Sunday, January 28, 2007

MM Hawthorne: doubts, doubts, doubts...

Hi all,

I have to confess that I have had a lot of difficulties to understand the text. Now, I have a lot of doubts. I expound them here. I guess I have not enough background to follow the discussion; my fault, sorry.


At a certain point Hawthorne asks: wouldn’t it be more charitable to interpret allegedly Bold Gabriel as Timid Gabriel? And he answers: Gabriel’s commitment to Ref. puts considerable pressure on us to interpret him as Bold.

Ref. Sentences of the form ‘That is F’ as uttered by Michael, are true only if Michael refers to something by ‘that’.

My doubt: If we accept that one can elaborate a semantic theory about a foreign language (in the relevant sense of foreign language that is in play here), what are the restrictions in our theorizing? For example, why cannot I use something like Ref* instead of Ref:

Ref*. Sentences of the form ‘That is F’ as uttered by Michael are true only if Michael refers to something-on-Michaels-domain-of-objects by ‘that’.

This way here there would be no reason to interpret allegedly Bold Gabriel as Bold Gabriel and not as Timid Gabriel.


Hawthorne describes his Convention Lover as saying that: when thoughts were conceived of hyperintensionally, neither Gabriel nor Michael could express the thoughts of the other on account of the fact that the quantifiers of each were semantically alien to the other.
This leads to the non-acceptance of Ref 2. by a Convention Lover.
Ref 2. If Gabriel utters a truth by a sentence of the form ‘That is F’ then E(m)x(m) (‘that’ refers to x(m))
Doubt: But even if in general the Convention Lover might say this kind of things I do not see why in the specific case Hawthorne postulates he cannot say that Michael will be able to express the thoughts of the other because Gabriel’s language seems to be just a sublanguage of Michael’s language; a restriction of it.

Hawthorne says that: The Convention Lover will happily speak of the truth and falsity of sentences with superficially more restrictive ontologies. But she will not use the familiar kinds of apparatus to describe how those sentences get to be true; she will not use the concepts of domain, reference, extension, property, and so on in this connection. One normally thinks of the concept of sentential truth as forming part of a family, linked integrally to such concepts as reference, being true of, and so on. Retain the family and one will inevitably favour the Plenitude Lover over the Convention Lover.
Doubt: But then, it seems like HaWthorne has chosen the Convention Lover easy to fight with. What are his reasons not to choose a Convention Lover of the kind that defends there is no transcendent truth predicate (he says Quine and Carnap were of that sort.)


Hawthorne says: Suppose we take the Convention Lover is speaking a language in which she is right to say of the central claims of her mereology –formulated in her language- that they are analytic. How would she then be situated vis-à-vis the Plenitude Lover?
And he adds: Let us suppose that the Plenitude Lover is speaking a language in which quantifiers and variables are deployed in such a way that the central tenets of his mereological theorizing are neither analytically true nor analytically false.
Doubt: it is my fault, but I have the following basic doubt: if one is a Plenitude Lover, is there some reason not to claim that the central tenets of mereology are analytic?


Dan López de Sa said...

Hi Marta! Just some quick feedback about your worries 1 and 4.

Re 1, I take it that if Gabriel's quantifiers are unrestricted—as those of bold Gabriel are assumed to be—, then (by Gabriel's own lights) whatever is refered to by “something-on-Michael’s-domain-of-objects” is indeed something. (There might be the materials here for a (conditional) argument against the “Convention Lover,” see the discussion here and references there.) Hence, it seems, endorsement of your Ref* would suffice (for him) for endorsing Ref.

Re 4, I also think (see here and here) that the Plenitude Lover might well hold that (plenitudinous) mereological principles are indeed “analytical.” Hawthorne seems to think that there are general reasons against this, which are different from the “existence-involving” ones I discussed, see his 5.2.. I am not yet sure about which exactly his worry is, I hope to post on that eventually.

Pablo Rychter said...

Hello Marta and Dan,
A couple of further comments,
About your doubt 2. It seems to me that the alternative diagnostic you offer to the Convention Lover is not be acceptable for him, because it just seems to be against his view. His view is not that Gabriel’s language is “a sublanguage” of Michael’s. On the understanding of “sublanguage” you seem to be assuming, that might be the Plenitude Lover’s view: Gabriel quantifies over a subset of the domain over which Michael quantifies. But the Convention Lover’s view is different. It is the view that the two angels use different quantifiers that are completely alien to one another. That the angels are mutually unable to express the other’s thoughts seems to be a central part of the view rather than a consequence that could be avoided.

About your last point. I think that the standard view is that only some of the principles of mereology are analytic. I have been recently reviewing some philosophical presentations of mereology (Simons’ and Casatti&Varzi) and they share the idea that only some “core principles” can be deemed as analytic –basically the principles expressing the idea that parthood is transitive, symmetric and reflexive and maybe some supplementation principle (about this last point I think the authors mentioned disagree). On this standard view, the various fusion-principles are not analytic. Presumably, the justification for this standard view is something along the lines suggested by Ross Cameron in discussion with Dan at BLEB –which sounds sensible to me. I guess these reasons apply in general, and for the Plenitude Lover in particular. But the Plenitude Lover can happily adopt the standard view, whereas the Convention Lover has to deny it.

Dan López de Sa said...

Yeah, I agree with you if by 'standard' you mean a more or less "sociological" notion. But I am not aware of any argument for discriminating the "analytic" mereological principles from the one on (say) sums, do you?