• Manuel
    66
    I may be way out of my depth here, but these are my initial thoughts. I suppose part of this depends on how you define "content", depending on the definition of a technical term, which by virtue of being technical , are subject to fitting a certain framework of understanding. Thus "content" can be defined as being in the head, in our statements, or in the world. Let's bracket the definition of "content", and see what makes most sense.

    I don't see why content need be attached to anything external to the creature using the term, so talking about content in the world can be ruled out, we give/provide content, not the world. Of course, what's in the world helps guide what we say about it, but it's not essential to the meaning or significance of the term. It's of course not even necessary for there to be a world out there to even talk about content. We could be brain in vats. Of course, this is extremely unlikely, but raising the scenario serves as an illustration of not needing content to be "out there".

    Now, do we want to say that content is found in the statements we say out loud, when put in a propositional manner? Suppose I see a dog running towards me, having escaped its owner's leash. I'd say "This dog is racing towards me", thus the content of the statement can be said to be given in the proposition. But is it necessarily so? Must content be said out loud, or even said to oneself in a propositional manner? It's very doubtful.

    In fact, if we look at the world at attempt to do some very basic phenomenology we see that experience vastly outstrips my way of talking about it. So in the case of the dog, there is also the background of the owner being careless, of grass looking beautiful in the sunlight, I can also point to my physiology and notice my adrenaline pumping. The dog probably interrupted me from my train of thought, and so forth. Of course this exercise can go on forever, as I try to verbalize my experiences. But it's clear that the whole complexity of the situation cannot be grasped by a simple proposition. There's also more to say about the nature of thought and language, which are extremely complex, but this can be put aside. The content found in my expression is but a small portion of the total content I experience. Henceforth, content is not necessarily propositional in nature.

    What's left then? Well, we can attempt to encapsulate the term content in such a manner that most of these considerations do not apply to the term, but this does not mean that the things mentioned aren't real phenomena that shape the content I experience. What must be true of content? Absent anything else, content is internal to the user, and seems to be an operation of the mind/brain that seeks to concretize the totality of my experience in a way that is communicable through words. But there are many other way to express content too: gestures, moods, paintings etc.

    So no, content is not necessarily propositional, though it can be defined in such a manner, if one chooses to do so, but I don't see what's gained by doing this.
  • bongo fury
    817
    (DPC) For every event E possibly there exists a statement S( E ) such that E is the truth maker for S( E ).fdrake

    Event as in space-time region, or event as in abstract proposition about (or property of) such a region? Or something else? Or both?

    Where were we? ... Is the mouse's running behind the tree propositional? Well for the (as for every) event qua space-time region there possibly exist infinitely many statements it makes true, as well as at least that many false. So... ?
  • fdrake
    4.5k
    Event as in space-time region, or event as in abstract proposition about (or property of) such a region? Or something else? Or both?bongo fury

    I don't think the "doctrine of propositional content" as I've been putting it says much at all if all the terms in it aren't fleshed out. And if they are, it seems the doctrine has rather a lot of baggage.

    Space time region probably doesn't fit the sense of event or state of affairs as, say, "The USA and Iran backed out of their nuclear deal" doesn't have a space time region associated with it despite it being, allegedly, propositional because it's a statement of fact. Proposition as abstract object doesn't seem to fit either as propositions remain a component part of assertion events.

    It seems to me it either says nothing much, says something not particularly evident, or is a coordinating statement of unarticulated metaphysics surrounding it.

    For my part, I don't think the doctrine: " "x" and x pick out the same state of affairs" is innocuous at all, since it starts with statements then projects their content into the world; it's like language has cast a shadow onto the world, and the shadow is held up to language, and people are quite pleased with the fit.
  • fdrake
    4.5k
    Any event can be characterized by a statement. Whether or not it ever is, is a separate matter.Andrew M

    I'd be interested in hearing your argument for how you get from:

    If a purported event were not representable in language, then we would find ourselves up against the private language argument. We would have no grounds for calling it an event.Andrew M

    To: for every event E possibly there exists a statement S(E) such that E is the truth maker for S(E).
  • Constance
    55

    Can an animal believe? Does my cat "believe" the open front door goes to the outside where the trees and squirrels are? Most definitely! Is it propositional belief? I think it is a proto-propositional belief. Consider the propositional structure of the conditional: If X opens the door, there will be Y that ensues. Note that my cats certainly gets this essential structure, but I while it is foolish to think her "getting it" is propositional, what is propositional cannot be wholly other than what actually goes through her mind (yes, mind). After all, our conditional logical form very likely is constructed on t he foundation that pragmatically "mirrors" the primitive, non symbolic cat knowing.
  • fdrake
    4.5k
    After all, our conditional logical form very likely is constructed on t he foundation that pragmatically "mirrors" the primitive, non symbolic cat knowing.Constance

    :up:

    I'm not trying to commit myself strongly to the thesis that "for every event E possibly there exists a statement S(E) such that E is the truth maker for S(E)." is false, I'm trying to point out that it requires an account.

    The debate (first post here: ) did touch the issue of animal beliefs, my reading was that @creativesoul was criticising the following claim, which he saw as a consequence of @Banno's account: animal beliefs target statements because we can set some representation of them out using a statement. Banno in turn seemed to insist that all there was to the animal's belief was our attribution of a statement of that belief which is held true by the animal.

    For my part, prior to the debate I asked both participants to make the motion more specific:

    So, to save it from being Banno arguing that propositional content is a property of statements (or more generally speech acts) and since belief is a propositional attitude, the content of the belief is the proposition it's directed towards, and so concluding it must be propositional content.

    And you arguing that belief content is a broader semantic category - I don't know what kind of things you throw in it, other than that it can be "pre-linguistic" - and so since not all of that content is even "linguistic" (presumably not all words or symbols, I don't know where you come from on this), not all of that content can be propositional; since propositions must be linguistic.

    If you continued like that, Banno could assert his definition of belief, you could assert your definition of belief, and there's a strong chance you'll both address none of the other's points and retreat to hedges
    fdrake

    And I was dismissed, only for it to be unproductive in the way I specified. The real meat of the issue, I think, would've been to discuss something like:

    Beliefs as mental states/dispositions with content vs beliefs as holding some statement to be true. Issues there might be: is a disposition towards a state of affairs the same as an attitude towards a statement? What role do t-sentences play in that account?
  • Constance
    55
    Beliefs as mental states/dispositions with content vs beliefs as holding some statement to be true. Issues there might be: is a disposition towards a state of affairs the same as an attitude towards a statement? What role do t-sentences play in that account?

    To me, the whole matter has to be reconstrued. Don't know if you will appreciate this. If not, then that's fine.

    I abide by the pragmatist's hypothetical deductive account of belief: Prior to an affirmation, there is an predisposition to affirm. What is this if not a disposition towards a state of affairs, as you say? But does this stand clearer analysis? I affirm, after all, in time. Can the temporality of the affirmation's nature be analyzed? This goes not just to propositions, but to concepts, as all concepts are inherently propositional: so what is, say, nitroglycerin? We define this as a pragmatic, temporal structure of the conditional form: Nitro is, "If N is impacted with force F, then it will explode." Nitro is also, "If N is combined with chemical C, then result R will occur"; and so on, and so on.

    All concepts have this form, and therefore all beliefs have this form. We live our everyday lives in the temporal dynamics of, to put it is Dewey's terms, the consummatory successes of problems solved. Language itself is constructed in a complex series of successful problem solving events whereby signifiers (sounds) and their signifieds (concepts) are matched with their objective counterparts which are achieved by hearing sounds, witnessing associations and assimilating models of language behavior in the environment.

    But what does this do for belief being propositional? Well, it presents an understanding of beliefs and propositions that does not recognize the distinction. Propositional affirmations and beliefs are reduced consummations of problems solved. "My cat is on the rug" is true by virtue of a body of anticipations regarding rugs, cats, the copula 'is', the the ascription of properties, etc., which are themselves all confirmed in their repeatable behaviors. Knowledge that there is a sidewalk that will sustain my steps is a science experiment at every step, consummated, and this and a great number of other pragmatically based assumptions about sidewalks is what a sidewalk IS; this collective of pragmatic assumptions are the very definitions of Being.
  • Andrew M
    1.2k
    I'd be interested in hearing your argument for how you get from:

    If a purported event were not representable in language, then we would find ourselves up against the private language argument. We would have no grounds for calling it an event.
    — Andrew M

    To: for every event E possibly there exists a statement S(E) such that E is the truth maker for S(E).
    fdrake

    If the purported event is representable in language and it meets the public usage criteria for an event, then it is an event.

    It seems to me that it then follows that it is possible, in principle, for someone to state that the event did (or did not) occur. And, if so, the event would be the truth maker for that person's statement.
  • fdrake
    4.5k
    If the purported event is representable in language and it meets the public usage criteria for an event, then it is an event.Andrew M

    It strikes me that if there are a class of things that are "purported events", that must be "representable in language" and "meet public usage criteria" to count as events, it would then follow that those purported events do not fall under DPC despite being occurrent:

    If DPC is: for all events E possibly there exists a statement S(E) such that E is the truth maker for S(E).

    So long as there are "purported events" which are occurrent, there's a sneaky domain restriction on first quantifier; there are occurrent things which never have statements that state them in DPC's sense since they don't count as events. It makes what it means for something to happen depend on language use. Like the world is language's shadow.
  • Banno
    10.5k
    It makes what it means for something to happen depend on language use. Like the world is language's shadow.fdrake

    The world is all that is the case.

    No sneakiness; this is pivotal, and in plain sight in my posts. It's Proposition 1.
  • fdrake
    4.5k
    The world is all that is the case.Banno

    Argue for it?
  • Banno
    10.5k
    My argument: Read the Tractatus and associated material.
  • Banno
    10.5k
    A reasonable summation. Creative is left with the absurdity that
    (1) The mouse ran behind the tree.Andrew M
    is not a proposition.
  • Banno
    10.5k
    No mysteries here, just possibilities. The deluded cat believed the mouse went behind the tree.

    Here's a better argument for Creative's position; it's what I had expected him to argue:

    Grant "P" is true IFF P;

    If the cat believes that the mouse went behind the tree, then the cat believes that "The mouse went behind the tree" is true.

    But the cat, not having a language, cannot believe a fact about a statement.

    Would you accept this argument? I think it the best Creative could do. To me, it has an apparent flaw involving substitution in opaque contexts. But I might be wrong.
  • Janus
    9.7k
    You seem to be equivocating on different senses of what it means to say that events could potentially be stated. It could be said that, at a time when there were no language users, events could not potentially be stated (because there were no language users), but it could equally be said that those events could potentially be stated (because there could potentially have been language users). The first is an expression of actual or real potential, and the second is an expression of purely logical potential.
  • Janus
    9.7k
    After all, our conditional logical form very likely is constructed on t he foundation that pragmatically "mirrors" the primitive, non symbolic cat knowing.Constance

    This seems obvious; just as language, and linguistically mediated experience, mirrors the "primitive" pre-linguistic experience.
  • fdrake
    4.5k
    You seem to be equivocating on different senses of what it means to say that events could potentially be stated. It could be said that, at a time when there were no language users, events could not potentially be stated (because there were no language users), but it could equally be said that those events could potentially be stated (because there could potentially have been language users). The first is an expression of actual or real potential, and the second is an expression of purely logical potential.Janus

    Those aren't my equivocations, they're attempts to flesh out what "can" means in "Every event can be stated"! Since my discussion partners don't seem to want to flesh out the modality associated with it, despite making a modal claim, I decided to try it.
  • fdrake
    4.5k
    My argument: Read the Tractatus and associated materialBanno

    I guess you're done here, then.
  • Janus
    9.7k
    OK, in that case I have misread you. In any case I identify the fialure to see that conflation of what is actually with what is merely logically possible as the problematic omission that gives rise to the disagreement between those who say that all belief has propositional content and those who disagree.

    One says all belief has propositional content on the grounds that anything that could count as a belief can in principle be expressed in propositional language. The other says that all belief does not have propositional content on the grounds that not everything we would call a belief can actually be expressed in language (at the time of the occurrence of the belief) if there are no language users around.
  • Banno
    10.5k
    I guess you're done here, then.fdrake

    Pretty much.

    You have (I suspect) the background in philosophy to understand Wittgenstein's point. You will understand that it would be trite to attempt a summary of that background in a reply to your question. If something of genuine philosophical interest came up, i might get involved. But as thing stand, I've shown how Creative has misunderstood the topic, although Creative cannot see the error.
  • fdrake
    4.5k


    Fair enough.

    There is a difference between saying and showing.
    Saying is a kind of showing.
    What is said will align with a picture of the world only when its frame (true/false) is held up.
    Holding up the frame limits what is shown to the frame of what is said.
    The content of what is said is what it shows.
    Showing puts the picture in place and paints it beforehand.
  • Banno
    10.5k
    Oh, yeah, all that. Except "The content of what is said is what it shows" - "content" is wrong, as shown in PI - use replaces content.

    All Creative had to do to "win" the debate was to show a belief that could not be put into propositional form. But it can't be done; if it cannot be put into propositional form, it is not a belief.
  • fdrake
    4.5k
    Oh, yeah, all that. Except "The content of what is said is what it shows" - "content" is wrong, as shown in PI - use replaces content.Banno

    I did not mean to suggest the content was "inside" the word, far from it. This is part of what puzzles me about your position, everything's sufficiently (semantically) externalised that it's functionality all the way down in terms of meaning, except for how declarative sentences play a privileged role in the articulation of mental content (or "mental function" if you prefer) and events, those statements are "inside" those dispositional states and events in the same way. It's like you've taken Wittgenstein's propositional glasses off like he does in the PI but put them back on again when reading something else! They're like analytic philosophy reading glasses.
  • Janus
    9.7k
    Oh, yeah, all that. Except "The content of what is said is what it shows" - "content" is wrong, as shown in PI - use replaces content.Banno

    This can't be unequivocally right, since the content of poems, music and art works is what they show. Artworks do not show "use". There is also a valid distinction between determinate and indeterminate content. Do you think there is a valid distinction between determinate and indeterminate use?
  • Banno
    10.5k
    ...everything's sufficiently (semantically) externalised that it's functionality all the way down in terms of meaning...fdrake

    I don't see that. The thing about showing is that it is not saying... Isn't your complaint just that I do not say enough about that of which we cannot speak? The point is to show others that they say too much...
  • fdrake
    4.5k
    Isn't your complaint just that I do not say enough about that of which we cannot speak?Banno

    My complaint is that speaking about that which we allegedly cannot speak is a routine function of language. The stuff we allegedly can't speak about is already baked into use because use is an interaction with the world.
  • Banno
    10.5k
    ...content...

    To me, that's too close to referent, to there being something that the sentence must be about, to reified meaning.

    The use of a poem is not what the poem is about.
  • Banno
    10.5k
    I don't disagree with that. So your complaint is not clear to me.
  • Janus
    9.7k
    I said artworks do not show use; you say 'the use of a poem is not what it is about". Is this meant to be a disagreement?

    To me, that's too close to referent, to there being something that the sentence must be about, to reified meaning.Banno

    I'm not sure what you mean by "about" here. A command is not 'about' anything in the sense that an explanation is. But a command can be said to be about something in the sense that 'about' in this sentence carries: "What are you about?".

    Are you disagreeing that poems have content?
  • Banno
    10.5k
    I said artworks do not show use; you say 'the use of a poem is not what it is about". Is this meant to be a disagreement?Janus

    No... I ignored that locution; I thought it odd. Art has a use, it does not show a use...

    Sometimes the art shows something. Rarely is what it shows simply what it says.
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