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David Lewis - Putnam's Paradox

David Lewis - Putnam's Paradox

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AustralasianJournalofPhilosophy
Vol.62,No.3;September1984
PUTNAM'SPARADOXDavidLewis
Introduction.
HilaryPutnamhasdevisedabombthatthreatenstodevastatetherealistphilosophyweknowandlove.
I
Heexplainshowhehaslearnedtostopworryingandlovethebomb.Hewelcomestheneworderthatitwouldbring.(RT&H,Preface)Butwewhostillliveinthetargetareadonotagree.
The
bombmustbebanned.Putnam'sthesis(thebomb)isthat,invirtueofconsiderationsfromthetheoryofreference,itmakesnosensetosupposethatanempiricallyidealtheory,asverifiedascanbe,mightneverthelessbefalsebecausetheworld
is
notthewaythetheorysaysitis.Thereasongivenis,roughly,thatthere
is
nosemanticgluetostickourwordsontotheirreferents,andsoreference
is
very
muchupforgrabs;butthereisoneforceconstrainingreference,and
that
isourintentiontoreferinsuchawaythatwecomeoutright;andthere
is
nocountervailingforce;andtheworld,nomatterwhatitislike(almost),willafford
some
schemeofreferencethatmakesuscomeoutright;sohowcanwefailtocomeoutright?2Putnam'sthesisisincredible.Weareinthepresenceofparadox,assurelyaswhenwemeetthemanwhooffersusaproofthattherearenopeople,andinparticularthathehimselfdoesnotexist.
3
It
isoutofthequestiontofollowtheargumentwhereitleads.Weknowinadvancethatthereissome-thingwrong,andthechallengeistofindoutwhere.Iftheparadox-mongerisgoodathiswork,westandtolearnsomething;andindeed,IthinkthatPutnam'sparadoxaffordsanimportantlesson.InthefirsthalfofthepaperIshallgivemyaccountofwhatItaketobethecoreofPutnam'sargument,andIshallsayhowIthinkitfails.Inthesecondhalfofthepaper,IshallraisesomequestionsaboutaspectsofPutnam'spresentationthatpuzzleme.
"
I
HilaryPutnam,'RealismandReason',
ProceedingsoftheAmericanPhilosophicalAssociation
·500977)pp.483·498,reprintedinPutnam,
MeaningandtheMoralSciences
(RoutledgeandKeganPaul,1978),henceforth'R&R',citedwithpagenumbersfrom
MeaningandtheMoralSciences;
'ModelsandReality',
JournalofSymbolicLogic
45(1980)pp.464-482,henceforth'M&R';and
Reason,TruthandHistory
(CambridgeUniversityPress,1981),henceforth'RT&H'.
:2
Comparethemaliciousjoke:'Mr.Zclaimstohavefoundacounterexampletomytheory.
'~t
he
liasmisunderstoodme,hehasnotinterpretedmywordsasIintended.ForIintended"thaitherebenocounterexamples.'
'J
PeterUnger,'WhyThereAreNoPeople',
MidwestStudiesinPhilosophy
4(I979),pp.177-222;and'IDoNotExist',inG.F.Macdonald,ed.,
PerceptionandIdentity
(Macmillan,1979).
221
 
Threecaveats.
(I)
IwarnthereaderthatIamnotsurehowweillunder-)stand
Putnam."
Sometimes,differentthingshesaysseemtopointindifferentdirections.Whatismore,IshallstatewhatItaketobehisargumentinmyownway.IhopethelineofargumentIdiscussisPutnam's,evenifratherfreelyparaphrased.Butwhetheritishisornot,Ithinkitworthyofattention.(2)IshallacquiesceinPutnam'slinguisticturn:Ishalldiscussthesemanticinterpretationoflanguageratherthantheassisgnrnentofcontenttoattitudes,thusignoringthepossibilitythatthelattersettlestheformer.
It
wouldbebetter,Ithink,tostartwiththeattitudesandgoontolanguage.ButIthinkthatwouldrelocate,ratherthanavoid,theproblem;whereforeImayaswelldiscussitonPutnam'sownterms."(3)Ishallignorethecomplexdetailsofmodel-theoreticsemanticsfornaturallanguage.Isupposethatapropertreamentwouldrequireinterpretationsinwhichthesemanticvaluesareelaborateset-theoreticconstructions."ButIshallacquiesceinPutnam'ssuppositionthatwecangetbywithmodeltheoryinits'basicform'(R&R,p.124):wehaveadomainof'partsoftheworld',thingswhichmayserveasreferentsforsingularterms,andclassesofwhichmayserveasreferentsforgeneralterms.Suchasuppositionmightmatter,ifmodel-theoreticresultswereasimportanttoPutnam'sargumentashesuggests.ButIloadthediceinPutnam'sfavour,ifatall;soIplayfair.
GlobalDescriptivismRefuted.
Wearefamiliarwiththeideaofadescriptiontheoryofreference-forshort,
descriptivism-
and,especially,withalocalformthereof.Suppose,
pace
Putnam,thatsomehowwealreadyhaveanextensivelanguagewithfairlydeterminatereference.Thenwemayaddnewlanguagetotheold,alittleatatime,byintroducingundefinedtermsinourtheorising.Therebyweassociateclustersofold-languagedescriptionswithournewterms;andthereby,iftheworldcooperates,webestowreferenceonthenewterms.'JacktheRipperdidthis,that,andtheother'saysthedetective;hispointisinparttohypothesisethatthereissomeonewhodidthis,that,andtheother,andinparttostipulatethattheonewhodid,ifsuchtherebe,istobecomethereferentof'JacktheRipper'.Thenewterm'JacktheRipper'istoacquirethereferent,ifany,oftheold-languagedescription'theonewhodidthis,that,andtheother'.Theintendedinter-pretationoftheaugmentedlanguageistobeanextensionoftheoldinterpret-ationoftheoldlanguage,ifsuchtherebe,thatmakesthenewJack-the-Rippertheorycometrue.
IfinditespeciallyhardtomakeRT&HmeshwithR&RandM&R,butIdothinktheyaresuppposedtomesh.ThethirdfullparagraphofRT&H,p.7,indicatesaconnection.Also,RT&HwasindraftbeforePutnamreadGoodman's
WaysojWorldmaking
(see
RT&H,p.xii);thelatterwaspublishedin1978,andmighthavebeenavailableinmanuscripttoasympatheticcolleagueearlierthanthat;soRT&HismorenearlysimultaneouswithR&RandM&Rthantheirpublicationdateswouldsuggest.
3
Foradiscussionofthe'relocated'problemanditssolution,seethefinalsectionofmy
'New
WorkforaTheoryofUniversals',
AustralasianJournalojPhilosophy
61(1983),pp.343-377.
6
Moreorlessasinmy'GeneralSemantics',
Synthese
22(1970),pp.18-67.
Sevenpointsshouldbenoted.
(I)
Theremayormaynotberigidification.Ifthereis,thatwillavoidconfusionbetweenpeoplewhohaveattachedthesametermtothesamereferentbymeansofdifferentdescriptions.Fornothingwillbetrueasonepersonmeansitbutfalseastheothermeansit,notevenwhenthetermappearsinmodalcontexts."(2)Theterm-introducingdescrip-tivetheorymaybeegocentric(forinstance,itmightinclude'Waterisabundantonthisplanet');
(3)
itmaymakereference(inoldlanguage)towordtokensorthoughttokens;and(4)itmayinvolverelationsofcausalacquaint-ance.Taking
poiutx
(2)-(4)together,wenoteforinstancethat'Beechtreesarethecausalsourceinsuch-and-suchwayoftokensinmyspeechandthoughtof"beechtree"mightbepartofthebitofdescriptivetheorythat,forme,attachesareferentto'beechtree';andso,
mutatismutandis,
with'elmtree'.(5)Thedescriptionneedn'tfitperfectly.'JacktheRipper'mighttakeasreferenttheonewhocomesclosesttodoingthis,that,andtheother,ifnobettercandidateisavailable.Theintendedinterpretationoftheaugmentedlanguage,then,istobethatextensionoftheoldinterpretationthatcomesascloseascanbetomakingthenewJack-the-Rippertheorycometrue.(6)Theremightbetwocandidatesthatbothfitperfectly;morelikely,theremightbetwoimperfectcandidateswithlittletochoosebetweenthemandnostrongercandidatetobeatthemboth.Ifso,weendupwithindeter-minatereference(inadditiontowhateverresultsfromindeterminacyoftheoldinterpretationoftheoldlanguage):thenewtermrefersequallytobothcandidates.HartryField'sexampleofNewtonian'mass'illustratesthispossi-bility."Notewellthatthisismoderateindeterminacy,inwhichtherivalinterpretationshavemuchincommon;itisnottheradicalindeterminacy(thatleadstoPutnam'sparadox.Itakeitthattheexistenceofmoderate.indeterminacyisnottobedenied.Finally,andmostimportantforwhatfollows,(7)itmayhappenthatnewtermsacquiretheirreferentsbydes-criptionnotsinglybutinfamilies.Supposethatourdetectivehypothesisedthatthemurderswerethejointworkofacouple:JacktheRipperandJilltheSlasher,ashechosetocallthem.'Jackdidthis,'hesays,'Jilldidthatandtheother,andJackandJillarerelatedthus'.Then,iftheworldprovidessuitablecandidates,'Jack'and'Jill'gainreferentstogether.Theintendedinter-pretationofthedoublyaugmentedlanguageistobeanextensionoftheoldinterpretationoftheoldlanguage,ifsuchtherebe,thatmakesthenewJack-and-Jilltheorycometrue.Descriptiontheoriesofreferencearesupposedtohavebeenwellandtrulyrefuted.Ithinknot:wehavelearntenoughfromourattackerstowithstandtheirattacks.Ithinkthatadescriptivismthattakestoheartthesevenpointsjustlistedisstilltenable,andisindeedasubstantialpartofthetruthaboutreference.Bethatasitmay,alocaldescriptivismisdisappointinglymodest.Ittells
:lowethepoi~ttoH.
W.
Noonan,'RigidDesi~nation',
Analysis
39(1979).pp.174-t82.HartryField,TheoryChangeandtheIndeterminacyofReference',
JournalojPhilosophy
70(1973),pp.462-481.'
 
224
Putnam's
Paradox
I
,
showtogetmorereferenceifwehavesomealready.Butwheredidtheoldlanguageget
its
reference?
It
isthereforetemptingtotrythesamemethodonagranderscale.Wecanintroducetermsinlittlefamilies.Howaboutbiggerfamilies?Howaboutthebiggestfamilyofall-theentirevocabularyofthelanguage?Thenweneedn'tworryhowtheoldvocabularygotitsreference.Becausethereisn'tanyoldvocabulary.(Orperhapstheoldvocabularyisjustthefirst-orderlogicalvocabulary.Putnamseemstoassumethis,butwithouttellinguswhythatvocabularyisspecial,orhowitgotitsreference.)Wegoonjustasbefore.Theintendedinterpretationwillbetheone,ifsuchtherebl',thatmakestheterm-introducingtheorycometrue.(Or:...comenearenoughtotrue.Or:theintendedinterpretationswillbetheones,ifsuchtherebe,...within-determinacyiftherearemorethanone.)Butthistime,theterm-introducing(theoryistotaltheory!Callthisaccountofreference:
global
descriptivism.AnditleadsstraighttoPutnam'sincrediblethesis.For
any
world(almost).whateveritislike,cansatisfy
any
theory(almost),whateveritsays.Wesaid:'theintendedinterpretationwillbetheone,
if
suchtherebe,....'
Nevermindtheproviso-there
will
be.
It
is(almost)certainthattheworldwillaffordthemakingsofaninterpretationthatwillmakethetheorycometrue.Infact.itwillaffordcountlesssuchinterpretations.
Exhypothesi
theseinterpretationsareintended.Sothereis(almost)nowaythatthetheorycanfailtocometrueonitsintendedinterpretations.Whichistosay:(almost)nowaythatthetheorycanfailtocometrue
simpliciter.
ThisisPutnam'sso-called'model-theoreticargument'."Soglobaldescriptivismisfalse;orPutnam'sincrediblethesisistrue;orthereissomethingwrongwiththepresuppositionsofourwholelineofthought.UnlikePutnam,Iresolutelyeliminatethesecondandthirdalter-natives.Theonethatremainsmustthereforebethetruth.Globaldescrip-tivismstandsrefuted.
It
maybepartofthetruthaboutreference,butitcannotbethewholestory.Theremustbesomeadditionalconstraintonreference:someconstraintthatmight,ifweareunluckyinourtheorising,eliminate
all
theallegedlyintendedinterpretationsthatmakethetheorycometrue.
r
I
urtherConstraints-JustMoreTheory?
Putnamhasconstraintstooffer:hespeaksoftenof'operationalandtheoreticalconstraints'(forinstance,seeR&R,p.126;M&R,pp.466,469,471,and473).
It
ishardtotellfromhiswordswhetherthesearesupposedtoconstrainreferenceortheory.Probablyhethinkstheydoboth:theyconstrainidealtheory,idealtheoryistheterm-introducingdescriptivetheorytowhichglobaldescriptivismapplies,sointhisindirectwaytheyconstrainreferencealso.Sotheseconstraintsworkwithinglobaldescriptivism.Theyarenotanadditionoralternativetoit.
9
Theargumentwasanticipated(apartfrommathematicaldetailhavingtodowiththequali-fication
'almost
anyworld')inM.
H.A.
Newman,"Mr.Russell's'CausalTheory
of
Perception..••
Mind
37(1928),
pp.
137-148.
Newman'sargumentisdiscussedinWilliamDemopoulosandMichaelFriedman.'TheConceptofStructureinEarlyTwentiethCenturyPhilosophyofScience'.in
MinnesotaStudiesinthePhilosophyofScience
(forthcoming).
David
Lewis
Wemustseekelsewhereforsalvationfromindeterminacyandover-easytruth.Weneedfurtherconstraints.Putnamthinkstherecanbenosuchfurtherconstraints.Globaldescrip-tivismistheonlypossibleaccount'ofreference(apartfromaccountsthatrelyonsupernaturalaid).Constraintsthatworkwithinitaretheonlypossibleconstraintsonreference.Hisreasonisthatglobaldescriptivismisimperial-istic:itwillannexanysatisfactoryalternativeaccountofconstraintsonreference.SupposethatwesayitisconstraintCthatsavestheday-acausalcon-straint,perhaps,orwhathaveyou.WeofferanaccountofhowconstraintCworks,abitoftheoryinfact.Ifthisbitoftheorylooksgood,itwilldeservetobeincorporatedintototaltheory.Supposeitis.Thenanintendedinter-pretationmustmakeC-theorycometrue,alongwiththerestoftotaltheory.Butitwillstillbetrue,asmuchasever,that(almost)anyworldcansatisfy(almost)anytheory.AddingC-theorytotherestoftotaltheorydoesn'thelp.
It
isstilltriviallyeasyforaworldtomaketotaltheorycometrue,andinfacttodosoincountlessways.Andthepointisgeneral:itappliestoanyconstraint(or,atleast,toanyotherwisesatisfactoryconstraint)thatmightbeproposed.ConstraintCistobeimposedbyacceptingC-theory,accordingtoPutnam.ButC-theoryisjustmoretheory,moregristforthemill;andmoretheorywillgothewayofalltheory.TowhichIreply:Cis
not
tobeimposedjustbyacceptingC-theory.ThatisamisunderstandingofwhatCis.Theconstraintis
not
thatanintendedinterpretationmustsomehowmakeouraccountofCcometrue.Thecon-straintisthatanintendedinterpretationmustconformtoCitself.Thatiswhyglobaldescriptivismdoesnotautomaticallyannexitssuccessfulrivals.Thatiswhyglobaldescriptivism,unaidedbyfurtherconstraints,isnottheonlypossibletheoryofreference.Thatiswhysomefurtherconstraintonreferencemightsavetheday.SincePutnam'sparadoxicalthesisispatentlyfalse,wecanbeconfidentthatthereisindeedsomefurtherconstraint,whetherornotwecanfindoutwhatitis.Isthatall?WhatIhavejustsaid(andothersbeforeme,
e.g.
Deviu.!"inthecourseofadvocatingparticularconstraints)maynotcarryconviction.
It
mayseemthatPutnamisontosomethingdeepandright.Heisnotjustmissinganeasydistinction:satisfyingC-theoryversusconformingto
C.
Istherereallyadistinctionhere?Ithinkthereis.Buttherearetworeasonsfordoubtingthedistinction.Oneissimplymisguided;theotherisinstructivelywrong.Themisguidedreasoncomesfromthedialecticofphilosophy.Therulesofdisputationsometimesgivethewrongsideawinningstrategy.Inparticular,theyfavourthesceptic.Theyfavourtheordinaryscepticaboutempiricalknowledge;theyfavourthelogicalsceptic,Carroll'stortoiseorapresent-daydoubterofnon-contradiction;andtheyfavourthescepticaboutdeter-minatereference.
It
goesasfollows.TheChallengeraskshowdeterminate
10
MichaelDevitt,'RealismandtheRenegadePutnam:
A
CriticalStudyof
MeaningandtheMoralSciences'.
NOlIS
17(1983).
pp.
291-301.

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