Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Epistemicism and physicalism

  1. There is a precise boundary for the application of “bald”.

  2. If there is a precise boundary for the application of “bald”, that boundary is defined by a linguistic rule of infinite complexity.

  3. If physicalism is true, then no linguistic rules have infinite complexity.

  4. So, physicalism is not true.

The argument for (1) is classical logic. The argument for (2) depends on the many-species considerations at the end of my last post. And if (3) is true, then linguistic rules are defined by our practices, and our practices are finitary in nature.

Objection: We are analog beings, and every analog system has possible states of infinite complexity.

Response 1: Our computational states ignore small differences, so in practice we have only finite complexity.

Response 2: There is a cardinality limit on the complexity of states of analog systems (analog systems can only encode continuum-many states). But there is no cardinality limit on the number of humanoid species with hair, as there are possible such species in worlds whose spacetime is based on systems of hyperreals whose cardinality goes arbitrarily far beyond that of the reals.


IanS said...

I would reject epistemicism and (1) with it. Natural language is not formal logic. “Bald”, like most words, has no precise applicability. That does not stop it being useful.

Pointing out someone in a crowd, I might say, “That’s him – the bald man over there”. As long as the person I’m talking to picks out the right man, my words have served their purpose.

Suppose I had called the man bald, and my hearer had spotted a man she considered a bit follically challenged but not strictly bald. She would have asked for clarification (“Did you mean him – that tall man in the grey suit?”, or some such), and I would have given it. Even when we disagree on the applicability of “bald”, it is still useful.

IanS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
entirelyuseless said...

Like IanS said, (1) is false. The problem with your previous post is that it assumes something similar to epistemicism is given, in the sense that even a many valued logic implies the ability to describe reality with arbitrary precision.

The truth is that the relationship between words and the world is intrinsically vague, and no amount of effort, ever, will take away that vagueness.