• Janus
    15.7k
    How does commonality between humans work because of their shared DNA?

    For the same reason that there is more commonality between humans who share 99.9% of their DNA than commonality between humans and chickens who only share 60% of their DNA
    RussellA

    Right, but I was talking about commonality of particular perceptions, for example seeing the same things in the same places and being able to agree about all the details of those things. I don't see how DNA would explain that, rather it might explain why we see things in the same kinds of ways.

    As I said the behavior of animals shows us that they see the same things in the environment as we do, but they probably don't see those things in just the same kinds of ways we do due to their different perceptual setups.
  • J
    224
    Sider is indeed arguing for a privileged ontological structure, and so is Nagel, and so am I. What isn’t privileged is the terms associated with that structure -- not even seemingly rock-bottom terms like "exist". Maybe it helps to try to imagine a whole new vocabulary that we could use to describe said structure. Some areas get called “Gorp”, others “Vulp”, others “Cheeb”. These areas are, let’s say, definable in terms of their structural relations to each other – terms that would include “fundamentality” and “necessitation” – and are discoverable, and people can be right or wrong about which is which. So we lay out our map. Now the question is, “Which of those areas match with the terms ‛exist’, ‛real’, and ‛object’?” (There might be many more key structural elements; choosing three is just for purposes of example.) This is where the seemingly endless debate begins. But I think we need to get clear that a debate about terms is not a debate about structure, and it doesn’t follow that doubting privileged terms is the same as doubting privileged structure.

    Of course this can feel counter-intuitive because we really want to believe that, once we lay out the “map,” it will obvious which of our ordinary terms must correspond to Gorp, Vulp, and Cheeb. Surely it will be obvious which of them “exists”? Maybe Gorp is the most fundamental bit, so that’s the one that “exists”? Or maybe we ought to call the most fundamental bit “real” -- is that a better match with our concepts? But there’s just nothing we can point at (within philosophy, anyway) to settle it and say, “Obviously, this area is what exists” or "Since Vulp depends on Cheeb, Vulp must be our 'object'." As I said before, in a phrase I quite like :wink: , “To argue for a common-sense meaning (or any other) for 'exist' is done in a natural language, not Logicalese.” And that argument can go on, in terms of pragmatics, even as we work to figure out the metaphysical structure we believe is most accurate.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    The joke was quite intentional.

    :kiss:
  • Banno
    23.5k
    Maybe the proponent would take each person, sit them in the same room, and ask them to evaluate the sentence < Ǝx(R(x) ^ A(x)) > (“There exists an x such that x is in the room and x is an apple”). In the corner of the room is a painting by Cézanne, and within the painting is depicted a paradigmatic red apple. One person says that the sentence is true and the second person says that it is false. Upon inspection we realize that the disagreement is not over whether the painting depicts an apple, but is instead over whether the quantifier captures it as an apple. Specifically, it is over whether an imaged thing exists through the image. This is an extensional evidence for quantifier equivocation, different from fdrake's intensional evidence. The paper itself admits this possibility. It begins an argument:Leontiskos

    Nice example. The issue is whether ƎxA(x), whether there is something that is an apple in the domain. The existential quantifier plays out as a disjunct of the domain. List all the items in the domain, and if any one of them is an apple, then the existential quantifier will be true.

    The two folk in your example agree with this definition of quantification.

    If the painting is an apple it will be true, if not, it will be false. That is a difference in the domain, not in the definition of the quantification. One domain includes a painting, the other an apple.

    The two folk disagree as to the domain.

    This is not an example of quantifier variance. It is a disagreement as to the domain.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    The next step in the argument is to supose that a difference in domain just is a difference in the definition of the quantifier, that since Ǝxf(x)=df (fa v fb v fc...)* any change in the domain is a change in the quantifier. That's addresses in section two of the article.

    In the example of the paining of an apple, it amounts to our attempting to resolve the issue by combining the two domains of the two folk in the room. Do we list the item in the corner as an apple or as a paining? But notice that this is not a decision about quantification, but a decision about what is included in the domain.

    Of course, if we allow for a maximal domain, a domain containing everything, then there can be no such variance:
    It is unclear that there is a coherent way of formulating any such quantification and the resulting maximal domain. If the maximal domain is a set, then unrestricted quantification would require quantifying over everything, and there would have to be a set of everything, including, in particular, a set of all sets, among other inconsistent totalities, since all of these things are in the scope of an unrestricted quantifier: everything is in its scope, after all! But that is clearly inconsistent. — p.294

    And we come back to the main objection: the lack of a coherent explanation of what "quantifier variance" might be.

    *That is, "something is f" means by definition that individual a is f or individual b is f or... for all the individuals in the domain.
  • RussellA
    1.6k
    I don't see how DNA would explain that, rather it might explain why we see things in the same kinds of ways.Janus

    Humans have a general commonality, in that all the self-reproducing cellular organisms on the Earth so far examined have DNA as the genome (https: //onlinelibrary.wiley.com).

    I agree that even though humans share a commonalty because of their shared DNA, in that both the Nominalists and Platonists accept that numbers exist, they may differ in their particular beliefs. The Nominalist's belief that numbers are invented and exist in the mind, and the Platonist's belief that numbers are discovered and exist in the world.

    It is true that two identical objects may behave very differently when subject to different environments, whether a pebble moving down a slope or a pebble stationary on flat ground, whether a human living in Reykjavík or a human living in Pretoria. It is therefore hardly surprising that humans, even though they share a general commonality, may differ significantly in their particular beliefs and actions. It may well be that someone who is now a Nominalist who had had the life experiences of someone who is now a Platonist may well have turned out to be a Platonist and vice versa. As regards general commonality between humans, perhaps nature outweighs nurture, and as regards particular actions and beliefs, perhaps nurture outweighs nature.

    As regards Quantifier-Variance, as Hale and Wright wrote: "[it may be] a matter of their protagonists choosing to use their quantifiers (and other associated vocabulary, such as ‛object’) to mean different things – so that in a sense they simply go past each other".

    Particular differences are especially noticeable. The Nominalist may say that numbers exist in the mind and the Platonist may say that numbers exist in the world. But perhaps QV is pointing out a hidden commonality in seemingly different beliefs, in that an individuals actions and beliefs are determined as much by their lived life experiences as by innate characteristics, as much as by nurture as nature

    An individual's actions and beliefs should not be considered in isolation at one particular moment in time, but should be thought of as part of a process stretching back many years. If someone does say "‛there exists something which is a compound of this pencil and your left ear’ and someone else says ‛there is nothing which is composed of that pencil and my left ear’, perhaps QV is making the point that these statements should not be considered in isolation as necessarily contradictory, but rather should be considered as a glimpse of an ever-changing process stretching back in time, embodied not just in one or two individuals but in the multi-various life experiences of whole communities.

    IE, perhaps QV is saying that individual statements, such as "numbers only exist in the mind", should not be judged as true or false in isolation from the wider community out of which it has emerged, in that particular words only have meaning within a wider context.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2k


    If you want to say "nouns are a human invention," that seems like fair game. But there has to be some sort of explanation of their usefulness and development across disparate, isolated societies.

    Will we say that the world consists of objects, and we just give them names? Or will we say that the names are arbitrary, we just invent them?

    These are good questions. I would say they lie at the center of modern philosophy with its focus on the "escape from subjectivism," or contemporary philosophy with its focus on "the escape from the box of language," (or similarly to the widespread attempt to redefine everything as "pseudo problems only arising from the misuse of language.") And they lie at the center of the ancient problem of the One and the Many, which often just returns in alternate garb throughout the history of philosophy.

    I'm totally willing to accept that a dilemma between the two options is "false," that the two are not mutually exclusive. But just stating the trivial fact that "numbers are something humans use," or "words are things we say," as if this pivot to activity makes the explanation an unanalyzable primitive strikes me as essentially a non-explanation. Swimming is something people do, and it's useful, etc. I don't think an explanation of it that leaves out water and solely focuses on the fact that it's an "activity" that "works" amounts to much.

    You can just as easily turn all of truth into another pseudo problem, something that is merely defined by a game that "works"—something that both defies and needs no metaphysical explanation. But when we reach a point where Goodness, Truth, our words, and now even our own conciousness itself have all been "eliminated" or "deflated," so as to avoid pseudo problems, things start to look a lot like Protagoras (or at least Plato's caricature of him). If it's games and feelings of usefulness all the way down, no one can ever be wrong about anything
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    Maybe it helps to try to imagine a whole new vocabulary that we could use to describe said structure. Some areas get called “Gorp”, others “Vulp”, others “Cheeb”. These areas are, let’s say, definable in terms of their structural relations to each other – terms that would include “fundamentality” and “necessitation” – and are discoverable, and people can be right or wrong about which is which. So we lay out our map. Now the question is, “Which of those areas match with the terms ‛exist’, ‛real’, and ‛object’?” (There might be many more key structural elements; choosing three is just for purposes of example.) This is where the seemingly endless debate begins. But I think we need to get clear that a debate about terms is not a debate about structure, and it doesn’t follow that doubting privileged terms is the same as doubting privileged structure.J

    If we are thinking about the intractable "metametaphysical" disputes that you seem to have in mind, then suppose someone calls an area a Gorp and another disagrees and calls it a Vulp. If second-order equivocation is occurring (a terminological or conceptual difference) then there may be only an artificial disagreement, not a substantial disagreement. But if second-order equivocation is not occurring then there would seem to be a substantial disagreement. When one person says, "This is a Gorp," and another says, "No, it is a Vulp," they are disagreeing on what exists in that area. If we are to exclude ontological pluralism, then the dispute is over what actually exists.

    What isn’t privileged is the terms associated with that structure -- not even seemingly rock-bottom terms like "exist".J

    Concepts are important, not terms, and I would say that the concept of existence is "privileged." If one person says, "A Gorp exists in this area," and another person says, "No, a Gorp does not exist in that area," then in order for the disagreement to be substantial the concept of existence must be common between the two speakers. Furthermore, in order for ontological structure to exist, there must be a true and normative understanding of existence. To say that no one concept of existence is any truer than any other is to fall into pluralism, and to close oneself off from the possibility of a true ontological structure.

    What follows is something I wrote after thinking about your claim about the mereological composite alongside the other things I know about your background.

    ---

    I am wondering if you are laboring under the now common assumption that reason is nothing more than discursive reason. In writing my thread on the breadth of the moral sphere I was attempting to rectify a common and radical moral error that lies at the root of so much moral confusion. If I were to do the same thing in attempting to rectify a common and radical error about the nature of the human intellect, I would write a thread about the idea that not all truth is known discursively. In fact when I first came to TPF I chipped at this problem here and there.*

    To take an example, consider the proposition that 2+2=4. If someone does not understand this proposition or disagrees with it it is fairly easy to explain it, precisely because there is a discursive process by which we come to know this truth. We can break it down into (1+1)+(1+1)=4, and if more is required we can show that 1+1=2, 2+1=3, and 3+1=4. All of these steps are discursively accessible. But the simplest steps are not discursive, such as understanding the nature of unity (“1”), or understanding the nature of succession or combination. If someone does not understand these things then the base, 1+1=2, will not be accessible; and if these simple, atomic pieces of knowledge are not known (what Aristotle calls first principles) then there is no base for the discursive knowledge to build on, and 2+2=4 will be inaccessible.

    Someone who thinks that all truth is known discursively will believe that discursive-syllogistic explanation is always possible, and that where such explanation fails knowledge does not exist. So they will think that if discursive-syllogistic adjudication fails in the case of claims about the existence of mereological composites, then knowledge of such a thing is not possible (i.e. it is not truth-apt). Or that if the basis of arithmetic, such as the existence of unity and succession, is not amenable to discursive-syllogistic demonstration, then arithmetic truths such as 2+2=4 will not be knowable (prescinding for the moment from the ontology of number).

    More succinctly, the modern reduction of the intellect to ratiocination or discursive reason is reflected by the idea, “If you cannot explain how you know something, then you cannot know it.” I believe this is largely a result of the democratization and pragmatization of reason, where questions of consensus and therefore adjudication become supreme. But it is also a result of the Baconian manipulation of nature and the ascendency of science and logic (note that discursive-syllogistic reason is just logic). Habermas' understanding of reason as pragmatic also seems to be at play. The obvious problem with this, as Aristotle notes, is that logical demonstration is not self-supporting. Logical demonstration presupposes simple or primitive truths in order to get off the ground.* What this means is that someone who says they know something that cannot be explained is not necessarily a charlatan when that “something” is a first principle or a simple truth.** To claim otherwise would be to cut off the branch on which knowledge and logic rest.

    So when you say that the dispute about the mereological composite must come down to conceptual or terminological equivocation, it is possible that you are drawing this false dilemma because you think that explanation must reign all the way down, like turtles. This is inextricably bound up with reducing human reason to discursive reason or logic, even though your motivation comes from what I would call the democratic turn. As I have learned in trying to explain this in the past, it is often very difficult for someone subsumed in modernity to grasp the fact that ratiocination presupposes intellection (that discursive reason presupposes non-discursive acts of the intellect). Even once it is grasped, working out the implications is a gradual process.

    (One way to see this is to observe the way that modern logicians wish to make stipulation and axiom the king of the hill. Doing such a thing is like donning a blindfold to avoid looking at the glaring problem of how ratiocination (logic) could ever function or have any traction on the real world in the absence of intellection.)

    * Some of my posts related to the topic: one, two, three.

    ** Strictly speaking it is not the truth which is simple but the means by which it is known (intellection). Truths are always simple, even though English philosophy is more quantitatively concerned with sound propositions than mere truths.
  • Janus
    15.7k
    If it's games and feelings of usefulness all the way down, no one can ever be wrong about anythingCount Timothy von Icarus
    You can be shown to be wrong about logical, mathematical and empirical claims. How could you go about showing that someone is wrong regarding a metaphysical, religious or aesthetic claim?

    Sorry, Russell, I'm not seeing the relevance to the point we were labouring over.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    But just stating the trivial fact that "numbers are something humans use," or "words are things we say," as if this pivot to activity makes the explanation an unanalyzable primitive strikes me as essentially a non-explanation.Count Timothy von Icarus
    There is a bit more going on.

    Our issue was, what sort of things are numbers? And one answer is that they are real, like trees, sticks and rocks, but that they are in a special world that makes them unavailable for examination in the way that trees and sticks are available. Roughly, Plato's world of forms.

    The alternative on offer is that numbers are a way of treating the things around us. Choosing three sticks is an act directed at the sticks, whether done by a human or by a crow.

    Humans have a capacity to extend this process using words. A crow might be able to decide to collect three sticks, but is not able to decide to collect three sticks next Tuesday.

    The human world is suffused with creations of our language. This piece of land counts as your property. This piece of paper counts as five dollars. Your making certain utterances counts as giving an order or asking a question. Property, money, orders and questions are parts of our world, yet we do not expect to bump in to them in the way we might with sticks, trees and rocks.

    This counts as three sticks. That counts as four sticks. Together they count as seven sticks.

    And we build on this. "7" counts as seven, and with a few extras we can write "3+4=7". These count as numbers. A shape with three sides counts as a triangle. And so on, the whole edifice of Maths being built on working out how we can treat these things in a consistent way.

    And all without needing Plato's magical realm. Just as our shared intent towards the piece of land makes it count as property, and our shared use of the piece of paper makes it five dollars, our shared use of "seven" makes that seven sticks, seven dollars, or seven triangles.

    There are no dollars or property without our using paper and land in a certain way. There are no numbers without our using the things around us in a certain way. It's not just that numbers are things we use, but that our using them is what they consist in. Same for words.
  • J
    224
    But just stating the trivial fact that "numbers are something humans use," or "words are things we say," as if this pivot to activity makes the explanation an unanalyzable primitive strikes me as essentially a non-explanation.Count Timothy von Icarus

    I understand what you're getting at, but it's a bit of a strawman, isn't it? "Unanalyzable primitive" doesn't seem to capture what philosophers mean when they talk about numbers and words as instances of human activity, though I suppose a deeply pragmatic view might support that. On this thread, and pretty generally, I think, we're merely trying to make some ontological sense out of numbers and quantifiers. If numbers aren't "out there," Platonically, if they represent a human construction based in the activity of doing mathematics, they can still be as real as you'd like them to be. We mustn't fall into the trap of believing that nothing could be real, or be said to exist, that isn't "out there" with or without humans. And yes, I fully agree that there are versions of scientism that encourage such a belief.

    The kind of explanation you want, if I'm understanding you, is one that would show us one of two things: either why numbers are so marvelously suitable to our human inquiries, or why they correspond to features of the world that aren't arbitrary, and hence are part of saying true things about that world. Ideally, an explanation of their correspondence to reality would also explain their usefulness.
  • Wayfarer
    21k
    Our issue was, what sort of things are numbers? And one answer is that they are real, like trees, sticks and rocks, but that they are in a special world that makes them unavailable for examination in the way that trees and sticks are available. Roughly, Plato's world of forms.Banno

    There is implicit reification in this statement (and please forgive me for flogging what is probably a dead horse.) This is based around the instinctive conviction that only objects are real, or that the scope of what constitutes real things is entirely exhausted by what exists as objects or collections of objects. This is what leads to the erroneous idea of 'ethereal realms' or 'Platonic worlds'. Is 'the set of natural numbers' a real realm in an objective sense? Not at all - but there is nevertheless 'the domain of natural numbers', which are discerned by reason, as distinct from sense.

    The following excerpt pertains to Plato's forms, generally, although it's not difficult to extrapolate it to the understanding of number also.

    Forms...are radically distinct, and in that sense ‘apart,’ in that they are not themselves sensible things. With our eyes we can see large things, but not largeness itself; healthy things, but not health itself. The latter, in each case, is an idea, an intelligible content, something to be apprehended by thought rather than sense, a ‘look’ not for the eyes but for the mind. This is precisely the point Plato is making when he characterizes forms as the reality of all things. “Have you ever seen any of these with your eyes?—In no way … Or by any other sense, through the body, have you grasped them? I am speaking about all things such as largeness, health, strength, and, in one word, the reality [οὐσίας] of all other things, what each thing is” (Phd. 65d4–e1). Is there such a thing as health? Of course there is. Can you see it? Of course not. This does not mean that the forms are occult entities floating ‘somewhere else’ in ‘another world,’ a ‘Platonic heaven.’ It simply says that the intelligible identities which are the reality, the whatness, of things are not themselves physical things to be perceived by the senses, but must be grasped by thought. If, taking any of these examples—say, justice, health, or strength—we ask, “How big is it? What color is it? How much does it weigh?” we are obviously asking the wrong kind of question. Forms are ideas, not in the sense of concepts or abstractions, but in that they are realities apprehended by thought rather than by sense. They are thus ‘separate’ in that they are not additional members of the world of sensible things, but are known by a different mode of awareness. But this does not mean that they are ‘located elsewhere,’ or that they are not, as Plato says, the very intelligible contents, the truth and reality of sensible things. — Thinking Being - An Introduction to Metaphysics in the Classical Tradition, Eric D. Perl, p28

    And we build on this. "7" counts as seven, and with a few extras we can write "3+4=7". These count as numbers.Banno

    The attempt to reduce mathematics to 'speech acts' is inadequate to account for the 'unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences' (Eugene Wigner). It is the predictive power of mathematics and the synthetic a priori, which has given rise to many of the astonishing discoveries of mathematical physics in the last several centuries. That is exemplified by Dirac’s equations, which predicted the existence of antimatter based purely on the mathematical necessity of solutions to these equations. These solutions (positrons) were not derived from empirical data or observation but from the mathematical theory of quantum mechanics. This aligns with the notion of the synthetic a priori because it extends our knowledge in a substantive way, yet was not derived from empirical observation.

    So the idea that mathematical reasoning can be reduced to speech acts—verbal or written statements within particular contexts—is inadequate to capture instances like Dirac's prediction (and countless other examples from mathematical physics.) Speech acts emphasize the role of language and context in constructing meaning, but Dirac's work suggests that mathematical constructs can correspond to real physical entities, indicating a deeper, non-linguistic form of truth and reasoning. His prediction was based on the internal consistency and logical implications of quantum theory, not merely on the performative use of language.

    The successful experimental verification of antimatter substantially supports the idea that mathematical descriptions can unveil aspects of physical reality that are yet unseen. This challenges purely empirical or nominalist views of science and supports a more Platonist or realist view, where abstract mathematical forms have a real, albeit non-empirical, connection to the structure of the world.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    The attempt to reduce mathematics to 'speech acts' is inadequate to account for the 'unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences'Wayfarer

    You don't need to go all quantum to say "mathematical constructs can correspond to real physical entities". The three sticks will do exactly that. And it's not magic that seven sticks take away four sticks is three sticks. Dirac's derivation is no more than that. You talk as if his calculations brought antiparticles into existence. They didn't. They allowed for a conversation about antiparticles, inspiring folk to take a look for them. It's no more mysterious than looking for the three remaining sticks.
  • Wayfarer
    21k
    Dirac's derivation is no more than that.Banno

    Perhaps you can use a couple of sticks to learn to make a fire. It might be more in line with your proclivities.
  • Banno
    23.5k


    Cheers, Wayf. Keep trying to say more than can be said.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2k


    Right, exactly my point. If some society somehow stipulated that 8/2 = 5, we tend to feel we could give them a good demonstration of why this is not the correct way to do division. But if everything is just games and rules then it seems that you certainly can show that aesthetic, metaphysical, or religious claims are "wrong" in the same way that computations can be wrong. Error, in both cases, would consist solely in the fact that stipulated rules are violated. Trials for heresy would then be essentially the same sort of thing as disagreements about how to compute a harmonic mean, which doesn't seem to be the case to me.



    I understand what you're getting at, but it's a bit of a strawman, isn't it? "Unanalyzable primitive" doesn't seem to capture what philosophers mean when they talk about numbers and words as instances of human activity, though I suppose a deeply pragmatic view might support that.

    Right, and I don't mean for my criticism to apply to any theory that posits that activity or practice might be fundemental for defining mathematics or language. I am responding specifically to the assertion that there is no need to explain "causes" or "reasons" for why mathematics or language has the form it does. At the very least, the fact that subjective experience includes numerically distinct entities that can be categorized together (e.g., "I see many things and they are all rocks) has to come into the explanation. But then this element of perception does not seem bound up in stipulated practices, but is rather part of human nature; there are not any cultures where people fail to recognize numerically distinct entities.

    An example from language might make my objection more clear. The London Underground (arguably) has its own species of mosquito. It is descended from a wild mosquito, but it no longer behaves like that mosquito and will not mate with it in the wild—hence it being put forth as its own species. I find it implausible that one can explain the coining of the term "London Underground mosquito," without reference to the facts about what has occured in nature (i.e., there is a cause external to practices). Likewise, as I think Banno would acknowledge, carcinisation "points to," or "calls forth the intelligibility" of a process observed in nature. But an explanation of how the term develops then needs to include the existence of that phenomena as far as I'm concerned. Causes certainly seem to come into it.

    But then the question of numbers just seems like a more opaque version of the same sort of question. If the development of the term carcinisation needs to be explained in terms of the real existence of a process by which many disparate lineages developed crablike traits, it seems at least plausible that the development of numbers works similarly. Indeed, we have a number of good explanations like this; we can explain why humans delineate colors the way they do in terms of the photoreceptors in the human eye. If in the case of numbers it doesn't work similarly, i.e. numbers don't exist in nature in the way carcinisation, metamorphosis, evolution, etc. exist, then there should be a compelling alternative explanation of them.

    That the meanings of words is fixed by use is a good insight, but it's not a whole explanation of language. Use itself doesn't float free of the rest of the world.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    If some society somehow stipulated that 8/2 = 5, we tend to feel we could give them a good demonstration of why this is not the correct way to do division.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Wouldn't you conclude that one of the terms had been mistranslated? Perhaps "8" was their symbol for 10, or "5" their symbol for 4.

    That is, we might apply the Principle of Charity and assume that what they said was correct, interpreting their utterances accordingly.

    That such things are stipulated does not mean that they are arbitrary.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2k


    But if it isn't arbitrary and arithmetic must be the same for all peoples, what explains this? Plenty of other practices do vary widely across cultures.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    what explains this?Count Timothy von Icarus
    Pretending 8/2 = 5 won't get you very far. You will not be able to divide the berries between two people fairly. It will be functionally inadequate. It won't work.

    Edit:
    To put it otherwise, and bring my last two posts together, thinking you can start with eight berries and from that give five to each of two different folk is to misunderstand how "eight", "five" and "two" are used.

    It's not to misunderstand eternal universal facts about platonic forms.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2k


    You will not be able to divide the berries between two people fairly. It will be functionally inadequate. It won't work.

    Right, because there are eight berries that exist. But if eight "just is" the act of counting, then there are only 8 berries when one counts them as such. Why would they be counted as such? How is this explained without reference to the 8 berries existing prior to counting? What I am objecting to is an explanation that seems to say that prior to an act of counting there is nothing that affects how counting is done.

    If you want to say, "people divide 8 berries into 4 and 4 evenly because there exists 8 berries in the world and dividing 8 by 2 gives you 4," that seems fine to me, but then it isn't the case that numbers just are actions, they also determine actions. And if you don't want to go as far as saying "numerically discrete entities exist prior to counting," it still certainly seems like they must be perceivable prior to counting (and then is must be explained why they are perceived).

    To put it otherwise, and bring my last two posts together, thinking you can start with eight berries and from that give five to each of two different folk is to misunderstand how "eight", "five" and "two" are used.

    And this use came into existence because...?
  • Srap Tasmaner
    4.7k
    @Banno

    the Principle of Charity and assume that what they said was correctBanno

    As it happens, this is what the thread should be about.

    the lack of a coherent explanation of what "quantifier variance" might beBanno

    It's a side effect of a particular version of charity:

    A charity-based metasemantics assigns L the interpretation that, when all is said-and-done, when every disposition to correct and revise is accounted for, makes the best sense of the linguistic behavior of L-speakers by making their considered utterances come out true in actual and possible circumstances, ceteris paribus.Hirsch & Warren

    Modest variance says that there are many distinct quantifier languages — quantifier languages where translating one language’s quantifier into the other’s results in massive failures of charity. This follows almost immediately from top down charity and our account of quantifiers.Ibid

    It's not far from here to ontological pluralism or what have you.

    @Leontiskos

    I almost posted about this the other day, but decided I didn't care enough. This charity metasemantics they've cooked up, I mean, it's the sort of crap mainstream (analytic) philosophy has been getting up to for a long time. It's depressing.

    I think it's a holdover from an earlier and more exciting time when philosophers thought there were maybe a few levels of logic and categorization between our minds and the rest of the world. If you were clever enough, you might work out a reasonable toy model of how we assemble patches of color into objects, or parse the intentions of someone speaking to us. Alas, it's not a few layers, but hundreds, thousands, millions. How living organisms manage to be sensitive and responsive to their environment and their own state is orders of magnitude more complex than the stuff philosophers come up with.

    All of which is why I agree halfway with this:

    the now common assumption that reason is nothing more than discursive reasonLeontiskos

    Someone who thinks that all truth is known discursively will believe that discursive-syllogistic explanation is always possible, and that where such explanation fails knowledge does not exist.Leontiskos

    The obvious problem with this, as Aristotle notes, is that logical demonstration is not self-supporting. Logical demonstration presupposes simple or primitive truths in order to get off the ground.Leontiskos

    ratiocination presupposes intellection (that discursive reason presupposes non-discursive acts of the intellect)Leontiskos

    But it's toward the end there that I disagree. Yes ratiocination rests on something that isn't that, but I wouldn't call what it rests on intellection, which seems to suggest something like the grasping of self-evident truth, or something.

    Instead, as you know, I'm with Hume, and I think modern science is bearing him out. Down below whatever reasoning we do is habit and custom and our natural inheritance. When I described the brain as computational before, I may not have placed enough emphasis on the fact that it's all probabilities. The brain is not a deterministic, clockwork machine, but a probabilistic one, and again Hume intuited this -- all our reasoning concerning matters of fact is merely probable. He was horrified enough to discover that reason rested upon something not describable as reason, but I think nowadays we have to go even further: Ramsey was headed this way, linking logic with probability, and suggesting that inference rules were essentially habitual.

    So yes, I'm inclined to agree that there is a sort of fatal flaw in much modern philosophy -- the pointless and unrealistic model building like we see here -- and that it can diagnosed as a failure to understand what the foundation of reasoning really is, but I see that foundation quite differently.

    What's more, I'm inclined to think that this

    I believe this is largely a result of the democratization and pragmatization of reason, where questions of consensus and therefore adjudication become supreme.Leontiskos

    describes much of the nature and use of reason as we understand it. (See Mercier & Sperber, The Enigma of Reason for a related view, and the beginnings of research to support it.)
  • Banno
    23.5k
    What I am objecting to is an explanation that seems to say that prior to an act of counting there is nothing that affects how counting is done.Count Timothy von Icarus

    The berries are there, counted or no. Those berries can be divided evenly. Dividing berries evenly is something we do to the berries. The direction of fit is that we change the world from a bunch of berries to two bunches of berries.

    Why would they be counted as such? Because that's the way "eight" is used. How is this explained without reference to the 8 berries existing prior to counting? There are presumably eight berries before they are counted.

    And yes, it isn't the case that numbers just are actions, they also determine actions. You can't divide seven berries evenly without making a mess. Language games are not just words, they are things we do in the world with words.

    And I do not want to say ""numerically discrete entities exist prior to counting", because that seems to be quite an odd thing to say. I will say that there were eight berries before they were counted. And this will have been so, regardless of any perception.

    Keep going. This is interesting.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    As it happens, this is what the thread should be about.Srap Tasmaner

    Yes, indeed. Thanks for the link, which I will take on notice.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    4.7k
    because there are eight berries that existCount Timothy von Icarus

    Consider that berries grow, ripen, and then rot. Can you think of an edge case where it's not clear whether something counts as a berry?
  • Banno
    23.5k
    Can you think of an edge case where it's not clear whether something counts as a berry?Srap Tasmaner

    Strawberries don't count as berries when one is doing botany. They do not grow from a single ovary. But if folk order berries and cream, one might expect strawberries in the bowl.

    So do we have two incommensurable languages, the one in which most folk are happy with a bowl of strawberries and blackberries, and the other in which the botanist expected the bowl of berries to consist of grapes and bananas? Well, no. We understand the difference between doing biology and ordering breakfast.

    The things in the world do not change between the lab and the dining room. The way we use the word "berries" is what changes. Not the way we use "is".

    So we perhaps agree that "quantifier variance" is a poorly chosen term; and that what we do is more significant than what we say.

    The rest looks to be hokum.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    4.7k
    The way we use the word "berries" is what changes. Not the way we use "is".Banno

    Maybe, but it's not really "A is B" that's at issue here, but "Something is B".

    Now how exactly do we manage that? Attributing a predicate to an identified individual looks straightforward, but in ordinary life we only reach for the existential quantifier in the absence of such an individual. (One of you drank the last beer. Someone left these footprints. There's something really heavy in this box.)

    Is predication still the same thing here? Is this even predication?

    I'm always inclined to translate these things in my head to a sort of "second order" predication -- that is, to a claim that some class (last-beer-drinkers, footprint-leavers, heavy-things-in-this-box) is non-empty. Not a claim about a thing -- as yet unidentified -- but a claim about a class. I think it's a habit I picked up in case the class does turn out to be empty -- I'm not left apparently talking about something that doesn't, ahem, exist. The class is usable either way, with or without members.

    If you're looking for something you can pry open a drawer with, there's deliberate, strategic vagueness in the class -- now we're almost "third order": we want something we can use to do something that will count as getting the damn drawer open, and what that will turn out to be depends a bit on what we find. "I'll know it when I see it" means I'll define the class I'm identifying when I find a member of it. That's a neat trick.

    I still don't see anything hereabouts to do with existence. Classes turned up, and they're supposed to be an ontological conundrum, but they're just a way of talking about my behavior, my predictions about what will work, what I decide and then actually try to do. They're handy for the mental work we do, as you suggest, whatever purpose we're pursuing at the moment.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    Something is BSrap Tasmaner
  • Srap Tasmaner
    4.7k


    It is night-time here. What is your point?
  • Banno
    23.5k
    What is your point?Srap Tasmaner
    What's my point?

    Is there a substantive disagreement here? If so, what is it?

    (Edit: I posted that previous comment before finishing it, then lost the edits. I've not much more to add, but will repeat the point that what quantifier variance amounts to remains, at least for me, either trivial or ambiguous. )
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