Thursday, April 26, 2007

'Philosophy' at the Uncyclopedia

Here. Awesome ;-{)}!

(Thanks to Teresa for the link.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

How to Respond to Borderline Cases

It seems that Hannah and her wife Sarah may disagree as to whether Homer Simpson is funny, without neither of them being at fault. This is an uncontroversial (enough) case of apparent faultless disagreement. Whether such an appearance of faultless disagreement is to be endorsed—or even whether it could be endorsed—is, of course, a matter of controversy. But that such appearances exist is, I take it, a datum for non-relativists and relativist alike.

Some philosophers seem to think that vagueness should be included: borderline cases provide further cases of apparent faultless disagreement. But this, however, does not seem to be so. Take Jason and his husband Justin, and consider a borderline green towel. Typically, I submit, they would not respond to it by taking a view as to whether the towel is green or not. They would simply lack the judgements that they would naturally express in an ordinary context by asserting ‘The towel is green’ or ‘The towel is nor green’ with its literal meaning: rather, if questioned about it, they would easily converge in something like that ‘it sort of is and sort of isn’t,’ ‘it's greenish,’ etc.—and they would be rational in so doing. But then they would lack the building blocks for the appearance of faultless disagreement clearly present in the other case considered above: the (contrasting) judgements. Hannah and Sarah do typically form polar opinions with respect to issues such as whether Homer Simpson is funny; Jason and Justin typically do not form such verdicts with respect to issues such as whether the towel is green.

So this is in essence why I think that vagueness does not provide further cases of apparent faultless disagreement: with respect to borderline cases, people typically do not respond by taking a view—unlike what is the case in genuine cases of apparent faultless disagreement. I have written a paper trying to provide further considerations in favor of this claim. Comments and objections very welcome!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Disjunctions, Conjunctions, and their Truthmakers, again

I have just learned that my discussion of Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra’s ‘Truthmaking, Entailment, and the Conjunction Thesis’ has been accepted in Mind (on condition that I make a minor change).

The piece originated itself at the blogosphere, and benefited from discussions at The bLOGOS and (in Spanish) at the GAF Blog. Many thanks to Benjamin, Glenda, Ezequiel, Gonzalo, Jiri, and Joan!

Any further suggestions and objections are, as usual, very welcome.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Against Truth-Value Gaps?

I’ve been reading Michael Glanzberg’s ‘Against Truth-Value Gaps’ (link to penultimate version, page references to the published version). I found a lot of interesting stuff there, with much of which I agree—inter alia, that the point of assertion is to convey information, and that thus one should assert something in a context only if that would be (true and thus) true or false, in that that context.

As to the main point, however, I’m not sure I got it. I had my worry at the very first pages, and it was not mitigated in the subsequent fortysomething, so I guess there is probably something very basic I am missing. Any help appreciated.

The main claim of the paper is that

that there are no substantial truth-value gaps. There are some phenomena that appear like gaps, but they are importantly different. There are faux gaps, as I shall call them, but no substantial gaps. In particular, attention to the role of context dependence, and the ways in which utterances of meaningful sentences can fail to express propositions in some contexts, provides a rich theoretical basis for explaining away apparently substantial truth-value gaps as merely faux gaps. (p. 152)

A substantial gap occurs, or would have occurred, when something that is apt to be true or false—including utterances, interpreted sentences paired with context, and propositions—fails to be either. (p.151)

I am a bit uneasy with talk of propositions in this context: too many (subtly but crucially different) things might be meant, so that one has always to make explicit which one one is interested in—which might be held to make the usefulness of the notion at best debatable.

But never mind that, here is the worry: any “faux” gap seems to be a substantial gap, in the envisaged sense. Take a “faux” gap case, where an utterance of a meaningful sentence “fails to express a proposition” in a given context. Thus the utterance or, better, the (interpreted) sentence at the context fails to be true or false. As, admittedly, these are things apt to be true or false—unlike shoes and ships and sealing wax—, this would be (also) a substantial gap.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Rigidity for Predicates and Overgeneralization

What is it for a predicate to be rigid? The following seems to be a plausible straightforward proposal. Inasmuch as rigidity for singular terms concerns sameness of signification across possible worlds, so does rigidity for predicates: a predicate is rigid iff it signifies the same property across the different possible worlds (and is flexible otherwise). This I call the simple proposal about rigidity for predicates. It is arguably suggested by Kripke himself in N&N, and seems to be tacitly assumed in discussions in philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, or metaethics.

However, it has received a number of criticisms in the recent literature. Among them: that it is unduly committed to the view that predicates signify entities like properties (the signification problem), and that it would trivialize the notion, by covering any predicate whatsoever (the trivialization problem).

I have written a paper defending the simple proposal from another objection. Although the objection is not usually formulated sharply, nor clearly distinguished from the trivialization concern, the idea behind it seems to be that the proposal would overgeneralize, by covering predicates for artifactual, social, or evaluative properties, such as ‘is a knife,’ ‘is a bachelor,’ or ‘is funny.’ And this despite the fact about the (relative) “unnaturalness” of the properties signified. Hence I label it the over-generalization problem. Recent proponents of this objection include Schwartz 2002 and Haukioja 2006.

My paper has been conditionally accepted in Synthèse, and I plan to write the final version in the next days. All comments, suggestions, and objections more than welcome ;-{)}!!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

From Boise to SF

The metametaphysics conference in Boise has ended. Although I was not particularly active myself, I’ve really enjoyed it, both in format and content. I really wish people adopted the “pre-read papers” format more often, at least concerning small-medium sized conferences on specific topics. Having the papers in advance, and having much more time devoted to comments and discussion seem to go necessarily for the good of it!

I hope I’ll post more about it, both here and at The bLOGOS. But right now I’ve confirmed that one of the things that a fuller version of my paper should include is a comment—indeed, a complaint—about people in the field often equating analytic with trivial or philosophically nonsubstantive ;-{)}!

More importantly, I was re-reading in the plane Josh Parsons’ very interesting paper against analytic universalism. In my view, this represents a much more serious challenge for the view than those I have already discussed. I really look forward to think more about it as soon as I am back.

Now my first APA!