• Dfpolis
    475
    I'm unsure what work the word "intends" does here.Pierre-Normand

    It means signifies.
    If I judge that it is raining outside (because I looked though the window and saw that it is raining) then I am holding the proposition that it is raining outside to be true.Pierre-Normand

    You are confusing two movements of thought. First, you judge <Rain is falling>. This signifies/intends the physical state outside your window and is based on awareness of that state. In the second movement, you turn your attention to the judgement (which did not exist prior to the completion of the first movement) <Rain is falling> and make a judgement about it, viz. <<Rain is falling> is true>. This does not signify something about the physical state alone, but about the relation between your intentional state (the judgement <Rain is falling>) and the physical state, rain is falling -- namely that the judgement is adequate to the reality. (Note how my angle brackets make the shift to the intentional order clear.)

    So, when you judge, it may be implicit that what you judge is true, but you are not actually holding it to be true before the second movement is complete.

    That's one possible attitude that I can have towards that proposition.Pierre-Normand

    Yes, but, as I just showed, this attitude toward the proposition is not the proposition.

    Thus, the proposition is not in the same category as the various "attitudes" you mentioned.
  • Dfpolis
    475
    We may be reaching an impasse. I do not see how proper names can function in the way Kripke thinks they must.

    Either a proper name can be assigned to an imagined object in light of some well-defined criteria, or it is assigned by a purely subjective fiat. If it is on the basis of well-defined criteria, the sense of the name is that set of criteria -- a description in your terms. If it is by subjective fiat, then any conclusion that follows from the assignment (such as the necessity of certain propositions) inherits that subjectivity and has no claim to being objective.

    Either way, Kripke's analysis does not work.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.4k
    Either a proper name can be assigned to an imagined object in light of some well-defined criteria, or it is assigned by a purely subjective fiat. If it is on the basis of well-defined criteria, the sense of the name is that set of criteria -- a description in your terms. If it is by subjective fiat, then any conclusion that follows from the assignment (such as the necessity of certain propositions) inherits that subjectivity and has no claim to being objective.

    Either way, Kripke's analysis does not work.
    Dfpolis

    I am unsure why you would straddle Kripke with this binary choice. Kripke doesn't view proper names as devices that primarily elicit mental states, with or without objective purport, and with or without associated "well-defined criteria". Kripke rather views proper names as public handles into social practices. A proper name comes into being as an element of a social practice when some members of a community assign it, in an act of baptism, for instance, to an individual. The other members of this linguistic community, who aren't directly acquainted with the baptized individual, then are able to make use if this proper name to refer to the individual to whom it was initially assigned just by dint of sharing into this pre-existing practice. (Kripke fleshes out this account (in Naming and Necessity) by means of his so called "causal theory of reference"; but it has been elaborated by Garth Evans (in The Varieties of Reference) in terms of 'consumers' and 'producers' of the naming practice in a way that dispenses with contentious theses about causation).

    In Kripke's account, whatever mental image you may have of the named individual, or whatever belief you may have about him or her, doesn't have any bearing on who it is that the proper name that you are using refer to. It is rather a matter of shared public practice who this individual is. It's not a matter of intersubjectivity either since all the members of the community may come to share the same false belief about the bearer of the proper name and even regarding who that individual is (Evans's discussion of the case of Madagascar notwithstanding).
  • Michael Ossipoff
    1.5k


    I have defined all of the terms you have questioned and pointed out phenomenological differences between reality and your hypothetical systems.
    .
    You haven’t non-circularly told what you mean by “reality”, “exist” or “actual”. You’ve said that it has to do with things that act on something or someone. Characters and things in a story act on other characters and things in that story. Oh, but you mean things that actually and really act on other things. Do you see the circularity?
    .
    You didn’t non-circularly answer my questions.
    .
    Look, we’ve both stated our positions, arguments and answers. Now it’s time to agree to disagree on metaphysics.
    .
    But, in your most recent reply to me, you said something that I more nearly agree with, when you said:
    .
    As for explaining the existence of contingent reality, sound deduction shows that it is maintained in being by a necessary Being whose essence is its existence.
    .
    I was sure that you were a Materialist, but evidently not.
    .
    Essence that’s existence. I agree with that too. Benevolence.
    .
    What you said sounds like it’s related to the Cosmological Argument. Those arguments aren’t what convinced me (…but they’re interesting, and I don’t claim for sure that there’s no validity to them). For me, it was a matter of an impression that what-is, is good, and that there’s good intent behind what is, and that Reality is Benevolence itself. I’ve posted about reasons that point to that impression.
    .
    Additionally, aside from those reasons, I suggest that Faith can be justified by a discussion that maybe somewhat resembles the Ontological Argument, but is simpler and more modest.
    .
    But, for one thing, I agree with those who don’t use the word “Being” in that context. We aren’t talking about one of various beings, sharing that noun-description with them.
    .
    Here’s another disagreement with your position:
    .
    In earlier times, such as Medieval times, there was a desire and perceived need to invoke God as the direct explanation for the events of the physical world, and it was considered heresy to speak of physics as the direct explanation for physical events, for example. Later, it was found that, things that happen in the physical world are related to eachother by physics, and it became understood that that in no way contradicted religion.
    .
    Physics describes how things happen in the physical world, and all that happens in the physical world is consistent with physics. That doesn’t contradict religion. God didn’t need to contravene physics to make there be the Earth.
    .
    Same with evolution. I’ve told Fundamentalists that they needn’t believe that God contravened His own physical law when creating us. Why couldn’t it have been done via physical law?
    .
    Well, now we have the same situation with regard to metaphysics. I say that all in the describable realm can internally be directly related explained, by describable metaphysics, in terms of the rules and starting-point of describable metaphysics (which I’ll say more about below). That doesn’t contradict religion either. The describable world doesn’t need assumptions or brute-facts. It’s (internally) self-sufficient, like it’s subset, the physical world. Internally self-consistent, with its internal relations explained with respect to itself and describable metaphysics’ rules, and whatever basic starting-point it has.
    .
    Just like physics, describable metaphysics, the matter of what describably is, is self-consistent and explained in terms of its own rules and starting-point.
    .
    I don’t claim or believe that describable metaphysics describes all of Reality. I don’t believe that Reality is describable, explainable, or lends itself to words and concepts.
    .
    But, internally, within itself, the describable realm is describable by its describable metaphysics. The only thing that it doesn’t explain is the whole reason for it. But it has or is a thorough explanation and description of its things and events with respect to its own rules and starting point.
    .
    What rules and starting-point am I talking about, with regard to the describable realm and describable metaphysics?
    .
    The rules consist of logic.
    .
    The starting-point? There uncontroversially are abstract implications (as I’ve been describing) in the sense that we can refer to and speak of them.
    .
    Could there have not been abstract implications? I’ve discussed that many times in previous threads. It’s enough now to just say that previous discussion showed that there couldn’t have not been abstract facts, including abstract implications and complex systems of inter-referring abstract implications.
    .
    The describable realm is internally explained and described via logic and that uncontroversial starting-point.
    .
    In that sense, the describable realm is self-sufficient and complete. …explaining everything wihin and about itself. …even though of course it has nothing to say about Reality, or the describable realm’s relation to Reality.
    *********************
    Just as God didn’t need to contravene physics to create the Earth or the animals that are us, neither did He need to contravene logic to make there be what describably is.
    *********************
    .
    You’re invoking the necessary causeless cause to directly explain why there’s the objective physical reality that you believe in. I disagree with that, just as I disagree with the Medieval claim that physical law was contravened to create us.
    .
    Your objective physical reality is a brute-fact. …a superfluous, unverifiable, unfalsifiable brute-fact.
    .
    The describable world doesn’t need that.
    .
    The metaphysics that I propose and have been describing needs no assumptions or brute-fact.
    .
    Your objectively-existent physical world is a brute-fact, and your brute-fact is what I disagree with. What describably is, is self-explanatory within its own descriptive realm. …self-explanatory only as far as it goes within is own descriptive-realm, but nevertheless self-explanatory within that realm.
    .
    …as is the physical world.
    .
    None of that contradicts what you said about the Causeless Cause, all of what-is, Reality.
    .
    Describable metaphysics can’t say anything about Reality, and, about that we’d best take Wittgenstein’s final advice.
    .
    Michael Ossipoff
  • Dfpolis
    475
    I am unsure why you would straddle Kripke with this binary choice.Pierre-Normand

    I'm really not picking on him. I am merely looking for the foundation in reality, if any, for naming imagined objects.

    Kripke doesn't view proper names as devices that primarily elicit mental states, with or without objective purport, and with or without associated "well-defined criteria". Kripke rather views proper names as public handles into social practices.Pierre-Normand

    Kripke's or Evan's view may work for real individuals, provided that one realizes that social practices reflect rational processing by community members. It can't work for imagined individuals who are not socially available. Naming them can only result from mental processes in the person who imagines them. By the principle of excluded middle, those choices can only be based on fixed criteria or not. (Note that, unlike tomorrow's sea battle and imagined objects, those choices exist in the real world and so are covered by the principle.)

    If the naming choice is not based on fixed criteria, we may rationally call it subjective and arbitrary. Suppose, for example, that in an imagined world, there are three inner planets, with the outer two equally distant from the orbit of the actual Venus. Is the second from the sun, or that closest to the earth's orbit, to be called "Venus"? I see no reason for choosing one over the other. So, how is the binary choice to be avoided for imagined individuals?
  • andrewk
    1.6k
    I am glad the discussion has turned to Kripke, because that's the element of this subject area that I find most mystifying of all. There is no doubt that he was a very clever person, as his work in classical logic demonstrates, But try as I might, I am unable to see any point in his rigid designator (RD) idea, and those other notions that attach to it.

    To me, it looks as though he had never read Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. The RD idea focuses intently on a very small part of most speech acts, and builds an enormous, complicated metaphysical edifice around it, to do with its 'meaning'. Yet Wittgenstein showed us that:

    (1) speech is not about meaning, but about purpose. We make a speech act in order to achieve something.
    (2) parsing speech acts, while occasionally useful, is often misleading and can lead to wrong conclusions, because often the act as a whole has an impact or intention that differs from what might be inferred by zooming in on constituent parts.

    Sure, when we analyse a speech act from a Wittgensteinian perspective, we will pay close attention to any parts that look like a proper name. But we don't need to get hung up on consideration of the metaphysical meaning of the proper name. All we need ask ourselves is why did the speaker use that word in that part of the act, and what effect were they aiming to achieve.

    From such a standpoint, we can effortlessly deal with all the cases that Kripke spends so much time on, like imaginary and fictional objects, misheard names, confusions of the speaker, 'mis-speaking', differences in language, mistaken conclusions about the chemical composition of water, and so on.

    I read the SEP page that was linked above about Causal Theories, Madagascar and Marco Polo and it just seemed to be so many words about a non-issue. From a Wittgensteinian perspective, the varying uses of the word 'Madagascar' by Polo and others is completely sensible and explicable, in a very simple way.

    I'm not saying that all Kripke's work on RDs was pointless. I still hold out hope that one day I might be persuaded that there is some point to it - that it doesn't just address a problem of its own creation.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.4k
    I read the SEP page that was linked above about Causal Theories, Madagascar and Marco Polo and it just seemed to be so many words about a non-issue. From a Wittgensteinian perspective, the varying uses of the word 'Madagascar' by Polo and others is completely sensible and explicable, in a very simple way.andrewk

    Kripke was reasonably well acquainted with the late Wittgenstein. The only real book that Kripke wrote is titled Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language. (Naming and Necessity is the transcript of a series of public lectures that he gave without making use of any notes). The works of Kripke, Putnam and Evans on reference and on semantic externalism are very much Wittgensteinian in spirit, it seems to me, since they emphasize public embodied and situated practices (i.e. language games), and their pragmatic point, rather than focus on alleged semantic connections between the mind and the world where the former is conceived in crypto-Cartesian fashion as a realm of privately and transparently accessible mental items.
  • Snakes Alive
    233
    Do you see the meaning of a term as having some kind of abstract existence? Or do you see proper names as having a different kind of meaning than other terms?Dfpolis

    There are any number of things you could be talking about with 'meaning.' I take the literal meaning of an expression just to be the role it plays in composing the truth conditions of the sentence of which it's a part. Words have conventional literal meanings in virtue of their use, and there's no trouble with people using words whose meaning is in part opaque to them. Words do not mean whatever people think they mean, etc. If I say that John is a fool, but didn't realize that John was Mr. Smith, I called Mr. Smith a fool. I did this by mistake, but nevertheless this is what I said.

    Note also that when we don't realize that two words co-refer, there is a restricted sense in which we don't fully use them correctly. Presumably there is some vantage point from which, viewing the individual, we'd refuse to appropriately apply the name. Again, this is due to our ignorance.
  • Snakes Alive
    233
    Sure, when we analyse a speech act from a Wittgensteinian perspective, we will pay close attention to any parts that look like a proper name. But we don't need to get hung up on consideration of the metaphysical meaning of the proper name. All we need ask ourselves is why did the speaker use that word in that part of the act, and what effect were they aiming to achieve.andrewk

    Because the way people use speech acts and intend to do things with them is importantly tied to the conventional meanings of the words involved. It's not as if we just string together words in any random order and mean whatever we want by them. What we do and can mean is limited by the literal meaning of the words. And most often, we are competent with using words in this way with their literal meanings, without having any clue of the vastly complex mechanisms by which we do so – so of course 'our intentions' do not just transparently control whatever we want to say, and it's a silly enterprise to just 'all-at-once' divine the meaning of speech acts as if there were no systematic mechanisms by which they operated.

    Rigid designation is a useful concept because this is how proper names behave with respect to modal operators. It's just a fact about the world, re: language use.
  • Dfpolis
    475
    You haven’t non-circularly told what you mean by “reality”, “exist” or “actual”.Michael Ossipoff

    I have said that real objects can act, and some act to inform knowers. I have contrasted this with hypothetical systems which are informed by those positing them and which have no power to act independently of those considering them.

    I did not say "actually act." That was your phrasing. Instead, I pointed out that the characters in stories do not act independently of the story tellers and readers thinking them.

    If you cannot see that this response is non-circular, I am happy to agree to disagree.

    What you said sounds like it’s related to the Cosmological Argument.Michael Ossipoff

    It depends on what you mean by the cosmological argument. The Kalam argument based on accidental or Humean-Kantian, time sequenced causality is unsound. Arguments based on essential or concurrent causality such as those of Aristotle, ibn Sina and Aquinas are sound. The notion that in a necessary being essence and existence are identical is due to Aquinas.

    For me, it was a matter of an impression that what-is, is good, and that there’s good intent behind what is, and that Reality is Benevolence itself. I’ve posted about reasons that point to that impression.Michael Ossipoff

    I can see these being reasonable grounds.

    But, for one thing, I agree with those who don’t use the word “Being” in that context. We aren’t talking about one of various beings, sharing that noun-description with them.Michael Ossipoff

    Yes, "being" does not mean the same thing. Language is poorly suited to the discussion.

    In earlier times, such as Medieval times, there was a desire and perceived need to invoke God as the direct explanation for the events of the physical world, and it was considered heresy to speak of physics as the direct explanation for physical events, for example.Michael Ossipoff

    This is a factual error. The study of nature was encouraged and the foundations of mathematical physics were laid. Robert Grosseteste, a bishop, studied geometric optics and laid down canons of the scientific method as we now have it, including the need for controlled experiments. Others advanced botany, developed the ideas of inertia and instantaneous velocity, and laid the foundations of calculus. Copernicus was a priest. Jesuits published 2/3 of the early papers on electricity.

    So, natural science was actively promoted by theologians who believed that by studying creation, we learn about the Creator. It is only with the advent of fundamentalism that natural scienc came to be seen as an enemy of religion. I suggest you read James Hannam, The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution, or some other recent book on medieval science.

    neither did He need to contravene logic to make there be what describably is.Michael Ossipoff

    As I see it, logic, as the science of correct thinking, is based on the laws of being. If we want our conclusions to apply to reality, we had better take the structure of reality into account when we think.

    I disagree with the Medieval claim that physical law was contravened to create us.Michael Ossipoff

    I think you need to hold this claim in suspension until you find an actual medieval source for it. Not knowing the details of the creative process is not the same as saying God violated his own laws of nature to create us. The Idea of fixed laws of nature first appears in Western literature in Jeremiah (a generation before Thales). So, it has deep roots in the Judaeo-Christian tradition.

    Your objective physical reality is a brute-fact.Michael Ossipoff

    No, it is a contingent reality held in being by the uncaused cause.

    I base my metaphysics on the experience of being.
  • andrewk
    1.6k
    Can you provide an example where Kripkean analysis helps to understand a speech act in a useful way, that is not available by a different approach, in particular a psychological approach, which is what I see Wittgenstein's as being..

    I don't agree that our ability to express is limited by the literal meanings of words. We all frequently make interpolations to cover when people say things that literally make no sense, but where we are able to divine by context what the aim of their speech act was.

    Sure if the words were just random noises, we'd be unlikely to make anything of a speech act. But each word, even when misused, will have a bunch of connections to a variety of concepts, which we understand by seeing how these words are commonly used, and we infer meaning from a speech act by searching a pattern of connections between words in the speech act that enables us to interpret it as a whole. Those connections are enormously varied, covering things like 'sounds like', 'would be pronounced by somebody with a lisp like', 'is a French word for', 'is an archaic term for', 'is the legally specified name for', 'is a slang name for, commonly used in the East End'. Our brains conduct an amazingly rapid search of all these possible patterns of connections when we hear a speech act, to come up with an interpretation of it in a fraction of a second.

    It seems to me that this is psychology, rather than philosophy.
  • Snakes Alive
    233
    Can you provide an example where Kripkean analysis helps to understand a speech act in a useful way, that is not available by a different approach, in particular a psychological approach, which is what I see Wittgenstein's as being..andrewk

    See this post:

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/211811

    Kripke's hypothesis explains the behavior of proper names in a wide variety of intensional contexts, in a way that theories that he was repudiating do not. This was just at the time that compositional semantics was getting off the ground, and so prior to this (including in Wittgenstein's day), people weren't sensitive to these kinds of issues. It's part of a real advance in our understanding of language that we now are.

    I don't agree that our ability to express is limited by the literal meanings of words. We all frequently make interpolations to cover when people say things that literally make no sense, but where we are able to divine by context what the aim of their speech act was.andrewk

    The latter does nothing to illustrate the falsity of the former.

    Our brains conduct an amazingly rapid search of all these possible patterns of connections when we hear a speech act, to come up with an interpretation of it in a fraction of a second.andrewk

    I am suggesting to you that the processes by which this happens are something worth studying, rather than throwing our hand sup in the air and saying 'we don't need to worry about meaning – it all happens somehow.'

    Part of this will include thinking about the meaning of proper names. And empirically, proper names are rigid designators (in these sorts of positions – elsewhere they're not, but Kripke didn't think about those cases). I don't care what you ultimately end up saying. That names behave like rigid designators is an observable fact, and the language use is such that we can just arbitrarily declare them not to.
  • Dfpolis
    475
    (1) speech is not about meaning, but about purpose. We make a speech act in order to achieve something.andrewk

    I do not see why this has to be an either-or situation. As Aristotle pointed out there are many modes of explanation. Just because Wittgenstein focuses on final causality does not mean that speech cannot be considered in terms of efficient, formal and material causality. The formal projection of speech deals with its meaning without denying its purposes.

    (2) parsing speech acts, while occasionally useful, is often misleading and can lead to wrong conclusions, because often the act as a whole has an impact or intention that differs from what might be inferred by zooming in on constituent parts.andrewk

    Yes, that is why we need many projections of the same reality -- of which Aristotle's modes of explanation provide four. Parsing, as reduction to parts, is a material approach to speech. Approach ing speech in terms of efficient causality involves considering the role of the speaker in generating speech acts.
  • andrewk
    1.6k

    I'm afraid I'm still not seeing how Kripke's approach aids understanding of the use of language in those linked examples. They are all readily explained by even Russell's approach, and are even easier to understand under Wittgenstein's. Or so it seems to me, anyway.

    Is it perhaps just a matter of preference, that Kripke's approach resonates with some people where R's or W's doesn't, and vice versa for others? Is Kripke claiming that R's and W's ideas were wrong, or just that he prefers to think of things his way (and clearly plenty of philosophers feel likewise)?
  • Snakes Alive
    233
    I'm afraid I'm still not seeing how Kripke's approach aids understanding of the use of language in those linked examples.andrewk

    What do you not understand? I can't help unless you pinpoint some area of difficulty. You asked, and I performed; if you are not arguing in bad faith, it is up to you to engage rather than dismiss.

    Is it perhaps just a matter of preferenceandrewk

    No.

    where R's or W's doesn't, and vice versa for others?andrewk

    There is no 'Kripke's approach' as opposed to 'Russell or Wittgenstein's approach.' Wittgenstein didn't know anything about the issues Kripke was talking about, so the comparison is anachronistic. As to the specific issue being discussed here, where Russell discussed (non-logical, i.e. ordinary) proper names at all, he seemed to take them to be abbreviated descriptions. This is wrong for the sorts of cases Kripke talks about, and examined in the post I linked you to. For instance, if 'Donald Trump' means 'the 45th president...' etc., or some other description, then the predicated behavior of the name in all of these modal environments is wrong, empirically, not as a matter of personal taste.
  • andrewk
    1.6k
    For instance, if 'Donald Trump' means 'the 45th president...' etc., or some other description, then the predicated behavior of the name in all of these modal environments is wrong, empirically, not as a matter of personal taste.
    The question 'what do the words "Donald Trump" mean' is malformed, because meaning depends on context. A coherent version of the question would be 'to what were those words intended to refer in <a particular speech act containing the words>'. One cannot usefully discuss what the words mean without a context. Both R's and W's theories recognise context-dependence. Indeed there is no apparent difference between the example here and Russell's one about 'Bismarck' vs 'the current chancellor of Germany' (or 'Walter Scott vs the author of Waverley').
    What do you not understand? — Snakes Alive
    Put simply, what philosophical problem or question is Kripke trying to solve? If it's a musing then it doesn't need to be about a problem or question. But if it's supposed to solve a problem, or answer a question that has not been answered, or to which the pre-existent answers were inadequate - what is the problem or question?.
  • Snakes Alive
    233
    The question 'what do the words "Donald Trump" mean' is malformed, because meaning depends on context.andrewk

    This simply doesn't follow. There is no inference from 'meaning depends on context' to 'there is no answer to the question of what words mean.'

    One cannot usefully discuss what the words mean without a context.andrewk

    Yes, one can; words have context-independent conventional meanings as well, which include in part schemata for determining what particular use they will be put to in a context. It is in fact only because they have such meanings that they can be usefully be employed in context. It is not as if in every context we begin ab initio, beginning with zero context-independent knowledge about the language, trying to figure out what someone means. This would be Humpty-Dumptyism. What's meant in a context is always constrained by stable meaning in the language.

    Both R's and W's theories recognise context-dependence.andrewk

    This is irrelevant, since literally no one that I'm aware of does not recognize context-dependence.

    Indeed there is no apparent difference between the example here and Russell's one about 'Bismarck' vs 'the current chancellor of Germany' (or 'Walter Scott vs the author of Waverley').andrewk

    The point is that there is a huge difference between proper names and definite descriptions because one is generally rigid while the other is generally not, which has a number of consequences for all sorts of modal environments.

    Put simply, what philosophical problem or question is Kripke trying to solve?andrewk

    I've already talked about this, but have you read Naming and Necessity?
  • andrewk
    1.6k
    I've already talked about this
    Are you referring to the link above to https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/211811? That link is to a series of examples of how one would use Kripke's RD concept. That is not a presentation of a philosophical problem that cannot be solved by any other approach. Indeed, it doesn't seem to present a philosophical problem at all. Are you referring to a different post? If so could you please link to it?
  • Snakes Alive
    233
    Have you read Naming and Necessity?
  • Banno
    3.5k
    Banno’s Observation: it is much easier to criticise a theory if one starts by not understanding it.

    This thread is a case in point.
  • MindForged
    513
    Good point. So, we can agree that the real world is logically prior to any possible world.Dfpolis

    Not logically prior (logically, all worlds are on par, it's the metaphysics where the differences come, e.g. being actual). It's prior in the sense that it's the world I start with and possibility will often be understood with respect to it.

    So, when you say "if the laws of physics were different," you are excluding from S any proposition specifying the actual laws of physics, the evidence leading us to them and their implications. Thus, my definition is perfectly suited to your example.Dfpolis

    Can you clarify? I can't understand what you're saying here. Of course if I'm talking alternate laws of physics I'm excluding the actual laws of physics, that's a trivial observation. The point is when I speak about the possibility of those alternative physics and the consequences of them, that possibility of that proposition is not made true in virtue of the actual world. In the actual world, FTL is physically impossible. Not all possibilities are, contrary to your definition, possible simply by being consistent with the set of facts of the actual world.

    My objection is that the construction of possible worlds does not add to our knowledge of the real world, which remains the same (except for our mental state) no matter what we imagine. In other words, imagining a possible world can give us no new data on the real world, which alone is relevant to understanding our experience consistently.Dfpolis

    This is false. If, for example, God's existence is possible (that is, if God exists in at least one possible world) then we can prove in S5 modal logic that God must also exist in the actual world. There are doubtlessly other examples of this, I just picked a fun one (even if I don't think the argument is sound).

    Why bring in a construct of dubious ontological status? Why not be more parsimonious and say it means "I see nothing to prevent me from being a doctor"? What does the construct add to this besides an unnecessary discussion of the ontological status and semantics of possible worlds?Dfpolis

    Because modal statements are not like non-modal statements. "I am a doctor" has obviously clear truth conditions (true when I am in fact a doctor). But modal statements are often (even usually) about the way the actual world is not. Even your own rendering of it is just sneaking in a modal notion. "Nothing to prevent me" is just a longer way of saying "it's possible that X" ("prevent" specifically is being used to mean "It's not impossible that"), which is the very circularity we are trying to avoid. What makes "It's possible for me to be a doctor" true is that there's a world where I am such. That's a translation of a modal statements into entirely non-modal language.

    Yes, but not in any essential way. Think of all the things we imagine that do not turn out. That some imagined possibilities become actual does not justify the claim that all imagined worlds are possible or self-consistent.Dfpolis

    There's no assumption that any arbitrary world is consistent. In fact, world which are not consistent are deemed impossible worlds. But this has no relevance in the use of PW semantics unless you think that it somehow renders various possibilities impossible.

    "Our sensory representation of an object" is just another name for the modification to our sensory state brought about by sensing that object. What else can it be?Dfpolis

    Our sensory apparatus is not the same as our sensory state (our perceptual experience). By assumption, our perceptual experience changes due to what our sensory organs being modified by the world and that's translated in the brain as our experience of the world. But that representation is in no way perfect and we can even tell that we miss a lot of what's out there.

    Of course, this is blatantly false. It's like saying, if we have a noisy connection, we aren't talking to our mother. In other words, it's nonsense.Dfpolis


    Yea that's a false comparison. We don't have a noisy connection so much as we have an experience of a representation of a partially received phone call from our mother.

    Hardly! I've explained many times now that since they are not actual, possible worlds aren't "there." I've made it clear that their only existence is intentional -- the unparsimonious imaginings of overwrought philosophical minds.Dfpolis

    You're changing the argument again. Just previously your criticism was that W being a possible world was what made it possible that P (not true). Look:

    It is the name of the concept because the employment of the tool requires one to construct, or at least recognize, worlds that are possible.Dfpolis

    Your criticism makes no sense. Our recognition of what worlds are possible requires consistency and a set of worlds to quantify over.

    My point is simple: Independently of whether or not there is such a thing as modal logic, only one world exists simpliciter -- ours. Thus, unless you do add "possible" to "world," consideration is restricted to our actual world. So, using your definition, if p is false in this world, it is impossible. Appealing to modal logic is irrelevant misdirection and distraction.Dfpolis

    No no no. Ignoring the odd comment about whether modal logic exists or not (???), you've got it way wrong. If P is false at a world W, P is still possible so long as there is at least one accessible world W* (determined by the accessibility relation of the modal logic in use) that can be reached from world W. And to say appealing to modal logic is a misdirection is frigging ridiculous. The whole point of PW semantics is to give semantics to modal logic.

    Which means that "Venus" picks out multiple objects (one real, many imagined) and so it is a universal, not a proper name. The only alternative is to say that an imagined Venus is numerically identical with the actual Venus -- but to say this is to deny the difference between reality and fiction.Dfpolis

    No, Venus is a name for an object in the actual world. We surely agree on this. What Venus's in other possible worlds are, are simply variations on Venus in, essentially, different situations; it's still the same underlying object. This is really no different an essentialism than what Aristotle argued for.

    But, it may still be the condition that specifies to whom the proper name is assigned. If we are to pick out which object to call "Dennis" or "Venus" in a modified world we need a well-defined set of criteria. Lacking such criteria, who or what is designated by these names in some possible world is indeterminate. What if we imagine a new second planet; is it, or the third planet, to be called "Venus"? You may choose to ignore such niceties, but if you do, the possible worlds construct is ill-defined.Dfpolis

    What is designated by proper names is fixed across worlds. That doesn't mean people can't use them in different ways had the world been different. But definite descriptions are just one way of seeing who or what a term refers to, but it could never give them meaning of what proper names are. If we simply call a new second planet Venus, that's obviously not the same Venus we were quantifying over when we made modal statements about the actual Venus.

    Inclinations are not a species of modality. They are actual. They determine how an object will act in well-defined circumstances. They are no more "modal" than the laws of nature. If we bring two particles of the same charge next to each other, they will exert a repulsive force according to Coulomb's law. That is a fact about the contingent structure of nature which requires no reference ot possible worlds.Dfpolis

    The possession of inclinations is actual, what an inclination refers to is the propensity to engage in a particular set of possible acts (because one does not always do what they are inclined to do). And inclinations certainly aren't like laws of nature. I am currently inclined to ignore you going forward, it's a possible act I may take.But that doesn't mean I will actually do so because my doing so is not necessary. That's how inclinations work. Laws of nature aren't fluid like they. Given a particular state of affairs they will remain fixed across them.
  • andrewk
    1.6k
    Yes. Let's focus on one of Kripke's examples - the Godel-Schmidt one. His objection appears to be that the definite description 'Godel' in the sentence 'Godel was a great mathematician' has an ambiguous referent, and that is a fatal flaw in the descriptivist approach.

    My response to that is firstly that Witt's approach, which I prefer, would be to look at the whole speech act and its context, who is speaking, what they know about Godel and the theorems that are attributed to them, and infer from that whether the person was referring to the author of the Incompleteness theorems (Schmidt), or to the Godel that ended up at Princeton, and to whom those theorems are attributed.

    But even the descriptivist approach, despite the fact that it has a certain rigidity, can easily be adapted to accommodate this case by recognising that any proposition we utter or imply is preceded by a silent, implicit 'I believe that...' The implied prefix is there even when we are being dogmatic, but perhaps accompanied by a suffix long the lines of 'and I also believe that anybody that doesn't believe that too, is an idiot!'

    Then, if the speaker doesn't know about Schmidt, the definite description Godel probably means, for her:

    I believe all of the following:
    - there once was a man named Godel
    - he lived in Austria in the 19th-20th centuries, then the US
    - he was a great logician
    ....... (maybe some other beliefs about Godel)
    - he did a lot of important work in logic (excluding the incompleteness theorems) and physics
    - he invented the famous incompleteness Theorems

    If the speaker does know about Schmidt, we drop the last proposition from the DD.

    If the speaker doesn't know about Gödel's other work, we drop the second last proposition.

    Either way, the statement is, when expanded out, a conjunction of the above with the proposition
    'I believe that that man was a great mathematician'.

    If the Schmidt story is true, and the speaker didn't know about it, we can say that the statement is thus false, because one of the conjuncts ('G invented the incompleteness theorems) is false. That is exactly the same as how R deduces that the statement 'The present king of France is bald' is False.

    I don't think categorising statements between False and Meaningless (which are the two crudest choices available) is helpful. What we aim to do in communication is to understand the purpose of the speech act. In this case we are trying to work out whether the speaker is expressing her admiration for the creator of the incompleteness theorems, or for Gödel's other work, or for Godel on the assumption that he wrote both the incompleteness theorems and the other logic and physics stuff. To understand that, we need to know more about the speaker, and what they know about Godel, about incompleteness theorems, and about Schmidt.

    In short, the definite description is still there, but it may or may not contain some wrong beliefs, like 'the present king of France', and we need more context to understand whether that is the case. R's approach, with the amendment suggested above, covers this, and W's approach covers it easily.
  • Snakes Alive
    233
    My response to that is firstly that Witt's approach, which I prefer, would be to look at the whole speech act and its context, who is speaking, what they know about Godel and the theorems that are attributed to them, and infer from that whether the person was referring to the author of the Incompleteness theorems (Schmidt), or to the Godel that ended up at Princeton, and to whom those theorems are attributed.andrewk

    The point is that 'Gödel' refers to Gödel, not to Schmidt. It doesn't matter who did the completeness theorems.
  • andrewk
    1.6k

    The point is that 'Gödel' refers to Gödel, not to Schmidt. — Snakes Alive
    If that is Kripke's point than he has a very strange idea of how humans communicate.

    If Schmidt wrote the theorems and the speaker doesn't know that and the only thing she knows about Godel is that (she believes) he wrote the theorems, then it makes no sense to me to suggest that the speaker is referring to the man named Kurt Godel rather than to the creator of the theorems. I'm sure if we outlined the situation in full to the speaker and asked her which she meant, she'd say it was the creator of the theorems.

    You can take a different approach and insist that it still means she was 'referring' to the man Kurt Godel, but the difference between us then becomes one of arbitrary choice of labels or categories that we apply to a statement. It certainly is not one that can be empirically proven right or wrong.
  • Snakes Alive
    233
    Is your claim that if someone says 'Gödel was a brilliant mathematician,' but if it turns out that Schmidt came up with the theorems, then what they said was that Schmidt was a brilliant mathematician?

    Suppose Gödel was a fraud, and I say the above sentence. It turns out he is a terrible mathematician, and stole all his work from Schmidt. Was I right or wrong about what I said?
  • Michael
    7.4k
    Is your claim that if someone says 'Gödel was a brilliant mathematician,' but if it turns out that Schmidt came up with the theorems, then what they said was that Schmidt was a brilliant mathematician?

    Suppose Gödel was a fraud, and I say the above sentence. It turns out he is a terrible mathematician, and stole all his work from Schmidt. Was I right or wrong about what I said?
    Snakes Alive

    Let's say that you know of two brothers, Adam and Steve. One of them wrote a book. You believe that Steve wrote the book when in fact Adam did.

    I've never heard of these brothers but know of the book and ask you who wrote it. You tell me that it's a man named Steve.

    When I say "Steve wrote this book", am I referring to Steve or to Adam (albeit using the wrong name). I believe @andrewk is saying it's the latter.

    Or what if you know that Adam wrote the book but you mistakenly think that his name is "Steve" and so answer my question the same way. Does that make a difference to my claim "Steve wrote the book"?
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.4k
    If Schmidt wrote the theorems and the speaker doesn't know that and the only thing she knows about Godel is that (she believes) he wrote the theorems, then it makes no sense to me to suggest that the speaker is referring to the man named Kurt Godel rather than to the creator of the theorems. I'm sure if we outlined the situation in full to the speaker and asked her which she meant, she'd say it was the creator of the theorems.andrewk

    You do have a point, here, but that is a point that Kripke, and others who follow him (such as Soames, Sperry, Donnellan, Recanati, etc.) would readily acknowledge. There are many cases where (1) what the speaker intends to communicate and (2) what it is that the form of words that she is making use of (in context) is conventionally taken to convey, come appart. In view of that fact, one could dogmatically insist that the speaker's communicative intention always trumps what the conventional meaning of her claims are in determining the content of her speech act. Or one could dogmatically hold that it is always the conventional meaning that determines what it is that she said, regardless of her intentions. The later thesis isn't something that Kripke holds. The former thesis is equally implausible and it would do great injustice to Wittgenstein to ascribe it to him. @Snakes Alive rightfully called that thesis Humpty-Dumptyism.

    Wittgensteinian pragmatism would rather recommend that one be more sensitive to the point of the communication in order to assess, for a given speech act, which of two 'meanings' (i.e. speaker's intention, or conventional meaning), if any, trumps the other one in assessing whether what the speaker said is true or not.

    For instance, suppose Sue, for whatever reason, wrongly believes Kurt Gödel to be the father of her friend Joe. It's actually Schmidt who is the father of her friend Joe. Sue, Joe and Schmidt are having a beer at a bar. Sue knows that the man accompanying Joe is his father; she thus wrongly believes this man to be Kurt Gödel. At some point Schmidt stands up and goes to the restroom while Joe is ordering more beer. Joe then realizes that his father is gone and looks around to find him. Sue says: "Kurt Gödel has gone to the bathroom". Surely, what she said is rather infelicitous. Did she say something true about Schmidt while mistakenly referring to him with the wrong name, or did she say something false about Kurt Gödel? Given the pragmatic point of the communication, the former interpretation might be more apposite. Surely, there is a truth in the vicinity -- that Joe's father went to the bathroom -- and this is the truth Sue meant to express regardless of who the real bearer of the name "Kurt Gödel" is.

    However, as a result of this confusion, (let us suppose that Joe took her to be joking and didn't correct her), Sue is now straddled with the belief that she has witnessed Kurt Gödel go to the bathroom. The following day, Sue meets her friend Anna who tells her that Kurt Gödel suffered from paruresis and hence never visited public restrooms once in his whole life. Sue tells her that this is false since she met Kurt Gödel the day before and witnessed him visit a restroom. Anna tells Sue that this is impossible since Kurt Gödel has been dead for years. After they eventually clear up the misunderstanding regarding the identity (and name) of Joe's father, might Sue be entitled to say that her belief about Gödel was corrects since she meant to be referring to Joe's father? That would mean that she never had a false belief about Gödel and that she never had any real disagreement with Anna. They were just talking past one another. That would be Humpty-Dumptyism.
  • Michael
    7.4k
    For instance, suppose Sue, for whatever reason, wrongly believes Kurt Gödel to be the father of her friend Kurt.Pierre-Normand

    I think this is an ambiguous description. By it do you mean that Sue believes that her friend's father is named "Kurt Gödel" or that her friend's father authored the incompleteness theorems?
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.4k
    I think this is an ambiguous description. By it do you mean that Sue believes that her friend's father is named "Kurt Gödel" or that her friend's father authored the incompleteness theorems?Michael

    You're right. I mean that she knows that there is a famous mathematician named Kurt Gödel who wrote some famous theorems about incompleteness, or whatever, and she doesn't know that this guy is dead.
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