[hist-analytic] Privacy and Anomalous Monism

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Thu Sep 22 12:20:37 EDT 2011


Thanks for the comments. Here is a brief reply. 

The idea of a "proto-thought" raises a number of questions. I can't really say that I share Dummett's views on the origins of analytical philosophy (what happened to Russell and what's all this stuff about Husserl?). However this issue ties in with another about which Dummett has stated uncertain conclusion(s): whether language is a vehicle of thought or an instrument of communication. I think there is a distinction to be had here; as I recall he is not so sure. Quine believed we attribute attitudes to animals by way of empathy. What it means to attribute to a dog belief that there is one dog in front of him depends on how you view this alleged distinction. The dog may not know that one dog added to three is four dogs but the dog is aware of a dog. (de re belief). Let me comment briefly on he last question I raised, the one about velocity and acceleration you refer back to. 

Kim's view is that "mind-body supervenience is *mereological supervenience." (Kim [1998] p. 180). I think there is a difference between the supervenience of qualia and the "reducton" of velocity that is more important than first meets the eye (or brain). The latter may involve the introduction of so-called "Cambridge predicates." This is an enormously complicated issue. At any rate, velocity, if it is a property, "drains" to the lowest micro-level, if Kim is right, whereas qualia supervene upon elements at the micro-level and then drainage takes place downward from that point. I am skeptical of this move. I share Block's concerns on "drainage" but I differ with Block on the notion of "second order" properties, another longish story. There are properties such as certain spatial properties of qualia that do not, in my opinion, supervene. If a single property *of* a property does not supervene, then that property cannot be supervenient. Much of the confusion is over the difference between properties that supervene and objects that may be said to supervene. 

There is obscurity in the history of supervenience theory on this matter. Supervenience theory is ten miles deep and a micron wide. Philosophy as Wittgenstein suggests is nonsense but "important nonsense." Dualism may be nonsense, but it is important. Why it is important escapes contemporary physicalists, for the most part. They don't see the importance of "importance" in Wittgenstein's sense. 



STeve Bayne 

----- Original Message -----
From: "Scott Holbrook" <scott.holbrook at gmail.com> 
To: Baynesr at comcast.net 
Cc: "hist-analytic" <hist-analytic at simplelists.co.uk> 
Sent: Thursday, September 22, 2011 5:27:16 AM 
Subject: Re: Privacy and Anomalous Monism 

I guess I'll share some thoughts from my own "notebook" that I think 
are related to what Steve has shared.  My thinking on these matters 
are related to recent interest in Cognitive Science, especially the 
"grounding problem" in Embodied/Situated Cognition. 

Embodied Cognition holds, among other things, that acts of cognition 
are shaped (in various ways) by physical features of our body (our 
perceptual systems etc.). Central to the idea is our interactions with 
the environment.  In fact, even offline cognition is body-based. 

In any case, if the major theses of E.C. are correct, then a 
consequence is that the meanings of our words are also body based 
(this need not be the case for the related approaches of situational 
cognition or "extended mind" supporters).  For example:  Humans have 
eyes in the front of our skull.  As a result, we can only see things 
in front of us.  Thus, to navigate our environment from point A to 
point B, we must turn our heads in a specific direction...namely, we 
must "look forward."  As it happens, we say a person who plans for the 
future (that is, one who traverses from temporal Point A to B) is 
"forward-looking."  Hence, one may argue, the meaning of 
"forward-looking" is stems from the way in which humans navigate their 
environment.  In fact, one may even argue that the meaning of 
"forward" is itself grounded in the simple anatomical fact of our eye 

So, the "grounding problem" is more or less how our bodies and 
interactions with our environment, imbue meaning to our words. 

A solution I've been toying with makes use of what Dummett has called 
(Origins of Analytic Philosophy) "proto-thoughts."  These are 
sub-linguistic thoughts of which any linguistic formulation we may try 
to give them is "conceptually too rich."  These are the sort of 
thoughts that Frege attributed to animals.  For example, a dog can't 
think "There is one dog blocking my path" because a dog doesn't have 
access to the concept of "one."  But dog may very well adopt of policy 
of not continuing upon a certain path if more than one dog is blocking 
his way.  A dog may very well stand his ground against a single 
aggressor but flee from multiple aggressors.  These are 
proto-thoughts.  Another example is navigating traffic.  When driving, 
we don't verbally formulate (in our heads or out loud) the actions we 
plan to take to avoid obstacles.  We just avoid the obstacles.  Both 
of these examples represent complex, problem solving 
abilities...neither of them make use of language to do so. 

I think there is a case to be made for a sort of "proto-truth."  When 
engaging in proto-thought, it seems as if we are making affirmations 
and denials.  In plotting our driving path, the path we embark upon is 
just the one that we think offers the greatest chance of avoiding 
obstacles.  Hence, there is a sense in which we affirm what we may 
linguistically state as "this path offers the best chance of 
successfully avoiding obstacles." 

I take it as not all that controversial that the meaning of a word is 
related to the truth conditions of it's use (at the very least, if 
someone consistently made false statements with a  particular word, 
we'd be inclined to say he doesn't know what the word means). 

I think it not all that far-fetched to say that cognition, in general, 
evolved in organisms as a problem solving mechanism.  So, proto-truth 
becomes something like "that which enables successful completion of 
the task at hand" or maybe "the proper course of action/response"...It 
has not gone unnoticed by me that this is very close to a Pragmatist 
conception of truth.)  Thus, truth has been given a grounding in terms 
of our bodies and interactions with our environment.  There is a link 
between truth and meaning.  So, it certainly seems as if there may be 
a solution to the grounding problem lurking nearby. 

A consequence of all this would be that the physical language is NOT 
the only intersubjective language.  Actually, I think the E.C. thesis 
itself entails this as well.  Since cognizing is shaped by the form of 
our body, and all humans have, more or less, the same bodily form, all 
humans, more or less, are capable of cognizing the same stuff.  In 
which case, there is no reason, in principle, why we couldn't be 
taught any language.  Thus, the notion of a "private language" has 
been abolished (i.e., all languages are intersubjective and it's 
merely an empirical matter whether only one person speaks it or not). 
(assuming that one does speak a private language, in accordance with 
E.C., that language must be grounded in one's bodily form...but since 
all humans share the same bodily form (in all relevant aspects), in 
principle your so-called private language could be taught to 
another...which means it isn't really a private language). 
Incidentally, it also means that language can't be completely divorced 
from publicly observable phenomena, inasmuch as the from of the human 
body is publicly observable. 


P.S.  The E.C. exposition was pretty brief and I likely mangled a few 
parts.  So, I encourage readers to do a quick read (wikipedia or the 

P.P.S.  I hesitate to give this response to Steve's last question, 
cause I haven't thought out whether or not it's consistent, but I find 
it interesting.  I assume Steve is thinking along the lines of "If 
temperature is mean molecular energy (i.e., the movement of atoms), 
then why shouldn't velocity and acceleration (both of which describe 
movement) be micro-properties?  I want to say no, neither of them are 
micro-properties, even if it turns out the temperature is.  Reason 
being, velocity and acceleration are intrinsically relational, whereas 
it doesn't seem as temperature need be relational (in fact, it doesn't 
seem as if it is (of course, we must use another body to determine a 
temperature, but, presumably, there is already a temperature to be 
determined).  The temperature of a body depends upon nothing other 
than the body itself whereas the other two require at least one other 
body in order to give a reference frame.  In other words, I don't need 
to ask about a frame of reference when determining temperature, 
whereas I do when determining velocity.  (I'm talking about 
macro-bodies...for some reason I find it funny to talk about the 
temperature of a single atom). 

P.P.P.S.  I think there's an important difference (though I'm not 
really sure what it amounts to) between Kim's removal of the mental 
and Wittgenstein's beetle.  In Kim's case, we know, a fortiori, that 
the mental has been removed.  Presumably, we also know, or can know, a 
good deal about the mental redistribution.  At the very least, in 
order to redistribute the mental, and nothing else, we'd need to know 
exactly what counts as mental.  If this is the case, then we could 
certainly find out a good deal more about the distribution (viz. who 
got what after the process was complete).  The beetle, however, in 
principle, cannot be identified, ergo, not redistributed (we'd have no 
way to target anyone's beetle in order to redistribute it). 
Wittgenstein's point is that whatever the beetle is simply doesn't 
matter.  It cancels out whenever we try to make use of it.  But 
canceling out (not mattering) in this sense isn't quite the same thing 
as "removing" the beetle like Kim was suggesting (in fact, it's 
impossible to remove the beetle).  The important point, is that in 
Kim's case we know a lot more than we are allowed to know in the 
beetle case. 

On 9/22/11, Baynesr at comcast.net <Baynesr at comcast.net> wrote: 
> Rather than let the list die, I'm gonna post a few things from my notebook. 
> These are things I am not firm on; just things in the notebook. Here's 
> something relating Davidoson, Kim and Schlick. 
> Davidson was getting at when he proposed in his frequently cited paper 
> "Mental Event" (Davidson [1980]) that there are no strict laws connecting 
> mental and physical events. The state of affairs where mental events are not 
> rejected but where the correlations do not exist would be precisely one 
> where it is possible that "mental properties were arbitrarily redistributed 
> over events of this world, of even if mentality were removed…" (Kim [1998] 
> p. 34) One is reminded here of Wittgentstein’s discussion of the "beetle" in 
> the box: "…the box might even be empty…" (Wittgenstein [1953] 293) Thus, the 
> private language issue and supervenience become linked, even though the two 
> are seldom if ever discussed at once. We add this speculative proposal: If 
> there were laws connecting the mental and the physical, then freedom would 
> be at risk. Mental causation would be an illusion; but if there are no laws 
> connecting the mental and the physical then, as Schlick suggests, we would 
> have no way of directing our actions with the expectation of affecting the 
> world according to our intentions. If the privacy goes even deeper, as 
> Wittgenstein suggests we would be unable to even think of action, ours or 
> anyone else’s behavior qua action. If we are unable to describe our actions 
> volition is as blind as an unconceptualized Kantian intuition. Taking a 
> Davidsonian line we eliminate the private language problem by denying the 
> mental, whence his monism, but the basis of this maneuver has its historical 
> roots in the private language problem. 
> If all languages are public, as Wittgenstein argues, then the language of 
> physics does not own an advantage as an intersubjective language. (cf. 
> Schlick [1935] p. 399) Is it by accident or design that the physical 
> language is not only the language in which all facts can be expressed but 
> is, also, the language the only intersubjective language? Or if this is not 
> the case, why not? Whereas for Schlick (and Carnap) the intersubjectivity of 
> the language of physics was empirical, for Wittgenstein the 
> intersubjectivity of any language was necessary. (ibid) 
> Temperature may be a micro-based property, but what about velocity? Or 
> acceleration? 
> Regards Steve Bayne 

"Conventional people are roused to fury by departures from convention, 
largely because they regard such departures as a criticism of 
-- Bertrand Russell 

Listen to tracks from my most recent album at: 
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://rbjones.com/pipermail/hist-analytic_rbjones.com/attachments/20110922/f1c44c59/attachment-0002.html>

More information about the hist-analytic mailing list