Sliding from possible worlds semantics to truth

Relativism and strong forms of contextualism assert, from what I gather, that the content of a proposition is not true or false simpliciter, but rather true or false at a time/world/context. A motivation for accepting semantic relativism is the success of possible worlds semantics. It becomes easy to make the move from thinking about possible worlds semantics (specifically, what is true at some possible world) to what is true in the actual world. Quite obviously, there is an underlying assumption here that many find it reasonable to deny: that truthmaker theory of some sort is correct.

If you deny the truthmaker theory for, say, Trenton Merricks’ TSB (truth supervenes on being) account, this slide is wholly illegitimate. Perhaps the truth of a proposition is found in it’s constituent parts or a combination of those parts (the proposition) and not in relation to a possible world. One has a good defeater for analytic relativism if you deny that the truth of a proposition is dependent on a relation to a possible world.


Hilary Putnam’s anti-Skepticism Argument

1) If I am a brain in a vat, I express a falsehood in uttering the sentence “I am a brain in a vat.”
2) If I am not a brain in a vat, I express a falsehood in uttering the sentence “I am a brain in a vat.”
3) I am either a brain in a vat or I am not a brain in a vat.
4) In uttering the sentence “I am a brain in a vat,” I express a falsehood. (From (1), (2) and (3))
5) In uttering the sentence “I am a brain in a vat,” I utter a sentence meaning that I am not a brain in a vat.
.: I am not a brain in a vat. (from (4) and (5))

This is not a very convincing argument. His argument hinges on meaning externalism, and this is where he gets the un-utterability of “I am a brain in a vat”, which actually means something like “I am not an English-speaker in a vat.” Of course, if we actually are brains in a vat then we actually aren’t english-speakers in vats either.

Entailment and Inference

I’ve been doing a little thinking about the differences between implications/entailments and inferences, or rather the rules or activity of inferring. The former is a relation between things like premises and conclusions and beliefs. Sentences can be in an entailment-relationship. Inferring seems to be an art form, even in deductive arguments. ‘Drawing an inference’ is a human activity that is an act or event, but inferences are not beliefs. You don’t, properly speaking, believe rules. You either act in accordance with them or you do not.

See here for what happens when these two are confused.

Is male-ness a physical property?

Recall my previous discussion of Descartes’ possible version of the replacement argument. Let’s take this premise:

The mind and body do not have the same essential properties.

And modify it slightly to a specific property (if existence is a property at all, which we will just suppose):

Possibly, I exist and my body does not.

If we take it to be true I am a male in every possible world in which I exist (Josh is essentially male), then there are worlds in which I exist and I am a male, but my body does not exist. I don’t know what that means for Josh’s being essentially male, but it seems that either male-ness is either non-essential or it is not an attribute of the body. I don’t know which is true, but it is an interesting fork.

Daily Analysis: Rigid Designator

Kripke’s term for an expression that has the same referent in every possibly world. This includes proper names and natural-kinds. Example:

“The 44th president of the United States” designates Barack Obama in the actual world, but it does not rigidly designate him because in some possible world John McCain is the 44th President of the United States. However, “Barack Obama” picks out the same essence in every possible world that “Barack Obama” designates anything at all.

Descartes on the Replacement Argument?

(You can read the context here, but I’m taking the translation from the IEP)

[T]here is a great difference between the mind and the body, inasmuch as the body is by its very nature always divisible, while the mind is utterly indivisible. For when I consider the mind, or myself in so far as I am merely a thinking thing, I am unable to distinguish any parts within myself; I understand myself to be something quite single and complete….By contrast, there is no corporeal or extended thing that I can think of which in my thought I cannot easily divide into parts; and this very fact makes me understand that it is divisible. This one argument would be enough to show me that the mind is completely different from the body…. (AT VII 86-87: CSM II 59).

The IEP sets up his argument in the following way:

1.I understand the mind to be indivisible by its very nature.
2.I understand body to be divisible by its very nature.
3.Therefore, the mind is completely different from the body.

It doesn’t take much to realize this argument is missing something and is overstating its case. The conclusion does not follow without the following hidden premise:

(HP) If the mind and body have different properties, then they are completely different.

However, I don’t see that premise as true at all. In fact, it is extremely counter-intuitive. But we can mend the argument in a way Descartes would probably object to:

1. The mind has the property of being essentially indivisible.
2. The body is has the property of being essential divisible.
3. If the mind and body are identical, they have the same essential properties.[The law of indescernibility of identicals: x = y → (∀F)(Fx ↔ Fy)]
4. The mind and body do not have the same essential properties [from 1,2]
.: The mind and body are not identical [MT from 3,4]

Plantinga’s Replacement Argument

*Just a friendly warning*

I’m going to take a few days (or so) looking at Plantinga’s replacement argument along with related issues (Kripke, van Inwangen). I’ll have something by tomorrow afternoon.

Carry on.