We are considering Popper’s W3. McEvoy notes: “There are number of distinct
issues here. Some relate to Popper's views; others relate to other possible
views of W3. E.g., in Popper's version, W3 is ‘restricted in access’ only to
humans, and W3 contains human products. Other animals may have sophisticated
analogues of W3-based knowledge, but they only have "knowledge" either by way
of W1 or W2 - for example, a W1-driven programme of action or W2 processing.”
And I wonder if Popper would restrict to ‘animal,’ since I believe McEvoy would
argue that trees KNOW.
“In Popper's version, W3 is ‘restricted in access’ only to [Homo sapiens], and
W3 contains products [by Homo sapiens].”
“Culture,” as I think Tylor defined it.
McEvoy, above: “Other animals [than Homo sapiens] may have sophisticated
analogues of W3-based knowledge, but [these species] only have ‘knowledge’
either by way of W1 or W2 - for example, a W1-driven programme of action or W2
I see. I guess I like the qualification, “in access,” which seems key here. It
reminds me of Prince Maurice’s Parrot, as discussed by Locke in “Essay
Concerning Humane [yes, that’s the way he typed it] Understanding.” For Prince
Maurice’s parrot SPEAKS like a Homo sapiens. And the parrot may have some
‘analogue’ (‘sophisticated’ I restrict to Cole Porter and Noel Coward – vide
“The Sophisticates”) of what Popper has as Homo sapiens’s W3. But we may not
want to say that Prince Maurice’s parrot has ACCESS to this ‘analogue.’ In
other words, as Freud would say, ‘no discontent with civilisation,’ ‘no
culture’. No ‘transmission of culture’ and the rest of it. This also reminds me
of a little note in Grunebaum’s Papers at the Bancroft “Read chimp lit.”!
McEvoy: “It is, of course, open to others to suggest, against this exclusively
[Homo sapiens] version of W3, that there is a W3 for other animals.”
Well, I took the preliminary comment to set the key on “access” – or “access
to”. Animals other than Homo sapiens may have analogues of Homo sapiens’s W3,
yet no access to it. Mind. This is not v. different from Grunebaum’s view. In
Grunebaum’s view, while he was ready to allow that animals (other than Homo
sapiens] can m-intend, he explicitly stated, in his “Prejudices and
predilections,” that it was S. R. Schiffer, while writing his DPhil Oxon, who
convinced Grunebaum that only Homo sapiens can m-intend. Grunebaum’s
metaphysics is also Homo-sapiens-centred in that, as he says, ‘cats, adorable
as they are, are less prone to be the subject of the faculty of reasoning.’
Grunebaum distinguishes between ‘human’ (which is the W1-W2 equivalent of “Homo
sapiens”) from ‘person’ (which is a ‘metaphysical transubstantiation).
McEvoy: “But let us work a little with Popper's views and his reasons for
restricting World 3 to being a product ONLY of [Homo sapiens] mental [or
psychological] activity (and to be uniquely accessed by [Homo sapiens]
[psychological] activity). Personally, I think this view is most open to
challenge at the level of the higher animals but Popper is on solid ground with
Well, an amoeba seems to _know_ (in some loose usage of ‘know’) as a tree seems
to ‘know’ when it comes to where to spread its roots. I’m never sure what’s
lower about the lower animals. But I was wondering since Popper claims to be an
‘evolutionist’ of sorts why he would fix, as per definition, that there is this
‘anthropocentrism,’ which sounds so anti-Darwinian on the face of it (vide
Darwin, “The expression of emotions in man and animals.”)
McEvoy: “Take the bee: it navigates between flowers and hive using the position
of the sun as a reference point. More incredibly, it can communicate positional
information to other bees: the bees have evolved a complex language to tell
each other where the best nectar is, using the sun as a reference point.”
Well, I’m not sure T. Wharton, a sympathiser of Grunebaum, would call it a
‘language’. The bee seems unable to _lie_, for example.
McEvoy: “Even more amazingly, the bee can do this at night, by referencing the
sun's position on the other side of the world. A bee's brain has less than a
million neurons, whereas a human brain has between 100 and 200 billion neurons.
How does the bee do it? Does it have a 'bee World 3'? In Popper's view, the
bee's system of communication is devoid of any W3 element.”
This phrase may be ambiguous. For we were saying that it’s about whether a bee
(which has an ANALOGUE of Homo sapiens’s W3) may have access to this analogue.
And this seems to be what Popper is denying.
McEvoy: “It might LOOK like it might have some W3 elements - especially given
the W3-based sophistication that we, as humans, would need to achieve in order
to simulate the bee's achievements in communicating at night by referencing the
sun's position on the other side of the world. But this appearance is illusory,
and it would be a huge mistake to think the bee has any 'bee World 3': it would
be like thinking a dog's sense of smell is W3-based because we would need to
make very advanced W3-based achievements before we could build a machine that
could detect chemicals in the air to the same degree as the dog's nose.”
So, in the bee and the dog is NATURE, not NURTURE, as it were – and in Nature,
W3 is ‘otiose.’
McEvoy: “In both the case of bee communication and the dog's nose, what has
happened is very largely (if not entirely) W1-based, with no W3:- the bee's and
dog's sensory system has evolved to detect and respond and act on signals from
the environment, but this evolution is a product of 'natural selection' that
can be largely (if not entirely) explained within W1. Another example: we might
need a highly developed W3-based knowledge to build a telescope that could see
at distances akin to a bird of prey, but that does not mean the bird of prey
sees at those distances using any mechanism that is W3-based.
Again, nature, not nurture.
McEvoy: “So we should not mistake the sophistication and ingenuity by which
evolved W1 sensory mechanisms can reflect or embody a form of animal
‘knowledge,’ and the fact we could only simulate those mechanisms using
W3-based knowledge, as showing that those W1 sensory mechanisms involve some
animal W3. The main factor that marks, for Popper, a process as lacking any W3
basis is that 'error-correction' is always only what is corrected as part of
(the operations of) the W1 or W2 system itself - there is no 'error-correction'
by way of conscious critical reflection on objective W3 content.”
Well, I see the point about the higher animals now. There is a documentary on
Jane Goodall currently playing which may give one clue or two on this.
LEARNABILITY seems to be an associated concept. We are not expecting full
‘consciousness’ or ‘critical competency,’ or ‘self-referential attitudes,’ but
with the higher animals that Goodall interacted, pretty good analogues of them
seem to be in the offing.
McEvoy: “If we may allow that animal W1 processes can embody ‘knowledge’ of
great sophistication, we may allow that animal W2 processing may also reflect
underlying ‘knowledge’ of great apparent sophistication - but without making
the mistake of thinking any W3 is involved, or that there is any animal
deploying W2 conscious reflection on 'W3 content' and making 'error-correction'
by way such conscious critical reflection. Of course, some of this is
potentially open to test, though there will be dispute as to what constitutes
an adequate test here.”
I wonder what Goodall would consider a test, and I’m reminded of ‘read chimp
“Say, an ape could be taught to master the sequence of natural numbers to the
following extent, by correlating each symbolised number with a number of
bananas, so that, from a pile of bananas, the ape when presented with the
symbol '2' could retrieve 2 bananas from the pile, and when presented with the
symbol '3' could retrieve 3 bananas, etc. Would this show the ape had grasped
the numbers in W3 terms - or merely that the ape has grasped certain physical
Also interesting is the ‘combinatorial’ ability that we connect with lingo.
Chomsky and Grunebaum would seem to suggest that this combinatory is ‘infinite’
in the case of ‘Homo sapiens’ (“potentially infinite,” if you want), whereas
with apes, this does not seem to be the case. Washoe and her mates, for
example, were able to combine the hundreds of signs that they learned into
novel combinations (that they had never been taught, but rather created
themselves) with different meanings. When Washoe's mate Moja didn't know the
word for "thermos", Moja referred to it as a "METAL CUP DRINK". However,
whether or not Washoe's combinations constitute genuine inventive language is
controversial, as, inter alii, alla Grunebaum, H. S. Terrace contends by
concluding that seeming sign combinations do not stand for a single item, but
rather were three individual signs.
Taking the “thermos” example, rather than METAL CUP DRINK being a composite
meaning “thermos,” it could be that Washoe is indicating there was an item of
metal (METAL), one shaped like a cup (CUP), and that could be drunk out of
McEvoy: “Obviously we would have to seriously re-think Popper's version of
World 3 if an ape so trained one day grabbed a card marked '10' from their
handler, and then a card marked '4', and, having made a strange hand gesture,
retrieved 40 bananas from the pile; and then grabbed a '10', then '5', then the
gesture and then retrieved 50 bananas etc. - so it appeared the ape had
advanced to multiplication by its own understanding of how numbers may relate
in W3 terms.”
I agree. My reference to signs Popper would possibly associate with the Buehler
theory of the three functions, so one has to be careful. The arguments about
learnability and syntax are also developed in the oeuvre by Donald Davidson,
and it may all relate.