[hist-analytic] Strawson vs. McDowell?

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Sat Dec 11 11:33:49 EST 2010

Two points for today. 

One can no more evaluate the dynamic aspects of action in respect to intentionality using propositional attitude constructions than one can evaluate the slope of a curve by way of averages. There is something in action standing to propositional attitudes as a derivative stands in relation to a simple (non-Newtonian) linear quotient. 


Strawson is interested in how the world must be in order for us to be able to refer to it as we do. 


But compare this to McDowell's remark to the effect that what is fundamental to reference is the normativity of the reference relation. 

The McDowell discussion; part one (d) 

These are not incompatible views, but the locus of the problem is the relation of the normative and the ontological (Strawson's "descriptive metaphysics"). 

One must, at some point, in discussing a general theory of reference (or meaning) determine whether the intentionality involved determines the relation of reference, whether it fulfills the requirement some have seen Wittgenstein to demand regarding the "normativity" involved in, say, the relation of an image and what we take it to be an image of. (McDowell, Mind and Reality, Harvard, 1998, p. 301) 

Do we locate the intentionality that contributes constitutively to meaning as a relation between subject and image, or image and object, or subject and object. Suppose now that sense data exist and are not "images," but images are related to sense data. The picture grows more complex and subject to the usual cynical reminders that explanation just is scientific explanation. Contemporary philosophers tend to locate the relation of intentionality between image and object or representation and represented. The subject or agent drops out, essentially, and the "normative" component is reduced to empirical facts about the psychology of word usage. It is the relation between subject and object, not representation and object, that may prove most significant however. It is at this point that the a priori structures reenter the picture over and above the empirical psychological facts. It is this structure which makes the intentionality or reference relation between image or representation and object actual. We see that it was the a priori which was ejected once normativity became a sociological fact about the psychology of language, a psychology that had lost sight of the agent. 

Keep in mind that nonepistemic intentional relations exist as well as nonepistemic seeing (Dretske's sense of 'non-epistemic" is in play). This intentional relation is unrelated to propositional attitudes and, in fact, it may be argued that this is the locus of what makes the intentional relation of representation and thing represented; that is, here we have a relation between subject and object represented with no intervening relation exhaustively described, or even partly described, in terms of belief or other propositional attitudes. 


Steve Bayne 
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