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Archive for November 14th, 2006

Intentional Account Of Names

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on November 14, 2006

UPDATE:I split the B. way of communicating names to two separate B. and C. (B. being left exclusively for transferring names of theoretical intentional content)
 

I will try to give here a sketch of account of names as an alternative to the causal theories of reference, which is based not on causality, but on intentionality. I will call it “Intentional Account of Names”. It is very similar in its structure to the causal theory of reference, the difference being that it removes the direct relation between the objects and the names, (or so to say, abstracts from the source of intentionality – it might be causal or not, it doesn’t matter for this account), and analyzes the use of names from the point of intentional acts and intentional content.

First, let me repeat what I already said in few previous posts, where I distinguished intra and inter-subjective transcendence of intentional content.
To repeat in short, the intra-subjective transcendence is the possibility of multiple intentional acts of same or different quality (psychological type) to be about same intentional content. And the inter-subjective transcendence is the possibility of numerously different intentional acts of different people to be about the same intentional content. I also said that one can’t consistently deny possibility of inter-subjective transcendence, as the denying itself would assume the inter-subjective transcendence of what is denied. (This doesn’t mean that there is no possibility for misunderstanding where two people use the same word to refer to different meanings, but that there is possibility not to be so.)

Initial Baptism

Now, it seems to me that one must keep on mind intentional acts and intentional content if one wants to give proper account of names. First, take the case of initial baptism (when the person gives a name to something). Person can give a name only to whatever appears as intentional content of her/his intentional acts. One can give a name to a thing he/she notices, to a thing he/she imagines, to a thing he/she assumes, wishes and so on. If the content which is named is noticed (here the intentional acts of seeing, hearing, touching, etc… are subsumed) then we can speak of phenomenal content, and what is named is phenomenal content. If the content which is named is assumed content, in order to explain a phenomena which are noticed, then we speak of theoretical content, and what is named is theoretical content. In same way we can speak of imagined content, and in the case of imagination, the word refers to imagined content.

It should be noted first that for the intersubjective transcendence of intentional content, the words are not required. Two people can notice the phenomenon of bright evening star, without knowing about each other. Also two people can figure out Pythagorean Theorem (meaning – figure out its validity), without knowing of each other, or even without giving a name to the theorem. I want to note this, as there are accounts of intersubjective transcendence of the content, which want to base it on language and intersubjective practices. As I think it is clear from those examples, this can’t be true.Which brings us to the ways the names, after the initial baptism, can be shared by people.

Communicating The Use Of The Name

A. This first way is by ostensive teaching, and this is good for what I defined as phenomenal content names. A person who gave a name, points to something in the phenomenal world, and pronounces the name. We can note two things here:

  1. Inter-subjective transcendence can’t be based on the language, as for the ostensive teaching to happen, the intentional content (in this case the phenomenal content) should be inter-subjectively transcendent in order for the ostensive teaching of words to happen.
  2. As argued in other posts, ostensive teaching is not just about what we refer to as particular things, but also for universals too. One can teach words for color concepts, for numbers, for animal species and so on, by ostensive teaching, and by giving examples. In such way those universals are too phenomenal content, and words which refer to them are names of phenomenal content. (I wrote more on this in my previous posts on ostensive teaching). This fact, that phenomenal content is not free of universals, and that in fact lot of universals are learned through ostensive teaching, by noticing them in the phenomenal world, should be kept on mind, in order not to equate phenomenal content with some kind of sense-data content.

B. While the first way (ostensive teaching) was good just for transferring names of phenomenal content, the second way is by talking, and consist of presenting a theory about the world. In the theory assumed content is added next to the phenomenal content in the world, so that the assumed content explains something about the phenomenal content. Along with presenting the theory, assumed content is set in the relations with the phenomenal content, and is named. While theoretical (or assumed content, as in the case of Jack The
Ripper, where there is theory that there is a person who has committed the murders, and  that assumed person is named Jack The Ripper) has its similarities with imagined content that it’s initial baptism is not based on phenomenal acquittance with the content, in some cases of the theoretical content it is imagined it is possible for it to be phenomenal content (though not necessarily, as in the case of universals, like quark, photon, quantum wave equation etc…)

C. The third way the intentional content which is baptized and the word can be “transfered” to other person, is where the baptizer tells the other person that there is some content of his/her intentional acts, which he/she baptized by certain name – N. For the person who hears this, the name N now refers to intentional content of the baptizer (even without direct phenomenal acquittance), and hence the inter-subjective transcendence is there again, – N for this second person names “phenomenon (thing, event, property) baptizer noticed”, or “phenomenon baptizer assumed” or “phenomenon baptizer wishes/imagines/needs” etc… We can see that in this way of transferring the name is not good just for what I named phenomenal content, and not just for theoretical, but also for imagined content. So, to say, if Billy imagines a person, and names that imagined person Jackie, and then tells me that “he imagined a person”, and is calling that person Jackie, the Jackie becomes inter-subjective as the person that Billy imagined. Same goes if Billy mentions Jackie to me, and he is either assumed murderer in his theory of how the murders happened, or person that he baptized. We can further say that for imagined content, the only way to communicate it is in this way, as ostensive teaching is not possible, and there are not theories about it. About imagined content, instead of theories we could speak of stories.

Let me stop there, having put forward the general idea. I will probably try to give more details in separate posts.
Any comments? Thoughts?

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