• StreetlightX
    2.5k
    So we might have a world of objects, and a language consisting entirely of proper names? AM I on the right track?

    ....So - and I've just started catching up on this thread, so this might have become apparent in other posts - his point is that predication is something we do, and hence predicates are not something we find but something we use?
    Banno

    In general, yeah, these are more or less what I'm after. I'm also not familiar with Austin's take, so I can't really comment on that either. What really interests me though are the specifics - I'm very attracted to the idea that language is a matter of 'natural-lingustic' objects insofar it places language on the same plane as 'things'. Sellars' effects this incredible leveling where he essentially abolishes the metaphysical distinction between the linguistic and the extra-linguistic (and with it, the question 'how do words 'hook up' with things') and instead sees the linguistic as a species of the extra-linguistic. There's a naturalization of language which I think is absolutely a step in the right direction.

    If it's a concequence of this that language only consists of names, then so be it, but I'm open to saying that there really are predicates or whatever variety of linguistic objects one might care to classify, with the caveat that what matters at the end of the day is how they do whatever it is they do. I'm interested in the function of words and what they do. I suppose they just call this pragmatics, but again, this is word that bothers me so I'd rather not.

    But here we have Sellars saying that there are no facts, only objects.Banno

    Yeah, Sellars actually specifically rejects the Wittgensteinian view, and says as much: "We must be careful not to follow Wittgenstein's identification of complex objects with facts"; and elsewhere: "Let me begin by commenting on a feature of Wittgenstein's treatment of picturing which, as I see it, contains the key to the answer, but which he put to the wrong use by tying it too closely to the 'fact pictures fact' model. For, although this model enables him to make a sound point about the logical form of elementary statements, it loses the specific thrust of the idea that whatever else language does, its central and essential function, the sine qua non of all others, is to enable us to picture the world in which we live. It was, indeed, a significant achievement to show that it is n-adic configurations of referring expressions that represent n-adic states of affairs. But of itself this thesis throws no light on the crucial question: What is there about this specific n-adic configuration of referring expressions that makes the configuration say that the items referred to are related in that specific n-adic way?"

    It's with this concern in mind that Sellars proposes replacing facts with objects.
  • Banno
    2.8k
    I'm very attracted to the idea that language is a matter of 'natural-lingustic' objects insofar it places language on the same plane as 'things'. Sellars' effects this incredible leveling where he essentially abolishes the metaphysical distinction between the linguistic and the extra-linguistic (and with it, the question 'how do words 'hook up' with things') and instead sees the linguistic as a species of the extra-linguistic.StreetlightX

    An earlier version of Davidson's "always already interpreted", perhaps, in that it seeks to dissipate the map - territory distinction.

    whatever else language does, its central and essential function, the sine qua non of all others, is to enable us to picture the world in which we live.StreetlightX

    But is it? If we have a picture of the world, then that picture is distinct from the world, and so maintains the 'metaphysical distinction between the linguistic and the meta-linguistic". The sort-after naturalisation seems to have taken a step backwards.
  • StreetlightX
    2.5k
    But is it? If we have a picture of the world, then that picture is distinct from the world,Banno

    I don't think this follows. One can speak of parts of the world picturing other parts of the world (if approached in the right way). Actual pictures (the kind we frame after holidays) are exactly that. And in fact, that's precisely Sellars' point. Although I too take issue with the sine qua non line. Why not say language is used to cajole, to affirm, to celebrate, to promise, to soothe? There is a non-intentional aspect to language which is run roughshod over in Sellars' primacy of picturing. But I think his point can be well taken for all that regardless.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.1k
    Just some general reflections to feel my way back into this threadStreetlightX

    Thanks for those! I'll read chapter 3 in Naturalism and Ontology, to get a better grasp of Sellars's motivation in dispensing specifically with the idea of references of predicates but not with the references of singular terms. It's hard for me to understand the rationale for that. I'll comment later.
  • StreetlightX
    2.5k
    Coming back to this...

    So if you didn't assert it, it wouldn't be so? And what is a fact?Nagase

    I'd say that a fact in this context is something which commits us to certain undertakings. If there is a type-token distinction that is parsed in some way and not another, it can only be with an eye to doing something with it; one fixes distinctions in place so as to be able to make intelligible moves in discourse. But of course the kinds of moves we want to make are not entirely up to us: one has to get the grammar just so in order to capture what is relavant about whatever it is we are trying to discuss.

    That may be so (though note that we have an appeal to types of rules here...), yet to learn this way of speaking is not to learn Jumblese.Nagase

    I'll grant this, but - and I think Csal basically made the point already - the obvious rejoinder is: yes, and? I don't see how this ultimately has any force against the idea that properties can nonetheless be treated in terms of learned manners of speaking or writing, where placing 'if' here or there entails treating words in certain manners, committing and entitling us to certain other words and practices when used consistently. Remember that Jumbelese isn't the basis out from which the nomimalist thesis rest, but a model to bring something out of normal language as it is already used.
  • StreetlightX
    2.5k
    Also, reading back on some of the comments on nominalism more generally, it's true that the kinds of ideas expressed in the OP are indeed just 'half the story' (as someone put it). Chapter 3 of NAO is kind of the pivot point of the book which does indeed aim to 'clear the way' (someone's expression again) for a positive theory of meaning (chapter 4) and reference (chapter 5) that Sellars goes on to argue for. It might be construed as pragmatism by some, if Sellars himself were not so ambivalent about the term:

    "I saw them [the battle between philosophical systems] at the beginning through my father's eyes, and perhaps for that reason never got into Pragmatism. He regarded it as shifty, ambiguous, and indecisive. ... 'Time is unreal.' 'Sense data are constituents of physical objects.' 'Mind is a distinct substance.' 'We intuit essences.' These are issues you can get your teeth into. By contrast, Pragmatism seemed all method and no results." He's speaking in historical-autobiographical terms though, so he's probably more open to it than he really lets on.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4k

    From the point of view of triadicism, nothing at all has been left out. There's the stoop, the non-stoop, and the third thing. You don't have to leave the stoop to understand it. Heck, there's war, non-war, and the third thing. Lazily explain that to the soldier going by, 'oh no, i get it, trust me'csalisbury

    The problem with this triadic ontology is that it is really just a veiled process monism. The logical contraries of being and not being do not allow for the third option by the law of excluded middle. When we allow for the third option, becoming, and assign reality to becoming, then the two ideals, being and not being appear as the limits of becoming. These ideals are no longer real because the reality of becoming cannot reach the limits of being or not being. So unless we give priority to the dualist position and give reality to these two distinct categories, the logical ideals, and becoming, reality is apprehended as being completely within the one category of becoming, and the logical ideals cannot be real.

    To relate this to the op, yes it is very possible to dissolve the division between the subject and the predicate, as the example of Jumblese demonstrates, and this might serve us very efficiently in common instances of communication. In relation to ontology though, this is probably not a wise thing to do. The subject/predicate division provides us with a distinction between the object (subject), and what the object is doing (predication). The ontological results of the dissolution of the subject/predicate division are evident in the concept of "energy", and the ideas of those who reify "energy". The reification of "energy" transforms its apprehended existence from being the property of a moving object, to being an object itself. Now "energy" is often understood as the subject/predicate combined, the object and its activity combined into one, and this produces a wave/particle obfuscation. This is the ontological difficulty produced by dissolving the subject/predicate division.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    1.8k
    If there is a type-token distinction that is parsed in some way and not another, it can only be with an eye to doing something with it; one fixes distinctions in place so as to be able to make intelligible moves in discourse.StreetlightX

    I keep circling around what I think of as a thoroughly naturalist and nominalist approach something like this: the difference between, say, a particular triangle and an "abstract" triangle is not that the latter is a different sort of object at all. The "abstract" triangle is still a particular, the one you imagine, the one printed in the book or drawn on the blackboard. The difference is in how you handle it. If you ignore none of its particularity, that might be taking it, say, as a work of art. But if you ignore many of its particular features -- its particular materiality, the thickness of its lines, etc. -- then you can treat it as an abstract triangle.

    @Nagase can answer this view though quite readily by pointing out that I am now relying on types or classes of actions to explain (away) types or classes of objects. Can I then try to explain these away following the same procedure? It looks like any attempt to avoid classes and types altogether is doomed to fail, even if we can avoid treating them as objects per se.

    And there's an analogy here, perhaps more than an analogy, to the problem of talking about concepts. Frege himself makes the point several times that when you talk about a concept, you're treating it as an object, so you're never talking about the concept as concept. That you cannot do; you can only show how it works. (I'm also convinced that no Fregean should think propositions are objects.)

    Where I want to end up is with an explanation of how the ideal actually comes to have a role in our lives. Grice speculates that maybe we never quite mean anything, in the strictest sense, but we approach the ideal of meaning something and deem that success. Lewis also, in Convention, reaches the surprising conclusion that maybe no one ever does speak a language in the Fregean sense -- again, we only approach this as an ideal. We huddle together in vaguely defined equivalence classes speaking languages that are near kin to each other. (And then there's Davidson: "We must give up the idea of a clearly defined shared structure which language-users acquire and then apply to cases. And we should try again to say how convention in any important sense is involved in language; or, as I think, we should give up the attempt to illuminate how we communicate by appeal to conventions." My bias is showing but how do you get away with that last clause in a paper that doesn't so much as mention David Lewis?)

    That appeal to equivalence classes again looks like it demands something we've just said we can't have, real ideals, real types to ground the equivalence, and that backing off to our practices instead is no help. My suspicion is that it does help because the project of communal living gives you a choice: provisionally deem someone to be speaking a language you can understand or give up.
  • Janus
    5.4k
    Sellars' effects this incredible leveling where he essentially abolishes the metaphysical distinction between the linguistic and the extra-linguistic (and with it, the question 'how do words 'hook up' with things') and instead sees the linguistic as a species of the extra-linguistic.StreetlightX

    I can't see how this view would not be an appeal to natural kinds or at least kind, which I had thought was what Sellars is purportedly wishing to get away from.

    It would be a kind of absolute monism where there is only one (of course natural) kind of thing; a kind which includes everything both linguistic and extralinguistic. I can't see how sense could be made of such a view, though, when all our sense-making seems to be in the dyadic terms of intentionailty. It would seem to be a most extreme form of eliminativism.
  • fdrake
    1.1k
    @StreetlightX, @Pierre-Normand

    Although I've mostly withdrawn from the discussion, the Sellars-Davidson thematic link is pursued by Rorty. It's an interesting transposition of the 'very idea of a conceptual scheme' into a mere interpretive apparatus - locating such things as at most a common thread among a community of language users. This also dovetails nicely with Rorty's appropriation of Quine's critique of the analytic/synthetic distinction - something being analytically true is still formally conditioned upon an interpretation. IE concepts unfold and are discursive functions.

    This dovetailing destroys representationalist accounts of concepts just as much as it problematises the eternity implicit in the a priori; a realm where what is true will remain so since it's there already. Prosaically, the 'there' is seen as a fictitious projection of the structure of things to a conceptual landscape containing the same things but in expressed form. The world then takes the character of their grammar (logical syntax) in the expression.

    Schema and their conditioned elements are entangled as (and through) discursive practices (no scheme/content distinction), destroying the logical priority of what conditions each analytic fact on one axis. And historicising the schema through the aforementioned entanglement destroys its logical priority in the usual sense of the term on another axis. Schema mutate over history independently of their function as constraints on interpretive possibility; destroying the pristine eternity of the logical space of true conceptual relations.

    Those two axes that were independent [pure relations of concepts and instantiating conditions of satisfaction] and used to chart conceptual spaces in their representational character [what else does a representationalist epistemology need other than facts to mirror world and a semantics of the mirror]? are shown to be interpretive tools which are an artefact of a way of looking at the world.

    Edit: snake's biting its own tail, there's a Laruelle-ian decision taking place for the representationlist but there's also an amorphous one left in the shadow of highlighting it. The space of reasons for that criticism is still vouchsafed by the very commitment to its ambiguities... Just a note since I remember there are a few non-philosophy interested people here.



    That appeal to equivalence classes again looks like it demands something we've just said we can't have, real ideals, real types to ground the equivalence, and that backing off to our practices instead is no help. My suspicion is that it does help because the project of communal living gives you a choice: provisionally deem someone to be speaking a language you can understand or give up.

    See the problem. @Nagase pointed it out too. Thinking of them in terms of equivalence classes adds an extra layer of complexity for little gain.
  • apokrisis
    4k
    The "abstract" triangle is still a particular, the one you imagine, the one printed in the book or drawn on the blackboard. The difference is in how you handle it. If you ignore none of its particularity, that might be taking it, say, as a work of art. But if you ignore many of its particular features -- its particular materiality, the thickness of its lines, etc. -- then you can treat it as an abstract triangle.Srap Tasmaner

    If you step back from things, you can see that much of this comes down to maths targeting form - structure, constraints, etc - and energy, or material cause, being left out of the picture.

    So that is why a pragmatist/semiotic approach wants to tie conception to action, to behaviour, to embodiment. It is a way to get energy back into the picture. Rational structures have to be re-connected to material actions to be fully real.

    This is why we need a triadic metaphysics like hylomorphism. We need a division or dichotomy - such as matter understood as opposite to form - which can then explain the emergent substantial actuality that then becomes our world of individuated objects.

    So when it comes to Platonism, structuralism, universals, etc, the surprise is that a pure energy-less account can even be given. Every substantial triangle is messed up in its imperfect materiality. Yet we can discern the perfect geometric triangle that stands as the ontic limit to all actual triangles. The goal of an ideal triangle exists - in a spacetime beyond energy.

    But puzzles are created because folk don't analyse the material or energetic half of the story the same way - as the complementary ideal limit. Instead, energy is treated as actuality. Matter is taken for granted as having enduring fixed existence. It is the brute stuff that doesn't get metaphysically questioned.

    However if we do analyse the material half of the story like we do the formal half, it does dissolve into a primal notion of fluctuation or potency. We wind up with nothing solid at all, just whatever unformed action would seem like at the limit of being. Pure contingency. Directionless impulse.

    It is only when you have the third thing of material cause and formal cause combining in interaction - as constraints organising degrees of freedom - that actual substantial being arises. You get the kind of individuation that is a triangle - that someone expended energy to construct. And so a triangle with all its material imperfections - all the fluctuations or historical contingencies that represent both the imposed necessities of a form, and also some pragmatic fact of indifference, a point at which the suppression of any material raggedness in shape ceased to matter in practice. The triangle was triangular enough to fit its contextual purpose.

    So this pragmatic/hylomorphic view of the actual world is inherently dichotomistic. The paradoxes are removed by accepting that forms are imposed on material possibility, and also in matching fashion, energetic exceptions or fluctuations are only ever suppressed towards some practical limit. Substantial reality then becomes the third thing of the resulting equilibrium balance - the point where individuation survives and persists as any fluctuations have been reduced to the point they are differences that no longer make an overall difference.

    The imperfections are a noise. But the form and purpose of the whole is clearly apparent to be seen. A triangle is easy to recognise.

    And so this is the triadic reality that our language and logic would want to target in turn if we are going to carve nature at its joints.

    Meaning holism would get this. Language use is about formal constraints on energetic (ie: behavioural) fluctuations.

    When we talk - even logically - it sounds like we are referring to Platonic objects. We are pointing towards the ideal triangles, horses, bald heads and Socrates that our words name. But pragmatically, the words are meant to act as constraints on behavioural variability. They should narrow our scope of action - our substantial and individuated expressions - to some point where any remaining uncertainty or contingency is simply a tolerable noise. Differences that make no difference.

    So nominalism is deeply flawed. It points at universals and say they can't be real as clearly they are only transcendental limits. Nominalism can see the pragmatic trick that is going on there.

    But nominalism is then bad at turning around to see that it does the same thing in presuming that it is the foundationally real - that the world is a sum of substantial particular, a merological state of affairs.

    The material, the concrete, does dissolve if you turn the spotlight on it. It does proved to be simply energy, potential, fluctuation corralled by a context of imposed structure. Matter is as insubstantial as form.

    Then the third thing of substantial actuality - the actual ground of being - is itself merely emergent. It is energy or fluctuation corralled by imposed constraints to the degree something or other had reason to care. Close enough was good enough.

    Language and logic want to gets its teeth into something firm and definite. It targets this notion of the real, the foundational, the monadically essential.

    And it always comes up disappointed. And that is because the reality is the whole of a triadic or hylomorphic relation.

    Substantial being is what you get emergently once the opposed tensions of energetic fluctuation and structural organisation have played themselves out to some stable persisting balance. A language of objects with properties can sum it all up - especially in a Universe grown so large and cold, near the end of its own history. But that can't be the foundational view, the true view, of what has gone on.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    1.8k
    Thinking of them in terms of equivalence classes adds an extra layer of complexity for little gainfdrake

    Maybe so, but it's a structure I'm fond of, and it gets close to my intuition of classifying as taking a shortcut. You see that this rock is similar to that one in ways that matter to you, so maybe what worked for moving that one will work for moving this one. (But maybe not for lots of reasons.)

    It's a learned behavior. When kids are just starting to read (already knowing their letters and how to talk) they treat each word as a unique challenge to be sounded out or guessed at, even if they've already read that word several times, even on the same page. Learning to see words as tokens of types is learning how to take a shortcut -- say what you said last time and see if dad corrects you or makes you try again. (The move from attention to habit.)

    Eventually we learn, one can hope, how to be careful with how we classify, with the cognitive shortcuts we take.
  • StreetlightX
    2.5k
    I can't see how this view would not be an appeal to natural kinds or at least kind, which I had thought was what Sellars is purportedly wishing to get away from.Janus

    Just briefly 'cause I'll be out all day, I think it is neither desireable nor possible to avoid 'kinds-talk'. The whole question is over what we are doing when we invoke kinds. Or better: what kinds of thing are kinds? To simply try and catch nominalism in a kind of performative contradicition ('ha, look, you've invoked a kind!') simply will not do. As Sellars puts it somewhere in NAO: there are attributes, but there aren't really attributes. One wants to say the same thing about kinds, with the appropriate qualifications. More later.
  • Janus
    5.4k
    As Sellars puts it somewhere in NAO: there are attributes, but there aren't really attributes.StreetlightX

    I'll await your return, but in the meantime: do you read the above as some kind of phenomenal/ noumenal distinction?

    Or is it more of a phenomenological distinction between experience and understanding? Or something else?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4k
    Or better: what kinds of thing are kinds?StreetlightX

    Kinds are not things at all, they are the activities of things. As concepts they are the habits, activities, of the human mind. As properties of objects, attributes, they are an object's way of existing. Just don't conflate these two, and say that an object's way of existing is a habit.
  • fdrake
    1.1k
    Hm, a load of posts here just went missing.

    Edit - oh they just didn't display. Refreshing the page a few times made them appear. Weird.
  • fdrake
    1.1k
    Oh hey, Brassier has two lectures featuring clear exposition of Sellars on youtube.

    The Myth of the Given: Nominalism, Naturalism & Materialism.

    That Which is Not: Plato, Kant and Sellars.
  • Janus
    5.4k
    Also these:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UiV-vMOueY (Naturalism and Ontology from the (drunken) horse's mouth)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTfonwGzL1o (Robert Brandom on Sellar's critique of Empiricism)
  • StreetlightX
    2.5k
    @Janus: One thought I keep coming back to is that in rejecting the reality of types, one must - or at least this is what I want to argue - reject the reality of particulars as well. I mean, at the most basic level this is just a matter of intelligible discourse: a token is only a token in relation to a type and vice versa, and each only has meaning in relation to the other. So I don't think that a consistent nominalism can be reduced to the idea that 'there are only particulars, no types'. So there's got to be something deeper and more interesting going on. One way to get to this 'deeper thing' is to look at how abstraction functions:

    Say we've got two apples. We say that the apples are two tokens of the type 'apple' and we do so precisely by abstracting from the particularity of this apple such that we discard certain of it's features (this apple is bruised, that one is not, yet we ignore this). Already at this level we can see that particularity is abstract from the get-go: that this is a particular apple (read = 'belongs to the type apple') and that that is a particular apple is already to ignore, paradoxically, the particularity of this apple and that apple so as to be able to speak of them as particular apples at all.

    Or another way to put this is that particularity itself is already a 'type' qua particular. This was, by the way, Hegel's point viz his critique of 'sense-certainty' that opens up the Phenomenology - that every attempt to capture singularity by means of speaking about a 'this' is already implicated in the universal. But - and this is the crucial point - the implication of the particular in the universal cuts both ways: apple qua type is, in equal measure, a 'particular type': we can see this if we subsume 'apple' as a token of the type 'fruit'. At no point in this whole dialectic do you end up with 'real singulars'; instead all you have are types and tokens whose roles are reversable depending on the point of view one takes.

    There is no ground-level of real singulars from which the type-token distinction builds itself off from: the whole conceptual machinery is realized 'in one fell swoop', as it were. As soon as you have tokens, you have types. And, worse, types and tokens are promiscuous in the sense that one can be transformed into the other: a token is always-already a type by virtue of it belonging to the type 'token' ('cuts both ways'). So the question is: given this promiscuity, what, at the end of the day, indexes tokens as tokens and types and types, if not some God-given ontological scaffolding qua Great Chain of Being? And the answer can only be: whatever it is 'we' are trying to do with them. This is why I think rejecting the reality of types also entails rejecting the reality of particulars, insofar as even particulars already belong to the order of types (and vice versa!).

    --

    Another way to make the above point is by recourse to Jacques Lacan's dictum that 'there is no metalanguage': no matter how long you spend going up 'up a level', from token to type to next-level type, you will never arrive at some final Capital-T Type which accounts for the distribution of tokens and types among the lower-levels. This is, among other things, an anti-theological point, or, to put it more positively, a naturalist one in which types and and tokens are made and produced and not 'given'.
  • StreetlightX
    2.5k
    I'll await your return, but in the meantime: do you read the above as some kind of phenomenal/ noumenal distinction?

    Or is it more of a phenomenological distinction between experience and understanding? Or something else?
    Janus

    Nah, I don't think either of those map on very nicely to what's going on here. If there's a classical distinction that might be relevant here I'd say it's that between primary and secondary qualities (Locke), where secondary qualities (color, taste) are always relative 'to-us', and primary qualities (shape, size, number) are not. One wants to say something like: kinds are secondary qualities, and not primary ones. But this is still a loose way of speaking because it effects too heavy a divide between 'us' and the the rest of the world (as if we are not part of it!).
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