Thursday, July 24, 2008

Metaphysical Thoughts I: Past Notes

I finally finished a second chapter of my dissertation (chapter 3), clocking in at 34 single-spaced pages! That was quite a marathon. Anyways...

This post is yet another entry in my Past Notes series. These are just random thoughts on issues in metaphysics, encompassing times, for instance, when I've flirted with Carnap/Putnam type views and endurantism. Part II will be posted later with post-2002 stuff.


I am me. Who else could I be? To ask about a counterfactual situation where I was someone else is like entertaining the idea tha the Sun might not have been the Sun. It is meaningless.

The opposite of self-identity? There is none. Try to contradict it and what you say will be meaningless. A=A cannot be thought otherwise.

We cannot escape from metaphysics - every claim we make is saturated with ontology. To say that metaphysics is meaningless is itself a claim of metaphysics. "There is a cat on the mat" is a metaphysical claim. Even if we try to say it all formally, we are still being metaphysical. How can we avoid metaphysics and yet say or think anything? "Metaphysics is meaningless" is self-refuting.

Let us say it is secured through concepts that material objects exist independently of us. That will hold only in case we are right about our conceptual argument. The fact that even we could not imagine it to be any other way than right does not make it so. We must assume certain things in making any argument and so will always rest on assumptions which might be false, though perhaps invulnerable to doubt.

I learn what a material object is through experience. I have a continuous experience of a certain sort. I develop a sense of object permanence. Soon I have a full conception of a material object as a distinct object of experience - it is the kind of thing I can interact with in such and such a way and interacts with others in such and such ways. A famework for thought and experience thus arises. Whether the rudiments or beginnings of such are already in me is another question. Of course, perhaps I experience things from the beginning as discrete objects. But this seems odd. In any case, idealism could not be correct - the mental is, at the very least, those things we know of which are not material objects. To say material objects are mental in nature is to change the meaning of words and disregard their common usage. There might be some properties, known or unknown, in common between material and immaterial things, yet the distinction still remains. If idealism was true, I could not think it. I could only whether idealist "material objects" were idealist "mental" in nature. This is similar to Putnam's brain-in-a-vat. Realism is almost by definition true - it is a commitment of our thought and action, our language and concepts.

I cannot consistently deny realism. It is implied in all our assertions. Realism is not a theory - it is the way in which we must think. It cannot be unmasked.

There are 3-dimensional objects. These are not mere time-slices of the "real" objects, which are the spatiotemporal series. Real change requires this - the same object to have one property at one time and a different one at the next (replacing the other). If the real objects are space-time worms, there can be no change. Each worm has each of its properties in every time. Consider a coffee-worm. At 1:00 it has the properties of being hot-at-1:00 and cold-at-2:00. At 2:00 it has the exact same properties. Objection: The worm does not at 1:00 have the property of being hot, rather it has the property of being-hot-at-1:00. The same with 2:00. And it always has exactly the same properties. Consider a poker, where one end is hot and the other cold. Point to one end and say that at that point the poker is hot and point to the other say that at that point the poker is cold. But the poker cannot be both hot and cold. What is really true to say is that the poker has the property of being hot-at-poker-end and the property of being cold-at-handle-end. Objection: But it is not the same object that changed. The properties changed, but so did the object. One temporal slice is not another. So this is not sufficient for real change. Space-time worms, then, cannot be the "real" objects, but rather the three-dimensional objects we know and love.

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