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[Wittrs] Wittgenstein and Philosophy's Method [message #1700] Wed, 14 October 2009 10:18 Go to next message
SWMirsky is currently offline  SWMirsky
Messages: 188
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member

Recently Neil raised the question of whether philosophy is worth much and,
by implication, just what it really is. At one point he suggested I was
interested in only giving circular answers and, at another, that what I was
trying to say about things like what we mean by "consciousness" was
equivalent to arguing about the number of angels we could fit on the head of a pin!
In light of one of the avowed aim of this list, to discuss issues
philosophically in the Wittgensteinian way, I thought this posed an interesting
problem for us, both because there seem to be a number of competing ideas of
what Wittgensteinian-inspired philosophy is and because there are folks
posting who, it seems to me, have a somewhat old fashioned idea of what
philosophy is.

Classical western philosophy has largely had to do with using reason to
achieve a better understanding of the world around us. Even the Anglo
Empiricist tradition, which came to emphasize the importance of information gained
through experience, rather than merely hoping to reason things out from
indubitable first premises, has relied on the importance of reason, of
argument. By this method one is presumed to get at truths, i.e., by using the
rules of logical reasoning to draw proper conclusions about the stuff we learn
in the world. From the Rationalist-Idealist tradition which developed on
the European continent to the Anglo-American tradition rooted in experience
that came to be focused on analysis (using reason to take apart and thereby
better understand claims based on empirical inputs), argument has been
primary.

Wittgenstein, of course, who began his career in philosophy in the shadow
of Anglo-Empricists like Russell, initially came to philosophy through his
early exposure to the Rationalist-Idealist tradition that developed in
Germany after Kant. He was a great admirer, in fact, of the German Idealist
Arthur _Schopenhauer_
( http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&ei=g8PTSuitDYfk8QbMl9z0CQ& amp;sa=X&oi=spell&resnum=0&ct=result&cd=1&ved=0CBYQBSgA&am p;q=Schopenhau
er&spell=1) (_http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/schopenhauer/_
(http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/schopenhauer/) ) in his youth. But an interest in
logic apparently led him first to Gottlob Frege
(_http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/frege/_ (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/frege/) ) and then, on
the recommendation of Frege (if Brian McGuinness' speculation is to be
believed) to Bertrand Russell the well known (and ultimately long lived)
British logician (_http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/russell/_
(http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/russell/) ) who was, if I remember right, a godson of
English philosopher and logician John Stuart Mill. Russell had been a student of
the British Idealist F. H. Bradley
(_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._H._Bradley_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._H._Bradley) ) and had ultimately
led the intellectual rebellion, with G. E. Moore
(_http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moore/_ (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moore/) ), against
Bradley's German influenced brand of thought. Where Bradley, with the German
Idealists, insisted on speaking of the Absolute (conceived as a grand unity of
all existents, sort of like Cayuse's "All"), Russell and Moore argued for a
kind of particularism that became, in time, the logical atomism that
Russell championed in his post Principia Mathematica years.

Thus, Wittgenstein entered the philosophical tradition through the portal
of hardcore logic and commitment to the real world of empiricism. But
Wittgenstein's continental exposure led him, even in his earliest days, to a
kind of Rationalist approach which is evident in The Tractatus
(_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tractatus_Logico-Philosophicus_
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tractatus_Logico-Philosophicus) ), the only book he ever published in his
lifetime. His Philosophical Investigations
(_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_Investigations_
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_Investigations) ), published while still unfinished after his death moves away
from the work of his younger years (though this is plainly a matter of
some dispute as we have seen in discussions on this list). The important
thing, though, is that Wittgenstein in his later period led a movement away from
traditional philosophy's emphasis on logic and the search for an ideal
language in which to frame statements most clearly and with maximum utility
for the scientific project (the avowed aim of Russell and Moore).

In the wake of the later Wittgenstein, a new way of doing philosophy took
hold, the so-called linguistic turn. Why is this interesting or even
important? Because as Sean notes, it does change the way we do philosophy by
taking us (on the view of some of us at least) to the heart of the matter.
Philosophy as far back as Socrates was seen to be about words and what kind of
things we were prepared to say and what we meant by them. Even the Eastern
philosophical tradition (more religious and mystical on balance) has
understood the importance of words. I'm thinking especially of a book like the
Platform Sutra which emphasizes an exploration of the categories of our
thought and makes much of exploding the traditional categories to enable us to
learn to think in new ways.

The early Wittgenstein, while building his metaphysical picture of
language and the world along the lines of Russell's project of developing an ideal
language, showed the gaps and limits of language itself and found that
what was really important might actually lie outside any effort at an ideal
language (something his early admirers among the Vienna Circle Logical
Positivists seem to have missed). That is, an ideal language would finally be
seen to be too limiting rather than liberating as had been supposed by Russell
and others. Later on Wittgenstein was to move definitively away from their
emphasis on an ideal language precisely because of this realization (on my
view, anyway) that his efforts in the Tractatus were essentially
wrongheaded (something he acknowledged himself in the foreword to the Philosophical
Investigations).

The late Wittgenstein redirected us to language itself and it is here, it
seems to me, that Neil has suggested philosophy gets us nowhere. In
response to Neil's concerns that philosophy could add nothing empirical and that,
if it couldn't, it must be about nothing but tautologies, I suggested we
consider Wittgenstein's point that philosophy is not about adding new
information but about showing us things we already know, things that are really
not controversial when you think about them and thus don't require proof in
the classical way philosophers have tended to argue in order to prove their
contentions. If we but think about the examples Wittgenstein gives, we can
see the points he makes concerning them. And in doing that he redirects our
thinking to still larger points, to newer or, at least, clearer ways of
thinking about the things we already know. His emphasis is on seeing old
things in new ways, enhancing understanding by gaining insight and
illumination, not by arguing via a structure of premises and conclusions.

Is this a meaningless approach to philosophy? Is it tautologous? Is it
empirical or even anti-empirical? As I suggested to Neil, it's grounded in
reality in a way that mere rational arguments cannot be because it involves
considering the ways we actually speak and behave in an effort to use these
instances to inform our philosophical understandings. Sean, for his part,
has tended to emphasize the word usage aspect of this and I think Kirby
pretty much seconds that. But is that a fair rendering of the Wittgensteinian
approach? Is it really just about how we talk and nothing more? Do all
disputes really just devolve to arguments about words and getting the grammar of
usage right?

I have argued here that there is plenty of room to go deeper, that
discussing consciousness is not JUST about how we use the word "consciousness" and
other associated terms, for instance, though it is certainly that, too. I
have suggested that such issues are more than about the coining of some new
usages to cover new circumstances (or otherwise previously unnoticed
circumstances). Speaking about consciousness is more than coming up with a new
descriptive term to cover cases like those of a hypothetical automated man
with a working artificial brain (capable of roughly equivalent performance
with our own brains).

I have suggested that, in fact, it would be perfectly appropriate to call
such a creature "conscious" if it had certain capacities we have (though
defining those capacities may still be an open question itself at this stage)
and that talk about consciousness can be meaningful because the word
"consciousness" has a real referent (even if we may want to argue about it) and
that the value of our words (and of exploring their usages) lies, in the
end, in what they tell us about the world we live in. This, I think, goes
beyond mere wordplay which is why those who criticize Wittgenstein's reliance
on linguistic analysis as facile get him wrong (and why an overemphasis on
words and grammar in Wittgenstein may be misleading -- indeed, linguistic
analysis as a philosophical tradition has not shown the staying power that
Wittgenstein's work, itself, has).

In the end I think it's pretty clear that there are different views on
this list as to what Wittgenstein's work says about modern philosophy. But at
the least, I would suggest, it is not, as Neil seems to suggest, just about
tautologies or ultimately doomed to be divorced from real facts and real
activities in the world just because it is manifestly not science.

SWM


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[Wittrs] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1703 is a reply to message #1700] Wed, 14 October 2009 11:58 Go to previous messageGo to next message
jrstern is currently offline  jrstern
Messages: 159
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member
--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, SWMirsky@... wrote:
>...
> In the end I think it's pretty clear that there are different
> views on this list as to what Wittgenstein's work says about modern
> philosophy. But at the least, I would suggest, it is not, as Neil
> seems to suggest, just about tautologies or ultimately doomed to be
> divorced from real facts and real activities in the world just
> because it is manifestly not science.

Well, y'know, I've been having some thoughts along these lines.

I've only sampled some of the ongoing threads here, but it's Sean's
long, therapeutic Wittgensteinian essays that make me to think.

Some of the readers here are familiar with software development, and
over the last ten years or so there's been one variety of software
development process called "extreme programming", often abbreviated
XP. The "extreme" part of XP is the idea that programming is about
the code, the whole code, and nothing but the code. Sometimes the
extremity is tempered by some of the other artifacts and activities
of software development as done in other styles, that are other than
the pure code. But my point here is that the full-throttle
Wittgenstein as Sean demonstrates it strikes me as an "extreme
Wittgenstein", which if anyone *likes* it as an idea could be
abbreviated XW.

I have some reservations about XW, and at the very least, it's not
what I am interested in. My interest (often stated here) is the
linguistic turn (which term associates with the early Wittgenstein,
I believe, as well as the later), and the direction in which Turing
took that. Insofar as there is any distance between Wittgenstein
and Turing after that, I tend to go with Turing. The entire edifice
of modern computation is an offshoot and extension of the linguistic
turn, in my humble opinion - but NOT of XW.

Now, apparently Karl Popper had some criticisms of Wittgenstein,
along the lines of Wittgenstein being all about dissolving arguments,
but failing to engage in answering questions about the world other
than linguistic/grammatical problems. I don't know exactly what
Popper has said about Wittgenstein, other than this general view.
But something like this may be involved in what you (Stuart) and
Neil are disagreeing about regarding "philosophy", especially
Wittgensteinian philosophy.

Now, I suppose that there is, in accepting the linguistic turn, this
very threat inherent ex hypothesi. If of those things we cannot
speak we must remain silent, are we, out of the box, giving up the
idea that we can talk about things? Or, is that what W, or XW, is
trying to tell us? Well, maybe those latter. Maybe W does tell us
that our words are only our words, and per Kirby's very interesting
recent posts, that things have grammars, and we may talk about those
grammars, and I suppose thusly talk about things, within our
linguistic capabilities.

Why would this not satisfy Popper?

But more importantly to me, what *about* me?

Well, the Hacker version of Wittgenstein, if I understand correctly,
is that the linguistic turn not make ontological commitments. The
Kirbyian grammar of things, which I believe is pretty close to Sean's
XW, would seem to be in some conflict with that.

But finally, here's my point about it, which I will toss out rather
undeveloped at the end of this lengthy screed. I like the Hacker
version, but any such limitations are axiomatic, not really argued
for. How does one *argue* that we have grammars, and not facts?
And is it in any case kosher to argue that these grammars are of
things in the world, WITHOUT VIOLATING the very axiom(s) that must
underlie any acceptance of a linguistic turn? In other words, if
Wittgenstein has us accept a linguistic turn from the start, any
linguistic claim that we may not - escape the linguistic turn! - is
itself a claim outside the power of the linguistic turn to express.

That would leave philosophy nicely removed from the world, as Neil
argues, and as many academic philosophers approve.

I rather prefer there be some connection, which is more along the
lines of Stuart.

Josh




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[Wittrs] Re: [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1704 is a reply to message #1703] Wed, 14 October 2009 13:14 Go to previous messageGo to next message
kirby urner is currently offline  kirby urner
Messages: 349
Registered: August 2009
Location: Portland, Oregon
Senior Member
I just read the long synopsis by SWM and the follow-up by Josh.

Per my own autobio, I was looking at psychoanalysis as my favorite
literature bar none starting as early as middle school, with
international relations a runner up (I was growing up in various
countries, in Europe and Asia).

When I got into philosophy more (at Princeton, Rorty my thesis
adviser), the challenge was more one of co-existence i.e. how could
all these disparate ways of programming one's mind co-exist?

Was it really a fight to the death such that some one true rational
pattern of thought had to somehow bootstrap itself into priority by
proving itself ultimately superior in some way?

A lot of logicians seemed to be on board with that agenda (of triumph
over others), which agenda I spontaneously associate with imperialism
and tyranny in the political dimension, and with corrupt
(unsustainable) egoism in the psychological dimension.

You've maybe seen how I've taken "military-industrial complex" and
spun that as a *psychological* condition -- thinking you live in a
superpower is some kind of megalomania really, should be treated as a
form mental illness (back to philosophy as therapy again).

A standard picture in traditional western philosophy is to look at
language as trying to subjectively map some objective space. We've
all seen distorted maps, although some of these served their purpose
well enough i.e. had enough "topological integrity" to get people from
here to there (think of a subway map -- deliberately "not to scale").

With the later Wittgenstein, we get back to seeing language as a
social activity that isn't about anything objective (is not
representational) but is more an end in itself (like a religious
ritual, like driving on the freeway).

Sure, you still have room for improvement and innovation (people vote
with their feet a lot), but it's not always this picture of getting
something subjective (a map) to match up with something objective (the
territory).

Of course if your language game is about running an airport (for
example) then of course you're not operating independently of the
rules of physics, which supplies its own grammar one might say.
You'll be ineffective if you're unresponsive the relevant feedback
loops. Cybernetics applies (a useful language game -- about steering,
about Ouija boards too).

Humans embed their grammars inside of other grammars, with nature
supplying the outermost grammars, the playing field, the planet. When
it comes to improving and innovating, stronger mastery of nature's
principles is often what you're praying for (and maybe getting). I'm
not "anti science" (consider myself a type of engineer).

Returning to my original objective (co-existence, anti-imperialism ala
Mark Twain), I also have this challenge of needing to work a
non-Euclidean geometry into the math standards at a pre-college level
(not to displace what's there, but to provide more perspective, a
better handle). That's a co-existence challenge for ya, as the
imperialist orthodox types can tolerate no defiance.

A corrupt ego easily feels threatened and tends to mount a furious
defense when it looks like people are flocking to new or different
language games that aren't controlled by or mastered by said ego and
its limited skill set. Some people have a problem with their
authority being bypassed (Freud had plenty to say on this, but so do a
lot of people).

Finally, I'm seeing computer languages as an outgrowth of this
investment in logic, in symbolic systems on paper that seem to capture
some aspect of the world and make it easier to manage and control.
Leibniz had visions along these lines.

Whereas academic philosophy tends to see the lineage stretching
through Frege and Russell, then Turing (Josh's lineage), I'm more a
computer science guy in tracing it back through Ada (Lord Byron's
daughter), Alonso Church, von Neumann, Kenneth Iverson. Of course
it's not either / or. Lots of students are tuning in Turing via that
novel 'Cryptonomicon' -- historical science fiction.

Wittgenstein's operationalism helps me work in diplomatic circles for
Python Software Foundation, the Buckminster Fuller Institute and so
forth (volunteer positions, as the latter's first webmaster).

We're entering the age of Unicode wherein engineers might code
computers in something much closer to their native language, in terms
of how it looks on the screen. We don't insist on Latin-1 so much.
And yet this is logically rigorous scripting, suitable for managing
airports, banks or what have you.

Scripting in computer languages has everything to do with defining
institutions, encoding social contracts. I refer to lawyers as "slow
engineers" because their codes tend to just sit there and not execute,
whereas the fast languages (computer languages) execute at superhuman
speeds.

Container shipping, banking, entertainment, all depend on things
happening faster than human reflexes at runtime (do phase), whereas at
design time (be phase, when planning out these systems) we need a lot
of transparency and clarity, lest our institutions break down, become
opaque and incomprehensible down the road (an ongoing process --
garbage-collecting of obsolete institutions happens in every age, a
lot of that going on even today).

In sum, my background training in Wittgenstein helps me further
certain objectives, such as increasing diversity and providing
namespaces with secure niches that aren't unnecessarily threatened by
imperial brands of objectivism or logical positivism.

Kirby

Blog excerpt (giving the flavor of what I'm up to):

The PSF board approved the Diversity Statement 8-0-0. I've been
yakking up a storm regarding our affirmative action plans around
minors and college aged Pythonistas. Here's the full text of the
motion:

RESOLVED that the PSF adopt the following diversity statement, and
publish it with links to ancillary materials maintained by members of
the diversity list:

The Python Software Foundation and the global Python community
welcome and encourage participation by everyone. Our community is
based on mutual respect, tolerance, and encouragement, and we are
working to help each other live up to these principles. We want our
community to be more diverse: whoever you are, and whatever your
background, we welcome you.

In principle (feel free to draw one) there's a Venn diagram showing
overlap with gender-based targets and quotas, also around Pycon /
Baghdad, with having some keynotes in Arabic, maybe with simultaneous
translation by some streaming protocol. The Blip TV archives might
host the dub tracks or subtitle tracks as user-specified playback
options.

[ http://worldgame.blogspot.com/2009/10/urban-grind.html ]
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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1705 is a reply to message #1704] Wed, 14 October 2009 14:18 Go to previous messageGo to next message
jrstern is currently offline  jrstern
Messages: 159
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member
--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, kirby urner <wittrsamr@...> wrote:
>
> Finally, I'm seeing computer languages as an outgrowth of this
> investment in logic, in symbolic systems on paper that seem to
> capture some aspect of the world and make it easier to manage
> and control. Leibniz had visions along these lines.

But this language of "capture" does not really explain why or how
a computer manages to be a computer. And I think that matters.

> Wittgenstein's operationalism helps me work in diplomatic circles
> for Python Software Foundation, the Buckminster Fuller Institute
> and so forth (volunteer positions, as the latter's first
> webmaster).

Is it operationalism, really? I would not think Wittgenstein would
want to talk about it that way, as something that we just do, that
meaning is use just because. That would take him too far from the
early days in TLP. This niggling connection back to some kind of
non-operationalist foundation I think is very important, it's
something that I think the Turing branch maintains in the fact of
every working computer program today.


> We're entering the age of Unicode wherein engineers might code
> computers in something much closer to their native language, in
> terms of how it looks on the screen. We don't insist on Latin-1
> so much. And yet this is logically rigorous scripting, suitable
> for managing airports, banks or what have you.

Yeeees, but this still accepts scripting and language as
foundational, as perhaps Wittgenstein did - and Turing did not.

I still see the question of how it is that scripting
and language are even possible as open questions, the answers
relevant to making scripting and language more effective tools,
both for mundane purposes and for philosophical investigations.
Er, so to speak!


> Scripting in computer languages has everything to do with defining
> institutions, encoding social contracts. I refer to lawyers
> as "slow engineers" because their codes tend to just sit there
> and not execute, whereas the fast languages (computer languages)
> execute at superhuman speeds.

Per your own metaphors, lawyers produce grammars we all then live
by, traffic regulations or whatnot.

What anyone *does* with computers I suppose is of the same nature,
producing grammars for institutions and social contracts.

But the question of what one does with a hammer, is a different level
of question of how it is that one builds a hammer, or even of the
physics involved in hammering. I'm still looking in Wittgenstein
and the linguistic turn for the methods and grammars in all of these
levels. Um, no, not of hammering, but of language and computation.

Josh


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[Wittrs] Re: [C] Wittgenstein's Way [message #1706 is a reply to message #1700] Wed, 14 October 2009 16:53 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
Messages: 793
Registered: August 2009
Location: Form of Life
Senior Member

... a good effort Stuart. But I am confused about a couple of things. Let me go the other way around.

1. In a prior thread on this list, Neil asked a legitimate question. He did not understand what "grammar" meant to Wittgensteinians. I had been using the idea, and it was apparently deploying for him in a way similar to a "foreign-language problem." And so I wrote this: http://seanwilson.org/forum/index.php?t=msg&th=670&start=0&S=8af25 236e24b3bd59a55fa9377a444a2 .

The point: let me suggest that this is the only kind of occasion when one can ask in a pontificatious sort of way, "what is X?" This question never really asks for anything other than, "plug me into the grammar, please?" And so when one asks "what is consciousness," one is only ever asking for the grammar of its assertion. There are no mysteries to solve. At worst, there's a little teaching to do.

2. The mistake that Plato & Co. made was in thinking that they could ask questions like "what is the good," or what is "ethics" -- and receive proscriptive solutions. A sort of "law" (or property-list) for these items. This reminds me of what you are doing with "consciousness." And like Plato, you seem to think that you what you are doing with this term is "reasoning" about it  (and hence you embrace debate, argument and premises, etc., as "philosophy").

But we all know what consciousness is. It's the sense of "I." The awareness of the awarer. (Or the awareness of the awareness). Once someone is plugged into this sort of grammar, one understands what it says.

3. The real trouble that you get into is when you make assertions of the idea of "conscious" outside of its normal grammar. You start saying things like "machines can be conscious some day." What a Wittgensteinian would instantly realize here is that this is a word puzzle. It's asking for someone to conjugate it. It isn't true or false, it's a new grammar. Indeed, one could both agree and disagree with it and not be "wrong," so long as all agreed with what was happening in the external world. The same is true of statements like "the world doesn't exist" and "yes it does." So long as we all agree what is happening in the form of life, how we characterize it is really an aesthetic or ideological matter. It isn't philosophical.

Of course, it might be a philosophical matter if the person doesn't see this. The only thing a philosopher might do is show the person the other ways of talking about the form of life. (Other expressions in the lexicon for the same sort of thing). If a person can be shown that their expression is only limited to its grammar -- if they can see, e.g., that idealism v. realism is really an aesthetic issue -- then the therapy has been successful. Problem dissolved.

4. Note that when science asks, "what is consciousness," this is not the same sort of question. It isn't pontificatious. What it really asks is what can be pinned down in the external world with rigid nomenclature that we can refer to, precisely. But whether these "things" constitute "conscious" is not something science really can say; it can only say that the things do what they appear to do. I equate science with journalism. They give us news. How this news plugs back into the languaging activity is ultimately a function of cultural anthropology. We might find, e.g., only that difference senses of "consciousness" now come to exist.   

5. There is nothing for philosophy to solve here. In fact, if philosophy were true to Wittgenstein, that is what it would be showing. Paradoxically, what philosophy must show is why all of its regular "debates" should be silenced. It must show that "reason and logic" are inferior to insight and cognition (meaning). And that peace (understanding) is the product, not truth.

Regards and thanks.      
    
Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
Assistant Professor
Wright State University
Redesigned Website: http://seanwilson.org/
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New Discussion Group: http://seanwilson.org/wittgenstein.discussion.html



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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1707 is a reply to message #1706] Wed, 14 October 2009 17:54 Go to previous messageGo to next message
SWMirsky is currently offline  SWMirsky
Messages: 188
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member
Hmmm, I am having trouble seeing the relationship between this post and the thread you're replying to, using Yahoo. This problem appears to be an artifact of your decision, Sean, to have us trim our responses. The result: It's harder for me to see the references you are making and, therefore, to formulate my own responses. Nevertheless I'll try:

--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, Sean Wilson <whoooo26505@...> wrote:
>
> ... a good effort Stuart. But I am confused about a couple of things. Let me go the other way around.
>
> 1. In a prior thread on this list, Neil asked a legitimate question. He did not understand what "grammar" meant to Wittgensteinians. I had been using the idea . . . And so I wrote this: http://seanwilson.org/forum/index.php?t=msg&th=670&start=0&S=8af25 236e24b3bd59a55fa9377a444a2 .
>

> The point: let me suggest that this is the only kind of occasion when one can ask in a pontificatious sort of way, "what is X?" This question never really asks for anything other than, "plug me into the grammar, please?" And so when one asks "what is consciousness," one is only ever asking for the grammar of its assertion. There are no mysteries to solve. At worst, there's a little teaching to do.
>

Now I don't see this at all. While asking what is consciousness CAN be answered, at least in part, by saying this is what I mean (this is how I am using the word), clearly there is more at issue here, i.e., am I using the word for something that is real or really to be found in the world in some way? After all, just noting that this is how I use the word (stipulating) or this is how we (speakers of a shared language) use the word (reporting or dictionary checking), doesn't answer the questions of science.

This discussion has been about whether or not there is anything there to tag the word onto, after all, not whether you or I or someone else uses the word in this or that way. Now it's certainly clear that how we use the word is relevant. But also relevant is the question of the legitimacy of the use, i.e., can it be used as any of us ARE using it? After all, didn't Glen tell us it really can't? And isn't that the thrust of arguments from Bruce and Gerardo and Cayuse and maybe some others? The validity of supposing some word to have a referent is as important as determining what we THINK we are referring to when we use the word.

Now I am not suggesting that we can determine, on a site like this, in discussions like these, just what the referent of "consciousness" is in some empirical way. That is for science. But here we can at least consider whether we are 1) using the word rightly when we intend it to refer and 2) what it is we think we are referring to.


> 2. The mistake that Plato & Co. made was in thinking that they could ask questions like "what is the good," or what is "ethics" -- and receive proscriptive solutions.


"prescriptive", right?


> A sort of "law" (or property-list) for these items.


I think the error lay in thinking that all sorts of referents must have existence in a tangible way in common, even if that tangibility was held to be in some different, ethereal realm with different criteria. The wrong picture is created, that of multiple worlds or realms of parallel kinds of existents when, in fact, all that's really going on is that "exists" involves different understandings with different uses.


> This reminds me of what you are doing with "consciousness." And like Plato, you seem to think that you what you are doing with this term is "reasoning" about it  (and hence you embrace debate, argument and premises, etc., as "philosophy").
>

I see why you think so but I think you're mistaken. The issue, of course, is first of all whether we know what we actually mean by the term (the conceptual and linguistic analyses) but then, secondarily, once having settled on that, whether what we actually mean is anything that is susceptible to the application of science. In this case the analyses aimed at achieving clarity can either point to a role for science or not. But noting this isn't the same as usurping the role of science for philosophy. Science is a different game and involves different activities than we can engage in here in discussion alone.


> But we all know what consciousness is. It's the sense of "I." The awareness of the awarer. (Or the awareness of the awareness). Once someone is plugged into this sort of grammar, one understands what it says.
>

I think, in fact, that the ongoing disputes here have shown that we don't all know or, at least, are unable to achieve agreement. There are those on this list who want to argue that "consciousness" is just an unintelligible term or that its very referent ("the all"?) excludes it from the purview of science. Others, that it refers to things that are addressable in ways that do not require use of terms like "consciousness" at all (see Glenn and Gerardo on Behaviorism). Still others want to say there is no role for science because of some uniquely "hard problem" (Chalmers). Or because the matter is beyond empirical considerations (Galen Strawson). These kinds of debates, while largely irrelevant to the activities of science, do reflect different opinions about the capacities of science to address the matter. Insofar as there are such differences, there is at least the possibility that some actions will be taken which could affect the possibility of science being used to address the matter.


> 3. The real trouble that you get into is when you make assertions of the idea of "conscious" outside of its normal grammar. You start saying things like "machines can be conscious some day." What a Wittgensteinian would instantly realize here is that this is a word puzzle. It's asking for someone to conjugate it. It isn't true or
> false, it's a new grammar.


Well, whether I'm a true Wittgensteinian is one question of course. But I would deny that a new grammar is at issue at all. In fact my point has been to say that the same old grammar that gives meaning to "consciousness" in our more familiar uses would be applicable in the case of an automaton as well. On the other hand, I would be inclined to agree that the grammar of "person" might see some alteration in the event of a successful effort to construct an artificial entity with a synthetic brain-like device capable of doing the full range of things our brains typically do.


> Indeed, one could both agree and disagree with it and not be "wrong," so long as all agreed with what was happening in the external world. The same is true of statements like "the world doesn't exist" and "yes it does." So long as we all agree what is happening in the form of life, how we characterize it is really an aesthetic or ideological matter. It isn't philosophical.
>

I think most words are fuzzy around the edges of their usual uses and so can be expanded and contracted somewhat with events and changing practices. Nor do I think this inconsistent with Wittgenstein's ideas. However, I think it is quite clear that there are conceptual clarification issues here and that these are clearly philosophical.

I do think that Wittgenstein often lends himself to misinterpretation or oversimplification and I suspect that is what's at work here, i.e., I think you (and this is not unusual among Wittgensteinians) are overly focused on word usage, forgetting that word usage is the tip of the conceptual iceberg. To gain from exploring word usages we have to be prepared to dip below the surface and see the real size and scope of the little bit of ice that shows itself only in part floating serenely above the water line.


> Of course, it might be a philosophical matter if the person doesn't see this. The only thing a philosopher might do is show the person the other ways of talking about the form of life. (Other expressions in the lexicon for the same sort of thing). If a person can be shown that their expression is only limited to its grammar -- if they can see, e.g., that idealism v. realism is really an aesthetic issue --
> then the therapy has been successful. Problem dissolved.
>


As noted, the question at hand is whether what we mean by "consciousness" is amenable to scientific explanation or not. There's much at stake here though, probably not the level of investment in scientific research since those who are interested in the matter are unlikely to be swayed to think otherwise by verbal claims of unintelligibility, etc.


> 4. Note that when science asks, "what is consciousness," this is not the same sort of question. It isn't pontificatious. What it really asks is what can be pinned down in the external world with rigid nomenclature that we can refer to, precisely. But whether these "things" constitute "conscious" is not something
> science really can say;


I am inclined to agree that this is a conceptual question to a large extent. But how the conceptual question is resolved (see Dennett) wil affect how the science is pursued.


> it can only say that the things do what they appear to do. I equate science with journalism.


I know you do and I find that a strange use. Science does more than report. It investigates systematically and devises explanations for how the world works as well as applications of those explanations. Journalism is entirely about investigation and reporting.



> They give us news. How this news plugs back into the languaging activity is ultimately a function of cultural anthropology. We might find, e.g., only that difference senses of "consciousness" now come to exist.   
>

I agree that in the end how we use "consciousness" in every day parlance is not subject to philosophers' input but rather that philosophers must trim their conceptual sails to how we speak.


> 5. There is nothing for philosophy to solve here. In fact, if philosophy were true to Wittgenstein, that is what it would be showing. Paradoxically, what philosophy must show is why all of its regular "debates" should be silenced. It must show that "reason and logic" are inferior to insight and cognition (meaning). And that peace (understanding) is the product, not truth.
>

Here I find myself more in agreement with you. These issues are not solved by ongoing logical argument though logic will certainly be helpful in the examination of any particular claim about a usage. Insight and understanding ARE the real issue as you say. But I disagree that this begins and ends with our word use. That is only an aspect of achieving the requisite insights. We also need to look at (and think about) other things we do as well as consider the kinds of pictures our words and actions imply and kick up for us.

SWM

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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1716 is a reply to message #1706] Thu, 15 October 2009 10:31 Go to previous messageGo to next message
SWMirsky is currently offline  SWMirsky
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Are Sean and I at odds re: how philosophy is affected (and how it gets done) as a result of Wittgenstein's work? I think it's pretty clear we are, at least to a degree. Sean (and some others here) seem to take Wittgenstein's work to be a complete rejection of anything that is classically philosophical in the Western sense, in favor of a refocusing on word usage entirely. There are no real philosophical programs, Sean tells us, just confused usages, bad grammar (i.e., the misapplication of our terms in vain philosophical efforts to say something about that about which there is nothing to say).

My claims about what consciousness is and what we mean by our use of the term "consciousness" and its relatives, Sean suggests, are either just such misapplications or misguided efforts to formulate new uses. If Star Trek's Data existed, says Sean, calling "him" conscious (or even calling him a him!) would NOT be what we mean when we apply these terms to referents like ourselves, however superficially similar they appear to be. Thus, says Sean, there is really no argument here, nothing to debate, nothing to concern ourselves with except to point out to proponents of one side or the other that they have strayed from familiar waters and ought to go back, or else fashion themselves a newer and more appropriate vessel. A pox on both sides of such debates. Debating is not the issue because neither side can make a case, given that the problem arises from word misuse and nothing else.

I am, of course, fully aware that there are strains in Wittgenstein that seem to uphold this viewpoint. When he says the aim of his work is to show the fly the way out of the bottle, when he says he is interested in dissolving, not solving, problems, when he shows through example how we so often allow word usage to cause us to stray into mistakes he IS, in fact, making just such points. Yet, he also spoke repeatedly of our having pictures (and by this meant mental pictures, not photographs or oils!) and of their importance in how we thought about things. Indeed, it is the pictures, kicked up by our word usage (or misusage) that very often seem to be at issue in his analyses of mistakes. In so doing, he was going on about more than word use itself.

What I'm suggesting is that, for Wittgenstein, word use, and misuse, are both cause and symptom and that the problems of philosophy are not just like ordinary word puzzles, not even Rubik's Cube type puzzles though, of course, there are similarities. The question of consciousness is a case in point. Obviously a lot of this falls into the purview of science. Whether we can replicate a conscious entity using artificial means to do what brains do can only be answered, finally, by the work of scientists (including theoreticians, researchers, engineers, programmers, etc.) in a variety of relevant fields. But as the debates on this and other lists have shown, not everyone is in agreement with the possibilities of science here. And that is the point I want to make. While philosophy as a means of clearing up our thinking can be useful for philosophers trapped in metaphysical speculations and even for ordinary folks trying to think their way through numerous puzzling matters (paradoxes of faith and belief, perhaps), clarity of thought is no less important for science.

A thinker like Dennett, very much influenced by Wittgenstein, has yet not remained in the narrow confines of strict Wittgensteinian practices (as preached and sometimes practiced by Wittgenstein himself). Rather, like Wittgenstein at times (who involved himself with various psychology research projects), Dennett steps over into the field of what has come to be called cognitive science, the melding of empirical research with theoretical speculation about what such research into how brains do what they do could accomplish, what is possible, etc. While some on this list have decried "cognitive science" as a false road, THAT is precisely why it is important to not lose sight of another very important reason to engage in the kind of concept clarification that Wittgenstein pioneered.

What our scientific researchers choose to do, what they actually explore, will be driven, at least in part, by what they think is possible. Thus theories about things like consciousness, intended, among other things, to come up with ways of understanding it, ARE important. While, in keeping with Wittgenstein, formulating theories is NOT the proper focus of philosophy, it is the proper focus of science. (The reason it has no place in philosophy is because in that realm it is typically applied to metaphysical concerns, areas where there is no possibility of proof or disproof and which arise as concerns out of the muddled use of language Wittgenstein was at pains to inveigh against.) The key here is to see the role of concept analysis for the purposes of clarification when applied to theories held by other disciplines.

Sean, I think, will readily agree that badly conceived theories are grist for the Wittgensteinian's mill. So, too, then would be helping in the development of better conceived theories. Of course that is just what Dennett sets himself to do, as it is what Searle is aiming to do (though I have argued elsewhere that Searle's approach is seriously mistaken while Dennett's is not). The point I'm making is that the Wittgensteinian approach to all this does not and need not devolve to questions of language use and misuse alone. All the tools that are relevant must be invoked to clear up ideas and help us to think effectively about difficult issues. Just as logic has a place in any analysis (contradictions and tautologies and other fallacies in claims need to be recognized), so, too, does the way we actually use our words, what we mean when we say this or that. These are not mutually exclusive tools. They are complementary. Indeed, I would argue that Wittgenstein made use of such combinations when he proposed some of the things he is famous for, e.g., the impossibility of private language and what that implied.

Sean rightly notes that philosophy qua argument about speculative conclusions is pointless and precisely what Wittgenstein sought to turn us from. But that doesn't mean that he wanted to simply redirect us to words alone. Linguistic analysis is a tool, a strategm to bring to bear on any philosophical question (as in what do we mean when we label something as "conscious"?, what are the cases, etc.?). But it is not the be-all and end-all. Indeed, it cannot be without falling into the superficiality of mere wordplay, just the sort of thing many of Wittgenstein's critics, including Karl Popper, wrongly supposed he was about. Yes, words and their use are important but focusing on that does NOT thereby eliminate any substantive role for philosophy in the pursuit of knowledge and human progress. If it should be seen to do so, then philosophy would truly be irrelevant.

SWM

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[Wittrs] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1718 is a reply to message #1700] Thu, 15 October 2009 15:56 Go to previous messageGo to next message
iro3isdx is currently offline  iro3isdx
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--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, SWMirsky@... wrote:


> Recently Neil raised the question of whether philosophy is worth
> much and, by implication, just what it really is. At one point he
> suggested I was interested in only giving circular answers and,
> at another, that what I was trying to say about things like what we
> mean by "consciousness" was equivalent to arguing about the number
> of angels we could fit on the head of a pin!

I am mainly reading this thread, seeing what others have to say. But
since the topic mentions me, I think a comment is due.

I don't think the problem of circular reasoning is inherent to
philosophy, but I do see it too often in philosophy as it is practiced.
In my experience, philosophers tend to be very bright people, so they
should be able to do rather better than what I see.

I sometimes wonder whether philosophy lacks a real subject matter, and
thus exists mainly as the maintaining of ancient traditions. And I
guess that would make philosophy akin to theology.

Example: truth - there is quite a literature on truth. Yet we see
things such as "truth is correspondence to the facts" and when you put
that together with facts as true statements it looks horribly circular.
And then some say: "snow is white" is true if snow is white. And they
seem to not recognize that as circular. It was fine as used by Tarski,
but makes little sense the way I have seen it used by others. One
book, after giving a circular account of "truth", then gave a warning
against criterial philosophy. Yet when we look at the real world,
people do apply criteria when ascertaining truth,

Example: epistemology - we still tell our children the story of
Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and the story of Little Red Riding
Hood. If knowledge is justified true belief, how can it be useful to
give them unjustified false stories? Why isn't it obvious that
something is fundamentally wrong with epistemology?

I'm not a Wittgenstein expert. But it does seem to me that the later
Wittgenstein was recognizing some of the problems in philosophy (as it
is practiced). And I applaud that.

Regards,
Neil

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[Wittrs] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1719 is a reply to message #1718] Thu, 15 October 2009 17:02 Go to previous messageGo to next message
SWMirsky is currently offline  SWMirsky
Messages: 188
Registered: August 2009
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--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "iro3isdx" <xznwrjnk-evca@...> wrote:
>
> there is quite a literature on truth. Yet we see things such as "truth is correspondence to the facts" and when you put that together with facts as true statements it looks horribly circular. And then some say: "snow is white" is true if snow is white. And they seem to not recognize that as circular. It was fine as used by Tarski, but makes little sense the way I have seen it used by others. One book, after giving a circular account of "truth", then gave a warning against criterial philosophy. Yet when we look at the real world, people do apply criteria when ascertaining truth,


Example: epistemology - we still tell our children the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and the story of Little Red Riding Hood. If knowledge is justified true belief, how can it be useful to give them unjustified false stories? Why isn't it obvious that something is fundamentally wrong with epistemology?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Reply to Neil:

I suppose there are lots of formulations re: what's meant by "truth" as well as lots of theories, e.g., correspondence vs. coherence, etc.

As I've seen it presented, the correspondence theory is generally meant to claim that the criterion of a "true" statement is its correspondence with its referenced state of affairs, not its "correspondence to the facts". That is, its meaning (what it describes) must match up with what it is describing. If the dog is crossing the street then the dog referenced must be observable as crossing the street (under the right conditions, of course). It is raining (meaning it's true that it's raining, as they say), if and only if it is, in fact, demonstrable that that condition (that it is raining) is occurring. "It is raining if and only if it is raining," is the usual shorthand way of stating this.

One needn't assume circularity here because states of affairs are not necessarily coextensive with the statements that reference them.

But, I suppose, that WOULD appear to be the case if the "fact" is conflated with the state of affairs it is supposed to be describing. The early Wittgenstein did seem to have equated a "fact" with a statement that reflected its referenced state of affairs, hence his (to me) quite strange view that one could not say statements negating a speculated state of affairs, which didn't exist, were true in the sense one could say a statement asserting a state of affairs which did exist was true. Thus, his refusal to acknowledge to Russell that "it is true that there is no rhinoceros in this room" which Russell found so puzzling and prompted him to think that "my German is quite mad".

But I think it's pretty clear Wittgenstein moved away from such a view over time, though it does seem to have lingered on into the Tractatus at least.

In the first three main propositions of the Tractatus Wittgenstein writes:

1) The world is everything that is the case.

2) What is the case (a fact) is the existence of states of affairs.

3) A logical picture of facts is a thought.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tractatus_Logico-Philosophicus

I have known people who have argued with me that a fact is the state of affairs itself, and not the statement of it, and others who have considered it the statement but not the state of affairs. I've also known some who have argued that a "fact" is neither a state of affairs nor a statement about it but a metaphysical entity that is partially, and only partially, expressed, and expressible, in both. Go figure!

I think this just shows how rarified discourse can become when philosophers drill down in search of understanding without a real idea of what they're seeking.

The later Wittgenstein eschewed such exercises and would have said that, if you want to know what "truth" is, look at how we use the word. On such a view, correspondence with the things in the world that any statement references looks to be a reasonable answer in many cases, though perhaps not all. After all, sometimes we speak of religious truths and mean by this some deeper or broader understanding of our general condition, etc. Sometimes we may just mean a certain feeling inspired in us by some work of art.

On balance, this approach is one that casts aside any effort to develop and promulgate a theory of what truth really is in favor of just recognizing that we know what it means to use that word in different cases.

The Wittgenstein of the PI would not have sought to state for all time and all conditions some hard and fast definition of truth because his post-Tractatus idea of philosophy was to see it as playing no role in determining meanings but rather in helping us understand things in terms of the meanings we already find in everyday usages. The criteria people apply are identifiable in their daily activities, including how they speak and act.

As to your point about Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood, and why, "f knowledge is justified true belief . . . it (can) be useful to give (children) unjustified false stories?" I don't see what your problem is.

First, one can speak of knowledge of a story (or not knowing the story, of course) and that is just a matter of fact. Is it the case or is it not that X knows the story of Goldilocks? How shall we determine it? Well let's hear X recount it and if X gets it wrong in significant ways then we must say X doesn't know it at all.

But why should we tell children such stories given that we accept that they are untrue? Well no one is proposing we tell them so they will have a true account of certain events. We tell them for other reasons: to entertain them, to hasten them into their beds and encourage them to fall sleep without complaining too much, to exemplify some moral lesson, etc., etc. This last, perhaps, involves imparting some knowledge, e.g., of the mores of our culture and the things that may happen if we stray from the path.

Perhaps, too, we want to show someone something about how to write certain kinds of stories or flag some motif in the story to make some other point (a moral or technical one). There are lots of kinds of knowledge here without worrying overmuch about the underlying falseness of the fictional aspect of the story. And lots of other reasons besides imparting knowledge, to tell such stories.

The power of Wittgenstein's ideas lay, at least in part, in his ability to put philosophy back into perspective for us and draw us away from the often mad idea that philosophy is about discovering truths or can somehow offer us ingress into the most basic truths of all.

SWM

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[Wittrs] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1720 is a reply to message #1718] Thu, 15 October 2009 17:14 Go to previous messageGo to next message
jrstern is currently offline  jrstern
Messages: 159
Registered: August 2009
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--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "iro3isdx" <xznwrjnk-evca@...> wrote:
>
> And then some say: "snow is white" is true if snow is white. And
> they seem to not recognize that as circular. It was fine as used
> by Tarski, but makes little sense the way I have seen it used by
> others.

Who says it was fine as used by Tarski?

Tarski first said that truth is formal consistency, and that was
hailed, and it made a sort of sense in a Fregean world of propositional contents, of logicism. But then the Fregean magical
transformation from natural language to formal propositional content
was questioned, and Frege offered the above biconditional. Did it
ever work? Dubious.

The immediate challenge was the equi-valued substitution of: "snow is
white" is true iff grass is green. That does not seem to have the
same kind of necessity, and undermines the entire biconditional idea.

At least one has to take a step back and look at the linguistic
assumptions - "snow is white" is true iff snow is white, if "snow"
means snow and "white" means white and "is" means is, etc. These
are linguistic assertions, without which the entire process is
entirely hand-waving. And only after the linguistic assumptions,
which are not without their own problems, then one may consider the
facts of the matter, whether snow is white, etc.

But if one wants to follow this linguistic analysis, more is still
needed. One can look at the Wittgensteinian grammars of the words,
or the sentences - or the biconditional, etc. Or, one can take a
Turing-ian look at the implied system, in which an agent will hold
one part of the biconditional, and the world will hold the other
part, and the truth is not absolute but some kind of function of
context.

Josh



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[Wittrs] Re: [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1721 is a reply to message #1716] Thu, 15 October 2009 18:07 Go to previous messageGo to next message
kirby urner is currently offline  kirby urner
Messages: 349
Registered: August 2009
Location: Portland, Oregon
Senior Member
On Thu, Oct 15, 2009 at 7:31 AM, SWM <SWMirsky@aol.com> wrote:
> Are Sean and I at odds re: how philosophy is affected (and how it gets done) as a result of Wittgenstein's work? I think it's pretty clear we are, at least to a degree. Sean (and some others here) seem to take Wittgenstein's work to be a complete rejection of anything that is classically philosophical in the Western sense, in favor of a refocusing on word usage entirely. There are no real philosophical programs, Sean tells us, just confused usages, bad grammar (i.e., the misapplication of our terms in vain philosophical efforts to say something about that about which there is nothing to say).
>

I think you should put a different spin on it: unless we continue to
intelligently design language games, in part by cutting the cruft,
i.e. not wasting time in idle cycling, then we're headed for fiery
doom (don't need hell as a prospect, now that we as a species have
nukes and have used them).

So there's still a message of philosophy being important and vital to
our continued survival, just we're not gonna make it all be about "the
problem of other minds" or some such nonsense, which doesn't merit the
time of day from a serious philosophers (of a Wittgensteinian bent at
least).

> My claims about what consciousness is and what we mean by our use of the term "consciousness" and its relatives, Sean suggests, are either just such misapplications or misguided efforts to formulate new uses. If Star Trek's Data existed, says Sean, calling "him" conscious (or even calling him a him!) would NOT be what we mean when we apply these terms to referents like ourselves, however superficially similar they appear to be. Thus, says Sean, there is really no argument here, nothing to debate, nothing to concern ourselves with except to point out to proponents of one side or the other that they have strayed from familiar waters and ought to go back, or else fashion themselves a newer and more appropriate vessel. A pox on both sides of such debates. Debating is not the issue because neither side can make a case, given that the problem arises from word misuse and nothing else.
>

I think we need to zoom back and take a grander view of philosophy
than just these concerns i.e. this sandbox about "consciousness" and
whether Commander Data is "conscious" -- yes, you have people who
discuss these things, and call themselves philosophers. Then you have
people who read Wittgenstein and learn from him, but do *not* call
themselves philosophers. They may never make it to that House of
Lords (per Sean's meaning) but they still have your evening news show
to script, leadership responsibilities. This list is for them as
well. Given the asynchronous nature of this medium, we expect to
attract a diverse group, interested in a great many threads. We're
still in the process of finding each other, plus Sean is still
hammering out the infrastructure, sensitive to feedback.

> I am, of course, fully aware that there are strains in Wittgenstein that seem to uphold this viewpoint. When he says the aim of his work is to show the fly the way out of the bottle, when he says he is interested in dissolving, not solving, problems, when he shows through example how we so often allow word usage to cause us to stray into mistakes he IS, in fact, making just such points. Yet, he also spoke repeatedly of our having pictures (and by this meant mental pictures, not photographs or oils!) and of their importance in how we thought about things. Indeed, it is the pictures, kicked up by our word usage (or misusage) that very often seem to be at issue in his analyses of mistakes. In so doing, he was going on about more than word use itself.
>

A common misconception is that building new language games that'll
take the stress of time, is an easy business. It's far from easy to
change habits of thought, in oneself, in others, and yet precisely
this may be necessary.

So we look to philosophers, stand up comedians, all manner of blend,
for signals and indicators regarding which way to turn. It's a
cybernetic system involving mindsets, competing yes, but also
collaborating. Sean speaks of allegiances. He sides with the brain
people in talking about brains a lot. Wittgenstein never did that
(you can count on five hands how often he uses that word -- maybe ten
hands, haven't run a word count over his corpus, I admit it).

> What I'm suggesting is that, for Wittgenstein, word use, and misuse, are both cause and symptom and that the problems of philosophy are not just like ordinary word puzzles, not even Rubik's Cube type puzzles though, of course, there are similarities. The question of consciousness is a case in point. Obviously a lot of this falls into the purview of science. Whether we can replicate a conscious entity using artificial means to do what brains do can only be answered, finally, by the work of scientists (including theoreticians, researchers, engineers, programmers, etc.) in a variety of relevant fields. But as the debates on this and other lists have shown, not everyone is in agreement with the possibilities of science here. And that is the point I want to make. While philosophy as a means of clearing up our thinking can be useful for philosophers trapped in metaphysical speculations and even for ordinary folks trying to think their way through numerous puzzling matters (paradoxes of faith and belief, perhaps), clarity of thought is no less important for science.

No special argument against any of the above. However it's easy to
get these pied piper types who lead a merry game, get a lot of
followers, but there's really no half life i.e. the belief system goes
nowhere, is unstable.

Look at Y2K for example: so many books (worth a museum -- bet they're
working on one in New Mexico already, or Vegas?).

Life is short, so whereas Phrenology peters out of its own accord
eventually, you still have lots of quacks taking lots of money to
inform concerned mama whether junior will be good at math someday, or
they might need to pay a tutor (he has a friend...)? Individual lives
get ruined in other words, because of nasty / pernicious belief
systems.

Philosophy needs to protect us against shysters, bad science, Social
Darwinists etc. Wittgenstein helped guard the perimeter against
metaphysicians so used to getting away with just about language game
that sounded scientific enough. They'd become the ultimate posers, a
lot of 'em. I see Wittgenstein as fighting corruption close to home,
speaking truth to power as it were.

>
> A thinker like Dennett, very much influenced by Wittgenstein, has yet not remained in the narrow confines of strict Wittgensteinian practices (as preached and sometimes practiced by Wittgenstein himself). Rather, like Wittgenstein at times (who involved himself with various psychology research projects), Dennett steps over into the field of what has come to be called cognitive science, the melding of empirical research with theoretical speculation about what such research into how brains do what they do could accomplish, what is possible, etc. While some on this list have decried "cognitive science" as a false road, THAT is precisely why it is important to not lose sight of another very important reason to engage in the kind of concept clarification that Wittgenstein pioneered.
>

People make life long investments in this or that belief system and
don't take kindly to any popping of some balloon, like when you lose
your bank account to some wily investors who bilk you out of life
savings for some Ponzi scheme.

Let's think of belief systems as investments, and consider the meaning
of the word "speculation". I think Wittgenstein was all about raising
the bar and actually making it *more difficult* to be a philosopher.

He showed how much of it is "just words" after all, and that's a
devastating thing to reveal, if you've built a whole industry out of
promising some end of the world and/or singularity and/or Mayan
apocalypse or who knows what.

People hawk all kinds of stuff. a lot of it recycled just cuz they
can't think of what else to talk about (Darwin versus Jesus anyone?
How about a Godzilla movie?).

> What our scientific researchers choose to do, what they actually explore, will be driven, at least in part, by what they think is possible. Thus theories about things like consciousness, intended, among other things, to come up with ways of understanding it, ARE important. While, in keeping with Wittgenstein, formulating theories is NOT the proper focus of philosophy, it is the proper focus of science. (The reason it has no place in philosophy is because in that realm it is typically applied to metaphysical concerns, areas where there is no possibility of proof or disproof and which arise as concerns out of the muddled use of language Wittgenstein was at pains to inveigh against.) The key here is to see the role of concept analysis for the purposes of clarification when applied to theories held by other disciplines.
>

If a "philosopher" doesn't know a computer language (today's
replacement for yesterday's non-executable logical languages) then
that's two points against her or him. Gotta have some training in
logic and that means numeracy, not getting it all second hand.

You can't be a philosopher and not know Mathematica or PHP like Sean.
I'm on the fence about whether BASIC should count, thinking not (cite
Djikstra).

> Sean, I think, will readily agree that badly conceived theories are grist for the Wittgensteinian's mill. So, too, then would be helping in the development of better conceived theories. Of course that is just what Dennett sets himself to do, as it is what Searle is aiming to do (though I have argued elsewhere that Searle's approach is seriously mistaken while Dennett's is not). The point I'm making is that the Wittgensteinian approach to all this does not and need not devolve to questions of language use and misuse alone. All the tools that are relevant must be invoked to clear up ideas and help us to think effectively about difficult issues. Just as logic has a place in any analysis (contradictions and tautologies and other fallacies in claims need to be recognized), so, too, does the way we actually use our words, what we mean when we say this or that. These are not mutually exclusive tools. They are complementary. Indeed, I would argue that Wittgenstein made use of such combinations when he proposed some of the things he is famous for, e.g., the impossibility of private language and what that implied.
>

For all this clear oratory, it's still possible that our cultural
blinders around language are going to interfere with brain research
for a long time.

You need to distinguish namespaces (a Wittgensteinian contribution)
and not insist on global agreement around your key terms. The word
"consciousness" does not need to have that "one normal meaning" we all
agree on, in order to remain as useful as ever.

I'm highly suspicious of any book talking about computers and
consciousness, right off the bat. Few authors have pulled it off with
much integrity. Douglas Hofstadter is an author I respect. I like
Neal Stephenson's science fiction http://www.nealstephenson.com/

In terms of philosophy, Richard Stallman was one of the more
interesting. He walked his talk, started GNU, from whence Linux. The
grand alliance of FOSS and the medical cultures has been interesting
to me.

Doctors have this oath that transcends national boundaries, like with
those ambulance drivers on battle fields, taking wounded from both
sides. The free software movement is likewise meant to be globally
empowering without regard for national allegiance, race, color or
creed (the usual long litany). The combination of medical science
with this new kind of more ethical engineering (coming from computer
science and the global Internet), is of great significance for our
future living standards I'm thinking.

Philosophy is about this stuff too.

In some, it's quite legitimate to say (a) I admire Wittgenstein and
(b) I don't really care if Commander Data is conscious, nor am I that
fascinated by brains, thank you very much (maybe I prefer livers).

What's important is to not force Wittgenstein's philosophy to serve
only one narrow interest group with a tightly focused agenda. That's
just bad marketing (hurts recruiting a next generation).

It's OK to share though. Here's a lollipop for the behaviorists and
another for the Popperians, should they ever get over their concerns
about fire pokers (Dr. Haack and I chuckled about this after her ISEPP
lecture last year -- going to the kick off season opener tonight,
looking forward (I'm on the board)).

> Sean rightly notes that philosophy qua argument about speculative conclusions is pointless and precisely what Wittgenstein sought to turn us from. But that doesn't mean that he wanted to simply redirect us to words alone. Linguistic analysis is a tool, a strategm to bring to bear on any philosophical question (as in what do we mean when we label something as "conscious"?, what are the cases, etc.?). But it is not the be-all and end-all. Indeed, it cannot be without falling into the superficiality of mere wordplay, just the sort of thing many of Wittgenstein's critics, including Karl Popper, wrongly supposed he was about. Yes, words and their use are important but focusing on that does NOT thereby eliminate any substantive role for philosophy in the pursuit of knowledge and human progress. If it should be seen to do so, then philosophy would truly be irrelevant.
>
> SWM

I think you present us with a false dichotomy: either we're
desperately interested in brains and/or consciousness, or we're
shallowly concerned with silly word puzzles, other newspaper geegaws,
or silly mystical notions.

You have this notion of "human progress" as meaning a specific brand
of what to me looks a lot like hucksterism (rather far from real
science).

Again, if there's no real computer code involved, nor even
pseudo-code, it's very likely just Reader's Digest fluff, the stuff of
cocktail parties, not philosophy at all, not really, not any more.

Kirby
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[Wittrs] Re: [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1722 is a reply to message #1716] Thu, 15 October 2009 19:09 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
Messages: 793
Registered: August 2009
Location: Form of Life
Senior Member

... let me try to get this difficult thought out to you Stuart. Again, I'm going to take my route home.

Consider the following sentences:

1. the machine is "conscious"
2. the machine-like is conscious-like
3. the human-like is artificially intelligent
4. the human-like is machine-like
5. the brain is a "machine"
6. cells are a kind of circuitry 
7. the plant is a "machine"
8. Droid Proto-AM XFKI90 co-processes a parallel stream interface
9. Droid Proto-AM XFK190 is human-like
10. the computer is smart
11. Joey is dumb

In each situation, if people who disagree over these statements do NOT disagree about what is happening in the external world, the statements present no philosophic issue. Only statement 8 seems to require truth or falsity, because it involves rigid designators, and is purposely constructed in language for "look and see." The others require what sloppy philosophers call "context," but which Wittgensteinians understand to be language puzzles.

Note that your favorite creature, Star Trek's Data, could indeed be used to make all of the sentences above "true." That is, one could throw them about in the language game having Data specifically in mind. (One could even construct an argument that 11 is true if Data is named Joey or if Data is used in comparison to "Joey" [true "either way"]. One could also use Data for the proposition that human cells are a kind of circuitry themselves, given what the show does for Data's anatomy). Here's the point (game): if you replicate something -- even fictitiously -- does that make the replication the something or the something the replication when you language about it using grammar that pre-dates the event? (You might as well just do Peter Piper).  

How is it that language allows a fictitious Data to be called in today's grammar "machine" "machine-like" "human-like" "dumb" "smart" "artificially intelligent" "humanoid" "circuitry" and "organic-like"  etc etc etc etc?

Here's why. Imagine that words are grab bags (arrays). Inside each bag, there is a set of properties that bear family resemblance to one another. In fact, that's what the bag does -- it holds together the family. That's all that the word is for. To use any of these words (grab bags), one has to assemble a property-sequence from the family. So, let's imagine three bags, ALPHA, BETA, THETA. Each bag has the following properties: ALPHA (a b c d e ... n), BETA (f g h i j  ... n), THETA ( k l m n o ... n). And so, when someone deploys the sentence ALPHA [verb] BETA, they might be deploying something like: a,b,c [verb] h,i. Or, they might mean d, b, e [verb] f, g, i -- which isn't the same. Point: you have to conjugate it. That's what the brain is hardwired to do in the language game -- to extract the idea.

[Now, this can get tricky if the bags themselves work the same way for larger groupings (i.e., the bags work as properties of something else). Or if bags occasionally borrow properties from neighboring families as is probably the case for certain poetic expressions. But let's leave meta-theory out of this. We should always do this "on the ground."]           

Basic consequences of all of this:

1. It is always false to ask "What is X?" where a person thinks a mental mystery exists. The question, "What is X?" only ever means 'what can be assembled from the bag?" What you are doing with "conscious" is what pre-Wittgensteinian philosophers did with questions like, "What is justice?" -- as though it were a metaphysical question. "Justice" only ever was what it did in its usage -- and that only ever amounted to the things that could be assembled as family (from properties in the grab bag). This question only ever asks that grammar be revealed.

2. What is key here is not the grab bag (the word), but what one has assembled. The statements "Data is a machine" and "Data is human" and "humans are machines" can all be true when imported into a Star Trek world so long as no one disagrees with what is happening in that world. What I want to say is this: they can all be true IN A SENSE OF TALKING. Now this is extremely important. If they are all true in their senses of expression, what is said here is that: (a) no one disagrees about the world; and (b) THE THINGS IN THE GRAB BAGS ARE THE SAME. They've all got the same junk in there -- they're just talking about it differently. (And this means that properties of grab bags are surely shared and that family resemblance overlaps into other neighbors).

3. Once we all see this, the only real dispute that exists is what is happening in the world (informational). If we all agree that Data is doing what it is doing, it matters not the slightest TO PHILOSOPHY that we talk about it the way we do. So long, of course, that we understand that this condition exists (that it is only an arrangement of grammar). It is indeed philosophy's mission to show people this last revelation -- that the matter depends upon the arrangement of grammar. 

4. The only real issue that is left here is when grammar is a poor arrangement. This is possible. Grammar can be facile. I talked a little about that here, albeit somewhat cryptically: http://seanwilson.org/forum/index.php?t=msg&th=232&start=0&S=07ef9 654319c9c4f6b50bf92db6bb6f4        

Regards and thanks. 

Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
Assistant Professor
Wright State University
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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1723 is a reply to message #1722] Thu, 15 October 2009 20:42 Go to previous messageGo to next message
SWMirsky is currently offline  SWMirsky
Messages: 188
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member
--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, Sean Wilson <whoooo26505@...> wrote:
>
> ... let me try to get this difficult thought out to you Stuart. Again, I'm going to take my route home.
>
> Consider the following sentences:
>
> 1. the machine is "conscious"
> 2. the machine-like is conscious-like
> 3. the human-like is artificially intelligent
> 4. the human-like is machine-like
> 5. the brain is a "machine"
> 6. cells are a kind of circuitry 
> 7. the plant is a "machine"
> 8. Droid Proto-AM XFKI90 co-processes a parallel stream interface
> 9. Droid Proto-AM XFK190 is human-like
> 10. the computer is smart
> 11. Joey is dumb
>


> In each situation, if people who disagree over these statements do NOT disagree about what is happening in the external world, the
> statements present no philosophic issue.


Of course the argument over what consciousness is IS about having disagreements over what's happening in the "external world" isnt it? That we can use words in lots of different ways, formulate all sorts of sentence conscructions, etc., etc., really says nothing about whether what we call "consciousness" (whatever it is at its core, and that is obviously subject to ongoing dispute) is a result of brains, IS just brains in operation, or is somehow co-existent with brains.

The implications are very nitty-gritty: what do we do with brains when they seem to go wrong and can we construct things that will either interface with, and enhance, brains or substitute for them in difficult places? These are not just questions about the words we happen to choose. I am arguing that it's a mistake to confuse such verbal disputes with what are, when you come down to it, genuinely factual questions, i.e., matters for science. But if people insist on certain ways of thinking about minds, then the science could be hamstrung. (Not, by the way, that I think it will necessarily in this day and age, but there certainly was a time when it was and such times could come again.)


> Only statement 8 seems to require truth or falsity, because it involves rigid designators,


"Rigid" in the Kripkean sense or in a more colloquial sense?


> and is purposely constructed in language for "look and see." The others require what sloppy philosophers call "context," but which Wittgensteinians understand to be language puzzles.
>

I'm not sure there's a lot of difference between referencing "contexts" and "games". These terms just seem to me to be different ways of saying the same thing.


> Note that your favorite creature, Star Trek's Data, could indeed be used to make all of the sentences above "true." That is, one could throw them about in the language game having Data specifically in mind. (One could even construct an argument that 11 is true if Data is named Joey or if Data is used in comparison to "Joey" [true "either way"]. One could also use Data for the proposition that human cells are a kind of circuitry themselves, given what the show
> does for Data's anatomy).


But please note that I am not arguing the question of what is consciousness as a case of what is true or false. No amount of argument can settle that. What is needed for that question are facts, the outcome of serious scientific research, etc.

What I AM arguing is the appropriateness of conceiving of consciousness as (of recognizing that what we mean by "consciousness" is) a process-based physical system of a certain kind.

The issue is whether consciousness CAN be understood intelligibly in this way or whether we must assume some form of dualism or that it is just an unresolvable mystery. True or false responses, except in terms of describing actual uses of our terms, are quite irrelevant.

This is the same error Peter Jones used to make in responding to me, Sean. He was absolutely convinced that by my arguing that Searle's Chinese Room argument failed (and therefore that Searle's conclusions were wrong) I was arguing that Dennett was right. But, as I often tried to explain to him, my case had nothing to do with whether Dennett WAS right but only whether it was possible that he could be. But Peter never could seem to grasp that essential asymmetry in the point I was making.



> Here's the point (game): if you replicate something -- even fictitiously -- does that make the replication the something or the something the replication when you language about it using grammar that pre-dates the event? (You might as well just do Peter Piper).  
>

My point has to do with what we mean when we speak of consciousness and what the physical possibilities are with regard to it.

> How is it that language allows a fictitious Data to be called in today's grammar "machine" "machine-like" "human-like" "dumb" "smart" "artificially intelligent" "humanoid" "circuitry" and "organic-like"  etc etc etc etc?
>
> Here's why. Imagine that words are grab bags (arrays). Inside each bag, there is a set of properties that bear family resemblance to one another. In fact, that's what the bag does -- it holds together the family. That's all that the word is for. To use any of these words (grab bags), one has to assemble a property-sequence from the family. So, let's imagine three bags, ALPHA, BETA, THETA. Each bag has the following properties: ALPHA (a b c d e ... n), BETA (f g h i j  ... n), THETA ( k l m n o ... n). And so, when someone deploys the sentence ALPHA [verb] BETA, they might be deploying something like: a,b,c [verb] h,i. Or, they might mean d, b, e [verb] f, g, i -- which isn't the same. Point: you have to conjugate it. That's what the brain is hardwired to do in the language game -- to extract the idea.
>

I'm not sure what you mean by "the brain is hardwired" to do language. I'm not sure that's the case though I have no alternative theory to offer. I am only unsure that you can make this claim as if it were a fact.


> [Now, this can get tricky if the bags themselves work the same way for larger groupings (i.e., the bags work as properties of something else). Or if bags occasionally borrow properties from neighboring families as is probably the case for certain poetic expressions. But let's leave meta-theory out of this. We should always do this "on the ground."]           
>
> Basic consequences of all of this:
>
> 1. It is always false to ask "What is X?" where a person thinks a mental mystery exists. The question, "What is X?" only ever means 'what can be assembled from the bag?" What you are doing with "conscious" is what pre-Wittgensteinian philosophers did with questions like, "What is justice?" -- as though it were a metaphysical question. "Justice" only ever was what it did in its usage -- and that only ever amounted to the things that could be assembled as family (from properties in the grab bag). This question only ever asks that grammar be revealed.
>


Ah, I see where you're headed, Sean. No, I disagree strongly that this is a metaphysical question.

Unlike "justice", "consciousness" HAS physical criteria, evidence of its presence in the form of an entity's behavior. Justice, on the other hand, is in the eye of the beholder, as it were.

We may argue and seek to find some commonly shared ideas that enable us to agree about what is just (and we find this, no doubt, in the common forms of life we share in a social setting). But recognizing the awareness of another, recognizing the consciousness, is pre-linguistic. My cat relates to me, quite without language, in a way that she does not relate to a chair or a statue. She recognizes me as a fellow animal who can understand her to some degree even if she cannot express such ideas linguistically as we do.

To have justice, on the other hand, we seem to have to have forms of life that are expressed in a language. But this is NOT so to have consciousness, which is part and parcel of the pre-linguistic world in which we live.

What does it mean to be a "metaphysical question"? Metaphysics has to do with our underlying presumptions, our pictures. Inquiring into metaphysics is to look for reasons and explanations of these underpinnings of our thoughts. Supposing that justice equals Justice and is found in some suprasensory form, knowable only through some special form of access, is a way of explaining why we have concepts of justice, of course, and of justifying holding particular opinions about justice.

But this does not mean we cannot also consider justice, as in the concepts of, and commitments to, justice scientifically. We can study the uses and beliefs about what is thought to be just both sociologically or psychologically. Theoretically we can even study these biologically (do animals of a certain level of development have an innate sense of fairness and shared interests with other animals, say?).

Similarly consciousness can be approached metaphysically or scientifically. Typically those who begrudge the role of science here will argue for an incomprehensible and therefore insoluble mystery or at least for a dualism which goes beyond science (because asserting dualism, as an explanation for the universe without physical evidence for it, is to argue for an explanation that is compatible with all currently known physical possibilities). But merely because one can choose to approach the question of what consciousness is through the conduit of metaphysical speculation does not mean scientific inquiry is foreclosed.

The way to sort the differences out is to engage in conceptual analysis sufficient to tell us whether there is necessarily an insoluble or dualist issue here or not. The thrust of my comments on consciousness have been, from the first, to show how there is no such necessity because what we call "consciousness" IS explainable in wholly physical terms.


> 2. What is key here is not the grab bag (the word), but what one has assembled. The statements "Data is a machine" and "Data is human" and "humans are machines" can all be true when imported into a Star Trek world so long as no one disagrees with what is happening in that world. What I want to say is this: they can all be true IN A SENSE OF TALKING. Now this is extremely important. If they are all true in their senses of expression, what is said here is that: (a) no one disagrees about the world; and (b) THE THINGS IN THE GRAB BAGS ARE THE SAME. They've all got the same junk in there -- they're just talking about it differently. (And this means that properties of grab bags are surely shared and that family resemblance overlaps into other neighbors).
>

As you may recall, this question arose based on an episode which portrayed a debate within Starfleet Command as to whether Data, a human-like automaton, should be disassembled as one might a machine or should be treated like a person, i.e., moral issues would preclude us from turning a person off and disassembling them if there were no prospect we could ever put them back together again. The very premise of the story was what happens in a case like that. The assumption is that Data is enough like us to cause at least some human beings to have the same concerns for him as they would for real humans. The question posed was whether one was obligated to think like that, once it was recognized that Data had a mental life like our own. This is not about using the same words in different ways or coining new ones, at least not where consciousness is concerned.


> 3. Once we all see this, the only real dispute that exists is what is happening in the world (informational). If we all agree that Data is doing what it is doing, it matters not the slightest TO PHILOSOPHY that we talk about it the way we do. So long, of course, that we understand that this condition exists (that it is only an arrangement of grammar). It is indeed philosophy's mission to show people this last revelation -- that the matter depends upon the arrangement of grammar. 
>

In this case I am saying the matter doesn't AND it isn't philosophy's role to insist that it does. There are real questions of an ethical nature here, even if philosophy's contribution is to the conceptual issues involved.


> 4. The only real issue that is left here is when grammar is a poor arrangement. This is possible. Grammar can be facile. I talked a little about that here, albeit somewhat cryptically: http://seanwilson.org/forum/index.php?t=msg&th=232&start=0&S=07ef9 654319c9c4f6b50bf92db6bb6f4        
>

We shall have to continue to agree to disagree here, Sean. These things will happen, even among those of us who share many views in common. You are just wrong on this one.

SWM

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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1726 is a reply to message #1722] Thu, 15 October 2009 22:02 Go to previous messageGo to next message
jrstern is currently offline  jrstern
Messages: 159
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member
--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, Sean Wilson <whoooo26505@...> wrote:
>
> Consider the following sentences:
>
> 1. the machine is "conscious"
...
> 11. Joey is dumb
>
> In each situation, if people who disagree over these statements do NOT disagree about what is happening in the external world, the statements present no philosophic issue.

If John says, "Bud is less filling," and Joe says "Bud tastes great!"
does this indicate a philosophical issue? How would their agreement
on what constitutes a Bud in the external world, dissolve their
differences?

It seems to me there is no philosophical problem until you are
considering the facts, causalities, etc, the kinds of things that
you keep trying to distinguish as privileged "scientific" facts.
But if philosophy is coincident with science, then the only things
you may dissolve, are exactly the things you may not dissolve.

I understand the point you are trying to argue with Stuart, and
I believe he understands it, too. Hey, let's not reify things in
the platonic manner, for then we have only the problems we have made
for ourselves. But, is he doing that? Is requesting a definition
the same as reification? I think not, that is, not necessarily.
Seems to me a definition can be seen as exactly the kind of
"grammar" one can give for a word. That no definition is either
essential or complete, we know from many sources. Perhaps (Quine, Davidson et al) more holistic views, sentential, or entire
languages, constitute the proper granularity. I don't really like
that sort of argument, though it certainly has its merits, but I'm
rather afraid that it *is* compatible with even the most extreme
forms of Wittgensteinism.

So, to finish this ramble, does Quine forbid us from asking for
definitions, using dictionaries? Can't recall he ever forbade
such things, "gavagi" or not. Just why they should be OK,
apparently he left as an exercise for the reader.

Josh



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[Wittrs] Re: [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1727 is a reply to message #1726] Thu, 15 October 2009 23:00 Go to previous messageGo to next message
wittrs is currently offline  wittrs
Messages: 4
Registered: August 2009
Junior Member
I'm not sure I follow this. The dispute about Bud is over what makes
it worth buying. It would be like saying "The best thing about the
Steelers is the offense," and being hit with, "no, it is the defense."
Surely this is NOT a philosophical problem. And it become a false one
if one says "if an offense doesn't score, is it still an offense"
(imagine you're the Browns). And if, as a result, someone tried to say
what the nature of essence of 'offense' was for purposes of proving
that the Browns didn't have "offense."

Stuart doesn't understand that the claim that "Data is conscious" is
dependent upon an arrangement of grammar that in the imaginary state
doesn't exist, and that alternative arrangements of current grammar
are possible for that world. I could easily say, e.g., that Data
cannot be conscious because "conscious" is a species-specific
phenomenon. All I would be saying in this situation is that I have a
different way of languaging about something neither of us is disputing
(that Data is doing what it is doing, and so are we). In fact, all we
are really disputing is whether we enjoy each other's deployment of
"conscious." This could escalate into something especially frivolous
if someone reached for a dictionary -- which is only asking you to
look at the newspaper for the language game. As if this has anything
to do with it. What are you going to do if my use isn't there? Call a
foul? "I am right because this dictionary doesn't (yet?) have this
deployment, even though you are understood." What is it that you are
right about?

Look, the problem with the expression "Data is conscious" is that in
this fictitious world the distinction between machine and human is no
longer useful. If you destroy that grammar, all bets are off. In fact,
I imagine that we if consulted an historical linguist (or cultural
anthropology) we would find that language probably handles innovation
with new forms speaking rather than declaring an old one a victor. If
a Data ever is built, we might find it akin to calling something an
IPOD instead of Jukebox, or a magic marker instead of a pen. We might
find that the grammar of "machine" becomes antiquated. (Think of words
or expressions that have died because the conditions of assertability
have changed).

The point here is that Stuart doesn't have a genuine philosophic
problem. At some level, what he really has is a dispute about
politics, sociology or ethics. What he really wants to do is politic
for Data. He wants to extend him rights and a status. And the mistaken
vehicle for this is not morality or aesthetics -- which would be
proper -- but philosophy and language. He's just like those
originalists. He things "consciousness" is a picture of a property
list. He wants to say:

"I define consciousness as X, X Z -- and my definition is reasonable.
Therefore, Data is 'conscious.' Therefore, Data must be given
such-and-such status. This is a proof (argument).And this is
philosophy."

What we would say to him in response is that what X,Z and Z amount to
is a function of the language game and that it is immaterial whether
we call it "conscious" or not when deciding whether to legislate for
Data.

The other thing Stuart is doing is engaging in prognostication. He's
beating the chest of science for what it will create in the future.
This surely isn't a philosophic problem. In fact, on this issue I
myself have no care either way. He may be right about what artificial
intelligence may someday entail.

But what must be understood is that claims of consciousness are about
grammar and not truth. And that it is pointless to argue over how to
characterize the form of life. You cannot language your way in or out
of existence. The only stakes in this discussion seem metaphysical.

There is no genuine philosophical problem here other than showing the
confusions with languaging.
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[Wittrs] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1728 is a reply to message #1720] Thu, 15 October 2009 23:03 Go to previous messageGo to next message
iro3isdx is currently offline  iro3isdx
Messages: 119
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member

--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "jrstern" <jrstern@...> wrote:


>> And then some say: "snow is white" is true if snow is white. And
>> they seem to not recognize that as circular. It was fine as used
>> by Tarski, but makes little sense the way I have seen it used by
>> others.


> Who says it was fine as used by Tarski?

Tarski was defining "truth" for a formal language, so as to be
consistent with truth in the defining natural language. The quoted
"snow is white" was in the formal language, and the other reference to
the color of snow was in the natural language. Since they are two
separate languages, there is no necessary circle. There could still be
a circle if you used the meaning of "truth" in language A to define it
in language B, then used that of language B to define it in language C,
and then used that of language C to define it in language A. But
Tarski was doing something more limited, so I don't see a problem as he
used it.

Regards,
Neil

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[Wittrs] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1729 is a reply to message #1719] Thu, 15 October 2009 23:35 Go to previous messageGo to next message
iro3isdx is currently offline  iro3isdx
Messages: 119
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member

--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "SWM" <SWMirsky@...> wrote:


> As I've seen it presented, the correspondence theory is generally
> meant to claim that the criterion of a "true" statement is its
> correspondence with its referenced state of affairs, not its
> "correspondence to the facts".

"The facts", "the state of affairs", "what is the case" - these all seem
the same to me. I don't see that you are avoiding circularity here.


> "It is raining if and only if it is raining," is the usual shorthand
> way of stating this.

To me, that looks like a trivial truism with no content. That is, it
does not say anything.


> One needn't assume circularity here because states of affairs are
> not necessarily coextensive with the statements that reference them.

I suppose you are thinking of "states of affairs" as being something
physical. I'm not at all sure that is correct. At this stage I could
go into a rant about the widespread misuse of "state". But even
ignoring that, it seems to me that "state" is a representation, so just
talking of states doesn't really solve the problem.

Presumably, people are positing that there exists some sort of
correspondence between the physical world and our representations, and
that a representation is true if it is consistent with that
correspondence. At least that's what the term "correspondence theory"
suggests to me. But if one is going to posit that, isn't there an
obligation to investigate the nature of that correspondence, and to
investigate how we manage to have access to that correspondence? It
seems to me that without some such investigation, philosophy is
indistinguishable from theology.

Regards,
Neil

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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1730 is a reply to message #1727] Thu, 15 October 2009 23:46 Go to previous messageGo to next message
jrstern is currently offline  jrstern
Messages: 159
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member
--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, Sean Wilson <ludwig.sean@...> wrote:
>
> But what must be understood is that claims of consciousness are
> about grammar and not truth.
>...
> There is no genuine philosophical problem here other than showing
> the confusions with languaging.


But per Wittgenstein there *never* are any genuine philosophical
problems other than confusions about languaging.

Cannot Stuart's questions about consciousness be understood as asking
about the grammar of consciousness? That would seem to avoid the need
to distinguish scientific from ... other ... forms of discourse.

Josh


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[Wittrs] Wittgenstein's Way [message #1734 is a reply to message #1706] Fri, 16 October 2009 06:20 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Joseph Polanik is currently offline  Joseph Polanik
Messages: 15
Registered: August 2009
Junior Member
Sean Wilson wrote:

>... a good effort Stuart. But I am confused about a couple of things.
>Let me go the other way around.

>2. The mistake that Plato & Co. made was in thinking that they could
>ask questions like "what is the good," or what is "ethics" -- and
>receive proscriptive solutions. A sort of "law" (or property-list) for
>these items. This reminds me of what you are doing with
>"consciousness." And like Plato, you seem to think that you what you
>are doing with this term is "reasoning" about it (and hence you embrace
>debate, argument and premises, etc., as "philosophy").

>But we all know what consciousness is. It's the sense of "I." The
>awareness of the awarer. (Or the awareness of the awareness). Once
>someone is plugged into this sort of grammar, one understands what it
>says.

we all have this sense of 'I'. what we don't know is whether to say "I
am a consciousness" or "I am a mind" or "I am a soul" or ... whatever.

in PI #416, Wittgenstein suggests that 'I am conscious' is informative
in a way that 'I am a consciousness' is not. ; nevertheless, one expects
that there is an informative answer to the question 'what am I?'.

>3. The real trouble that you get into is when you make assertions of
>the idea of "conscious" outside of its normal grammar. ... It isn't
>true or false, it's a new grammar. Indeed, one could both agree and
>disagree with it and not be "wrong," so long as all agreed with what
>was happening in the external world.

the problem here is that there is no agreement as to what is happening
in the external world. in PI #412, Wittgenstein mentions "the feeling of
an unbridgeable gulf between consciousness and brain-process". is 'this'
(the referent of 'I') the product of a brain process? it could very well
be that such a question has a 'yes' or 'no' answer.

Joe



--

Nothing Unreal is Self-Aware

@^@~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~@^@
http://what-am-i.net
@^@~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~@^@


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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1736 is a reply to message #1727] Fri, 16 October 2009 08:58 Go to previous messageGo to next message
SWMirsky is currently offline  SWMirsky
Messages: 188
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member
Sean makes a mistake on this one:

"The point here is that Stuart doesn't have a genuine philosophic
problem. sociology or ethics. What he really wants to do is politic
for Data. He wants to extend him rights and a status."

In fact I haven't advocated in this discussion for treating Data in any way at all. I have noted that it becomes a bone of contention IN THE STORY and that it works as a story for us because it resonates. What it demonstrates is that we don't need interior access to recognize something as having a mental life (the original reason I presented the example). Of course, in the discussion it became an example, as well, for a use of "consciousness" (the word) in application to a new entity, suggesting that the use represented something we were referring to that was distinct from the entity itself. Thus, my second point was that, while such a word could well develop new applications as the world changes, their meaning would not have to change. Of course my third point was that "consciousness" is such a word.

Thus, there is a word usage issue here, to be sure, but it is not a stipulative one, Sean, as you seem to be suggesting. And, while our concept of personhood might actually have to change, given facts like this (in fact I would expect it to) calling Data "conscious" does not change what we mean by "conscious."



--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, Sean Wilson <ludwig.sean@...> wrote:
>

The point here is that Stuart doesn't have a genuine philosophic
problem. sociology or ethics. What he really wants to do is politic
for Data. He wants to extend him rights and a status. And the mistaken
vehicle for this is not morality or aesthetics -- which would be
proper -- but philosophy and language. He's just like those
originalists. He things "consciousness" is a picture of a property
list. He wants tAt some level, what he really has is a dispute about
politics, o say:

"I define consciousness as X, X Z -- and my definition is reasonable.
Therefore, Data is 'conscious.' Therefore, Data must be given
such-and-such status. This is a proof (argument).And this is
philosophy."

What we would say to him in response is that what X,Z and Z amount to
is a function of the language game and that it is immaterial whether
we call it "conscious" or not when deciding whether to legislate for
Data.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SWM: This, Sean, is seriously mistaken since how we legislate for creatures like Data would be driven by their features, including whether or not they shared certain capacities with us, in this case those we call in ourselves "consciousness" (or whatever equivalent we might agree on, e.g., having a mind, a mental life, etc., etc).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Sean: The other thing Stuart is doing is engaging in prognostication. He's beating the chest of science for what it will create in the future. This surely isn't a philosophic problem. In fact, on this issue I myself have no care either way. He may be right about what artificial intelligence may someday entail.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SWM: But by arguing that if we mean by "consciousness" (when applied to others) certain features of behavior taken as evidence of the presence a mental life, I am not predicting anything, Sean. As I have said repeatedly that it's possible that science will succeed but not that it is assured, not an established truth that THIS is what consciousness is, because in the end it's an empirical question. But my argument has been that "consciousness" in our actual usage implies just such a concept of mind, i.e., that it is physically based. What is philosophical here is the effort to examine the uses in order to tell us something about the concept.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sean: But what must be understood is that claims of consciousness are about grammar and not truth. And that it is pointless to argue over how to characterize the form of life. You cannot language your way in or out of existence. The only stakes in this discussion seem metaphysical.

There is no genuine philosophical problem here other than showing the
confusions with languaging.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SWM: The confusions are unpacked in order to clarify why a claim that 'consciousness is not amenable to scientific research' is wrong. This is not stipulative and, while embedded in conceptual unclarity (linguistic confusion) it IS philosophical precisely because its implications go beyond merely making sure we all understand each other, that we are speaking the same tongue, etc., etc. This is not a mere translation problem or a dictionary issue. While conceptual issues are addressable by looking at how we deploy our terms, they are more involved and generally deeper in their implications than the superficial matter of translating or giving a meaning.

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[Wittrs] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1737 is a reply to message #1729] Fri, 16 October 2009 09:28 Go to previous messageGo to next message
SWMirsky is currently offline  SWMirsky
Messages: 188
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member
--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "iro3isdx" <xznwrjnk-evca@...> wrote:
>
>
> --- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "SWM" <SWMirsky@> wrote:
>
>
> > As I've seen it presented, the correspondence theory is generally
> > meant to claim that the criterion of a "true" statement is its
> > correspondence with its referenced state of affairs, not its
> > "correspondence to the facts".
>
> "The facts", "the state of affairs", "what is the case" - these all seem
> the same to me. I don't see that you are avoiding circularity here.
>


A fact may be understood as a statement of a certain type (one that matches the condition of what it references) or it may be understood as that condition itself (the state of affairs -- I'll deal with your question re: THAT term below). It may also be understood as a particular relation that includes a statement and a state of affairs or something else. In fact when we look at our uses we do see that "fact" is fairly hard to pin down.

Sometimes in saying "That's a fact" I seem to be saying "That condition in the world I am referring to is the case." And sometimes, that "my statement of reference is true."

I'm not sure that we need greater clarity for "fact" though because except in some of these rarified philosophical discussions there isn't a lot of concern over what we have in mind. In fact, it looks like our references to the world can mean both or either, depending on need.

>
> > "It is raining if and only if it is raining," is the usual shorthand
> > way of stating this.
>
> To me, that looks like a trivial truism with no content. That is, it
> does not say anything.
>

Well, of course it's a truism when taken as an everyday statement. As you point, out Tasrki's use had to do with formal systems. So do those of philosophers who follow this approach. What they are aiming to do is to develop a formalized way of stating this in order to promulgate a theory of truth, THIS is what it always means, etc.

Wittgenstein's way, on the other hand, is to show that it is not a matter of what it always means but what it means in the cases in which it is used and how they relate to one another.


>
> > One needn't assume circularity here because states of affairs are
> > not necessarily coextensive with the statements that reference them.
>
> I suppose you are thinking of "states of affairs" as being something
> physical. I'm not at all sure that is correct. At this stage I could
> go into a rant about the widespread misuse of "state". But even
> ignoring that, it seems to me that "state" is a representation, so just
> talking of states doesn't really solve the problem.
>

If "state" is a representation, it is a different kind than the word that states it. Thus we appear to have levels of representation and this is fully consistent with a picture of our world and thought processes that allows for subjective and objective, etc. That we recognize an objective area, a real world external to ourselves, does not imply that such a world MUST be understood in some Kantian fashion (there but beyond our cognitive reach). As many here have noted, the objective world we refer to in many ways is rooted in the same subjectivity as our mental lives, it's just a different area of our experience.

On the Analytic list Peter Jones challenged my criticism of Searle's Chinese Room argument by proposing that a hypothetical machine mind
could never have a direct contact with the world, that it would always depend on what inputs it was fed by others, and thus it would always be hermetically sealed. It would be essentially solipsistic (and being that could never know anything the way we do). My response was that this wouldn't matter anymore than it matters that we have sensory apparatuses that may or may not give us a real picture of the outside world. Our connections with the world are causal even if our recognition of what the world is occurs from representations those causal inputs prompt in us, and then representations of representations, etc. We are no more closely linked to the world around us than a hypothetical machine mind with its array of input devices.

When we speak of a "state" we have in mind a particular something in the world which is driven by the causal inputs of our sensory equipment, etc., and this something exists for us as a representation. It may or may not completely represent what is its cause (though, for the reasons I've already advanced we have good reason to accept that it is fairly faithful to the ordering that is "out there"). But our idea of what we mean by what is "out there" will consist of certain pictures, and our ideas of what they mean, other pictures, etc.

Just because the external world (or the things of the external world) are representations in our systems of communicating doesn't mean they represent nothing or that they are the same as other kinds of representations we produce and use.


> Presumably, people are positing that there exists some sort of
> correspondence between the physical world and our representations, and
> that a representation is true if it is consistent with that
> correspondence. At least that's what the term "correspondence theory"
> suggests to me. But if one is going to posit that, isn't there an
> obligation to investigate the nature of that correspondence, and to
> investigate how we manage to have access to that correspondence?


If one is engaging in theorizing about this, I suppose that's true. But the way offered by Wittgenstein eschews such theorizing and says just look at the uses and you will know what we mean in the relevant contexts and whether or not there is a philosophical issue here to be unpacked. Do we need a theory of truth or just a way of understanding the many ways we use the word?


> It
> seems to me that without some such investigation, philosophy is
> indistinguishable from theology.
>
> Regards,
> Neil
>

No, with such investigation it becomes indistinguishable in a very important sense because such investigations aim to describe a conceived reality that is beyond proof and disproof.

SWM

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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1742 is a reply to message #1730] Fri, 16 October 2009 11:33 Go to previous messageGo to next message
SWMirsky is currently offline  SWMirsky
Messages: 188
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member
--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "jrstern" <jrstern@...> wrote:
>
> --- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, Sean Wilson <ludwig.sean@> wrote:
> >
> > But what must be understood is that claims of consciousness are
> > about grammar and not truth.
> >...
> > There is no genuine philosophical problem here other than showing
> > the confusions with languaging.
>


>
> But per Wittgenstein there *never* are any genuine philosophical
> problems other than confusions about languaging.
>
> Cannot Stuart's questions about consciousness be understood as asking
> about the grammar of consciousness? That would seem to avoid the need
> to distinguish scientific from ... other ... forms of discourse.
>
> Josh
>

I think the issue is not about technique since Sean and I seem to be in general agreement about that.

The issue lies, rather, in implications.

Sometimes grammatical questions are just about the grammar (understood as the ways we use the terms in question) and sometimes they affect issues that go beyond grammar per se. Thus we can ask if someone has used a word correctly and, if we think they haven't, correct them with an example, a definition, etc. This is about getting them to clarify something they had in mind or just making sure they sound educated, or some combination (as when we correct the English grammar of a native French or Chinese speaker).

But sometimes the grammar affects how we think about things and in that case the fine points of standard English (or any other language's standards) aren't what's important. Here it's a matter of whether we are carrying the wrong picture, prone to drawing the wrong kinds of conclusions, or stuck in an otherwise apparently no-win language game. This, of course, is where grammar and philosophy converge and what is important here, what is, indeed, philosophical, is how exploring the usages will affect the things we are prone to think about various larger questions.

In the Data example, Josh, you are quite right. I am asking about the grammar or use of a word like "consciousness" but, of course, it's not just to refine our vocabulary as Sean seems to be suggesting. It's not about entering new stipulations into the language game in which we speak about Data, consciousness, etc. It's about discovering whether what we actually mean by "consciousness" includes the concept of the Data character (and things like him/it) or not.

Yes, as Sean notes there are ethical, political and even predictive concerns to be found here. But they are not central to the issue of whether "consciousness" names a phenomenon that can be conceived as physically based or not.

If it does play that role, then one way of thinking about the world is appropriate and one way of researching consciousness is.

If it doesn't, then other ways of understanding the world and a rejection of certain kinds of research are appropriate.

Thus there are some real implications that flow from discovering the right grammar in a case like this, implications that go beyond refinement of speech.

Where Sean gets me wrong is in passing over THIS aspect of what I have been saying.

Failing to address this implication aspect, I think, can be very misleading because it makes it look like Wittgenstein's contribution is all about verbalisms and not about the substance which, of course, was one of Popper's criticisms. But what Popper missed was that it's the use we make of linguistic analysis that is the key, not the focus on word usage for its own sake. Linguistic analysis in the service of philosophical thinking is different from discovering how natural languages work, how the brain produces them or how any given speaker more or less closely adheres to the standards of any given language.

SWM

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[C] [Wittrs] On Wittgenstein's Idea of Grammar [message #1743 is a reply to message #1742] Fri, 16 October 2009 15:56 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
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(replying to a point Stuart makes about grammar)

Stuart:

The more I see your comments about grammar, the more I am convinced that this is the real issue between us. In a previous mail, you tried to tell me that grammar wasn't all that special in a Wittgensteinian universe. I couldn't believe you had actually said that. (Another time you tried to say that Wittgenstein's ordinary language use would frown upon verbing nouns. We'll leave that topic for another day). Here, you take the position that grammar refers to helping people with words (in one sense) or clarifying their mental pictures (in another). Let me try to give a better account.

For Wittgenstein, grammar isn't simply helping people with their words. Or helping them to mean what they mean. It has nothing to do with being a librarian or offering secretarial labor.

Here's the idea: when one speaks, they have no choice but to implicate assertability conditions. It can't be avoided. Trouble is, the assertability conditions a person offers can be all screwed up, no matter that that they have chosen the "right" words. Grammar in a Wittgensteinian universe has nothing to do with minding p's and q's and offering definitions to keep intentions clear. 

Grammar is something that reveals itself "in the field of play." One might think of it as the signature that an assertion leaves. Every time an assertion is made, it comes packaged inside a grammar. This "package," however, isn't something that you and I pack, like a suitcase. It's something that is necessary for the behavior of language itself -- it facilitates language. You could not language without it.

Here's the key point: YOU DON'T CONTROL THE GRAMMAR. You only implicate it when you formulate ideas and words. Every idea/word you offer entails something "grammatical." When someone makes an assertion, therefore, it may rely upon very poor grammar even though the words clearly express what the person means. For example, Moore's use of doubting-grammar in his "I have a hand" paper caused Wittgenstein to note that doubting-grammar wasn't useful here. Moore knew perfectly well what his words meant. But he didn't know that what he had "adding up" was pointless.

So every time you language, you show us your grammar. 

Checking a person's grammar isn't asking him "what do you mean?"  It's asking how what he means fits together (makes sense). A good way of doing this is translating what is meant into other ways of talking about the same thing. In this vein, you would be assessing how sophisticated the person's language arrangement (lexicon) was for purposes of the assertion in question.

One might say of Moore that his language arrangement had confused an innocent sense of "know" (I am aware of) with a functional sense (I have eliminated doubt where doubt can meaningfully exist).

So the issue isn't about word use per se; it's about the cognition of ideas as reflected in word use. You will note that child language frames do a decent job with communication. But they do a poor job with making numerous kinds of assertions. In a Wittgensteinian universe, the thing that is ultimately king is a sense of refinement, which shows itself not only in a rich lexicon, but in the tasks that the brain performs to wield the lexicon in a knot-free manner.

Regards. 
 
Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
Assistant Professor
Wright State University
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[Wittrs] Re: On Wittgenstein's Idea of Grammar [message #1744 is a reply to message #1743] Fri, 16 October 2009 16:57 Go to previous messageGo to next message
SWMirsky is currently offline  SWMirsky
Messages: 188
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member
--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, Sean Wilson <whoooo26505@...> wrote:
>
> (replying to a point Stuart makes about grammar)
>
> Stuart:
>
> The more I see your comments about grammar, the more I am convinced that this is the real issue between us. In a previous mail, you tried to tell me that grammar wasn't all that special in a Wittgensteinian universe. I couldn't believe you had actually said that. (Another time you tried to say that Wittgenstein's ordinary language use would
> frown upon verbing nouns. We'll leave that topic for another day).


Hmmm, I do think that creating verbs from nouns is an extra-Wittgensteinian move. While ordinary language is always subject to change, stipulating new uses which depart from what is actually observable in ordinary language seems to me to go against the grain of any strategy that calls on us to correct our uses by looking at ordinary language and how our words are actually used there. "Languaging", while not an impossible application, just seems too far removed from real usage to me and thus feels artificial.

However, I think, from your comments above and below, that the real issue between us seems to hinge on a misunderstanding. I would never say "grammar isn't all that special in a Wittgensteinian universe" though I do think that the Wittgensteinian notion of grammar isn't the same as what we study in grade school or in linguistics. Nevertheless there is, of course, that ubiquitous family resemblance!



> Here, you take the position that grammar refers to helping people with words (in one sense) or clarifying their mental pictures (in another). Let me try to give a better account.
>


No, I said that grammar can be understood in more than one way and that one way we typically use "grammar" is to talk about whether language users have formed their words correctly in sentences. But I also was quite clear that, while it may all be the same thing at bottom (paying attention to the rules of word deployment), what differentiated a philosophical concern from an English teacher's concern, say, had to do with what the affects of the grammatical corrections were. Thus getting a usage right may be more a matter of linguistic aesthetics or communication clarity, or it may be a matter of clarity of our thinking. I argued that the latter is where grammar and philosophy connect and why concern with grammar on a philosophical level is not just about verbiage, contra Wittgenstein critics like Popper.


> For Wittgenstein, grammar isn't simply helping people with their words. Or helping them to mean what they mean. It has nothing to do with being a librarian or offering secretarial labor.
>


Of course not and I wasn't making the point that it was.


> Here's the idea: when one speaks, they have no choice but to implicate assertability conditions. It can't be avoided. Trouble is, the assertability conditions a person offers can be all screwed up, no matter that that they have chosen the "right" words. Grammar in a Wittgensteinian universe has nothing to do with minding p's and q's and offering definitions to keep intentions clear. 
>


Yes, of course, we are in perfect accord here.


> Grammar is something that reveals itself "in the field of play." One might think of it as the signature that an assertion leaves. Every time an assertion is made, it comes packaged inside a grammar. This "package," however, isn't something that you and I pack, like a suitcase. It's something that is necessary for the behavior of language itself -- it facilitates language. You could not language without it.
>

Or speak or write without it!


> Here's the key point: YOU DON'T CONTROL THE GRAMMAR. You only implicate it when you formulate ideas and words. Every idea/word you offer entails something "grammatical." When someone makes an assertion, therefore, it may rely upon very poor grammar even though the words clearly express what the person means. For example, Moore's use of doubting-grammar in his "I have a hand" paper caused Wittgenstein to note that doubting-grammar wasn't useful here. Moore knew perfectly well what his words meant. But he didn't know that what he had "adding up" was pointless.
>

I think there are some who still support Moore's approach but it really is a naive almost non-philosophical (read common sense) approach. As that, it misses the point of the solipsism it is designed to counter.

> So every time you language, you show us your grammar. 
>

Ouch, using "language" as a verb really doesn't feel right to me. We just never speak that way. What is gained by doing so when we could just speak about speaking and writing and be adequately understood?


> Checking a person's grammar isn't asking him "what do you mean?"  It's asking how what he means fits together (makes sense). A good way of doing this is translating what is meant into other ways of talking about the same thing. In this vein, you would be assessing how sophisticated the person's language arrangement (lexicon) was for
> purposes of the assertion in question.
>

Yes, I agree with this. We often think we mean things without really knowing quite what the implications are of the things we are saying. That's one of the ways we (and especially philosophers) get into trouble.

> One might say of Moore that his language arrangement had confused an innocent sense of "know" (I am aware of) with a functional sense (I have eliminated doubt where doubt can meaningfully exist).
>

> So the issue isn't about word use per se; it's about the cognition of ideas as reflected in word use.


Isn't this what I said when I made the point that it's not about the aesthetics of the use (don't say "ain't" Johnny!) but the implications, the pictures kicked up, the conclusions we are moved to draw in particular language games?


> You will note that child language frames do a decent job with communication. But they do a poor job with making numerous kinds of assertions. In a Wittgensteinian universe, the thing that is ultimately king is a sense of refinement, which shows itself not only in a rich lexicon, but in the tasks that the brain performs to wield the lexicon in a knot-free manner.
>


Here I think we also diverge. I don't see refinement as a kind of aesthetic issue as the point though refinement in terms of attaining greater clarity would be.

Are we really that far apart do you think?

SWM

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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1745 is a reply to message #1742] Fri, 16 October 2009 17:35 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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Stuart:

Here is the second installment. It's this right here that I want to focus upon:

" .. whether what we actually mean by "consciousness" includes the concept of the Data character (and things like him/it) or not."

What we mean will never be anything but a sense and its grammar. And this example of Data is problematic because it specifically manipulates those conditions of assertability. And the point is that one could in this game deploy not only "conscious" either way, but other terms that now have their grammar molested -- (machine, organic, human, person, etc.)

And so what I have tried to tell you with respect to this issue is that it is not a philosophic issue. At best, here are what the issues are:

1. Linguistic Anthropology. How will Datas be talked about in future lexicons? Linguists who study this might have interesting things to say by looking at language patterns. My guess would be that new conditions of assertability produce new forms of talking.

2. Scientific. What is it that certain processes and microanatomy do in the brain, and can these processes be manufactured?

3. Cultural, moral, poiltical. What rights to extend.

4. Prognostication and Sci-Fi. Arguing over the status of development and what it will become -- and making new movies and such

Short of this, there is nothing for philosophy to do. Other than, of course, to show this.

Here is what I want to say. Whenever a philosophy professor says ANYTHING, it should only reduce to: find the conditions of assertability, and find where the professor has manipulated the same to create the play.

It would be like someone saying, "go into the shed, discover the wiring, and see where I have crossed them."

One wants to say that all philosophy is good for is teaching one how to find the short circuiting.



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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1746 is a reply to message #1745] Fri, 16 October 2009 18:12 Go to previous messageGo to next message
SWMirsky is currently offline  SWMirsky
Messages: 188
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member
--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "seanwilsonorg" <wittrsamr@...> wrote:
>
> Stuart:
>
> Here is the second installment. It's this right here that I want to focus upon:
>
> " .. whether what we actually mean by "consciousness" includes the concept of the Data character (and things like him/it) or not."
>
> What we mean will never be anything but a sense and its grammar. And this example of Data is problematic because it specifically manipulates those conditions of assertability. And the point is that one could in this game deploy not only "conscious" either way, but other terms that now have their grammar molested -- (machine, organic, human, person, etc.)

>
> And so what I have tried to tell you with respect to this issue is that it is not a philosophic issue.


What is philosophical is how we are to think about what Data is. Certainly we can use all sorts of words, coin new ones, etc. But the bottom line is going to be what is Data with relation to ourselves. How ought we to deal with him (as a machine or a person)? There is no special philosophical concern here. As you rightly note there are scientific and ethical and political questions. But ALL of these will be informed by what it means to be Data, whether he is a real he or just some kind of image of a "he", whether he is a real person or just a walking, talking statue, etc.

What IS philosophical is what we mean by the various ascriptions we will give to such an entity. Does a Data machine with a mental life much like ours (he sees, remembers, thinks, reasons, uses language, operates with autonomy on a par with ours, etc., etc.) have a mind? Have consciousness? What is it to have a mind, to have consciousness?

This is NOT just about picking particular words over others or stipulating new ones or new uses but about how we use the words we already have.


> At best, here are what the issues are:
>
> 1. Linguistic Anthropology. How will Datas be talked about in future lexicons? Linguists who study this might have interesting things to say by looking at language patterns. My guess would be that new conditions of assertability produce new forms of talking.
>
> 2. Scientific. What is it that certain processes and microanatomy do in the brain, and can these processes be manufactured?
>
> 3. Cultural, moral, poiltical. What rights to extend.
>
> 4. Prognostication and Sci-Fi. Arguing over the status of development and what it will become -- and making new movies and such
>

All different issues but the nexus, the philosophy happens at the conceptual level, as understood by word usage (a la Wittgenstein).


> Short of this, there is nothing for philosophy to do. Other than, of course, to show this.
>


We differ on this because I am saying that philosophy touches on all of this because it deals with our concepts, our ideas, and these are all part and parcel of the categories you sketch out above.


> Here is what I want to say. Whenever a philosophy professor says ANYTHING, it should only reduce to: find the conditions of assertability, and find where the professor has manipulated the same to create the play.
>

And what I want to say is there is more to philosophy than just tweaking our linguistic uses.


> It would be like someone saying, "go into the shed, discover the wiring, and see where I have crossed them."
>
> One wants to say that all philosophy is good for is teaching one how to find the short circuiting.
>
>

Yes it can be. But the short circuits involve the game of running circuits, etc., so philosophy is a specialized technique that can be applied within another discipline. It is that with regard to all the issues you sketch out above, too.

SWM

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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way - grammar of consciousness [message #1749 is a reply to message #1742] Sat, 17 October 2009 11:06 Go to previous messageGo to next message
jrstern is currently offline  jrstern
Messages: 159
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member
--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "SWM" <SWMirsky@...> wrote:
>
> In the Data example, Josh, you are quite right. I am asking about the grammar or use of a word like "consciousness" but, of course, it's not just to refine our vocabulary as Sean seems to be suggesting. It's not about entering new stipulations into the language game in which we speak about Data, consciousness, etc. It's about discovering whether what we actually mean by "consciousness" includes the concept of the Data character (and things like him/it) or not.

OK, the question is where our concern with words ends and our concern
with distal facts begins.

Especially as Kirby described it, a grammar can (or must?!) relate
not (just) to words, but to distal objects, to the real, or at least
intersubjective, consensus world. It is not the *word*
"consciousness" that has a grammar, it is the actuality in the
world of "consciousness" that has a grammar. Then, it is well if
our linguistic grammars, and our use of the *word* "consciousness",
correspond to the distal facts. Sean speaks of "assertability
conditions". That may head in some problematic directions, but it's
the same kind of concept.

I am still trying to figure out exactly what Wittgenstein's claims
are here, and what to make of them. Insofar as Sean's examples of
Wittgenstein-ing a topic are appropriate, and Sean's explanation that
science earns an exemption from the treatment - I find it
problematic.

If Wittgenstein is skeptical that we can know the rule for a
mathematical sequence, but he allows for a grammar of a sequence,
or Sean says we can have assertability conditions for our talking
about the sequence - are these really different, or just different
ways of saying the same thing?

I'm pretty sure that we can simply talk about things, and understand
that any talk is talk, and that the grammar of our talk and the
grammar of the things, are two separate components of how agents
talk about the world. And that the same rules can and do and must
apply to scientific talk and non-scientific talk exactly equally.

Josh





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[Wittrs] Re: [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way - grammar of consciousness [message #1752 is a reply to message #1749] Sat, 17 October 2009 12:04 Go to previous messageGo to next message
kirby urner is currently offline  kirby urner
Messages: 349
Registered: August 2009
Location: Portland, Oregon
Senior Member
On Sat, Oct 17, 2009 at 8:06 AM, jrstern <jrstern@yahoo.com> wrote:

<< >>

> Especially as Kirby described it, a grammar can (or must?!) relate
> not (just) to words, but to distal objects, to the real, or at least
> intersubjective, consensus world.  It is not the *word*
> "consciousness" that has a grammar, it is the actuality in the
> world of "consciousness" that has a grammar.  Then, it is well if
> our linguistic grammars, and our use of the *word* "consciousness",
> correspond to the distal facts.  Sean speaks of "assertability
> conditions".  That may head in some problematic directions, but it's
> the same kind of concept.
>

I think Sean's use of "languaging" helps move us from noun-sense to
verb-sense i.e. to a post nominalist sensibility. It's not that the
word 'cat' and the thing (cat) are related as proximal to distal (the
word might be on a distant bill board, the real deal in your lap) but
that both have semantic value in a grammar.

For suburbanite Americans going to community college, maybe taking
philosophy at night school (a prerequisite for foreign service at some
levels), I might translate "grammar" as "lifestyle". I think they'd
get that, and it's faithful to 'On Certainty' 's "form of life".
Language games involve moving slabs around (of fat, of whatever), are
not just quiescent stare-into-a-book activities. You may feel
obligated to draw some line, making "chess pieces" be not language,
with "chess notation" as language, but that'd be an artificial line,
as in arbitrary, random.

I think most philosophers of language might agree that "pure language"
has this "jagged edge" where it connects to real stuff. That's where
Wittgenstein grounds his certainties, his arithmetic sensibilities,
not in some cerebral "pure logic" we can never see or smell, no matter
how hard we think about it. He's more like Nietzsche in this way, in
keeping the senses, also vivid imagery, central to the thinking
process, not just as sources of "data" (as in "sense data").

Kirby
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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way - grammar of consciousness [message #1753 is a reply to message #1752] Sat, 17 October 2009 12:41 Go to previous messageGo to next message
jrstern is currently offline  jrstern
Messages: 159
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member
--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, kirby urner <wittrsamr@...> wrote:
>
> On Sat, Oct 17, 2009 at 8:06 AM, jrstern <jrstern@...> wrote:
>
> > Especially as Kirby described it, a grammar can (or must?!)
> > relate not (just) to words, but to distal objects, to the real,
> > or at least intersubjective, consensus world.  It is not the
> > *word* "consciousness" that has a grammar, it is the actuality
> > in the world of "consciousness" that has a grammar.  Then, it
> > is well if our linguistic grammars, and our use of the
> > *word* "consciousness", correspond to the distal facts.  Sean
> > speaks of "assertability conditions".  That may head in some
> > problematic directions, but it's the same kind of concept.
>
> I think Sean's use of "languaging" helps move us from noun-sense
> to verb-sense i.e. to a post nominalist sensibility. It's not that
> the word 'cat' and the thing (cat) are related as proximal to
> distal (the word might be on a distant bill board, the real deal
> in your lap) but that both have semantic value in a grammar.

I need clarification in how you are seeing this - both 'cat' and
(cat) each play their respective roles in a single grammar? And it
the comprehensiveness of this grammar, encompassing both word and
object (ahem), that we should appreciate?


> For suburbanite Americans going to community college, maybe taking
> philosophy at night school (a prerequisite for foreign service at
> some levels), I might translate "grammar" as "lifestyle". I think
> they'd get that, and it's faithful to 'On Certainty' 's "form of
> life". Language games involve moving slabs around (of fat, of
> whatever), are not just quiescent stare-into-a-book activities.
> You may feel obligated to draw some line, making "chess pieces" be
> not language, with "chess notation" as language, but that'd be an
> artificial line, as in arbitrary, random.

But is it an "obligation" to draw such arbitrary lines, or a freedom
to do so, or a convenience, or something of the sort?


> I think most philosophers of language might agree that "pure
> language" has this "jagged edge" where it connects to real stuff.
> That's where Wittgenstein grounds his certainties, his arithmetic
> sensibilities, not in some cerebral "pure logic" we can never see
> or smell, no matter how hard we think about it. He's more like
> Nietzsche in this way, in keeping the senses, also vivid imagery,
> central to the thinking process, not just as sources of "data" (as
> in "sense data").

Some have seen phenomenalist aspects in Wittgenstein.

I know, you don't like this dissection and labeling, but I persist
in seeing it as harmless (or necessary) methodology.

I just remain unconvinced there's any point, any legitimacy, in
trying to assert phenomenalist aspects to, say, numeric sequences.

Josh



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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1754 is a reply to message #1736] Sat, 17 October 2009 15:44 Go to previous messageGo to next message
blroadies is currently offline  blroadies
Messages: 27
Registered: August 2009
Junior Member

--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "SWM" <SWMirsky@...> wrote:
>
> Sean makes a mistake on this one:
>
> "The point here is that Stuart doesn't have a genuine philosophic
> problem.

Sean, I take it you wrote the above. Help me out. I thought, for you,
philosophy dwells in clarifying the grammar of claims. Stuart, as I read
him, is trying to clarify the grammar of mind and brain. In what way
isn't this philosophical?

bruce


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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1755 is a reply to message #1723] Sat, 17 October 2009 16:04 Go to previous messageGo to next message
blroadies is currently offline  blroadies
Messages: 27
Registered: August 2009
Junior Member

--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "SWM" <SWMirsky@...> wrote:

> Of course the argument over what consciousness is IS about having
disagreements over
> what's happening in the "external world" isnt it?...

Yes and No.

> What is needed for that question are facts, the outcome of serious
scientific research, etc.

Yes. If we are researching the brain parts vital to consciousness, it is
a question of fact.

> What I AM arguing is the appropriateness of conceiving of
consciousness...(as) a process-based physical system of a certain kind.

Yes. It would be appropriate to conceive of consciousness in physical
terms in the context of this research.

And now the "No." This research (about the 'external world'?) doesn't
settle the vexing question of how to conceive of the relationship
between this physical system and the person's mental life.

All the work mentioned here has brain parts "sending information",
"recalling past events" and such stuff attributed to mind

Your attempts, which I respect, and do see as philosophical work,
including causation, two-sides of a coin, functionality, identity,
reduction, anti-dualism...all have auspicious beginnings but break down
under examination. So, where ever we are, we are not there yet.

bruce



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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way - grammar of consciousness [message #1763 is a reply to message #1749] Sat, 17 October 2009 19:42 Go to previous messageGo to next message
SWMirsky is currently offline  SWMirsky
Messages: 188
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member
--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "jrstern" <jrstern@...> wrote:
> --- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "SWM" <SWMirsky@> wrote:
> > In the Data example, Josh, you are quite right. I am asking about the grammar or use of a word like "consciousness" but, of course, it's not just to refine our vocabulary as Sean seems to be suggesting. It's not about entering new stipulations into the language game in which we speak about Data, consciousness, etc. It's about discovering whether what we actually mean by "consciousness" includes the concept of the Data character (and things like him/it) or not.
>
> OK, the question is where our concern with words ends and our concern
> with distal facts begins.
>

Words are facts, facts words, aren't they? But then we get into the question raised by Neil: "What is a fact?"

The word "fact" looks rather hard to pin down to me and has seemed so since I began debating it with McD on the Critical Rationalism (Popper list) where he quite surprised me by announcing that a fact was a "quasi metaphysical entity" and refused to elaborate. Aside from the fuzziness of that characterization (and way of thinking) it brought home to me the problems inherent in this concept. Later, re-reading some of Wittgenstein's early references to "fact" (in the TLP) I realized that there is something deeply metaphysical about the concept.

For me, I will say, I have always thought of a "fact" as a statement that is true (whatever the criteria of being true is) but then to speak of a "statement of fact" sort of seems to imply that the fact is separate from the words that state it, doesn't it?


> Especially as Kirby described it, a grammar can (or must?!) relate
> not (just) to words, but to distal objects, to the real, or at least
> intersubjective, consensus world. It is not the *word*
> "consciousness" that has a grammar, it is the actuality in the
> world of "consciousness" that has a grammar. Then, it is well if
> our linguistic grammars, and our use of the *word* "consciousness",
> correspond to the distal facts. Sean speaks of "assertability
> conditions". That may head in some problematic directions, but it's
> the same kind of concept.
>


Isn't applying "grammar" to anything, whether about words or not, just to make the word synonymous for "rules" or "rule set"? I have always preferred to use "rules" myself when discussing Wittgenstein's ideas because it seems to me his emphasis in some places on "grammar" is really just to reference word rules. So "rules" is the broader, more general term, and we mislead by simply turning all "rules"
into variations of "grammar". In fact it seems to me it's the other way round.


> I am still trying to figure out exactly what Wittgenstein's claims
> are here, and what to make of them. Insofar as Sean's examples of
> Wittgenstein-ing a topic are appropriate, and Sean's explanation that
> science earns an exemption from the treatment - I find it
> problematic.
>

> If Wittgenstein is skeptical that we can know the rule for a
> mathematical sequence, but he allows for a grammar of a sequence,
> or Sean says we can have assertability conditions for our talking
> about the sequence - are these really different, or just different
> ways of saying the same thing?
>

Certainly I see no reason to think he wanted to say we could never know the rules of something as Neil suggested not too long ago. But perhaps I misread him then.

> I'm pretty sure that we can simply talk about things, and understand
> that any talk is talk, and that the grammar of our talk and the
> grammar of the things, are two separate components of how agents
> talk about the world. And that the same rules can and do and must
> apply to scientific talk and non-scientific talk exactly equally.
>

I think the point is that descriptive talk is appropriate in science (along with its variations, e.g., explanation) while expressive talk and invocative talk and other language games are not. We can, of course, talk about minds, about consciousness, in other senses than the scientific. Who would deny it? But just because we can doesn't mean that minds and such CANNOT be spoken about in scientific language games. The confusion seems to be that the language game comes to be thought of as unique to the subject under discussion and limited by it when that is not necessarily the case. That minds and mental things (mental events, mental phenomena, whatever) are not like rocks and trees doesn't prevent us from thinking and talking about such things, referring to them, explaining them, etc.

SWM

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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way [message #1764 is a reply to message #1755] Sat, 17 October 2009 19:53 Go to previous messageGo to next message
SWMirsky is currently offline  SWMirsky
Messages: 188
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member
--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "BruceD" <blroadies@...> wrote:
> --- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "SWM" <SWMirsky@> wrote:
> > Of course the argument over what consciousness is IS about having
> disagreements over
> > what's happening in the "external world" isnt it?...
>
> Yes and No.
>

Fair enough.

> > What is needed for that question are facts, the outcome of serious
> scientific research, etc.
>
> Yes. If we are researching the brain parts vital to consciousness, it is
> a question of fact.
>

Agreed.

> > What I AM arguing is the appropriateness of conceiving of
> consciousness...(as) a process-based physical system of a certain kind.
>
> Yes. It would be appropriate to conceive of consciousness in physical
> terms in the context of this research.
>

Of course then the question is whether it would ever be appropriate to conceive of it in non-physical terms in order to deny the role of scientific research into how the brain does it or to suggest that no scientific explanation is even possible because a relation between brains and minds is inconceivable. That, of course, would be the dualism exemplified by the so-called mind-body problem.

I have asked if it is really a problem at all except insofar as people become enmeshed in a picture of minds as entities of a different type than brains rather than as just what brains do.


> And now the "No." This research (about the 'external world'?) doesn't
> settle the vexing question of how to conceive of the relationship
> between this physical system and the person's mental life.
>

That is where the philosophical rubber hits the road though, isn't it? Sean says there's nothing philosophical here and I am arguing that there is insofar as this is about conceiving of mind in such a way as to create a mind-body problem or to dissolve any sense of it being a problem at all.


> All the work mentioned here has brain parts "sending information",
> "recalling past events" and such stuff attributed to mind
>

If minds are just what brains do, then why not? Of course, if we persist in thinking of mind as a different kind of thing than anything physical, then we have this mind-body dualism problem. But if we recognize that physical is more than just rocks and trees and tables and planets, that it is also processes (maybe an infinite number of them) then why should we have a hard time thinking of minds as one particular system (or kind of system) of physical processes?


> Your attempts, which I respect, and do see as philosophical work,
> including causation, two-sides of a coin, functionality, identity,
> reduction, anti-dualism...all have auspicious beginnings but break down
> under examination. So, where ever we are, we are not there yet.
>
> bruce
>


Thanks for the kind words however, it needs to be reemphasized that I think the only reason anyone would continue to think my proposals breakd down, that there is no answer to this mind-body dichotomy problem, is because they continue to see it as a problem (continue to be trapped by this dualist picture). I think it's the work of philosophy to (among other things) explore the concepts involved, with an eye toward demonstrating there is really no such problem there at all. Once one ceases to see a dichotomy (because it's not really there, it's illusory) then the problem no longer needs an answer. And that is its answer and certainly in keeping with the Wittgensteinian approach to such things.

SWM

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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way - grammar of consciousness [message #1765 is a reply to message #1763] Sat, 17 October 2009 21:20 Go to previous messageGo to next message
jrstern is currently offline  jrstern
Messages: 159
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member
--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "SWM" <SWMirsky@...> wrote:
>
> > OK, the question is where our concern with words ends and our
> > concern with distal facts begins.
>
> Words are facts, facts words, aren't they? But then we get into the question raised by Neil: "What is a fact?"
>
> The word "fact" looks rather hard to pin down to me and has seemed so since I began debating it with McD on the Critical Rationalism (Popper list) where he quite surprised me by announcing that a fact was a "quasi metaphysical entity" and refused to elaborate. Aside from the fuzziness of that characterization (and way of thinking) it brought home to me the problems inherent in this concept. Later, re-reading some of Wittgenstein's early references to "fact" (in the TLP) I realized that there is something deeply metaphysical about the concept.

1 The world is all that is the case.

1.1 The world is the totality of facts, not of things.

1.11 The world is determined by the facts, and by their being all the facts.

...

1.13 The facts in logical spare are the world.

1.2 The world divides into facts.

...

2 What is the case - a fact - is the existence of states of affairs.

etc.

Now, I don't know what that all comes to, really.

My assumption is that there are facts, but we have no indubitable way of accessing them, so we pretend to certain facts, we subscribe to one or more (usually more) intersubjective worlds.

Attempts to do away with this lead to gibberish, IMHO.


> Isn't applying "grammar" to anything, whether about words or not, just to make the word synonymous for "rules" or "rule set"?

Seems to me the differences are arbitrary, but the Wittgensteinian
grammar of grammars is different from the Wittgensteinian grammar of
rules. Whether that comes to anything in the end, I seriously doubt. My Turing-style philosophy is sui generis to the way
Wittgenstein uses the concepts of grammars and rules.


> Certainly I see no reason to think he wanted to say we could never know the rules of something as Neil suggested not too long ago. But perhaps I misread him then.

You've read all those sections of PI relating to sequences?

(and then, I strongly suggest reading Shanker's explanation of those sections, which recommendation and my own summary of Shanker I've posted already too many times)


> I think the point is that descriptive talk is appropriate in science (along with its variations, e.g., explanation) while expressive talk and invocative talk and other language games are not.

But then what makes any of that valid in non-science?

And when is it "science", exactly? I think that anything that
pretends to any sort of "fact" must be treated as science, and
that's pretty much everything.

My own interest is just how language does function in matters of
science. If there is some domain outside of science, I will have
only a little sporting interest in it, and of course in whatever
comprises the lines of demarcation.

I say all this to you, Stuart, fwiw. If Sean or anyone wants to
try to explain it further, I'd welcome that, but my current reading
of Wittgenstein is that he's firmly on both sides of the issue, as
I've said, most clearly so in his comments about proofs and
surveyability in RFM.

So where does that leave questions of "consciousness"? Same as with
anything - we have a grammar for the word, and a grammar for the
thing, and whether per Kirby (I think it's per Kirby) that's one
grammar, or two, is a matter for some further concerns. In any case
I don't see that your questions are dissolvable, or rather that the
questions call for quite a detailed dissolution, and just claiming
that there must exist a way to dissolve the questions, says nothing.

Josh




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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way - grammar of consciousness [message #1766 is a reply to message #1765] Sat, 17 October 2009 22:02 Go to previous messageGo to next message
SWMirsky is currently offline  SWMirsky
Messages: 188
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member
--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "jrstern" <jrstern@...> wrote:
>
> --- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "SWM" <SWMirsky@> wrote:
> >
<snip>

> > The word "fact" looks rather hard to pin down to me and has seemed so since I began debating it with McD on the Critical Rationalism (Popper list) where he quite surprised me by announcing that a fact was a "quasi metaphysical entity" and refused to elaborate. Aside from the fuzziness of that characterization (and way of thinking) it brought home to me the problems inherent in this concept. Later, re-reading some of Wittgenstein's early references to "fact" (in the TLP) I realized that there is something deeply metaphysical about the concept.
>

> 1 The world is all that is the case.
>
> 1.1 The world is the totality of facts, not of things.
>
> 1.11 The world is determined by the facts, and by their being all the facts.
>
> ...
>
> 1.13 The facts in logical spare are the world.
>
> 1.2 The world divides into facts.
>
> ...
>
> 2 What is the case - a fact - is the existence of states of affairs.
>
> etc.
>
> Now, I don't know what that all comes to, really.
>

Seems to presume that what we mean by "fact" is self-evident and in need of no further elucidation. I initially thought that myself until my encounter on the CR list with the Popperian McD made me realize "fact" is a very fussy word.

Are "facts" all the states of affairs that are the case or are they all statements which accurately denote states of affairs?

Is a statement of fact a fact or a statement?

And then there's McD's remarkably fuzzy interpteration to wit, that a fact is a "quasi metaphysical entity" (as if this means anything that is clear in itself).

The early Wittgenstein seemed to think the fact is the statement linked to the state of affairs it is intended to describe (or at least so it seemed in the record of his early interviews with Russell) but then is THAT a fair way to interpret his use in the TLP as recapped by you? After all one statement in the TLP clearly equates "fact" with "what is the case". If so, then it looks like a reference to a true statement and not to what it is true about.

But then, again, if we make "what is the case" synonymous with "true" (as Wittgenstein seems to be using the term in Proposition 2 above!) then it could still be interpreted as a reference to a state of affairs (where "state" and "affairs" are understandable as conditions of complex physical phenomena -- the TLP Wittgenstein apparently adhering to a view that all the universe, which consists of complex phenomena, is composed of "simples", the basic atoms of reality, even if, contra Russell, Wittgenstein did not presume to tell us that such simples were to be found in basic sense data -- see Russell's Three Lectures on Logical Atomism).

(By the way that's "logical space" not "logical spare", I believe.)



> My assumption is that there are facts, but we have no indubitable way of accessing them, so we pretend to certain facts, we subscribe to one or more (usually more) intersubjective worlds.
>
> Attempts to do away with this lead to gibberish, IMHO.
>

I take what I believe is the later Wittgensteinian view, that "fact" is just a word we use in a variety of ways and that it implies nothing about the way the world fundamentally is, its meaning being discovered in its various uses. No theories of what facts are need apply!


>
> > Isn't applying "grammar" to anything, whether about words or not, just to make the word synonymous for "rules" or "rule set"?
>
> Seems to me the differences are arbitrary, but the Wittgensteinian
> grammar of grammars is different from the Wittgensteinian grammar of
> rules.


I think the distinction lies in this: "grammar" is simply the name we give to the rules of linguistic usage. Thus grammar is a kind of rule set. But because "grammar" has certain other meanings (the rules we use to guide language speakers in proper sentence formation, etc.) it is generally better to speak of rules than grammar, even when speaking about how we deploy our words. Wittgenstein DID use "grammar" in reference to discussing word usage but I think he did that mainly to show how mundane it all is rather than the notion that some deep metaphysically resonant discoveries are waiting to be enunciated.


> Whether that comes to anything in the end, I seriously doubt. My Turing-style philosophy is sui generis to the way
> Wittgenstein uses the concepts of grammars and rules.
>

I still don't fully get where you're coming from re: this but I keep trying to follow along!

>
> > Certainly I see no reason to think he wanted to say we could never know the rules of something as Neil suggested not too long ago. But perhaps I misread him then.
>
> You've read all those sections of PI relating to sequences?
>

A long time ago. Wittgenstein certainly suggests that rules are open ended, that there is always room for introducing new ones, taking things another step and another, etc. I am only making the point that to say that he held we can never learn rules is wrong. Everything we do in the way of speaking and participating in a whole range of cultural things (forms of life) hinge on learning and putting into practice the rules. This is NOT to say that rules represent a finite set of practices that can never be altered, enlarged, etc.


> (and then, I strongly suggest reading Shanker's explanation of those sections, which recommendation and my own summary of Shanker I've posted already too many times)
>

I know you've been pushing this. Perhaps you can offer a summary again? I have read them in the past but I don't feel I fully understood the points you were getting at.

>
> > I think the point is that descriptive talk is appropriate in science (along with its variations, e.g., explanation) while expressive talk and invocative talk and other language games are not.
>
> But then what makes any of that valid in non-science?
>

I don't understand this question. Descriptive talk isn't limited to science even if science uses it in its particular endeavors. As to expressive, invocative, prescriptive and other kinds of talk, well they have their own relevances since they are involved in different things we do. But that we do different things doesn't imply that one or the other of the things is less valid or hasn't a place among all the things we do.


> And when is it "science", exactly? I think that anything that
> pretends to any sort of "fact" must be treated as science, and
> that's pretty much everything.
>
> My own interest is just how language does function in matters of
> science. If there is some domain outside of science, I will have
> only a little sporting interest in it, and of course in whatever
> comprises the lines of demarcation.
>
> I say all this to you, Stuart, fwiw. If Sean or anyone wants to
> try to explain it further, I'd welcome that, but my current reading
> of Wittgenstein is that he's firmly on both sides of the issue, as
> I've said, most clearly so in his comments about proofs and
> surveyability in RFM.
>

RFM is one of the Wittgenstein books I've actually never read! Along with Remarks on Color. I guess that's a flaw on my part. My basic knowledge of Wittgenstein comes from the Notebooks, the Tractatus, the Blue and Brown Books, Philosophical Investigations and On Certainty. Though I've also read Culture and Value and Lectures on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religion, I find these less edifying and mainly of interest from an historical point of view.


> So where does that leave questions of "consciousness"? Same as with
> anything - we have a grammar for the word, and a grammar for the
> thing, and whether per Kirby (I think it's per Kirby) that's one
> grammar, or two, is a matter for some further concerns. In any case
> I don't see that your questions are dissolvable, or rather that the
> questions call for quite a detailed dissolution, and just claiming
> that there must exist a way to dissolve the questions, says nothing.
>

I don't believe I have claimed "that there must exist a way to dissolve the questions." I have said 1) there may be and 2) I think there is, namely to conceive consciousness as Dennett proposes.

Searle tries to make the case that you cannot conceive consciousness that way (and many have flocked to that banner). But I think Searle's argument is mistaken for all the reasons I've previously explained on the other lists.

On the other hand Edelman and Hawkins (neither of which are philosophers and one of which, Edelman, is a well recognized scientist) have embraced Searle's conclusions to varying degrees though, interestingly both explicitly recognize that consciousness is a physically based process (or system of processes) while Searle, to make his argument, falls into the trap of relying on a concept of consciousness that is fundamentally dualist in its nature).

Another interesting aspect: Though Edelman and Hawkins both argue for Searle's conclusion that computational processes cannot duplicate what brains do, they do so for diametrically opposed reasons (both of which are not likely to be true). Edelman says brains are just infinitely more complex than computers could ever be and therefore you need the morphology of brain complexity to achieve consciousness. On the other hand Hawkins argues that computers are just too complex to do the things brains manage to do so brains must operate with a much simpler mechanism (algorithm) than computers.

My next stop, I suppose, is to read Minsky's two big books on this which I obtained while going back and forth with him on the AI list. The problem is his books, while interesting, are written more like technical computer manuals than philosophical explorations and so tend to appeal less to me. Nevertheless, at least for the moment, they are next on my list. As of now, Dennett's case looks the strongest to me though -- and he has acknowledged Wittgensteinian influence as I recall.

SWM

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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way - grammar of consciousness [message #1767 is a reply to message #1766] Sat, 17 October 2009 22:15 Go to previous messageGo to next message
jrstern is currently offline  jrstern
Messages: 159
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member
--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "SWM" <SWMirsky@...> wrote:

> I don't believe I have claimed "that there must exist a way to dissolve the questions."

That would be Sean's position,
that "you don't have a philosophical question".

Or maybe that's not a dissolution, but if it's not, then what is it?
Can you make a blanket dismissal without doing a dissolution?

I say you cannot.

So what if someone makes the statement, "My foo is bar." Do I
require a valid analysis to dismiss this? Or, should I ask for
clarifications in order to accept this? Does it depend on the
grammar for foo and bar, which I should ask after? Fooey. If
the answers to this are not obvious, then make something up, and
I'm sure it will be close enough for most purposes. Basically, I'd
say we all have a resource-limited language machine, and something
like this would fail a basic filter, and not really pose a real
problem. If we chose to accept it as a formal puzzle that would
be our privilege, but again, it might not show much about the
normal functioning of language, or grammar, or minds.

Josh




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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way - grammar of consciousness [message #1768 is a reply to message #1765] Sun, 18 October 2009 01:00 Go to previous messageGo to next message
iro3isdx is currently offline  iro3isdx
Messages: 119
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member

--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "jrstern" <jrstern@...> wrote:


> Later, re-reading some of Wittgenstein's early references to "fact"
> (in the TLP) I realized that there is something deeply metaphysical
> about the concept.


> 1 The world is all that is the case.


> 1.1 The world is the totality of facts, not of things.


> 1.11 The world is determined by the facts, and by their being all
> the facts.


> ...


> 1.13 The facts in logical spare are the world.


> 1.2 The world divides into facts.


> ...


> 2 What is the case - a fact - is the existence of states of affairs.

That's very interesting. I'm inclined to think that those assumptions
imply dualism (cartesian dualism).

My own preferred view:

The world consists of stuff. If we want to have a world of things,
then we need to develop our own criteria as to what is a thing, and
then to separate the stuff into things according to those criteria. And
if we want a world of facts, then we have to come up with systematic
ways of formulating facts.

Regards,
Neil

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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way - grammar of consciousness [message #1769 is a reply to message #1767] Sun, 18 October 2009 09:40 Go to previous messageGo to next message
SWMirsky is currently offline  SWMirsky
Messages: 188
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member
Not sure I follow, Josh, but I take it you are mainly addressing Sean though, below? -- SWM

--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "jrstern" <jrstern@...> wrote:
>
> --- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "SWM" <SWMirsky@> wrote:
>
> > I don't believe I have claimed "that there must exist a way to dissolve the questions."
>
> That would be Sean's position,
> that "you don't have a philosophical question".
>
> Or maybe that's not a dissolution, but if it's not, then what is it?
> Can you make a blanket dismissal without doing a dissolution?

>
> I say you cannot.
>

> So what if someone makes the statement, "My foo is bar." Do I
> require a valid analysis to dismiss this? Or, should I ask for
> clarifications in order to accept this? Does it depend on the
> grammar for foo and bar, which I should ask after? Fooey. If
> the answers to this are not obvious, then make something up, and
> I'm sure it will be close enough for most purposes. Basically, I'd
> say we all have a resource-limited language machine, and something
> like this would fail a basic filter, and not really pose a real
> problem. If we chose to accept it as a formal puzzle that would
> be our privilege, but again, it might not show much about the
> normal functioning of language, or grammar, or minds.
>

> Josh

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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way - grammar of consciousness [message #1772 is a reply to message #1768] Sun, 18 October 2009 11:00 Go to previous messageGo to next message
jrstern is currently offline  jrstern
Messages: 159
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member
--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "iro3isdx" <xznwrjnk-evca@...> wrote:
>
>
> That's very interesting. I'm inclined to think that those
> assumptions imply dualism (cartesian dualism).
>
> My own preferred view:
>
> The world consists of stuff. If we want to have a world of things,
> then we need to develop our own criteria as to what is a thing, and
> then to separate the stuff into things according to those
> criteria. And if we want a world of facts, then we have to come
> up with systematic ways of formulating facts.

If you separate facts, you're always going to be playing with dualism.

That's why my monism is "methodological solipsism", what Fodor has
long described as the tacit metaphysics of any computational theory
of mind.

That's what Hacker says is one of (presumably latter) Wittgenstein's
foundations, making minimal (nearly zero) ontological commitments.

Josh



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[Wittrs] [C] Re: Wittgenstein's Way - grammar of consciousness [message #1773 is a reply to message #1769] Sun, 18 October 2009 11:01 Go to previous messageGo to previous message
jrstern is currently offline  jrstern
Messages: 159
Registered: August 2009
Senior Member
--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, "SWM" <SWMirsky@...> wrote:
>
> Not sure I follow, Josh, but I take it you are mainly addressing Sean though, below? -- SWM

Sort of talking it through to myself, mostly.

Josh




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