Monday, October 1, 2007

A Question For The Metaphysicians...

I assume some people out there are modern metaphysicians... Could you please inform me as to what your conception of philosophy is? Of metaphysics (if the two are seperate)? What is the stated aim (if any) of First Philosophy (if there is one)?

I'm curious how things have progressed from Aristotle and the Being of beings.



Chris Tillman said...

Hi Wes,

Really not sure what you're after here. What do you have in mind by 'First Philosophy', for instance? And what sort of answer are you looking for when you ask about conceptions of philosophy or metaphysics?

Wes McPherson said...

I can't say I'm looking for anything in particular, really. I suppose I am asking: how should / ought I to conceive of philosophy or metaphysics? How should / ought I to do them?

I'm interested in history of philosophy, and perhaps the term 'First Philosophy' has fallen out of use? But I think it at one time meant something: Isn't it metaphysics for Aristotle, epistemology for Descartes?

Adam said...

Hi Wes:

The conversation at the Toad last week regarding Sellars was very interesting. I'm pretty sure I am missing one or two of the main moves, because the view is still a bit unclear to me.

You clearly know the view inside-out.I'm sure I'm not the only person who would appreciate a quick bare-bones outline of the thesis. What, for instance, is the main claim of Sellars's metalinguistic nominalism? What is the key argument in support of this claim?
Thanks Wes. Hope to see you at future Toad nights.

Wes McPherson said...

I've never really come across the term 'metalinguistic nominalism' in Sellars. He calls it 'psychological nominalism', where as I do believe Carnap uses the former term? They both cash out as something like: talk about universals can be explained by talk about language.

So: Sellars urges an ontologically neutral position. He feels we can translate / transcribe a sentence like "x is left of y" into Jumbelese, where we write "x | y", or "x is above y" into
If "x is red" we can write x in red, etc. We need not appeal to abstract entities or relations like "is left of" or "is above", i.e. "leftness" or "aboveness". Those are going to be seen as functions, not as 'standing for' something abstract.

Sellars wants physical realism and linguistic nominalism, where a subclass of the linguistic is the mental. And the mental is emergent from the physical. So universals / abstract entities are going to be linguistic / conceptual Types. We only know about them, have awarenesses of them, after we acquire a language.

The linguistic / conceptual Types are interlinguistic: so instead of saying that "rot" (in German" and "rouge" (in French) are Tokens of redness, where 'redness' is an Universal or Type, Sellars will say they are Tokens of the Type •red•.

Sellars will urge a naturalistic ontology, which is a nominalist ontology, because it supports / is supported by a naturalistic theory of mind. If you are interested: then click on IS CONSCIOUSNESS PHYSICAL? ABSTRACT ENTITIES is good as well.

Wes McPherson said...

I hope I haven't written too much already... but I'd like to add that Sellars is not a nominalist in the classical sense. Realism does have some good features. "What do all games have in common" is answered by the nominalist as: they are called games. The realist: there is something else, an objective criteria by which we determine the thing as a game. Sellars will agree with both: there is some process / function out there, yes, and we do assign to it a linguistic function. Nominalism seems to be too phenomenalistic, and realism too dualistic for Sellars.

Adam said...

"The linguistic / conceptual Types are interlinguistic: so instead of saying that "rot" (in German" and "rouge" (in French) are Tokens of redness, where 'redness' is an Universal or Type, Sellars will say they are Tokens of the Type •red•."

This is confusing. Why would we ever want to say that 'rot' and 'rouge' are tokens of the color type redness? They're token utterances of a word that has the same meaning, maybe, but tokens of (the type) 'red'?

Wes McPherson said...

We want to say: 'rot' (in German) and 'rouge' (in French) both play similar roles, like 'red' (in English). If we take 'meaning' as something like 'function', even 'inter-subjective stimilus synonymy', and why not, we would say they are tokens of the type •red• and not 'red'. Because 'red' (in English) is a •red• as well. (are my dots appearing?)

It'd be like having two maps of Manitoba: one is a really good map, the other is a few dots and lines. Each map can be said to represent Winnipeg. We are going to say something like: Winnipeg is a Type. There are Tokens on both maps. There is the Winnipeg represented on the good map as a scale drawing of an ariel perspective, to scale. There is the Winnipeg on the other map, represented by a dot.

Can I say: Both maps have a similar meaning / function. The common Tokens, i.e. the Winnipegs, have a Type in common. This is 'Winnipegness'. This 'Winnipegness' is not a Platonic entity, but a role player. The Tokens have a function in common. We can instantiate it as much as we like, i.e. there are as many Tokens for this Type as we like. Everything can be re-translated. If I can say this, we can turn the analogy to other examples.

I'm not busy next Wednesday. I can come to the Toad. In person may work best.