All posts by gstefanov

Ostension and Demonstrative Reference

This was the title of my talk at BCAP2015.
Here are the slides: Ostension and Demonstrative Reference – slides

And an audio recording of my talk:

Here is a draft of the text I have used for my presentation: Ostension and Demonstrative Reference

Random notes

There is nothing which I would claim to be true (or even acceptable) here, so I should not be quoted on any of the following lines. I wrote them down just to reflect on some topics (personal identity, responsibility, obligations, existence of God, theology of atonement, actions, intentions, reasoning, having a concept etc.) in my spare time. I am not posting these thoughts here because they could be of any use to someone else. It is just that I do not see why I should refrain from posting them here for my own use.

Continue reading Random notes

On being together

Here is a conceptual proposal for a way in which one could (partly) understand what “being together with someone else” means:

A is “together with” B ONLY IF:
A takes responsibility for her/his own life choices in front of B AND
B takes responsibility for her/his own life choices in front of A.

If: N is a necessary condition for P,
then: One cannot propose that P unless one proposes that N. (version: the proposal that P includes the proposal that N.)

So: Proposing that you “start being together” to someone else includes the proposal that both of you take responsibility for your own life choices in front of each other.

Note: Sincerity towards the other person with respect to all your life choices follows from this (you cannot be responsible in front of another person with respect to a life choice the other person knows nothing about).

Now: What distinguishes life choices from regular choices?

Here I do not think a conceptual analysis is required. When you know each other well you also know what the other person would consider a life choice. Also, instead of life choices one could speak of “what you’re doing with your life”. If one is unsure whether what one is doing counts for the other person as “doing something with one’s life”, one could always assume that it counts.

Side note: Naturally, this works for more than two people being together, too.

Methodological note: A proposed concept can be tested like any other artifact. A “beta tester” could just assume it and ask herself/himself:
– Does this concept accommodate my sense of being together with someone?
– Are there any intellectual troubles with respect to this particular relationship which could be alleviated by using this concept?
– Am I better guided in my actions (choosing to be together with someone or not, choosing what to do and what to refrain from doing when you are together with someone, etc.) by using this concept?
– Is there any overall improvement to my life as a result of conceiving being together with someone like this?
– Etc.

Your brain wants you to be smart

Maybe I should keep a journal of my talks with Răzvan (my older son, 7 y.o.). This Friday, after taking him from school, he told me: “I have learned that the brain is the most important organ in our bodies. It controls all the other organs and it controls you as well.”. He went on with “the brain does this” and “the brain does that” and “the brain knows that… ” and “the brain wants you to… “.

All my attempts to convince him that it was wrong to talk about a brain as if it was a person living in one’s head have failed. Trying to show him that this would be a conceptual mistake just did not work. And then I’ve told him that the problem with this way of talking was that one could always avoid responsibility for what one did – relegating it to the brain (“I did nothing wrong, my brain did.”).

This made sense to him. He said: “So maybe the teacher was wrong.” – “See”, I replied, “you don’t say that her brain was wrong”. He laughed. Problem solved. I think there is a philosophical moral to this.