Topics this time include: false thoughts, psychological impossibility, metaphilosophy, losing the use of a concept as it gets problematized or worked on, interdefinability as a sign of non-basicness, intuitionism, and the Russell-Copleston debate.
1. One has a thought, formulates a proposition, and then sees that it is false. Various subcases:
- It was all wrong - reverse, turn around.
- It's not quite aptly put, e.g. a suboptimal key word.
- Too much got said - inessential and incidentally-not-true stuff got brought in in the expression attempt. Here especially we might follow our realization of the falsity of our proposition with 'Now, what am I really trying to say here?'.
This is a special concept, a characteristic use of 'trying to say' - almost like one could say 'trying to think'. Utterly different, for example, from a case where I have lost my voice and someone else wonders what I am trying to say. And different even from the case of trying to get my message across - trying to have an effect.
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2. On the epistemic consequences of asking 'is this analytic or not?'. The kinds of reflections it can lead to. A case for its heuristic potential.
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3. The impossibility of thinking certain things. 'Psychological impossibility'.
Aspects: empirical or accidental view vs. building in conditions and getting an a priori truth (i.e. 'No one like us in respects X, Y and Z could ...'.
I also want to say that less conditions, less often, will be required than one may sometimes be inclined to think. I.e. there is a danger of going too abstract and imagining that there could for all you've seen be weird, far-fetched instantiations of thoughts.
Related to this: the enormous difference between 'To think that p' and 'To entertain the proposition that p'.
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4. Regarding the climate of contemporary philosophy: the importance, for some, of not having to get each idea anonymously past a committee. Something to be said for what some may almost pejoratively call the 'greatness' or 'genius' approach: get impressed by some things, feel they're just what you always needed to see articulated, but then get challenged by other stuff in the same thinker, take certain (types of) ideas more seriously than you ever would have, and this to your benefit.
We can see a mechanism here which is, in the current academic climate with publish-or-perish, stupid quantitative measures and anonymous peer review, sometimes prevented from operating. The process, and a lot of the culture surrounding it, is inimical to it. But of course it can operate outside the academy.
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5. David Macarthur's idea [put into practise in a course at Sydney University in 2010] of understanding Wittgenstein by looking at misreadings is a good one. But he didn't carry it out at a high enough level of generality. (The misreadings and their faults were too specific.)
A broader, more impressionistic way of identifying types of responses could, in conjunction with this method, be really powerful.
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6. In my thoughts just now I almost called the temporal ontology (presentism etc.) debate - almost called the affective or emotional significance thereof 'the elephant in the room', but then felt that to be wrong, since it's not actually felt by many who consider the problem - is, in that sense, not in the room. And this dovetails with the turn of phrase 'in the ontology room', used in contemporary metametaphysics - the affective significance of temporal ontology is the elephant just outside the room, which can't fit through our door, but which, if it did get in, would have a good claim to our attention given what we were up to in that room.
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7. The confusion to the effect that 'individual concept' is nonsense, since concepts are inherently general. This, when it is not mere dogma, involves a confusion over two senses of 'general' here. For of course, as Wittgenstein says (e.g. Zettel #568), concepts are not for use on a single occasion. And so we may speak of the generality of individual concepts too.
Concepts tie things together, but we need not always think of the things thus tied together as part of the extension of the concepts, as we do when we think of 'hat' tying a bunch of objects - the hats - together.
'Direct reference' as a hellish locus of disagreement. This occurs throughout philosophy. What are actually key terms at the locus of an apparently deadlocked or hopeless debate are not, or not for a long time, or never - recognized as such. Never scrutinized. Put in the 'intuitive gloss'/'unofficial' category. ('Direct' in 'direct reference'.)
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8. Ambiguity of 'deeply saddened':
(1) Saddened to a high degree, or for a long time
(2) Saddened in a deep way: the sadmaker connects with something deep. (Deep in us? Deep per se? Further shades of difference here.)
One can be slightly (2); (2) to a small degree. Not so (1) - that would be pointless circumlocutive nonsense.
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9. It is interesting the way thinkers working on a notion very often, for that reason, avoid employing it a lot and getting its benefits; the thing has become problematized, and can't be deployed without the mind being vexed by one's difficulties in connection with it.
(If you're worried about your vision, you won't be able to really enjoy any scene before you. Working on music, or a film.)
E.g. de re/de dicto - can be very useful in resolving real-life ambiguities.
Or, more commonly, talk of things like 'freedom', 'doing your best'.
I know I was, in late adolescence, quite crippled from being unable to simply use a lot of important conceptions, because, as it were, my metaconceptions - my reflective understanding of these conceptions and how they work, what they are based on - was undergoing great upheaval, and this was most absorbing. And so, many times, when a situation in life really called for me to use one of these conceptions without much further ado, I screwed up by falling into philosophizing about it (very ineptly), as it were going off on a tangent.
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10. Wittgenstein's thing, around the time of the Tractatus, about the interdefinability of the logical connectives revealing that they are not basic - the ab-Notation is, or truth-tables-as propositions are - is striking and seems like it might be onto something. However, what about the quantifiers and the modalities?! Do these not just show that as a general principle to be an error? And if so, then what is there in Wittgenstein's remark, which feels so insightful? Is it just a sheer mistake?
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11. Just as (Lewisian) modal realism's implausibility or unusualness with respect to ontology can obscure its tremendous semantic implausibility, so too can the necessary a posteriori as a problem for logical empiricist, tautology or analyticity based approaches to modality, obscure the non-reductivity of such accounts.
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12. In the present day - and no doubt in other times and places undergoing sufficient change - we instinctively try to "remember" our parents and grandparents' generations and learn what they were like etc. And in a particular way, different for example from attending to our contemporaries. Part of this is that even very common problems faced by people in life were very different, or at least the distribution and relative frequencies very different.
Obviously many problems faced now are definitively new. But it's a bit more difficult to know which past probems still occur to people - stuff gets built around, some stuff demolished. Many problems and opportunities do disappear entirely, and in fairly short times. This is very important and some people are quite blind to it.
Our immediate ancestors' combination of being often quite well known to us, and having lots of interesting endangered procedural knowledge. Strategies which are foreign to us in our lives, i.e. that we haven't experienced from the inside.
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13. Some today say 'Truth is relative', others retain platonism (small 'p'). The latter should emphasize and try to appreciate the sheer hugeness of the possibility-spaces, the spaces of abstracta, involved, and try to glimpse more of them.
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14. Curious feature of a common use of 'In some ways, p': sounds a bit like overdetermination, but on the contrary, it's not even factive; 'p' doesn't follow.
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15. Granularity and "modes of existence" - an application. Diffusing the objectionableness or dogmatism of the Lewisian approach of saying 'I've no idea what it's meant to be to exist in one way or another, existence is existence and that's all there is to it'.
Modes of projection, the real application vs. misuse of 'platonist' pictures.
The denier of "modes of existence" says: the difference lies in the conceptions that copulate with that of existence.
Well, OK, that's one way of going. But we can do the work differently, doing more differentiation of propositions by way of differentiating uses of 'exist'.
But we must take this beyond simple verbalist, 'talking past', equivocation-based approaches. The objections to them can be accomodated in the granularity framework.
I.e. the metaphysician's, or a certain type of metaphysician's, insistence that they are for example using key terms in their familiar senses (van Inwagen), or in the same sense here as there (pointing to two places - e.g. number-talk and talk of tables).
All this can be accomodated, granted, on the proviso that, at a finer granularity, it may not be so.
Connect with this: Wittgenstein on 'meaning-bodies'. Also 'secondary meanings', outgrowths etc.
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16. Intuitionism's unclear sense. The oddness of the idea that lots of stuff 'just has to go'. Its fishiness. It raises the question: what on Earth is going on then in non-constructive mathematics?
Intuitionism as an alternative system, an alternative way of using signs, vs. intuitionism as involving the denial of classical non-constructive theorems as classically meant.
The former is in pragmatic conflict only, the latter totally obscure. 'You simply aren't playing our game' - but then follows disagreement about that. 'Oh yes I am! I decide what game I'm playing!' - but in how far is that true? In an important sense, that can fail to be so.
This connects with problems to do with accounting for the a priori. What makes it the case that you are in one system rather than another. Error in mathematics.
The feeling that the matter is never closed, since a surrounding can always be added leading us to the opposite conclusion. An onion of alternation. (Related to Wittgenstein on 'dissimulation'.)
For example, you can't definitively say Brouwer isn't really denying classical non-constructive theorems as meant, since he may turn around and admit he was wrong all along.
The unclear bounds of the full game.
This matter is connected with the concept of a crank in the sociology of science and maths.
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17. Strawson's descriptive vs. revisionary metaphysics distinction, and its formulation in the second half of Burgess's Rigor and Structure, could be of use in articulating my approach to metasemantics, notions of meaning, etc.
But there are difficulties which may in turn shed light back on Strawson's idea.
I have in mind something like the following. In some sense, by not identifying meanings with sets, propositions with sets of worlds or functions or whatever - and not doing pluralist formal modelling either in the spirit of Chalmers (according to his endorsement of semantic pluralism, if not all his formulations, some of which are apparently straightforward - and revisionary - identifications), I am clearly being less revisionary. But does that mean I'm just being descriptive? (What, really, could descriptive metaphysics be?)
One strategy which may be helpful here is to talk of degrees of revisionariness. Another way might be to emphasize the significance of the 'back to the rough ground' aspect of the dialectic. Revising revisions as it were, not proceeding out of thin air from woolly ordinary notions (the background including Frege's and Kripke's puzzles, descriptivism vs. Millianism, Grice etc.).
Working out from ordinary conceptions, and back from overly revisionary conceptions - or overly idealized models - to meet in the middle.
Separating off what doesn't belong to 'the account books' - mental images, feelings. (Outgrowths.) But there are puzzles here. For doesn't imagery and the like, especially in outgrowthish cases, feed into the use, the grammar?
There just isn't a clear boundary to 'role in the language system', vs. auxiliary, incidental stuff.
This itself isn't a granularity matter, at least not entirely. Some stuff, on any granularity you like, just doesn't count. That's quite clear. So the boundary of 'what counts as part of the role on some legitimate granularity' vs. 'auxiliary on any granularity' is itself a vague matter. Not a matter of underdetermination of the granularity.
But then a given question of what counts as part of a role given some granularity, some individuation scheme, can come down to which granularity is in force, if it is one way on one and the other on another.
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18. When most of the surviving adherents to an old morality, or way of thinking or acting, are backward and untalented, it can become very hard to see what was deep in it, since there is little evidence of such depth in the remaining proponents. (The concepts of chastity and grace.)
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19. Say a single word over and over and it 'loses its meaning'. A profound larger-scale analogue of this phenomenon occurs in philosophy.
We stay within a circuit of ideas, of words, and become dull. We lose our sense for what needs saying, what is important - what it's all connected to. Our thinking then becomes anaemic, so to speak. ('Inspiration'.)
Often a wider thing, perhaps pursued as though independently, helps things. And a rest. (Wittgenstein on changing postures, as when we walk backwards for a stretch when climbing a hill in order to use some different muscles.)
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20. One question raised for me by the Russell-Copleston debate is the logical status of a proposition like 'No concrete thing exists necessarily'. See, Russell maintains that we can't make sense of the idea of a necessary being. But this is supported by an overall view of modality which is weird, outmoded and reactionary. I should say that numbers exist necessarily. But then it does seem to me sort of automatic that no concrete think exists necessarily. But what about if someone disagrees (or seems to)? What should I say about that? And what about, as it were, whole broad categories of things I don't admit at all? (For example 'transcendental beings' mixing characteristics of concreta and abstracta.)