• Banno
    6.5k
    Take the example of the problem of universals.Marchesk

    A neat example. The answer is found more clearly in Austin than Wittgenstein.

    Is the problem that of working out what a universal refers to? What sort of thing?

    And if so, why assume that there is some thing that each word refers to?
  • Marchesk
    3k
    Is the problem that of working out what a universal refers to? What sort of thing?Banno

    The problem is working out how universals are useful. They may or not point to a particular thing (a universal object) in the world, but it would be fair to assume there is something about individual things which allows us to universalize.

    At which point we look at the similarity among individual things and debate what that entails. Or alternatively, the similarity reflects an organizational feature of our minds.
  • Wayfarer
    8.8k
    But in the case of universals, if you're right that meaning is grounded by them, then we can't so easily dismiss them, since it goes deeper than playing language games. Universals make language games possible, if I understand you correctly.Marchesk

    Well, I don't see how you can avoid the notion of very general ideas and of meaningful abstraction in language. My belief is, thought and language are built on these types of concepts, but they're so deeply embedded in the fabric of the mind that we tend to look through them, rather than at them.

    Accordingly when we try and look at them, then we find them very difficult to understand, even though the mind subliminally uses them all the time.

    I think whenever we understand things as a type or a species, then we're in some sense dealing with or recognising universals. I even go so far as to wonder whether the whole idea of mass production, of templates and forms, of models and types, which are so fundamental to modern existence, actually owe their existence to the Aristotelian separation of form and matter. (Interesting fact: Aristotle used one of Plato's terms, eîdos, to mean the abstract universal object represented by a particular. This word is more familiar to us in its Latin translation: species.) And furthermore, only a language-using and rational being - a 'rational animal' - could actually produce such things or see things this way. But it's taken for granted or explained away in a lot of current philosophy.

    Do ordinary objects like tables and chairs exist?Marchesk

    Plato's dialogues were concerned with what we can say we know for certain. One principle that appeared clear to him was that the knowledge of mathematical and geometrical forms was more certain and less likely to mislead than 'mere testimony of sense'. I think this was grounded in an intuition of the rational order of the world, which (we have to remember) was just then in the process of being discovered. So the Greeks, for example, a genius like Archimedes, were discovering universal principles of reason, on which basically Western culture and science were to be founded. Hence the often-stated depiction of Platonism as being a philosophy in which the material world is but a poor imitation of the ideal 'realm of forms'. So in that schema, I think there is no doubt individual particulars exist but only as simulacra of the real ideas they stand in for. However, I think our grasp of the notion of the forms is pretty scanty.
  • Banno
    6.5k
    Cheers. So we ask what is it that red sprots cars and red sunsets have in common, such that they both deserve to be called red? Something like that?

    In which case, is this a question about what it is that certain sports cars and sunsets have in common, or is it a question about hw we use the word "red"?
  • Marchesk
    3k
    In which case, is this a question about what it is that certain sports cars and sunsets have in common, or is it a question about hw we use the word "red"?Banno

    I would say we use the word red the way we do because lots of things have reddish hue.
  • Banno
    6.5k
    Fine. What I am trying to establish is, is the example a suitable one for the problem of universals?
  • Marchesk
    3k
    Fine. WHat I am trying to establish is, is the example a suitable one for the problem of universals?Banno

    I guess we can just focus on a color property, and notice that we use the universal term "red" for all the particular instances of reds.
  • Banno
    6.5k
    we can just focus on a color propertyMarchesk
    Good. Moving on, then.

    ...because lots of things have reddish hue.Marchesk

    I wonder if you might reconsider whether it is the case that there must be something had in common by everything to which we ascribe the word "red"?

    Why must this be so?
  • Marchesk
    3k
    Sure we can wonder, but if there is nothing in common among reds, how are we able to discriminate them from greens?
  • Banno
    6.5k
    how are we able to discriminate them from greens?Marchesk

    Sometimes we don't. At the edges, we do differ as to our opinions of which colour word is appropriate.

    Could it be that what red things have in common is just that we have learned to use the word "red" when talking about them? That what they have in common is our use of a certain word?
  • Marchesk
    3k
    Could it be that what red things have in common is just that we have learned to use the word "red" when talking about them? That what they have in common is our use of a certain word?Banno

    What does this mean exactly? Because it sounds like our use of red and green are arbitrary, and we could have divided up color space differently, and it would have been just as useful.

    Sometimes we don't. At the edges, we do differ as to our opinions of which colour word is appropriate.Banno

    This is a good point. Boundary conditions are important to take into consideration.
  • Banno
    6.5k
    Because it sounds like our use of red and green are arbitrary, and we could have divided up color space differently, and it would have been just as useful.Marchesk

    Well, isn't that so? There are documented cultural differences between colour names and ongoing discussions of perceptions - the contention that the Greeks could not recognise blue, for example. But we need not go that far for the discussion at hand. You and I presumably do agree on what is green and what is red, in the main; is it because we have learned to identify some essence of red that permeates certain things, or is it just simply that we have learned how to use the word "red" in our English speaking community?
  • Banno
    6.5k
    @Marchesk,even if you disagree, perhaps this discussion will help you to see why someone such as I would come to the conclusion that the problem of universals dissipates if one deals with it as a language issue.
  • Marchesk
    3k
    You and I presumably do agree on what is green and what is red, in the main; is it because we have learned to identify some essence of red that permeates certain things, or is it just simply that we have learned how to use the word "red" in our English speaking community?Banno

    At the very least, we have learned to use red for a range of color shades. And these shades can be given numbers based on a three-value primary color scale, which corresponds to the three kinds of cones we have in our eyes.

    It is interesting that some cultures may have differences in color concepts. Does that imply something about language's effect on the brain?
  • Marchesk
    3k
    perhaps this discussion will help you to see why someone such as I would come to the conclusion that the problem of universals dissipates if one deals with it as a language issue.Banno

    Yes, but then does this mean the problem arose because philosophers took universal concepts out of context?
  • Banno
    6.5k
    but then does this mean the problem arise because philosophers took universal concepts out of context?Marchesk

    Speaking roughly, The Greeks treated all words as if they were nouns, and hence sort after the "thing" that words like "red" named; hence the forms... They were misled by a certain picture of how language works.


    Edit: That is, they took the notion of names out of context in applying it to universals.
  • Marchesk
    3k
    Can we apply this to a hot button contemporary issue, like say, phenomenal red? Is Chalmers making a language mistake when he says that the experience of red is not captured by the scientific description of perceiving a red object?
  • Banno
    6.5k
    Sure. An ongoing debate again. As I understand it, Chalmers thinks we can have metaphysical language games in an unproblematic fashion. That is, he is happy to go for a wander up the garden path. For my part, I remain unconvinced that there is a useable distinction to be made between phenomenal red and plain ordinary red.
  • Marchesk
    3k

    That's a very interesting experiment, and I did hear about the lack of blue references in Homer's works on a RadioLab episode, but it's also quite a controversial claim.
  • Marchesk
    3k
    For my part, I remain unconvinced that there is a useable distinction to be made between phenomenal red and plain ordinary red.Banno

    It's a lot trickier with perception, since other issues such as direct and color realism come into play, but Chalmers point can be more easily made with dream red. How does neuroscience account for an experience of red when you're not seeing a red object?
  • Banno
    6.5k
    Yep. It's worth keeping an eye on.

    But that does not bear directly on the case in hand: that he whole philosophical exercise of explaining universals is based on a certain picture of how words work, and dissipates when that picture is dropped.
  • Banno
    6.5k
    How does neuroscience account for an experience of red when you're not seeing a red object?Marchesk

    Not sure about neuroscience, but I don't see a philosophical issue. If red is not the name of a thing, then there is no need for there to be a thing that is red. That is, we can make sense of talk of red in dreams; and that's all there is. We do not need to invoke red dream-things.
  • Marchesk
    3k
    But that does not bear directly on the case in hand: that he whole philosophical exercise of explaining universals is based on a certain picture of how words work, and dissipates when that picture is dropped.Banno

    If it does indeed dissipate. If so, then we have an iconic example of this kind of therapeutic philosophy working. Which raises the question of how many philosophical problems can be dissipated.

    But first i would need more arguments to believe in the dissipation of universals. Does this problem not come up in languages which don't make nouns of all words? Do we not see a parallel of the problem in Indian, Arabic or Chinese philosophy?
  • Banno
    6.5k
    But first i would need more arguments to believe in the dissipation.Marchesk

    I would expect nothing less...

    But I hope you see the thrust of this very powerful approach to doing philosophy.
  • Marchesk
    3k
    f red is not the name of a thing, then there is no need for there to be a thing that is red. That is, we can make sense of talk of red in dreams; and that's all there is. We do not need to invoke red dream-things.Banno

    Red is the name of an experience, and is the experience of red that Chalmers thinks raises a hard problem.
  • Marchesk
    3k
    But I hope you see the thrust of this very powerful approach to doing philosophy.Banno

    I see the potential yet remain skeptical. Sure, it probably works on some problems. But as a universal acid? Is all metaphysics merely an abuse of language?
  • Banno
    6.5k
    I see the potential yet remain skeptical. Sure, it probably works on some problems. But as a universal acid?Marchesk

    Well... at the least, if we sort out our language use we might find ourselves in a much better position to actually state the problem.

    42.
  • Banno
    6.5k
    Red is the name of an experience, and is the experience of red that Chalmers thinks raises a hard problem.Marchesk

    Sure. Do you want to have this discussion here?
  • Marchesk
    3k
    42.Banno

    I thought that was the answer? Are you playing a different language game?
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