Saturday, November 05, 2011

Flirting with linguistic idealism

Vallicella concedes to David Brightly here that the only way to get at 'truthmakers' is via the nominalisation of sentences.  For example
Tom is fat ==> Tom's fatness
Tom is seated ==> Tom's being seated
All we seem to be doing is turning a verb and noun phrase into a verbal noun or gerundive.  I agree.  This has a an affinity with my position on assertion.  The verb contains something that turns a noun phrase such as 'Caesar's death' into 'Caesar died'.  This cannot be nominalised, for if it could be, the verb would no longer be a verb.  All the philosophical difficulties connected with the notion of assertion, truth, truthmaking, extralinguistic reality, Bradley's regress etc etc are down to this simple, almost trivial fact.  The reality that we are trying to communicate by means of a sentence must include what we are communicating by a verb, and not just a verbal noun.  Thus we cannot name or designate or refer to this reality.  For naming or designation or reference is a function of noun phrases, not of verbs, and we can only communicate what is real - what is the case - by means of a verb.

Which means that it cannot be 'a reality' at all.  For the demonstrative noun phrase 'that reality' is ipso facto a noun phrase.  We need to add that this putative reality is a reality, that it really is the case.  But 'is the case' is a verb phrase.  If we nominalise it, we are back to 'its being the case', which does not quite capture 'the reality'.  Is its being the case a fact? Or is it something merely claimed by John, or Freddy?  To convey the reality, we need a verb, and thus convey more than 'the reality'.

Yet Vallicella still wants more, so it seems.
And yet surely we cannot rest content with saying that 'Tom is seated' is just true. Surely there is more to a true sentence than the sentence that is true. It can't be language all the way down. Or all the way out. I get the sense that nominalists like Ed are flirting with linguistic idealism.
Not really.  There clearly is more to a true sentence than the sentence that is true.  It's just that we can't name it or refer to it.


Anthony said...

"Is its being the case a fact?"

Good question. What would that entail? Do [any] facts exist? Does the fact that it is the case exist?

J said...

That's not much of an example for linguistic idealism (ignoring we should). Someone like Peirce was saying all thought pre-supposes language. Ie perception is not "the fact". In brief. Obviously we don't speak in pictures--thought demands language. Peirce was a man of science not a postmodernist denying the reality of appearance.

Relatedly--perceiving a correspondence of idea and reality--which Mav B., Frege Jr., hastily dismisses----becomes a fact statement or claim (when needed--detective work,journalism, empirical science). Now, that doesn't mean it's necessarily the case (as anyone who ever read a page of Hume would understand) that the idea of the observer matches the perception/phenomena..but obviously it does, often. Evidentialism demands it. The cop investigating the scene sees a gun on the floor next to the murder victim,and they take prints, etc. Writes it up in the report (hopefully accurately), and that is accepted as fact..and true (regardless of any quibbles from naive Cartesian types who deny external reality--not that yd likely find any around a court, unless they're on trial).

J said...

A Mav P type--or Ivy League idealist would probably dismiss that as common-sense-ism or something--and that may not be how all knowledge works (pure mathematics, ie platonic-Fregean formalism) but a correspondence account of Truth (aka empiricism however offensive it sounds) has hardly been defeated, however vull-gar platonists or mystics find it. What are global warming researchers doing? Empiricism, mainly (including the atmospheric studies, analytical chemistry etc). (leaving aside the Peircean speculations--tho even Peirce insisted on observation..and measurement, as Quine knew--ie Peirce was rather ..eclectic).

One might say...the hasty dismissal of empiricism is itself an elitist impulse--as with Vallicella's hasty dismissal of what he takes to be ."progressives"--the noble philosopher-aesthete is above the quotidian concerns of mere facts, and naturalism, etc. Billy Maverick didn't read the Republic very carefully. Socrates and Maestro P. however ancient and salty were not pseudo-aristocrats. While formalists (geometers and one might say pythagoreans) they opposed the helots and machiavellians that BV fancies himself--they were anti-capitalist even in those ancient days(ie, condemning usury, corruption of currency, hoarding, etc). .