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Matt Bedke
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Hi Steve, This is fun stuff, and I’m very interested in your take. I want to gather some of your key claims about how empirical your methods are. 1. A referring term T has a conceptual meaning. 2. Introspectively accessible intuitions about how one would use T in various contexts comprise data relevant to which conceptual meaning T has. a) Introspection on intuition counts as observational data. b) This data is causally connected to the referent of T. 3. We abduct from the data to form a best theory of T’s conceptual meaning. I see that these key claims identify a method that has many analogies with prototypical ways of going about empirical investigation (abduction from observational data). But I wonder what the evidence is for the key claims themselves, especially claims (1) and (2). If they are the conclusions of abduction from data, or more generally best explanations of explanada, I think empiricists would be more comfortable with the picture, though I imagine some will vigorously dispute whether these key claims are supported by the data. I can imagine many balking at the idea that the data supports the hypothesis that the referring terms of interest have conceptual meanings, for example. I’m sympathetic with you here, but the task seems to require adducing all that good (empirical) evidence for conceptual meanings and how intuitions are connected to them. These empirically supported hypotheses in hand, we can then proceed with confidence with the method you identify: abducting from intuitions to conclusions about conceptual meanings. Is that the picture? Separately, maybe you could explain this to me: “(i) Unlike a variety of analytic hypotheses (primitivism, noncognitivism, logical incompleteness), this [synthetic realism] offers no explanation of the open question phenomena.” They have some explanation, don’t they? Namely, Moorean open feels come from the absence of analytic definitions of normative terms in non-normative terms. Maybe not the best explanation, but that is some explanation. Am I missing your point?
Mark, If I understand you, you suggest that competence requires recognition of some substantive moral truth. I'm suspicious of that, though I know there are folks out there who think supervenience only follows from some first-order commitments. My last para below, in response to Jamie, picks up on this. Gideon, I agree that Iliad pure normative standards are conceivably true. I take it that the reason fundamentalist wants to say that if those pure standards are actually false, then they are not normatively possible (though still conceivable). The pure normative truths aren't contingent in that way. Right? I'm asking because it looks like you are tempted to say that if those standards are actually false, they are still metaphysically possible. Then I just wonder what we accomplish by distinguishing metaphysical and normative possibility in this way. In other words, why are we talking about three kinds of possibility? The data involve two: one sense in which the pure norms are possible, and one sense in which they are not possible. I'm not up on my metaphysical vs. normative possibility, so apologies if I'm missing something. Ah! Is the idea that, when we combine normative possibility talk with possibility talk in other domains we find some normative-but-not-metaphysical possibilities (maybe worlds where taking scalps is bad but water is not H2O), or some metaphysical-but-not-normative possibilities (worlds where water is H2O but taking scalps is good)? Jack, I think there are explanations available for necessary a posteriori truths about water and H2O and the like that are pretty compelling (and respectful of Kripke-Putnam points about facts external to cognition helping to fix reference), but those explanations are unavailable to the reason fundamentalist. You might disagree with me there. Jamie, Just to clarify: I would not deny that it is a conceptual truth that non-normative facts necessitate normative ones. I just think that is an interesting that such content is a conceptual truth. You say "It's like knowing that each number is either necessarily prime or necessarily not prime. Of course, in that case we have a better story about how numbers have their factors necessarily... but that's the part I do think is important. That second necessitation operator." But that's it. The stories about the second necessity operator that help make sense of how we could know them in the first-necessity-operator-way seem to me unavailable to the reason fundamentalist. I'm not sure about the killings and the numbers examples. I want an example (non-normative) where it is not an analytic or conceptual truth that a is F, not a conceptual truth that a is not F, but it is an analytic or conceptual truth that either necessarily a is F or necessarily a is not F (these last two necessities not being conceptual/analytic). Maybe there are examples, but then I want to know what the explanation is for that, and whether the explanation is available to reason fundamentalists. I think not - I don't think there is an explanation for them. I think some of these examples proceed by first coming to know that necessarily a is F, and then building that into the concept so that it is a conceptual truth that necessarily a is F (or, we can tack on, necessarily a is not F). (Maybe this is part of Mark v. R.'s point). But one striking thing about strong supervenience in normativity is that we can know the conceptual truth without having a clue as to what the pure normative facts are (the normative truth). (I'm pretty clueless there :)). That makes you examples about killing and numbers different, I think. Tim, Apologies for straying from your main points a bit, but this has been fun stuff. I'm warming up to the idea that there are ways of thinking of the pure normative facts that might be more illuminating/explanatory than thinking of them as facts about brute necessitation relations between two sets of facts. Not convinced, but warming up.
Sorry, in my last analogy I meant to be speaking of claims about essential properties that are not conceptual truths or analytic. Of course, if it is a conceptual truth that x is essentially p, it is a conceptual truth that either x is essentially p or x is essentially not p.
I'm really enjoying Scanlon's new book "Being Realistic About Reasons" (all citations below to this book), but I'm stumbling on the part about pure normative truths and the explanation of supervenience. Any help would be much appreciated. Scanlon takes the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 23, 2014 at PEA Soup
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Jamie, I think we agree that there is no explanation of accuracy for the quasi-realist (and so disagree with many other posters here). And we agree that accuracy need not be explained for the quasi-realist - there is no problem. But that thing that convinced me that there is no problem--your argument from modifying simple language--also explained to me why there is no problem. Namely, in the simple language there is no accuracy to be explained and each step on the way to quasi-realism introduces no accuracy-realted explanatory burden. What I'm puzzled about is how that argument convinced you that there is no problem without explaining to your satisfaction why there isn't one. I think some of the other comments suggest that accuracy can be both heavy-duty and light-weight (creepy). And they push lightweight accuracy explanations within the first-order discourse. Your comments with Jussi suggest to me that the sort of accuracy you ask after--general ability to be accurate in some domain--might only have a heavy-duty reading. If so, then non-nattys and quasis can't explain that accuracy. But when we start with simplified English (stripped of evaluation) and contrast what it would take to build a quasi-realist language with what it would take to build a realist (purport) language, that explains to my satisfaction that realists have an explanatory burden vis-a-vis accuracy that quasi-realists lack. For their language engineering introduces terms with extensional purport and ours does not. Does any domain have an explanation for light-weight general accuracy (of the sort you are interested in) that quasi-realism and realism lack? That would be odd, for they should enjoy the same light-weight explanations as anyone else. Maybe your temperature example? But that seems to tap into notions of heavy-duty accuracy.
Toggle Commented Nov 19, 2013 on Featured Philosopher: Jamie Dreier at PEA Soup
Jamie, Jamie Dreier has a nice piece related to this: "QUASI-REALISM AND THE PROBLEM OF UNEXPLAINED COINCIDENCE." He starts off with a language like English save its lack of normative predicates and lack of ability to evaluate at all. No unexplained coincidence (or accuracy) there. Then he considers successive stages where non-predicative ways of evaluating are introduced, then predicative, etc., until we get to the quasi-realism we know and love. At no point does it seem like the additional complexity in the expressive power of the language introduces a coincidence (or accuracy) problem. After all, at no stage do we introduce something normative with extensional purport that has the potential of being accurate or not. This seems like good reason to think that any appearance of an explanatory problem for the quasi-realist is illusory. No explanation needed. Or at least, realism has more to explain that quasi-realism, for in building realist language we would introduce normative terms with extensional purport, and thereby introduce an extra explanatory burden for any accuracy. So at least we quasis are not in the same boat. Don't you like this argument? You probably aren't satisfied. Jamie wasn't either, if memory serves. But what's missing?
Toggle Commented Nov 18, 2013 on Featured Philosopher: Jamie Dreier at PEA Soup
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Apr 19, 2010