We have factual statements and we have
explanations about the past. Causes are explanations. When the explanations are factual
statements, we have the knowledge of historical causes. But factual statements are not
There are three parts to Danto's critique
of philosophy of history. One part is the refutation of laws and
predictability. The second part concerns historical
explanations. The third concerns historical narrative
Historical philosophy has predictive
pretensions. Therefore, it pretends to encompass the
totality of history. If prediction is not possible, then from
this perspective philosophy of history is not possible. Danto argues that the birth of Diderot is
an historical event only from the knowledge of his work. The totality of historical accounts
cannot give an account of the totality of history. Philosophy of history is debatable on
It can be argued against this strong
position that the interpretation of history, which is a form of philosophy of
history, does not necessarily involve prediction. The aim of historiography are factual and
probable statements about the past. Factual statements about the past are
explanations and explanations do not necessarily encompass the future. There are arguments against this: the
future, as I argue, is posited in historiography. The problem is reliable, short term
predictability: the one cause-one effect approach.
Danto argues that the positions on
historical knowledge come in three varieties:
--that historians some times explain
--that every explanation must necessarily
include one general law
--that historical explanations do not
include general laws at all.
The first variety is that of historical
idealists, for whom human beings are free and that knowledge of history is
about understanding and not explaining causally. Even though I do not recall him saying
it, this comes straight from Dilthey and is exemplified in Aron's critical
philosophy of history.
The second variety is logical empiricism,
which requires one general law at least and is sceptical about explanation. Why "at least" I never figured out, for
after all in physical phenomena various laws can operate at once, as in the
Earth circling the Sun and all the chemical reactions going on inside its
atmosphere. Logical empiricists believe in the unity
of scientific method, which posits an explanans and an explanadum and
deduction from assumption. But this is supposing the law already
exists. Therefore, we can conclude that
scientific method embraces the discovery of the law and its application.
The uniqueness of historical events
constitutes a denial of historical laws. And historical explanations are
"elaborate enthymemes". In Aristotle enthymemes are persuasive
but not necessarily valid arguments. They are explanatory statements in which
something is tacit: assumed but not stated.
The denial of historical idealism, or the
possibility of historical explanations, leads in Danto to the thesis of
"explanation sketches", and this is what he means by enthymemes. An historical explanation assumes that
there are laws, but cannot appeal to laws. And this is finally to where his initial
denial of philosophy of history leads.
Danto holds that you are either a
historical idealist or a logical positivist, which is wrong because I
believe explanations, even anticipation and long-term predictions are
possible, but that there cannot be historical laws.
Grounds justify or sustain laws and laws
explain. Grounds are not explanations in any sense.
Donald Davidson (1917-2003 )
Words and Objections. Essays on the
work of W. V. Quine (1969)
The Logic Of Grammar
(A) Donald Davidson is an American
philosopher whose thinking is closely related to that of Quine. He has made his mark in three areas:
(1) mind/matter dualism with his theory
of anomalous monism;
(2) theory of truth by making explicit
what is implicit in other analytical philosophers, which is that we have an
intuitive understanding of truth;
(3) and theory of meaning with his thesis
that it is from our acquaintance with truth that we can have a grasp of
Davidson's theory of truth is related to
the disquotational and the deflationary theories. All of these theories imply that we know
truth when we see it. Both the disquotational and the
deflationary theories merely state that truth is p rather than "I believe
p" or "p is true". If we can eliminate the quotes we can
claim that p is true. If we do not have to make the claim that
"p is true" it is true. Both also seem to advert to some sort of
consensus about cognition. Presumably for analyticity it is embodied
in language. For me it is in basic-cog's.
"Chapter One examines the straightforward
type-type identity theories of the sort advanced by Central State
Materialists J. J. C. Smart and U. T. Place. Chapter Two and Three survey,
respectively, the causal-role identity theories of D. M. Armstrong and David
Lewis and the token event-identity theories of the sort advanced by Donald
Davidson and Jaegwon Kim."
"At any rate, the intended contribution
of [the first three chapters] to that end is to do two things: 1) to
establish a close connection (discovered and emphasized throughout his
career by W. V. Quine) between problems about meaning and problems about
belief fixation, by showing that the holistic character of belief fixation
is science bears deeply on the issue of the individuation of `meanings' (or
`contents' or `intentions', as they are called by various philosophers); and
2) to argue that, in fact, thinking of `meanings'(or `contents') as
`theoretical entities'--as scientific objects, objects which can be isolated
and which can play an explanatory role in a scientific theory--is a mistake.
In the course of the argumentation I defend the view that there is no
criterion for sameness of meaning, except actual interpretative practice--a
view made famous by Quine and Davidson."
"Dennett's position on the mind-brain
issue combines elements of both orthodox `functionalism' and Donald
Davidson's `nomalous monism'. Functionalism is the modern physicalist
version of Ayer's positivism. Like Ayer, functionalists take everyday
psychology to specify general causal relations between mental states and
behaviour, but then add the physicalist twist of identifying those mental
states with the brain states that play the same causal roles in our physical
workings. Davidson, by contrast, is the physicalist heir of Winch. While
accepting the general monist principle that everything, including humans, is
made of matter, Davidson resists the further inference that psychology
should dance to the same scientific tune as physics. He maintains instead
that psychological terminology is `anomalous', in being unsuitable for the
formulation of general scientific laws, and insists, with Winch, that the
point of our everyday psychological notions of belief, memory, desire,
intention and so on, is to enable us to make hermeneutic sense of people's
actions, not to categorize them scientifically."
(C) Donald Davidson, Inquiries into
truth and interpretation (1984)
What is it for words to mean what they
do? The answer would have to be expressed in
a theory which (1) would provide an interpretation of all utterances, actual
or potential, of a speaker or a group of speakers and (2) would be
verifiable without knowledge of the propositional attitudes of the speakers. I would myself think that what you need
for an answer is a dictionary and a theory about language-learning and
language-use. The latter way was taken by Fodor and
Chomsky. But there are weightier, more contextual,
perhaps more significant objections. In regards to the concept itself of a
theory of meaning, it already implies a knowledge of meaning. With a theory of meaning a knows what b
says and b knows what a says and both know what c says, and so on. In sum, this theory would cover every
specific act of meaning and consequently a theory of meaning is no different
from meaning itself. But in fact a, b, and c already
communicate without such a theory, and the theory, by disassociating a, b,
and c from their knowledge would create a slew of unneeded problems. Some of these problems are: quotations
(where and when to place them?), attribution (since it leaves no margin for
mind), parataxis (placing connectives and other logical devices in
non-completed sentences), belief and meaning (when is meaning belief?), the
truth-value of metaphors, conversation itself, and so on. A theory of meaning starts when all the
exposition has already taken place. It is like someone entering a cinema in
the middle of a movie. Furthermore, not only do a, b, and c know
how to converse, but they also know how to interpret utterances, and so what
is needed is not a theory of meaning but an explanation of the cognitive
processes whereby a, b, and c interpret utterances. And in relation to part (2) of the
theory, how can utterances be interpreted, or even considered to be
interpretable, without the implication of propositional attitudes? Both meaning and propositional attitudes
are givens. We must assume that they are and what we
need are explanations of how they function, how they come to be, how they
originated, and so on.
Davidson claims that it is knowing the
truth-condition of sentences that we can grasp their meaning. This goes back to Frege's distinction
between sense and reference, but it seems to invert the natural order of
things, and for all Davidson's claims to be in language and only in language
as any goody two-shoes analytical, Dummett flings at him the guilt-heavy
charge of psychologism. But it seems to me that its real flaw is
that--unless truth has a Davidsonian meaning of its own--if truth were prior
to meaning, then false, contradictory, paradoxical, and just plain wrong
utterances would have no meaning, and in fact they do.
For both Quine and Davidson attribution
or ascription is a problem, which is obvious since they work back from
language and who believes what is not self-evident. But queerly after they solve the
ascription problem, it seems as if they cannot do a damned thing with it
because they cannot distinguish between meaning and belief.
"...[W]hen we study what...any
language...requires in the way of overall ontology, we are not just making a
tour of our own picture of things: what we take there to be is pretty much
what there is."
This echoes something Austin said and its
of course a fundamental Wittgensteinian tenet.
The retort to that is what is to be done
with the huge number of psychologistic, so-called, terms that every language
contains? Presumably, bury your head in the sand! But if you do, then you are going to
leave a black hole in language it will suck everything else into it.
"A theory of truth is tested by theorems
that state the conditions under which sentences are true; these theories say
nothing about reference."
"...[W]e explain what words in metaphors
do only by supposing they have the same meanings they do in non-figurative
contexts. We lose our ability to account for metaphors, as well as rule out
all hope of responsible theory, if we posit metaphorical meaning."
(D) Dummett, Origins of Analytical
"Davidson proposed to use the
specification of truth-conditions for the opposite purpose: taking the
notion of truth as already understood, to treat the theory determining the
truth-conditions of sentences of the language as explaining their meanings
and those of the words composing them. In making this proposal he was
reverting to an approach very similar to Frege's. The differences were
twofold. First, although Davidson did not intend to repudiate Frege's
distinction between sense and reference, he did not envisage any
specification of the sense of an expression: his proposed theory would in
effect be a theory of reference, from which the senses of expressions would
be apparent, but in which they would not be stated."
[Evidently we have criteria for truth,
validity, and so on, but first from this theory countless statements which
we cannot immediately verify would be meaningless, eg at certain times the
mountain is crawling with armadillos, and two, statements which are neither
true nor false, including mathematical propositions, would have to be
meaningless. I cannot see an interpretive way out from this critique!]
"The second divergence between a
Davidsonian and a Fregean theory is...that Davidson proposed to dispense
with a theory of force. In a theory of meaning of his type, it is not deemed
necessary to describe, or even mention, the linguistic activities of making
assertions, asking questions, making requests, giving advice, issuing
commands, etc.: the theory will simply specify the truth-conditions of all
sentences, and thereby determine the meanings of all the expressions in the
"It is of the utmost importance to
an understanding of Davidson's conception that it presupposes a grasp of the
concept of truth...It is essential to Davidson's project that one brings to
the theory a prior understanding of the concept of truth: only so can one
derive, from the specification of the truth-conditions of sentences, a grasp
of what they mean.
"What must such a prior
understanding of the concept of truth comprise? It need not incorporate any
knowledge of the conditions under which sentences of the language are true:
that, after all, is going to be laid down in the truth-theory. What must be
brought is a grasp of the conceptual connection between meaning and truth.
That is to say, one must know, at least implicitly, how the meaning of a
sentence is determined by its truth-condition. And here a grasp of the
meaning of the sentence must embody an understanding of how it is to be used
in linguistic interchange."
"Davidson himself is explicit about this:
a theory of meaning for a language is to be a theory such that whoever knows
it is thereby enabled to speak the language. He does not merely view its
sentences as expressing thoughts--where a thought is not yet a judgement,
but only the content of one: he grasps the significance of an utterance of
each sentence, and can therefore respond appropriately to such an utterance,
and can himself utter those sentences on appropriate occasions.
"Very much has therefore been left
implicit that a theory of meaning ought to make explicit. What is left
implicit is that which anyone must grasp, concerning the concept of truth,
in order to be able to use a Davidsonian truth-theory as a theory of
meaning: that is in order to be able to derive, from the specification of
truth-conditions, a knowledge of how to use the sentences. What he must
grasp is the connection between truth and meaning: until it has been
rendered explicit just what this connection is, the description of the
truth-theory does not yet amount to an adequate philosophical elucidation of
the concept of meaning.
"And now we may say that Davidson
makes the opposite mistake to that made by the proponents of the
correspondence and the coherence theories of truth. Their error lay in
trying to give an explanation of truth, assuming meaning as already given,
whereas the two concepts have to be explainedf together. But Davidson's
mistake is the converse one, to try to explain meaning, assuming the concept
of truth as already understood: for an adequate explanation of either, they
still have to be explained together. Or, at least, they have to be explained
together so long as Frege's insight continues to be respected, namely, that
the concept of truth plays a central role in the explanation of sense"
"Davidson affords an extraordinarily
clear example of the fact that, for analytical philosophers faithful to the
fundamental axiom, the theory of meaning is indeed fundamental to philosophy
as a whole: his writings on a remarkably large range of topics start with an
exposition of his general views on the form of a theory of meaning, and go
on to draw consequences from them to the topic at hand. Witt, by contrast,
in his later writings eschewed any general theory of meaning, believing that
any attempt at a systematic account of language must force diverse phenomena
into a single form of description which would perforce distort many of them,
and that therefore only a piecemeal approach is possible: but he too
believed that the aim of all philosophy is to enable us to see the world
aright by attaining a commanding view of the workings of our language, and
hence of the structure of our thought."
"[Davidson's] earliest accounts of a
theory of meaning for a language treated the language as the common
possession of a community. According to these accounts, the evidence on
which any such theory was based consisted in correlations between
sentences--more exactly, the utterances or potential utterances--accepted as
true by the speakers and the prevailing circumstances in which they so
accepted them...In his later writings, however, Davidson turned from
considering a theory of meaning for such a language to a theory governing an
idiolect; since an individual's linguistic habits alter with time, an
idiolect had to be considered as the language of a speaker at a given
period, whose duration was left unspecified. In his most recent writings,
he has gone farther still: since a speaker will use a different vocabulary
and diction in addressing different hearers, he no longer takes the unit to
be the language of a particular individual at a given time, but, rather, the
language in which one particular individual is disposed at a given time to
address another particular individual. Such a `language', relativised to two
individuals, will again be governed by a theory. When X addresses Y, Y will
understand X in accordance with the theory by which he rightly or wrongly
presumes X to be governed when speaking to Y; and, thus, again, Y will need
to engage in interpretation, even if, by ordinary criteria, X and Y are
speaking the same language: for Davidson, an utterance has, not a speaker
and a hearer, but a speaker and an interpreter."
[According to this theory patronising
pidgin-English will be a language with a theory to go with it. But in fact pidgin-English does not
contain a theory of meaning or whatever but a patronising psychological
theory about a hearer. When we patronize in this way, are we not
conscious of ourselves, in the strictest introspective sense of the word
"It is perfectly true that, if there were
a language that only one person knew, we could learn to understand it in the
same way that we can learn any other language, namely by asking that person
to teach it to us. Davidson's version of this is that, if we can determine
the circumstances in which he holds various sentences of his language, or
rather, various actual or potential utterances of those sentences, to be
true, we can construct a theory of meaning for his language just as we
should construct one for a language spoken by many people."
[This sounds sound in principle. I can only reconstruct a language through
true statements. Champollion could have deciphered nothing
if he had been dealing with nonsense instead of a meaningful written texts.]
"But this leaves unexplained precisely
what needs explanation--the connection between truth and meaning, or, more
exactly, between truth-conditions and use. It suggests a certain picture of
the employment of language for communication which is overwhelmingly
natural, but which is indeed subject to Frege's criticisms of psychologism...according
to Davidson the theory of meaning will lay down what has to hold if
something true is to be said by uttering a given sentence in given
circumstances. Each participant in the dialogue has such a theory, and these
theories coincide, or nearly so; that is what makes their utterances
significant and makes it possible for them to understand one another."
[Truth-value is predicable of
propositions, not of words. Since utterances are made of words, as
per this theory, words being meaningless, and so would expressions. Take the proposition "the table is round". It is not different in any significant
way from the concept "a round table". Hence, no question of truth-value
involved here and consequently the proposition would be incomprehensible].
"That picture is vulnerable, as it
stands, to the charge of committing the error of psychologism, however
carefully its proponent distinguishes between knowledge of a theory of
meaning and a state of consciousness."
[The theory itself of a "personalized"
theory of meaning, in view of the social fact of communication, would seem
to be of a piece with introspection, although I admit I don't have a firm
handle on this argument. But consider how we can discover
misunderstandings by becoming aware of ourselves as selves, not as
biographical facts, as in the case of my misunderstanding with Deas. Yet Dummett says precisely the contrary.]
"But might there not be a subtle
difference between his theory of meaning and mine, which resulted in a
persistent but undetected misunderstanding between us? Indeed there might:
that actually happens sometimes. Such a misunderstanding might not come to
light: but it is essential that it could come to light, and indeed that it
would do so if we pursued the topic of discussion sufficiently far. That is
what saves this account from the mistake committed by psychologism."
"For the connection [between truth and
meaning/between truth-conditions and linguistic practice], once explained,
will show how possession of the truth-theory issues in a disposition to make
certain assertions in certain circumstances, to respond to the assertions of
others in certain ways, and, doubtless, to ask certain questions, manifest
certain doubts, and so on."
[In other words, "standard issue" stuff,
but hardly realistic! Even the concept of truth in this
context, in light of agreed-upon truth-criteria, is purely psychologistic.]
"This approach need not take a
psychologistic form: in particular, it need not involve a rejection of the
fundamental axiom of analytical philosophy, the priority of language over
thought in order of explanation. Typically, it will take the form of
supposing that a speaker implicitly assumes a theory of meaning for his
idiolect. In his celebrated article `Two dogmas of empiricism', Quine
presented an image of language as an articulated network of sentences of a
wholly individualistic kind: that is to say, the language in question could
only be understood as the idiolect of a particular speaker...Subsequently,
in Word and Object, Quine modified this image to take account of the
social character of language...[After that], however, Quine has tended to
revert to the perspective of the idiolect. The presumption that the meanings
a speaker attaches to his words and intends to convey by them are those they
have in the common language cannot be maintained according to the later
Quine: hence you have what is in principle the same problem of interpreting
the speech of one who addresses you in your mother-tongue as you do in
interpreting utterances in a language of which you are wholly ignorant, even
if it is in practice easier to solve."
"Davidson too has moved in the same
direction...an utterance has, not a speaker and hearer, but a speaker and an
The sense of a sentence of the symbolic
language is to be the thought that the condition for it to have the value
true, as provided by the stipulations concerning reference, is fulfilled,
and the sense of any of its component expressions is to be the contribution
that component makes to determining that condition. Thus, contrary to
Frege's official doctrine, we must know what it is for a sentence to be true
before we can know what it is for it to express a thought, and we must know
what it is for an expression to have reference before we can know what it is
to have sense.
Frege believed it possible to grasp
a thought otherwise than as expressed linguistically; but his account of
sense does not show how that is possible, that is, how a sense can be
grasped otherwise than as the sense of an expression to which reference can
be ascribed. (pp 9-10)
What this seems to mean is that if we
have the sense of an expression, i.e., its meaning, we already have
reference and we have truth, because there can be no meaning without
reference. An inference from this proposition would
be that all of awareness, i.e., meaning, is true, because awareness if
always awareness of something. Basically though the assumption is that
language is necessarily true. From here we could argue that language
and cognition are reciprocals. The same argument about the reference of
propositions to language and cognition underlies my understanding of these
Hence, in asking the question, "What, in
general, renders a proposition true?", we are presupposing that the meanings
of sentences can be taken as given in advance of a knowledge of what renders
them true or false. In the presence of such a presupposition, however, no
non-trivial answer can be given to the question. Almost anything could be
taken as rendering some sentence true: it depends on what the sentence
means. In fact, it is by grasping what would render it true that we
apprehend what it means. There can therefore be no illuminating account of
the concept of truth which presupposes meaning as already given: we cannot
be in the position of grasping meaning but as yet unaware of the condition
for the truth of the propositions. Truth and meaning can only be explained
together, as part of a single theory. ( p 15)
Indeed, it is clear that, if we began
without either understanding the language or knowing what "true" meant, we
should from this procedure gain no knowledge of the meanings of the words of
the language: more generally, if we know no more about the concept of truth
than that it applies to sentences of the language as the truth-definition
says that it does, we cannot learn from a statement of the condition for the
truth of a sentence what that sentence means. It is essential to Davidson's
project that one brings to the theory a prior understanding of the concept
of truth: only so can one derive, from a specification of the
truth-conditions of sentences, a grasp of what they mean. (p 18)
There is room for a reading in which
Dummett, and Davidson, are assuming that we "spontaneously" know what truth
is. This would conform to my "universal
consensus" thesis about knowledge. But if such is their meaning, since they
do not purport to explore or explain cog-processes, what they are peddling
is a huge black hole. The size of this back hole is explicit in
this reference to Wittgenstein. To ignore mind having these ideas is simply
For Wittgenstein, what confers on the
speaker's words the meaning that they have is not a mental constituent of a
composite act that he performs, but the context, which includes his knowing
the language to which his sentence belongs: he does nothing but utter the
words. (p 44)
Husserl was as clear as Frege that two
expression may have different meanings (different senses, in Frege's
terminology) but the same objectual reference, giving as one example the
pair of definite descriptions "the victor at Jena" and "the loser at
Waterloo". (p 51)
But at least Husserl knew that both
expressions referred to the same set of mental symbols: his noemata, my
squiggles. He wouldn't get hung up in logico-linguistic
paradoxes involving reference. Whether he would also accept my
additional argument that in fact the two expressions are not identical so
that even their references are at best equivalent, is another matter.
Frege's theory of reference is thus the
foundation of his theory of sense. Since the sense of an expression is in
all cases the way in which its reference is given, deciding what, and what
kind of thing, constitutes the reference of a given expression is a crucial
first step towards characterising its sense, which is required to take the
form of a means by which that reference may be given toa speakers of the
language. (pp 53-4)
The sense of an expression is the way its
reference is given to us; the references of the words in a sentence together
serve to determine its truth-value, so that to grasp the thought it
expresses is to grasp the condition for it to be true. (p 63)
I believe that it will not rain next week. My belief that it will not rain next week
is true. Therefore, it will not rain next week.
Yo creo que mi hermano no es el hijo de
mis padres. Mi creencia que mi hermano no es el hijo
de mis padres es verdad. Por lo tanto, mi hermano no es el hijo de
Dummett's argument about logic not being
fully applicable in the world is absolutely justified, e.g. the excluded
middle principle. If this is the basis for anti-realism--assertibility
over truth-conditions--then he has a point. Assertibility has the implication of
cognitive processes. Besides I have always believed and do
believe now that humanity makes knowledge and knowledge is being. There is no more being, no more knowledge
and logic than this
There is a distinction to be made between
"truth conditional semantics" and "assertibility conditional semantics."
"But the notions on which causal theories
of knowledge and reference depend--the difference between a cause and a mere
background condition, the legitimacy of counterfactuals--are precisely what
is called into question by the `inference-licence' interpretation of causal
statements and counterfactuals."
Translating: if the idea that the world
as it is is a refutation of the world is as we think it to be, then it is a
denial of itself because it reposes on the same logical principle of
inference as what it pretends to refute, because that the world is as it is
as much an inference as any thought we can have about the world.
"More has often been read into the
proclaimed reduction of mind to body: something like a reduction of
psychology to physiology, or more particularly to neurology. I see no hope
of that, much less of a reduction of ordinary mentalistic talk to neurology.
The age-old duality of mind and body has not dissolved; it has shifted from
substance to concepts, or language. Let me sort this out. Mental events are
physical, but mentalistic language classifies them in ways incommeasurable
with the classifications expressible in physiological language...Such is the doctrine of anomalous
monism, in Donald Davidson's phrase. It is monistically materialistic, but
only item by item and not systematically by general headings or rule."
[Has the mind/body problem ever been
anything other than a matter of thought and its expression? Why would item-by-item not be
Dated particulars are the specificity of all mental contents.
De dictu, de re
De dictu refers to logical propositional relations which may or not be reflected de re, which refers to actual relations between physical objects, such as natural laws.
Critical reinterpretation of texts and social signs.
Deconstruction was spawned by semiology.
Quine defines definition as substitution.To define is to substitute one proposition for another. This definition invokes the relation of identity. It is not convincing.
One, identity is a math-logic relation. It is not a maneuver open to language.
Two, in such a definition which proposition substitute for which? Which is the definiens and which the definiendum? Definition adds something to a concept. The concept of justice is "justice is". A concept as label is equivalent to a word. The definition of justice is "justice is this or that". Tautology cannot define any term other than self-referring propositions.
"To define an expression is, paradoxically speaking, to explain how to get along without it. To define is to eliminate. We define an expression, the definiendum, by presenting another, the definiens, to the same effect. Availability of the definiens renders the definiendum dispensable, save perhaps as a convenient abbreviation."
[This is nonsense in more ways than I care to go into now.
Definitions are done for the sake of clarity and consistency.
It is language applied to thought.]
The specification of a concept gives its definition in terms of descriptive or equivalent terms. The formalization of a concept states terms of comparison and may involve contrast or contrafactuality. Individuation is the definition of a concept by way of contrastive thought or argument.
A recursive definition is one in which a term is defined in with a previously specified term.
A paradigmatical definition is one in which the previously known term is a paradigm. The definition of an object is referred not to a specific term but to a paradigm. According to Webster's, a recursive definition is "a definition of a functionm in symbolic logic permitting values of the function to be calculated systematically in a finite number of steps". The key term is "finite number of steps", because a paradigmatic definition involves only the step from the paradigm to the specific object. This is possible because of memory and logic. Webster's refers us to contextual definition as defining "a word or symbol by explaining the meaning of the phrase or statement in which it occurs". Alternatively, it is "a definition in which the meaning of a word, expression, or symbol is partly or wholly determined by defining the meaning of a larger expression containing the definidiendum".
The problem of recursion as definition is that it infinitely progressive in that there is no paradigm but only specific instances of terms.
Let us define table.
A table is an elevated surface. A table is an elevated surface for placing things. A table is an elevated surface for placing things which relies on at least one leg. A table is an elevated surface for placing things which relies on at least one leg that and is designed for that purpose, and so on.
Define elevation? Tables can be bare. One leg necessarily requires at least three projecting feet. A stone or a trunk can serve as table, and so on. The varieties of tables and combinations of such varieties assure that recursion can never serve to define table
Try doing the same thing with justice or beauty and the process becomes not only infinite but also infinitely more complex. By way of contrast, a child is taught and learns that a specific object is a table. Using the principle of generalization in intuitive logic he will create a table-paradigm in his mind. In the process of recognition itself he will use the logical principle of specification to go from the paradigm to the specific object.
"A process or expression that provides
the precise meaning of a word or phrase. A definition (definiens),
correctly made, will be logically equivalent to the word or phrase being
defined (definiendum)...[D]efinition may be either ostensive or verbal...A
recursive definition begins by giving examples of the class of object
represented by the word to be defined; it then specifies a procedure for
generating further examples...A nominal definition simply explicated a
meaning that a term happened to have according to existing verbal usage. A
real definition would characterize a structure common to all the objects
to which that term should be applied." (Flew)
Richard Jeffrey on Frank Plimpton Ramsey,
Philosophical Papers and On Truth: Original manuscript materials (1927-1929) from the Ramsey Collection at the University of Pittsburgh , edited by Nicholas Rescher and Ulrich Majer, TLS, May 17 1991, pp.5-6
"But on the whole, Ramsey's work is quite disjoint from Wittgenstein's. His path-breaking deflationary account of truth appears fully formed in a paper on propositions read to the Moral Sciences Club in Cambridge in 1921: `The most certain thing about truth is that " p is true" and " p ", if not identical, are equivalent. This enables us to rule out at once some theories of truth such as that "to be true" means "to work" or "to cohere" since clearly " p works" and " p coheres" are not equivalent to " p "'."
This definition in effect says truth is what is true.
David Papineau on Daniel
C. Dennett, The Intentional Stance (MIT Press), in TLS, August 19-25
1988, P. 911
"The materialistic shift
in recent analytic philosophy represents a remarkable turnaround. In the 1950s
and 60s philosophers used to divide on whether `reasons' were `causes', with
neo-positivists like A. J. Ayer maintaining that mental states caused behaviour
according to general scientific laws, while hermeneuticians like Peter Winch
insisted instead that the attribution of mental reasons yielded a distinctive,
non-causal way of understanding human action. Strikingly absent from that
agenda, however, was the question of how the mind related to the brain. Even the
positivists tended to deal with the mind in its own terms, relating beliefs and
desires to actions directly, without bringing in the brain as the locus of
"Now that physical
discourse has its own authority, the only way to relate mind to matter is
somehow to find space for the mental within the physical."
"Dennett's position on
the mind-brain issue combines elements of both orthodox `functionalism' and
Donald Davidson's `anomalous monism'. Functionalism is the modern physicalist
version of Ayer's positivism. Like Ayer, functionalists take everyday psychology
to specify general causal relations between mental states and behaviour, but
then add the physicalist twist of identifying those mental states with the brain
states that play the same causal roles in our physical workings. Davidson, by
contrast, is the physicalist heir of Winch. While accepting the general monist
principle that everything, including humans, is made of matter, Davidson resists
the further inference that psychology should dance to the same scientific tune
as physics. He maintains instead that psychological terminology is `anomalous',
in being unsuitable for the formulation of general scientific laws, and insists,
with Winch, that the point of our everyday psychological notions of belief,
memory, desire, intention and so on, is to enable us to make hermeneutic sense
of people's actions, not to categorize them scientifically."
"One of the issues
involved here is the debate between `connectionists' and `linguistic' models in
artificial intelligence. In the 1970s the fashionable theories of the mind
postulated `languages of thought', consisting of sentence-like structures which
the brain possessed in sequence like a conventional computer. But it has since
become clear that this is too cumbersome for abilities involving pattern
recognition, and the fashion is now for `connectionist' models, in which mental
judgements are embodied in holistic networks of simple non-sentential elements.
Dennett argues, not unreasonably, that this shift in fashion casts little doubt
on folk psychology, on the ground that there was little in folk psychology to
commit us to the language-of-thought picture in the first place. But this
scarcely establishes Dennett's more general thesis, that folk psychology carries
no implications whatsoever about internal mechanisms."
"Mental states have
representational powers in virtue of being `designed' by genetic and
developmental selection processes to interact with the environment in specific
ways: beliefs are selected because they direct behaviour in ways appropriate to
given circumstances, and desires are selected because they lead to given
results. And this, according to Dennett, is what warrants us in thinking of
those mental states as about those circumstances and results.
"This is a good way
for a materialist to accomodate meaning. Intuitively, beliefs and desires
represent those environmental circumstances that they are supposed to inertact
with. But the only kind of purposes that can be present in a purely physical
world are those which derive from natural selection, from processes which pick
out certain items because they produce certain results. True, this account of
purpose and meaning inverts the traditional attitude which takes the signifying
power of the human mind for granted, and only allows natural selection to be a
`designer' by metaphorical courtesy. But Dennett argues convincingly in favour
of this inversion, and against the myth of `original representations' which
transcend facts of biological selection.
"In Dennett's eyes
there is a link between this biological account of meaning and folk psychology's
neutrality about internal mechanisms."
"He has always presented
the intentional stance as the philosophical key to mental representation, to the
mysterious power of beliefs and desires to represent other, non-mental states of
"`Look', someone might
say, `You either believe there's milk in the fridge or you don't believe there's
milk in the fridge' (you might have no opinion, in the latter case). But if you
do believe this, that's a perfectly objective fact about you, and it must come
down in the end to your brain's being in some particular state."
If you have no opinion or
if you do not belief that there is milk in the fridge, theoretically your mental
state could be expressed as the totality of the physical state of your brain
I think this is what is
called token identity
How would the same thing
be expressed in mentalist and in functionalist terms?
In functionalist terms,
you would in fact have to go over the totality of the storage program
But in mentalist terms,
it is a "holistic" mental operation based on various data and processes, as in
the functionalist account, but it is intuitively and specifically oriented,
whereas the functionalist account involves a mechanical search within an
artificial classificatory structure
We can fool a computer
when we feed it information, even without wanting to
"To a first
approximation, the intentional strategy consist of treating the object whose
behaviour you want to predict as a rational agent with beliefs and desires and
other mental stages exhibiting what Brentano and others call intentionality."
"Consider the physical
strategy, or physical stance; if you want to predict the behavior of a system,
determine its physical constitution (perhaps all the way down to the
microphysical level) and the physical nature of the impingements upon it, and
use your knowledge of the laws of physics to predict the outcome of any input."
"Sometimes, in any event,
it is more effective to switch from the physical stance to what I call the
design stance, where one ignores the actual (possibly messy) details of the
physical constitution of an object, and, on the assumption that it has a certain
design, predicts that it will behave as it is designed to behave under various
This assumes token-token
"Sometimes even the
design stance is practically inaccessible, and then there is yet another stance
or strategy one can adopt: the intentional stance. Here is how it works: first
you decide to treat the object whose behavior is to be predicted as a rational
agent; then you figure out what beliefs that agent ought to have, given its
place in the world and its purpose. Then you figure out what desires it ought to
have, on the same considerations, and finally you predict that this rational
agent will act to further its goals in the light of its beliefs."
"An implication of the
intentional strategy, then, is that true believers mainly believe truths. If
anyone could devise an agreed-upon method of individuating and counting
beliefs...we would see that all but the smallest portion (say, less then 10%) of
a person's beliefs were attributable under our first rule."
"This inability to
predict fine-grained descriptions of actions, looked at another way, is a source
of strength for the intentional strategy, for it is this neutrality with regard
to details of implementation that permits one to exploit the intentional
strategy in complex cases...Suppose the US Secretary of State were to announce
that he was a paid agent of the KGB...None of that is daring prognostication,
but note that it describes an arc of causation in space-time that could not be
predicted under any description by any imaginable practical extension of physics
"There are patterns in
human affairs that impose themselves, not quite inexorably but with great vigor,
absorbing physical perturbations and variations that might as well be considered
random; these are the patterns that we characterize in terms of the beliefs,
desires, and intentions of rational agents."
Isn't he arguing here
that specific physical motion in human beings is not subject to physical laws?
regulation or function is possible
In doing so I believe he
undercuts his argument by too evidently weakening a valid objection
"Our imagined Martians
might be able to predict the future of the human race by Laplacean methods, but
if they did not also see us as intentional systems, they would be missing
something perfectly objective: the patterns in human behavior that are
describable from the intentional stance, and only from that stance, and that
support generalizations and predictions."
1) Dennett seems to be
arguing against himself in these statements
2) It seems to me that
from this example intentions are superfluous
3) Physicalism and
intentionalism seem to be compatible, not mutually exclusive, alternatives, yet
ex hypothesis physicalism excludes intentions
"The first answer to the
question of why the intentional strategy works is that evolution has designed
human beings to be rational, to believe what they ought to believe and want what
they ought to want."
"It is not that we
attribute (or should attribute) beliefs and desires only to things in which we
find internal representations, but rather that when we discover some object for
which the intentional strategy works, we endeavor to interpret some of its
internal states or processes as internal representations. What makes some
internal feature of a thing a representation could only be its role in
regulating the behaviour of an intentional system."
"There is no magic moment
in the transition from a simple thermostat to a system that really has an
internal representation of the world around it. The thermostat has a minimally
demanding representation of the world, fancier thermostats have more demanding
representations of the world, fancier robots for helping around the house would
have still more demanding representations of the world."
"The first answer to the
question of why the intentional strategy works is that evolution has designed
human beings to be rational, to believe what they ought to believe and want what
they ought to want."
"A currently more popular
explanation is that the account of how the strategy works and the account of how
the mechanism works will (roughly) coincide: for each predictively attributable
belief, there will be a functionally salient internal state of the machinery,
decomposable into functional parts in just about the same way the sentence
expressing the belief is decomposable into parts--that is, words or terms. The
inferences we attribute to rational creatures will be mirrored by physical,
causal processes in the hardware; the logical form of the propositions believed
will be copied in the structural form of the states in correspondence with them.
This is the hypothesis that there is a language of thought coded in our brains,
and our brains will eventually be understood as symbol manipulating systems in
at least rough analogy with computers. Many different versions of this view are
currently being explored, in the new research program called cognitive science,
and provided one allows great latitude for attenuation of the basic, bold claim,
I think some version of it will prove correct."
From the above--the
statement "predictively attributable belief"--it can be inferred that I see
behaviour, which I explain as intentional; with the knowledge of intentions, I
can predict behaviour; but can I predict intentions?
Granted that in the sort
of commonsensical world that he builds up, intentions are logical and humans
follow patterns and so on, but is this real life?
Intending is never
Yet we do have
emotionally neutral states
This raises the question
of whether definitions of mental events, such as Papineau's funcionalism,
embrace all mental events, or simply refer to belief in a basic and crucial but
not necessarily all-inclusive characterization of mental life
In both Dennett and
Putnam, there seems to be the idea that something is missing from both
physicalism and design
intentionalism, which is another way of saying the mental
Putnam also finds that
something is missing from functionalism
He does not designate it:
it is the circularity of reason, Godel's theorems, what have you
But he does define the
means of access: internal realism, which is another phrase for folk psychology
I think that Dennett and
Putnam are on the right path: towards intuitive psychology as a valid instrument
of learning, but Dennett is absolutely simplistic, where as Putnam is looking at
a more productive field of enquiry
From another point of
view Dennett and Putnam seem to be in opposite points
In contrast with Putnam,
Dennett proposes a free-standing philosophy of the mind, so to speak
Dennett was originally a
But now his claim is that
in order to explain behaviour the physical is not needed
The mental in the guise
of intentionality suffices
The best argument he has
for this is prediction
He claims that a
Laplacean physicalist in some hyper-scientific future could not function better
than an ordinary Joe armed with the concept of intentionality
In the end, Dennett
reverts to a kind of Leibnizian parallelism in which mental laws and physical
laws coincide in some mysterious way
Seeing that the brain is
hardly comparable to a computer, Dennett finally appeals to language:
"Now somehow the brain
has solved the problem of combinatorial explosion. It is a gigantic network of
billions of cells, but still finite, compact, reliable, and swift, and capable
of learning new behaviors, vocabularies, theories, almost without limit. Some
elegant, generative, indefinitely extendable principles of representation must
be responsible. We have only one model of such a representation system: a human
language. So the argument for a language of thought comes down to this: what
Andy Clark on Daniel C.
Dennett, Consciousness Explained, in The Higher, April 10 1992, p.
"In short, Dennett's
claim is that a bad image (the Cartesian theatre) has created a hopeless monster
(the `mystery' of consciousness). By undermining the image, we come to see that
that the general shape of an explanation of consciousness is already visible!
The pieces of the jigsaw were all in place in recent work in artificial
intelligence, cognitive psychology and neuroscience."
"Instead of depicting
conscious thought as the passing show on a single, privileged inner stage,
[Dennett] offers what he calls a `multiple drafts' model. The key idea is that
the brain is always busily working, in parallel, on a variety of ongoing
interpretations of the various inputs received. According to how and when you
`probe' the person (by asking questions, measuring physiological responses or
whatever) you will prompt a response which taps into one or other of those
"there are no fixed facts
about the stream of consciousness independent of particular probes" (Dennett)
"The third and final move
in the new story is to shift some of the original burden borne by the idea of
consciousness on to the idea of the self who is the author of the various
reportings and responses. The claim seems to be that that the idea of a single
unified self is a kind of (useful) illusion resulting in part from the operation
in our brains of a serial machine (the `Joycean' machine so-called because of
its serial stream of consciousness) built on top of a more evolutionary basic
parallel processing device."
Galen Strawson on Daniel
Dennett, Consciousness Explained (TLS, August 21 1992)
Strawson concedes: "What
underlies the apparent unity of experience may be just a multiplicity of
processes and agencies that co-operate to produce the apparent unity without in
fact being subject to the co-ordinating control of any central authority."
Strawson believes the
"saccadic" nature of the stream of consciousness reinforces this point of view
Dennett compares human
beings to zombies: "imaginary creatures with highly complicated insides that
seem just like human beings, and behave just like them, but have no inner life,
no conscious experience at all" (Strawson)
"Having conceded this,
[materialists] can get on with the central Dennettian task: to show that we may
understand more about the machinery of the ghost than many suppose, by
describingthe workings of the mind at a level of description--`the "software"
level of description'--that lies between the `explicitly physiological' level of
description and the `explicitly phenomenological' level of description...It is
at the [software level] that Dennet can develop his idea that what underlies
coherent speech, or the experience of a `Central Meaner' self, is an unruly and
opportunistic `Pandemonium of Homunculi' in the brain, a surprisingly chaotic
but nonetheless highly effective synergy of independent processes that are not
under any central control. It is at this level too that he can develop his
striking `Multiple Drafts' model of thought and experience, according to which
the brain is constantly sketching and revising different versions of events in
its attempt to make sense of its environment."
In dealing with Dennett's
Consciousness explained, it is necessary to make three distinctions: (1)
the ideas that he targets for refutation, which are basically how he sets up
Descartes, more or less in the Ryle tradition; (2) his own explanations and
arguments; and (3) the interaction between his thought and mine
The first point can be
quickly dealt with
However, to separate the
other two points will not always be easy
The questions Dennett
asks are the following
Is there a central entity
What are the means of
How did mind originate?
How is what-comes-next
What is the right model
How do mind and brain
relate to each other?
What is the right
Dennett argues that
Descartes imagined mind as ruled by a central organizar and as a theater in
which events occur as in play
The denial of the first
person plural implicit in phenomenology gives way to behaviorism
Observation of mind is
Its failure leads to
experimental psychology and neuroscience
Behaviorism denies mental
Epiphenomenalism is the
position that science does not deny that mental events have effects
Neurophilosophy is the
belief that science cannot accept that mental events have effects
Dennett believs that
science does justify the claim that mental events have effects
However, he also believes
in zombies, i.e., the idea that consciousness plays no causal role whatever in
Although in the end what
it proves is that mind is processual, Dennett makes a great deal of two possible
processes which produce error: in one process perception is post-edited, i.e.,
faulty recall, and in the other there is misperception, i.e., false impression,
but in both the result is false memory
The first process he
describes as Orwellian because it is like history rewritten and the second he
calls Stalinist because through it the facts are distorted to start with
The only actual
difference in these metaphors is that the falsification in the so-called
Stalinist process is immediate rather than ex post facto
However, if you consider
that both processes start with a sensory stimulus, then they are essentially
similar in that they consist in a looking back at, no matter how infinitesimal
the lapse in one case
As I said, all that
Dennett is arguing for is subconscious cog-processes and all the talk about
Orwellian and Stalist mechanisms is just icing
Once the subconscious
process of cognition is established--if all the rigmarole about Orwellian and
Stalinist processes is actually proof of anything--Dennett takes the first wrong
turn in his search for metaphors to substitute for Descartes'
He claims that mind is
constantly elaborating multiple drafts
That mind is complex and
that many interactive cog-processes are going on all the time, does not
necessarily mean multiple drafts, for this implies that different main trends
are always going on in mind whereas mind is more or less always oriented towards
Dennett has to account
for orientation and for purpose
It is what he calls
My own answer is the
specificity of self
He creates a a
pandemonium of homunculi and struggle and hegemonies
The one fundamental claim
in which he is quite correct is that the subconscious determines what it is that
happens in awareness
Now, my question to
myself is whether, despite our disagreements, I might have taken this idea from
But I don't think so
because my starting point is the temporality of mind
However, reading Dennett
might have accustomed me to think the unthinkable: that awareness is a mere
faculty and consciousness an epiphenomenon
His influence might have
been in feeding an undercurrent in my mind
And isn't this multiple
The point with metaphors
is that they are metaphors, i.e., not very precise analogies
Even if they might seem
disparate, the subconscious thoughts in my mind have a definite trend, they are
not mutiple and disunified
Concerning vision Dennett
argues that an accumulation of stimuli produces a picture and that there is no
question of a central organizer
There is no room for a
central organizer in my understanding of mind
But the specificity of
self, i.e., the specific self that starts building up from birth, certainly must
impinge on perception
I perceive what I
perceive becauswe I am who I am
There is no margin here
for a central organizer, but there is a core of selfhood that can easily pass
itself off for one
Dennett argues that the
lag between the impulse and its mental registration provide the basis for
The lag is what he calls
the temporal control window during which mind edits the input that it gets
function is what eventually determines behaviour
There is no central
organizer, but even if this were true, the right description of what goes on
probably does not resemble the multiple drafts image
What there undoubtedly is
whoever is the specificity of our historical self
Dennett tackles the
orientation problem, i.e., what-to-do-next, from the evolution of mind
The primitive brain
contained various survival routines and sub-routines
Dennett represents this
as a pandemonium of devils fighting among each other
However, this does not
solve the orientation problem
To explain this, he comes
By talking to himself
primitive man improved the brain interconnections resulting in better-informed
Supposedly out of this
talking an hegemonic routine emerged
But is self-talk superior
to just concentration?
If self-talk gave access
to subsystem, there must have been previous access to other subsystems, and this
infinite regress of someone with access to any subsystem means that self-talk is
more or less useless
The upshot of this
process is mind, which Dennett calls a Joycean machine
The Joycean machine is
the same pandemonium involving the same demons
In the struggle within
the Joycean machin, pandemonium consist in "opportunistic, parallel evolutionary
From this emerge
hegemonies of demons or homunculi
Subsets of mental
processes win out and exclude the other mental events
But all events large or
small have effects large or small
Dennett and Gulick define
the self as "an organized system of subpersonal components"
It does not include a
"totally non-behavioral form of understanding"
In fact, though, thought
does not necessarily result in behaviour unless--which is correct--thought
itself is a form of behaviour
But if thought itself is
a form of behaviour it is not licit to speak of a possible "non-behavioral form
There simply is no
"non-behavioral form of understanding"
pattern produces responses and is a denial of consciousness
This is what Dennett
calls the Joycean machine
All consiousness consists
in are probes into the workings of the Joycean machine
contention seems to be that Descartes "invented" consciousness
A corollary of this would
that Freud invented subconsciousness!!!
Cosnsciousness is not
But at least the
Cartesian view answers the problem of what-to-do-next
However, it is the
subconscious that constrains what to think and what to do next
And in the subconscious,
according to Dennett, it is a struggle between homunculi which results in
The hegemny is the answer
The multiple drafts
argument includes the following ideas
Mind edits continually
Mind-editing does not
involve consciousness (Cartesian theater)
Mind produces effects
The effects of mind do
not involve consciousness either
My own reasoning goes as
The indiscernibility of
identicals posits physical specificity
entails propositional specificity
self-preservation and dispositions
It is dispositions and
subconscious processing that determine what-to-do-next
In sum, on subconscious
But I cannot accept the
I would much rather stick
to propositions and their interaction
But since subconscioous
cannot involve linguistic propositions, then I propose the squiggles metaphor
which I back up with an analogy between neurons and squiggles
Is there a lapse between
stimuli and perception?
This of course is
required by the so-called Stalinist version
If perception is the
process of perception--and since in perception it is unlike that we process each
individual quale before processing the entire picture--then there is no lag
But since these processes
are infinitesimal in time, then it may be possible to define them in such a way
that allows for a lag
Dennett's methodology is
a combination of direct awareness of thought and research
He calls it
heterophenomenology in an obvious allusion to Husserl
But all he adds to
phenomenology is something not unlike Freudian couch-analysis
The research part is
mostly about experimental or laboratory psychology with some computer technology
The multiple drafts and
homunculus metaphors and analogies do not meld with the fact that rather than
partitional--and partitions is what these metaphors suggest--the brain is
flexible and "homogeneous" within its different recognizable areas, i.e, sectors
can fill in for others, empty capacities can be transferred from absent to
active functions, and so on
If all cells in a part of
the brain can do multiple tasks, then talk of units, modules, homunculi, even
nodes, is nonsensde
cognition/brain would require a connectionist model so vast it is unimaginable
and probably even if possible in the end not unlike a system in which the CPU
computational version is probably closer to the truth than connectionism
Multiple drafts is but a
sketch which is supposed to substitute for awareness
But awareness is quite
vivid and real and between this characterization of awareness and a sketch,
there is little indeed to choose!!!
Additional notes on
Dennett's reliance on
abnormal psychology for his arguments on mind is a constant in this work
Is this valid?
He cites, e.g.,
prosopagnosia as some kind of demonstration of the unreliability of awareness
Prosopagnosia is a
sickness in which a person recognizes everything but cannot identify known faces
Self-evidently, there is
a memory impairment here
Cognition is interactive
The interaction of
basic-cog's obeys rules and these rules can breakdown corresponding to actual
damage to the nervous system
This is not and cannot be
considered an argument against awareness
Not only with the above,
but also with other abnormalities such as scotoma, anosognosia, and so on, what
he really wants to demonstrate is the subconscious, processual nature of
However, this can be
argued from the temporality of cognition withour recourse to abnormal psychology
The simplest expression
of the possibililty of knowledge from phenomenology is the use of the
first-person plural, which is very difficult if not impossible
Dennett considers that
this realization leads to behaviorism (p.70)
This is indeed a good
But there is difficulty
here not impossibility
Another case of abnormal
psychology supposedly at the service of philosophy is Dennett's claim that
phonemes are not endowed with intentionality, because in cases of hysterical
blindness or anosognosia claims are made which cannot actually be meaningful
Anosognosia is the claim
by a blind person that he can see
Hysterical blindness is
of course the contrary
Are multiple drafts
If by this is meant
subconscious processing, I have no quarrel
But the implication is
different cog-processes going on at the same time
I prefer one cognitive
process--predominating although not necessarily shutting out others--to which
all basic-cog's interactively contribute
One draft, multiple
In general, Dennett is
right about the subconscious commanding awareness
This is valid
But some inferences are
Consciousness he says is
a probe into the processing of inputs
Concretely, I stop and
consider what my mind is doing
This is memory and this
is all the consciousness there is
There is no consciousness
However, there is
awareness and nothing more than awareness
Remembering awareness is
Why make a big to-do
Because he wants to
refute the Cartesian theatre metaphor!!!
We are as one here if
this is all there is to it
Dennett I think exceeds
his brief and in doing so makes sometimes unnecessarily astounding claims
Dennett says vision
consists in the accumulation of stimuli producing a picture
There is no central
True enough, but there is
specificity so that even though there is no "central organizer" of stimuli,
there are rules that put the picture together and this process involves the
specificity of self
The way we recognize
something has to do with the contents of memory and in memory we have types and
tokens and the types are built up from tokens
There is no central
organizer but there is specific orientation in perception
All of us recognize the
same thing in front of us, but we recognise in different ways
Multiple drafts here is
Dennett cannot entirely
deny that awareness does something and that human awareness is a "million times"
greater than animal representation
He explains awareness in
an archaelogical exercise as the result of self-talk
Self-talk improves brain
connections and this results in better-informed action guidance
This is what I refer to
as the possible feed-back effect of awareness on cognition
But I see no point in
Self-talk cannot be more
efficacious than concentration
Besides Dennett argues
that self-talk gives us access to subsystems
However, this implies
previous access to another subsystem
There is regress lurking
Besides the greater power
of human representation is the product of a more developed cognitive apparatus
Did self-talk achieve
Self-talk already entails
Ironaically, in his war
against Cartesianism Dennett comes up with mental overlod and that sounds a lot
like central orgainzer
It is a war of metaphors
Other metaphor are
pandemonium, hegemony, homunculi, and so on
One of the implicit
themes in Dennet is that Descartes invented consciousness and imposed it on the
This is a bit like
claiming that Freud invented the subconscious
Besides language had the
concept of thought before Descartes invented anything
One of Dennett's
arguments against qualia is that the liking of beer is an acquired taste
In fact, you can either
like or dislike beer from the start and this means that there is indeed a taste
of beer different from the disposition to like or dislike beer
against the Chinese room puzzle is that, since sognition depends on a subsystems
which are not themselves conscious, then there is no reason not to consider that
the automatic translations from Chinese to English and vice versa by a person
who knows no Chinese, is no different from other cognitive processes
Circularities are usually
semantical or metaphorical
If we characterize
experience as a Cartesian theater, we will not be able to characterize it as
But if we characterize it
as multiple drafts or as a Joycean machine, we shall have to exclude the
Since what we have here
is a war of metaphors, we have circularity, courtesy de Daniel Dennett
Deontic logic is the weighing of affects in logical forms.
Strictly speaking, it is reasoning from values, but all values involve affects.
Jacques Derrida (1930-2004 )
La voix et le phénomène
De la grammatologie
L'écriture et la différence
"Not only does language not refer to
reality, but there is no presence for language to refer to...But if there is not fixity of meaning,
we cannot know there is no fixity of meaning...He plays and jests with his readers,
teasing them with different accounts and different tales."
Before Descartes there were no doubts
about the existence of the world. After Descartes, doubts about reality
gradually give way to science.
D. W. Hamlyn, The Penguin History of
Western Philosophy, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1987
"The emphasis upon ideas thus implies an
emphasis upon human understanding, and an inquiry based upon ideas is an
inquiry into what `we' think. From an individual point of view this could be
put in terms of what `I' think. There is thus a sense in which the search
for truth, which Descartes puts as the goal of his inquiry, is one based
upon what each of us can discover in himself or herself." (p.136)
"It is this individualistic basis of
Descartes' philosophical inquiry that is the notable and indeed
revolutionary thing." (p.137
The mind/body duality is also
revolutionary in the history of philosophy. However, it stems directly from Descartes
"What is new about this approach to
philosophy is, as I said at the beginning, its claim to secure an
epistemological and metaphysical underpinning for our knowledge of the world
on the basis of what an individual can construct from his own consciousness.
The emphasis on what has become known as `privileged access' is notable, in
the form of the claim that we have a clearer and more distinct idea of our
own minds than we do of anything else, although Descartes believes that a
clear and distinct idea of the nature of matter is possible. The latter is
secondary to the former in the course of the argument, which goes from
oneself to God and only then to the material world." (p.144)
Hamlyn on Descartes and Wittgenstein
"In modern times it has been suggested
that those ideas and their individualistic standpoint could make sense only
given a public framework--something that Descartes ostensibly casts doubt
upon in the method of doubt." (p.144)
"In chapter 7 I turn to the idea of a
`naturalized' epistemology. I argue that we can perfectly well evaluate our
methods of belief-evaluation themselves, by reflecting on their reliability
for producing truths which correspond to reality. The upshot of such
reflections will be actions, aimed at improving the realiability of our
methods. Cartesian authority makes us think that epistemology is essentially
to do with inference. I argue for a more general view of epistemology, as
the practical pursuit of truth."
Descartes, Papineau, Goldman
"On the traditional Cartesian conception,
epistemology is essentially an individual concern, since it has to do with
argumentative moves made within conscious minds. But once we switch to the
idea that the aim of epistemology is to ensure the reliability of
belief-forming processes in general, including processes whose operations
lie outside consciousness, there is no reason why epistemology should
continue to be restricted to processes that can be embodied in a single
individual. We can perfectly well direct epistemological attention to, say,
the social processes by which information gets transmitted from one person
to another, or the social processes by which beliefs become part of the
established consensus in a community."
Wittgenstein, philosophy of language,
Budd on Merrill B. Hintikka and Jaakko
"Perhaps the most extraordinary part of
the Hintikka's book is that which purports to explain Wittgenstein's views
about `private experience'. They maintain that Wittgenstein's `private
language argument' constitutes a criticism not of Cartesian metaphysics but
of Cartesian semantics. They argue that Wittgenstein conceived of sensations
as real events that are private `in a perfectly straightforward Cartesian
sense', but that he held that we can use language to name or describe these
private events only by means of a public framework: a `private object' can
be spoken of only by means of a public correlate. Accordingly, although
sensations are private events, sensation-language can never be essentially
private but must also be publicly understandable."
These arguments are pertinent to the
"expression is representation" thesis.
Jonathan Bennett on John Cottingham, "The Rationalists" (Oxford: V.4 of
A History of Western Philosophy) in
TLS, April 28-May 4 1989, p.448
"Descartes's God is personal but so
supremely great that all truths are made so by His will."
"concept-dualism": "no logical commerce
between facts pertaining to minds and facts pertaining to bodies"
L.Jonathan Cohen on Pascal Engel, La
norme du vrai: philosophie de la logique in TLS, September 15-21 1989,
No interest in French philosophy in
"Indeed, just at the time when Boole was
undertaking his mathematical analysis of logic, Condillac's followers were
expounding the view that logic is necessarily alien to mathematics."
"On Descartes' view one does not need
logic, as a formal discipline, because the human mind already has a kind of
"Engel disclaims adherence to the thesis
that all problems in the philosophy of logic arise out of fundamental issues
in the nature of meaning."
(1) En una misiva consolatoria Descartes
habla de las almas que se dejan dominar por la pasión y las almas en las que
la razón domina a la pasión. La distinción es espúrea, pero esta
crítica ahora no viene al caso. El caso es más bien que Descartes hace
varias propuestas que en su conjunto están preñadas de ambigüedad. En el ser humano, el alma es la sede de
las pasiones, pero el alma también es la parte pensante. Para dominar la pasión Descartes afirma
que hay que tomar distancia de las pasiones. Pero si a las pasiones se las domina con
la razón y el alma es a la vez sede de las pasiones y la parte pensante, lo
que está diciendo es que el alma debe tomar distancia de si misma, pero si
el alma toma distancia de si misma se estaría forzosamente apartando de la
razón y difícilmente podría estar en condiciones de dominar las pasiones. Pero suponiendo que hay algo en el alma
que le permite desdoblarse, puesto que siendo el alma la parte pensante, ese
algo no puede ser la razón, ni menos aún la pasión, que es el objeto del
desdoblamiento. La única otra posibilidad sería que fuese
el yo, y entonces se podría suponer que, puesto que el yo es el que toma
distancia del alma y el alma es la parte pensante, el yo no puede sino
contemplar al alma impotentemente, si acaso, al menos que el yo también
posea razón, en caso cual el alma no sería la parte pensante, y como, según
Descartes, esto no puede ser, la única otra salida sería que el
desdoblamiento no existe y que no es posible dominar las pasiones.
(2) En la misma o en otra carta
consolatoria, Descartes afirma que la tristeza es o causa o síntoma de
enfermedad. La virtud consiste en la eliminación de
la tristeza y de ahí la curación de la enfermedad. Pero Descartes también dice que la
distracción puede servir para dejar de lado la tristeza, de lo que se podría
inferir que la distracción es una virtud.
(3) En algunos textos, la primera de las
pasiones es el amor, pero en el Tratado de las pasiones la primera de
todas es la admiración. En realidad, la clasificación de las
pasiones es prima facie una empresa irrealizable, y de intentarse
resultaría necesariamente contradictoria y superficial.
(4) Según Descartes, el sitio preciso
donde "convergen" mente y cuerpo es la glándula pineal. El tránsito de las señales físicas al
pensamiento se hace mediante un código, que supuestamente "funciona" en la
pineal. Ahora bien, si el yo es pensamiento puro,
¿qué queda de la pineal y de su código? Descartes ciertamente no se molestó en ir
más allá de postular ambas cosas. Sin duda, Descartes descubrió el problema
de la relación entre la mente y el cuerpo, pero en lugar de darle una
solución, lo hizo insoluble.
(5) Otro territorio que vislumbró sin
explorar está en su idea de que la intersubjetividad se basa en el lenguaje. Pero, ¿lenguaje en qué sentido? ¿En el sentido del medio de expresión de
res cogitans? ¿O más bién en el sentido de un ente
colectivo, reflejo y reificación de la experiencia de los grupos humanos? Debuzon contestó diciendo que Descartes
no tuvo una lingüistica. Es de suponer entonces que la
intersubjetividad se basa en el lenguaje como medio de comunicación de los
(6) Según Descartes las pasiones no
tienen ubicación: se "difunden" por toda la persona. Las sensaciones en cambio se ubican en el
cerebro, y en prueba está la sensación del órgano amputado ("missing limb"). Es de señalarse al respecto que, según
las teorías más recientes, "missing limb" es una reacción de sustitución o
de "contagio" de las celulas en sectores cerebrales diferentes, i.e., las
sensaciones se ubican en sitios específicos del cerebro y de ahí que se
experimenten en las distintas partes del cuerpo. Y en cuanto a las pasiones, no hay
ninguna que no esté asociada con algún contenido proposicional, con algún
pensamiento, si se quiere, de tal suerte que no se pueda decir que están
difundidas por toda la persona.
(7) En la filosofía occidental se puede
hablar de antes y después de Descartes. Antes de Descartes, imperaba el realismo:
el mundo externo era la realidad primordial; el mundo interno ocupaba un
puesto secundario en el pensamiento filosófico. Con Descartes, el mundo como
representación adquiere droit de cité--aunque al parecer Montaigne
fue precursor--y con Descartes nace el problema de la relación entre el
cuerpo y la mente. Descartes fue, si no el fundador, el
consagrador de la filosofía de la mente. Pero además el interés de Descartes en
los temas de lo que el llamaba alma también hace de el uno de los fundadores
de la psicología y de todas sus ramificaciones.
A form of
A proposition is "determinate" when it has truth-value.
Determinism and self-determination
Awareness is immersed wily-nilly in the ontological chain. This means primarily that awareness exists in time, and more concretely, that for each existence--but also for all of existence--every single event follows upon a previous event and will give way to another event until the sequence stops. The perception of limited space is spontaneously acquired through the immersion of primary awareness in the physical world. Space and time are inseparable, but since space cannot be defined without objects, theoretically time is conceivable without space. Time is the primary condition for the ontological chain, but only if we abstract time from brain. Time must refer us to something.
Since awareness is part of the ontological chain, it cannot by itself reveal any existent outside of space and time. The finite nature of existence is the only possible means of escape from the ontological chain, for its immersion in time is unavoidable and inescapable.
The ontological-chain concept is based on two propositions: (1) that there exists an unbroken continuity of being, and (2) that the same holds true for each individual existent. For the individual this continuity consists in the following propositions: (1) that mental and physical activity never ceases before death; (2) that no mental event or action can be isolated from the past of each individual existent; (3) that each existent is the result of all previous existence; and (4) that thought is a form of behaviour. From these propositions, it can be deduced that all events have a context, which can be described as existential and short-term, and that only by escaping from the short-term and existential context would it be possible for the individual to achieve self-determination.
The ontological chain implies an elementary form of determinism which we shall call A-B determinism. It means that A will lead to B, and only to B, under any and all circumstances. For any B possibility, there always exists one and only one A premiss. There can be no hiatus between A and B. Every event is determined in one way or another by a preceding event and will determine the following event, and so on. However extraneous an individual thought may seem, it must have its source in the past, however remote or obscure. We cannot escape our past and therefore self-determination is a myth. Things happened as they happened, even when they went against our deepest desires, because changing them was beyond our power, even when it seemed as if we could have done something to change them or when nothing seemed to stand in the way of preventing them.
Free will is only the illusion stemming from the experience of doing something more painful than an imagined alternative. There did not exist a hiatus in the course of past events in which we could have placed ourselves and from which we could have done something to break or interfere with or modify the course of events. This can also be understood from the conscious reification of the past.
This "empirical" approach to the justification of A-B determinism, has two absurd consequences. From the assumption that determinism means that all our thoughts and actions occur in such a way that there is nothing that we can do to prevent them from happening, it does not follow that we can be sure that (1) some form of behaviour will always take place, e.g., if we have always taken the left road, that we will always in future take the same road. This is tantamount to the distinction between determinism and predictability. On the assumption that we were determined in the past, we assume that we are determined in the present. Since the present is the future becoming past, being determined in the past means that nothing can change in the present. But (2) all we are saying here is that the past is the past and cannot be changed. As far we can tell, anything can happen, but once it happens it is presumed to have been inevitable. Even if this were an accurate proposition, it cannot be interpreted rationally, let alone proven, and it does not provide any sort of moral or philosophical guidance.
From a moral point of view, being determined in such a way that choosing our own behaviour is beyond our power, must mean that we cannot be held responsible for our actions and it suggests that we may assume irresponsible stances. But this proposition is meaningless in practice, hence incoherent, unarguable, and invalid. Actions and their consequences must have attribution, which is needed if only to avoid social chaos. Specific deeds must be attributed to one specific existence even in the case of the total dissolution of the unity of self, as may occur in disassociative mental disorders.
Determinism or freedom cannot be defined in terms of personal experience. Statements of belief about personal behaviour cannot be shown to be true or false, and nothing that we feel about past or future events can prove or disprove determinism. What we have to explain is what it means to say that, from the concept of ontological-chain determinism, an A premiss always leads to a B consequence and that the necessary condition of freedom is self-determination. In a formalistic temporal schema, determinism can be represented as either the past leading inexorably to another past or to a conventionally defined present, or the present determining the future. Schematically, self-determination would consist in the present determining itself. Since there is no present as such then there would be nothing to determine.
For all cases of determinism, either "forces" external to the ontological chain determine events, or events follow a course or path implicit in the ontological chain. Determinism is often seen as a force beyond our ability to influence or control. A pilot ejects from his plane. The plane flies on auto for 1,000 miles, crashes into a house, and kills a young man waiting for his parents. This is an instance of what is frequently called "fate". Fatalism of this elementary sort seems to imply that a willful force superior to our own determines the course of our lives in perverse, unexpected, and irrational ways. It is frequently invoked at seemingly crucial or conjunctural moments, particularly the moment of death. It is recurred to as an explanation for casual, wayward, or chanceful events. But why should these events be more representative or demonstrative of determinism than perfectly ordinary every-day acts? It could be that there is more determinism in the act of getting up to a bright, sunny morning than in sudden death in the unlikeliest of circumstances. But the problem with fatalism is not so much the nature of the results of determinism as the implication in the notion of "externality" of an all-powerful transcendental reality cruelly or impassively whimsical, like an impish Etruscan face.
Going down Pelham Street a person stops us and asks for Brompton Road. We cannot recall offhand where it is and give her the wrong indication. She sounds sceptical. Along the way we realize our mistake, but it is too late to do anything about it. Could we have acted differently from the way we did? If our behaviour was determined, it was determined in the sense that it had to happen the way it happened down to the finest fragment of time. We imagine that we could have pleaded ignorance, but we know that for us it is almost unbearable to do so. We cannot prove that we were completely determined on that specific point, but we can say that we followed an entrenched pattern of conduct. Beyond our feeling of frustration over the incident, we perceive that we were trapped in a chain of past events and that it would not be irrational to assume that our conduct was indeed determined. But to think that we will always be making such stupid mistakes is unbearable!!!
In our initial, non-analytical idea of external determinism, B inevitably follows A because it is placed in a sequence within the ontological chain. In our more analytical approach, B inevitably follows A, although not as an ontologically determined sequence of events, but in a vague cause/effect order. Theoretically, every action could have an ex post explanation based on the A-B link. Infallible analysis could prove the inextricable link between the premiss and the consequence. Psychology assumes that the link exists, but it never fathoms satisfactorily its complexities. It can offer guideliness, e.g. patterns for interpretation, but never absolute certainty. (This incidentally is the basis for the determine/predict distinction.) Therefore, determinism can only be defined in strictly linear, objective, and non-analytical terms. For any B possibility there always exists a theoretical A premiss. There is no hiatus between A and B. Existence must be, and can only be, defined and understood in terms of its continuities.
The A-B link constitutes an analytical reduction of the ontological chain. In this scheme, A can be understood as the context for individual mental events and actions as specifically instantiated in a previous situation. Every mental event and every action is preceded by, and is inseparable from, a complex situation (if viewed from awareness) or a complex datum (if viewed externally), which for lack of a more appropriate category can be interpreted as a cause. B equals the resulting thought or action, and consistent with the above definition of cause, it can be considered an effect. In exploring the possibility of self-determination, the basic question would then be: is it possible to escape from the immanence of the contextual meaning of mental events and behaviour?
From this understanding of determinism, the free-will or self-determination thesis has to be either that A can lead not only to B but also to C, D, E, ad infinitum, or that A equals some undefinable zero magnitude. In other words, in the most elementary formulation possible, there can be absolute self-determination only if it could be possible to have B without A. This possibility amounts to positing a self-determinative hiatus between A and B. Since both A and B, whether mental events or actions, are inconceivable without a basis in the physical and mental spheres of life, i.e. outside of the continuity of existence, then the hiatus itself is inconceivable. It would be marginally conceivable only if we could shed the unity of self entirely and act in such a way that our past had no bearing on the "present", but this runs foul of (1) the continuity of life, which is inescapable for any "personality change", and (2) the inevitability of an individual past. However, this is a rebuttal that applies to total self-determination, and there still remains the possibility of partial self-determination.
The individual cannot determine himself from an act of pure self-determination but if he can contribute in some measure to the ontological chain, it could be said that he can partially determine himself. Mental events are intuitively ours and it can be argued therefore that the ontological chain includes the input of individual awareness. In what sense can it be said that the awareness of our mental events makes possible partial self-determination? This can be said to occur if and when A as cause is made to be partially a product of awareness. From rational awareness it may be possible to make some "original contribution" to the ontological chain. This is ideally illustrated in the case of the productions of genius, whose explanation is admittedly beyond rational analysis. But precisely because of this, it is impossible to muster rational arguments for partial self-determination on the basis of the idea of an original contribution. But the crucial flaw of awareness as partial self-determinsation is that it is the result of subconscious processes over which awareness has no command.
Another possibility of rationally conceiving partial self-determination is that awareness makes possible the "dissolution of time" in a meaningful and valid way. We are determined even by our own thoughts, but we are also contributing to the ontological chain by the way we think about the past. Concretely, we can choose from our past the input that will partly determine what we think and what we do. In the case of the Pelham Street incident, we could have chosen to confess our ignorance in order to prove to ourselves that we could stray willfully from the habitual patterns of the past. But could we really?
Let us look closer at the possibility of choosing from our past. We can do so for a purpose or for no purpose at all, perhaps to prove a point. If we do it for a purpose, we have some concrete objective in mind, perhaps a moral ideal, and it is not possible to conceive a concrete objective that does not relate in some manner to our past, and this means that the past is subconsciously choosing itself. Ideals in so far as they can be translated into rational motivations cannot be self-generated. For instance, we conceive the possibility of eliminating misery, and we decide to do something about it. Assuming that we could realistically try to do something, is our moral concern for the misery of others in a category of possibilities that is not contemplated or justified by our past and by a rational perception of historical events? Even if we assumed that project in order to prove a point, rather than from moral or other grounds, would that effort not belong within the framework of a specific objective, e.g. our interest in demonstrating the possibility of partial self-determination?
In the extreme case that we deliberately acted in a totally irrational manner, would we the be extricating ourselves from the paradox whereby in intending we inevitably demonstrate our inescapable immersion in the ontological chain as expressed by the reductionist schema of the A-B link? In the final analysis, it is impossible to detach awareness itself from the past in such a way as to create a self-determinative hiatus, because all the arguments against the possibility of total self-determination are equally valid against partial self-determination. The idea that from awareness we can introduce a hiatus or somehow break the ontological chain is strictly imaginary. Awareness itself is part of the ontological chain in its origins, as it functions, through its use of rational instrumentalities. Being aware of the past does not make the past less real. Awareness can change the way it reads the past, but the evidence on which the interpretation of the past is built can not be altered. It is the past itself--the fact that we have a past--that makes A-B determinism possible, just as it is the fact itself of trauma rather than the specific contents of trauma that make conditioned awareness and neurotic forms possible.
The feeling that we are powerless to determine the course of our lives does not seem to absolve us from the apparent responsibilities implicit in the awareness of the unity of self. It certainly does not diminish the feeling of uncertainty about the future. The distinction between past and future subsists only in abstraction and for an instant. Yet from what we think we know today we can never be sure of what we shall think and know tomorrow. Our conscious desires and intentions were of little consequence in determining events in our past. Yet in the present we do not, and cannot, renounce trying to act so as to affect outcome in the future. Hard as we try, we cannot escape the quandary between the feeling of being determined and the feeling that somehow we are not really devoid of choice.
Determinism makes moral choice dilemmatic, yet we know that evil exists. Without choice and without certainty, the first duty in existence is nevertheless loyalty to our convictions, even though this implies an inconsistent affirmation of spontaneous "ethical voluntarism": if we are determined, morality has no meaning; yet even knowing this, we are continuously impelled to place ourselves in a moral context. Even in the knowledge of our irrationality, we cannot escape wanting to act in a "principled" way. We are still "obsessed" with ethical meaning. And the possibility that this could be an irreducible paradox of existence does not exempt us at this stage from the effort of trying to find a more coherent understanding of the problem of the intuition of choosing and of the dilemma of guilt.
Determinism is implicit in the ontological chain, which see. Since one cannot really dissect or even describe adequately the ontological chain, this definition of determinism is more or less conventional. But it is based on a likelihood. In sum, we can argue: we are all in the ontological chain; the ontological chain is constituted by causes; causality implies determinism; therefore, we are determined. The form is impeccable but it incorporates interpretative propositions and the yield can be considered a probability.
Strawson argues for a version of compatibilism in which causes are not necessarily constraints. This he apparently finds borne out in the natural facts of ethics and of self-determination. Self-determination he founds on the concept of agency, which basically refers to our awareness of our propositional attitudes, e.g., our desires are ours etc. However, Strawson also admits that agency does not necessarily conduce to a refuting of causal determinism. Since all that Strawson adduces for self-determination is the concept of agency, the version of compatibilism he is defending seems to consist in that, in the absence of a scientific account of behaviour, we are justified in believing that we are free. This incidentally is a version of anomalous monism.
My own view is that we cannot escape the ontological chain and are determined by mostly subconscious cognitive processes including propositional affects. However, we cannot live with determinism. We may profess determinism but we do not believe in it one iota. We are constantly thinking that we can improve our golf game. It isn't even that we go against what we know, but that we cannot help but always entertain the thought that we have some mastery over what we do and over what is going to happen to us. We cannot accept, even if we are proven wrong every time, that we are determined by forces inside us. In fact, the experience of regret shows that, not only do we think we are free, but also that we think that we always have been capable of acting differently from what we did.
If the ontological-chain argument is sound, then these are illusions. And my own explanation of these illusions is consciousness, i.e., the awareness of past awareness. But if this is so, then consciousness is not just an epiphenomenon. Or if it an epiphenomenon it is a necessary and influential one. It is not, as the word itself suggests, at all superfluous. In fact, the past is the past and regret is useless and superfluous.
The easeful and spontaneous acceptance of the ontological chain is the highest ethical commitment of which we are capable. But if we are in the ontological chain it cannot be a commitment, it cannot be a choice: we do not actually, from some niche of freedom, choose to do so. We are constrained to acceptance from the ontological chain itself, even if we are conscious of this, even if we feel no constraint whatsoever. We cannot know when we shall achieve this acceptance, but even if we did know, it would be a determined act. Is there no room at all for some freedom? There are various propositions to be considered here:
the reiteration of thought; the illusion of self-determination; the implicit beiief that our acts make sense. By any definition of choice, the reiteration of thought is choice. We cannot prove that any occurrent thought is free because it is a product of subconscious cognitive process over which we have no direct supervision. But a recurrent thought implies selection, even if subconscious, from multiple possibilities. But can we really believe that we can affect thought and behaviour from the reiteration of thought? After all, the admission that the selection of thought of subconscious is tantamount to admitting that it is unfree. The illusion of self-determination is the same thing as the mitigation of determinism, for in both propositions what I mean is that there are arguments for freedom. We can call these arguments justified or illusory. It is a matter of words. Finally, I say that in our actions there is implicit the belief that life and history have "meaning": purpose, interpretation, some rational "happy ending". But this belief, if it is there, is determined. History not only then determines us (for a moment to identify the ontological chain with history) but it also determines that we accept history in its own gory terms. One final argument for freedom: since the languages are the same and attribution is inevitable and we do have arguments however flawed for freedom: why not say that belief in freedom is perfectly justified? But only freedom within the ontological chain, which makes me a common, run of the mill compatibilist. Well, you can't escape it you can't escape it
Even if I believe in determinism, I do not
believe in determinism. If I really and truly believe in determinism, I would do nothing. But I cannot simply do nothing. I cannot believe in determinism.
Ryle has an explanation for this paradox, although it is flawed in a general sense. It is similar to his deflation of consciousness. Consciousness implies infinite regress, hence ultimately nothing.
Let's say that a life is a totality of acts and that a diary is a life. But the last entry in the diary is an act and a diary cannot include a last entry, because as I enter an act I am in the process of realizing another act not as yet entered in the diary. Let us say I take all background conditions into consideration in order to predict my next act. But I cannot also take in the act of taking in all background considerations. Hence, I cannot predict my next act and I cannot be determined. Ryle puts it this way: "One thing I cannot prepare myself for is the next thought that I am going to think...Nor can a missile be its own target, though anything else may be thrown at it."
What Ryle is claiming is that there is no privileged knowledge of self.
Where is the
flaw in his arguments? The flaw is that he stops there because of the Wittgenstein thesis that the outer is the inner. We cannot predict and the I is indeed elusive, but this does not necessarily disqualify thought about cog-processes. It doesn't even invalidate the arguments for determinism. But it does explain the determinism paradox: we always seem to leave something out of the equation, some gap into which the illusion of freedom creeps in.
On the individual level, rather than the wider epistemological or historical levels, it is possible to argue for determinism with as much eloquence as for freedom. The main argument is the impossibility of conceiving freedom. Freedom from sheer will and rationality is faulty psychology, because all propositions have possessors or owners. Not one proposition can be said to be independent of mind.
Freedom necessarily implies a hiatus, but what we observe is not a hiatus but the ontological chain since the beginning of time. If we hypothesized a hiatus, we could argue that: (1) history is absurd; (2) the unity of self does not exist; (3) human beings are not subject to the principle of cause and effect, hence since explanation is causal--they are not essentially rational. Rationality could surely get around these arguments. The point is that determinism makes sense. However, neither logic nor reason will decide the issue. The criterion is vox historiæ
(which see). But I doubt that history will be choosing sides any time soon, for the great obstacle to the acceptance of determinism as the necessary and sufficient interpretation of mind and action is ~the illusion of freedom from the awareness of awareness.
Suppose I say: "I have to do this and that". It is my intention to do this and that. My intention is determined/has a cause. However, it does not mean that I will do this and that, for causes could intervene to change my intention or to prevent me from doing this and that. Both my thought about my intention and the subsequent events are determined. The subsequent events are determined in part by my intentions, which means that they have in part the same causes as my intention. But since my intention is distinct from its causes my intention can be considered itself a caused cause. I can reinforce my intention, eg by reiteration or other means, and thus increase its causal force, but the reinforcement itself would itself be caused. I am here in a chain of infinite regress where every intention has a cause and no matter how far back I trace my intention I will always find a cause for it.
If I am not free, I could say that I am being used or determined in some manner, for some purpose, in some direction, but this is purely metaphorical talk. However, there is some way in which such talk could have a more justifiable sense. According to society, I act in accordance with the law or I break the law by deciding to do either one thing or the other. But according to determinism I am deciding only in the sense that it is me and not another person that does one thing or another. If I obey or if I break the law, it is because my behaviour happens historically to coincide or not coincide with the law. This is all the ethics that there is. Likewise, according to conventional talk, I acquire knowledge by choosing to do this or that, but again my knowledge results from the convergence between what I know, that is, believe that my beliefs constitute knowledge, and what vox historiae determines as true or valid.
Even though each act of the life I have led was inevitable in every conceivable way, I also know intuitively that my life could have been different from what it has been. How do I get out of this paradox? My life would have been different if I had known what I know now or if I had been different from what I was. But these ifs mean that in effect one part of my contradictory or antinomic statement is false.
There is no [paradox! I do not know and cannot know that my life could have been different: this is pure contrafactuality.
I cannot wholly determine a single one of my acts. This means that I cannot from the unity of self do something that is not immediately and inextricably related to my past. The unity of self itself is part of my past. So is rationality. (Rationality is, of course, partly universal, but it is fundamentally "my" rationality. I cannot escape this.) However, the "marginal" validity of the unity of self, does mean that I have contributed in the past to the formation of the past, i.e., the ontological chain, and therefore, I can in part determine myself. But why should the unity of self be a privileged a in the A-B link?
If I incline to the physicalism, I am required to defend determinism. If I incline to the non-physical aspect of the mental, I may incline towards indeterminism. The "may" was used on purpose. There is no way to decide between determinism and indeterminism. I incline towards determinism. Therefore, I must try to explain determinism from my perspective on the non-physical mental, because the physical/mental perspective accepts the hypothesis of determinism as a matter of course.
The physical concept of function does apply to behaviour, but not the physical concept of laws. In order to explain determinism, I must have a structure or configuration different from that provided by physicalism. The structure or configuration I have usually recurred to is the ontological chain, or the unbroken chain of mind. Ontological chain is the explanation of determinism from the standpoint of awareness.
Under physicalism, the chain is cause to cause and no breaks and no awareness. From the perspective of the ontological chain, awareness itself is a cause, a cause of itself. It is the gradual and inevitable comprehension of history from within history as the expression of a teleology we can only glimpse dimly, as in a bearable darkness.
Anthony Giddens on Wilhelm Dilthey
(1833-1911), Selected Works, Volume One: Introduction to the
Human Sciences (Princeton), in TLS, February 2-8 1990, p.111
"The disciplines studying human behaviour
are scientific when they incorporate logical systems of concepts grounded in
valid understanding of social life...Human life, by contrast, is governed by
willful action, self-consciousness and personal freedom. The events in
nature develop in a mechanical way and have a predictable form, but human
activity is above all open and historical...Consciousness has a unity and flow set
off from sensations of the outer world...The systematic philosophy of history had
its origins in religious experience and the attempt to discern an overriding telos in human social development; the more history distances itself from
this original theological inspiration, the more the philosophy of history
itself withers and dies...His exploration of lived experience
offers phenomenological insights which jump ahead of Husserl's
transcendental idealism to anticipate the later emergence of `existential
phenomenology' in the work of Heidegger and others."
Direct and indirect reference in
The most elementary form of knowing is
awareness. However, awareness gives rise to the paradox that a falsehood
can be knowledge. The paradox of awareness is present in Descartes'
mischievous demons. British empiricism however was oblivious to it. Not so
Leibniz, whose monadology is a response to it. Kant ignored it. Brentano
expressed it in the concept of intentionality. Husserl's arsenal of
meaning-concepts (noesis and noemata) are deliberate answers to Brentano's
dilemma of intentionality. Frege expressed the problem in his distinction
between sense and reference. And it is from Frege that Russell derived the
concept of intensionality and propositional-attitude paradoxes.
Wittgenstein tried to do away with intensionality though the
"linguistic-turn". Functionalism and other analytical philosophy-of-mind
tendencies turned to cognitivism to defuse the paradox of awareness.
Searle simply denied intensionality. His argument was that propositional
attitudes are representations of representations and as such have
truth-value. His claim cannot be objectively validated. How can we infer
belief from deliberate lies? The solution to the paradox of awareness is
that all propositions refer to their bases and their contents. Reference
to bases is necessarily valid, but not reference to contents.
It has been argued that there is a
knowledge/meaning equivalence, that metaphysical propositions, e.g., are
meaningless. Yet metaphysical propositions make sense. They can be
paraphrased by metaphysicians. If knowledge were meaning and if knowledge
excluded some propositions that made sense, then knowledge would exclude
some knowledge. The knowledge itself of false belief is knowledge. Knowledge
refers to propositions. Propositions refer both to themselves exclusively
and to reality including themselves. The self-reference of all propositions
is necessarily valid. Suppose I believed a possible falsehood such as "it
will rain next week". Yet "it will rain next week" as my belief is
self-evidently and necessarily true. We are talking about two different
aspects of propositions: one which is necessarily true because it is my
belief or my awareness and one which is false, but the falsehood of the
proposition does not contradict the validity of the self-reference of the
All propositions, then, have two forms of
reference: indirect and direct. The indirect reference of propositions is to
the propositional bases. All propositions indirectly refer to cognition, to
ascription, and to propositional attitudes. Ascription and propositional
attitudes are reciprocals. Propositional attitudes are the representation of
belief or disbelief. When we grasp a proposition whether in its
representation or in its oral or written expression, we can, one, know that
it is a yield of cognition--it's validity or invalidity is immaterial in the
grasping itself--and, two, we can always ascribe any proposition for it is
not possible for some one to lie to himself. Indirect reference to
propositional bases is tacit in all propositions. The indirect reference of
propositions to propositional bases is necessarily valid. Sometimes
ascription is explicit. Whether explicit or implicit, ascription makes the
proposition valid. Does the explicit reference to ascription invalidate the
distinction between direct and indirect reference? The distinction stands,
but it seems to be pertinent only to such cases as would be paradoxical
without it. The direct reference of propositions is to propositional
content. Reference to propositional content is to reality excluding the
indirect reference to propositional bases. It is possible, of course, for
propositions to refer to propositional bases, but in this case it would be
direct, deliberate reference. Reference to propositionalcontent is not
L.J. Cohen distinguishes between between
belief and acceptance. Acceptance can result in both thought and action.
Belief is non-voluntary. Infants and animals are capable of belief but not
of acceptance. Belief does not result in deliberate action. Belief is the
knowledge of all the contents of mind regardless of whether they are valid
or invalid. But is acceptance a real event? And what difference is there
between acceptance and belief? When I know a proposition, which is itself a
proposition, I am already making an epistemic judgement. My ability to judge
propositions is coextensive or coterminous with my awareness of
propositions. If I believe in a proposition, I accept that proposition. In
face of any propositions, I know that it exists and I also determine in my
mind whether it is or it is not a valid proposition. Theoretically, the
distinction between belief and acceptance lies in my epistemic determination
in respect of a proposition. It may be that I will not accept a proposition.
However, whether this happens or not, I cannot distinguish in any clear way
between my knowing a proposition and my taking an epistemic determination
about it: they are the same event, even though it may be that with respect
to one proposition I will have both belief and disbelief or neither. Every
proposition of which I am aware exists, but not every event of this sort
will be the object of acceptance. However, this cannot be the basis for a
distinction in the way I consider mental events of which I am aware. All of
them are the object of awareness and of epistemic judgement at the same
time, so that there is no difference between my awareness of them and the
processes by which I determine whether I will believe or not believe in
these mental events. I can have a proposition to which I am absolutely
indifferent, but this indifference is itself an epistemic judgement. If we
assume thought to be a form of behaviour, we could argue that awareness
per se is non-consequential. That some awareness is consequential could
be a possible basis for the distinction between acceptance and belief.
However, perception must if anything be consequential, yet even entailing
acceptance it is not necessarily consequential.
Contents are what is left when we
abstract from propositions the propositional bases. The bases/contents
distinction is analogous to the distinction between reality as cognition and
the rest of reality. Roughly (at this stage), cognition corresponds to the
propositional bases and the rest of reality corresponds to propositional
content. This assumes the priority of knowledge to being. If we start from
knowledge in our philosophical enquiry into reality, we find ourselves in a
circular bind. We can only escape it by positing reality as something
different from cognition and as expressed or represented in propositional
contents. Ultimately, the distinction between the direct and indirect
references of propositions or between their bases and contents is
precarious. Both references are to cognition. The indirect reference is to
cognition as cause and the direct reference is to cognition as theory of
knowledge. But cognition as such is already the threshold to a theory of
knowledge. The only usefulness of the distinction is that it disables
paradoxes. It can also lead to the exploration of cognition, but it is far
from exclusionary in that role.
In a famous paradox by Russell, "George
III met Walter Scott" and "George III does not know the author of
are valid propositions. "George III met Walter Scott" is a factual
proposition. Its direct reference is valid, although of course it could be
false. If this proposition is valid, then the proposition "George III does
not know the author of Waverly" does not make sense. But what this
proposition really means is "George III believes that he does not know the
author of Waverly". As such it is necessarily valid and its direct
reference makes clear why. The seemingly paradoxical third proposition,
"George III both knows and does not know Walter Scott", is not paradoxical
at all. To have meaning or to be aware of this or that is not in itself
necessarily true. Yet I can have a proposition that says that a false belief
is knowledge. (a) The Earth is flat. (b) I believe that the Earth is flat.
(c) I know that I believe that the Earth is flat. Under analysis, (a) is
obviously not knowledge; (b) is knowledge; (c) makes the paradox in (b)
explicit. Yet, on the assumption that (a) is my proposition, all
three are exactly the same proposition. Each one of these propositions
involves: (1) meaning, (2) ascription, (3) propositional attitudes.
Propositions (a) (b) and (c) are all knowledge. But the specific proposition
to which they are attached, that the Earth is flat, is invalid. The problem
lies in that the proposition that my awareness of the proposition "the Earth
is flat" is a valid proposition. All awareness is valid. Since meaning and
awareness are equivalences and all propositions are meaningful, then all
propositions are valid. However, the facts of the matter are that all
propositions are valid only insofar as they are represented, they are
ascribable, and they evince propositional attitudes. All propositions have
meaning from the symbols of the subconscious language of mind. To that
extent they are referential. However, reference does not necessarily make
propositions knowledge. Knowledge depends on the types of cognitive
processes involved or on the cognitive ability of the knower or on both.
Meaning and knowledge, in sum, are not equivalences.
Brentano distinguished in the mental act
between the subject and the object. This relationship, which is called
intentionality or aboutness, is meaning-conferring. All objects of thought
have meaning, but the object could be devoid of reference. But how could
there be a relationship between something and nothing? Frege tried to
eliminate the subject from the meaningfulness of mind, but this left him
without means to distinguish between meaning and reference and it saddled
him with silly-ass linguistic paradoxes. Husserl kept the subject and made
noemata the underlying meaning of the object. He solved the Brentano problem
in the sense that all meaning has an internal reference. Russell came up
with the expression "propositional attitudes". The implication here is of a
relation between a subject and a proposition. But apparently he did not
believe that the subject was capable of distinguishing with certainty
between valid and invalid propositions. And so he too fell into silly-ass
language paradoxes. Wittgenstein came to the paradoxical conclusion that the
public, communicative language was the only possible reference for thought,
except in direct reference to thought itself. Functionalism eliminated the
subject altogether from the meaningful relation, but it also posited that
somehow the object itself of knowledge could function as epistemic subject.
Chomsky proposed the existence of an innate, self-standing language-learning
faculty. Fodor toyed with the notion of a mental language. Dummett argues
for the propositionality of perception. The claim that all mental
particulars are propositions can serve to:
--eliminate the Brentano subject/object
distinction and retain the object side of the relation;
--define proposition as the expressible
unit of meaning in awareness;
--posit that there is some underlying
language-like mental system which makes not only meaning but knowledge
possible. The subject can be accounted for propositionally through the
specificity of cognition and of all mental propositions.
Dummet, Origins of Analytical Philosophy
"Now grasping a sense, dispositionally understood, is plainly not a mental act, but a kind of ability. It is on this ground that Witt argues that understanding is not a mental process; in so arguing, he expressly compares it to an ability. When, by contrast, Frege acknowledges that, although thoughts are not mental contents, grasping a thought is a mental act--one directed towards something external to the mind--he must be construing the notion of grasping a thought in its occurrent sense. Witt labours to dispel the supposition that there is any occurent sense of `understand'. If this could be maintained, the conception of understanding an utterance could be reduced to that of hearing it, while possessing a dispositional understanding of the words it contains and the constructions it employs. But it is difficult to see how it can be maintained that no occurent notion of understanding is required: for it is possible to be perplexed by a sentence on first hearing it, through a failure to take in its structure, and to attain an understanding of it on reflection."
Distal causes or stimuli, distal layout, and proximal stimulation
The objects of perception are called in phil-mind literature distal causes or stimuli. The way things in the world present themselves to mind is called distal layout. The way that a distal layout stimulates the nervous system is called proximal stimulation. However, it is difficult to make a distinction between nervous stimulation and perception, which a mentalist term. A mentalist term has propositional content and adverts to cognition. This is another mind/body poser and another refutation of neurophilosophy. How can we know nervous stimulation if we do not recognize it in perception?
The totality of beliefs that surround a belief
What is the philosophical issue of dualism? Dualism is the elementary observation that humans are both mind and matter and that there is a certain incompatibility between mind and matter. Mind is awareness. Matter is not aware. But mind cannot exist without matter. So how can awareness arise from mere matter? And how exactly are mind and brain related? A related issue of dualism is how knowing and being relate. Being is what exists and the awareness of what exists is knowledge. Yet it is possible for awareness to know what is not knowledge.
Contemporary answers to dualism range from extreme physicalist claims to strong defenses of mentalism. Mentalism is the belief that the awareness of mental contents is valid. From this belief, which is actually ingrained in language, many additional beliefs can be derived. Identity theory, also known as central state materialism, does not deny mind and mentalist concepts, but it argues that they are identical to brain states. Much of the debate within identity has to do with squaring talk of mind with talk of matter. Nagel tried his hand at this problem and came up with metaphors and analogies, which however were mostly illustrative. Moderate identity arguments accept mentalist concepts as necessarily guidelines for neurological research. But carried to extreme, identity ends up as the physicalist downgrading of mind to being merely loans for neurology to use in its final and total discarding of mind as a productive concept. Functionalism, according to Fodor, is a derivation from the version of identity which does not claim that all mental contents must be identical to neurological states, i.e., thought can be realized in means other than brain matter. This has two consequences: one, that thought is an existent in itself, and two, that thinking machines can reveal the functioning of mind.
My own solution is analogous monism. It too relies on an analogy. However, it claims that the analogy is not merely illustrative but that it can actually be productive. Basically, it tries to relate the symbols of a subconscious system of thought with the neurons of the brain. It is a physicalist approach to the extent that it maintains that it is impossible to theorize about dualism without taking the physical into account. The same thing of course holds for the mental.
Dualism is at the heart of philosophy and
its history. If the distinction between being and knowing can be sustained long and solidly enough, then it can be argued that it is at the heart of existence itself. Western philosophy might not have been originally dualistic, although it may be possible to discover the seeds of dualism in the opposition between the thoughts of Heraclitus and Parmenides. Both the philosohies of Plato and Aristotle were monistic. Platonism is sometimes identified with idealism, but only in the sense that ideas are in the same category of reality as objects, which is of course a debatable claim. Whatever its merits it is best termed the ontological doctrine of Platonic realism to distinguish it from the idealism Leibniz, Berkeley, and other post-Cartesian thinkers. If it is true as Heimsoeth argues that Cartesianism had its beginnings in Medieval thought, then dualism has been with us long before it became the crucial problem of philosophical thought. It could even be argued that it is possible to find the origins of dualism in the rise of Christianity.
Be all that as it may, it is with Descartes' cogito that dualism officially enters the world, because his famous deduction is a proclamation to the effect that over and above being the most important subject of philosophy is the representation of being. This does not mean that previous philosophy did not ever think about mind nor that after Descartes no one ever again thought about the external world. It only means that emphases and priorities changed.
If the account above is anywhere near valid in a very broad sense, then the dualistic opposition between being and its representation has equivalences, which in themselves, i.e., without development, can serve to illustrate the meaning of dualism. We started by mentioning the dualism of knowing and being. Knowing is to represent the world. Being is what knowing represents. However, Descartes' dualism was expressed as the opposition between mind and matter, the first being thought, i.e., representation and knowing, and the other being extension, i.e., the world of objects. The cogito was perhaps more significant by implication than in itself. However, in one dualistic respect it was significantly explicit and that was in posing the opposition between the self--Descartes did not oppose mind to matter or in fact anything to something else but reasoned that there was above all a thinking entity--and the world. Again, this was not unheard of and we can certainly find this thought in early Christian and even pre-Christian thought, but it was given such emphasis and made so clearly by Descartes that its impact and its implications are with us to this day.
There are many other dualities and we shall come to them in due time. However, in our view, they all derive from the fact that we are and we know, that we know that we are, that being encompasses knowing but that it is knowing that makes being possible, and so on.
We have argued that mind/matter is a
subtype of knowing/being. There are other dualistic forms:
--awareness is a result of cognition and cog-processes
--knowledge implies brain but you cannot deduce awareness from brain
--knowledge is different from the expression of its functions.
After Descartes there were three basic
attitudes towards dualism. There were the idealists whose point of view was representation and sought for ways to square it with the apparent reality of the world, prominent among which were Leibniz and Berkeley. Then there were those that assumed something and ignored the problem as such, among which were Locke, Hume, and Kant. And there were the pure materialists, possibly Hobbes, certainly some of the French philosophes, although as far as I know their theories were pseudoscientific or quasi-scientific rather than philosophical. After Kant the tendency in German philosophy was towards absolute idealism. German idealism was suffused by psychologism in the sense of the subjectivity of logic with no external control. The reaction against this was Frege's antipsychologism, which however did not actually face the problem of Cartesian dualism. His attitude was rigidly epistemological.
During its first phase analyticity can be interpreted historically as a denial of dualism. However, it mainly did it by denying the evidence for mind and its cognitive processes. It solved nothing and analyticity itself in a subsequent, post-WWII phase has been edging towards cog-processes. Even though Hacker is wrong in identifying analyticity and Wittgenstein, he may not be far from right in his belief that analyticity is dying.
The materialist position in post-WWII was assumed by identity theory and physicalism. Although neither position is necessarily incompatible with mind, in certain quarters, as in the Churchlands, it has become a rallying point for an onslaught against the epistemic value of awareness and other concepts, which they lump under the label of folk psychology. In a sense the problem of physicalism is to find the right sort of vocabulary that will square brain with thought. But
the Churchlands rhapsodizing about neurology yields zilch. Functionalism is an indirect way to a solution, but it necessarily involves a commitment to artificial intelligence, which is a sticky wicket.
In my view there are two ways to be shot of dualism, and one at least owes a great deal to analyticity. One way is in a theory that manages to bridge the gap between mind and matter. I call this theory analogical monism and it is analytical, and specifically functionalist, in inspiration. The other way is to argue for an equivalence between knowing and being. I work my way to this from a historical perspective which I call vox historiae.
We know our beliefs from the beliefs themselves, not from a relation to our beliefs. The so-called dyadic relationship entails a self but self can be explained from the specificity of our propositions. This chasm might seem to justify some sort of duality at the heart of being. However, Rodney Needham dealt adequately with this simplification. There is indeed a duality at the heart of being, but there is no proof that all of our thought is based on dualities. In fact it could be argued that formal logic stems multifariously from the principle of identity. If anything, there is a oneness at the heart of mind.
In a sense, folk psychology is a disdaining
denomination for traditional "philosophical" (as opposed to experimental)
psychology. Others define it as propositional attitude psychology because to believe is a propositional attitude and the basis of psychology is belief in our mental states.
Others still consider that it is an explanatory theory about mind and behaviour which some consider inept and inaccurate and others use for loans on which to build a more exacting science of the mind.
Jonathan Bennett on John Cottingham, The Rationalists (Oxford: V.4 of A History of Western Philosophy) in TLS, April 28-May 4 1989, p.448
"The modern theory of the mind that perhaps best exemplifies a `dual aspect' approach is the theory, or group of theories, known as functionalism. The central idea here is that mental states are logical, organizational or functional states of the brain (or central nervous system). This approach does not aim to describe the structure of the mind in neurophysiological terms; rather it characterizes it as a kind of complex information-processing system, providing specifications both of all the relevant inputs and outputs, and of the sets of rules whereby outputs appropriate to the various inputs are generated. The most important feature of this functionalist model is that the descriptions it comes up with are purely abstract descriptions of inputs, outputs, rules of procedure, and logical connections; they are, that is to say, `software' descriptions, which are quite neutral as to the kind of hardware (copper, silicon, protoplasm, grey matter, or whatever) of which the being that instantiates these functional states is actually composed."
"...most functionalists take it as axiomatic that the functional states they describe must, in order to operate, be realized by, or instantiated in, some organized physical system."
Functionalism tries to sidestep the reliance on introspection through the mind/machine analogy. Functionalism considers mental events to be functional. This means that it claims that all mental events are in a cause-and-effect chain and that they are constantly interactive. Because of the basic functionalist analogy, the theory has to posit the multiple material realization of thought. Since functionalism considers that thought can be studied through the way computers operate, it constitutes a denial that introspection is the only factual access we have to mind. But in fact the functionalist specification of mind, i.e., cause and effect, is a mere assumption. Many mental events do not reveal their cause or for that matter appear to have effects. According to functionalism, only objective realizations of cog-processes are valid objects of study. But we cannot go from these realizations to mind for the simple reason that it is mind that makes them possible. Functionalism turns common sense on its head.
Yet it remains that various basic concepts I use--squiggles for one--are functionalist in origin.
My claim, however, is not that functionalism is useless, but that it is useless as a refutation of the expression/cognition equivalence.
Physicalism amounts to the claim--impossible to substantiate--that once neuroscience does a complete "mapping" of the brain, it will have solved all the psychological and philosophical problems of humanity. What scientific evidence is there for physicalism as knowledge of mind? The specialized functions of the two lobes of the brain. The different effects of heroin and of cocaine on the nervous system. Some inconclusive research on the biochemistry of psychoses. The evidence so far is meagre: hardly sufficient for proclaiming that eventually all will be explained from the physico-chemistry of the brain. Therefore, (a) the body>mind thesis is a matter of belief.
Therefore also, (b) (body>mind) is also a possible belief. Mentalism ---> ~physicalism; (a) --/--> demonstration of mentalism;
(a) ---> validation of mentalism (requires).
Dummett, Origins of Analytical
"When I think in language there aren't
`meanings' going through my mind in addition to the linguistic expression;
but the language is itself the vehicle of the thinking."
"For Witt, what confers on the speaker's
words the meanings that they have is not a mental constituent of a composite
act that he performs, but the context, which includes his knowing the
language to which his sentence belongs: he does nothing but utter the words.
For Husserl by contrast something occcurs in the speaker's mind: a mental
act, although not an independent act, but one that is an integral part of a
composite act, part physical and part mental."
"But I believe it to be a mistake to
think that a full account of linguistic understanding has been provided when
its manifestations in the use of language have been described, as I
understand Witt to have supposed, for that in effect reduces mastery of a
language to posession of a practical ability: and, for the reasons I have
explained, I believe it to be more than that, but something exceedingly
difficult to describe."
"We often have need of a sign with which
we associate a very complex sense. This sign serves us as a receptacle in
which we can, as it were, carry the sense about, in the consciousness that
we can always recall this receptacle should we have need of what it
"Perhaps the least difficult case for the
characterisation of such proto-thoughts, at least as we engage in them, is
the purely spatial one. A car driver or a canoeist may have rapidly to
estimate the speed and direction of oncomiong cars or boats and their
probable trajectory, consider what avoiding action to take, and so on; it is
natural to say that he is engaged in highly concentrated thought. But the
vehicle of such thoughts is certainly not language: it should be said, I
think, to consist in visual imagination superimposed on the visually
perceived scene. It is not just that these thoughts are not in fact framed
in words: it is that they do not have the structure of verbally expressed
thoughts. But they deserve the name of `proto-thought' because, while it
would be ponderous to speak of truth and falsity in application to them,
they are intrinsically connected with the possibility of their being
mistaken: judgement, in a non-technical sense, is just what the driver and
the canoeist need to exercise."
"A grasp of the sense of a word that
expresses a given concept is thus more properly described as a set of
abilities forming a species of which possession of the concept is the
superordinate genus. It forms the essential background to a grasp of the
thought expressed by a sentence, whether heard or uttered, in that the mere
utterance of the sentence serves to express the thought, and the mere
hearing of the sentence to apprehend it, for one who knows the language,
without any further mental activity, subsequent or simultaneous, on his
"When the theory of meaning is taken as
applying to a common language, on the other hand, that language is more
naturally thought of as primarily an instrument of communication: it
therefore becomes much easier to regard the significance of expressions of
the language as due, not to any inner states of the speakers, but to the
practice of employing the language, that is, to what the speakers can be
observed to say and do. The significance of a chess move derives from the
rules of the game, and not from the players' knowledge of those rules."
[The analogy is absolute bunk: the
significance of the move is precisely what the player had in mind in doing
it, and that is what all chess commentaries are about, not about the rules. Of course, chess has rules and the rules
of chess are analogous to a common language, but to say that the
significance of a chess move derives from the rules of the game is like
saying that the significance of Shakespeare derives from the English
language. Derives and significance are the
ambiguities here. But I think more than definitions are
"That leaves open the possibility of
describing the use directly, and regarding it as determining meaning,
relegating the concept of truth to a minor, non-functional role. This was
the course adopted by Wittgenstein in his later work. The concept of truth,
no longer required to play a part in a theory explaining what it is for
sentences to mean what they do, now really can be characterised on the
assumption that their meanings are already given."