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Pragmatism & Representation Round 2 Sydney July 2009.

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1 Pragmatism & Representation Round 2 Sydney July 2009



4 Philosophical (Carnap external) What’s the function served by us working (and well) in these terms (e.g. space, time, causality, substance, self, justice, values,….)? Truth, truth conditions, reception, referents, truth makers, analysis… metaphysics Instrumentalism, expressivism, creation, imagination, utility, fiction, non- cognitivism,projectivism, constructivism… Pragmatism Representationalism

5 Philosophical (Carnap: external) What is the function served by us working in these terms (space, causality, substance, self, justice, values,….?) The world requires those descriptions of us. If we didn’t give them we would be missing things Because it’s healthy/adaptive/useful Pragmatism 1 Represent- ationalism Pragmatism 2 TpTp

6 Satanic forces at work making pragmatism invisible


8 1. Deflationism (both). Can seem to suggest a ‘world without isms’ 2. Hostility to philosophical ‘theory’ (both) 3. Nothing much beyond science & a bit of logic (Quine). Nothing much beyond the everyday (Wittgenstein)

9 I shan’t talk so much about Quine. But the view that ontology is settled by first regimenting a theory and then seeing what are the values of the bound variables - and that settles all decent questions - is certainly a wet blanket here. E.g. “in your best ethics you talk of rights/duties. The you’re ontologically etc.

10 Q. What about the impact of deflationism? Ans. Deflationism implies that where you have assertibility you also can talk of truth, fact, description, representation and the rest. But it does not imply that these are the best terms in which to gain the best picture of what the language game is, or what is the ‘stream of life’ in which it is embedded. Nor did W. think that it did imply this.

11 Q. What about W’s hostility to philosophical explanations? Ans. Wittgenstein may have been hostile to ‘explanation’. But he was not hostile to attempting to get an “ Übersichtliche Darstellung” or perspicuous representation of the working of parts of language. He thought of this as hard to do. (‘We are working on granite’). We can put the Carnapian question in those terms if we prefer.

12 Let us remember that in mathematics we are convinced of grammatical propositions; so the expression, the result, of our being convinced is that we accept a rule. Nothing is more likely than that the verbal expression of the result of a mathematical proof is calculated to delude us with a myth. (Remarks, p. 77, Pt. II, 26).

13 Why do you want always to consider mathematics under the aspect of discovering and not of doing? If must influence us a great deal that in calculating we use the words “correct” and “true” and “false” and the form of statements. (Shaking and nodding one’s head)… There is no doubt at all that in certain language games mathematical propositions play the part of rules of description, as opposed to descriptive propositions. But that is not to say that this contrast does not shade of in all directions. And that in turn is not to say that the contrast is not of the greatest importance. (p. 163 Pt. V, 6)

14 We say: “If you really follow the rule in multiplying, it must come out the same” Now when this is merely the slightly hysterical style of university talk, we have no need to be particularly interested. It is however the expression of an attitude towards the technique of multiplying, which comes out everywhere in our lives. The emphasis of the “must” corresponds only to the inexorability of this attitude, not merely towards the technique of calculating, but also towards innumerable related practices. (Zettel, *299)

15 Q. What about W’s emphasis on intermingling of description and whatever else is on offer? His contextualism? Ans. It need not undermine the insight gained by a pragmatist direction that several functions are in play together. They will need teasing out for a perspicuous representation to be possible.

16 Q. What about the r-f considerations, and the ubiquitous trail of the human serpent? Ans. Doubtless the active mind is always involved in coming to think anything. But we can still draw contrasts: sometimes things to which we literally respond are involved as well; sometimes not.

17 Sometimes the marvellous mental machinery is at the service of tracking the things talked of: isolating them in attention, discerning their boundaries, following their movements, registering their visual or other sensory properties. And Sometimes it ain’t.

18 Q. But if we say this, aren’t we going to reinflate reference and eventually reinflate truth? Ans. Not necessarily. Explanations are not in the first instance conducted in terms of semantic notions. We can see ourselves as deliberately putting ourselves in the way of tracking things, and as being held responsible for doing so, without yet talking of semantics.

19 Q. Wittgenstein’s conception of language was thoroughly social. But isn’t expressivism, for instance, individual rather than social? (A fact about your mind that you somehow make external?) Ans. The pragmatist route, even if called ‘expressivism’ can also be thoroughly social. Insisting, e.g. on a boundary to conduct is a social act. Philippa Foot thought that approving of things required a social status; maybe so. No problem there.

20 Q. W. often shows impatience with anyone who introduces ‘truth’, ‘fact’, etc. as somehow containing the key to, or constraining the key to, the language game. So isn’t it better to see him as a non-contrastive global pragmatist, thinking that representation never does any philosophical work? Ans: But he himself often contrasts ‘describing’ with other things, e.g. laying down a rule, and ‘although the contrast shades off in all directions it is of the utmost importance’

21 The question was: Can a functional story about the place of those assertions with their particular content, be given without drawing upon their referents, values of their bound variables, etc.?

22 Reason for answering “no” in some cases. It is mandatory to accept explanations from inshore waters of science, common sense. Those explanations will themselves make use of the object-language resources

23 E.G. What is (a perspicuous representation of) the function of talk about distance? Getting right the distance objects stand in relation to each other. What is the function of talking about gold/butter/the Sydney harbour bridge… Best explanation is going to mention the very things we appear to talk about. But these explanations do not encourage metaphysics

24 Q. But could we undercut that - see the objects of everyday observations as themselves ‘constructs’, ‘fictions’, mental representations & so forth? Ans. You could try. But that way lies Kant, and the explanatory priority of the inner. You would be walking away from Wittgenstein, Sellars, Rorty, and the better parts of Quine. We have instead to recognize what Robert Kraut calls the “No Exit” problem.

25 Holy S**t Too right A global representationalist A global anti

26 Q. (By Huw) But isn’t this just the old ‘eleatic’ criterion? And haven’t we got beyond that? Ans: (1) Yes! (2) No!

27 But this is not always so. What is the most perspicuous representation of our talking in terms of possible worlds or conditionals or obligations & values or beauty or abstracta? To me it is highly credible that it doesn’t use mention of these things, because doing so does involve metaphysics.

28 Q. How should pragmatism best carry through a semantic program? How far is it allowed to piggy back on insights from classical semantic theory? Q. Is the device of distinguishing explanation from semantic terms just a stalling operation? Can we really inject m.s.d.g. into the explanation of perception based sayings and doings without reinflating reference to them? Ans: Jobs for the Boys and Girls!!

29 Robert Kraut: any explanatory predeliction is itself a posture of the mind or stance! To which my response is a big: YES!

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