The snaking between macro and micro level events. Substance/chemical explanations vs. atomic, etc. The issue describes a problem for Elementalism on where to settle our process of distinction. (Almost a moral question and the radicalism of saying only one or the other is correct, is meant to keep things simple or direct choice)
2. The Upward Dilemma
Suppose Matthew hits a baseball toward the house and breaks a window. (This example is from Trenton Merricks, Objects and Persons, OUP, 2001, 147-155, cited in Koons, “Stalwart”)
Elementalism explains this event by the bonds which hold atoms together into molecules: the molecules forming the baseball (B) and the window (G). The velocity of B on G is sufficient to disturb the molecular bonds of G.
This explanation makes no reference to the baseball, the window, or to Matthew. What matters for causal explanation is what goes on at the level of B and G. Baseballs, windows, and teenagers with poor judgment may as well not be there. Since we need not countenance them in order to make our best (elementalist) theories true, we can be anti-realists about macro-objects.
If we wish to countenance baseballs, windows, and grandchildren with poor judgment – in short, composite objects – the standard metaphysical accounts of composition involve either supervenience or emergence.
This choice raises an ‘upward’ dilemma for elementalism. Either
But supervenient entities are entirely epiphenomenal – not really part of the causal story of the world. Causation really goes on at the level of B and G.
However, if we wish to say that baseballs and grandchildren make a real difference in the world over and above the molecules composing them, then:
(ii) Higher level events involve emergent entities involved in higher-level causal relations.
We are committed to saying not only that “Events involving B cause events involving G,” but also “Events involving the baseball cause events involving the window.”
But that gives us two causal relations: double determination. What goes on is over-oomphed.
Indeed, since we have many levels operating: • atomic • molecular • macro- (baseballs and windows) • physiological (Matthew’s hitting the baseball) • neural (events in Matthew’s brain causing his motor movements) • mental (Matthew’s ill-considered decision to hit the ball toward the house) what goes on is umptly over-oomphed.
In short, the constant upward dilemma with elementalism is that it threatens to give us either too little reality (no baseballs or grandchildren) or way too much. Indeed, since there may be no limit to the number of levels at which causal explanation can take place unintelligibly too much.
But everyone thought that elementalism was superior as an explanatory strategy.
A plausible, non-insane alternative is that all these different levels of causation are not really different, redundant causes. Rather they are merely different levels of explanatory description: For some purposes an explanation at the level of molecules is the way to go; for others an explanation at the level of “Matthew is a doofus” accomplishes the explanatory task posed. But none of these levels of description have any ontological priority, nor do they, in the end, contradict one another.
That is, one lesson to draw from the upward dilemma is pragmatism.
A plausible, non-insane response to this view: if elementalism really does force us into pragmatism, this constitutes a Reductio ad Absurdum of elementalism.
Gender : Posts : 2593 Join date : 2012-04-28 Age : 30 Location : A stone.
I hope no one minds that I post Academic things here (in this thread), involving lectures I find interesting and my own works. Here is an essay I did about reciprocity:
Analysis of “Reciprocity” by David Schmidtz
Introduction In his chapter on Reciprocity in his book Elements of Justice, David Schmidtz argues that favors done speculatively on the propensity for a person to reciprocate does not entail a duty on the recipient’s part to actually reciprocate. I will first define ‘transitive reciprocity’, ‘tribal commons’ and speculatively based favors. Then, I will argue that Schmidtz can go further in his refutation of speculative favors by bringing attention to the fact that they deny a person their agency. Additionally, I will define and provide an argument against social contract theory and tacit consent utilizing the criticisms laid against the virtue of speculative reciprocity.
Summary Transitive reciprocity is like money. That is, we trust in money as a symbol for exchange for the sake of ease of access and maximizing efficiency of the whole. We trust money so that we can give it to another and they can later exchange it for something specific they want later - something better than a product, like potatoes, that I would have given them otherwise. Transitive reciprocity is the idea that we can pay back a debt through performing favors for stand-ins of the person we received benefit from. Those stand-ins could be something done to perpetuate the favor or otherwise honor the person you received the favor from.
When we do a good deed for a stranger, we are contributing to a tribal commons. That is, we are using a sort of 'good deed currency'. How it works is: a recipient of our favor may later do something good for someone else in honor of the favor you did for them. If it is better that repayment be given to you but some circumstance prevents it from occurring, they may remain indebted until your death, after which they can honor you in the aforementioned indirect way. Those who cannot reciprocate favors with you specifically, will be able to reciprocate with others within the commons. Eventually, the favor you did previously that could not be reciprocated by the recipient, may eventually come back to you as repayment through another helping you. It is not limited to just the favor coming back specifically to you, either – the favor could "travel around" and end up help something which you hold in high regard.
Of course, every tribal commons has limits. It's no mistake that independence and moving out of the family house is a tradition of Western and liberal "atomistic" societies. Forsaking family tribal identity for that of country, maximizes tribal contribution by getting rid of familial bureaucracy. That is, a better liquidity of tribal favors, enabling a society of yea-sayers and supporters in individual endeavors. The cost to this is the potential to be taken advantage of by travelling outsiders, who utilize your tribal commons for their own sake, only to leave and repay it in their own country (which may be at odds with yours) or to redirect the benefits into some other more exclusive group, including family. The idea of 'greed' is also the individual taking from the tribal commons without giving back. An egalitarian response to this problem would be the enlargement of tribal commons to that of super-states or even a world state, instead of a return to familial identification - when times of stress arise.
Speculatively based favors are favors performed on the basis that the one performing it believes that the recipient has a principle of reciprocity. That is, they are gambling on the recipient feeling a sense of obligation to reciprocate, before ever performing the favor. It is in this case that Schmidtz argues there is no obligation for the recipient of the favor to reciprocate.
Critique Schmidtz’ assertion about speculative reciprocators being owed nothing can be attacked from a tribal commons angle. The argument would be that there is an implicit expectation of reciprocity if one resides within the same society which shares the same tribal commons. However, this seems like a petty attempt on the part of the speculator to conflate one’s own self-interested assessment with one that is supposedly beneficial to the tribal commons. Also, as a guide for just behavior, encouraging quasi-deceitful speculative favors would actually hurt trust within the tribal commons.
Someone could attempt, also, to make a utilitarian argument. The recipient may be obligated to take on a speculative favor because it would save them a lot of trouble. That is, there's a utilitarian obligation for them to indebt themselves for the sake of time, maximizing efficiency for happiness. However, as I mention below, this seems to say someone should give up agency for the utilitarian purpose. That precedent, itself, could generally outweigh the benefit of arguing for the indebtedness of the recipient. It could also be argued that this defeats the obligation on the part of the person doing the favor in the first place to maximize utility by being a good participant.
A more radical attack against speculators would be that: those who say there is an obligation for the recipient of a speculative favor to perform reciprocally, rob significant moral agency from the recipient. The recipient would, principally, no longer have the ability to consent with whom they request help from and when they request favors.
Tacit consent is the idea that because someone has partaken in and utilized societal institutions, that they have bound themselves to the social contract of the state overseeing them. The social contract says that the individual recognizes the authority of said state and has willingly (though tacitly) agreed to sacrificing some freedom for the sake of utilizing its resources because they utilized the favors given to them by the state.
If we were to have a society which utilized tribal commons and the idea of transitive reciprocity, the idea of tacit consent appears fairly similar to the concept of someone performing a speculative favor. The state does favors for the individual and then uses tacit consent as justification for expecting acknowledgement by the individual. With speculative favors, an individual does favor for someone and expects a reciprocal response. If we allow that these two are similar enough ethically, then we can transfer the same criticism of speculative reciprocity to tacit consent. Namely, that the idea of tacit consent unfairly intrudes on the agency of the recipient. The state does not have justification for expecting reciprocal behavior from an individual just because it anticipates they would agree to it.
Introduction I will be arguing that an objective measure of good can come from the measurement of power. Firstly, I summarize Plato’s objective formulation of the Good. Then, I’ll provide a summary of Hume’s attempt to come up with some objective measure for moral value. Afterward, I will provide a critique for why Plato and Hume’s accounts are unsatisfactory. Then, I will provide a way to objectively obtain a basis for ethics, utilizing many examples, and compare it with Plato’s and Hume’s formulation.
Summary The Platonic reference for Good is that of Form. The Form of the Good is something which resides in an intelligible realm and our empirical senses are what keep us ‘chained’ to a world in which everything we empirically perceive are only shadow of some light form. That is, phenomenon are not only misleading, the source of the phenomenon is artificially misleading as well. Within Plato’s allegory of the cave, there is this artificial light source and also one which resides further out of that, which is the perfect Form of the Good, which is also Beautiful. The artificial fire is an imperfect imitation of what the Beauty that the Good is.
The truth, objectively, about what is Good, then comes from a resemblance to its Beautiful Form, accessible only through intellect. However, it is not the case that because it is from intellect that it is less real. Contrariwise, it is actually more objective according to Plato because it is more perfect. This is a qualitative account of morality. That is, forms are not quantitatively distinguished from one another – they are as distinct as shadows and light. If we reject it, we must then find a way to create some objective qualitative criteria for morality.
Hume attempts this kind of solution through an assessment of taste. That is, there are some criteria which an ‘excellent taster’ must have to qualify them as having access to an objective measure of value. Those who have these criteria are able to accurately measure what is or isn’t Good and what is or isn’t Beautiful. The same way someone may measure the good of machinery for the purpose of excavation, so can others determine the Good of human virtue. The machinist who is better suited to assessing the goodness of the machinery is justified by their experience with the subject. Likewise, those with more general life experience would be better acquainted with virtues of the human condition.
Critique What Hume’s solution lacks is an ultimate end/goal which a Platonic kind of Good would provide. The Platonic Good is what justifies the behaviors and virtues which lead up to it in an absolutist way, whereas Hume’s experience only justifies virtues against an (inter)subjective experience. There is an inclination to reject the former because of its absolutist nature which leaves questions about exceptional circumstances that negate it (including phenomenal experience). However, Hume’s solution of utilizing phenomenal experience as a basis is questionable because it lacks the resolve that a Platonic Good would provide.
Hume’s account, while descriptively close to my own, fails a sort of secularity test that comes with the rejection of an anthropocentric base for morality. Humans are fallible and relying on their judgments is not very attractive for some. Plato’s conception of Beauty and the Good do not rely on subjective human experience, as it countenances a formal intellectual realm which is superior to humans. Due to these shortcomings, I take a more naturalist approach based on how instrumental something is to an organism, commonly referred to as an egoist position. In this way, what is good for the organism becomes what serves its particular ends.
I would like to address the Beauty properties of these conceptions of the Good. I’m inclined to agree that there exists a property of beauty alongside the Good, just like Hume and Plato suggest. If we use taste as an objective standard, then there seems to be some things which all agree on as beautiful or not.
I’ll make an observation from personal experience: There has been nothing more beautiful I’ve witnessed than something which requires much skill, talent, practice and grace. However, instead of an experiential account of beauty like Hume, I have a view that is subtly different. Beauty is the danger within the demonstration - all the unseen danger which has yet to come and could, or the danger which had been conquered before in order that the skill may manifest. We don’t feel horrified when we watch a man cross a rope across two skyscrapers simply because he may fall. Instead, we insert ourselves into his position and from our lack of skill imagine that we may fall and then subsequently die. As another example, we see the talent of a man's skillful placing of knives between his fingers because of the risk of that which might happen, not because of what actually happens. Beauty, then, is a demonstration of (the often maligned as being "brutish") power. Demonstrations like those previously mentioned are horrific because of their beauty. A beauty that we fail to live up to, but not so much in the Platonic sort of way – but a natural cognitive way.
There is further evidence of this being a culturally invariant conception of beauty within the Bible. Even if seen from a non-theist manner, the bible demonstrates God as being in the same way - that He is terrific in His Goodness and that He is Beautiful, so much so that to behold Him would cause you to tremble in fear and humility. If something is astoundingly beautiful, superbly skillful, nigh-supernatural and otherworldly, we judge it for that which it balances with grace. That is, beauty is a sort of orderly balancing, like the weighing scale of justice and proportion in human appearance.
Horror results from that beautiful and capable thing then suddenly seeking to “balance” you. For example, watching a fighter jet wreak destruction on an enemy which you have the deepest pits of hatred for, with its automatic canon. It is measuring out your justice and you suddenly develop a heavy appreciation for it. But, when it turns against you, to measure out its power against you, then you will become overcome with fear. Another example is if you are watching a beautiful woman and only wish to behold her beauty without being seen, only for her to suddenly turn and lay her eyes on upon you. Or, as an even more watered down version, when you were a child in class and watched as the teacher utilized power to call upon students to answer questions there was also a beauty and grace present there. Immediately upon being called, or being put in the ‘hot seat’, there is a momentary vacuum of lukewarmness, where hierarchy manifests. In this way, horror is a response to a hostile or indifferent beauty, beauty is proportionate order, and proportioned orderliness, which is power. Heraclitus talked about something similar, when he said that harmony was like that of the string of a lyre – and that which separates and distinguishes itself is also orderly and harmonic with itself.
So then, if beauty is power and power can be abused for what we typically consider evil, we might ask how it can be just. This forces me into a position of denying that it is power that is being exercised at all, when someone does some sort of thing we typically consider evil, such as torture. This can even happen other ways, such as when someone oversteps their bounds and begin to take pride in what they’ve no justification taking pride in or exercising other immoderate behaviors. This abuse of power means that they are ceasing to act with grace and subsequently we’d may evoke the resentment of others. Balance and sensitivity to the world, to avoid such mishaps, is necessary.
How is Existentialism Different from Rational Philosophy?
A famous Existentialist phrase is that “Existence precedes essence.” said by Jean-Paul Sartre. What this phrase represents is Existentialism’s distinct philosophical question of “What is it we should do?” rather than “What is it we should believe?” This is different from other philosophical disciplines that emphasize rationality and science, both of which propose an answer to the latter question of what it is we should believe. Metaphysics and epistemology, as an example of rational inquiry, ask and answer questions about the world and justifications for those beliefs.
It would also be easy to confuse Existentialism with the philosophical domain of ethics, because it asks about what behavior is good or bad. Existentialism distinguishes itself from rationally based ethics because, unlike Existentialism, ethical frameworks require must withstand rigorous standards of justifications for their founding propositions and premises. Ethics is also distinct since ethical frameworks are generally proposed as ways of dealing with collective ethical questions and behavior, in ways that would be agreeable to most or all people. Existentialism focuses more upon the individual and what sort of actions they should take individually. Unlike ethics, existential philosophy focuses on describing rather than prescribing what is or isn’t authentic or inauthentic behavior. Justification then comes from an examination of the human condition and existence, rather than from arguments about consequence.
How can Existentialism Help?
Since existential philosophy aims for justification from existence and descriptions of human behavior, what it creates are practical guides to our own behavior as individuals, rather than arguments about what it is we should or should not do. For example, the distinction of authenticity and inauthenticity is used as a way to describe when our behavior is or isn’t fulfilling important problems in our lives. By having an accurate perception of one’s self and their position in life, as an individual, they can more accurately determine their ability to perform within it. Where typical philosophy is a sort of ‘activism’ to convince or demand convincing by others about what it is they should or should not believe, existentialism focuses on how it is you should behave – even in the face of people performing typical philosophy.
How did Existentialism Come About?
Existentialism began with Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard was alive when the influence of Hegel and Kant was heavy in Lutheran institutions of religion and Christianity. Like Luther before him (during The Reformation), Kierkegaard countenanced and emphasized the relationship of the individual with God, rather than that of the church as a medium or as a representation for God. Kierkegaard criticized Lutheran religious institutions as being too much alike what came before the Reformation.
Hegel and Consciousness
Hegel was the first to rationally formulate the basis for Kierkegaard’s problem of self and the individual in their relationship with God through his work on moral consciousness. If we ask “What is the- or our- conscience?” today, we might also ask a question in response: Which conscience? There are usually three concepts of ‘conscience’ today: one referring to the 'voice in your head' in regards to morality, a second as in a material conscious in animals, and a third as in the intelligent ability to be conscious of ourselves.
The basic, primitive and material conscience one might associate with animals is just mental modeling, against which one uses as a representation of the world externally and then as something to respond to viscerally. The more interesting self-consciousness stuff is when we respond to models of models, which we do briefly when we think of 'I' - a model of ourselves. Self-consciousness then becomes models of models of phenomena. Atop of these models of models, we can affix them with a bag of noumena (abstractions) as we mentally, in a Frankenstein-like fashion, fasten our goals onto our own material presence, as if always in action or moving towards a goal: creating a model of our own “becoming” – our own individual movement and pattern.
Hegel talked about the moral conscience from a Christian master-slave perspective and how it is the moral conscience is experienced as a kind of “self-flagellation”.
The moral conscience begins with the first master-slave relationship that is a result of self-modeling (self-consciousness), from which one ends up modeling their own goals or consciousness (becoming) and after which they encounter an individual which they model as having their own separate goals or consciousness (becoming). Out of this erupts a competition between becomings. Whoever 'wins' is master and whoever 'loses' is slave. It is not about absolute winning/losing, but about the perception of winning inside the conscious person - and generally a victory is never complete and total, but one does retain dominance over another.
Experiencing multiple master-slave relationships in life, as a result of experiencing multiple becomings, one finds inconsistencies between all the master-slave relationships in aggregate and then, out of the confusion and the inconsistency between the different master archetypes, one ends up internalizing a chimera of all the master-slave relationships into one. Then it is against this one chimera that one internalizes and compares themselves to ceaselessly. This explains the self-flagellation one associates with everyday moral ‘conscience’. Hegel claims that it is this chimera which is actually God, or the ultimate virtue and master over existence.
Kant formulated the Categorical Imperative. The Categorical Imperative is a prime example of a rationally based ethical framework. It is a prescription that an individual should only ever act according to a principle that can at the same time become a universal law. A consequence of this imperative is that one should never treat other individuals as anything but “ends”, rather than as means to some other end. This would constitute an exploitation of the other individual which goes against the categorical imperative. Since every person is treated as an ‘ends’, this radically limits the behavior you can have as an individual existing within a society one has to navigate socially. This framework of ethical thought is colloquially referred to as Kant’s “Kingdom of Ends”.
Enlightenment and the Death of God
Kant and Hegel were important rational thinkers for the Enlightenment period. During this time, Christian theologians were dealing with the emergence of science and the doubt that it caused theology. As a result, many rationalistic explanations and arguments arose to defend religious faith. The religious problem with this is that rationality ended up taking the place of religious faith as justification for beliefs. This set up religious faith and doctrine directly up against empirical methods of acquiring knowledge, effectively “killing” God because of our own desire to be master over all that exists, rather than God Himself. This is what Nietzsche observed, and Heidegger said was the purpose of the philosophical discipline of metaphysics.
Kierkegaard was a devout Christian and, being alive during the time of Hegel and Kant, responded to the two rationalist thinkers by countenancing both of their work, but disagreeing on the conclusions. Instead of attempting to create rationally justified positions on what it is one should believe, he concentrated instead on what it is one should do. This is why he is referred to as the first existentialist philosopher. In the face of Kant’s Kingdom of Ends and Hegel’s assessment of the self-flagellating moral consciousness, he demonstrated through his idea of the Solitary Individual that belonging to Kant’s kingdom cannot adequately answer the question of “Why be moral at all?” and that, through his idea of the Knight of Faith, one should remain committed to God being master over all instead of trying to become master themselves.
As such, Kierkegaard argued that Christianity was false when it was used as a cover for one’s hypocrisy, inauthenticity and worldly living. For Kierkegaard, authenticity is the state of an individual living without excuses and in the moment, no reliance on justification, reason or rationality for their judgments. Inauthenticity would be when the individual’s condition, their circumstance and subjective experience does not enter into consideration or is not taken seriously. Kierkegaard learned about the saliency of considering individual experience over universal frameworks when he attempted to use the Universal Formula.
The Universal Formula meant that: if you give up something to God, you get what was sacrificed and salvation from God in return. This story was derived from the story of Abraham in the bible, when he takes a leap of faith to follow the word of God and sacrifice his son, but is spared from doing so and is given salvation by God. This formula was applied by Kierkegaard to a problem he believed he faced: either giving up ‘the world’ or committing his life to God. He saw himself living a comfortable married life with a woman named Regina Olsen as partaking in ‘the world’ and not with God. Kierkegaard used the Universal Formula as a way to try and have both. As a result, he ended his relationship with Regina – but he did not get her back as he thought the formula would dictate. As a result of his test failing for him, he concluded that the formula is not applicable because he was not Abraham. This was important as a result, to him, because the failure was not the fault of God and he did not lose faith because of it. Instead he changed his expectations to say that the individual and their situations (existence) take precedence, or are actually even more important than, universal entities (essence).
Non-Religious Authenticity and Inauthenticity: Heidegger and Sartre
Theories on authentic behavior are not limited merely to Christians. Heidegger and Sartre are two significant figures in existential philosophy that brought descriptions of authentic and inauthentic behavior. When it comes to authenticity, Heidegger appears to call for a holistic treatment of language in what is labeled his "call to dwell with Being". The holistic treatment is that you treat words intimately, with precision and humility. Every time you speak, you are revealing a part of yourself - by what is included and excluded. Heidegger actually explicitly says an authentic person would remain silent before they’d speak from a condition of inauthenticity. For Heidegger, the only proper response to the death of God is to treat all words with the greatest weight possible.
The death of God, to Sartre, was a freeing of himself from a commitment to reason – a sort of lifting of weight off his shoulders or a breath of fresh air. Heidegger, contrariwise, saw the death of God as an increased burden to account for the power of reason without actually utilizing it self-referentially to do so. It is my own judgment that the reason for this is that Sartre saw the death of God as partly a refutation of natural laws and principles that resided with and were associated with Him. As a result, intentionally or not, Sartre turned himself (in some degree) into a Satanist. Heidegger, on the other hand, may have instead seen the death of God as a rejection of natural principles and processes – as a time of nihilism. Nihilism, defined by Nietzsche, means to hold that no values or moral beliefs have any basis whatsoever for being considered true.
For Sartre, to be authentic meant to live without excuses or justifications – to take full responsibility for oneself. He phrased the existential condition of the individual concisely as “We are condemned to be free.” This means that there is no option for excuses for one’s own behavior – no one else will or is actually responsible for the decisions you make or the conditions that come about in your life. And, if in some degree they were, one would still be condemned with their freedom to act in the way put by author Randy Pausch, that “We cannot change the cards that we are dealt, only how to play the hand.”
Existentialism Lectures – Fall 2017 The antinomy of being: Heidegger's critique of humanism, by Karsten Harries From Rationalism to Existentialism, The Existentialists and their Nineteenth-Century Backgrounds, by Robert C. Solomon. The Cambridge Companion to Existentialism, Edited by Steven Crowell
Gender : Posts : 2593 Join date : 2012-04-28 Age : 30 Location : A stone.
Introduction In Thomas Cushman’s lecture “Who Gets to Speak and What do they Say?” he argues that as a society we should reify freedom of speech, respect of counter-values and rational discourse. During this time, there is a controversy over who should be allowed to speak in society, part of the criteria of which is identity politics. Cushman first explores the history of freedom of speech in ancient times and then uses Merton’s model of “Insiders and Outsiders” to expose the dynamics of identity politics in modern discourse. I will argue that his advocacy of rational discourse presents a social challenge to fund education.
Summary Cushman begins his lecture by introducing the concept of Parrhesia. Parrhesia is an ancient Greek concept of free speech. However, Parrhesia had three conditions: 1) you must be a citizen, 2) it was predicated on reason, and 3) there were unequal power relations. The first condition meant that non-citizens did not have the benefit of discourse on social or political policy. A foreigner would not be allowed to protest or demonstrate. The second condition meant that not all speech was equal because the speech must be based on some kind of reasoning. If one did not have good reasoning for what they say, it was not considered Parrhesia. The third condition meant that some were higher ranking and thus had more privilege than others in society. This meant that someone who outranked you could demand you be quiet and in some cases had to be asked first for permission to speak.
Cushman later introduces the idea of Robert Merton’s, of “Insiders and Outsiders”. Here is where ‘identity politics’ becomes clarified. In Merton’s model, what happens is rapid social change that ends up disintegrating the general public sphere of society. What emerges then are what’s called “sphericules” where distinct spheres of discourse end up becoming more isolated and also more populated or, in some cases, less populated. As a result of these sphericules ideologically competing with each other, they end up also reducing one another’s arguments to their ideology. This is a result of what’s called reciprocal ideological analyses. This manifests itself as arguments like “You’re just part of X group.”
Analysis Cushman’s lecture was cut short, so he briefly stated his argument as being pro-reification of free speech. The best I could surmise, he appears to be arguing that because the current models of discourse involving identity politics are unreasonable, the alternative should be the reification of freedom of speech and a respect of others’ counter-values. Counter-values means to respect that a person has certain beliefs, which would involve also taking the time to properly learn them before either committing slander or simply lumping the other into a different ideological sphericule. Cushman also mentioned that this reification should be based on rationality, taking somewhat from the idea of Parrhesia.
As a philosophy student, whenever someone uses the word ‘reason’ as a criteria in their argument, I immediately become skeptical about the real-world applications. For example, is it reasonable to expect that this rational discourse could take place without education? If not, then there’s important implications for how one should go about achieving it. I mention this specifically because Cushman appears to at least be more conservative than those who see no problem with Merton’s model. I wonder if Cushman would be accepting of this argument and implication. Of course, I am reducing Merton to a sphericule of “Conservative” by mentioning this.
Gender : Posts : 2593 Join date : 2012-04-28 Age : 30 Location : A stone.
In the articles On Sense and Reference by Gottlob Frege and On Denoting by Bertrand Russell, the two address a problem of meaning concerning identity statements. I will be presenting Frege’s formulation of what an identity statement is, the problem he sees with it and his solution to the problem. Then I will present Russell’s restructuring of identity statements and how he thinks the problem of meaning can be resolved without Frege’s solution.
Frege’s Structure of an Identity Statement At the most basic level, an identity statement is a proposition that denotes the similarity of two things. For example, to say that “a=a” or “a=b” would be an identity statement. A real world example would be “Eric Blair = George Orwell”. Every identity statement has at least two components: the sign and the referent. For the proposition “Eric Blair = George Orwell”, Frege suggested that the names ‘Eric Blair’ and ‘George Orwell’ be referred to as signs. Signs are those things which point to some referent and generally known as nouns. For example, the word ‘apple’ would refer to an apple. Of course, the word ‘apple’ does not refer to any specific apple necessarily; this is a problem that will be addressed later by Russell. The second component, the referent, then, Frege suggests is the “pointed-to-thing”. This is what the sign is supposed to indicate. The word ‘apple’, then, would be the sign which points to the referent: the apple itself.
The Problem With Identity Statements The problem with identity statements arises when there is one referent that can be referred to by two signs. Take for example “EB (Eric Blair) = GO (George Orwell)” and “EB = EB”. These statements taken individually do not appear to present any problems, but taken together with both being true in the same domain, the referents for both ‘EB’ and ‘GO’ are the same. Since the referent is unchanged in the real world (both ‘EB’ and ‘GO’ refer to the same thing), there ceases to be any sort of salient information to gain from both propositions. One could argue that another person might not have known that Eric Blair and George Orwell were the same person, but this does not resolve the problem of the two propositions having little or no meaning after one acquires the knowledge. Presuming that a person’s ignorance should not have any bearing on the synthetic and analytic meaning of a proposition (although Existentialists would argue it does), one has to say that the propositions (identity statements) “EB = GO” and “EB = EB” together are only meaningful in two ways: as a relationship of the referent to itself or a relation of its signs to each other. This appears to be a false dilemma, as neither of these would appear to say anything meaningful. In the case of an identity statement being a relationship of a referent to itself, it cannot be meaningful to say that a referent is equal to or the same as itself. In the case of an identity statement being a mere relation of the signs to each other, this doesn’t have any meaning without a contradiction. The signs must be different or else it would be a relation of a sign to itself and encounter the same problem of triviality of identity statements being a relation of a referent to itself and since they are different, they cannot be equated in identity.
Frege’s Solution to the Problem of Meaning Frege wasn’t satisfied with identity statements lacking meaning, so introduced the concept of ‘sense’. Sense is how one is guided to the referent. The sense is distinguished from sign because one can know the sign of some referent without knowing any details about it. For example, if I were having a discussion with a colleague near you and I mentioned a ‘flogistan’, you’d likely assume that it is a noun that refers to some existent referent. At this point you would have no sense of what it could be and it would be nonsensical to you especially if it weren’t accompanied by some contextual information about what kind of noun it was: person, place or thing. Now, if it were in the same room I could point you to it with my finger and you’d now know what the referent is and you’d have seen it in one mode of presentation. If instead I had shown you it on a surveillance monitor, you’d have acquired the same information but from a different mode of presentation. This is what Frege means by ‘sense’: the mode of presentation. Therefore, with our previous example of ‘George Orwell’ and ‘Eric Blair’, one could know about Eric Blair himself through his career as an author under ‘George Orwell’ or himself as ‘Eric Blair’. These different modes of presentation are then, according to Frege, embedded in their associated signs and are the reason that identity statements such as “EB = GO” contain meaning, or what he calls cognitive value, while identity statements like “GO = GO” do not.
Russell’s Structure of an Identity Statement As mentioned previously, Russell distinguishes the general from the singular when it comes to nouns, which presents a distinction of how a sign functions. General terms refer to a plurality of things, so talking about a ‘car’ means one is talking about all things which are cars. Singular terms refer to an individual thing can be proper names, definite descriptions or demonstratives. Proper names are those things like London, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mickey Mouse. Definite descriptions, like proper names, refer to one particular referent. Some examples are: the capital city of England, the protagonist in the movie Predator, and the most famous cartoon mouse made by Disney. Demonstratives are simply words like: him, you, her, I, this, here, that.
Russell’s Solution If we use the example of “George Orwell = Eric Blair”, Russell says that the meaning of this identity statement comes from the fact that the proper name ‘George Orwell’ is an abbreviation for the definite description “The author of 1984”. If we take this to be true, then Russell explains that the statement “GO = EB” is identical to “The author of 1984 = EB”. This sort of identity statement between a definite description and a proper name is different than that between two proper names because the definite description is attributing a property to Eric Blair instead of just substituting two terms which refer to the same object. Russell says that the proposition “The author of 1984 = EB” says three sub-propositions: (1) at least one person authored 1984, (2) at most one person authored 1984, and (3) whoever authored 1984 is Eric Blair. The reason, then, that “The author of 1984 = EB” is meaningful as an identity statement is because it assigns a property to Eric Blair. This appears true to Russell because the author of 1984 could have been a property assigned to anyone. So, if we combine the premise of the proposition being meaningful with the proposition justified by proper names being abbreviations, that “The author of 1984 = EB” is equivalent to “GO = EB”, then one can say that “GO = EB” must also be meaningful, since it is equivalent to a meaningful statement.
My Analysis The distinctions made by Russell about signs is what primarily gave his solution substance. Distinguishing between general terms (ambiguous) and singular terms (particular), made him able to equivocate proper names as being singular term abbreviations of singular term definite descriptions. Frege’s concept of sense appears to be the attempt of bridging unsaid definite descriptions that attribute properties to a certain name, with that particular name (sign) itself. If one imagines the active description of sense, where one is present in two separate situations and are viscerally shown two separate ways of perceiving a referent, then it becomes difficult to accept that those visceral experiences like looking at the moon with the naked eye versus through a telescope, or the same for Jupiter, are ‘simply’ properties within definite descriptions that are attributed to a proper name. It is from this angle one might be dissatisfied with Russell’s structuring of identity statements.
Gender : Posts : 2593 Join date : 2012-04-28 Age : 30 Location : A stone.
Great find, fascinating. That setting stage video where it shows that tweet about negress culture minister of Sweden got me blinded by rage, so it makes sense this cultural diversity even in our countries trying to destroy the long-skulls