I’ve added new versions of three new papers to my website. They are:

There are also a couple of summer courses I’ve been asked to announce.

Problems of the Self at CEU.

The course aims to present the state of the art in research on the self from philosophy, psychology, cognitive neuroscience, sociology, and cognitive anthropology. Themes revolve around the nature of the self, as revealed through self-consciousness, body perception, action and joint action, and its embedding in society and culture. Historical and developmental perspectives provide other angles on the self. The course presents a unique opportunity for interdisciplinary discussion on the self from multiple perspectives. It is directed at advanced graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty working in philosophy, psychology, cognitive neuroscience and cognate disciplines.

Metaphysical Mayhem at Rutgers.

Metaphysical Mayhem is back! Rutgers University will be hosting a 5-day summer school for graduate students May 14-18, 2012. John Hawthorne, Katherine Hawley, Ted Sider, Jonathan Schaffer, and Dean Zimmerman will lead the seminars on a variety of topics in metaphysics, including: natural properties, composition as identity, grounding, metaphysical explanation, and stuff like that…

3 Replies to “Updates”

  1. Hi Brian; I enjoyed the Lewis paper!

    I was wondering: what’s your view, in the end, of what Lewis should say about the determinacy of subsentential content? And similarly, of the determinacy of sentential content for sentences where there’s no regularity of use (so no convention by his lights)—-maybe those too long for us to comprehend, or closer to home: for garden path sentences and those which we can’t deal with because our parser can’t cope?

    My picture before hearing you and wo on this stuff was that, on the headfirst Lewisian strategy, we first appeal to naturalness to secure fairly determinate coarse-grained mental content. But then, because sentence-proposition pairs for sentences actually used radically underdetermine Lewisian “grammars”, we’d have to appeal to naturalness all over again to get a fix on that extra stuff—-subsentential stuff and sentences that are “beyond use”. I thought that fitted nicely with the discussion of Kripkenstein in Meaning Without Use. It also fits naturally with the passages in the “Language and Languages” where Lewis raises underdetermination worries, and appeals to something extra—-simplicity in the that case—-to resolve it. Do you now think you can get away without that second appeal to naturalness? I wasn’t sure whether the final sections of the paper were speaking to that or not…

    In general, I am very much like the idea that the role of naturalness in determining mental content comes in via induction in something like the way you suggest. I hadn’t thought of things that way before hearing you on this stuff. But I don’t really buy the claim that this gives us all the determinacy of content we need (if you like, it’s not fundamentally a mind vs. language thing; it’s coarse-grained vs. fine-grained content determination).

    Another question was just about these E-natural properties. When reading your paper I guess I started by thinking of them as some early modern list of macro-detectable primary and secondary qualities; but at times it looks like the test was more for a notion of “degree of E-naturalness” measured by something like the amount of evidence required to warrant a generalization (or something)—-extrinsic properties like “being such that all emeralds are green” might be E-natural in the latter sense but not in the former. Just for starters: are you thinking of what you’re appealing to being an all-or-nothing distinction (from which other notions can be built, maybe by looking at lengths of definitions in an E-natural language…), or a comparative notion of P being more E-natural than Q, or a notion of degree of E-naturalness?

  2. Hi Robbie,

    I’m glad you liked the paper!

    My view for now is that the subsentential stuff works the same way as the sentential level. It would be unreasonable to assume that someone else is using a signalling convention with an unnatural syntax. It would be even more unreasonable to expect other people to know you were doing that, without any explicit notification. By the kind of ought-to-is magic that the principle of charity allows, that makes it impossible to use a signalling convention with unnatural syntax without explicit marking that you are using such an unnatural syntax.

    So I think we can get the result that sentences don’t get magically different meanings when there is a 200th occurence of “cauliflower” in them, and more generally that the parts relate to the whole in reasonably predictable ways, out of the pre-1983 theory, updated only to include that naturalness impacts rationality.

  3. On E-naturalness…

    I was looking at some kind of comparative notion, maybe one that can be turned into a degree concept if the comparisons work well.

    It is possible, indeed desirable, that there could be a small set of fundamentally E-natural properties, and relative E-naturalness could be derived in terms of them, but I don’t assume that.

    What I am assuming, really, is that there is something like evidential probability. Whether the magical evidential probability function is something whose nature can be derived from a few key posits, or whether it is much more complicated than that, is of course far from clear.

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