relations can be represented symbolically or in manner and form; but, for the person that is Santa Claus, doesn't exist...

    Does that make sense?
  • RussellA
    199
    Frege.......Santa Claus and psychologism,Shawn

    Adding background for my own benefit.

    Psychologism and anti-psychologism
    Frege, founder of logicism, attacked psychologism in his book The Foundations of Arithmetic

    Psychologism is where psychology plays a central role in explaining some non-psychological fact in the world and where the observer interprets events in the world in subjective terms. Anti-psychologism, aka logical realism, is the position that the nature of logical truth does not depend on the contents of human ideas but exists independently of human ideas

    It seems that psychologism is similar to David Dummett's Anti-Realism, where external reality is hypothetical and is not assumed and the truth of a statement rests on internal logic. Anti-psychologism seems similar to Realism, the truth of a statement rests on its correspondence to an external independent reality independent of beliefs.

    It also seems that Frege's anti-psychologism requires that relations have an ontological existence in the world, in that tables, apples, mountains exist independently of any observer.

    Internal and external relations
    There is a distinction between internal relations and external relations. Internal relations are necessary in that the properties of a thing are essential to the existence of the thing. For example, a table composed of parts, a table top and legs. If the parts were removed then the table would cease to exist. External relations are contingent, in that whether a table is in a garden or in a living room does not affect the existence of the table.

    However, FH Bradley argued against external relations using a regress argument, such that either a relation R is nothing to the things a and b it relates, in which case it cannot relate them, or, it is something to them, in which case R must be related to them. In other words, a table top may be above table legs, but where exactly does the relation "above" exist. There is no information in the table top that it is above table legs, there is no information in the table legs that they are below the table top and there is no information in the space between them that there is a table top at one end and table legs at the other.

    I see no metaphysical difference between internal relations and external relations. There may be an internal relation between a table and the table top, but at the same time, there is also the external relation between the table top and the table. Wittgenstein discusses something similar in para 59 of Philosophical Investigations - "A name signifies only what is an element of reality. What cannot be destroyed; what remains the same in all changes."—But what is that?....................We see component parts of something composite (of a chair, for instance). We say that the back is part of the chair, but is in turn itself composed of several bits of wood; while a leg is a simple component part. We also see a whole which changes (is destroyed) while its component parts remain unchanged. These are the materials from which we construct that picture of reality"

    Frege and Santa Claus
    Frege's attack on psychologism seems to me to suggest that Frege supported the idea that relations have an ontological existence in the world. But for me the problem remains, as pointed out by Bradley, exactly where in the world are these relations ? I can appreciate that the parts table top and table legs exist in the world and are spatially separate, but I cannot accept that "above" has an independent existence in the world.

    IE, if Frege supported anti-psychologism, it follows that he must have supported the idea that relations have an ontological existence in the world. Therefore, not only must he have believed that the parts of Santa Claus have a real existence in the world, plump, white-bearded, red-suited, etc, but also that the relations between these parts have a real existence in the world, meaning that a Santa Claus consisting of real relationship between real parts must have a real existence in the world.
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