In my most recent post, I argued for the coherence of analyticity by proposing that concepts are things that exist out there in the real world (i.e. are mind independent). I’ve come to rethink this ontology of concepts.
What are the laws of logic, and are they universal? Are the laws of logic something that exists “out there” and our symbolic and syntactical conventions merely a way of describing it? Or do our logical propositions and assertions dictate the truth? This may seem like an easy question to answer, but not everyone agrees.
When we speak of a property or trait instantiated by an object, we take two assumptions into account: the object in question has a property Bo which causes it to interact with the surrounding world in a particular way, and the perceiver has the property Bp which causes them to perceive those interactions in a particular way. This is an asymmetric relationship between perceiver and perceived.
A possible world is a way in which it is logically possible (does not result in contradiction) for reality to exist. There is a possible world in which everything is exactly the same, but it is 1 degree warmer than it is now; there is a possible world in which COVID-19 never existed; there is a possible world in which everything is exactly the same, but there is +1 more person existing right now. What is the nature of these possible worlds, and specifically, what is the nature of my relationship to myself in these possible worlds?
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 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.