Ways of Talking / Ways of Being

A new contribution from ‘Skholiast’ today, who blogs at Speculum Criticum Traditionis. I’m away from the computer tomorrow and we’ll be taking the weekend off from posting, but hopefully the debates will continue in the meantime in the posts. We’ll be back next week with more!

Skholiast, Ways of Talking / Ways of Being

I am telling a story of something that happened to me. “I crossed the street because I could see the bus coming; the light was about to change, and I know from experience it’s a long light—if I didn’t get to the stop, I’d almost certainly miss the bus. I was already in the street when I heard the squealing brakes. Thank God the driver was alert; the car missed me by barely an inch. I dropped the grocery bag; all the fruit was bruised—but only the fruit. The driver was gracious, but I can tell you I was embarrassed! Of course I missed the bus anyway—I couldn’t very well just run away after she’d screeched to a stop. I was picking up the apples when it went by.”

This banal anecdote has something in common with dozens of others we relate every day: a first-person account, it relates something I was there for, my own experience from my own point of view. I could tell it in a million different ways, but the essential quality of the events is that they happen with reference to an experiential, first-person center. In fact, there is no other center possible. If “we” were happy, this is two I’s. The only “direct access” available is first person. (We can quibble about whether even this is possible, but I want to keep things simple for now).

Now if instead I am reading a news story or a police report about a traffic accident, a very different set of discourses comes into play from the first person account I just offered. “The sedan strayed across the median line about halfway up the block, colliding with the oncoming truck at 25 mph. Neither driver was seriously injured but both vehicles required towing. One passerby was cut by broken glass.” These are now third-person reports about particular events. This does not change if I back up and ask broader questions—about, say, the history of traffic in this city, or commerce in this region of the country, or relations between immigrants and indigenous population, or the shaping of the river-valley by glaciers. I am still asking historical questions, about what particulars happened, particulars to which I have only indirect access, whether they happened a million years ago or just now, one or two streets over.

I can focus again. Suppose instead of asking what happened, I want to know what happens. This need not be a purely hypothetical question, but it is no longer about specifics. I may wonder about the likely traffic patterns in the city during the summer months, the laws governing physical bodies in motion, the mechanics of an internal combustion engine, or the neural and physiological events that accompany driving a car. These inquiries can draw upon particulars, which this discourse will call “evidence,” but the questions are not historical but scientific; they do not presuppose any particular actors but only general ones. The subjects of this discourse are the values of variables.

One further step back is possible. It is possible to ask, not about what happens, but about the form of these happenings, these relationships and events. One can imagine a consistent world in which a falling object accelerates at a different rate than 32 feet per second per second; but one cannot factor 32 into anything but two to the fifth power. I need not grant that a dropped apple will fall; but if a dropped apple will fall, and there is a dropped apple, it will fall. Abstracted sufficiently, these considerations take us into a pure mathematics or logic (and, arguably, into metaphysics), in which there is no longer any question of what happened or happens or even “what would happen,” but only of tenseless objects and relationships. Here we are at the furthest point from the need for a “center of experience,” indeed seemingly at a point where there is no need for any experience at all. The square root of four will be two, with or without any mathematician, because 2 and 4 are in such-&-such a relation; number itself has (or is) such a structure.

There are here four possible discourses. We might roughly describe them as: a first person-discourse about immediate experience; a third-person discourse concerning particulars; a third-person discourse concerning abstracts; and a (as it were) zero-person discourse at the most abstract level. This four-way figure has an obvious resemblance to a number of other foursquare schemes, ancient and modern, but it is independent of them, and so far my attempts to wrest it into perfect isomorphism with these have foundered.

It will be noted that in this schematic, scientific assertions and inquiry comprise only one quarter of possible discourse. This is not because the ways of being wrong vastly exceed the ways of being right; indeed, by this latter standard, to say that one quarter of all possible statements were right would be a laughable overstatement. We are not speaking of a (limitless) quantity of possible claims, but of a delimitable taxonomy of claims. The four regions can be arranged concentrically in increasing generality; they can also be treated as four quadrants, an array I will consider more closely below.

One can argue that there are lacunae in this schema; that poetry, ritual, legal pronouncements, and other categories of speech acts are excluded; in particular, prescriptive discourse presents a puzzle. If I say: “I should not have run across the street, I should have been more careful,” or, “the bus driver should have waited,” or, “there should be an extra lane of traffic,” or “the internal combustion engine ought never to have been invented,” all these counterfactual or ethical claims seem to appeal to an order of experience which does not readily map onto the quaternity laid out here. These considerations do not necessarily mean the foursquare account is not exhaustive in its own mode, for it is meant to address claims in the assertoric mode; claims of the form S is [or was] p.

This causes the question to arise: Are there natural kinds, which these four sorts of assertions are about? Is our foursquare map one of discourse alone, or is it of orders of being? Is it a map of human inquiry, or is it an ontology?
This question arises in this specific connection because the sorts of assertions we are treating here are distinguished from such other speech acts (like pronouncing a verdict or reciting a poem) by pointing to (or claim to point to) a reality beyond themselves. “I saw the meteor flash across the sky;” “The debris entered the atmosphere roughly above New Guinea and splashed into the Pacific a few minutes later;” “Friction with the atmospheric gas will tend to heat any incoming fragments to incandescence, and therefore only fragments with masses above a certain critical point will make impact on the surface;” and “Earth could not survive impact with another celestial object of moon-size or greater; the Earth still exists; therefore the Earth has not yet collided with such an object,” are four assertions differing in scope, but all of them claiming relevance beyond their own utterance. The truths they claim to name would also obtain if they were not so named; this is not the case with “I name this lunar crater “Carr-54.”

To put the matter thus is practically to beg for the angel of deconstruction to visit, but for the purposes of this post I am going to raise but not answer the question of the precise relationship between discourse and being. Indeed, as I have thought about these four regions, I have often caught myself sliding between treating “science” as a discourse and “the natural world” or “matter” as an ontological realm. The same happens, willy-nilly, with “history” and “the historical,” or indeed “logic” and “the logical.” My working assumption is that, whatever anthropological considerations attach to these discourses, the realms to which they relate have a status that is independent of that discourse. That is: to the degree that we can separate epistemology from ontology (a significant caveat), it makes sense to claim that there are truths of various orders—historical, scientific, logical, mathematical, and indeed metaphysical—which are independent even of there being minds, let alone language. Indeed, the only (and tautological) exception here is the personal realm.

As mentioned, besides being set out concentrically, the regions can also be arrayed as quadrants, along two axes. One axis divides the general from the specific: first-person and historical discourse both concern specific events, instantiations of the general considerations elaborated in the scientific or logical discourses. (Note that this has nothing to do with whether the assertions are true or not. The Ptolemaic model of the solar system is still a general discourse about what planets do; whereas, a narrative that included Venus and Saturn crossing in such-&-such an astrological house would still be a historical narrative, even though there are no such houses, and indeed even if the story included some other celestial events incompatible with such a conjunction.)

The other axis divides the irrefutable from the refutable. Both first-person intentional accounts and logical abstractions share a certain form of incorrigibility. I cannot be shown that I did not see red, even if I can be persuaded that the physical object I saw was not red. Likewise, while there can be incorrect real-world use or execution of logic (e.g., parasyllogisms), logic itself is its own tribunal. It is not quite true to say that logic has no counterexamples, but these examples are themselves logical (Gödel, Graham Priest).

On the other hand, both the historical and the scientific quarters can be regarded as mutually corrigible. Science can correct or construe an assertion of history: whatever is meant by the Book of Joshua’s account of the sun “standing still,” (Joshua 10:12-13), the Earth cannot be held to have historically ceased turning on its axis. The same relation of corrigibility obtains vice-versa; after all, an experiment is precisely a particular occurrence meant to confirm or refute a general thesis.

However, while a historical claim may refute a scientific formulation, science in general as discourse is dispositive. In general, the dispositive fields of the quaternity are, unsurprisingly, on the side treating of generalities. The true sentences in either metaphysico-logical or scientific realms can be treated as having a constraining function on what counts as intelligible, or true, in the historical and personal realms. Science is dispositive as to whether we believe the first-person accounts of another; logic for whether we even understand them. I might conceivably insist that I had beheld a simultaneously transparent and solid black wall; the canons of logic cannot gainsay this, but can dispute whether I understand my own words, and if I am recalcitrant, will conclude that communication with me on the matter is a lost cause.

Another difference between the quadrants is the role of ignorance in each. In practice, there are many occasions for the cultivation of ignorance, the systematic making-unavailable of certain facts. An audience at a stage magician’s show; a child lost in pretending; a hopeful lover letting him- or herself be seduced; the viewer of Oedipus Rex or King Lear; the members of the firing squad, one of whom has live ammunition; the quantum physicist setting up a two-slit experiment; each of these has a different investment in not knowing something. It is not complete ignorance, but carefully held within certain bounds. Sometimes there is a time limit built in (e.g., Christmas morning); sometimes there is a practical insuperability upon which I rely (it would be possible to discover which gun fired the bullet, but I do not want to and law forbids it). But the ignorance is essential for the sake of an experience. This points to one quarter—the first-person—as the particular region in which ignorance especially pertains. For the individual seeking or safeguarding a particular experience (e.g. the delight in a magician’s trick, the excitement of opening birthday gifts, or the reassuring sense that one might not have fired the executing bullet), ignorance is of the essence.

In general, we may say that neither historian nor scientist can countenance any principled ignorance; there cannot be, for them, a reason to maintain or preserve not knowing. But in logic and mathematics there is, as Gödel showed, a particular sort of ignorance (indemonstrability) that cannot be surmounted, without recourse to the first-person. If I can see that the truth of a given proposition, which cannot be proven within the limits of a certain systematic discourse, this is tantamount to saying that I have outflanked the “ignorance” of that system.

The thematic of ignorance clearly has a certain resonance with psychoanalytic and other discourses in which “the unconscious” figures, a fact which points me towards Schellingian or Hegelian speculation, with its dark Urgrund and the labor of the negative, but this is too big a topic to pursue here. But the suggestion of a “hidden” or unknown side to the realities involved suggests one final trope.

One needs to ask of the foursquare figure as a whole: To what discourse does it belong? If it collapsed into any of its own quadrants, could this only be at the cost of self-referential paradox? On the other hand, if we refuse this reduction, do we thereby claim to escape from the dispositive prescriptions of science and of logic? At the risk of taking a schematic representation too literally, one can speculate: if a consistent account were worked out, the best topology for these discourses and their respective objective realms might be not the quartered plane I have presented, but a hypercube, whose turning 3-d “shadow” gives the impression that each of its “sides” in turn contains the rest. I hasten to add that this is a model, not a geometric proof of a metaphysical position, but I use the figure to illustrate why partisans have been able to claim each of these realms to be exhaustive and fundamental. Of course having recourse to higher-dimensional topologies involves paradoxes of its own, e.g., in what “space” do these realms exist? Metaphysics always presses the question back one stage more.


6 thoughts on “Ways of Talking / Ways of Being

  1. A nice piece! I’m all for discursive taxonomies. However, I think there are a few problems with the one you’ve laid out.

    1. Not all first person discourse is necessarily dependent upon the authority of the speaker.

    There are certainly some kinds of first person discourse that privilege the speaker’s authority, such as the claim ‘I’ve decided to go shopping’. In these cases, the speaker can either stipulate what is true, or at least has some privileged role within the argument about what is true (e.g., in the argument over what my decision commits me to). There’s a debate to be had about whether first person descriptions of subjective experience fall into this category (e.g., ‘seems’ talk and the like), but I’ll leave that for now.

    What’s important is that it’s not clear that there’s any relevant difference between the claims ‘I crossed the street’, ‘He crossed the street’, and ‘Pete crossed the street’. Any authority given to me in arguments about the first claim is defeasible, and based on the fact that I’m generally a reliable reporter of things that happen to me, which would equally be the case of someone who followed me around everywhere. This latter kind of first person claims can be rephrased in third person terms without significantly changing the way in which we justify them.

    2. Some third person discourse is dependent upon the authority of other speakers.

    This follows fairly straightforwardly from the above point. Claims such as ‘Pete has decided that he will go shopping’, made by others, or indeed any privileged claim which is reasserted by someone else (with suitable substitution for the pronoun) will still be dependent upon privileged authority (i.e., Pete, or whoever the original speaker is). This indicates that although the perspective of speech (i.e., 1st, 2nd or 3rd person) can point towards deeper distinctions between forms of discourse, it shouldn’t be taken to embody them.

    3. There’s a blurry line between acts of assertion and acts of prescription.

    There are plenty of what appear to be assertions about normative matters, and not all of them can be dismissed as acts of prescription. Take the claim: ‘if one abides by the Jewish Kosher laws, then one shouldn’t eat pork’. On the face of it, this seems like a claim about something that ‘is the case’ in some sense, and it also seems that one can say this without thereby prescribing that anyone should abide by those laws. One could argue that this is some kind of conditional prescription, similar to something like ‘If you use the last of the milk, then you should buy more’, but I don’t think that’s obviously the case.

    I haven’t entirely made my mind up here, but I think that there’s at least good reason to see claims about normative matters as a constituting a distinct form of discourse, even if we don’t wish to call it ‘descriptive’ in a narrow sense.

    4. What makes metaphysics different from logic and mathematics on this schema, and can we really conceive of metaphysics as indifferent to the sciences in this way?

    Surely metaphysical propositions are subject to a different form of justification than those of mathematics and logic, and if this is the case, then we need to be given some idea of what this process of justification would look like in order to justify the claim that they are incorrigible in an analogous way. Moreover, it seems that on this model metaphysics can’t deal with things like space and time without adopting a Kantian account of what metaphysics is (i.e., unpacking the form of any possible nature as determined by our cognitive structures). If you don’t like that, then you’ve either got to make metaphysics sensitive to science (i.e., we’ve got to pay attention to the role of the concepts of space and time in physics) or abandon topics like space and time entirely.

    The other alternative is to posit some other form of access to metaphysical truth. If this is corrigible, then it will make metaphysics a different kind of discourse from mathematics and logic, and if it’s incorrigible, then you’ve just reintroduced some kind of intellectual intuition. Either way this approach is fairly ad hoc and unpalatable.

    Anyway, criticisms aside, I very much enjoyed the piece, and would love to keep talking about discursive taxonomies!

  2. Pete, pardon my somewhat tardy reply. I’m especially gratified by this generous reading, your objections notwithstanding, because I had some of your work in mind at a few points, though (quite likely) misconstruing your intent. I’ll come to that in a bit. This reply is a bit more scattered than your point-by-point presentation, but I hope it’ll be clear enough.

    Your points about 1st person accounts being capable as being parsed as or as being equivalent to 3rd-person ones, and also your one about the blur between prescription and description, also occurred to me as I was writing. It is one reason why I tended to elide the distinction between the epistemology and the ontology of the matter. I won’t deny that there’s a certain sloppiness to this. In fact, to keep ourselves to first-person accounts, a pure phenomenology would have to restrict itself to qualia and mood-states. In the brief narrative with which I started, there are several places where it spills over into 3rd-person accounts (“the diver screeched to a stop”; “the apples were bruised.”)

    However, I am not persuaded that just because one can assert the same fact from more than one point of view (“Pete crossed the street” vs “I crossed…”), that this means that the claim has lost nothing in translation, so to speak.

    When it comes to prescription (or normativity, which is clearly related), this is especially clear: “Thou shalt not seethe a calf in its mother’s milk” does not say the same thing as “According to kosher laws, it is forbidden to seethe a calf…” etc.

    Now you point out that “although the perspective of speech (i.e., 1st, 2nd or 3rd person) can point towards deeper distinctions between forms of discourse, it shouldn’t be taken to embody them.” I think I agree with you here. In fact you will notice that I have left second-person discourse out entirely. In one sense I think this is quite a significant gap; on the other hand it may not matter a whit. (It matters not because of the Thou of “Thou shalt not”, but because of the Thou in Buber’s sense. I recognize that this is a difficult dimension to make “cash out”; in any case, there is no existential Thou in this sense without an I).

    While I am not yet clear myself as to the ontological justification for this quaternity, and used the first- and third-person as a sort of bookmark for it, I feel sure there is some connection.

    As to logic and metaphysics; this i take it is the gravest of your objections (at least it seems so to me). I am glad that you noticed I had played a bit fast and loose with the border between these. In fact as i think hard about the multilemma you present me, I think my own predilection is to opt for the metaphysical intuition option (unregenerate platonist that I am). I am not saying I am right about this, it’s just the poetry that appeals to me most–what I’d like to be true. Wishful thinking aside, though, the border between metaphysics and logic/maths is indeed a little problematic here.

    I am not sure by the way that “corrigible/incorrigible” is the best way to describe the boundary that distinguishes this region from science. Corrigibility after all refers to the speaker. Insofar as logic or phenomenological (personal) experience are indeed incorrigible, one could say that the experience and the discourse are no longer distinguished. One way to illustrate is to say that the validity of a syllogism does not depend on the language of the syllogism; it is the fact of the syllogistic relationship obtaining that is indisputable. It is in a sense timeless. But of course, while scientific fact is contingent, it is also indifferent to “correction;” (gravity itself doesn’t give a damn what Ptolemy says, and it was not persuaded by Galileo). Again, this points to the difference between discourse and the “realm of being” to which the discourse pertains.

    I feel that in some way my blurriness with regard to this distinction (ontology/epist) makes me a little pre-modern, not to say pre-critical. I’m not entirely at ease with it, but there it is.

    I mentioned that I had some of your previous work in mind; specifically I was thinking of your two diagrams. I was quite struck by the fact that one of yours (your partitioning of truth claims) is concentric (as mine also can be), while in the other (your taxonomy of truth), you have what could be read as a major dualism (objective/non-objective) (which also correlate to object- and attitude-dependence, respectively) — and that roughly could almost overlay my incorrigible/corrigible split. In your chart you’ve put both “logic” and “subjective truth” on the non-objective side of the split; and “natural science” on the objective side.

    The you bifurcate both of your sides again, into “Strong” and “Weak” Objective truth, and into “Transcendental” and “Interpretational” Non-objective. If we were to count these two divisions as a single one, we might call it (less precisely) the correlate of my General/Specific division. Thus, you divide Mathematics from Natural Science, and also Logic from Subjective Truth (read my “Personal”). Whereas I keep mathematics and logic together (both under “Logic” in my quartered chart), you have split them, but it seems quite telling to me that you place one on one side of your diagram and one on the other.

    Clearly the major snag is the placement of metaphysics, which after all is what this whole matter is about. My first guess is that this intersects the question I raise at the end — where does this meta-discourse itself belong? I am surprised that no one (yet) has raised any objections to my (brief and inexact) JR Lucas-style invocation of Godel’s argument. If anything points to the “metaphysical intuition” I referred to earlier, it’s this. I do not have all this clearly thought out, but it feels to me that the attempt to model the whole realm of all possible discourses, even informally, is a potential breeder of paradox; but paradoxes themselves can be fecund, as Godel showed; generative of insights even when (or rather, precisely when) formal rigor is pressed to its (formally shown) limits. I guess I would say, if pressed, that the whole chart is metaphysics.

    But I’m ready to be out-argued on any of these formulations, as long as I can be true to my intuitions.

  3. I think you’re leaning on this indeterminacy between epistemology and ontology too much, rather than remaining agnostic about the relation between them. There’s broadly two strategies that you can take with regard to the relation between different types of discourse and what they talk about: 1) You can understand the epistemological status of discourses in terms of the metaphysical status of their objects, 2) You can understand the metaphysical status (or lack thereof) of their objects in terms of their epistemological status. The problem is that you seem to be vacillating between these two strategies.

    Personally, I take the latter route. I think that we understand the epistemological structure of discourse first and that this places constraints upon our metaphysics. Some people think this makes me a correlationist. Their reasoning is that I make the nature of entities dependent upon the way we talk and think about them. This is false though. Rather, I use the epistemological analysis of discourse to delineate those things we talk about which are completely independent of our attitudes about them, and thus what can count as having anything like a metaphysical status. The alternative approach simply assumes that everything we can talk about has some metaphysical status (e.g., fictional characters, numbers, qualia, etc.).

    For me, the discursive taxonomy isn’t metaphysics, it’s epistemology. But it’s a condition of understanding what metaphysics is and how to go about it. I can also say exactly where the taxonomy is situated within itself. It’s located squarely in ‘the transcendental’.

    I’ve got another 3 points to make in response, and it’s nice to break them up, so here I go:-

    1. If you can’t give me some idea of what’s lost in translation between ‘I crossed the street’ and ‘Pete crossed the street’, then I don’t see why I should accept that anything has been lost. It’s true that when I say the former, it will be accompanied by a bunch of sensations, recollections and feelings that the person who says the former won’t experience, but it seems to me that this is the case for the any claim made by two different individuals. I don’t think this means that we can never make the same claims as one another, but rather that all of these phenomenal experiences have nothing to do with the claim’s content.

    2. The appeal to some special form of metaphysical intuition is quite simply a just so story. Beyond it’s terrible ad hocness, it also screws up the epistemology of regular perceptual intuition (if we are to understand that they are species of a single genus, and if we’re not, then we’ve got no idea what it is we’re talking about when talking about ‘metaphysical intuition’). This is because it forces us back into something like epistemological foundationalism, where the intuitively produced claims form the beginning of chains of reasoning, but cannot themselves have reasons demanded for them.

    Sellarsian approaches to perception move beyond this view by allowing us to challenge the reliability of causal mechanism through which observation claims are produced. Observation claims thus open up onto arguments about these causal mechanisms. This strategy simply cannot work in the case of metaphysical intuition, as there is no way to identify, let alone argue about, causal mechanisms underlying the production of foundational metaphysical claims.

    If we accept this kind of approach to intuition, then we effectively destroy the social dimension of justification. All justification fundamentally collapses into the personal experience of the correctness of claims, be they metaphysical or empirical. And, as noted, if we allow this model for metaphysical intuition, there seems to be no good reason not to extend it to perception too.

    3. With regard to the affinities between our schemata, I think that there are important disanalogies you’ve overlooked:-

    i) The objective/non-objective split does loosely correspond to your corrigible/incorrigible split, but it’s really more complicated (although you do suggest you’re not happy framing things in terms of ‘corrigibility’ anyway). On the one hand, what corresponds to incorrigibility in my schema is not a special kind of access (i.e., to pre-defined things like qualia and whatnot), but a special kind of authority, i.e., the ability to stipulate what is true rather than the ability to infallibly grasp what is true. On the other, the availability of this kind of authority doesn’t actually extend across all forms of ‘non-objective’ discourse. For example, in arguments about whether Thor is the son of Odin, we confer a certain kind of authority on the norse people and their practices in determining whether this is the case, but we don’t give any specific person the ability to stipulate the truth. The play of authority here is far more complicated. It’s even more complicated in the case of ‘transcendental’ truth, but I won’t go into it.

    ii) The weak/strong distinction and the transcendental/interpretative distinction don’t line up with your general/specific distinction. This can be seen from the fact that both what you call ‘scientific’ and ‘historical’ truths are to be found within my category of ‘strong objective truth’. It’s true that everything in the ‘weak objective’ category and everything in the ‘transcendental’ category is general, but not everything in the other two categories is specific.

    Anyway, I hope that clears a few things up!

  4. Pete,

    Regrets that I cannot respond at length to the whole of your remarks in the depth they deserve. But I’ll try at least to touch on each of your points:

    1– I think people will be accusing each other of correlationism for a good long while, and I don’t plan to lose much sleep over it (despite the fact that After Finitude really did shake me out of some dogmatic dozing). In any case, if people think you a correlationist, they ought to think me an absolute idealist! In any case, I am willing to cop to doing a bit of vacillation — even to trying to eat my ontological cake and have it too — and this may not be a legitimate ploy; but my main sympathies lie with the first option you mention– to wit, that any object has a metaphysical status. But having said this, I think you could still critique the position I sketch as toying too freely with the epistemology/ontology border.

    2– re. the ad hoc notion of metaphysical intuition, I’d almost concede the “just-so”-ness of it, except that there’s something ad hoc (is there not?) about consciousness itself. As you note, if we go this route, we risk losing the social justification for perception claims. But I rather wonder whether we haven’t actually just made the justification of metaphysical claims social in a different way; metaphysics is a great ongoing conversation, even within a single thinker. After all, what is the intuitiveness of the law of contradiction? One ‘just sees’ that one can’t have both X and ~X. Now I suspect that this is where the real disagreement may lie between us, and I rather wish we could go at it over any number of pints (which is what it might take til we even quite understood each other). (Maybe next time I am on that side of the pond).

    3– On the analogy/disanalogy of our respective schemes, my remarks were just meant to point out some rough surface similarity, for reflection. I quite agree that ‘the identification is not complete,’ as Chesterton once remarked about Roman Catholicism and some form or other of ancient paganism. I wouldn’t think anyone would be likely to mistake mine for yours or vice-versa. As I read your charts, your weak/strong and transcendental/interpretative will not collapse into a single polarity at all.

    Thanks too for clarifying where you see historical fact as falling in your own chart; This seemed the obvious place, but I wasn’t sure.

    When you say, “what corresponds to incorrigibility…is not a special kind of access …but a special kind of authority, i.e., the ability to stipulate what is true rather than the ability to infallibly grasp what is true.”, I take it you are more or less saying that what’s at stake are rules or mores for discourse, not in fact litmus tests for ontological categories.

    I’m now dashing to work, and I also want to comment on Fabio’s post, but I hope we’ll be able to come back to this. I don’t suppose that I have satisfactorily answered you, esp. on this matter of “intuition,” but this is what I can do for now– until I think harder and either get a eureka or change my mind.

  5. I see on re-reading that I failed to address one other point of yours, Pete (though you may wonder if I have addressed any of them at all): the question of what is “lost in translation” between you saying “I crossed the street” and me saying “Pete crossed…” I am a little puzzled as to how to begin here. Doubtless these two sentences refer to the same state of affairs, but the notion that this makes them completely interchangeable strikes me as very strange. I am in general sympathetic to the sort of move you make when you say, Look, if you can’t tell me what you mean by this, I don’t see why I should accept that you mean anything at all. But in this case, well, it feels as if this verges on a sort of eliminativism–an aspiration to explain everything in 3rd-person terms, to make every assertion translatable into the 3rd person. And I guess I just deny that this is true.

    As soon as I say this, a great deal of my Wittgenstein echoes back at me about the nonsense of private language claims, or LW’s foil banging himself on the knee and saying, “Well, but no-one can feel THIS pain!” So I know that there are arguments against this claim of first-person irreducibility. Also, I am quite sure that you are yourself not arguing for eliminativism and I don’t mean either to suggest that you are or that your position entails it; I’m only saying what it reminds me of.

    Aside from this, I also regret beginning two consecutive sentences in my last comment with the phrase “in any case,” a rhetorical infelicity as lamentable as any philosophical mistake.

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