• frank
    4.6k
    Why is it necessary to believe that a truth condition of a statement, considered as a state of affairs, is an eternal abstract object when all that it concerns are contingently formed material particulars or events or generalisations thereof?fdrake

    A proposition is timeless. This is what you wanted to avoid the problem of there being truths during a time when there were no truthbearers. A proposition has no location in time or space, and yet it somehow exists. We know a proposition is not any particular sentence or utterance because multiple sentences and utterances can express the same proposition. It's outside the universe (in much the same we appear to be when we speak as realists).

    This issue has driven some philosophers to reject propositions and deflate truth to a property of sentences or utterances. If you do this, you'll be back with your question about how an 'unstated statement' could be true. You'll have to allow that the only truths are those which have at some point been uttered.

    It's either realism and fishy propositions, or anti-realism and concrete truthbearers.

    Am I to read this as a suggestion that I'm blinded to the flaws of realist intuitions because I'm emotionally attached to them?fdrake

    I actually don't know. I was signalling to you that I'm not attacking realism per se, not in the sense of trying to win. I'm just pointing out the zit on its face. You do a lot of sophistisizing, so I may just be talking to myself.
  • fdrake
    3.4k
    A proposition has no location in time or space, and yet it somehow exists.frank

    This isn't a particularly remarkable property.

    A friendship has no location in time or space. "Where is my friendship?" "Over there by the rug".

    A law doesn't (it instead has a domain of applicability). Corporations and institutions don't ("Where's the university? You just showed me a building.), colours don't ("You just showed me a rose, I wanted to see red!"), moral values don't ("I found a picture of justice in this manifesto" "You mean metaphorically?" "No, justice was literally contained in the pages"), golf doesn't (Watch Tiger Woods play, and you'll never see golf as such), artworks don't (where is "The Scream" when you can print two copies of it?)...

    Where must the word "egg" live?

    This issue has driven some philosophers to reject propositions and deflate truth to a property of sentences or utterances. If you do this, you'll be back with your question about how an 'unstated statement' could be true. You'll have to allow that the only truths are those which have at some point been uttered.frank

    Please spell the reasoning out for me from: " "There are dinosaurs now" would be true 66 million years ago" to "unstated statement", to me it looks equivalent to "There were dinosaurs 66 million years ago". Incidentally there were no humans then. When we stipulate such scenarios in which there are no humans, we obviously use our current language abilities to do so, but that does not suggest that the sense of the counterfactual scenario or possibility itself is dependent upon the existence of humans; the truth conditions of "There were dinosaurs 66 million years ago" has nothing to do with the existence of humans or our language abilities, we just have a nice ability to attach language to actualities and possibilities and discuss such matters. The truth conditions are just reality shifting underneath the words.
  • frank
    4.6k
    This isn't a particularly remarkable property.

    A friendship has no location in time or space. "Where is my friendship?" "Over there by the rug".
    fdrake

    Some would want to say that friendship is a bundle of physical things. A proposition is not.

    Propositions aren't usually put in quotes. When you do that, you're pointing to an utterance. We frequently point out propositions with the word "that." So let's look at the proposition that the moon orbits the earth.

    The proposition does not contain the moon, the earth, or orbiting. It's not any particular sentence, and its not an utterance. What we usually do is just not worry about what it is because it's a necessary aspect of agreement. We're stuck with it unless we want to become anti-realist behaviorists. It's fun to ponder how we could think about it.

    "There are dinosaurs now" would be true 66 million years ago" to "unstated statement", to me it looks equivalent to "There were dinosaurs 66 million years ago".fdrake

    It isn't equivalent. The quotes indicate an utterance.

    The question is: what do you want to do with the utterance: "There were dinosaurs 66 million years ago."

    Do you want its truth to be a matter of social convention? Can it be a matter of people nodding their heads up and down, or taking action associated with the sequence of words?

    Or do you want it to be more than that? If you want it to be taken in full-blown realist fashion, you'll say it's not social convention, it has nothing to do with human behavior, it's not the utterance or sentence that's true,

    It's the proposition.
  • frank
    4.6k
    @Nagase

    Could you comment on whether realism requires propositions? Am I wrong about that?
  • fdrake
    3.4k
    It isn't equivalent. The quotes indicate an utterance.frank

    I meant that they had the same truth conditions. not that they were equal as strings or utterances. The "would" maybe behaves differently for past events.

    The proposition does not contain the moon, the earth, or orbiting. It's not any particular sentence, and its not an utterancefrank

    I think in this case it's more illuminating to focus on truth conditions of statements; which are broadly construable as states of affairs; rather than distilling the proposition as an abstract object that is somehow equivalent to the truth condition but also expresses it.

    Could you comment on whether realism requires propositions? Am I wrong about that?frank

    I know this wasn't direct at me, but realism about stuff generally concerns the notion of mind independence of that stuff. Minimally it requires something like "Dinosaurs existed on Earth 66 million years ago", considered as a statement or a proposition (and these don't mean the same thing) is about dinosaurs and the Earth 66 million years ago, and that how this statement is true is not a matter of convention as the statement somehow satisfies the world. This "how" maybe a correspondence relation, or an "is true" iff (truth condition) in a deflationary account. There're lots of variables.

    The "abstract idea" notion of a proposition (as some statement content) is very Fregean, and you certainly don't need to have an apparatus of associating eternal mental content with statements to assert the mind independence of whether statements are true or not.
  • Nagase
    145


    I don't see why. One can either take an abstract notion of sentence as one's paradigm (for instance, a sentence is just a set-theoretical object), which delivers the result that most languages will contain sentences that will never be uttered. Or one can define realism directly in terms of facts or situations or something similar (obviously, this may not avoid the issue if you identify facts with propositions, but this is controversial anyway). There are probably other options as well.
  • frank
    4.6k
    I don't see why. One can either take an abstract notion of sentence as one's paradigm (for instance, a sentence is just a set-theoretical object), which delivers the result that most languages will contain sentences that will never be uttered. Or one can define realism directly in terms of facts or situations or something similar (obviously, this may not avoid the issue if you identify facts with propositions, but this is controversial anyway). There are probably other options as well.Nagase

    I don't understand how that works, though. If I use sentences as truthbearers, I still have to take their meaning in context in order to meet realism's standards for truth, right? Isn't that basically using propositions?
  • Nagase
    145


    Well, one can hope to bypass the need for propositions by adopting (for instance) a Davidsonian truth-theoretical semantics. In that case, the "meaning" of a sentence is given by a canonical derivation of the truth-conditions for the sentence, without any need to invoke propositions.
  • frank
    4.6k
    Well, one can hope to bypass the need for propositions by adopting (for instance) a Davidsonian truth-theoretical semantics. In that case, the "meaning" of a sentence is given by a canonical derivation of the truth-conditions for the sentence, without any need to invoke propositions.Nagase

    Have you read Soames' explanation for why Davidson's truth theory doesn't work?
  • frank
    4.6k
    I meant that they had the same truth conditions. not that they were equal as strings or utterances. The "would" maybe behaves differently for past events.fdrake

    I thought you were talking about a "P" spoken at time T. Otherwise, why did you put the quotes in?

    I think in this case it's more illuminating to focus on truth conditions of statements; which are broadly construable as states of affairs; rather than distilling the proposition as an abstract object that is somehow equivalent to the truth condition but also expresses it.fdrake

    I'm not sure how a proposition is different from a state of affairs. Neither is made of physical objects.

    statement or a proposition (and these don't mean the same thing)fdrake

    They can be the same thing. Depends.

    The "abstract idea" notion of a proposition (as some statement content) is very Fregean,fdrake


    Some would say Platonic. So?

    you certainly don't need to have an apparatus of associating eternal mental content with statements to assert the mind independence of whether statements are true or not.fdrake

    Mmmm.. I think you do.
  • Nagase
    145


    I've read a lot of Soames, yes, and I don't think he's right on this issue---see Ludwig & Lepore's reply in their book on Davidson. (That is not to say that I think Davidson's truth-theoretical semantics is the way to go, since I don't.) But whether or not Davidsonian truth-theoretic semantics is the right semantics for natural languages or not is besides the point. The point is that it is not obviously incoherent to adopt this semantics when trying to avoid propositions while at the same time maintaining realism.
  • frank
    4.6k
    I've read a lot of Soames, yes, and I don't think he's right on this issue---see Ludwig & Lepore's reply in their book on Davidson. (That is not to say that I think Davidson's truth-theoretical semantics is the way to go, since I don't.) But whether or not Davidsonian truth-theoretic semantics is the right semantics for natural languages or not is besides the point. The point is that it is not obviously incoherent to adopt this semantics when trying to avoid propositions while at the same time maintaining realism.Nagase

    So we would have sentences that don't have to be contextualized, they gain their meaning in a holistic sort of way? Could you explain that again?

    Sentence S is The moon orbits the earth.

    And it's true IFF

    wait, what?
  • fdrake
    3.4k
    Some would say Platonic. So?frank

    It was a gesture toward Frege. I also gave you gestures towards deflationism and correspondence in general, which in general are not (intended to anyway) work with propositions considered as eternal mental content. The relationship is between some statement and its truth conditions, an eternal abstract idea need not play a mediating role in every account - well, maybe it really does need to, but realist accounts don't make use of it constantly.

    More generally, consider that when someone focusses on truth conditions of statements, the truth conditions are not easily construable as necessarily mental content at all, they can be events, states of affairs, etc - world stuff, worldly happenings not necessarily mind stuff.

    They can be the same thing. Depends.frank

    Yes. I use them ("proposition", "statement") interchangeably most of the time, specifically when I think the distinction doesn't matter.
  • frank
    4.6k
    propositions considered as eternal mental content.fdrake

    Propositions aren't eternal mental content. They're just eternal in that they don't have concrete physicality the way an utterance does.

    More generally, consider that when someone focusses on truth conditions of statements, the truth conditions are not easily construable as necessarily mental content at all, they can be events, states of affairs, etc - world stuff, worldly happenings not necessarily mind stuff.fdrake

    World stuff is not true or false. Propositions aren't mind stuff. They're abstract objects.

    Yes. I use them ("proposition", "statement") interchangeably most of the time, specifically when I think the distinction doesn't matter.fdrake

    Some philosophers do, some don't.
  • Nagase
    145


    Of course they have to be contextualized, but so what? Davidson's truth-theoretical semantics has the resources to deal with context-sensitivity (cf. Lepore & Ludwig, Donald Davidson: Meaning, Truth, Language, and Reality, chapter 5, for a sketch, and their Donald Davidson's Truth-Theoretic Semantics for details on various context-sensitive constructions such as indexicals and demonstratives). As for your sample sentence, it's meaning can be given by canonically deriving its truth-conditions from the axioms (1) "the moon" refers (at context c) to the moon; (2) "the earth" refers (at context c) to the earth;(3) if a and b are referring expressions, then the result of the concatenation of a with "orbits" concatenated with b is true iff the reference (at c) of a orbits the reference (at c) of b.
  • frank
    4.6k
    How is that substantially different from using propositions?

    Thanks for the reference. I'll keep an eye out.
  • Nagase
    145


    It is substantially different because it makes no mention of intensional entities such as propositions...
  • frank
    4.6k
    If you contextualize a sentence, how is that different from using a proposition (except for not mentioning the word?)
  • A Seagull
    346
    Propositions, statements are communications between people, nothing more.
  • fdrake
    3.4k
    I'm not sure how a proposition is different from a state of affairs. Neither is made of physical objects.frank

    I think the relationship of a state of affairs to composition of necessarily physical objects (for some account of physical) is an intuition you're bringing to the table, rather than one which is an intended necessary feature of the accounts.

    If you contextualize a sentence, how is that different from using a proposition (except for not mentioning the word?)frank

    I think you and @Nagase have very different ideas of what contextualising means. A statement having contextual truth conditions requires spelling out how the truth conditions depend on the context - usually in some function like way. So "I am eating dinner now" is false, but it was true earlier. The truth conditions depend on the "now" like a timestamp or an alarm, the truth conditions are satisfied when the "now" alarm goes off and it is true at the present moment. The truth conditions for the dependence on "I" are similar.

    I believe you're imagining that if the truth conditions of a statement depend upon the context of the statement, and the context is something which is ultimately mind dependent, then the truth conditions depend upon something which is mind dependent, and so the truth conditions are mind dependent.
  • frank
    4.6k
    No, it's that a sentence can mean anything. Context narrows that down so that it becomes truth-apt.
  • fdrake
    3.4k
    Context narrows that down so that it becomes truth-apt.frank

    Why does this matter if we're already going to stipulate that a sentence is truth apt? Like "There were dinosaurs 66 million years ago".
  • Nagase
    145


    I'm not sure what your doubt is. Some semantical theories make use of propositions in stating the meanings of sentences. For example, both (a time slice of) Lewis and Stalnaker use propositions in their respective semantics, construed as sets of possible worlds. So you give the meaning of a sentence by associating with it a set of possible worlds. Other semantical theories make no use of propositions in stating the meaning of sentences. These are theories like Davidson's, which directly state the truth-conditions for sentences without any need to invoke propositions. Let's see an example of the latter in more detail.

    Consider the sentence "I am hungry". In order to give the meaning of this sentence, we need to give the meaning of "I" and "is hungry" (I'll ignore the inflection for ease of exposition). So we need two axioms:

    (R1) For any speaker S, at any time t, the reference of "I" at t is S;
    (P1) For any referring term a, speaker S, time t, and utterance u, if u is an utterance by S at t of a followed by "is hungry, then u is true iff the reference of a said by S at t is hungry.

    Using these, we have:

    (1) For any speaker S and time t, an utterance by S at t of "I" followed by "is hungry" is true iff the reference of "I" said by S at t is hungry (By P1);

    (2) For any speaker S and time t, an utterance by S at t of "I am hungry" is true iff S is hungry (by 1 and R1).

    Since the meaning of a sentence is given by its truth conditions, and this derivation displays the truth conditions of the sentence, this derivation gives the meaning of the sentence. Notice that I did not invoke at any time propositions.
  • frank
    4.6k

    I'm trying to relate that to ordinary language use, notice:

    Why does this matter if we're already going to stipulate that a sentence is truth apt? Like "There were dinosaurs 66 million years ago".fdrake

    S is the sentence "There were dinosaurs 66 million years ago."

    S could mean "We don't have enough popcorn." The way we usually come to know what Bill means when he utters S is we look at the context.

    What Davidson is telling us is that we could use a buttload of axioms to work out what it means. I mean, as an interesting puzzle for how to bypass propositions, I'll go ahead and grant that it might work, but does it relate to real life in some way?
  • Nagase
    145


    I'm not sure I understand your point. The axioms are meant to be interpretive, that is, they are meant to reflect the real understanding that speakers have of their language. So it relates to "real life" by stating the (actual) conditions under which certain linguistic items refer to objects (in the case of referring expressions) or are true of an object (in the case of predicates).
  • frank
    4.6k
    I'm not sure I understand your point. The axioms are meant to be interpretive, that is, they are meant to reflect the real understanding that speakers have of their language. So it relates to "real life" by stating the (actual) conditions under which certain linguistic items refer to objects (in the case of referring expressions) or are true of an object (in the case of predicates).Nagase

    So when Bill utters S, I understand his meaning because I know and rely on an axiom held to be true by my people.

    If Bill points to a 2 and says, "That's a prime number.", then I know axioms regarding the use of "that" and so forth. But this has nothing to do with the proposition that 2 is a prime number, or that Bill is expressing that proposition.

    I don't want to waste your time, but I still don't get it. It seems like the axioms are just trying to explain how we derive propositions from scenes involving utterances. Do I just need to go back and read more about what propositions are?
  • Nagase
    145


    The end result of the derivation is not a proposition, it is a sentence stating a truth-condition. In the case of "I am hungry", we have (simplifying) "I am hungry" is true iff the speaker is hungry. There is no mention of "propositions" in the theory. Obviously, if you are a fan of propositions, you can then use the above derivation and, given certain assumptions, obtain something like '"I am hungry" expresses the proposition that the speaker is hungry' or whatever. But the point is that if you are not a fan of propositions, you don't need to take that extra step.
  • frank
    4.6k
    OK. I get that. And the end result accommodates both realism and its opposite, doesn't it?
  • Nagase
    145


    Yes, I think so.
  • frank
    4.6k
    Yes, I think so.Nagase

    Cool. You said it's not the way you would go. Could you say why and which way you like better?

    Thanks for the explanations. It helped.
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