bryan: Carolyn: Hey, I'm here. I've got the other window open for just in case; you can tell me to close it or open it at will. I've also got email open so I should get anything you send that way.
bryan: By 'other' window, I mean the one that remark popped up in. Let me know when/how to be so privileged as to have my remarks appear in the 'main' window, or, as we say in the business, 'auditorium' window. 8^)
caro2: The moderator's alter ego is in as well.
robert: Quaestio prima: Bryan, are you familiar with Peikoff's stated objections to Russell's theory of definite descriptions? One that I have always found plausible goes as follows. For Russell, "The present king of France is bald" is false (since such a sentence asserts that there is a present king of France, and there is none). For Peikoff the same sentence is neither true nor false, because it presupposes the existence of a present king of France, and there is none. I'm sympathetic to your wanting to avoid naming relationships in your account of linguistic meaning, but is Russell's theory of definite descriptions going to do the job?
frank: Questions for Bryan: 1. To what extent are your views informed by evolutionary epistemology? 2. Can you comment on the Duhem thesis, namely that sometimes we revise facts and sometimes our theories? 3. Is truth first of all a semantic attribute of propositions? I commend to all Paul A. Boghossian, "What Is Social Construction?" in the February 23 _Times Literary Supplement_.
caro2: Am I caro2 again?
robert: Peikoff likes to leave a lot of his stuff in the oral tradition--so his reference to "The present king of France is bald" comes in one of his lectures on modern philosophy, if memory serves. The problem with Russell's theory that this example points to has not yet been addressed--Russell's theory requires a sentence like "The present king of France is bald" to be true or false. It doesn't just permit such a sentence to be true or false.
robert: Anyhow, I'm not satisfied with Bryan's answer to my question. I saw Bryan's answer appearing on the screen without my question. Then good old Windows hung up and I had to reboot my system. Hence the delay. Did you get my followup to Bryan?
robert: Quaestio secunda: Bryan, at the end of Section III, you say "I shall not attempt to say how, in general, concepts are representations of the world. But they do represent sets of objects or properties." Isn't it important to know how concepts represent, if you are going to give satisfactory answers to many of the other questions you raise in your paper? For instance, whether something like Wittgenstein's picture theory could be true depends on how representing is done. The claim that if you believe that subject and object are internally related, you must be an "exteranlist" also depends on assumptions about how representing is done--specifically assumptions about mental states and their content.
robert: Well, my intuitions haven't been captured yet (but then, when philosophers appeal to intuitions, they like to assume that "we all" have their intuitions :-)). If "The present moderator of this discussion is bald" is false, then "The present moderator of this discussion is not bald" is true. Whereas, if "The present king of France is bald" is false, it does not follow that "The present king of France is not bald" is true.
moderator: Testing new moderator name.
moderator: This is the new, improved Caro2. Somehow, after working just fine for 2 days, the program decided to be confused by my two usernames. I cannot explain. I can only accept, and be enlightened.
frank: What are facts as far as animals are concerned? And what things are facts for people but not for animals? What does the literature you have surveyed say here? I think such evolutionary issues make for good premise checking if for nothing else!
robert: Yes, but is our overall organization of mental processes divisible into propositionally structured mental states in the first place? Propositions are a logical notion; sentences are a linguistic notion. Each describes some things we can do--but does either describe how we do them? Another way of putting this would be to ask you to get more specific about your conception of pragmatism. You mainly tell us that this is not Rorty's pragmatism--but I don't see much about how you think mental representation is done under an objective type of pragmatism, as opposed to a subjective one. I am sympathetic to many of the things you say in your JARS paper, but I see what looks like a confusion between actually carrying out some method (for instance, reasoning in a way that conforms to rules of logic) and having a concept of that method. I've always understood Rand's notion of the "concept of logic" in terms of having a concept about using the method, not in terms of the method or skill itself. There is no account of skill in Rand's epistemology.
moderator: Robert, I don't understand the last sentence: can you clarify (and then I'll just substitute the new sentence for the old).
moderator: I sent it as-was, Robert. We'll let Bryan figure it out.
frank: I just searched 8000 postings on the evol-psych list for "concept" in the subject line. Here's one that may be worth looking into. I read that there is some controversy over whether chimps can form true concepts and that some species of birds (!) can. Why not subscribe to the list and post questions there? Several thousand scientists are on it. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 2000. 51:121-147. Are There Kinds of Concepts? Douglas L. Medin1, Elizabeth B. Lynch, and Karen O. Solomon 1 , Department of PsychologyNorthwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, 60208, email:,, Past research on concepts has focused almost exclusively on noun-object concepts. This paper discusses recent research demonstrating that useful distinctions may be made among kinds of concepts, including both object and nonobject concepts. We discuss three types of criteria, based on structure, process, and content, that may be used to distinguish among kinds of concepts. The paper then reviews a number of possible candidates for kinds based on the discussed criteria. Full text, subscribers only: PDF: ------- To subscribe/unsubscribe/select DIGEST go to:
moderator: Oh, and, my mistake: I meant the SECOND to last sentence was not making sense to me. I understand "There is no account of skill in Rand's epistemology." fairly well! :-)
robert: Bryan, I take your comment about how we know to play chess as a call for an epistemology of skill--not (necessarily) for analyzing skills in terms of concepts.
robert: There are forms of pragmatism that do not revolve around a pragmatic theory of truth (non-James and Dewey forms, I guess we could say). How about Peircean pragmatism, for instance? Or James Gibson's notion that perception frequently detects affordances (action-relevant properties of things in the environment, like squeezeableness or sit-on-able-ness).
jamie: I am a little confused about the ontology tropes and bundles and I am hoping that you might clear something up for me. In Rand’s direct realism, _what_ are we directly aware of? Is it a property in the bundle or the bundle itself? I sometimes read her to be saying that there is an intrinsic “this” that we grasp in order to be certain that it is a (unified) object. Is that right? Or is ‘being a this’ a property?
jamie: In other words, I am having trouble seeing how we can have direct realism without some sort of bare particular (or this).
jamie: So bundles do not mind-independently exist. _We_ bundle properties, properties are a causal-interaction between us and the outside world, and we label properties by tropes terms. Is that right?
jamie: (the last remark was me, not Caro.)
moderator: You're trying to confuse me!
jamie: I am not familiar with Trope theory, so I am sure there is a subtlety that I am not getting. When you say that “All of the tropes constituting the bundle exist independently”, I am not sure how this is different from the realist approach.
robert: Private aside: This is *heavily* watered down Kant-in Kant's scheme we can't know enough about the noumenal world to know how we interact with it, or how it relates to the phenomenal.
tom: "despite the fact that it is there only because we interact with the noumenal world" does sound a *lot* like a certain theory of edges...
jamie: I am not sure what properties are (in your terms). I said "causal-interaction" because I am think of colours: The property of 'red' is a causual-interaction with the outside world (photons and electron shells) and our perceptions (which gives us the phenomenal experience of RED).
moderator: Robert: Yes, actually, it's a little pointless to say that it "is Kantian"--either Bryan's position or ours. O'ists are frightened and offended by the term, and mainstream philosophers know it isn't quite accurate. It would be like saying that egoism is a watered-down Catholicism, because both say you shouldn't lie and that you'll be rewarded if you behave properly.
phil: We seem to have a lot of terminological questions in this discussion--what is meant by tropes, properties, etc. Some terms might be non-ambiguously defined by the original philosophers. But this is a paper which could benefit from defining a lot more terms up front, rather than assuming we all agree on usage.
phil: I also don't think we should worry whether people are frightened or offended by a term---only if the term is accurate.
agnes: I'm glad I'm not alone to have problems with the terminology - I didn't dare to intervene because I wasn't sure I had understood Bryan correctly. It was only his explanation in Kantian terms that enlightened me.
jamie: Oh, I think I completely misunderstood the term 'Tropes', I thought they were Natural Kinds.
phil: carolyn, i realize you are making the point that the term this time (Kantianism) is not even accurate.
moderator: What I mean, Phil, is that O'ists are often so offended and/or frightened, that they can't see past their emotions to look at the new theory objectively. All they see is the looming horror of Kant, and they shut down. When you hear a philosopher say, "That theory is Kantian" it just means that it has some similarities to another interesting theory. When an O'ist says it, she's generally saying "That theory is flat out wrong, and will probably cause the deaths of millions of people if I don't shut it down immediately." So for us to call ourselves "Kantians" is tantamount to saying to an O'ist, "Our theory is false and evil!"
phil: carolyn, I see your point and agree with it. I guess what I would say is _in those cases_ where a term is offending, but the most accurate, one would need to retain it. I was making a general point, not one about the use of the term Kantian right now.
jamie: I am a little wary of ignoring the difference between the scientifically understood features and the phenomenal experience... as I thought we were trying to figure out what is mind-dependent and what is mind-independent. Should we not do that for the perceptual level as well as the conceptual level?
jamie: Ok. (for now...)
moderator: Thanks, everyone, for participating. As Bryan notes, he'll be available for more discussion after the next session. He and Ted can fight for center stage. Please log in again when you return, and close your sessions now.