Sunday, July 17, 2011

'From Stimulus to Science' by W.V. Quine

I have heard phlosophy students say that they  love Quine. So I wanted to read something by Quine.  I found this book available on the kindle.  Admittedly, I struggled with the book.  I would have a better time understanding Quine if I took at least a semester with someone that understood him.  BUT...even if I can't say I understood everything in the book....I think there are some points that will be fun to discuss.

These are quotes from the book that I think can be jumping off points for discussion. The number is the location on the kindle:

location 383 of 1035: Am I the same person I was in my youth? Or in my mother's womb? Will I be the same person after my brain transplant?

loc 362: qualitative indistiguishability is neither necessary nor sufficient for identity.  A body can grow, shrink, discolor

location 37, Quine tells us Hobbe's view: "there is nothing but matter in motion.  Thought is motion in the brain."   End quote.  How do you define thought?

loc 60: All three agreed that our lore about the world is a fabric of ideas based on sense impressions

Loc 61: As Wittgenstein observed, even a simple sense quality is elusive unless braced by public language

Loc 65:  How do we know that the words we use to express our ideas are conjuring up the same ideas in the minds of our listeners?

Loc 81: lent support to the view of sentences as the primary vehicles of meaning [sentences as compared to words all by themselves]

around loc 707: Defining the notion of meaning for sentences may properly be said to consist simply in specifying the circumstances in which two sentences have the same meaning.

Loc 208: Shared ancestry and shared environment, will tend to harmonize across the tribe
Beginning around Loc 217, he begins to explain how we get from observation sentences to a generalized expession of expectation.  He explains how the path from observation to prediction is precarious.  We are constantly (or should be) testing out our theories. So the quote is at location 253: In the evolution of language, and also in the child's learning of it, the leap from ordinary observation to observation categoricals was a giant one ......observation categoricals are the direct expression of inductive expectation, which underlies all learning. 

loc 467: It has been held by positivists that a closed sentence is meaningless unless it has empirical content except for mathematics. He criticizes this idea because he says it will impede science....because wild guesses are the building blocks of science.

Loc 486: Creating good hypotheses is an imaginative art, not a science

somewhere around Loc 635 Thanks to the negation sign, there are as many truths as falsehoods
That struck me as an odd thought. 

somewhere around Loc 635: We should and do currently accept the firmest scientific conclusions as true, but when one of these is dislodged by further research we do not say that it had been true but became false.  We say that to our surprise it was not true after all. Science is seen as pursuing and discovering truth rather  than as decreeing it

around location 767: sometimes one of the speakers can diagnose such a disagreement by switching to another occasion sentence that has the same meaning for him.  If the speakers agree on the truth value of this sentence, then clearly the earlier disgreemnt was semantic; the original sentence did not mean the same for the two speakers.  Often the discrepancy can be narrowed down to a word, by hitting on a substitute that restores agreement.  <====the thing that I liked about this quote was that sometimes it seems to me that people get lost in just debating the meaning of a word RATHER than trying to understand one another.  Quine seems to be saying that he thinks that is silly also if what we're trying to do is understand one another.

loc 786 (Chapter VIII): Descartes's ontological dualism of mind and body was not an easy position to rest with....[and then a couple of paragraphs later]...Monism is now the order of the day.  Dualism can be trivially dissolved, if we do not try to allow for diembodied spirits.  Every state of mind corrsponds to a distinct state of the body

loc 814: Some of the activity of thinking is in the brain and some apparently in the muscles
loc 817: Finally imagine nerves linking each terminal on the one plate with each terminal on the other.  Activation of any one of these links makes it more sensitive to further activation.  Such is believed to be the mechanism of conditioning, habituation, expectation

loc 821: When we deliberately and effortfully think, presumably muscles come into play.  Primary among these are the speech muscles. [and then a couple of paragraphs later] The artist , engineer, and acrobat are poor at putting their thoughts into words, for they were thinking with nonverbal mscles.[and then a couple of paragraphs later] As language went on developing in early man, its capacity to communicate increased, and conversely the proliferation of thought worth communicating was itself due to the development of language. 

The following are things I googled or looked up on wikipedia to help me understand the book:
Monism in philosophy can be defined according to three kinds:
1.Idealism, phenomenalism, or mentalistic monism which holds that only mind is real.
2.Neutral monism, which holds that both the mental and the physical can be reduced to some sort of third substance, or energy.
3.Physicalism or materialism, which holds that only the physical is real, and that the mental or spiritual can be reduced to the physical.
Certain other positions are hard to pigeonhole into the above categories, see links below.

I don't understand the logic symbols and I googled it to try to find a list and found this:
The traditional symbol for the universal quantifier is "∀", an inverted letter "A", which stands for the word "all"; in other schools, a \bigwedge is used instead. The corresponding symbol for the existential quantifier is "∃", a rotated letter "E", which stands for the word "exists". Other schools use the symbol \bigvee instead.

And I found this table:

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