The late 19th / early 20th century philosopher and mathematician Gottlob Frege famously came up with the Sense and Reference distinction in order to clarify issues in his logical system. Briefly put, the reference of a word (I’ll use my favorite example of “table”) is the actual object that the word signifies: the referent of the word “table” is the actual, physical table existing out there in the real world. The sense of a word is the way in which it exists as a psychological representation: the sense of “table” is how I conceive the table in my mind. This was important to Frege because examples where we have two (or more) words that signify a single referent can have a different sense, and therefore lead to different inferences, even if the referent is the same. How, though, might we relate these ideas?
When someone utters a word that reaches your ear, the sound gets broken down into component waves via Fourier transform which vibrate within cochlear fluid and cause the movement of mechanoreceptor hair cells at the organ of Corti to produce electrochemical signals in the form of neurotransmitter release whereby the movement of the fluid stimulates the filaments of individual cells receptor cells to become open to receive the potassium-rich endolymph, causing the cell to produce an action potential which is transmitted through the spiral ganglion to the auditory portion of the vestibulo-cochlear nerve to the the brain, which signals to the cortex with new information that is then compared to predictions based on prior experience in a Bayesian fashion to produce the phenomenology of the experience of hearing, interpreting, and understanding the word. But where (and how), in all this, does the phenomenology of meaning arise?
The laws of physics, to the amateur science enthusiast, can sometimes seem like a disparate bunch of equations without any real underlying connection. That doesn’t seem good enough, so you dig a little deeper, and soon discover that there is this thing called Lie Theory, with Lie Groups and Lie Algebras. You want to find out what all this is, and the only things you can find just give you another bunch of equations and leave it there as if those unexplained symbols are good enough for you to understand. Well, I’m at that point, and here I am going to talk about Lie Theory and its connection to physics in hopes that explaining things simply and intuitively will help me to better understand it – and if that helps any readers understand it better, that’s good, too.
Einstein is one of the most famous scientists in history, and one of the most famous equations of this most famous scientist is E=mc2 which, although famous, most people don’t know what it means. It is, of course, the equivalence of mass and energy. But what does that mean?
For those who may be paying attention to my recent posts, I am currently reading the collection of essays Metametaphysics, which talks about how metaphysics ought to be done. There is a lot of discussion about whether problems in ontology, such as mereological sums (if there is a tablewise arrangement of atoms, does some “new” object that we call a table come into existence, or is that just a shorthand way we talk about such tablewise arrangements of atoms?), are just semantic. In other words, when I say that a table is nothing more than a tablewise arrangement of atoms, and you say that a table is something above and beyond the tablewise arrangement of atoms, are we simply just using the word “table” in different ways, thus resulting in the differences in how we conceptualize what a table is? Here I am going to discuss (more so than review) the first three essays in this collection.
Metametaphysics, edited by David J. Chalmers, David Manley, and Ryan Wasserman, Copyright 2009, Oxford University Press, 540 pages
Essay 1: “Composition, Colocations, and Metaontology” by Karen Bennett
Essay 2: “Ontological Anti-Realism” by David J. Chalmers
Essay 3: “Carnap and Ontological Pluralism” by Matti Eklund
Ontological indeterminacy is when we don’t have a way to map our conceptual understanding of existence onto actual existence. Or, as Allen Ginsburg defined it: “Ontological indeterminacy (OI) involves incompatible conceptual systems being applicable to a domain with equal empirical adequacy”. But what happens when we don’t have empirical adequacy, such as with quantum field theory and chaos theory?
What is it that makes an object the thing that it is? Is it some kind of substance onto which properties are predicated? Can two (or more) things colocalize (there exists in a single region of spacetime both a thing I call my hand and a thing I call my fist)? In what follows, I am going to riff on some ideas I have for a theory of thingness.
The news these days often cover issues that, for some reason or another, leave people either angry and hateful toward one another, or furrowing their brows in a vain attempt to understand the situation. Here I will give some simple answers to these thorny issues.
The colloquial way of defining what it means for a statement to be true is that it corresponds to reality: if I say “it is raining” and it’s also the case that it’s raining, then what I said is true; if I say “it is raining” and it’s not the case that it’s raining, then what I said is false. This is an extensional truth condition – the extension of the proposition must be the case in reality for the statement to be true. But is this really how truth works? In what follows, I am riffing on some ideas floating around in my head, so feel free to point out any problems so as to help me clarify my thoughts.
What is the meaning of life? This question is profound, but has become so cliche that its profundity is often overlooked. The problem, though, is that to produce an answer to the question requires that we hold prerequisite suppositions: what is the nature of humanity? Where does meaning originate? Does meaning itself have some yet other transcendent meaning?
Imagine a terrorist group infiltrated your country. For my hypothetical, I am going to use the U.S. since that is where I live, but this thought experiment could apply anywhere. Imagine it is known by everyone – you, your friends and family, your government – that this terrorist group exists, but nobody knows who is in it. This terrorist group is very secretive and good at keeping theirs and everyone else’s identities a secret.
If you have not yet heard of “the” Coronavirus you must not be paying attention. However, knowing about it does not necessarily mean you are informed about it. There seems to be a lot of misinformation regarding this disease. Perhaps here I can make things a little more clear.