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Causal Theories. RECAP Kripke’s Picture “Someone, let’s say, a baby, is born; his parents call him by a certain name. They talk about him to their friends,

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Presentation on theme: "Causal Theories. RECAP Kripke’s Picture “Someone, let’s say, a baby, is born; his parents call him by a certain name. They talk about him to their friends,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Causal Theories

2 RECAP

3 Kripke’s Picture “Someone, let’s say, a baby, is born; his parents call him by a certain name. They talk about him to their friends, other people meet him. Through various sorts of talk the name is spread from link to link as if by a chain…”

4 Kripke’s Picture “A speaker who is on the far end of this chain, who has heard about, say Richard Feynman, in the market place or elsewhere, may be referring to Richard Feynman even though he can’t remember from whom he first heard of Feynman or from whom he ever heard of Feynman.”

5 Kripke’s Picture “A rough statement of a theory might be the following: An initial ‘baptism’ takes place. Here the object may be named by ostension, or the reference of the name may be fixed by a description…”

6 Kripke’s Picture “When the name is ‘passed from link to link’, the receiver of the name must, I think, intend when he learns it to use it with the same reference as the man from whom he heard it.”

7 The Causal-Historical Theory Let’s call that baby ‘Feynman’ Feynman

8 The Causal-Historical Theory Let’s call that baby ‘Feynman’ Feynman Historical Chain of Transmission

9 The Causal-Historical Theory Denotation Feynman

10 No Connotations The causal-historical theory, unlike the other theories we’ve considered so far, does not use a connotation (idea, experience, definition) to determine the denotation. Denotations are determined by non-mental facts.

11 Natural Kinds Kripke and another philosopher Hilary Putnam wanted to generalize what was true of names to “natural kind terms” (a phrase introduced by Quine).

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13 The Causal-Historical Theory Let’s call that thing a “tiger.” TIGER

14 THE EPISTEMIC AND MODAL ARGUMENTS

15 Definitional Truths We know “definitional” truths simply by knowing the meanings of the words. We know them with certainty.

16 Example “Boars are male” is a definitional truth. “boar” just means male pig. Anyone who knows what “boar” means knows that “boars are male” is true.

17 Descriptivism The descriptivist position that Kripke argued against held that the meaning of a name was a definition.

18 Descriptivism So, for example, “Aristotle” might mean “the last great philosopher of antiquity.”

19 The Epistemic Argument However, it still seems as though you don’t have the same sort of epistemic access to “Aristotle was a philosopher” as to other clearer cases of definitional truths like “boars are male.”

20 The Epistemic Argument You don’t know for sure that Aristotle was the a philosopher. It could turn out false. Maybe Aristotle was a farmer and philosophical writings were falsely attributed to him. Maybe Aristotle’s writings were medieval forgeries.

21 The Epistemic Argument Premise 1: If “Aristotle” means the last great philosopher of antiquity, then anyone who knows what “Aristotle” means should know with certainty that Aristotle was the last great philosopher of antiquity. Premise 2: We don’t know with certainty that Aristotle was the last great philosopher of antiquity.

22 The Epistemic Argument Conclusion: “Aristotle” does not mean the last great philosopher of antiquity. Similar reasoning works for any proposed definition of “Aristotle.”

23 The Modal Argument Premise 1: If “Aristotle” means the last great philosopher of antiquity, then any true sentence containing the word “Aristotle” will still be true if you replace “Aristotle” with “the last great philosopher of antiquity.”

24 Modal Properties Some things could not possibly have gone differently. These things are necessary. Some things did not happen, but could have. These things are merely possible.

25 The Modal Argument FALSE: If things had gone differently, Aristotle might not have been Aristotle. TRUE: If things had gone differently, Aristotle might not have been the last great philosopher of antiquity.

26 The Modal Argument Conclusion: “Aristotle” does not mean the last great philosopher of antiquity. Similar reasoning works for any proposed definition of “Aristotle.”

27 CHALLENGES

28 Huge Literature There’s been an enormous literature on Kripke and Putnam (and I should mention Donnellan). I can’t explain all of the objections, but I’ll mention a few classic ones, and a recent challenge from Machery, Mallon, Nichols & Stich.

29 The Story of Madagascar Let’s call that place ‘Mogadishu’ MadagascarMadagasceir Madagascu Madagishu

30 C.H. Theory Predicts Let’s call that place ‘Mogadishu’ MadagascarMadagasceir Madagascu Madagishu Denotation

31 C.H. Theory Predicts Let’s call that place ‘Mogadishu’ MadagascarMadagasceir Madagascu Madagishu Denotation Wrong!!!

32 Real Denotation Let’s call that place ‘Mogadishu’ MadagascarMadagasceir Madagascu Madagishu Denotation

33 Madagascar The “Madagascar” case illustrates a general point: the Causal-Historical Theory cannot account for unintentional meaning change.

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35 Gareth Saul

36 Gareth

37 Twins Switched at Birth Now imagine it’s 73 years later and we’ve been calling one man “Saul” for years, even though (unknown to us) he was baptized “Gareth.” Saul

38 Twins Switched at Birth TRUE or FALSE: Saul is wearing a hat. Saul

39 The Causal-Historical Theory Let’s call that stuff “jade.” JADE

40 Jade There are two distinct minerals called ‘jade’: jadeite and nephrite, but this wasn’t discovered until 1863 by Alexis Damour. Since jade is not a natural kind, the Causal- Historical Theory predicts that there is nothing that “jade” means.

41 Machery, Mallon, Nichols & Stich In their highly influential 2004 paper “Semantics, Cross-Cultural Style,” MMNS claim to uncover evidence that while Westerners have intuitions that accord with Kripke and Putnam (that is for causal-historical theories and against descriptivism), East Asians have (on average) more descriptivist intuitions. For example, they think in the Twin Earth case, XYZ is water. According to MMNS!

42 MMNS I am personally weary of the methodology, and I find it a little bit silly to think that anyone, East Asian or not, thinks that Americans who only believe about Neil Armstrong that he was the first man in space, speak truly when they say “Neil Armstrong was the first man in space.” [Descriptivist says TRUE because Yuri Gagarin satisfies description, hence “Neal Armstrong” means Yuri Gagarin, and it’s true that Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space!]

43 MMNS Still, this is another important reminder that the subjects of philosophy discussion cannot always be resolved by philosophers (at least, philosophers who don’t have labs and test subjects). Sometimes philosophical questions are empirical, and can’t be solved solely through debate.


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