How does blue show up in the experience of blue, if it’s not a blue quale? Perhaps in the same way blue is present to you when you’re thinking of something blue.
I am going to imagine that every perceiver omits the step that leads from (1) the neurological effects of sensory stimulation through (2) the presence of a quale to (3) belief about what one is perceiving. In the absence of (2) I am going to propose that to have a sense impression is to acquire a belief. But let me be more precise.
I’m going to propose a doxastic theory of sensory states. (doxa: belief, in Greek.) On this theory, seeming to see something blue is becoming disposed to believe that one sees something blue. It’s analyzed in terms of inclinations to believe things about what one is directly seeing.
(1) S seems to see something F iff S is inclined to believe that he/she directly sees that something F is there.
The theory interprets ‘It seems to me that …’ as ‘I am inclined to believe that …’. This expresses a familiar propositional attitude. And one ordinary use of ‘it seems to me’ is indeed to speak about what one is inclined to believe: “It seems to me that all politicians are corrupt.”
I will call your attention to three primary features of the doxastic theory. First, the blue which seeming to see involves is real, genuine blue—the blue of the sky, the blue of my jeans, and not an ineffable blue indescribable in any public language. Secondly, absolutely nothing is blue when I only seem to see something blue. Thirdly, the blue is internal to the object of my experience.
In ‘Advice on Modal Logic’ Dana Scott presents truth conditions for indexical sentences like this:
for all persons p, s is true for p if and only if S.
This raises the question which instantiations of this schema will present truth conditions for particular persons p. For example,
‘I am wise’ is true for SV if and only if the only philosopher in Tarabya is wise
seems somehow to miss the mark.
Perhaps what we need to complete Scott’s theory is a way of specifying SV’s individual essence or (in Latin) haecceitas.
It turns out that just such a theory was proposed by the late medieval philosopher Duns Scotus, who must surely have felt he had much more philosophy to give the world when he passed away prematurely at age 43.
Dana Scott modestly takes no credit for the theory of haecceitas. But how could we have missed the evidence – supplied not only by the serendipitous completion of one man’s theory 680 years earlier by the other’s, but also by the fact that one man’s name is the anglicized form of the other’s – that in fact Dana Scott is the reincarnation of Duns Scotus?
Biological life and death are superficial aspects of real life and death. In this post I want to think about another aspect of real life and death: the ways in which literature and philosophy can bring life and death.
There’s a big difference between speaking and writing. For one thing, speaking makes use of sounds that are natural to human beings and are found in tiny children. Writing makes use of marks that are unnatural and conventional. Neither of them has intrinsic meaning, but speaking has something intrinsically human about it, while writing only uses a conventional craft to try to create images of human sounds.
The problems with literature go beyond its unresponsiveness to the reader. That’s a philosophical flaw to which Plato rightly objects. But even as an art it is flawed: it’s deficient both sensually and socially.
Oxford University provides vivid symptoms of the flaws. At Oxford the classics are called “literae humaniores,” which means “more humane letters,” – it usually being explained to those not in the know that “letters” are really studies, not meaningless alphabetic marks. At Oxford if you graduate with a degree in classics you have “read Greats at Oxford” which (again for those not in the know) means that you have studied, discussed, written about, thought about, and yes read classical writings. You may write the word “letters” in Latin. You may call them humane. But letters remain letters just the same.
The letter kills but the spirit gives life (1): The Paradox of the Seventh Letter and the Platonic Method
Biological life and death are superficial aspects of real life and death. That’s my understanding of the New Testament and many spiritual traditions. When Paul of Tarsus says that “the letter kills but the spirit gives life” his point is that the moral law brings real death to any who violate it but that the Spirit of God can bring real life to that person.
In these two posts I want to think with you about another aspect of real life and death: the ways in which literature and philosophy can bring life and death. First (of course), philosophy.