• Banno
    23.7k
    My cynical self says that, having been unable to provide a suitable account of essences in ontological terms using modal language, Fine moved essentialists over to epistemology and now seek to give an account of essences as how we know (understand, conceive, etc.) that something is what it is. It pictures essence as a lost soul looking for a home; or as a misguided picture of how things are, looking for a way to fit in.

    My prejudices come from the discussion of simples in PI, from around §46 on. What we take as a simple depends on the task at hand - on what we are doing. I read PI as a rejection of the Augustinian essentialism expressed in §1, and might roughly be expressed as a rejection of real essences.

    It is not obvious that such a view is at odds with Kit FIne's essentialism.

    So I am happy to talk of staying on it's own colour to be an 'essential' property of Bishops in Chess games. But doing so is not to suppose something profound about Bishops; it's just to set out what we do with Bishops.
  • Janus
    15.9k
    In the land of the rigid designators where reigns the Great God Krapke there shall be no acknowledgement of the roles of description, definite or otherwise.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    - So let it be written, so let it be done.
  • fdrake
    6.1k
    to provide a suitable account of essences in ontological terms using modal language,Banno

    I think your cynical self is asserting fundamental presuppositions which the article is challenging, rather than engaging with them on their own terms.

    Fine moved essentialists over to epistemology and now seek to give an account of essences as how we know (understand, conceive, etc.) that something is what it is.Banno

    Construing understanding as epistemological is also something you're construing, there's not really much in the article about knowledge, it's about interpretation and meaning. Which I appreciate you have particular views on.

    What we take as a simple depends on the task at hand - on what we are doing. I read PI as a rejection of the Augustinian essentialism expressed in §1, and might roughly be expressed as a rejection of real essences.Banno

    I think you can productively read it in the following manner - things have natures which constrain and partially determine how they behave. When you describe such a thing or process, that means setting out that nature in an act of understanding it The understanding of the thing or process determines which properties we express as necessary to it, that which it could not be understood as it is without. It seems there's a possibility for an error in relevance there, like the singleton containing Socrates, which (according to Fine) should not be construed as part of Socrates' essence.

    Perhaps contrary to most of the discussion so far, I also think this discussion is almost orthogonal to how reference works. The intersection might be somewhere in the region of Evans' critique of a causal theory of reference that sees no place for predication or contextual cues in referring behaviours.

    *
    (I'm saying referring behaviours rather than reference for a reason we can get into later if it's needed, but I don't think it's required for now. Could be a bad idea for me to do this)!


    It is not obvious that such a view is at odds with Kit FIne's essentialism.Banno

    It isn't obvious, I think it depends on whether you construe the properties of a thing as entirely determined by the language games they're used in, or whether the properties of a thing constrain language games they're used in. It also isn't obvious to me that there's anything Augustinian in what Fine's said, or theological.

    It might be productive to think of a speech act like "I do". The essence of the speech act "I do" at a wedding might be construed like:

    1) A symbolic commitment to an existing partnership, that it will be ongoing.
    2) Taking on a definite legal commitments with that partner.
    3) A declaration of profound and sustained romantic desire.
    4) A commemoration of profound and sustained romantic desire.
    5)...

    Does it make sense for there to be a "real essence" of the speech act above and beyond the use of language? I don't think so, but I do think on such a basis that the kind of things that Fine might throw into understanding a concept won't just be extensional in the sense he's criticised. He wants essential properties to have a different extension, and to somehow be sourced from a thing in a (largely unspecified) manner.

    The vocabulary of "flows from" he uses at one point I think has its roots in theology though, so it may be impossible - in the last analysis - to separate discussions of essence from some metaphysics.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Perhaps contrary to most of the discussion so far, I also think this discussion is almost orthogonal to how reference works. The intersection might be somewhere in the region of Evans' critique of a causal theory of reference that sees no place for predication or contextual cues in referring behaviours.fdrake

    Interesting. Thanks for the links. :up:

    I think you can productively read it in the following manner - things have natures which constrain and partially determine how they behave. When you describe such a thing or process, that means setting out that nature in an act of understanding it. The understanding of the thing or process determines which properties we express as necessary to it, that which it could not be understood as it is without.fdrake

    I like how you said this, and especially the emphasis on the act of understanding. It seems like a recognition of the subjective aspect of the act of understanding is what is being overlooked in some of the opposing viewpoints.
  • fdrake
    6.1k
    It seems like a recognition of the subjective aspect of the act of understanding is what is being overlooked in some of the opposing viewpoints.Leontiskos

    I think I can see what you mean there. Though I read it the other way - how Fine is using the vocabulary of essence makes meaning "thingly" or "concrete" - puts the locus of sinigication/expression closer to the described object or act. Like the essence of Socrates is constrained by who Socrates was. Whereas how @Banno, I think, thinks of meaning precludes putting the "locus of expression" anywhere near a described object or act, since objects do not express, acts of expression do. And the acts of expression for Banno don't 'contain', 'reference', 'represent' or 'engender' some underlying hidden 'meaning' of the entity, since the meaning of a speech act is only ever its use in a discursive context, not an object or process which may be considered (relatively) independently of a (range of) discursive contexts.
  • Banno
    23.7k
    I think your cynical self is asserting fundamental presuppositions which the article is challenging, rather than engaging with them on their own terms.fdrake
    Maybe. I don't see much by way of an argument in favour of essences, a reason that we need take them into account. I agree, of course, that our language games are constrained by the way things are, although that way of expressing it lacks a certain symmetry that I take as central – it's not just that we are constrained by the world, but also that we also constrain how things are by our speech acts. Here, I'm not thinking of Sapir-Whorf, so much as of money and boarders and social status, the paraphernalia of our social lives. So I usually prefer to talk of our language being embedded in the world, something akin to a form of life or confirmation holism.

    I'll also here make note of FIne's own argument against names having a sense, the novelty of which is what drew me to reading more of his work. I started a thread on the Bruces, but it garnered little attention.

    The SEP article on reference gives four approaches, but I think there are good arguments against all. Descriptions we have talked about here. The causal theory remains incomplete; rules in language are more post-hoc rather than proscriptive, leaving intent as a strong contender mostly by default. Reference seems to function despite, rather than because, of each. And we should keep in mind that often referring expressions fail to refer. So I find myself again in rough agreement with Davidson, that reference has a function only within broader theories of truth (or meaning), and there can be no coherent theory of reference per se.

    And i continue to think this leaves essence orphaned.
  • fdrake
    6.1k


    Yeah I don't think the article makes a particularly involved positive case for essence. It's very much a prologue. I think he wants to blow open a hole and pour a different flavour of essence in. More blowing here, less pouring.

    You got any links to more systematic treatments of his account? I'll look into your Bruces thread. Fine's arguments against names having a sense, included. If he believes that my Evans comments were way off mark, I think!
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    I think I can see what you mean there. Though I read it the other way - how Fine is using the vocabulary of essence makes meaning "thingly" or "concrete" - puts the locus of sinigication/expression closer to the described object or act. Like the essence of Socrates is constrained by who Socrates was.fdrake

    That's fair. I suppose I was thinking more of reference than Fine's article. For example, apparently for Russell or Donnellan if the referent of a name does not exist then the speaker is denoting nothing. Similarly, according to your article from Gareth Evans, Kripke's target and Kripke's response both possess a strong focus on objective uniqueness. For the theory which he targets, the speaker must have a unique description if they are to denote; and for his own "theory" a causal explanation is meant to safeguard the uniqueness of the referent.

    So we see these objective impositions: that a referent must exist in order for a name to denote; that a speaker must have access to a unique description if their name is to denote; and that a causal explanation is the proper way to identify a unique referent.

    For the Aristotelian I should think that there is a much stronger emphasis on intention and a kind of subjective encounter with the object. For an Aristotelian like Anscombe, there is no reason why the referent of a name needs to exist in order for denotation to occur. For Strawson the idea that the speaker must have ready access to a unique and accurate description is a non-starter. I'm not even sure the Aristotelian account of cognition is going to allow for the level of objectification that someone like Kripke seems to desire. This tangential disagreement about reference may relate to significantly different accounts of knowing.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    I don't see much by way of an argument in favour of essences, a reason that we need take them into account.Banno

    Was it intended to? Remember that the discussion of essences and definitions was transplanted from a different thread at your request, and was never motivated by Fine's article (link). Fine's article is critiquing the received modal account of essences. He is saying, "A is a better [account of essences] than B." :wink:

    Anyway, given that the discussion has moved away from the Fine article I might leave this topic where it is.Banno

    I also want to leave the topic, but it never "moved away from Fine's article." It was never about Fine's article in the first place.
  • Banno
    23.7k
    I think he wants to blow open a hole and pour a different flavour of essence in.fdrake
    Well, he did that, in that I had more or less taken Essence as a dead end, but what we have here gives it a bit of freshness. It harks back to some of the stuff I did on Individuation in my Honours year.

    I would have said that our discussion of essences commenced here: ; before moving over to the other thread, where it sat uncomfortably under the heading of "belief". I don't think one can read Fine as rejecting modal accounts of essence, so much as refining them. Otherwise one would be rejecting the conception of essence as necessary and sufficient... do you want to go there, too?
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    I would have said that our discussion of essences commenced here: ↪Leontiskos;Banno

    This must have been a typo given the referent of the link.

    For my part the discussion of essences and definitions never had anything to do with Fine's article. I only mentioned Fine's distinction a few times in the belief thread, before we started talking about essences and definitions. It seemed clear all along that you were not committed to the modal view that Fine is addressing ().

    I don't think one can read Fine as rejecting modal accounts of essence, so much as refining them. Otherwise one would be rejecting the conception of essence as necessary and sufficient...Banno

    But modal logic does not have a copyright on the word "necessary." To speak about a modal account of essence is not to speak about any account of essence which utilizes the concept of necessity. Here is an example of fdrake making the proper distinction:

    So it seems that he believes there's some subset of the necessary (possible worlds sense) truths which are necessary (essential) to an entity's being.fdrake
  • Banno
    23.7k
    typoLeontiskos

    Yeah, fixed. The link should be to your first post on this thread. Point being that the topic here is essence, and the other thread is about belief. Moot.

    But modal logic does not have a copyright on the word "necessary."Leontiskos
    Hmm. Any account of necessity that as incompatible with modal theory would need a pretty substantial defence. Fine's is certainly in line with modal theory, but at one stage you seem'd to reject Kripke, which would be very brave in this context.

    So where now?
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    So where now?Banno

    Now I'll leave you to it. :victory:
  • Moliere
    4.3k
    I have not understood how essences as definitions differs in salient ways from essences in terms of necessary properties. Isn't a definition a set of necessary and sufficient properties?Banno

    Me either, which is what I was trying to get at by asking for a criterion of quiddity.

    As I'm reading Fine a definition is necessary, because Fine accepts the argument that if something is not necessary then it is not essential, but necessity is not sufficient.

    Or, if we're going by way of Aristotelian essence, then I'm not sure "sufficiency" is the conceptual mark we should be using at all (hence my divergence into Aristotelian causes for determining whether something named has an essence at all)

    But I believe you, @Leontiskos, have started to give an answer here:

    One way to cash this out is to say that risibility or the ability to learn grammar supervene on rationality, and it is rationality that belongs to the essence because it is explanatorily fundamental. Thus a human being is not defined as "A risible animal" or "An animal capable of learning grammar," but rather, "A rational animal." This contains and explains the others.

    Aquinas claims that, in a similar way, delight supervenes on happiness, for happiness is essentially the possession of a fitting good and not the possession of delight, and yet delight always follows upon and attends happiness such that they appear indistinguishable.

    I should point out yet again that it is one thing to disagree with some real definition and another to disagree with essentialism itself. The latter is much more contentious and difficult, and would seem to involve the claim that no properties are explanatorily prior or posterior.
    Leontiskos

    A definition is a true description of an essence, which is a property which is explanatorily prior to other properties, including the necessary ones (like the Singleton Socrates). "Prior" is unspecificed at this point, but that's the beginning of something: definitions are meant to explain something, and the explanation is one of a priority of properties.

    @Leontiskos do you accept the argument that if some predicate is not necessary of a name that then that same predicate is not an essence of the name? (only asking because then we could add to this list to say that essences are necessary, though there are necessary predicates which are not essential)
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    As I'm reading Fine a definition is necessary, because Fine accepts the argument that if something is not necessary then it is not essential, but necessity is not sufficient.

    Or, if we're going by way of Aristotelian essence, then I'm not sure "sufficiency" is the conceptual mark we should be using at all (hence my divergence into Aristotelian causes for determining whether something named has an essence at all)
    Moliere

    Yes, this is correct. Your care is appreciated.

    Freewheeling a bit, I would say that for Aristotle the purpose of a definition is twofold: to denote an essence, and to distinguish things from each other. These are related, but the latter has more to do with scientific taxonomy than the former. If two real definitions are identical (and correct in describing the essence) then the "two" things that they define are just the same thing. If two things are different then they will have different essences (and different definitions). I would want to say that the idea of sufficiency has to do with this second, taxonomical motive (i.e. the nominal definition should distinguish sufficiently).

    Fine's article is very subtle, and the very fact that you can "run" essentialism on modal logic means that his argument is tangential to essentialism. He's not wrong, but I don't think it will be fruitful for someone trying to understand essentialism for the first time to get lost in that abstruse debate.

    A definition is a true description of an essence, which is a property which is explanatorily prior to other properties, including the necessary ones (like the Singleton Socrates).Moliere

    Yes, but more concretely, things like risibility, the capacity to learn grammar, and delight.

    Leontiskos do you accept the argument that if some predicate is not necessary of a name that then that same predicate is not an essence of the name? (only asking because then we could add to this list to say that essences are necessary, though there are necessary predicates which are not essential)Moliere

    Yes, you are right about this.

    The question about explanatory priority is a good one. "Explanation" (or "cause") usually translates aitia, for example:

    We think we understand something simpliciter (and not in the sophistical way, incidentally) when we think we know of the explanation because of which the object holds that it is its explanation, and also that it is not possible for it to be otherwise. It is plain, then, that to understand is something of this sort. And indeed, people who do not understand think they are in such a condition, and those who do understand actually are. Hence if there is understanding simpliciter of something, it is impossible for it to be otherwise. — Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, 71b9 (Chapter 2), tr. Barnes

    Barnes gives a rather long explanation of why he translates "explanation" rather than "cause". To simplify, I would say the term spans both ontology and also linguistics/theory, such that the twofold purpose above is attainable.


    I was looking around for freely accessible material on this topic. I did find something which is free, even if its accessibility is questionable. The article is technically arguing for realism against nominalism, but it also spends a good deal of time on definitions:

    Let us return to the honey bee example to make our point. With some study (and or a good Oxford dictionary) I could come to know in a fairly rigorous manner that a honey bee is defined as “a stinging, winged insect that collects nectar and pollen, produces wax and honey, and lives in large communities/colonies.” In this definition, the genus is insect meaning an arthropod with six legs and one or two pairs of wings. An arthropod is an invertebrate with segmented body, an exoskeleton, and jointed limbs. ‘Stinging, ‘winged,’ ‘collecting nectar and pollen,’ ‘producing wax and honey,’ and ‘living in large colonies,’ are differentia which distinguish the honey bee from other members of the same genus, and are taken from the categories of action, quality, and possession/habit.[74] Having these attributes (secondary beings) is the cause of some individuals (primary beings) in nature being honey bees. When I run into such primary buzzing beings, I know them with a very high degree of accuracy, through [this definition]. What is key is that, any time one has predicated a definition of a honey bee in the field, which is an expression (λόγος/logos) of his understanding it in itself and as distinct from other animals and species of its own genus. . .Daniel Wagner, The Logical Terms of Sense Realism, p. 53

    Wagner defines differentia earlier. They are essential attributes which differentiate from other things in the same genus:

    “Difference” is an essential attribute added to the genus and constituting the species (e.g., ‘with three equal sides’ differentiates the equilateral from the isosceles and the scalene).Daniel Wagner, The Logical Terms of Sense Realism, p. 27
  • Leontiskos
    2k


    I am still intrigued by this comment of yours, which is quite informative. It seems to be one of those cases where Humean nominalism and British empiricism flow together like oil and water. The attempt to limit oneself to the "discursive context" collapses on itself whenever an act of expression expresses an object. For example, a proper name is a 'rigid designator' which means that the object it identifies is ostensibly unique, and accounting for the manner in which one identifies such an object inevitably draws one outside the "discursive context." The meaning of a proper name is incomplete without some account of the way that proper names are used to reference real objects.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.4k
    The meaning of a proper name is incomplete without some account of the way that proper names are used to reference real objects.Leontiskos

    Just an idea out of leftfield, Graham Harman had the notion of "withdrawal" and a "hidden" aspect of objects. Objects "withdraw" from other objects and retain their hidden essence that can never be perceived or have interactions with other objects. The parts that have interactions (direct or indirect) he calls "vicarious causation". Vicarious causation is basically the ability to influence other objects, via their surface qualities.

    From ChatGPT:

    Graham Harman is a contemporary philosopher associated with the philosophical movement known as speculative realism and object-oriented ontology (OOO). His ideas regarding objects are central to his philosophical framework. Harman's conception of objects departs from traditional philosophies that often emphasize human experience as the primary focus. Instead, he shifts the focus towards the objects themselves and their relationships.

    Object-Centric Philosophy:
    Harman proposes an object-centric philosophy, where objects are considered as the fundamental building blocks of reality. He argues that objects are autonomous entities that exist independently of our perception or knowledge of them. These objects have their own unique qualities, essences, and interactions with other objects.

    Withdrawal and Vicarious Causation:
    Harman introduces the idea of "withdrawal," suggesting that objects have an inherent depth that eludes complete human understanding. According to Harman, an object's true essence is never fully accessible to other objects. This withdrawal indicates that objects possess an inner reality that is not directly perceivable, and interactions between objects occur on a surface level.

    He also proposes the concept of "vicarious causation," where objects influence each other indirectly through their appearances or interactions. Objects do not directly access the inner reality of other objects; instead, they interact through the surface qualities or manifestations of those objects.

    Object Relations and Networks:
    Harman emphasizes the relationships and interactions between objects. Objects, as autonomous entities, interact with one another, forming networks of relations. However, these relations are not exhaustive or fully determinative of an object's essence. An object retains its autonomy and uniqueness even within relationships.

    Fourfold Structure:
    Harman proposes a fourfold structure to describe the relationships between objects. This structure includes real objects (existing in the world), sensual objects (perceived by other objects), real qualities (inherent properties of objects), and sensual qualities (perceived qualities of objects). These elements contribute to the complex interplay and understanding of objects and their relationships.

    Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO):
    OOO, a philosophical movement that Harman is associated with, emphasizes that everything is an object, including not just physical entities but also abstract concepts and events. OOO advocates for treating all entities equally, acknowledging their autonomous existence and inherent uniqueness.
  • fdrake
    6.1k
    he attempt to limit oneself to the "discursive context" collapses on itself whenever an act of expression expresses an object.Leontiskos

    I guess that goes back to the sense/reference discussion you were having with @Banno earlier. Specifically whether/how reference leverages concepts or practices that are (often) exclusively associated with sense.

    For example, a proper name is a 'rigid designator' which means that the object it identifies is ostensibly unique, and accounting for the manner in which one identifies such an object inevitably draws one outside the "discursive context."Leontiskos

    I don't read Fine to be talking about reference in the article, relationships between the sense/reference distinction and essence/definition relation look "downstream" from the issues in the article.

    The meaning of a proper name is incomplete without some account of the way that proper names are used to reference real objects.Leontiskos

    I agree with that, even though it's outside the scope of the thread. I believe that any speech act which refers does so on the basis of a history of use outside its immediate context, and how the referent is individuated+interpreted is informed by that history and the referent's nature. So I believe that the association of names (like "Socrates") with referents (Socrates) is done through an interpretation+individuation of the referent, and that the discursive contexts which refer to that referent must keep associating a "sufficiently like" (weasel words) interpretation+individuation of the referent to fix+continue that particular sense/referent/reference relation.

    Though there's a rub. Like if you and your friend are having a disagreement about whether the blegbleg really is a shmooblydoo or a bigglewiggle, another friend observing the disagreement can successfully refer to the blegbleg by aping their reference, even without their own understanding of the blegbleg's sense, conditions of individuation, or its real nature.

    How does that rub relate to the thread? Who knows, it just seems to.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.4k
    @Leontiskos et al,

    When we use "essence" do we mean the defining feature of the referent, or the defining feature of meaning of the word referring to the referent? I think there is a difference. One is metaphysical, the other is logic/linguistic. That is to say, for example, in Harman, the "essence" of an object is always "withdrawn" or "hidden" such that it cannot be interacted with. Therefore, it cannot be defined, but its influence is felt through its causative interactions with other objects, so we know there is an echo of "something" within the object that "Makes it that object". But you see, this kind of inquiry becomes about the object in question "itself" (the referent), and not about how we necessarily refer to this object. One requires a metaphysical inquiry, the other an epistemological one based on linguistic use.
  • Leontiskos
    2k


    Good posts. I think that by "essence" is meant the defining feature of the referent. I think those who prefer Wittgenstein would take the latter approach that you outline.

    I myself am not convinced that linguistic use can be so heavily separated from metaphysics. After all, much of our language is referring to things in themselves. I recently listened to Gregory Sadler's video on Wittgenstein. One of the things that came across was the idea that Wittgenstein was a sort of towing truck for English-speaking philosophy, helpful for getting it out of the ditch but not a very reliable vehicle in himself. That seems like a reasonable assessment.

    - The description of Harman is interesting, and I think there is a lot of overlap with Aristotle. I will have to look into him.

    That is to say, for example, in Harman, the "essence" of an object is always "withdrawn" or "hidden" such that it cannot be interacted with.schopenhauer1

    I don't think Aristotle or Aquinas would speak in such a strong way, but the idea is definitely present in their work. Understanding and defining essences is tricky business, always in need of revision and open to further precision or correction.

    A basic question here is: What provides the surest starting point? Harman's objects? Aristotle's substances? Wittgenstein's linguistics?

    I think object/substance is the prima facie answer, but if someone like Wittgenstein sees Hume blocking that path they will seek a different route. Of course there is no reason we can't have both. Thinkers like C. S. Peirce or John Deely are two examples of men who had both, in spades.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    I guess that goes back to the sense/reference discussion you were having with Banno earlier. Specifically whether/how reference leverages concepts or practices that are (often) exclusively associated with sense.fdrake

    Yes, it does go back to that. Perhaps I should have resisted Banno’s desire to move that topic into this thread, for it is a rather different topic than the one Fine is concerned with. On the other hand, your post was comparing Fine’s Aristotelian essentialism to Banno’s linguistic approach, which is also different than the topic of this thread. I suppose that is what I was responding to.

    I agree with that, even though it's outside the scope of the thread. I believe that any speech act which refers does so on the basis of a history of use outside its immediate context, and how the referent is individuated+interpreted is informed by that history and the referent's nature. So I believe that the association of names (like "Socrates") with referents (Socrates) is done through an interpretation+individuation of the referent, and that the discursive contexts which refer to that referent must keep associating a "sufficiently like" (weasel words) interpretation+individuation of the referent to fix+continue that particular sense/referent/reference relation.fdrake

    That seems reasonable, but of course the devil’s in the details.

    Though there's a rub. Like if you and your friend are having a disagreement about whether the blegbleg really is a shmooblydoo or a bigglewiggle, another friend observing the disagreement can successfully refer to the blegbleg by aping their reference, even without their own understanding of the blegbleg's sense, conditions of individuation, or its real nature.fdrake

    I would have thought “...and the referent’s nature” was meant to circumvent such a rub. But that rub does bother me when it comes to the Wittgensteinian meaning-as-usage idea. On a related note, meaning-as-usage seems to dovetail with the burgeoning ChatGPT movement, fueling the erroneous notion that because AI is able to mimic usage therefore it is using language in the same way that humans do.

    How does that rub relate to the thread? Who knows, it just seems to.fdrake

    Be at peace. It is said that moderators are not held to a higher standard. :wink:

    But if we really wanted we could draw it back to the thread by opining that when the modalist assesses the nature of language, his necessary properties miss the mark of a true definition and thus erroneously admit the ChatGPT AI into the group of language users. In a way, usage is a necessary property of meaning, and always attends and reflects meaning, and yet to define meaning in terms of usage is a misunderstanding of the essence of meaning (along with the sources and plasticity of languages). The blegbleg example shows why the meaning-as-usage account misses the mark.

    Great posts, by the way. Is there a thread where I can ask about your philosophical background?
  • schopenhauer1
    10.4k
    A basic question here is: What provides the surest starting point? Harman's objects? Aristotle's substances? Wittgenstein's linguistics?Leontiskos

    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? As I do think it more than indirectly deals with essences, by way of defining objects and their ontology.



    What I think is interesting here is that Harman treats all objects the same, or what he calls "flat-ontology". That is to say, supposedly "physical objects" and "abstract objects" big and small can be treated as their own entity. The Dutch East India Company and a quark are not in any hierarchy, and humans have no privilege as to "for-the-observer".

    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. There is some midground where you get the object.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    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

    If you start a discussion I will watch the video and contribute a bit, but my time is running short at the moment so I can't commit to too much.

    I have been pondering Michael Sugrue's claim that Anglo-American philosophy starts from the external world and can never manage to bridge the gap to the mind, whereas continental philosophy starts from the subject/mind and can never manage to bridge the gap to the external world. He makes it, for instance, in this video on Husserl at 44:59. It seems like this discussion is somewhat related.
  • fdrake
    6.1k
    That seems reasonable, but of course the devil’s in the details.Leontiskos

    Aye. I was too ambiguous to pin down my own position, and don't even know it - going down to brass tacks.

    On the other hand, your post was comparing Fine’s Aristotelian essentialism to Banno’s linguistic approach, which is also different than the topic of this thread. I suppose that is what I was responding to.Leontiskos

    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.

    I would have thought “...and the referent’s nature” was meant to circumvent such a rub.Leontiskos

    Perhaps does. It seems like I can refer to my friend's blegbleg successfully even though I have no interpretation of its nature, and I could not tell a blegbleg from a non-blegbleg, based on a property or otherwise. I suppose whether that should go into a theory of reference is itself up for debate. Maybe because reference can work without the speech act "invoking" the referent's nature, a theory of reference might not need to talk about a referent's nature at all. But a theory of reference "fixing" might need to talk about that. I'm not convinced they can be pulled apart in that manner, and that might be a question of what you expect a theory of reference to explain in the first place... So many forking paths.

    Great posts, by the way. Is there a thread where I can ask about your philosophical background?Leontiskos

    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.

    Also studied philosophy a bit as a student. Yours?
  • schopenhauer1
    10.4k
    I have been pondering Michael Sugrue's claim that Anglo-American philosophy starts from the external world and can never manage to bridge the gap to the mind, whereas continental philosophy starts from the subject/mind and can never manage to bridge the gap to the external world. He makes it, for instance, in this video on Husserl at 44:59. It seems like this discussion is somewhat related.Leontiskos

    Indeed, a lot of philosophy can revolve around this issue. 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. It's easy to try to psychologize Schopenhauer and his philosophy, but if one reflects internally, one sees the logic of much of Schop's project in WWR.

    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. It would appear that idealists like Kant have priority of the representation before anything else can be posited of the world. Realists are willing to speculate about the world, not caring how representation formulates the empirical evidence, per se. That is to say, most forms of "realism" seem to essentially follow the lines of the scientific method for picturing the reality. However, this quickly becomes problematic when we factor in the fact that there is already an observer in the equation. It becomes quickly a "naive realism". For most layfolk, this is not a problem. They go back to watching their sports, going to their jobs, eating their food, etc. However, for philosophy-minded people, this should give great concern. So, the next move is to figure out some way that it "exists" in some way. Of course, the great debate in the middle of this is the Hard Question of Consciousness. However, excluding that major issue (which really is at the center of it, once all is said and done), you have small contingents like the so-called Speculative Realists (like Harman), who try to speculate about a reality beyond human conceptions of it. 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.

    It is a de-emphasis of both phenomenological approaches (like Husserl let's say), who only focus on what can be "known" via human cognition, AND linguistic approaches (like Wittgenstein), whereby one can only focus on what can be "said" via human language. Is this misdirected? Well those two schools of thought might say it is because they say that you can never get beyond the human. Thus metaphysics proper is almost impossible for them it would seem.
  • L'éléphant
    1.5k
    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
    This is an incorrect formulation of the ontology-epistemology question, which I've seen quite often. With the "How is it that the world exists" you really mean to ask "how is it that we know that there's anything that exists. Very different questions.

    Your question, as you posted it here, is about the "why" does the world exist. Epistemology deals with our knowledge of existence. Which one are you asking?
  • schopenhauer1
    10.4k
    This is an incorrect formulation of the ontology-epistemology question, which I've seen quite often. With the "How is it that the world exists" you really mean to ask "how is it that we know that there's anything that exists. Very different questions.

    Your question, as you posted it here, is about the "why" does the world exist. Epistemology deals with our knowledge of existence. Which one are you asking?
    L'éléphant

    I'm not sure how you are getting a "why" from the quote. I think we are saying the same thing? I can't really see where your critique is coming from, and if it's just a misinterpretation. As I stated the problem:

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

    So is there a problem with the word "how" or "without an observer" or "that the world exists without". In other words, where is the "incorrect formulation" stemming from, and why do you think it implies a "why"?
  • L'éléphant
    1.5k
    In other words, where is the "incorrect formulation" stemming from, and why do you think it implies a "why"?schopenhauer1
    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?"
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