• frank
    3.7k
    One of the outcomes of the behaviorism of the 20th Century was Quine's inscrutability of reference. By way of some reflection on that viewpoint that I could lay out if I really had to, meaning in human communication ends up collapsing altogether.

    This bizarre outlook went hand in hand with a philosophy of science that advised avoiding narratives and explanations in favor of recording measurements. Since the physics of the day resisted rational narration, the puzzle pieces seemed to fit together.

    The obvious snag in this fabric is that it's an outlook that is incompatible with realism (of the sort that allows for truth apt statements in the colloquial sense), or at least it seems to be.

    Our friend @Banno seeks to heal that rift by modifications that I have to confess haven't quite made sense to me. Maybe a way to start would be to ask him to talk about truth with an eye to understanding how it fits with a realistic approach. Or if not, maybe @Wallows could ask the questions he had in mind?
  • Wallows
    9.4k
    @Frank is referring to @Banno's profile feed, which I shall quote including my questions that others may relate to:

    Statements are combinations of nouns and verbs and such as; Some statements are either true or false, and we can call these propositions. So, "The present king of France is bald" is a statement, but not a proposition.

    --Please explain to us, what excludes “The present king of France is bald” from the qualifier of being a proposition?

    Beliefs range over propositions. (arguably, they might be made to range over statements: Fred believes the present king of France is bald.)

    --Yet, the domain or the domain of discourse (wiki it) of propositions that are sensical, as opposed to the nonsense Fred may belief, remains the same, so Fred doesn’t need to take his meds, or does he?

    Beliefs set out a relation of a particular sort between an agent and a proposition.

    --This isn’t clear. It seems your advocating either a correspondence theory between an agent and a proposition or rather a belief that obtains. Yet, Fred denies this by maintaining that the present King of France is bald. For all I know, this may be true in a possible world. Perhaps, you are implying a T-schema that obtains iff we compare it to our world.

    This relation is such that if the agent acts in some way then there is a belief and a desire that together are sufficient to explain the agent's action. Banno wants water; he believes he can pour a glass from the tap; so he goes to the tap to pour a glass of water.

    --This is very behaviorist and quite outdated. Rather, I posit that propositional attitudes, such as Banno wants water, are determined by not belief or desire, but a volition.

    The logical problem here, the philosophical interesting side issue, is that beliefs overdetermine our actions. There are other beliefs and desires that could explain my going to the tap.

    --No, disagreement; but, this is too simple. A volition is something that determines action, and beliefs need not even be mentioned here.
    ______________

    We know some statements when at the least we believe it, it fits in with our other beliefs, and when it is true.

    --This is too simple. Take your famous example of the Romantic that proclaims his love as being greater than words can say. How does this statement jive with truth aptness?

    The "fits in with other beliefs" is the first approximation for a justification. Something stronger is needed, but material implication will not do.

    --Please elaborate.

    Discard Gettier. The definition is not hard-and-fast.

    It does not make sense to ask if we know X to be true; that's exactly the same as asking if we know X. The "we only know it if it is true" bit is only there because we can't know things that are false.

    --I beg to differ, the principle of bipolarity, assumes that every utterance that is truth-apt can be either true or false. Wittgenstein would know.

    If you cannot provide a justification, that is, if you cannot provide other beliefs with which a given statement coheres, then you cannot be said to know it.

    --This is not true or rather how can it be true. In other words, what kind of justification is required here? E.g. the Romantic, who professes his love, has overdetermined justification in his love towards his partner by encompassing the entire domain of discourse with his statement about his love towards her being greater than what words can say. Instead, I advocate a pragmatic account of a man who is acting, not following a pattern or set of rules. Again, volitions creep up here.

    A belief that is not subject to doubt is a certainty.

    --The solipsist of the Tractatus agrees.

    Without a difference between belief and truth, we can't be wrong; if we can't be wrong, we can't fix our mistakes; without being able to fix our mistakes, we can't make things better

    --Again, Banno, what theory of truth are you advocating here? I am quite interested in knowing this. It would seem to me that Davidson and Tarski were bedfellows.
    — Banno's profile quizzed by Wallows
  • sime
    413
    Any absolute or all encompassing notion of inscrutability is self-inconsistent,something that Quine was presumably aware of. We can only understand the notion of inscrutability on a case specific basis when translating terms of one language into terms of another language. For example, we can understand the inscrutability of 'Gavagai' terms belonging to a native speaker's language relative to our own linguistic practices including our use of the word rabbit. Likewise, we can understand the inscrutability of 'rabbit' references in our own language relative to our understanding of potential scientific experiments in behavioural linguistics. None of these uncontroversial senses of inscrutability add up to a grand philosophical thesis.
  • frank
    3.7k
    Any absolute or all encompassing notion of inscrutability is self-inconsistent,something that Quine was presumably aware of.sime

    I think he knew it and didn't care.
  • Banno
    6.5k
    Is this a thread about me, or about reference?

    We do manage to talk about rabbits, despite Quine's misgivings. And he was a clever chap, so I'd give him some credit.

    It seems to me that he is not so much saying that reference is impossible, as that a certain sort of analysis of reference will inevitably fail. So, for instance, a student of language who posits that "gavagai" is the exact same as "A rabbit liver still being used by the rabbit" will inevitably be disappointed.

    It's this method of translation by equivalence that Quine is having go at.

    Now, what's that got to do with my profile?
  • Banno
    6.5k
    I'll add, I had understood that something like my explanation above was why Davidson moved from translation to interpretation.
  • frank
    3.7k
    Chomsky was also pretty smart. He did see the problem in Quine's approach to reference.

    What I hear you saying is: "There's no problem."

    I'm happy to leave it there. Maybe Wallows had something to add.
  • Banno
    6.5k
    Please explain to us, what excludes “The present king of France is bald” from the qualifier of being a proposition? — Banno's profile quizzed by Wallows

    Well, is it true or false?

    I say neither, and hence it does not count as a proposition.
  • Banno
    6.5k
    Yet, the domain or the domain of discourse (wiki it) of propositions that are sensical, as opposed to the nonsense Fred may belief, remains the same, so Fred doesn’t need to take his meds, or does he? — Banno's profile quizzed by Wallows

    Not sure what this is asking. Are you asking if some folk believe strict nonsense? That's why I added that beliefs might be seen as ranging over statements, so Mad Fred can believe the the present king of France is bald.
  • Banno
    6.5k
    ...volition. — Banno's profile quizzed by Wallows

    I don't see how volition makes sense without belief. How can you will some act unless something is taken o be the case? How does one will oneself to get a glass of water unless there are glasses and water that one believes in?
  • Banno
    6.5k
    This is too simple. — Banno's profile quizzed by Wallows

    It's meant to be too simple. What's missing is the distinction between knowing how and knowing thatt; this is about knowing that.

    A better revering would be something to the effect that knowing that is a subset of knowing how, such that one knows how to use language in a certain why. So your self-contradicting romantic succeeds in knowing how to seduce, despite the contradiction.
  • Banno
    6.5k
    I beg to differ, the principle of bipolarity, assumes that every utterance that is truth-apt can be either true or false. Wittgenstein would know. — Banno's profile quizzed by Wallows

    I don't understand your comment'd relevance to my comment...
  • Banno
    6.5k
    what theory of truth are you advocating here? — Banno's profile quizzed by Wallows

    None. I'm taking truth as fundamental.
  • creativesoul
    6.7k
    I'm jealous. Threads about Banno's views...

    :wink:

    Goes to show that some folk know how to leave an impression!
  • Banno
    6.5k
    I’m pleased that folk found my stuff interesting enough to comment on.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    One of the outcomes of the behaviorism of the 20th Century was Quine's inscrutability of reference. By way of some reflection on that viewpoint that I could lay out if I really had to, meaning in human communication ends up collapsing altogether.frank

    Behaviorism? I'm not sure what you think behaviorism has to do with it.

    Human communication doesn't end up collapsing. There's just always a potential for ambiguity/it's never completely transparent, because parts of it are simply not observable to others.
  • bongo fury
    162
    None of these uncontroversial senses of inscrutability add up to a grand philosophical thesis.sime

    Then they fail to convey Quine's point, so I'll have a go.

    A uniquely (as far as we know) human faculty is for pointing words and pictures at things, and for discerning and distinguishing the pointings, and determining which words and pictures are pointed at which things.

    But there just is no fact of the matter whether a word or picture is pointed at one thing or another. No physical bolt of energy flows from pointer to pointee(s). So the whole social game is one of pretence. Albeit of course a hugely powerful one.

    But the pretence largely benefits from suspension of disbelief, amply supplied by habit, perhaps by innate prejudice, and by logic, a kind (when interpreted) of cgi automatic pointing machine; and the suspension of disbelief is further entrenched by more or less conscious attempts to ground the pointing fantasy as a matter of fact. So that the aspect of pretence and fictitiousness does indeed provoke disbelief, as per the OP.

    I think Chomsky avers (somewhere on youtube) that Hume and Heraclitus were privy to the same insight. Of course he draws a different lesson from it than Quine. But he doesn't say the doctrine itself is mistaken, or even that it is behaviouristic. And it isn't. It points out that you can't objectively ground reference in behaviour.
  • Wallows
    9.4k
    @Banno, I really like the example you provided about the chap that loves so much that words can't express it. What are we left with to determine his or her love for another or even him or herself?

    Strictly behavior?

    But, then we have the private (language) argument creep up all over again. And beetles...
  • frank
    3.7k
    And it isn't. It points out that you can't objectively ground reference in behaviour.bongo fury

    Some forms of behaviorism have no room for reference of any kind, but I shouldn't have brought this up because I have no interest in pursuing it.

    I’m pleased that folk found my stuff interesting enough to comment on.Banno

    Yes, you are interesting. And you're pretty comfortable with realism? You see no challenges in it?
  • Wallows
    9.4k
    And, furthermore, dear Banno, do you believe in propositional attitudes?

    This is perhaps the ultimate question.
  • bongo fury
    162
    Some forms of behaviorism have no room for reference of any kind,frank

    Oh, I wonder. Not Quine, though, obviously.
    but I shouldn't have brought this upfrank

    Glad you did. Thanks!
  • Banno
    6.5k
    ...because parts of it are simply not observable to others.Terrapin Station

    All good, except this bit. If there are parts of language that are invisible, then we can't talk about them. And if we can't talk about them, they cannot enter into our arguments...

    It'd be simpler to just drop the very notion of invisible bits.

    Edit:

    But there just is no fact of the matter whether a word or picture is pointed at one thing or another.bongo fury
    That's a better way to talk than supposing there are unobservable parts...
  • Banno
    6.5k
    And you're pretty comfortable with realism? You see no challenges in it?frank

    I think it is not as bad as its competition...


    But I ought point out that such questions are not about how the world is, as about what we can reasonably say about it.
  • Banno
    6.5k
    Also, nothing I've written here is original....
  • frank
    3.7k
    But I ought point out that such questions are not about how the world is, as about what we can reasonably say about it.Banno

    I mentioned that in the OP.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    If there are parts of language that are invisible,Banno

    ... to others, sure.

    then we can't talk about them.Banno

    You can talk about them, you just can't directly display them.

    It would be like if everyone had their own home, but no one was allowed to go into others' homes, there was no way to take pictures of others' homes, etc. The person who lived there would know exactly what it's like inside, but other people wouldn't. That wouldn't stop anyone from talking about what their homes are like inside, however.
  • Wallows
    9.4k


    Well yes, Wittgensteins beetle.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k


    Sure. (Although I think my analogy is better. I'm not much of a Wittgenstein fan.)
  • Wallows
    9.4k
    One thing, that doesn't make sense is to say that people are direct realists, yet have beetles in boxes, what do you think @Terrapin Station?
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