argumentum ad verecundiam [Ø1]

I can empathize with the very human habit of imposing boundaries upon experience, and subsequent desire to appeal to these boundaries for all manner of quacksalvery. I recently found myself defending the case that (1) words can have meaning without having clear boundaries- that is, boundaries are not a necessary condition for two people to use the same word understandably between one another; and (2) that many meaningful words lacking clear boundaries do, in fact, exist. I brought forward the example ‘game’; the debate was born in the term ‘religion’.

“[…] how is the concept of a game bounded? What still counts as a game and what no longer does? Can you give the boundary? No. You can draw one; for none has so far ever been drawn. (But that never troubled you before when you used the word “game”.)”

“One might say that the concept ‘game’ is a concept with blurred edges.

– But is a blurred concept a concept at all?

Is an indistinct photograph a picture of a person at all? Is it even always an advantage to replace an indistinct picture by a sharp one? Isn’t the indistinct one often exactly what we need?

= Frege compares a concept to an area and says that an area with vague boundaries cannot be called an area at all. This presumably means that we cannot do anything with it.

But is it senseless to say: “Stand roughly there”? Suppose that I were standing with someone in a city square and said that. As I say it I do not draw any kind of boundary, but perhaps point with my hand – as if I were indicating a particular spot.”

5 Responses to “argumentum ad verecundiam [Ø1]”

  1. Tiffany says:

    1)”Is an indistinct photograph a picture of a person at all? Is it even always an advantage to replace an indistinct picture by a sharp one? Isn’t the indistinct one often exactly what we need?” – C. might disagree, but it seemed as if she were defending a rejection of metaphysical vagueness (though she said she wasn’t; she just didn’t go further to explain how she wasn’t). So one can take a blurry picture of something, but there is a knowledge that the object is not naturally blurry, that it is in fact a distinct thing (how very kantian sounding). Perhaps from this, one could say that one has a blurry idea of the concept at hand, but the concept actually is a distinct thing (I think that Frege might agree with this as well – problem is, i’ve read too little Frege, as i’d prefer to read him in german).

    A blurry picture of a person as something we need? Perhaps only in the aesthetic sense, and then we call it a *blurry* picture of a person, not an exact picture of a person.

    The question is, do words exist like objects? Which i think you might be getting indirectly at.

    2) Your last example has to do with reference again, as well as concepts of space and indexicals (goddamn indexicals). Why do you use this example? To show that context defines what one is saying? To show that a concept need not have boundaries?

    i)In this case, if you argue that context defines what one says, well i’d say that there is a relation between words or surrounding which also gives meaning to the circumstance in its entirety (why do the words “emergent properties” suddenly echo in my head). The word “There” in itself, is a word of reference, and does not necessarily *mean* “that exact space in time in the city square”, but it can mean “a certain space in time,” much like an existential quantifier designates, “a certain object [x]”.
    I wonder if an analogy of complex numbers would be apt here. You have the real parts and the ‘imaginary’ parts, which seems to have some sort of ‘mental’/’vaguely posited’ existence, yet together they create useful applications in many fields which have a definite meaning attached to them (this is standing outside of the phil of mathematics – some schools would argue about the meaning of imaginary numbers in a fruitless way).

    ii) If you are pointing at the fact that a person in this example is pointing to an unbounded space in connection with Frege’s comment, i’d say you are missing the point of his comment. You seem to think that your example shows that a concept can lack boundaries, since in space, a point has no area, therefore cannot have boundaries. Yet, the concept of ‘point in space’ can have conceptual boundaries (though it may not have physical boundaries).

    Don’t bother inferring what i believe from this though ;). I know more of what i find to be a weak argument, rather than what i find to be a good argument.

    I honestly think the problem would be better analyzed if we were to turn to some phil of language, take indexicals out of the examples, and try to understand what exactly it is we are doing when we are using language.

    (Sorry C, if this is as muddled as i normally am – feel free to bang your head on your desk, just don’t bruise your forehead, it makes wearing a hat quite painful… this coming from another frightfully clumsy person).

  2. Cheryl E. Fitzgerald says:

    I *finally* have time to respond!

    Since Tiffany mentioned the photograph example, I will start with that.

    “Is an indistinct photograph a picture of a person at all?”

    Tell me first how a clear photograph is of a person to begin with, and I will tell you whether an indistinct one can be. One might speak of such things like “representation”, but what is that? Is a painted portrait of a person? Normally, we’d have no problem with that, but why? Because what we have in mind is that, to us, there is a special kind of similarity between what the painting looks like and the person of whom it is. But what about Picasso’s “Woman Flower”? Is it of the woman whom Picasso intended to paint? How closely must the image resemble the person in order to be an image of the person at all? But of what of the person is it to resemble?

    Now one might say that photographs are different from painting, because of the technology involved, how they capture an image, or a scene, that only lasts for a moment in time. I’m skeptical of trying to argue there is really a difference, besides a mere technological one. One can find in the realm of aesthetics discussions and debates about whether the use of cameras should be an allowable medium for art, and much of it hinges on the way a camera operates, how that is different from painting, enough of a difference to make it non-art, so some people argue. I’m on the side that the technological differences do not make it non-art, of course, but I also conclude from those debates that, insofar as cameras and paintings are intended to capture images of things, there is no significant difference.

    But, to steal an example, whose author I cannot recall, imagine that an ant happens to walk through wet paint, and, somehow without running out of paint, walks about all over a pain white surface, and the tracks he makes, amazingly enough, trace an image that we would say looks just like Winston Churchill. Is it of Winston Churchill? Either way you answer the question, you surely must provide some explanation as to why and how.

    The issue at hand is, how is it that one thing can be of another? (“Of” being stretched rather loosely here to be inclusive of the relation of reference that we normally take words to have of their referents.) This, of course, is THE question for all of philosophy of language for the past 120 years at least! But philosophers have occasionally struggled with the problem since Plato, and including Plato.

    So, Jelte, I cannot tell you whether an indistinct or blurry photograph can be of a person, until you tell me just what it is, what it means, for a photo be of a person at all. But notice here: I am essentially asking of you to do the very thing you are complaining about. Why? Because the conversation simply cannot continue until I can have some clear enough idea what it is you are talking about. But of course, in order for you to succeed in that, you must be able to talk about them, such that your linguistic utterances can literally transfer or hand over to me the aboutness they are supposed to carry in order that I may understand of what they are about.

    “But is a blurred concept a concept at all?”

    Well, in order to answer that question, one must have a clear conception of concept, as well as blurred concept. In a sense, to even find meaningfulness in asking the question seems to presuppose that one can have such clarity. The fact that you can conceive of a blurred concept as already somehow distinct from a concept, simpliciter, presupposes that you are drawing some boundaries.

    “imposing boundaries upon experience”

    I have a problem with this phrase: it suggests that there is somehow a distinction between my experience and my understanding or interpretation of my experience. It feels dangerously close to the possibility of speaking of my experience of my experience: I experience my experience as having boundaries, so I impose boundaries on my experience. Surely that cannot be right. I experience the world as exhibiting boundaries. Or, do I? Now, this is a debate in the philosophy of mind, more specifically, of perception, and it’s a difficult one. Let’s say that, right now, part of the content of my experience is a chair. Do I experience a chair? Or, do I experience -something- and then “impose” the concept chair onto it, which then, of course, puts boundaries on some part of my experience? Taking the latter route takes you down the path to sense data theory, which most have rejected by now. The idea is, what I experience are sense data, and then I conceptually organize that data and impose concepts on it.

    Part of what is at issue here is just what experience is. Can I be mistaken about what my own experience is? Now, obviously, I can make mistakes, but the point is where the mistake occurs. Because, surely, I can be mistaken about what my experience is an experience of. But can I be mistaken about what the experience itself is? Regardless of how you answer that question, another follows: what is the relationship between what my experience is, and what it is of?

    The problem, Jelte, may be that we, as humans, just experience the world as bounded.

    I must say, though, that I am uncertain I understand what your uneasiness about boundaries stems from. I have no idea if it is a concern about whether or not the world really is that way, exhibits the boundaries and divisions we ascribe to it, or if it is something else. I can’t at the moment think of anything else, so I’ll at least address the former–some people do have that concern. When you ask, is the world really like how we describe it or see it, since all of this inevitably involves the use of concepts with which we interpret the world, I must wonder how anyone could imagine answering that question. How do we know whether the world really is the way we see it? Excuse me while I check to see if I’m plugged into the Matrix… All we have to work with, ever, when it comes to wondering what the world is really like are how it seems to us, how we experience it, the beliefs we form about it. If we get hung up wondering whether the world is really like how we think it is, we’ll get sucked into skepticism, because ultimately, of course, we have to accept that we can never step outside of ourselves to check. But at that point, I think you have to accept that what we’re really after, what’s really at issue, is what we have reason to believe about the world. We can always point out the possible ways our perceptions are contaminated with our concepts, but what point does that really prove and where does it get us? In all of this, what we should be most interested in, is what should believe. And obviously, as I hope is clear, believing in something allows accepting that what one believes might not be 100% accurate insofar as the world-itself. What is the world like beyond our experiences of it? (And experiences include any equipment we can build to see things we cannot normally see with our own eyes.) Well my question to that is, should we worry about it? I’m not so sure we should. I think it makes more sense to focus on what we should believe, what it is right for us to believe, given our experiences.

    I might have more to say later, but I will add that your last example is indeed a murky one because of your inclusion of indexicals. David Kaplan did an enormous amount of work on indexicals and demonstratives, and I think he has very much set the standard on them. The fact that they are context sensitive is not a problem. And the fact that they are used often to refer to things that don’t have clear boundaries is also not as much a problem as I think you might think they are–but I could be wrong, too, but the issue is discussed in the literature on indexicals. (Exactly when does “now” refer to?! The present minute? Day? Month? Year? Era? Century?)

    Okay, this is all my brain can do at the moment–after a glass and a half of wine anyway. 😉 I’ll probably visit back to add more, because I can’t shut up about this kind of stuff.

  3. Jelte says:

    argumentum ad verecundiam [Ø2]

    T: “So one can take a blurry picture of something, but there is a knowledge that the object is not naturally blurry, that it is in fact a distinct thing (how very kantian sounding). Perhaps from this, one could say that one has a blurry idea of the concept at hand, but the concept actually is a distinct thing (I think that Frege might agree with this as well)”

    – No, a blurry picture of something does necessitate (or imply that “there is a knowledge” of) the object pictured being ‘a distinct thing’: think of a blurry picture of a cloud.

    – Even if it did, the issue at hand it whether a blurry photograph suffices (or, stronger still, may indeed be preferable). In the example, the blurry picture is analogous to the concept, not the physical object being conceptualized. We are asking if concepts are distinct, let’s leave physical objects out of this.

    T: “[…] and then we call it a *blurry* picture of a person, not an exact picture of a person.”

    – Indeed, just as a game or religion are each a blurry concept of something, not an “exact” concept of something.

    T: “The question is, do words exist like objects? Which i think you might be getting indirectly at”

    – Well, sure, if one grants that [physical] objects are distinct. [Which I don’t, and neither does Schrödinger, nor the overwhelming majority of anyone who has spent more than 2 years studying physics after, say, the First World War!]

    T: “Why do you use this example? To show that context defines what one is saying? To show that a concept need not have boundaries?”

    – Simply the latter.

    T: “If you are pointing at the fact that a person in this example is pointing to an unbounded space in connection with Frege’s comment, i’d say you are missing the point of his comment.”

    – Hah, exquisite choice: “missing the point”! 😉 I don’t think I am, though.

    T: “You seem to think that your example shows that a concept can lack boundaries […]”

    – Yes.

    “[…] since in space, a point has no area, therefore cannot have boundaries. Yet, the concept of ‘point in space’ can have conceptual boundaries (though it may not have physical boundaries).”

    – Unlike my camp, and apparently like T & C, Frege holds that concepts require boundaries. To illustrate his case, Frege draws the analogy between an area in space and a concept. The example works with his analogy. It illustrates that one can still talk sensibly about areas in space even if they are unbounded.

  4. Jelte says:

    argumentum ad verecundiam [Ø3]

    – “Is an indistinct photograph a picture of a person at all?”

    C: “Tell me first how a clear photograph is of a person to begin with, and I will tell you whether an indistinct one can be.”

    – In an analogous way to how a clear concept a person is of a person.

    C: “One might speak of such things like “representation”, but what is that?”

    – One might also speak of such things like “conceptualization”, but what is that?

    C: “Is a painted portrait of a person?”

    – Is a concept of a person of that person?

    “The issue at hand is, how is it that one thing can be of another?”

    – No. The issue at hand is whether concepts need necessarily be bounded. What and how concepts are of is interesting, but distracts from our present purpose.

    C: “So, Jelte, I cannot tell you whether an indistinct or blurry photograph can be of a person […]”

    – But you can confidently tell me that a bounded concept of something can be of something, whilst an unbounded concept of something is not a concept at all, and presumably cannot then be of anything?! Consider, this is your claim: concepts need be bounded. Now, either the concepts of which you speak are of something(s), or they aren’t. In the former case you are providing the ‘of’. If so, I’ll take it! – it’s not what I’m after. In the latter case, few would care whether your impotent ‘of-less’ concepts must or mustn’t adhere to boundedness.

    C: “The fact that you can conceive of a blurred concept as already somehow distinct from a concept, simpliciter, presupposes that you are drawing some boundaries.”

    – Remember, I am making the claim that concepts need not be bounded. That is not the same as saying that they cannot be distinguished from one another. I can draw a distinction between ‘religion’ and ‘game’ without insisting on the boundedness of either. I can distinguish a blurry picture of Hitler from one of Ghandi. If you stand in Red Square and point your arms in two different directions and say to me: “Stand there or there!” I can sensibly distinguish my allotted spots.

    C: “imposing boundaries upon experience [-] I have a problem with this phrase: it suggests that there is somehow a distinction between my experience and my understanding or interpretation of my experience.”

    – That would depend on what you mean with “[your] understanding or interpretation of [your] experience”. As should be clear, the imposed boundaries to which I refer are those that inhere in language, and those that you & T deem essential to concepts. And yes, I do certainly mean to suggest that there is a distinction between experience and concepts thereof, and between experience and language thereabout.

    C: “It feels dangerously close to the possibility of speaking of my experience of my experience: I experience my experience as having boundaries, so I impose boundaries on my experience. Surely that cannot be right.”

    – No, it may well not be right, and it does not follow from what I wrote.

    C: “[…] The problem, Jelte, may be that we, as humans, just experience the world as bounded.”

    – That’s certainly a possibility. I propose we explore that next. But if, for our present purposes, you are using the posited boundedness of experience to argue that concepts need therefor be bounded, I ask: how does that follow?

    C: “I must say, though, that I am uncertain I understand what your uneasiness about boundaries stems from.”

    – For now you can take it to be just this: I see no reason why concepts need be bounded. You do. Tell me why.

    C: “[…] All we have to work with, ever, when it comes to wondering what the world is really like are how it seems to us, how we experience it, the beliefs we form about it.”

    – Yes. And I assert that the form, as it were, of neither our “experience”, nor our “beliefs”, nor our concomitant concepts need be bounded. But let’s concentrate on the latter for the moment.
    – Let’s turn the tables around here: What Do You Mean By The Boundedness of Concepts?

  5. Cheryl E. Fitzgerald says:

    Jelte:

    “In an analogous way to how a clear concept a person is of a person.”

    Well, that doesn’t really answer my question at all, now does it? But I would actually press you: are you so sure it is in an analogous way? To think they are analogous, you must think you have some idea how both of these relations work. But precisely how they work is the question at hand. And it doesn’t really enlighten the discussion to say that one is like the other, since both are equally puzzling and oftentimes mysterious.

    “One might also speak of such things like “conceptualization”, but what is that?”

    Precisely. Which is why I would never attempt to explain concepts via the use of that word.

    “No. The issue at hand is whether concepts need necessarily be bounded. What and how concepts are of is interesting, but distracts from our present purpose.”

    You misunderstand, for the question of how a concept is related to the thing it is supposedly of or refers to or corresponds to or whatever the relationship is, IS exactly the issue at hand, and is not the same question as what a concept is. However, what a concept is is very much importantly related to the question of how a concept does what it’s supposed to – bear this special relation to a thing – so it is not an irrelevant question by any means.

    Given our in-person discussion, you will have to provide some clarity as to what this “boundedness” of concepts is, because I am quite unclear as to what you mean. And of course, that also means I did not claim concepts were necessarily bounded, since I never used the word. You introduced the word into the discussion, and you’ve lost me as to what you mean. I feel that we are slipping back and forth between some unclear metaphors and equivocating on some words here. I also feel that you are slipping back and forth between concepts themselves and the things to which they are supposedly related, but that needs to be kept quite distinct, since there are concepts that are related to nothing, i.e., concepts of fictional entities. And concept of fictional entities are just as much and just as clearly concepts as any other concepts are, and they are so without anything to do with the things to which they are supposed to be related, since there aren’t any. I think that’s an important and crucial point here, which I hope you can see, because I think you are mistaking the extension of a concept with some feature of the concept itself, but clearly, they must be distinct. (Because I refuse to go Fregean here and claim that concepts of fictional or impossible entities have the extension of the null set, or go Meinongian and claim they do exist! Admittedly, however, a small part of me wants to be Meinongian, just because it’s the most insane position… ;P)

    So I cannot really address anything else you have said, since I don’t really have any clear idea what you mean. To speak of boundaries in the world doesn’t automatically carry over into talk about concepts as bounded – I mean, the metaphorical language doesn’t smoothly carry over, because I have no idea what you mean. So far as I can make sense of it, to speak of a boundary to a thing in the world is to speak of that by which it is distinguished from all else.

    Now, I can imagine what you will say here, namely, some claim about the physical “boundary” of a thing is called into question given quantum mechanics. Well, then I would say that, unfortunately, I have far more reason to believe that the boundaries of a physical object are the boundaries of that object, than I have to believe the claims of quantum mechanics. This is certainly not to say that I don’t believe the claims of quantum mechanics. The point is a difference in the amount of justification I have.

    [Forgive me for going into this digression, but I do it only because we did in fact discuss this once, and in those circumstances, I certainly was not able to express what I intended and tried to express. I know it’s getting far off topic – and it did end up being rather long – but I feel it’s worthwhile. I hope you don’t feel like I’m attacking you, it’s not like that at all. Also, I have to say that, in general, what I argue here is what I think are probably the most justified views on these issues given some very particular assumptions about several crucial metaphysical issues. I have not argued for those metaphysical assumptions. What I give you is what would be considered fairly standard in academic philosophy. However, I am not confident in those metaphysical assumptions. Those metaphysical assumptions are precisely the sort of thing that I personally plan to put a lot of time into working on again, for I, myself, have not yet come down to any stance or theory regarding them. I’m not saying I don’t believe in these metaphysical assumptions. It’s a matter of my knowing that, as they currently stand, they are unjustified, or lacking enough justification. What exactly those particular metaphysical assumptions are, you might be able to pick out a few, but there is, I will tell you, a lot more going on than you’re even aware, and that’s only because you haven’t been studying this for 10 years, and don’t have the familiarity with this stuff the way I do, but I’m sure you’d have no problem understanding them if they were pointed out. So why even bother arguing this if I don’t think the metaphysical assumptions are justified? Two reasons: (i) I think they can be, for the most part, or that similar metaphysical assumptions can be, and from those metaphysical assumptions we can derive similar enough beliefs as those expressed below; (ii) even if (i) is false, I’d have no f****** clue what to even say about anything without presuming those assumptions, because I’d have no idea what other metaphysical claims would stand in their place and what would follow from them.]

    So, let’s say that you and I have a debate about just what on earth my justification is for believing that some particular physical object has a boundary that physically distinguishes it from all other physical objects, and that the result of such a debate is that my justification is not quite as robust as one might have at first presumed, and in fact, comes out to be rather weak and shaky. (I am going to just declare right now that I could argue against my justification for such a belief with more damaging success than you would, only because I obviously have an extensive enough background in a variety of philosophical theories on this sort of topic. My point in saying this is twofold: (i) there are, I am pretty sure, worse problems than you’re even aware of with this kind of stuff, and (ii) they’re really cool and I can’t wait to tell you about them!) Now, I would easily accept this, but here is the crucial point: if the degree of justification I have for believing in my everyday, normal, ordinary experiences of the world around me goes down, then so does any justification I have for believing any scientific claims. Generally speaking – and obviously, there will be exceptions, but they are very special exceptions, and very clearly exceptions, and very much not at all like normal experiences – our justification for trusting our own experiences will be more than our justification for trusting science. Why? Because doing science requires that scientists trust their experiences of the world around them to begin with – reading the measurement off of an instrument, for example, or looking at an image of something with whatever equipment, ordinary kinds of experiences are involved. So if scientists have to trust their ordinary experiences of the world just to do science, then their beliefs about their experiences must be justified if their beliefs about scientific claims are to be justified. But since their scientific beliefs hinge on a whole lot more than just ordinary experiences, then their justification for their scientific beliefs requires that their beliefs about all that other stuff are justified. But since a lot of that other stuff has to do with scientific theories, well, the degree of justification is going to be less than the justification one has for ordinary experience. But even if everything else those scientific beliefs depended on were justified to the same degree as the justification for trusting one’s ordinary experiences, the justification for the scientific beliefs would still necessarily be lower than the degree of justification for trusting one’s ordinary experiences. For such degrees of justification can be most easily measured as probabilities* – and that should not be taken seriously as if we really are measuring the actual degree justification; we can simply take it as a tool, a metaphor, so that we can get a handle on what we are talking about and comparing. But the nature of probability measurements works pretty nicely, because, for the most part, they seem to be analogous to the nature of justification for beliefs in their behavior and what they do. I just don’t want you to think that anyone takes this absurdly seriously as a measure of justification, as if justification were the sort of thing we could confidently perfectly measure. But…we can get into talk about probability theory and its relation to epistemology another time. So, degrees of justification are like probability measurements. Well, if each belief on which a scientific belief hinges is justified to the degree of .999, and there are 5 such beliefs – presuming we could intelligibly and coherently and sensically individuate the beliefs perfectly into these 5 – then the scientific belief is justified to the degree of .995. Of course, no scientific belief will ever hinge on only 5 distinct beliefs, and nor will all the beliefs be justified to the degree of .999; so it’s radically unrepresentative of our actual situation, except insofar as it shows the behavior of degrees of justification to be like the behavior of probabilities, and obviously, probabilities (less than 1) multiplied give a product necessarily lower than any of the probabilities that were multiplied. So the point is, if a belief depends on several other beliefs, then even if the relationship between the degrees of justification is not nearly as clear and clean as the relationships between probabilities multiplied, the behavior is the same, and thus, the degree of justification for that belief will be less then the degree of justification of each of the beliefs on which it depends.

    [* For purposes of simplification, I’m ignoring conditional probabilities. However, adding conditional probabilities in doesn’t change anything. It complicates the discussion quite a bit, but ultimately, the main point is still the same, which is that any belief that depends for its justification on other beliefs cannot ever be more justified than those beliefs..]

    So, a long digression – ah, but you know my lengthy tangents! – but the point of it was to say simply that I have more justification for trusting my ordinary experiences and believing them than I do for believing scientific claims. And if I lose justification for trusting my ordinary experiences, that will have an effect on all the other beliefs that depend for their justification on my trust in ordinary experience, and so, will affect my beliefs in scientific claims and cause them to go proportionately down as well. Thus, any argument about the lack of physical boundaries to a physical object that relies on the claims of science isn’t going to have the effect you want it to. Because it will certainly call into question my beliefs about what I experience, but that will then also call into question scientific beliefs. In other words, if science forces me to mistrust my experiences, then I am forced to mistrust science, too.

    Now, I don’t actually think that’s quite the result – although I would stand by the stuff about justification above – because I would argue that there is some equivocating going on. I would argue that what my experiences are of, and what scientific theories like quantum mechanics are of, are not the same things in a very important way that allows me to say that, no, quantum mechanics does not force me to give up the idea that physical objects have physical boundaries that distinguish them from the rest of the world. (Did I just give up reduction? Perhaps, and probably, but not necessarily, as I am sure one could come up with an argument as to how not. It just requires getting into the thick of metaphysics.)

    Okay, I’ll respond to one more thing you did say.

    “As should be clear, the imposed boundaries [on experience] to which I refer are those that inhere in language, and those that you & T deem essential to concepts.”

    I’m familiar with the idea that language shapes our experience. I don’t actually disagree with this claim, but I think the truth of the matter is not so easily captured by the claim. Because it would be absolutely false to claim that all experience is shaped by language. If you believe that, then you have to believe that no creature has any experiences whatsoever without language. Now you might think, of course, because obviously one needs some interpretation or other of one’s experiences. Then I would say we’d better be clear on what we mean by a language here – does the infant just born have a language? Surely, it has experiences! If you would say that it has a language of its own, well then you make language into something it isn’t, and so I would say you are not really talking about language, but just thought. I’d also have a problem with such a broad notion of ‘language’ because I don’t think we can say nearly enough about the experiences of other species to think they’re similar enough to ours that we could believe the structure of their thoughts to be similar to ours. I’m thinking, if one were to say that the lion has a language of his own. I’m not even sure I can understand that sentence! Because I have no idea what his thoughts are like, so I have no idea if it would be appropriate at all to call it a ‘language’. (“We could get an interpreter.” “Do you mean for me? Or for the lion?”) So, again, I would never want to accept that all experience is shaped by language. But surely the lion, when he hunts, experiences boundaries in the world. Ultimately, more importantly for what you said above, experience must come before language. And in fact, in some way, I would say that language cannot just shape our experiences in any way – that is, language could not impose a boundary where one just didn’t ever experience one. Imagine a blank wall of a solid color, and I teach you a language that includes imposing some boundary between some portion of the wall and the rest. If you really don’t and cannot experience some difference between that portion and the rest of the wall to distinguish it, then I feel confident in saying that the language will never force you to eventually experience it.

    Now, I’d also question your claim that T and I are claiming that concepts must be bounded in the same way, because again, like I said above, I have no idea how that metaphor carries over into concepts. It’s not making sense to me at all.

    Of course, in that example above with the wall, that’s not really like the boundaries in the world that I think you’re so worried about, such mere physical boundaries. We talked about religion and games, but now we have to be very careful about what we mean when we talk about experience with regard to these kinds of things. Do I experience religion in a way similar to the way I ordinarily experience the world around me? If religion is a part of my experience of the world in any way at all, then we have to determine how it can make sense to say that one experiences a religion as something in the world. Now, I’m not really arguing for anything here. I’m phrasing all of this in a way that I hope lets you see how complicated the issue is, where some of the problems lie, etc.

    Of course, again, I have no idea what you mean by boundedness. I know what I mean by a physical boundary, and that’s it. If one were to speak of the boundary of, say, a religion, then I’d say that I might be able to make metaphorical sense of that, but religion isn’t the sort of thing that has a boundary anything like the physical boundaries of physical objects. (And even then, some (apparent) physical objects don’t have physical boundaries in the ordinary sense! A street, for example, or a field.) That’s not to say religion has no boundary; it’s just to say that if we understand it as a boundary, we make use of a metaphor here, so it’s not a boundary in the same way at all, and we have to determine what it even means to say that such a thing could have a boundary.

    I apologize for how ridiculously long this comment is! I almost decided to delete a bunch of it, but then I thought, No, dammit, I’ve spent 2.5 hours on it!! 😉

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