Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More questions for causal theories

In fact, I question I have is how any specification of causal relations can entail the existence of meaning at all. Let us say a bird is hardwired to let out a certain squawk when a something approximately the shape of a hawk is nearby. There is a regular causal relation between the appearance of a hawk and the occurrence of the squawk. In one sense we can say that the squawk is about the hawk. Something could, of course, touch off the “hawk” signal and the subsequent evasive action without being a hawk. It does not mean that the bird has the ability to distinguish a hawk from various non-hawks. Expecting fire when one sees smoke is not the same as inferring fire from smoke. We say “smoke means fire,” but what this amounts to is that smoke and fire are constantly conjoined in experience. We quite often experience smoke before we experience fire, but it turns out upon examination of the causal relations that fire causes smoke and not vice-versa. We say “smoke means fire,” but that means that smoke and fire are conjoined in our experience. The “meaning” is imposed by human understanding, not in the world as it is in itself.

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At 11/14/2007 10:29:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Explain the content difference in twin earth cases without adverting to causal or some other kind of relation with the world. Nobody thinks such relations are sufficient for content, but that doesn't mean they aren't necessary.

(Nonexistent objects have standard solutions, and I've talked about this here before again I don't want to go over it again and don't have the energy to go find all the links).

I have a feeling I won't say anything new in any of this stuff. My bee post, and all the stuff I've said defending Dretske will address things (and all I've written about propositional versus nonpropositional contents, and my anti-dogmatism about consciousness).

I think now I've repeated myself already probably 3 times, and I've lost the will to continue. So, don't take lack of future responses from me as lack of interest, but take them as me thinking it's been done here already and I don't want to repeat myself.

At 11/14/2007 01:10:00 PM , Blogger Victor Reppert said...

The question, I guess is whether causal relations are sufficient. Take Kripke's causal theory of reference. According to it
* a name's referent is fixed by an original act of naming (also called a "dubbing" or, by Saul Kripke, an "initial baptism"), whereupon the name becomes a rigid designator of that object.
* later uses of the name succeed in referring to the referent by being linked to that original act via a causal chain.

As such this is not a complete account of reference in non-intentional, causal terms. You still need the original intentional act in order to get the reference going in the first place.

At 11/14/2007 03:24:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

I prefer Dretske as I've said. Information is necessary, not sufficient, to breath content into an internal state.


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