[hist-analytic] Davidson's Hume

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Wed Jun 24 08:43:54 EDT 2009

Sorry for the delay in responding. As I said, before, I'm not 
working in this area at the time and I'm being eaten alive 
by copy editing the ms. I'd mentioned. 

Most of your concerns are over what Carnap referred to 
in Foundations of Mathematics, and elsewhere, as 
pragmatics. Whether this sort of thing can be treated 
formally is, I think, doubtful. The idea of language as a 
calculus, along the lines, say, ofHintikka is something 
I never really bought into. In other words, semantics to 
my way of thinking is not really a branch of anything that 
looks as much like algebra as some would have it. 

For example, I don't believe meanings can be understood 
as intensions or iddy biddy transparent entities that hover 
over words in a dictionary, viz. Fregean senses. Sure as 
long as meaning enters in a largely irrelevant way, you can 
put models together; but, then, you have to map the models 
and the natural language. Once you come up against 
natural language and cases like Donnellan's then the concept 
of meaning looks more like a biological aspect of language 
than an algebraic one. Russell, at one point at least, 
thought of meaning, entirely, in terms of Skinnerian/Watsonian 
type terms. Grice is a "sophistication" of that idea with the 
added brilliance of the addition of intention over intension. 

Don't get me wrong, the "algebraists" have made contributions 
to making sense of syntax in natural language, but the area 
of meaning has been treated in such a way as to make meaning 
something very remote from performance (vs. competence). 

Let me give an analogy. Topology is an example of where 
mathematics interfaces with natural phenomena. The idea of 
a boundary in topology "fits" nicely with our intuitive ideas of 
a boundary in nature. Same with things like surface and dimension 
and point in space, even. But compare the use of 'meaning' in 
formal semantics to 'boundary' in topology. Meaning is what? 
Reference? Sense? Do these ideas capture meaning in natural 
language as effectively as topology fits nature? I don't think so. 
This is meant as a very general observation. I admit that it is 
a bit impressionistic, but my point is that I am moving more 
in the direction of looking at nature, directly, rather than as 
a reflection of logic as in some way the mirror of nature. 
Donnellan cases might be absorbable into some formal model, 
language as calculus, but then what do we have the is of 
interest to the philosopher interested in areas outside 
formal logic. The underlying theme, really, goes back to 
Heraclitus: flux vs. forms. If I am right, flux wins; forms drop 
out as conventions. Flux is constrained by cyclicity, as 
even Heraclitus realized; by analogy cyclicity is a spiral in 
a world where the champion thinkers are thinking either 
in circles or straight lines. 

I know this is all, pretty, obscure; but sometimes obscurity is 
the price we pay for trying to say as much as possible as 
quickly as possible. 

Aune and you have raised good points on analyticity. I need to 
return to these after this mess of a book is cleaned up to my 



----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Roger Bishop Jones" <rbj at rbjones.com> 
To: hist-analytic at simplelists.com 
Sent: Sunday, June 21, 2009 8:17:33 AM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific 
Subject: Re: Davidson's Hume 

On this occasion I have an excuse for my slow response, 
having been on holiday for a week. 
(does that really count as an excuse if I might easily 
have taken this long anyway?) 

In responding to Steve I would like to take his point 
on Carnap first, since what I have to say there 
is useful background to the main issue. 

On Friday 12 June 2009 12:30:11 steve bayne wrote: 

>On Carnap, be a bit careful. At least in Meaning and Necessity he adhere to 
> the "method of intention and extension," so meaning is not reference. 

I'm not well acquainted with the details of Carnap's 
Meaning and Necessity, since I have always regarded 
Carnap's semantic methods as archaic, however, I would 
expect that though the distinction is made between 
intension and extension, there is no reason why the 
intension should not uniquely fix the reference, and 
every reason why it must in the case of a "rigid designator". 
For a rigid designator of some object "obj" the 
intension would have to be something like "being 
equal to obj" (or simply "being obj", more 
formally "lambda x. x = obj"). 
(I think this would be necessary for Carnap because 
he defines necessity in terms of analyticity, 
with the effect that this becomes the only way 
in which you can have a rigid designator). 
In this case, though meaning is not reference 
the effect is much the same. 
This is what I had in mind when I spoke of the 
possibility that "the meaning *is* the reference". 
If "rigid designator" were defined as something 
having the same referent in every possible 
world but not "meaning it" in that sense, then 
it would follow from Carnap's conception of 
meaning that there could be no such thing. 

Having said all that, I not longer remember how 
it bears upon the rest, but maybe it will occur 
to me again before I am through. 

>The [referential] use of a definite description is one where a correct use is 
> not dependent on the actual extension of the predicates contained in the 
> description but, rather, pragmatic circumstances of application. 
> Donnellan's example, as I recall, is that of situation where a man is 
> standing across the room talking to someone at a cocktail party. I am 
> talking to a friend who asks me who someone is, so I say "He' the man 
> drinking the martini over there. Now, as it turns out, the man is NOT 
> drinking a martini; he is drinking water, but there is a sense in which the 
> description succeeds, even though he is not included in the, literal, 
> extension of the predicate. 

I am inclined to doubt that this is a correct description of 
what is going in the example cited. 

Firstly I observe that it is not clear from the example that 
the usage in question is correct, but I propose to say nothing 
more on that point. 
What I accept is that the use in question was successful, 
in that the hearer understood the point the speaker intended 
to make. 
However, this is in my opinion an example of a more widespread 
phenomenon which tells us little about the semantics of 
languages. The phenomenon in question is the ability of 
intelligent hearers to guess what a speaker intended to 
say even when that is not what he actually said. 

This incidentally, is not (I suspect) the same as 
Grice's "speakers meaning" where the meaning of some 
construct might be said to depend crucially on the 
intentions or on the idiomatic habits of the speaker. 
In the Donellan example it is not the case that 
the speaker was being eccentric in his use of language 
and that what he meant by his words was not what 
we normally suppose to be meant by them. 
His use of language was completely correct, he just 
happened to be mistaken about the facts which he 
used to pick out the person he wished to refer to. 

I do not accept myself that this tells us anything 
so bizarre as that a definite description might 
be held to mean (refer to) some object which does not 
satisfy the description. (though this does happen in some 
formal languages, including the HOL which I used 
in my models of Aristotle's metaphysics, in the 
case that the description is not satisfied). 

Going back to "the cause of e caused e", I remain 
of the opinion that this can be necessary only 
if it is necessary that "e" has a unique cause. 

Roger Jones 
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