Few Notes on Few Previous Posts
Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on July 15, 2007
In previous posts, I was mostly writing on two issues.
One is the issue of perception, and I tried to argue that illusions, hallucinations and dreams doesn’t necessarily imply some experience which represent states of affairs in the world. Instead I put attention of how the issues can be approached by talking about experience in externalist sense, or a sense which I think is close to how that word is used in everyday communication.
The other issue that I put attention is the causal-historical account of names. Though as I said instead of ‘causality’ talk I prefer the view where the major role is given to intentionality.
Here I want to put few further notes which somewhat relate those two topics…
I think that we baptize things (singular things, or multitude of things showing some similarity) of which we become aware. And in the case of teaching a term, I think correspondingly teacher makes the learner aware of that thing (by pointing, or fixing the reference using a description), and telling the word used to refer to that thing. (Of course, the learner might become aware of the thing even outside of the teaching of the words, and ask “What is that?”. As a part of explanation of what is that of which the student became aware, the word is usually introduced – “That is a car. We use it to go to different places.”) The word then tends to keep its meaning because of the logic of communication – people want to use the words in the way they are used.
As I said in other posts, this intentional content might appear in different types of intentional acts (I wonder if maybe it is better to use “intentional target”, as “content” implies that the thing is part of the intentional act, when really the thing exists, or is considered as existing, independently of the act, and even in the case of the imaginary things transcend the act of imagining – if not nobody could tell the same joke to another person, or same story to another person). One can perceive things, or one may imagine them, or one may assume some entities, etc… Depending on the way the type of the intentional act in which target of the intention which is baptized appeared, we can say that the words refer to phenomenal entities (i.e. those which we become aware through perception), theoretical entities (i.e. those we assume), imaginary entities (those that we imagine), and so on…
Theoretical entities are entities which are assumed in order to explain something about phenomenal entities. However in some cases philosophical theories pick out a word which was there in the language even before the theory, and now use it to refer to the theoretical entity. This is often done uncritically, without inquiry into what the word used to mean, and even more problematic – because of this lack of inquiry the theory might pretend as if the theoretical meaning of the term is inline with the traditional meaning, when in fact they are not.
This, I think, can negatively affect our understanding of the things. As the theoretical meaning is mixed with the everyday meaning, we are from one side inclined to think that the word refers to something of which we are directly aware of, but on other side this word now also implicitly carries some kind of theory. In this way we, without noticing, give a special status to the theory – of something of which we are directly aware of, and which is beyond questioning.
So, I consider as an important thing to disentangle the theoretical meanings from the traditional meanings of the words. To disentangle phenomenal (that of which we become aware through perception), from the theoretical content. I have in mind terms used in philosophy such as ‘mind’, ‘consciousness’ or ‘experience’.
In the previous post I was critical of the term ‘experience’, but I have similar thoughts about ‘mind’, ‘consciousness’, ‘appearance’ and so on. Needless to say, I have big respect (not that I respect just philosophers that I agree with :) ) for Ordinary Language Philosophy, and books like Ryle’s The Concept of Mind (though I disagree with lot of things in that book too), and Austin’s Sense and Sensibilia.