Sunday, December 11, 2011

On believing the same thing

I asked: If Tom believes that snow is white, and Carol believes that snow is white, are they believing the same thing or not?  And Anthony asked rhetorically, if I am eating a hamburger, and you are eating a hamburger, are we both eating the same thing or not? If I am nervous, and you are nervous, are we both experiencing the same emotion? If I have 5 apples, and you have 5 apples, do we both have the same number of apples? I'm reading a copy of "The Great Gatsby". You're reading a different copy of "The Great Gatsby". Are we both reading the same thing?

If we are both eating a hamburger, then in one sense we are eating the same thing, namely hamburger.  Perhaps we could say the sameness in question is a 'formal' identity.  In another sense we are not, given that there are probably two hamburgers in question, hence there is no sameness in the sense of 'numerical' identity.  Clearly there is no numerical identity between what Tom and Carol believe, even though they both believe that snow is white.  But if the identity is formal, where is the matter which has the form?  The form of  hamburger is embedded an organic carbon compound (meat).  The form of "The Great Gatsby" is embedded in another compound (tree pulp, paper).  What is the material that embeds the form of the proposition 'snow is white'?

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12 Comments:

Blogger Anthony said...

The "Tom believes that snow is white" question was actually yours, not mine.

And my other questions were rhetorical ones meant as the answer to yours :).

Tom's belief that snow is white is a different thing from Carol's belief that snow is white. I suppose in modern terminology you could call them tropes. But they share a common attribute of that-snow-is-white-ness.

4:29 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>The "Tom believes that snow is white" question was actually yours, not mine.

Too much haste. I have changed it.

5:33 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

>> What is the material that embeds the form of the proposition 'snow is white'?

In simple terms, the material is Tom (and Carol, and anyone else who believes that snow is white). In slightly more detailed terms, the material most likely is the brain of Tom (and Carol, etc.). As for the most detailed explanation, you'd have to ask a neuroscientist, and they might not even be able to answer you to your satisfaction. We might not yet know.

What is the material that embeds the form of the color red?

We can say that it's the apple. We can get a bit more detailed and say it's the skin of the apple. Up to a few hundred years ago we couldn't say much more than that. Wavelengths hadn't been discovered yet, and certainly not the quantum mechanics needed to explain *why* certain compounds reflect certain wavelengths.

But we could still say that the apple is red, and that it's different from the other apple, which is also red.

5:39 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

I guess I spoke a bit too soon too, as I should add that I am under the impression that material alone does not seem to encode beliefs, but that it most likely is the state of the material which encodes the beliefs.

I say this in the sense that a car alone does not encode its momentum, but it is the state of the car which encodes its momentum.

5:48 pm  
Blogger J said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:55 pm  
Blogger J said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:57 pm  
Blogger J said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:23 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:36 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

Trolling comment and subsequent posts removed. Do not feed trolls pls.

10:49 pm  
Blogger Michael Sullivan said...

If we are both eating a hamburger, then in one sense we are eating the same thing, namely hamburger. Perhaps we could say the sameness in question is a 'formal' identity.

You're sounding suspiciously realist here!

5:50 am  
Blogger J said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:52 am  
Blogger J said...

not even competent logic hacking. The party over, neo nazis

4:41 pm  

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