Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Introspection of judging

Consider the concept of a judging. A judging is a believing operating occurrently and consciously (this is stipulative). Sometimes, a judging comes at the beginning of believing: after weighing the evidence, I judge that p, and my judging that p is the beginning of my believing that p, a believing that soon slides from occurrence into dispositionality. Sometimes, perhaps, I have a belief dispositionally which I never acquired by means of a judging, but which belief comes to the mental foreground, and becomes a judging.

Let us suppose that for every believing there is a belief, namely a proposition that is believed. Then, since a judging is a kind of believing, every judging is associated with a proposition that is adjudged, a proposition that one might call the judgment. (Actually, "belief" and "judgment" are ambiguous in English between the proposition and the mental act; so I am here stipulating that I will use an "-ing" form for the mental act—e.g., "believing" or "making a judgment"—and "belief" and "judgment" for the propositional object of the mental act.) I shall also assume that a proposition, perhaps unlike a declarative sentence, is always either true or false.

Here is an anti-Cartesian thesis that I am going to offer an argument for, and then discuss whether one can get out of the argument:

  1. It need not be possible to introspect whether a mental act is a judgment, and whether a mental act is a judgment is not an internal property of the mental act.

The argument is fairly simple. It is possible for me to judge that

  1. Fred right now is not making a judgment that is true.
In judging (2), I might even be judging correctly—for instance, if Fred is asleep, or if Fred is judging that I do not exist. By exactly the same token, it is possible for Fred to judge that
  1. Alex right now is making a judgment that is true.
Now imagine three possible worlds w1, w2 and w3. These worlds are exact duplicates up to but not including t0. In particular, prior to t0, the distinctions between the three worlds are is not introspectible either to me or to Fred. Assume also that neither of us is within sensory range of the other at t0. Now suppose that in w1 at t0, I make the judgment (2), and I am right, because Fred has just fallen asleep at t0. In w2 at t0, I have just fallen asleep, and Fred makes the judgment (3), which judgment is thus wrong. Now, in w3 at t0, I have exactly the internal properties that I do in w1, while Fred has exactly the internal properties that he does in w2. But now observe that there is a very good argument that it is not the case that both I and Fred make a judgment at t0 in w3. For if I make a judgment at t0 in w3, it is surely the judgment (2). And if Fred makes a judgment at t0 in w3, it is surely the judgment (3). Let p1 and p2 be the respective judgments—the propositions adjudged. Then, plainly, p1 is true if and only if p2 is false, and p2 is true if and only if p1 is true. But that is a contradiction.

But introspectively, surely, w3 at t0 is just like w1 for me, and just like w2 for Fred. In w1, I do make a judgment, and in w2, Fred makes a judgment. Therefore, if I fail to make a judgment at t0 in w3, then whether I make a judgment is not introspectible, nor is it a matter of my internal properties, as I have the same internal properties at t0 in w1 and w3, and hence (1) is true. Likewise, if Fred fails to make a judgment at t0 in w3, (1) is true. Since at least one of us fails to make a judgment at t0 in w3, it follows that (1) is true.

Can a Cartesian get out of the argument? I think the following are the main controversial premises (all of them purporting to be a necessary truth): (a) all judgments are propositional, (b) all propositions are true or false, (c) introspection depends on one's internal states, (d) one's internal states do not depend on what is simultaneously happening far away, and (e) if I or Fred make a judgment in w3 at t0, the judgment is (2) or (3), respectively.

If we're not Cartesians, perhaps we will happily embrace (1). But I think (1) has an unfortunate result, namely that it opens up the possibility of a sceptical hypothesis far more radical than any Descartes considers: the hypothesis that perhaps I am not actually making any judgments, and that this is true all the way down (I do not actually judge myself to be thinking, nor do I actually judge myself to be judging to be thinking, etc.)

The easiest way out for the Cartesian might be to deny (a). But then the Cartesian still has the unfortunate result that one cannot introspect whether there is a proposition that one is judging. That will, probably, be rather uncomfortable for the Cartesian, and the resulting sceptical hypothesis will still be nasty.

I myself am attracted to really crazy solutions, and in particular I think that each of (c), (d) and (e) is such that one can non-absurdly deny it.

As for (c), it might be trivially true. If it's trivially true, then (1) is less interesting. What is interesting is not whether we can always know by "introspection" whether we are judging, but whether we can always tell directly whether we are judging. The view under consideration would be one on which one has a non-natural way of recognizing what is going on far away, but perhaps one is unable to express it. This is weird, but not absurd.

The radical externalist will deny (d). The theist who believes in divine simplicity will have reason to deny (d) in the case of God. And one might have a weird non-naturalist view on which (d) is denied in our case. Again, not absurd.

As for (e), I think its denial is perhaps the most interesting option for the Cartesian. Spinoza thought all our judgments were true. A consequence of his view was that sometimes we can be unwittingly behaving as if we were judging that p, while in fact we are not judging that q. We behave as if we believed the stick in the water is broken. But in fact, what we are judging, according to Spinoza, is that our bodies are broken-stickly affected. It is only in the case, Spinoza insists, where we have conclusive and infallible evidence of the stick's being broken that we are judging that the stick is broken. This is weird indeed. But it may well indeed be where certain Cartesian thoughts taken to their natural conclusion lead. I do not want to go all the way with Spinoza to say that all our judgments are true, though I think his view can be defended more effectively than one might at first suppose. Rather, I want to focus on Spinoza's insight that the content of one's judgments may be belied by the words with which one expresses them, even in the case of someone who has mastered the language.

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