• Banno
    4.7k
    That's pretty much the view critiqued in Philosophical Investigations.

    It's not that it is wrong, so much as that it is misleadingly incomplete.

    and as long as I can make sense, per my meanings, concepts, etc., of what you said, especially in the context of other things you've said (and will say), that amounts to understanding you.Terrapin Station
    ( my bolding)

    What's hidden here? As it stands, meaning is explained in terms of meaning.
  • Terrapin Station
    6.8k


    Again, that's basically the sort of distinction I'm making. It's a locational distinction.
  • Terrapin Station
    6.8k
    That's pretty much the view critiqued in Philosophical Investigations.Banno

    Almost every sentence of PI has some problem. I was detailing that in my comments on the PI thread.

    What's hidden here?Banno

    What's hidden? I have no idea what you're asking. So here's an example where the sounds (or marks) you're making can't be given coherent meanings from my perspective.

    As it stands, meaning is explained in terms of meaning.Banno

    I don't bother with criticisms about "explanations" unless someone gives their demarcation criteria for explanations.
  • fdrake
    1.8k


    Just some thoughts.

    It looks to me like 'One ought not kill' and 'One ought follow the imperative 'do not kill'' might actually work through different modalities. The first is a modality that applies neatly to events, as if we are predicating 'ought not' to the event 'killing'. The second might actually be relational - between a speaker S uttering a command C and an agent A - in my book there either needs to be an utterer or some other structure S which applies C to A. Perhaps the first modality O might be interpreted as universal quantification over S and A - IE that an arbitrary A ought to follow C as uttered by an arbitrary S (aRcs). I don't trust that this would seamlessly lead to the equivalence between O(x) and (aRxs) as it seems to me there will be ambiguous cases between, say, the boundary of killing and the prevention of death. So it might be, say, permissible to divert the tracks in the trolley problem but 'one ought not kill' could still be true.

    The water there is quite muddy, as it seems to require an analysis of the relationship of speech acts to the norms they require and establish (which presumably what all this rule following talk is working towards). But the ability to evaluate aRcs using norms; they may fail for some and obtain for others; lends aRcs a contingency not afforded to the raw statement 'one ought not kill'.

    Another difficulty I can see is how we would extract propositional content from 'one ought not kill', say that we've abstracted 'ought' to an operator O on propositions, what proposition x would you write to translate 'one ought not kill' to the form O(x)? It looks to me like the easiest translation would be just to take 'not kill', but that is not a proposition - rather it's the negation of a verb, so it is not the negation of a proposition - what is the truth value of 'not kill'?. So rather than operating on propositions, O should be able to range over events and somehow the 'negation' of events. The easiest path I see here is to make O operate over stipulated events which either occur or do not occur, interpreting negation as nonoccurence of the event.

    Edit: just to be particularly perverse, we might be able to imagine O as a mapping from events and non-occurrences to propositions; which are thus true or false. Ought-language and moral reasoning seems to be done with much the same moves as we would expect from logical discourse, even if the domain of O were not propositions.
  • Moliere
    1.6k
    So you are saying perception is reserved for the processing of information that is outside of the mind.

    Let's go with it. Does that perception have a meaning, or not? That, after all, is what I'm trying to understand -- your boundaries for the usage of the term "meaning".
  • Terrapin Station
    6.8k
    Let's go with it. Does that perception have a meaning, or not? That, after all, is what I'm trying to understand -- your boundaries for the usage of the term "meaning".Moliere

    So it's important to understand that meaning is an activity that we perform. It's not something that external things have or not.

    Can we perform that activity (the meaning activity) in response to our perceptions, sure. But it's not identical to the perceptions. It's something additional to them.
  • Banno
    4.7k
    'One ought not kill' and 'One ought follow the imperative 'do not kill''fdrake

    'One ought not kill': Killing is an element in the group of things we ought not do.

    'One ought follow the imperative 'do not kill'': 'Do not kill' is an element of the group of things we ought do, and is an imperative.

    Roughly. Plenty of errors there. Reminiscent f Davidson's attempt to parse English in a first order language.
  • S
    7.5k
    "Killing is wrong" can be re-parsed as "don't kill".Banno

    Sure, it can be, but that doesn't mean that it's appropriate to do so. And it wouldn't be appropriate if one only meant to make a descriptive statement.

    If "Killing is wrong" is true, then one ought follow the imperative "Don't kill".Banno

    Doesn't follow. You need an additional premise which works, but the first quote doesn't work as a premise tying this together, because what about when it's inappropriate?

    Nice try, but the is/ought problem remains a problem.
  • Moliere
    1.6k
    So it's important to understand that meaning is an activity that we perform. It's not something that external things have or not.

    Can we perform that activity (the meaning activity) in response to our perceptions, sure. But it's not identical to the perceptions. It's something additional to them.
    Terrapin Station

    And that activity is mental association, right?

    So if I associate tea with crumpets then I have a meaning, let's just say that I put them in any relation together (be it in space, as a meal, or within time) then that is the meaning-activity.


    Where does language enter in this picture?
  • Terrapin Station
    6.8k
    So if I associate tea with crumpets then I have a meaning, let's just say that I put them in any relation together (be it in space, as a meal, or within time) then that is the meaning-activity.


    Where does language enter in this picture?
    Moliere

    Meaning is the associative act, not what you're associating (just to make sure you're clear on that).

    Language enters the picture because it's one of the primary things we assign meanings to.
  • Moliere
    1.6k
    Thanks for the clarification, I wasn't sure which way. Meaning is the act of associating. Associating is putting . . . well, what? into a relation? Or not a relation?

    And is language somehow then outside of meaning?
  • Terrapin Station
    6.8k
    Associating is putting . . . well, what? into a relation? Or not a relation?Moliere

    I wouldn't say that it's possible to "put something not into a relation with something else."

    So yeah, it's a kind of relation.

    And is language somehow then outside of meaning?Moliere

    That would just depend on how you want to think about it/what you want to focus on. You could just look at a text as marks on a page or utterances as soundwaves--those are aspects of what we commonly call language. If you just want to focus on that stuff, you can.
  • Banno
    4.7k
    Almost every sentence of PI has some problem. I was detailing that in my comments on the PI thread.Terrapin Station

    Well, we disagree profoundly here.

    What's hidden? I have no idea what you're asking.Terrapin Station

    and as long as I can make sense, per my meanings, concepts, etc.,Terrapin Station

    It's just that your explanation needs some more - you explain "sense"in terms of meaning.

    A better approach for you might well be Davidson's triangulation. As it stands there is nothing that your two participants hav in common. Their shared world can provide that. Then you might have something like "As long as I can make sense per my understanding of our shared world".

    Otherwise, if all you have is more meanings and concepts all located in your refrigerator, you will be stuck inside.
  • S
    7.5k
    What's hidden? I have no idea what you're asking. So here's an example where the sounds (or marks) you're making can't be given coherent meanings from my perspective.Terrapin Station

    You cannot pick up the meaning. It's not that it has no meaning, and it's not that it needs to be given one, it's that you need to pick it up. Banno can help with that. He can share his language rule. This is to be interpreted like this, and not like that. That sort of thing.
  • Terrapin Station
    6.8k
    Well, we disagree profoundly here.Banno

    So let's hash it out in the PI thread.

    It's just that your explanation needs some more - you explain "sense"in terms of meaning.Banno

    Again, I'm not going to bother at all with anything based on a critique of whether anything is an "explantion" or not without you setting out your general criteria for explanations. (Which I'd then have to test to make sure that it's really your criteria.)

    As it stands there is nothing that your two participants hav in common.Banno

    If that were so, then what of it?
  • S
    7.5k
    So it's important to understand that meaning is an activity that we perform. It's not something that external things have or not.Terrapin Station

    Ah, someone else who confuses understanding and meaning. My distinction can help you with that problem. What you're describing in your first sentence is understanding, not meaning. Meaning is something that external things can have, like a written sentence.
  • Banno
    4.7k
    So let's hash it out in the PI thread.Terrapin Station

    No need. Others will help you.
  • fdrake
    1.8k
    'One ought not kill': Killing is an element in the group of things we ought not do.

    'One ought follow the imperative 'do not kill'': 'Do not kill' is an element of the group of things we ought do, and is an imperative.
    Banno

    I think I have to be picky here and say that it's quite a lot different to have 'ought' ranging over activities like killing and commands like 'Do not kill'. The grammar's quite a lot different. Imperatives have a structure something like the below account (for imperative speaker S, an agent H and an event E). Taken from here, I'm sure there are limitations of the account I won't understand.

    a. S refers to an event (stipulated) E that can potentially be brought about by H
    b. S takes an (affirmative) stance towards the actualization of this potential (S affirms that E should be brought about by H)
    c. S presents this stance as relevant to H’s decisions about H’s future course of action.

    Whereas activities aren't even language stuff. The deed isn't the promise or command to do it. Letting the domain range over imperatives and activities without an eye for their differences removes the distinctions between them. Relevant distinctions are that imperatives are performative relational triads, words for activities (in the context we're using them anyway) are singular and constantive. We can evaluate imperatives by substituting in S's E's and H's, 'killing' is always just killing and 'not killing' is always just not killing. You could view them from the same vantage point with the same (modal) operator, but this means that 'ought' actually ranges (partly) over speech acts!
  • Banno
    4.7k
    TO be candid, I would drop "meaning" from most philosophical conversation. It's far more productive to talk about what we do with words, how they interact with the world, and such, than to get bogged down in esoteric waffle about concepts and such.

    Having said that, there are some interesting aspects of the grammar of moral language that can be cleaned up. Moral statements have a direction of fit that distinguishes them from some other sorts of statements; they are unlike mere statements of preference, in that they set out what others should do, not just what the speaker should do; and they have their import in providing justification for what we do.
  • fdrake
    1.8k
    TO be candid, I would drop "meaning" from most philosophical conversation. It's far more productive to talk about what we do with words, how they interact with the world, and such, than to get bogged down in esoteric waffle about concepts and such.Banno

    I hope this wasn't directed at me, I tried so hard to put my analytic philosophy goggles on!
  • Banno
    4.7k
    Interesting. Not sure I understand.

    To be sure, speech acts are acts, and hence subject to moral interpretation. I think we agree on this.

    Relevant distinctions are that imperatives are performative relational triads, words for activities (in the context we're using them anyway) are singular and constantive.fdrake

    Triad? just to make sure we are on the same page - speaker, hearer and state of affairs? Words for activities have their use, perhaps, hen placed in such triads.
  • Banno
    4.7k
    :grin: Not directly. Just thought it worth making my overall position clearer.
  • Moliere
    1.6k
    TO be candid, I would drop "meaning" from most philosophical conversation. It's far more productive to talk about what we do with words, how they interact with the world, and such, than to get bogged down in esoteric waffle about concepts and suchBanno

    There is wisdom to that.

    But it's so much fun. ;) :D
  • Banno
    4.7k
    Like eating the chocolate cake. Fun, but not good in the long run.
  • fdrake
    1.8k
    Triad? just to make sure we are on the same page - speaker, hearer and state of affairs? Words for activities have their use, perhaps, hen placed in such triads.Banno

    Aye. I figured that 'triad' would be less obscure than 'ternary predicate'. I don't have any goals here other than to brainfart into the thread, and I don't care so much about whether ethical statements are truth apt, about emotivism or cognitivism or the usual meta-ethical fare, I care more about paying attention to what we do with norms and imperatives and so on.
  • Banno
    4.7k
    As it stands there is nothing that your two participants have in common.
    — Banno

    If that were so, then what of it?
    Terrapin Station

    Well, for reasons I set out elsewhere, that convinces me that what you have said is insufficient to explain how we understand each other. Hence the need for some sort of triangulation.

    Using words presupposes a shared world, which those words are about.

    SO it's not only in the head.
  • fdrake
    1.8k
    To be sure, speech acts are acts, and hence subject to moral interpretation. I think we agree on this.Banno

    I agree with this, yes. But I think there's a pretty big distinction between the function of an imperative - how it imparts a norm and that it imparts a norm - and saying one ought to follow the same thing as a moral maxim. Having a single modal operator will not allow you to parse this distinction. It's important, as attending to the function of an imperative is not endorsing the act that imperative takes an affirmative stance towards.
  • Joshs
    362

    “Even if we had a perfect way of observing exactly what a brain was doing, we would never be able to understand how it made us have the kinds of experiences we do. The experiences just aren't happening inside our skulls. Trying to understand consciousness in neural terms alone is like trying to understand a car driving down the road only in terms of its engine. It's bad philosophy masquerading as science.”
    “But the view that the self and consciousness can be explained in terms of the brain, that the real us is found inside our skulls, isn't just misleading and wrong, it's ugly. In that view, each of us is trapped in the caverns of his own skull and the world is just a sort of shared figment. Everything is made interior, private, rational and computational. That may not pose a practical danger, but it presents a kind of spiritual danger.”
    Alva Noe

    https://www.salon.com/2009/03/25/alva_noe/
  • Banno
    4.7k
    I'm thinking along the lines of "...is good" as the predicate for statements that are then parsed as an imperative. Not kicking puppies is good. Hence, don't kick puppies.
  • Judaka
    94

    Let me clarify a few things, this is what you called me "idealistically" failing to distinguish between understanding and meaning.

    I suspect that the difference between what I think your words mean and what you think those words mean is trivial or non-existent. That's what allows language to function. This has not demonstrated objective meaning any more than an objective truth would be demonstrated to be true if it were shown that all souls on Earth believed it wasJudaka

    This is a quote which really shows that I recognised the difference between the two from the start. I would advise you that your assumptions about me are incorrect. You don't see it perhaps but I am saying what allows language to function is some level of understanding and not objective meaning. This is achieved through small enough differences in our interpretations to allow communication.

    It is from the start that it was, in fact, you who has argued for objective meaning by demonstrating understanding is possible. I don't consider this "idealism" but it is something you've admitted to doing.

    It is also not the case that we are debating to see whether or not you can be satisfied that you are wrong and I am right. I said earlier that you think my arguments have no merit and I think I've pretty much proven the idea of objective meaning to be false at this point. I don't really agree that the onus is on me to disprove objective meaning if you thought it existed then you must prove it. I only wanted to prove that objective meaning doesn't exist because I think I can.

    I think for me to continue talking to you, I'd have to go back and revise all of your arguments for objective meaning and try to dismantle them in front of you. Whether I could or not, who knows? It just doesn't strike me as a very interesting concept and I get worried when debating people who seem to have a low opinion on me. You are the "realist" and I am the "idealist", I don't want to argue with someone who sees the debate being framed in that way.
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