Archive for the 'arguments' Category


Know-how and language

Let’s look in more depth at the relationship between knowledge and language.  Although we have accepted (maybe only tentatively) that beliefs can be expressed as linguistic statements (see (TOCA-8-A)), we have found this compelling largely because the following appear to hold

(T&W-1) When one has a belief, one is related in a certain way (the relation of believing) to a proposition.
(T&W-3) Propositions have structure that parallels the logical structure of the sentences.

Presumably, what we mean when we say that beliefs can be expressed as linguistic statements is that for a belief B, and a proposition related to that belief PB, B can be expressed by the linguistic statement SB only when SB reflects the logical structure of PB (and when the words of SB reflect the proper concepts which constitute PB).

This all makes sense when we are talking about knowledge-that.  But we have already pointed out that know-how does not seem to have the same connection with language as knowledge-that.  In particular, there don’t appear to be sentences that correspond with our “belief-hows.”

Why might this be? If the above reasoning about knowledge-that is correct, then I think the best explanation would be this: knowledge-how is not related to propositions in the same way as knowledge-that.


Rational systems and the contemplative stance

We have already noted that Lukacs writes,

As labour is progressively rationalised and mechanised his lack of will is reinforced by the way in which his activity becomes less and less active and more and more contemplative. The contemplative stance [is] adopted towards a … a perfectly closed system (HCC)

Now we are in a position to unpack this claim. Lukacs believed that capitalism causes people to seek to understand the world more and more rationally, i.e. through an increasingly rational system. However, because increasing rationality implies increased closure (c.f. (RATIONAL->CLOSED)), the result is a (perhaps real, perhaps perceived) inability to act freely upon the contents of the system.

That seems to be roughly Lukacs’ argument. There are complications in the logic, however. Clearly, if the acting subject is exogenous to the system, and the system is closed, then the contents of the system are impervious to the subject’s actions. But what if the subject is endogenous to the system? In that case, what is important, it seems, is not the closure but the rationality of the system, because in this case the subject’s actions must be deducible from the system’s axioms, and hence not independently caused by the subject.

I may well be wrong about this, but after my first reading of HCC, I gather that Lukacs accepts all this and casts the tension here in terms of the following class difference: the bourgeoisie characteristically rationalize the world, but leave their own subjectivity out of it, and hence understand the world as a partial system closed to them. The proletariat, however, exist in the same rationalized world but consider the world through a total system that permits them action within it, but only as a class and only in a way prescribed by the rationality the system (in this case, the historical dialectic), or else not at all.

There seems to be a useful conceptual distinction here for which, as far as I know, there are no preexisting terms. So I will make some up:

(DFN-AUTOLOGICAL-SYSTEM-v.1.0) An autological system is a system whose contents includes its subject.
(DFN-HETEROLOGICAL-SYSTEM-v.1.0) A heterological system is a system whose contents do not include its subject.

What do I mean when I talk about a system’s subject? Recall that a system is a set of beliefs and valuations. For now, let’s say that a system’s subject is the person who has those beliefs and valuations. I think there’s a lot of ambiguity in these definitions as given, but I would like to move on for now and get back to them later.

Given these preliminary definitions, I think we can argue the following:

(CSTANCE-RAT-HET) One must take the contemplative stance towards systems that are both fully rational and heterological.

Why? Because:

  1. Suppose a system S is both fully rational and heterological.
  2. S is closed. (by (RATIONAL->CLOSED))
  3. The contents of S do not depend on any variables exogenous to S (by 2 and (DFN-CLOSED-SYSTEM-v.1.0))
  4. The subject of S is not included in the contents of S (by (DFN-HETEROLOGICAL-SYSTEM-v.1.0))
  5. The subject of S is exogenous to S (by an unformalized definition of “exogenous”)
  6. The contents of S does not depend on the the subject of S.
  7. The subject of S must take the contemplative stance towards S if the contents of S do not depend on the subject of S.

I realize that I haven’t yet provided a definition of the contemplative stance here. I’m not sure it’s possible to do so given my current understanding of the term; I’ll try to use it in a way that’s consistent and provide a definition, perhaps revisiting this argument, later.


Fully rational systems are closed systems

Consider two kinds of systems that we have identified:

(DFN-RATIONAL-SYSTEM-v.1.0) A system is a rational system to the extent that its contents are deducible from its axioms.

(DFN-CLOSED-SYSTEM-v.1.0) A closed system is a system whose content does not depend on any variables exogenous to it.

It is clear from Lukacs’ writing that he considers these two concepts to be connected in a certain way: he believes that a fully rational system must be closed.

Here is an argument for why he must be right:

  1. Suppose a system, S is fully rational.
  2. S is entirely deducible from its axioms (by (DFN-RATIONAL-SYSTEM-v.1.0)).
  3. That means that S’s contents do not depend on anything except that which is contained in its axioms.
  4. Anything contained in the axioms of S is endogenous (not exogenous) to S.
  5. Hence, S does not depend on any variables exogenous to it (by 3 and 4)
  6. S is closed. (by (DFN-CLOSED-SYSTEM-v.1.0))

One day I’d like to make this argument more formal, but for now I think it will suffice to let me make the following statement with confidence:

(RATIONAL->CLOSED) If a system is fully rational, then it is closed.