for submitting a paper to the Consciousness Online conference.
Archive for November, 2008
Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on November 29, 2008
Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on November 25, 2008
And here is a diagram to prove it:
Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on November 13, 2008
I want to approach what I discussed in previous post from somewhat different perspective, in order to explain myself better.
In the linguistic community we become aware of all of different kind of things that can be done with language. Among other things, we can use language to speak about the world – through language we can claim that things are thus and so (“I had eggs for breakfast”), we can ask someone if things are thus and so (“Did I have eggs for breakfast?”), we can wonder aloud if things are thus and so (“I wonder if I have eggs for breakfast”), wonder what might have been if things were thus and so (“I wonder what would have been if I had eggs for breakfast.”).
Now, there is something clear here – while all those speech acts are different – they have something in common, they are about the same thing – about things in the world being thus and so, or in the specific case about me having eggs for breakfast. If I did have eggs for breakfast, that would mean that the answer to the question if I had eggs for breakfast is positive, that I was right in claiming that I had eggs for breakfast, that those who deny that I had eggs for breakfast are wrong, and so on…
We now (in the tradition of analytic thought) want to isolate this common thing, and on another side isolate another element to account for what is different in all those cases. If we do so, we can reduce the wealth of phenomena to few defining parts. Combine those parts, and you will be able to get to all those kinds of speech-acts.
The solution is pretty obvious – we will have claiming, asking, wondering-aloud, suggesting, denying and etc. on one side, and we will have the other element – call it proposition, statement or sentence, on another side. It seems also obvious that this other element, can’t be some actual state of affairs as the proposition might be “I had eggs for breakfast”, and maybe I didn’t have eggs for breakfast.
The moment we do this separation though, the need appears to specify the nature of the sentence/proposition/statement, and somehow “glue” it to the world. To me it is this that seems problematic – in the speech acts to which we pointed, we are simply claiming something about the world, asking something about the world – taken on this less-abstract level, there are no issues of connection between what is said and the world. It is when we take one aspect of those speech-acts, motivated by given reasoning, where we get into the issues of connecting this aspect to the world. Giving account of its meaning and truth-value.
So, I’m thinking that we are doing something wrong there. We are taking the notions of speech-acts (claiming something, asking something, denying something, etc…), we take their aspects, take those aspects as self-subsistent, and then try to reconnect them (while keeping their assumed self-subsistence). The idea is then that we can’t take sentences and speak of them as being true or false, independent on any speech-act. It is speech-acts in which we are speaking about the world, and that only what is said about the world can be true or false (vs. merely what is said taken as abstract).
Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on November 6, 2008
When I claim that I had eggs for breakfast this morning, there are two possibilities regarding the truth of what I am claiming. It might be true that I had eggs for breakfast this morning, or it might not be true that I had eggs for breakfast this morning.
We can say of course that what I am claiming is true or false. (BTW, I’m focusing on the act of claiming here, but analogous reasoning can be given with other speech-acts like those of wondering-aloud or asking)
Given that what I am claiming IS that I had eggs for breakfast this morning, to claim that what I am claiming is true, is to claim nothing else but that I did have eggs for breakfast this morning. Or, alternatively to claim that what I claimed is false, is to claim nothing else, but that I didn’t have eggs for breakfast this morning.
There are two ways to approach sentences here – we can speak of sentences as they appear as part of a claim, or we can speak of them in abstract manner, where we abstract from the speech act. The issue is – do sentences have truth values taken in this abstract manner, separated from the speech act?
It seems to me that the answer is – NO. I can pronounce the sentence “I had eggs for breakfast this morning”, but if by pronouncing it, I’m not claiming that I had eggs for breakfast this morning, but just, well… pronouncing the sentence for the sake of pronouncing a random sentence, there is no sense in which the sentence can be true or false. Someone might ask me – are you claiming that you had eggs for breakfast this morning, and I will say – no, I’m just pronouncing this sentence. He can’t say then that the sentence is right or wrong, as really nothing is claimed by the sentence.
Of course, one might speak of the truth or falsity of the claim that would be done and in part of which (claim) there would be an act of pronouncing of that certain sentence. That is, given the sentence “I had eggs for breakfast this morning”, I can imagine a person claiming that he had eggs for breakfast this morning, and how as an aspect of that claim (of that speech-act) he is pronouncing the given sentence. But again, there is no reason to speak of the truth value of the sentence alone, if we can’t make sense of it being right or wrong separated from the speech-act of claiming.
If this is so – it points to the answer of how are we able to understand a sentence, even in its abstract form, separated from any speech-act. I think it relates to what I said – to understand a sentence, IS to understand what one would claim, if in that speech act of claiming that sentence appears. So, to understand what “I had eggs for breakfast” means, is to understand that the sentence will appear, in the case where one will claim that he had eggs for breakfast that morning (or maybe in some other claim).
Because of this, I think we can say that truth or falsity has nothing to do with language. Sure, I use language to claim that I had eggs for breakfast this morning, but given that language gives me ability to claim that I had eggs for breakfast this morning, it gets out of the picture – it has nothing with the truth or falsity of what I claimed. This might be more obvious in the case of wondering-aloud. When I’m wondering aloud if John had eggs for breakfast this morning, I do pronounce the sentence “I wonder if John had eggs for breakfast this morning”, but I can wonder if John had eggs for breakfast this morning even without pronouncing that sentence. I’m not wondering if the sentence “John had eggs for breakfast this morning” is true.
I guess it is interesting to point that the apparent problem of the truth-value of the sentence “This sentence is false” also disappears if we deny that there are truth values of sentences at all. If we don’t allow that sentences can have truth-values taken in this abstract way, the closest thing we can come to is claiming that the claim is false. That is, one can claim that what he is claiming is false. But seems to me the normal response to such claim would be – And what exactly ARE YOU claiming? You are not claiming anything! And as you are not claiming anything, there is no sense in which your claim can be true or false. Of course, from this point, the claim that what one is claiming is true, is not better – nothing is actually claimed.
Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on November 4, 2008
Being able to get informed through language is like having another set of eyes.
Being able to do things through language is like having another set of arms.