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.

It Is One And The Same Thing

  1. The one which I’m looking at.
    • The one that attracts my attention.
    • The one that other people are looking at.
    • The one in our phenomenal experience.
  2. The one I’m talking about.
    • The one that other people are talking about.
  3. The one that changes before me.
    • The one before the change.
    • The one after the change.
  4. The one that
    • I wish to have, eat, touch, smell,
    • I am afraid of
    • scares me, irritates me, pleases me
  5. The one that I remember, even when it ceased to exist (died, destroyed, etc…)
  6. The one that I assumed as part of theory

The One (and the same thing)

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.

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.

Defending Metaphysics, Part 2

In the previous post I was talking about relation between concrete experiences and universals. In this post I will add few comments on it, and then put attention on the issue of apriority.

I said that while universals are learned from(are noticed in) concrete experiences, once they are learned they are not connected to any concrete experience. Once you learn what HIGHER means, you really don’t  need to remember the example on which you learned what it means. You will be able to judge something being higher then something else even you haven’t ever seen things of that hight. Even more salient example is that of the notions of MORE and LESS. Once we learn those, we can use those on so much different things, that it is clear that while they are learned from experience, they are not connected to any particular experience. So we can say that what universals mean can a)be found in concrete experiences, but b)we learn the universal not by connecting it to particular experience, but by noticing it in the experience as an universal.  In principle one doesn’t need lot of examples to learn the universal, universals can be learned just from one example. But lot of examples can be given, so that they make salient the universal, by changing lot of different features, so that just what is pointed to stays the same. In one example it is hard for student to figure out what about the example the teacher is pointing to. Or said differently, the universals don’t need to be seen as some kind of synthesis based on lot of data. They are, on contrary – abstractions. This can be seen everywhere, in every concrete experience, where we put concrete under universal. We say for example “that is rabbit”, or “that is circle”, or “that apple is red”, and so on; and we know that the relation between subject and predicate is that of abstracting. The subject is always more then just the predicate tells. (Both dog and cat are mammals, but being a mammal is just one part of what they are. It is abstraction from their whole concrete being).

However because universals are abstractions, and because the concrete is always something more then the universals, a concrete thing can fall under multiple universals. What can be determined as universal A, can also be determined as universal B. Nothing magical in that. Now, in some cases that two universals can be found in a concrete situation, is merely contingent thing. They might have been there, or might not have been there. But what is interesting for possibility of metaphysics is that there are cases where if a situation is determined as A, then it will necessarily fall under (can be determined as) the universal B. Which gives possibility for a priori judgments.
One common idea which appears in this situation is that those apriori judgments must be analytical, and they are analytical only if the concepts (universals) are somehow described by other concepts (in ordinary language as definitions, list of necessary and sufficient features, or otherwise). If we imagine concepts in this way, and we put equation sign between apriority and analyticity, then it is hard to see what value those a priori judgments might have. One has in them nothing more then what has been put in them by definitions.
But when the student learned what “one” and “two” meant (in the previous post), or when she learned what “color” meant, were they supplied with definitions, with list of necessary and sufficient features? Not really. And still they figured out what the words mean – they learned the concept. Can we define what “red”, “orange” and “blue” means? Can we tell when the red stops being red, and starts being purple? But once I have those concepts of BLUE, RED and PURPLE, I can also figure out that purple is bluish and redish in same time. I can comprehend that truth, even I don’t have definitions. And really, if I want to make someone else aware of that truth, I won’t provide definitions. I would just show blue, red and purple to someone. The relation is there waiting to be comprehended.
Or put in the terms of universals as abstractions, we can say that after learning some universal, I can become aware that whenever some situation is determinable as universal A, it will be necessarily determinable as universal B. So, for example after I learn the notions of ONE, TWO and THREE, I can comprehend that when a situation is determinable as THREE, can be seen as THREE, but it also can be seen as TWO and ONE, and ONE and TWO, or ONE and ONE and ONE. I don’t know this truth analytically, I understand it by becoming aware of the necessity that when a situation is determined as THREE, it can also be determined as TWO and ONE. I haven’t learn those notions through some kind of definitions. If it was so children would be able to say that ONE AND ONE are TWO, because for them TWO would be ONE AND ONE. But they aren’t. They need additional education to learn that, and comprehend it (Of course they might merely memorize it also, but that is another story where there is no apriority at all). How does one defined RED, GREEN, PURPLE and SIMILAR, before saying that PURPLE is more SIMILAR to RED then to GREEN.
Anyway, this is not to say that a priori judgments can’t be in lot of cases formalized and made analytical in that way. But they not need be made such for their necessity to be comprehended. And why should we accept the formalism as right in first place? How does one account for validity of modus ponens?

So the point here is that, a priori judgments are possible by comprehending that if a situation is determinable as falling under universal A, it will necessarily fall under universal B. This is possible as it was said in last post because universals are not connected to concrete and specific experiences in which they are learned, but that they transcend them.

Defending Metaphysics, Part 1

Eric of Splintered Mind, in his post Metaphysics, What? raised the issue of what metaphysics is, and its role in well… lives of certain people. Inspired by it, I will  write a series of posts, in which I will use small parts of the post to try to point to, what I take, are misconceptions about metaphysics. It won’t be exactly a reply to Eric’s post, but more of an different view.

The first can be connected to what Eric puts in this way (which he argues is “mystical view”):

“Metaphysics is the discovery, by a priori armchair reflection without depending upon anything empirical, of necessary truths of the universe… How do we learn about the outside universe (not just our minds), without looking at it?”

There are two things I want to say about this:

1. If the “universe” refers there to this particular (is there any other?) universe as a whole (as some sort of rigid designator) or to all the particular facts in it (Wittg. 1.1 ‘The world is the totality of facts’ idea), and “learning about the universe” refers to learning facts about it then… the easy reply is “We don’t”. But, that is surely what metaphysics is not about! Metaphysics is not about particularities and facts of the universe, it is about universals and their relations. Or maybe it is about particularities but just as much as they fall under universals. More on this later.

2.One can connect that question also to concepts used in metaphysics. Can we have concepts before looking at the world (having experience)? Proponent of metaphysical (or any a priori) thought doesn’t need to say that we have the “proper” notions to think metaphysics before we “look at the universe”. So, again the answer would be “We don’t”. Metaphysicist can freely accept that the concepts are learned from experience. What is required for a priori thought is that what is learned from concrete experience are universal notions. Or so to say,the requirement is that notion which is learned from particular experience, is not dependent on that particular experience. That notion is then separate and can be appropriate for a priori thought. While this might seem problematic, it is really simple… one can give several examples of ostensible teachings, where this happens:

a)The teacher teaches the numbers “one” and “two” to a student. She shows him a series of examples. She shows either one pencil, or two pencils. And she says “one” when she shows one pencil, and says “two” when she shows two pencils. The student figures out what is that about the examples that the teacher is pointing to. When he had figured it out, he is ready to join the linguistic community of users of the words “one” and “two”. But wait! If the concepts of “one” and “two” are based on examples with pencils, will he not use them just when he is shown pencils? Well.. would you be able to say how many sirens are in front of you if you see them? Of course you will be, even you have never seen sirens in your life before! Same with that student. Once he figured out what distinction the teacher was pointing using the examples, he can as well forget the examples. He might have been taught using different examples. Doesn’t matter. What example do you think when you think of numbers one and two? I’m not thinking of examples. I don’t imagine neither pencils, nor points, nor anything. (Why would someone imagine points anyway? Has anyone learned what one and two is based on examples with points?). So, while the concepts are learned from experience, they transcend examples, they transcend concrete.

b)If you think there is something magical about the notions of numbers, think about notion of “color”. Have you ever seen all the colors, all the particular shades? Do you not know what color is until you have seen them all? Do students first learn that green is color, and then again that blue is color, and then again when they see pink, do we need to tell them again that PINK is also color? Of course not! (Lot of exclamation marks, I know. I can’t help it.). Students ask “What is that color?” for the colors they never have learned. But how is that possible if the concept of color doesn’t transcend the particular colors?

I guess those two examples are enough to give a general idea, of how the particulars and universals are connected.
The main point is that while experience of the world is necessary for learning concepts, those concepts transcend particular contingent experiences.

To be continued…

Modus Purpureus

I’m presented with two colors today, and I learn them.
I can learn them because they are different, but mere difference is not enough to learn those colors, as if the first is different from the second, the second is in the same way different from the first; and one can’t say which is the first and which is the second if that difference was all there was to them.
The colors are not merely different, but they are somehow, and they are different because they are not same somehow. And in their being somehow, they are not merely different from one another, they are also different from other colors, more similar to some and less similar to others, in their being somehow they are also colors in general.

When I’m recognizing colors, it is because this looking somehow is repeated. Without this looking (or being) somehow which I can recognize, there can be no other base for sameness. Separate “cognitive comparing mechanism” done outside of this looking (being) somehow, can’t provide semantics of being same (or being similar, nor being different for that matter), nor account for our direct awareness of something being same. I don’t passively receive this fact that the color I’m looking at is same with the color I have already seen. This looking (being) somehow is not communicable, it can only be shown. It is not describable in terms of numbers, or in other such abstractions. So again, the recognition of colors can’t be done somewhere else, in some “unconscious” otherness , from which I merely passively receive the result of comparing; recognition is done on this level of looking somehow, I’m aware that it is looking same, and judge it to be looking same, as they do look same, in fact it is the same looking somehow. It transcends my multiple encounters with it.

This possibility for recognition, gives possibility for ostensive teaching. One can’t communicate colors to me, I must notice their looking somehow, and through repeated showing, start to recognize them in their reappearance.

Neither does other kind of relation between colors happen on other level then the awareness. I notice that purple is more similar to red then to green. That fact is there available to my awareness, again not as result of some outside comparing, that color (purple) is more similar to that color (red) than to that other color (green).

This intuitive knowledge is direct and clear, and without need of logical or physical reduction as much as modus ponens.

Attack on Determinism or on Psychologism?

Consider, for example, an attempt to assert that all of man’s actions are conditioned and mechanical. Typically, such a view has taken one of two forms: Either it is said that man is basically a product of his hereditary constitution, or else that he is determinate entirely by environmental factors. However, one could ask of the man who believed in hereditary determination whether his own statement asserting this belief was nothing but the product of his heredity. In other words, is he compelled by his genetic structure to make such an utterance? Similarly, one may ask of the man who believes in environmental determination, whether the assertion of such a belief is nothing but the spouting forth of words in patterns to which he was conditioned by his environment. Evidently, in both cases (as well as in the case of one who asserted that man is completely conditioned by heredity plus environment) the answer would have to be in the negative, for otherwise the speakers would be denying the very possibility that what they said could have meaning. Indeed, it is of talking from intelligent perception, which is in turn capable of a truth that is not merely a result of a mechanism based on meaning or skills acquired in the past. So we see that no one can avoid implying, by his mode of communication, that he accepts at least the possibility of that free, unconditioned perception that we have called intelligence. David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, p65-66

After reading this part I started wondering if this should be classified as a classical free will vs. determinism (putting the Compatibilism aside) argument, or maybe better as an attack on psychologism(see this post)?

Closure of Phenomenal World

The moment I want to philosophically understand the world, I find myself as a subject existing in the phenomenal world. Everything which has appeared to me appeared as a part of the phenomenal world, including me and my intentional acts… Other people appear to me as part of that world too. There is nothing that can be thought of, which would fall outside of it, as my thoughts themselves are based on my living in phenomenal world, and appear as part of my being in the phenomenal world.
Thus as long I’m interested in fully comprehending things, I have to understand them in what they are in the phenomenal world – there is no “outside of the phenomenal world” view for me, nor “outside of the phenomenal world” concepts. Every word that we use is historically based on communication practices within the phenomenal world.

Phenomenal world is not in the mind… “mind” is yet another concept I learned in the phenomenal world. And as long the words are learned through the practice in the phenomenal world, I need to comprehend the practices, how they are practiced and how my skills of those practices are developed in the phenomenal world. I can only think of what I can think, and the comprehension is limited to the things that can be thought of. Same situation is with the notion of  “outside objective world” (which would stand vs. the phenomenal
world) – the notions of “outside”, “objective” and “world” are
concepts I learned within the phenomenal world, and to comprehend what they mean, I need to comprehend how I learned them. Their meaning is again connected to the practices in the phenomenal world, to my being as subject with a will within the phenomenal world.
But neither the language or practices in general, nor the content of my thoughts, as long as my comprehension is concerned can be considered in some otherness. They are learned and based in my living in the phenomenal world. And as long philosophy is possible it can be possible only through this kind of comprehension.
Specifically my comprehending can’t be based on the society and its practice, as it affects me only as much as it appears in the phenomenal world. And it can’t be based on the scientific theories of physics, biology and neuroscience, as they are based as theories on the phenomenal world.

I must recognize the theories as theories, the paradigms as paradigms, and comprehend the abstractions (concepts) as abstractions, and what they are based in. I must return to the basis of me being willful subject in the phenomenal world, and as long I want to comprehend abstractions to see how they are grounded in my being in the phenomenal world, and to recognize their relations.

It is not theories, paradigms and metaphors all the way down, when I remove the paradigms, I find myself in the world surrounded with things, with changing things, of whose change and movement I’m aware. They are things on whose shape, color, movement and so on, I can put my attention, I can put my attention to events going on including multitude of things. I find myself as remembering agent, who can remember things, but not as in my head, but as something in the phenomenal world that was. I’m also aware of the possibilities open to the willful acts, and see the others use those possibilities.

If we imagine the learning as an inverted cone, with our current state being the widest part of the cone, the critical stance of phenomenology needs to explore the whole cone, in order to comprehend not just the words it uses, but also in this being as a subject in the phenomenal world to find possibility of transcendental intra and inter-subjectivity and possibility for a priori judgments (comprehension of relations between concepts) – to find the possibility of philosophy.

Transcendence, Strawberries and Mindless Robots

I will try to give a sketch of how I think transcendence of the intentional matter (or if you like it better – objectivity of intentional content) can be grounded in something else. First let me say, that I don’t think it can be grounded in language, because this kind of transcendence is needed for learning language to occur in first place. In order to learn language we must figure out what other people mean by their words, so what the words mean (be it a concrete thing, a category, abstract concept, etc..) must be accessible to us in order to learn the word.
To provide the possibility of learning what those words mean, we must also beforehand admit the possibility of multiple people to access the same thing which is the meaning of the word (the signified).
So, transcendence of intentional matter must be grounded in public accessibility of intentional matter, and can’t be grounded in the language itself, but is necessary condition for language.

From phenomenological standpoint, we don’t have to search very far for this public accessibility of the intentional content. If we reflect on our experiences, we experience ourselves as a subject in the world – in fact a subject which exists-along with other subjects in the same world. The things we see around us, are there publicly accessible in the form they are, and their being like they are is not dependent on us.

So, if we are looking at a strawberry, it is there in the world, in front of us, it has that specific color, shape, specific taste and smell. And neither of those is seen as belonging to something inside of our head. My head is <here>, and it is the strawberry which is of that form, of that color, and with that particular taste.
Because the strawberry is seen as existing in the world and as having all those qualities by itself, it is seen as publicly accessible along with its shape, color, taste, etc… it can be accessed by me and/or other subjects in the world by seeing, tasting, touching and so on… It’s color, taste and shape are in such way seen as independent of my sensing them.
The accessibility covers more then direct acquittance  with the shape, color and other sensible qualities of the thing – we are also aware of the changes things undergo in the world around us, and possibilities of how things can change.
Allowing that kind of awareness to other people (and animals) is what the problem of other minds is about, allowing that other people notice the things, notice the changes and are aware of the possibilities of their changes. In such way other-minds are different from the other things we observe around us – while the mindless things simply undergo changes, the creatures with minds are additionally aware of those changes, and the possibilities of how things may change. This awareness constitutes the awareness of other minds.

But how come we become aware of other minds? For the “mindness” to be accessible it must be also placed in the world, and one possibility that comes to mind is that we observe goal-directed behavior, where other people (and animals), act upon other things accomplishing some goals… their acts are of intentional nature, they show awareness of the things and their changes, and awareness of  the possibilities – in their acting they choose to bring one of those possibilities vs. the other.
Of course, having the technological know-how we have at this historical moment, it is easy for us to imagine a machine, which might show the same kind of behavior, and still be “mindless”. Does that mean that the observing intentional acting is not enough for grounding the other minds? I would say no, as imagining of mindless machine with goal-directed behavior is possibility imagination of more abstract type. In our direct awareness of the world, the intentional acts are necessarily first seen as connected to awareness of the things, their changes, and possibilities of change. The possibility of a mindless machine which merely undergoes changes, but which looks like acting intentionally (without being aware) can come just later in our knowledge. So to say, we don’t need theories in order to see a creature as having mind (e.g. Folk Psychology as a Theory) the awareness and intentional behavior is transparent in the being-along with others. In fact we need a theory in order to see a creature who appears to act intentionally as not having a mind.

I use awareness here, and don’t qualify it specifically as “conscious awareness”, as I think that this distinction of conscious vs. some normal awareness is product of the confused looking at things… Namely, it is only when we give primacy to the reductionist view of natural sciences and we classify us as just another type of machines, that we come around to a need to distinguish ourselves from other machines. Having abstracted from the distinction which is already there in our living in the world (namely the distinction between creatures aware of things, changes and possibilities and mechanical creatures which are merely undergoing changes) we try to reintroduce the distinction in “mechanical” way by adding another abstract notion of “consciousness” to the picture of mechanical body (human body which mechanically undergoes changes).

Some connected posts:
Qualia and Natural Science
Two things about colors worth considering (the first thing)
Intra-Subjective vs. Inter-Subjective Transcendence

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Two things about colors worth considering (the second thing)

Specific colors transcending time and space

If I see green thing now,and if I see it again later, I can recognize the color as the same. Recognizing as same must come before learning the word for the thing and later recognition of sameness based on abstractions.
Namely, it is true that today I can see a green thing, and remember that it is green, and then tomorrow when I see other green thing, to say “this things is same color as the other thing I saw yesterday”, without even remembering what is the color I saw yesterday. But the learning of words can’t come before recognizing the color I see today as same with the color I saw yesterday. I must become aware of the repeating identity to which the word refer, to become sure that it is the thing to which the words is supposed to refer.
I’m mixing communication and words in the argument here… but the words are not necessary for that. I might have not seen cyan and magenta in my life. And today I might see cyan… there it is – a new color for me, color that I haven’t seen. Tomorrow, I can see cyan again, and recognize it as the same color; not just that it would be abstractly same, but it would hold identity in its givenness  so to say. I might see magenta (other color I haven’t seen), and it will not be same as cyan to me, even abstractly (or based on language), it would be just “not one of the colors I know”.

So, those specific colors (maybe I should put “phenomenal” as distinction, but I would argue saying “colors” is enough) transcend time. Of course the power to recognize different colors is fallible, and person can be trained to recognize bigger or smaller differences. What I want to point to is that without this first kind possibility of identity (or maybe similarity is better word)  there is no way for either abstract account of colors, nor fallibility (what does fallible mean if not failing to do what is seen as  possible?).

It is much more easier to point to the specific colors transcending space. One just need to look at a patch with certain shade of color (without shadow/3d rotation complications), to be confronted with a specific color appearing across the space. In fact there is no reason why it should be one patch, there can be two, three or more patches one beside another, all being in same specific color. And as we see them, the color is the same color all across – it transcends space.

Two things about colors worth considering (the first thing)

The identity of intentional matter can be discussed in different contexts. For example the issue of transcendence of intentional matter might be seen as other way to refer to the identity of intentional matter across different intentional acts (see here for example). Here I will put attention to two intra-subjective cases of transcendence connected to the concept of color.

Concept of color transcending specific colors

We may learn what color is from experience. People point to things and say “This is green color.”, and “This is red color.”. Of course there are lot of things about the things they point to, and on which you might focus. It might be the color, but also it might be the shape, it might be the distance from some other object, it might be the left-right position if both objects are in front of us, and so on. Obviously the part of learning is to find in the experience what the words mean.
If I’m to teach my child, I will talk about most salient features of things, those things, properties that attract the child focus. Of course I can even do it other way, I can check what the child is looking at, and say the word for it.
What seems to make it easy is that what is salient is going top-bottom, from the gestalts to the separate properties and so on. If a rabbit runs in front of us, if the child looks at it, I know its focus is on the rabbit, and not on the color of its fur. So, this makes it easy… I can say “rabbit”, and be pretty sure that from the whole situation the child will notice my saying “rabbit” when I see one.

Now, colors are little more problematic then rabbits, I thought for example that it would be easy to teach my child to colors if I show her shining lights in different colors on the Christmas tree, and tell her the words. But not so… while she was learning names for other things easily, it was not so for those different colors. After some time when she saw a colored thing she would say one of the colors “green”, “blue”, “red”… just random any… Obviously she was noticing that there is something about the colors, but seems she experienced them as colored things, that being colored was the salient feature which they all shared. I think she couldn’t focus on the specificity of the colors, and that’s why those “green”, “blue”, “red”… they were all used for what we would call “color”.

But how can child notice color if not as specific color?

This is not something specific for children though. Imagine that you haven’t seen e.g. cyan color whole your life… And then you see a cyan object… And you say “Wow, strange color, it is like green, but then it is like blue also”. But if you have never seen that color, how do you know it is a color?

So, from those two examples it seems that identity of concept of color doesn’t belong to some kind of set of experienced colors. Even if we learn the use of the word “color” only connected to a specific colors, we still see some new specific color as color. It seems even that we learn that word “color” refers to that salient feature of being in color which we can extract from the gestalt, before even being able to put attention on the specificity of the color.

So there are two (seemingly contradicting) things – the identity of color is not based on specific colors, but it is always some specific color (or several of them) on base of which we can understand the concept of color.