• Isaac
    4.3k
    I'm not looking to assess what any particular words "really mean"Pfhorrest

    Seems in contradiction to

    there is an important kind of speech-actPfhorrest

    Claiming that there is a certain speech act is the same thing as making a claim about the meaning of a word. Speech acts are what words mean, there's nothing more to meaning that the act associated with utterance.

    that function of impressing an intention that moral language in the way you would account for it would utterly fail to doPfhorrest

    I gave an account of how it might impress an intention.

    Saying that, for example, X is considered unacceptable by one's community might be a causal factor in the development of an intention in another person to avoid or proscribe X.

    Saying that I intend X might be a causal factor in the development of an intention in another person to do X if they, for whatever reason, want to emulate or ingratiate themselves with me.

    Saying that X will cause harm to some other might result in the development of an intention in another person to avoid X so that they avoid the empathetic pain associated with knowing about the pain of another.

    All these are ways in which moral language, exactly as I described it, can result in intentions in another. I'm not seeing the distinction you're trying to make. It sounds like you're invoking some kind of mind-melding woo whereby intentions can get directly transferred without having to go through the beliefs and goals of the person listening. Elsewise any language is simply saying "I'm in this state of mind (fact about the world)", and the listener does with that what they will.

    If you tell someone that something or another fits into the purely descriptive category "good", you're telling them to believe that the thing is in a category of things called "good things", but you're not at all telling them whether or not to intend for those things to be the case. If all you're doing is describing, then that always remains an open question: "am I to intend that this be the case, or not?"Pfhorrest

    Yes you are. We usually intend for the things in the category 'good'. If I say my local is a 'great pub with a really warm and friendly atmosphere, welcoming staff and an excellent range of ales" are you seriously telling me that because what I've provided is merely a 'description' you remain confused as to whether you should go there or avoid it like the plague. We're social creature who share a world and a response to it, usually, we all hate getting hurt, we all dislike being abused, we all think Justin Bieber is shit... I only need to make a descriptive statement "Touching that hotplate hurts" and I can reasonably expect to have communicated the proscription "Don't touch that hotplate".

    Consider, although we can in a way impress intentions via commands, how would you ask a question to which the answer is to be a command, other than moral language?Pfhorrest

    "What are my orders?", "What are the rules of this game?", "What is the man with the big gun telling me to do?"

    my hedonic altruism you're always criticising is put forth as answer to that question of what the truth-makers of prescriptive claims are, i.e. when to intend the intentions that other people push at you (via moral assertions)Pfhorrest

    You can't tell someone when to intend something. No facts or reasoning can get someone to intend something from scratch. People respond to affects (leaving aside the predictive feedback loops for a minute) by altering their environment to raise/lower the perceived source of the affect to a more tolerable level. People in turn respond to their environment by raising or lowering the their tolerable levels of affect to more closely match those which are available. You cannot simply tell someone that they ought to desire a certain target tolerable level and expect it to cause such a change. It won't. Tolerable levels of affect are not decided by the rational brain (in that instance), they are a biological consequence of the endocrine system. So all you're left with is the method by which they meet those target levels (and changes to the environment to encourage new target levels in the long term, which may include speech acts). Making a case that behaviour X will not meet those targets in the way the person thinks is a moral argument, but it remains a descriptive one (about the processes of the world consequent to behaviour X). Implying that there's a type of language which somehow directly impresses an intention on another is just woo, there's no support for such a notion in any of the literature I've read.
  • Joshs
    1.3k
    Basically, she's suggesting almost exactly what you posit, that CBT may have an effect on our priors in such a way as to make alternative predictive models more available in response to the usual interoceptive triggers.Isaac

    I was being a little underhanded there, setting up CBT for critique. Now, this may not apply to Barrett’s model, but let’s see. The aspect of CBT that I find problematic is the assumption that the brain’s conceptual representations of the world can ‘distort’ environmental cues. Le me explain why that is an issue for me.

    (BTW, I must confess I found it more fun to read this by Andy Clark than the Barrett piece:

    https://www.edge.org/conversation/andy_clark-perception-as-controlled-hallucination

    Would you agree that Clark and Barrett are on the same page concerning Bayesian theory and predictive processing? )

    It seems to me that Barrett’s and Clark’s ideas can be placed on spectrum of psychological-philosophical theorization with S-R theory at one extreme and the phenomenology of Husserl, Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger at the other extreme.

    As Barrett takes pains to mention, predictive
    processing avoids the reductionism of S-R theory by being action ( the brain is always active, even when not engaged with outside stimuli) and interaction oriented , and by avoiding treating affectivity as located in fixed neurological contents.

    But let’s compare Barrett’s approach with that of George Kelly’ s personal construct theory.
    One of the most striking features of Kelly's theory is his declaration that “the classical threefold division of psychology into cognition, affection, and conation has been completely abandoned in the psychology of personal constructs. “(Kelly 1955) .It is not that affect, emotion and intention vanish from personal construct theory , but rather that Kelly finds a way to integrate the aspects of behavior these terms point to.

    Like Barrett, for Kelly a person’s psychological
    system is organized hierarchically and experiencing oriented toward anticipation of events. “In some respects validation in personal construct theory takes the place of reinforcement, although it is a construct of quite a different order, Validation is the relationship one senses between anticipation and realization, whereas in conventional theory reinforcement is a value property attributed to an event.

    Whereas Barret organizes the cognitive apparatus in terms of concepts , Kelly’s system is based on the construct, a differential dimension. of appraisal that organizes events in terms of the contextually relevant ways they are like aspects of one’s system and differ from other aspects. So unlike a dictionary definition of a word concept, which assumes a non-Wittgensteinian way in which a word refers to a picture-like meaning, a construct expresses a meaning idiosyncratic to each person’s construction system, as a well as reflecting contextual specificity.

    So far Kelly doesn’t sound appreciably different from Barrett or Clark , but here is where I find the crucial difference . For Kelly the construct system is functionally integral , operating at all times holistically as a gestalt.
    Furthermore , every event I construe doesn’t just engage my system to attempt to match internal
    pattern with external (‘bottom up’) input, every event is a change in my system to accommodate what is always a unique feature of that input. As Piaget would say, no matter how familiar a perceptual or conceptual event , to assimilate it it to accomodate one’s system to it. and therefore in some small fashion one’s entire network of constructs must be subtly realigned and expanded.
    So to experience is always to change o e’s
    entire
    system in an integral fashion. The second crucial point is that construing is not pattern matching. Pattern matching or predictiveprocessing suggests that one’s system first apprehends at some incipient or peripheral level a bottom up environmental pattern , and then makes a decision concerning its fit or lack of fit with an internally generated pattern.
    But for Kelly as far as the construct system is concerned there is no external world ( no botto
    up) that can be isolated from the construct system’s expectations. An event is both a discovery and an invention , not because the system ‘fills in’ what is out there with its own content , but because there is no aspect of what my system experiences that is the same everyone, no world of stimuli essentially identical for every one but only processed differently, no ‘out there’ that is not co-constituted as a referential-differential.

    To his credit , Clark acknowledges this phenomenological insight :

    “In a striking image, Merleau-Ponty then compares the active organism to a keyboard which moves itself around so as to offer different keys to the “in itself
    monotonous action of an external hammer” (op cit)12. The message that the world ‘types onto the perceiver’ is thus largely created (or so the image suggests) by the
    nature and action of the perceiver herself: the way she offers herself to the world. The upshot, according to Varela et al (1991, p. 174) is that “the organism and
    environment [are] bound together in reciprocal specification and selection


    When Wittgenstein describes how words are understood as contextual senses( there is no matching of external pattern with internal model but a creative invention) , this captures the way an event is construed. Does this mean anything goes? Absolutely not. Even though a construed event is my own personal ‘invention’ it is designed to anticipate as effectively as possible what is to come next.
    So even though the very definition of what an event is is unique to the organizational aspects of my own system , that event can surprise , disappoint my expectations.

    This is where affectivity comes into play for Kelly. I have said that every time we construe an event we experience the new event as not only unique to our own system , but as varying in how effectively I can make sense of it , integrate it with what I already know on some dimension of similarity , recognizability and familiarity. These are the organizational dynamics that represent what we call affect or feeling or emotion. A event that cannot be effectively assimilated is essentially the impoverishment of meaning , not simply an extant externally defined pattern that my system doesn’t ‘march itself to’, but a chaos of near meaninglessness. For Kelly affects like fear and threat are my awareness that an impending event lies partly outside the range of my system. Anxiety is the current experience of chaos and confusion due to the impermeability of my construct system to experience confronting me. The kicker here is that validation or invalidation , the experience of coherence or chaos , fulfillment or disappointment, doesn’t have to be filtered and processed through some bodily mechanics in order to arrive at ‘feeling’, ‘affect’ and ‘ emotion’. The organizational integrity of my construing of events , how effectively and assimilatively they make sense to me moment to moment, just IS affectivity, before any feedback from a homuncular bodily apparatus.

    This idea of feeling as bodily states harks back to a long-standing Western tradition connecting affect, feeling and emotion with movement , action, dynamism, motivation and change. Affect is supposedly instantaneous, non-mediated experience. It has been said that ‘raw' or primitive feeling is bodily-physiological, pre-reflective and non-conceptual, contentless hedonic valuation, innate, qualitative, passive, a surge, glow, twinge, energy, spark, something we are overcome by. Opposed to such ‘bodily', dynamical events are seemingly flat, static entities referred to by such terms as mentation , rationality, theorization, propositionality, objectivity, calculation, cognition, conceptualization and perception.

    For Kelly, these dichotomous features: hedonic versus reflective, voluntary versus involuntary, conceptual versus bodily-affective, are not effectively understood as belonging to interacting states of being; they are instead the inseparable features of a unitary differential structure of transition, otherwise known as a construct. In personal construct theory, there are no self-inhering entities, neither in the guise of affects nor intended objects.

    Compared to where Kelly’s model sits on the spectrum ,
    Barrett’s appears to make interaction secondary to in-itself content. The sense-making system she offers is filled with terms like sensory data, standard/input mismatch, energy emitting events, registration of discrepancy, and feedback from physiological arousal reactions, which refer to patterns which exist discretely as themselves first and only secondarily interact with other internal and external patterns. Alllostasis conveys this priority of state over transformative , anticipatory interaction, since anticipation is just a means to an end , that end being alloatasis by and darwinian adaptive survival.

    The lesson that a comparison of Kelly and Barrett may teach ( imho) is that when dispositions to act and acts themselves, being and becoming, feeling and intention, state and function, body and mind are treated as separate moments, then their relations are rendered secondary and arbitrary, requiring extrinsic causations to piece them together. As DeJaegher says “ first we carve nature up at artificial joints – we split mind and body apart – and then we need to fasten the two together again, a task for which the notion of embodiment is, according to Sheets-Johnstone's assessment, used as a kind of glue . But glueing the two back together does not bring back the original ‘‘integrity and nature of the whole”“ (De Jaegher 2009, Sheets-Johnstone ,in press).

    Specifically with regard to affectivity and emotion , I get the sense that for Barrett , one could hypothetically( or at least imagine doing so ) sever the communication between regions of the brain-body dealing with feeling and those which purportedly don’t , and still be able to talk coherently about a cognitive system.

    For Kelly , imagining intention or cognition or perception without feeling is as non- sensical as talking about experience without time, because they are not interacting systems but inseparable aspects of the same phenomenon.
  • Joshs
    1.3k
    Otherwise I think we are done here.SophistiCat

    I suspect we were done the minute I challenged your ego.
  • SophistiCat
    1.6k
    That's what you think you were doing? OK.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    Claiming that there is a certain speech act is the same thing as making a claim about the meaning of a word. Speech acts are what words mean, there's nothing more to meaning that the act associated with utterance.Isaac

    I was differentiating there between a priori and a posteriori questions about language. You're talking about what particular words that particular people actually say are meant by them to do or have the effect of doing. I'm talking about what general kinds of things we might want to do with our words. I said "there is a kind of speech act" as in there is a kind of thing that we could want to do with our words, not that any particular words are meant by any particular person to do that.

    All these are ways in which moral language, exactly as I described it, can result in intentions in another.Isaac

    It can result in the other forming new instrumental intentions toward the fulfillment of intentions that they already have, sure. But it never even tries to simply tell someone to intend something.

    It’s like if you never made any direct claims of facts, but instead only said what various sets of people believe, or what the implications of certain beliefs would be if one were to believe those things, but never actually said “x is the case”. You would still be saying things that would indirectly influence what your audience believes, but you would be conspicuously avoiding ever actually claiming yourself that something is true.

    If you spoke that way, there would always be an open question of whether the belief you’re talking about is true or not: “Yes, I get that it’s widely believed, and its negation would imply things that I find counter-intuitive, etc, but is it actually true or not?”

    I'm not seeing the distinction you're trying to make. It sounds like you're invoking some kind of mind-melding woo whereby intentions can get directly transferred without having to go through the beliefs and goals of the person listening. Elsewise any language is simply saying "I'm in this state of mind (fact about the world)", and the listener does with that what they will.Isaac

    It's not about any wooish direct transfer, but it is about directness in our speech-acts. As just described above, it would be weirdly evasive to never just straightforwardly say anything to the effect of "X is the case", but rather only talk peripherally about people's thoughts on or the implications of X.

    It's similarly evasive of taking a prescriptive stance, of making a direct prescriptive statement, if all you ever mean by "ought" or "good", etc, is something about people's thoughts on or the implications of some X, and never anything straightforwardly to the effect of "make X the case".

    You can't tell someone when to intend something.Isaac

    You can -- that's what commands do -- it just won't necessarily be effective. The person does always have a choice on whether or not to intend what you tell them to, but you can still directly tell them to make something so, rather than just talking around it.

    Similarly, when you tell someone that something is the case, that doesn't force them to believe it. They still have a choice on whether or not to believe what you tell them. But making direct assertions of facts rather than talking around the issue is still a normal thing to do with language.

    And so is making direct prescriptive / normative / moral / ethical assertions, to the effect of "make this so", rather than anything like "this is unpopular" or such.
  • Isaac
    4.3k
    Would you agree that Clark and Barrett are on the same page concerning Bayesian theory and predictive processing?Joshs

    Broadly, yes. I'm sure there are nuances of difference, bur Clarke references Barrett's work favourably, so I expect they're roughly in agreement.

    For Kelly the construct system is functionally integral , operating at all times holistically as a gestalt.Joshs

    I'm not sure how you see this as being any different from the active inference concept. Have you read something suggesting proponents of active inference consider it to act non-holistically, or only at some times?

    The second crucial point is that construing is not pattern matching. Pattern matching or predictive processing suggests that one’s system first apprehends at some incipient or peripheral level a bottom up environmental pattern , and then makes a decision concerning its fit or lack of fit with an internally generated pattern.
    But for Kelly as far as the construct system is concerned there is no external world ( no botto
    up) that can be isolated from the construct system’s expectations.
    Joshs

    Then what is it we're predicting? IF there are no states outside of our Markov blanket then we need not predict the causes of the internal states, we simply know them? In order for prediction to have any meaning we have to have hidden states.

    Even though a construed event is my own personal ‘invention’ it is designed to anticipate as effectively as possible what is to come next.
    So even though the very definition of what an event is is unique to the organizational aspects of my own system , that event can surprise , disappoint my expectations.
    Joshs

    I don't see how this would be possible without an external source of surprise.

    A event that cannot be effectively assimilated is essentially the impoverishment of meaning , not simply an extant externally defined pattern that my system doesn’t ‘march itself to’, but a chaos of near meaninglessness. For Kelly affects like fear and threat are my awareness that an impending event lies partly outside the range of my system. Anxiety is the current experience of chaos and confusion due to the impermeability of my construct system to experience confronting me.Joshs

    I think this is good. I don't see it contradicting active inference approaches though. This may well be one of the responses to sensory data which doesn't match any model we have of it. But 'fear' and 'anxiety' are constructed emotions, the actual source affects are before those interpreted labels and they vary quite a lot - this much can be proven empirically - so whilst I think this is a really good way of describing many of our experiences of fear and anxiety, it's doubtful that this represents a definition of those states.

    The kicker here is that validation or invalidation , the experience of coherence or chaos , fulfillment or disappointment, doesn’t have to be filtered and processed through some bodily mechanics in order to arrive at ‘feeling’, ‘affect’ and ‘ emotion’.Joshs

    This you'd have to support with some neurological evidence because as it stands it flies in the face of everything we've seen so far which indicates that these 'emotions' are 100% associated with endocrine activity.

    I get the sense that for Barrett , one could hypothetically( or at least imagine doing so ) sever the communication between regions of the brain-body dealing with feeling and those which purportedly don’t , and still be able to talk coherently about a cognitive system.Joshs

    Not just hypothetically, no. We can literally sever certain connections between brain and body and get pretty much the results we'd expect from our model of hidden state prediction. If you're interested I can drag out some papers on experiments of exactly that sort come Monday, but basically we've already thought that this would need to be done to prove the model, we've done it, and the model works as expected.
  • Isaac
    4.3k
    I said "there is a kind of speech act" as in there is a kind of thing that we could want to do with our words, not that any particular words are meant by any particular person to do that.Pfhorrest

    Yes, I get that. My point was unless you're just making stuff u[ out of thin air you wouldn't be able to say that such speech acts exists without saying that the actual words (the ones you must have heard being used as your empirical evidence for this claim) have that meaning. Thus you're making a claim about the meaning of certain words - the one you heard such as to give you this impression of certain speech acts existing.

    “Yes, I get that it’s widely believed, and its negation would imply things that I find counter-intuitive, etc, but is it actually true or not?Pfhorrest

    No one could answer that question with the meaning of 'true' you're implying. The only way they could possibly answer it is with the meaning of 'true' as in "I believe it strongly". If they were to answer it using the meaning of 'true' as in 'actually is the case', they'd have to say "I don't know". Again you're failing to see how the different meaning of words in different contexts affect what is meant.

    it would be weirdly evasive to never just straightforwardly say anything to the effect of "X is the case", but rather only talk peripherally about people's thoughts on or the implications of X.Pfhorrest

    Again, these are just expressions, they don't literally mean the words used, any more than "That's not my cup of tea" literally means anything about tea.

    What is meant by a speech act is determined by what the speech act does, not the words or the grammar constituting it. To claim the latter has the tail wagging the dog (and I don't mean anything about tails or dogs here).

    So a command is no different in type to a statement of fact. "I'd like you to turn around" and "Turn around!" are both just ways of getting a person to turn around by giving them facts about your state of mind, your preferences toward their actions. The latter is simply communicating a change in either degree, or authority, or urgency depending on the context.

    You can't tell someone when to intend something. — Isaac


    You can -- that's what commands do -- it just won't necessarily be effective.
    Pfhorrest

    It won't ever be effective. It literally cannot be done. There's zero neurological support for a direct connection between speech interpretation and intent. You can only provide data which is modelled and used to inform intent.

    If you want to construct an entirely new model of his intent works then by all means do so, but don't expect anyone to take it seriously unless you submit it to the same empirical challenge that all the other competing models have submitted themselves to.

    And so is making direct prescriptive / normative / moral / ethical assertions, to the effect of "make this so", rather than anything like "this is unpopular" or such.Pfhorrest

    Notwithstanding all the above, let's assume there's at least a form of speech act where "X is good" means to get one's audience directly to will X. How does that make "X is good" anything like an objective statement. If anything it detracts from objectivity. "X is the case" is less persuasive of objective truth than "lots of very clever scientists believe X is the case after having tested the matter thoroughly".
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    So a command is no different in type to a statement of fact.Isaac

    If you're going so far as to claim this, that there's is no meaningful, pragmatic difference between indicative and imperative sentences, just some superficial grammatical difference, then I don't think there's any hope for progress in this discussion. You seem to live in a different world than I do.
  • Isaac
    4.3k
    there's is no meaningful, pragmatic difference between indicative and imperative sentencesPfhorrest

    I didn't claim there was no difference, only that the difference was not categorical, but one of degree, or of conveying additional information (such as urgency, or the authority of the speaker). I thought I'd made that fairly clear.

    You seem to live in a different world than I do.Pfhorrest

    That much has been evident right from the start, but that's the very reason why I continue. I want to know how you construct and defend these positions you proclaim.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    I didn't claim there was no difference, only that the difference was not categorical, but one of degree, or of conveying additional information (such as urgency, or the authority of the speaker).Isaac

    That difference doesn't seem to me (in my experience speaking and listening to people in my native English for a handful of decades) to be made by the grammatical mood, but by other pragmatic aspects of the speech act. One could bark an indicative sentence like a drill sergeant would bark a command to convey urgency or authority on a matter of fact, and one could softly phrase an imperative sentence to give a gentle suggestion. Shouting "X is wrong!" at someone has the same pragmatic effect as shouting "Don't do X!" at someone, but gently saying "you shouldn't do X" has the same pragmatic effect as the softly-put imperative.

    And all four of those, the two different tones of imperative and the two different tones of moral sentence, have something in common that differentiates them from descriptive sentences, whether those descriptive sentences are barked with authority or urgency, or spoken gently: the imperatives and moral sentences are all pushing or at least nudging the listener to do something, directly, while descriptions at most point out things that the listener might want to take into account when deciding what to do, and might even be spoken or received without any behavior-guiding implications at all.

    Plain indicative statements, regardless of tone, do imply at least some level of authority assumed on the part of the speaker. If I tell you just "X is the case", I must expect that there's some chance you will believe me at my word. Likewise if you ask me "is X the case?", you're showing some willingness to take me at my word. If that trust isn't there, then maybe I'll tell you (or you'll ask me to tell you) other things to make an argument to back up that statement, like who else of what status believes it and what its implications are and what other things have implications about it, etc, but merely making the statement doesn't mean the exact same thing as all those things I might tell you to back up the statement.

    Likewise with moral statements, and imperatives, exhortatives, etc, things in this intention-impressing category of speech acts, rather than the belief-impressing category in the paragraph above. If I tell you "you should do X", or "do X", or "O would that you did X", or anything like that, I must expect that there's some chance that you would do as I say just because I said it. Conversely, if you ask me "should I do X?", you're showing some willingness to do what I say to do. If that trust isn't there, I could give (or you could ask for) an argument why you should, but just saying "you should" or similar doesn't simply mean the exact thing as the other things I might tell you to argue why you should, like "most people will laud you for doing so", or anything like that.
  • Isaac
    4.3k
    the imperatives and moral sentences are all pushing or at least nudging the listener to do something, directlyPfhorrest

    How? That's the question I don't seem to be able to get a clear answer to. What is the neurological ( or psychological if you prefer) mechanism by which one supposes this push to take place?

    I tell you just "X is the case", I must expect that there's some chance you will believe me at my word.Pfhorrest

    Why would I? I don't mean this as a rhetorical question, I mean it literally by way of hopefully getting at the difference here. What thought process would lead me to believe X is the case directly as a result of you saying "X is the case"?

    I tell you "you should do X", or "do X", or "O would that you did X", or anything like that, I must expect that there's some chance that you would do as I say just because I said it.Pfhorrest

    Again, why? Same as above. What is the thought process you image taking place between my hearing your words "Do X" and my forming an intent to do X?
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    The answer to all those questions is, as I said in my last post, trust, which NB is a word closely related to “truth”.

    If I ask you a technical question about psychology, that I genuinely have no idea of an answer to, I expect that you can give me a straightforward answer. E.g., if I didn’t already know this, I could ask “what does the parasympathetic nervous system do?”, and you could just say “it’s responsible for rest and digestion”, and since I trust that you know what you’re talking about on that topic, I would believe you. I’d only believe you because I imagine that you have seen, and been taught by many people who have seen, much empirical evidence of that, and if I didn’t trust your answer I could ask you to tell me how you know it (and then I’d have to trust that your supporting claims are true)... but the initial claim itself doesn’t mean the same thing as that argument you might be able to give to back it up. It just means what it says on the surface, it’s just an assertion of your belief at me, pushing me to believe the same.

    Likewise if you tell me to do something, or that something should be, or that something is good. I read that as an assertion of your intentions at me, pushing me to intend the same. If I trust you I might just do what you say. Otherwise I might ask “why?” and you could try to give an argument to back that up. But the initial assertion doesn’t just mean the same thing as that argument you might give to support it.
  • Isaac
    4.3k
    The answer to all those questions is, as I said in my last post, trustPfhorrest

    OK, so what do you think trust is, psychologically? We have this input (the words "Do X") and an output (an intent to do X). How does trust get us from one to the other without importing any descriptive facts? As I see it we've still got [A says "Do X"] and [A is a trustworthy expert in X-types-of-thing]. Those still seem to be two descriptive facts about the world which I might use together with my desire (not to get these types of thing wrong), to arrive at the pragmatic conclusion to intend X. Which is exactly the description you rejected (supply of facts for me to do with what I will).

    As a side issue, I'd also like to know how someone might squire the status of trust within the field of these ethical pronouncements. You've laid out quite clearly why we might trust someone in their descriptive statements, but you left out the equivalent in your paragraph on proscriptive statements. Everything else you mirrored sentence-for-sentence, but you left that out, why?
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    OK, so what do you think trust is, psychologically? We have this input (the words "Do X") and an output (an intent to do X). How does trust get us from one to the other without importing any descriptive facts? As I see it we've still got [A says "Do X"] and [A is a trustworthy expert in X-types-of-thing]. Those still seem to be two descriptive facts about the world which I might use together with my desire (not to get these types of thing wrong), to arrive at the pragmatic conclusion to intend X. Which is exactly the description you rejected (supply of facts for me to do with what I will).Isaac

    That A intends for me to do X (i.e. "thinks that I should do X"), and that A is a person I expect to have the right idea of what I should do, constitute a reason why I could decide that I should do X / intend to do X, but it doesn't say what it means to think that I should do X.

    Consider for comparison again the purely descriptive case. A tells me that X is the case, and A is a person I expect (for whatever reason) to be right about whether or not things are the case, so I decide to take his word on it that X is the case. But my thinking "X is the case" doesn't flesh out to my thinking "A thinks X is the case", which in turn would then have to flesh out to "A thinks that A thinks that A thinks that A thinks that [...ad infinitum...] X is the case". In telling me that X is the case, A both demonstrates his belief, and basically tells me to believe it as well, but the content of his belief, or mine if I accept what he says, isn't just that he believes it, nor is it any of the reasons there might be to believe it: the content of the belief is the state of affairs it's about, and the attitude to treat that state of affairs as a depiction of how the world is.

    Back in the prescriptive case again, when A commands or exhorts me to make X the case, and A is a person I expect (for whatever reason) to be right about whether or not things should be the case, I might decide to take his word on it that X should be the case, i.e. to adopt the intention to make X the case. But my thinking "X should be the case" doesn't flesh out to my thinking "A thinks X should be the case", which in turn would then have to flesh out to "A thinks that A thinks that A thinks that A thinks that [...ad infinitum...] X should be the case". In telling me that X should be the case, A both demonstrates his intention, and basically tells me to intend it it as well, but the content of his intention, or mine if I accept what he says, isn't just that he intends it, nor is it any of the reasons there might be to intend it: the content of the intention is the state of affairs it's about, and the attitude to treat that state of affairs as a blueprint of how the world should be.

    As a side issue, I'd also like to know how someone might squire the status of trust within the field of these ethical pronouncements. You've laid out quite clearly why we might trust someone in their descriptive statements, but you left out the equivalent in your paragraph on proscriptive statements. Everything else you mirrored sentence-for-sentence, but you left that out, why?Isaac

    Because that's the separate question of why or why not to accept that something ought or ought not be the case, i.e. when to do as commanded or exhorted, which is where we usually get hung up, so I didn't want to open up that rabbit hole for us to go down again yet, until we've settled this question of whether or not the contents of moral claims, commands, exhortations, intentions, "moral beliefs", etc, are just descriptions of other people's states of minds, or what.

    Even if I got you to completely agree on this topic that saying that something is good, or that it ought to be the case, is basically the same thing as commanding or exhorting that it be the case, and that all of those speech-acts are not just describing to someone else what you (or someone else) think, but trying to make them think the same thing as you, where the thing that you think is not in turn just a description of what other people think, but a different kind of thought entirely from a description of a state of affairs, rather it's a prescription of a state of affairs... even if we were 100% in agreement on all that, there would still remain the question of when (and why) someone on the other end of such a speech-act should go along with it, should agree with what someone tells them ought to be.

    There's the same distinction in purely descriptive speech-acts too. If, as I reckon it, telling someone that X is the case is basically trying to get them to believe that X is the case, and even if you agree with me that that's what descriptive speech-acts are doing, there still remains the question of when (and why) to believe what you're told.

    It's basically the distinction between:

    1) what it even is to think that something is the case, vs to think that something ought to be the case,

    vs

    2) what would be good reasons to think one of those things or the other.


    My answer to the first type of question is basically that:

    - to think something is the case is to have an "idea", a mental "picture", not just a simple 2D visual picture but a complex immersive multisensory "picture", that you are treating as a depiction of the world;

    - while to think that something ought to be the case is to have a similar such "idea", or mental "picture", that you are treating as a blueprint for the world.


    My answer to when and why to accept those kinds of attitudes toward various ideas is:

    - in the first case, if you can "walk around" the idea in your mind and examine it from all different perspectives and from every perspective it consistently matches the sensations you've had of the world, as well as any that you personally haven't replicated but trust others' reports that they have had;

    - and in the second case, if you can "walk around" that idea in your mind and examine it from all different perspectives and from every perspective it consistently matches your appetites, as well as any that you personally haven't replicated but trust others' reports that they have had.
  • Joshs
    1.3k



    for Kelly as far as the construct system is concerned there is no external world ( no botto
    up) that can be isolated from the construct system’s expectations.
    — Joshs

    Then what is it we're predicting? IF there are no states outside of our Markov blanket then we need not predict the causes of the internal states, we simply know them? In order for prediction to have any meaning we have to have hidden states.
    Isaac

    Kelly’s model isn’t dealing with causes but intentional motivations (construals). And he isn’t dealing with states but processes of transformation. And he isn’t dealing with anything simply ‘internal’ because there is never simply an internal state apart from its exposure to, interaction with and transformation by an outside. Just because it doesn’t make sense to talk about a external world independent of one’s expectation of it doesn’t mean that the outside which the system encounters as an event is nothing but that anticipation.It is an external source of surprise, but it is never fully independent of that anticipation. It is a surprise RELATIVE TO and partially formed and defined by my expectation, so it is always unique to my system.

    This what the autopoietic and enactivist concept of structural coupling between organism and environment implies.

    We don’t need ‘hidden states’ in order to have an anticipatory system. Our system which participates in the formation of construals is one pole( the subjective pole) of the subject-object dynamic but it can’t be said to ever exist apart from or independent of this indissociable interaction. Nothing takes place simply ‘inside’ such a brain-body-environment system but always between it and environment.

    Clark discussed this difference between predictive processing and enactive models influenced by phenomenology.


    “ There remains, however, at least one famously vexed issue upon which PP and the (at least if history is any guide) seem doomed to disagree. That is the issue of ‘internal representation’. Thus Varela et al are explicit that, on the enactivist conception “cognition is no longer seen as problem solving on the basis of representations” (op cit p.205). PP, however, deals extensively in internal
    models – rich, frugal, and all points in-between - whose role is to control action by predicting complex plays of sensory data. This, the enactivist might fear, is where
    our promising story about neural processing breaks bad. Why not simply ditch the talk of inner models and internal representations and stay on the true path of
    enactivist virtue.”

    http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/82337/1/SpindelRPP2march17%202.pdf


    Clark proceeded to attempt to show how , even though pp relies on the notion of internal representation it somehow evades enactivism’s critique. It seems to me , though, that Clark isnt fully grasping the enactivist argument about what it means for a psychological system to be fully embedded in a world, and so falls back on a Cartesian computationalism of inner processes.


    The kicker here is that validation or invalidation , the experience of coherence or chaos , fulfillment or disappointment, doesn’t have to be filtered and processed through some bodily mechanics in order to arrive at ‘feeling’, ‘affect’ and ‘ emotion’.
    — Joshs

    This you'd have to support with some neurological evidence because as it stands it flies in the face of everything we've seen so far which indicates that these 'emotions' are 100% associated with endocrine activity.
    Isaac

    I have no doubt these emotions are associated with endocrine activity. That doesn’t prove a specific pattern of causation though , merely association. And the central question is, exactly what from a phenomenological experiential vantage is the endocrine activity contributing to the meaning for us of something like an emotion?
    This depends to a profound extent on how we tease out the aspect of emotion that includes involves cognitive appraisal from that which supposedly acts outside of appraisal.

    I get the sense that for Barrett , one could hypothetically( or at least imagine doing so ) sever the communication between regions of the brain-body dealing with feeling and those which purportedly don’t , and still be able to talk coherently about a cognitive system.
    — Joshs

    Not just hypothetically, no. We can literally sever certain connections between brain and body and get pretty much the results we'd expect from our model of hidden state prediction. If you're interested I can drag out some papers on experiments of exactly that sort come Monday, but basically we've already thought that this would need to be done to prove the model, we've done it, and the model works as expected.
    Isaac

    I’m sure the model works magnificently , but then that’s what we expect of our models. Kelly once wrote that one should ‘t wait until a scientific model has been disproved in order to search for a better one. The point he was making is that many different empirical accounts of a phenomenon can all ‘work’ , that is, satisfy predictive hypotheses. But what it means for a model
    to work predictively can vary widely in terms of how arbitrary the interrelationships which the model is designed to describe are assumed to be.

    That is why lots of different accounts can describe the same anatomical and functional neural data.
    Because we are structurally couples with our world, there is no ‘way in which things really are’ that constrains our accounts, only pragmatically more or less intricate and interrelational ways of describing the ‘same’ phenomenon.

    But let me ask you this. If we sever certain connections between brain and body , can we eliminate certain kinds of emotion? Could we hypothetically eliminate all kinds of emotion ? If so, given me an example of what it would be like to have a conversation with someone in this situation.
    Describe for me what someone would sound like, how they would be motivated , what their words would ‘mean’ to them without emotion, what you think meaning without emotion could possibly be like.
  • Isaac
    4.3k
    That A intends for me to do X (i.e. "thinks that I should do X"), and that A is a person I expect to have the right idea of what I should do, constitute a reason why I could decide that I should do X / intend to do X, but it doesn't say what it means to think that I should do X.Pfhorrest

    Right. But I didn't ask that. This and the following long-winded explanation of it have nothing whatsoever to do with my question, so either your reading comprehension is terrible or you're avoiding it for some reason. I asked how 'trusting A' caused me to intend X when A says "Do X" without my simply drawing a conclusion from descriptive facts [A has said "Do X"] and [A is knowledgeable in this area].

    even if we were 100% in agreement on all that, there would still remain the question of when (and why) someone on the other end of such a speech-act should go along with it, should agree with what someone tells them ought to be.Pfhorrest

    Yes, I agree. Which is why I'm trying to get you to explain to me how their deciding to do so is not just a pragmatic decision based on descriptive facts (and their own desire/intent). You're claiming that the speech act "Do X" does something more than simply communicate the fact about the speaker's state of mind, that it somehow communicates something more. I'm asking what that more is and by what mechanism is affects my intent.

    to think something is the case is to have an "idea", a mental "picture", not just a simple 2D visual picture but a complex immersive multisensory "picture", that you are treating as a depiction of the world;

    - while to think that something ought to be the case is to have a similar such "idea", or mental "picture", that you are treating as a blueprint for the world.
    Pfhorrest

    I don't agree that this encompasses all that there is to thinking something ought to be the case - and I can present a wealth of cognitive science to prove that, if you're interested. But I can agree that this might sometimes be what it means to think that something 'ought' to be the case.

    But that's utterly irrelevant to the discussion about moral speech acts because they are about the method by which my having a blueprint caused you to have a similar blueprint without simply presenting you a set of descriptive fact. You've invoked some other magic essence I somehow transfer in my speech act which is not a descriptive fact but which nonetheless somehow might get you to adjust your blueprint to more closely match mine. I'm asking what that thing is and how it works.

    in the second case, if you can "walk around" that idea in your mind and examine it from all different perspectives and from every perspective it consistently matches your appetites, as well as any that you personally haven't replicated but trust others' reports that they have had.Pfhorrest

    I completely agree, this is something you could do. But

    a) it would not, by that method, be able to effect your desires beyond their physiological boundaries - the frontal cortices simply don't have that level of control over the endocrine system, it's not physiologically possible. It's like saying that if you thought it was a good idea for your heart to stop beating, or for serotonin to no longer act as neurotransmitter you could just think it and make it so. You can't.

    b) The fact that I could do this has absolutely no bearing on whether I should do this, nor on whether moral language actually is trying to make me do this in common use.
  • Isaac
    4.3k
    It is an external source of surprise, but it is never fully independent of that anticipation.Joshs

    Then it is not an external source of surprise. Variables outside the Markov blanket are defined by that property. Anything which is not independent of that variables in question in the direction we're concerned about is inside the Markov blanket. You cannot have surprise if nothing is outside of that blanket (it's a fully knowable system), so you need hidden states. It doesn't matter how far you push them back, the boundary (the edge of the Markov blanket) is the edge of the system.

    the central question is, exactly what from a phenomenological experiential vantage is the endocrine activity contributing to the meaning for us of something like an emotion?Joshs

    The fact that you haven't read the research on this is not that same thing as the central question remaining. It may remain to you. To most neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists it doesn't remain because they've read the vast acres of research which has gone into resolving that exact question. I realise that there seems to be some great difficulty among lay philosophers to grasp this point, but scientists are not idiots, they too can think "It might be that these things are just correlated, not causally related" It's not genius-level revelation, it's a basic realisation anyone remotely intelligent would have, act on and test. Which is why that possibility has already been had, acted on and tested. That's basically what the decades of study in the field have been doing.

    The point he was making is that many different empirical accounts of a phenomenon can all ‘work’ , that is, satisfy predictive hypotheses.Joshs

    What predictive hypothesis has Kelly's model made and had empirically supported. If you can supply the papers I'd be interested to read them.

    If we sever certain connections between brain and body , can we eliminate certain kinds of emotion?Joshs

    Yes. Without a doubt. Although no study to date has knocked out all emotional states, all the evidence from lesion studies seems to indicate that it is theoretically possible although it would require hundreds, if not thousands of lesions.

    given me an example of what it would be like to have a conversation with someone in this situation.Joshs

    Tourette's, echolalia, Wernicke's aphasia induced logorrhea, Progressive Jargon Aphasia...

    Describe for me what someone would sound like, how they would be motivated , what their words would ‘mean’ to them without emotion, what you think meaning without emotion could possibly be like.Joshs

    There's no simple single answer to any of that.

    Motivation can occur by a single neurotransmitter. Adjusting the serotonin levels in flatworms gets them to behave with different apparent motivations than untreated flatworms in the same environment, and they don't even have a brain, so motivation sensu lato is certainly not emotion-driven.

    Words 'mean' what they do, so I would imagine if someone learned that the word 'cup' brought them a cup then that's what the word would 'mean' to them. A simple computer could do this. again, I don't see how even a brain would be required, let alone emotion.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    Right. But I didn't ask that. This and the following long-winded explanation of it have nothing whatsoever to do with my question, so either your reading comprehension is terrible or you're avoiding it for some reason. I asked how 'trusting A' caused me to intend X when A says "Do X" without my simply drawing a conclusion from descriptive facts [A has said "Do X"] and [A is knowledgeable in this area].Isaac

    The words that I emphasized in that response were supposed to draw attention to how I'm not disputing that those descriptive facts -- NB though that they are descriptive facts about prescriptive opinions -- can, as you're saying, be reason to adopt the same prescriptive opinion that A has. I'm not disputing that. I'm saying it's beside the point, which is about the meaning of that prescriptive opinion that A holds, which you also might choose to adopt because of your trust in A.

    There's a descriptive fact that A holds an opinion (that you should do X), and a descriptive fact that A is a reliable source (on what you should do), and on those grounds you may conclude that A's opinion (that you should do X) is correct, and so you yourself adopt that opinion (that you should do X). That's all fine and dandy.

    But what does it mean to think (or say) that you should do X? What is the content of A's opinion that you have now adopted? It can't just be that A thinks that you should do X, because then you never get to the "you should" part through the infinite regress of "A thinks that A thinks that A thinks..." that would erupt if that were really the content of A's opinion about what you should do.

    You're claiming that the speech act "Do X" does something more than simply communicate the fact about the speaker's state of mind, that it somehow communicates something more.Isaac

    Not so. I think that all assertions only communicate the speaker's state of mind. "X is the case" only communicates the speaker's belief that X is the case. "Do X" or "you should do X" only communicates the speaker's intention for you to do X (and any other "X should be the case" only communicates the speaker's intention for X to be the case, which may not be directly translatable to an imperative command, but would still be translatable to an exhortation, like "O would that X were the case").

    What I'm on about is that the content of that state of mind being communicated is not itself just a reference to a state of mind. The speaker's intention for you to do X is not just a belief that he believes that he believes [...ad infinitum...] that "you should do X", the meaning of which we'd never get to through that infinite regress. Nor is it a belief that someone else believes that a third person believes [...etc...] that "you should do X", because even if that's a finite chain of references you still end up never elaborating on what it means to think that "you should do X".

    My position is that the content of the thought "you should do X", or more generally "X should be the case", "X is good", etc, just is the intention that you do X / that X be the case. No more special reference to the mental states of people need be made than with descriptive assertions, where that kind of reference only needs to be made at all in the context of understanding what it is to make an assertion of any kind. To assert that something is the case is to communicate a belief that X is the case, but the contents of that belief being communicated do not consist of references to someone's beliefs. Likewise to assert that something ought to be the case, or to command or exhort that it be so, is to communicate an intention for X to be the case, but the contents of that intention aren't references to anyone's states of mind.

    But I can agree that this might sometimes be what it means to think that something 'ought' to be the case.Isaac

    That's enough for me.

    a) it would not, by that method, be able to effect your desires beyond their physiological boundaries - the frontal cortices simply don't have that level of control over the endocrine system, it's not physiologically possible. It's like saying that if you thought it was a good idea for your heart to stop beating, or for serotonin to no longer act as neurotransmitter you could just think it and make it so. You can't.Isaac

    Good thing I'm not claiming that to be the case then. This is an important aspect of my differentiation between desire and intention. It's exactly like the analogous differentiation between perception and belief. You can perceive a pond of water in the desert, but because you know about mirages, disbelieve that there is actually a pond of water in the desert -- but that doesn't make you stop perceiving it. It still looks like there's a pond of water there, even though you have judged that perception to be incorrect.

    Likewise, to have an intention, on my account, is to have a judgement about your desires, but that won't necessarily force them to change. If for some strange reason you thought your heart ought to stop beating, i.e. if you intended for your heart to stop beating, of course that wouldn't make that happen as though by magic. That intention would just consist of your judgement that it shouldn't be happening, even though you're powerless to do anything about that.

    b) The fact that I could do this has absolutely no bearing on whether I should do this, nor on whether moral language actually is trying to make me do this in common use.Isaac

    I don't think that moral language is necessarily trying to make you evaluate your intentions like that. I think moral language is just trying to make you intend something, period. That's my answer to the question about the meaning of moral claims.

    This bit you're responding to here is instead my answer to a different question: when to accept moral claims. I've already given many variations on my argument for why that's a good answer to that question before, but earlier today I was thinking about this and I thought of a way of phrasing it that seemed like it might appeal to you:

    You can't help but feel like having your appetites fulfilled is good. That's pretty much the definition of an appetite: something the fulfillment of which feels good. You can try to fight against it, just like you can try to disbelieve your senses if you're a modern Plato who thinks that real reality is some transcendent realm only accessible through navel-gazing and that the world you observe is just shadow puppets trying to distract you from that. But you're just going to be fighting yourself and you won't get anywhere that way; at the end of the day you have to live in the world of your senses whether you think they're telling you the truth or not, and you're equally beholden to your appetites whether you think they're good or not. (This is like your thing about the physiological limits you were just saying above, which is why I thought you'd appreciate this approach).

    And there can be literally no sound reason to think that either the truth or the good are somehow transcendent of experience like that: you couldn't learn that they were like that through experience, a posteriori, and a priori reasoning can't positively prove anything, only disprove things through contradiction. So you're stuck with no sound reason to ever think that anything is either true or good... other than that you can't help it that some things look true, and some things feel good, no matter how hard you try to tell yourself that those experiences are leading you astray.

    That's why phenomenalism (empiricism plus hedonism).

    And other people are all stuck in that same situation as you, except from their different perspectives, so things look and feel different to them. If you're trying to talk with other people to sort out which of all your differing thoughts and feelings about what's true/false or good/bad are the correct thoughts or feelings, you could just ignore everyone whose opinions disagree with yours, but that'll never get you anywhere toward agreement. Or you could instead look at each other's reasons for thinking and feeling the way you all do -- those experiences you're each stuck with as the only things you have to go on, as above -- and try to put together some picture that's consistent with all of those. That has a chance of reaching agreement, if you can figure out which picture fits that bill.

    That's why universalism (realism, or anti-solipsism, plus altruism, or anti-egotism).
  • Isaac
    4.3k
    which is about the meaning of that prescriptive opinion that A holdsPfhorrest

    Opinions don't have meanings, their just not the sort of thing it would make any sense to ascribe a meaning to. Words have meanings. Art has meanings, even actions sometimes have a meaning. Opinions don't.

    But what does it mean to think (or say) that you should do X?Pfhorrest

    Another previously hidden crux of difference. It 'means' a completely and utterly different thing to think something than it does to say something.

    What I'm on about is that the content of that state of mind being communicated is not itself just a reference to a state of mind.Pfhorrest

    It's all starting to fall into place now. Let me guess, you've either never read Wittgenstein or were unmoved by his arguments, yes?

    Words don't transfer the contents of a state of mind. They do things. When I speak words to you it is with intention that they have some effect on you, not that they faithfully carry the contents of by state of mind like some binary code. It would be categorically impossible for them to do s because if they did you wouldn't know what they meant. It simply doesn't make sense to talk about words transferring anything.

    My position is that the content of the thought "you should do X", or more generally "X should be the case", "X is good", etc, just is the intention that you do X / that X be the case.Pfhorrest

    You've either mixed subject here or this doesn't make sense. The thought "you should do X" seems to be referring to a second person, like "John should do X", but then you say it is equivalent to having the intention. One cannot have an intention for another. I cannot intend for John to do something. I can only only hope or strive to get john to do something. It doesn't make any sense at all for me to intend for him to, I don't control him.

    To assert that something is the case is to communicate a belief that X is the casePfhorrest

    No. To assert that something is the case is to act on a belief that it is, not to communicate it. Your audience may or may not adopt that belief. all you do is tell them that you have such a belief. you can do no more, your words don't magically contain the belief, to be injected into your audience's ear.

    If you're trying to talk with other people to sort out which of all your differing thoughts and feelings about what's true/false or good/bad are the correct thoughts or feelings, you could just ignore everyone whose opinions disagree with yours, but that'll never get you anywhere toward agreement. Or you could instead look at each other's reasons for thinking and feeling the way you all do -- those experiences you're each stuck with as the only things you have to go on, as above -- and try to put together some picture that's consistent with all of those. That has a chance of reaching agreement, if you can figure out which picture fits that bill.Pfhorrest

    I can go along with all that you've said above this, and I think I understand why we disagree as to the function of moral language (you either haven't heard of or disagree with things like speech act theory and meaning as use)...but the above is also another, separate area of disagreement. I think you just don't understand how people form beliefs. It's not a field in which evidence is very robust, so I'm not going be as assertive as I might be with neuroscience, but it is the case that almost all the (weak) evidence we have collected to date tells us that humans do not form beliefs via the process you outline here, so your assertion that it is the best of the available methods is as wrong as such assertions can ever be in this pseudo-scientific area.

    People do not assess their own reasons for thinking and feeling the way they do in a consistent manner, and they do not do so outside of influences like the very fact that you're speaking to them about it. You do not judge their given reason in a consistent manner, nor is that judgement unaffected by outside influences such as your opinion of the person's social status. Basically, any such assessment is unlikely to yield anything other than the conclusion you wanted it to yield at the start, you'll simply interpret all the evidence you thus gain in a way that supports your initial feelings. I'd be very surprised if, after some global effort to do exactly this, a single person changed their behaviour as a result, certainly no large number would.

    The trouble is desires and affects are not at all like perceptions and sensory inputs when it comes to social interaction. I already expect other people to see and hear the same things I do. It's hard-wired into my brain to expect that. so when I use their judgements as to what's out there to inform mine, I'm doing so according to a paradigm which is deeply embedded in my psychology. There's no such equivalent with desires and affects. I don't expect other people to have the same physiological state as me, so I've no reason at all to trust their judgement on it, we're not sharing our desires (judgements as to the cause of our affects), we are sharing our perceptions (judgements as to the causes of our sensory inputs).

    We expect to be pleased and displeased by different things. We do not expect to see and hear a different reality. To the extent we are pleased and displeased by the same things, then I think there is some ground for ethical realism, but that's basically ethical naturalism. the argument goes "I have very strong evidence that you will feel better if you intend X so I advise you to do so".

    In addition I think you're mistaken to imply that it is only at the level of affect that we can no longer easily intervene. We have hard-wired desires too. Many of the methods by which we think we'll most likely reach our target affect levels are either hard-wired from birth or are wired in very early childhood and practically impossible to budge later. In some cases this extends even to intentions (to use your terminology). It's this physiological reality which I think virtue ethics seeks to encapsulate.

    Lastly, there are many intentions that are simply the result of society's mechanisms - emergent properties, and this is what the naturalism of people like Anscombe seeks to capture. You ought to pay the grocer after he delivers you potatoes, not because of any hedonic reason whatsoever, but because that's what 'ought' means in that culture. It means the position you're in after the grocer has delivered the potatoes. It's a function of culture, not of individual hedonic values.
  • Joshs
    1.3k
    It is an external source of surprise, but it is never fully independent of that anticipation.
    — Joshs

    Then it is not an external source of surprise. Variables outside the Markov blanket are defined by that property. Anything which is not independent of that variables in question in the direction we're concerned about is inside the Markov blanket. You cannot have surprise if nothing is outside of that blanket (it's a fully knowable system), so you need hidden states. It doesn't matter how far you push them back, the boundary (the edge of the Markov blanket) is the edge of the system.
    Isaac

    Let me put that differently . Can a variable outside a markov blanket be defined by a property in an objective sense, the way we would define a physical stimulus in terms of its own properties, independent of its interaction with a specific organismic system?

    I don’t know if you’re familiar with the concept of structural coupling , but it specifies that the environment with which an organism interacts , including all of the outside variables that it can surprise an organism with, cannot be defined independently of the functioning of that organism.

    Evan Thompson explains:

    “ Whereas physical structures, such as a soap bubble, obtain equilibrium in relation to actual physical condi-
    tions of force and pressure, living systems seek equilibrium, in Merleau-Ponty’s words, “with respect to conditions which are only virtual and which the system itself brings into existence; when the [system] . . . executes a work beyond its proper limits and constitutes a proper milieu for itself.”

    “ Thus, Merleau-Ponty says, whereas physical structures can be expressed by a law, living structures have to be comprehended in relation to norms: “each organism, in the presence of a given milieu, has its optimal conditions of activity and its proper manner of realizing equilibrium,”and every living being “modifies
    its milieu according to the internal norms of its activity.”

    “...autopoiesis (in a broad sense that includes adapativity) is the “self-production of an inside that also specifies an outside to which it is normatively related,” and thus that autopoiesis is best seen as the “dynamic co-emergence of interiority and exteriority.” “the (self) generation of an inside is ontologically prior to the dichotomy in- out. It is the inside that generates the asymmetry and it is in relation to this inside that an outside can be established.”

    Do you agree with the above?

    the central question is, exactly what from a phenomenological experiential vantage is the endocrine activity contributing to the meaning for us of something like an emotion?
    — Joshs

    The fact that you haven't read the research on this is not that same thing as the central question remaining. It may remain to you. To most neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists it doesn't remain because they've read the vast acres of research which has gone into resolving that exact question
    Isaac


    Keep in mind that cognitive psychology is a broad tent, and there are many disagreements within different segments of the community. For instance , you may disagree with the concept of structural coupling as an alternative to a markov blanket, and with the idea that internal representations and a computational approach to models of affectivity and cognition are relics of a reductionist positivism that needs to be jettisoned. But if you do disagree, do you think most cognitive psychologists also disagree, based on ‘empirical evidence’? If so, you should also keep in mind where the embodied approach to cognition that researchers like Barrett embrace got its start. One of its key inspirations was the 1991 book, The Embodied Mind , co-written by Francisco Varela and Evan Thompson, who happen to be leading the segment within the cognitivist community advocating for the changes in psychological modelling I’ve described.

    The point he was making is that many different empirical accounts of a phenomenon can all ‘work’ , that is, satisfy predictive hypotheses.
    — Joshs

    What predictive hypothesis has Kelly's model made and had empirically supported. If you can supply the papers I'd be interested to read them.
    Isaac

    I can direct you to papers by enactivist researchers
    like Francisco Varela , Matthew Ratcliffe and Shaun Gallagher on the role of disruption of existential feeling in depression and ptsd, pathologies of agency in schizophrenia, interaction models of autism that critique theory theory , and visual perception, among other topics.
    Although no study to date has knocked out all emotional states, all the evidence from lesion studies seems to indicate that it is theoretically possible although it would require hundreds, if not thousands of lesions.

    given me an example of what it would be like to have a conversation with someone in this situation.
    — Joshs

    Tourette's, echolalia, Wernicke's aphasia induced logorrhea, Progressive Jargon Aphasia...
    Isaac

    These are not examples of selective disruption of affectivity, rather they involve an inseparable entanglement of affect and cognition. A better example would be one where feedback from the body was curtailed, leading to the absence of autonomic cues associated with emotion.

    Words 'mean' what they do, so I would imagine if someone learned that the word 'cup' brought them a cup then that's what the word would 'mean' to them. A simple computer could do this. again, I don't see how even a brain would be required, let alone emotion.Isaac


    Why would they care if the word brought them a cup? Because they wanted a cup. The aim and purpose and relevance of the cup is built into the meaning of the word in that context. It is not merely ‘this cup’ in some generic sense , but ‘ this cup that I need in order to accomplish some aim.’ All of that is implied in the use of the word in that instance. Even the most seemingly arbitrary, trivial and unmotivated cognitive activities belong to larger contexts of significance for us.
    You said you agreed a psychological system functions as an integrated gestalt , but that implies that we always find ourselves in the midst of activities that matter to us for the sake of some purpose. Is this larger aim that word meanings imply and serve not affective? That is , are goals and desires ever devoid of affectivity? I guess that depends on how narrowly you want to define feeling, affect and emotion. For instance Kelly has a peculiar definition of anger. He says that it is a response to someone who disappoints us by violating an expectation we had of them, for instance when a spouse cheats on us. The anger is an attempt to coax or force them back to behaving the way we initially expected them to behave. So anger involves a two step process of assessment of a situation. First there is disappointment , and then the hope that I can get the other to return to my original expectation of them( mend their ways) .

    Where do bodily states come into play in this model?
    They are implied by the intentive direction of the anger. The clenching of my fist and other physiological changes are summoned in support of the needs of the situation based on my assessment of what need to be done. That is to say, these bodily preparatory behaviors are in service of and get their meaning from my anger construal of the situation.

    What if the connection between my intentive experience and the bodily accompaniments of anger are severed by an injury? Patients have reported that they lose the normal ‘feeling’ of anger , but are these supportive boldily behaviors the core of what we mean by the emotion of anger?
    Many have argued that what is left in this instance is merely a neutral , sterile intellectualized cognition devoid of feeling. But I would argue that almost all of what is essential in what we call feeling is already in this assessment, and all that has been lost is a certain bodily supportive energetics that aids in accomplishing the goals that the anger is directing us toward. Without the organized purposive assessment of the anger , all
    that is left is an arbitrary concatenation of reflexes with no inherent meaning. I would make the same point concerning fear or sadness. Fear is not primarily the adrenaline surge and quickened reflexes. Theses are merely the peripheral supports in service of an intentional assessment of a situation as threatening. The core of the feeling is the assessment , not the adrenaline rush.

    If your model defines emotion exclusively by reference to the peripheral reflexes and endocrine changes that accompany and serve the needs of affective assessments , then it will appear to you that emotion can be selectively eliminated from an experience without affecting the intentional meaning of situations.

    But I argue that thinking this way about affect leaves you with a hollow shell of arbitrary reductive causal mechanisms and misses the heart of the matter.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    Opinions don't have meanings, their just not the sort of thing it would make any sense to ascribe a meaning to. Words have meanings. Art has meanings, even actions sometimes have a meaning. Opinions don't.Isaac

    Another previously hidden crux of difference. It 'means' a completely and utterly different thing to think something than it does to say something.Isaac

    I think this is just another difference in our uses of language. When I talk about what it means to be of some opinion or another, I mean to talk about how to analyze the (phenomenological) state of mind of assenting to some proposition; which consequently is the same thing that that proposition means, since asserting that proposition is an attempt to get someone to adopt that same state of mind.

    Words don't transfer the contents of a state of mind. They do things. When I speak words to you it is with intention that they have some effect on you, not that they faithfully carry the contents of by state of mind like some binary code. It would be categorically impossible for them to do s because if they did you wouldn't know what they meant. It simply doesn't make sense to talk about words transferring anything.Isaac

    I'm not claiming that the words magically transfer the actual mind-contents like you seem to think I am. I'm talking about the same thing you were talking about when you said that A telling you to do X only communicates that A wants you to do X. (And then I'm asking "what is it for A to want you to do X? It can't be just A thinking that A thinks that A thinks [...] that he wants you to do X"... etc).

    My take on assertions of all kind, descriptive and prescriptive, is that they are trying to show the listener what attitudes toward what states of affairs the speaker holds, and pressure the listener to adopt those attitudes toward those states of affairs as well.

    (NB that "an attitude toward a state of affairs" is how I analyze "opinion" generally, where beliefs and intentions are two broad types of such opinion, differentiated by the direction of fit in their respective attitudes).

    You've either mixed subject here or this doesn't make sense. The thought "you should do X" seems to be referring to a second person, like "John should do X", but then you say it is equivalent to having the intention. One cannot have an intention for another. I cannot intend for John to do something. I can only only hope or strive to get john to do something. It doesn't make any sense at all for me to intend for him to, I don't control him.Isaac

    This sounds like a difference in our uses of language again. It sounds perfectly natural to my ear to speak either of desiring or intending to do something oneself, or desiring or intending that something be the case, including that someone else do something. I analyze the former into a subset of the latter, actually: to desire or intend to do something is to desire or intend that you be doing that thing.

    I'm saying "desire or intend" here not to suggest that those are the same thing as I understand them, but because I understand their usage to be parallel in this way (either can be to or that), and I'm curious if your (apparent) understanding that intent can only be to, not that, is paralleled in your understanding of desire. I.e. as you understand the words, can you only "desire to" do something, not "desire that" something be the case?

    all you do is tell them that you have such a beliefIsaac

    That's all I mean by "communicate" it. To convey to them what it is that you believe. And also, in the case of assertions (rather than merely expressions), to pressure them to believe likewise, though of course that's not going to magically force them to believe likewise.

    And likewise with intentions as with beliefs. My view is that moral assertions convey to others what you intend to be the case (i.e. what you judge to be proper to desire to be the case), and pressure them to intend likewise.

    I can go along with all that you've said above thisIsaac

    Well that's huge progress! :party: (No sarcasm, that makes me quite happy).

    you either haven't heard of or disagree with things like speech act theory and meaning as useIsaac

    My entire philosophy of language hinges entirely on speech act theory. And my epistemology of analytic a posteriori facts, i.e. facts about the meaning of words, is heavily about use as well. (More on this below).

    humans do not form beliefs via the process you outline here, so your assertion that it is the best of the available methods is as wrong as such assertions can ever beIsaac

    I don't see how you can infer from "it is not the case that humans tend to do this" to "it is not the case that humans should try to do this". That seemed to be the crux of our whole pattern of disagreement before, which I thought we had already cleared up earlier in this thread: that I'm not making claims about how people do actually think or behave, but advocating a way to try to think and behave.

    Basically, any such assessment is unlikely to yield anything other than the conclusion you wanted it to yield at the start, you'll simply interpret all the evidence you thus gain in a way that supports your initial feelings. I'd be very surprised if, after some global effort to do exactly this, a single person changed their behaviour as a result, certainly no large number would.Isaac

    If this was true it would seem that science should be impossible. Yet I don't think you think science is impossible, do you? The scientific consensus can change, as people honestly consider new evidence and change what they believe in light of it, right?

    We expect to be pleased and displeased by different things. We do not expect to see and hear a different reality. To the extent we are pleased and displeased by the same things, then I think there is some ground for ethical realismIsaac

    I'm glad you admit that we are pleased and displeased by the same things sometimes, so I don't have to argue that. Do you think that we do not expect to be pleased and displeased by those same kinds of things, or are you also affirming that in those cases we do also expect it? In my experience people seem to expect other people to have many of the same experiences of pleasure of displeasure at the same states of affairs, e.g. we see someone else undergo something that would hurt us and expect that it also hurts them, rather than just expecting that they're a different person so maybe they don't mind a fastball to the nose like we would.

    We do of course still have differences in what things do actually please or pain us, and I think that failing to properly account for those differences is part of the cause of some of our moral failings: sometimes people think "I wouldn't mind that, therefore they shouldn't", disregarding that the other person maybe is differently built and so experiences the same states of affairs differently, feels pain when they wouldn't, etc.

    But we also have differences in our sensations. The existence of colorblindness and tetrachromaticity doesn't undermine the objectivity of visual observation, it just means that we have to take note that the same things appear differently to people with differences in their vision. In more advanced kinds of observation than the naked eye, we routinely take explicit note of the measurement apparatus -- the observation just is the reaction of the apparatus to the system under study -- and our native senses are just our basic measurement apparatuses.

    In my vision for an ethical science, I advocate that we do just that for different kinds of hedonic experiences as well. It's actually not an objective fact that a certain apple looks red simpliciter, it's only a fact that it looks red to people with certain kinds of color vision, but that relationship between the people and the apples is objectively real. Likewise, in my moral system it would not be correct to claim that for anyone to undergo some particular event is always bad simpliciter, but only that it's bad for certain kinds of people to undergo those things, when they are the kinds of people who are hurt by undergoing those things. But it's still objectively bad for those kinds of people to undergo those kinds of things.

    Like I said earlier, both empirical and hedonic experiences tell a person both something about the world they're experiencing and something about themselves, because the experiences are all about, even constituted of, the interaction between the subject and the object of the experience. Empirical experiences tell us what looks true to a person like us. Hedonic experiences tell us what feels good to a person like us. Being objective about either just means giving an account that fits with all those different kinds of experiences of all those different kinds of people, in all their different situations, etc.

    Still, in a lot of cases, things would generally hurt most everyone, like the aforementioned fastball to the nose, so we could omit the qualifiers, just like we usually do with the colors of things assuming normal three-color vision. But the system can handle differences in the subjects undergoing the experiences and yet still aim for objectivity, in either case.

    In addition I think you're mistaken to imply that it is only at the level of affect that we can no longer easily intervene. We have hard-wired desires too. Many of the methods by which we think we'll most likely reach our target affect levels are either hard-wired from birth or are wired in very early childhood and practically impossible to budge later.Isaac

    That doesn't prevent us from judging those desires to be the wrong ones to have, in others or in ourselves. Even if our self-judgement can't be effective in changing our desires and thus our behavior, in the cases you're talking about, we can still sometimes be effective in preventing other people from acting on those desires, and a large part of the purpose of casting moral judgement is to decide when it's appropriate to interfere in someone else's behavior like that.

    Lastly, there are many intentions that are simply the result of society's mechanisms - emergent properties, and this is what the naturalism of people like Anscombe seeks to capture. You ought to pay the grocer after he delivers you potatoes, not because of any hedonic reason whatsoever, but because that's what 'ought' means in that culture. It means the position you're in after the grocer has delivered the potatoes. It's a function of culture, not of individual hedonic values.Isaac

    I don't understand what this is supposed to mean at all, unless it's just begging the question that complying with social expectations is what you ought to do.

    Or else, on second consideration, it may be something like my take on the assignment of ownership, part of the deontological level of my ethics (which we haven't gotten to yet), which is parallel to my take on the assignment of meaning to words in my epistemology. A part of that deontology deals with what we might loosely call "analytic goods" (not that I actually call them that -- I say "procedural duties", but that's not important right now), which hinge entirely on the assignment of ownership, in the same way that analytic truths hinge entirely on the assigned meaning of words.

    (An aside about the relationship of procedural duties to hedonic goods, and the analogous relationship of analytic to empirical truths)
    Both of these are only instrumental ways at arriving at an account of what is experientially true or good; neither of these are transcendent, they're just symbols, representations, proxies, of experiences. In my epistemology, we are to deal primarily in synthetic a posteriori knowledge, but can also abstract that into synthetic a priori knowledge, except that can't be publicly dealt with until it's translated into analytic a priori knowledge, which in turn depends on synthetic a posteriori knowledge of the meaning of words.

    Likewise, in my deontology, we are to deal primarily in distributive imperfect duties, which regard hedonic experiences in the same way that synthetic a posteriori knowledge regards empirical experiences, but we can also abstract from that into distributive perfect duties, which is basically "the golden rule", an exercise of empathy; except that can't be publicly dealt with until it's translated into procedural perfect duties, regarding rights, which in turn depends on procedural imperfect duties, regarding the ownership of property.


    Just as in my epistemology, the "true meaning" of words is determined by a history of uncontested usage or else explicit agreement on a change of meaning, so too in my deontology the "true ownership" of properties is determined by a history of uncontested usage or else explicit agreement on a change of ownership. And just as agreeing to change the meaning of the word "bachelor" can change whether it's analytically true that "all bachelors are unmarried", agreeing to change the ownership of property can change who has what rights over what. If you and the grocer agree to trade some potatoes for some money, you have agreed that upon delivery of the potatoes the money becomes his property, so when he delivers the potatoes, the money now just is his property, "analytically" (by analogy), and you have no claims over it anymore.

    If that's what Anscombe means then I agree with that, but I don't see that as a kind of naturalism, because just as the meaning of words is not a natural fact but only a social construct (you can't examine a word and figure out what it means; you can only examine what people take it to mean), so too is the ownership of property (if we all forgot and lost all other record about what we decided to treat as the property of whom, there would be no way to examine the property itself and see who it belongs to). That words mean things and property belongs to people are kind of like useful fictions, and it's a natural fact that people tell those fictions, just like it's a natural fact that Ancient Greeks told the myths they did, but the content of those social constructs is no more a part of nature than the behavior of mythical unicorns is: they are all strictly unreal.
  • Isaac
    4.3k
    Can a variable outside a markov blanket be defined by a property in an objective sense, the way we would define a physical stimulus in terms of its own properties, independent of its interaction with a specific organismic systemJoshs

    No. The act of definition would only be possible by inference and so be dependent on the last variable node inside our Markov blanket. This doesn't prevent us from assuming it in our models though.

    I don’t know if you’re familiar with the concept of structural coupling , but it specifies that the environment with which an organism interacts , including all of the outside variables that it can surprise an organism with, cannot be defined independently of the functioning of that organism.Joshs

    Yes, I'm familiar with the approach, but there's a difference between definition and nodal location in a systems model. Active inference approaches are not trying to define hidden states, they are assuming their existence as a model of how we interact with our environment.

    Do you agree with the above?Joshs

    I can't say as I can make much sense of the above, but I'll have a go

    living systems seek equilibrium, in Merleau-Ponty’s words, “with respect to conditions which are only virtual and which the system itself brings into existence; when the [system] . . . executes a work beyond its proper limits and constitutes a proper milieu for itself.Joshs

    ...this seems to be laying out active inference, just in a more philosophical sense. The system seeks equilibrium, not with hidden sates (it can't access them) but with interpretations of hidden states, using Bayesian models.

    whereas physical structures can be expressed by a law, living structures have to be comprehended in relation to norms: “each organism, in the presence of a given milieu, has its optimal conditions of activity and its proper manner of realizing equilibrium,”and every living being “modifies its milieu according to the internal norms of its activity.”Joshs

    ...sounds like social constructivism. again, I don't have much of a problem with that, but our models must interact with something, they must be initiated by something, and so that something's properties will be somehow imprinted, even if neither accurately nor exhaustively.

    “...autopoiesis (in a broad sense that includes adapativity) is the “self-production of an inside that also specifies an outside to which it is normatively related,” and thus that autopoiesis is best seen as the “dynamic co-emergence of interiority and exteriority.” “the (self) generation of an inside is ontologically prior to the dichotomy in- out. It is the inside that generates the asymmetry and it is in relation to this inside that an outside can be established.”Joshs

    ...same caveat as above, we act on something to do this and that something will leave it's print. This is not idealism.

    if you do disagree, do you think most cognitive psychologists also disagree, based on ‘empirical evidence’? If so, you should also keep in mind where the embodied approach to cognition that researchers like Barrett embrace got its start. One of its key inspirations was the 1991 book, The Embodied Mind , co-written by Francisco Varela and Evan Thompson, who happen to be leading the segment within the cognitivist community advocating for the changes in psychological modelling I’ve described.Joshs

    I don't read Thompson as advocating anything in opposition to people like Feldman Barrett and Seth. enavctivism is almost exactly what is being described in active inference approaches to perception, and the embodied mind concept is referenced frequently by Feldman Barrett. I've read Thompson, I'm just not seeing the differences you seem to be seeing.

    I can direct you to papers by enactivist researchers like Francisco Varela , Matthew Ratcliffe and Shaun GallagherJoshs

    I've read some of Varela's work, but if you've anything relevant I'd appreciate it. The other two are philosophers. Not that that's a bad thing, but we were talking about predictive hypotheses arising from Kelly's model which have been successful in some way, so we're not going to get that from philosophers are we?

    These are not examples of selective disruption of affectivity,Joshs

    No. That's not what you asked for. You asked for "an example of what it would be like to have a conversation with someone in this situation".

    Why would they care if the word brought them a cup? Because they wanted a cup.Joshs

    Asking for a cup in consequence of wanting a cup is not the same as caring about getting the cup. If I program a computer to make the noise "battery" every time it's low on power, it will have the effect of ensuring the computer remains powered (assuming a compliant human listening). The computer may or may not care whether it gets power, depending on how it's been programmed.

    This is a central issue I have with phenomenological approaches. they take, quite unreasonably, the starting point that they way one thinks one's mental processes function, is in some way informative of the way they actually do function. I just don't see any good reason for that assumption.

    are goals and desires ever devoid of affectivityJoshs

    I don't see any necessary link, no.

    Kelly has a peculiar definition of anger. He says that it is a response to someone who disappoints us by violating an expectation we had of themJoshs

    It isn't. The whole reason why Feldman Barrett began her investigation is that there was no empirical support (despite decades of effort) for the concept that any emotions come from any particular triggers, social ,psychological nor physiological. there's just no consistent pattern of relationship with any factor or set of factors that have been tested for.

    I would argue that almost all of what is essential in what we call feeling is already in this assessment, and all that has been lost is a certain bodily supportive energetics that aids in accomplishing the goals that the anger is directing us toward.Joshs

    Yes. I have some sympathy with that way of looking at it, so I suppose in that sense one could say that if an 'emotion' is a combination of cognitive a physiological sates, then just as we could remove the physiological states and say the emotion is no longer there, we could do say and say it is (on the grounds that most of it is). I supposes it just depends on how many component parts you're willing to lose. A ship without a sail is still a ship, but without a sail, a hull, a rudder and a deck, it's starting to look less and less like one.

    If your model defines emotion exclusively by reference to the peripheral reflexes and endocrine changes that accompany and serve the needs of affective assessmentsJoshs

    It doesn't. You've either misunderstood or misread Feldman Barrett. The point is not that emotions 'are' these endocrine states, it's that emotions are our models of the causes of them, and crucially, interactive models - ones which themselves modify those states to better fit the model as much as the modify the model to better fit the states.
  • Isaac
    4.3k
    When I talk about what it means to be of some opinion or another, I mean to talk about how to analyze the (phenomenological) state of mind of assenting to some proposition; which consequently is the same thing that that proposition means, since asserting that proposition is an attempt to get someone to adopt that same state of mind.Pfhorrest

    That's then not speech act theory or meaning as use. It's claiming that the meaning of a word is the psychological state it somehow embodies. Just because sometimes I might use a word to get someone to an intent, it doesn't make the meaning of that word the same as the intent I'm trying to get them to adopt. Let's say you're right and the meaning of the expression "do X" was the same as my intention 'do X'. How would I ever learn how to use the expression "do X"? I can't see inside other people's minds to compare intents, I can't show people my mind and ask them if I'm using the term correctly. So how could I possibly know that "do X" would refer, in conversation, to the intent 'do X' in my mind?

    My take on assertions of all kind, descriptive and prescriptive, is that they are trying to show the listener what attitudes toward what states of affairs the speaker holdsPfhorrest

    How? As above. If I wanted to do this, how would I ever learn what words to pick to achieve the task?

    It sounds perfectly natural to my ear to speak either of desiring or intending to do something oneself, or desiring or intending that something be the case, including that someone else do something.Pfhorrest

    I agree, but that's not what you said. Desiring that John do X is not the same as intending that John do X. If I desire that John do X I might intend to persuade him, show him, or force him, but I can't simply intend that he does. Intent is a plan of action, it can only refer to that which is in my control.

    I'm curious if your (apparent) understanding that intent can only be to, not that, is paralleled in your understanding of desire. I.e. as you understand the words, can you only "desire to" do something, not "desire that" something be the case?Pfhorrest

    Hopefully answered above.

    That's all I mean by "communicate" it. To convey to them what it is that you believe. And also, in the case of assertions (rather than merely expressions), to pressure them to believe likewise, though of course that's not going to magically force them to believe likewise.Pfhorrest

    Right. But earlier you expressly denied that such moral language only gave the listener fact for them to do with as they will."what it is that you believe" is just a fact about you, as is your trustworthiness. So all we have is facts about the world.

    My entire philosophy of language hinges entirely on speech act theory. And my epistemology of analytic a posteriori facts, i.e. facts about the meaning of words, is heavily about use as well.Pfhorrest

    See my opening paragraphs for why I don't think your approach fits with either philosophy.

    I don't see how you can infer from "it is not the case that humans tend to do this" to "it is not the case that humans should try to do this".Pfhorrest

    Relatively straightforward answer to this...ever come across the well-quoted definition of madness?

    If this was true it would seem that science should be impossible.Pfhorrest

    See below about the difference in what we expect. we expect a shared world as an external source of perceptions, we don't expect a shared external source of hedonic satisfaction. It's a simple as that. We're born that way (or at least as far back as we can test - six month old so far).

    Do you think that we do not expect to be pleased and displeased by those same kinds of things, or are you also affirming that in those cases we do also expect it?Pfhorrest

    Yes, we learn to expect it, but it's not hard-wired like the expectation of an external source of sensory inputs seems to be. The expectation can take as much a three or four years to develop.

    we see someone else undergo something that would hurt us and expect that it also hurts them, rather than just expecting that they're a different person so maybe they don't mind a fastball to the nose like we would.Pfhorrest

    Many two year olds would expect exactly that (the latter), yet none expect that, say, nociception is caused by their skin and not by some external object interacting with it.

    The existence of colorblindness and tetrachromaticity doesn't undermine the objectivity of visual observation, it just means that we have to take note that the same things appear differently to people with differences in their vision.Pfhorrest

    Those differences are not fully systemic though. People with colour-blindness still have the same occipital cortex areas linked in the same way to object recognition and spatio-temporal areas, which, in turn are linked to motor control areas to interact with the external world. they're still wired to assume a shared external-world source of their greyscale scene. so when people talk about colours and seem to act differently to what appears to be the same shade of grey, the colour-blind person starts to assume they're missing something. Which is how colour-blindness became know as a condition. Otherwise, how would the colour-blind person know there was anything wrong?

    This is not the same as difference in affect valence targets. There's no connections to sensorimotor systems with the intent of manipulating some external-world source. we expect, and are wired to expect, that these are internally caused, specific to us, not necessarily shared, and so we've no cause to assume our desires in that respect have any source other than our own bodies.

    It's actually not an objective fact that a certain apple looks red simpliciter, it's only a fact that it looks red to people with certain kinds of color vision, but that relationship between the people and the apples is objectively real. Likewise, in my moral system it would not be correct to claim that for anyone to undergo some particular event is always bad simpliciter, but only that it's bad for certain kinds of people to undergo those things, when they are the kinds of people who are hurt by undergoing those things. But it's still objectively bad for those kinds of people to undergo those kinds of things.Pfhorrest

    The difference here, and it's really important, is that the apple looks red to certain people on account of some property of the apple (in this case the response of its skin to light). This si not the case with the bad event. the bad event does not feel bad to certain people because of some property of the event. The event is largely immaterial. It feels bad mostly because of the response of the person at the time. It might easily have not, even to the same person. There are parameters which are very likely to feel bad to all people (though to different degrees), but calling them 'bad' on this basis would be arbitrary. Why not call our response to them 'bad'. why change the events and not our response? we don't care if the apple is red or blue, so changing our response to believe the apple to be blue (this can actually be done with some senses), is pointless. Not so with negative hedonic responses. We've an incentive to avoid them, but we've two methods available to us. Change the event, or change our response. How do we choose which?

    Empirical experiences tell us what looks true to a person like us. Hedonic experiences tell us what feels good to a person like us. Being objective about either just means giving an account that fits with all those different kinds of experiences of all those different kinds of people, in all their different situations, etc.Pfhorrest

    No. See above. There's neither the incentive nor the 'wiring' to change our response to empirical experiences such that things feel true. The feeling of truth is aimed at predictive success. There is both the incentive and the 'wiring' to feel 'good' about whatever hedonic experiences we're exposed to, rather than simply accept their first impression.

    That doesn't prevent us from judging those desires to be the wrong ones to have, in others or in ourselves.Pfhorrest

    It does really. What would a 'wrong' desire be other than a desire not to have that desire?

    Or else, on second consideration, it may be something like my take on the assignment of ownership, part of the deontological level of my ethics (which we haven't gotten to yet), which is parallel to my take on the assignment of meaning to words in my epistemology. A part of that deontology deals with what we might loosely call "analytic goods" (not that I actually call them that -- I say "procedural duties", but that's not important right now), which hinge entirely on the assignment of ownership, in the same way that analytic truths hinge entirely on the assigned meaning of words.Pfhorrest

    No. But an interesting read nonetheless. I won't comment on it her as it's off-topic.

    If you and the grocer agree to trade some potatoes for some money, you have agreed that upon delivery of the potatoes the money becomes his property, so when he delivers the potatoes, the money now just is his property, "analytically" (by analogy), and you have no claims over it anymore.Pfhorrest

    So this is true, but...

    If that's what Anscombe meansPfhorrest

    Not only that, but that the word 'ought' picks out this naturally/culturally occurring state. what we mean by 'ought' is that state. Thus the question often asked of naturalist ethical approaches "yes, but did we 'ought' to behave that way, just because it's social convention that we do" is dissolved. The question makes no sense because it's using the word 'ought' whilst at the same time claiming to not know what the word means.
  • Joshs
    1.3k


    I don't read Thompson as advocating anything in opposition to people like Feldman Barrett and Seth. enavctivism is almost exactly what is being described in active inference approaches to perception, and the embodied mind concept is referenced frequently by Feldman Barrett. I've read Thompson, I'm just not seeing the differences you seem to be seeing.Isaac

    Thompson seemed to be pretty thrilled when he announced on his twitter feed a research paper which he co-authored purporting to show that predictive
    processing can’t account for affective selection bias.

    He wrote:
    “ Exciting news: predictive processing theory can't explain affect-biased attention: “

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S001002772030189X?via%3Dihub

    As you would expect, defenders of pp almost
    immediately denied that the paper represented
    any sort of refutation of the model as a whole. I’m just pointing g out that , while Andy Clark hopes that active inference models will unite representationalist and dynamical, non-representationalist factions within the cognitivist community, phenomenologically-oriented enactivists like Thompson believe that active inference suffers from the drawbacks they associate with predictive processing.

    “ What goes on strictly inside the head never as such
    counts as a cognitive process. It counts only as a participant in a cognitive process that exists as a relation between the system and its environment. Cognition is not an event happening inside the system; it is the relational process of sense-making that takes place between the system and its environment. In Maturana and Varela’s language (1980, 1987), cognition belongs to the ‘relational domain’ in which the system as a unity relates to the wider context of its milieu, not to the ‘operational domain’ of the system’s internal states (e.g., its brain states). Of course, what goes on inside the system is crucial for enabling the system’s cognitive or sense-making relation to its environment, but to call internal processes as such cognitive is to confuse levels of discourse or to make a category mistake (neurons do not think and feel; people and animals do).

    Intentionality is always a relation to that which transcends the present state of the system (where what
    transcends the system does not have to exist in the sense of being a real entity). In saying that the mind is intentional, phenomenologists imply that the mind is relational. ‘Being- in-the-world’ (Heidegger) and the ‘lived body-environment’ (Merleau-Ponty) are different ways of articulating this kind of relation. The spatial containment language of internal/external or inside/outside (which frames the internalist/externalist debate) is inappropriate and misleading for understanding the peculiar sort of relationality
    belonging to intentionality, the lived body, or being-in-the- world. As Heidegger says, a living being is ‘in’ its world in a completely different sense from that of water being in a glass (Heidegger 1995, pp. 165–166).“

    This is a central issue I have with phenomenological approaches. they take, quite unreasonably, the starting point that they way one thinks one's mental processes function, is in some way informative of the way they actually do function. I just don't see any good reason for that assumptionIsaac

    Let’s change the wording of this statement to make it about science: the way one’s theory makes sense of empirical phenomena is in some way informative of the way phenomena actually function. You might be inclined to add, yes, as long as the theory undergoes proper experimental validation. The key concept here, then, is ‘actually function’. So hypothesis and assumption is being contrasted here with the actuality of empirical reality. This doesn’t sound particularly Kuhnian to me. I think he would argue that the ‘actuality’ of empirical fact is not something that we can separate from a value system within which such facts emerge as what they are. He would add that within a particular meta-theoretical framework it is useful to make use of empirical results to adjudicate between competing hypotheses, but between meta-theories , deferring to the ‘actual’ facts is not helpful since the competing meta-theories will not agree on what constitutes the relevant data, not to mention method.

    Phenomenology doesn’t ignore the empirical facts, it investigates the conditions of possibility making something like empirical objectivity possibility. It does this neither in the guise of an idealism nor a realism but as a radical interactionism. The idea of the true world being hidden behind the veil of apparent experience is a very Cartesian notion , but in postmodern thought , it turns out the only true world is the apparent world , that is, the constructed one.

    Asking for a cup in consequence of wanting a cup is not the same as caring about getting the cup. If I program a computer to make the noise "battery" every time it's low on power, it will have the effect of ensuring the computer remains powered (assuming a compliant human listening). The computer may or may not care whether it gets power, depending on how it's been programmed.Isaac

    I’m not sure what your point is here. Are you saying that we don’t know whether someone is a machine rather than a human merely on the basis of their asking for a cup? I’d agree with that. The point is that the difference between a living system and a computer is that a living system is a self-organized anticipatory whole. The human asking for a cup is making a request against a background of concerns and goals. I can’t assume I know beforehand in what sense they ‘care’ about the cup, but it has some relevance to their ongoing concerns or else they wouldnt have mentioned it.
    Motivated behaviors don’t exist in humans as disconnected modules of activity , but as reciprocally interrconnected aspects of an integrated holistically functioning system.
  • Joshs
    1.3k
    There's neither the incentive nor the 'wiring' to change our response to empirical experiences such that things feel true. The feeling of truth is aimed at predictive success. There is both the incentive and the 'wiring' to feel 'good' about whatever hedonic experiences we're exposed to, rather than simply accept their first impression.Isaac


    I would say the feeling of truth and the feeling of hedonic satisfaction are inseparably co-implied. Truth isnt a match between inside and outside, it’s a teleological oriented goal of fulfillment of expectations that is never fully satisfied, but can be progressively approximated. Things that are true can always appear truer, because we have an inexhaustible ability to reconstrue our interpretations of the world of events to make them more and more intricately and multi-dimensionally consistent with our anticipations. Theprogressive satisfaction of anticipations is precisely what hedonic valence is oriented around. So if you want to know the path of true happiness, it is the identical path and vector of anticipatory sense-making. I know we’ve already hashed this out, but I have an impulsive need to be a pain in the ass. But this is my op, and if I can’t be a pain in the ass in my own op, where can I be one?
  • Isaac
    4.3k
    Thompson seemed to be pretty thrilled when he announced on his twitter feed a research paper which he co-authored purporting to show that predictive
    processing can’t account for affective selection bias.

    He wrote:
    “ Exciting news: predictive processing theory can't explain affect-biased attention: “

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S001002772030189X?via%3Dihub

    As you would expect, defenders of pp almost
    immediately denied that the paper represented
    any sort of refutation of the model as a whole. I’m just pointing g out that , while Andy Clark hopes that active inference models will unite representationalist and dynamical, non-representationalist factions within the cognitivist community, phenomenologically-oriented enactivists like Thompson believe that active inference suffers from the drawbacks they associate with predictive processing.
    Joshs

    That's fair enough, if those are the arguments you're making (It didn't seem to me that this is what you were arguing - your style is somewhat opaque for me). My comment was really about the prevailing trend, not the complete absence of outliers (Thompson's article has 4 citations, Seth and Friston's latest article on the same topic has 86 - to give some idea of the take up of these ideas in the community)

    Needless to say, I think the paper does not show what it purports to. Thompson Gives a good summary here.

    there are two points that speak against this solution. First, it faces a similar problem as that of endogenous attention. We should not have a high precision expectation that our decision to attend will lead to the sighting of the dog, given the infrequency with which it is actually in the yard. Second, following the arguments of Ransom, Fazelpour, and Mole (2017), PP theory does not provide a coherent account of voluntary attention. Any increased precision in the sensory input will be merely a consequence of attending,rather than what is driving attention. This is because, while it is true that attending to something will, by a sort of ‘self-fulfilling prophecy,’increase the precision of the prediction error associated with that hypothesis, it cannot be a precision expectation that is driving the decision to attend to that particular object. We will have equivalent precision expectations for all objects; no matter if we attend to this or that object, the precision will be enhanced in either case. So precision expectations cannot be what is responsible for driving voluntary attention (c.f.Clark,2017). There is therefore no way to explain the selective orientation of attention in terms of precision expectations, given the current PP conceptualization of attention.

    Firstly, he's misunderstood the scale of surprise-minimising perceptive attention. Most studies like Seth and Friston's are dealing with individual saccades, not large-scale decisions. It's about where to move focus in the next saccade to minimise predictive error about the object (of even just edge/corner feature). It's not about a decision to look into a yard to check for a Doberman.

    Second, he's misinterpreted the position on voluntary actions (which is about looking into a particular yard to check if there's a Doberman). No-one in active inference is claiming that a reduction of surprise in a single model can account fo any macro scale behaviour. So defeating such a claim is defeating a straw man. Friston, for example, is abundantly clear that "There are multiple hierarchical models all interacting to produce the final action state". And when he says multiple he means literally hundreds, not just two or three.

    As I said before, this is the problem with phenomenological approaches. They confuse the effect, as it seems to us, with the mechanism that produces that effect. That it feels like we're paying attention to the yard with the doberman in it, doesn't therefore mean there's this single property of our brain called 'attention' which is somehow neurologically directed to the single entity called 'yard with a Doberman in it'. That's how we experience it. Theories like active inference are trying to understand the mechanisms, they means by which the brain makes us feel that way. To simply assume the means must be representative of the end result is naive at best, if not downright lazy thinking.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    That's then not speech act theory or meaning as use. It's claiming that the meaning of a word is the psychological state it somehow embodies.Isaac

    I'm not claiming that the meaning of any particular word just is identical to a psychological state, but only that some of the many different things you can do with language generally, with your combinations of words, is to convey to someone else an understanding of what you think or feel about something, as well as try to get them to think or feel likewise, or try to get them to convey to you what they think or feel about something, or just convey your lack of commitment to (and openness to suggestions about) any particular thoughts or feelings about that.

    And in any of those cases, the thoughts of feelings being imperfectly bandied about by proxy of our various grunts and scribbles might be thoughts or feelings either regarding what is the case, i.e. thoughts or feelings that some picture we've tried to paint with our words is to be used as a representation of the world; or they may be thoughts of feelings that some such picture is to be used as a blueprint from which to remake the world.

    That last distinction is the "direction of fit" distinction that my entire moral semantics hinges on, and it comes directly from speech act theory. Austin was the first to use the term as such, Searle did most of the development of it since, and he claims that Anscombe gave perhaps the best illustration of it, in this passage:

    Let us consider a man going round a town with a shopping list in his hand. Now it is clear that the relation of this list to the things he actually buys is one and the same whether his wife gave him the list or it is his own list; and that there is a different relation where a list is made by a detective following him about. If he made the list itself, it was an expression of intention; if his wife gave it him, it has the role of an order. What then is the identical relation to what happens, in the order and the intention, which is not shared by the record? It is precisely this: if the list and the things that the man actually buys do not agree, and if this and this alone constitutes a mistake, then the mistake is not in the list but in the man's performance (if his wife were to say: “Look, it says butter and you have bought margarine”, he would hardly reply: “What a mistake! we must put that right” and alter the word on the list to “margarine”); whereas if the detective's record and what the man actually buys do not agree, then the mistake is in the record — Anscombe

    How? As above. If I wanted to do this, how would I ever learn what words to pick to achieve the task?Isaac

    Rather than me speculating about how people learn the meanings of words, I'd like to ask you what exactly you think is so strange about what I'm suggesting, because it seems to me that you think I'm saying something very weird while I'm trying to say something very mundane. We have words that refer to things like rocks and trees and tables and chairs and cars and houses, and actions like walking and talking and fighting. I imagine you have no problem with those kinds of words being learnable somehow or another, right? We also have words that refer to mental things, emotions like joy, anger, sorrow, calm, and states like certainty, doubt, and yes belief, and intention. You don't think that it's impossible to learn what those words mean because they refer to psychological things, do you? (I imagine not).

    If you have no problem with it being possible to learn those kinds of words, then consider this hypothetical conversation. Alice says to Bob, "people killing each other". Those words provoke Bob to imagine some groups of men shooting at each other, the first example of people killing each other that comes to his mind; but that's not a complete sentence Alice said, so Bob isn't sure of Alice's meaning, and he asks her "What about people killing each other?"

    Alice says "It happens." Bob understands now: Alice is asserting that people do kill each other. (We could analyze this as that Alice is showing that she thinks the picture of people killing each other painted by the words "people killing each other" is fit for use as a representation of the world, and that she is suggesting that Bob think likewise.) Bob agrees, so he says "Oh yes, that's true. People kill each other."

    Then Alice says "But that shouldn't happen." Those words, plus the pre-established image of people killing each other they're referring to, prompt Bob to understand that Alice is also asserting that people ought not kill each other. (We could analyze this as that Alice is showing that she thinks the picture of people killing each other painted by the words "people killing each other" is unfit for use as a blueprint for how to remake the world, and that she suggesting that Bob think likewise.) Bob agrees with that too, so he says "Yeah, it's bad. People shouldn't kill each other."

    The potential state of affairs gestured to with the words is the same in all the cases in that conversation: some people somehow killing some other people. What is it about the meaning of the whole series of words that you think changes when the word "killing" gets changed to "do kill" or to "ought not kill"? I think it's the attitude toward that potential state of affairs that is being conveyed, the use that the picture painted by the words is being put to.

    All of this is completely separate from whether or not Bob would be right to adopt either of the attitudes that Alice is suggesting he adopt toward that state of affairs. I think the criteria Bob should rationally consider would be different, but in important ways similar, for each of of those two different attitudes toward that state of affairs that Alice is suggesting he adopt.

    I agree, but that's not what you said. Desiring that John do X is not the same as intending that John do X. If I desire that John do X I might intend to persuade him, show him, or force him, but I can't simply intend that he does. Intent is a plan of action, it can only refer to that which is in my control.Isaac

    As I said, I think this is just a difference in our understanding of language. To my ear it would not sound strange at all if, say, the writer of a movie said on a commentary track "I intended that this scene would be the exact center point of the film, but an executive producer insisted on cutting a bunch from the end and re-inserting some of it as foreshadowing at the beginning, so now this scene that should have been the midpoint is almost at the end." He intended that something be the case, but it was not completely within his control to make it the case, so it ended up not being the case. He himself did all the things he intended to do, but the state of affairs he was aiming for by those actions nevertheless was not realized because of factors outside his control.

    (Note also the use of "should" there, to indicate again what his intention, the state of affairs he was aiming to bring about, was. I didn't put that in on purpose or to make a point, that's just the first and most natural way of phrasing the sentence that came to mind.)

    If this use of "intent" sounds weird to you, what can I say, but FWIW the first entry of the first dictionary that pops up when I just google 'intend' says "to have in mind as a purpose or goal", and in any case that's the sense that I mean, so please understand the words I write in that sense and not another. (Also please keep in mind my own technical differentiation between "intent" and "desire" in my philosophical system that we're discussing. If you have suggestions for better words to encapsulate the difference between them, my ears are open.)

    But earlier you expressly denied that such moral language only gave the listener fact for them to do with as they will."what it is that you believe" is just a fact about you, as is your trustworthiness. So all we have is facts about the world.Isaac

    But if one of those facts about the world is about someone holding a prescriptive attitude toward some state of affairs, and the other fact is about the odds of that person's attitudes towards states of affairs being the correct ones to hold, then what you end up with is the adoption of a prescriptive attitude toward a state of affairs, not merely a descriptive attitude toward the state of affairs of another person's mind. The fact of the other person having a particular state of mind is not the thing they are trying to convince you of by their speech, that's just the packaging. The content of that state of mind they have is the thing they're trying to convince you of, and if you don't understand what it is to adopt that state of mind, you can't unpackage the contents of the fact it's delivered in: if you don't know what it is to think "this ought to be the case", you only know what it is to think that someone thinks "this ought to be the case" without having any idea what that means, then it will be impossible for them to communicate that to you.

    You, Isaac, talk here like you are not capable of understanding "what's in the box", so to speak, or even that there is anything in the box, but I can't imagine that that could actually be the case and yet you somehow manage to function well enough in society to live the life it sounds like you've lived. Instead, I can only speculate that you're willfully refusing for ideological reasons to talk about what's in the box, and insisting on treating the box like it is the content rather than just the packaging.

    I don't see how you can infer from "it is not the case that humans tend to do this" to "it is not the case that humans should try to do this". — Pfhorrest

    Relatively straightforward answer to this...ever come across the well-quoted definition of madness?
    Isaac

    Are you suggesting that it's madness to try to get you to ever explain this inexplicable jump of the is-ought gap? Because I'm starting to agree.

    See below about the difference in what we expect. we expect a shared world as an external source of perceptions, we don't expect a shared external source of hedonic satisfaction. It's a simple as that. We're born that way (or at least as far back as we can test - six month old so far).Isaac
    Yes, we learn to expect it, but it's not hard-wired like the expectation of an external source of sensory inputs seems to be. The expectation can take as much a three or four years to develop.Isaac

    All you're saying here is that people are more naturally inclined to do similarly to what I advise regarding empirical realism than regarding hedonistic altruism; but, as you say, we can learn what we're not born with. That's not contrary to any of my claims, and is actually a great explanation for why socio-philosophical development in the latter case has lagged so far behind what's happened in the former case: there's a lot more ground that we're not pre-programmed for that has to be covered to get to a working methodology going in widespread practice.

    Speaking of "programming", what I'm advocating is not meant to be a description of how people are inclined to function, but rather it's meant to be something we would teach people to do, or program AIs to do. I think AI programming is a perfect context for understanding what the use of philosophy in general is. Philosophy is about coming up with ideal or optimal methods of pursuing answers to questions of various kinds, and all the conceptual framework necessitates by such frameworks, and thinking of it like an AI programming exercise really brings that to the forefront.

    Not so with negative hedonic responses. We've an incentive to avoid them, but we've two methods available to us. Change the event, or change our response. How do we choose which?Isaac

    As I've already said, I don't advocate for either one or the other. Either would suffice, and which is better in a given case would depend on other factors. (Well, mostly one: efficiency. Which is the parallel to the parsimony I never got a chance to talk about in my epistemology). It's all about the relationship between them, both in the descriptive and the prescriptive cases.

    The descriptive case is all about figuring out what kinds of observations would be made by what kinds of observers in what kinds of contexts. If you change the system under observation without changing the observer, you'll get a different observation, and your model should say so; and also if you change the observer without changing the system under observation, you'll get a different observation, and your model should say so. The model should say only that it's true that a particular kind of observer in a particular context will make a particular observation; observer-independent models cannot be objective because the observations depend on the observer as much as the system under observation, and trying to be "observer-independent" in this way (independent of their observations, rather than just their perceptions or beliefs) ends up just assuming things about the observer. You can only approach objectivity by trying to account for what all observers would observe in all contexts.

    (This is simultaneously being said by others in the intersubjectivity thread).

    Likewise, the prescriptive case is all about figuring out what kinds of appetites would be (dis)satisfied for what kinds of subjects in what kinds of contexts. If you change the event being experienced without changing the subject, you'll get a different experience, and your model should say so; and also if you change the subject without changing the event, you'll get a different experience, and your model should say so. The model should say only that it's good that a particular kind of subject in a particular context has a particular experience; subject-independent models cannot be objective because the experiences depend on the subject as much as the event being experienced, and trying to be "subject-independent" in this way (independent of their experiences, rather than just their desires or intentions) ends up just assuming things about the subject. You can only approach objectivity by trying to account for what all subjects would experience in all contexts.

    What would a 'wrong' desire be other than a desire not to have that desire?Isaac

    It seems like you've forgotten already the technical definitions of "appetite", "desire", and "intention" that I use in my philosophy; as well as the parallel set of "sensation", "perception", and "belief". Ignore for the moment appetites and sensations, it's the second and third of each set we're focused on here.

    In my scheme, an "intention" and a "belief" are each reflexive or second-order forms of "desires" and "perceptions", respectively. Each of them requires that you have awareness of your first-order states of mind, that you can perceive that you are perceiving and desiring certain things; and then also that you pass judgement on those first-order states of mind, that you desire to perceive and desire in that way or else differently.

    So yes, on my account an intention, i.e. a "moral belief", is a second-order a desire, it's a desire that you desire to desire. This is more or less the same as Harry Frankfurt's conception of "will": your will is what you want to want. And yes, you could in turn have desires about your desires about your desires, ad infinitum, the more you thought over your decision-making process. Your intention, or will in Frankfurt's terms, is whatever the top level of that is: whatever you've concluded, after however much thought you've given it, that you want to want to want... etc.

    Why to want things, and thus what to want to want, i.e. what to intend, i.e. what "moral beliefs" to hold, is a separate question from just what it is to have a "moral belief" / intention. Just like what to believe generally, descriptively, is a separate question from what it is to have a belief. (My answer in both cases, to the "what to think" questions, which we've been over and over already, could be summarized as "heed your experiences... and everyone else's too".)

    (Again, think back like you are raising a child, or programming an AI. How do you want the child or AI to go about making these decisions, either about what is real, or about what is moral? How, generally, do you intend people to make those kinds of decisions -- regardless of how you believe that they in fact do make them? Now look at yourself in the third person, like you are parenting yourself, and ask: are you making those kinds of decisions in the way you want people in general to make them? Would you try to get someone else, who makes decisions the way that you do, to change the way they do that? If so, try to get yourself to change the way you do that, like you would anyone else.)

    Or else, on second consideration, it may be something like my take on the assignment of ownership, part of the deontological level of my ethics (which we haven't gotten to yet), which is parallel to my take on the assignment of meaning to words in my epistemology. A part of that deontology deals with what we might loosely call "analytic goods" (not that I actually call them that -- I say "procedural duties", but that's not important right now), which hinge entirely on the assignment of ownership, in the same way that analytic truths hinge entirely on the assigned meaning of words. — Pfhorrest

    No. But an interesting read nonetheless. I won't comment on it her as it's off-topic.

    If you and the grocer agree to trade some potatoes for some money, you have agreed that upon delivery of the potatoes the money becomes his property, so when he delivers the potatoes, the money now just is his property, "analytically" (by analogy), and you have no claims over it anymore. — Pfhorrest

    So this is true, but...

    If that's what Anscombe means — Pfhorrest

    Not only that, but that the word 'ought' picks out this naturally/culturally occurring state. what we mean by 'ought' is that state. Thus the question often asked of naturalist ethical approaches "yes, but did we 'ought' to behave that way, just because it's social convention that we do" is dissolved. The question makes no sense because it's using the word 'ought' whilst at the same time claiming to not know what the word means.
    Isaac

    This part of the conversation is getting a bit ahead of the rest of it, but I want to clarify that my account that I gave there is very much not just about any arbitrary social convention, but rather about methodological justification in the pursuit of hedonic goods, a part of which involves mutual agreement to divide up who gets to make decisions about what. (The link between those was the part you didn't comment on). Here you seem to be saying that Anscombe means the same thing that I mean, but then describing her meaning in a way contrary to what I meant.

    In any case, regardless of what Anscombe meant, I see here a parallel with different senses of "true". Is it true that all bachelors are unmarried? Is there anything in actual reality that could confirm or deny that? It is true, but it's a kind of "truth" that's completely detached from empirical reality. Yet we can nevertheless be hardcore empiricists, and still acknowledge that it's true -- somehow in a way seemingly unconnected to empirical reality but also not at all contrary to empiricism -- that all bachelors are unmarried. In a way that still doesn't license people to get together and arbitrarily agree that any old thing is true and thereby "make it true".

    Likewise, on my account of rights and their relationship to property, and the relationship of all of that to hedonistic altruism, the shopper "ought" to pay the grocer the agreed-upon amount, in a way that's completely detached from hedonism, yet we can nevertheless be hardcore hedonists and still acknowledge that he ought to -- somehow in a way seemingly unconnected to hedonistic morality but also not at all contrary to hedonism -- pay the grocer. In a way that still doesn't license people to get together and arbitrarily agree that any old thing is good and thereby "make it good".
  • Isaac
    4.3k
    I'm not claiming that the meaning of any particular word just is identical to a psychological state, but only that some of the many different things you can do with language generally, with your combinations of words, is to convey to someone else an understanding of what you think or feel about something, as well as try to get them to think or feel likewise,Pfhorrest

    Right, but this is what you denied earlier, which is why I'm getting confused about your argument. You specifically said that moral language was not just providing the other person with some facts about the world for them to do with what they will, yet if moral language is just as you say above, then all it is doing is exactly that, providing facts (about the speaker's state of mind). So which is it?

    We also have words that refer to mental things, emotions like joy, anger, sorrow, calm, and states like certainty, doubt, and yes belief, and intention.Pfhorrest

    No we don't. That would require a private language which would be impossible to learn. We have words which refer to public effects of what we take to be 'emotions' which we use to convey our own propensity to those public effect. If there were no mediating public effects we could not possibly learn the words. The relevance of this to our conversation here is that the word 'ought' can't be learnt as "the feeling I have in my head that wants X to be the case" because we could not possibly have ever heard such a relation in order to learn it. The word 'ought' can only, like emotions, be learnt by reference to a mediating public activity. So what is that activity? It's paying the grocer when he delivers your potatoes, it's helping the old lady across the road... Social conventions you see all around you being referred to as stuff yu 'ought' to do => "Oh! That's what 'ought' means".

    Then Alice says "But that shouldn't happen." Those words, plus the pre-established image of people killing each other they're referring to, prompt Bob to understand that Alice is also asserting that people ought not kill each other.Pfhorrest

    Yep. No problem with the language telling Bob what it is that Alice thinks in terms of their shared language.

    she thinks the picture of people killing each other painted by the words "people killing each other" is unfit for use as a blueprint for how to remake the world, and that she suggesting that Bob think likewise.) Bob agrees with that too, so he says "Yeah, it's bad. People shouldn't kill each other."Pfhorrest

    No problem here either - Alice is still just providing Bob with facts about the world (her attitudes - both to the blueprint, and to Bob's agreement with it) for him to do with what he will.

    in any case that's the sense that I mean, so please understand the words I write in that sense and not another. (Also please keep in mind my own technical differentiation between "intent" and "desire" in my philosophical system that we're discussing. If you have suggestions for better words to encapsulate the difference between them, my ears are open.)Pfhorrest

    It's your technical definition that I'm trying to work with. It was this which distinguished intent from desire. I desire state X, I intend to do Y to get it. If intend refers to the state we want to be the case, then what's left for 'desire' to do?

    But if one of those facts about the world is about someone holding a prescriptive attitude toward some state of affairs, and the other fact is about the odds of that person's attitudes towards states of affairs being the correct ones to hold, then what you end up with is the adoption of a prescriptive attitude toward a state of affairsPfhorrest

    People are not automatons. Those two factors alone would not be sufficient to end up adopting the belief. We have a thousand other factors coming in to play at once.

    You, Isaac, talk here like you are not capable of understanding "what's in the box", so to speak, or even that there is anything in the box, but I can't imagine that that could actually be the case and yet you somehow manage to function well enough in society to live the life it sounds like you've lived. Instead, I can only speculate that you're willfully refusing for ideological reasons to talk about what's in the box, and insisting on treating the box like it is the content rather than just the packaging.Pfhorrest

    And it didn't occur to you that it's because of the life I've lived? "what's in the box" is a matter of psychology, yes? I'm a professor of psychology. I'd like to think it's quite obvious from my posts that I have at least a better than average understanding of "what's in the box". the problem is that you don't. It's way, way more complicated than you're making it out to be, we don't even know ourselves what we want most of the time, there's half a dozen competing desires at any one time, none of which are compatible with each other, the winning desire is not the one we 'rationally' work out (that's almost always rationalised post hoc), our physiological state changes what we think best from moment to moment, an idea you think ideal when you're hungry will seem unattractive when you're not (judges deliver harsher sentences before lunch that they do after it)...and we haven't even got on to language yet, there's no simple relationship between our spoken words and the thoughts which prompt them, we change our language in different social environments, we process whole sentences which are often only 'checked' by the rational brain, not formed by it, we say things for any one of scores of different reasons, many of which, again, we only rationalise post hoc...

    The picture you're trying to paint of moral judgement not only is woefully simplistic, but even as a goal it would be throwing away millennia of evolved, finely tuned mental processes in hubristic favour of something you came up with.

    It is simply not true that when we use moral language we aim to transfer some picture of how the world should be to some other person. Absolutely, categorically not what's happening. It may, on some occasions be a part of what's happening. And as a goal it's like throwing away Deep Blue in favour of some moves you worked out on the bag of a fag packet.
  • Joshs
    1.3k
    My comment was really about the prevailing trend, not the complete absence of outliers (Thompson's article has 4 citations, Seth and Friston's latest article on the same topic has 86 - to give some idea of the take up of these ideas in the community)Isaac

    Yes, they are quite popular. During its long reign as the dominant paradigm, S-R psychology represented an overwhelming percentage of citations in experimental psychology. Meanwhile , during that era, the work of Dewey and James was all but ignored( I should
    mention that Kelly, whose major work came out in 1955 was ignored too. His constructivist approach is now
    belatedly recognized as anticipating cognitive science as well as cognitive therapy.). I think you’ll find writers like Clark and Barrett declaring much closer allegiance to the pragmatists than to Skinner and Watson. It only took the field 80 years to catch up .The problem wasnt empirical validation , it was making the conceptual shift. My anticipation is that it will take another 20 years or so before enactivism sheds the remnants of representational realism.

    In that light, I have another link for you, from Anthony Chemero and Michael
    Anderson. I prefer this paper to Thompson’s. Rather than trying to empirical ‘prove’ anything on Clark’s
    turf , they are critiquing it from a meta-theoretical standpoint. They are making the points I was trying to make concerning the limitations of representational
    realism , but using a vocabulary that is more familiar to you.

    https://www.academia.edu/39326657/M_Anderson_and_A_Chemero_The_world_well_found_in_M_Colombo_L_Irvine_and_M_Stapleton_eds_Andy_Clark_and_his_Critics_Oxford_University_Press_161_173

    I particularly like their point that the use of Markov blankets and Bayesian theory in a psychological model is mot in itself problematic , the issue is HOW they are used.

    “ We absolutely accept that Markov models and Bayesian inference are hugely important and successful tools in the study of mind, brain and behavior. But we find the philosophical inferences about the nature of the systems to which these models have been applied to be deeply problematic. Admittedly, it can be hard to resist mapping entities in one’s model of a system to elements in the system itself, but prudence dictates special care when doing so, and we believe that insufficient caution has been exercised by many proponents of predictive processing.
    By way of closing, we also wish to urge something further on the field in general, and on Clark in particular. Hohwy (2017) wonders aloud if the EEE tactic to avoid skepticism may also cost us the very conceptions of belief, knowledge, and justification that lie at the center of a good deal of philosophy of mind. We hereby confess that it probably does. This is a development we embrace. For us, agency is about disposition and action, and not about belief (Anderson 2014; Chemero 2009).10 In this we follow the traditions of American Pragmatism and Continental Phenomenology in their critiques of a belief-oriented, representation-centric, model-building mind, in favor of an action-oriented, affordance-centric, world-navigating mind. The first step on this path is the recognition that organisms have access to ecological information. Take that step, and a whole world opens to you.”


    As I said before, this is the problem with phenomenological approaches. They confuse the effect, as it seems to us, with the mechanism that produces that effect.Isaac

    I’m not going to let you get away with this ( he said half in jest). As a good empiricist you should know better than to pronounce a verdict on a theory without first demonstrating that you know what it is saying.
    One might even call that lazy thinking. For instance, are you familiar with how Husserl’s model of perception constitutes a real spatial object, like a ball? You know those 86 citations in Seth and Friston’s
    article? I can show you 100’s upon 100’s of citations mentioning phenomenology in the psychological
    literature that grotesquely misread its aims and methods.
    We should probably leave it aside for now and focus on the points that Chemero is making, unless you want to attempt a cursory summary of what you think phenomenology is all about and how it relates to the construction of empirical theory. I notice you didn’t comment on my observations concerning the incommensurability of rival meta-theories concerning agreement on what constitutes empirical evidence. Maybe you could start there. Would you be able , for example, to justify the Kuhnian claim that one scientific theory ( for example, phenomenologically oriented enactivism) can replace a rival one without invalidating -disproving any of that rival theory’s empirical predictions?
  • Joshs
    1.3k
    That would require a private language which would be impossible to learn. We have words which refer to public effects of what we take to be 'emotions' which we use to convey our own propensity to those public effect. If there were noIsaac

    We do create private language all the time , for instance
    when we create new theoretical ideas.
    ‘ Private’ here is a bit of a mis-nomer though. When I reflect in solitude , what is creatively generated is already social in the sense that it is still my being exposed to an outside, even when I am not in contact with other people.My talking to myself is social and an exposure to an outside.
    I can create an entire vocabulary that others will not understand in the way that I will and that I use not to share with others but to share with myself. Did I create thewords de novo, with no background competence or familiarity with conventions of grammar? Well, no , of course not. They pre-suppose my already having been socialized into a publicly shared language , but their sense can then move on from and exceed that socialized meaning.
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