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I've heard some philosophers of mind use the term 'singular content'- but what

I've heard some philosophers of mind use the term 'singular content'- but what does that mean?

The usual term would be something like "singular proposition", as opposed to a "general proposition". A singular proposition is one that is about some particular object. For example, the proposition that the Dalai Lama is German is a singular proposition. A general proposition would be something like: One and only one person is the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, and that person is German.

The notion of something being a "fake" seems linguistically odd. Normally, if

The notion of something being a "fake" seems linguistically odd. Normally, if you have an adjective and a noun, the noun notes what the thing being talked about is, and the adjective describes some quality of the thing in question. A "fake plant", however, doesn't seem to fit that pattern at all, because a fake plant isn't a plant to begin with; the noun seems to be violating its intended function. Is "fake" something other than an adjective, then, perhaps analogous to "not a"? Or is a "fake plant" actually a "fakeplant", i.e. the fake is a part of the noun rather than an adjective, despite its apparent form? Doesn't the adjective "fake" somehow undermine the purpose of nouns?

One point worth noting here is that words like "fake" are, so far as I can see, always intensional. meaning that whether something is a fake F depends upon what property F is, and not just which things are F. They are also "attributive", meaning that an Adj-Noun isn't just an Adj that is Noun, but (roughly) something that is Adj for a Noun. E.g., a tall basketball player is someone who is tall for a basketball player, not just someone who is tall and a basketball player. Attributives are hard enough; intensionality is hard enough; both by themselves. Put them together, and it's a nightmare.

Suppose Jane, while growing up, somehow learned the wrong meaning for the word

Suppose Jane, while growing up, somehow learned the wrong meaning for the word "migraine," and came to believe that any particularly strong headache, regardless of whether it occurred on one or both sides of the head, was a migraine - i.e. that "migraine" and "headache" were mostly synonymous terms. Suppose Jane then has what we would call a headache, a severely painful sensation in her head distributed across both sides of her head, and tells us "I have a migraine." According to her understanding of the term "migraine," her statement is true, but according to her community's differing understanding of the term, her statement is false (because we call them migraines only if they affect one side of the head only). Is there a hierarchy between the contexts in which we can understand her claim? Is her claim ultimately either true or false, or is its truth-value ambiguous?

I just heard that, in the case of Hilary Putnam's "Twin Earth" experiment, Tyler

I just heard that, in the case of Hilary Putnam's "Twin Earth" experiment, Tyler Burge argued that Oscar and Twin Oscar had different concepts in mind when talking about "water". This seems bizarre, doubly so if neither Oscar nor Twin Oscar are familiar with the chemical composition of the stuff they call "water". If they don't know the chemical composition of the stuff, and the chemical composition is the only different between the two substances (all mesoscopic properties are identical), how can their mental concepts of the stuff possibly be different?

Suppose we individuate concepts by "reference," so two mental states/thoughts are identical if they are about the same things, otherwise different. If (arguably) one twin's thoughts 'refer to' H2O and the other's 'refer to' XYZ, then they would count as different thoughts or concepts. What you are merely presuming is that the notion of 'concept' should be narrowly individuated (ie defined only in terms of what's 'in the head', so the two twins shoudl have the same concept). But that is the very thing that is explicitly being debated in the classic papers by Putnam, Burge, and all the rest ....!

best, ap

Does a proposition which is always false such as 'one plus one equals seven'

Does a proposition which is always false such as 'one plus one equals seven' have false truth conditions or no truth conditions?

I can't see how it could have no truth conditions if it's always false: if it's always false, mustn't it have truth conditions of a particular kind, namely, truth conditions that are never fulfilled? I wouldn't call those "false truth conditions," however; I'd call them unfulfilled truth conditions or, in the case of "One plus one equals seven," unfulfillable truth conditions.

What does "fuc*ing" mean and why is it a bad word? Does fuc*ing mean sex where

What does "fuc*ing" mean and why is it a bad word? Does fuc*ing mean sex where there is a desire to express physical control or dominance over a woman? Is that a bad thing? Is it a normal aspect of what is sometimes thought as its opposite, "lovemaking"? If it is normal does that mean that it is not a bad thing? (I use an asterisk because I do not know if this site has a word filter.)

I agree with my colleague, N.S., and would like to add that his last line is worth reading the whole post!

Another way to think about this term comes from personal experience - in which meaning and gender analysis had no part. A number of years ago I was walking down a hallway in a classroom building and suddenly remembered that I neglected a Big Commitment...and the word "F**K!!" emerged loudly from my professorial mouth. Horrified, I looked around to apologize to any tender ears but I was spared because fortunately no one overheard me. But the ease with which it blurted out without my conscious permission gave me pause. It was, at the very least, unbecoming behavior. I vowed to amend my ways; I wanted to become more becoming in my speech. With practice I have developed some verbal temperance. As a virtue, this temperance has led to at least two good things: first if, as Aristotle suggests, we are what we do, using obscenities is simply a nasty habit and we become, well, nasty, and who wants to be thought of as nasty? But secondly, the very selective use of an obscenity preserves its impact. The ubiquity of course language around us makes it harder to up the ante when one feels truly vexed. But then, I'm just a professor. As some of my students might say, what the f**k do I know?

-bjm

Seeing that most languages require that sentences to have tense, can we actually

Seeing that most languages require that sentences to have tense, can we actually have any progress discussing time? I mean every sentence by its structure already assumes a understanding of time , how do we ever transcend the bounds of our current understandings of time if we still using "time" bound language?

Great issue(s)! Two thoughts to consider: first, it may not be obvious that all language is time-bound or tensed. The sentence 'two plus two equals four' or 'squares are four sided' might be interpreted as tensed (both sentences were true on Monday, and on Tuesday, etc) but they may also be understood as tenseless (their truth does not depend on temporality unlike the sentence uttered by me 'I am writing in response to your question now'). Second, I suggest that we can have interesting, competing philosophical theories of time when we look at the meaning of what you are calling "time bound language." So, for example, those who embrace what is often called four dimensionalism, treat all times as equally real. On this view, the French Revolution is occurring in 1789, and that is as real as the Battle of Waterloo which is occurring in June of 1815 and my writing you a reply in 2012. According to what is sometimes called presentism, only the present is real, so while it is true that the French Revolution occurred in 1789, that is past and it is not (in some fashion) still going on in 1789. Four dimensionalism winds up making time out to be akin to space and treats temporal objects as containing temporal parts (just as, for example, a week consists of seven days, it might be said of a person, that she consists of, say, a lifetime of N number of years), whereas presentists think of temporal objects as either fully and entirely present or not (on this view, you are fully and wholly present now, and not just a time slice of your lifetime as a whole). Check out the free online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on time for engaging arguments and sources.

Can someone point me in the direction of literature that tries to develop a

Can someone point me in the direction of literature that tries to develop a philosophical understanding of how language change over time? Or is there not much literature on the subject?

The topic of the philosophical significance of language change is very interesting, yet it has not received much philosophical attention. There are distinct ways, however, in which one might understand the topic, which need to be distinguished in order to isolate distinctively philosophical aspects of the question. One might be interested in the evolution of particular languages, the way in which, for example, English developed over time (Latin is, I believe, the source of the greatest percentage of English words): this topic, however, is a subject for the investigation of the historical linguist and is therefore an empirical subject. (Such investigations may have philosophical implications, but I'm not inclined to see them as intrinsically philosophical investigations.) Such an investigation, which could focus not only on the entrance of particular words into a language, but also on the evolution of the meanings of particular words over time, does closely neighbor a fascinating philosophical topic, namely that of how speakers of a language might fix the meanings of the words that they use in various ways--which might imply, for example, that language is not static, but dynamic--and hence illuminate (one aspect) of the nature of language. This topic has been investigated relatively recently by the philosopher Jamie Tappenden, most notably in "Some Remarks on Vagueness and a Dynamic Conception of Language" and "Negation, Denial, and Language Change in Philosophical Logic." Depending on what aspect of this general question you are interested in, you might find these papers and the references contained therein in exploring this fascinating topic.

Suppose I write a computer program that randomly strings words together, and the

Suppose I write a computer program that randomly strings words together, and the first output it produces happens to be "I am a janitor." Is the output an instance of language? Does it mean anything, and if so, what?

In Reason, Truth, and History, Hilary Putnam imagines a similar scenario, supposing that an ant's movements through the sand produce marks that have the form of English words: Putnam asks, as you do, whether those marks should be taken to be words. I'm inclined to answer--as Putnam does--that the marks are not words and, hence, do not signify anything and are not an instance of language. There are various routes that one might take to this conclusion. Here's one. One might argue that in order for marks (or phonemes) to have a meaning, the producer of the marks (or phonemes) must intend for those marks (phonemes) to be understood. Neither the ant nor the computer program (presumably) can have such intentions, hence the marks (phonemes) are not significant. While these marks (phonemes) may, of course, be interpreted as significant by some competent language user, but they do not count as significant because they have not been produced by a competent language user. In the absence of such intentions, marks (phonemes) that seem to be significant are merely accidentally so, because they have been so interpreted by a competent language user, but they themselves are not themselves instances of language. There are, of course, other--perhaps better--routes to this conclusion: perhaps my colleagues will offer them! (If they agree with the conclusion advanced here.)

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