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Seems Almost There But Not Quite...

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Posted by Aurino Souza on September 5, 2002 20:44:25 UTC

Hi Harv,

Thanks for the suggestions, I will check them out. However, from a quick read of the website you gave me, it seems Dummett is just skimming the surface of a much deeper issue.

Let me give you a specific example of what I have in mind. I was just thinking about your arguments with Paul. Paul says "thought happens" is absolutely true, you do not agree. What I discovered is that you are both right, but I have no easy way to explain why. In essence it goes like this:

For Paul, "absolutely true" denotes a specific property of a statement. We don't know for sure what that property is, and I'm actually taking a guess that Paul thinks "absolutely true" is a property of a statement, it could be something else. But I'll assume I'm right while at the same time assuming we don't know exactly, in full detail, what the property is. That seems justified.

For Paul, "thought happens" is a statement which has the property of being "absolutely true". Only four words and it's already a mess! We don't know exactly what Paul means by "thought", we don't know exactly what he means by "happens", and we don't know exactly what he means by "absolutely true".

How do we solve the problem? Usually, we think more communication will make the meanings of those four words clear and eventually we'll understand exactly what Paul is thinking. However, usually we realize that the more we communicate, the greater the problem becomes, with more words with obscure meanings being added to a mix that soon runs out of control! It usually ends up with a commitment to "agree to disagree", which is a confession of a total failure to communicate.

Is there a solution to the problem? I believe there is, and that is by understanding that what a person is saying is not what the person is thinking, or rather, not what we would think if we were to say the same thing. We must understand the constraints being imposed on the speaker by the rules of language, and we must try and "filter out" those constraints from the message.

The philosophers you mentioned seem more concerned about going the other way, but that may be a wrong impression. That's why I'll check, but if you know of someone who addresses the particular issue I'm trying to explain here, I'd be glad to hear about it.

Cheers,

Aurino

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