Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Back Again

It's been a good long while. I thought on Monday that I'd come up with a new form of disjunctivism about perception, but it turned out that I was making a use/mention error. (Frankly, I'm rather inclinded to believe Michael Thau's Consciousness and Cognition's theory that most philosophical errors are versions of missing the use/mention distinction.) Indeed I think metaethics is more my topic than the troublesome philosophy of perception... Sylvia and I are getting along well these days, again. I've explained to her some basics about anti-realism and realism and she's very into it. It seems she thinks projectivism is the best bet, but thinks it's a pretty depressing view of the world. She says this makes it sound more true.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Confessions of a Realist

Some of you might have noted a realist taint to some of my blogs. Well when it comes to ontology, my house has many rooms. But like in the White House one has to pay a lot to get face time. That is, certain realities are more significant than others. Take for instance the existence of a timeslice of me now and Elizabeth Anscombe in 1943. Much as it dissapoints me, there is very little significance to this nonetheless real thing. Moreover I do not limit my ontological leniancy to mereology, I am perfectly willing to countenance both universals, functions, numbers, sets, values, etc. The question which I propose we should focus on is not whether the "are out there" but rather what they can do for us. Universals, for instance, can do good work. On the other hand trying to get a an arbitrary mereological sum to mow the lawn has never worked for me. Note, however, my pragmatism does not link existence and usefuleness, rather I link usefulness and usefulness.

I hope this isn't too obscure. As Alex suggests I have have been taking some pills lately (though they are not labelled "stupid pills"). They are partly for philsophical interest and partly for my insomnia and sense of total worthlessness in the face of the astounding number of great papers coming out every day in major journals. Anyway, these pills have made me a little overexcited, I think... But Zane tells me that will wear off soon. They really do bring home to me the real closeness of the psycho-physical nexus, though.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Put This in Your Pipe and Smoke It

Many like Jackson seem to think that proper names and natural kind terms are disguised descriptions. Well, maybe descriptions are disguised names instead. After all, there are these in between descriptive names: like "The Man Who Saved the World". Maybe most descriptions are really like that. It's just that each time we create a description we have a new baptismal event. Non-referring descriptions? the Wittgensteinian interlocuter queries. Well these are no more trouble than non-referring names, which there is much to say about. Attributive descriptions? Perhaps they merely refer to non-standard individuals, or collections of counterparts.

I know this requires a bit more work, but I think I'll save that for the real paper.

Yours truly,

The Blogmaster

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A Common Bias of Uniformity

Paul Benacerraf in Mathematical Truth suggests that a semantic theory should be uniform for both mathematical discourse and everyday discourse. His idea, as I remember it, is that if we think of reference and satisfaction applying to talk of ordinary objects then we should think of them as applying to mathematical objects also. So that we should think of number terms as referential terms (at least if we think of ordinary terms as referential). I don't know much about the philosophy of math---take a look at Antimeta for some cutting edge stuff though--but I've often wondered how general such a claim should be--i.e. how much we should read ontology off surface grammar. Now I know, this isn't exactly the most original thought in the world--Quine, Carnap and all that. But my specific question is this: why should we expect a semantic theory to be uniform across different chunks of discourse. I mean I've always thought that there's one theory of truth for talk about chairs and tables and another one for talk about, say literature. For instance, when I talk about wine with some of my buddy's I tend to think that what determines the truth of what we say is very different--if equally objective--than what does when we talk about say where tables and chairs are (something we rarely do). Now I understand various ways one might get at a general worry about ontology and all that, but it doesn't seem like the idea that there has to be a uniform theory of meaning (or reference, or truth) is a very good one. In fact, I think every time one broaches a new subject the best thing to say about what the theory of truth is changes. Philosophical analysis is supposed to be the attempt at making the best sense of how we think about things--why the bias towards uniform accounts. And don't give me that science is uniform stuff. Science seems to me about as uniform as the contents of a typical issue of the Philosophical Review, think of the worlds apart between comp sci, quantum mechanics, evolutionary psychology et cetera. Well, I better let this go...

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Intellectuals Today?

Having glanced through Richard Posner's book on public intellectuals, I've started to wonder about a less complex topic: what makes an intellectual? Back in the mid twentieth century I suppose it was being up on Freud, knowing about relativity, reading novelists like John Updike, being able to pass muster on Kuhn and so on. But what is it now? Surely, Freud is out, despite some excellent attempts at revival. Likewise, John Updike is a bit dated, and Kuhn is really over. So what does one need to know about to be an intellectual? Maybe, I just don't know because I'm not one. I'd like to think one has to at least have a passing familiarity with possible worlds semantics, but apparently outside of philosophy circles, this is not so widespread. So, what are the hot current theories and books one needs to know to pass muster as an intellectual? Zane suggests Foucault, but clearly continental philosophy is dead too. Indeed apparently even in France analytic philosophy is gaining a serious foothold. So, I'm starting to think that the age when there were a few hot sociological/philosophical theories that everybody needed to know about is over. But maybe this is a good thing. Maybe as Scott Soames suggests in his history of twentieth century philosophy, the age of specialization has taken over, and big general theories just aren't so important any more...

Still does anyone know what novels one should read, or is the age of novels over too?

Friday, May 06, 2005

Private Property

I have to say, I quite like the idea of private properties--by which I
mean, unique qualitative essences which are sometimes called
haeceities. Most metaphysicians tend to be down on them for some
reason--that is they might accept that there are primitive thisnesses,
but not accept that they get their thisness by being unique qualitative
essences. For me though, the only way one gets a thisness is by having
a unique qualitative essence, i.e. to instantiate some universal
property, which, as it happens nothing but you can instantiate. I call
mine "Fred". Since it's not an essential aspect of Fred that it be
instantiated only in me, but merely a contingent fact, this leads me to
hypothesis about my favorite possible worlds: one where all of space
and time is filled with nothing but Fred-instantiations. No, just
kidding, I'm not really such an ego-maniac. My favorite possible world
actually is more along the lines of Herman Hesse's glass bead game, but
with less eastern nonsense.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Paradox Postponed

I've never thought up a paradox. I think almonst any philosopher worth his salt has thought up a paradox or two. I'm in my mid-thirties now and I haven't ever had a paradoxical thought. Maybe there's some variation of Russell's paradox for meta-ethics. Like suppose everyone who doesn't make their own values gets their values from God... Well it's not really a different paradox from Russell's. So, anyway, I want to think up a paradox but I don't know how. I've tried tweaking other's paradoxs. I've tried thinking really hard about hard problems. When I was in college I tried hallucinigens but that didn't worked either. What can I do?

Monday, May 02, 2005

Summer Planning

I was thinking today about my summer plans. The semesters winding down
and one can almost imagine the warm, humid summer months with open
hours free from meetings and teaching and nonsense in which to try to
buckle down and actually write out some of my ideas. Of course, after
this thought comes into my head, I immediately remember that I still
have an exam to write, and people to meet, etc. Still, I thought I'd
use the blog as a little workspace to plan the first half of my summer

June: A) Work on my new project: The Metaphysics of Moral Emotions
B) rewrite an old paper on chance and rational choice theory.
July: A)Catch up on the contextualism literature, lots of exciting
stuff I havent read like Keith DeRose's latest
B) Maybe also think about knowing-how versus knowing that.
C) Think about some problems about material constitution and beliefs
(i.e. is there a determinate number of beliefs in the head at one time,
or is it indeterminate. how does this relate to the statue and the clay

Well, still got some time before the fun starts...