[hist-analytic] A posteriori knowledge of necessary truths

steve bayne baynesrb at yahoo.com
Wed Dec 22 09:54:12 EST 2010

Just a couple of brief comments. The holiday season is complicating everything. First, on method.

The philosophers who know logic best (Kripke, Putnam, Van Fraasen, etc) are not using logical reconstruction, significantly. Part of the problem is that constructing one of these systems is a lot of work and the real thinking takes place not in where to put the subscripts, which variables to use, whether to use standard or non-standard quantifiers (branching say), but rather in the analysis that affords this as a possibility. So you look at how guys like, say Dowty (first class formal semanticist), treats context and you get so hung up in lamda operators, etc. that you waste a month on "house keeping." In addition, a lot of problems in philosophy simply do not have a solution in semantics. The whole movement, in my opinion, is passe. Good philosophers, like Jaegon Kim, McDowell, Aune, Dretske, are not building systems; they are addressing in a very technical way problems of general philosophy. 

Let me ask you this: what is the greatest accomplishment of formal philosophy in the last twenty or so years. Where is the pay off? I'm simply not seeing it. One is better off reading James on psychology than fiddling with the formalization of embedded verbs, say, in contexts of propositional attitude. You remark:

"If indeed we cannot know that a term designates the same
thing in every possible world then there can be no rigid

While I am very skeptical of "worlds" I should point out that Kripke has a solution: he argues that worlds are "stipulated" counterfactually taking objects in the real world as objects of counterfactual stipulation. So he can argue that *this* term in *this* world is rigid, and therefore designates the same thing in all worlds in which it designates at all. Again, outside of de dicto modalities I suspect Quine's objections against quantified modal logic have merit; but I haven't looked at this in a while.



--- On Tue, 12/21/10, Roger Bishop Jones <rbj at rbjones.com> wrote:

> From: Roger Bishop Jones <rbj at rbjones.com>
> Subject: Re: A posteriori knowledge of necessary truths
> To: hist-analytic at simplelists.co.uk
> Date: Tuesday, December 21, 2010, 4:26 AM
> On Saturday 18 Dec 2010 18:23, Baynesr at comcast.net
> wrote:
> > The context I had in mind was the usual discussion of
> a
> > posteriori knowledge of necessary truths.
> That's an informal setting of context, but then to be able
> to reason soundly, you need something more precise to start
> from.
> In that informal context there will be many different
> points 
> of view about vital things like the meanings of the key 
> concepts.
> > Aside from
> > that, I don't think I can say much, if anything,
> about
> > context. I don't think logical constructions really
> > supply a useful methodology. It's been tried in
> > philosophy of language with results accruing only to
> > insights not requiring the logical rigamorole. in the
> > first place. In other words, system building of this
> > sort is typically an "unnecessary" shuffle.
> Well I'm not familiar with any attempt to formalise this 
> part of the philosophy of language, which I think starts 
> with Kripke's Naming and Necessity, which is a big step 
> backwards methodologically in my opinion.
> > This is not
> > to say that I don't believe first order logic (with
> > identity) is not useful, or even that a model
> theoretic
> > semantics of modal notions doesn't supply some
> > illumination into a certain limited area of
> interests,
> > only that it is "brittle" and often capricious. So we
> > differ methodologically. 
> I didn't intend to suggest that first order logic would be
> suitable.
> You must of course understand my remark as contesting the 
> methods which are dominant in these studies (and in most 
> analytic philosophy) which I regard as unsound and 
> indefensible.
> If there are problems with whatever attempts have been made
> at formal treatment, then they should be a basis for moving
> on to improved treatments.
> If you were in a position to offer a rationale why such 
> methods could not benefit, together with some kind of
> defence 
> of less formal methods, then that could be debated.
> However, you probably don't want to do that!
> > The first part I accept, since I don't see that it
> > contradicts what I've said etc. and I think it is
> pretty
> > much right: knowledge of meanings is a posteriori
> etc.
> > That's fine with me.
> Well a corrolory is that there are no a posteriori 
> necessities.  Is that fine with you?
> > But now the concluding part.
> > 
> > Introducing an existential won't entail that the
> sentence
> > in which it occurs is de re.
> That is what I said, thinking I was disagreeing with you!
> > For example '(John believe
> > (Ex)Fx)' has a de dicto reading; a de re reading
> would
> > allow for wide scope: '(Ex)(John believes Fx)'. Here
> the
> > quantifier "reaches" from outside the belief context
> <g>
> > into the belief context. Here we have a de re
> reading.
> > Compare: 'There is someone John believes is a spy'
> and
> > 'John believes there is someone who is a spy'. Quite
> > different; both existentials, but the semantics
> differs
> > (on the usual assumptions). I conclude with a point
> on
> > rigid designation.
> I'm afraid I couldn't follow these examples.
> > You are right to say that the reference of a rigid
> > designator is fixed by its meaning; but that it is a
> > rigid designator is not fixed by its meaning. So even
> > though we come by meaning by way of experience, we do
> > not come by our understanding that a term is rigid by
> > way of experience; that is a semantical feature of
> > names, such as 'gold', one that has no correlative in
> > experience. I cannot *know* a term designates the
> same
> > thing in all worlds if all I know is that it
> designates
> > in this one; I have to know something about the
> > semantics of the term that many competent speakers
> know
> > nothing about.
> The fact that a name is a rigid designator is a fact about
> language, and it is a fact which affects the truth
> conditions 
> of sentences involving that name.
> In my book that makes it a fact about the semantics of the
> language (though moot whether there are any languages in 
> with rigid designators).
> All such facts in relation to natural languages are 
> contingent, and known (if at all) a posteriori (except some
> conditional assertions).
> If indeed we cannot know that a term designates the same 
> thing in every possible world then there can be no rigid 
> designation.
> Roger Jones

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