'Supernatural' and 'immaterial' are not "broken concepts"

Gavagai
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'Supernatural' and 'immaterial' are not "broken concepts"

 

Todangst claims that terms like "immaterial" are meaningless. He wants us to believe that such terms are "broken concepts". Why should we believe this? Well, Todangst thinks we can’t positively denote anything with these terms. There’s nothing out there that these terms actually refer to. The terms, says Todangst, “are therefore meaningless, incoherent.”[1] Thus, Todangst’s argument rests on the view that bits of language are meaningful when there is something to which they refer. (The problems that I am about to present for Todangst’s view will take us into some philosophy of language. This area of analytic philosophy may be unfamiliar to some readers. But do not let the jargon intimidate you. If there’s something you don’t understand, PM me and I’ll be happy to explain it for you.)

Todangst's argument is unsound. First, empirical linguistic evidence proves that many bits of language, whether they’re in the form of text or an acoustic blast from the mouth, are meaningful but do not refer to anything, e.g. “hello”, “and”, “on behalf of”, “alas”, etc. It is a fact that English speakers regularly use sentences with these non-referring expressions. Yet it would be absurd to say that none of these English speakers mean anything by what they say when they use such language.

Another, more technical, problem with Todangst's view is that it logically implies that there are no contingent statements that express identity between an object denoted by a proper name and a definite description. (I assume classic identity here: quantifying over any x and y, x = y only if, for any property or feature F, Fx if and only if Fy. This is an uncontroversial assumption. Moreover, a statement is contingent if and only if it expresses a proposition that is true in some possible worlds and false in others; again, uncontroversial.) Assume for reductio that Todangst’s view is true. Then statements like “Socrates = Plato’s teacher” become necessary truths, since “Socrates” and “Plato’s teacher” pick out the same object and therefore have the same meaning. But we know that it was only a contingent truth that Socrates was Plato’s teacher; so there are contingent identity statements. So we must reject Todangst’s view. Reductio complete. There are several other objections to the view. But I’ll leave them aside, since what I’ve said is sufficient to show that Todangst's argument is unsound.

To be clear, reference is important to language. But it’s not what constrains meaning. And nearly all contemporary analytic philosophers of language would reject views like Todangst’s. There are only a few very subtle versions of “referentialism” still around, e.g. theories that rely on intensional classes as the referents. (See e.g. certain entries at logicalsemanticism.wordpress.com) But these theories allow copulas and other apparently non-referring expressions like “sake” and “so on and so forth” to represent a sense or at any rate something that may not exist as a material object. Since they preserve the meaningfulness of terms like “immaterial”, Todangst would presumably not want to endorse them.

What’s worse, Todangst would still have to show that predicates like “immaterial” and “supernatural” don’t have a nonempty extension. I don’t think he’s given us any reason to believe this, but I’ll save this discussion for another time.



[1] Exact quotation: “There's literally nothing left over for these terms to refer to, so there's nothing left over for them to be. The terms are therefore meaningless, incoherent.”

 


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Far out.     I'll have to

Far out.

 

 

I'll have to read this a few mire times. Where does a positive ontology come into play? I can say what hello "is" - it is a casual greeting. But I suspect Todangst would say we cannot say what god "is". 


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Quote: First, empirical

Quote:
First, empirical linguistic evidence proves that many bits of language, whether they’re in the form of text or an acoustic blast from the mouth, are meaningful but do not refer to anything, e.g. “hello”, “and”, “on behalf of”, “alas”, etc.

I'm afraid this doesn't have anything to do with it.  Grunts, etc, exist, can be described within the context of matter and energy, and have meaning.  Even going back to Wittgenstein, we can see that your presentation of language is overly simplistic.

Quote:
It is a fact that English speakers regularly use sentences with these non-referring expressions. Yet it would be absurd to say that none of these English speakers mean anything by what they say when they use such language.

This is all fine, but it doesn't have any relevance to whether or not there are words that refer to things without positive ontology.

 

Quote:
Another, more technical, problem with Todangst's view is that it logically implies that there are no contingent statements that express identity between an object denoted by a proper name and a definite description.

Um... no it doesn't.

 

Quote:
Thus, Todangst’s argument rests on the view that bits of language are meaningful when there is something to which they refer.

No, it doesn't. The words, "Immaterial," "supernatural," and such refer to things that cannot exist, but this does not mean that they do not have meaning for the people who use them.  The people who believe in the immaterial and supernatural have a concept which they associate with the word, despite the fact that the concept is logically incoherent.  You're suggesting that language can only refer to things that actually exist.

The term "unicorn" refers to something which doesn't exist, and yet it is not incoherent.  I can tell you what a unicorn is, even though it doesn't exist.  You cannot tell me what immaterial is, because it doesn't refer to anything.

 

 

 

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This is likely to be a

This is likely to be a re-wording of Hambydammit's response, but here goes anyway! Smiling

Gavagai wrote:
It is a fact that English speakers regularly use sentences with these non-referring expressions. Yet it would be absurd to say that none of these English speakers mean anything by what they say when they use such language.

Todangst wouldn't deny this.
Non-cognitivists happily admit that God has some kind of meaning in some kind of language game, but not the kind of meaning required for an 'existing entity'. Meaningful non-referential words like 'please' don't refer to 'existing things'.

Quote:
Another, more technical, problem with Todangst's view is that it logically implies that there are no contingent statements that express identity between an object denoted by a proper name and a definite description.

I'm not sure how you infered this from Todangst's position.
Perhaps you could go into more detail?

Quote:
To be clear, reference is important to language. But it’s not what constrains meaning. And nearly all contemporary analytic philosophers of language would reject views like Todangst’s.

The thing is, don't we use the word 'God' like a noun, as if it is supposed to refer to something? Or do you reject that kind of theology? All Todangst rules out is 'God' having meaning as a noun. I guess that most people use God as a noun was an assumption on his part.

Quote:
What’s worse, Todangst would still have to show that predicates like “immaterial” and “supernatural” don’t have a nonempty extension. I don’t think he’s given us any reason to believe this, but I’ll save this discussion for another time.

I disagree with this.
Todangst's aim is to show that the word God has no intension.
If a word has no intension then it surely cannot have extension.

Quote:
Exact quotation: “There's literally nothing left over for these terms to refer to, so there's nothing left over for them to be. The terms are therefore meaningless, incoherent.”

I think that the best way to view Todangst argument is as a challenge rather than an absolute argument. If something isn't material or natural, then what exactly is it? If you are not talking about something that is material, then what are you talking about?

Anyway, I love philosophy of language and am looking forward to your reply! Smiling


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It’s not my job to defend

It’s not my job to defend todangst seeing as he is perfectly capable of it himself, but, meh, I’m bored. So here goes...

For a second when I read the title, I thought you were going to give us a positive ontological status for supernaturalism, which would mean you’ve successfully invented an entirely new system of epistemology, and then would undoubtably be flying to Stockholm to recieve your Nobel Prize.

Actually, I was suprised. You admitted that supernaturalism doesn’t refer to anything, instead focusing on linguistic technicalities.

The first objection was a little...odd, the one that a piece of language can be meaningful and not refer to anything. This is true...but it doesn’t apply to the term “supernatural”, because supernatural is an adjective, which means it is attempting to describe something. We use adjectives to denote what something is. We also use them to denote what something is not, but as todangst pointed out, if the term supernatural refers solely to what something is not, then it cannot be meaningful. If I have an apple, a bannana and an orange on a table, we presumably would not refer to the orange as “not the bannana”. However, we could refer to the orange as being “not the apple or bannana” and then one would be able to deduce we are referring the orange, however, this is only valid since there is a positive referent, otherwise it becomes incoherent. What similar positive ontological status can you give me for supernatural? Being an adjective, what positive properties does it describe? To make the apple/orange/bannana example more analogous to the argument at hand, what if we remove the orange? Then we say “not the apple or bannana”. Suddenly, it becomes meaningless, eliminated from the, as todangst calls it, universe of discourse.

If this is the presumption upon which your arguments rest:

Gavagi wrote:

Thus, Todangst’s argument rests on the view that bits of language are meaningful when there is something to which they refer.

Then I must correct it. As I stated above, there are certain linguistic devices that don’t refer to anything, however, supernatural, especially, being that proponents of the concept are trying to say that supernatural things exist, is not one of those linguistic devices. It is not analogous to compare “supernatural” to words like “hello”. Supernatural is a concept, hence it must describe something. As an adjective (ie “supernatural beings”) we would presume that the term supernatural refers to what something is ie giving it properties. For example, “blue” is a property, so is “happy”. Supernatural...well, unless you can correct me, really isn’t a descriptive term at all, it is devoid of meaning. It is only referred to as a negative concept against “natural”. The word “natural” does have positive meaning. However, the word supernatural has no meaning, it is defined only as an absence of or a transcendance of natural properties, hence it has no properties of its own to speak of!

Now, obviously we use negatives all the time in language, but as I explained above in the apple/orange/banana analogy, these are only meaningful because there are positive referents. Without such a referent (ie remove the orange) then suddenly the term becomes meaningless as by defining it solely by negatives, and eliminating all possible positives, the concept is hence eliminated from the universe of discourse. This is essentially what todangst was saying eliminating all possible positives. Unless you can correct me there, the term supernatural does quite successfully eliminate all possible positive things it could be, described only by what it is not, and leaving no room for positive property (eliminates self from the universe of discourse). This is why use of other negatives are not analogous, because they are always accompanied by a positive. We can describe someone as “unwavering” or as “steady”, we could describe someone as “undeterred” or “perservering”, we could describe someone as... etc .Correct me if I’m wrong, but supernatural is quite unique in it doesn’t refer to anything.

Also, todangst never suggested that something needed to exist to be coherent in the language set. As Hamby pointed out, the term unicorn is coherent, despite referring to a nonexistent creature. Under discussion here is not whether supernatural things exist, but rather whether it is even coherent to speak of supernatural things at all! The existence or nonexistence of the supernatural is at this point irrelevant. Before even bothering to discuss that, you must overcome the hurdle of explaining what supernatural is, much like someone convinced of the existence of a mythical creature called an “Urk” would have to explain what an urk is before providing evidence of it.

Meh. Philosophy of language is not my thing. I'll return to my electron microscope now...(or at least I would, but LOL I'm on vacation)

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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Thanks for the responses.

Thanks for the responses. It is important that you guys distinguish between two issues here. The first is whether words have to positively refer to something to be meaningful. Todangst thinks that they do; I don't. This is a semantic dispute, a dispute about theories of meaning. My reply was focused on this issue.

The second issue is whether the predicate "immaterial" actually has an extension. Todangst thinks that it doesn't; I think it does. This is an ontological dispute, a dispute about what exists. I did not discuss this issue in my reply. My reply should not be interpreted as an attack on materialism. Although, as I said, perhaps we can discuss this another time. My goal was simply to attack the foundation upon which Todangst's argument relies, namely, a certain view about meaning and reference. So those of you who said that I admitted the term "immaterial" doesn't refer to anything, well, I would encourage you to go back and read my post a bit more carefully. I made no such admission.

Some of you also think I've misinterpreted Todangst. That's certainly possible. Just so we're totally clear, then, this is how I would formulate Todangst's argument:

(1) The terms "immaterial" and "supernatural" don't refer to anything.

(2) But terms are meaningful only if they refer to things.

(3) Therefore, the terms "immaterial" and "supernatural" are meaningless.

See the footnote in my reply for an exact quotation from Todangst. My reply was an attack on (2). (I think (1) is false as well, but I left that issue to the side.) So if it turns out that I've misinterpreted Todangst and this isn't his argument, then I'm sure he'll be happy to formulate whatever argument it is that he intended to employ when he responds.

Take care,

Gavagai

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this is interesting Gavagi,

this is interesting Gavagi, i respect your logic.  i look forward to seeing where this post goes.  thank you for posting.

May God bless us and give us the words to express our ideas in a creative and civil manner, while providing us an ear that we may truly hear each other, and a voice to clearly project our thoughts.


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Allow me to respond to a

One more thing. Hamby says:

Quote:
No, it doesn't. The words, "Immaterial," "supernatural," and such refer to things that cannot exist, but this does not mean that they do not have meaning for the people who use them.

I agree that even if the terms don't refer to anything, they are still meaningful. This was the whole point of my post.

Quote:
You're suggesting that language can only refer to things that actually exist.

I'm arguing against that view. Please read my post carefully and you'll see.

Quote:
The term "unicorn" refers to something which doesn't exist, and yet it is not incoherent. I can tell you what a unicorn is, even though it doesn't exist.

I wholeheartedly agree.

Quote:
You cannot tell me what immaterial is, because it doesn't refer to anything.

I disagree that it doesn't refer to anything. As I said, this is an ontological dispute, and it falls outside the scope of my reply. If you'd like to discuss arguments for and against materialism, I would be happy to do so. I'll devote a new thread to it tomorrow or this weekend.

 

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Quote: Todangst's argument

Quote:
Todangst's argument is unsound. First, empirical linguistic evidence proves that many bits of language, whether they’re in the form of text or an acoustic blast from the mouth, are meaningful but do not refer to anything, e.g. “hello”, “and”, “on behalf of”, “alas”, etc. It is a fact that English speakers regularly use sentences with these non-referring expressions. Yet it would be absurd to say that none of these English speakers mean anything by what they say when they use such language.
I think you're over-simplifying. Of course words that are (for example) conjunctions, prepositions, common expressions, and so on don't have to refer to anything. However other words, like nouns and adjectives, most defintely do, by definition.


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And the point is: those

And the point is: those nonreferring terms are meaningful. I made this very clear in my essay.


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Gavagai wrote: And the

Gavagai wrote:
And the point is: those nonreferring terms are meaningful. I made this very clear in my essay.
Things like nouns and adjectives don't compare to thinks like prepositions, conjunctions, etc. Nouns and adjectives must, by definition, refer to something meaningful. The others are a part of the structure of our language and/or agreed upon customs - they only mean something within the context of our culture and/or language, whereas nouns and adjectives should have words for the same thing across all cultures and languages.

Do you actually have something coherent with which to define those terms, or are you just picking on his choice of words?


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Gavagai wrote: Some of you

Gavagai wrote:
Some of you also think I've misinterpreted Todangst. That's certainly possible. Just so we're totally clear, then, this is how I would formulate Todangst's argument:

(1) The terms "immaterial" and "supernatural" don't refer to anything.

(2) But terms are meaningful only if they refer to things.

(3) Therefore, the terms "immaterial" and "supernatural" are meaningless.

See the footnote in my reply for an exact quotation from Todangst. My reply was an attack on (2).


To be honest, I think you hit a bit of a red herring here...
Todangst was merely trying to show that the word God was meaningless as a noun, in which case the referrent was essential. After all, I'm sure that if you scan his post you'll find several words like 'the' that have no referrent.


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Concur with the above two

Concur with the above two posters. Nouns and verbs, as I explained in my first post, absolutely require coherent referents, otherwise they don't mean anything (Refer to the various analogies used) So, with this in mind, our discussion shifts from mere linguistic technicalities to ontological problems, being that, obviously, there is no positive ontological status for "supernatural" as I explained in my above post and todangst has countless times. In the other thread, Gavagi suggested that an ontological status for the immaterial was consciousness, and I attacked it, saying that it can be shown that consciousness, and the mind etc are the domain of neurology. And hence I await a response. this is good because although I would not and could not even remotely claim expertise in philosophy of language, I can for the biological sciences, neurology included.

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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Bits of language in general

Bits of language in general do not need to pick something out, to refer to something, to be meaningful. This is true for copulas, proper names, definite descriptions, or any piece of language you care to specify. Restricting the view to meaningful nonreferring conjunctions, predicates, or indefinite articles is thus irrelevant. For example, "Pegasus" doesn't pick out anything. (We know there is no Pegaus, there is no winged horse.) But we still understand the meaning of the term.

There was a time (close to the 50's) when it was popular among atheist philosophers to develop arguments like Todangst's -- the former atheist, Antony Flew, was probably the most notable defender of such arguments. Nowadays, given the developments in philosophy of language, virtually no philosopher (naturalist or theist) believes that reference (or even empirical verification) is an adequate, necessary condition for meaning. 

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Strafio,

Strafio,

It's not a red herring. Even if you tweak Todangst's argument to allow that only nouns must refer to something to be meaningful expressions, this doesn't get you anywhere. The point is that reference is not essential for meaning in general, i.e. for any linguistic item you care to specify.

Cheers,

Gavagai

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Strafio wrote:

Strafio wrote:
Non-cognitivists happily admit that God has some kind of meaning in some kind of language game, but not the kind of meaning required for an 'existing entity'. Meaningful non-referential words like 'please' don't refer to 'existing things'.

Exactly what I was saying.

Quote:

Quote:
Another, more technical, problem with Todangst's view is that it logically implies that there are no contingent statements that express identity between an object denoted by a proper name and a definite description.

I'm not sure how you infered this from Todangst's position.
Perhaps you could go into more detail?

Honestly, I couldn't even think of any way to refute this because I can't imagine what the connection is. I guess in some mystery form of logic, just saying things are related makes it so. I've not read that textbook.

Quote:
The thing is, don't we use the word 'God' like a noun, as if it is supposed to refer to something? Or do you reject that kind of theology? All Todangst rules out is 'God' having meaning as a noun. I guess that most people use God as a noun was an assumption on his part.

Hence, the reference to Wittgenstein. You get to this in the first six paragraphs or so. This whole argument seems to stem from the idea that language is somehow reduced to the simplistic ideas in W's first (or second, I can't remember) thought experiment with cave men pointing to rocks.

Quote:
I think that the best way to view Todangst argument is as a challenge rather than an absolute argument. If something isn't material or natural, then what exactly is it? If you are not talking about something that is material, then what are you talking about?

Very similar to the basic position of most atheists. If there is proof for god, we'd like to see it. If there is a positive ontology for any of these words, it would be nice if someone would produce it for us.

Here's a neat little conversation I just whipped up in my head:

Bob: I have a three headed frog in my hand.

Sue: Let me see.

Bob: No.

Sue: Why?

Bob: Because you can't prove that I don't have one.

Sue: What? I don't need to. Just show it to me, and then I'll believe you.

Bob: Listen, it's completely possible for three headed frogs to exist, and since you can't see my hand behind my back, you can't prove that I don't have one.

Sue: I don't have to. There's never been a three headed frog. It sounds impossible! From everything I know about frogs, it doesn't make any sense to believe one could have three heads. So, why don't you just show me the frog?

Bob: There could be one.

Sue: I'm going home.

 

 

 

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My sincerest apologies

My sincerest apologies Hambydammit

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/somerset/3534361.stm

I couldn't stop myself Smiling


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Strafio wrote: This is

Strafio wrote:
This is likely to be a re-wording of Hambydammit's response, but here goes anyway! Smiling
Lol! And sure enough: Eye-wink
Hambydammit wrote:
Exactly what I was saying.

Quote:
This whole argument seems to stem from the idea that language is somehow reduced to the simplistic ideas in W's first (or second, I can't remember) thought experiment with cave men pointing to rocks.

Slab!!
Wittgenstein was a non-cognitivist too.
He believed that the word 'God' had meaning within the context of the religious language game, but not the language game that we use for 'facts' about the world. Todangst's argument was against 'God' having 'cognitive meaning', i.e. being expressible within a 'fact'. That God can have non-cognitive meanings in other language games doesn't contradict this.

Gavagai wrote:
It's not a red herring. Even if you tweak Todangst's argument to allow that only nouns must refer to something to be meaningful expressions, this doesn't get you anywhere. The point is that reference is not essential for meaning in general, i.e. for any linguistic item you care to specify.

Now I've pointed out that Todangst is only trying to deny God having cognitive meaning, rather than meaning altogether, does that clear things up? You might ask why he didn't specify cognitive meaning. That would be because most readers assume that we're talking about cognitive meaning as a given.
He happily concedes that God has non-cognitive meaning in his God is an Incoherent Term essay.
Todangst wrote:
3) "Ok, given all that, how can you seriously claim that billions of people use an incoherent term? People clearly know what they mean when they say "god".

They do - but what they actually mean is something quite different from an entity 'beyond nature'.

Does that clear things up? Smiling


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Straf,

Straf,

You've pointed out, on Todangst's behalf, that his argument is about terms like "immaterial" being cognitively meaningless. That's correct. I already knew that, and that's how I've interpreted him. (Otherwise, he wouldn't be a noncognitivist, would he? When I say "meaningless" in my essay, it's safe to assume that readers familiar with this issue will interpret that as "cognitively meaningless".)

So allow me to sum up where we are now. Todangst argued that terms like "immaterial" are (cognitively) meaningless because they don't refer. I replied with two arguments for the conclusion that reference isn't needed for meaning. You have responded basically by saying, "Well reference is necessary for certain kinds of words (e.g. nouns), but maybe not for others (e.g. copulas)."

But as I mentioned in my last reply, this is irrelevant, since the issue is about whether reference is essential for linguistic meaning in general (i.e. for any bit of language whatever). That's where I left off, and I have not seen a reply to that yet. (Which is perhaps good, since it would be a waste of your time to continue defending a view that, for decades now, nearly all philosophers of language have consistently rejected.)

Cheers,

Gavagai

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Gavagai wrote: (1) The

Gavagai wrote:

(1) The terms "immaterial" and "supernatural" don't refer to anything.

(2) But terms are meaningful only if they refer to things.

(3) Therefore, the terms "immaterial" and "supernatural" are meaningless.

See the footnote in my reply for an exact quotation from Todangst. My reply was an attack on (2). (I think (1) is false as well, but I left that issue to the side.)

Actually, I'm somewhat on your side here... though I don't think you want me to be.  I do believe these terms are meaningful... but only within the contexts of a hypothetical universe where such distinctions and representative entities/forces are granted; for example... 'RingWraiths' and their attributes are certainly meaningful within the story of the Lord of the Rings.  However, you have not shown how these terms are meaningful in this world of empirical phenomina; indeed, I'm not sure how you would go about verifying such entities/forces, distinguishing them from material/natural sources.  

 


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Wyzaard,

Wyzaard,

As I said above, it's important to distinguish between two issues: first, whether the word immaterial actually refers to anything, and second, whether words have to refer to anything to be meaningful. My reply focused on the latter issue. Thus, I attacked (2) of Todangst's argument. It only takes one false premise for an argument to be unsound. And (2) is quite false. (I only highlighted a couple of reasons why it is; there are actually several others.)

Now, I'm no materialist, so I think that (1) is false as well. To show that (1) is false, one would have to show that there's at least one x such that x is immaterial. And this is essentially what you've asked me to do. You want me to show that the predicate immaterial has a nonempty extension in the actual world. I believe one could do this without even appealing to theistic considerations. I'd be glad to discuss it with you. But I leave town this week, so we'll have to save it for when I get back.

Cheers,

Gavagai

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I'll be waiting with bells

I'll be waiting with bells on for your return.  After you manage to be the first person in recorded history to provide a positive ontology for "immaterial," I want to get your contact info so I can personally attend your Nobel Prize ceremony.

Until you produce such an ontology, I wish you would stop claiming that there is one.

 

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 Tu Quoque.  Let me know

 Tu Quoque.  Let me know when you receive the nobel prize for being the first person in recorded history to decisively prove philosophical materialism.

 

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Tell you what...  You made

Tell you what...  You made the claim.  Back it up. 

I don't recall saying anything other than "immaterial, et al" have no positive ontology.

You know the rules.  If you think they do, you provide the evidence.

 

 

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"I'd be glad to discuss it

I'll be glad to discuss it with you when I get back from vacation.


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Gavagai wrote: So allow me

Gavagai wrote:
So allow me to sum up where we are now. Todangst argued that terms like "immaterial" are (cognitively) meaningless because they don't refer. I replied with two arguments for the conclusion that reference isn't needed for meaning. You have responded basically by saying, "Well reference is necessary for certain kinds of words (e.g. nouns), but maybe not for others (e.g. copulas)."

But as I mentioned in my last reply, this is irrelevant, since the issue is about whether reference is essential for linguistic meaning in general (i.e. for any bit of language whatever).


So you agreed that a noun must refer but you found that irrelvent?
But God is a noun! A noun in cognitive contexts atleast!
How can the word 'God' have cognitive meaning without 'referring' to something?

Quote:
That's where I left off, and I have not seen a reply to that yet. (Which is perhaps good, since it would be a waste of your time to continue defending a view that, for decades now, nearly all philosophers of language have consistently rejected.)

Philosophers of language have rejected that cognitive meaning is the only meaning, so just because the word God has no cognitive meaning that doesn't make the word meaningless. It still remains that the word 'God' lacks cognitive meaning.

By the way, there's a topic in the philosophy forum about language games and religious language. Thought you might find that interesting too.


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Straf,

Straf,

I just got done saying that linguistic items do not need to refer to things to be meaningful. It doesn't matter if they're nouns, copulas, proper names, definite descriptions, or whatever -- this is for any bit of language you care to pick out. How could you possibly interpret this as me agreeing that "nouns must refer"? Please read my posts carefully before you respond, and it will save us a lot of time.

Quote:
Philosophers of language have rejected that cognitive meaning is the only meaning, so just because the word God has no cognitive meaning that doesn't make the word meaningless. It still remains that the word 'God' lacks cognitive meaning.

With all due respect, Strafio, I highly doubt that you're well-equipped to tell us what contemporary philosophers of language would say about this, given that you're defending a view that most of them have rejected for decades. In any case, I already said in my last reply that by "meaning" I have in mind "cognitive meaning" when it comes to God; I'm aware that there are other kinds of "meaning". If all you can do now misinterpret my posts and re-assert (without argument) that "'God' lacks cognitive meaning" it's difficult to see how we'll make any progress here.

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Not really. Your views

Not really.
Your views reflect what philosophers think about meaning in general, but not cognitive meaning. Cognitive meaning, as I understand it, either represents empirical objects/events (so is the language of science) or has 'formal meaning'. (Is a statement of mathematical or logical interest)

If so, the meaning of God is either a logical equation of refers to something with empirical relevence. The former introduces me to unheard of theology while the 'refferential' meaning that Todangst's argument addresses. Maybe you mean something different by cognitive meaning?
What do you mean by cognitive meaning?
(I know it means something slightly different in meta-ethics but that's not really relevent to the God topic either.)


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Straf,

Straf,

It's hard to tell whether you actually understand the issues here. See my earlier posts where I already made it clear that cognitive meaning is the topic of concern. To the extent that you continue saying that there is some other sort of meaning being disputed here, you've misunderstood things. Obviously there are statements that lack truth-values but still have some sort of meaning. Why you continue reiterating this as though my arguments turn on it is a mystery.

Further, I follow current philosophical orthodoxy in saying that a statement S is cognitively meaningless =df. S lacks a truth-value. This is uncontroversial, and even naturalists would agree with it. (Your personal understanding seems more akin to empiricism or some such doctrine, which has nothing to do with what's being discussed here.)

Cheers,

Gavagai

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Now I'm completely

Now I'm completely confused.

If I understand what you're saying, then you've successfully found word games, and there's still no linguistic or philosophical foundation upon which to base a case for the existence of the supernatural and/or immaterial.

Frankly, I can't see where your argument has any relevance to the discussion of whether or not god or the supernatural are real.

 

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Fair enough.

Fair enough.
That was the meaning I was given in meta-ethics, but I had also been given another version involving empirical meaning and formalistic meaning. Maybe that was just the logical positivist doctrine of what cognitive meaning must be.

So God might have cognitive meaning that is neither empirical or formal. That doesn't tell us much on its own.
Todangst's argument rules out the mode of language where we usually find cognitive meaning, in the sense we usually use the words 'true' and 'false'. The two most common forms of cognitive meaning are the ones that the logical positivists proposed:
Formal meaning (logical/mathematical truths) and empirical meaning.
If you say that 'God' has cognitive meaning but deny it's one of these then you are thinking of something very new. Now you mention it, I can think of another 'language game' with cognitive meaning - the psychological one for mental concepts like beliefs. Is God a psychological concept?

Also, I'm still not convinced attack doesn't really refute Todangst.
'Supernatural' and 'immaterial' are metaphysical terms and in the language of metaphysics, 'material' and 'natural' things are the sort of ones that to refer to something.
Your argument seems to suggest that there is a new mode of speaking that can talk of God in terms of truth and falsity, but is otherwise unlike the language we use for physics and metaphysics. I'd be interested to see where this is leading.

(btw, did you check out that topic I linked to? That's another topic about religious language.)

edit: HambyDammit seems to have the same question as me.
If you're not using language in the way we usually use it, then how are you using it and what relevence does it have to our lives and reality?


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Quote: edit: HambyDammit

Quote:
edit: HambyDammit seems to have the same question as me.
If you're not using language in the way we usually use it, then how are you using it and what relevence does it have to our lives and reality?

Precisely.

I fail to see the relevance of this word game to the fundamental question of whether or not there is an empirical, objective reality which contains a positive ontology for "supernatural" and "immaterial."

All I see so far is an attempt to create a language set within which we can use words like supernatural and immaterial, and be within our epistemological rights.  I'm still waiting for the connection to the existence of the supernatural, and so far, I see nothing.

 

 

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Hamby, Todangst's argument

Hamby,

Todangst's argument depends on (1) everything that exists is material, and (2) words are meaningful when they refer. My reply was focused on falsifying (2). Accordingly, questions about the merits of (1), although they are interesting, fall outside the scope of my concern. This is why I've agreed to save such questions for another time. 

As I said, it only takes one false premise to make an argument unsound.

 Take care,

Gavagai 

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Gavagai, I get what you're

Gavagai, I get what you're saying, but you seem to be attempting to force his premises into a paradigm that you've created specifically to create a word game problem.  I agree that you can create a word game in which meaning and reference are not intrinsically linked.  However, this word game operates on a meta-level of linguistics, and is not pertinent to the deductive, empirical level that Todangst's (1) exists.

Until you can demonstrate that your subset of linguistics applies to the larger set of deductive empirical knowledge, I don't see that it has any relevance.

 

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Strafio, First, times have

Strafio,

First, times have changed. Nearly all contemporary philosophers reject logical positivism.  (You wouldn't know this from reading Wittgenstein and posting about him as though he still represents cutting-edge philosophy of language.)  In any case, if you'd like to defend logical positivism, I'll discuss it with you in a week or so.

Second, my argument does not even remotely suggest that there are new ways of talking about God or 'immaterial'. You've again misconstrued things.  I've attacked a certain premise of Todangst's argument. What I've said does not imply that something immaterial exists, nor does it imply that something immaterial doesn't exist. Nor does it imply that there are new ways of talking about such-and-such. 

Cheers,

Gavagai 

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Hamby,

Hamby,

Quote:
you seem to be attempting to force his premises into a paradigm that you've created specifically to create a word game problem.

I don't know what this means.

Quote:
I agree that you can create a word game in which meaning and reference are not intrinsically linked. However, this word game operates on a meta-level of linguistics, and is not pertinent to the deductive, empirical level that Todangst's (1) exists.

What do you mean by "word game"? What's a "meta-level of linguistics"?


Quote:
Until you can demonstrate that your subset of linguistics applies to the larger set of deductive empirical knowledge, I don't see that it has any relevance.

"Subset of linguistics"? Please define that.

It's hard to discern whatever point you're trying to make. I think your point is that I've responded to Todangst by introducing some kind of "word game". If that's your point, you're mistaken. Philosophers of language have taught us for decades now that reference is not needed for meaning; this isn't a mere word game.

Cheers,

Gavagai

 

 

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Gavagai wrote:   Todangst

Gavagai wrote:

 

Todangst claims that terms like "immaterial" are meaningless. He wants us to believe that such terms are "broken concepts". Why should we believe this? Well, Todangst thinks we can’t positively denote anything with these terms. There’s nothing out there that these terms actually refer to. The terms, says Todangst, “are therefore meaningless, incoherent.”<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[1]<!--[endif]--> Thus, Todangst’s argument rests on the view that bits of language are meaningful when there is something to which they refer. (The problems that I am about to present for Todangst’s view will take us into some philosophy of language. This area of analytic philosophy may be unfamiliar to some readers. But do not let the jargon intimidate you. If there’s something you don’t understand, PM me and I’ll be happy to explain it for you.)

Todangst's argument is unsound. First, empirical linguistic evidence proves that many bits of language, whether they’re in the form of text or an acoustic blast from the mouth, are meaningful but do not refer to anything, e.g. “hello”, “and”, “on behalf of”, “alas”, etc. It is a fact that English speakers regularly use sentences with these non-referring expressions. Yet it would be absurd to say that none of these English speakers mean anything by what they say when they use such language.

Another, more technical, problem with Todangst's view is that it logically implies that there are no contingent statements that express identity between an object denoted by a proper name and a definite description. (I assume classic identity here: quantifying over any x and y, x = y only if, for any property or feature F, Fx if and only if Fy. This is an uncontroversial assumption. Moreover, a statement is contingent if and only if it expresses a proposition that is true in some possible worlds and false in others; again, uncontroversial.) Assume for reductio that Todangst’s view is true. Then statements like “Socrates = Plato’s teacher” become necessary truths, since “Socrates” and “Plato’s teacher” pick out the same object and therefore have the same meaning. But we know that it was only a contingent truth that Socrates was Plato’s teacher; so there are contingent identity statements. So we must reject Todangst’s view. Reductio complete. There are several other objections to the view. But I’ll leave them aside, since what I’ve said is sufficient to show that Todangst's argument is unsound.

To be clear, reference is important to language. But it’s not what constrains meaning. And nearly all contemporary analytic philosophers of language would reject views like Todangst’s. There are only a few very subtle versions of “referentialism” still around, e.g. theories that rely on intensional classes as the referents. (See e.g. certain entries at logicalsemanticism.wordpress.com) But these theories allow copulas and other apparently non-referring expressions like “sake” and “so on and so forth” to represent a sense or at any rate something that may not exist as a material object. Since they preserve the meaningfulness of terms like “immaterial”, Todangst would presumably not want to endorse them.

What’s worse, Todangst would still have to show that predicates like “immaterial” and “supernatural” don’t have a nonempty extension. I don’t think he’s given us any reason to believe this, but I’ll save this discussion for another time.

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->

<!--[endif]-->

<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[1]<!--[endif]--> Exact quotation: “There's literally nothing left over for these terms to refer to, so there's nothing left over for them to be. The terms are therefore meaningless, incoherent.”

 

All you have done is basically state that immaterial and supernatural have meaning, not that they are coherent concepts. This is simply more obfuscation.

While the words themselves may have meaning in some sense (the sense that they mean 'not natural' or 'not material&#39Eye-wink this is not a meaning that conveys any information about what they are and therefor it is not a meaning that is capable of supporting a concept.

Neither term is capable of existing separate from that to which it contrasts. They can not support themselves. If there is such a thing as an actual concept of immaterial or supernatural then I welcome your explanation of the concept these terms denote that is not simply a contrast of the natural and the material. 

In what way can immaterial or supernatural be said to exist? If they can't be said to exist then what exactly can we say of them?  

“Philosophers have argued for centuries about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but materialists have always known it depends on whether they are jitterbugging or dancing cheek to cheek" -- Tom Robbins


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Actually Gavagai does have

Actually Gavagai does have a reasonable argument here.

The great weakness of Tod's ontology (noticed this a long time ago but didn't want to go against the prevailing opinion of the board) is that it is founded on the logical positivist position.

Gavagai has here basically reiterated the criticism of logical positivism.

That doesn't mean Tod's position is incorrect or untrue, and it certainly doesn't mean that Theism is a correct/true position by default.  But it's an error of exclusion to disregard the weaknesses in the logical positivist ontology that Gavagai has pointed out here.

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Ok... fair questions... I'm

Ok... fair questions...

I'm saying that you're picking and choosing how to use the words "meaning" and "reference" and "incoherent" to show that there are systems in which "supernatural, et al" have meaning and coherence.

I'm not debating the fact that we conceptualize all of these words, and that they are therefore useful in language.   As you say, this is something that's been obvious to philosophers for quite a long time.

I'm saying that your objection to Todangst's point is within the context of language, not within the context of empirical reality.

In other words, we can discard the words "ontology" "reference," and practically any other word you like from the argument, and the crux of the matter is that neither you nor anyone else can describe what immaterial is outside of the conceptualizations of language.  Todangst's point is therefore, not damaged by your argument.

Is that more clear?

 

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Gavagai

Gavagai wrote:

Strafio,

First, times have changed. Nearly all contemporary philosophers reject logical positivism. (You wouldn't know this from reading Wittgenstein and posting about him as though he still represents cutting-edge philosophy of language.) In any case, if you'd like to defend logical positivism, I'll discuss it with you in a week or so.


Lol. I'm not actually a logical positivist.
I was just recalling where I got that definition of cognitive meaning from. Also, you seem to be thinking of Tractatus Wittgenstein wheras we're talking of Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein (that you do not seem to be familiar with otherwise you'd be familiar with the term 'language game'.)

You're right that I'm not absolutely up to date with the most recent fashions in linguistic philosophy but I was always under the impression that Wittgenstein's later philosophy was right on the mark and so far you've given nothing that contradicts that.

Quote:
Second, my argument does not even remotely suggest that there are new ways of talking about God or 'immaterial'. You've again misconstrued things. I've attacked a certain premise of Todangst's argument. What I've said does not imply that something immaterial exists, nor does it imply that something immaterial doesn't exist. Nor does it imply that there are new ways of talking about such-and-such.

But it does.
You are trying to refute an argument against the word 'immaterial'.
This argument is aimed at the common use of 'immaterial' that involves reference, and you are pointing out that not all language involves reference as a refutation, thereby implying that there's a definition of 'immaterial' that doesn't involve reference.

Todangst isn't relying on a sweeping generalisation of all language. He's taking a word that we all use, one that's usage implies reference and shows that it cannot refer to anything. That language in general doesn't require reference doesn't really mean much unless you are putting forward a definition of the word 'immaterial' that doesn't require reference. Otherwise it's irrelevent.


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Quote: The great weakness

Quote:
The great weakness of Tod's ontology (noticed this a long time ago but didn't want to go against the prevailing opinion of the board) is that it is founded on the logical positivist position.

Here is where I am perhaps not making myself clear. While I understand the inherent flaws in logical positivism, I don't guess I understand what, precisely, the point of the OP is. I keep using the phrase "word games" because it is simple. Basically, what I'm saying is that I don't see the connection between the statement that within the confines of individual perception, the words, "supernatural, et al" have coherence, and the statement that within the context of observable external reality, there is no coherence to the idea of anything "outside of natural."

Quote:
Gavagai has here basically reiterated the criticism of logical positivism.

Right.

Quote:
That doesn't mean Tod's position is incorrect or untrue, and it certainly doesn't mean that Theism is a correct/true position by default. But it's an error of exclusion to disregard the weaknesses in the logical positivist ontology that Gavagai has pointed out here.

I won't presume to speak for Todangst. I will only say that for myself, this whole thread has followed this form:

G: Within some paradigms, "supernatural, et al" are coherent and have meaning.

Me: Yes, but what does this have to do with Todangt's point?

G: You see, within some paradigms, "supernatural, et al" are coherent and have meaning.

Me: Yes, but what does this have to do with Todangst's point?

etc... etc...

Maybe I'm missing something obvious, but the difference between empirical objectivity and internal linguistic relevance seems clear enough. What exactly does one have to do with the other?

 

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Gentlemen,

Gentlemen,

I'll go one more round here, but then I'll be unable to reply for a while.

A couple of you think I'm introducing some new "paradigm" or "word game" (whatever exactly that means) in which terms like 'immaterial' may be meaningful in some sense, but certainly not in the sense of cognitive meaning. Not so. The only meaning I've been discussing here -- since the beginning -- is the cognitive meaningfulness of linguistic utterances. I'm not introducing anything foreign. Todangst's argument rests on the view that words must refer to something to enjoy cognitive meaningfulness. This view is false (for any kind of linguistic item you care to specify, even nouns, or more generally proper names and definite descriptions). So Todangst's argument fails. This doesn't mean new "word games" or "paradigms" are being introduced. It doesn't mean something immaterial exists. It also doesn't mean something immaterial does not exist.

Many of you think that what I've said suddenly isn't relevant because I still haven't shown that something immaterial exists. But this represents elementary philosophical confusion: you're confusing ontological commitments with conceptual analyses.

Strafio, I'm glad to hear you aren't a logical positvist. Also, don't get me wrong -- Wittgenstein was important to philosophy of language. If I implied otherwise, you have every right to correct me. He (and J.L. Austin) introduced the importance of use for theories of meaning, specifically use in complicated social or behaviorial contexts under some set of rules (hence the phrase language game). This was a step forward from Fregean and Russellian theses. But things have progressed much since Wittgenstein. Even contemporary use theorists themselves disagree that Wittgensteinian language games give us an exhaustive grasp on meaning. For example, there is Grice's theory, according to which meaning is ultimately reduced to a perlocutionary intention.

Or there is Alston, another use theorist, who analyzes meaning in terms of illocutionary actions. To Alston, meaning involves a certain normative condition, namely that speakers 'take responsibility' for the propositions they utter. Let 'R'd' stand for the responsibility relation. Then Alston's notion of an utterer U taking responsibility for uttering a statement S that expresses a particular proposition p can be stated formally as follows:

In uttering S, U R'd that p =df. In uttering S, U subjects her utterance to a rule that, in application to this case, implies that it is permissible for U to utter S only if it's false that ~p.

For a popular example, the illocutionary act of promising would be that U promised some hearer H to do some action A in uttering S iff:

(a) In uttering S, U R'd for: (i) it is possible for U to perform A, (ii) H would prefer U's performing A to U's not performing A, and (iii) U intends to perform A.

(b) In uttering S, U placed herself under an obligation to peform A.

(c) In uttering S, U intended that H realized that conditions (a)-(b) are satisfied.

There are other more technical notions that Alston's theory relies on, but leave them aside for now. My general point in highlighting these prominent use theorists as examples (and believe me: I haven't even scraped the surface) is that, well, we've made a lot of progress since Wittgensteinian "language games". Your average upper division philosophy of language survey course will spend maybe a week at most on Wittgenstein, and then move on to more contemporary issues. So, frankly, I'm not extremely interested in what the old notion of language games implies about fundamentalism.

Hamby, I simply don't understand what you mean by "paradigms" and "word games" in this context. My best guess is that you're taking phrases from another area of philosophy (Kuhnian "paradigms" in the philosophy of science) and trying to apply them here for some reason. Whatever the case, I would kindly suggest at this point that you hold back on posting anymore about this until you've adequately studied the basics of philosophy of language in detail. (PM me for resources.)

Textom, you are correct to point out that the arguments I employed are reasonable. One minor nitpick: I wasn't attacking logical positivism per se. I was attacking an assumption about meaningfulness that Todangst made.

Other than that, it's been a pleasure discussing things with you guys. I'll be back in a week or so.

Take care,

Gavagai

 

 

 

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Gavagai wrote: Now, I'm no

Gavagai wrote:

Now, I'm no materialist, so I think that (1) is false as well. To show that (1) is false, one would have to show that there's at least one x such that x is immaterial. And this is essentially what you've asked me to do. You want me to show that the predicate immaterial has a nonempty extension in the actual world. I believe one could do this without even appealing to theistic considerations. I'd be glad to discuss it with you.

Ok... but I hope you understand that there is a difference in finding a non-empty extension, and demonstrating the existance of your particular sort of non-empty extention. 

 


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Gavagai wrote: Todangst's

Gavagai wrote:
Todangst's argument is unsound. First, empirical linguistic evidence proves that many bits of language, whether they’re in the form of text or an acoustic blast from the mouth, are meaningful but do not refer to anything, e.g. “hello”, “and”, “on behalf of”, “alas”, etc.

Todangst does not state that all words that do not refer to anything are broken concepts.

He states that supernatural and immaterial can only be defined in negative terms. Therefore these adjectives can not qualify a noun that has a positive ontology and are hence broken concepts.

The consequence is that if something exists it can not be described as supernatural or immaterial (using todangsts definition).

However you could say something like "the ether [a medium for electromagnetic wave propagation] is immaterial". The ether neither exists or has relevance and immaterial describes this well. I would suggest describing imaginary things as a coherent and meaningful use of immaterial or supernatural. Note the ether is also a broken concept.

//The above paragraph does not make the aforementioned terms any less broken. The purpose was to show a use in language. I feel it is slightly bodged but will leave it in as others may wish to comment. I think this is an example of a 'nonempty extension'....but I fear circular reasoning Smiling

Gavagai wrote:
Another, more technical, problem with Todangst's view is that it logically implies that there are no contingent statements that express identity between an object denoted by a proper name and a definite description.

 I have had difficulty discerning what you mean here. I expect others have too! So I will start by stating how I understand it...and hope for some guidance/clarification.

 ...terms like immaterial are meaningless (i'm not sure what you want todangst view to be. I use your opening statement).

IMPLIES

that there are NO possible statements that are ALWAYS true between a proper name that refers to a real object AND a clear description.

 I would like to know how todangsts view implies this. I feel this is paramount as I think your argument is in the form of...

 todansgt idea implies this philosophically accepted idea to be false.

However I see it in my naivety thus:

A proper name does not create mutual exclusivity (I had a hamster called Socrates). Statements such as "Socrates = Plato's teacher" only express identity under the conditions in which they are true.....and my hamster did not teach Plato. I am left unsure if contingent identity statements exist.

 

 

 

I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.


jcgadfly
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I'm not going to say that I

I'm not going to say that I understand all of this but it seems like Gavagai is saying that "supernatural" and "immaterial" have meaning in all areas if you find one universe of discourse in which they have meaning.

Someone please tell me how wrong I am - it can't be that simple. 

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Gavagai wrote: But things

Gavagai wrote:
But things have progressed much since Wittgenstein. Even contemporary use theorists themselves disagree that Wittgensteinian language games give us an exhaustive grasp on meaning.

I've no doubt that things have progressed, but I get the feeling that you're using this as an excuse to sweep our arguments under the carpet. For example, Newton's physics are also out of date - Einstein's relativity replaced it. However, I can still use Newtonian mechanics to perform useful calculations.
Someone might say, "but Newton's mechanics is out of date"
How does that affect the work in hand?
It's only relevent if the holes in Newton's theory is relevent.
If I was just modelling how a ball dropped from the top of a building, Einstein's more accurate theory would be unnecessary.

In the same way, although our Wittgensteinian views on language might be a bit naive, you're yet to show us where our assumptions are breaking our argument. You're simply telling us that our knowledge is incomplete. Bearing in mind what you have told us about language in general, I'll try and rephrase the argument and perhaps you can tell us where our out-dated view of language makes it fail.

The words 'material' and 'natural', as we are using them, crop up in the context of metaphysics. Physics being the the study of the empirical world and metaphysics being the study of the 'structure' of this empirical world. In this context, when we talk of a 'thing' that 'exists', we use language in a referrencial way, do we not?
When we say that a chair exists, we are referring to a chair.
If we say a unicorn exists, we are clearly not referring to a unicorn, but for it to even be an interesting question, the word unicorn must atleast possibly refer to something.

So Todangst argues that 'supernatural' and 'immaterial' things, by their intension cannot refer. This means we cannot use them in a referencial context. Our use of language to describe 'reality', the empirical world, is a referrencial use of language - a context in which the words 'supernatural' and 'immaterial' cannot have meaning.

So if 'God exists' has cognitive meaning, then it has cognitive meaning in a different way. When people usually think of the term 'x exists' they are usually thinking of the empirical context, because that is where we usually learn the words first and is the context we use most regularly. I'm familiar with non-empirical but cognitive meaning in logic and mathematics. 'God exists' as a non-empirical but cognitive meaning is a bit more mysterious.

Even if there is a context where is has meaning, that doesn't refute Todangst. He doesn't explicitly state this but he assumes that his theologian opponent is also think of God in the empirical/referrencial way, because that appears to be how many theists use the word. Even when they don't think God can be directly 'sensed', they still believe that there is a causal relation between the existing entity God and empirical events.

Quote:
we've made a lot of progress since Wittgensteinian "language games". Your average upper division philosophy of language survey course will spend maybe a week at most on Wittgenstein, and then move on to more contemporary issues. So, frankly, I'm not extremely interested in what the old notion of language games implies about fundamentalism.

Again, this seems to be "it's absolutely up to date so let's ignore it"
Where these guys you linked to disagree with Wittgenstein, it appears to be minor details that don't affect the argument in hand. You've yet to explain how Wittgenstein has been outdated in a way that affects our arguments. Neither Grice or Alston appeared to disagree with the language game idea, their work seemed more about working on details on how a language game works, how someone abides by the rules. etc

It might be I missed something.
Perhaps you'll show me when I come back next week! Smiling


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I think the idea is the

I think the idea is

the assertion (call this p)

implies

that there are no contingent statements that express identity between an object denoted by a proper name and a definite description (call this q)

If we accept p implies q to be true, then IF q is false p is false.

Gavagai then gives evidence to why q is false.

Concluding that supernatural and immaterial have meaning.

However I am not sure how q is a consequence of p, or that q is false.

 I think the idea is that q is an abstraction from p, but I fail to see how supernatural/immaterial are akin to a proper name. A proper name may be ambiguous but it is only so when it is unclear to what it is referring. On the other hand supernatural is always abstruse. Again this may be entirely wrong.

jcgadfly wrote:
I'm not going to say that I understand all of this but it seems like Gavagai is saying that "supernatural" and "immaterial" have meaning in all areas if you find one universe of discourse in which they have meaning.

Gavagai has produced an argument that I don't understand as to why supernatural and immaterial have meaning. I think he also infers that if the have meaning they are not broken concepts. Todangst stated in his original essay that immaterial and supernatural can not be defined as they are not anything in the universe of discourse.

Quote:

 

I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.


wavefreak
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At the risk of appearing

At the risk of appearing really ignorant, isn't this really a big argument over words? I tend towards materialism, but not out of some hardcore philisophical argument. It just seems obvious to me that anything that we can interact with has some "substance" or there would be nothing to interact with. Supernatural and immaterial seem like categories created as catch alls for things that are beyond understanding. Jesus walking on water is supernatural because we have no clue how that can be done. But SOMETHING had to suspend the laws of physics long enough to keep Jesus from sinking and that somethig interacted with the natural world. Immaterialism is similar. If god exists s(he) MUST be made of something. Maybe not protons and neutrons. Maybe there is some god particle or field or whatever. Calling it immaterial seems like a categorization that is rooted in old ideas about reality. A thousand years ago immaterial made sense in the context of what was known about the physical world. But we have a more evolved language for describing reality and immaterialism and supernatural really aren't that useful anymore.


Hambydammit
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wave, I, for one, shant be

wave, I, for one, shant be calling you ignorant on this occasion. Smiling

I think you're spot on with your analysis, and I'm baffled as to why it seems unclear to anyone.

(Actually, I've noticed that the OP seems to be the only person who doesn't get it, but it's been a really great exercise in clear expression.)

I think it's damn funny, actually, the pot calling the kettle black when the pot is trying to use refinements in a current linguistic theory to invalidate the claim that concepts invented by ignorant men before the advent of linguistics (and near the beginning of philosophy!) are invalid.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Cernunnos
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shhh wavefreak   I don't

shhh wavefreak 

 I don't need the short couse I took on predicate logic belittled any further!

I concur that this debate is mostly a battle of words (I am sure some pride is squeezed in there too) and I highly doubt that any profound conclusion will be made....but for me reading this discourse has been novel and enjoyable. 

So it became a bit of potentially embarrassing fun I thought I would have a go at...no need for concern, I have no shame...for instance right now my clothes are completely immaterial...

I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.


Hambydammit
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For what it's worth, I have

For what it's worth, I have to give props to the OP.  I only have a limited amount of self awareness, but I can't find any pride in my responses.  I have genuine curiosity and confusion.

First, it's a very well composed presentation, and aside from what I and the other dissenters feel is more or less a single conflation, it's quite coherent.

Second, I'm always open to the possibility that someone's onto something I haven't thought of before, and this post has come closer than most to being an original idea for theists.

Yes, I suppose it's a little presumptuous of me to write off this post at this point, but between this and the other post dealing with the same topic, I think it's clear that the OP does not see his error and nearly everyone who's responded to him does.

In any case, it's been a fun thread, but I'm probably going to abandon it permanently.  I just don't see either side breaking through to the other.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism