Re: [quickphilosophy] Re: Fodor on Concepts IV: Circularity

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 23 Sep 2010 11:06:56 -0700 (PDT)

Hi Martin:
I'm not demanding strong requirements of Quine; I'm asking for an example.
Scriven says something apropos of this situation:
"The general point I hope to make is this: Skinner's position on almost every 
issue admits of two interpretations--one of them exciting, controversial, and 
practically indefensible; the other moderately interesting, rather widely 
accepted, and very plausible--and Skinner's views quite often appear to be 
stated in the first form but defended in the second." [from M. Scriven, 'A 
study of radical behaviorism,' in Feigl & Scriven, eds., The Foundations of 
Science and the Concepts of Psychology and Psychoanalysis, Minnesota, 1956, p. 
Seems the same with Quine's behaviorism: He states the thesis of indeterminacy 
of translation, gives some purported examples, which are just alternative 
meanings of the new word 'gavagai', and then draws a radical conclusion. Now, 
you, Neil, and Walt are defending it, not in the radical form that Quine 
presents and relies upon, but as the uncontroversial and not even mildly 
interesting claim that there are shades and nuances of meaning. The upshot is 
that there are words and phrases in one language that often cannot be 
efficiently translated as a practical matter into another.
Last night I was translating a passage from Greek to English. At first I 
rendered the 2nd person singular, aorist indicative active form of 
'diagignosko' as "you perceived distinctly". Then, in thinking about the 
context a little bit more, where Hermes would be quite familiar with what a 
decent pig sacrifice made to him should look like, I switched it to "you 
distinctly recognized". Is neither correct? Just the second? No, both are 
correct; one rendering simply catches a nuance within the story that is not 
transmitted through the other.
Walter says that Quine thinks "All bachelors are unmarried men" is true, but 
not analytic. OK, then, how could Quine know that it's true? Only by inspecting 
all bachelors and seeing if they have been married and whether they have a Y 
chromosome. That's ridiculous, isn't it?
How does Quine know all coupes have two passenger doors? Answer: because he 
inspected all coupes and found that they all had two passenger doors. And so 
on. This is ridiculous, as Grice and Strawson and Katz and lots of other folks 
keep pointing out.

--- On Thu, 9/23/10, Martin Brampton <martin.lists@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

From: Martin Brampton <martin.lists@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: Re: [quickphilosophy] Re: Fodor on Concepts IV: Circularity
To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Date: Thursday, September 23, 2010, 2:10 AM


Isn't that too strong a requirement?

What is at stake is, for example, that there are numerous translations 
of Dante's Inferno into English. It isn't that it can't be translated, 
the question is whether there is a correct translation, all the others 
therefore being wrong.

Quine would, I think, say that none of the translations is "correct" and 
none ever will be. That seems quite sufficient.

On 22/09/10 17:36, Ron Allen wrote:
> Hi Walter:
> Sounds good: more Fodor.
> But, just to clarify a fine point, I'm not saying the concept of
> indeterminacy of translation per se is incoherent. Some things are
> indeterminate, such as the position of an electron in a crystal lattice.
> Where the incoherency in Quine's theory arises, in my opinion, is when
> someone purports to give an example of the indeterminacy. For then, that
> person has to both give the translation and insist that it can't be
> translated.
> Thanks!
> --Ron

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