Some time ago, I've launched an Attack on Indexicality of the type promoted by John Perry in "The Problem of the Essential Indexical". It's from this link: http://t-lea.net/issues_from_the_internet.html#AAI
It may be an expert topic and thus not very interesting to most, but if you bother to read it, you may get some information to consider. It follows:
I consider here the three indexicals, I, here, and now. Only these!
We want to have a timeline. So here I'll try to remove now by:
A human by the name Jesus, social security number so-and-so, white robe, long hair is dead, therefore we are in year 0 (zero).
We want to mention a certain place. So here I'll try to remove here by:
A place is at the coordinates so-and-so in the system of planet Earth.
We want to mention a certain person. So here I'll try to remove I by:
A person by the name so-and-so, with the social security number so-and-so, perhaps a description and a history so-and-so.
So, are indexicals necessary? I suggest that they are wholly ripe for elimination, theoretically. They are around because they are practical. Let's say we have an actual, obvious space and in it is an object. By giving the right description, we can remove the need for pointing and thus the definite need for indexicals disappears.
Let's try with an example from John Perry's article.
John Perry writes something like this: "I'm looking for the person who is making a mess in the supermarket. After a while I find that the person who is making the mess is myself. I'm making a mess. I'm taking action to limit the mess."
If I'm to explain this without indexical, I:
(John Perry is making a mess at time, t1, in the supermarket, but he does not know this.) John Perry is looking for the person who is making a mess in the supermarket at time, t2. After a while at time, t3, John Perry finds that the person who is making the mess is himself. John Perry has been making a mess. John Perry takes action at time, t4, to limit the mess.
F**k the indexicals!
What do you think? Can we do without the indexicals? If something is unclear, please point it out!
P.S.: Hans Reichenbach is developing something similar in "Elements of Symbolic Logic, 1947", §50: Token-reflexive Words. We are in the same direction, I believe, with me being a bit more radical.
Isn't language necessary for the expression of thoughts and communication? I can't see that it's around for sole practical reasons. Where is the alternative? I think it's unfair if you undermine this thread with bullsh*t! Why don't you just let it sink to the bottom of the ocean? Be serious!
That's good. I've been searching the net for other contemporary articles and I've been unsuccessful so I haven't searched this time around. Well, people, if you want the article known, just consume it! I don't exactly know the importance of indexicals, but I've already hinted at the practical importance. You don't have any arguments for the sake of theory? I'm just curious, how deep into Phil. of Lang. are you?
First, John Perry is arguing for the strict necessity of especially the essential indexical. Second, you have my attack on that kind of notion. There is no implication that the indexicals are going to be dropped from the language or that there is a wish for that kind of thing. This is foremost about the necessity of the indexicals and maybe also about certain contexts, the way I understand it.
I haven't analysed whether some parts of language are necessary or not. Has there been an issue on whether natural language is sufficient for the description of science? I believe a lecturer I've had has made a confirming comment on that.
Some people say that time isn't objective, but I think you can make every point in time objective as long as you stick to it and work out it's relativity to the other parts of the universe.
I think a language looks better if there's no necessity for indexicals. Somehow, it then appears scientifically deeper.
There is a strange way of argumentation in the paper of John Perry. It's like there's only been sloppy attempts of making fitting, exhaustive descriptions replacing the indexicals and when one gives this up, one latches onto the necessity of the indexicals. Why can't we assume: "at this moment" = "now", for example?
Reinvigoration. I'm sorry for having taken so long.
"The person that has the frame of mind of the person of context that is given" is "I".
"The person already given"="the given person"=indexical "myself"
"The description of location and person that gives the person"=indexical "I"
I think "I" includes "here". I have therefore added location to the formula.
"The moment has arrived"=indexical "now"
I'll counter any argument from memory loss and say that one can lose the conception of the word "I" as well in the case of memory loss. I therefore think that the indexical and the exterior description is still on equal footing. Memory loss is also a matter of empiri of investigation, just to have mentioned it.
What do you put into Perry's argument except linguistic focus and reflexivity?
Quote: "1) The pain that "NameY" is experiencing is of no importance compared to the pain NameX is experiencing because I am NameX.
2) The pain that "NameY" is experiencing is of no importance compared to the pain NameX is experiencing because NameX is NameX."
I think 2) can be rephrased as
2') The pain that "NameY" is experiencing is of no importance compared to the pain NameX is experiencing because NameX is making the comparison.
I think some people speak of "now" as a time frame within which a scene is being played out.
I'm sorry I have included "himself" in the writing. It's a mistake and you are correct in pointing it out. I'll try to improve.
'I am NameX' usually means, in the indexical free world, that 'NameX is introducing NameX to others'.
Quote: "Similarly, any time after now is in the future. Also, it's now 8:04am on 6 May 2009. But it's not the case that any time after 8:04am on 6 May 2009 is in the future. In the time it took to write the conclusion, 8:04am on 6 May 2009 is in the past."
Indexical free: Similarly, any time after the sense of moment given is in the future. Also, it's in another moment given 8:04am on 6 May 2009. But it's not the case that any time after 8:04am on 6 May 2009 is in the future. In the time it took to write the conclusion, 8:04am on 6 May 2009 is in the past.
Quote: "There are ten people at a party. Someone says "bert1 knows where the host has hidden the Ferrero Rocher." I say, "bert1 is bert1". Everyone else says "So what? We all know that already." Then I say "Sorry, I meant that I am bert1". "Oh!" says everyone, "Then tell us where the Ferrero Rocher are!""
Indexical free: There are ten people at a party. Someone says "NameX knows where the host has hidden the Ferrero Rocher." NameX says, "NameX is NameX". Everyone else says "So what? Everyone in the party know that already." Then NameX says "Sorry, NameX is intending to say that NameX is introducing NameX to the others of the party and the person of the given location is in the moment doing so". "Oh!" says everyone, "Then tell the rest where the Ferrero Rocher are!"
I think my solution also solves:
There are ten people at a party. Someone says "NameX knows where the host has hidden the Ferrero Rocher." Two people (one of them NameX) simultaneously say, "NameX is NameX". Everyone else says "So what? We all know that already." Then NameX say "Sorry, NameX meant that NameX is introducing NameX to the rest of the party". "Oh!" says everyone, "Then tell us where the Ferrero Rocher are!"
Also, I don't think one should be forced to use the geocoordinates to designate a location. A good relative description can work just as well. The relative geocoordinates are supposed to solve the extreme cases.
Quote: "Are we allowed to use 'is'? Is there an implicit 'now' in 'is'?"
I certainly find that we are allowed to use a given tense as appropriate and the rest should now be obvious.
Quote: "Lets say we have a complete objective psycho-physical description of both NameX and NameY. Nowhere in these descriptions does it say which one of these people I am. When I say 'I am NameX, and not NameY' that is an extra fact not contained in the descriptions."
The indexical-free descriptions are dynamic and update as fast as new information is added to the situation. I think this is solved by what is already written.
Quote: "But something is definitely removed from the language if we remove 'I', and not just convenience."
I disagree and you and the rest have not pointed to what this may be.
Quote: "Is it a metaphysical issue?"
I think there is little to find in metaphysics regarding the descriptive use of indexicals, but that's just my opinion.
A funny fact.
In G. E. M. Anscombe's book of Mind and Language - Wolfson College Lectures 1974 1975 p. 65 it says in a footnote: "In Latin we have "ambulo" = "I walk". There is no subject-term. There is no need of one."
Quote: "What makes 'the given location' the location where NameX is?"
"Given" is a short for a more comprehensive description of information that is not included in the situation that is being analysed. It is always possible to give that kind of information. This is part of the argument against the necessity of indexicals.
As a quick response: twin people, twin planets and everything else that is a twin to something is usually given a separating name otherwise it runs counter to the custom of giving names. Twin objects with the same name are counter to intelligence.
It has already been pointed out that "himself" is an indexical in the thread. "I am John Perry" is the equal to "John Perry knows that John Perry's name is John Perry". The main issue has been to show that the indexical "I" is not essential.
Quote: "They are not the same belief. If I believe that "John Perry knows that John Perry's name is John Perry" that does not mean that I believe that "I am John Perry." As a matter of actual fact, I do hold the former belief, but not the latter."
They represent the exactly same meaning in that specific context in that situation. Obviously, when you put yourself into the equation, the situation, we are speaking of something entirely different and you fail to acknowledge this. I think you have skipped the information in this thread that says "The indexical-free descriptions are dynamic and update as fast as new information is added to the situation."
Quote: "You cannot eliminate "himself" for the same reason that you cannot eliminate "I" in the explanation of Perry's behavior. To say that John Perry finds out that the person who is making the mess is himself is to say that John Perry finds out that "I am making the mess" (that is the belief that is required to explain Perry's behavior, because if John Perry believes that John Perry knows that John Perry's name is John Perry then he will still not behave the way he does in the store unless he also believes that he is John Perry, i.e., unless he also has the belief that "I am John Perry")."
I can very much eliminate indexicals with descriptions, but I and everyone else who do it must be very sensitive to what is contained in the actual situation. I don't think you try to eliminate indexicals even. You just seem to postulate the necessity of the indexicals. If you are up for the challenge, why don't you give an example of a situation where the indexicals are necessary? I'm more than willing to make the eliminations as I have done several times already in this thread.
I believe I'm not missing Perry's point, but I have no sympathy with it. I also think that attribution of belief and belief states can very well be done by proper descriptions.
I think Perry is identifying more with his indexical "I" than he is with the unique identifier of a proper name. To a certain degree, I understand this, but not when it comes to the "full power" of description.
Quote: "So what attributions of belief do you make to Perry that explain his behavior but do not employ the first-person pronoun?"
I think the solution is to use the proper name and make a sufficient description to what it is supposed to explain including beliefs and belief states, respectively.
Quote: "Belief contexts are referentially opaque. This means that the substitution of co-referential expressions/proper names in sentences involving belief ascriptions can change the truth value of the sentences."
I don't think this is the case if it's done thoroughly.
Quote: "Consider the true sentence “Lois Lane believes that Superman can fly.” Now substitute “Clark Kent” for “Superman” and we get “Lois Lane believes that Clark Kent can fly,” which is false."
I agree that a simple switch of disguise-identities doesn't work. In this description we should compensate Lois Lane's belief by writing this: “Lois Lane believes that Superman can fly.” is equal to, in Lois Lane's eyes, “Lois Lane believes that Clark Kent in disguise can fly". This is true! We can indeed write "Superman" is identical with "Clark Kent in disguise" and vice versa to accommodate Lois Lane's view.
Just a note. For Lois Lane, the two names are not interchangeable, but for us on the outside of the situation, they are.
Quote: "Likewise, if Perry believes that “John Perry is making the mess,” but does not believe that “I am John Perry,” then he will not act as he does in the store unless he also believes that "I am John Perry", and this despite the fact that "John Perry" and "I" (when uttered by John Perry) are co-referential."
Let's turn the situation around: we can imagine, rather unlikely, that John Perry has no association to "I", but has a strong identification with his name. So when he believes "I'm making a mess", it's simply rubbish to him, but when he's in the belief that "John Perry is making a mess", there's an immediate reaction. We can hypothetically imagine that some people have brought up their child without making it learn what "I" is. This is, of course, very strange, but so and so. I believe that John Perry is simply making a postulation of our intimation of the indexical "I" and plays a psychological game around our recognition of our own name (and the power of descriptions), that is mostly an unique identifier.
My use of "intimation" is to mean "what we make dear to our heart" or something like that. I'm sorry. I'm not trying to redefine the English language.
(John Perry is making a mess at time, t1, in the supermarket, but John Perry does not know the given fact.) John Perry is looking for the person who is making a mess in the supermarket at time, t2. After a while at time, t3, John Perry finds that the person who is making the mess is John Perry. John Perry has been making a mess. John Perry takes action at time, t4, to limit the mess.
This is a context-specific description, explanation, of John Perry's behaviour.
Quote: "It is not an explanation of Perry's behavior because, of course, it leaves out the fact that he must know that he himself is John Perry before he will come to act as he does. Calling it "context-specific" does not change that fact. He may just as well have come to believe that "Roger Daltry is making a mess" as that "John Perry is making a mess" if he does not believe that he himself is John Perry."
I find that normal people definitely know their name. It's so fundamental to us that people learn their own name before they learn the meaning of "I". Obviously, I can turn this on it's head to counter you and say that "He may just as well have come to believe that "Roger Daltry is making a mess" as that "John Perry is making a mess" if he does not believe that he himself is his own "I" when he calls himself "I"". If you take this stand, it's impossible to convince you no matter what description I put on the table. So in reality, you don't ask anything of me because no matter what I answer it falls short in your view. Instead of having me to try to eliminate the indexicals, why don't you come up with a situation where you think it's impossible to eliminate the indexical? While you're at it, you're welcome to add to the paper of John Perry. Is it really impossible to explain your behaviour without using indexicals? This problem should be rife in psychology then, but I find that psychologists are able to explain behaviour all the time, even the beliefs and belief-states as long as they are communicated honestly. I really think you may be some kind of an indexical-fundamentalist as you seem to make contradictory demands that ensures the continuation of your view of the indexicals. If there is nothing new to this discussion from you, I think we have finished.
Quote: "Other than being 'wholly ripe for elimination', theoretically speaking, why do you want to get rid of indexicals? Perhaps I am being crude. Do you want to create an indexical free language?"
I want to show that indexicals are neither essential nor necessary. I want to create a potentially indexical free language.
Quote: "I mean that there would be a different description being filled in depending on what you know about the person. Does that make any sense?"
I think it certainly makes sense in this regard. From earlier: "The indexical-free descriptions are dynamic and update as fast as new information is added to the situation." Maybe there is also something to learn from it in the process.
Is this good? Cheers!
I bet that you are very sensitive to her name, your lover, as well like if you hear it over the calling system at the mall. When you say "you, my lover" I think it comes close enough to your affection for the name like "Shania, my lover". In this situation I think there's equal affection for the unique identifier as when you use "you" for your lover. You obviously put a lot into it than a third person. This angle can be accommodated for in the descriptive situation, I hold. The extremity comes down to this: as long as there are thoughts or whatever that can be expressed in communication, they are. Rather, to save time, one economises slightly, but not when it's important. There may be mental imagery swirling around in a situation, but if one uses some time on it, it's really no obstacle. In the end there's some kind of "magic" put forward by the proponents of the indexicals. I think that is unfair in the communicative situation. Is it what is "heavenly"? Is it what is unique? Is it about "extra-sensory" qualities? I don't know. I rely on the descriptive power.
Quote: "What would be the virtue that an indexical free language would have that an indexical containing language does not have?"
Good question! I can't say there is any difference at all. It may appear more "scientific" if it's indexical free, but it's really in the air. It's not a part of the purpose of this thread to answer this question. I have yet to discover the essential, the necessary about it. Cheers!
In relation to indexicals, it's worth noting that in suggesting there's a particular mystery with "I", one can equally highlight the mystery of substance. The depth of mystery of calling on a person by that person's name is equally mysterious as investigating the nature of substance. Therefore, the mystery of "I" and this person's name is exactly the same. "I" doesn't add or deduct anything to this mystery. If possible, calling on the "soul" of a person after this person's death by this person's name is equally meaningful as if this person is to use "I" in this "soul"-state. The two terms still nominate exactly the same information!
If I can recommend you a book, you can consider: The Philosophy of Language by A. P. Martinich, 5 ed.
In you case you're interested, just fire away!
[Edit, 29.04.2010:] I've found a paper by Evan C. Tiffany with the title "What is Essential about Indexicals?" (2000).
"# Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition, Vol. 100, No. 1 (Jul., 2000), pp. 35-50
(article consists of 16 pages)
# Published by: Springer" This may be an additional good view to check out as much as I've found the paper by Michael E. Levin and Margarita Levin named "The Modal Confusion in Rawls' Original Position" to be a forceful attack on John Rawls, effectuating the breakdown of the notion that these "classics" stand without (good) counter-arguments! Just a tip! As I haven't read it myself, if you bother to, tell me how it goes!
[End of edit.]