Few Half-Baked Thoughts On Rabbits and Sequoias

I said that I think that the common nouns (or general and mass terms) are referring to multiplicity as intentional content. That is, as proper names are given to something that appears as intentional content (be it that we become aware of it through seeing, touching, etc…, or we heard about it from someone else, or assume it, imagine it, etc..), those common nouns are given to some multiplicity (again, it might be assumed, imagined, and so on). If a person sees one rabbit, then another rabbit which reminds him of the first, and then another and another, he becomes aware that there is some kind of multiplicity in the world. And he can give name “rabbits” to this multiplicity.

There are few thoughts I want to add…

A person doesn’t just come out from some unconscious state, become aware there is some multiplicity, just to get back to unconscious state again. A person encounters this multiplicity usually in the context of which he is aware. For example, a person is aware that he has drove from the city to the nearby woods, and that is where he saw the rabbits. So, he becomes aware of this multiplicity, but this is not without context.

a) The salience has important role what one becomes aware of. Salience means that some things will tend to attract attention, and you will most probably become aware of them with or without trying. Some other will require more deliberate attention to become aware of.  A jumping rabbit is salient. Its parts aren’t so much. Things are probably in general more salient then their properties. So, usually we will become aware of some things, and not of others. (Just to avoid misunderstanding – I don’t mean that salience is property of the things)

Similarities can be more or less salient too. Gestalt similarities seem more salient in general than similarities that require putting attention to parts (I guess, this is understandable?). Gestalt similarities are where you don’t need to become aware of the characteristics of the things. Faces are similar even you haven’t put attention to any characteristic of those faces. The second rabbit reminds you to the first one, and you leap to thinking of “these things” even you might not really know even how many legs those have, if they have fur or not, and so on. First rabbit was salient, the second one was salient too, their similarity was salient, enough to think of them as multiplicity. (One can point to researches like of Vygotsky where children were given blocks of different color, form and size, and was asked to categorize them. Younger  children didn’t categorize them on base of any of those properties.) Of course it is no rule, gestalt similarity might be less salient then some characteristic property. Even kids would probably categorize humans with fully dark eyes (like in the horror movies) on one side and all other “normal” people on another.

Even in the gestalt similarities, there are more and less salient ones. Gestalt similarity among trees (which makes one think – “ah, another of those things”, and name them “trees”) is more salient than gestalt similarity between sequoias. We will most likely become aware of trees, before we become aware of sequoias.

b) The salience of things and similarity is changed through the life, we become aware of different things that were not so salient… those things might be interesting for us, because of this and that, probably we train ourselves to recognize faster those things, and as result their salience grows. Some other things… they become uninteresting and get pushed in the background (one rabbit or two rabbits will be salient, but if for few hours they keep appearing every minute, we probably won’t notice them any more after that).

Even some basic categorization can be based on this kind of salient similarities, one can become aware of some less salient properties, on base of which one can categorize things (for this or that use). We become aware of the common properties of animals, we become aware of social relations, we become aware of chemical properties of elements.

Even the salience of a similarity or a thing is not something which belongs to the object as such, but it is connected (by definition) to how much this object attracts our attention, or how much we tend to notice that similarity; still the things (which were seen as similar) are real, and hence when they are named the name connects to the awareness of those real things which are similar in some way. For example – the word “rabbits”. That “rabbits” refer to a multiplicity, doesn’t mean that there won’t be cases for which we won’t know if they are rabbits or not. There is no Platonic form of rabbit, which any rabbit will satisfy, nor I think it is some concept in our head that defines what we consider a rabbit. . “A rabbit” is just one of this specific multiplicity that we became aware of.

What Do Common Nouns Name?

My answer to the question is – a multiplicity (or assumed multiplicity) of things that show some similarity. But let’s go step by step, and see why I’m arguing this…

The simple intentional-historical picture of names goes like this:

  1. Person A becomes aware of X.
  2. Person A decides to call X with name ‘X’.
  3. By pointing to X or description, A makes other people aware of X.
  4. A tells other people that he calls X – ‘X’.
  5. Other people accept that, and start to call X – ‘X’
  6. Other people further communicate awareness of X, and the name that is used for it.

Personally I believe in this picture is right, and really to me it seems just as a description of what happens. As really, for someone to give name to something, he has to be aware of that something! How can anyone negate that? And how can one communicate about something if he doesn’t have word to refer to it? Of course… either by pointing to the thing, or by describing it in order for the person to figure out what he thinks of (so, as they say – describing in order to fix the reference)! (I wonder if by adding more exclamation marks, I would be more convincing.)

Of course there are possible complications there, but they can be added to the picture, for example:

  • In some point of communication some of the people might misunderstand the pointing or description, and become aware of Y, and than misunderstand that ‘X’ is referring to Y. This misunderstanding might be resolved, or might be that the misunderstanding will spread, and after some time ‘X’ will be used to refer to both X and Y.
  • OR some Z might be similar enough to X, that some in lack of more precise word, might start using ‘X’ to referring to Z.
  • Multiple persons can become aware of X, but not be aware that there is already word ‘X’ used to refer to X. So, those people can invent new word for X, e.g. ‘X2’.
  • X can change gradually through time into Y. If that happens through long enough time. The name ‘X’ might be preserved, but end up referring to Y. (Think socially conditioned phenomena, for example)
  • One can become aware of all the kind of complications with X itself. Maybe it turns out that there was no X, that what seemed as one thing X, it turns out to be two (or more) different things. The language can change in different ways then.
  • etc…

What I think is important here, is to notice that X can be whatever we can be aware of; or to get more specific – anything that might appear as content of our intentional acts… So, it can be what we see, what we hear, what we feel, what we imagine, what we assume, and so on. So this kind of description doesn’t have problems with non-existents, theoretical or assumed things, etc… (I know I repeat those things very often, but I’m thinking  if someone stumbles to this post, pointing to few general things would help).

But now, back to the common nouns, and how they might work in this picture. In order to figure out what common nouns refer to, we can ask point to two places in the history of usage of the word. First, what did the original baptizer become aware of, and gave name to? Second, because of the possible complication, we can ask what it is pointed to the users of the language today (what they need to become aware of), when the term is taught to them? (when put it this way, I start to wonder what I’m talking about, isn’t this obvious?)

Say, we analyze the word “cats”. We need to ask – how does one  become aware of cats? I think the plausible story is this… one sees a cat… It is salient (meaning – it attracts attention), so we easily become aware of it. But now, if we want to name it, we would give it proper name, because this is just one cat. But later we see another cat, and it reminds us of the first one – “aha, one of those things”, we think. So, we become aware of a multiplicity. Notice that we don’t become aware of some abstraction, nor we become aware of some universal (Platonic form). We just become aware that there are cats – a multiplicity.

Or say… “chairs”. How do we become aware of chairs? Here probably there is difference from the person(s) that invented chairs, and who named some concept – (i.e. “hey, I got an idea, we can create something that we will sit on.”), and children who are born in the world which is full with those chairs, and to which chairs appear more as cats do – as a multiplicity. Of course, even the person who invented chairs, thought of them as multiplicity, he didn’t think “I invented Machocho (a singular thing on which one can sit)”, but he thought – “there can be those things on which people can sit”. So again, it is multiplicity of things, even if assumed.

So, what I think this is pointing to, is that common nouns are not naming something abstract, but that using common nouns people talk again about concrete things. That is, when they talk about cats or chairs, they don’t have on mind some abstract form (nominal/platonic/whatever), but concrete things which have some similarity. I think that is so, even for imagined and assumed cases. That if one speaks of “aliens”, one doesn’t speak of some abstract form, but of possible aliens – multiplicity of real things (which share some similarity). Now, of course one can speak of “a cat”, or “a chair” or “an alien”, but seems to me, again we will be speaking of a concrete thing (be it real, imagined or assumed) which is one of those (cats).

Does anyone buy into this kind of thinking? It seems very normal to me.

Some ideas for next posts: how natural kinds would work within this view (e.g. “water”), how does this would works for Twin Earth thought experiment,  what about things that fall under two categories (e.g. “tree” and “sequoia”), what about abstract common nouns (triangles, numbers, points…) etc..

Kripke Without Causal Links

I wrote in other posts that I buy into a kind of intentional-historical account of names.
The idea is that the meaning of names is reduced to history of intentional acts, that ends (or starts with, depends how you look at it), with a baptizing a content of intentional act.

By “intentionality” I mean the possibility for our acts to be directed to things of which we are aware of. We don’t just see, we see things; we don’t just think, we think of something; we don’t just love, we love something; and so on… We speak of the things to which those acts are directed as intentional content. For example when one is looking at an apple, the apple is an intentional content. One other characteristic feature of those acts is the type of intentional act, namely one can have different types of intention directed towards the same intentional content – one can look at an apple, think of an apple, wish to see the apple, and so on…

Kripke, in Naming and Necessity gives, as he says, a picture of how names refer to things. Here is one of the passages where he describes how that would work:

Someone, let’s say, a baby, is born; his parents call him by a certain name. They talk about him to their friends. Other people meet him. Through various sorts of talk the name is spread from link to link as if by a chain. A speaker who is on the far end of this chain, who has heard about, say Richard Feynman, in the market place or elsewhere, may be referring to Richard Feynman even though he can’t remember from whom he first heard of Feynman or from whom he ever heard of Feynman. He knows that Feynman was a famous physicist. A certain passage of communication reaching ultimately to the man himself does reach the speaker. He then is referring to Feynman even though he can’t identify him uniquely. He doesn’t know what a Feynman diagram is, he doesn’t know what the Feynman theory of pair production and annihilation is. Not only that: he’d have trouble distinguishing between Gell-Mann and Feynman. So he doesn’t have to know these things, but, instead, a chain of communication going back to Feynman himself has been established by virtue of his membership in a community which passed the name on from link to link, not by a ceremony that he makes in private in his study: ‘By “Feynman” I shall mean the man who did such and such and such and such’.

So, it is clear why Kripke’s picture is called historical. It is because what the name refers to, is not connected to some description (as in Frege/Russell theories), but with “certain passage of communication”.
Anyway, I buy this picture of Kripke but without the causality-talk, that is usually connected to it. The causality talk, as I understand, should play two roles in Kripkean picture. One is in the baptizing – the baptizer gives name to X, because X is in some kind of causal relation with the baptizer. And the other role is in the historical links – the transfer of the meaning of the names would be explained through some causal relation between the two persons in the communication.

Instead of causality-talk, I think a more general talk of intentionality is better suited. That is, the original baptizing and the “links”, I think, are better explained through intentionality-talk.
Some might think that intentionality can be reduced to causality, but I don’t. Even if intentionality can be reduced to causality the issue can be put aside and addressed separately.

Here is my reasons for changing causality-talk with intentionality-talk… First, about the original baptizing (or giving a name):

1.For it to happen, what is named must appear as intentional content of the baptizer. There is no sense in baptizing something when there is nothing to baptize- where something doesn’t appear as intentional content of any my intentional act – I (as a baptizer) have to name something which appears in my thoughts, so to say. It doesn’t matter how the baptizer is affected by X, if the baptizer doesn’t become aware of X (through some intentional act), there is no way he can baptize it.
I guess some people think of “see”, “hear” and other intentional acts, so that they are not directed to the real thing, but to something in our perception, which might or might not stand for a  real object. In such theory when I say that I see an apple, what I’m seeing is in fact a representation of an apple. I don’t use those words in such sense. Here, it should be taken that “I see apple” is taken to mean that there is an apple, and that I’m aware of it through sense of sight. If there is some representation going on, it is subsummed in the act of seeing as a part).

2.It is hard to see what kind of causal relation can there be between imaginary or assumed things and the person who does the baptizing. However in the intentional-talk, we can say that imagination and assuming (theorizing) are valid intentional acts, and whatever appears as intentional content in them, can be also baptized.

3.What kind of causal relation can there be between abstract things like numbers and people? Do numbers exist anywhere and affect the baptizer? We might say that one can figure out that there is distinction between four and five things, by looking at two examples. One where there is four things, and one where there is five things. But does the “fiveness” and the “fourthness” from the example somehow causally affect the baptizer? Is there such things as “five-ness” and “fourth-ness” that enter causal relations? In the intentional account one can become aware of there being quantity of things/number of things, and can give names to those.

Second, the links would work the way as Kripke put it in N&N (notice that he doesn’t at all mention causality here):

A rough statement of a theory might be the following: An initial ‘baptism’ takes place. Here the object may be named by ostension, or the reference of the name may be fixed by a description. When the name is ‘passed from link to link’, the receiver of the name must, I think, intend when he learns it to use it with the same reference as the man from whom he heard it. If I hear the name ‘Napoleon’ and decide it would be a nice name for my pet aardvark, I do not satisfy this condition.

Concepts, Phenomena and Analyticity

In this post Clark at Mormon Metaphysics in the context of the Quine’s criticism of analytic/synthetic distinction puts attention on what is often taken as a prototypical analytic statement – “All bachelors are not married”.

I want to put here some thoughts on the relation of theories of concepts and analyticity in relation to this issue, and further connect that to an argument that concept-talk can be avoided in lot of cases, and that instead we can talk about awareness of multiplicity (or possibility of multiplicity), and that such avoiding is natural and explains some intuitions.

Kantian analyticity and Classical Theory of Concepts

The Kantian idea of analytic judgments is connected to the idea which is usually called ‘classical theory of concepts’. For Kant the sentence ‘A is B’ is analytic if the concept B is contained (somehow) in the concept A, and in the classical theory concepts are seen as composed of other concepts as of some kind of list of necessary and sufficient features. It should be pointed though, that in order to have analytic sentences (in Kantian sense), we need just to accept that a part of what constitutes a concept are some necessary features, and not require that sufficient features can be fully specified in terms of simpler concepts.

So, in this Kantian/classical concepts picture the idea is this: if we accept that it is a part of what bachelor means that it is male and not married; obviously by virtue of that meaning “all bachelors are not married” will be true.

It is easier to attack the traditional theory of concept as a whole, then the one that is needed for the Kantian analyticity. That is because the whole theory includes the “sufficient” part, and it is pretty easy to point to cases where the features that were proposed as sufficient are not sufficient after all. For example it is easy to point to cases where X is male and not married, but where still we aren’t inclined to call him bachelor. One example is that X might be too young to be called bachelor (or too old) or that X is the Pope (or any Catholic priest).

To attack analyticity, on other hand, we need not the case where the sufficiency of the features is attacked, but their necessity. Though it might be harder to point to such cases, I think there are… For example, we might be inclined to call a Muslim with one wife – a bachelor (though not a prototypical one), so “not married” would not be necessary feature. Or… is it clear what “male” is? We have cases of individuals whose gender identity doesn’t match their body. Now, there are prototypical males, but what to do with not-so-prototypical ones? Maybe someone will have problems identifying female-to-male transsexual as a male (instead e.g. one might insist that they are separate category), but also the same person might not see an issue in saying that such transsexual in a certain social position – will be  a bachelor. Again “being male” wouldn’t be a necessary characteristic for someone to be a bachelor.

There are other examples of the sentences which seem analytical on first look, but where we can find issues with what was supposed to be necessary features. Putnam for example points that “cats are animals” is not analytic as cats can turn out to be robots (or say… group hallucination.).

(Now, while I take it that it is clear that analyticity is hard to be defended of those examples, in my opinion there is analyticity in the propositions of math, logic, metaphysics etc…, in the sense that they are true in virtue of their meaning, and not because of matter of fact. To point to example… we don’t measure sides of right triangles in the world to confirm that Pythagorean theorem is right. It just doesn’t make sense to do that.)

Concepts or Phenomena

So,  we don’t have problems with the possibility of cats turning to be automatons (at least we don’t have in principle, I don’t think anybody sane believes that there is actual possibility that they will). But in a previous post (Are hedgehogs small spiny animals?) I pointed that we might have problems with something that doesn’t seem to be as essential to being a cat as being an animal is.  I have on mind “possibilities” that e.g. cats turn out to be enormous, or that cats turn out to be spiny. I won’t claim that quantified propositions (“no cats are enormous” and “no cats are spiny”) of those sentences to be analytical, as for sure, a cat might turn to be enormous, and some cats might turn out spiny; but still, saying that cats are enormous, or that cats are spiny (so without quantification) doesn’t sound right to me.

What I want to propose here, is that this points to the fact that usage of common nouns (like “bachelor”, “cat”, “chair”) is grounded in people becoming aware of a phenomenon which includes multiplicity of things which are seen as similar. Now, this is vague, especially the term “similar”, but I think there are good points to be made.

1. It is hard to see why a common noun would appear if there is no multiplicity (at least assumed). If we have just one thing, we don’t need common nouns. We will use a proper name instead. But who needs common noun “cat”, if there was just one cat in history, or common noun “bachelor” if there wasn’t lots of people who come into time for marriage (in certain social conditions)?

2. If we don’t become aware of that multiplicity, nobody will need a word for it. So becoming aware of it is needed. And because of 1, becoming aware not just that there is a thing that has some features, but becoming aware of a multiplicity.

3. If there is no similarities (or some base of grouping) of this multiplicity, again we wouldn’t need a common noun. When I see a cat, and another cat after that, it is the fact that this second one reminds me on the first one, that will produce a thought “there are more of those things (multiplicity)”.

If we avoid “concepts” as some structures, and instead view things in this way, we can see why we might problems with “cats are enormous”, but not with “a cat can be enormous”. It is because the ground of “cat” is in becoming aware of multiplicity that shares the property of not being enormous. So to say the ground of common noun “cat”, is not one cat, but it us becoming aware of there being lot of cats in the world – becoming aware of the phenomenon of cats.

A separate question is where this kind of view falls in the realist/nominalist gap. This view doesn’t say that there is a list of sufficient and necessary features that all cats must share, but while the base of “cat” in this view isn’t some such thing it is still in the reality where there is a phenomenon of animals which appear similar, and the refering is to reality even if one doesn’t accept such ideas as natural-kinds. In such way, it seems to me, one can avoid Platonic forms, while still being able to avoid “concepts” as some kind of nominalist particulars. (Though, I don’t see this contradicting the possibility of talk about some kind of structures in the brain analyzed on some other level, and called “concepts”. But that there is correspondence to some such information structures in the brain and our awareness of something in the world, doesn’t mean that we should confuse our semantic and speak of our thinking in e.g. terms of concept of CAT, when we are really thinking of cats, i.e. of the real phenomenon.)

Let me just say that the difficulties of the classical theory of concepts are not shared by other theories. And this post wasn’t as much argument against any theory of concepts in particular or them in general, as much explaining why I think concepts as mental particulars are not needed (as some mental particulars). For a nice overview of different theories of concepts, you can check this older set of posts at Mixing Memory (1, 2, 3 and 4).

I would like to discuss also the issue of non-existence and historical-intentional account of names in the relation of this kind approach to concepts (or against them), but I guess I will leave it for a next post.

More Thoughts On Mind/Body Issue

I wrote several times about my thoughts on mind/body issue. I will try to write one post in which I would clearly explain the full picture of how I see this issue.

Physical World As Abstraction

To repeat in short, I think that through physics we put our attention on abstraction – i.e. on specific things in the world, while ignoring others. That is because it is those things which are approachable through scientific (physical) analysis. In such way, we put attention on different quantifiable abstractions like position, moment, energy, velocity, energy, frequency etc…, but we ignore others which are present in the world and which we are aware of, like emotions, beauty, music, colors (or some other things usually put under ‘qualia’) and the awareness of things and/or possibilities open in the world itself.
By doing that, we are left in physics with an impoverished and abstract world. Maybe a good metaphor would be like when in 3d rendering software you turn off the shading, and are left with just the wire model.

What is further figured out about that impoverished world is that there are laws which hold among those abstractions (quantified this or that). Those show up as a necessary relations which hold among specific abstractions of the system, if the system as a whole falls under certain abstraction.
Now, it is true that the method of empirical sciences is such that we can’t ever be sure that we figured out that there are such necessary laws, but I think that all things for now point that the nature of this impoverished world is such that this kind of necessary relations among abstractions do hold, if not the “physical laws” that physics got to today, then some other.

So, I believe that the physical world as an abstraction of the world, and that we shouldn’t equate the world with the physical world and than try to “pull out” what has been left out (intentionality, colors, sounds, ethics, beauty, etc..) from the realm of the mental as physicalism and dualism try to do.

Metaphysical Theorems

Anyway, this kind of view goes nicely with what I’ve been also writing about here, and that is that the physical laws can be known a priori and that they are similar to the mathematical theorems, just that they include not just quantity, but more metaphysical concepts. Let me present a picture of how these two views – a)that the physical world is abstraction from the world and b)that the physical laws can be known a priori (or that they are metaphysically necessary) nicely go together by making an analogy with world – ‘math world’ relation.

I take it that math ‘laws’ can be known a priori. For example you don’t have to get to empirical research and measure the sides of right triangles, in other to postulate and then show through further measurements that the Pythagorean ‘law’ holds between the sides of right triangles. Instead, through mere knowledge of the concepts and their meaning, and through (little?) thinking one can figure out the relation, and come to know a priori the relation that we call Pythagorean theorem. (Some would like to include the e.g. curvature of space-time as an argument that we can’t know that Pythagorean theorem holds a priori, but that just means that if the system doesn’t fall under that certain abstraction – i.e. a right triangle in flat space, then the necessary relations between the sides won’t hold. After all, in curved space time right triangles, we have another theorems that do hold.)

Let’s now return to our “math world”. It is clear that in the world in which we live, we can put our attention to one thing while ignoring other things. We can in such way ignore the specific types of things, and only speak about their quantities as they appear to us. Or we can ignore in what way we determine some position, distance, etc…, and think of the world merely in math (arithmetic and geometric) terms. Having impoverished the world in such way, the situation in the world falls under (or is) the abstract situation that we work with in math. And for this abstractions, as long they fall under (or are) the abstract concepts of math, the math truths will hold. So, to say, as long from the situation in the world we can abstract a right triangle, the Pythagorean theorem will hold for whatever is related to the sides of that triangle (e.g. if we abstract right triangle, from the centers of three balls, the Pythagorean theorem will hold between the distances among the balls). Now, we get into situation, similarly as the one described with the physical laws, where there are specific necessary relations between certain abstractions if the system/situation falls under certain other abstraction. And again those necessary relations hold among things in the world, as we didn’t abstract them from anything else but from the world.

So, when we talk about the relation between the world and impoverished ‘math world’, we can say that if we abstract certain things from the world, we will end-up with a world which is fully ruled by the math laws. (Again, as far the thing falls under the given abstraction, or as far the thing is the abstraction.)
So, what I believe is that the situation is same with the physical laws, that is with those (supposed) necessary relations that hold between the abstractions that physics puts attention on. I take it that those necessary relations, would be in such way something like “metaphysical theorems”, that describe necessary relations not just between dimensionless quantities, but also of different physical concepts like time, space, energy, mass, and so on…

kant.jpgThis would be similar to Kant’s view that the physical laws are a priori, just that in this case as the abstractions are from the world, the physical laws are about the world (as a real, and not merely phenomenal world distinguished from the noumenal world). And while the Kant took the absolute space and time as given as absolute, following Einstein (and Hegel for that matter), we can look at those merely as abstractions. The view that there is such metaphysical theorems (which I would think would be the main task of metaphysics to get to) might seem very optimistic, but let me point that lot of the reasoning in theory of relativity is a priori, and how the symmetries, which I take to be likely metaphysically deductible for lot of things (e.g. the symmetry of space or time) are one of the main principles of modern physics.

Doesn’t Everything In The World Happen According To Physical Laws?

Now, let’s assume that metaphysics can in fact, get through a priori reasoning to its end – i.e. to metaphysical theorems, that will be necessary relations that will hold for given abstractions when some part of the world falls (or is) under certain abstraction. Having done this, of course, metaphysics would have finished what the physics is after – the theory of everything, and it would have also shown that whatever is nomological and metaphysical modalities coincide.
But, where would that leave us, what would it mean?
One of the things that would mean, is that we need to change our view of physical laws as things which “control” the development of the universe, to a view of them as necessary relations between certain abstractions as far as something in the world falls under (or is) that abstraction.
Same as there is no “math laws” which control the universe and make sure that when we add one thing to another we get two things. And same when we have three points in a situation that describe right triangle, there isn’t some law that makes sure that the relation between distances satisfies the Pythagorean theorem.
So, to reinterpret that, in such case (if the metaphysics presents us with those metaphysical theorems, formerly known as physical laws), we could say that for any system in the world, its behavior through time, as far as the system falls under some abstract description, will necessarily satisfy those metaphysical theorems. But, and this is the interesting possibility which connects to the start of this post, the world doesn’t have to nor is the impoverished world in which only physical concepts are left. So, the development of the world as far as it can’t be described merely by physical concepts, won’t be fully determined by physical concepts. Same as the world in which things disappear can’t be fully determined by the math concepts – the system in which things appear and disappear, just can’t fall under abstraction of (or isn’t) a simple quantity.

So, where would those metaphysical theorems (formerly known as physical laws) not hold? An obvious answer is – in the situations in the world that include things which are ignored by the physical analysis. And we mentioned which are there – the main one I think is intentionality, our awareness of things and the things that fall there (and dependent on this), like colors, sounds. Also things like emotions, art, morality and so on.

What If The Physical World Is Just An Abstraction (Aspect)

So, if the world isn’t merely a physical world, and if the physical laws (metaphysical theorems) hold just as far as a specific part of the world falls (or is) a physical world, what would happen if we try to analyze the world in the physical terms in the situations that in fact include things which are ignored by physical (while present in the world). So, things like intentionality, colors, sounds, and so on…
First, let me say, that according to this picture, when we analyze some such a situation in terms of physical, for example the situation of me seeing a rabbit, we should be analyzing the situation as including both me and the rabbit. It is this whole situation where I see a rabbit, and which includes elements (for example intentionality) which are ignored by the physical picture, but there is no sense in searching for some correspondence in the physical picture by further limiting the analysis of the situation just to whatever is going on in my head (in my brain).
So, by this picture, even physical picture will always be impoverished, it makes more sense to analyze the full situation which includes the world, the body and the brain, and not just the brain.

Anyway, what I think is important is that if the world is not merely physical world, and because we are aware of it (after all, that’s why I’m writing this post), that things happen in the world not just because some relation among abstractions should be necessary, but for reasons which are connected to things in the world which are ignored by the abstractions of physics. In this picture, however this doesn’t go against the necessity of the physical laws, because the physical laws hold only as far the part of the world falls under some abstraction. In another post (Physics vs. Physicalism) I was analyzing more specifically how the QM indeterminacy can be related to this, so that the reasons why the collapse is such and not other way, can be explained by this: the world is not merely a physical world, and even in the necessary relations there will appear things in which the reasons from the “richer” world will be mapped to the functioning of the impoverished world.

Language – From Abstract To Concrete

I wrote about my thoughts on the phenomenon of names in multiple posts, mostly analyzing it in terms of few abstractions, i.e. the intentional acts, intentional content, and how in case of baptizing it appears with two aspects – the baptizing is connected to particular intentional act, but the content is transcending that act.

The abstract analysis, however complete, shouldn’t be seen as a full account of the phenomenon. It even shouldn’t be seen as a ground for the phenomenon so that we can give full account by merely adding details to that abstract picture. On contrary – moving from more abstract to more concrete aspects of the phenomenon, should provide the ground for the abstract. (This is different from the usual reductionist view, in which the most abstract is seen as the ground, and everything “upwards” is fully determined by that ground. Those “higher” levels are then in reductionist picture, in some sense merely incidental and of smaller importance than the ground.)

Such non-reductionist movement from abstract to concrete when talking about phenomenon of names, I think can be seen in few posts where I wrote about the issue of non-existence. In these posts I argued that there is no single criterion for (non)existence that would be found on the abstract level of intentional act/content. Instead we need to understand it in more concrete cases of intentional acts. That is, certain intentional acts (imagination, hallucination, assuming, etc…) are those that actually cover the abstract notion of “non-existence”. One word is used for all of them because they  show some kind of family resemblance. (I haven’t talked about what this resemblance consist of, but I would take that it consist of a negation of the simple relation with the world)

When we move towards concrete, the “abstract” is now something which is a result, not a ground. The procedure of abstraction is such that we start from something, and put our attention on certain aspects while ignoring others. Hence movement to “more concrete” can be understood as moving towards fuller comprehending of the phenomena (and not just noting incidental patterns of the higher level). The abstract case is then merely a specific case of the more concrete case, and its role is that it helped us to understand the relation of certain aspects isolated from the richness of the whole, so that when we analyze the “big picture” we are not confused by those abstract aspects. The intentional act is concrete intentional act (and is not abstract ever, except in our abstract analysis), and the same holds for the content.

To make example in case of math – one such case of movement from more abstract to more concrete would be the movement from the special case to general case. For example the Pythagorean theorem says that the lengths of sides of right triangle will satisfy the equation a^2+b^2=c^2. On other side we have a law of cosines which is true for any triangle, and is expressed by equation: a^2+b^2-2ab\cos\gamma=c^2. It is clear that Pythagorean theorem is a special case of the law of cosines. We get it from the law of consines when we use gamma=90 degrees. It is also clear that the special case doesn’t really contain anything that isn’t already present the general case.

Analogical situation with language, would be movement from the language as used to mean something, to language as acting. On the abstract level, words do mean something, but on concrete level we can say that they are used to mean something, and now all kind of complexities appear, one might mean by word what that word doesn’t usually mean. You won’t be able to comprehend this fact on the level of abstract account, you need to include the humans, their intentions, the learning of language and so on.  And then on level of sentences, the meaning shows even more complex features, the sentences are used in the context of some more or less fixed background of the communication, by same sentence lot of things can be meant depending of what the speaker think should be inferred from them having on mind the background.
-“She is coming.”- the meaning of that sentence, is not contained in the abstract meaning of each of the words, but is connected to the context.

So, we can say that it is not that concrete usage of the language is grounded in some Platonic abstract level in which words mean things, but words mean things only as part of the phenomenon of language in the society. The abstract is grounded in the concrete.

In some future post, I want to talk about common nouns, and how their proper account requires analysis on more concrete level (though of course abstract “words mean things” and “we can baptize only whatever we are aware of” would still hold).

UPDATE:I updated the format of the formulas. I don’t use much math in the posts, so I thought I might as well do a little experiment with MathML capabilities of WordPress.com.

Phosphorus and Hesperus In The Phenomenal World

One of the interesting things about philosophical issues like Frege’s puzzle, it seems to me, is that nobody in the world has the problem with them except for philosophers and those who allow to be confused by philosophers.
Instead of analyzing how come that there is no problem (as really isn’t it obvious that nobody has problem with learning that the person they see today called Michael, is the little kid they called Mikey many years ago?), you will hear from philosophers solutions of the problem which everyday people can’t understand. (And more then that the solution is shown bad by pointing to an example which is understandable by everybody to be one way, but the solution predicts it the other way around.)

Same situation with math. Everybody (except philosophers and those confused by them) knows and understands that one and one IS two, but for the philosophers  it becomes a problem, and they then might again try to “solve” the problem and say – ‘That one and one is two is true in this and this axiomatic system, and you can understand why is it true just if you follow us through the proof, which is in *this* book.”. No wonder nobody takes philosophy seriously. If you thought you understand simple matters you understand, you were wrong!

Anyway, enough rant, what follows is a text written using by normal letters, but also bold, italic and underlined. Also I used colors and even different sizes of font! So, in three words: Doesn’t look nice. And don’t expect much from the actual argument either.

Some introductory notes

Short introduction to Frege’s puzzle:
Suppose that Phosphorus and Hesperus mean in the sentence just the object they refer to. If so, they can be interchanged in the sentence, without that sentence changing.
But S1:”If Phosphorus is a planet, then Phosphorus is a planet” is non-informative, while S2:”If Phosphorus is a planet, then Hesperus is a planet” is informative. As S1 and S2 differ in a property, they can’t be the same sentences. So, it can’t be that “Phosphorus” and “Hesperus” mean the same thing in those sentences.

Short introduction to the difference between psychological and phenomenological pictures:
Let me first define something that I will call – “psychological theories of phenomenal experience” (PTPE).
Those are theories that talk about “phenomenal experience” or “field of experience” as of a psychological phenomenon.
They may come in different varieties.

  • The simplest form is sense-data PTPE. In it the “phenomenal experience” is imagined as a sort of field which  has as its parts simple elements like colors, sounds, pains, etc..  Further, in that picture, higher cognitive functions like association on basis of this data build concepts.
    In the paradigm of sense-data PTPE, when you put green glasses the sense-data becomes greenish. Also, there is visual-field (2D or 2.5D) which contains some properties across it (e.g. clear in center, and more vague to periphery)
  • In its more complex variants the PTPE might not agree with the idea of sense-data. But it will still think of the experience as a mental phenomenon that contains the things which appear in that experience. Though now it is not based on sense-data, but it is for example constituted by the brain in the interaction of the information from the senses and higher cognitive functions (e.g. concepts, memory, etc…).

As I said in the other post, I think that PTPE give wrong pictures of what is going on.
Instead, I think, we should return to a “more naive-realistic picture” (MNRP). In this picture we don’t talk so much about phenomenal experiences, but about subject being in and experiencing the phenomenal world. The phenomenal world which appears in our experience is then the real world. Also the phenomenal world in this picture is the physical world, though not merely the physical world (they stand in subject/predicate relation).

So, what I ask in the MNRP is that we don’t take in consideration that “photons reflect from the surfaces of things, get focused through the lense of or eye, fall onto rods and cone cells etc…”. I think that this whole story about photons is story about the phenomenal world itself, and as such can’t be used to explain the phenomenal world. If we analyze the phenomenal world, we find the photons there in it. And we find in it also the eyes, and the cells, and the brains etc… All that is in the phenomenal world, and not producing the phenomenal world. (for more discussion on this see e.g. this post, also some more arguments for MNRP (or against PTPE) here)

How does intentionality appear in those two pictures?

In the PTPE theories what is in our experience is not the thing itself (the thing can not be produced by our brain, and the experience in PTPE is produced by the brain). Instead what is there in the experience is representation of the thing. To give account for intentionality then one needs to relate the thing and the brain somehow, and this is (as far as I known) mostly done by appeal to causal relations between the thing and the brain.

In the MNRP we experience the thing (see it, hear it, touch it, etc…), and there is nothing between me as subject and the thing that is experienced. So, the problem of intentionality as it is in the PTPE theories doesn’t appear – it is the thing itself that appears directly to me. And because it is in publicly accessible space,  it is the same thing that appears directly to other people.

Little phenomenological analysis of the meaning of notions of looking, thing and change

1. Thing we see transcends our seeing it
When we talk about physical objects around us, like apples, glasses, chairs etc.., intentional content appears not as some kind of sense-data, but appears as something in the world, publically accessible. If me and my friend are looking at an apple, in my experience there is just one apple that we both look at. The apple is there as something independent from me and my friend –  both acts of looking at it are incidental, and don’t affect it. As long there are some difference in what we see, they are properties of the seeing itself, and not the object. For example I see the apple from *here*, and my friend from *there*, I see it through fog, and he sees it through glasses. So:

(a)Intentional content isn’t a part of our intentional act (isn’t contained in it).

2. Thing as changing
The objects also appear in the phenomenal world (or to us) as persisting through time. When I’m looking at that apple, there is no such things as moments in which I get some kind of sense-data-patches, in time t, then in time t+dt, then yet another in t+dt+dt, etc… If I take the apple in my hands, and if I rotate it, it is one and the same apple that rotates, and I don’t have any problems with it, nor it seems like something weird. I don’t because the category of thing has in it that refers to something persisting and changing (through time, we might say, but the determination through time is there exactly because we are aware of their changing).

It becomes a problem for understanding which presuposes that “time”, “moments”, or “fully determined being” (vs. becoming) is what is true. For sure if those were the categories to which our thought (or the world for that matter) is limited, there would be a contradiction between notions of change and thing. As by requiring that a thing is determined being, we are negating possibility for change. But as we see that is not a problem for the world, nor for the common-sense which hasn’t went into analyzing of its categories, and reducing them to simpler ones. The situation is not as we want to make it through our abstractions. It is not such in our mind, nor the contradiction that we produce by holding the abstract categories as self-subsistent can be such in the world. The category of thing is such that it has notion of change in it. Things exist as becoming, as changing.

(b) Momentary state of a thing, is an abstraction of thing which changes (and eventually ceases to be). Momentary state of thing, doesn’t exist as such, as “left” and “right” don’t exist as such.

3. Baptizing the thing
Baptizer gives a name to an intentional content (what he sees, hears, etc…). Baptizer doesn’t see a sense-datum, nor a momentary state of a thing. As per (a) and (b) what person is seeing, and naming is a “full-blooded thing”.

(c) Giving a name (baptizing) is dependent of there being intentional act with some intentional content. The person *always* gives a name to an intentional content of intentional act. (We can’t name something that doesn’t appear in our intentional acts)

The intentional content is not at all affected by it being intentional content (it is unaffected by our seeing or not seeing it) – “being intentional content” isn’t an intristic property of the intentional content.

Sense/Reference Distinction?

What we have there can be compared to what is usually called “sense” and “reference”… the intentional content is both… First it is a full-blooded thing (see (a) and (b)) (what we can compare with reference), but it is also the full-blooded thing which was seen (an aspect that we can compare with sense).

The thing which we see IS the full-blooded thing which transcends our seeing it, so there is just one thing that has two aspects. One we can say is the intristic – its existence, and the other is its appearance as intentional content.

There is no name without the second aspect, though it might be names without the first aspect (e.g. imaginary things, illusions, etc.. can be named).

So, it is possible that we knew a little kid named Mikey appeared as content of our looking, hearing about, etc..), and now know a grown up man called Michael (which also appeared as intentional content in this or that way), without knowing they are the same person. The question is asked, what the names Mikey and Michael mean? Don’t they mean the same person? Yes, they do, but they do mean only as connected to a person who means that person with it. And because that person might not know that Mikey and Michael are the same person, the sentence Michael=Mikey is informative for him. Which is normal because to refer to something we don’t need to know much about it.

Let me at the end just repeat again, that because the analysis is done within the MNRP picture, it isn’t psychologism, and the names refer to real things in real world, and can be shared as names by the community to refer to one and the same thing.

Cyborgs Sharing The Pain

Phenomenologically in terms of accessibility we can do a division:

1) One group of things are those which appear in publically accessible space. The objects, them undergoing changes, the agents’ actions, their speech, also sounds, smells and properties of the things, like colors, shapes, etc… – all appear in publically accessible space. A person can ask another person for example to touch surface of something, to smell or taste something etc… To access what is there publically accessible.

Here are some side notes on this (I have already wrote about those things in separate posts, I will just shortly repeat them here):

  • Some qualia, are in this publicly accessible space. Colors, sounds, music… they all are. It is not somehow to see them, they are themselves somehow, we just can see them in their being somehow. And being in publically accessible space, they are experienced as accessible by multiple people in their being somehow (if others can see them too).
  • People can show them to other people, and it is one and the same thing that that the one person is showing, and that the other person is being showed (that’s how is it in our phenomenal experience). It is one and the same intentional content for both of them – we have there the ground for the intersubjective transcendence of intentional content.
  • Things exist. The time is an abstraction taken from changes of those things, and is not some kind of self-subsistent background (absolute time idea) on which events unfold. Things undergoing changes are what is primary, time is what is only an abstraction. And such are the things in our phenomenal experience. They transcend time. (I’m looking at a thing. It takes time, but in that time, neither me, nor the thing that I’m looking at looses its identity, there are things which change through looking, but it is not me or the object [except if me or the object disappear, or change into something else])

2) But there are things which don’t appear as such. Pain is one example. It apparently doesn’t appear in publically accessible space. It can’t be shown to other person. For sure, other person can feel the same type of pain, and even one can show to the another person how to inflict such and such pain to oneself, but the token of pain isn’t in publically accessible space.

For example, I can touch some hot thing, and if it is not too hot, I feel its hotness as a property of the object. And even it is too hot, it is still property of the object. But when it is too hot, it burns me and causes pain in my finger. Now, if some other person touches the same object, he also will get pain in his finger. But now we have two tokens of pain – the hot object caused a change in my and his finger. Wherever I move my finger, the pain is there. And wherever that other person moves his finger the pain is there. But the pain in my finger is only accessible by me, and pain in his finger only accessible by him.

Both mine and his finger are though in publically accessible space. I can ask him which finger hurts, and he can show me. But if the finger is in publically accessible space, and the pain is in the finger, isn’t the pain in publically accessible space?

Maybe we thus shouldn’t say that the pain isn’t in publically accessible space. Maybe what differs is the possibility of specific access to that thing. While me and the other person have both the visual, tactile, auditory etc… access to my finger, maybe the other has no “feeling the pain in it” access, and I have.

If it was so, it seems that it would mean that it is in principle possible (in our phenomenology) to feel the same token of pain.

Imagine a scene in a SF movie…

Two cyborgs, Michael and Ethan walk on the surface of a distant planet after a fight with alien troops. Michael notices that Ethan’s finger has a hole in it.

-Does it hurt much? – asks Michael.

Ethan unscrews his finger, and hands it to Michael, who replaces one of his own fingers with it.

-Gosh, that hurts a lot – says Michael.

-Thanks for sharing my pain. – says Ethan. -Now give it back to me.

It this sharing of pain possible in principle? I’m inclined to answer positively.

Further Thoughts on Non-existence

Few posts ago, I wrote that we always name the content of our intentional acts. We can’t name something that doesn’t first appear as a content of intentional acts. Depending of the type of the intentional act, we can name something we perceive, something we assume, something we imagine, something we wish, need, and so on.

Connected to this, we can talk about the issue of names of non-existents…

  1. Perceptual content, e.g. a circle may be an illusion.
  2. Assumed content might be a part of some theory that doesn’t correspond with the truth. For example I assume there was burglar in my house, and call him Jack, the theory might turn out to be wrong.
  3. Someone can tell or write a story, in which there is some fictional thing (imaginary intentional content).
  4. Something that exists eventually disappears (e.g. dinosaurs).
  5. There might not be a thing as we describe in the world (a pink unicorn)

Those are some of the cases where we usually use “X doesn’t exist”, so we say that e.g. “the circle you see doesn’t really exist” (illusion), “Jack doesn’t exist” (wrong theory), “Sherlock Holmes doesn’t exist” (fictional/imaginary content), “Dinosaurs don’t exist now” (disappeared), “Pink unicorns don’t exist” (there is no x, such that Fx).

Are those different and contingent cases which end up with a fact that some intentional content named “X” doesn’t exist, or so to say, is there a single criterion which defines what makes something named “X” to be non-existent?

In one sense, existence (or being) is sublated in any higher notion. So any intentional content will have the moment of existence in itself in any case (check this previous post). So to say, imaginary content has imaginary existence, assumed content has assumed existence, illusion has illusionary existence, etc… So what we mean by “doesn’t exist” can’t be negating the existence in general, as intentional content will necessarily have it as part of its determined existence (e.g. an imaginary unicorn will be an imaginary animal, will be an imaginary thing, will be an imaginary being), but it will be negating a specific type of existence.

If we accept that, and we accept that what we mean by “X” is inter-subjectively transcendent (by using “X” people think and talk about same thing), seems to me that we can say that in those cases saying “doesn’t exist” is negating the specific way of existence of that particular inter-subjective intentional content, and not the existence in general.  As it was said, as much as something is transcendental content, it will have some form of existence, so it would be negating the reality, actuality, or some more specific type of existence of the content.

So because of this, it seems that specifying single criterion for “non-existence” would not just be oversimplification, but also unnecessary, as in order to talk about “non-existence” of X, the specifying of the intentional content – X would have to include more precise information about the content than some binary existence predicate. For example in order to specify meaning of God, one would have to answer questions which would include the issue of what is usually named as an issue of existence of God,.

Few Explanatory Notes on Grounding the Transcendence

In the previous post – Grounding the Inter-subjective Transcendence, I was explaining the reasons why I think that several different accounts (both idealist and materialist) fail to give ground for intra and inter-subjective transcendence (possibility of same person or multiple persons to think and talk about same thing once or multiple times), and why the only option I see plausible is that it is grounded in the being-in-the-world, or if we take into account the other people – being-along-in-the-world.

Probably to some people this kind of “grounding” might seem weird and might say that this fails to be explanation of the possibility of transcendence of intentional content, because it doesn’t reduce the phenomenon at hand (i.e. intra and inter-subjective transcendence of intentional content) to something more simple, but it grounds it in something that is more complex – namely being-in-the-world.

And this is partly true, and it surely seems weird for a mind that thinks that any proper explanation is reductionist in nature. In such view it is usually taken that what is self-subsistent are objectively existing particles of some kind, with different (also objective) properties that they have. And the explanation of phenomenon, in this view, should be done by showing how it can be (or necessarily will be) based on specific way of interactions of those particles (analyzed on that basic level, or alternatively through some level of abstraction).

On other side this grounding of transcendence of intentional content in the being-in-the-world, is holistic “reductionism”, it takes the phenomenon to be a specific abstraction from the whole, and shows its possibility as such.

In this view, being-in-the-world as term is used to refer to the starting whole, which is neither the objective world (physicalist model), nor the subject (cartesian model), but irreducible being-in-the-world, it is again subject, but a subject IN the world, and not a static subject in a static world, but changing subject in the changing world. World full of things which undergo changes, and other agents which are acting (maybe it is better called becoming-in-the-world for this reason?). Whatever abstraction can be done, is done within this starting whole, and thus being-in-the-world can’t be defined, but only one can just try to point to it – namely… stop for the moment, and there it is, it is the being-in-the-world, or it is that pre-philosophical awareness which philosophy often tends to eliminate, changing it with a more reductionistic model, but which is necessarily the starting point of any thought. The words and notions are learned in this kind of being-in-the-world, and if one just thinks of how we learn things, it is really simple, someone shows a thing to us while our being-along-in-the-world, and because we are in the same world, and because the thing we see is the same thing (no Cartesian duplication, no phenomenal experience set apart from the world)- it is in publicly accessible space, and the ground for transcendence is there, the thing is the same thing for me and for the other. Now, it might seem problematic to take this “naive” view as a ground, but I want to point that the notions are learned in this kind of view, the things we think of are based on this “naive” being-in-the-world. Dismissing this as ground seems to me impossible, analogous to cutting the branch on which we sit. And part of it can be seen in the problems which different moves away from the being-in-the-world (by cutting it to half to subject and phenomenal experience, or by taking the abstraction from it, e.g. atoms and physical forces as self-subsistent and constituting the whole) can cause with possibility to address transcendence of intentional content, but also with impossibility to address what is left out of those abstractions as intentionality in general, what is called consciousness, qualia, and so on.

Often this being-in-the-world  is reduced by cutting it in half, and putting the subject as some separate self-subsistent essence, and then the other half is often called phenomenal-world. Some imagine this phenomenal world as some kind of representation of the real world, and they call it phenomenal experience, removing the world from it, and moving it to the side of the subject.

Grounding the Inter-Subjective Transcendence

In every intersubjective practice, be it communication, game, or otherwise,  we necessarily accept the possibility of intentional content to show inter-subjective transcendence; possibility for it to transcend not only multiple intentional acts of different quality (or as it is also named – of different psychological type, as e.g. remembering/ imagining/ seeing /wishing and so on), but also the intentional acts of multiple subjects. For it to be transcendental, the content of our intentional acts need to differ from the contingent psychological acts in which it appears (or so to say, not to be defined or constituted by them), and to appear as same content within each of those intentional acts, be those in one subject or in number of subjects.
As I have noted several times (but I think it is worth repeating), denying the possibility of inter-subjective transcendence is impossible, as in the same act when one denies the transcendence, the transcendence is assumed. Namely one can’t deny “possibility of intersubjective-transcendence”, without assuming that the other person is talking about the same thing, when talking about “inter-subjective transcendence”. In similar way one can’t argue against inter-subjective transcendence of ANY intentional content, as by denying the intersubjective transcendence of that particular content, one is assuming the possibility to talk/think of that same content. So whatever is content of intentional acts, is inter and intra-subjectively transcendent. What one can deny though is that there is no inter-subjectively transcendent content (or meaning) of some of the words we use. Though a) this can’t be denied in general, as the denial itself put into words, will have to be inter-subjectively transcendent and b) for any word which is learned and used in society, in lack of inter-subjective content it is hard to see how it would be distinguished from any other such word, i.e. if we say that words W1 and W2 both lack any inter-subjectively transcendent content, it is hard to see in what way those two would be distinguished and used in different ways in communication.

As transcendental, this intentional content can’t be defined through subjective and contingent beliefs about the content, nor by subjective/psychological acts/events. As for the beliefs, the very notion of “beliefs about something”, should be enough to see that there is distinction between beliefs about the thing, and the thing itself.  But also if one takes beliefs as defining the content, it would a) render changing of beliefs about content impossible, and b) it would make it impossible for us to be wrong in our beliefs about the thing. Then, it seems to me, we should not buy into subjective idealism, nor we should buy into some forms of internalism, which would want to reduce intentional content to whatever is happening in the brain (e.g. concepts as some kind of ability/information within the brain). The brain processes are something contingent and individual, and are localized in time, so they can’t be proper ground of intra or inter-subjective transcendence.

One can try to search for the transcendental content in inter-subjective practices. The logic would be that as if the intentional content is supposed to be inter-subjectively transcendent then supposedly the “root” of that content might be in the inter-subjective practices in general, or language in specific. But how can subject get in touch with language or practices in general, if they don’t appear as inter-subjectively transcendental intentional content for him in first place? So to say, the language and practices can’t be held as ground for inter-subjective transcendence, as inter-subjective transcendence is required for those things to appear in first place. The meaning of the word will have to appear as intentional content in order to learn the word.

If the idea that intentional content is created or defined by whatever is there in the subject may be termed “subjective idealism” or “internalist physicalism”, this second view, that the intentional content is created or defined by whatever is there in the practices between subjects, may be termed “inter-subjective idealism” or “inter-subjective physicalism”.

If you agree with me that those two models are not sufficient to give ground of intra and inter-subjectively transcendent content, we need to search for intentional content in some other place.
One other idea is that the content is transcendent, by being connected to objective things in the world – this view might be called externalists physicalism. The intentional content of our thoughts about Venus is then the planet Venus. And really this view seems to provide the needed transcendence. In my numerically different intentional acts, where the intentional content is planet Venus, all of those are about the objectively existing planet Venus. And even when I speak with other people about planet Venus, the intentional content is same for us – being one and the same planet Venus. Further the account can be held to give account for concepts which are not singular (i.e. general notions), by connecting them to refer to the sets of particulars which satisfy given property. What is left for this account then is to explain and explicate the relation which makes certain intentional act to be about certain things/facts in objective reality.

However by this account, we can never know that certain intentional content is inter or intra-subjectively transcendent. The transcendence there is not something to which we have intimate relation, or of which we have intimate knowledge; by this account what we mean by the words, for all that we know might be not intra or inter-subjectively transcendent. When I say tree now, and when I say tree later, for all that I know, I might mean two different things – the knowledge if I mean the same thing by the same word is isolated from me, it is externalized in some kind of relation which is not fully accessible to me. Thus it appears that while I do mean something by my words, I can’t know what I mean by them.

And then, there is the model which I find plausible, where the transcendence is grounded in being-along in the (phenomenal) world, the being-along with other subjects in the same world, which presents a possibility for noticing the same things, be them concrete things, or also presents a possibility for noticing same abstractions – same abstract notions. Both concrete things and abstract notions in this being along in the world are given to us not as something which we create or own, but in publicly accessible world. Because they are in this publicly accessible space, we don’t need to imagine that other people can access them, it is normal that they can, and we need to learn special cases in which they can’t.
On this view, not just that the intentional content transcends the numerically and qualitatively different intentional acts of one or multiple persons, but it appears in every and each of those subjects as such, and knowable as such. Or so to say, the intentional content is present in our intentional acts, not as nothing, but as a concrete idea. In such way a simple identity is made between the idea and the intentional content. And as much the intentional content is something other (e.g. planet Venus), the idea is also something other – i.e. planet Venus.This is not to be taken (as might be common misconception about idealism), that the idea is something subjective, mental, or that because of being idea, the subject holds every and each possible truth about that idea (the things which were already denied). It just means that whatever intentional content is, it is thinkable as something other then the subject or in the case of some notions like “self” as same with the subject.

Does God Exist?

Surely before answering that question, one needs to know what one means by the word “God”.

In order to examine the issues connected to the question, first let’s look at one silly argument. The argument says that by saying “God doesn’t exist” one actually admits that God exists, by sheer referring to God. Of course this is not a valid argument – people can talk and speak of non-existent things. If this was a valid argument, one wouldn’t be able to say that “unicorns”, “pink fairies”, or “Santa Claus” don’t exist either. But it opens the question of our ability to refer to things that don’t exist. For sure not-existing can’t be property of things that we refer to, because only things that exist can have properties. So, the first step to analyzing the question of existence of God, is to clear up this ability to refer to nonexistent things.

Russell’s solution is to take names to be shorthands for descriptions. So for example in case of Santa, the description would be e.g. “a person that lives on North Pole, and delivers toys to kids for Christmas”, and the sentence “Santa doesn’t exist” should be understood as “There is no X, such that X is a person that lives on North Pole, etc., etc…”.
However Kripke presented a bunch of convincing arguments against names as shorthands for descriptions. For example if Santa did exist, wouldn’t we be able to imagine Santa not living on the North Pole? Or wouldn’t we be able to imagine him not delivering presents for Christmas? If that is so, then Santa can’t be shortened description of the type we presented, because it would fail to refer to Santa in this cases. Thus, Kripke argues, names are rigid designators – they refer to the same thing in all possible worlds. However, if we take names to be rigid designators, the problems of referring to non-existents appears again.

One idea might be to take the names of existent things to be a rigid designators, while the names of the nonexistent things to be descriptions, but that doesn’t quite work. Imagine for example that we wonder if something with name as “X” exists or not. In this case, it would mean that X would be rigid designator if it turns out that X exists, while it would be description if it turns out that it doesn’t. But surely what we mean by X doesn’t change at all in the whole process. When we wonder if X exist, and if we find out that X exists, and if we find out that X doesn’t exist, what we mean by X should stay same.

In a previous posts, I presented a different way to look at the issue of names. The crux of that account is that the baptizer can give a name to whatever appears as content of his/her intentional acts, and that names can’t appear in any different way. (Intentionality is the property of our mental acts to be about something, for example we are not merely seeing but seeing something, we are not merely wishing but wishing something, we are not merely assuming but assuming something, etc…). So, we can name (only) something we see (or in general – notice), something we assume, something we imagine, and so on…
In this account then, the names again rigidly designate, but rigidly designate the intentional content of baptizer’s intentional act. So, if the person sees a very bright star on evening sky, and designates it as “Hesperus”, Hesperus rigidly designates whatever is that the person saw. On this account names can rigidly designate also imagined content, or assumed content of intentional acts, so there is no need to “fall back” to the shortened descriptions for the case of non-existents (though in general, the shortened description account can be also subsumed in this account, in the case of assumed/theoretical content. I will say more on this later).

So, on this account, a thing named N will fail to exist, not because N is shortened description, and that there is no x for which that shortened description is true, but because the originally named intentional content is one of the cases that I considered in my last post. In short, those are the cases where a)what is named is an imaginary content, or b)it is an assumed content (part of theory) and the theory doesn’t correspond with the world, or c)that what is seen (or in general noticed) and named, is an illusion.
According to this then, the right way to approach the issue of God’s existence, is to put attention on the baptizing (giving of the name), and what kind of intentional content, and in what type of intentional act that content appeared. From what I can see, there are several possible scenarios, each of them having different conditions of what is meant by God as existing or not.

1. The God revealed himself to a certain person or persons, and told them his name. This is the case where the intentional content is phenomenal. Namely God is seen, heard, etc…, and God himself has communicated the name to the person(s) to whom God presented himself. We could say that this is the case of ostensive teaching, or communicating the name/content pair by showing. (This particular type of ostensive teaching happens often in our lives when we introduce ourselves to others.) Then those persons communicated whatever happened to them through the religious books.
In this case, there are two possibilities. Either God really exists, and the name “God” was given by God himself to himself (appearing as a phenomenal content to whomever he presented himself), or the whole thing was illusion (of one or more persons), and that the name “God” was introduced for illusionary content.

2.The God, and the religious books are fiction. That is, what is named by “God” is an intentional content of someone’s intentional act of imagining. Of course in this case God would refer to a non-existent thing.

3.The God is an assumed content. The basis of it, is a theory that wants to explain the world (what we see, etc..) by assuming a supernatural being, and which further has certain properties which explain different things that happen. This, we can see, comes close to some form of shortened description, with the distinction that here what is talked about is a theory, and if the “God” refers to existent or non-existent thing depends on the issue if the theory is corresponding with the world or not. (Probably in this case, we might speak not of one theory but of set of theories having something similar, e.g. include a supernatural being.)

Now, I guess there are different kind of theists and atheists. Some theists can believe that the name is introduced by act in 1, namely that God presented himself, so that in fact God rigidly designates God. Some theists might not, but might believe in existence of God, based on 3. What is not clear is what those people would say about 1 and 2.
Atheists on other side, usually on basis of 3, take that the theories that involve God are invalid, and based on that dismiss possibility of God revealing himself, and initiating the usage of his name. So they would probably argue that it is some combination of wrong theories (3), imagination (2), or hallucination (1), that contributed to the usage of the name “God”.

Anyway… What about the existence of God? Does God exist?
I won’t even try to answer the question philosophically, as I don’t think philosophy has anything to do with answering the question. (Maybe it does, but doesn’t seem to me that way). I just wanted to point to the issues that are involved in the question of existence of God, and also show how the account of names based on intentionality can be used to clear up the issues, though without giving answers.

UPDATE:I just found the Square of Opposition blog (which I added to the blog page), and there is a longer post called Causal Chains and Reference to God there, which is discussing the issue from the perspective of causal chains of reference. Check it out.

Three Ways In Which A Name Can Refer To A Non-Existent

In the previous post I put forward few thoughts on how one can give account of names in general based on intentionality.  In this post, I want to analyze the issue of non-existent objects, that  of referring to things that don’t exist within this account.

Before continuing, for those who didn’t read my last post, let me sum up the account in short, the idea is that in every case of initial baptism, one gives a name to something which appears as content in his/her intentional acts (so to say, names don’t appear from nowhere, there must be an act of baptizing in which the name is given to something). I also said that depending on the intentional act, one can baptize a)something that one has noticed in the phenomenal world, and I named this phenomenal content, b)something that one imagines, and I named this imagined content, and c)something that one assumes, and I named this – theoretical content.
After this initial  act of  baptizing, the  word/intentional content pair can be communicated to other people via a)ostensive teaching, good for  phenomenal content, b)communicating a theory, good for theoretical content, and c)through “indirect” reference – the learner is referring to the thing as baptizer’s intentional content. This can be used for all three types of content, and in the case of imaginary content usually takes form of a story.

Usually in the causal theory of reference, non-existents are distinguished merely by the fact that there is no object which is denoted by the name. But if we look at the issue of names of non-existents from the context of intentionality, we can see that we have few possibilities that are qualitatively different.

1. The first case is where what is named is imaginary content. The baptizer imagines something, and gives that intentional content a name.

2. The second case, is where we have assumed intentional content, which is supposed to explain some phenomenal content (or possibly some other previously assumed intentional content). If the theory is wrong, then we have situation where the assumed content doesn’t refer to anything in the world.

3. The third case, is where somebody names phenomenal intentional content, but the phenomenal content is illusion.

Those are the possibilities I can think of, which usually would be sub-summed as referring to non-existent objects. Maybe there are some more, I don’t know… But I think that those three are enough to argue that treating all non-existents as if they all have same character is oversimplification, and that each of those cases should be analyzed separately.

Intentional Account Of Names

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?

Intentionality And Its Content

Intentionality is not just mark of the mental processes, it is a mark of all the things of which we think.
Namely, we can’t think about a thing, we can’t remember a thing, see it or imagine it, and so on, without that thing being in same moment thought of, remembered, seen, imagined, and so on.By “thing” here, I mean concrete thing, property, event or a universal (notion, concept). Same goes for both cases.
Take for example case of a thing that we remember. It is inevitably intentional content of the act of remembering. Or if it is a thing we see, inevitably it is intentional content of the act of seeing.

So, not just that all mental acts are intentional, but there are no things we can think about which would not in same time be content of intentional acts.
It seems to me, that If we want to properly understand things then, we need to approach them as a content of intentional acts, and not separately abstracted from the intentional acts. The only way to leave the content as something separated from intentional acts is not to remember/imagine/see it etc…, and not to think of it. But that is hardly acceptable in philosophy.

Connected to this one can criticize the Kantian ‘ding an sich’, a notion mentioned but not thought about – an empty nothing and not even that (one can after all think about ‘nothing’), and also criticize representational theory of mind. What are those representations of?  No way to tell except by connecting to (what is taken to be) other representations, we are again left with real world consisting of (or being) things-in-themselves – something which is empty nothing, and not even that. But that didn’t stop neither Kant nor representationalists to assume causal connection between those empty notions and the mind; underlying those representations themselves. Here is how somebody represented (pun intended) this situation :

The serpent bites its own tail. But it is only after a long period of mastication that he recognizes the serpent taste in what he is devouring. So the serpent stops. But after a certain while, finding nothing else to eat, he starts chewing again. Then he comes to the point of having his head in his mouth. That’s what he calls ‘a theory of knowledge. – Cahiers, Paul Valéry