Re: [quickphilosophy] Quinean Indeterminacy

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 21 Sep 2010 08:46:49 +0100

If this were true, wouldn't computer translation have made far more 
progress than it has?

On 21/09/10 01:24, Ron Allen wrote:
> Hi Walter:
> Thanks for the wikipedia entry.
> OK, so if the field linguist can't translate the newly discovered
> language, then how does a baby learn the newly discovered language of
> English any better? That's the point.
> In what language on Earth do the speakers not have words that can
> express "and", and, for that matter, can never express "and"?
> If Quine is just pointing out the banal observation that we sometimes
> don't understand the nuances, well, yes, then, that's right. But so
> what? If I don't understand the precise nuance of 'simpatico', it
> doesn't follow that there's indeterminacy of translation between English
> and Spanish, even if I am the first to discover the hitherto unknown
> language, Spanish. I go along using the term and eventually apply it to
> a ticket seller at the opera. My companera points out to me that he
> isn't really /simpatico/ to me, because I really don't know him well
> enough and long enough to be able to say that, and I don't rely on him
> for emotional comfort, and so forth. No, the guy just sold me a pair of
> good seats for a steep price.
> I think by the wiki article, Quine's point devolves into imprecision and
> nuance, not meaning indeterminacy. As Wittgenstein pointed out, language
> is a social endeavor, and the aberrations of the individual do not count
> against the observed practice of the community. Where there is a
> community of use, as Grice and Strawson insisted, it's reasonable to
> talk of meaning. If there's a community of 'gavagai' users, then there's
> a meaning for the term, and it can be translated, and it can support
> supervening notions of synonymy and analyticity.
> The devolution of Quine's thesis makes it an empirical matter.
> Empirically, we have no substantive examples of translation
> indeterminacy. When, in the last 400 years, has someone come up and
> said, "wow, here we've been translating 'chien' as 'dog', when it really
> means 'well-trained dog'" or something like that? Well, never. Watered
> down, it washes away. Clean and dry, it's got some fundamental problems,
> close to what Budd was pointing out. But, yeah, you're right: it's a
> theory only a behaviorist could love.
> Oh, I don't have a text reference for Searle against Sapir-Whorf. It was
> a comment he made in class at Berkeley. Again, basically, what could be
> an example? If someone has a different world view than me because of
> their different language, how could I possibly describe their world
> view? All I can do is use my own.
> Thanks!
> --Ron

Other related posts: