Monday, June 13, 2005

Varieties of Reference, Ch7

Evans argues against treating judgements involving "here" Ideas as having two components in his discussion of the super-light earphones. The argument, as I understand it, is as follows:

(1) "Here" Ideas get their content in virtue of the way they are connected with dispositions to act (in response to a noise heard off to the left, one turns one's head to the left, e.g.).

(2) In a situation where a subject has been (or suspects that he has been) outfitted with the earphones, the dispositions to act are severed from "here" thoughts, so that one can wonder, "Are those noises coming from around here, or are they coming from somewhere else?"

(3) A situation like (2) can't be normal, though it is possible. If it were normal, then we wouldn't receive information from our environment in the immediate way that we do receive it. We would need an additional judgement to the effect that "those noises are coming from around here".

Notice that Evans's comments on "here" are incompatible with the way he formulates the ICD on p. 19. If difference of sense follows from the mere possibility of coherently doubting that a = b, then the senses/Ideas associated with "here" and "where those sounds are coming from" must always be distinguished.

The ICD so formulated builds in skepticism to our understanding of sense, and stands in the way of a project like Evans's: a project of describing our actual cognitive lives (rather than the structure of merely possible cognitive lives).

So it is important to reformulate the ICD so that it does not build in skeptical requirements.

Some possibilities:

1. If a rational subject does actually doubt that a = b then a and b must have different senses.

2. If it is relevant to doubt that a = b then a and b must have different senses.

I think (1) is untenable, since it makes sense far too dependent on the details of a single subject.

(2) is more plausible, and hooks up with similar debates in the externalist and anti-skeptical literature in epistemology.

Whether a doubt is relevant depends on all sorts of features of a situation, and it may not reflect what the subjects involved in fact doubt. So there would be the possibility of a subject (a) doubting that a = b when no doubt is relevant (if the subject is unjustifiably skeptical, e.g.) and (b) not doubting that a = b when such a doubt is relevant (I'm not aware I'm in a bad situation).

So a subject might not realize that two senses are the same (failure of transparency of sameness) or that they are different (failure of transparency of difference). But these failures would occur in situations where a subject's assessment of the situation differs from how the situation actually is (when their assessment of relevance is incorrect). If a subject is a reliable epistemic judge, then sense will be transparent (transparency in sameness and in difference).

I take it that such a position would not be non-Fregean: it would not maintain that the content of a thought (object of a prop. attitude) was just a Russellian proposition--in cases in which a reliable epistemic subject correctly assesses the relevance of doubt and doubts that a = b, then a and b have different contents/senses. This position is also not really Fregean, if a Fregean position requires holding onto transparency of sameness across all situations.

Maybe it's best described as a Wittgensteinian position.

I'm here assembling ideas I found in Brown Anti-Indiv. & Know, Lawlor, New Thoughts About Old Things, and Campbell, "Is Sense Transparent?".

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