• Dfpolis
    1.1k
    It would be unresponsive to what I said.
  • bongo fury
    689
    I've fixed the quote link, but apologies for the tangle. My bad.
  • bongo fury
    689
    It would be unresponsive to what I said.Dfpolis

    ... about correspondence, or abstraction?
  • Dfpolis
    1.1k
    About abstractions as actualizizing the potential to be known.
  • bongo fury
    689
    So this is the question:

    If Alice is thinking something, must we conclude there is something that Alice is thinking?
    Srap Tasmaner

    Vote no.

    And, if Alice is saying something, must we (can we) conclude there is some sort of a thing entering into a binary "is saying" relation with Alice?
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k


    I'm partly indulging and partly testing my nominalist inclinations.
  • bongo fury
    689


    And are they differently set for thinking than for saying?
  • Tristan L
    185
    Yes, they surely do.

    But first, let’s make some speech aspects clear. The word “think” doesn’t have the same meaning in all three of your examples. In “Alice is thinking that the roof will never hold”, the word “thinking” means believing. The phrasal verbs “think about” and “think of” often mean roughly the same relationship or deed, sometimes perhaps even exactly the same one, and sometimes, as in your last two examples, “think of” means the same as “think about and plan to” (where the planning isn’t sure yet). The deedword “think” is not to be separated from the preposition. So “Alice is thinking of going to graduate school in the fall” should be broken up like this: “Alice | is thinking of | going to graduate school in the fall”, not like this : “Alice | is thinking | of going to graduate school in the fall”, as you have done. Here, “think of” means something like thinking about and planning to. Likewise, “Alice is thinking about her grandmother's house” should be broken up like this: “Alice | is thinking about | her grandmother's house”, not like this : “Alice | is thinking | about her grandmother's house”.

    The objects of belief, as well as of knowledge-that, are propositions. These are abstract objects/entities/things that by their wist (essence) intrinsically mean states-of-affairs. The facts are the states-of-affairs that hold. If and only if a proposition is true, a belonging piece of information exists, which is often concrete. The phrase “that the roof will never hold” refers to a proposition, and this is the object of Alice’s belief.

    The phrase “going to graduate school in the fall” either means the deed of going to graduate school in the fall, which is an abstract universal thing instantiated by individuals actually going to graduate school in the fall, or it means the (likewise abstract) proposition that the subject of the sentence of which the phrase is a part does said deed. In your example, it refers to the proposition that Alice goes to graduate school in the fall, and it is the object of Alice’s thinking-of, that is, of her thinking-about and planning.

    Finally, the phrase “her grandmother's house” obviously means the house of Alice’s grandmother, which is the object of Alice’s thinking-about.
  • zoey
    5
    I must say this thread has been a very interesting one to read - many thanks!
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k


    Not following your question here.



    Those were the examples I threw out not to hide the differences between meanings of "think" but to highlight them: splitting at the preposition (what could easily be a prefix in a language like German) was deliberate.

    The objects of belief, as well as of knowledge-that, are propositions. These are abstract objects/entities/things that by their wist (essence) intrinsically mean states-of-affairs.Tristan L

    @Andrew M has explained what he means by "abstract entity". What do you mean?
  • Andrew M
    1.1k
    If I understand you correctly, we're talking about conceptual dependence here. That I can deal with. It even has a natural connection to Frege's saturated/unsaturated distinction: "___ is thinking it's going to rain" is unsaturated, incomplete, and therefore an abstraction, and therefore has only dependent existence.Srap Tasmaner

    Yes.

    I was seriously afraid that "independent existence" was going to lead to having to say what the ultimate constituents of the universe are!Srap Tasmaner

    Yes, no need to go there! I see those as dependencies in a physical sense, which is how natural objects relate to each other and their dynamics - the subject matter of physics and other sciences.

    Whereas the conceptual sense provides a schema for locating mind, colors, actions, events, statements, etc., in the world. That is, as abstractions that conceptually (or logically) depend on natural objects.

    You have a comfort level with QM that I don't, so I thought that might not scare you as much as it does me; or, rather, it might be something I would rather not have to do just to talk about what ordinary sentences mean, but you might not mind!Srap Tasmaner

    As it happens, I think an understanding of how language functions in ordinary experience is enormously helpful for getting a handle on more specialized and formalized fields. I like the way Scott Aaronson approaches the topic of teaching QM:

    The second way to teach quantum mechanics leaves a blow-by-blow account of its discovery to the historians, and instead starts directly from the conceptual core -- namely, a certain generalization of probability theory to allow minus signs.Scott Aaronson - Lecture 9: Quantum

    So consider how you might teach someone classical probability. You show them a coin and discuss how probability applies to it. In a similar way, you can show them a quantum coin and discuss how quantum probability applies to it (i.e., with the minus sign aspect added). So it's a good example of generalizing and abstracting for the purpose of teaching something.

    For Aristotle, ordinary objects (his primary substances) were the fundamental entities.
    — Andrew M

    So here maybe we're talking about what is conceptually fundamental, and for what Sellars calls the "manifest image" (or for Strawson's "descriptive metaphysics") that is indeed going to be sensible objects and persons.
    Srap Tasmaner

    Yes. My view is that science (as well as math and logic) is a natural extension of ordinary experience. So there need be no conflict between an ordinary and scientific view, at least in principle.
  • Tristan L
    185
    Those were the examples I threw out not to hide the differences between meanings of "think" but to highlight them: splitting at the preposition (what could easily be a prefix in a language like German) was deliberate.Srap Tasmaner

    So what did you mean by saying the following?:

    Any of those look like things to you?Srap Tasmaner



    Andrew M has explained what he means by "abstract entity". What do you mean?Srap Tasmaner

    By “abstractness”, I mean the property of being not-spatial, not-tidesome (not-temporal), not-physical, not-mindly, and onefold (simple). Regarding the last point, I think and feel that the notion of parthood belongs in the physical realm.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k
    So what did you mean by saying the following?Tristan L

    That the analogy between "Sally kicks Steve" and "Sally thinks it's going to rain" ought to be examined more closely. It's reasonable to infer, from the fact that Sally kicks Steve, that there is an object Sally kicks; it is not clear to me that if Sally thinks it's going to rain then there is an object Sally thinks.

    Your response is that I have simply picked out part of a phrasal verb, so I'm comparing the wrong things. "Sally kicks Steve" is in fact strongly analogous to

    • "Sally thinks-that it's going to rain."
    • "Sally thinks-of buying a guitar."
    • "Sally thinks-about how much easier it used to be."

    Now I can ask two sorts of questions:

    1. Why does "thinks" have to be part of a phrasal verb when "kicks" doesn't? Why isn't there a "kicks-that", a "kicks-of", or a "kicks-about"?
    2. If I'm thinking about Steve, it seems I'm thinking about the object Steve; therefore, if I'm thinking about how much easier it used to be, I must be thinking about the object how much easier it used to be. How convincing is that "therefore"? I can also kick or marry or talk to Steve; can I also kick or marry or talk to how much easier it used to be?

    I cannot, I understand you to be saying, because how much easier it used to be is "not-spatial, not-tidesome (not-temporal), not-physical, not-mindly, and onefold (simple)". Steve is at least some of those things; when I think about Steve, am I doing the same sort of thing as when I think about how much easier it used to be?
  • Olivier5
    1.2k
    If Alice is thinking something, must we conclude there is something that Alice is thinking?Srap Tasmaner

    The answer is yes.
  • Gary M Washburn
    142
    There is something in the difference between the real and the ideal circle that has a strange effect on us. These days, with sophisticated technology, we can produce something very close indeed to a perfect circle. But that same technology can reveal to us just how imperfect it is. We are easily awed by that difference and attach inappropriate and entirely unjustified meaning to it. As if the imperfectability of the real means that the ideal is somehow what realness is. Obviously, there is something in the ideal that means it cannot be what realness is. We tend to become so awed by the difference that we come to think of reality as a failure, when, quite obviously, the failure is ideal. forever and always, eternally, failing to be anything real. I put my money on imperfection! So long, that is, as it contributes to recognizableness of the difference. Not to reveal the perfection of the ideal, nor to effect pretensions to perfection in the imperfect, but to prove the failure of the perfect to be real. It's a bloody mess, yes. But it's too real not to love.

    All too real. I suppose, if your goal to to develop AI to a point that the human mind is obsolesced, then the priority of the imperfectible-because-real over the perfect-but-unreal is an insurmountable impediment to that achievement. The human eye is a case in point. We cannot keep our eyes still. Transcendence would insist that this is a failure pr weakness, but it is precisely how the eye works. It.s greatest virtue. Fact is, we hardly see most of what we look at. And what our eyes actually supply the mind is extremely crude compared to this marvelously vivid and usually quite accurate sense. For instance, stereo vision, obviously not the product of the sense organs themselves, is a matter of having two perspectives. I suspect that one-eyed persons can achieve something similar simply by moving their head, and if so, this would support my explanation. That is, with two eyes slightly separated, or one kept in motion, we look behind objects, and so gauge their positions. Now, I suppose a computer could do as much. And the fact that we notice so little of what we see similarly. But the computer only notices what it is programmed to notice, or by repetition forms a new program to notice. But we are programmed to notice what we are not programmed to notice. In fact, there ought'a be a law by which the presumption of guilt always falls upon the autonomous machine. There can be no presumption of innocence for AI. But it is what alters our complacency that gets our attention. And we strive might and main to get it back. A computer, however, cannot create a meme from one distressing circumstance or perception. That emotional investment, which the computer cannot bring to its performance because it is constructed on idealist principles and applies idealist memes and methods, alters the terms antecedent to the state of complacency brought to a grinding halt by the distressing circumstance, though is quickly restored to complacency in the modified lexicon the experience inspires. It is not what we think we see, it is not the terms of our experiences, that is the engine of the human mind, it is the changes that disturb our confidence in abstracted processes and methods, and so tend to prove that abstraction inadequacy and failure, something any system, AI or human conceit in the perfection of mind it would represent if it could be as real as flesh and blood, grinds to a halt like a fine machine in a nitty-gritty environment.

    Dear god! Not bullet points! What is it with these damn bullet points?! The mind cannot be mapped like this because what it gets up to alters all the terms of all the languages that can possibly respond to its utterances. Words never mean the same thing twice. You have to deny what language really is to become convicted in that conceit. The abstraction is not adequate to the real. It is a glib complacency awaiting its moment to be altered by the action of mind in response to something more real than that glib complacency and that only endures as that complacency restored under the renewed regime of inadequacy to the real in differed terms. It is a prayer that obliterates its god. and instantly replaces it with another called it to prayer, a different abstraction by the same name.
  • Gary M Washburn
    142
    If Alice is thinking anything it is not ours to know, only what she reports of it. How could anyone miss that? It's as if the very possibility of deception must be disposed of. But that possibility is precisely the issue driving the emergence of language in any form at all. Any language that doesn't recognize that origin is dependent for all its terms upon that very issue it does not recognize. If you want to be stupid, you have my blessing in the effort, but if you mean to erect an edifice of neglect to be imposed on the rest of us, that is a crime against philosophy, as well as humanity!

    Here's some abstractions for you, logical quantifiers like some, any, at least one, not even one. If you don't know exactly, and not abstractly, how many B is A, and exactly, not abstractly, why, then A=B and B=C is not determinant, and the logical positivist system falls apart. And the "law" of the excluded middle fails. But the meaning we seek is the characterology of conviction. We share the meaning of terms, including structural terms like conjunction and dis-junction, in a dramatic engagement with each other spurring a greater intensity of discipline and rigor in the dynamic character of our convictions. Not by persuasion and striving to gain assent, but by energizing contrariety. But by clarifying that dissent reduced to its least term of becoming dissuaded of our own conviction. In this way the character of discipline we each bring to the dynamic of our convictions enjoins in a recurrent and complimentary contrariety which assures the integrity and individuality of our thought and yet, if rigor is observed, and spurred on by our engagement with the terms of discourse, we can never be unsure of those terms. But only a human being, a living person, can do this. There can be no system or mechanism which can displace it. Dehumanizing logic is not an option.

    Wittgenstein opens his famous opus stating that the world is everything that is the case. Chomsky opens his with the assertion that language is the totality of all possible sentences. Wittgenstein throws his hands up in the end, in his famous phrase about passing over in silence what we cannot speak of. All utter nonsense! Where words fail us is precisely where we get talking, and can't stop talking! And that, in sum, is what it all means!
  • RogueAI
    310
    I tend to agree. If someone says they're thinking, "Thinking of what?" is a valid question and "nothing" would be a nonsensical answer to that question. Can you think of nothing? No. You can think of nothingness, but that's not the same thing.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k


    The question is just how much philosophical hay can be made out of saying, if you're thinking about something, then there's something that you're thinking about.

    You can take that as an innocent grammatical transformation, or you can take it as proof of another realm of non-temporal, non-spatial, ideal Things that are the object of our thought. I'm not making this up.

    Which makes more sense to you?
  • Olivier5
    1.2k
    Exactly. Who said that thoughts can’t be things?
  • RogueAI
    310
    I think the grammar maps on to our (correct) intuition that thoughts and minds are things, separate from the brain. The adjectives that describe the brain don't work when used to describe the mind, and vice-versa. This too, reflects the way things really are: minds are not brains.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k


    Whereas my sense is that neither minds nor brains think about things; persons do.
  • RogueAI
    310
    I would agree with that. But I'm an idealist, so I literally believe that people are nothing but thoughts and minds.
  • Tristan L
    185
    it is not clear to me that if Sally thinks it's going to rain then there is an object Sally thinks.Srap Tasmaner

    Isn’t it perfectly clear that the proposition that it’s going to rain is the object of Alice’s belief?

    "Sally kicks Steve" is in fact strongly analogous to

    "Sally thinks-that it's going to rain."
    "Sally thinks-of buying a guitar."
    "Sally thinks-about how much easier it used to be."
    Srap Tasmaner

    With the first one I agree, but with the second and the third ones, I don’t.

    1. Why does "thinks" have to be part of a phrasal verb when "kicks" doesn't? Why isn't there a "kicks-that", a "kicks-of", or a "kicks-about"?Srap Tasmaner

    Because that’s how the English speech has evolved. There are different mental activities, such as believing, thinking-about, and thinking-about-and-planning, but since all these narrowkinds (species) of mental activity are narrowkinds of the same broadkind (genus), namely mindly activity, the same basic deedword is used to refer to them.

    There may not be a “kicks-around”, but there is a “flies-over”, for example. In “The bird flies over the berg”, the berg is the object of the deed of overflying.

    If I'm thinking about Steve, it seems I'm thinking about the object Steve; therefore, if I'm thinking about how much easier it used to be, I must be thinking about the object how much easier it used to be. How convincing is that "therefore"?Srap Tasmaner

    It really is very convincing. There is a three-slotted relationship called “being-easier-than-by-that-much”; for every thing x, every thing y, and every easierness-measuring quantity e, the sentence “x is easier than y by w” means the proposition that being-easier-than-by-that-much relates x, y, and e to each other. “How much easier it used to be” refers to the easierness-measuring quantity e for which it’s the case that being-easier-than-by-that-much relates the present state of the world, the past state of the world, and e to each other. It does this in the same way that “the ball that Alice kicked” refers to the ball b for which it’s the case that Alice kicked b.

    when I think about Steve, am I doing the same sort of thing as when I think about how much easier it used to be?Srap Tasmaner

    Yes, you would be, because both are actually abstract. But you can’t really think about Steve unless you’re a thoughtcaster (telepath). Allow me to explain. Steve himself is a soul, and the only souls that can see souls other than themselves are thoughtcasters. Perhaps all disembodied souls are telepaths, but experience tells me that when a soul is embodied, it usually isn’t (I have yet to find a true thoughtcaster). When you apparently think about Steve, you’re actually thinking about the property (call it “Steveness”) of being a soul which inhabits a body such that this soul-body-combination sent such and such soundwaves into your ears and reflected such and such photons into your eyes to cause such and such sensations and ... . When you apparently believe that Steve has some property E, you actually believe the proposition that there is exactly one soul S such that S has Steveness and that for every soul S, if S has Steveness, then S has property E. Given that there really is exactly one soul that has Steveness, the only embodied soul that can see it is that soul itself (unless there are embodied telepaths). When your appear to kick Steve, you’re actually kicking a body which you hypothesize is inhabited by a soul. You can’t kick how much easier it used to be because easierness-measuring quantities don’t inhabit bodies. Something similar is true of other actions like marrying.

    That’s at least my take on the matter.
  • Gary M Washburn
    142
    There are many autonomic systems in the body, all of which have overriding authorities, not by the mind, necessarily, but in response to needs and changes automaton processes can't direct. The brain is no exception. Also, the brain is much more than the frontal lobes. It is a network of neural fibers reaching out to every part of the body, maybe every cell. You might as well say the whole body is the mind. And every cell is more autonomous than the autonomic systems we take for granted as running it. Remember, most cells in the body have constituted their place in the body through differentiation, not just replication. And that differentiation is certainly more constitutive than replication of its role in the body, and more what mind is. That is, closer to what directs the body's autonomic systems than merely complying with their processes.

    Husserl claimed the "intentional object" could not be mistaken. Not that it cannot be a mistake about it, but that we cannot be mistaken which or what is intended. I've no idea what a sugar-plum fairy is, but should I learn what it is, or am enlightened about it by others, I will all along know that of which I am discovering or learning. Or at least So says Husserl. Sartre wrote two short books on the subject, The Imaginary (L'Imaginaire) and Imagination. It is easy to misread the titles, he is not saying ideas are imaginary, but that they are images.

    The mind is not the brain, as such. It certainly is not an autonomic system with the brain. It is an intrusion upon those autonomic systems the brain is constructed for itself correcting and augmenting it where it is unable to be self-correcting or to apply a more active rigor to those systems, even if that rigor takes the form of retrenching otherwise unfounded convictions. This is possible because differentiation, not replication, is the engine of the integrity of body and person. Only a community of differentiating participants can regulate an autonomic system with rigorous intrusions of issues and sense it cannot otherwise cope with adequately. It certainly does not mean that mind and person are somehow "independent" of body or its material makeup. It sure as hell does mean we are ethereal beings or souls, or some such nonsense. The real issue of this thread is rational induction or synthesis. Reason is reductive and only reductive, but requires its synthetic term to begin its reductive endeavors. Reason always begins convicted of a prior term, which can never be truth. Its "extension" of that term is therefore, at best, capable only of validity. Since there is no true or valid synthesis, the final term of that reduction can only be the nullity of the entire reduction. The end of reason is the erasure of its beginning. The only real outcome possible is the transformation of all term, and the loss of all duration, the loss of all ends to beginnings. That transformation of all terms is the least term of that reduction. This is forestalled by retrenching conviction short of that concluding term. And, no duration, no beginning complementary to its end, no space of time or thought, only moment, the moment of the transformation of all terms, not just those antecedent to that lost duration, is what is real. And that because we are more worthy of what being real is there, in that moment, than ever we are looking to endure or to find or establish duration, or "epoch" (as Husserl would put it). The characterology of that rigor bringing us to that moment is what is most worthy of us, it is the very language of worth. And, therefore, it is what person is. But it is fatuous to suppose the brain, including its constant conversation with all parts of the body down to each most differentiated cell, is not very much the locus of it. Consider Hawking's weird 'String Theory', or the crazily incalculable proto-energy that motivates this desperate attempt to resolve this final, as far as we can yet know final, term of the calculative understanding of matter, and see if you still believe matter is not a real and fertile enough venue for the possibility of life, mind, person, and the articulation of the worth of time, as moment not duration, that person is.

    When you think of Steve you are thinking of the dialectical participation of Steve in the development of the terms of conviction by which you know yourself. Mind is simply the the creator of its own autonomic systems. Every brain cell and neural connection in it is your doing. We help each other achieve some of the rigor that work entails, but if that rigor is real, rather than unchallenged conviction or mere habit, it is all ours, yet in shared terms. The abstraction comes in where we depart each other in that participation, as much to free each other of our own convictions as to assure a more comprehensive lexicon. Abstraction is a process of separation, not unification. Unity comes as a mythic substitute for rigor. Unless we know everything B about A and everything C about B we are completely blind to the possible validity of A being C. Is reason blind? Comprehension can hardly be ours if it is not comprehensive. It is only where we recognize how comprehensively we do not know that the conviction that we can, let alone that we do, is more than merely a dramatic conceit meant to fend off the moment that we do recognize this.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k
    Isn’t it perfectly clear that the proposition that it’s going to rain is the object of Alice’s belief?Tristan L

    No, it isn't.

    It is clear that if Alice is thinking it's going to rain, then we are entitled to say she's thinking something. What is not clear is how we should take the further claim that "there is something Alice is thinking". @Andrew M claims that the something Alice is thinking is a convenient fiction, and he calls this fiction an "abstract entity" without committing in any way to its independent existence.

    If Bob is also thinking it's going to rain, we can say anaphorically that Bob is thinking the same thing as Alice, and here the convenience of @Andrew M's fiction becomes more apparent, for we may wish to talk about what they're both thinking in more general terms: anyone thinking it's going to rain has reason to take an umbrella, or, thinking it's going to rain is a reason to take an umbrella.

    That you can translate what an Aristotelian, like @Andrew M, says, or what someone who may have stronger nominalist inclinations says, into terms we might call Platonist -- that is not at issue. Of course you can. But what do you say to convince us that there are Propositions? That there are Relations? Where does @Andrew M's way of talking or mine come up short?
  • Gary M Washburn
    142
    Without asking Alice, the discussion is vacuous. Isn't this discussion about how to divest ourselves of responsibility to ask? To listen? And isn't that avoidance of responsibility what the written word was invented to achieve? Language is flesh and blood, not marks on stone. What is real to meaning is not the lexical and syntactic carrier signals it entails, but the flesh and blood drama and dynamic of the rigor we urge each other to in differing over that meaning. The characterology of that drama we each bring to it is the substance of it. That character of our differing convictions about what we each can mean does not unify us, but distinguishes us from each other in the privacy of reasoning. But it does unify us in the terms of that reasoning, and even that distinction. In that unity of terms, never a unity of conviction or thought or meaning, as the active part we each play in the drama of person, is the articulation of the terms of that unity and of that person we each alone are in it. Person is the articulation of that worth.
  • frank
    5.7k
    The characterology of that drama we each bring to it is the substance of itGary M Washburn

    That's a horizontal plane of interaction. The vertical dimension is like this:

    When you arrive at a little wisdom, you may think of an old saying and realize you never understood it before, but now you do. 'We drink the same stream; we see the same sun; and run the same course our fathers have run...'

    Conviction sometimes just comes from temperament. For some, an opinion is fists to pummel with. Probably doesnt even matter what that opinion is.

    And then sometimes experience blooms into knowing. There's nothing private about it, just as you cant be alone staring at the stars: the stars are there with you.

    What is it really that arises from asking?
  • Olivier5
    1.2k
    Without asking Alice, the discussion is vacuous.Gary M Washburn

    Well, I called Alice over the phone to ask whether she did think something about the rain or not, and she referred me to the {expletive} weather channel.
  • Olivier5
    1.2k
    independent existence.Srap Tasmaner

    :chin:
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