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Bennett and Hacker: Village Idiots or Philosophers?

David Longley David at longley.demon.co.uk
Thu Feb 12 12:52:51 EST 2004

In article <y21kk72sgrlj.fsf at cobra.cs.Virginia.EDU>, Ashlie Benjamin 
Hocking <abh2n at cobra.cs.Virginia.EDU> writes
>>>>"Glen M. Sizemore" <gmsizemore2 at yahoo.com> writes:
>>>> Why take the language at face value in one instance, and not in the other?
>>>> If "I remembered that I gave a lecture" is to "recall an event," why isn't
>>>> "I remember that I have to give a lecture today" a matter of "recalling an
>>>> event?"
>>>Ben Hocking <abh2n at cobra.cs.Virginia.EDU> writes
>>>It _is_. The event that is being recalled that you "have to give a
>>>lecture today". This is not a future event, this (as worded) is a
>>>present event based on a past event (namely, that you committed to
>>>giving a lecture today). If you wanted to be tricky, you could use the
>>>better (IMO) example "I remembered that I will give a lecture
>>>today". As phrased, this definitely suggests that the speaker is
>>>remembering a future event. Of course, most people will (correctly)
>>>infer that the speaker is actually remembering that in the past he
>>>committed to giving a lecture in the future, since one cannot remember
>>>events that have not yet occurred.
>>David Longley <David at longley.demon.co.uk> writes:
>> What you've just done at the end there is translate the statement into
>> another so that it is consistent with your preconceptions or
>> "meaning". That's one of the problems with (or features of)
>> intensional contexts. But such moves generally amount to little more
>> than a reshuffle in an intensional language game. The point to
>> appreciate surely, is that one should really just look at how these
>> phrases are used (and used holophrasically). Looking inside the
>> phrases amounts to an attempt to quantify in where one shouldn't.
>Absolutely. It's my belief that my preconceptions of "meaning" are
>consistent with most other's beliefs. Without such "preconceptions"
>at some level language is useless. Surely you would concede this, it
>just seems that you're are only willing to use these preconceptions at
>the atomic level (words and grammar) and not necessarily at higher
>levels (similes).
>When someone tells me that "I remembered that I will give a lecture
>today", my belief options, the best I can see, are:
>(1) To believe that person meant that he remembered that he committed
>to giving a lecture today
>(2) To believe that person is somehow visited by foreknowledge of
>events that have not yet happened
>(3) To believe that the person _thinks_ he is somehow visited by such
>foreknowledge (i.e., to believe that person is not wholly sane)
>(4) To believe that the person is lying about being visited by such
>I'm claiming that #1 is usually the best bet (although personal
>knowledge of the speaker could cause me to believe #3 or #4). Are you
>claiming that #2 is the best bet, or do you see another belief option
>that I'm missing (entirely possible, this is off the top of my head)?

If someone says "I just remembered I left the pan on the stove", they 
are using the phrase politely to say that they are absenting themselves 
or they require someone to do something about it. If they say "I just 
remembered I'm going to the cinema tonight" it should be taken much the 
same way, ie as an excuse *depending on what else is happening. The 
references are to other behaviours in the situation. They are not 
"retrieving" or "recalling" anything, they are referring to other 
contingencies. We learn to use phrases hollophrasically, they're social 
skills (verbal behaviours) ie "meaning" is use. If someone says "I what 
I meant was..." they just use phrases like that to indicate that they 
are saying something different from what was said before, if they say "I 
believe....." they're just saying that they would assent (another verbal 
behaviour) to something. "Meanings" and "beliefs" etc are not in our 

You'll appreciate that what I'm saying here is that to talk about 
"meanings" "beliefs", "memories" "cognitions" etc, per se is a mistake. 
Talking about them being passed around neural networks (or stored in 
them etc) like trains in a subway is more than just a mistake..... but 
that's where it leads.

The alternative is much harder (paradoxically) as a language - largely 
because it's inconsistent with our natural language and its intensional 
folk psychology.

>>>Of course, what one says (or writes) is not always what one means
>>>_literally_, even if one has not misspoken. When Carl Sandburg wrote
>>>"the fog comes on little cat feet", the author assumed that the reader
>>>would not take him literally. Similarly, most speakers (or authors)
>>>who make the above statement ("I remembered that I will give a lecture
>>>today") are assuming that the listeners will understand what is meant,
>>>although at least one speaker/author (you) would not mean what most of
>>>us (I believe) would assume is meant by such a statement.
>> And there you really go and confirm it.
>                          | "Good and evil both increase at compound
>Ben Hocking, Grad Student | interest. That is why the little
>hocking at cs.virginia.edu   | decisions you and I make every day are of
>                          | such infinite importance." - C. S. Lewis

David Longley

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