• Leontiskos
    1.7k
    Yeah that makes sense. I think we'd proceed better by going into tangential discussions at this point. But I'd not be interested in pursuing them without a detour, onto the original path, through more of Fine's work.fdrake

    Sounds Fine to me. Is there a particular part or aspect of Fine's article that you are interested in discussing?

    It seems like I can refer to my friend's blegbleg successfully even though I have no interpretation of its nature...fdrake

    I am inclined to doubt this, although it depends on what we mean by 'refer'. On my view not knowing something prevents you from referring to it. Suppose I get into a conversation with my mechanic and starting using the word "catalytic converter," despite having no idea what it means (I am feigning competence). In this case we are both using the token 'catalytic converter', but in entirely different ways. Now if language is for communication then this is a failure of language. Even if I manage to fool the mechanic for a few minutes, no substantive communication is taking place.

    I recognize that Anglo-American philosophy is keen to promote the idea of objective meaning, apart from the mere intention of the speaker. That's fine, but I would say that we can only prescind so far from intention and private knowledge. In my conversation with the mechanic intention and private knowledge come to the fore, and it seems that the term 'catalytic converter' when found on my tongue cannot be referring to a real catalytic converter, because I have no idea what a real catalytic converter is.

    At best the ignorant person's working definition of 'blegbleg' or 'catalytic converter' seems to be, "That thing that my interlocutor knows about." It is the same in the earlier example about the novice who inquires about Thales.

    I can just tell you. The only philosophy background I have is in scientific inference - so logic and statistical theory + methodology work. The research I've done has been fundamental in that intersection. Not fundamental in terms of importance, of course, but in terms of abstraction. So learning "conceptual analysis" has been useful.fdrake

    Okay, interesting. But you've obviously delved into philosophy given that you are able to discourse on a number of different philosophical topics with relative ease. For example, your interpretation of Fine seems quite apt, and your analysis of the debate between Banno and creativesoul was very cogent. Are there other philosophers or traditions that you have picked up along the way?

    Also studied philosophy a bit as a student. Yours?fdrake

    I took an undergraduate degree in computer science, and then later took an undergraduate degree in philosophy along with some graduate work in theology. But the only field I have formally worked in is computer science. The philosophy was in large part a kind of analytic Thomism (Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle often in the sphere of analytic philosophy). But this was years ago and much of it feels rusty.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.3k
    You are combining both the questions about whether the world exists (or whether there is existence) and how do we know that the world exists.

    "How is it that the world exists without an observer". Asking this question entails that existence depends on our knowledge (the observer).

    Tell me, are you asking "how do we know the world exists?"
    L'éléphant

    I am not saying that the world doesn't exist without an observer (necessarily), but the explanation of what that is (ontologically).
  • Leontiskos
    1.7k
    I've listened to some of his lectures and generally like his survey of the philosophers, though I thought he was a bit too dismissive of Schopenhauer due to his pessimism. But fairly enough, I think he does that to all the philosophers giving his critiques as he goes.schopenhauer1

    I agree. Sugrue is good although overly critical at times, but his criticism is usually evenly distributed.

    But anyways, to the broader point, much of philosophy revolves around how it is that the world exists without an observer, or sometimes formulated as a human observer.schopenhauer1

    Yes - much of modern philosophy. :smile:

    This video might help as a good jumping off point for a Harman's view of objects. Perhaps we can have a discussion on it?schopenhauer1

    I found this to be good and interesting. I welcome this sort of approach in our day, these realist attempts to overcome the divide that Sugrue talks about. In fact I find myself on the same page as this reviewer, both in his commendations and his criticisms.

    There was <a thread> that ended up getting into Lloyd Gerson's work a bit, particularly his paper, "Platonism vs Naturalism." Anti-physicalism reminds me of Gerson's anti-materialism, and anti-smallism reminds me of Gerson's anti-mechanism. The opposition to "anti-fictionalism" and "literalism" don't have parallels in Gerson's article, but I also sympathize with these tenets.

    I also think that his idea of "undermining" and "overmining" an object is useful here. Undermining would be reducing to separate constituents. Overmining would be how it is related to every other thing, more-or-less.schopenhauer1

    Right, these were interesting ideas as well, and I think "overmining" relates to Fine's article to some extent. A lot of this resonates with Aristotle.

    It is speculative because it obviously can never prove that reality, but it is believed one has the ability to speculate from the perspective of the human. They are not allowing this to hamper their ability to speculate.schopenhauer1

    I wonder if it comes from the idea of speculative knowledge (as contrasted with practical knowledge). His argument against scientism is basically the idea that science is only concerned with practical knowledge, and the obvious alternative here is speculative knowledge. In that sense "speculative realism" could be something like "realism as an attempt to understand reality, with no ulterior motive."

    Along these lines, I agree with the author in his wariness of Harman's attempt to see nothing unique in human thought:

    Realists are willing to speculate about the world, not caring how representation formulates the empirical evidence, per se.schopenhauer1

    For a classical realist like Aristotle or Aquinas, "realism" means realism with respect to universals (this is Gerson's anti-nominalism and anti-skepticism). The crucial idea here is that the human mind is capable of knowing reality as it is, and this is precisely where modern philosophy in all its forms departs. This inevitably leads to positing certain things about the human intellect, such as that it is immaterial due to its ability to comprehend material realities. (Interestingly, the one point in the video where Aristotle is brought up is with respect to knowledge of singulars, and on my view this is crucially related to this thread. It's a rather complicated topic, though. (link to Aquinas' view).)

    Now the Speculative Realist seems to be committed to the view that the human mind can know reality as it is, and therefore I don't see how they can remain neutral on the question of the nature of the human mind (and the uniqueness of the human mind as an object).

    ---

    More generally, a problem I see with so many modern philosophies is that they are largely reactionary, reacting to other philosophers' views on very limited and discrete issues. "A related problem is that such individuals basically started with a critique, and then interpolated their more systematic views on that basis of that critique" (). I hope Harman is careful about this, because there is a danger of reacting to current problems in philosophy rather than setting out an ontology that can stand on its own.

    The other broad problem in modern philosophy seems to be a simplistic subordinationism. The approach is often mathematical, where one seeks a perfectly stable starting point and then attempts to derive all of the rest from that point. Once the starting point fails the philosophy is thrown into abeyance, and remains in abeyance. Aristotle really doesn't do philosophy this way, and it is a deep merit of his work. I wouldn't call his approach coherentism, but there are all sorts of different footholds, accessible from different directions and different realms of inquiry, and the system is not reliant on a single point or first principle. Neither is there an overemphasis on epistemology.

    Anyway, sorry for the choppy and meandering response. The posts deserved more time than I had. Thanks for sharing the video. :up:
  • schopenhauer1
    10.3k
    Right, these were interesting ideas as well, and I think "overmining" relates to Fine's article to some extent. A lot of this resonates with Aristotle.Leontiskos

    Indeed, in a sense the idea that something tangential to the object itself (causal connection or the set of itself or something like that), seems to miss the mark perhaps with these modalists? There is a level at which the object is and overmining and undermining can be tricky not to miss it altogether.

    I hope Harman is careful about this, because there is a danger of reacting to current problems in philosophy rather than setting out an ontology that can stand on its own.Leontiskos

    Good point. If I remember, his ideas are influenced by Heidegger's idea, but a completely object-oriented inverse of it. Heidegger I think stays within the correlationism of the "human being". It's also clearly has some Aristotlean/Medievalist influences (vicarious causation for example).

    For Harman, Heideggerian Zuhandenheit, or readiness-to-hand, refers to the withdrawal of objects from human perception into a reality that cannot be manifested by practical or theoretical action.[9] Furthering this idea, Harman contends that when objects withdraw in this way, they distance themselves from other objects, as well as humans.[1] Resisting pragmatic interpretations of Heidegger's thought, then, Harman is able to propose an object-oriented account of metaphysical substances.OOO Wiki
    Neither is there an overemphasis on epistemology.Leontiskos

    Yep true. You can almost see the break in approach at Aristotle vs. Plato as the seeds for later analytic vs. continental traditions.
  • L'éléphant
    1.4k
    I am not saying that the world doesn't exist without an observer (necessarily), but the explanation of what that is (ontologically).schopenhauer1
    Meaning what?
  • schopenhauer1
    10.3k

    What is existence without an observer? What’s the relation of observer with the world. These kind of things.
  • L'éléphant
    1.4k
    What is existence without an observer? What’s the relation of observer with thevworld. These kind of things.schopenhauer1
    "Stuff" is what exists without an observer. Actually, reality would be reduced to two-dimensional world without an observer. Do you agree?
  • schopenhauer1
    10.3k
    "Stuff" is what exists without an observer. Actually, reality would be reduced to two-dimensional world without an observer. Do you agree?L'éléphant

    I'm not going to make a commitment on any of those, but as you see, the question is open-ended and perplexing.
  • fdrake
    6k
    Sounds Fine to me. Is there a particular part or aspect of Fine's article that you are interested in discussing?Leontiskos

    Nope. Further work though - truthmaker semantics. I don't know owt about it and would need to do homework.

    I am inclined to doubt this, although it depends on what we mean by 'refer'. On my view not knowing something prevents you from referring to it. Suppose I get into a conversation with my mechanic and starting using the word "catalytic converter," despite having no idea what it means (I am feigning competence). In this case we are both using the token 'catalytic converter', but in entirely different ways. Now if language is for communication then this is a failure of language. Even if I manage to fool the mechanic for a few minutes, no substantive communication is taking place.Leontiskos

    I don't know how to define reference. Or what the conditions for successful reference would be. Let's say you said "There's a problem with the catalytic converter", and you didn't know what the catalytic converter was, the mechanic could go and look for the car's catalytic converter. While you didn't have the car's catalytic converter in mind while saying "catalytic converter", it would not have stopped the mechanic from interpreting the word and finding what it, in fact, designated.

    In that regard "catalytic converter" would allow someone to manipulate what was designated, even if you didn't know anything about what was designated.

    An example I was thinking of is "Can you send me a link to that website you mentioned last night?" when a friend had told you about one website last night, but you can't remember what it was or what it was about. "that website you mentioned last night" refers to that website the friend mentioned last night, and they could pluck its URL out of their internet history.

    I suppose what I'm saying there is that a sufficient condition for a speech act to contain a successful reference is that the referent of the referring token can be acted upon. And if that suffices for a successful reference, it would thus suffice for a reference (simpliciter).

    And where I'm going with that is that because that sufficient condition can be satisfied without an understanding of the catalytic converter, or the website's, essence, a speech act can contain a reference without requiring its doer understand the referent at all, never mind its essence.

    Though that doesn't tell you whether the reference relation between the words "my car's catalytic converter" and the car's catalytic converter could be sustained or set up, even in principle, without there being an understanding of a (not just my) catalytic converter's essence. Even if not by the speaker.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.3k
    Though that doesn't tell you whether the reference relation between the words "my car's catalytic converter" and the car's catalytic converter could be sustained or set up, even in principle, without there being an understanding of a (not just my) catalytic converter's essence. Even if not by the speaker.fdrake

    When I hear "meaning is its use", I sometimes see this as a normative statement, and not a descriptive one. If everyone were zombies, and/or if no one had an internal understanding of a word that roughly corresponds to the concept, but its use (outward behavior way they expressed and acted when they spoke or heard the word) was always correct, would you really say that people understand the "meaning" of a word?
  • Leontiskos
    1.7k
    Nope. Further work though - truthmaker semantics. I don't know owt about it and would need to do homework.fdrake

    I tend to understand what Fine is arguing for better than what he is arguing against, and that's where my homework would lie. Ideally if I am going to discuss Fine I would need to interact with someone who is committed to what he is arguing against.

    I suppose what I'm saying there is that a sufficient condition for a speech act to contain a successful reference is that the referent of the referring token can be acted upon. And if that suffices for a successful reference, it would thus suffice for a reference (simpliciter).

    And where I'm going with that is that because that sufficient condition can be satisfied without an understanding of the catalytic converter, or the website's, essence, a speech act can contain a reference without requiring its doer understand the referent at all, never mind its essence.
    fdrake

    Whereas I claimed that language is for communication, you seem to be claiming that language (or at least reference) is tied to action ("the referring token can be acted upon"). That's a fairly significant difference.

    Let's say you said "There's a problem with the catalytic converter", and you didn't know what the catalytic converter was, the mechanic could go and look for the car's catalytic converter.fdrake

    So in this case I want to say that miscommunication is taking place, not communication. The action is based on that miscommunication, and will therefore be futile (or accidentally lucky). This is because the purpose of the customer's assertion is not being realized, given that they do not know what a catalytic converter is and therefore have no basis for their assertion. It seems to be a kind of lie. The lack of communication would seem to undermine the action. (Unless you are thinking of a case where they have a rational basis for their claim and are not merely feigning competence. For example, perhaps they have it on someone's authority that the catalytic converter is malfunctioning and they are simply conveying this opinion to the mechanic.)

    More concisely, in order for someone to respond to a piece of information with action (such as 'checking the catalytic converter'), there must first be reliable information. Yet if your source is not actually communicating, then they cannot be providing reliable information; and if they do not understand what they are saying then they cannot communicate. But I'll leave it there for now. Perhaps you had the rational-basis case in mind, rather than the feigned competence case.

    An example I was thinking of is "Can you send me a link to that website you mentioned last night?"fdrake

    I see this as a quite different case than the case of feigned competence, because real communication is occurring. In this case the speaker has real knowledge of the referent, even though that knowledge is incomplete. "That website you mentioned last night" is an adequate description with an adequate referent. The partial knowledge is necessary in order that the friend can supply the remainder of the knowledge, by sending the URL. This gets into Aristotle's theory of knowledge, where new knowledge is always something like a furtherance of knowledge, and that in order to learn some additional thing we must already know some previous thing (i.e. knowledge cannot be grounded in mere tautologies).
  • fdrake
    6k
    Whereas I claimed that language is for communication, you seem to be claiming that language (or at least reference) is tied to action ("the referring token can be acted upon"). That's a fairly significant difference.Leontiskos

    I don't know what the essence of reference is, so to speak, I broached it the way I did to try to find a speech act containing a successful reference which "piggybacked" on another's successful reference. Can you give me one instead?

    This is because the purpose of the customer's assertion is not being realized, given that they do not know what a catalytic converter is and therefore have no basis for their assertion. It seems to be a kind of lie.Leontiskos

    Aye I agree with you that it's obfuscatory. Where I'm coming from is that I'd have difficulty being able to imagine it as an obfuscation if we didn't recognise that "my car's catalytic converter" indeed did refer to my car's catalytic converter, and that I was bullshitting in ignorance of this fact. If we assumed that "my car's catalytic converter", in this instance, did not refer to my car's catalytic converter, on what basis would we be able to say that the mechanic - when grabbing the converter to check - displays an understanding of the car's catalytic converter which we lack?

    I'm trying to say that how reference works is in some sense orthogonal to communication. Because communicative speech acts, and non-communicative speech acts, both can contain successful references.

    "That website you mentioned last night" is an adequate description with an adequate referent. The partial knowledge is necessary in order that the friend can supply the remainder of the knowledge, by sending the URL.Leontiskos

    What is it about the partial knowledge that

    "catalytic converters in cars can break"
    "my car has a catalytic converter"

    Which goes into

    "I think it's the catalytic converter"

    which distinguishes it from the website example?
  • Leontiskos
    1.7k
    What is it about the partial knowledge that

    "catalytic converters in cars can break"
    "my car has a catalytic converter"

    Which goes into

    "I think it's the catalytic converter"

    which distinguishes it from the website example?
    fdrake

    I would say that in the website example knowledge is present, and this knowledge also involves knowledge of the referent. If I have a partial description of a website and I want to learn the exact URL, then I can provide my friend with the partial description in order to learn the exact URL. Metaphorically, my partial description is a sufficient key to unlock the door to my desire. In this case my knowledge of the referent is sufficient in order to use the term well and achieve my goal.

    In the car example knowledge is not present, and this lack of knowledge also involves a lack of knowledge of the referent. One does not possess knowledge that "There's a problem with the catalytic converter" once they know both that "catalytic converters can break" and "my car has a catalytic converter." The partial description possessed is not sufficient to use the term well and achieve the goal, and this is because there is no knowledge. Or rather, the knowledge present is not sufficient; the description of the referent is not sufficient for the problem at hand. The partial description is not a sufficient key to unlock the door to the desire. One will be wasting the mechanic's time.

    (So the difference lies in sufficient knowledge for successful use.)

    Now this isn't a complete answer, because it does not spell out the way in which knowledge relates to reference. The rough idea is that some cases require more knowledge of the referent than other cases, and the one who knows the referent perfectly is licensed to use the term in any case whatsoever. The one who has no knowledge of the referent at all will likely not even possess the term.

    I don't know what the essence of reference is, so to speak, I broached it the way I did to try to find a speech act containing a successful reference which "piggybacked" on another's successful reference. Can you give me one instead?fdrake

    That's fair. I now understand what you were doing. So is it sort of like the case I set aside above? Where they "have it on someone's authority that the catalytic converter is malfunctioning," even though they do not know what a catalytic converter is?

    (I will leave this case aside for the sake of length.)

    Aye I agree with you that it's obfuscatory. Where I'm coming from is that I'd have difficulty being able to imagine it as an obfuscation if we didn't recognise that "my car's catalytic converter" indeed did refer to my car's catalytic converter, and that I was bullshitting in ignorance of this fact. If we assumed that "my car's catalytic converter", in this instance, did not refer to my car's catalytic converter, on what basis would we be able to say that the mechanic - when grabbing the converter to check - displays an understanding of the car's catalytic converter which we lack?fdrake

    I think the obfuscation will come home to roost when the mechanic checks it, finds that it's fine, and then asks why we think the problem lies in the catalytic converter. Embarrassed, we might then admit, "Actually I don't even know what a catalytic converter is, or what it does." At that point the mechanic will realize that what I meant by "catalytic converter" is a great deal different than the thing he checked.

    And there seems to be a nested obfuscation here. The first obfuscation/ignorance lies in "the problem," which we are ignorant of but pretend to know. Yet in order to feign competence we are required to obfuscate more concretely, by proposing a concrete solution to the problem that we do not understand.

    I'm trying to say that how reference works is in some sense orthogonal to communication. Because communicative speech acts, and non-communicative speech acts, both can contain successful references.fdrake

    But what is an example of a non-communicative act that contains successful references? Perhaps we are disagreeing about what constitutes a "successful reference" of the catalytic converter. Would we at least agree that the mechanic would not count it as a successful reference? And that the mechanic is the one who most knows the referent?

    I suppose you can successfully refer to the blegbleg in certain ways despite not knowing the referent. But is it a full absence of knowledge, or simply a dearth of knowledge? For instance, I can successfully ask what a blegbleg is with limited knowledge, but I cannot discourse on blegblegs with limited knowledge. That requires a better understanding of the referent, much like my point about Thales ("Suppose, ex hypothesi..." ). The idea is that there is a correlation between one's knowledge of a referent and one's ability to communicate regarding it.
  • Leontiskos
    1.7k
    Hello @fdrake. I see that you are away and I don’t mean to resuscitate this conversation, but I do want to say one thing in the manner of a concluding remark, and not least because it seems generally relevant on these forums.

    I tend to conceive of words as signs, and signs are triadic. For example, when we talk about apples we have the sign, “a-p-p-l-e,” the signified, namely a particular kind of edible fruit, and the interpreter who assigns the signified to the sign. If two or more interpreters make the same sign-signified assignments, then they can communicate with one another. There is obviously more to be said, but this is the very basic structure.

    Once this is in place I think it becomes clear why a speaker needs to know what their words mean (if they are to communicate effectively). The mechanic example also becomes clear, for a sign can be carried from one interpreter to another interpreter by means of a non-interpreter. This is precisely how encoded or encrypted messages work. One could also get their hands on a sign without understanding its public meaning, and then use that sign to influence the actions of others (but in a somewhat haphazard and unpredictable way). For example, suppose there was a foreigner in Germany during the World War II era, who did not speak German. They may have ascertained that the words, “Heil Hitler,” allowed one to move more freely in the country, yet without having any understanding of what the words meant in public usage (and what they meant to those he was interacting with).
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