[lit-ideas] Re: Is Griceian Observation Theory-Laden?
- From: "Donal McEvoy" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "donalmcevoyuk" for DMARC)
- To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Fri, 1 Apr 2016 08:44:04 +0000 (UTC)
i -----------------------------> o
sensory input ----------> behavioural output>
There is potential confusion in this, even aside from its (mistaken)
We can speak of understanding experience in terms of 'inputs' and their
affects/effects on our sensory apparatus. But we invite confusion and error if
we call this 'input' "sensory input": we need to clearly distinguish the
'input' as an entity independent of its being sensed [e.g. a light wave or
sound wave] and our sense of any such 'inputs'. The entities independent of
their being sensed are not "sensory" (and belong to W1) and it is misleading to
refer to them as "sensory inputs", when they are non-sensory inputs. But
affects/effects of these inputs on our sensory apparatus are not "inputs" any
more (and belong to W2), and it is misleading to call them "sensory inputs".
The term "sensory input" borders on oxymoron.
Now the key point: when a light or sound wave [as 'input'] has an effect/affect
on our sensory apparatus, is that effect/affect independent of the processing
of the sensory apparatus? In traditional empiricism, the assumption is 'yes' -
somehow the 'input' strikes our sensory apparatus as 'sense data', where its
content is given independent of apparatus detecting it. This is a fundamental
mistake. In the case of light and sound waves, it is clear that we do not
perceive them ever as 'sense data' (where their content would be 'given'
independent of the capacities of our sensory apparatus): our sensory apparatus
can only extract from a range within the wave-input and never extracts without
processing. There are no unprocessed experiences or 'elements of experience':
which is to say, there are no sense-data.
Even the term sense-data borders, like the term sensory-input, on oxymoron. It
is little wonder that this kind of confused talk has led to all kinds of
avoidable confusions between W1 and W2 entities: but let us be clear about
Popper's views here - there is a fundamental (metaphysical) distinction between
W1 and W2, and nothing in W1 ever enters W2 (i.e. W2 has no W1 elements within
it). What does happen is (causal) interaction between W1 and W2, but this is
never by simple transfer of elements (i.e. never by W1 'elements' moving from
W1 into W2 or W2 'elements' moving from W2 into W1).
Traditional empiricism works with something like a simple 'transfer' theory
whereby W1 elements can somehow move into W2 (and in this way it assimilates
'mental objects' to 'physical objects', and to the commonsense model whereby
'physical objects' can be transferred within W1). In approaching things this
way, trad. empiricism gets into a hopeless muddle; it offers no successful or
compelling explanation of this 'transfer' (the 'behaviourist' version is just a
cop-out), and its model of 'transfer' does not fit what the sciences tell us
about the processes by which we arrive at 'experience'.
On 'Q.I.' they did another of these simple experiments that (unwittingly)
corroborate neo-Kantianism and refute traditional empiricism: they play a taped
noise that is clearly something like a human voice after it has been
electronically distorted but where the sounds communicate nothing intelligible,
then tell the audience what the voice is saying, then replay the taped noise -
now the brain, armed with the W3 content of what is being said, can easily
render the taped noise intelligible. The taped noise is invariant in W1 terms:
what has changed, in terms of it becoming intelligible, is nothing to do with
it as 'input' and everything to do with W2 activity and W3 content. Go figure.
On Monday, 28 March 2016, 10:37, "dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx"
Griceians speak of 'utterers' and 'intentions' and 'spots mean measles'.
"Black clouds mean rain", and "Smoke means smoked salmon". The perception of
a black cloud may be said to be 'theory-laden' in that the Griceian (who is
a Peirceian at heart) is wondering: index, sign, symbol? Then Grice brings
'intention', and says '... intends ...' is a combination of '...
believes...' and '... desires...' (Can the functionalist provide theory-free
observational reports of the 'behavioural outputs' correlated with these two
psychological attitudes? The Griceian then goes on to distinguish between
utterer's meaning and expression meaning, where 'expression' may be said to
be 'theory-laden'. To use Putnam's example, if an ant draws on the sand a
portrait of Winston Churchill, we would be reticent (or 'reluctant') to go
on, alla Grice, to infer that the ant means that we should remember that
memorable (anyway) Prime Minister.
In "Method in philosophical psychology", H. P. Grice develops the sort of
Functionalism that had become fashionable since Putnam's seminal essay on
the topic, followed by refinements by Putnam's student, D. K. Lewis. The idea
i -----------------------------> o
sensory input ----------> behavioural output
We don't need to postulate a mysterious entity. A psychological predicate
like "... believes..." (or as Grice prefers, "... desires ...") becomes a
_theoretical term_, within a folksy psychological theory, that is. Grice
grants that, as Witters notes, if I see a man approaching me in a threatening
attitude, 'he displays a threatening attitude' may not be just an
observational report of the agent's behavioural output: observation may be
Witters is in a way making a point that Ryle -- a self-avowed behaviourist
-- had developed in "The concept of mind". But Grice finds both Witters
and Ryle unconvincing. Only his brand of functionalism seems "to foot the
bill", as he figuratively puts it.
On the other hand, when Putnam contributed to the Popper volume in The
Library of Living Philosophers, issues of priority ensued. Popper protested
that he had claim observation to be theory-laden (if not expressed in
precisely those Hansonian terms) "long ago". Consider Popper's utterance:
"Clearly, the instruction "Observe!" is absurd."
Had Popper learned Latin in Vienna?
Let's suppose he had, and that, when later discussing 'observation', he
took the time to see if 'observe' can be used _simpliciter_ in the way he
Would a Roman ALSO find the instruction absurd?
Lewis's & Short's "Latin Dictinary" (Oxford) provide some linguistic
botany for Latin 'observare'. I will use the imperative forms when expanding
here. "Observe!" ("Observabis"). According to Lewis/Short (i) becomes
v. Observe! [pointing to a thing].
vi. Take notice!
vii. Pay attention!
Some instances cited by Lewis & Short include:
ne me observare possis, quid rerum geram, Plaut. Aul. 1, 1, 14:
quid ille faciat, ne id observes, id. Men. 5, 2, 38:
viii. Seek to catch!
Verg. G. 4, 512: lupus observavit, dum dormitarent canes, watched, waited,
Plaut. Trin. 1, 2, 133: occupationem alicujus, et aucupari tempus.
ix. Watch in order to take advantage!
Cic. Rosc. Am. 8, 22: si iniquitates observaveris, Domine, Vulg. Psa. 129,
3: tempus epistulae alicui reddendae,
Cic. Fam. 11, 16, 1: et insidiari,
xi. Be on the watch!
id. Or. 62, 210: observavit sedulo, ut praetor indiceret, etc.,
xii. Take care!
Suet. Claud. 22.—So pass. impers.: observatum est, ne quotiens introiret
urbem, supplicium de quoquam sumeretur, Suet. Aug. 57 fin.: observans
Tac. A. 14, 6: postquam poëta sensit, scripturam suam Ab iniquis observari.
Ter. Ad. prol. 1: sese,
xv. Keep a close watch over thyself!
Cic. Brut. 82, 283.—
II In partic.
anuam, Plaut. As. 2, 2, 7: fores, id. Mil. 2, 3, 57: greges, Ov. M. 1, 513:
draconem, auriferam obtutu observantem arborem, Poët. ap. Cic. Tusc. 2, 9,
22; Sen. Hippol. 223.—
leges, Cic. Off. 2, 11, 40: censoriam animadversionem, id. Clu. 42, 117:
praeceptum diligentissime, Caes. B. G. 5, 35: imperium,Sall. J. 80, 2:
foedus, Sil. 17, 78: centesimas.
Cic. Att. 5, 21, 11: commendationes, id. Fam. 13, 27, 1: auspicia, Tac. G.
9: diem concilii, Liv. 1, 50, 6: ordines,
xxiii. Keep in the ranks!
Sall. J. 51, 1.—Pass.: id ab omnibus, Just. 21, 4, 5.—
tribules suos, Cic. Planc. 18, 45: regem, Verg. G. 4, 210: me, ut alterum
patrem, et observat, et diligit, Cic. Fam. 5, 8, 4: et colere aliquem, id.
Att. 2, 19, 5: aliquem perofficiose et amanter, id. ib. 9, 20, 3:
clarissimus et nobis observandus vir, Front. Ep. ad Anton. p. 4.—
Amasa non observavit gladium, Vulg. 2 Reg. 20, 10.
------ END OF LATIN INTERLUDE.
It may irritate a Griceian that Popper uses the adverb 'clearly':
"Clearly, the injunction "Observe!" is absurd."
This may be especially irritating since he had provided a perfectly correct
(or as Grice would prefer, 'true if slighly misleading') scenario: 'Take
ib. Take pencil and paper; carefully observe, and write down what you have
Popper does not provide a film for this so we have to take his word for
this. Apparently some of his addressees complained. (He may implicate all did
-- they were only physics students, not philosophy students, granted). Note
that (1b) makes a lot of sense and is hardly 'absurd':
Popper seems to be missing, of course, the implicature of his
ic. Carefully observe!
-- the world around you, he meant. But physics students are into formulae,
unlike philosophers who are always fascinated and _wondered_ by the
'kosmos', as Aristotle puts it in his "Metaphysics". This indeed being the
_source_ of philosophising. Was it necessary for Popper in (ic) to add
'carefully'? Perhaps not. Perhaps 'carefully' applies more to the third
there are three injunctions -- the first has two sub-injunctions,take
pencil! take paper! --, carefully observe! write down what you have observed.
I will simplify the scenario to apply to ONE physics student. This is a
Platonic trend. He thought that tutorials require a one-to-one interaction.
The physics student (like the philosophy student) was also invited the
further implicature, "And feel free to chose anything you want to observe, as
long as it will naturally ease your way through the fourth injunction, to
write down what you have observed."
Just because Popper thinks physics students are NOT ultimately or SHOULD
NOT be ultimately philosophy students and that HIS particular physics student
was especially inapt to grasp the invited implicature hardly makes the
initial injunction 'Observe!" absurd. As Horatio was once reprimanded, "there
are more absurd things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than in a
crystal-clear, if philosophically provocative, injunction as the one I'm
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