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Indexical thought. Frege cases: Hesperus/Phosphorus etc. A rational subject, S, may take different (and possibly conflicting) attitudes towards the judgment.

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Presentation on theme: "Indexical thought. Frege cases: Hesperus/Phosphorus etc. A rational subject, S, may take different (and possibly conflicting) attitudes towards the judgment."— Presentation transcript:

1 Indexical thought

2 Frege cases: Hesperus/Phosphorus etc. A rational subject, S, may take different (and possibly conflicting) attitudes towards the judgment that a given individual is F depending on how that individual is presented. A rational subject, S, may take different (and possibly conflicting) attitudes towards the judgment that a given individual is F depending on how that individual is presented. To account for that sort of situation, Frege posited ‘modes of presentation’ in addition to the reference of linguistic expressions. To account for that sort of situation, Frege posited ‘modes of presentation’ in addition to the reference of linguistic expressions.

3 Frege’s constraint on ‘modes of presentation’ If a rational subject can think of some object a both that it is F and that it is not F, that means that there are two distinct modes of presentation under which the subject thinks of a. Modes of presentation are whatever is needed, in addition to reference, to account for the subject’s differential behaviour in such situations.

4 Indexical modes of presentation They are a special case. First person vs third person modes of presentation: My pants are on fire His pants are on fire

5 Modes of presentation: two options Semantic option : Modes of presentation are a level of content additional to reference. (Fregean ‘senses’ etc.) Syntactic option : Modes of presentation are not an additional level of content. They are ‘concepts’ qua vehicles of content. (Fodor, Sainsbury & Tye, etc.)

6 Arguments for the syntactic option Millianism: Reference is all there is to content. No ‘senses’. Mates’s cases : There being two different words (eg ‘psychiatrist’/‘alienist’, or ‘Greek’/‘Hellene’) is sufficient to make Frege cases possible. Even if there is a single word (‘Paderewski’) in the language, Frege cases will be possible if the subject associates distinct ‘mental files’ with it.

7 Numerically distinct files The two ‘Paderewski’ files contain distinct bodies of information (about Paderewski the musician and Paderewski the politician respectively). But two distinct mental files may also contain the same information. There being two distinct mental files is sufficient to make it rational for the subject to contemplate the possibility that one object is F while the other (perhaps) isn’t.

8 Preliminary conclusion Modes of presentation = mental files. On the syntactic construal, mental files are mental particulars. They are not to be equated to the body of information in the file.

9 The reference of mental files Mental files serve to store information about objects (so they are about objects and ‘refer’). Mental files serve to store information about objects (so they are about objects and ‘refer’). The reference of the file is not determined by information in the file but through relations to entities in the environment in which the file fulfills its function. The reference of the file is not determined by information in the file but through relations to entities in the environment in which the file fulfills its function.

10 ER relations The relations on which mental files are based, and which determine their reference, are epistemically rewarding relations. They enable the subject to gain information from the objects to which he stands in these relations. The function of the file is to store information from these entities — information that is made available through the relations in question.

11 An example: demonstrative files The subject stands in a certain relation to some object he is perceptually attending to. In virtue of that relation, the subject can gain (perceptual) information about the object. The demonstrative file ‘that F’ serves as repository for information gained in that way.

12 Another example: the ‘self’ file In virtue of being a certain individual, I am in a position to gain information concerning that individual in all sorts of ways in which I can gain information about no one else, e.g. through proprioception and kinaesthesis. In virtue of being a certain individual, I am in a position to gain information concerning that individual in all sorts of ways in which I can gain information about no one else, e.g. through proprioception and kinaesthesis. The mental file self serves as repository for information gained in this way (Perry). The mental file self serves as repository for information gained in this way (Perry).

13 Mental files and the role/content distinction Different types of file exploit different types of contextual relation. Different types of file exploit different types of contextual relation. The type of a file corresponds to its function or role: exploiting a given ER relation. The type of a file corresponds to its function or role: exploiting a given ER relation. This shows that there are two levels of content after all: referential content (a property of the file-token) and functional role (a property of the file-type). This shows that there are two levels of content after all: referential content (a property of the file-token) and functional role (a property of the file-type).

14 Two levels of content: the Perry/Kaplan approach If you and I both think ‘I am tired’, there is a sense in which we think the same thing, and another sense in which we think different things. It would be misleading to say that the first level (the level at which we think the same thing) is ‘purely syntactic’ ; for what characterizes that level is the function or role of the files we deploy in our respective thoughts. The function or role stays constant : we both deploy a SELF file.

15 ‘My pants are on fire’/’His pants are on fire’ There is a sense in which we think the same thing, and another sense in which we think different things. Same truth-conditional content, but different thoughts, with different behavioral effects. What characterizes the difference is, once again, the function or role of the files that are deployed in the respective thoughts: a SELF file or a demonstrative file.

16 Summing up Modes of presentation are mental files, construed as mental particulars. They are not senses, but referential vehicles. Still, we must distinguish two levels of content, as in Frege’s framework. The two levels we need correspond to Kaplan’s character/content distinction: qua tokens mental files refer, but qua type they possess a ‘character’ corresponding to their role or function.

17 The indexical model for language expression type encodes expression token reference contextual relation

18 The indexical model for thought mental file type has the function of storing information derived through mental filereference token of file contextual relation

19 Alternative approaches Can we account for the cognitive significance of indexical thoughts without appealing to mental files and the vehicle/content distinction ? Can we do it purely in terms of content ? Both the centered world framework and the token-reflexive framework can be seen as attempts to do that.

20 Alternative approaches (1) Centered contents Instead of introducing the vehicles into the picture and endowing them with functional significance, Lewis proposes to make the contents themselves more fine-grained by characterizing them as sets of centered possible worlds rather than as sets of possible worlds tout court. Centering the possible worlds on an individual at a time gives us the subjective perspective which is the hallmark of indexical thought.

21 Centered contents Centered contents are not classical propositions (which only require a possible world to determine a truth-value), but relativized propositions. They determine a truth-value only when evaluated with respect to an appropriate index, containing the thinking subject and the time of thought in addition to the world in which the thought occurs. The content is a property of thinker-time pairs, not a classical proposition; and it is evaluated ‘at’ the individual/time of the index.

22 ‘That object is round’ The content is the set of all possible worlds that are centered on an individual who is seeing a round object. That is the property of seeing an object that is round. The subject who judges ‘that object is round’ self-ascribes that property (‘force’ component). The self-ascription is true iff the subject of thought is actually seeing a round object at the time of thinking.

23 Lewisian Descriptivism The objects that are represented in the content of the thought (e.g. the round object) are represented descriptively. They are described as bearing such and such relations to the ‘center’, i.e. to the subject of thought (at the time of thinking). The acquaintance relations are ‘internalized’ and reflected into the content of one’s thought.

24 Centered contents and Descriptivism If I see something, I think of it descriptively as ‘what I see’ – the object that bears a certain perceptual relation to me. (Searle, Jackson...) In general, the objects we are acquainted with are represented descriptively as bearing such and such acquaintance relations to the subject.

25 The limits of Lewisian Descriptivism A qualification: The description ‘what I see’ is not fully appropriate. In ‘what I see’, there is an occurrence of the first person. It corresponds to the subject in the contextual index, and the subject is not represented in the content : it is externalized and directly provided by the context. The subject is not represented but, qua subject of the thought episode, it is involved pragmatically in the process of ‘self-ascription’ through which Lewis characterizes the attitudinal mode.

26 The Lewisian asymmetry Those objects of thought that belong to the contextual index are treated completely differently than the objects of thought that are represented in the content of the thought. The objects of thought in the content are represented descriptively as bearing such and such relations to the ‘center’. In contrast, the entities in the contextual index are ‘externalized’ and directly provided by the context.

27 Problems with the view I deplore the descriptivist construal of the content of thought and the internalization of acquaintance relations. I also deplore the asymmetry and its solipsistic/idealistic flavour. (As Chisholm puts it, ‘There is one sense in which the believer can be said to be the object of his believing’.)

28 Multiple anchors In the Lewis-Chisholm framework, everything is thought of descriptively, except for a single element which is externalized and serves as universal anchor for all the content. Why not appeal instead to multiple anchors, corresponding to all the acquaintance relations in which we stand to objects of thought? Multiple anchors are precisely what the mental file framework gives us, thus doing away with both the asymmetry and Descriptivism.

29 Multiple anchors in the centred world framework Multiple anchoring can be achieved also in the centred world framework by putting sequences of objects in the contextual index (Ninan’s ‘sequenced worlds’) If we do that, however, we have to introduce modes of presentation (mental files) into the picture. We lose the benefit of Lewis’s successful appeal to the attitudinal mode to capture the first person perspective.

30 Sequenced worlds: the mode of presentation problem If the objects of thought are fed into the contextual index, what will determine how the objects in question are thought of ? The descriptivist packs the modes of presentation into the content, but if we don’t do that, we need some other way of pairing the objects with the right modes of presentation.

31 The attitudinal mode and its role in the Lewis framework In Lewis’s original framework, there is a (nondescriptivist) way of pairing the subject in the contextual index with the right mode of presentation (the ‘self’ mode of presentation). An attitudinal state is analysed into content and mode. The content, for Lewis, is a property. The belief mode itself is analysed by saying that to believe a content (analysed as a property) is for the subject of thought to ‘self-ascribe’ that property.

32 What is it to ‘self-ascribe’ a property? It is not just to ascribe that property to oneself. There are different ways in which one can ascribe a given property to oneself, corresponding to different modes of presentation of oneself. The thinker can think of himself that he is tired, when seeing himself, looking tired, in the mirror (without realizing that he is looking at himself). Or he can think that he is tired on the grounds that he feels tired. Only in the latter case does Lewis analyse the content of the thought as the property of being tired, which the subject ‘self-ascribes’.

33 What is it to ‘self-ascribe’ a property? There is no possibility of ‘self-ascribing’ a property under a 3rd person mode of presentation of oneself (say, as the man seen in the mirror). It is the attitudinal act of ‘self-ascription’ itself which determines a particular mode of presentation of the subject to whom a property is ascribed. In other words, the first personal mode of presentation is built into the self-ascriptive relation.

34 What happens when we enrich the contextual index by feeding it a sequence of objects? Each object in the sequence can be thought of under a number of distinct modes of presentation. So we need a way of pairing the objects with the appropriate modes of presentation. But we can’t use the Lewis trick. There is a single self-ascriptive mode. On that mode we can base a special mode of presentation in Lewis’s original framework because a single individual occupies the center, and it is that individual that we need to pair with the right mode of presentation to avoid mirror-type counterexamples.

35 What happens when we enrich the contextual index by feeding it a sequence of objects? When we multiply the individuals in the contextual index, what we need is not a single mode of presentation, but a sequence of modes of presentation corresponding to the sequence of objects. Appealing to the attitudinal mode is of no use here! Conclusion: once we revise the framework so as to get rid of the asymmetry, we can no longer account for cognitive significance purely in terms of content. We need to add modes of presentation.

36 Alternative approaches (2) Reflexive contents The token-reflexive framework (Searle, Perry, Garcia-Carpintero, Higginbotham) also appeals to a special sort of truth-conditional content, in order to deal with indexical thought.

37 Alternative approaches (2) Reflexive contents Objects are thought of as bearing certain relations not to the subject at the time of thinking but to the occurrence of the thought in which they are represented. Each thought or utterance is therefore ascribed a reflexive content that is about that thought or utterance itself. For example, an occurrence u of ‘I am tired’ in speech or thought means something like ‘the utterer/thinker of u is tired at the time of u in the world of u’.

38 A problem for Reflexivism If I say or think ‘I am tired’, and this is analysed as ‘the utterer/thinker of u is tired at the time of u in the world of u’, then I have referred to myself under the descriptive-relational mode of presentation ‘the utterer/thinker of u’. Every object of thought is referred to under such a descriptive-relational mode of presentation which exploits the object’s relation to u. But what about u itself ? Under which mode of presentation is it referred to ?

39 ‘This very occurrence’ One option for the reflexivist is to say that u is thought of as ‘this occurrence’, where ‘this’ is understood reflexively (‘this very…’) But such a reflexive mode of presentation cannot itself be given a descriptive-relational analysis. If ‘this occurrence’ were analysed as ‘the occurrence that is identical to this’, we would be using the analysandum, namely the reflexive ‘this’, in the analysans. If it were analysed as ‘the occurrence that is identical to u’, we would be back to where we started and would still be in need of a mode of presentation for u.

40 An alternative: Super-direct reference Reminiscent of Russell’s strong notion of acquaintance (with ourselves and our sense data). In super-direct reference, there is no mode of presentation. The object itself is directly recruited as a thought constituent. This of course cannot be done with many objects, but with mental occurrences arguably it can.

41 Super-direct reference Super-direct reference is supposed to be ‘transparent’ (in contrast to ordinary direct reference): under super-direct reference, no Frege cases are possible. The idea of super-direct reference tends to surface in discussions of phenomenal concepts. See e.g. Chalmers’s statement that, in the phenomenal case, ‘the referent of the concept is somehow present inside the concept’s sense in a way that is much stronger than in the usual case of direct reference’ (Chalmers 2003).

42 Reflexivism in Lewisian clothes This idea can be couched in Lewis’s framework, by externalizing the occurrence u and letting it be directly provided by the context. Everything is then described relative to u, but u itself is given, it is not represented. In this framework as in Lewis’s: (i) acquaintance relations are internalized : relational descriptions provide the modes of presentation under which objects are thought of. (ii) there is an exception : the occurrence in terms of which everything (else) is descriptively characterized!

43 Reflexivism in Lewisian clothes On this mixture of the two frameworks (centered worlds and reflexivism): The content of a mental occurrence is a property of occurrences. That content is evaluated with respect to a contextual index containing the occurrence itself.

44 Reflexivism in Lewisian clothes To judge something by assertively tokening a certain representation is to ascribe to the token the property that is its content. Here reflexivity is guaranteed by the pragmatic architecture of the act of judgment. When you think ‘I am tired’, the content of the thought is the property an occurrence has just in case the thinker of that occurrence is tired at the time of the occurrence in the world of the occurrence. To think the thought (or to think it assertively) is to ascribe that property to the current occurrence u you are producing.

45 Problems with the view (the same as for the Lewis picture) Descriptivism: Everything is thought of descriptively, except for a single element which is externalized and serves as universal anchor for all the content. Dramatic asymmetry between different objects of thought, i.e. between the universal anchor and the rest, motivated by some kind of extreme Cartesian picture. (The mind’s transparent access to itself serves as the foundation for all our knowledge.)

46 My picture Objects are thought of (either descriptively or) under modes of presentation which are mental files. All objects -- so no asymmetry! Mental files are based on acquaintance relations, but to think of an object through a mental file you don’t have to think of the relation on which the file is based. No descriptivism!

47 Attunement (Perry) Objection: Acquaintance relations are not external to the mind. We we are ‘attuned’ to the relations which determine what we’re thinking about. Yes but: ‘there is a difference between being able to think of a thing or person in virtue of some role it plays in one’s life, and being able to articulate that role in thought or speech and think of it as the thing or person playing that role in one’s life’ (Perry 1997)

48 Reflexivism without Descriptivism To protect Reflexivism from the charge of Descriptivism, one can introduce (as Perry actually does) a multi-level framework, with the reflexive content occurring at one level and the referential content at another. To protect Reflexivism from the charge of Descriptivism, one can introduce (as Perry actually does) a multi-level framework, with the reflexive content occurring at one level and the referential content at another. Then one can say that the reflexive content is not represented even though the ‘attunement’ relation holds. Then one can say that the reflexive content is not represented even though the ‘attunement’ relation holds.

49 Getting rid of Descriptivism The recipe: go two-dimensional distinguish between two distinct ‘grasping’ relations. Attunement counts as the grasping relation appropriate to reflexive content (vs referential content)

50 Attunement again ‘Attunement to the relation that our self-notions have to ourselves, or our perceptions have to the object they are of, does not require belief or thought about the relation ; it requires know-how, not knowledge that’ (Perry 2012 : 99). It’s a matter of function or role. - Function of role of what? - How can we answer that question without bringing the vehicles into the picture? (Indeed, Perry himself appeals to mental files: they are ultima- tely the tokens in his token-reflexive framework.)

51 Conclusion No clear alternative to the mental file No clear alternative to the mental file framework.


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