Saturday, February 13, 2016

Metaphysical monstrosities

I have been looking at ‘Van Inwagen on Fiction, Existence, Properties, Particulars, and Method’, by Bill Vallicella (Studia Neoaristotelica Review Article 12 (2015) / 2). Bill is the famous Maverick Philosopher.

Section 3 deals with haecceity. A haecceity property is one which, unlike man or white cannot be multiply instantiated, or as Scotus said, not-predicable of several things (indicibilis de pluribus). For example, being Socrates (Socrateity) is a property which, if instantiated, is instantiated by Socrates alone in the actual world and by nothing distinct from Socrates in any possible world.

It is necessary to posit such properties, Bill argues, to support the semantic thesis of the univocity of ‘exists’ and ‘is’, and its ontological counterpart, that there are no modes of being/existence. It is essential to the thesis that number-words are univocal, and that ‘exists’ is a number-word. But it is not a number-word, for we can say of certain individual things that they exist, using referring terms.
Consider my cat Max Black. I joyously exclaim, ‘Max exists!’. My exclamation expresses a truth. Compare ‘Cats exist’. Now I agree with van Inwagen that the general ‘Cats exist’ is equivalent to ‘The number of cats is one or more’. But it is perfectly plain that the singular ‘Max exists’ is not equivalent to ‘The number of Max is one or more’. For the right-hand-side of the equivalence is nonsense, hence necessarily neither true nor false.
Right, but can’t a proper name N signify a property N* which can be instantiated, but by only one individual, and always and necessarily by the same individual? Then it makes sense to state there is only one object possessing N*, a statement which is false only if there are no (i.e. zero) objects possessing N*. Bill considers this, but thinks it a heavy price to pay for univocity across general and singular existentials.

‘Haecceity properties are metaphysical monstrosities’.

Why? His argument is that being properties, haecceities are necessary beings, and so exist at all possible times in all possible worlds. But how, before Socrates came into existence, could there have been any such property as the property of being identical to him. There would have been simply nothing to give content to the proposition that it is Socrates.

Now I agree that a haecceity the predicate is essential to save the univocity of ‘exists’. And I agree, for the reasons given by Bill, that a haecceity property is absurd. But can there not be predicates, i.e. grammatical items, without properties?

More later.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Intentional Identity

Peter Geach (“Intentional Identity.” Journal of Philosophy 64, 627-32, reprinted in Logic Matters. Oxford: Blackwell, 1972) argues that the following sentence can be true even if there are no witches, yet can only be true if Hob and Nob are, as it were, thinking of the same witch.
Hob thinks that a witch has blighted Bob’s mare, and Nob wonders whether she killed Cob’s sow.
But how it could be true? If we read it in the opaque way of reading indirect speech clauses then each that-clause must stand on its own syntactically, but there is no way of interpreting the pronoun ‘she’ as a bound variable. The two thoughts add up, as it were, to ‘for some x, x has blighted Bob’s mare, and x killed Cob’s sow. But we can’t split them up into two separate thoughts, because of the second part of the conjunction. I.e. the following is not well-formed.
* Hob thinks that for some x, x has blighted Bob’s mare, and Nob wonders whether x killed Cob’s sow.
On the other hand, if we render the original sentence in the transparent way, we have to presume the existence of a real witch, i.e. some witch such that Hob thinks that she has blighted Bob’s mare, and Nob wonders whether she killed Cob’s sow. Neither of these are satisfactory. I don’t propose any answer yet, but I will start by noticing that the same problem attaches to saying what sentences say, rather than what people think.
(1) A witch has blighted Bob’s mare.
(2) She killed Cob’s sow.
(3) Sentence (1) says that a witch has blighted Bob’s mare.
(4) Sentence (2) says that she (or the witch) has blighted Bob’s mare.
Clearly sentences (3) and (4) are true, even though sentences (1) and (2) are false. Yet the problem is exactly the same as the problem involving different thoughts. Thus we have simplified the problem. We don’t have to worry about explaining thoughts in different minds, but only how we express the meaning of different sentences. Meanings are a little easier than thoughts.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Kripke's Puzzle

This handout clearly explains Kripke’s argument in his seminal paper ‘A Puzzle about Belief’. Kripke derives a puzzle from just two assumptions:
(D): If a normal English speaker, on reflection, sincerely assents to ‘p’ [supple correctly understands ‘p’], then he believes that p.  
(T): If a sentence of one language expresses a truth in that language, then any translation of it into any other language also expresses a truth (in that other language).
He also gives a version (the ‘Paderewski’ puzzle) that doesn’t even use (T). His point therefore is that it would be a mistake to criticize Millianism as follows:
Millianism implies SUB (=Names are substitutable salva veritate, even inside attitude reports), and SUB is wrong. Suppose we have ‘S believes that Tully isn’t famous’ and ‘S believes that Cicero is famous’. Then SUB lets us derive ‘S believes that Tully is famous,” so we incorrectly attribute contradictory beliefs to a normal person.
This is a mistake because that sort of result is obtainable without SUB, i.e. using just (D) and (T) we end up incorrectly attributing contradictory beliefs to normal people.

Objection: But if Millianism implies SUB and SUB results in paradox, then Millianism is wrong. Why does it matter if some other principles also result in the same paradox?

Reply: They aren’t just other principles – SUB just amounts to an intralinguistic application of (T), where e.g. we translate ‘S believes that Cicero is famous’ into ‘S believes that Tully is famous.’  Since (T) seems obviously true independent of Millianism, there’s no reason to blame the paradox on (SUB) and therefore on Millianism.

Friday, January 29, 2016

You are happy

When I utter ‘I am happy’ to myself while alone and having been silent for some while, do I mean that the content of my statement could have been communicated to another person, even though it wasn’t? So that I could inform you (by ‘I’) which entity satisfies ‘— is happy’?

Or do I mean I have privileged access to the referent of ‘I’ in a way that could not be communicated, i.e. so that what I mean to refer to is different from the entity you grasp as *Edward* being happy? In this sense, it would be inconceivable that anyone else could grasp what the referent really was. Only I can grasp the identity. And I don’t mean that as a matter of fact. I mean it’s logically impossible.

What does this mean for numerical identity? Is the referent of ‘you are happy’, uttered by me to you, numerically different from the referent of ‘I am happy’, uttered by you to yourself?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Defining reference

Discussions of linguistic reference rarely define what reference is. An example is the SEP article here, which as far as I can see does not give any definition, merely stating that linguistic reference is ‘a relation that obtains between certain sorts of linguistic expressions and what speakers use those expressions to talk about’. And what relation is that? Slightly more helpfully it characterises it ‘metaphorically’ as a mechanism that enables us to talk about the world – say about George Bush – through referring terms which hook on to the world. But only slightly. What are these hooks?

Let’s try this. If Socrates is not running and Plato is running, ‘Socrates is running’ is false, and ‘Plato is running’  is true. But ‘a man is running’ is true, because Plato is running. The non-referring, i.e. indefinite, statement is true or false regardless of who is running. But the truth of falsity of the singular statements depends on who is running.

So a singular or referring statement is true when there is some particular person such that the predicate is satisfied by that person, and is false when that person fails to satisfy the predicate, even if the predicate is satisfied by other people. But a non-referring or existential statement is true when any individual, no matter who, satisfies the predicate.

Does that work?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

What does the pronoun ‘I’ refer to?

What does the pronoun ‘I’ refer to? Wittgenstein (Philosophical Remarks, §64).
‘I have a pain’ is a sign of a completely different kind when I am using the proposition, from what it is to me on the lips of another; the reason being that it is senseless, as far as I’m concerned, on the lips of another until I know through which mouth it was expressed. The propositional sign in this case doesn’t consist in the sound alone, but in the fact that the sound came out of this mouth. Whereas in the case in which I say or think it, the sign is the sound itself.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Proper names as identical twins

A while ago I discussed the Bunuel film where different actresses play the same character, and I discussed later how we try to identify people by their faces, or by the sound of their voice. Dogs do the same by their sense of smell, perhaps.

The difference between the film and reality is that Bunuel signifies the identity by convention. The actresses don’t look that alike, certainly not as identical twins look alike. But Bunuel uses cinematic conventions to convey the identity. One actress is seen opening the door, the other is seen walking through the other side. With actual perception the identity is signified naturally.

Before printing, we identified proper names in the same way. Here are two tokens of the word 'Plato' in Worcester 13 9rb and 11vb. With electronic printing, we are used to the same word looking exactly the same, which is guaranteed by the computer representing the five letters in the name 'Plato' by the ASCII characters 80, 108, 97, 116 and 111 respectively. This is what allows us to search an electronic document for the same name, or perform a Google search for ‘Plato’. Even printing on paper guarantees that the letters will look nearly the same.

Before that, we recognised proper names just as we recognised faces.