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【報告】 The 13th and 14th Tokyo Colloquium of Cognitive Philosophy (TCCP)

2009.03.27 筒井晴香, 脳科学と倫理

Junichi Kushita and Shuhei Shimamura presented at the Tokyo Colloquium of Cognitive Philosophy (TCCP).

○The 13th TCCP (19/12/2008)
Junichi Kushita
“Transcendental Reinterpretation of Heidegger’s Argument about Living Things”

  Junichi Kushita is a doctoral student at the department of history and philosophy of science, University of Tokyo. His area of specialization is phenomenology, and his presentation concerns Heidegger’s unique argument, which is about the ontological status of animal or living things in general. The text that Kushita takes up has been regarded as a rare clue to knowing Heidegger’s idea of life in general―surely one of the important and fundamental themes for today’s philosophy. Kushita offers an original perspective to interpret Heidegger’s idea on life, thus clarifying the limit of human understanding of living things.

  In his lecture in the winter semester of 1929-1930, which is called The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude, Heidegger makes an argument on the ontology of animals. His argument is based on three theses: the stone is worldless [weltlos]; the animal is poor in world [weltarm]; the man is world-forming [weltbildend]. These theses give us the impression that Heidegger commits himself to a kind of anthropocentrism. Yet, Heidegger says that the word “poor” has nothing to do with inferiority as beings. Through a reinterpretation of Heidegger’s description of living things, Kushita shows a way to understand the word “poor” on the basis of a more profound ontological structure, which is consisted of “captivation [Benommenheit]” and “disinhibition [Enthemmung]”. At the same time, Kushita clarifies that the theses imply not human-Dasein’s superiority, but finitude.

  Heidegger refers to an experiment which uses a honey bee. If a bee is imprisoned in a dark box at its feeding place for a few hours, its ability to return to the hive cannot work properly; it flies in a wrong direction. This experiment shows that bees fly to the hive by using the direction of the sun as a compass. It follows that they do not fly to the hive itself nor recognize the hive as a being. According to Heidegger, they do not recognize the sun as such, either. Bees just have a capability [Fähigkeit] to behave in a certain way, and a light of particular wavelength disinhibits the mechanism and energy which realize the capability. Thus, bees can return to the hive without any recognition of the hive or the sun as such.

  This structure of captivation and disinhibition is universal; it can be seen in vertebrates, plants or microscopic organisms. In fact, according to Heidegger, this structure is the condition of possibility of world-poverty, and discovering and understanding the structure is possible only by the world-forming of human beings.

  Yet it is not clear how world-forming functions for discovering and understanding the structure of captivation and disinhibition. So Kushita clarifies this point.

  Humans as Dasein do have access to beings as such; namely, we can understand, utilize and name beings like the sun or the bee, because of our Logos. Heidegger claims that Logos refers to beings as the totality, and the world as the totality is constantly formed by Dasein itself. Heidegger characterizes our acts in general as “projection” [Entwurf]. World-forming is the fundamental projection, on which the other projections are based. Based on such a framework by Heidegger, Kushita focuses on the process of biological projection.

  All the living things can live only in the totality, which is usually called as environment. Disinhibition is made possible only in a specific environment which includes the disinhibiter (something which disinhibits a certain mechanism and energy of a certain living thing) and other conditions for disinhibition. A biological experiment is an attempt to set a situation in which the original totality is partly reconstructed and partly changed. In this way, biologists arrange the condition to let certain possibilities of living things be actualized or kept inhibited; a biological projection is a selection of possibilities.

  Thus, biological knowledge depends on the way of our biological projection. Consequently, our knowledge on living things depends on our world-forming, which is restricted by the nature of our Logos and our languages. In other words, humans can understand living things only through concepts or words.

  According to Kushita, animal is better described as “to rent the world” rather than “poor in world”. In daily life, we loan our world to animals; that is, we regard that animals share the same world with us. But when we see them scientifically, we deprive them of our world and describe them as something captured only in the system of captivation and disinhibition. Thus it seems that animals are poor in world; namely, animals do not have a world which they should have. Yet it is an illusion. The world is imposed on animals by us in order that we can keep the totality of our world. Each living things, including humans, can live only in their own totality. We can understand other living things only from the viewpoint inside of our totality. Presupposing that animals share the same world with us is indispensable for us to talk about animals as beings in our world, although this is an inappropriate presupposition. We are forced to loan our world to animals: this fact indicates the finitude of human-Dasein.

  In his presentation, Kushita makes an interesting claim about the relationship between humans and other living things, particularly animals. Animals, with no logos or languages, seem to have a much more restricted life than us. Yet Kushita points out that the very logos and languages are our restrictions. His interpretation of Heidegger will make meaningful contributions to the discussions in the philosophy of biology or animal ethics.

○The 14th TCCP (27/2/2009)
Shuhei Shimamura
“A (Partial) Reconcilation of Self-knowledge and Content Externalism from the Semantic Inferentialist Standpoint”

  Shuhei Shimamura is a doctoral student at the department of philosophy, University of Tokyo. He specializes in philosophy of language and philosophy of mind. In his presentation, he introduces semantic inferentialism of Robert Brandom and shows that it enables us to make the first-person authority of self-knowledge compatible with content externalism. Whether these two can be reconciled has been one of the significant topics in the philosophy of mind just as known for the famous arguments for content externalism by Hilary Putnam or Tylor Burge. From an inferentialistic view, Shimamura demonstrates that Putnam’s externalism does not threaten the first-person authority of self-knowledge.

  The problem of compatibility between self-knowledge of propositional attitudes and content externalism is summarized as follows: it seems that we have a kind of authority to know the contents of our own propositional attitudes without any evidence or inference. If externalism is true, however, the contents of propositional attitudes are determined in part by some external factors, which might not be within reach of our knowledge. Thus, externalism seems to contradict to first-person authority of self-knowledge.

  Shimamura points out that it is not obvious that the two kinds of contents, namely, the contents about which we can authoritatively know and ones that are beyond our reach, are the same. He tries to clarify the followings; first, whether the two kinds of knowledge are different; second, in what they are different; third, how the former kind of content is known to us without evidence or inference, and why the latter are beyond our grasp. In clarifying these points, he appeals to semantic inferentialism.

  Semantic inferentialism concerns the following question: what is it for a statement, or a propositional attitude, to have content? According to inferentialists, a statement has two different kind of contents: propositional content and representational content.

  Propositional content of a statement consists in the inferential commitments that the statement, along with some background beliefs, makes the utterer prepared to undertake (in other words, makes her believe) and the entitlements (or reasons) that the utterer rationally regards as a justification for the statement. Consider that a person utters the statement that Tokyo is to the east of Kyoto. The inferential commitments of this statement are statements that the utterer rationally believes in uttering it (e.g., Kyoto is to the west of Tokyo). The entitlements are statements that the utterer considers to be reasons for the statement (e.g., I have seen that, in a map of Japan, Tokyo is placed in the right side of Kyoto). In short, propositional content of a statement consists in its distinctive role in inference.

  Meanwhile, representational content of a statement consists in the inferential role of various identity statements concerning the object that the statement talks about. To take an example, consider the following claim:

(a) Venus is a planet belonging to the solar system.
(i1) Venus = the morning star.
(i2) Venus = the evening star.

(i1) and (i2) are true identity statements concerning the object referred to in (a). What inferential role do they play? Their role enables us to make new substitutional commitments through substitutional inferences. For example, we can derive a new claim through substituting “Venus” in (a) with “the morning star”, depending on the identity statement (i1). The new claim is:

(b) The morning star is a planet belonging to the solar system.

Grasping the representational content of a statement consists in the ability to derive various substitutional commitments from it, by making substitutional inferences based on various true identity statements. Such an ability helps us in assessing the claim made by others or in extracting useful information from it. For example, if you know (a) and (i1), and a person claims (b), you can assess her claim as true.

  All the above explanations can be, mutatis mutandis, applied to the explanations of the contents of one’s beliefs. Shimamura presupposes that the content of other propositional attitudes can also be explained in a similar way.

  Based on the above ideas, Shimamura demonstrates the compatibility between authoritative self-knowledge and externalism. According to him, the content that one can authoritatively know is propositional content, and the content that might go beyond one’s grasp is representational content.

  How can we authoritatively know the propositional content of our own propositional attitudes? According to Shimamura, it can be explained based on the transparency thesis about self-ascription of beliefs, which is proposed by Gareth Evans and elaborated by Richard Moran. Shimamura’s explanation goes like this. According to the definition above, a statement S is one of the inferential commitments associated with my belief B(P) iff B(P), together with background beliefs B(Qs), makes me believe that S. According to the transparency thesis, to judge whether I believe that S, all I have to do is to judge whether it is the case that S. Hence, to judge whether I believe that S given B(P) and B(Qs), all I have to do is to judge whether it is the case that S given that P and Qs. Thus, as long as I have minimal rationality and a normal ability to infer about the world, I can judge whether S is one of the inferential commitments associated with my belief B(P). All I have to do is just to infer that if it were the case that P and Qs, it would be the case that S. Thus, we can authoritatively know the inferential commitments that our own beliefs have. This type of explanation, mutatis mutandis, can be applied to grasping the entitlements of one’s own beliefs. The propositional content is the inferential commitments plus the entitlements. Thus, the authoritative knowledge about the propositional contents is explained.

  Then, why are the representational contents of one’s attitudes out of one’s own grasp? Inferentialists hold that grasping the representational content of a belief requires us to grasp the substitutional commitments that the belief and the relevant true identity statements make us undertake. Here, it is a posteriority of true identity statements that causes one’s not sufficiently grasping the representational contents of one’s own beliefs. For instance, my belief that the morning star is bright is directed not only to the morning star but also to Venus. This is because it is true that the morning star = Venus. Yet I may not know it, because its truth is objective and I need some empirical evidence to know that it is true that the morning star = Venus.

  These are the bottomline of Shimamura’s argument. After showing that, he goes on to focusing on Putnam’s argument for content externalism, which leads to the rejection of authoritative self-knowledge. It is famous for the unique thought experiment of Twin Earth. There is not much space to give a detailed explanation of Putnam’s argument here. I will just note the point Shimamura sees as crucial in Putnam’s claim. Shimamura formulates the core of Putnam’s argument as follows: the extension, or reference, of the word is determined in part by the physical environment of a speaker, but every mental state that the speaker holds is determined only by her inner states; hence, the word’s intension, which is seen as the determinant of its extension, cannot be within her mental states. From this line of argument, Putnam concludes that we have to reject either (1) that the speaker’s mental states determine the intension of a word or (2) that the intension of a word determines its extension. He chose to reject (1). Putnam’s argument can be applied to the content of propositional attitudes, as Colin McGinn pointed out, and this expansion will lead to the contradiction between authoritative self-knowledge and externalism. In the propositional attitude version, (1) amounts to (1)’ that the speaker’s mental states determine the content of our propositional attitude and (2) amounts to (2)’ that the content of our propositional attitude determines what the attitude represents. According to the Putnam’s line of argument, (1)’ is abandoned for the sake of (2)’.

  Shimamura gives an inferentialist counter-argument to Putnam’s claim. Inferentialist defines the propositional content of a statement in terms of inferential commitments and entitlements. As shown above, these are always within the reach of the utterer of the statement. On the other hand, according to inferentialism, the representational content of one’s statement may not be known to her. Although grasping the representational content consists in grasping the proper substitutional commitments, the true identity statements needed to derive them are objective and knowing their truth is an empirical matter. Thus, although the propositional content of a statement is always grasped by the utterer, the representational content may not always be grasped by her. In other words, the propositional content does not provide the necessary and sufficient condition for the representational content. This is just the same as rejecting the claim (2)’. Inferentialists accept (2)’ and reject (1)’, which is just the opposite of Putnam’s strategy. Thus they save both authoritative self-knowledge and externalism.

  According to Shimamura, the compatibility problem between authoritative self-knowledge and externalism arises due to a tradition of regarding the intension (or the mental state) as the determinant of the extension. Inferentialism rejects this way of thinking, thereby accommodating the subjective aspect and the objective aspect of meaning (or mental content).

  Shimamura’s argument shows an interesting solution to the well-known problem of compatibility between authoritative self-knowledge and content externalism, appealing to Brandom’s semantic inferentialism. The argument based on inferentialism, however, seems to leave room for controversy. For example, what is the difference between inferentialism and functionalism, within the range of the above argument? Or, is it really appropriate to regard representational contents as grasped through knowing identity statements? What if I know the morning star only as the morning star? Do I not grasp the referent of ‘the morning star’? Anyhow, Shimamura’s argument is worth further discussions.

Haruka Tsutsui (The University of Tokyo)

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