[lit-ideas] Mitchell Paradox Redux

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2007 23:53:16 EST

R. Paul calls something The Mitchell  Paradox, and writes:
>This is a nice puzle [sic] though. I  suspect that the >whole concept of 
'knowing what it is like to...' is  >under-explored. 
Well, I would  distinguish:
(i) It is underexplored by lack of  intrinsic interest.

(ii) Paul suspects it is underexplored, but it ain't. 
I would try to formalize the thing in terms of Quinean predicates. Let's  
have predicates A, B, ... etc. 
For x having predicate A, we write: 
Now we have to introduce an 'epistemic' context. Let the epistemic context  
be a predicate "K" for "know". This 'know' however, is not a know-that, i.e. 
the  predicate would NOT hold between a knowing subject and a proposition. It 
a  different kind of knowing. It holds between a knowing subject, plus what I 
call  an 'erotetic' context. In Paul's phrasing, "_what_ it [as Strawson has 
it,  what's 'it'?] is to be an A", where "A" stands for our original 
So if we want to formalize one of R. Paul's examples, 
"I do not know what it is like to be a woman". (But does a woman: She knows  
what being a woman _is_; but not what being a woman is *like*). So we have: 
KNOW (Paul, [erotetic complex: what it is *like* to be, for any x, to be  
Personally, I find the phrasing verbose. So, to counteract the arguments of  
the form that the 'like' predicate is confusing at best and redundant at 
worst,  let's simplify that predicate into:

KNOW (Paul, Ax). 
This is a second-order calculus: it holds between predicates and  predicates. 
It is an abstract level of thinking. It amounts to Paul now knowing  what a 
_woman_ is! 
In *my* case, I apply a meaning-postulate alla Carnap. Let us define  'woman' 
as xx. So we have the definitional equivalence:  
A = xx. 
So now that I know what a woman is (a chromosomatical structure), I can say  
that *I* know (but Paul doesn't) what a woman is. 
I write: 
KNOW (Speranza, (x) Ax --> (XX)x). 
In the vernacular, Speranza knows what being a woman is; it's a chromosomal  

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