• fdrake
    3.3k
    Changing thread since the topic's sufficiently different. I quoted @Sam26 out of order to better organise my response.

    Of course the analysable data goes far beyond just a linguistic analysis. There is a danger in thinking that a linguistic analysis always answers a particular philosophical problem. I tend to use it for two reasons, first, it's where my interests lie, and second, language is the medium used to talk about these problems, especially philosophical problems.Sam26

    So we can agree that more types of things can be analysed than the use of language, so then there are questions of scope - what things can be analysed without the analysis of language use playing a central role? Things like how glasses work, deciding if a building will be stable to wind, whether and how two chemicals may react, whether a drug cures a disease don't seem to require it. I'd generalise there and say that most of the content of the physical sciences does not require the analysis of the use of language to be done successfully.

    Social sciences? An issue like "Is it more likely that a person well above median income for their country will vote conservative?" doesn't seem to require much analysis of language use except in clearly setting out what the terms of their analysis mean. "What were the economic impacts of the banker bailouts in 2008?" doesn't seem to require the analysis of language use to answer.

    I bring these up because questions in fields can provide philosophical insights or impinge upon philosophical questions; "do special and general relativity impact the A-theory of time?", "were the banker bailouts in 2008 (morally) right?". Questions in metaphysics and political economy do not seem to require linguistic analysis to play a central role in order to pose them or attempt to answer them.

    But this is hardly the "home turf" of linguistic analysis.

    If analyzing concepts isn't a matter of linguistic analysis, then what is it?Sam26

    Will give a worked example.

    Imagine there are two worlds, one in which people are put into income brackets and the income brackets are labelled "classes", lower class, middle class, upper class; working class being some mixture of lower class and middle class; statistical properties of individuals relative to their societal aggregate within (defined) thresh-holds. Another world in which "classes" are posited as structural features of an economy, whereby those people in the working class do not own the product of their labour (definitionally) and the bourgeoise who (definitionally) collectively own the products of working class peoples' labour.

    If you want to analyse stuff (do some political economy) using the first concept of class, you'll be doing things like studying the relative proportions of people in each bracket in a society, looking for demographic trends and time changes. If you want to analyse stuff using the second concept of class, you'll be looking at qualitative power differentials and the relative strength and nature of workers' collective bargaining and conditions vs those of the bourgeoise.

    In a third world, someone notices that if you aggregate the class income brackets in world one to 99%-tile and >99%-tile, you obtain something structurally very similar to the class analysis in the second world.

    The discovery that the 99% and 1% framing of economy does something very similar to the working class and bourgeoise framing of economy isn't something you will be able to get from the analysis of words alone, it relies upon the empirical fact "the richest people own disproportionately more of the property". This is an empirical measure of inequality that impacts both conceptual landscapes (world 1 and world 2) along their intersection.

    The interesting thing on a meta level (meta-philosophy I guess) is that it is an empirical fact which drives those landscapes to touch each other in this context, no analysis of language use alone would allow the interpretation of this fact to inform either perspective, the perspectives need a means of internalising the empirical fact based on the resources they have at hand - as a quantitative measure of wealth disparity and as a qualitative indicator of a power differential.

    A similar story could be told about the relativity of simultaneity in special relativity and the concept of the present.

    The underlying thrust of argument is that discussions in philosophy need not be couched in terms of the analysis of word use, especially when they are dealing with something that interfaces with the real world; like political economy or philosophy of physics.

    Concepts by definition are linguistic, and definitions arise through use. Even when someone discovers something new, and thereby discovers a new concept, it's through use that it becomes a norm of language. It's in a culture of language that correct and incorrect uses become manifest. Furthermore, use isn't the be all and end all of the answer, simply because it takes a huge amount of effort sometimes to untangle correct use from incorrect use. This is clearly seen in Wittgenstein's Investigations, and it's clearly seen in On Certainty, which, I believe, is the actual application of Wittgenstein's thoughts in the PI.

    But maybe the same ideas don't hold for where linguistic analysis historically cut its teeth; somewhere in epistemology (Wittgenstein), philosophy of perception (I remember reading Austin's Sense and Sensibilia but I don't know if it's a particularly celebrated example of linguistic analysis) and in a deflationary regard in metaphysics.

    The metaphysics of time example I gave above I think undermines the necessity of using linguistic analysis centrally in metaphysics; no analysis of use conventions changes the nature of time. With philosophy of perception; there's the phenomenological tradition (pace Merleau-Ponty) and embodied cognition (pace Andy Clark) that place much more emphasis on interpreting results from cognitive science and medicine and on sophisticated descriptions of our experiential processes; in these domains, a similar rule of thumb holds; analysing how we use words won't change the nature of our hands and eyes. Even if there are arguments based on the conventions of use, they don't have to play a central role in coming up with and analysing concepts in the field.

    Analysis of word use also won't change how society works, to a first approximation anyway, it's extremely unlikely that any philosophical book or paper takes hold sufficiently strongly that it changes the key dynamics it analyses in the short term. The answer to "are more people starving now and why?" doesn't depend much on how you define starving, it depends on how many people don't have enough food or sufficiently limited access to it. Again, if someone is analysing society - doing political economy, something closer to sociology, or even doing social ontology (like Searle), the analysis of words can tell us what we say about the structures, but the function/role that they play in society doesn't depend on the word use. "How do universities produce knowledge and what is its character?" isn't answered with "It depends what you mean by university and knowledge".

    I think in all these cases, to put a Wittgensteinian spin on it, the background is sufficiently well known and the language games supported within it are sufficiently well travelled that analysing how people use words isn't required to clarify the domain studied; people know what the sense of touch is and universities are. Moreover, inventing concepts to explain things here is important (like, say, Lakatos' "research program" or Foucault's "episteme", or Clark's "extended mind" and Gibson's "affordance"); analysing how things work usually requires some new vocabulary, which stands or falls upon the accuracy and perspicacity it describes its target and the utility it provides in its analysis,

    In epistemology, which deals with standards of knowledge and characterisations of it, I can see an argument that looking at the use of the word "know" (per epistemic contextualism) and about whether we can be said (according to conventions of use) to be in a state of justified true belief given some scenario (like Gettier) are necessary components of reasoning here.

    So, I think we're left with a picture in which linguistic analysis plays little necessary role in lots of philosophical projects, and even the home turf it emerged in doesn't need to stick to its methods to do good work.
  • Sam26
    1.4k
    I bring these up because questions in fields can provide philosophical insights or impinge upon philosophical questions; "do special and general relativity impact the A-theory of time?", "were the banker bailouts in 2008 (morally) right?". Questions in metaphysics and political economy do not seem to require linguistic analysis to play a central role in order to pose them or attempt to answer them.

    But this is hardly the "home turf" of linguistic analysis.
    fdrake

    There is much here to agree with, but on the other hand, there are philosophies that grow out of some of the analyses done that need (I believe), in order to be more precise, a Wittgensteinian analysis. For instance, your example, "were the banker bailouts in 2008 (morally) right?" This, it seems, is a classic example of where a linguistic analysis might be needed. What does it mean to be morally right? What theories of moral right and wrong are we talking about (utilitarian, deontological, or relativistic theories, to name a few)? This would bring up the different uses we have for these words in our culture. That said, much of the time when using these words, we take it for granted that people are referring to the same things, until you press them on the specifics.

    I would disagree that "[q]uestions in metaphysics and political economy do not seem to require a linguistic analysis." Especially when discussing the philosophical theories that arise from different belief methodologies. There is a sense, though, where both of us are correct depending on what we are emphasizing. If we are talking about a statistical analysis of income brackets, as you pointed out above, then you're probably right about not needing a linguistic analysis (as per Wittgenstein). It depends on what we're trying to accomplish. However, if we're developing a philosophy as a result of a statistical analysis, we might need a linguistic analysis for precision's sake.

    When it comes to epistemology, in many of these subject areas I find a lack of understanding from scientists and lay people alike as to what it means to have knowledge, or what it means to know. They fail to understand the many ways in which we can claim to have knowledge. This can be seen from Wittgenstein's unfinished notes called On Certainty. Epistemological considerations come up in almost all of the subjects you exampled above.

    If there is something above that you think I failed to address, please press the point.
  • BitconnectCarlos
    324


    The answer to "are more people starving now and why?" doesn't depend much on how you define starving, it depends on how many people don't have enough food or sufficiently limited access to it.

    Quick question, is starving a feeling or it an actual physiological process? Is it different from being hungry? At what point does hunger turn into starvation? If someone with plenty of access to food is just too lazy or depressed to eat and skip a few meals have then are they starving? Could someone living in an area with a shortage of food have adjusted to the conditions and no longer have the constant sensation of hunger? Moreover, is the data really giving us the 100% honest picture of their situation?
  • fdrake
    3.3k
    So it seems like we both reject

    (A1) The only methodology in philosophy that makes in all topics and subtopics is linguistic analysis.

    Because there are topics in which it is not necessary.

    There is much here to agree with, but on the other hand, there are philosophies that grow out of some of the analyses done that need (I believe), in order to be more precise, a Wittgensteinian analysis.Sam26

    We've had a brief discussion about it being useful for clarity; and we've conducted the discussion in pragmatic terms in general. It's a truism that clarity is certainly desirable when writing on a topic, but it does not seem a sufficient reason to render linguistic analysis necessary for discussing that topic; even if such a topic would benefit from it, that does not establish that it is required to discuss the topic at all.

    Given that, what seems a more interesting discussion topic is are three related issues:

    (B1) What circumstances necessitate adopting linguistic analysis as a philosophical methodology?
    (B2) What does it mean that linguistic analysis is necessary for analysing a topic?
    (B3) Does the necessity of linguistic analysis for a topic say anything about the topic's nature?

    In the spirit of being clear, by linguistic analysis I mean a method of doing philosophy that focusses upon the its topic by analysing examples of word use surrounding the topic; including observed patterns of inference using the words; and from those examples and word use analysis makes speculative claims about the topic of study or critical remarks regarding previous work (or patterns of inference and claims).

    An example of a critical remark in Wittgenstein (from On Certainty) is undermining Moore's use of "Here is a hand" as an item of knowledge, because any statement which could count as knowledge must be able to be doubted, and in the circumstances of Moore's utterance it could not doubted that he had a hand, so he could not know that he had a hand.

    Or Austin on the argument from illusion (against an argument for perceptual anti-realism):

    That a round coin should 'look elliptical' (in one sense) from some points of view is exactly what we expect and what we normally find; indeed, we should be badly put out if we ever found this not to be so. Refraction again-the stick that looks bent in water-is far too familiar a case to be properly called a case of illusion. We may perhaps be prepared to agree that the stick looks bent; but then we can see that it's partly submerged in water, so that is exactly how we should expect it to look.

    Undermining the claim that the bent stick is illusionary.

    An example of a speculative claim in Wittgenstein (from Philosophical Investigations) is that discourse/language use consists of language games that have no necessary structural similarity in virtue of being uses of language; but language games (and classes of language games) may have structural similarities at any level of detail. Moreover, philosophy allegedly takes methods of explanation and description that work well in one language game and transfers them to others in which they do not apply.

    Speculative claim from Austin in Sense and Sensibilia (setting out interpretive guidelines for use of the word "real"):

    Next, 'real' is what we may call a trouser-word. It is usually thought, and I dare say usually rightly thought, that what one might call the affirmative use of a term is basic-that, to understand 'x', we need to know what it is to be x, or to be an x, and that knowing this apprises us of what it is not to be x, not to be an x. But with 'real' (as we briefly noted earlier) it is the negative use that wears the trousers. That is, a definite sense attaches to the assertion that something is real, a real such-and-such, only in the light of a specific way in which it might be, or might have been, not real.

    I hope that the characterisation of linguistic analysis (and examples) are agreeable. Given that:

    For instance, your example, "were the banker bailouts in 2008 (morally) right?" This, it seems, is a classic example of where a linguistic analysis might be needed. What does it mean to be morally right? What theories of moral right and wrong are we talking about (utilitarian, deontological, or relativistic theories, to name a few)? This would bring up the different uses we have for these words in our culture. That said, much of the time when using these words, we take it for granted that people are referring to the same things, until you press them on the specifics.

    Seeing as you reacted to the question "were the banker bailouts in 2008 (morally) right?" strongly, affirming that it is a classic example for linguistic analysis, what was it about the question that made you believe it was necessary (if you believed it was necessary) to approach it through that lens?

    And moreover, to what extent are these features generalisable? Can you use them more abstractly as indicators that linguistic analysis is necessary (or profitable) in a circumstance? And moreover, if that is true, how can you transfer those indicators to philosophical discussion more generally?
  • Sam26
    1.4k
    We've had a brief discussion about it being useful for clarity; and we've conducted the discussion in pragmatic terms in general. It's a truism that clarity is certainly desirable when writing on a topic, but it does not seem a sufficient reason to render linguistic analysis necessary for discussing that topic; even if such a topic would benefit from it, that does not establish that it is required to discuss the topic at all.fdrake

    It's certainly the case that it's a truism to say that we need to be clear when we write, especially writing from a philosophical perspective; and generally it's the case when writing about anything. However, there's something unique about Wittgenstein's (and Austin for the matter) later philosophy that lends itself to the clarification of meaning that we've rarely seen before. And, it's in this sense that clarity for me takes on a whole new study. These kinds of discussions are needed because it's easy to overblow the significance of any advancement. Wittgenstein's later works are an advancement in philosophical thinking, viz., clarity of meaning.

    We both seem to agree that in order for people to have discussions, at least on an everyday level, this kind of analysis is not necessarily needed for us to communicate. People communicate all the time without ever hearing of Wittgenstein or Austin, or without ever understanding some of their methods of linguistic analysis.

    Given that, what seems a more interesting discussion topic is are three related issues:

    (B1) What circumstances necessitate adopting linguistic analysis as a philosophical methodology?
    fdrake

    Books could be written trying to answer these three questions. Nevertheless, they are good questions.

    First, one needs a good understanding of the methods employed by Wittgenstein and Austin in order to be able to recognize when to apply them; just as a scientist recognizes when to employ the scientific method. Second, one needs to recognize the context (philosophical discussions, and the depth of those discussions) that might permit such a discussion. On the other hand, sometimes when talking about meaning, one can interject some of these methods into simple discussions. Depends on how adept you are, and how well you understand the methodology.

    (B2) What does it mean that linguistic analysis is necessary for analysing a topic?

    As I understand it, in this context, it would mean that a clarification of meaning is required that would help resolve an argument, or at least clarify a philosophical problem. These kinds of issues arise all the time, especially in a philosophical forum. Rarely are there threads where such clarifications would not benefit the discussion.

    (B3) Does the necessity of linguistic analysis for a topic say anything about the topic's nature?

    Yes, from Wittgenstein's early philosophy to his later philosophy, he has concentrated on how it is that we mean something by this or that word, or by this or that statement/proposition. Thus, if one could sum up Wittgenstein's philosophy as a whole, its been one devoted to understanding meaning.

    Seeing as you reacted to the question "were the banker bailouts in 2008 (morally) right?" strongly, affirming that it is a classic example for linguistic analysis, what was it about the question that made you believe it was necessary (if you believed it was necessary) to approach it through that lens?

    And moreover, to what extent are these features generalisable? Can you use them more abstractly as indicators that linguistic analysis is necessary (or profitable) in a circumstance? And moreover, if that is true, how can you transfer those indicators to philosophical discussion more generally?
    fdrake

    I can see why you might want me to react to the moral question, but since my main work has been in the area of epistemology, I think it would be appropriate to answer the question in terms of my epistemological background, as meager as it might be.

    In just about every subject the question of knowing arises. What does it mean to know (I use JTB as a generalizable definition), and how has Wittgenstein's methods helped to clarify what it means to know? This, it seems to me, is paramount if we want to claim that we know anything. If we look at use in terms of knowing we see that there is at least five ways of justifying a belief (remember we are applying Wittgenstein's methods, we are looking at use).

    1) Linguistic training, which is a very basic justification of the use of words, i.e., it agrees with correct public usage. It's a matter of learning how to use words within a particular language. A child learns that's Mom or Dad because they were taught that's Mom or Dad. Later they will learn to use words like cup, water, dog, cat, etc. How does a child know that's a dog? Because it was taught that's a dog. How do we know they know? We observe how they use the words. They surely don't give us a definition.

    2) Pure reason, pure logic, so a proposition is true due to its logical structure. It's called a tautology. For example, "Either Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the U.S., or he wasn't the 16th president of the U.S." This statement is true due to its logical structure. The logical structure of the statement is "X or not X." Any proposition of this form is always true.

    3) The third way of justifying a belief is through sensory experience. You can know the car is blue by looking at it, that the apple is sweet by tasting it, that someone is playing a trumpet by hearing it, that the table top is smooth by feeling it, etc.

    4) The fourth way of justifying a belief is through inference, argument, or proof. A belief is inferred from other propositions (e.g. inductive and deductive reasoning) or evidence.

    5) The fifth way of justifying a belief is through testimony. We very often learn things from those who are in a position to know. Much of what we know comes from the testimony of others. In fact, there is a massive amount of information that comes to us through testimony. Can we doubt most of this information? No. Why? Because the very tools for understanding the world around us, our words and concepts, come from others. If we doubted most of it, we would be reduced to silence. Our culture and other cultures succeed because of the truthfulness of most of what is conveyed to us. This is not to say that we should trust everything we read or hear, because sometimes there are good reasons to doubt what is said or written.

    I think it's clear how these uses are generalizable, and I think it's clear how each of these can be used to further explain what it means to know. As you can see, knowing is not restricted to any one subject (e.g. science). Moreover, most of what we know is not known with absolute certainty. Very often people classify knowledge as knowing with absolute certainty. If this was the case there wouldn't be much that we could claim to know. You couldn't even claim to know algebra if you got less than perfect scores on all your tests. As it is, we can get a B, or even a C, and claim to know algebra. Thus, knowledge extends to what is probable or likely the case.

    I think I've answered some of your questions.
  • Snakes Alive
    469
    Linguistic analysis tends to be relevant to philosophical problems specifically, because philosophical problems are not typically about the way the world is. They instead ask about categories, with questions framed like: "Suppose there is a case X. Is X an instance of Y?" There is no real interesting way to answer this question, since it just depends on how the word "Y" is used. The philosopher doesn't intend to inquire into anything regarding the world in asking this question, and the method itself presupposes that one knows 'all there is to know' by the presentation of the example. The question itself only ever serves to move around the way words like "Y" are used, and whether they apply to case X or not – and so there is no other answer that one can give the philosopher but a linguistic one.
  • StreetlightX
    4.9k
    If I may offer a middle-ground here: 'linguistic analysis', in the Wittgensteinian mould, is not - or should not be reduced to - analysis of language, as if language existed in pristine isolation as a system of meaning unto itself. In this sense 'linguistic analysis' is a misleading title: linguistic analysis - again, understood qua Wittgenstein - must encompass language-and-world, language-in-use, for certain purposes and not others.

    In fact all of Wittgenstein militates against treating linguistic analysis as 'only' analysis of language, insisting that when carried out properly, linguistic analysis is precisely analysis of both world and language, in lock-step. It's the seperation of the two that causes problems: Wittgensteinian 'lingusitic analysis' throws language open into the world, and does not set language 'against' the world.

    Insofar as linguistic analysis can be understood to be an autonomous practice, its remit is entirely negative: it acts like rails at the bowling alley, making sure that what counts as the object of analysis remains unequivocal. So it's entirely the case that when "the background is sufficiently well known and the language games supported within it are sufficiently well travelled ... analysing how people use words isn't required to clarify the domain studied" - the exception being when we lose track of the motivations and purposes behind the uses of concepts and start reifying them (to take an example from the PI: when 'stand roughly here' becomes decoupled from the purpose of 'being able to find you again when I come back' and we engage in the fool's errand of trying to delimit the scope of 'here' in precise terms in order to understand what it means).

    So it's also exactly right that linguistic analysis "plays little necessary role in lots of philosophical projects" precisely because rigorous thinkers will be well aware of the motivations behind their uses of words. 'Linguistic analysis' is simply the minimal level of competence required to engage in any philosophy whatsoever. Wittgenstein's merit was simply to have explicated and thematized it. But it's entirely overblown to think that linguistic analysis is some kind of 'alternative' to philosophising in the main.
  • Vessuvius
    86


    It seems to me that what takes primacy in judgement, when one considers those choices of methodology that as a whole, are known as Linguistic Analysis, is only the extent of their need to render clear, what meanings had been expressed within the set context, that lies in question. That is to say, whether circumstances require for clearness that one must define, explicitly, the sum of those meanings which were granted through some form of statement, or proposition, is dependent upon whether one has any ((pre-existing)) measure of familiarity with what is meant thereby, and furthermore, whether such understanding is sufficient to allow one to infer, based also upon the associated environment of usage, the object of reference, and the relationship between each; by the latter phrase I speak of the relations that govern meaning, and the ways in which this correlates with the object to which one chooses to refer in the case of any statement, in particular. While I acknowledge that there are times at which it may prove needless, that one endeavor to actively reflect upon the significance of what one expresses, and thus, that the object thereof can in fact be intuited by any other in passing, without its fullest content being first brought to a level of conscious thought, and awareness; recognition ought to be made, also, that the quality of being acquainted therewith, to know incontrovertibly what one is to convey, in meaning, presupposes a past familiarity with the context, and general foreground in which said statement, or line of phrase, is to appear at all. This same condition is present, also, with respect to those other manners of expression, which demand of one separate aptitudes, to be understood, and are, in both their appearance and effect, confined to equally separate domains of thought; as distinct from the previous.

    I think in all these cases, to put a Wittgensteinian spin on it, the background is sufficiently well known and the language games supported within it are sufficiently well travelled that analysing how people use words isn't required to clarify the domain studied; people know what the sense of touch is and universities are. Moreover, inventing concepts to explain things here is important (like, say, Lakatos' "research program" or Foucault's "episteme", or Clark's "extended mind" and Gibson's "affordance"); analysing how things work usually requires some new vocabulary, which stands or falls upon the accuracy and perspicacity it describes its target and the utility it provides in its analysis,fdrake

    The fact upon which I came to expound, previously, leads one to the implication that what claim you have set forth in argument, cannot be generalized. By which I wish to emphasize that oftentimes there is encountered, in the case of most, a dearth of understanding, and consequently the inability to identify, or at all attest to those meanings presented to one in such a way as to be detached from the events of which one's life, tends to consist. Which is to state, without cause for equivocation, that the truths of our world, and the course by which one seeks out greater understanding, are relegated within the lives of many, to a position of the second-order, and seldom fall within the field of one's foremost concerns. When one bears in mind instances of this sort, then, as they occur generally, not strictly as one conceives of them in the sense of the ideal, one is confronted with the certainty of other's ignorance, which precludes one from expressing the query, or statement, at hand, while ensuring that the meaning thereof, be preserved, and understood, wholly.

    It is a prime requisite that the conditions of one's inquiry, the finer elements of what notion is considered, be imparted a character of wholesomeness, and defined in their furthest depth; and, most importantly, be recognized as such, by all involved in their study, and pursuit. To fail in the establishment of any mutual-ground for the understanding, at the outset, is to commit oneself to the path of error, before having even begun. For the sake of preventing such misinterpretations, or at least, to deprive them of what sway they might otherwise hold, those fields of study which have achieved for themselves an air of legitimacy, and fullness, and which demonstrate a similar character in their predictions, carry also an inclusion of certain terms that by consensus, have a degree of particularity, and certitude in their meanings, and apply only within the bounds of select contexts, that have themselves been agreed upon by virtue of the same conventions as those described. i.e 'Terms Of Anatomy', and the like. Though, I digress that in any event, one's efforts can be complemented by the benefits in precision, and exactness in thought, that such a methodology confers. Confusion grows most emergent, I believe, only insofar as these qualities are neglected.

    Consider the following; https://oregonstate.edu/instruction/bb317/scientifictheories.html
  • StreetlightX
    4.9k
    whether such understanding is sufficient to allow one to infer, based also upon the associated environment of usage, the object of referenceVessuvius

    This model of meaning is explicitly rejected by Wittgenstein, so I'll only say that whatever its merits, it is not what is in question when discussing linguistic analysis as per the OP.
  • fdrake
    3.3k
    As I understand it, in this context, it would mean that a clarification of meaning is required that would help resolve an argument, or at least clarify a philosophical problem. These kinds of issues arise all the time, especially in a philosophical forum. Rarely are there threads where such clarifications would not benefit the discussion.Sam26

    Insofar as linguistic analysis can be understood to be an autonomous practice, its remit is entirely negative: it acts like rails at the bowling alley, making sure that what counts as the object of analysis remains unequivocal.StreetlightX

    If the remit of linguistic analysis is a critical imperative that intervenes upon already established philosophical questions, arguments and claims, it seems to me that the application of the imperative should have some conceptual structure. While it seems the case that linguistic analysis could be used irrespective of the topic of the discussion, the applicability of linguistic analysis as a critique may still place constraints upon what it may analyse. If you'll permit a clumsy form-content schema, linguistic analysis has universal applicability in terms of discussed content (we may always make the kind of errors and confusions it highlights), but perhaps its intervention is necessary only when the discussion takes a certain form.

    I have in mind an analogy between Kant's critique of metaphysics and the doctrine of transcendental illusion. Roughly, a transcendental illusion is an error of reasoning where a confusion occurs between necessary relations between concepts and necessary relations between things. What is particularly interesting here is that transcendental illusions are internal to the concept of reason; reasoning generates transcendental illusions through a tendency to take the objects as they are analysed as the objects themselves. The content of the transcendental illusion; what it concerns; is irrelevant to the character of the formal error of reasoning.

    Continuing the analogy, a linguistic analysis will often reveal (or purports to reveal) that the terms an argument is articulated in are subject to an internal tension; and it is the internal tension which ultimately gives the argument its force, rather than the structure of the argument and the truth of its premises.

    As an example, Austin's analysis of the argument from illusion (for perceptual anti-realism, specifically used to argue for sense-datum theories). The original argument goes like: we see a stick half submerged in water, it appears bent. The stick has not really bent as immersion in the water does not bend it. The bending of the stick in the water is equivalent, insofar as it generates a perception, to seeing a stick really bent in that manner. Since a perception of the stick appearing to bend in water is sensorially equivalent to a perception of the stick bending outside water in precisely the same way, we do not see reality as it is; we see appearances, construable as sense data.

    Austin intervenes in the argument by, among other things, pointing out that it is fully consistent to say "Yes, we see a stick which appears bent", undermining the equivocation of appearance and perception used to establish the equivalence of the "really bent stick" perception from the "bent stick in water" appearance (there's more to the argument of course).

    The internal tension highlighted is the elision of perception and appearance through a shifting of vocabulary, which when criticised dispels the force of the argument by revealing unstated, implausible premises.

    In terms of the analogy, the unstated conceptual connection (of equivalence) between appearance and perception motivates the object based equivalence between two hypothetical appearance-perceptions; the stick bent in water, and the stick bent out of water in precisely the same manner of bending. The (conceptual) equivalence between appearance and perception transforms into an (object based) equivalence between perceptions in the two considered cases.

    the exception being when we lose track of the motivations and purposes behind the uses of concepts and start reifying them (to take an example from the PI: when 'stand roughly here' becomes decoupled from the purpose of 'being able to find you again when I come back' and we engage in the fool's errand of trying to delimit the scope of 'here' in precise terms in order to understand what it means).StreetlightX

    Can we doubt most of this information? No. Why? Because the very tools for understanding the world around us, our words and concepts, come from others. If we doubted most of it, we would be reduced to silence. Our culture and other cultures succeed because of the truthfulness of most of what is conveyed to us. This is not to say that we should trust everything we read or hear, because sometimes there are good reasons to doubt what is said or written.Sam26

    At the same time as acting as a form of criticism, there appears to be content which is leveraged in those criticisms that is of a positive character. The critical imperatives allow us to disconnect ideas, but there are also ideas which become connected by applying the criticism. When Austin shows us the sentence "I see a stick which appears to be bent", as a valid and literal instance of "I see", it suggests that judgements can co-occur naturally within acts of perception; we see the stick as bent, but we also judge that the stick is bent during the act of seeing.

    Wittgenstein has commitments of a similar form, specifically, the claim that "if we can't speak of doubt, we can't speak of knowledge", or in another phrasing; if knowledge of X is part of a language game, then doubting claims regarding X must be too. In order to leverage this positive content methodologically, it must be stipulated to hold in the considered circumstances. Negation of an argument must be done using some premises or else it is baseless.

    This is interesting, as it makes a positive claim about the world shielded behind a critical intervention; whenever the critical intervention regarding knowledge and doubt is applied to a topic
    *
    (or more generally, any instance of the principle of bipolarity; if it can be true it must mean something for it to able to be false, "The Paris meter stick is 1 meter long" if false is meaningless, therefore...)
    , the topic is treated as equivalent to one in which the described connection between knowledge and doubt holds.

    If we abstract one level, to what the character of this intervention says, in the background it imagines an equivalence between what is being talked about and intervened on and the kind of construction (language games) in which it holds. Without explicating the character of the kind of language game in which the knowledge-doubt one holds (just all ones involving knowledge and doubt...). In what circumstances does such a connection hold? Perhaps it can only be seen through examples, perhaps as @Banno would usually say the circumstances can't be explicated, they can only be shown. These are both issues.

    as if language existed in pristine isolation as a system of meaning unto itself.StreetlightX

    So relying upon such a connection by virtue of seeing it as relevant alone construes language and world as something which is given and self interpreting; it is some way or the other, and if this is not seen in the case being analysed, that is a problem of someone's understanding rather than a problem of the methodology. In broad terms, the applicability of connections like Wittgenstein's knowledge-doubt one rests upon a privileged domain in which terms are imbued their meaning, and a connection to this domain is only ensured if you follow the pattern of argument in the knowledge-doubt (or like) analysis. It stops being a methodology using language, and reifies a particular interpretation of language as language, without the mechanisms of contextualisation that it espouses. Linguistic analysis comes (or can come) to police sense rather than clarify it.
  • Sam26
    1.4k
    As an example, Austin's analysis of the argument from illusion (for perceptual anti-realism, specifically used to argue for sense-datum theories). The original argument goes like: we see a stick half submerged in water, it appears bent. The stick has not really bent as immersion in the water does not bend it. The bending of the stick in the water is equivalent, insofar as it generates a perception, to seeing a stick really bent in that manner. Since a perception of the stick appearing to bend in water is sensorially equivalent to a perception of the stick bending outside water in precisely the same way, we do not see reality as it is; we see appearances, construable as sense data.

    Austin intervenes in the argument by, among other things, pointing out that it is fully consistent to say "Yes, we see a stick which appears bent", undermining the equivocation of appearance and perception used to establish the equivalence of the "really bent stick" perception from the "bent stick in water" appearance (there's more to the argument of course).

    The internal tension highlighted is the elision of perception and appearance through a shifting of vocabulary, which when criticised dispels the force of the argument by revealing unstated, implausible premises.
    fdrake

    I really enjoyed reading Austin's analysis when I was in college, and would recommend Sense and Sensibilia to anyone interested in the issues being discussed in this and other threads like this.

    The internal tension highlighted is the elision of perception and appearance through a shifting of vocabulary, which when criticised dispels the force of the argument by revealing unstated, implausible premises.fdrake

    Austin's analysis is a good example of how such arguments can shed light on linguistic confusions. You're right to point these out.

    In the context of this thread, Linguistic analysis should not be isolated from the confusions of meaning that often occur when stating one's ideas. Moreover, the analysis should not be separated from the world in which we live and breathe, where language gets its life.
  • Sam26
    1.4k
    Some of you may enjoy this spoken essay based on J. L. Austin's notes.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIB6rUa9fJQ

    I think it illustrates the kind of linguistic analysis we're talking about.
  • Snakes Alive
    469
    I agree that linguistic analysis is 'about the world,' but it's not clear to me how it could not be, and so not clear what this call is supposed to do.

    That is, if you study what's talked about and how, you study what's talked about. I don't see how one could even do the 'linguistic analysis alone,' unless you mean actually doing empirical linguistics, which turns language into its own special domain, but this isn't what philosophers have ever done, to my knowledge, except maybe some very recent philosophers of language.
  • Snakes Alive
    469
    Great video. There's more insight in ten minutes there than in the body of work of most philosophers.
  • Mww
    1.4k


    At the beginning of the video, where Austin comments on the first of two things “immensely important to understand...”:

    “...Despite the great wealth of words which European languages possess, the thinker finds himself often at a loss for an expression exactly suited to his conception, for want of which he is unable to make himself intelligible either to others or to himself. To coin new words is a pretension to legislation in language which is seldom successful; and, before recourse is taken to so desperate an expedient, it is advisable to examine the dead and learned languages, with the hope and the probability that we may there meet with some adequate expression of the notion we have in our minds. In this case, even if the original meaning of the word has become somewhat uncertain, from carelessness or want of caution on the part of the authors of it, it is always better to adhere to and confirm its proper meaning—even although it may be doubtful whether it was formerly used in exactly this sense—than to make our labour vain by want of sufficient care to render ourselves intelligible. For this reason, when it happens that there exists only a single word to express a certain conception, and this word, in its usual acceptation, is thoroughly adequate to the conception, the accurate distinction of which from related conceptions is of great importance, we ought not to employ the expression improvidently, or, for the sake of variety and elegance of style, use it as a synonym for other cognate words. It is our duty, on the contrary, carefully to preserve its peculiar signification, as otherwise it easily happens that when the attention of the reader is no longer particularly attracted to the expression, and it is lost amid the multitude of other words of very different import, the thought which it conveyed, and which it alone conveyed, is lost with it...”
    (CPR, B369)

    Similar admonitions, it seems.
  • StreetlightX
    4.9k
    So relying upon such a connection by virtue of seeing it as relevant alone construes language and world as something which is given and self interpreting; it is some way or the other, and if this is not seen in the case being analysed, that is a problem of someone's understanding rather than a problem of the methodology. In broad terms, the applicability of connections like Wittgenstein's knowledge-doubt one rests upon a privileged domain in which terms are imbued their meaning, and a connection to this domain is only ensured if you follow the pattern of argument in the knowledge-doubt (or like) analysis. It stops being a methodology using language, and reifies a particular interpretation of language as language, without the mechanisms of contextualisation that it espouses. Linguistic analysis comes (or can come) to police sense rather than clarify it.fdrake

    I don't think this is quite right, but I think this partly down to how to phrased things with the dichotomy language/world. I need to modify what I said above: it is in fact the case that language and world can 'come apart', but the key thing is to recognise instances when they do. 'Linguistic analysis' ('LA'), as I understand it, is the attempt to track when language and world depart from one another, despite the impression that they have not (what Witty calls 'being held captive by a picture' or somesuch). There's a passage from Cavell that I really like that brings out the critical import of LA here, where he uses a really interesting turn of phrase, on making words 'nothing but their meaning':

    "Wittgenstein's notion of "speaking outside language games"... suggests that what happens to the philosopher's concepts is that they are deprived of their ordinary criteria of employment (which does not mean that his words are deprived of meaning - one could say that such words have nothing but their meanings) and, collecting no new ones, leave his concepts without relation to the world (which does not mean that what he says is false), or in terms I used earlier, remove them from their position among our system of concepts".

    I like Cavell's way of putting things because he does not say that such uses of words are meaning-less per se, but that they are nothing 'but' their meanings: that their significance does not reach, as it were, where we would want it to reach. The words have meaning, but this meaning does not have the significance one takes it to have. I think the Wittgensteinian treatment of knowledge and doubt is exemplary in this regard: against those who ask: 'but how do you really know the Thing with Certainty?', the Wittgensteinian counter-question is simply: 'do you understand what you're asking? Are you aware of how singular your question is, and the equivocations one risks in construing your question as though simply one more in a long line of questions about knowledge?'.

    To be 'mislead by grammar' is here to think that this use of language still 'has its position among our system of concepts': to not recognize that world and language have come apart. That all said, against Wittgenstein, I'm all too happy to maintain that philosophers have long known that this is exactly what what happens in their discourse, and that Witty was simply making explicit what every competent philosopher has known implicitly since time immemorial (Wittgenstein projected, as it were, his own naivety onto the philosophers whom he never read).
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.7k
    So it's entirely the case that when "the background is sufficiently well known and the language games supported within it are sufficiently well travelled ... analysing how people use words isn't required to clarify the domain studied" - the exception being when we lose track of the motivations and purposes behind the uses of concepts and start reifying them (to take an example from the PI: when 'stand roughly here' becomes decoupled from the purpose of 'being able to find you again when I come back' and we engage in the fool's errand of trying to delimit the scope of 'here' in precise terms in order to understand what it means).StreetlightX

    There is a problem which arises when we take it for granted, that a particular phrase has a specific meaning. For example, if a person takes it for granted that 'stand roughly here' has a specific meaning, which is independent from the context of use, that person will be lost. Because of this need to rely on the peculiarities of the particular circumstances in any determination of meaning, and the difficulty in determining these peculiarities (accidents in Aristotelian terms), doubt and skepticism cannot be dismissed as easily as an individual who takes meaning for granted might assume.

    have in mind an analogy between Kant's critique of metaphysics and the doctrine of transcendental illusion. Roughly, a transcendental illusion is an error of reasoning where a confusion occurs between necessary relations between concepts and necessary relations between things. What is particularly interesting here is that transcendental illusions are internal to the concept of reason; reasoning generates transcendental illusions through a tendency to take the objects as they are analysed as the objects themselves. The content of the transcendental illusion; what it concerns; is irrelevant to the character of the formal error of reasoning.fdrake

    What you call a transcendent illusion is a type of category mistake itself, which is very common. Distinguishing objects from concepts as if they are categorically distinct is itself a category mistake, because objects and concepts are the same type of thing. Conception begins in analysis because the act of analyzing is a dividing, and dividing is what creates the boundaries which define the concept. The boundaries here are the proposed restrictions, the rules of usage. Also, an "object" requires a boundary in the very same way, restricting what is and is not, of the object. So objects are what is created by analysis, therefore the concept and the object are one and the same thing. The illusion, is in the idea that one contains accidents and the other does not, and this illusion creates the notion that the concept is a "universal", which is somehow separate from the object. However, in reality both concept and object contain accidents. Because of the reality of accidents, the true error is in the assumption that any such boundaries are "necessary".


    Your passage from Austin reveals very well the problem outlined in my reply to StreetlightX, above. This is the problem in assuming that a word has a meaning, what is called here, the "proper meaning", which is independent of the context of use.

    For this reason, when it happens that there exists only a single word to express a certain conception, and this word, in its usual acceptation, is thoroughly adequate to the conception, the accurate distinction of which from related conceptions is of great importance, we ought not to employ the expression improvidently, or, for the sake of variety and elegance of style, use it as a synonym for other cognate words.Mww

    Perhaps it's time for us to give up this notion that the concept is something independent from the physical appearance of the word. We tend to think that a concept is some sort of mental stuff shared between individuals. But all we can find here, as the shared property, where the concept ought to be found, is physical words. And even within an individual person's own mind, we tend to think that the word within that mind represents a concept. But it really does not. The word within the mind gets shuffled around, associated with numerous different other words, images and memories, but none of these can be properly called a concept. Therefore we have no evidence of existence of "a concept" anywhere, except as the existence of the words themselves. We may conclude, concepts are word. Then the effort to analyze the use of words, to seek and find the concepts which words signify, will be fruitless, endless, due to this reality that the concepts are the words.
  • Mww
    1.4k


    I hear ya, but still.......

    .......I’m not going to give up the notion that concept is independent of word. All representations presuppose that to which they belong;
    .......I don’t think concepts are shared. Concepts are mental stuff, yes, but the source of all immanent conceptions, the only ones to which words properly belong, because they relate to possible experience, is understanding, and, just as in consciousness, understanding is never shared;
    ......because it is logically sufficient to state where concepts are to be found, perhaps the epitome of transcendental illusion is to think only words are to be found there. Concepts, in and of themselves, have a purpose and thereby a use, but not a description. If we find words where there should be concepts, we’re doing something very wrong;
    ......agreed, the word within the mind does not represent the concept. It is more the case that the word is found in judgement, which represents the concept in cognition, which is the exposition of it;
    ......we have no empirical evidence of the existence of concepts, no. Rational evidence would seem to be necessary, nonetheless;
    ......there are those inclined to grant concepts are words, but I submit it is only because they don’t know any better;
    ......and for those, the search for concepts from the mere representation of them, will be fruitless and endless. And foolish.
    ————————

    objects and concepts are the same type of thingMetaphysician Undercover

    Why would you say that? How are they the same type of thing?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.7k
    don’t think concepts are shared. Concepts are mental stuff, yes, but the source of all immanent conceptions, the only ones to which words properly belong, because they relate to possible experience, is understanding, and, just as in consciousness, understanding is never shared;Mww

    The source of a thing is distinct from the thing itself. Just because the source of concepts is understanding, and therefore an activity of consciousness, it does not follow that concepts themselves are understanding or part of consciousness. Consciousness is the source of words. Human beings engineer buildings, airplanes, and all sorts of construction projects. Clearly the source of these things is consciousness, but that does not mean they are part of consciousness.

    Concepts, in and of themselves, have a purpose and thereby a use, but not a description. If we find words where there should be concepts, we’re doing something very wrong;Mww

    Why would you say that concepts have no description? The concept of "square" for example can be described as an equilateral rectangle.

    Rational evidence would seem to be necessary, nonetheless;Mww

    Since concepts are presented (rather than represented) in words and other symbols (mathematical for example), as definitions, descriptions and explanations, and the symbols or words have no necessary referent, then the "rational evidence" ought to lead us toward believing that words are concepts. Sure, a mind will associate a word with a referent, as a voluntary judgement, but where might you find a concept within that mind if it is not the word itself?

    Why would you say that? How are they the same type of thing?Mww

    As I described in that post, both concepts and objects are created by the application of boundaries.
  • Vessuvius
    86


    That which we are to speak of as "Concept", I see reason to hold as the immaterial force by which our every representation of the objects of experience derive their substance, and by which they are thereby informed of what constitutes any such object both singularly, and as a whole, in any particular case. Which is to say, that though they are byproducts of the activity of thought, and brought to mind only upon the exercise of these same faculties, the sum of their manifestations exists as potential within the field of the abstract, and by virtue of that fact, are in some sense at least, antecedent to the course by which they are set to emerge from view. Moreover, there can be found many ways by which to illustrate any one notion; to render clear, and explicit what conditions inhere therein, without deferring to traditional means of the descriptive. In which instance, the referent of one's choice of phrase, stands as the criteria which impart to its object, a depth, and uniqueness in character that can only be reconciled with itself as a matter of form, and presentation. Yet, these characteristics retain their hold, and are no less significant in meaning regardless of the manner in which one seeks to describe, or at all provide reference for, the object thereof. It is this unchanging aspect of the understanding, that serves as "Concept".

    A template for the notions themselves, as it were.
  • Luke
    582
    both concepts and objects are created by the application of boundaries.Metaphysician Undercover

    1. Apples and oranges are created by the application of horticulture.

    2. How is the concept of "boundary" created by the application of boundaries?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.7k

    I don't think you'll get anywhere this way Luke, it appears to me like you are just giving me random words. Either you get it or you do not, and I don't think I can provide you with the background required. Your examples are so confusing I can't understand. Apples and oranges come from trees not horticulture. Biology defines what an apple is, and what an orange is, but I don't see your point, if there is one.

    And your second is so vague as to leave me without any understanding of what you are trying to ask. I'll give it a try though. A boundary doesn't exist until it is applied. Right? Suppose someone had within their mind, the intent to create a boundary for a specific purpose. What kind of existence could we give to that intended boundary which exists in thought only? It's not a boundary at all. A person could even establish that boundary within one's own mind, like a private rule, 'step across that imaginary line, and I'm going to pound you', defend what is mine. But the imaginary line has no existence as a real boundary, and the person hasn't even told the other, so the other person cannot know the consequences of stepping forward. And, the person who thinks that the imaginary boundary is a real boundary could be called delusional, and attacks the other for no apparent reason every time the other steps across the imaginary line. Ever heard of ostensive definition? if the person keeps trying to step across, and the delusional person keeps enforcing the boundary, the boundary becomes real, and the apprehended enforcement itself becomes the concept of boundary for the other person. The person has developed a concept of boundary, and stops stepping there, or else contests the boundary and retaliates.
  • Mww
    1.4k
    symbols or words have no necessary referentMetaphysician Undercover

    You know......people talk so damn much, they think that’s all they ever do. And because when they talk, they use words, so they think words are all there are. If, as you say, the source of the thing is distinct from the thing itself, it follows necessarily that the source of a word is distinct from the word itself, which grants that the concept is presented in the word or represented by the word, which either way immediately subsumes the word under the antecedent concept.

    Don’t get me wrong, I fully sympathize with the philosophical vagary, “.....spontaneously producing representations, or the spontaneity of cognition....”**, and the speculative methodology derived from it. Nobody likes spontaneity; it can’t be falsified or established as the case, and the fact it isn’t theoretically self-contradictory is little solace to the ultra-modern, analytic heart. All of which, I suppose, makes it ok to just throw in something or other in order to relieve ourselves of by-gone vagaries we detest so much, justifying the rise of the language gang, which is, of course, merely substituting one vagary for another.

    Descriptions and definitions are propositions composed of words; words represent concepts; therefore concepts describe and define concepts, which is impossible. A concept cannot define itself. If a concept cannot define itself, and if the reality of it is given, it must represent that which can be defined, but only as the means to facilitate the possibility of communication. We have no need of definitions in pure thought. You know...pure thought....that thing we do when we’re not so busy talking. And whether we label a particular geometric figure constructed in accordance with precise a priori principles a square or a equilateral rectangle, we still refer to a single conception. We should find we are merely defining the principles which make the conception possible, when closer examination inevitably reveals the lackadaisical attitude of the mind in general, that is, not subjected to critical analysis, when it makes it seem like we are actually defining the conception. We at the same time should find mathematical conceptions, as opposed to philosophical conceptions, are themselves necessary referents, given their construction is entirely dependent on the a priori, albeit synthetic, cognitions of individuals that think them, as long as the principles for it are contained by it.

    ** CPR B75
    —————

    both concepts and objects are created by the application of boundaries.Metaphysician Undercover

    The only way I see this working, is if the boundaries applied are the categories, specifically the category of quantity and modality. A quantity of space is a boundary for the possibility of objects and necessity is a boundary for the realization of concepts. Still, I’d hesitate to grant application of the categories creates anything, but rather makes the construction of conceptions possible a priori and experience of things possible a posteriori. We don’t construct experience and we don’t experience constructs, but both occur in us, so a common ground for them seems to be required. Judgement is common but is not a ground; understanding is a ground but is not common, so something underpins both.

    Nahhhh.....I’m going to reject the assertion that we create objects, but grant....sorta.....the assertion that we create conceptions. Arising “spontaneously from pure thought”, as conceptions are said to do, is close enough to creation so as to not cause any major upheaval in The Grand Scheme of Minor Things.

    It’s a tangled web, by all accounts.
  • Harry Hindu
    2.8k
    Descriptions and definitions are propositions composed of words; words represent concepts; therefore concepts describe and define concepts, which is impossible. A concept cannot define itself. If a concept cannot define itself, and if the reality of it is given, it must represent that which can be defined, but only as the means to facilitate the possibility of communication. We have no need of definitions in pure thought.Mww
    You seem to be confusing the concept with what represents the concept. If definitions and propositions are composed of words and words represent concepts, then the representations are describing the concepts, not the concept itself. It's like you are confusing the word "whiskers"
    with whiskers. "Whiskers", "furry", "pointy-ears", "meow", "scratching furniture", "walk on four legs", etc. are all words, but they represent properties of a cat. The properties are not the words, they are actually characteristics that define a cat, with all of them together distinguishing them from say, dogs, who also have four legs, whiskers, are furry, but don't "meow" or scratch furniture.

    Without using words (representations of concepts), can you distinguish cats from dogs? Can you distinguish cats from dogs using the concepts themselves, and not the representations (words)? Sure you can, it is those physical characteristics that you are aware of in your mind - that are pure thought - mental images of cats, and the sounds they make, in contrast with the mental images of dogs and the sounds they make. In your mind, you have a description of a cat that isn't composed of representations, but of the actual physical characteristics that make a cat different than a dog, and anything else.

    Smaller concepts (whiskers, meowing, etc,.) define larger concepts (cats).
  • Mww
    1.4k
    Without using words (representations of concepts), can you distinguish cats from dogs?Harry Hindu

    Honestly now, when you see a dog, do you really use words to tell yourself what you just saw wasn’t a cat?
  • Luke
    582
    Apples and oranges come from trees not horticulture.Metaphysician Undercover

    You've said that "the concept and the object are one and the same thing" and that "both...are created by the application of boundaries". Apples and oranges are not the same thing, despite both being created by trees (the object, not the concept).
  • Snakes Alive
    469
    I'm all too happy to maintain that philosophers have long known that this is exactly what what happens in their discourse, and that Witty was simply making explicit what every competent philosopher has known implicitly since time immemorial (Wittgenstein projected, as it were, his own naivety onto the philosophers whom he never read).StreetlightX

    I'm reminded of Schopenhauer's three stages of the acceptance of an idea! Not that I'm complaining.

    But I think that the history of philosophy is simply not possible without the kind of semantic blindness Wittgenstein puts his finger on. That is, if philosophers know this, they sure act like they don't.
  • creativesoul
    7.9k
    That which exists in it's entirety prior to our naming and descriptive practices.

    :meh:
  • Harry Hindu
    2.8k
    Honestly now, when you see a dog, do you really use words to tell yourself what you just saw wasn’t a cat?Mww
    That was what I was asking you based on your previous post. I made the point that the concepts that the words represent are what define larger concepts. You distinguish between dogs and cats with different concepts, which words are just representations of. So concepts DO define larger concepts, right? You can define a cat without words, but can you define a cat without concepts?
  • Mww
    1.4k
    Ahhh...I didn’t read far enough. My bad. So yes, I can distinguish objects by their respective representations, without words.

    In your mind, you have a description of a cat that isn't composed of representations, but of the actual physical characteristics that make a cat different than a dog, and anything else.Harry Hindu

    Yeah....I leave the “what it’s like” arguments, the notion of qualia, direct realism and whatnot, to those with an affinity for them.

    Conceptions don’t get larger, they get less susceptible to skepticism. The more representations of an object, the less contradictory the knowledge of it.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.7k
    You know......people talk so damn much, they think that’s all they ever do. And because when they talk, they use words, so they think words are all there are. If, as you say, the source of the thing is distinct from the thing itself, it follows necessarily that the source of a word is distinct from the word itself, which grants that the concept is presented in the word or represented by the word, which either way immediately subsumes the word under the antecedent concept.Mww

    Why would you think the concept is the source of the word rather than that the word is the source of the concept?

    Descriptions and definitions are propositions composed of words; words represent concepts; therefore concepts describe and define concepts, which is impossibleMww

    I disagree with your second premise, that words represent concepts. I don't see how this could be true, so I think that words are concepts. But that means the rest of your argument is pointless to me.

    We have no need of definitions in pure thought. You know...pure thought....that thing we do when we’re not so busy talking.Mww

    Right, but "pure thought" doesn't necessarily contains concepts. It is only when we think in words, or other symbols like mathematical symbols, that we think in concepts. Do you think that this is a coincidence?

    The only way I see this working, is if the boundaries applied are the categories, specifically the category of quantity and modality.Mww

    Yes categories are bounded for sure.

    Still, I’d hesitate to grant application of the categories creates anything,Mww

    Doesn't application of the categories create concepts? Suppose someone has a vague idea of how some categories, or boundaries ought to be constructed, and so begins to apply these boundaries. In application the problems become apparent, and the precise boundaries get determined. The vagaries get ironed out, and by determining the specifics which solve the problems of vagueness, the concept comes into existence.

    .I’m going to reject the assertion that we create objects,Mww

    Look around you. How many of the objects which you see are artificial? How can you say that we do not create objects?

    You've said that "the concept and the object are one and the same thing" and that "both...are created by the application of boundaries". Apples and oranges are not the same thing, despite both being created by trees (the object, not the concept).Luke

    Huh? I didn't say that two distinct objects are one and the same thing, nor did I say that two distinct concepts are one and the same thing. I meant that the concept "apple" is one and the same as the object "apple", which is the word "apple".
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