30 Jun 2022

Shores. The Primacy of Falsity: Deviant Origins in Deleuze

by Corry Shores

 

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[Corry Shores, entry directory]

 

In accordance with the distribution provisions of Tijdschrift voor Filosofie: Louvain Journal of Philosophy, I am making a PDF of the published article available on my personal website.

 

 

Corry Shores


The Primacy of Falsity:

Deviant Origins in Deleuze

PDF LINK

 

 

 

 

Shores, Corry. “The Primacy of Falsity: Deviant Origins in Deleuze.” Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 81 (2019): 81–130.

22 Dec 2021

"Every Typewriter is a Character." Clifford Duffy's "as a construct"

 

by Corry Shores


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[Literature, Poetry, Drama, entry directory]

[Clifford Duffy Entry Directory]

 

 

 

Clifford Duffy

“as a construct”

[link]

 

Clifford Duffy wrote another incredible poem recently on his Recall to Poetry site. Here is a screenshot of an especially striking part of it.

 

(From Duffy)

 

As always, Duffy’s use of electronic typography and html coding give the poem sonic variations impossible with print, especially considering how the browser window sizing and scrolling affects the layout in his particular well-crafted way. The timing of each word, the speed, tone, and pacing of its delivery, all under high variation. Note for instance when we transition through the crossed out ‘she’, the sudden dips in tone and volume, or the gliding carriage return effect of the blank underlines in the ‘rising’ section, giving silence an affective sound. Duffy created a new artform many years ago and continues innovating it to this day, and he stands as one of the best and most original poets I have ever read.

 

 

 

 

Duffy, Clifford. “as a construct”. Recall to Poetry:

https://recalltopoetry.blogspot.com/2021/11/as-construct.html#more

 

.

6 Aug 2021

Breeur (3.0) Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, Ch.3.0, “Introduction”, summary

 

by Corry Shores

 

[Search Blog Here. Index-tags are found on the bottom of the left column.]

 

[Central Entry Directory]

[Roland Breeur, entry directory]

[Breeur, Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, entry directory]

 

[The following is a paragraph by paragraph summary of Breeur’s text. Boldface, underlining, and bracketed commentary are my own. Proofreading is incomplete, so please forgive my mistakes. The book can be purchased here.]

 

 

 

 

Summary of

 

Roland Breeur

[Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page]

 

Lies – Imposture – Stupidity

 

Part 2

Imposture

 

Ch.3

The Imposter

 

3.0

“Introduction”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brief summary (collecting those below):

(3.0.1) The common conception of an impostor is that they are “someone who invents a story that is not their own. He or she is trying to pretend to be someone else” (54). Yet, Breeur notes that imposture is a little more complex than this, because it also involves the impostor’s ability “to blur the lines that normally allow us to establish the difference between the true and the false” (54). (3.0.2) Jean-Bertrand Pontalis defines the impostor as someone who “usurps an identity,” inventing for themself a story that is not their own but that they adhere to their identity, thereby effectively posing themselves as someone they are not (54). Breeur gives a couple examples. {1} “James Macpherson imposes himself as the one who discovered the Gaelic Iliad written by Ossian, whereas he himself was its author” (54). {2} Brigido Lara was a Mexican art forger. He forged “an unprecedented number of pre-Columbian artworks the authenticity of which had been confirmed by the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia” (54). In 1974, he was arrested for stealing many of them. To defend himself, he confessed that “these objects were all fakes and that he had made them” (54). Yet later he was hired by the “Museum of | Anthropology in Xalapa – as an expert in forgery, his work would consist in sorting through the national collections to keep only the real ones” (54). (Here the imposture both “worked” in its deceptive capacity and later it proved beneficial in working to prevent deception. (3.0.3) Han Van Meegeren is another famous forger. He made fake Vermeers that both experts and the press were convinced were authentic. It was only a good while later that Meegeren’s deception was exposed. “So, it worked” (55). (3.0.4) But sometimes attempts at imposture do not work: “Dimitri II, a false descendant of Ivan The Terrible who was proclaimed tsar on June 20, 1606, was unmasked and murdered a few months later. His body was butchered and his ashes sent back with cannons to Poland, his country of origin” (55). Normally when we catch impostors, the punishment is often severe: “As a rule, the recall, or the revenge, of reality is inexorable” (55). Why is this? Breeur doubts that it is because we cherish the truth so much. Rather, “As Deleuze once said, everyone knows very well that, in fact, we rarely seek the truth – our interests and also our stupidity keep us from the truth even more inveterately than do our mistakes” (55). Breeur says we punish caught impostors not for deceiving us, but for getting caught, for failing to deceive us. In fact, we would even celebrate impostors who were able to carry their deception to their death, only to be discovered afterward: “If we punish counterfeiters, it would be because they missed their objective, i.e. because they had failed. Had they been successful – though this evokes the paradoxical idea of a successful impostor, which may seem to be an oxymoron, there are those who are not unmasked until after their death, or those we do not dare to unmask, and therefore those who can, in a sense, be considered successes – we would have honored them” (55). This is because we are fascinated with and admire their ability to neutralize reality and make appearing coincide with being, which is a feat normally only accomplished by our dreams. (Perhaps, we admire them for overcoming reality with the power of appearances.) “I think that what fascinates us is the idea that their deception or deceit had the power to neutralize reality. Thus, and this is the central element of the idea which I would like to pursue, we admire or are ensorcelled by those who deceive us less for the content of what they make us believe than for the very fact of having deceived us, i.e. less for the exceptional life which they claim to have lived and more for the mediocrity of the one which they were able to eclipse. The life of a successful impostor is one in which being and appearing coincide at a point that is only achieved in the realm of dreams. Hence, the imposture fascinates, in as much as it looks like a dream made real” (55). The success of impostors also serves another purpose, namely, to “to deceive and convince themselves. […] We are the spectators who confirm and reinforce them in their game of concealment or dissimulation”  (55).

 

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

3.0.1

[Imposture and Blurring the Lines Between True and False]

 

3.0.2

[The Impostor as One Who Lives an Alternate Identity]

 

3.0.3

[Van Meegeren’s Vermeer Forgeries]

 

3.0.4

[Our Love of the Impostor’s Overcoming and Neutralizing of Reality by Making Appearing Coincide with Being, as with Dreams]

 

Bibliography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

 

3.0.1

[Imposture and Blurring the Lines Between True and False]

 

[The common conception of an impostor is that they are “someone who invents a story that is not their own. He or she is trying to pretend to be someone else” (54). Yet, Breeur notes that imposture is a little more complex than this, because it also involves the impostor’s ability “to blur the lines that normally allow us to establish the difference between the true and the false” (54).]

 

[ditto]

The impostor is commonly described as someone who invents a story that is not their own. He or she is trying to pretend to be someone else. However, this attempt is very complex. Among other things, it only works to the extent that the impostor is able to blur the lines that normally allow us to establish the difference between the true and the false. That is what this chapter is all about.

(54)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.0.2

[The Impostor as One Who Lives an Alternate Identity]

 

[Jean-Bertrand Pontalis defines the impostor as someone who “usurps an identity,” inventing for themself a story that is not their own but that they adhere to their identity, thereby effectively posing themselves as someone they are not (54). Breeur gives a couple examples. {1} “James Macpherson imposes himself as the one who discovered the Gaelic Iliad written by Ossian, whereas he himself was its author” (54). {2} Brigido Lara was a Mexican art forger. He forged “an unprecedented number of pre-Columbian artworks the authenticity of which had been confirmed by the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia” (54). In 1974, he was arrested for stealing many of them. To defend himself, he confessed that “these objects were all fakes and that he had made them” (54). Yet later he was hired by the “Museum of | Anthropology in Xalapa – as an expert in forgery, his work would consist in sorting through the national collections to keep only the real ones” (54). (Here the imposture both “worked” in its deceptive capacity and later it proved beneficial in working to prevent deception.]

 

[ditto]

So, what is an impostor? Jean-Bertrand Pontalis gives the following definition: “The impostor [is] the one who usurps an identity, [who] invents for himself to the point of adhering to it a story that is not his own [and who] poses as someone else, and it works.”59 Thus, James Macpherson imposes himself as the one who discovered the Gaelic Iliad written by Ossian, whereas he himself was its author. Or Brigido Lara, arrested in 1974 by the Mexican police for “stealing” an unprecedented number of pre-Columbian artworks the authenticity of which had been confirmed by the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, who was forced, in order to defend himself, to admit that these objects were all fakes and that he had made them. Afterwards, he was hired at the Museum of | Anthropology in Xalapa – as an expert in forgery, his work would consist in sorting through the national collections to keep only the real ones. “It works,” in the sense that even a kind of reminder of reality is beneficial.

(54-55)

59. Pontalis quoted in Andree Bauduin, Psychanalyse de l’imposture (Paris: PUF, 2007), p. II.

(54)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.0.3

[Van Meegeren’s Vermeer Forgeries]

 

[Han Van Meegeren is another famous forger. He made fake Vermeers that both experts and the press were convinced were authentic. It was only a good while later that Meegeren’s deception was exposed. “So, it worked” (55).]

 

[ditto]

Or let us take the exquisite example of the famous forger Han Van Meegeren, born in 1889, who put one over on the critics by making a dozen false Vermeers. The most eminent experts of that time, as well as the press, almost unanimously considered them to be masterpieces of the Delft master. It was not until the end of World War II, when the police seized Goering’s private collection and the painter was convicted of treason for selling a Vermeer to the Nazi Marshal, that the deception was exposed. So, it worked.60

(55)

60. See Luigi Guarneri, La double vie de Vermeer, Trans. Marguerite Pozzoli (Aries: Actes Sud, 2007).

(55)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.0.4

[Our Love of the Impostor’s Overcoming and Neutralizing of Reality by Making Appearing Coincide with Being, as with Dreams]

 

[But sometimes attempts at imposture do not work: “Dimitri II, a false descendant of Ivan The Terrible who was proclaimed tsar on June 20, 1606, was unmasked and murdered a few months later. His body was butchered and his ashes sent back with cannons to Poland, his country of origin” (55). Normally when we catch impostors, the punishment is often severe: “As a rule, the recall, or the revenge, of reality is inexorable” (55). Why is this? Breeur doubts that it is because we cherish the truth so much. Rather, “As Deleuze once said, everyone knows very well that, in fact, we rarely seek the truth – our interests and also our stupidity keep us from the truth even more inveterately than do our mistakes” (55). Breeur says we punish caught impostors not for deceiving us, but for getting caught, for failing to deceive us. In fact, we would even celebrate impostors who were able to carry their deception to their death, only to be discovered afterward: “If we punish counterfeiters, it would be because they missed their objective, i.e. because they had failed. Had they been successful – though this evokes the paradoxical idea of a successful impostor, which may seem to be an oxymoron, there are those who are not unmasked until after their death, or those we do not dare to unmask, and therefore those who can, in a sense, be considered successes – we would have honored them” (55). This is because we are fascinated with and admire their ability to neutralize reality and make appearing coincide with being, which is a feat normally only accomplished by our dreams. (Perhaps, we admire them for overcoming reality with the power of appearances.) “I think that what fascinates us is the idea that their deception or deceit had the power to neutralize reality. Thus, and this is the central element of the idea which I would like to pursue, we admire or are ensorcelled by those who deceive us less for the content of what they make us believe than for the very fact of having deceived us, i.e. less for the exceptional life which they claim to have lived and more for the mediocrity of the one which they were able to eclipse. The life of a successful impostor is one in which being and appearing coincide at a point that is only achieved in the realm of dreams. Hence, the imposture fascinates, in as much as it looks like a dream made real” (55). The success of impostors also serves another purpose, namely, to “to deceive and convince themselves. […] We are the spectators who confirm and reinforce them in their game of concealment or dissimulation”  (55).]

 

[ditto]

But does it always work? Of course not. Dimitri II, a false descendant of Ivan The Terrible who was proclaimed tsar on June 20, 1606, was unmasked and murdered a few months later. His body was butchered and his ashes sent back with cannons to Poland, his country of origin. As a rule, the recall, or the revenge, of reality is inexorable. Why? It would be too easy to say that, out of love for the truth, we do not like to be fooled. As Deleuze once said, everyone knows very well that, in fact, we rarely seek the truth – our interests and also our stupidity keep us from the truth even more inveterately than do our mistakes.61 If we punish counterfeiters, it would be because they missed their objective, i.e. because they had failed. Had they been successful – though this evokes the paradoxical idea of a successful impostor, which may seem to be an oxymoron, there are those who are not unmasked until after their death, or those we do not dare to unmask, and therefore those who can, in a sense, be considered successes – we would have honored them. As a consequence, I do not think that in the fascination we feel for imposters of whatever stripe | we express above all an admiration for someone who seemed capable of giving what is false the appearances of the truth. Rather, I think that what fascinates us is the idea that their deception or deceit had the power to neutralize reality. Thus, and this is the central element of the idea which I would like to pursue, we admire or are ensorcelled by those who deceive us less for the content of what they make us believe than for the very fact of having deceived us, i.e. less for the exceptional life which they claim to have lived and more for the mediocrity of the one which they were able to eclipse. The life of a successful impostor is one in which being and appearing coincide at a point that is only achieved in the realm of dreams. Hence, the imposture fascinates, in as much as it looks like a dream made real. Also, it has an internal purpose: Accomplished counterfeiters (and they are rare, the majority being limited to the category of crooks who stop or are blocked halfway) seek less to deceive us than to deceive and convince themselves. We are the spectators who confirm and reinforce them in their game of concealment or dissimulation.

(55-56)

61. Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche et la philosophie (Paris: PUF, I962), p. 108.

(55)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Breeur, Roland. Lies – Imposture – Stupidity. Vilnius: Jonas ir Jakubas, 2019.

The book can be purchased here.

 

Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page.

.

 

 

.

5 Aug 2021

Breeur (2.6) Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, Ch.2.6, “Duchenne: Smile!”, summary

 

by Corry Shores

 

[Search Blog Here. Index-tags are found on the bottom of the left column.]

 

[Central Entry Directory]

[Roland Breeur, entry directory]

[Breeur, Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, entry directory]

 

[The following is a paragraph by paragraph summary of Breeur’s text. Boldface, underlining, and bracketed commentary are my own. Proofreading is incomplete, so please forgive my mistakes. The book can be purchased here.]

 

 

 

 

Summary of

 

Roland Breeur

[Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page]

 

Lies – Imposture – Stupidity

 

Part 1

Lies and Stupidity

 

Ch.2

Alternative Facts and Reduction to Stupidity

 

2.6

“Duchenne: Smile!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brief summary (collecting those below):

(2.6.1) David Livingstone Smith provides an evolutionary account for self-deception. He begins by noting that it is “difficult to suppress the non-verbal signs that convey our inmost thoughts and feelings” (49). (Yet, it is to our advantage not to let other people always know our true thoughts, feelings, and intentions.) So we developed ways “to move through the world without broadcasting our inmost thoughts and feelings on every occasion,” which for Smith is lying (49). Yet, even with our best efforts to do so, often “our bodies betray and seem to sabotage our conscious mind’s efforts to deceive or conceal” (49). However, if we truly believe our own lies, or if we were made unaware that we were dissimulating, then we would not have contrary inner feelings that might inadvertently  indicate otherwise. Hence human self-deception: “We learned to lie without knowing doing so” (50). (2.6.2) Guillaume Duchenne “discovered the facial distinction between a true and a false smile. The true one involves more than just lip retraction: A real smile produces contractions around the eyes, causing wrinkles and narrowing the eyes” (50). Smith uses this term for a fake smile however. Yet the idea remains that there are two kinds of smiles: “The phony smile is the artificial one of ‘airplane personnel,’ smiles produced for cameras, for ‘public consumption’ (de Waal), etc., while the true smile is the direct expression of our deeper self, it ‘arises from a specific inner state, as sincere | reflections of enjoyment, happiness, or affection.’ True smiles are therefore ‘harder to feign’” (50-51). (2.6.3) Breeur notes some complications with this supposed clear-cut distinction between a fake and genuine smile. The smiles of airplane personnel are “not meant as an expression of one’s inmost thoughts and feelings, hence there is nothing deceptive about it,” so they are not simply false and deceptive (51). “Likewise, any variant of conventional social expressions of politeness are not necessarily, inherently, or irreducibly false or insincere” (51). In contrast to this sort of a polite, service smile, Breeur designates the “real false smile,” which “is not the phony one, but the imitation of the true one” (51). (While the service smile is made with both parties knowing it is done as a service to the other), the real false smile is “the smile of the imposter, i.e. someone that in a context of social smiles intends to convince the other that his or her smile is genuine and sincere, is true and not fake” (51). Also, the real false smile is, of course, not meant to express a feeling that the imposter genuinely has but rather to evoke a feeling in the receiver, which is “precisely what actors do. An imposter [...] is an actor off stage” (51). The imposter is so good at this sort of deception that they “can deliberately, fully, self-consciously neutralize the work of a lie detector” (51). For the lie to be effective, the liar needs this sort of “Absolute and total self-control” (51). Breeur notes that this sort of self-control is “what trained spies achieve when they | are submitted to lie detectors. They betray nothing because they are real fakes” rather than the “phony fakes” with service smiles (51-52). (2.6.4) (Recall from section 1.3.5 that Augustine defines lying as having one thought in your head while expressing another thought instead, with the intention to deceive. In this way, the liar has a double heart and holds a double thought. Lying is an act of duplicity in which “You dissimulate what is true, and you simulate what is untrue” (19). (Augustine: “dissimulation is pretending not to be what one actually is, whereas simulation is pretending to be what one actually is not.”)) Breeur notes that often the “the problem of imposture is seen as a variant of lying, i.e. a tendency to combine forms of dissimulation and simulation” (52). (So, perhaps, it is not that we see imposture as a subcategory or subtheme of the topic lying.) Rather, “it is the other way around” (52). (Perhaps, lying is one of the tools the imposture uses in their overall deceptive, misleading behavior in which they craft a fake identity for themselves.) “As we saw, a liar is an actor. His or her play is not part of a deliberate tendency to lie. But his or her lying is integrated into a general strategy to seduce, to impose a mise-en-scene and to play a certain role, to incarnate a fake identity, to imitate a ‘real’ smile” (52).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

2.6.1

[Self-Deception About Our Deception]

 

2.6.2

[Fake Smiles]

 

2.6.3

[The Real False Smile of the Self-Controlled Imposter]

 

2.6.4

[Imposture and Lying]

 

Bibliography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

 

2.6.1

[Self-Deception About Our Deception]

 

[David Livingstone Smith provides an evolutionary account for self-deception. He begins by noting that it is “difficult to suppress the non-verbal signs that convey our inmost thoughts and feelings” (49). (Yet, it is to our advantage not to let other people always know our true thoughts, feelings, and intentions.) So we developed ways “to move through the world without broadcasting our inmost thoughts and feelings on every occasion,” which for Smith is lying (49). Yet, even with our best efforts to do so, often “our bodies betray and seem to sabotage our conscious mind’s efforts to deceive or conceal” (49). However, if we truly believe our own lies, or if we were made unaware that we were dissimulating, then we would not have contrary inner feelings that might inadvertently  indicate otherwise. Hence human self-deception: “We learned to lie without knowing doing so” (50).]

 

[ditto]

In his captivating book on the motives for lying, David Livingstone Smith gives an evolutionary account of deception.51 His claim is that deception and the unconscious are coextensive. Starting from the idea that it is difficult to suppress the non-verbal signs that convey our inmost thoughts and feelings, he suggests that nature moved human beings to develop systems to lie, i.e. to move through the world without broadcasting our inmost thoughts and feelings on every occasion. Even so, it often occurs that our bodies betray and seem to sabotage our conscious mind’s efforts to deceive or conceal; | indeed, we would lie far more effectively if only we could operate ignorant of our dissimulations or if we could make ourselves believe that we were not dissimulating. This is how Smith explains the evolutionary origin of self-deception: It “helps us to ensnare others more efficiently.” Deception often makes us “anxious, hesitant, nervous etc. The greater the risk, the more self-conscious we become”;52 hence the need of a strategy to neutralize our painful knowledge of our deception in order to avoid “betray[ing] our dishonesty accidentally” (blushing, perspire, etc.). We learned to lie without knowing doing so.

(49-50)

51. See his Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2004).

(49)

52. Smith, Why We Lie, p. 75.

(50)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.6.2

[Fake Smiles]

 

[Guillaume Duchenne “discovered the facial distinction between a true and a false smile. The true one involves more than just lip retraction: A real smile produces contractions around the eyes, causing wrinkles and narrowing the eyes” (50). Smith uses this term for a fake smile however. Yet the idea remains that there are two kinds of smiles: “The phony smile is the artificial one of ‘airplane personnel,’ smiles produced for cameras, for ‘public consumption’ (de Waal), etc., while the true smile is the direct expression of our deeper self, it ‘arises from a specific inner state, as sincere | reflections of enjoyment, happiness, or affection.’ True smiles are therefore ‘harder to feign’” (50-51).]

 

[ditto]

This claim, however, is built on a rather simplistic model of expression. As do many other scientists today who are interested in the bodily expression of emotion, Smith refers to the classic case of the so-called “Duchenne smile.”53 Guillaume Duchenne was a French neurologist who in his book The Mechanisms of Human Facial Expressions discovered the facial distinction between a true and a false smile. The true one involves more than just lip retraction: A real smile produces contractions around the eyes, causing wrinkles and narrowing the eyes. Funnily enough (or very symptomatically), Smith and Frans de Waal differ in the attribution of the term “Duchenne smile”: For Smith it refers to the phony smile54 while for de Waal it refers to the true smile.55 But both converge in the determination of the nature of the distinction. The phony smile is the artificial one of “airplane personnel,” smiles produced for cameras, for “public consumption’’ (de Waal), etc., while the true smile is the direct expression of our deeper self, it “arises from a specific inner state, as sincere | reflections of enjoyment, happiness, or affection.” True smiles are therefore “harder to feign.”56

(50-51)

53. See also Frans de Waal, Mama ‘s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Teach Us about Ourselves (London: Granta, 2019), pp. 66-68.

54. “The false, mouth-only ‘have a nice day’ kind of smile was named the ‘Duchenne smile’ in honor of its discoverer” (Smith, Why We Lie, p. 72).

55. “Only the so-called Duchenne smile is a sincere expression of joy and positive feeling” (de Waal, Mama’s Last Hug, p. 66).

(50)

56. de Waal, Mama’s Last Hug, p. 67.

(51)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.6.3

[The Real False Smile of the Self-Controlled Imposter]

 

[Breeur notes some complications with this supposed clear-cut distinction between a fake and genuine smile. The smiles of airplane personnel are “not meant as an expression of one’s inmost thoughts and feelings, hence there is nothing deceptive about it,” so they are not simply false and deceptive (51). “Likewise, any variant of conventional social expressions of politeness are not necessarily, inherently, or irreducibly false or insincere” (51). In contrast to this sort of a polite, service smile, Breeur designates the “real false smile,” which “is not the phony one, but the imitation of the true one” (51). (While the service smile is made with both parties knowing it is done as a service to the other), the real false smile is “the smile of the imposter, i.e. someone that in a context of social smiles intends to convince the other that his or her smile is genuine and sincere, is true and not fake” (51). Also, the real false smile is, of course, not meant to express a feeling that the imposter genuinely has but rather to evoke a feeling in the receiver, which is “precisely what actors do. An imposter [...] is an actor off stage” (51). The imposter is so good at this sort of deception that they “can deliberately, fully, self-consciously neutralize the work of a lie detector” (51). For the lie to be effective, the liar needs this sort of “Absolute and total self-control” (51). Breeur notes that this sort of self-control is “what trained spies achieve when they | are submitted to lie detectors. They betray nothing because they are real fakes” rather than the “phony fakes” with service smiles (51-52).]

 

There are more than a few problems with these accounts. For starters, one would be justified in one’s skepticism regarding such simplistic models of “facial expression.” I would also like to know what kind of scientific evidence corroborates the claim that “our faces most of the time mirror true feelings.”57 But the more relevant issue is that I do not believe that the distinction between the public consumption smile and the genuine personal smile maps so neatly onto that of false and true respectively. The public smiles of “airplane personnel,” for example, are not simply false. Likewise, any variant of conventional social expressions of politeness are not necessarily, inherently, or irreducibly false or insincere. In the example of airplane personnel, a frequent flyer who frequently feels betrayed by the “phony” smiles of airplane personnel might very well be paranoiac. The key is that the airplane personnel smile is not meant as an expression of one’s inmost thoughts and feelings, hence there is nothing deceptive about it, unless one believes in the possible existence of a society based only on true smiles. What is false is not the socially adaptive face expression, the mask called persona: A real false smile is not the phony one, but the imitation of the true one. The latter is the smile of the imposter, i.e. someone that in a context of social smiles intends to convince the other that his or her smile is genuine and sincere, is true and not fake. The domain of the fake smile is that of evocation instead of expression. Evoking a feeling is precisely what actors do. An imposter, as we will see immediately, is an actor off stage. An imposter is someone who can deliberately, fully, self-consciously neutralize the work of a lie detector. This is the core of the effective lie: Absolute and total self-control. This is what Eichmann achieved during his trial. This is what trained spies achieve when they | are submitted to lie detectors.58 They betray nothing because they are real fakes. Not phony fakes with an “airplane personnel smile”.

(51-52)

57. de Waal, Mama’s Last Hug, p. 67.

(51)

58. Cf. Bettina Stangneth, Lügen lessen (Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 2017).

(52)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.6.4

[Imposture and Lying]

 

[(Recall from section 1.3.5 that Augustine defines lying as having one thought in your head while expressing another thought instead, with the intention to deceive. In this way, the liar has a double heart and holds a double thought. Lying is an act of duplicity in which “You dissimulate what is true, and you simulate what is untrue” (19). (Augustine: “dissimulation is pretending not to be what one actually is, whereas simulation is pretending to be what one actually is not.”)) Breeur notes that often the “the problem of imposture is seen as a variant of lying, i.e. a tendency to combine forms of dissimulation and simulation” (52). (So, perhaps, it is not that we see imposture as a subcategory or subtheme of the topic lying.) Rather, “it is the other way around” (52). (Perhaps, lying is one of the tools the imposture uses in their overall deceptive, misleading behavior in which they craft a fake identity for themselves.) “As we saw, a liar is an actor. His or her play is not part of a deliberate tendency to lie. But his or her lying is integrated into a general strategy to seduce, to impose a mise-en-scene and to play a certain role, to incarnate a fake identity, to imitate a ‘real’ smile” (52).]

 

[ditto]

Very often the problem of imposture is seen as a variant of lying, i.e. a tendency to combine forms of dissimulation and simulation. But it is the other way around. As we saw, a liar is an actor. His or her play is not part of a deliberate tendency to lie. But his or her lying is integrated into a general strategy to seduce, to impose a mise-en-scene and to play a certain role, to incarnate a fake identity, to imitate a “real” smile.

(52)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Breeur, Roland. Lies – Imposture – Stupidity. Vilnius: Jonas ir Jakubas, 2019.

The book can be purchased here.

 

Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page.

.

 

 

.

4 Aug 2021

Breeur (2.5) Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, Ch.2.5, “Reduction to Simplicity”, summary

 

by Corry Shores

 

[Search Blog Here. Index-tags are found on the bottom of the left column.]

 

[Central Entry Directory]

[Roland Breeur, entry directory]

[Breeur, Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, entry directory]

 

[The following is a paragraph by paragraph summary of Breeur’s text. Boldface, underlining, and bracketed commentary are my own. Proofreading is incomplete, so please forgive my mistakes. The book can be purchased here.]

 

 

 

 

Summary of

 

Roland Breeur

[Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page]

 

Lies – Imposture – Stupidity

 

Part 1

Lies and Stupidity

 

Ch.2

Alternative Facts and Reduction to Stupidity

 

2.5

“Reduction to Simplicity”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brief summary (collecting those below):

(2.5.1) (Recall from section 2.4 how industries, in the face of a preponderance of scientific findings that threaten their profits, might fund their own counter-research efforts. The purpose is to fabricate a “scientifically legitimized” opposing view, so to hinder adverse public policy and public opinion.) In response to industry’s clouding of scientific debate, one response is to insist on the better, more factual truth. But this would only work if the industry-funded scientists were simply lying. Instead, their efforts to cloud the debate only create “a context in which truth ceases to be of value” (46). (Perhaps the idea is the following. When both sides are given equal weight in the public discourse, all while only one is based in a genuine effort to conduct unbiased scientific research, then both true and false statements, or both good and bad scientific research, is regarded equivalently. As such, the true and good knowledge is lowered to the level of an alternative opinion or view or interpretation of the data, rather than being something with special merit.) This, then, involves the “reduction to stupidity” (see section 2.2.5, and summary at section 2.3.1) (where discourse is “reduced to hot air” on account of people holding on to inferior views,) which prevents the superior ones from promulgating and having persuasive effect. (2.5.2) This strategy often involves efforts to fight the bad, false and misleading industry funded research by replacing it with good, true research. Breeur calls this “stupidity as disproportion.” Yet, the reason so many people disbelieve good science (as for example the overwhelming scientific evidence for human-caused climate change) has to do with what they are willing to believe. Many people simply do not want to believe the truth. For instance, they may fall victim to confirmation bias: “i.e. people’s tendency to believe and value above all facts and information that confirm their cherished premises and presuppositions – or, negatively put, people’s unwillingness to accept facts and evidence that contradict their cherished premises and presuppositions” (46). (2.5.3) There are a number of cognitive phenomena that might explain why people tend toward such irrational thinking: “In the case of the backfire effect, a person will not only refuse to accept the evidence challenging his or her beliefs, they will even feel strengthened in their beliefs by evidence to the contrary, ‘doubling down’’ on their cherished beliefs. In the case of the Dunning-Kruger effect, also known as the ‘too stupid to know they’re stupid’ effect, people referred to as ‘low-ability subjects’ fail to recognize their own intellectual deficiencies” (47). (2.5.4 Some (including Lee McIntyre) use such cognitive phenomena to explain post-truth phenomena. What is puzzling is that the tendency to believe truth rather than these falsehoods should increase our survival chances. So (from an evolutionary standpoint) it is unclear why these cognitive biases are so prevalent. It is also found that conservatives tend to exhibit the “negativity bias,” as they “seem more inclined to believe threatening falsehoods than liberals” (47). McIntyre speculates that this may be explained by the fact that conservatives tend to have larger amygdalae. (2.5.5) Breeur notes that even McIntye’s thinking has its own biases. For instance, it is “politically polarized vis-a-vis the Democratic left versus the Republican right” (48). Also, “McIntyre’s reference to this mysterious amygdala – which is part of the so-called ‘limbic system’’ – is as perplexing as that of Descartes’s references to the pineal gland” (48). On the one hand, McIntyre aims to be scientifically rigorous in order to unearth the causes for why we are unwilling to accept inconvenient yet scientifically verified truths; while on the other hand, the scientific research he uses, although ingenious and inventive, nonetheless finds just trivial, banal truths. There is a striking discrepancy between these two factors (which demonstrates the futility of McIntyre’s approach). Yet, “It is on the basis of such banalities that a whole discourse has been created, which from the Olympian altitude of its ‘objective facts’ and ‘experimental evidence’ valiantly commits itself to fight against the impostors in power” (48). (2.5.6) Because this scientific response is so “full of clichés or simplifications,” it can be perplexing and in the end prove futile, weak, and stupid in the face of the “proliferation of alternative facts” (49). The problem with this approach is that it does not realize that not all truths have the same values, as some prove to be too simplistic or banal to have any real weight or effect. “This is the reduction to simplicity: Regardless of their truth status, the value of truth claims can be (if they are not often) so simplistic, so banal, so trivial, etc., that it is difficult to understand how anyone could believe in their efficacy. The anthropological and metaphysical models at the core of many theories and programs are so simplistic and vain that one cannot see how they could be invoked to fight against the indifference to truth that permeates contemporary society” (49).

 

 

 

Contents

 

2.5.1

[The Failure to Combat Industry Misinformation Campaigns by Insisting on Better Science]

 

2.5.2

[Confirmation Bias]

 

2.5.3

[Some Cognitive Phenomena Involved in Science Denial]

 

2.5.4

[The Negativity Bias of Conservatives]

 

2.5.5

[The Banality of Science Insistence]

 

2.5.6

[Reduction to Simplicity]

 

Bibliography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

 

2.5.1

[The Failure to Combat Industry Misinformation Campaigns by Insisting on Better Science]

 

[(Recall from section 2.4 how industries, in the face of a preponderance of scientific findings that threaten their profits, might fund their own counter-research efforts. The purpose is to fabricate a “scientifically legitimized” opposing view, so to hinder adverse public policy and public opinion.) In response to industry’s clouding of scientific debate, one response is to insist on the better, more factual truth. But this would only work if the industry-funded scientists were simply lying. Instead, their efforts to cloud the debate only create “a context in which truth ceases to be of value” (46). (Perhaps the idea is the following. When both sides are given equal weight in the public discourse, all while only one is based in a genuine effort to conduct unbiased scientific research, then both true and false statements, or both good and bad scientific research, is regarded equivalently. As such, the true and good knowledge is lowered to the level of an alternative opinion or view or interpretation of the data, rather than being something with special merit.) This, then, involves the “reduction to stupidity” (see section 2.2.5, and summary at section 2.3.1) (where discourse is “reduced to hot air” on account of people holding on to inferior views,) which prevents the superior ones from promulgating and having persuasive effect.]

 

[ditto. (Recall the “reduction to stupidity” from section 2.2.5. Breeur was discussing how one’s insistence on their opinions is an instance of stupidity, because they persist with their faulty views even when confronted by superior ones. It would be better to have flexibility and drop bad judgements in favor of more informed and considered ones, and then to espouse the better ones instead. This would facilitate the flow and prosperity of truth, which involves development, refinement, adaptation, and so forth. When instead that flow is blocked because some people insist on keeping their faulty opinions in the face of other people’s better ones, this depletes those superior ones of their power to flow, promulgate, and have influence on other people’s minds. In that way, the better views are “reduced to hot air” so to speak, and overall it reduces the general discourse to inferior judgments. This reduction of the truth-flow power of evolving judgments is the “reduction to stupidity”.]

How to react against these forms of strategic and structural castings of doubt and confusion? There is a tendency, shared by McIntyre, to focus and remain fixated on the problem of truth. Indeed, what these fake experts do is create fake information – that is, they lie. But on such a socially extended and structurally implemented level, the reclaiming of truth seems | at best misguided, for these fake experts actually do not lie – they merely create a context in which truth ceases to be of value. Hence the reduction to stupidity.

(45-46)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.5.2

[Confirmation Bias]

 

[This strategy often involves efforts to fight the bad, false and misleading industry funded research by replacing it with good, true research. Breeur calls this “stupidity as disproportion.” Yet, the reason so many people disbelieve good science (as for example the overwhelming scientific evidence for human-caused climate change) has to do with what they are willing to believe. Many people simply do not want to believe the truth. For instance, they may fall victim to confirmation bias: “i.e. people’s tendency to believe and value above all facts and information that confirm their cherished premises and presuppositions – or, negatively put, people’s unwillingness to accept facts and evidence that contradict their cherished premises and presuppositions” (46).]

 

[ditto]

As a reaction to this reduction, however, a new form of stupidity emerges in the form of the aforementioned misguided and inappropriate emphasis on truth. This is what happens when media outlets stress the importance of “fact checking” in a domain where, as a matter of fact, facts do not matter. What McIntyre does is a bit different. He endeavors to fight bad research with good research, i.e. to replace the false with the true. In this process is generated a new form of stupidity which could be termed stupidity as disproportion. By way of a beginning, consider the following urgent question: Why are so many people blind to the truth? Why, for example, do so many people go around denying climate change? Why do they refuse to listen to reason? Why do they reject out of hand the wise, well-intentioned, and edifying sermons of the scientists? Here, McIntyre appeals to the study of psychological mechanisms as they have recently been investigated by cognitive and behavioral psychologists. The basic idea is simple: The explanation is that many people do not want the truth. One can circumvent this essentially tautological formulation with reference to the notion of “confirmation bias,” i.e. people’s tendency to believe and value above all facts and information that confirm their cherished premises and presuppositions – or, negatively put, people’s unwillingness to accept facts and evidence that contradict their cherished premises and presuppositions.

(46)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.5.3

[Some Cognitive Phenomena Involved in Science Denial]

 

[There are a number of cognitive phenomena that might explain why people tend toward such irrational thinking: “In the case of the backfire effect, a person will not only refuse to accept the evidence challenging his or her beliefs, they will even feel strengthened in their beliefs by evidence to the contrary, ‘doubling down’’ on their cherished beliefs. In the case of the Dunning-Kruger effect, also known as the ‘too stupid to know they’re stupid’ effect, people referred to as ‘low-ability subjects’ fail to recognize their own intellectual deficiencies” (47).]

 

[ditto]

Intellectuals, for instance, claim truth in the name of reason and science in their fight against all forms of “beliefs” nourished by emotions or feelings (i.e. the subjective), and they call upon science (in McIntyre’s case, upon cognitive psychology) to understand the mechanisms of the brain that explain tendencies towards “irrationality.” McIntyre himself, in an effort to understand the current electorate’s lack of rationality, refers to a number of tests carried out by psychologists that |reveal myriad “fascinating cognitive biases” from the “backfire effect” to the “Dunning-Kruger effect.” In the case of the backfire effect, a person will not only refuse to accept the evidence challenging his or her beliefs, they will even feel strengthened in their beliefs by evidence to the contrary, “doubling down’’ on their cherished beliefs. In the case of the Dunning-Kruger effect, also known as the “too stupid to know they’re stupid” effect, people referred to as “low-ability subjects” fail to recognize their own intellectual deficiencies.46

(46-47)

46. McIntyre, Post-Truth, pp. 48-51.

(47)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.5.4

[The Negativity Bias of Conservatives]

 

[Some (including Lee McIntyre) use such cognitive phenomena to explain post-truth phenomena. What is puzzling is that the tendency to believe truth rather than these falsehoods should increase our survival chances. So (from an evolutionary standpoint) it is unclear why these cognitive biases are so prevalent. It is also found that conservatives tend to exhibit the “negativity bias,” as they “seem more inclined to believe threatening falsehoods than liberals” (47). McIntyre speculates that this may be explained by the fact that conservatives tend to have larger amygdalae.]

 

[ditto]

These mechanisms and effects have led McIntyre (among others) to attempt to connect them with, or use them to explain, the post-truth phenomenon. Basically, the hope is to find some answer for the consternating fact that we (rational animals) cannot see that “believing the truth increase[s] our chances for survival. “What are the mental constraints that rob our brain of the ability to think clearly? That is, why are people irrational? McIntyre does not offer any answers; he simply concludes, on a dour note of resignation, that, “for whatever reason, we must recognize that a plethora of cognitive biases are just part of the way our brains are wired.”47 Rather than try to “solve” the “mystery” of irrationality, McIntyre explores its vicissitudes, though always with reference to the science of the brain. Some cognitive biases, McIntyre teaches us, function differently depending on our political beliefs. With reference to the work of anthropologist Daniel Fessler, who investigated what may be referred to as “negativity bias,”48 in order to demonstrate why conservatives seem more inclined to believe threatening falsehoods than liberals, McIntyre contends that this phenomenon is explicable when one considers the “experimental evidence” which indicates | that the “fear-based amygdala tends to be larger in conservatives than in liberals.”49

(47-48)

47. McIntyre, Post-Truth, pp. 48-51.

48. McIntyre, Post-Truth, p. 57.

(47)

49. McIntyre, Post-Truth, p. 58. Research on the so-called “partisan brain” is clearly in vogue at the moment. See, for example, the research conducted by Andrea Pereira and Jay Van Bavel (“The Partisan Brain: An Identity-Based Model of Political Belief,” Trends in Cognitive Science 22.3 (2018), 213-224), or Jordan B. Peterson’s (et alii) recent papers (to quote one of them: Shona Tritt, Michael Inzlicht, & Jordan Peterson, “Preliminary Support for a Generalized Arousal Model of Political Conservatism”, PloS one. 8. e83333.10.1371/journal.pone.0083333.)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.5.5

[The Banality of Science Insistence]

 

[Breeur notes that even McIntye’s thinking has its own biases. For instance, it is “politically polarized vis-a-vis the Democratic left versus the Republican right” (48). Also, “McIntyre’s reference to this mysterious amygdala – which is part of the so-called ‘limbic system’’ – is as perplexing as that of Descartes’s references to the pineal gland” (48). On the one hand, McIntyre aims to be scientifically rigorous in order to unearth the causes for why we are unwilling to accept inconvenient yet scientifically verified truths; while on the other hand, the scientific research he uses, although ingenious and inventive, nonetheless finds just trivial, banal truths. There is a striking discrepancy between these two factors (which demonstrates the futility of McIntyre’s approach). Yet, “It is on the basis of such banalities that a whole discourse has been created, which from the Olympian altitude of its ‘objective facts’ and ‘experimental evidence’ valiantly commits itself to fight against the impostors in power” (48).]

 

[ditto]

One may wonder to what kind of cognitive bias this kind of philosophical thinking, which encourages us to exercise our “critical” minds, has succumbed.50 First and foremost, McIntyre’s entire discourse (symptomatic of virtually all debates in the United States) is politically polarized vis-a-vis the Democratic left versus the Republican right. Second, for a philosopher claiming the almost absolute value of “facts validated by science,” McIntyre’s reference to this mysterious amygdala – which is part of the so-called “limbic system’’ – is as perplexing as that of Descartes’s references to the pineal gland. To my mind, the most disconcerting aspect of McIntyre’s discourse is the disproportion that appears between the proclaimed aims and ambitions of his reflections (namely, our inability or unwillingness to accept inconvenient truths) and the kind of explanations supposed to explain this anomalous irrationality (namely, scientific explanations, and specifically explanations for which the ingenuity or inventiveness of the “experiments” seems· to mask the banality, even the triviality, of the truths investigated). It is on the basis of such banalities that a whole discourse has been created, which from the Olympian altitude of its “objective facts” and “experimental evidence” valiantly commits itself to fight against the impostors in power.

(48)

50. Cf. Ibidem, p.57.

(48)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.5.6

[Reduction to Simplicity]

 

[Because this scientific response is so “full of clichés or simplifications,” it can be perplexing and in the end prove futile, weak, and stupid in the face of the “proliferation of alternative facts” (49). The problem with this approach is that it does not realize that not all truths have the same values, as some prove to be too simplistic or banal to have any real weight or effect. “This is the reduction to simplicity: Regardless of their truth status, the value of truth claims can be (if they are not often) so simplistic, so banal, so trivial, etc., that it is difficult to understand how anyone could believe in their efficacy. The anthropological and metaphysical models at the core of many theories and programs are so simplistic and vain that one cannot see how they could be invoked to fight against the indifference to truth that permeates contemporary society” (49).]

 

[ditto]

The potential “eugenic” implications notwithstanding vis-a-vis McIntyre’s emphasis on neurology and the amygdalae of conservatives, there is an imbalance between the urgency and the complexity of the problems identified |and the response provided. This response – shared by the well-meaning academic majority of “defenders of the Enlightenment” – is full of clichés or simplifications that would leave any more or less assiduous reader perplexed, so that, whether or not there is scientific validity in the experiments adduced by McIntyre, the posturing in opposition to the proliferation of alternative facts is futile, weak – in a word, stupid. This position is predicated on the belief that truth is a value powerful enough to eradicate the false and the fake, but this position betrays a misconception, for truth is not a value “in itself”; rather, “value” is a criterion to which “truth’’ must be submitted. This is the reduction to simplicity: Regardless of their truth status, the value of truth claims can be (if they are not often) so simplistic, so banal, so trivial, etc., that it is difficult to understand how anyone could believe in their efficacy. The anthropological and metaphysical models at the core of many theories and programs are so simplistic and vain that one cannot see how they could be invoked to fight against the indifference to truth that permeates contemporary society.

(48-49)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Breeur, Roland. Lies – Imposture – Stupidity. Vilnius: Jonas ir Jakubas, 2019.

The book can be purchased here.

 

Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page.

.

 

 

.

2 Aug 2021

Breeur (2.4) Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, Ch.2.4, “Strategic Stupidity”, summary

 

by Corry Shores

 

[Search Blog Here. Index-tags are found on the bottom of the left column.]

 

[Central Entry Directory]

[Roland Breeur, entry directory]

[Breeur, Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, entry directory]

 

[The following is a paragraph by paragraph summary of Breeur’s text. Boldface, underlining, and bracketed commentary are my own. Proofreading is incomplete, so please forgive my mistakes. The book can be purchased here.]

 

 

 

 

Summary of

 

Roland Breeur

[Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page]

 

Lies – Imposture – Stupidity

 

Part 1

Lies and Stupidity

 

Ch.2

Alternative Facts and Reduction to Stupidity

 

2.4

“Strategic Stupidity”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brief summary (collecting those below):

(2.4.1) There are recent efforts to promulgate falsehoods under the guise of an appeal to reason and science, and thus certain “contemporary defenses of Enlightenment values” seem to play a role “in the proliferation of stupidity.” One example is found in the climate change “debate.” In fact, scientifically speaking, there is little left to debate regarding the rising temperatures and the role human activity has played in that increase. Nonetheless, the news media (perhaps on account of a financial interest in creating controversy) present the discussion as if “there are still scientific debates being had and to be had,” which of course is “fake news.” Yet, often these same people who argue that the science of climate change is not yet settled also “claim that the post-truth era is the result of (comparatively recent) intellectual movements which are predicated on questioning the value/validity of science, objectivity, and the like.” (They furthermore seem to assume that before the post-truth era, human culture and politics were guided by scientific factual knowledge rather than by emotion and personal belief, and they seem to be unaware that past election campaigns were not based on “the dissemination of scientifically validated facts” (43).) (2.4.2) Studies have shown how corporate interests have contaminated the science in public discourse on such matters as climate change, immigration, abortion, and nationalism: “Scientifically validated facts are frequently denied on non-scientific grounds, and more often than not such denials are motivated by ideological and/or economic interests. Scientific evidence is deliberately refuted and challenged by “experts” subsidized by companies in order to produce fake research and to generate general confusion via the media” (44). The benefactors are a political class that gains by ignoring the problems. Because the media are the ones disseminating this misinformation, they become “a tool used to call into question whatever truths are deemed inconvenient (and unprofitable), the result being nothing more than fraud” (44). (2.4.3) For example, in 1953, tobacco companies met and decided that rather than “fighting among themselves, trying to find out which brand is less harmful” they would instead unite to fight the science that demonstrates how tobacco is unhealthy. They formed the Tobacco Industry Research Committee (TIRC) to “convince the public that there was no evidence that smoking cigarettes causes cancer and that previous studies claiming otherwise had been challenged by ‘numerous scientists’” (45). (2.4.4) The TIRC’s efforts were successful, and it operated in fact for four decades (1953-1998). It succeeded by {1} funding its own experts, {2} feeding those paid, biased findings/opinions to the media so that they feel compelled to present the issue as having two opposing, scientifically legitimized sides, {3} promoting the tobacco industry’s side of the “debate” through lobbying and public relations, and {4} exploiting the confusion that resulted in the public’s mind. This same strategy has been applied for many other issues, including global warming, the ozone layer, and acid rain. The overall goal is to convince the public that existing scientific findings have come into question by other findings and so to no longer regard them as scientifically verified facts.

 

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

2.4.1

[Science and Political Naivety]

 

2.4.2

[Corporate Contamination of Science]

 

2.4.4

[The Success of the Tobacco Industry’s Misinformation Campaign]

 

Bibliography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

 

2.4.1

[Science and Political Naivety]

 

[There are recent efforts to promulgate falsehoods under the guise of an appeal to reason and science, and thus certain “contemporary defenses of Enlightenment values” seem to play a role “in the proliferation of stupidity.” One example is found in the climate change “debate.” In fact, scientifically speaking, there is little left to debate regarding the rising temperatures and the role human activity has played in that increase. Nonetheless, the news media (perhaps on account of a financial interest in creating controversy) present the discussion as if “there are still scientific debates being had and to be had,” which of course is “fake news.” Yet, often these same people who argue that the science of climate change is not yet settled also “claim that the post-truth era is the result of (comparatively recent) intellectual movements which are predicated on questioning the value/validity of science, objectivity, and the like.” (They furthermore seem to assume that before the post-truth era, human culture and politics were guided by scientific factual knowledge rather than by emotion and personal belief, and they seem to be unaware that past election campaigns were not based on “the dissemination of scientifically validated facts” (43).)]

 

[ditto. Note, regarding the observation that “those who propagate the idea that the science is not yet in on climate change are often those who at the same time rail against post-truth era attacks on Enlightenment values,” I wonder if Ben Shapiro would be such a case. (Here and Here).]

In a related vein, it is worth asking if contemporary defenses of Enlightenment values, i.e. reason and science, do not have | a role to play in the proliferation of stupidity. Consider, for instance, certain strategic and cynical appeals to science. As the story goes, in recent decades, scientific methods and results have been reduced in the same manner as facts were reduced to opinions. By extension, science has been used to support both truths and falsehoods. For a present-day example, consider the status of climate change. Although there is no scientific debate concerning the fact that global temperatures are rising because of human actions, the media has propagated the idea that there are still scientific debates being had and to be had. This, sensu stricto, is fake news. This is a fake controversy produced by fake researchers with ideological and/or economic motivations who are “cashing in’’ on the zeitgeist. Yet, those who propagate the idea that the science is not yet in on climate change are often those who at the same time rail against post-truth era attacks on Enlightenment values. Often, these are the people who claim that the post-truth era is the result of (comparatively recent) intellectual movements which are predicated on questioning the value/validity of science, objectivity, and the like. This is the context of science-denial, post-truth and neo-enlightenment. It is clear that in debates concerning “fighting post-truth,” the aspect of ambiguity or the duplicity of meaning proper to facts that we explored in the first chapter, is most of the time ignored. Not in the least because authors, in their analysis, neglect the impact of fake news on the factual dimensions that make up the social and historical fabric in favor of scientific truths. This offers these authors the arrogance to claim that the Post-Truth era is the result of intellectual movements that questioned the value of objective and scientific truths. These doubts, as we will see, would have created circumstances in which objective facts, are henceforth considered to be less important for shaping public opinion than emotions and personal beliefs. As if it has ever been different. And as if in the past all election campaigns were based solely on the dissemination of scientifically validated facts.

(42-43)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.4.2

[Corporate Contamination of Science]

 

[Studies have shown how corporate interests have contaminated the science in public discourse on such matters as climate change, immigration, abortion, and nationalism: “Scientifically validated facts are frequently denied on non-scientific grounds, and more often than not such denials are motivated by ideological and/or economic interests. Scientific evidence is deliberately refuted and challenged by “experts” subsidized by companies in order to produce fake research and to generate general confusion via the media” (44). The benefactors are a political class that gains by ignoring the problems. Because the media are the ones disseminating this misinformation, they become “a tool used to call into question whatever truths are deemed inconvenient (and unprofitable), the result being nothing more than fraud” (44).]

 

[ditto]

But let’s first summarize the strategic production of doubt by corporate-funded lobbying in domains that were keen to influence political positions on climate change, immigration, abortion, nationalism, etc. In his recent book on the post-truth era, Lee McIntyre offers a clear image of such cynical strategies, using the fascinating and at the same time distressing analyses of Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway and of Ari Rabin-Havt.42 Scientifically validated facts are frequently denied on non-scientific grounds, and more often than not such denials are motivated by ideological and/or economic interests. Scientific evidence is deliberately refuted and challenged by “experts” subsidized by companies in order to produce fake research and to generate general confusion via the media. This confusion naturally benefits a political class which, thanks to the doubt manufactured, can deploy a program “ignoring” the problems and facts for which their opponents were trying to find government-wide solutions. Thus, the media becomes a tool used to call into question whatever truths are deemed inconvenient (and unprofitable), the result being nothing more than fraud.

(44)

42. See Oreskes and Conway, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming (London: Bloomsbury, 2011), and Rabin-Havt, Lies, Incorporated: The World of Post- Truth Politics (New York: Anchor Books, 2016).

(44)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.4.3

[The Disinformation Campaign of the Tobacco Industry Research Committee (TIRC)]

 

[For example, in 1953, tobacco companies met and decided that rather than “fighting among themselves, trying to find out which brand is less harmful” they would instead unite to fight the science that demonstrates how tobacco is unhealthy. They formed the Tobacco Industry Research Committee (TIRC) to “convince the public that there was no evidence that smoking cigarettes causes cancer and that previous studies claiming otherwise had been challenged by ‘numerous scientists’” (45). ]

 

[ditto]

For a historical example, we can follow McIntyre back to 1953 – specifically, to the Plaza Hotel in New York. It was there and then that the heads of the major tobacco companies met to determine the best strategy to deal with a disturbing article that had just been published linking cigarette tar and cancer. John Hill, a leading figure in public relations at the time, proposed a global plan for tobacco companies to stop fighting among themselves, trying to find out which brand is less harmful, and to adopt a united front to fight the cigarette science. This plan would be supported with additional “research’’ to combat the “bad” science. Thus, the Tobacco Industry Research Committee (TIRC) was created. Its mission was | mainly to convince the public that there was no evidence that smoking cigarettes causes cancer and that previous studies claiming otherwise had been challenged by “numerous scientists.”43

(44-45)

43 Lee McIntyre, Post-Truth (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2018), p. 22 sq.

(45)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.4.4

[The Success of the Tobacco Industry’s Misinformation Campaign]

 

[The TIRC’s efforts were successful, and it operated in fact for four decades (1953-1998). It succeeded by {1} funding its own experts, {2} feeding those paid, biased findings/opinions to the media so that they feel compelled to present the issue as having two opposing, scientifically legitimized sides, {3} promoting the tobacco industry’s side of the “debate” through lobbying and public relations, and {4} exploiting the confusion that resulted in the public’s mind. This same strategy has been applied for many other issues, including global warming, the ozone layer, and acid rain. The overall goal is to convince the public that existing scientific findings have come into question by other findings and so to no longer regard them as scientifically verified facts.]

 

[ditto]

Guess what: It worked! The immediate effect was the creation of confusion – no doubt its purpose. And this program was in operation for four decades, all the way up until 1998. The TIRC strategy can be summarized as follows: “Find and fund your own experts, use this to suggest to the media that there are two sides to the story, push your side through public relations and governmental lobbying, and capitalize on the resulting public confusion to question whatever scientific result you wish to dispute.”44 Given its effectiveness, this strategy has been adopted by others in other cases; it is this strategy that has been widely implemented in other scientific “disputes” and “controversies” such as those related to holes in the ozone layer, acid rain, and global warming, among others.45 The goal in these cases is not even to establish alternative facts – to make the public believe that the facts already validated and widely accepted have been the subject of new research and have been widely questioned.

(45)

44. McIntyre, Post-Truth, pp. 24-25.

45. It is therefore not surprising to see that the “experts” of the Heartland Institute, responsible for casting doubt on the results of scientific research related to global warming, were financed by Philip Morris among others.

(45)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Breeur, Roland. Lies – Imposture – Stupidity. Vilnius: Jonas ir Jakubas, 2019.

The book can be purchased here.

 

Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page.

.

 

 

.

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Quine “On What There Is,” summary

 

by Corry Shores

 

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[The following is a paragraph by paragraph summary of the text. More analysis is still needed and will be updated when conducted. Proofreading is incomplete, so please forgive all my various mistakes. Texts were copied from wikisource  but were not checked against the original, cited text for accuracy. There are differences between these two versions, but we do not attend to them here. (In other words, page citations are for the cited text, but quoted material is from wikisource.)]

 

 

 

Summary of

 

W. V. Quine

 

“On What There Is”

 

 

 

Brief summary (simply collecting those written below):

(1) The ontological problem can be stated simply with the question: “What is there?” An easy and broadly acceptable answer could be “everything,” in other words, “there is what there is.” Yet, despite the simplicity, of the question and answer, there has been a lot of debate over certain cases regarding whether they can be included among things that exist. (2) Quine notes a problem in particular for ontological debates. We suppose two philosophers, McX and Quine himself. As we noted, people may differ as what should be considered an existing entity or not. We suppose then that McX believes some certain thing is an existing entity, while Quine does not believe there is such an entity. We first take McX’s point of view. They can summarize their disagreement thusly: McX thinks that this entity exists, and yet Quine refuses to acknowledge its existence. But how would Quine summarize his disagreement? Quine would say that it is not a matter of him failing to recognize a particular entity, because there is no such entity in the first place to recognize. Regardless of disagreement about how to formulate the incompatibility of their views, the real disagreement is between their ontologies. (3) The problem for Quine in this scenario is that he might be helpless to argue against McX. Suppose Quine tells McX that that these entities in question do not exist. This might be like first positing their existence, then secondly denying it. But that would involve starting off by acknowledging their existence, which Quine is not willing to do in the first place. (4) Since those taking a negative view about the existence of an entity cannot formulate the disagreement without first acknowledging there is such an entity in the first place, that means “in any ontological dispute the proponent of the negative side suffers the disadvantage of not being able to admit that his opponent disagrees with him” (21). (5) Quine notes this problem goes back to Plato: Nonbeing must in some sense be, otherwise what is it that there is not? He calls this “tangled” doctrine “Plato’s Beard”, and he says that throughout history, it has frequently dulled “the edge of Occam’s razor.” (6) We see a similar sort of thinking in McX’s view. McX might say that if we are able to talk about something like Pegasus, how could it not exist? “If Pegasus were not, McX argues, we should not be talking about anything when we use the word; therefore it would be nonsense to say even that Pegasus is not. Thinking to show thus that the denial of Pegasus cannot be coherently maintained, he concludes that Pegasus is” (21). (7) But there seems to be a confusion in McX’s claim. When McX says that Pegasus exists (because we can think it and speak about it), the entity McX has in mind is an idea in our minds, and not an actual, living, breathing animal out in the world around us. However, “this mental entity is not what people are talking about when they deny Pegasus” (22). (8) It is odd that McX falls victim to this confusion, because “McX never confuses the Parthenon with the Parthenon-idea. The Parthenon is physical; the Parthenon-idea is mental” (22). “But when we shift from the Parthenon to Pegasus, the confusion sets in—for no other reason than that McX would sooner be deceived by the crudest and most flagrant counterfeit than grant the nonbeing of Pegasus” (22). (9) Another supposed person with a view on the matter (whom we call “Wyman”) might also allege that Pegasus has being, but they might say that Pegasus has its “being as an unactualized possible. When we say of Pegasus that there is no such thing, we are saying, more precisely, that Pegasus does not have the special attribute of actuality” (22). (10) Quine notes that Wyman has spoiled the word “exists” in this way (by distinguishing {1} an entity that has being but does not exist from {2} an entity that has being but does exist). This ruins the word “exists,” because normally it is not limited in this way to spatio-temporal manifestation. Usually when we say “Pegasus does not exist” we mean there is no such entity. It just happens that Pegasus is a spatio-temporal being. However, we might want to say that the cube root of 27 exists, even though it lacks spatio-temporal presentation. Wyman wants to find a way to accommodate our position as best they can into their ontology, so they change the meaning of “exist” to always refer to spatio-temporal manifestation, leaving “is” for the non-spatio-temporal being of a non-actualized (potential) spatio-temporal entity. “Wyman, in an ill-conceived effort to appear agreeable, genially grants us the nonexistence of Pegasus and then, contrary to what we meant by nonexistence of Pegasus, insists that Pegasus is. Existence is one thing, he says, and subsistence is another” (23). So we are left with holding onto the word “is” for this notion we once had for “exists”. (11) Wyman’s view that there are non-actualized (possible) beings (that have being but not existence) creates so many difficult to answer questions, that it is best not to get entangled in the ramifications of this view: “Wyman’s slum of possibles is a breeding ground for disorderly elements. Take, for instance, the possible fat man in that doorway; and, again, the possible bald man in that doorway. Are they the same possible man, or two possible men? How do we decide? How many possible men are there in that doorway? Are there more possible thin ones than fat ones? How many of them are alike? Or would their being alike make them one?” [etc.] (23). (12) While we might deal with the notion of possibility by using a modality operating on a whole statement (as with the adverb “possibly”), we gain little by applying this technique to render possible entities. (13) There is another problem with Wyman’s notion of unactualized possibility. We are supposing Wyman’s view that it is nonsense to say that Pegasus is not. What about the Round Square Cupola on Berkeley College? Using the same reasoning, would we say it is unactualized? But as an impossible object, would we have to say it is an unactualized impossible? That would create a dilemma for Wyman. If Wyman says that the Round Square Cupola on Berkeley College has being, then Wyman becomes trapped in contradictions. Quine tells us that instead Wyman takes the other strategy, and “concedes that it is nonsense to say that the round square cupola on Berkeley College is not. He says that the phrase ‘round square cupola’ is meaningless” (24). (Perhaps the claim here is that ‘round square cupola’ is a sequence of words that refers to nothing in the first place, so there is no entity in question that can be said to exist or not. Or, as we see in the next section, perhaps the idea is that impossible objects are always non-referring.) (14) There is a history to Wyman’s approach of asserting the meaninglessness of contradictions. Some even go as far as to challenge reductio ad absurdum arguments. (15) Also, if we adopt this doctrine of the meaninglessness of contradictions, we lose the ability to test whether a formulation is meaningful or not. “For it follows from a discovery in mathematical logic, due to Church, that there can be no generally applicable test of contradictoriness” (25). (16) We move now to finding ways of dealing with the so-called Plato’s Beard problem (see section 5). (17) Using definite descriptions, Russell devised a way to evaluate non-referring or contradictory descriptive names, like “the present King of France”: “The author of Waverley was a poet’, for example, is explained as a whole as meaning ‘Someone (better: something) wrote Waverley and was a poet, and nothing else wrote Waverley’. (The point of this added clause is to affirm the uniqueness which is implicit in the word ‘the’, in ‘the author of Waverley’.)” And another example: “‘The round square cupola on Berkeley College is pink’ is explained as ‘Something is round and square and is a cupola on Berkeley College and is pink, and nothing else is round and square and a cupola on Berkeley College’”  (25). (18) This allows the sentence containing that descriptive name to be evaluable as true or false. (19) In “Something wrote Waverley and was a poet and nothing else wrote Waverley’” we are using a quantifier “something”, which, like other quantifiers such as “nothing” and “everything”, are bound variables, and they do not presuppose the existence of the quantified thing: “the burden of objective reference which had been put upon the descriptive phrase is now taken over by words of the kind that logicians call bound variables, variables of quantification, namely, words like ‘something’, ‘nothing’, ‘everything’. These words, far from purporting to be names specifically of the author of Waverley, do not purport to be names at all; they refer to entities generally, with a kind of studied ambiguity peculiar to themselves. These quantificational words or bound variables are, of course a basic part of language, and their meaningfulness, at least in context, is not to be challenged. But their meaningfulness in no way presupposes there being either the author of Waverley or the round square cupola on Berkeley College or any other specifically preassigned objects” (26). (20) Being can be affirmed or denied using this definite description method. For instance, if we are affirming that “There is the author of Waverley,” we might then say, “Someone (or, more strictly, something) wrote Waverley and nothing else wrote Waverley.” We can also express that there is no author of Waverley: “‘The author of Waverley is not’ is explained, correspondingly, as the alternation ‘Either each thing failed to write Waverley or two or more things wrote Waverley’.” (If there is no author of Waverly, that could be because there are numerous authors and not just one author or because every existing thing is not the author. As we can see, there is no mention of non-beings here.) Both of these are false, but they are meaningful. This also works for contradictory impossible objects, like “The round square cupola on Berkeley College is not” (26). Thus statements of non-being in this way will not entail an affirmation of their being. (21) In order to apply this technique to Pegasus, we will need to render it into a descriptive name, such as “the winged horse that was captured by Bellerophon” (26). (22) Quine next addresses the possibility that were Pegasus “so obscure or so basic no pat translation into a descriptive phrase had offered itself along familiar lines,” still we can provide a description. We can appeal “to the ex hypothesi unanalyzable, irreducible attribute of being Pegasus, adopting, for its expression, the verb ‘is-Pegasus’, or ‘pegasizes’” (27, boldface and underlining are mine). This way “The noun ‘Pegasus’ itself could then be treated as derivative, and identified after all with a description: ‘the thing that is-Pegasus’, the thing that pegasizes’ (27, boldface and underlining are mine). (23) Here, we are assuming that there is an attribute of pegasizing. It would be either something like a form or universal in Plato’s realm of forms or in our minds. And with it, we can use Russell’s descriptions to predicate Pegasus without attributing existence to it. (24) Thus we need not accept McX’s and Wyman’s contention that “we could not meaningfully affirm a statement of the form ‘So-and-so is not’, with a simple or descriptive singular noun in place of ‘so-and-so’, unless so-and-so is” (28). (25) By saying that Pegasus is, that commits us to an ontology that contains Pegasus. But when we say Pegasus is not, this does not thereby include it in our ontology. (26) The meanings of names are different than the named object, as we see clearly with “The Evening Star” and “The Morning Star.” (For, knowing the meaning of Evening Star is not enough to establish its identity with Morning Star. (27) McX confused meaning and naming. “The structure of his confusion is as follows. He confused the alleged named object Pegasus with the meaning of the word ‘Pegasus’, therefore concluding that Pegasus must be in order that the word have meaning” (28). We might also wonder what meanings are. Suppose they are ideas in the mind. When we name Pegasus, it has a meaning (“the thing that pegasizes”), this meaning is an idea (yet it is not what is being named), so we might confuse the two and wrongly conclude that Pegasus is an idea (or that it names an idea). (28) Quine now turns “the ontological problem of universals: the question whether there are such entities as attributes, relations, classes, numbers, functions” (29). In McX’s ontology, they may note that “There are red houses, red roses, red sunsets,” and they may furthermore reason that “These houses, roses, and sunsets, then, have something in common; and this which they have in common is all I mean by the attribute of redness” (29). (29) An alternate view could be that even though we have a number of different things to which it is appropriate to attribute “red,” that does not mean we also believe there is an entity that is named by “redness” over and above these things. “That the houses and roses and sunsets are all of them red may be taken as ultimate and irreducible, and it may be held that McX is no better off, in point of real explanatory power, for all the occult entities which he posits under such names as ‘redness’” (30). (30) Given our work with definite descriptions, we no longer feel any compulsion at all to infer that there is some entity being named by “red” or “is red” just because it has a meaning. In fact, even by describing Pegasus as that which pegasizes does not commit us to positing that there is such an attribute as pegasizing. (31) Yet, McX might still persist. They might say that our position still commits us to positing the meaning “pegasizes” and that any such meanings will have to be universals and maybe then attributes. (32) Quine responds to this challenge by suggestion that meanings either do not exist or at least they do not have the nature conceived here. He might for instance say that a linguistic utterance can be meaningful (or better, significant) not because it has a meaning, but simply because its significance is an “ultimate and irreducible matter of fact.” Or he might, rather than equating utterances with a stated meaning, instead “analyze it in terms directly of what people do in the presence of the linguistic utterance in question and other utterances similar to it” (32). (33) Quine thinks that normally we talk about two things regarding meanings. {1} “the having of meanings, which is significance,” and {2} “sameness of meaning, or synonymy.” When we give the meaning of something, we are in fact supplying a synonym that is “couched, ordinarily, in clearer language than the original” (31). Quine thinks that we can still speak of significance and synonymy without positing an entity called a meaning. For him, it would be done in terms of behavior. (34) Quine (after summarizing our findings so far) says that “At this point McX begins to wonder whether there is any limit at all to our ontological immunity. Does nothing we may say commit us to the assumption of universals or other entities which we may find unwelcome?” (31). (35) The only way this can be, he says, is with bound variables or variables of quantification, like “there is something (bound variable) which red houses and sunsets have in common” (31). But naming does not ontologically commit us, because as we saw, we can convert them to definite descriptions that imply no existence. Quine continues: “To be assumed as an entity is, purely and simply, to be reckoned as the value of a variable. In terms of the categories of traditional grammar, this amounts roughly to saying that to be is to be in the range of reference of a pronoun. Pronouns are the basic media of reference; nouns might better have been named propronouns. The variables of quantification, ‘something’, ‘nothing’, ‘everything’, range over our whole ontology, whatever it may be; and we are convicted of a particular ontological presupposition if, and only if, the alleged presuppositum has to be reckoned among the entities over which our variables range in order to render one of our affirmations true” (32). (36) When we say “some dogs are white,” (we might be asserting that there are dogs (and they are white), but) we are not committing ourselves to the existence of doghood or whiteness. Or if we say, “some zoological species are cross-fertile,” “we are committing ourselves to recognizing as entities the several species themselves” (32). (37) This means that mathematics for example is committed to “an ontology of abstract entities;” for, “a theory is committed to those and only those entities to which the bound variables of the theory must be capable of referring in order that the affirmations made in the theory be true” (32). “Thus it is that the great mediaeval controversy over universals has flared up anew in the modern philosophy of mathematics” (32). (38) Only more recently were these matters of ontological presupposition clarified, so many modern philosophical mathematicians were really debating the problem of universals that have been around for long: “the fundamental cleavages among modern points of view on foundations of mathematics do come down pretty explicitly to disagreements as to the range of entities to which the bound variables should be permitted to refer” (33). (39) There are 3 parallels on these debates on universals between Medieval and Modern times: {1} Realism & Logicism, {2} Conceptualism & Intuitionalism, {3} Nominalism & Formalism. (40) Medieval realism holds that “the Platonic doctrine that universals or abstract entities have being independently of the mind; the mind may discover them but cannot create them” (33). (Thus this view takes universals as preexisting their conception and as being real.) Similarly, “Logicism, represented by Frege, Russell, Whitehead, Church, and Carnap, condones the use of bound variables to refer to abstract entities known and unknown, specifiable and unspecifiable, indiscriminately” (33). (41) Medieval “Conceptualism holds that there are universals but they are mind-made,” while Modern “Intuitionism, espoused in modern times in one form or another by Poincaré, Brouwer, Weyl, and others, countenances the use of bound variables to refer to abstract entities only when those entities are capable of being cooked up individually from ingredients specified in advance” (33). (So in both cases, universals are not taken as real in themselves and as preexisting their conception, but rather coming into being only through their conception.) “As Fraenkel has put it, logicism holds that classes are discovered while intuitionism holds that they are invented” (33). This distinction has great consequences in mathematical systems, especially with regard to infinity. (42) Like intuitionism, modern formalism is against logicism’s “recourse to universals” (34). But formalists may differ from intuitionists in one of two ways. {1} They might be averse to how intuitionism cripples classical mathematics. {2} They “might, like the nominalists of old, object to admitting abstract entities at all, even in the restrained sense of mind-made entities” (34). Yet, all formalists “keeps classical mathematics as a play of insignificant notations”. This play can still be useful in different ways, as seen for instance in its application in physics and technology. Yet, “utility need not imply significance, in any literal linguistic sense” (34). What also does not necessarily imply significance is the success within mathematics itself in generating new theorems and “in finding objective bases for agreement with one another’s results” (33). “For an adequate basis for agreement among mathematicians can be found simply in the rules which govern the manipulation of the notations—these syntactical rules being, unlike the notations themselves, quite significant and intelligible” (33). (43) Yet, our claim that “To be is to be the value of a variable” does not tell us which ontologies are better, it only tests “the conformity of a given remark or doctrine to a prior ontological | standard” (34-35). In other words, “We look to bound variables in connection with ontology not in order to know what there is, but in order to know what a given remark or doctrine, ours or someone else’s, says there is; and this much is quite properly a problem involving language. But what there is is another question” (35). (44) Quine says that there is reason for us to conduct our debates about what is on a semantic level. One reason for this is that it allows someone taking Quine’s position to articulate their disagreement over certain entities that are in McX’s ontology but not in Quine’s: “So long as I adhere to my ontology, as opposed to McX’s, I cannot allow my bound variables to refer to entities which belong to McX’s ontology and not to mine. I can, however, consistently describe our disagreement by characterizing the statements which McX affirms” (35). (45) Another reason to keep the debate on the semantic level is that it allows McX and Quine to be able to communicate their different ontologies to one another in a way that fairly represents each to the other. (46) Yet, just because we can translate these ontological views into language does not mean they are nothing more than linguistic issues: “Translatability of a question into semantical terms is no indication that the question is linguistic. To see Naples is to bear a name which, when prefixed to the words ‘sees Naples’, yields a true sentence; still there is nothing linguistic about seeing Naples” (35). (47) Quine next addresses the criteria for adopting one particular ontology. He says that it is based on it being “the simplest conceptual scheme into which the disordered frag-| ments of raw experience can be fitted and arranged” (35-36) (and that whatever considerations we apply to constructing part of that overall conceptual scheme that will accommodate all science applies to the part in the same way it does the whole). (48) The process of choosing a conceptual scheme is not always straightforward. We might for instance consider a set of  “play-by-play reporting of immediate experience” composed of “individual subjective events of sensation or reflection” (36). (Under Quine’s mode of formalization, these entities would be the “the values of bound variables”). (So already with regard to what exists, under this scheme we are saying that the subjective events of sensation or reflection are the entities that exist in our ontology. Also note that there will be very many. Consider for instance looking at an object before you, for instance, a coffee cup. However, under this mode of analysis, there is no existing being “coffee cup”. There are just the beings which are the very many experiences of roundness, whiteness, etc. that otherwise would be features of a coffee cup.) Yet, this complex of sense impressions can be efficiently organized if we adopt a “physicalistic conceptual scheme”: “By bringing together scattered sense events and treating them as perceptions of one object, we reduce the complexity of our stream of experience to a manageable conceptual simplicity” (36). (49) Both the phenomenalist and physicalist schemes have their own advantages. Both have their own sort of simplicity and fundamentality, “though in different senses: the one is epistemologically, the other physically, fundamental” (36). (50) “The physical conceptual scheme simplifies our account of experience because of the way myriad scattered sense events come to be associated with single so-called objects” (36). However, we cannot be sure that there will be a way to translate each sentence about such physical objects into the language of the phenomenalistic scheme. (Perhaps the difficulty would be something like going from a third to a first person orientation. See Nagel’s “What Is It Like To Be a Bat?”) This notion of physical objects simplifies “our account of the flux of experience” in a manner that is analogous to how “the introduction of irrational numbers simplifies laws of arithmetic” (37). “From the point of view of the conceptual scheme of the elementary arithmetic of rational numbers alone, the broader arithmetic of rational and irrational numbers would have the status of a convenient myth, simpler than the literal truth (namely, the arithmetic of rationals) and yet, containing that literal truth as a scattered part. Similarly, from a phenomenalistic point, of view, the conceptual scheme of physical objects is a convenient myth, simpler than the literal truth and yet containing that literal truth as a scattered part” (37). (51) (We may further our mythologizing by introducing a platonistic ontology of classes or attributes of physical objects, which will further simplify our account of physics. Math is a part of this higher myth, which makes it suitable for physics. And, “an attitude of formalism may with equal justice be adopted toward the physical conceptual scheme, in turn, by the pure aesthete or phenomenalist” (37).) (52) (There are parallels in the mythmaking between mathematics and physics. At the turn of the 20th century, there was a crisis in the foundations of mathematics with “the discovery of Russell’s paradox and other antinomies of set theory. These contradictions had to be obviated by unintuitive, ad hoc devices; our mathematical myth-making became deliberate and evident to all” (37). Similarly, “An antinomy arose between the undular and the corpuscular accounts of light” (37). And also, “the second great modern crisis in the foundations of mathematics—precipitated in 1931 by Gödel’s proof  that there are bound to be undecidable statements in arithmetic—has its companion piece in physics in Heisenberg’s indeterminacy principle” (38). (53) All these options should be pursued. (54) However, Quine claims that among these different conceptual schemes, the phenomenalistic one “claims epistemological priority. Viewed from within the phenomenalistic conceptual scheme, the ontologies of physical objects and mathematical objects are myths. The quality of myth, however, is relative; relative, in this case, to the epistemological point of view. This point of view is one among various, corresponding to one among our various interests and purposes” (38).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

1

[The Ontological Problem (What is There?) and Debate Over What Can Be Included]

 

2

[Supposing One Person (McX) Claims an Entity Exists and Another (Quine) Does Not]

 

3

[Asymmetry in the Arguments: Quine’s Disadvantage]

 

4

[Negative Arguer as Unable to Even Note They Are in Disagreement]

 

5

[The Puzzle of the Being of Non-Being (“Plato’s Beard”)]

 

6

[Pegasus as a Thinkable Thus Existing Being]

 

7

[McX’s Confusion Between Pegasus the Idea and Pegasus the Thing]

 

8

[McX’s Inconsistency: Otherwise Distinguishing Thing from Idea]

 

9

[Supposed Wyman’s View: Pegasus Exists but as Unactualized]

 

10

[“Exist” Vs. “Is”]

 

11

[Complications with Wyman’s View]

 

12

[The Insufficiency of Using Modal the Operator “Possible/Possibly” for Entities]

 

13

[The Round Square Cupola on Berkeley College: The Question of Whether Contradictory Entities Can Have Being or If Such Names are Non-Referring]

 

14

[History of the Notion That Contradictions Are Meaningless]

 

15

[Losing the Ability to Test for Meaning by Adopting the Doctrine of the Meaninglessness of Contradictions]

 

16

[Moving on to Plato’s Beard Solutions]

 

17

[Using Russell’s Definite Descriptions to Handle Non-Referring or Contradictory Descriptive Names]

 

18

[Evaluating Sentences with Descriptive Names]

 

19

[Quantification in Descriptive Name Formulations]

 

20

[Using Definite Descriptions to Describe Non-Existing Entities Without Implying Their Being]

 

21

[Formulating a Description for Pegasus]

 

22

[“Pegasizing” and “Being-Pegasus” as Descriptions]

 

23

[The Pegasizing Attribute as Universal Form]

 

24

[Avoiding Plato’s Beard, 1]

 

25

[Avoiding Plato’s Beard, 2]

 

26

[The Difference Between Meaning and Names]

 

27

[Confusing Meaning and the Named Object]

 

28

[Turning to the Ontological Problem of Universals]

 

29

[An Alternate Ontology: Red Things Without Redness]

 

30

[Not Committing to Pegasizing]

 

31

[The Suggestion that Meanings are Universals]

 

32

[Denying the Being of Meaning]

 

33

[The Non-Necessity of Positing the Entity of Meaning]

 

34

[Turning to the Question of Commitments to Universals]

 

35

[Bound Variables and Ontological Commitments]

 

36

[“Some” and Existence Commitment]

 

37

[Ontological Commitments Resulting from the Reference of Bound Variables (in Math, etc.)]

 

38

[Modern Mathematical Philosophical Debates as Being About Quantification Issues]

 

39

[Three Parallel Debates Between Medieval and Modern Times]

 

40

[Parallel Debates {1}: Realism & Logicism]

 

41

[Parallel Debates {2}: Conceptualism & Intuitionalism]

 

42

[Parallel Debates {3}: Nominalism & Formalism]

 

43

[The Issue of Evaluating Ontologies]

 

44

[One Reason for Keeping the Debate on the Semantic Level: Articulating the Disagreement]

 

45

[Another Reason for Keeping the Debate on the Semantic Level: Mutual Communication]

 

46

[Linguistically Articulated Ontological Views as Not Necessarily Linguistic Issues]

 

47

[How We Adopt Ontologies]

 

48

[Simplifying Sensory Beings with Physicalism]

 

49

[Advantages of Each Scheme]

 

50

[Physical Objects as Convenient Myths]

 

51

[Myths in Physics]

 

52

[Parallel Mythmaking in Math and Physics]

 

53

[Summary. Pursuing All Options.]

 

54

[The Epistemological Priority of the Phenomenalistic Scheme]

 

Bibliography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

 

1

[The Ontological Problem (What is There?) and Debate Over What Can Be Included]

 

[The ontological problem can be stated simply with the question: “What is there?” An easy and broadly acceptable answer could be “everything,” in other words, “there is what there is.” Yet, despite the simplicity, of the question and answer, there has been a lot of debate over certain cases regarding whether they can be included among things that exist.]

 

[ditto]

A curious thing about the ontological problem is its simplicity. It can be put in three Anglo-Saxon monosyllables: ‘What is there?’ It can be answered, moreover, in a word—‘Everything’—and everyone will accept this answer as true. However, this is merely to say that there is what there is. There remains room for disagreement over cases; and so the issue has stayed alive down the centuries.

(21)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

[Supposing One Person (McX) Claims an Entity Exists and Another (Quine) Does Not]

 

[Quine notes a problem in particular for ontological debates. We suppose two philosophers, McX and Quine himself. As we noted, people may differ as what should be considered an existing entity or not. We suppose then that McX believes some certain thing is an existing entity, while Quine does not believe there is such an entity. We first take McX’s point of view. They can summarize their disagreement thusly: McX thinks that this entity exists, and yet Quine refuses to acknowledge its existence. But how would Quine summarize his disagreement? Quine would say that it is not a matter of him failing to recognize a particular entity, because there is no such entity in the first place to recognize. Regardless of disagreement about how to formulate the incompatibility of their views, the real disagreement is between their ontologies.]

 

[ditto]

Suppose now that two philosophers, McX and I, differ over ontology. Suppose McX maintains there is something which I maintain there is not. McX can, quite consistently with his own point of view, describe our difference of opinion by saying that I refuse to recognize certain entities. I should protest, of course, that he is wrong in his formulation of our disagreement, for I maintain that there are no entities, of the kind which he alleges, for me to recognize; but my finding him wrong in his formulation of our disagreement is unimportant, for I am committed to considering him wrong in his ontology anyway.

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

3

[Asymmetry in the Arguments: Quine’s Disadvantage]

 

[The problem for Quine in this scenario is that he might be helpless to argue against McX. Suppose Quine tells McX that that these entities in question do not exist. This might be like first positing their existence, then secondly denying it. But that would involve starting off by acknowledging their existence, which Quine is not willing to do in the first place.]

 

[ditto]

When I try to formulate our difference of opinion, on the other hand, I seem to be in a predicament. I cannot admit that there are some things which McX countenances and I do not, for in admitting that there are such things I should be contradicting my own rejection of them.

(21)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

[Negative Arguer as Unable to Even Note They Are in Disagreement]

 

[Since those taking a negative view about the existence of an entity cannot formulate the disagreement without first acknowledging there is such an entity in the first place, that means “in any ontological dispute the proponent of the negative side suffers the disadvantage of not being able to admit that his opponent disagrees with him” (21).]

 

[ditto]

It would appear, if this reasoning were sound, that in any ontological dispute the proponent of the negative side suffers the disadvantage of not being able to admit that his opponent disagrees with him.

(21)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

5

[The Puzzle of the Being of Non-Being (“Plato’s Beard”)]

 

[Quine notes this problem goes back to Plato: Nonbeing must in some sense be, otherwise what is it that there is not? He calls this “tangled” doctrine “Plato’s Beard”, and he says that throughout history, it has frequently dulled “the edge of Occam’s razor.”]

 

[ditto. Note: Quine does not explain why he calls it “Plato’s Beard.” I am not sure if the example of a beard comes up in Plato’s discussion of this issue. If not, I wonder if it gets that name because of the metaphor of Occam’s “razor”, combined with how it challenges that idea (maybe because a simpler answer is to say that being is simply not) and with the fact that it is “tangled” like a beard (it seems paradoxical and self-contradictory), and also with the fact that shaving a beard can eventually dull a razor. ]

This is the old Platonic riddle of nonbeing. Nonbeing must in some sense be, otherwise what is it that there is not? This tangled doctrine might be nicknamed Plato’s beard; historically it has proved tough, frequently dulling the edge of Occam’s razor.

(21)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

6

[Pegasus as a Thinkable Thus Existing Being]

 

[We see a similar sort of thinking in McX’s view. McX might say that if we are able to talk about something like Pegasus, how could it not exist? “If Pegasus were not, McX argues, we should not be talking about anything when we use the word; therefore it would be nonsense to say even that Pegasus is not. Thinking to show thus that the denial of Pegasus cannot be coherently maintained, he concludes that Pegasus is” (21).]

 

[ditto]

It is some such line of thought that leads philosophers like McX to impute being where they might otherwise be quite content to recognize that there is nothing. Thus, take Pegasus. If Pegasus were not, McX argues, we should not be talking about anything when we use the word; therefore it would be nonsense to say even that Pegasus is not. Thinking to show thus that the denial of Pegasus cannot be coherently maintained, he concludes that Pegasus is.

(22)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

7

[McX’s Confusion Between Pegasus the Idea and Pegasus the Thing]

 

[But there seems to be a confusion in McX’s claim. When McX says that Pegasus exists (because we can think it and speak about it), the entity McX has in mind is an idea in our minds, and not an actual, living, breathing animal out in the world around us. However, “this mental entity is not what people are talking about when they deny Pegasus” (22). ]

 

[ditto]

McX cannot, indeed, quite persuade himself that any region of space-time, near or remote, contains a flying horse of flesh and blood. Pressed for further details on Pegasus, then, he says that Pegasus is an idea in men’s minds. Here, however, a confusion begins to be apparent. We may for the sake of argument concede that there is an entity, and even a unique entity (though this is rather implausible), which is the mental Pegasus-idea; but this mental entity is not what people are talking about when they deny Pegasus.

(22)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

8

[McX’s Inconsistency: Otherwise Distinguishing Thing from Idea]

 

[It is odd that McX falls victim to this confusion, because “McX never confuses the Parthenon with the Parthenon-idea. The Parthenon is physical; the Parthenon-idea is mental” (22). “But when we shift from the Parthenon to Pegasus, the confusion sets in—for no other reason than that McX would sooner be deceived by the crudest and most flagrant counterfeit than grant the nonbeing of Pegasus” (22).]

 

[ditto]

McX never confuses the Parthenon with the Parthenon-idea. The Parthenon is physical; the Parthenon-idea is mental (according anyway to McX’s version of ideas, and I have no better to offer). The Parthenon is visible; the Parthenon-idea is invisible. We cannot easily imagine two things more unlike, and less liable to confusion, than the Parthenon and the Parthenon-idea. But when we shift from the Parthenon to Pegasus, the confusion sets in—for no other reason than that McX would sooner be deceived by the crudest and most flagrant counterfeit than grant the nonbeing of Pegasus.

(22)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9

[Supposed Wyman’s View: Pegasus Exists but as Unactualized]

 

[Another supposed person with a view on the matter (whom we call “Wyman”) might also allege that Pegasus has being, but they might say that Pegasus has its “being as an unactualized possible. When we say of Pegasus that there is no such thing, we are saying, more precisely, that Pegasus does not have the special attribute of actuality” (22).]

 

[ditto]

The notion that Pegasus must be, because it would otherwise be nonsense to say even that Pegasus is not, has been seen to lead McX into an elementary confusion. Subtler minds, taking the same precept as their starting point, come out with theories of Pegasus which are less patently misguided than McX’s, and correspondingly more difficult to eradicate. One of these subtler minds is named, let us say, Wyman. Pegasus, Wyman maintains, has his being as an unactualized possible. When we say of Pegasus that there is no such thing, we are saying, more precisely, that Pegasus does not have the special attribute of actuality. Saying that Pegasus is not actual is on a par, logically, with saying that the Parthenon is not red; in | either case we are saying something about an entity whose being is unquestioned.

(22-23)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

10

[“Exist” Vs. “Is”]

 

[Quine notes that Wyman has spoiled the word “exists” in this way (by distinguishing {1} an entity that has being but does not exist from {2} an entity that has being but does exist). This ruins the word “exists,” because normally it is not limited in this way to spatio-temporal manifestation. Usually when we say “Pegasus does not exist” we mean there is no such entity. It just happens that Pegasus is a spatio-temporal being. However, we might want to say that the cube root of 27 exists, even though it lacks spatio-temporal presentation. Wyman wants to find a way to accommodate our position as best they can into their ontology, so they change the meaning of “exist” to always refer to spatio-temporal manifestation, leaving “is” for the non-spatio-temporal being of a non-actualized (potential) spatio-temporal entity. “Wyman, in an ill-conceived effort to appear agreeable, genially grants us the nonexistence of Pegasus and then, contrary to what we meant by nonexistence of Pegasus, insists that Pegasus is. Existence is one thing, he says, and subsistence is another” (23). So we are left with holding onto the word “is” for this notion we once had for “exists”.]

 

[ditto]

Wyman, by the way, is one of those philosophers who have united in ruining the good old word ‘exist’. Despite his espousal of unactualized possibles, he limits the word ‘existence’ to actuality—thus preserving an illusion of ontological agreement between himself and us who repudiate the rest of his bloated universe. We have all been prone to say, in our common-sense usage of ‘exist’, that Pegasus does not exist, meaning simply that there is no such entity at all. If Pegasus existed he would indeed be in space and time, but only because the word ‘Pegasus’ has spatio-temporal connotations, and not because ‘exists’ has spatio-temporal connotations. If spatio-temporal reference is lacking when we affirm the existence of the cube root of 27, this is simply because a cube root is not a spatio-temporal kind of thing, and not because we are being ambiguous in our use of ‘exist’. However, Wyman, in an ill-conceived effort to appear agreeable, genially grants us the nonexistence of Pegasus and then, contrary to what we meant by nonexistence of Pegasus, insists that Pegasus is. Existence is one thing, he says, and subsistence is another. The only way I know of coping with this obfuscation of issues is to give Wyman the word ‘exist’. I’ll try not to use it again; I still have ‘is’. So much for lexicography; let’s get back to Wyman’s ontology.

(23)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

11

[Complications with Wyman’s View]

 

[Wyman’s view that there are non-actualized (possible) beings (that have being but not existence) creates so many difficult to answer questions, that it is best not to get entangled in the ramifications of this view: “Wyman’s slum of possibles is a breeding ground for disorderly elements. Take, for instance, the possible fat man in that doorway; and, again, the possible bald man in that doorway. Are they the same possible man, or two possible men? How do we decide? How many possible men are there in that doorway? Are there more possible thin ones than fat ones? How many of them are alike? Or would their being alike make them one?” [etc.] (23).]

 

[ditto]

Wyman’s overpopulated universe is in many ways unlovely. It offends the aesthetic sense of us who have a taste for desert landscapes, but this is not the worst of it. Wyman’s slum of possibles is a breeding ground for disorderly elements. Take, for instance, the possible fat man in that doorway; and, again, the possible bald man in that doorway. Are they the same possible man, or two possible men? How do we decide? How many possible men are there in that doorway? Are there more possible thin ones than fat ones? How many of them are alike? Or would their being alike make them one? Are no two possible things alike? Is this the same as saying that it is impossible for two things to be alike? Or, finally, is the concept of identity simply inapplicable to unactualized possibles? But what sense can be found in talking of entities | which cannot meaningfully be said to be identical with themselves and distinct from one another? These elements are well-nigh incorrigible. By a Fregean therapy of individual concepts, some effort might be made at rehabilitation; but I feel we’d do better simply to clear Wyman’s slum and be done with it.

(23-24)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

12

[The Insufficiency of Using Modal the Operator “Possible/Possibly” for Entities]

 

[While we might deal with the notion of possibility by using a modality operating on a whole statement (as with the adverb “possibly”), we gain little by applying this technique to render possible entities.]

 

[ditto]

Possibility, along with the other modalities of necessity and impossibility and contingency, raises problems upon which I do not mean to imply that we should turn our backs. But we can at least limit modalities to whole statements. We may impose the adverb ‘possibly’ upon a statement as a whole, and we may well worry about the semantical analysis of such usage; but little real advance in such analysis is to be hoped for in expanding our universe to include so-called possible entities. I suspect that the main motive for this expansion is simply the old notion that Pegasus, for example, must be because otherwise it would be nonsense to say even that he is not.

(24)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

13

[The Round Square Cupola on Berkeley College: The Question of Whether Contradictory Entities Can Have Being or If Such Names are Non-Referring]

 

[There is another problem with Wyman’s notion of unactualized possibility. We are supposing Wyman’s view that it is nonsense to say that Pegasus is not. What about the Round Square Cupola on Berkeley College? Using the same reasoning, would we say it is unactualized? But as an impossible object, would we have to say it is an unactualized impossible? That would create a dilemma for Wyman. If Wyman says that the Round Square Cupola on Berkeley College has being, then Wyman becomes trapped in contradictions. Quine tells us that instead Wyman takes the other strategy, and “concedes that it is nonsense to say that the round square cupola on Berkeley College is not. He says that the phrase ‘round square cupola’ is meaningless” (24). (Perhaps the claim here is that ‘round square cupola’ is a sequence of words that refers to nothing in the first place, so there is no entity in question that can be said to exist or not. Or, as we see in the next section, perhaps the idea is that impossible objects are always non-referring.)]

 

[ditto]

Still, all the rank luxuriance of Wyman’s universe of possibles would seem to come to naught when we make a slight change in the example and speak not of Pegasus but of the round square cupola on Berkeley College. If, unless Pegasus were, it would be nonsense to say that he is not, then by the same token, unless the round square cupola on Berkeley College were, it would be nonsense to say that it is not. But, unlike Pegasus, the round square cupola on Berkeley College cannot be admitted even as an unactualized possible. Can we drive Wyman now to admitting also a realm of unactualizable impossibles? If so, a good many embarrassing questions could be asked about them. We might hope even to trap Wyman in contradictions, by getting him to admit that certain of these entities are at once round and square. But the wily Wyman chooses the other horn of the dilemma and concedes that it is nonsense to say that the round square cupola on Berkeley College is not. He says that the phrase ‘round square cupola’ is meaningless.

(24)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

14

[History of the Notion That Contradictions Are Meaningless]

 

[There is a history to Wyman’s approach of asserting the meaninglessness of contradictions. Some even go as far as to challenge reductio ad absurdum arguments.]

 

[ditto. Note, I am not at all certain, but I wonder if Quine means that by rendering contradictions meaningless, that might prevent one from articulating a refutation that finds contradictions, as they cannot be be said to have any significance in the first place.]

Wyman was not the first to embrace this alternative. The doctrine of the meaninglessness of contradictions runs away back. The tradition survives, moreover, in writers who seem to share none of Wyman’s motivations. | Still, I wonder whether the first temptation to such a doctrine may not have been substantially the motivation which we have observed in Wyman. Certainly the doctrine has no intrinsic appeal; and it has led its devotees to such quixotic extremes as that of challenging the method of proof by reductio ad absurdum—a challenge in which I sense a reductio ad absurdum of the doctrine itself.

(24-25)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

15

[Losing the Ability to Test for Meaning by Adopting the Doctrine of the Meaninglessness of Contradictions]

 

[Also, if we adopt this doctrine of the meaninglessness of contradictions, we lose the ability to test whether a formulation is meaningful or not. “For it follows from a discovery in mathematical logic, due to Church, that there can be no generally applicable test of contradictoriness” (25).]

 

[ditto. Note: I am not sure what this is in reference to, and I am not sure the relevance of Church’s findings. My guess is the following. Those taking this doctrine will need to determine which formulations are meaningful (as they lack contraction) and which are not meaningful (as they involve contradiction). But if there is no method to make such a determination, there will be no way to decide which formulas are meaning of not. ]

Moreover, the doctrine of meaninglessness of contradictions has the severe methodological drawback that it makes it impossible, in principle, ever to devise an effective test of what is meaningful and what is not. It would be forever impossible for us to devise systematic ways of deciding whether a string of signs made sense—even to us individually, let alone other people—or not. For it follows from a discovery in mathematical logic, due to Church, that there can be no generally applicable test of contradictoriness.

(25)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

16

[Moving on to Plato’s Beard Solutions]

 

[We move now to finding ways of dealing with the so-called Plato’s Beard problem (see section 5).]

 

[ditto]

I have spoken disparagingly of Plato’s beard, and hinted that it is tangled. I have dwelt at length on the inconveniences of putting up with it. It is time to think about taking steps.

(25)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

17

[Using Russell’s Definite Descriptions to Handle Non-Referring or Contradictory Descriptive Names]

 

[Using definite descriptions, Russell devised a way to evaluate non-referring or contradictory descriptive names, like “the present King of France”: “The author of Waverley was a poet’, for example, is explained as a whole as meaning ‘Someone (better: something) wrote Waverley and was a poet, and nothing else wrote Waverley’. (The point of this added clause is to affirm the uniqueness which is implicit in the word ‘the’, in ‘the author of Waverley’.)” And another example: “‘The round square cupola on Berkeley College is pink’ is explained as ‘Something is round and square and is a cupola on Berkeley College and is pink, and nothing else is round and square and a cupola on Berkeley College’”  (25).]

 

[ditto. Note: Graham Priest discusses definite descriptions here.]

Russell, in his theory of so-called singular descriptions, showed clearly how we might meaningfully use seeming names without supposing that there be the entities allegedly named. The names to which Russell’s theory directly applies are complex descriptive names such as ‘the author of Waverley’, ‘the present King of France’, ‘the round square cupola on Berkeley College’. Russell analyzes such phrases systematically as fragments of the whole sentences in which they occur. The sentence “The author of Waverley was a poet’, for example, is explained as a whole as meaning ‘Someone (better: something) wrote Waverley and was a poet, and nothing else wrote Waverley’. (The point of this added clause is to affirm the uniqueness which is implicit in the word ‘the’, in ‘the author of Waverley’.) The sentence ‘The round square cupola on Berkeley College is pink’ is explained as ‘Something is round and square and is a cupola on Berkeley College and is pink, and nothing else is round and square and a cupola on Berkeley College’

(25)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

18

[Evaluating Sentences with Descriptive Names]

 

[This allows the sentence containing that descriptive name to be evaluable as true or false.]

 

[ditto]

The virtue of this analysis is that the seeming name, a descriptive phrase, is paraphrased in context as a so-called incomplete symbol. No unified expression is offered as an analysis | of the descriptive phrase, but the statement as a whole which was the context of that phrase still gets its full quota of meaning—whether true or false.

(25-26)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

19

[Quantification in Descriptive Name Formulations]

 

[In “Something wrote Waverley and was a poet and nothing else wrote Waverley’” we are using a quantifier “something”, which, like other quantifiers such as “nothing” and “everything”, are bound variables, and they do not presuppose the existence of the quantified thing: “the burden of objective reference which had been put upon the descriptive phrase is now taken over by words of the kind that logicians call bound variables, variables of quantification, namely, words like ‘something’, ‘nothing’, ‘everything’. These words, far from purporting to be names specifically of the author of Waverley, do not purport to be names at all; they refer to entities generally, with a kind of studied ambiguity peculiar to themselves. These quantificational words or bound variables are, of course a basic part of language, and their meaningfulness, at least in context, is not to be challenged. But their meaningfulness in no way presupposes there being either the author of Waverley or the round square cupola on Berkeley College or any other specifically preassigned objects” (26).]

 

[ditto. Note: One thing I did not grasp is why the existential quantifier would not imply existence, with “something” maybe functioning as such (see the next section), unless it is not included here.]

The unanalyzed statement ‘The author of Waverley was a poet’ contains a part, ‘the author of Waverley’, which is wrongly supposed by McX and Wyman to demand objective reference in order to be meaningful at all. But in Russell’s translation, ‘Something wrote Waverley and was a poet and nothing else wrote Waverley’, the burden of objective reference which had been put upon the descriptive phrase is now taken over by words of the kind that logicians call bound variables, variables of quantification, namely, words like ‘something’, ‘nothing’, ‘everything’. These words, far from purporting to be names specifically of the author of Waverley, do not purport to be names at all; they refer to entities generally, with a kind of studied ambiguity peculiar to themselves. These quantificational words or bound variables are, of course a basic part of language, and their meaningfulness, at least in context, is not to be challenged. But their meaningfulness in no way presupposes there being either the author of Waverley or the round square cupola on Berkeley College or any other specifically preassigned objects.

(26)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

20

[Using Definite Descriptions to Describe Non-Existing Entities Without Implying Their Being]

 

[Being can be affirmed or denied using this definite description method. For instance, if we are affirming that “There is the author of Waverley,” we might then say, “Someone (or, more strictly, something) wrote Waverley and nothing else wrote Waverley.” We can also express that there is no author of Waverley: “‘The author of Waverley is not’ is explained, correspondingly, as the alternation ‘Either each thing failed to write Waverley or two or more things wrote Waverley’.” (If there is no author of Waverly, that could be because there are numerous authors and not just one author or because every existing thing is not the author. As we can see, there is no mention of non-beings here.) Both of these are false, but they are meaningful. This also works for contradictory impossible objects, like “The round square cupola on Berkeley College is not” (26). Thus statements of non-being in this way will not entail an affirmation of their being.]

 

[ditto]

Where descriptions are concerned, there is no longer any difficulty in affirming or denying being. ‘There is the author of Waverley’ is explained by Russell as meaning ‘Someone (or, more strictly, something) wrote Waverley and nothing else wrote Waverley’. ‘The author of Waverley is not’ is explained, correspondingly, as the alternation ‘Either each thing failed to write Waverley or two or more things wrote Waverley’. This alternation is false, but meaningful; and it contains no expression purporting to name the author of Waverley. The statement ‘The round square cupola on Berkeley College is not’ is analyzed in similar fashion. So the old notion that statements of nonbeing defeat themselves goes by the board. When a statement of being or nonbeing is analyzed by Russell’s theory of descriptions, it ceases to contain any expression which even purports to name the alleged entity whose being is in question, so that the meaningfulness of the statement no longer can be thought to presuppose that there be such an entity.

(26)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

21

[Formulating a Description for Pegasus]

 

[In order to apply this technique to Pegasus, we will need to render it into a descriptive name, such as “the winged horse that was captured by Bellerophon” (26).]

 

[ditto]

Now what of ‘Pegasus’? This being a word rather than a descriptive phrase, Russell’s argument does not immediately apply to it. However, it can easily be made to apply. We have only to rephrase ‘Pegasus’ as a description, in any way that seems adequately to single out our idea; say, ‘the winged horse that was captured by Bellerophon’. Substituting such a phrase for ‘Pegasus’, we can then proceed to analyze the statement ‘Pegasus is’, or ‘Pegasus is not’, precisely on the analogy of Russell’s analysis of ‘The author of Waverley is’ and ‘The author of Waverley is not’.

(27)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

22

[“Pegasizing” and “Being-Pegasus” as Descriptions]

 

[Quine next addresses the possibility that were Pegasus “so obscure or so basic no pat translation into a descriptive phrase had offered itself along familiar lines,” still we can provide a description. We can appeal “to the ex hypothesi unanalyzable, irreducible attribute of being Pegasus, adopting, for its expression, the verb ‘is-Pegasus’, or ‘pegasizes’” (27, boldface and underlining are mine). This way “The noun ‘Pegasus’ itself could then be treated as derivative, and identified after all with a description: ‘the thing that is-Pegasus’, the thing that pegasizes’ (27, boldface and underlining are mine).]

 

[ditto]

In order thus to subsume a one-word name or alleged name such as ‘Pegasus’ under Russell’s theory of description, we must, of course, be able first to translate the word into a description. But this is no real restriction. If the notion of Pegasus had been so obscure or so basic a one that no pat translation into a descriptive phrase had offered itself along familiar lines, we could still have availed ourselves of the following artificial and trivial-seeming device: we could have appealed to the ex hypothesi unanalyzable, irreducible attribute of being Pegasus, adopting, for its expression, the verb ‘is-Pegasus’, or ‘pegasizes’. The noun ‘Pegasus’ itself could then be treated as derivative, and identified after all with a description: ‘the thing that is-Pegasus’, ‘the thing that pegasizes’.

(27)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

23

[The Pegasizing Attribute as Universal Form]

 

[Here, we are assuming that there is an attribute of pegasizing. It would be either something like a form or universal in Plato’s realm of forms or in our minds. And with it, we can use Russell’s descriptions to predicate Pegasus without attributing existence to it.]

 

[ditto]

If the importing of such a predicate as ‘pegasizes’ seems to commit us to recognizing that there is a corresponding attribute, pegasizing, in Plato’s heaven or in the minds of men, well and good. Neither we nor Wyman nor McX have been contending, thus far, about the being or nonbeing of universals, but rather about that of Pegasus. If in terms of pegasizing we can interpret the noun ‘Pegasus’ as a description subject to Russell’s theory of descriptions, then we have disposed of the old notion that Pegasus cannot be said not to be without presupposing that in some sense Pegasus is.

(27)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

[Avoiding Plato’s Beard, 1]

 

[Thus we need not accept McX’s and Wyman’s contention that “we could not meaningfully affirm a statement of the form ‘So-and-so is not’, with a simple or descriptive singular noun in place of ‘so-and-so’, unless so-and-so is” (28).]

 

[ditto]

Our argument is now quite general. McX and Wyman supposed that we could not meaningfully affirm a statement of the form ‘So-and-so is not’, with a simple or descriptive singular noun in place of ‘so-and-so’, unless so-and-so is. This supposition is now seen to be quite generally groundless, since the singular noun in question can always be expanded into a | singular description, trivially or otherwise, and then analyzed out à la Russell.

(27-28)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

25

[Avoiding Plato’s Beard, 2]

 

[By saying that Pegasus is, that commits us to an ontology that contains Pegasus. But when we say Pegasus is not, this does not thereby include it in our ontology.]

 

[ditto]

We commit ourselves to an ontology containing numbers when we say there are prime numbers larger than a million; we commit ourselves to an ontology containing centaurs when we say there are centaurs; and we commit ourselves to an ontology containing Pegasus when we say Pegasus is. But we do not commit ourselves to an ontology containing Pegasus or the author of Waverley or the round square cupola on Berkeley College when we say that Pegasus or the author of Waverley or the cupola in question is not. We need no longer labor under the delusion that the meaningfulness of a statement containing a singular term presupposes an entity named by the term. A singular term need not name to be significant.

(28. NOTE: There is a discrepancy between the cited version and the wikisource version in this paragraph.)

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26

[The Difference Between Meaning and Names]

 

[The meanings of names are different than the named object, as we see clearly with “The Evening Star” and “The Morning Star.” (For, knowing the meaning of Evening Star is not enough to establish its identity with Morning Star.]

 

[ditto]

An inkling of this might have dawned on Wyman and McX even without benefit of Russell if they had only noticed—as so few of us do—that there is a gulf between meaning and naming even in the case of a singular term which is genuinely a name of an object. The following example from Frege will serve. The phrase ‘Evening Star’ names a certain large physical object of spherical form, which is hurtling through space some scores of millions of miles from here. The phrase ‘Morning Star’ names the same thing, as was probably first established by some observant Babylonian. But the two phrases cannot be regarded as having the same meaning; otherwise that Babylonian could have dispensed with his observations and contented himself with reflecting on the meanings of his words. The meanings, then, being different from one another, must be other than the named object, which is one and the same in both cases.

(28)

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27

[Confusing Meaning and the Named Object]

 

[McX confused meaning and naming. “The structure of his confusion is as follows. He confused the alleged named object Pegasus with the meaning of the word ‘Pegasus’, therefore concluding that Pegasus must be in order that the word have meaning” (28). We might also wonder what meanings are. Suppose they are ideas in the mind. When we name Pegasus, it has a meaning (“the thing that pegasizes”), this meaning is an idea (yet it is not what is being named), so we might confuse the two and wrongly conclude that Pegasus is an idea (or that it names an idea). ]

 

[ditto. Note: I am not entirely sure how McX confuses meaning and naming. My current guess is that McX is aware that Pegasus means the thing that Pegasizes, but because McX confuses meaning and naming, they think that it also names the entity that pegasizes, even though such a being does not exist.]

Confusion of meaning with naming not only made McX think he could not meaningfully repudiate Pegasus; a continuing confusion of meaning with naming no doubt helped engender his absurd notion that Pegasus is an idea, a mental entity. The structure of his confusion is as follows. He confused the alleged named object Pegasus with the meaning of the word ‘Pegasus’, therefore concluding that Pegasus must be in order that the word have meaning. But what sorts of things are | meanings? This is a moot point; however, one might quite plausibly explain meanings as ideas in the mind, supposing we can make clear sense in turn of the idea of ideas in the mind. Therefore Pegasus, initially confused with a meaning, ends up as an idea in the mind. It is the more remarkable that Wyman, subject to the same initial motivation as McX, should have avoided this particular blunder and wound up with unactualized possibles instead.

(28-29)

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28

[Turning to the Ontological Problem of Universals]

 

[Quine now turns “the ontological problem of universals: the question whether there are such entities as attributes, relations, classes, numbers, functions” (29). In McX’s ontology, they may note that “There are red houses, red roses, red sunsets,” and they may furthermore reason that “These houses, roses, and sunsets, then, have something in common; and this which they have in common is all I mean by the attribute of redness” (29).]

 

[ditto]

Now let us turn to the ontological problem of universals: the question whether there are such entities as attributes, relations, classes, numbers, functions. McX, characteristically enough, thinks there are. Speaking of attributes, he says: “There are red houses, red roses, red sunsets; this much is prephilosophical common sense in which we must all agree. These houses, roses, and sunsets, then, have something in common; and this which they have in common is all I mean by the attribute of redness.” For McX, thus, there being attributes is even more obvious and trivial than the obvious and trivial fact of there being red houses, roses, and sunsets. This, I think, is characteristic of metaphysics, or at least of that part of metaphysics called ontology: one who regards a statement on this subject as true at all must regard it as trivially true. One’s ontology is basic to the conceptual scheme by which he interprets all experiences, even the most commonplace ones. Judged within some particular conceptual scheme—and how else is judgment possible?—an ontological statement goes without saying, standing in need of no separate justification at all. Ontological statements follow immediately from all manner of casual statements of commonplace fact, just as—from the point of view, anyway, of McX’s conceptual scheme—‘There is an attribute’ follows from ‘There are red houses, red roses, red sunsets’.

(29)

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29

[An Alternate Ontology: Red Things Without Redness]

 

[An alternate view could be that even though we have a number of different things to which it is appropriate to attribute “red,” that does not mean we also believe there is an entity that is named by “redness” over and above these things. “That the houses and roses and sunsets are all of them red may be taken as ultimate and irreducible, and it may be held that McX is no better off, in point of real explanatory power, for all the occult entities which he posits under such names as ‘redness’” (30).]

 

[ditto]

Judged in another conceptual scheme, an ontological statement which is axiomatic to McX’s mind may, with equal immediacy and triviality, be adjudged false. One may admit that there are red houses, roses, and sunsets, but deny, except as a popular and misleading manner of speaking, that they have anything in common. The words ‘houses’, ‘roses’, and ‘sunsets’ are true of sundry individual entities which are houses and | roses and sunsets, and the word ‘red’ or ‘red object’ is true of each of sundry individual entities which are red houses, red roses, red sunsets; but there is not, in addition, any entity whatever, individual or otherwise, which is named by the word ‘redness’, nor, for that matter, by the word ‘househood’, ‘rosehood’, ‘sunsethood’. That the houses and roses and sunsets are all of them red may be taken as ultimate and irreducible, and it may be held that McX is no better off, in point of real explanatory power, for all the occult entities which he posits under such names as ‘redness’.

(29-30)

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30

[Not Committing to Pegasizing]

 

[Given our work with definite descriptions, we no longer feel any compulsion at all to infer that there is some entity being named by “red” or “is red” just because it has a meaning. In fact, even by describing Pegasus as that which pegasizes does not commit us to positing that there is such an attribute as pegasizing.]

 

[ditto]

One means by which McX might naturally have tried to impose his ontology of universals on us was already removed before we turned to the problem of universals. McX cannot argue that predicates such as ‘red’ or ‘is-red’, which we all concur in using, must be regarded as names each of a single universal entity in order that they be meaningful at all. For we have seen that being a name of something is a much more special feature than being meaningful. He cannot even charge us—at least not by that argument—with having posited an attribute of pegasizing by our adoption of the predicate ‘pegasizes’.

(30)

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31

[The Suggestion that Meanings are Universals]

 

[Yet, McX might still persist. They might say that our position still commits us to positing the meaning “pegasizes” and that any such meanings will have to be universals and maybe then attributes.]

 

[ditto]

However, McX hits upon a different strategem. “Let us grant,” he says, “this distinction between meaning and naming of which you make so much. Let us even grant that ‘is red’, ‘pegasizes’, etc., are not names of attributes. Still, you admit they have meanings. But these meanings, whether they are named or not, are still universals, and I venture to say that some of them might even be the very things that I call attributes, or something to much the same purpose in the end.”

(30)

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32

[Denying the Being of Meaning]

 

[Quine responds to this challenge by suggestion that meanings either do not exist or at least they do not have the nature conceived here. He might for instance say that a linguistic utterance can be meaningful (or better, significant) not because it has a meaning, but simply because its significance is an “ultimate and irreducible matter of fact.” Or he might, rather than equating utterances with a stated meaning, instead “analyze it in terms directly of what people do in the presence of the linguistic utterance in question and other utterances similar to it” (32).]

 

[ditto. Note, it is not clear to me how a linguistic utterance bears its significance as an “ultimate and irreducible matter of fact.” I have this uncertainty, because I am not sure if it matters that a linguistic utterance can have a significance that is determined by the conventions of a linguistic system. In other words, there may be utterances that sound nearly the same in two different languages but have different meanings in each. This is not a counter-example, but I mention it to clarify my confusion.]

For McX, this is an unusually penetrating speech; and the only way I know to counter it is by refusing to admit meanings. However, I feel no reluctance toward refusing to admit meanings, for I do not thereby deny that words and statements are meaningful. McX and I may agree to the letter in our classification of linguistic forms into the meaningful and the meaningless, even though McX construes meaningfulness as the having (in some sense of ‘having’) of some abstract entity which he calls a meaning, whereas I do not. I remain free to maintain that the fact that a given linguistic utterance is mean-| ingful (or significant, as I prefer to say so as not to invite hypostasis of meanings as entities) is an ultimate and irreducible matter of fact; or, I may undertake to analyze it in terms directly of what people do in the presence of the linguistic utterance in question and other utterances similar to it.

(31-32)

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33

[The Non-Necessity of Positing the Entity of Meaning]

 

[Quine thinks that normally we talk about two things regarding meanings. {1} “the having of meanings, which is significance,” and {2} “sameness of meaning, or synonymy.” When we give the meaning of something, we are in fact supplying a synonym that is “couched, ordinarily, in clearer language than the original” (31). Quine thinks that we can still speak of significance and synonymy without positing an entity called a meaning. For him, it would be done in terms of behavior.]

 

[ditto]

The useful ways in which people ordinarily talk or seem to talk about meanings boil down to two: the having of meanings, which is significance, and sameness of meaning, or synonymy. What is called giving the meaning of an utterance is simply the uttering of a synonym, couched, ordinarily, in clearer language than the original. If we are allergic to meanings as such, we can speak directly of utterances as significant or insignificant, and as synonymous or heteronymous one with another. The problem of explaining these adjectives ‘significant’ and ‘synonymous’ with some degree of clarity and rigor—preferably, as I see it, in terms of behavior—is as difficult as it is important. But the explanatory value of special and irreducible intermediary entities called meanings is surely illusory.

(31)

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34

[Turning to the Question of Commitments to Universals]

 

[Quine (after summarizing our findings so far) says that “At this point McX begins to wonder whether there is any limit at all to our ontological immunity. Does nothing we may say commit us to the assumption of universals or other entities which we may find unwelcome?” (31).]

 

[ditto]

Up to now I have argued that we can use singular terms significantly in sentences without presupposing that there are the entities which those terms purport to name. I have argued further that we can use general terms, for example, predicates, without conceding them to be names of abstract entities. I have argued further that we can view utterances as significant, and as synonymous or heteronymous with one another, without countenancing a realm of entities called meanings. At this point McX begins to wonder whether there is any limit at all to our ontological immunity. Does nothing we may say commit us to the assumption of universals or other entities which we may find unwelcome?

(31)

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35

[Bound Variables and Ontological Commitments]

 

[The only way this can be, he says, is with bound variables or variables of quantification, like “there is something (bound variable) which red houses and sunsets have in common” (31). But naming does not ontologically commit us, because as we saw, we can convert them to definite descriptions that imply no existence. Quine continues: “To be assumed as an entity is, purely and simply, to be reckoned as the value of a variable. In terms of the categories of traditional grammar, this amounts roughly to saying that to be is to be in the range of reference of a pronoun. Pronouns are the basic media of reference; nouns might better have been named propronouns. The variables of quantification, ‘something’, ‘nothing’, ‘everything’, range over our whole ontology, whatever it may be; and we are convicted of a particular ontological presupposition if, and only if, the alleged presuppositum has to be reckoned among the entities over which our variables range in order to render one of our affirmations true” (32).]

 

[ditto. Note: there is such a long quote above because I do not grasp it sufficiently to summarize it. My guess is the following. We consider again “there is something (bound variable) which red houses and sunsets have in common.” Here we have a bound variable of quantification, “(there is) something...,” and that something is what “red houses and sunsets have in common.” The something here would seem to be something like “redness.” I am guessing, but maybe Quine’s point is the following. If we say this statement, and we deem it true, that means there is something like a “redness” that is shared by red houses and sunsets. Quine seems to be saying that such a use of bound variables is the only way our language can involve us with ontological commitments about the existence of things. Merely mentioning them does not. I also did not understand the idea about pronouns and nouns. Would not nouns be more basic media of reference than pronouns, as they are more specific? Or is he referring to demonstrative pronouns here, which may be even more specific than nouns?]

I have already suggested a negative answer to this question, in speaking of bound variables, or variables of quantification, in connection with Russell’s theory of descriptions. We can very easily involve ourselves in ontological commitments by saying, for example, that there is something (bound variable) which red houses and sunsets have in common; or that there is something which is a prime number larger than a million. But, this is, essentially, the only way we can involve ourselves in | ontological commitments: by our use of bound variables. The use of alleged names is no criterion, for we can repudiate their namehood at the drop of a hat unless the assumption of a corresponding entity can be spotted in the things we affirm in terms of bound variables. Names are, in fact, altogether immaterial to the ontological issue, for I have shown, in connection with ‘Pegasus’ and ‘pegasize’, that names can be converted to descriptions, and Russell has shown that descriptions can be eliminated. Whatever we say with the help of names can be said in a language which shuns names altogether. To be assumed as an entity is, purely and simply, to be reckoned as the value of a variable. In terms of the categories of traditional grammar, this amounts roughly to saying that to be is to be in the range of reference of a pronoun. Pronouns are the basic media of reference; nouns might better have been named propronouns. The variables of quantification, ‘something’, ‘nothing’, ‘everything’, range over our whole ontology, whatever it may be; and we are convicted of a particular ontological presupposition if, and only if, the alleged presuppositum has to be reckoned among the entities over which our variables range in order to render one of our affirmations true.

(31-32. NOTE: there are discrepancies here between the cited and wikisource texts here.)

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36

[“Some” and Existence Commitment]

 

[When we say “some dogs are white,” (we might be asserting that there are dogs (and they are white), but) we are not committing ourselves to the existence of doghood or whiteness. Or if we say, “some zoological species are cross-fertile,” “we are committing ourselves to recognizing as entities the several species themselves” (32). ]

 

[ditto]

We may say, for example, that some dogs are white and not thereby commit ourselves to recognizing either doghood or whiteness as entities. ‘Some dogs are white’ says that some things that are dogs are white; and, in order that this statement be true, the things over which the bound variable ‘something’ ranges must include some white dogs, but need not include doghood or whiteness. On the other hand, when we say that some zoological species are cross-fertile we are committing ourselves to recognizing as entities the several species themselves, abstract though they are. We remain so committed at least until we devise some way of so paraphrasing the statement as to show that the seeming reference to species on the part of our bound variable was an avoidable manner of speaking.

(32)

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37

[Ontological Commitments Resulting from the Reference of Bound Variables (in Math, etc.)]

 

[This means that mathematics for example is committed to “an ontology of abstract entities;” for, “a theory is committed to those and only those entities to which the bound variables of the theory must be capable of referring in order that the affirmations made in the theory be true” (32). “Thus it is that the great mediaeval controversy over universals has flared up anew in the modern philosophy of mathematics” (32).]

 

[ditto]

Classical mathematics, as the example of primes larger than a million clearly illustrates, is up to its neck in commitments to an ontology of abstract entities. Thus it is that the great mediaeval controversy over universals has flared up anew in the modern philosophy of mathematics. The issue is clearer now than of old, because we now have a more explicit standard whereby to decide what ontology a given theory or form of discourse is committed to: a theory is committed to those and only those entities to which the bound variables of the theory must be capable of referring in order that the affirmations made in the theory be true.

(32-33. NOTE: There are discrepancies between the texts.)

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38

[Modern Mathematical Philosophical Debates as Being About Quantification Issues]

 

[Only more recently were these matters of ontological presupposition clarified, so many modern philosophical mathematicians were really debating the problem of universals that has been around for long: “the fundamental cleavages among modern points of view on foundations of mathematics do come down pretty explicitly to disagreements as to the range of entities to which the bound variables should be permitted to refer” (33).]

 

[ditto]

Because this standard of ontological presupposition did not emerge clearly in the philosophical tradition, the modern philosophical mathematicians have not on the whole recognized that they were debating the same old problem of universals in a newly clarified form. But the fundamental cleavages among modern points of view on foundations of mathematics do come down pretty explicitly to disagreements as to the range of entities to which the bound variables should be permitted to refer.

(33)

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39

[Three Parallel Debates Between Medieval and Modern Times]

 

[There are 3 parallels on these debates on universals between Medieval and Modern times: {1} Realism & Logicism, {2} Conceptualism & Intuitionalism, {3} Nominalism & Formalism]

 

[ditto]

The three main mediaeval points of view regarding universals are designated by historians as realism, conceptualism, and nominalism. Essentially these same three doctrines reappear in twentieth-century surveys of the philosophy of mathematics under the new names logicism, intuitionism, and formalism.

(33)

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40

[Parallel Debates {1}: Realism & Logicism]

 

[Medieval realism holds that “the Platonic doctrine that universals or abstract entities have being independently of the mind; the mind may discover them but cannot create them” (33). (Thus this view takes universals as preexisting their conception and as being real.) Similarly, “Logicism, represented by Frege, Russell, Whitehead, Church, and Carnap, condones the use of bound variables to refer to abstract entities known and unknown, specifiable and unspecifiable, indiscriminately” (33).]

 

[ditto]

Realism, as the word is used in connection with the mediaeval controversy over universals, is the Platonic doctrine that universals or abstract entities have being independently of the mind; the mind may discover them but cannot create them. Logicism, represented by Frege, Russell, Whitehead, Church, and Carnap, condones the use of bound variables to refer to abstract entities known and unknown, specifiable and unspecifiable, indiscriminately.

(33)

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41

[Parallel Debates {2}: Conceptualism & Intuitionalism]

 

[Medieval “Conceptualism holds that there are universals but they are mind-made,” while Modern “Intuitionism, espoused in modern times in one form or another by Poincaré, Brouwer, Weyl, and others, countenances the use of bound variables to refer to abstract entities only when those entities are capable of being cooked up individually from ingredients specified in advance” (33). (So in both cases, universals are not taken as real in themselves and as preexisting their conception, but rather coming into being only through their conception.) “As Fraenkel has put it, logicism holds that classes are discovered while intuitionism holds that they are invented” (33). This distinction has great consequences in mathematical systems, especially with regard to infinity.]

 

[ditto]

Conceptualism holds that there are universals but they are mind-made. Intuitionism, espoused in modern times in one form or another by Poincaré, Brouwer, Weyl, and others, countenances the use of bound variables to refer to abstract entities only when those entities are capable of being cooked up individually from ingredients specified in advance. As Fraenkel has put it, logicism holds that classes are discovered while intuitionism holds that they are invented—a fair statement indeed of the old opposition between realism and con-| ceptualism. This opposition is no mere quibble; it makes an essential difference in the amount of classical mathematics to which one is willing to subscribe. Logicists, or realists, are able on their assumptions to get Cantor’s ascending orders of infinity; intuitionists are compelled to stop with the lowest order of infinity, and, as an indirect consequence, to abandon even some of the classical laws of real numbers. The modern controversy between logicism and intuitionism arose, in fact, from disagreements over infinity.

(33-34)

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42

[Parallel Debates {3}: Nominalism & Formalism]

 

[Like intuitionism, modern formalism is against logicism’s “recourse to universals” (34). But formalists may differ from intuitionists in one of two ways. {1} They might be averse to how intuitionism cripples classical mathematics. {2} They “might, like the nominalists of old, object to admitting abstract entities at all, even in the restrained sense of mind-made entities” (34). Yet, all formalists “keeps classical mathematics as a play of insignificant notations”. This play can still be useful in different ways, as seen for instance in its application in physics and technology. Yet, “utility need not imply significance, in any literal linguistic sense” (34). What also does not necessarily imply significance is the success within mathematics itself in generating new theorems and “in finding objective bases for agreement with one another’s results” (33). “For an adequate basis for agreement among mathematicians can be found simply in the rules which govern the manipulation of the notations—these syntactical rules being, unlike the notations themselves, quite significant and intelligible” (33).]

 

[ditto]

Formalism, associated with the name of Hilbert, echoes intuitionism in deploring the logicist’s unbridled recourse to universals. But formalism also finds intuitionism unsatisfactory. This could happen for either of two opposite reasons. The formalist might, like the logicist, object to the crippling of classical mathematics; or he might, like the nominalists of old, object to admitting abstract entities at all, even in the restrained sense of mind-made entities. The upshot is the same: the formalist keeps classical mathematics as a play of insignificant notations. This play of notations can still be of utility—whatever utility it has already shown itself to have as a crutch for physicists and technologists. But utility need not imply significance, in any literal linguistic sense. Nor need the marked success of mathematicians in spinning out theorems, and in finding objective bases for agreement with one another’s results, imply significance. For an adequate basis for agreement among mathematicians can be found simply in the rules which govern the manipulation of the notations—these syntactical rules being, unlike the notations themselves, quite significant and intelligible.

(34)

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43

[The Issue of Evaluating Ontologies]

 

[Yet, our claim that “To be is to be the value of a variable” does not tell us which ontologies are better, it only tests “the conformity of a given remark or doctrine to a prior ontological | standard” (34-35). In other words, “We look to bound variables in connection with ontology not in order to know what there is, but in order to know what a given remark or doctrine, ours or someone else’s, says there is; and this much is quite properly a problem involving language. But what there is is another question” (35).]

 

[ditto]

I have argued that the sort of ontology we adopt can be consequential—notably in connection with mathematics, although this is only an example. Now how are we to adjudicate among rival ontologies? Certainly the answer is not provided by the semantical formula “To be is to be the value of a variable”; this formula serves rather, conversely, in testing the conformity of a given remark or doctrine to a prior ontological | standard. We look to bound variables in connection with ontology not in order to know what there is, but in order to know what a given remark or doctrine, ours or someone else’s, says there is; and this much is quite properly a problem involving language. But what there is is another question.

(34-35)

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44

[One Reason for Keeping the Debate on the Semantic Level: Articulating the Disagreement]

 

[Quine says that there is reason for us to conduct our debates about what is on a semantic level. One reason for this is that it allows someone taking Quine’s position to articulate their disagreement over certain entities that are in McX’s ontology but not in Quine’s: “So long as I adhere to my ontology, as opposed to McX’s, I cannot allow my bound variables to refer to entities which belong to McX’s ontology and not to mine. I can, however, consistently describe our disagreement by characterizing the statements which McX affirms” (35).]

 

[ditto]

In debating over what there is, there are still reasons for operating on a semantical plane. One reason is to escape from the predicament noted at the beginning of this essay: the predicament of my not being able to admit that there are things which McX countenances and I do not. So long as I adhere to my ontology, as opposed to McX’s, I cannot allow my bound variables to refer to entities which belong to McX’s ontology and not to mine. I can, however, consistently describe our disagreement by characterizing the statements which McX affirms. Provided merely that my ontology countenances linguistic forms, or at least concrete inscriptions and utterances, I can talk about McX’s sentences.

(35)

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45

[Another Reason for Keeping the Debate on the Semantic Level: Mutual Communication]

 

[Another reason to keep the debate on the semantic level is that it allows McX and Quine to be able to communicate their different ontologies to one another in a way that fairly represents each to the other.]

 

[ditto]

Another reason for withdrawing to a semantical plane is to find common ground on which to argue. Disagreement, in ontology involves basic disagreement in conceptual schemes; yet McX and I, despite these basic disagreements, find that our conceptual schemes converge sufficiently in their intermediate and upper ramifications to enable us to communicate successfully on such topics as politics, weather, and, in particular, language. In so far as our basic controversy over ontology can be translated upward into a semantical controversy about words and what to do with them, the collapse of the controversy into question-begging may be delayed.

(35)

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46

[Linguistically Articulated Ontological Views as Not Necessarily Linguistic Issues]

 

[Yet, just because we can translate these ontological views into language does not mean they are nothing more than linguistic issues: “Translatability of a question into semantical terms is no indication that the question is linguistic. To see Naples is to bear a name which, when prefixed to the words ‘sees Naples’, yields a true sentence; still there is nothing linguistic about seeing Naples” (35).]

 

[ditto]

It is no wonder, then, that ontological controversy should tend into controversy over language. But we must not jump to the conclusion that what there is depends on words. Translatability of a question into semantical terms is no indication that the question is linguistic. To see Naples is to bear a name which, when prefixed to the words ‘sees Naples’, yields a true sentence; still there is nothing linguistic about seeing Naples.

(35)

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47

[How We Adopt Ontologies]

 

[Quine next addresses the criteria for adopting one particular ontology. He says that it is based on it being “the simplest conceptual scheme into which the disordered frag-| ments of raw experience can be fitted and arranged” (35-36) (and that whatever considerations we apply to constructing part of that overall conceptual scheme that will accommodate all science applies to the part in the same way it does the whole).]

 

[ditto]

Our acceptance of an ontology is, I think, similar in principle to our acceptance of a scientific theory, say a system of physics: we adopt, at least insofar as we are reasonable, the simplest conceptual scheme into which the disordered frag-| ments of raw experience can be fitted and arranged. Our ontology is determined once we have fixed upon the over-all conceptual scheme which is to accommodate science in the broadest sense; and the considerations which determine a reasonable construction of any part of that conceptual scheme, for example, the biological or the physical part, are not different in kind from the considerations which determine a reasonable construction of the whole. To whatever extent the adoption of any system of scientific theory may be said to be a matter of language, the same—but no more—may be said of the adoption of an ontology.

(35-36)

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48

[Simplifying Sensory Beings with Physicalism]

 

[The process of choosing a conceptual scheme is not always straightforward. We might for instance consider a set of  “play-by-play reporting of immediate experience” composed of “individual subjective events of sensation or reflection” (36). (Under Quine’s mode of formalization, these entities would be the “the values of bound variables”). (So already with regard to what exists, under this scheme we are saying that the subjective events of sensation or reflection are the entities that exist in our ontology. Also note that there will be very many. Consider for instance looking at an object before you, for instance, a coffee cup. However, under this mode of analysis, there is no existing being “coffee cup”. There are just the beings which are the very many experiences of roundness, whiteness, etc. that otherwise would be features of a coffee cup.) Yet, this complex of sense impressions can be efficiently organized if we adopt a “physicalistic conceptual scheme”: “By bringing together scattered sense events and treating them as perceptions of one object, we reduce the complexity of our stream of experience to a manageable conceptual simplicity” (36).]

 

[ditto]

But simplicity, as a guiding principle in constructing conceptual schemes, is not a clear and unambiguous idea; and it is quite capable of presenting a double or multiple standard. Imagine, for example, that we have devised the most economical set of concepts adequate to the play-by-play reporting of immediate experience. The entities under this scheme—the values of bound variables—are, let us suppose, individual subjective events of sensation or reflection. We should still find, no doubt, that a physicalistic conceptual scheme, purporting to talk about external objects, offers great advantages in simplifying our over-all reports. By bringing together scattered sense events and treating them as perceptions of one object, we reduce the complexity of our stream of experience to a manageable conceptual simplicity. The rule of simplicity is indeed our guiding maxim in assigning sense data to objects: we associate an earlier and a later round sensum with the same so-called penny, or with two different so-called pennies, in obedience to the demands of maximum simplicity in our total world-picture.

(36)

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49

[Advantages of Each Scheme]

 

[Both the phenomenalist and physicalist schemes have their own advantages. Both have their own sort of simplicity and fundamentality, “though in different senses: the one is epistemologically, the other physically, fundamental” (36). ]

 

[ditto]

Here we have two competing conceptual schemes, a phenomenalistic one and a physicalistic one. Which should prevail? Each has its advantages; each has its special simplicity in its own way. Each, I suggest, deserves to be developed. Each may be said, indeed, to be the more fundamental, though in different senses: the one is epistemologically, the other physically, fundamental.

(36)

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50

[Physical Objects as Convenient Myths]

 

[“The physical conceptual scheme simplifies our account of experience because of the way myriad scattered sense events come to be associated with single so-called objects” (36). However, we cannot be sure that there will be a way to translate each sentence about such physical objects into the language of the phenomenalistic scheme. (Perhaps the difficulty would be something like going from a third to a first person orientation. See Nagel’s “What Is It Like To Be a Bat?”) This notion of physical objects simplifies “our account of the flux of experience” in a manner that is analogous to how “the introduction of irrational numbers simplifies laws of arithmetic” (37). “From the point of view of the conceptual scheme of the elementary arithmetic of rational numbers alone, the broader arithmetic of rational and irrational numbers would have the status of a convenient myth, simpler than the literal truth (namely, the arithmetic of rationals) and yet, containing that literal truth as a scattered part. Similarly, from a phenomenalistic point, of view, the conceptual scheme of physical objects is a convenient myth, simpler than the literal truth and yet containing that literal truth as a scattered part” (37).]

 

[ditto]

The physical conceptual scheme simplifies our account of experience because of the way myriad scattered sense events come to be associated with single so-called objects; still there | is no likelihood that each sentence about physical objects can actually be translated, however deviously and complexly, into the phenomenalistic language. Physical objects are postulated entities which round out, and simplify our account of the flux of experience, just, as the introduction of irrational numbers simplifies laws of arithmetic. From the point of view of the conceptual scheme of the elementary arithmetic of rational numbers alone, the broader arithmetic of rational and irrational numbers would have the status of a convenient myth, simpler than the literal truth (namely, the arithmetic of rationals) and yet, containing that literal truth as a scattered part. Similarly, from a phenomenalistic point, of view, the conceptual scheme of physical objects is a convenient myth, simpler than the literal truth and yet containing that literal truth as a scattered part.

(36-37)

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51

[Myths in Physics]

 

[(We may further our mythologizing by introducing a platonistic ontology of classes or attributes of physical objects, which will further simplify our account of physics. Math is a part of this higher myth, which makes it suitable for physics. And, “an attitude of formalism may with equal justice be adopted toward the physical conceptual scheme, in turn, by the pure aesthete or phenomenalist” (37).)]

 

[ditto]

Now what of classes or attributes of physical objects, in turn? A platonistic ontology of this sort is, from the point of view of a strictly physicalistic conceptual scheme, as much a myth as that physicalistic conceptual scheme itself is for phenomenalism. This higher myth is a good and useful one, in turn, in so far as it simplifies our account of physics. Since mathematics is an integral part of this higher myth, the utility of this myth for physical science is evident enough. In speaking of it nevertheless as a myth, I echo that philosophy of mathematics to which I alluded earlier under the name of formalism. But an attitude of formalism may with equal justice be adopted toward the physical conceptual scheme, in turn, by the pure aesthete or phenomenalist.

(37)

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52

[Parallel Mythmaking in Math and Physics]

 

[(There are parallels in the mythmaking between mathematics and physics. At the turn of the 20th century, there was a crisis in the foundations of mathematics with “the discovery of Russell’s paradox and other antinomies of set theory. These contradictions had to be obviated by unintuitive, ad hoc devices; our mathematical myth-making became deliberate and evident to all” (37). Similarly, “An antinomy arose between the undular and the corpuscular accounts of light” (37). And also, “the second great modern crisis in the foundations of mathematics—precipitated in 1931 by Gödel’s proof  that there are bound to be undecidable statements in arithmetic—has its companion piece in physics in Heisenberg’s indeterminacy principle” (38).]

 

[ditto]

The analogy between the myth of mathematics and the myth of physics is, in some additional and perhaps fortuitous ways, strikingly close. Consider, for example, the crisis which was precipitated in the foundations of mathematics, at the turn of the century, by the discovery of Russell’s paradox and other antinomies of set theory. These contradictions had to be obviated by unintuitive, ad hoc devices; our mathematical myth-making became deliberate and evident to all. But what of physics? An antinomy arose between the undular and the corpuscular accounts of light; and if this was not as out-and-out a contradiction as Russell’s paradox, I suspect that the reason is that physics is not as out-and-out as mathematics. | Again, the second great modern crisis in the foundations of mathematics—precipitated in 1931 by Gödel’s proof  that there are bound to be undecidable statements in arithmetic—has its companion piece in physics in Heisenberg’s indeterminacy principle.

(37-38)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

53

[Summary. Pursuing All Options.]

 

[All these options should be pursued.]

 

[ditto]

In earlier pages I undertook to show that some common arguments in favor of certain ontologies are fallacious. Further, I advanced an explicit standard whereby to decide what the ontological commitments of a theory are. But the question what ontology actually to adopt still stands open, and the obvious counsel is tolerance and an experimental spirit. Let us by all means see how much of the physicalistic conceptual scheme can be reduced to a phenomenalistic one; still, physics also naturally demands pursuing, irreducible in toto though it be. Let us see how, or to what degree, natural science may be rendered independent of platonistic mathematics; but let us also pursue mathematics and delve into its platonistic foundations.

(38)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

54

[The Epistemological Priority of the Phenomenalistic Scheme]

 

[However, Quine claims that among these different conceptual schemes, the phenomenalistic one “claims epistemological priority. Viewed from within the phenomenalistic conceptual scheme, the ontologies of physical objects and mathematical objects are myths. The quality of myth, however, is relative; relative, in this case, to the epistemological point of view. This point of view is one among various, corresponding to one among our various interests and purposes” (38).]

 

[ditto]

From among the various conceptual schemes best suited to these various pursuits, one—the phenomenalistic—claims epistemological priority. Viewed from within the phenomenalistic conceptual scheme, the ontologies of physical objects and mathematical objects are myths. The quality of myth, however, is relative; relative, in this case, to the epistemological point of view. This point of view is one among various, corresponding to one among our various interests and purposes.

(38)

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Bibliography:

Quine, W. V. “On What There Is.” The Review of Metaphysics 2, no. 5 (1948): 21–38.

 

Text copied from:

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/On_What_There_Is

 

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