The Conditions of Objectivity

The neo-Pragmatic view of the mind seems to have two tenets of why we ascribe mental predicates to certain objects.

1). That, following Dennett, it is simply a vocabulary that sufficiently allows us to predict and control objects of certain kind of complexity. In this vein of thinking there is nothing essential to the “mind”, other than its complexity of behavior that necessitates our attributions of “belief” and “intention”. There are no “actual” beliefs or intentions, in a correspondence sense of language.

2). That it, following Davidson, along with the “principle of charity”, allows us to translate languages, to distinguish certain verbal and physical behaviors as intentional and communicative, and certain others not. Through the assumption that the speaking person is ‘rational’, that the majority of their beliefs are ‘true’ – that is hold together -, we are able to triangulate between those behaviors, our own beliefs and a “shared world”, and produce translation:

As Davidson says:

“If we cannot find a way to interpret the utterances and other behaviour of a creature as revealing a set of beliefs largely consistent and true by our own standards, we have no reason to count that creature as rational, as having beliefs, or as saying anything.”

So neo-Pragmatists see two kinds of, or two reasons for the attribution of mental states to certain objects. One of prediction and control, which really is an act of description, and one of establishing intersubjective translatability, which following the principle of Charity, is really a normative, act of prescription. Our “knowing” of the world, in its objective sense, that is how it “really” is, is reliant upon a “you are like me” projection. Your “sense of things” is close enough to “mine”, that by comparing it to the shared world, I can understand you, and close enough as well, that differences between our views matter. That is, you can enrich my knowledge of the shared world, through your differences, by virtue of our agreement on most other things. In this way, through the triangulation between a speaker, an interpreter and a world, not only does the “world” come to be “known”, communally with greater agreement, but so too does the “self” come to be known, as a “self”, in relation to other selves. What this means is that the measure by which we grant “sameness”, the degree to which we extend the principle of Charity to others – that is allow them to participate in the triangulation that establishes the “world”, conditions the very kind of world we will live in. The “objective” is always the result of a non-objective “prescriptive”.

Dunamis

You are putting “knowing” into a direct relationship to interacting with another language-speaker again?

Isn’t there any kind of knowledge that is not dependent on a personal awareness of another directly?

Would an object we call a tree produce a similiar effect on the optical nerve of another person even had that person never leraned the word “tree” or saw a copy of one in art? I think so. What then are the first objective truths or ‘states’ of consciousness of the world before description and projection. Say, the simple imprint of sound wave data on the ear drum. Do we call the organism one that conceives a reality at that point, or do we wait until we make an analogy of behavior and language when he decides to intend communication?

I just don’t think you are setting the parameters of objective correctly. They are far beyond a meager few million years in which we learned to speak. Some scientists believed that human existed in civilizations long before they were conscious of themself. Like an ant colony. The Cartesian cogito does not apply until one becomes self-aware. At such a state the nature of the “concept” could still be understood as the individuals ability to align itself with the environment, by performing tasks, without self awareness. There were objective truths at that time, there had to be, long before it happened that they could discuss such things.

Are you familiar with Julian Jaynes, I think is his name?

detrop,

Would an object we call a tree produce a similiar effect on the optical nerve of another person even had that person never leraned the word “tree” or saw a copy of one in art? I think so.

I know you think so. But that is because you are locked in your Cartesian Theatre, and imagine that every human being is staring at a movie screen. Yes, if you are talking about the pretty little pattern of shapes that will light up certain nerves in the eye, and not others, but this shape is not “knowing”, nor is it experience. The experience of that stimulation by a human being raised in a cage, and a French-speaking botanist would be fundamentally different. In fact the human being in a cage wouldn’t even distinguish it as an object separate from its field. Come out of the Cartesian Theatre. The movie’s over, the lights are on, and the janitor is trying to sweep up the popcorn under your feet. :slight_smile:

Are you familiar with Julian Jaynes, I think is his name?

Yes. I read his Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bi-Cameral Mind

Dunamis

Do you know of a better theatre?

detrop,

Do you know of a better theatre?

Get out of the theatre. Language does not “reflect” reality. It is a tool for doing things in and through “reality”.

Dunamis

If this is what you have been trying to say since the dog argument, I’m charging you for the tickets.

By the way, if you are interested, our differences lie in how we define “concept.”

“Knowledge” too, but that term is loaded. There is no ‘subject,’ there is no “lightning.” The sound, the flash, the light, what we call it, etc., all just quick moments in a flux. It should appear obvious that its easier to define the “concept” as an attention to something, to however a degree of complexity, without and long before language and knowledge became an aspect of experience. An ameoba has a concept of the host that it is attached to, I suspect.

In fact I’m trying to tone down the expectancy for the definition of “knowledge.” I don’t pay any attention to the exception, that of the human being, but rather to life in general, not those things with language abilties as well.

The only way I can accept your theory, if I even understand it, would be to think that humans suddenly existed equipped with a dictionary and a vocal-chord, at once. Before we began “thinking,” we were each handed a small rock tablet where upon the words “everything is water” was inscribed by a one “Thales.”

detrop,

If this is what you have been trying to say since the dog argument, I’m charging you for the tickets.

This is what I’ve been trying to say.

In fact I’m trying to tone down the expectancy for the definition of “knowledge.”

By toning down the expectancy, you are changing the meaning. If you mean by “knowledge” any and all kind of sensation, then let’s not call it knowledge, let’s call it sensation. What most mean by knowledge is a state of things communicable. What happens is that those that want to make empirical foundations for knowledge take the complexity of understanding in knowledge that is communicable - that is organized and interpreted sensation - and kind of reverse engineer that organization and claim that certain kinds of organization are necessary due to sensation. That is what you are doing by “toning down” knowledge. Instead, I suggest, what people mean by knowledge, that is the “objective sense” in which the world appears to us, plainly, is not a bunch of nerve endings firing their message of “truth”, but a complex organization of those sensations into the conceptual, brought on by intersubjectivity and language use. I do agree that there is communicability of sensation patterns below the threshold of language use, but I do not think that we can call this “objective” in the sense, “as distinct from subjective”. There is no “objective” apart from intersubjectivity. My point is how intersubjectivity is prescribed, determines what appears to be “objectively” so.

As Sellars noted, there is no “ad hoc” way to distinguish between “what is given to the mind”, and “what is added by the mind”.

Dunamis

The irony, my friend. It is you who claims there is more than the firing.

Try as you might, all things said are empirical. To present an alternative is begging the question.

There is a suspicious dualist in my presence but comes in the name of Spinoza.

detrop,

Try as you might, all things said are empirical. To present an alternative is begging the question.

There is no empirical language of the senses, as much as you might fantasize about one, no “this is a true belief because the world empirically justifies it”. Language is the intersubjective organizations of bodily sensations into beliefs. There is no such thing as a belief that exists outside of language, any more than there are sentences that exist outside of language.

There is a suspicious dualist in my presence but comes in the name of Spinoza.

Spinoza was a monist. Mulitiple, irreducible vocabularies does not make for multiple substances.

Dunamis

Yes of course.

How about this. Anything communicable is sensible, and therefore empirical in nature, as it effects by physically impacting something; by being percieved, by effecting a bodies position in space. Any information that can be recieved or expressed is empirical. Language is a series of sounds at different pitches and tones, just as music, or any other sound. The concept, because it starts with this sound, has of course begun at once, but to say that comprehension adds anything to the empirical data is suggesting a different substance. What is concieved of the sound is irrelevent for the fact that there was sound. So, the concept is just another term for a set of physical circumstances and combinations of data.

The tree does fall and make a sound if you are not there to hear it.

For you to even suggest that this isn’t so is to deny the possibility that the question exists, and it wouldn’t even be a classical argument in philosophy.

It works like this. Whatever you make of the sound of the falling tree if you are there to hear it is unique to that setting. If you were not around the area, and someone informed you that a tree had fallen, you couldn’t wonder if it would make a sound, but not because you were not there. Only because it wouldn’t be the same tree or the same conditions regardless. This is a paradox.

Tree at time 1 is not tree at time 2.

That is the only way to beat Berkeley, I imagine. By the simple fact that it would be easily assumed that with death a tree continued to exist…even had you died beside it, is safe enough to conclude that your mind works from the data it gets, and does not make data or sense itself.

The mind is an empirical process and consciousness is an epiphenomenon, a surface result that does not exceed, cannot affect, and is dependent on, physical states in the brain.

detrop,

Anything communicable is sensible, and therefore empirical in nature, as it effects by physically impacting something.

Is the concept “God” sensible? Is the concept “Capitalism” sensible?

The rest of your argument I do not see how it pertains to what we are discussing quite honestly. I will return to the truism, “only a belief can justify a belief”. Empiricists, as they tried to get down to the justifications of belief, beyond beliefs themselves, found themselves paring away all elements of their position, first with Quine’s two dogmas, and then with Quine’s theories of Indeterminancy and Underdetermination, and then lastly with Davidson’s third dogma of scheme/content. In short, there is no language of the senses.

Or as Sellars suggests:

“If a person is directly aware of an item which has categorical status C, then the person is aware of it as having categorical status C”

Dunamis

And anything more is an assumption. No? Sounds like reductionalism to me. Good, clean, and simple.

Absolutely. To even think the words there must be an exchange of neurotransmitter. What is sensible is never at a finished point in the consciousness, it is a last layer of underlying ‘sensations’; electrical pulses through a membrane communicating with billions of individual points, stacking into what will finally become the “concept.”

Bumping your leg on the table and sensing that is inherently no different than thinking a word and sensing your own thought. They differ only in the reflex states they create in the brain, the measured activity present at each time and the difference in combination and placement. It is like a net-work of circuits acting and reacting to external energies. But never can anything other than the exchange of information bits and sensible energies be presumed. Without the electro-chemicle states in the brain I don’t think that “consciousness” can be sustained. I don’t know this, but its a safer bet.

I believe that AI is around the corner, too.

Detrop,

To even think the words there must be an exchange of neurotransmitter.

You confuse the issue of sensible. Are you saying that when you think “God”, the neurotransmitters that are firing in your brain are the same, or correspond to, those that are firing in my brain? Wherever do you get this concept of sensible? For them to be the same concept, corresponding to the same empirical foundation, the empirical sensations must be the same.

I refer you to Davidson’s Anomalous Monism, which only last month you were goo-goo for:

  1. Psychological descriptions can’t be reduced to physiological ones.

  2. The social sciences can’t be reduced to the physical sciences.

iep.utm.edu/m/anom-mon.htm

Dunamis

Hi,

I’m just here for a “understanding check”. Dunamis, let me know if I’m getting you right.

On a savannah plain, there is a person, and there is a tree.

The person looks and notices the tree, that is he filters and singles it out from everything else as a discrete object. Once, he attachs the understanding of it as a “tree”, he is automatically “logging in” to the communal web of all of humanity. Every thought after the recognition of the tree object as a “tree”, the associations, even the word “tree” are learned. The tree only exists in the context of the rest of humanity; the language and other social conditioning that has been passed on to the person.

Without that conditioning, say in a feral child, the tree object exists (or maybe not!, maybe even separating it from the rest of the landscape is conditioning), but does not exist as a “tree”. It matters not that the optic nerves recieve the same information for me or a feral child, the processing of that information, understanding, and establishing “reality” is done in a social (ideological?) context.

So, in a way. Everything we think we are, our identities, thoughts, etc can only exist in a social context because we are dependant on and guided by social instruments which filter all, the most fundamental of these instruments being language.

Dunamis wrote:

Davidson must be a married man. He knows. Women don’t behave in accordance with our standards and as such we cannot consider tham rational or saying anything of real importance.

But nature in her cruelty deemed to make them capable of being necessary in more ways then one. No wonder the world is as it is. You can’t live with them and cannot live without them.

What’s that you say?? What gives me the right to assume my standards and those of the groups I am a part of as somehow being capable of deciding rationality? But…but I have education, I’ve read books and am now sophisticated.

Damn woman, you throw a mean tomato.

anvil.,

Damn, you explain Wittgenstein and Davidson amazingly well.

The only thing is the “communal web of humanity” is not a pre-existing thing, but something more of a potentiality that is created/negotiated language-user by language-user. (I like the metaphor of logging on, because it does communicate something of that “there” but “not there” “medium of communication” thought). That same person who meets some other person making a bunch of sounds, and then pointing to that “tree”, will be assumed to be referencing the “truth” of “tree” in some way. Enough time spent around such a person, and those sounds, by the assumptions of Charity, can eventually be translated in the “truths” of the other person, but once the translation manual has been established, none of the beliefs of either person can be said to be justified, that is “objectively true” simply because of the way the world “is”, but only how it is said/believed to be.

And yes, I do use the word “ideological” in the sense that you suggest here. :slight_smile:

Dunamis

Dunamis,

Would you please explain how you are using the word “charity” as I have never seen it used like that.

thank you dunamis, considering I havent read those philosophers yet ;] They are on the to-do list though. The few philosophical influences I have had though I think are exactly the ones that I need to understand (or at least begin to) your viewpoint.

Between posts I’ve read by you and by TheAlderian about ideology, the connection between humanity and language, and this thread. I’ve come up with a question I would like you to comment on.

Humans came about, and with the invention of language came ideology. In this thread I think you have argued that language and the formation of beliefs (and ideologies) are inextricably tied. Because, for all intents and purposes, everything we think, percieve, etc is filtered by language and those communal beliefs, in essense all we are is are ideology. (You mentioned something very close to the effect in the ideology thread). Our worldview, our judgments, our thoughts and our actions all stem from our ideology (I think you referred to this as a “false consciousness”)

TheAlderian in the ideology thread mentioned how the laws of evolution apply to ideologies as well, that in effect ideologies are alike to organisms and those with the most effective replication methods survive. I.e. christianity and other religions with their “kill other ideologies” view, or hinduism with its “assimilation” strategy. The ideologies that form our identity are no-doubt much more complex and intricate, in fact even the English language is a ideology because its biased emphasis on certain elements. (Or the Eskimo language with its 21 words for snow). Indeed, we cannot even imagine what the Eskimos would need those words for, because it is so alien to our ideology, we almost cannot conceive of it like we cannot concieve of a colorless green, because we ARE our language.

When we are born and brought up in the world, we indoctrinized with a certain ideology automatically with the learning of language, but we are furhter indoctronized with other ideologies (consumerism, capitalism, religion, golden rule, girls like pink, boys dont cry, animals dont have feelings, etc etc etc etc whatever the case is). Over our lives, we reject certain ideologies, we accept others, but we always have an ideology we ascribe to. We cannot escape this, we are always governed by a set of ideas that filter our world, our judgments and lead to our actions. Most of us are unaware of even our own ideologies, we do not question the assumptions on which filter the world, its a matter of habit (or even deeper than habit).

The course of humanity can be seen on the grandest scale, past individuals, past groups, past states as conflicts between ideologies. Indeed, it almost seems as if ideology, a emergent property out of the complex system of human consciousness’ (plural), is what is “really in control”. Are humans simply pawns of ideologies? Are viral ideologies the highest lifeform on earth?

An ending aside: We often think we are so above the viciousness and brutality of evolutionary processes. We have brought technology and morality to the world, we have brought sophistication. And yet the viciousness and brutality of evolution is still seen in the violence of battling ideologies, both on a international war and friendly debate scale.

Anvil,

I agree in principle with all that you have said,

Indeed, it almost seems as if ideology, a emergent property out of the complex system of human consciousness’ (plural), is what is “really in control”. Are humans simply pawns of ideologies? Are viral ideologies the highest lifeform on earth?

I don’t know about “pawns” though, because this is a slanted view of the human being as “not being a pawn” as natural, only to be enslaved by “pawnness”. The “human being” came to be only through its languaged construction, and as such is an expression of much larger forces of organization. The evolutionary model can be taken to be seen as a violent struggle against others for supremacy and continuance, or it can be seen as life seeking higher orders of communication and community, a great fluency of existence, of which “struggle against” has played a part. I prefer to take the latter view, that the evolution of lifeforms, and eventually ideologies, has been a greater and greater move towards connectivity and organization. That when ideologies face each other, much as when speakers who do not know each other’s language face each other, the Principle of Charity is key, the manner in which “sameness” is extended will determine the world as it will appear. There are thresholds of assimilations, speeds and intensities and patterns at which it will not work. I can see the occasions of war and aggression simply the sign that those limits have been exceeded. The key is that no ideology is “right”, no set of beliefs is “right” simply because it reflects “the way the world really is”.

Dunamis

Adl.,

Would you please explain how you are using the word “charity” as I have never seen it used like that.

This Principle of Charity is the one proposed by Davidson, that guides our ability to decipher the communicative behavior of others. It assumes that the other “mind” holds beliefs that are “rational”, “a great number of which are ‘true’”, in otherwords are enough in agreement with mine that translation is possible.

Dunamis