• StreetlightX
    3.5k
    There's a wonderful and kind of cute discussion by Stanley Cavell about what it might mean to reject or affirm the idea that 'houses turn into flowers'. Now, on the face of it, it's pretty clear that it's simply false: houses do not turn into flowers. But Cavell goes on to ask: even if such a claim is simply rejected outright, what even could such a rejection mean?:

    "But is it merely in fact the case that houses do not turn into flowers? What do we learn - what fact is conveyed - when we are told that they do not? What would it be like if the flowers and houses did turn into one another? What would "houses" or "flowers" mean in the language of such a world? What would be the difference between (what we call) stones and seeds? Where would we live in that world, and what would we grow in our gardens? And what would "grow" mean?" (The Claim of Reason).

    Cavell's claim is something like: if you're affirming or denying that houses can turn into flowers, then you're not 'merely' adding a new fact to the store of known facts; meaning must also be revised. Because insofar what we call houses and flowers are concerned, one cannot possibly be talking about houses and flowers as we know them, even if to reject the idea that houses cannot turn into flowers. To even deny that houses can turn into flowers, one would have to change what we understand houses and flowers to be altogether. To bring the point out a bit, he compares the following statements (following a similar procedure that Wittgenstein carries out at one point in the Investigations*):

    (1) Unwatered seeds do not turn into flowers.
    (2) Acorns do not turn into flowers.
    (3) Houses do not turn into flowers.

    Now, there's something peculiar about (3). Unwatered seeds are the kind of thing that could, if watered, turn into flowers. Acorns, well, not the kind of thing that could turn into flowers, but one can imagine oneself correcting a child who thinks flowers come from acorns. But what about (3)? Could one even make the mistake? Is it a fact that must be corrected if it turned out that houses can, in some circumstances, turn into flowers? Or is it also the very meaning of 'houses' and 'flowers' - and the whole constellation of related terms like 'grow' and 'live' - that needs now to come under wholesale revision?

    One last way to put the point: insofar as we have an understanding of what houses and flowers are, if houses could turn into flowers, we would no longer know (for a time, anyway) what either houses or flowers were. We would have to revise not only our facts (what we say), but also how we say. Which is another way of saying: to say 'houses do/do not turn into flowers' - in 'this' world in which we live and breathe - is, in some sense, unintelligible. Confronted with that statement, one simply might not know how to respond, having meaning sapped from what used to be familiar words.

    --

    Quick moral because I've written too much: facts are given against a background of meaning and significance by which they count as facts of a certain sort - in our example, 'houses turn into flowers', if true, could not be true of 'our' houses and flowers. And importantly, neither could it be false of our houses and flowers.

    --

    * Witty's list, for comparison, is (PI,II, §314):

    (1) A new-born child has no teeth.
    (2) A goose has no teeth.
    (3) A rose has no teeth.
  • fdrake
    2k
    Quick moral because I've written too much: facts are given against a background of meaning and significance by which they count as facts of a certain sort - in our example, 'houses turn into flowers', if true, could not be true of 'our' houses and flowers. And importantly, neither could it be false of our houses and flowers.StreetlightX

    I don't really buy this. Framing devices and their rhetorical background/discursive-conceptual structure/philosophical grammar could possibly have 'houses turn into flowers' as a metaphor or allegory - perhaps a poem that charted a human extinction event and ended on a hopeful note of the beauty of nature without humans. But such an expression's sense comes from a non-literal meaning of the phrase.

    When we say that a meaning is non-literal, we are able to (implicitly anyway) quantify over philosophical grammars, discursive contexts and so on, and the reasons why the phrase could only be given a sense allegorically are precisely the same reasons why 'houses turn into flowers' is literally false.

    It isn't as if one simply summons a single discursive context along with an expression which vouchsafes the uniqueness, or otherwise singularly determines, the sense of the phrase, and moreover we can allow our inquiry to range over such contexts to the extent a phrase has multiple interpretations with fuzzy boundaries between them.
  • StreetlightX
    3.5k
    Framing devices and their rhetorical background/discursive-conceptual structure/philosophical grammar could possibly have 'houses turn into flowers' as a metaphor or allegoryfdrake

    I agree, but importantly, it would not be houses and flowers (red bricks and peonies) that we're talking about. 'Houses do not turn into flowers!' might be used as - say - a warning to a boxer who wants to take up MMA or something. That's the point: it's not facts that are stake here. Yours is a good point I wanted to address but for lack of space left out. But a Cavell quote, now you've given me an excuse:

    "It has been suggested to me that "Houses are turning into flowers" does mean something clear, for example in an animated cartoon or a dream. This is undeniable. In such contexts we say, for example, see a cathedral with a rose window turn into a rose. But I did not wish to suggest that such a statement meant nothing, only that we had to give it a clear meaning. And in having to imagine such a context in order to invite its projection we are imagining a world for which the statement "We have absolutely conclusive evidence that houses don't turn into flowers" is false, or rather, means nothing, because in such a world the (our) concept of evidence has no application: anything can be followed by anything. Cartoons make us laugh because they are enough like our world to be terribly sad and frightening."
  • fdrake
    2k
    That's the point: it's not facts that are stake hereStreetlightX

    Well, it could be, if the interpretive context is examining the literal truth of the phrase. Just as in the other grammars we'd fit the world to it, we can fit it to the world.
  • StreetlightX
    3.5k
    I should have said: not only our facts are at stake.
  • fdrake
    2k


    Let me be a cynic here. What's the distinction you're trying to highlight? And how does it differ from these banalities:

    (1) The literal truth of a phrase isn't always interesting.
    (2) Imaginary circumstances don't have to follow the usual rules.
    (3) Interpretation comes prior to truth value assignment.
  • andrewk
    2.1k
    Is this essentialism? Cavell's thesis seems to be that if our kind of houses do not turn into our kind of flowers, they must have an essential property, rather than an accidental property, that they turn into heaps of rubble when their existence as a house ends, rather than into a flower.

    I see no reason why the turning into rubble could not be seen as an accidental property of houses. It would change very little in the way we interact with and talk about houses. I can easily imagine a world in which Professor McGonagall could utter the incantation fleurismus! and wave her wand in just the right way to transfigure a bungalow into a peony. I could imagine a somewhat less magical world in which some sort of emotional or spiritual force field made a house spontaneously collapse in a cloud of dust when the last person that had lived in it died, and when the dust cleared, there was a bed of blooming roses.

    It seems to me that the statement 'houses don't turn into flowers' is a simple observation of an accidental property of objects in the particular world we inhabit.

    Caveat: My worldview is very non-essentialist, so I am not intimately familiar with the rules and conventions of essentialism. Perhaps a signed-up Aristotelean would object to the way I am using terms such as 'accidental property'.
  • StreetlightX
    3.5k
    There are a few things going on in the OP, some of which I'm myself trying to disentangle by writing about it. This...:

    (3) Interpretation comes prior to truth value assignmentfdrake

    ...comes closest to what's going on, but the sense of 'interpretation' here is very particular. True, we must 'interpret' a claim before deciding if it is true or not, but quite specifically, we must also 'decide' if this is what the truth claim applies to; we must decide if this is what counts as what the truth claim is about. So: out of the blue, you say "houses turn into flowers"; I imagine my first thought is: you're not talking about roses and such - that's not what 'counts as' as flower in your locution; no, you're being metaphorical, you're being a bit annoyingly enigmatic about what you're talking about, but I'm sure it'll be cleared up if I inquire further (I suspect you're saying something like: an MMA fighter can't become a professional boxer). And that's alright.

    But no, you really mean that houses turn into flowers. After a moment of shock, assuming you're not joshing me, I realize I no longer know what counts as a house; nor a flower. The world in which these terms took on their significance has been totally upended for me. Note that something has shifted massively between the first and second 'receptions' of the claim 'houses turn into flowers'. The 'metaphorical reception' 'fits' into the world I know: I still know, despite the metaphorical use, what here counts as a flower and house. The literal reception throws that all out of what: what counts any more as a house or a flower? I'm no longer sure, the grammar of my concepts needs to be revised; what kind of thing(s) I say about houses and flowers needs to be revised.

    (I wrote, in a draft: The kinds of things I say about houses and flowers must change entirely. Not facts, but the 'relations between facts' (and these are not to be found 'in' the facts; they are found in our grammar, in how concepts relate to other concepts) must change. The change occurs 'in the space of reasons', qua Sellars).

    Anyway, what this brings out is that there must then be currently a set of kinds of things that I or 'we' say about houses and flowers - there must be, if this is what must undergo revision upon the revelation that houses turn into flowers. One of the points, I guess, is that this is really hard to see. It's only at point of 'grammatical crisis', we might say, that our sedimented grammar shows itself up as sedimented. A bit like Heidegger's broken hammer.

    But there are other points to be made too: about how the intelligibility of language (of what we say) is derivative or premised upon the world, the life in which it is used; in 'this' world, houses are not the kind of thing that (can) turn into flowers. And the very intelligibility of our speaking of (what we call) houses and flowers is derived from this (more or less) stable fact. And while we can, as you said, simply stipulate (as with metaphor) what we mean by such a phrase that does not turn upon this fact, we would not be speaking about the same thing as someone who is speaking about red bricks and peonies.

    --

    Another way to make the same point: one might make a distinction (which Cavell kinda does) between words which are 'only' their meanings (stipulations, metaphor), and words which take their significance from the world in which they are embedded - 'lived' meanings, as it were. Cavell speaks of words which 'have nothing but their meanings' (which are 'merely'/only conventional), and contrasts this with words that have a relation to the world, which take their intelligibility from how things are in the world (like the fact that houses are not the kind of thing which turn into flowers!). Both 'kinds' of words are of course meaningful - one cannot deny that metaphor and so on are meaningful; but the danger is in confusing the two, in treating the one like the other.
  • StreetlightX
    3.5k
    Is this essentialism? Cavell's thesis seems to be that if our kind of houses do not turn into our kind of flowers, they must have an essential property, rather than an accidental property, that they turn into heaps of rubble when their existence as a house ends, rather than into a flower.andrewk

    If one wants to call this essentialism (I'm not a fan), it's a very strange kind of essentialism: a grammatical essentialism and not a 'metaphysical' one. An essentialism in Wittgenstein's mold (PI §371/373: "Essence is expressed in grammar ... Grammar tells what kind of object anything is"). An essentialism moreover, that is open to revision: were it to be the case that houses could turn into flowers, than that is what we would obviously have to say.

    So it's that not our kind of houses do not turn into our kind of flowers because they have 'essential properties', but because what we call houses (the kinds of things we count as being houses) are not the kinds of things that turn into what we (happen to) call flowers (what we count as being flowers). So at stake here is a question of intelligibility, not properties and (substantial) essences. Or, if essences, then essences pertaining to what we count, call, or recognize as houses and flowers: a question of how we relate to the world around us, and not questions about the world 'in itself'.

    So with respect to the magical or spiritual examples you invoked, the point is that if such things came to pass (and nothing in particular guarantees that they cannot), such things would not just count as one new fact among other facts which we add to the stock of facts we know about (what we call) houses. That houses could turn into flowers would not (only) be a fact like, 'houses can sometimes have attics and basements'. It would be a fact that would force us to revise what it is that we count as a house (or as a flower) to begin with.
  • I like sushi
    617
    A green rock eats yellow sounds whilst fondly crouching under a slither of dark bubbling duress.

    Such phrases are useful only to the whimsical mystic within ;)
  • Joshs
    549
    one might make a distinction (which Cavell kinda does) between words which are 'only' their meanings (stipulations, metaphor), and words which take their significance from the world in which they are embedded - 'lived' meanings, as it were. Cavell speaks of words which 'have nothing but their meanings' (which are 'merely'/only conventional), and contrasts this with words that have a relation to the world, which take their intelligibility from how things are in the world (like the fact that houses are not the kind of thing which turn into flowers!). Both 'kinds' of words are of course meaningful - one cannot deny that metaphor and so on are meaningful; but the danger is in confusing the two, in treating the one like the other.StreetlightX

    It seems to me that Heidegger and Derrida would argue that metaphoricity and world-embeddedness are inseparably implied in all meanings, In your example:
    (1) Unwatered seeds do not turn into flowers.
    (2) Acorns do not turn into flowers.
    (3) Houses do not turn into flowers

    The first 2 require a metaphoric displacement just as much as the 3rd, even when they appear to be non-problematically intelligible. Simply determining something AS something is a transforming-performing. It understands, interprets, and articulates, and thereby "takes apart" and transnforms what it affirms.
  • StreetlightX
    3.5k
    The first 2 require a metaphoric displacement just as much as the 3rd, even when they appear to be non-problematically intelligible. Simply determining something AS something is a transforming-performing. It understands, interprets, and articulates, and thereby "takes apart" and transnforms what it affirms.Joshs

    I don't disagree, and the distinction is more a matter of degree than kind; after all, even stipulation is a kind of way of life, albeit a very 'thin' one: not much rides on using a particular metaphor if a boxer is taking up MMA. But still, for the purposes of the point being made, the deconstruction of the distinction - while perfectly valid - is simply not relevant.
  • I like sushi
    617
    Have you guys thought about this in a more simplistic language. For example we’re humans, and where there is data we try to apply a pattern of meaning. That is all there is too it. We assume there is a way to understand any given item - be it a phrase or singular word (the difference between these being a matter of selection in order to ... well, apply a pattern of meaning).
  • Joshs
    549
    the distinction is more a matter of degree than kind; after all, even stipulation is a kind of way of lifeStreetlightX

    Yes, and by the same token, just as Heidegger's broken hammer makes visible but does not violate the overaching pragmatic sense of the situation it interrupts, an anomalous phrase within a specific logical context can be comfortably construed as nonsense within the frame of relevance of that context.
    If , on the other hand, 'houses do not turn into flowers' is successfully transformed from nonsense to meaningfulness, it i s because an ongoing superordinate intelligibility guides the search for new interpretive contexts. As you say, the character of anomaly is a matter of degree.
  • unenlightened
    3.5k
    Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?

    Some of them turned into owls.

    Some of us live in flowers already.

    there must then be currently a set of kinds of things that I or 'we' say about houses and flowers - there must be, if this is what must undergo revision upon the revelation that houses turn into flowers.StreetlightX

    That 'we' fascinates me, as though there are also or might be 'others' - poets, saints and madmen, who do not recognise these circumscriptions of our language. 'Of course, we are star dust, and flowers and houses are star dust, and everything turns into everything. To every thing, turn turn turn...'
  • StreetlightX
    3.5k
    Yes! There's a whole ethics, if not politics, of language bond up in all of this. It's something Cavell is attentive to, exemplified in one of my favourtie passages in the book so far:

    "To speak for yourself then means risking the rebuff — on some occasion, perhaps once for all —
    of those for whom you claimed to be speaking; and it means risking having to rebuff —on some occasion, perhaps once for all —those who claimed to be speaking for you. There are directions other than the political in which you will have to find your own voice — in religion, in friendship, in parenthood, in love, in art — and to find your own work; and the political is likely to be heartbreaking or dangerous. So are the others. ... Once you recognize a community as yours, then it does speak for you until you say it doesn't, i.e., until you show that you do. A fortunate community is one in which the issue is least costly to raise; and only necessary to raise on brief, widely spaced, and agreed upon occasions; and, when raised, offers a state of affairs you can speak for, i.e., allows you to reaffirm the polis". (The Claim of Reason)

    To say "I speak" is always to make a claim for being part of a "we speak", by virtue of meaning anything at all. A claim that may be rebuffed, open to revision, itself a rebuff and so on. We speak not just as 'part' of a community, but for one; and it, for us. Right up until it, or we, do not. Thence enters the ethical, and the political.

    Who is 'us', who is not? Who counts as 'us'? This is no less a question than what counts as a house or a flower. Who gets to count this as a flower, and that not.
  • csalisbury
    1.7k
    But no, you really mean that houses turn into flowers. After a moment of shock, assuming you're not joshing me, I realize I no longer know what counts as a house; nor a flower. The world in which these terms took on their significance has been totally upended for me. Note that something has shifted massively between the first and second 'receptions' of the claim 'houses turn into flowers'. The 'metaphorical reception' 'fits' into the world I know: I still know, despite the metaphorical use, what here counts as a flower and house. The literal reception throws that all out of what: what counts any more as a house or a flower? I'm no longer sure, the grammar of my concepts needs to be revised; what kind of thing(s) I say about houses and flowers needs to be revised.StreetlightX

    But I think if fdrake really did say that to you, in real life, and you had established he wasn't joking, what would actually happen is (1) you would worry for his mental health or (2) you would expect some kind of explanation of what he means. You would expect him to expect that you'd be shocked, you'd expect that he would be aware of the effect that sentence would have on you, and so be prepared to help you make sense of it. It would be meaningful that he said it 'out of the blue'.If he kept it at that level, maintained it's out-of-the-blueness without aiding you - then you would probably ascribe to him either some sort of hostility or a zen-like approach to koan you into a higher understanding.*

    But say fdrake told you that with every intent to guide you through the meaning. He DM'ed you, but then his internet went down, leaving you to puzzle over what he meant. I think there are a lot of steps you would take before jettisoning your conceptual grammar. (There are a lot of levels here, but I think what this example is essentially playing with is our understanding of the physical and biological world. It's less about houses and flowers, and more about what physical transformations we think are possible. Like, if some architect created a house with biological materials, such that it really did, at some point, become a flower, I don't think that would mess with our heads too much. I mean, I'd almost be surprised if there isn't some architect who really has already done something like this. This might be one of the things you take fdrake to mean, before moving to deep conceptual revision. )

    I know this could seem like I'm missing the point by focusing too specifically on the particular example, rather than what it's meant to show. But - if we're talking about statements the acceptance of which would entail major revisions of 'conceptual grammar', I think the pragmatic dimension would play as important a role as the semantic/syntactic dimenions (etc. I don't know enough about linguistics to know if I'm saying this right.)

    Considering this idea from the lens of D&G's' conceptual personae'. Absent any pragmatic specifications (besides establishing that the ohter person isn't joking), the conceptual persona in this example, the one sent reeling by learning that 'houses turn into flowers,' would be a sort of tortured, childlike, prophet (God will destroy the city, god will build it back up) whose cognitive defenses against categorial chaos are tragically underdeveloped,

    A: Giving birth is how you log onto the internet.
    B: Ha, good one!
    A: No, I'm serious
    B: WHAT IS REAL?

    _____________
    * [edit: Or maybe a narcissistic indifference, even unawareness of its effects. But here, and I think this important, this wouldn't fit your relationship with fdrake. It would better characterize the attitude of adult to whom it wouldn't even occur that a child wouldn't make sense of what he said. Or an an expert talking to a layman. I think these traumatic irruptions probably happen a lot, but in different settings, and this relativity of effect to setting seems key]
  • StreetlightX
    3.5k
    I can easily imagine a world in which Professor McGonagall could utter the incantation fleurismus! and wave her wand in just the right way to transfigure a bungalow into a peony. I could imagine a somewhat less magical world in which some sort of emotional or spiritual force field made a house spontaneously collapse in a cloud of dust when the last person that had lived in it died, and when the dust cleared, there was a bed of blooming roses.andrewk

    Was thinking about this a bit more: I think I'm avoiding magical examples because if McGonagall could just wave her wand and transfigure a bungalow into a peony, I've got bigger conceptual worries: now there is magic! (where does that fit into things?) More than just the constellation of grammar associated with houses and plants ('growing', 'living', 'stones', 'seeds', etc), but also, physics, matter, possibility, and all the rest. The mesh or network of interrelated concepts that now need to be rearranged in relation to each other is massively larger. Keeping the example to something 'locally' bizzare allows us to keep focused on the philosophical stakes a bit easier.

    @Csalisbury: about to sleep, will reply tomorrow.
  • Banno
    5.1k
    (3) Interpretation comes prior to truth value assignment.fdrake

    This might not be as obvious as it seems.

    Sometimes we must assume that what has been said is true in order to work out what it meant - the Principle of Charity.
  • Banno
    5.1k
    There's a wonderful and kind of cute discussion by Stanley CavellStreetlightX

    Where?

    Don't worry - found it.
  • Banno
    5.1k
    SO the house, long disused, is pulverised, composted and suitably arranged at its location so as to form a flowerbed.
  • StreetlightX
    3.5k
    I think these traumatic irruptions probably happen a lot, but in different settings, and this relativity of effect to setting seems keycsalisbury

    Your post brings to mind alot of the debate that occasionally crops up, in Lacanian circles, between those who bank on the 'Real' as provding some kind of Big Heroic Eruption/Event in the Normal Order of Things, and those who see the 'Symbolic' as a site of potential (revolutionary?) change, able to be worked on over time. I think there's a parallel and related debate to be had here, and I think you're right that the 'relativity of effect to setting' is what adjudicates, to a large degree, how the change plays out.

    It's a matter - or at least, this is how I read what you're bringing up - of bringing history and 'materiality' back into the fold: what are the singularities of the situation that we need to pay attention to; the inflexion points, the points of instablity or opportunity or pain (in this time and in this space) which can be exploited or brought into play such that something new (= new meaning, new significance) can be introduced (in the most pragmatic(?) way). And this stuff ins't something that can be 'theoried' beforehand.

    So yes, obviously I'm sharpening the issue to bring out the salient points in the starkest relief possible, skipping over the hard and patient work that someone (fdrake, in my example) might need to put in to 'acclimatize' me to learning that houses can in fact turn into flowers. And I think the reason this needs to be done - the reason why Cavell (who actually takes the example from Norman Malcolm) has to resort to this fancification - is that only by doing this can the (relative) difference in kind between adding new facts ("Unwatered seeds do not turn into flowers") and changing understanding ("Houses do not turn into flowers") be brought out, as a properly conceptual difference.

    Also, as a last point, one of the things Cavell also focuses on is that this is how, for the most part, learning - pedagogy - takes place as well. Your comments on being childlike remind me of this: the 'wonder' or surprise of children might be said to be reflective of the fact that novel facts ("we can send people to the moon!") are more likely to (re)arrange the child's 'looser' - more plastic - conceptual network than it is an adult's (whose conceptual network might be more rigid). Facts for children can hew closer to 'houses can turn into flowers' than to 'watered seeds turn into flowers'.

    --

    Cavell: "If an utterance is meant to tell someone something, then what you say to him must be something he is in a position to understand, and something which is, or which you have reason to believe will be, informative, something which is news to him. The first of these conditions is obvious enough, but it has all the hidden difficulties we discussed in investigating the idea of teaching a word. (Consider, for example, what it would mean for a physicist to "tell" me, a child in the subject, what a pi-meson is, or that that (streak in the photograph) is the track of a pi-meson. He can tell me this only in the sense in which I can tell my three-year-old daughter who Beethoven is, or that that (picture in the book) is Beethoven. She and I, in the respective worlds in which we are children, will both be able to repeat the words we are given, and in the future point to the pictures and say the right word; but we will not exhibit the criteria which go with knowing what these things are; my world cannot compass pi-mesons.)"
  • StreetlightX
    3.5k
    SO the house, long disused, is pulverised, composted and suitably arranged at its location so as to form a flowerbed.Banno

    Just to be clear, the context of Cavell's discussion - which I see you've found - is in relation to the problem of scepticism: do we need philosophy to come up with a guarantee that 'houses will not turn into flowers'? Do we know this? Cavell's question is something like: what would it mean to 'know' this? As I quoted in the OP: "What do we learn - what fact is conveyed - when we are told that they do not?"; It's not quite as simple as it might be on first brush.

    Also note that this seemingly bizzare scenario has a long pedigree: Hume and the uniformity of nature, and Kant with his changing cinnabar: "If cinnabar were now red, now black, now light, now heavy, if a human being were now changed into this animal shape, now into that one... then my empirical imagination would never even get the opportunity to think of heavy cinnabar on the occasion of the representation of the color red." CPR). Cavell's intervention - after Wittgenstein - is to introduce a new line of approach: that of language (something absent in Hume and Kant).
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    293
    Great topic. Now I have to reconsider something Wittgenstein wrote.

    What if something really unheard-of happened? If I, say, saw houses gradually turning into steam without any obvious cause, if cattle in the fields stood on their heads and laughed and spoke comprehensible words; if trees gradually changed into men and men into trees. Now, was I right when I said before all these things happened ‘I know that that’s a house’ etc., or simply ‘that’s a house’ etc.? — Wittgenstein, On Certainty, 1969, p. 67, ~513
  • fdrake
    2k
    Sometimes we must assume that what has been said is true in order to work out what it meant - the Principle of Charity.Banno

    Provisional belief that P is different from belief that P, P iff ("P" is true) has no bearing on that. Edit: moreover, we're not just talking about propositions, under what conditions are 'Get me a glass of water please' or 'Go away' or "in heaven I am a wild ox, on Earth I am a lion" true?
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    293
    Sometimes we must assume that what has been said is true in order to work out what it meant - the Principle of Charity.Banno

    Isn't that the basis for understanding?

    I would guess, in all ignorance, that understanding is necessary for good philosophical discourse.

    In any case, there are perspectives which are irreconcilable in each others terms.
  • Terrapin Station
    8.4k
    We don't create facts with our claims (aside from the fact that we made whatever claim, for example). And we don't "revise facts" when we change our beliefs, or change our accounts of what things are, how they work, etc. Our claims/beliefs are about facts.

    Without sidetracking too much re ontology of meaning, the only sense I can make out of someone thinking that we can't "mean" the normal usage of "houses" and "flowers" with "Houses can/can't turn into flowers" is that the person coming to that conclusion (the conclusion that we must be using the terms in some novel way) believes, for some reason, that people can't be too imaginative, or too deluded, etc. Why they'd believe that is a mystery. People can be very imaginative. They can be very deluded. And so on.

    Now, that doesn't imply that someone necessarily has conventional meanings in mind when they say "Houses can/can't turn into flowers." They might, or they might not. But by the same token, someone might not have conventional meanings in mind when they say "Seeds can turn into flowers," either. Again, they might or they might not. The only way we can learn whether someone has something like the conventional meanings in mind or not is by interacting with them and/or via observing how they're using words in a broader context/via additional occurrences of the words in question.
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    293
    under what conditions are 'Get me a glass of water please' or 'Go away' or "in heaven I am a wild ox, on Earth I am a lion" true?fdrake

    The only universal condition is that of the subject, which is about as particular as it gets.
  • fdrake
    2k
    The only universal condition is that of the subject, which is about as particular as it gets.Merkwurdichliebe

    Those questions were rhetorical, assuming the truth of an expression in order to ascertain its meaning only makes sense for those expressions which are truth apt; to connect sense to truth (of a proposition) requires a truth value, not just the possibility of a truth value under an interpretation.
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    293


    Could you please rephrase your explanation, I didn't understand ?
  • fdrake
    2k
    Could you please rephrase your explanation, I didn't understand ?Merkwurdichliebe

    Ok.

    If you can assume the truth or falsity of X, then X must be able to be true or false. This means X is 'truth apt', where there are conditions under which it is true, and conditions under which it is false. If 'X' is 'It is raining here now' (for here, now being my location), X is true just when it is raining and false just when it is not raining. 'It is raining here now' is the kind of expression that can be true or false.

    Consider 'Get me some water please', it is a request, it is not a statement of fact even if it is an expression of desire. 'Get me some water please' is never true or false, since it is a request. Therefore, since it can't be true or false, assuming it is true cannot help you interpret it.

    Consider 'In Heaven I am a wild ox, in Earth I am a lion', on the face of it it could be true or false; it's true just when the person saying/writing it really is a wild ox in Heaven but also really is a lion on Earth. and false when one or both of these these conditions does not occur. But, assuming the truth or falsity of it does not help you interpret it one bit. The use of language is figurative, allegorical, metaphorical and so on, the literal truth doesn't matter a drop. What does matter is how it functions in its own context as a metaphor.

    ]Do we dare to open
    Our minds and souls to even
    Analyze it? Or should it rest in
    Secrecy? All I know is that I can't
    Deny its licentious attraction,
    So I want the spirit to speak.

    "In heaven I am a wild ox.
    On earth I am a lion.
    A jester from hell,
    And the shadows almighty.
    The scientist of darkness
    Older than the constellations.
    The mysterious jinx and
    The error in heavens master plan."
    — Vintersorg, the Enigmatic Spirit

    There's no way someone would ever come up with the context of a song about a spirit that fled from heaven because it felt powerless there. In Heaven, the spirit was just an angel among angels, on Earth, it was a mighty predator of unfathomable intelligence and significance. It chose to sacrifice the vulnerable ecstasy of heaven for the power it would have in the mortal realm. The principle of charity isn't going to give you that, because the truth conditions of the statement 'In Heaven I am a wild ox, on Earth I am a lion' provide little to no information about its sense outside of the context of the song.

    Edit: even within the song, it's uttered as a metaphor which summarises the reasons why the spirit fled from heaven and its opinion of Heaven and humans. You can 'assume it is true for the spirit' in a sense, but notice that it doesn't actually matter whether the spirit really was a wild ox in Heaven and transformed into a lion on Earth, what matters is the two symbolic dyads of wild ox/lion prey/predator interacting with the other dyad of Heaven/Earth.

    Of course, when my friend told me he prefers to hang around with people dumber than him because 'on Earth I am a lion', I understood, because we both knew the song.
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