Friday, November 24, 2006

Colors vs Values

Andrew Howat is using the following quotation as the epigraph to the final chapter of his thesis on response-dependence:

Philosophy has dwelt nearly exclusively on differences between ‘good’ and ‘red’ or ‘yellow’. I have long marvelled at this. For there resides in the combined objectivity and anthropocentricity of colour a striking analogy to illuminate not only the externality that human beings attribute to the properties by whose ascription they evaluate things, people, and actions, but also the way in which the quality by which the thing qualifies as good and the desire for the thing are equals—are, ‘made for one another’ so to speak.

David Wiggins

As Esa Díaz-León has observed, this is in striking sharp contrast with the one opening my thesis on response-dependence:

There is a longstanding attempt to make dispositional theories of value and of colour run in parallel. But the analogy is none too good, and I doubt that it improves our understanding either of colour or of value.

David Lewis


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Necessity of Composition I

I’ve been revisiting Ross Cameron’s paper arguing that principles of composition need not be necessary. (He is not the only one. I hope to post on Josh Parsons’ paper somewhen—hence the ‘I’ in the title.) I think I still have the worry I tried to express at the Arché Modality Seminar and Workshop. Let me try it again here.

Suppose that one thinks, as I am inclined to, that principles of composition—of the sort of: whenever there are some things, there is something that is a sum of them—are necessary if true as the result of being ‘analytical,’ at least in a certain sense (which I won’t pause to explicitly state ;-)).

Ross objects:

“Existence claims are, seemingly, never analytic; so it seems that a conditional whose consequent was an existence claim could be analytic only if the antecedent asserted the existence of the thing in question. But if the sentence ‘If some objects are in conditions C, then there exists something that is composed of those objects’ is informative then the antecedent does not assert the existence of the thing in question (namely, the sum of the objects in conditions C). The sentence is synthetic, then; there is nothing in the concept of certain things meeting certain conditions that there is a fusion of those objects.”

This seems puzzling to me. Consider the following:

Whenever something is a proper part of another, there is something that is part of the latter but not of the former.

I take it that this has a good claim to be necessary if true as a result of analyticity. And it has the relevant considered form: a conditional whose consequent is an existence claim. In a certain sense, such existence is not “asserted” in the antecedent—hence the “informativeness”—; in another sense, it is (“implicitly”) so asserted—hence the analiticity—.

Mutatis mutandis, Ross’ opponent contends, for the envisaged principles of composition.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Are Emoticons Compositional?

For some reason, I was checking an online list of emoticons. With some surprise, I found this, which I had never encountered before:

:-{)} Smile with moustache and beard

This kind of made sense, don’t you think? And, automatically, so they did all of:


Words for RelativismS

I have just come back from participating in the Arché's final Vagueness Workshop. It has been a great funjetlag and loads of killing objections to my paper notwithstanding ;-)!

In two or three occasions there, the issue as to which might be the appropriate taxonomy of contexutalist/relativist positions in recent debates arose, including the issue as to which might be appropriate descriptive labels for the taxons. I’d like to post specifically on the latter here. In some papers I have suggested the following taxonomy, taking as basic the datum of apparent faultless disagreement from Crispin, and (some of) the jargon from Lewis-MacFarlane.

Are appearances to be endorsed?

No → (1) Non-Relativism

Yes → Is the content of the relevant sentence in the different contexts the same?

No → (2) Indexical Contextualism

Yes → Is the index determined by the different contexts the same?

No → (3) Non-Indexical Contextualism

Yes → (4) Radical Relativism

(Couple of quick remarks: Admittedly, an ‘hermeneutic’ view on which the content of sentence depends on the perspective from which it is assessed is set aside. How to locate ‘subject-sensitive invariantism’ is a delicate issue: in my view here might be some versions of the view falling under (2) and some falling under (3)—and perhaps some falling under (1) or (4).)

Regardless of the details, some people might more or less agree with the taxons, and still dispute the labels. Some concerns I have sympathy with:

· Re (1): it is purely negative. In some debates, ‘realist’ might do, and in some debates, ‘(insensitive) invariantism might, but they seem to lack the desirable ‘trans-debate’ generality.

· Re (2)-(3): In some debates, particularly concerning knowledge attributions and epistemic modals, ‘contexualism’ is reserved specifically for (2), which also has in its favor that the relevant expressions need not be, according to (2), strictly speaking indexicals. But this leaves (3) without appropriate label, which I think should ideally convey the shared moderate character of (2) and (3) vis-à-vis (4).

· Re (4): ‘Radical’ is overused in taxonomies, and the view is commonly referred to as ‘Truth Relativism’ or ‘Relativism about Truth.’ True enough, but—unless one keeps in mind a suitable explicit stipulation—these latter labels could be fairly used for any of the relativistic (2), (3) and (4) options: after all, all of them endorse the appearances that none of the judgers are thereby judging something that is not true!

Any views?

(Cross-posted at the Arché Weblog.)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Back in St Andrews

I am going back to my dear Scotland for one week, in order to participate in the Arché's final Vagueness Workshop. Look forward to seeing people there!