[lit-ideas] Re: Logical Corpuscularism

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" for DMARC)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 7 Sep 2015 07:33:51 -0400

McEvoy was mentioning the issue or criterion of downward causation. Let me
rephrase it (perhaps wrongly). If we assume at least two levels (call them
the lesser -- corpuscular -- and the bigger -- stuff made out of
corpuscules), the idea is that we have to allow, if following Popper that the
may cause the lesser.

Popper's three-worlds theory is indeed metaphysical. One may wonder about
the Vittoria di Samotracia (I like the Futurist expression). This may be
regarded as a W3 item: it (or she) has been reproduced countless times
(almost) in art books: a marble statue of a woman personifying victory. The
French worshipped and it's one of the few items in the Louvre that was not
previously in Rome! (As every Roman schoolboy knows the French took lots of
statues to the Louvre and while many were returned after the fall of Napoleon
("fall" is metaphorical, Geary adds) many were not). At a W1 level it is a
piece of marble.

piece-of-marble-1 = Vittoria di Samotracia

This simple identity is one of the examples used by the Grice-Myro theory
of relative identity. Had the sculptor (or statue-maker, since as usual,
these are marble copies of bronze originales, and bronze-workers don't
'sculpt') decided for another personification we would have:

piece-of-marble-1 = Apollo chasing Dafne (statuary group).

The idea of a lump of bronze turned into THIS-1 and into THAT-2 is
Grice-Myro's basis for their joint theory of relative identity (which has
affinities with claims by Wiggins and Geach).

This is at the level W1, then: a piece of matter: bronze, say -- and bronze
is composed of corpuscules.

W3 remains which is the effects of that piece of bronze (as reproduced in
art books) that had the most famous futurist of all to say that he thought
an automobile (any automobile) MORE beautiful than the Vittoria di
Samotracia. Perhaps because Italy never OWNED Samotracia. It was some other
colony's. If it had been Greek-Greek, the statue would be in Greece, and not

What about down-ward causation?

I will use another example, from Grice. He famously starts his analysis of
meaning by examining the use of "mean" as applied to an utterer.

i. By uttering "Any automobile is more beautiful than a bronze Greek statue
now in the Louvre" (with the typo that the thing is in marble) MEANT that
civilisation has progressed.

This is "utterer's meaning". For Grice, and for me, this is prior. It is
prior, in that the logical form is

ii. By x, U means that p.

where x does not need any structure. "It can be a hand-waive", Grice says.
BUT in his "Foundations of Language" essay (edited by Staal), which is
actually William James Lecture No. 6), and is reprinted by Searle in
"Philosophy of Language" (Oxford Readings in Philosophy) and that irritated
(he dedicates 10 pages of his John Locke lectures to attack Grice's reprint
in the Searle collection and dub it wrongly behaviourist), Grice proposes
an order of priorities:

A. UTTERER's meaning
------- under which: PHRASE meaning
--------------------------- word or lexeme meaning.

So, it's after we analyse what the futurist meant that we can proceed to
analyse what "This piece of bronze is less beautiful than any old
automobile". Which would give us an analysis of the utterance (and sentence
phrase), "This piece of bronze is less beautiful than any old automobile". And
from utterances like that we can proceed to analyse, say, 'automobile'.

Note that the Oxford Dictionary, when defining 'automobile' has only ONE
recourse: to quote full utterances where the lexeme was used. Out of those
utterances, the lexicologists propose a sort of 'average meaning' and come up
with a definition. They need utterances where the lexeme is USED in full
utterances which have been vehicles by which some utterer meant this or
that. (Only occasionally, the OED merely quotes a 'dictionary' definition, and
makes a note about it. Burchfield laughs at these lexemes whose only
evidence of existence is that they were once entries in dictionaries!).

So we have some compositional and anti-compositional tendencies here. Grice
is being corpuscularian in works where he deals with the logical form of
an utterance and how its entailments differ from its implicatures. But he
may be said to be anti-corpuscularian or anti-compositional in works such as
the "Foundations of Language" essay where he starts with what we may call
the 'bigger' (the utterance meaning that p by uttering x) to the lesser
(what x means, and what a component of x means).

But there is no contradiction here, for Grice was compositional where he
has to be and anti-compositional where he similarly has to be. He is
anti-compositional and anti-corpuscularian when he realises that a language is
system such that it allows for 'rules' of generation of an infinite set of
sentences and thus utterances ("This automobile is beautiful," "This
automobile is very beautiful as you'll agree", and so on). But he is
and anti-compositional in the PHILOSOPHICAL important sense that he
realises that the root of this phenomenon of 'meaning' is 'psychological' and
that utterer's meaning (and secondarily and a fortiori expression meaning)
reduces to the desires and beliefs (the "M-intentions" as he calls them)
that the utterer displays by uttering x.

This may relate to the other examples of downward causation that McEvoy was
referring to with regard to Physical Corpuscularism, only that it shows
that Logical Corpuscularism can account, no problem, with DOWNWARD causation,
however criterial for Popper.



Other related posts: