Saturday, November 13, 2010

We have moved!

Go check the new bLOGOS here!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

On Properties of Sets of Properties

If I understood it right, part of the core of Zalta's LOGOS Colloquium today was the thesis that his abstract objects were not mere sets of properties. I wasn't completely clear about exactly his reasons for this, but he mentioned the contention that sets can not exemplify any of its members. Apologies in advance if I am missing something basic, but is this really so? Take P to be the property of being a set mentioned at The bLOGOS and consider its singleton. Isn't it both the case that P is a member of {P} and that {P} exemplifies P? No?

Monday, April 05, 2010

Are King's propositions too fine-grained?

Jeffrey King is well-known for his account of propositions as worldly entities, as facts consisting of objects, properties and relations. The fact that King claims is a propositions is of the following sort: there is a language containing some expressions that stand in certain sentential relations (basically, the way they got syntactically combined) , with each expression having as semantic value an object, a property or a relation. (This is the basic set-up, he adds more bells and whistles on top of that.) One main advantage of King's view is the ability to solve a major problem for unstructured views of propositions (especially for the propositions-as-possible-worlds view): namely, accounting for necessary truths (or falsehoods) in a way that doesn't make them all equivalent. Since King's propositions inherit their structures from the sentential relations that bind together the words in the sentences expressing those propositions, each proposition (including necessary ones) will have a different structure, closely related to the sentence used to express it. A related problem that is nicely solved in King's framework are the different puzzles arising from embeddings under propositional attitude verbs: for example, the propositions expressed by the sentences "Annie ran 20 kilometres" and "Annie run 12.43 miles" are different, and that accounts for Bill's (who's ignorant about lenght measures) believing one and not the other. It thus seems that on King's account propositions have enought structure as to count as different when we want them to count as such.
This is all nice and good. The question now is: doesn't this positive feature of King's view turn on closer inspection into a negative one? For, as it has been pointed out, it could be that now propositions are too fine-grained. For King claims that not only the propositions expressed by "Annie ran 20 kilometres" and "Annie ran 12.43 miles" are different (which might be easier to accept), but also, for example, that the propositions expressed by the sentences "1=2" and "2=1" are different. This might very well strike some as being utterly counterintuitive.
King is aware of the counterintuitiveness of his claim, and therefore tries to alleviate the worry. To this effect, he asks the reader to compare the propositions expressed by the sentences above with those expressed by the following ones: "1<2" and "2<1". Do these sentences express different propositions? They clearly do. But notice now that what makes the latter sentences express different propositions is just the different order of their constituents. But if that's the case, why shouldn't we accept that "1=2" and "2=1" also express different propositions? Our reluctance to do so is traced down by King to one peculiar feature of the relation that the equality sign stands for: namely, its transitivity. It's true that equality is transitive, King says, but that is just a feature of that particular relation, and it shouldn't bear on the issue whether the same propositions is expressed or not by sentences that differ only in the order of their constituents. I find the explanation involving the peculiaity of equality convincing, but I also understand that one could still feel that one's intuitions about the identity of propositions have not being attended to. To be sure, King has a shot at dispensing with those intuitions; usual motives are invoked - their unreliability, them tracing other kinds of content than propositional content, etc. But this seems to me problematic, at least for the following reason: if King has to give up intuitions at some point, the defendant of the unstructured propositions view could do the same. The set of intuitions given up by each camp will be different, of course, but what becomes unclear is whether King can still claim the advantage he thinks his view has over the unstructured propositions view. So, the questions to be answered are: Do you believe that King has a problem here - are his propositions too fine-grained? Do you find his explanation in the case of the propositions expressed by "1=2" and "2=1" correct? What do you think about his dismissal of (some) intuitions? [This post is a late semi-transcription of a discussion that took place at a reading group in Paris, and the points raised here were originally raised by Michael Murez and Adrian Briciu.]

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Around in the web:
  • A survey on philosophers’ views about normative judgments.
  • A survey on publishing in philosophy.
  • A survey on a new journal in philosophy.
Plus, if you're a PhilPapers user, a survey on the distribution of philosophical views among professional philosophers and others (in your inbox).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Easy “Difference-Making” Properties?

Last week we discussed Cameron’s 'Truthmaking for Presentists,' very cool paper!

Bracketing concerns about a notion of indeterminacy whose source is not semantic (nor epistemic) and about the notion of indeterminate truth, we devoted part of the discussion to Cameron’s contention that insatisfaction with “Lucretian” properties like being such as to have been a child motivates restriction to difference-making properties as candidates for truthmaking, understood as properties “the instantiation of which at a time makes a difference to the intrinsic nature of the bearer at that time”.

If I understood them correctly, both Marta Campdelacreu (in attendance) and Pablo Rychter (virtually) independently worried that some properties that would count as difference-making for Cameron seemed insatisfactory for truthmaking in just the same way than “Lucretian” properties were. Take an intrinsic property Ross presently instantiates, say being currently sitting. It would seem as unsatisfactory as before that the presentist used the property of being such as to have been a child and currently sitting in the truthmaker for the truth that Ross was a child. But the property is difference-making for him, given that
(*) Ross has the intrinsic nature at the present that he has partly in virtue of instantiating being such as to have been a child and currently sitting at the present.
(Notice that it won’t do, it seems to me, to reject (*) on the basis of:
(#) Ross has the intrinsic nature at the present that he has partly in virtue of instantiating being currently sitting at the present.
For, arguably, if (#) is true then (*) is also true. See the axiom of subsumption in Fine’s (1995) logic of essence, and the discussion of the conjunction thesis for truthmaking in López de Sa (2009).)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Schaffer's Permissivism

A couple of weeks ago we discussed Schaffer's 'On What Grounds What'. Although we discussed quite a bit about different, non-equivalent ways of characterizing 'permissivism' in detail, I got the sense that there was a general sympathy towards the spirit of the contention that existential questions about numbers etc. were somehow easy, and the harder questions concerned what grounds what, and thus what is fundamental.

In particular, those in attendance did not object to the following constituting a proof of the existence of numbers (p. 357):
  1. There are prime numbers.
  2. Therefore there are numbers.
This is just an invitation to people not in attendance to share their views ;-).

Lasersohn as a Truth Relativist, MacFarlane style

I remember there was a discussion at some point between Dan LdS and Manolo CG about whether Lasersohn is a "non-indexical contextualist" or a "relativist" (MacFarlane's terms). The discussion concerned Lasersohn's 2005 paper, "Context dependence, disagreement and predicates of personal taste", where, with the exception of a short paragraph whose interpretation sparked the debate, there is nothing to base a relativist interpretation on ("relativist" - mind you - as opposed to "non-indexical contextualist"; there's no question whether Lasersohn is a contextualist of the ordinary sort.) However, in his more recent paper, which we were supposed to read in our unofficial reading group on contextualism and relativism last year, things are crystal clear. Here is what Lasersohn says in "Quantification and perspective in relativist semantics", Philosophical Perspectives 2008:
What makes this system “relativist”? Different authors use this term in
different ways. As I understand it, there are two crucial features of the system
just outlined which make this term appropriate. First, sentences may vary in
truth value without a corresponding variation in content. Second, this variation
depends on some parameter whose value is not fixed by the situation in which a
sentence is used. (pg. 315)
And then he continues, relating his view with MacFarlane's:
These criteria are equivalent, as far as I can tell, to the claim that sentences
may be assigned contents whose truth values depend not just on the “context
of use” but also on the “context of assessment” (MacFarlane 2003, 2005a). We
treat the context of use as fully determined by the situation in which the sentence
is used; if truth values vary independently of this situation, we regard them as
at least partly dependent on a separate context determined by the situation in
which the sentence is assessed for truth or falsity.
Maybe the debate was solved months ago, but I thought I should mention it anyway!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Kaplan and the shotgun

This is a non-serious post connected to Dan LdS's talk on Wednesday (which I suppose took place...). To be more precise, it's conencted to Egan's paper that Dan was considering. I haven't re-read the paper, but I remember I wasn't convinced that the Kaplanian framework has serious problems with (at least some of) the examples Egan is giving. Also, it struck me as a bad thinig that Egan doesn't think it necessary to sharply differentiate his view from the multiple-utterances view. If I remember correctly, Egan's preferred view is that an utterance produced at a given context of utterance expresses a multiplicity of propositions, which proposition is expressed being determined by the context of utterance together with the context of assessment (don't remember whether he actually uses this latter term, but let's stick to it for the moment). On the other hand, the multiple-utterances view has it that each time different assessors are presented with a sentence produced in a context of utterance (different from the respective contexts of assesment), that counts as a different utterance of the sentence at issue. [Let me here note that even the shotgun metaphor that Egan uses is closer to the multiple-utterances view than to his preferred one: the shotgun is the producing of the sounds, the bullets are the different utterances and the wounded people are the different propositions expressed. (Yes, this is Romanian mafia speaking. Shhhh...)] Now, the thing is I'm not sure Kaplan has problems with the multiple-utterances view. In defining truth in a context, Kaplan speaks of occurences of sentences. Could these be equated with utterances? If not, is the relation between occurences and utterances such that an occurence of a sentence can only result in one utterance being produced? My "I'll be back in 5 minutes" post on my office door constitutes, I take it, just one occurence of the sentence. Yet, it seems to me to spread around a multiplicity of utterances - one for each different minute (second?) the note spends hung on my door. Of course, to get across a content, someone needs to read the note, so that that someone grasps the proposition, but I don't think it's so implausible that there are propositions out there that no one grasps :-) (This is similar to the gravestone poem example, right? What does Egan say about that - how does he reject it? Sorry for being lazy...) So maybe Kaplan's talk of occurences gets things wrong, but defining truth for utterances instead of truth for occurences would fix it - in such a way that the multiple-utterances view is compatible with the "modified" Kaplan. Even if one finds ungrasped propositions hard to swallow, each grasped proposition gets expressed in a context in which there is both a "speaker" and an audience, located in time and space, which seems to me to be the notion of context Kaplan is using.
If you find this too confusing or stupid, please ignore it. :-)