• ZzzoneiroCosm
    196
    This thread flows directly from the discussion of conceptual schemes and models in "Exploring analytical philosophy with Banno"

    I'd like to take a close look at the Davidson article.

    https://www2.southeastern.edu/Academics/Faculty/jbell/conceptualscheme.pdf

    Following an introductory glance at conceptual schemes we begin to get to the meat:

    (page 6, paragraph 2)

    "... the changes and the contrasts can be explained and described using the equipment of a single language."

    (page 6, paragraph 3)

    "The dominant metaphor of conceptual relativism, that of differing points of view, seems to betray an underlying paradox. Different points of view make sense, but only if there is a common coordinate system on which to plot them; yet the existence of a common system belies the claim of dramatic incomparability. What we need, it seems to me, is some idea of the considerations that set the limits to conceptual contrast. There are extreme suppositions that founder on paradox or contradiction; there are modest examples we have no trouble understanding. What determines where we cross from the merely strange or novel to the absurd'?"

    (my bolds)

    The question of the locus, nature and potence of "a common coordinate system" ought to be fleshed out.

    General comments on Davidson are welcome. Please provide references if you can.
  • Banno
    6.4k
    Perhaps the OP is a bit dry. So let's cut to the good bit:This article kills relativism.
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    196
    Good. A killing always draws a crowd.

    Let the coliseum roar: Davidson! Davidson!

    Feel free to take the lead. I'm mostly a weekend philosopher.
  • Wallows
    9.2k
    Perhaps the OP is a but dry. So let's cut to the good bit:This article kills relativism.Banno

    How? By assuming again that everything is sharable about respective schemas? I expect Terrapin to chime in and assert something about interpretations of sorts; but, that would be irrelevant wouldn't it, Banno?
  • Isaac
    1.6k
    Perhaps the OP is a but dry. So let's cut to the good bit:This article kills relativism.Banno

    There's some crossover with the other thread in which this is mentioned. If do you ever feel like clarifying your position with respect to my comments, I'm reading this thread too, if it's the better place for you to respond.
  • Isaac
    1.6k
    I'm going to just post Karl Friston's paper here, for anyone who's interested - as I said, there's some crossover between multiple threads on this topic, so I though this might be usefully replicated.

    Of key note are -

    it [the free-energy formulation in box1] shows that free energy rests on a generative model of the world, which is expressed in terms of the probability of a sensation and its causes occurring together. This means that an agent must have an implicit generative model of how causes conspire to produce sensory data. It is this model that defines both the nature of the agent and the quality of the free-energy bound on surprise.
    (my bold)

    This formulation [also box1]shows that minimizing free energy by changing sensory data (without changing the recognition density) must increase the accuracy of an agent’s predictions. In short, the agent will selectively sample the sensory inputs that it expects
    (my bold again)

    Also take a look at box2 showing how the neural architecture is geared towards hierarchical model-dependant inference.

    So that's my basic pitch - any way of linking that to Davidson's objections?
  • frank
    3.6k
    The question of the locus, nature and potence of "a common coordinate system" ought to be fleshed out.ZzzoneiroCosm

    He points out that we expect a common coordinate system, not that there is one.

    What facts would we use to assure ourselves that commonality exists?

    This article kills relativism.Banno

    And yet moral relativism, probably the most important sort, survives the article quite nicely.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    "The dominant metaphor of conceptual relativism, that of differing points of view,ZzzoneiroCosm

    I don't know it this was sparked by my comments and the responses to it, but I wasn't saying something about conceptual relativism in my comments. I was saying something about ontic relativism.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Re the Davidson paper, I'll have to read it more carefully later, but for one, I didn't notice anywhere that he actually argued for this:

    Different points of view make sense, but only if there is a common coordinate system on which to plot them;ZzzoneiroCosm

    On the face of it, that claim seems absurd. Why would the possibility of different points of view hinge on their being a common coordinate system on which to plot them?

    Say that only two sentient creatures existed, where they arose independently of each other, a billion light years apart. Surely they'd have different points of view (although we'd probably need to well-define just what "different points of view" amounts to in this argument), but how wouild it make sense to say that there's a "common coordinate system on which to plot" those different points of view?

    So logically, one doesn't seem to hinge on the other. Davidson would have to present some sort of argument for the claim.
  • fdrake
    2.8k
    What's a conceptual scheme in the paper?

    Conceptual schemes, we are told, are ways of organizing experience; they are systems of categories that give form to the data of sensation; they are points of view from which
    individuals, cultures, or periods survey the passing scene.

    What distinctive properties are relevant to the paper?

    There may be no translating from one scheme to another, in which case the beliefs, desires, hopes and bits of knowledge that characterize one person have no true counterparts for the subscriber to another scheme. Reality itself is relative to a scheme: what counts as real in one system may not in another.

    So he cares about, given two conceptual schemes C and D, whether and how it is possible to "translate" elements of C to elements of D in a manner that produces counterparts of C in D and counterparts of D in C. Davidson wishes to question the claim that it is impossible in principle to translate from C to D. Say that C and D are commensurable if some counterpart mapping/translation can occur between them. He wants to doubt whether it is impossible in principle that C and D are commensurable. How? What's his motivating suspicion?

    Different points of view make sense, but only if there is a common coordinate system on which to plot them; yet the existence of a common system belies the claim of dramatic incomparability. What we need, it seems to me, is some idea of the considerations that set the limits to conceptual contrast. There are extreme suppositions that founder on paradox or contradiction; there are modest examples we have no trouble understanding. What determines where we cross from the merely strange or novel to the absurd

    A motivating suspicion is that it seems extremely strange that if there are no principles by which to notice contrasts between conceptual schemes, we could not declare them to be not commensurable (henceforth incommensurable). It is strange that conceptual schemes which are posited as incommensurable nevertheless can be contrasted in the forms they give to experience.

    Then there's a swerve, an assumed implication which will serve as a Moorean shift.

    We may accept the doctrine that associates having a language with having a conceptual scheme. The relation may be supposed to be this: if conceptual schemes differ, so do languages. But speakers of different languages may share a conceptual scheme provided there is a way of translating one language into the other. Studying the criteria of translation is therefore a way of focussing on criteria of identity for conceptual schemes.

    The argument sketch so far looks like:

    (1) Study criteria under which two conceptual schemes may possibly be translated, or not.
    This will link into 2.
    (2) If there are irreconcilable differences in conceptual schemes they imply irreconcilable differences in language use.
    (3) If there aren't irreconcilable differences in language use, then there aren't irreconcilable differences in conceptual schemes. (2, transposition)

    (1) is summarised after a length discussion of cases and counterpoints:

    We may now seem to have a formula for generating distinct conceptual schemes. We get a new out of an old scheme when the speakers of a language come to accept as true an important range. of sentences they previously took to be false (and, of course, vice versa). We must not describe this change simply as a matter of their coming to view old falsehoods as truths, for a truth is a proposition, and what they come to accept, in accepting a sentence as true, is not the same thing that they rejected when formerly they held the sentence to be false. A change has come over the meaning of the sentence because it now belongs to a new language.

    To find an incommensurable conceptual scheme C given a scheme D, there must be some sentence P which is in C and D such that any translation T which maps P in C to P in D changes the meaning. It is furthermore not a mere revision of belief (X believes that P mapping to X believes that not P), because truth or falsity of a proposition given an interpretation thereof is fully within the scope of the first conceptual scheme. It is a transformation of meaning rather than a revision of belief.

    Notice how T seems to act on whole conceptual schemes (and their associated languages) without changing any of the content. This is the real focus of the attack in the paper; for such a T to exist, it has a major presupposition - the scheme-content distinction. He quotes Worf (of the Sapir-Worf hypothesis) as an example:

    We are thus introduced to a new principle of relativity, which holds that all observers are not led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe, unless their linguistic backgrounds are similar, or can in some way be calibrated

    This gives a refinement of the argument structure:

    (2) If there are irreconcilable differences in conceptual schemes they imply irreconcilable differences in language use.
    (3) If there aren't irreconcilable differences in language use, then there aren't irreconcilable differences in conceptual schemes. (2, transposition)
    (4) If there are irreconcilable differences in conceptual schemes, they must rely upon the scheme-content distinction.

    A long series of intermediary arguments begins with a characterisation of differences in conceptual schemes arriving from differences in the way they structure experience natively to their holder or differences in the way they structure experience relative to experiences formed from a theory-neutral reality. He characterises the first case as where translation procedures fail due to necessary mismatches in meanings in C to meanings in D (meaning applications/senses which cannot be translated in principle) and a case where translation procedures fail due to constitutive/formative experiences C and D being generated by irreconcilable processes. He concludes:

    Neither a fixed stock of meanings, nor a theory-neutral reality, can provide, then, a ground for comparison of conceptual schemes. It would be a mistake to look further for such a ground if by that we mean something conceived as common to incommensurable schemes. In abandoning this search, we abandon the attempt to make sense of the metaphor of a single space within which each scheme has a position and provides a point of view.

    And goes onto discuss partial failures of translation. Someone can pick it up from there if they like, or bone pick.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Reading through this more slowly now. One big problem with it is that Davidson seems to be just assuming an objectivist, and specifically what amounts to a behaviorist, account of what concepts (and meaning in general) are.

    He also seems to introduce a lot of ideas that he doesn't bother to argue for. He's just kind of rambling on about assumptions he makes.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    "We may now seem to have a formula for generating distinct conceptual schemes. We get a new out of an old scheme when the speakers of a language come to accept as true an important range of sentences they previously took to be false (and, of course, vice versa). We must not describe this change simply as a matter of their coming to view old falsehoods as truths, for a truth is a proposition, and what they come to accept, in accepting a sentence as true, is not the same thing that they rejected when formerly they held the sentence to be false. A change has come over the meaning of the sentence because it now belongs to a new language."

    ----This is treating meaning as something necessarily communal and behavioral, and it's ignoring the fact that we're talking about individuals doing things, so that it's ambiguous whether, if it doesn't outright suggest that, we're talking about the very same individuals now accepting as true something they previously took to be false.

    On my view, concepts and meaning are things that individuals do in their minds. They're not at all the same thing as third-person observable behavior.
  • Banno
    6.4k
    moral relativism, probably the most important sort, survives the article quite nicely.frank

    Are you sure...?

    What would applying the arguments here to moral discourse entail? There's a worthy thread.
  • frank
    3.6k
    What would applying the arguments here to moral discourse entail?Banno

    That the concept of a vantage point is the best way to understand moral rules.

    But maybe I don't understand Davidson. Worldview isn't something a person is usually aware of. I become aware that I have one only when confronted with a different one. So to suggest that a worldview is a set of statements from a certain vantage point is a misconception. That's not what it is at all.

    Plus, since the "view" in worldview has to do with conceptions of and interactions with the world, a separation between viewer and world is being inserted where it doesn't belong.

    I know you rarely read more than one or two sentences of any post you come across, but if you read this far, maybe you could explain how you understand the applicability of Davidson's argument.
  • Banno
    6.4k
    I know you rarely read more than one or two sentences of any post you come across,frank

    Depends on the content.
  • frank
    3.6k
    Depends on the content.Banno

    Well, there you have it. Have a good day.
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    196
    This looks helpful:

    "4.3 The ‘Third Dogma’ of Empiricism

    Davidson’s rejection of the idea of an untranslatable language (and the associated idea, also common to many forms of conceptual relativism, of a radically different, and so ‘incommensurable’ system of belief) is part of a more general argument that he advances (notably in ‘On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme’) against the so-called ‘third dogma’ of empiricism. The first two dogmas are those famously identified by Quine in ‘Two Dogmas of Empiricism’ (first published in the Philosophical Review, in 1951). The first is that of reductionism (the idea that, for any meaningful statement, it can be recast in the language of pure sensory experience, or, at least, in terms of a set of confirmatory instances), while the second is the analytic-synthetic distinction (the idea that, with respect to all meaningful statements, one can distinguish between statements that are true in virtue of their meaning and those that are true in virtue of both their meanings and some fact or facts about the world). The rejection of both these dogmas can be seen as an important element throughout Davidson’s thinking. The third dogma, which Davidson claims can still be discerned in Quine’s work (and so can survive the rejection even of the analytic-synthetic distinction), consists in the idea that one can distinguish within knowledge or experience between a conceptual component (the ‘conceptual scheme’) and an empirical component (the ‘empirical content’) – the former is often taken to derive from language and the later from experience, nature or some form of ‘sensory input’. While there are difficulties in even arriving at a clear formulation of this distinction (particularly so far as the nature of the relation between the two components is concerned), such a distinction depends on being able to distinguish, at some basic level, between a ‘subjective’ contribution to knowledge that comes from ourselves and an ‘objective’ contribution that comes from the world. What the Davidsonian account of knowledge and interpretation demonstrates, however, is that no such distinction can be drawn. Attitudes are already interconnected – causally, semantically and epistemically – with objects and events in the world; while knowledge of self and others already presupposes knowledge of the world. The very idea of a conceptual scheme is thus rejected by Davidson along with the idea of any strong form of conceptual relativism. To possess attitudes and be capable of speech is already to be capable of interpreting others and to be open to interpretation by them."

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/davidson/#AgaiRelaScep


    It looks like this one should be read first:

    Quine's "Two Dogmas of Empiricism"

    http://www.ditext.com/quine/quine.html
  • Isaac
    1.6k


    Great summary, thanks for doing that.

    It is strange that conceptual schemes which are posited as incommensurable nevertheless can be contrasted in the forms they give to experience.fdrake

    This is the first part I take issue with. He's presuming in this that we successfully contrast them, as distinct from merely making a satisfactory attempt to do so. The long and drawn out debate over some topic could be seen as contrasting the forms (or, as he later discusses, translating the schema), but they could equally be used as evidence of a complete failure to do so. If we deduce that something here must be amis, it could be any element, one of which is the idea that anything at all can be said about our success in contrast/translation sufficient to draw clear conclusions about how beliefs are held.

    It is furthermore not a mere revision of belief (X believes that P mapping to X believes that not P), because truth or falsity of a proposition given an interpretation thereof is fully within the scope of the first conceptual scheme. It is a transformation of meaning rather than a revision of belief.fdrake

    I think this conflates truth values of propositions with beliefs. Obviously on the face of it Davidson is perfectly right, one can revise X=P, to X!=P by changing the meaning of rather than the actual belief, but this doesn't demonstrate that the belief about P hasn't changed, merely that a changein the proposition expressing it is not a sound indicator of whether it has or not.



    But my main misunderstanding is what he's using to get from translatability/common reference to ditching conceptual schemes altogether. We're all human, we've all got the same sensory organs with which we perceive the world, we have a pretty similar history (in evolutionary terms)... Is it any surprise our conceptual schemes are similar enough to at least give the impression of translatability? Nothing in that leads to saying we don't have any, especially with the weight of cognitive theory to the contrary which would have to all be re-thought if we're to accept this framing.
  • Isaac
    1.6k
    Attitudes are already interconnected – causally, semantically and epistemically – with objects and events in the worldZzzoneiroCosm

    How would this be the case when we only have access to those objects and events via our perceptions which themselves are shaped and dependent on schema? I don't 'see' a load of photons, I 'see' a dog, because I'm expecting a dog to be there. Even if there's something missing in the actual photons hitting my retina, some optical illusion, I'll still see a dog. But not if I've no concept of a dog, then I won't be fooled by the illusion, I'll 'see' something else instead.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    What the Davidsonian account of knowledge and interpretation demonstrates, however, is that no such distinction can be drawn.ZzzoneiroCosm

    We'd need to go over the Davidsonian account of knowledge and interpretation for that. It seems ridiculous to me to say that "no such distinction can be drawn." But show the work and we'll see if the argument is ridiculous or not.

    Attitudes are already interconnected – causally, semantically and epistemically – with objects and events in the world;ZzzoneiroCosm

    Attitudes certainly can be part of a causal chain, but being part of a causal chain doesn't dismantle distinctions. Setting a ball in a cup might be the way to start a Rube Goldberg contraption that eventually causes an egg to be fried, so there's a causal connection, but that doesn't imply that we can't make a distinction between a ball, a cup, a pan, an egg, a fried egg, and the other one hundred or so things in the contraption between the ball and the fried egg.

    Objects and events in the world, outside of minds, do not have attitudes, meaning or an epistemology.

    But what is his account that demonstrates that no such distinction can be drawn?
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    I don't 'see' a load of photons, I 'see' a dog, because I'm expecting a dog to be there.Isaac

    Your expectations can have an impact on what you see, where you might even misidentify what you see (which we can only know if we can rather identify it correctly, too), but much of the time we see things not because we expect to see them but simply because they're there and we have eyes, etc.
  • Isaac
    1.6k


    Curiously the same approach as the other post of yours I've just responded to. You post arose as a critique. It's all very interesting to hear what you think, but if you post in response to a specific quote it's read (perhaps erroneously) as indicating that you specifically disagree with that quote, in which case what we'd be looking for is some reason why. Just declaring that an alternative could also be the case doesn't really tie in with the quote.
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