joi, 12 iunie 2008

Potências: Holismo quanto ao mundo

Na semana passada estive em Nottingham, terra de Robin Hood. Estive falando com
os metafísicos locais, todos às voltas com potências, disposições e holismos quanto ao
mundo. (Distribuir os poderes dos roubados dos potentes entre os impotentes.) E lá estava
eu, no meio daqueles ontólogos todos, gente que é capaz de falar que o tempo é mais uma
dimensão do mundo, uma quarta dimensão, sem sequer perder uma batida de coração.
Mas, arre, eles pagavam as cervejas, os curries, os chás - e eu resolvi falar de como meu
velho holismo com respeito ao pensamento pode aninhar-se no meio do holismo com respeito
ao mundo que parece se despreender de uma ontologia de potências.
Tratava-se de uma atmosfera deshumeana, mas, ali também, a sombra do escocês pairava.
Copio aqui o papelinho que distribuí preles:

World Holism (WH): interconnectedness of parts of the world through their modal features. WH pictures a world modally animated as opposed to a (supposedly possible) modal-free ontology.
Thought Holism (TH): interconnectedness of thought contents through their semantic features. TH pictures thought as interanimated contents as opposed to a building-block-like, representationalist image of the mind.
Relations between WH and TH: analogies, entailments, constraints, fine-tuning.
Strong questions:
(1) Does TH entail WH?
(2) Does WH entail TH?
(3) Is TH a special case of WH?
In this talk I will focus on sketching arguments to answer yes to (1) and (3). (A yes to (3) would lead to a yes to (2).)

Answering yes to (1) A: Humean metaphysics spreads epistemological problems
A modally poor metaphysics entails various forms of scepticism, including problems with induction. A modally poor world can only be legitimately accessed through modally poor experience. Without necessary connections in the world, truths about the future (or about future observations) can only be grasped through reason. The idea that necessary connections are projections of the mind upon the world makes sense only if we assume that the world could be free of modality (or modally poor).
Of course, the denial of Humeanism in metaphysics is not enough to entail WH. But it leads in this direction by encouraging the image of a less modally inanimate world.
Answering yes to (1) B: TH entails (some form of) modal realism
(1) All beliefs are equally about the world: no belief is intelligible purely in terms of its contribution to the interpretation of other beliefs (From the rejection of the 1st dogma)
(2) Conversely, each belief depends on other beliefs to be understood and to receive a verdict from the world – understanding and confrontation with the world apply to critical masses of beliefs. (From the rejection of the 2nd dogma)
(3) Empirical content comes in the form of beliefs. (From the rejection of the 3rd dogma)
(4) If a critical mass of beliefs contains enough falsities, it becomes unintelligible and cannot be confronted with the world. . (From (1) - (3))
(5) There should be some truths in an intelligible critical mass of beliefs. (From (4))
(6) Beliefs about the future constitute a critical mass such that if enough beliefs are removed, we no longer have the resources to think about the future. (Additional anti-Humean assumption)
(7) Some of our beliefs about the future are true.
Answering yes to (1) C: Humean metaphysics is not really modally inanimate
Hume holds that a is necessarily connected to b only if a is identical with b and therefore (on most cases at least) causation cannot be a necessary connection. So, there is a necessary connection between chordates and creatures with a heart. The Humean world is not modally inanimate, it is analytically animate. Necessary connections are reached through the trick of making some connections available to reason alone. If there is no such shortcut possible, necessary connections are to be argued for metaphysically. That suggests that there cannot be a fully modality-free metaphysics.
Answering yes to (3) A: The rejection of the dogmas that grounds TH could be formulated in broader (metaphysical) terms.
TH can also be presented as a consequence of the failed attempts to establish a realm within thought that would be somehow passive: either the internal (to do with matters of reason, analytical judgments) or the purely empirical (passively received sense data, factual). The rejection of the three dogmas that inaugurates Davidsonian TH could be seen as special cases of three broader rejections:
There is no atomic, fixed necessary connection that could be a truth-maker for our discourses on necessity. A necessary connection is never unaffected by the other surrounding necessary connections. There is no separate realm of necessary connections enjoying a special status that would make them effective comes what may – no separate realm of analytical connections, no separate realm of nomological connections. Therefore, no nomological necessity could be isolated from all the other powers affecting each other. There is no principled distinction between fixed nomological necessity on the one hand and ordinary powers – only as an approximation we can take laws as fixed connections (typically, through ceteris paribus clauses). We fix them by postulating that the rest of the world is powerless, inanimate. The purely categorical is a postulation to allow for some individuation of necessary connections.
As a consequence of the first, there is no picture of isolated parts of the world that could be brought to view as more than approximations (Bradley/Joachim on holism about truth-makers?) Our ontology should include all the intervening powers.
No item could be isolated from its powers (potentialities, capacities, conceptual schemes for thought). Therefore, there is no underlying substrata to objects, no underlying quidditas to properties
Answering yes to (3) B: The debate between inferentialism and representationalism could be seen as a special case of the debate between (pan-)dispositionalists and friends of categorical properties. TH encourages the view that inferential capacities are powers of thought contents.
Conceptual capacities and beliefs can be understood in terms of dispositions: always inferring, never representing. A representationalist account of thought is a special case of a view of (parts of the) world as being composed by categorical properties. TH encourages inferentialism – thought contents understood as powers.
A suitable version of TH would make it clear that its features can be presented in terms akin to WH. In fact, world and thought seem to be put at a level and similar constituents are present in both: powers. Some of the points above suggest a WH where isolated necessary connections can only been provided by postulating clauses that alienate some powers – typically ceteris paribus clauses. Without those added clauses, the emerging metaphysical picture is one where active powers are everywhere and there is little room for inanimate (and fixed) elements. This seems to encourage some kind of pan-dispositionalism: an ontology of powers; where events are transitions between powers.
Problems with individuation?
Assuming WH would lead to some version of pan-dispositionalism (or maybe some kind of two-side theory about properties), we could face problems with numerical identity and misidentification of indiscernibles. Davidsonian HT is prey of charges of vacuity and massive reduplication of singular items as it cannot do much more than specify de dicto those singular items. A pan-dispositionalism that takes objects to be bundles of powers could have problems with numerical identity. Holists of any kind seem to be friends of bundles.
Based on the generalized rejection of the 1st dogma above, we can take individuation to be a consequence of what we keep fixed – like laws of nature. Maybe individuation is a concern for thought – which is a device to bring about singularities – rather than for our general metaphysics. But would this be a result of lack of trust in general metaphysics?

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