Perpetual Illusion And Abilities

I keep thinking about the perpetual illusion scenario. That is the scenario where baby’s brain is put into a vat and connected to a sources of random electrical impulses. It so happens that by mere chance, the impulses happen to be such that the baby is under illusion of living normal life within society. So, in few last posts I was defending the possibility that I am such brain, and I also was discussing different issues related to this, like:

  1. How is this possible? I pointed that while the subject doesn’t become aware of anything real while subject of perpetual illusion, she may become aware of different possibilities. For example, she may become of the possibility that there are things, movement, multitude of things, possibility for there to be certain number of things, and so on…
  2. Related to this, I pointed to the principle that if she can think of those things, she can also think a priori about those things. The easiest to point to was the example with the numbers, where proofs of mathematical theorems that she learns (comprehends) while being subject of perpetual illusion, will be the same proofs that we comprehend in real world.

Here, I want to discuss another issue related to the scenario, and that is, if we become aware of those possibilities while not being presented with real instances of those possibilities, does that mean that we have innate ideas of those possibilities (e.g. possibilities of things, motion, numbers, language, colors, and so on)?

It is pretty attractive idea I think. We would say that because in the illusion those notions were not present, it can’t be that those notions came from “outside”. So, those ideas must have been in “our minds” even before we became aware of them. I guess, for the last sentence to make more sense, we would be inclined to say that we remember them, or recognize them. That would take care of the issue of how could they be “in our minds” but we weren’t aware of them.

I don’t buy this story. When I become aware of something new, I don’t remember it. It is a fact that I was never aware of it before. And in the phenomenology, I don’t experience it as something that I recognize, but I’m usually mesmerized – I feel that my awareness of the world is getting bigger – I’m now aware of something that I wasn’t aware of, something which I had no idea of before, something that I wasn’t expecting before also. Take a case of the subject of perpetual illusion for the first time seeing an illusion of red thing. From that experience she becomes aware of the possibility of there being red things (even not seeing a real red thing), but is she really remembering the possibility that there be red things? I think not, I think this new color is that – new color for this subject. It is not something which was there in her mind the whole time, it is something which she became aware of only in virtue of this experience.

So, the phenomenological description doesn’t imply at all that we are remembering or recognizing in some way those notions. We become aware of those in virtue of the experiences. But, we are back to the problem that those notions (or as I said possibilities) are not there in the experience itself.

To me it seems that good way to approach this issue is to relate this to innate abilities. While we might not have those notions in ourselves as such, we might be born with the abilities to become aware of those things (‘be born with’ should be taken in a loose way, as those abilities might be developed also automatically later in life, e.g. in early childhood). It seems that this is pretty common-sense approach. We aren’t aware of things before we are born, but when we are born we can become aware of the things through our perception. It is our perception which is this ability to become aware of things. We also have the abilities to become aware of colors, sounds, movement, multitudes of things, numbers of things, and so on…

This can be related to this different approach to the issue of other minds, that I’m pointing to from time to time. One of the approaches to other minds issues (the issue of how do we know that other people are conscious) is analyzed through the idea of theories which relate the behavior of the people as a thing that we see directly to the “invisible minds” which are behind those actions. But, why not say in this case also that we are born with the ability to see subjects qua subjects. To see them as acting with intentions, to see them as aware of things that we are aware of, and so on (one can point to the researches here which show that we can be very precise in figuring out where the other person is looking at.)…

Anyway, back to the topic. The general idea is then, that our abilities are such that we easily become aware of some things. Be that the objects around us, where they move, what other people look at, what they are doing and so on. Simply said, we are born as beings which can become aware of things. And this our ability is limited, and focused – we become aware of some things more easily than of another things.

But we are not out of the woods yet, as even we allow that we are born with abilities to become aware of those notions, it doesn’t answer the question of how come we become aware of those, when they are not even there (in the case of perpetual illusion)

I will think/write on it in the next post I guess…

The Myth of ‘Phenomenal/Conscious Experience’

As I was saying in other posts, I’m skeptical that the phrase “phenomenal experience” refers to anything. That would go also for “conscious experience” as long this is taken to play similar role that the phenomenal experience is supposed to play.
In this post I will try to summarize the arguments (though probably I will miss some).

Firstly, I pointed in one post that the in the traditional use of the word ‘experience’ it refers either to events in the world in which we take part  and which affect us somehow (e.g. an “frightful experience of meeting a bear”), or to knowledge gained from such events (“From my experience, the boat can carry that much load”).
Secondly, if we buy into transparency of the ‘phenomenal experience’ (the claim that when we have experience of something, we are merely aware of what the experience is experience of), it seems that it is implied that we are not aware of the experience itself. I’m not sure how this can be made compatible with usual view of this “phenomenal experience” as something of which we are aware in some direct way – something about which we can’t be even skeptical about. I wrote about this being a possible consequence of misuse of the word “experience” here.
Thirdly there is particular work that “phenomenal experience” is supposed to doa)explaining the what-it-is-likeness which we never found in the ‘gray-goo’ of the world, and b) the cases of illusions, hallucinations, dreams and alike.
I argued that both those things can be explained without assuming phenomenal experience – a) the world doesn’t have to be merely a gray-goo, the gray-goo can be seen as just one aspect of the world that we approach by science. The colors, sounds, emotions, awareness and so on, can be seen as other aspect that we see, hear, or in general become aware of through some kind of access. And b) instead of talking about some phenomenal experience being veridical or not, we can talk about mistaking one experience (or aspect of that experience) for another, because of the limits of our perception (or limits of our awareness in general).
Fourtly, if we think just in terms of information, there is the question of economy also. Why assume that there is a phenomenal experience playing a role of a representation which provides information for other mental capacities, when such role (of providing information) can be played by the world itself? So to say, if the world is there “at hand”, why would there be additional representation of it?  Related to how this representation is supposed to work, I also pointed to some problems if we try to relate it to our everyday notion of representation.
Fifthly, if we have this phenomenal experience which is representation and which is characterized by what-it-is-like to have it, there appear issues of our knowledge of it (which is sometimes called introspection). For knowledge we need phacts (facts about the phenomenal experience) and access to those. But if we put attention on the words through which we are supposed to describe the phacts, we speak of lines, lengths of lines, colors, things – all external objects. And what kind of verb do we use for the access? We can see that something is the case in the world, but can we see that something is the case in the phenomenal experience? Sometimes we can speak about the properties of the visual field, and that really seems as talking about properties of the phenomenal experience? But when we are saying that the visual field is blurry on the periphery, are we pointing to anything but the fact (and not phact), that we can’t clearly see things which we don’t look directly at?

And in the end little explanation. It might seem that denying “phenomenal experience” or “conscious experience” is really absurd. After all we all have those things, right?

The answer would be that assumption of the “phenomenal/conscious experience” with the role it is supposed to serve is a theoretical account of what is happening; and that one can as well provide different story in which we do have experiences, and we are conscious, but in which we don’t have “conscious/phenomenal experiences”. The answer would be along those lines – We do take part in the events in the world, and we are aware of those events and their aspects (we see things, hear other things, etc.. .when participating in those events.). Further there are facts about our access to the things in those events. There are facts of us seeing something clearly, of hearing something in distance, and so on. And when we, participating in those events, are aware of them, we are also affected and/or learn from them.

This story, it seems to me doesn’t leave anything important of which we are aware of, and doesn’t have the problems of “phenomenal experience”. Though of course it has other problems.

How Does Yellow Brick Road Appear?

Few posts ago I wrote about what happened when my daughter, my niece and I were watching The Wizard of Oz. The girls noticed that the movie “doesn’t have colors” at the start, then failed to notice the moment when the things in the movie changed from colorless to colored, just to notice that fact few minutes further in the movie.

I wondered what happens to the what-it-is-likeness in the assumed ‘phenomenal experience’ of the girls…

  1. Did the what-it-is like of their experience changed when the movie changed from black and white to Technicolor?
  2. Did the what-it-is like of their experience changed after they noticed that “now the things are in color”?

Maybe the questions phrased in this way are not clear enough though. Because the what-it-is-likeness is taken to be a characteristic of the (phenomenal/conscious/what I called p-sense) experience, it being somehow and not other way, would be a fact about the phenomenal experience – a “phact” (to use the term Pete Mandik coined). Now, if we assume that there are such things as phacts, it is normal that in the ongoing conscious experience there are lot of such phacts. Instead of asking then the questions (1) and (2) in this general manner, we can concentrate on some specific phacts. We may talk about ‘how did the yellow brick road appear to the girls’. Maybe even more specific ‘did the yellow brick road appear yellow to them?’. It seems to me the ‘what-was-it-like to see the yellow brick road’ is related to same phacts as ‘how did the yellow brick road appear to the girls?’ (where ‘appear’ is not in taken in epistemic sense, but phenomenal sense).

You may, as I am, be skeptical of all this (p-sense) experience talk, and hence of existence of any such things as phacts related to the questions asked. But seems to me, even if one phrases the question wrong, there is some underlying thing that we mean to ask by the question, and which is of interest nonetheless. So, I will try to analyze this underlying issue, while I might not really answer it the context of assumptions in which it was phrased.

Let’s forget yellow brick road for a moment, and consider this…

We can talk to a certain person for a long time, and not notice the shape of her brows or shape of her mouth. But even we fail to notice and learn those things, we can in some other case (say, the next day) recognize that person again. I think it is safe to say that the person appeared somehow to us while we were talking. We weren’t aware of the shape of her brows or the shape of her mouth, but were those of different shape she would’ve appeared differently to us (or as we also say she would’ve looked differently).

If we talk about shape of the brows and mouth as aspects of the face, I think we can now say that we didn’t see those aspects. One might find this kind of talk weird, but think of this – would you say that you are seeing the hidden object in a newspaper puzzle (“find the hidden object” type of puzzle), just because you hold it in front of your eyes? I think not! But isn’t the same case where we don’t notice if the brows or the mouth have certain form and not other? Just that we are seeing the face doesn’t mean that we are seeing it’s aspects.

But even if we aren’t seeing those aspects, from another side we know that those aspects affect how the face appears to us! As pointed, given different shape of brows or mouth, person’s face would appear differently to us.

We can apply this kind of analysis to the yellow brick road now. We can say that the girls saw the yellow brick road without seeing its color. But this is not strange as it sounds, because immediately  we say that the yellow brick road still appeared in a specific way due to the fact that it was yellow. So, a yellow brick road whose color girls don’t see wouldn’t  appear to them same as a red brick road whose color girls don’t see (or don’t notice).

So, what would be the interesting conclusions of this kind of analysis? One of them is, I think, that neither the awareness of the aspects like the color of the thing nor possession of color concepts are required for a thing to appear to us in this way which is related to it possessing certain aspects. So, a thing may appear same to us, which have those color concepts and young kids. Of course the kid may be unable to focus merely on the color, and further to determine it, but as pointed this doesn’t mean that it isn’t aware of the gestalt look, which is related to the thing having certain color.
One can point to such things as Vygotsky block tests, where younger children didn’t sort blocks on dependence on one of those aspects (color, size or shape), but apparently based on some kind of holistic similarity. If this is true, it points to the direction of the conclusion that the gestalt appearance of the things is related to it having certain aspect. I’m not sure though there can be any kind of clear measurement of the similarities (what would this ‘holistic similarity’ even mean in terms of something testable?).

The other thing is, that instead of talking about any phacts when we talk about what-it-is-likeness, we can concentrate on the issue about what we are aware of/what we see (and further what we see clearly, vaguely, and so on). In this way we can talk about gestalt looks the things have in objective manner, and ask if the girls saw IT, or they saw some specific aspect and so on… I think phrased in that way we can analyze the issues better.

UPDATE:Richard Brown has a post in part of which he gives overview of Dretske’s distinction between thing-awareness and fact-awareness (which is supposed to explain change blindness). The distinction seems to me parallel the kind of distinction I’m drawing here between gestalt-look awareness and aspect awareness.

‘Appears as a Red Ball’ vs. ‘Is a Red Ball’

In last few posts i was saying that different things can appear same, both because of the things themselves (two different things can appear same if looked from certain side even to the ideal observer), and also because of the limits of the perception, and because of certain characteristics of the situation (fog, glasses, different lights, rewired brain, etc…).

In such way a red ball under a white light appears same as a white ball under a red light (all other things being equal). As in this picture we don’t assume sense-data or really any kind of “phenomenal experience” standing between the balls and the observer, there is nothing to be veridical vs. non-veridical (until we make it matter of judgment, that is).  What we have is merely two situations that appear (look/seem) same.

Further, it should be pointed that because we can focus on specific things in the world and ignore others, we can talk about “appearing same” not just of the whole situations, but also about parts. So, for example even the lights might be visible in the situation, we can ignore them and say that the balls in both situations appear same. This is similar to the situation where we are not sure if the situation is what we think it is, so we can say “it appears red” meaning it appears as it appears when there is a red ball, suspecting that it might be in fact some other situation which might appear same.

Also, talking about illusions I said that because one of those situations, i.e. red ball under normal light is what we treat as a standard for that appearance, and the other requires a setup (possibility of which we might be ignorant of) we might falsely conclude that the case is the standard one, and that this wrong judgment is what happens in case of illusion.

However in order to say that something appears as a red ball, we need before that to be aware that a ball can be red. If not the whole “appears as a red ball” doesn’t make sense. So, “appears as a red ball” can come only after  “is a red ball”. That is, we can’t say that the ball is red because it appears as a red ball, because for that we need a concept of a red ball.  So where does “is red” come from? The answer to this question probably would also shine light on what “standard” means in the above paragraph about illusion.

I take it that teaching of words for colors almost always happens by ostension. Teacher points to some thing which has e.g. red color, and says “that thing is red”, at other time again points to some other thing and say “that thing is red”, and so on… What is needed is that the student becomes aware of what is pointed to. Through attention (which also means abstraction – i.e. ignoring other specifics of the object), we can become aware of the object qua object in specific color. And as I said in the post about common nouns, after through ostensive teaching being presented salient examples of objects in red color, we can become aware of the similarity between the pointed things, so that eventually we become aware of red objects in the world.

In doing this we find the objects’ colors and the similarity IN their appearing to us. What we can probably say here is that while this learning goes on, what we are aware of is the similarities and differences of the appearances of the objects pointed to. Whatever other conditions there are which might make an appearance similar or different, e.g. glasses, different light, being exposed to bright light before seeing etc… we aren’t in this case aware of them, and those conditions are in the normal cases such that the only difference of appearance is due to the differences of the objects (one can point here that we do tend to see red objects as red even in different light after some time, and that we tend to see the distant and the near trees of same height as being a same height, that we do tend to see the rotated coin as circular (and not elliptical), and so on).

So same as other common nouns, “red object” would require an awareness of multiplicity of objects that show some kind of similarity (in this case similarity of appearance). But isn’t this returning to “red objects appear red”? No, because here the meaning of “red object” is connected to the awareness of there being objects that show similarity of appearance given the background conditions and, and I think this is important, while we are being ignorant of the background conditions.

A Couple More Thoughts on Pain

Connected to the issue raised in the previous post, that is if pain has to hurt, there are some interesting things said by George Pitcher in an article called “Awfulness of Pain” (The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 67, No. 14. (Jul. 23, 1970), pp. 481-492.), where at the start he asks “Is pain necessarily unpleasant?”

There he points to the case of:

    2.People with incurable diseases that have underwent prefrontal lobotomy. Those people typically “report after the operation that they still have pain but it doesn’t bother them; they simply don’t care about the pain and often forget it is there.” He further says…

It might be thought that the operation simply destroys the patients’ ability to feel any pain at all, but it is not so: for they still complain vociferously about pinprick and mild burn.

    3.People who have “trained themselves” not to mind pain – like fakirs.

Pitcher actually takes the position that the pain can be blocked in the brain, and so, he tends to think that those cases might be understandable in such theory, but as that doesn’t help much phenomenologically, I will just ignore that theory.

For the case of masochism, it seems to me that it is not about finding the pain pleasurable, but that it is the whole context that masochists find arousing (and find some kind of pleasure in it). Or – this case can’t be reduced to simple situation where masochist doesn’t find the pain unpleasant (or painful), but that it is probably that they find it painful which creates the situation in which their paraphilia is manifested. Pitcher also says that “Affirmatives” (people who think that pain is always unpleasant) can give analogies like…

…an object might be ugly in itself, but when placed in certain setting, it might make an essential contribution to a whole that is aesthetically pleasing. Or, a certain herb can be in itself foul-tasting, but nevertheless enhance the flavor of a delicious soup or salad.

Second and third case seem more straightforward, as they don’t seem to include this kind of problems. However still, if a person says that he feels the pain, but it doesn’t bother him, might not be a fact that the pain is not in itself “painful”, but that there is just difference in what I named in the previous posts – “access to pain”.
To make an analogy – some thing might look ugly to me. But if I put some kind of colored glasses, it might be enough for the thing not to look ugly anymore. By putting glasses, I’m not changing the thing, but I’m changing the access to the thing. (or instead of glasses, think few glasses of wine). But what changes in those cases is not how we are affected by the things, but the way we see the thing is changed, and that is the reason for change of the experience.

So maybe in case of 2 and 3 what is changed is also the properties of the access to the thing, and it is not a change of how we are affected by one and the same thing, while the thing, and the access to it are still the same.

Other thing that makes the analysis difficult is that the pain’s effect on us is what is usually taken as what “pain” refers to. In such way we are metaphorically using it to point to some unpleasant experience by using “painful experience”. So, if the prototype pain is which hurts us, probably “pain” isn’t best suited to point to a part of the pain abstracted from how it affects us…

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.

The Phenomenal World As A Real World

I’m not sure how clear is the background of my posts here. If they make sense or not. So,in risk of repeating myself, here is another attempt to communicate this background more clearly…

Simple picture:

The phenomenal world is a physical world.
They are in relation of subject and predicate. The relation between subject and predicate, is where the subject contains the predicate, but also something more.

Like in “Cow is an animal”. Notion ‘cow’ contains all determinations of ‘animal’, and plus something else. To be a cow is to be an animal, and still to be determined differently.  If by “abstraction” we mean focusing on some part of the thing or notion, and leaving outside others, then ‘animal’ is abstraction from ‘cow’. By ignoring some specifics of what makes a cow, you are left with just a general ‘animal’.

That is what we do in phenomenal world. We put attention on some characteristics and ignore others. We look at the phenomena, and take some of the properties to be dependent on us as observers. Colors, sounds – “they have more to do with our sensory apparatus and our brain, then with the world – remove them from our analysis of the world. We will loose nothing.”. But, in doing that, we are not analyzing any other world then the phenomenal world. We are approaching things in the phenomenal world in order to measure them, put them in furnace, etc… So, the physical world is abstraction of phenomenal world.-  The phenomenal world is a physical world.

Complicated picture:
Usually there is that one assumption which comes along with the analysis of the world in terms of physics, and which can be connected back to Locke and his division to primary/secondary properties. “What we have ignored or abstracted from in the physical world are secondary properties… they are not in the world at all, properly speaking. The world is what our analysis has left.”, says such view, “The physical world, stripped down to its simple multiplicity of particles which behave so and so when they are in some field, is what there is. That world affects our senses, and what we have abstracted from appears only in the mental life.”

In this view, what we call “phenomenal world” is mere construct of our minds. It might be not properly named “phenomenal world” any more, but more likely – “phenomenal experience”.  The first approach to this picture is usually the simple one, where the information from sensory organs is mapped to some kind of sense-data, and everything else in the phenomenal experience we hope to get from mental processes like association. And then it is seen that it won’t do… What is called “Phenomenal experience” is too complex to reduce to that. Now we find in this “phenomenal experience” those things which we abstracted from. But we don’t want to retrace and recheck the assumptions from which we start. We are left in this psychological view of the “phenomenal experience”, in which we now want to put not just simple things that are named “qualia”, but also intentionality, language, other people and their minds – everything that we abstracted. And all that we need to construct on base of brain. And look… there is a gap!

Of course there is a gap! How can there not be a gap, where the phenomenal world is stripped down to its basics and called physical world, and now from its simple notions, which are really a few quantified notions, we need to get to how it was from the start. It is as if we abstracted from two dimensions in three dimensional space as “secondary properties”, and now try to reconstruct them, using just one dimension.

And dualists acknowledging this gap, don’t retrace and check the steps already done, but want to “add” the missing things to the picture. But I think there are two problems.

  • Dualists are trying to “glue” those missing things in the wrong place. They still work in the “phenomenal experience” paradigm. “The real world” is left as it is, cleaned-up to the abstract simplicity of few simple notions.
  • The “gluing” doesn’t quite work anyway. If you can abstract B and C from A, that doesn’t mean that you can just “glue” B and C and get A.

I hope that I succeeded here to communicate at least in part my feel about the weirdness of the picture in which the physical world is not taken for what really is – an abstraction, but as self-subsistent, and indeed is taken as a ground of the phenomenal world from which it was abstracted.

Return to the simple picture:
In my thinking then, we need to give up the paradigm of “phenomenal experience” as a psychological phenomenon. I think that picture is turning everything on its head. We need to give up the picture where this our living in the world falls in the realm of psychology. Instead, I think, we should accept our phenomenal being-in-the-world as a genuine being in the world. A real being, real existence in a real world. A move towards naive realism, if you like.
So, having done this move I guess it makes it clear how phenomenological analysis in this picture should not be seen as psychological analysis, and how we can look in this our being in the world for basis not just of our experiences, but also for base of intentionality, concepts and even physics.

Cyborgs Sharing Pain, Again

I wrote the following story as a part of a previous post:

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.

The issue was if the pain is different in that that it is being private and can’t be shown, while other things like colors, sounds, the texture and warmth of objects (accessible by touch) are in publically accessible space.
The point of the story is that while it is true that in the usual case pain can’t be shown, it is not because it is tightly connected to the subject, but because it appears in our body and we have privileged access to that pain. If the part of the body in which we feel the pain, however, can be “glued” to another body then that other person can gain access to the same instance of pain.

Phenomenologically speaking, this is how Ethan would describe what is happening in the story:

The pain is in my finger, and I can feel it.
I detach the finger, and I can’t feel the pain in that finger any more.
When I give it to Michael, and he attaches it instead of one of his fingers, now he can feel the pain in my finger.
The pain is in the finger, and we gain the access to the pain by attaching it to our bodies.

Here are some problems that the intuition might have with such conclusion:

Objection 1: In one case it is Michael which has pain, and in the other case it is Ethan that is in pain. So it can’t be that it is the same instance of pain that both are feeling.

Response: One can present analogy with colored object. When Michael looks at a colored object, it’s color is in publically accessible space, and Ethan is experienced in the same world, having access to the same color. One can also imagine a situation where Michael first looks at the object, and Ethan keeps his eyes closed, and then Michael closes his eyes, and Ethan looks at the colored object. While there is two separate instances of access to the color, the color is seen as something that doesn’t exist in the subject, but as something to which both subjects can access.

Objection 2:The pain is not something to which we merely have access. When Michael feels the pain in the finger, it is Michael who is in pain, he isn’t merely aware of the pain, but it affects him on very personal level.

Response: It is true that when we feel the pain in the finger it affects us strongly. But we can note that a music, which is also experienced as publically accessible, can be deeply irritating and we might want to stop listening to it. So it might be that pain isn’t a special case of a thing which affects us, but that we should consider all of the things not just as something that we are aware of, but which are affecting us too.

Objection 3:Michael and Ethan can differently experience the pain. Might be that the pain is stronger for Michael, and weaker for Ethan.

Response: That is true, but it is also true that Michael can have normal sight and Ethan be shortsighted. And when they look at a distant thing, Michael will thus see the colored thing clearly, and Ethan can see it vaguely. But the difference is not one of there be two instances of colored thing, but it is difference in the quality of the access to the thing.

Objection 4:People feel pain in so called phantom limbs. That shows that the pain can’t be something in the limbs themselves. As those limbs don’t exist.

Two responses: a) In case of phantom libs, still people feel the pain as in a limb. They don’t just feel pain in outside space, so it seems that the notion of pain is necessarily pain-in-something. b) People have visual illusions of objects which are colored and have shape. Analogously we would need to accept that shape and color can not be property of the objects. And if this objection is combined with 3, saying – “The pain in the phantom libs is as real as pain in the real limbs – it hurts!”, we can also say that “A visual illusion, can be as scary as a real thing. The music which plays in our head after night out in the club, and after few drinks, can be as beautiful as real music.”.

At the end let me add just one more thing in order to avoid misunderstandings.  I’m not arguing here about Pain Realism – that there is some essence of pain in the finger which is passed between Michael and Ethan. What I was interested is merely if in our phenomenological analysis we need to put the pain as something special, and intimately connected to the subject, or can it be categorized together with the other things of which we can be aware.
From what I said, to my thinking, there is no reason why it shouldn’t be categorized along with the other things which appear in publically accessible space.

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.

Unity Of Consciousness Or Being-In-The-World?

In the previous post, I said that one motivation I have for holding holistic view comes from what is usually called “unity of consciousness”. Unity of consciousness refers to the fact that we experience lot of things as a whole – for example as I’m typing this, my experience is a whole – the notebook in front of me, the room around me, the noise of the fan, the sound of the cars outside, the feel of touch of my fingers on the keyboard, the emotions that I have, the taste of the coffee in my mouth – I experience everything at once, as a whole.

In most cases reductionist thinking reacts to this wholeness by assuming that we need to explain it as a “weird” property of the mental, set aside from the physical world which is taken for granted.

The sciences give us the detailed picture of how the outside world affects our sensory organs. The photons (reflected from the physical things) fall on our eyes, get focused by the lens and are directed to the retina, where they are registered by a matrix of rod and cone cells, and associated neurons. The waves in the air, produced by this or that physical phenomenon (including the rotation of the fan, the speech of people, etc…), get to our ears, affect our ear-drums which in turn excite the associated neurons, the matrix of nerve endings on our skin fire as a result of pressure and temperature, the taste buds on our tongue react with the chemical make-up of whatever is that we have put in our mouth and send signals through the nerves to the cortex, and so on…
So, the physical picture is one where we have manifold of physical things affecting our manifold of sensory organs, which in turn send their signals deeper in the brain.

What follows from this kind of picture is that somehow this manifold (affected by differentiating and  conceptual faculties we have), is synthesized in the brain into one whole conscious experience. The result is the unity of conscious experience, or as it is also called “phenomenal experience”. It is set versus the objective world outside of the body. Further, in this view as the whole experience is created somehow in the brain, our experienced body, and our brain within that body is but a part of that phenomenal experience, and thus should be distinguished from our objective, or as might be called transphenomenal body/transphenomenal brain. I took those terms from the Wolfgang Metzger paper- The Phenomenal-Perceptual Field as a Central Steering Mechanism, though I guess Kantian terms of phenomena vs. noumena could also be used. The mentioned paper also includes the following interesting picture, taken from Norbert Bischof’s first volume of the large German handbook of psychology:


It is clear however that root of the sciences is in this phenomenal experience, in our being-in-the-(phenomenal)-world, and that the scientist approaches the phenomena in that same world in which she is, and that the scientist is basing her conclusions on the measurement results and other phenomena that she observes in that same world, including e.g. a coincidence between the pointer and lines of the scales of the measuring instrument or in modern times the read-out of different displays.

The scientist then, searching for the regularities behind the phenomena, gives us explanation about the “why” of the phenomena, reducing it in terms different then the everyday ones. But even those things of which scientist speaks are never seen as leaving the phenomenal world. It is that chair in my experience that I approach (in the same phenomenal world) with this specific  scientific apparatus (also in my phenomenal world), and it is there (in the phenomenal world) where I find that the chair consist of such and such cells. The cells are there in the phenomenal world, but they are so small that they can’t be seen without a specific apparatus. But take your microscope (there it is on that phenomenal table), and point it to a specific chunk of wood, and now the wood cells can be seen.

So, to sum-up, I see two possible approaches (excuse me for the oversimplification and overgeneralization):

a) Based on the sciences and their reductionism which speaks of the world in terms of small separate things, or energy in space time, or some such abstraction (where we and our bodies have dependent existence), we are inclined to postulate the phenomenal experience as a mental phenomenon, as this whole of experience is incompatible with the assumed self-subsistence of the micro-world.

If we (uncritically) take then as starting point what sciences tell us of the world, and limit ourselves to the terms of the sciences (or abstractions of the sciences), we will need to assume that all those other notions that we have, somehow emerge in the interaction of the brain and the world (as more or less nominal concepts).

It is in this view that dualism is grounded also. The dualist, not conceiving the possibility to explain all the phenomena of which we are conscious, sees as necessary to assume the existence of another type of essence (or type of properties), which added to the already present physical base are supposed to present to us the possibility of those “problematic” phenomena (e.g. qualia, consciousness, unity of
consciousness, etc..).


b) If we analyze the origins of science starting from the being-in-the-world, it appears that the sciences themselves never leave, nor have reason to leave the phenomenal experience, and that the explanations by the sciences too are never seen as leaving the so-called phenomenal world.
The being-in-the-world taken as starting point is a whole. A whole full of content of which we are more or less directly aware. Think of colors, sounds, emotions, change, agency, art, and so on. A content which is not seen as a phenomenal content created by the transphenomenal brain, but as content existing in the world in which we exist. In this view then, the unity of consciousness among with the other things – qualia, existence, change, agency, and so on, is not a problem which we need to localize in the mental space, but appears as such only if we want to start from the reductionistic picture.

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.

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?

Defending Metaphysics, Part 3

In this post I want to write about the issue if universals come from the mind, more specifically in relation to Kant’s critical philosophy. Hopefully in a next post I will cover some other possible “universals come from the mind” accounts.

In previous posts I wrote how universals are connected to particulars. In the first post I wrote that while the universals can be (and are) learned from particulars, they transcend the particularity, and are not in any way connected to that particular. And in the second post I added that this is possible only because universals are abstractions, and not some kind of synthesis from multiple particulars (i.e. as some kind of information “gathered” from multiple particulars and then put together through some kind of “similarity”. That would never bring the required universality.)  I also argued that because the universals are abstractions we can think about the relations between abstractions as unconnected to any particular concrete, but the relation we figure-out will cover the relations between any particular(s) which might fall under those abstractions.

Which brings us to the issue I want to write about in this post, and that is the issue if those universals come from the mind?
That seems like an obvious possibility if we accept the argument that universals transcend particulars, and that we can think about those universals isolated from any particulars. One path to take here is to take something like Kantian approach, where the form of the experience is what the mind provides. The “empirical” part on other hand provides content, in sense that it actualizes specific possibilities already there in the mind-form. So that mind-form is which defines the possibility of all those concepts/universals we can have. Whatever concepts we might gain, it will be actualization in that mind-form.
The notions which are of interest to metaphysics, namely those universals which are not contingent but will be present in any experience (so not the universals like for example RABBIT, CHAIR, FIRE and so on), are then really not something outside in the world, but the forms of our mind. And if we accept that we can give some a priori judgment about them, they will be merely clarifying the relations between the parts of the form which our mind provides to the experience.
But one problem with the Kantian approach is that it implies that everything we experience is given through this form. Things being in time, them being in space, causally interacting, even the categories of “being a thing”, “having a property”, “being part of” and so on will belong to this form. So, in this picture in best case, what is left to us is the practical reason, and possibility to learn contingent facts about the world, connected to contingent universals, as for example, that rabbits jump and are easily scared, or that there are 8 planets in our solar system.
But I think that the critique of the transcendental idealists and Hegel of Kant’s well.. theory, was valid.
Not just that the Kant’s critical philosophy fails to be critical enough about the undertaking it does (as Hegel said… Kant’s requirement to become acquainted with the instrument, in this case the Mind, before one starts to use it, is like a resolution not to venture into water until one has learned to swim), but also that it is inconsistent in assuming the causal relation between the noumena (things in themselves, those which can’t be known) and our Mind, when the category of things, and causality as a universals are something which should not be applicable to them.
The consistent application of the principle that only thing of which we can think is phenomena will end up with negating the notion of noumena, and with that of the phenomena/noumena distinction, and with that of the separation of the Mind and world as Kant pictured it. But with that the explanatory power of Kant’s theory about where universals which are of interest to metaphysics come from, and why we can form a priori judgments about them is lost too.

Look, An Ostensive Teaching!

Few times I mentioned ostensive teaching. I guess am kind of a fan of “ostensive teaching analysis” of the meaning of the words. I will put in this post few considerations about the ostensive teaching.

The people throughout the world teach each other concepts through examples, and successfully so. As far as I remember my own learning, and as far as I observe how I teach my kids things like colors, numbers and other concepts, I do it mostly with pointing to examples. And while ostensive teaching is used to teach the learner, I think that imagining “how would I teach my child such-and-such word” can help myself also to get a clearer picture of what I mean by that word, or what that specific concept to which the word is referring is.

Ostensive teaching is teaching of concepts, and not merely words, because the student needs to figure out what is that the teacher is pointing to. So, in the ostensible teaching, it isn’t just the case that the student is given the meaning from one side, and the word on other, and all the student has to do is to make association, but it is a kind of a “guess the meaning” game, where the student tries to guess what the teacher is pointing to (or which is the same, what the teacher means). In this kind of teaching, the words have also a role of feedback which allows the student to check if he or she guessed right.
How hard is this guessing game depends on the salience of what the teacher is pointing to. Some things are more salient in the situation than other. For children most salient in most cases are objects themselves, and not their properties (like color, number, etc..).  For them, for example colors are not something they notice, but there is just the gestalt of how the object looks. Two objects in different colors will look differently to the child, and it might find the one beautiful and the other ugly because of that, but they won’t have “different colors” for the kid; as the kid yet can’t notice the colors. How do I know? Because I experience the world in same way, (and I guess all of us do), if I see a running rabbit, I notice it the rabbit as a gestalt, and not the color of its fur. I don’t somehow first notice all of the properties, compare them, and then synthesize them into concept of rabbit. I notice the rabbit, and later when I see another one, I can recognize it. Not because of its properties, but because of its gestalt look.

While the teaching of words is not done through ostensive teaching lot of the time, it is not because it is not based on something people notice in the world, but because they notice it first, and then ask about it, for example we might ask “What is this?”. The way of this learning is very similar to ostensive teaching, just that in the case of ostensive teaching the teacher provides the examples, and tries to point to something about them. It is often that this is required for the things that the student hasn’t noticed by himself or herself, so for less salient things. What can the teacher do except trying to make the property more salient? Probably use examples in which everything but that specific thing stays the same. For example present blue ball, and then the same kind of ball but green, if one teaches colors. Or first one, and then two balls of same kind if one teaches numbers.  If that doesn’t work, one can just as the wise Rafiki (the monkey from Lion King movie) say – ‘No, look harder’.