terça-feira, 14 de fevereiro de 2017




On my CV:
After a study of medicine I made my M.S. in philosophy at the UFRJ (Rio de Janeiro) with prof. Raul Landin (1981). My PhD I made at the University of Konstanz (Germany) with Gottfried Gabriel and Friedrich Kambartel (1990). Afterwards there were very useful one year post-doctoral works in the Hochschule für Philosophie (with Friedo Ricken, 1995), at the University of Berkeley (with John Searle, 1999) at the University of Oxford (with Richard Swinburne, 2004), at the University of Konstanz (with Wolfgang Spohn, 2009-10) and now at the University of Göteborg (with Anna-Sofia Maurin, 2016) and in the Institut Jean Nicod (with François Recanati). There were also several short term stays in Germany, particularly in Konstanz with professor Peter Stemer. 
  My main articles published in international journals were collected and better developed in the book Lines of Thought: Rethinking Philosophical Assumptions (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014). I also developed a short theory on the nature of philosophy in the book The Philosophical Inquiry (UPA, 2002). Presently I am writting a book aiming to recuperate the credibility of the old orthodoxy in analytic philosophy of language. This book, to be called Philosophical Semantics, will be also published by CSP in 2017.

Presently I am full professor at the Department of Philosophy of the UFRN, Natal, Brazil

Advertisement of some published books (see Amazon.usa):


The final version of this paper published in the book "Lines of Thought: Rethinking Philosophical Assumptions", from Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014.



                              Das, was einmal gesehen, das Auffallendste und Stärkste ist, fällt uns nicht auf.

The main purpose of this paper is to show that there is an essential link between the concepts of consciousness and reality and to explain how this link is established and preserved in what seem to me to be the main forms of consciousness. Apart from the conceptual investigation in itself, my purpose is therapeutic in Wittgenstein’s sense: I wish to dispel some possible metaphysical speculations by showing that there is a necessary, but completely non-mysterious internal link between these two concepts.
     The central point I wish to emphasize is that consciousness must always be awareness of how things really are. After all, consciousness must be an evolutionary product aiming to reflect reality in order to enable the conscious organism to interact successfully with the world. If mind has a receptiveperceptual dimension, and an active, volitional dimension, consciousness belongs to the receptive dimension because of its function of reflecting reality, even if this has consequences for action. I do not see any need to prove that the function of consciousness is to reflect how things really are because I find this an intuitive and almost trivial insight. Nonetheless, this is an important triviality and can easily be overlooked if it is not spelled out in some detail.
     To elucidate this point further, I begin by accepting a complementary and also almost obvious assumption, namely, that consciousness always involves representational experience. Concerning representations, it is essential to remember that they can be veridical or non-veridical. A veridical representation can be regarded as one that is either correct for a given individual or a given property, or true for a fact (understood as an umbrella term for given situations, circumstances, states of affairs, events and processes). Assuming this, I define a veridical representation as a representation that represents what it is aimed to represent.[2] We can say that a representation represents what it is aimed to represent when it represents things (individuals, properties, facts) as they really are. But what are things as they really are? The answer is: they are at least those things that we are reasonably able to accept as being what they appear to be when we represent them, at least as far as they are things that would be apt to be seen as real for us, under circumstances of interpersonal agreement. Now, my proposal is that a necessary condition for consciousness is that it involves some kind of veridical representation. This brings us to the connection between consciousness and reality: in a sense, a representation is conscious at least when it is veridical, namely, when it represents what it is aimed to represent, that is, when it represents things as they really are for us.
     An example can be helpful: suppose I believe I see a snake near my feet. Now, it seems that one can say that I am conscious of a snake near my feet only when this state of affairs is real. This means that in this case the representation of the snake, which is involved in my visual experience of the snake, must represent what it is aimed to represent, namely, the physically real snake. If my experience were illusory, one could not say that I am effectively conscious of a snake near my feet, since the depicted state of affairs would not be physically real. The non-veridical representation represents what it is not aimed to represent, in this case, the illusory snake, which compromises my awareness of what is happening. In other words: I am conscious of a snake near my feet when I have a veridical representation of a snake, namely, when it corresponds to what it is aimed to represent and when what is aimed to be represented is able to be interpersonally accepted as the real thing.
     These considerations make it plausible to think that a person can be called conscious insofar as she has a sufficient amount of veridical representations. This would be what may be called global consciousness, relative to the living being as such. It can be argued that even when we say that a person has moral consciousness (conscience), what we mean is that she is able to have a fair, that is, a veridical representation of the moral circumstances involved in her actions.
     In what follows, I offer support for the view sketched above. In order to do this I will expose and briefly discuss three main kinds of consciousness, which may be called sensoryreflexive and thinking consciousness. This distinction has the theoretical advantage of being able to encompassing in the simplest way most of what we naturally and meaningfully call conscious phenomena. After the presentation of each of these kinds of consciousness, I will show how the proposed relationship between consciousness and reality fits with each of them.

Sensory consciousness
The first kind of consciousness is what David Armstrong called perceptual consciousness, which I prefer to call sensory consciousness.[3] This is the most primary form of consciousness, which can be seen as the:

     Sensory representation of things outside of us and of our own bodies.

Sensory consciousness involves being awake, aware and responsive to the environment. It involves some level of cognition regarding the processes of perceiving things in the external world and of sensing what is going on in our own bodies. This sense of the word is very common: physicians speak of a loss of consciousness when referring to a patient in a coma and as a diagnostic method they used to squirt cold water into the ears of patients to see whether they would react. When John Searle wrote that consciousness is what we regain when we wake up in the morning, and what we lose when we fall into a dreamless sleep, or lapse into a coma, or die, he was having in mind above all the regaining and loss of consciousness in this primary sense.[4] Our knowledge of sensory consciousness is indirect, grounded first on third-person experience and then on first-person access based on reflexive consciousness, as we will see.
     This is the most primitive form of consciousness. Even mice can have it, for a mouse can sensory react to the world outside it and to what is going on in its own body. Indeed, if a mouse is sedated with chloroform, we say that the mouse has lost consciousness, meaning consciousness in its sensory form.
     A problem that emerges here is that of the boundaries of consciousness. If being conscious is to perceive the world and sense ourselves, then it seems that too many organisms are conscious. A bee, an ant, a shrimp are able to perceive the world in some sense of the word. But we would not say that these animals are conscious. I once read a headline in a newspaper: ‘Scientists have discovered that flies are conscious’. I didn’t need to read the article to conclude that this could not be true, and there is a reasonable justification for my reaction. As with many psychological concepts, the term consciousness can only be used in referring to creatures that display a sufficient degree of mental and behavioral complexity. Consider, for example, the concept of understanding. It is different from the concept of perceiving. Although we may say that flies and shrimps are in some way able to perceive the world, it is awkward to say that they are able to understand anything. Why? Because the concept of understanding applies only to creatures able to display sufficiently complex behavior. We are not inclined to say that insects have or lose or regain sensory consciousness, it seems, because they do not have anything near to our sensory-perceptual experience. It is true that the concept of consciousness does not have a sharp boundary, but although its domains include even mice, the wisdom of the language suggests that it would be senseless to extend them much further.
     Finally, the concept of sensory consciousness does justice to the fact that consciousness is a biological phenomenon. Biological beings are so different from mechanical automatons that consciousness could not be expected in the latter. Although a photographic camera is able to make pictures that represent states of affairs, it does not do this of itself, since the pictures lack psychological intentions and biologically grounded aims; they require an interpreter who sees the picture as representing some state of affairs. This is also a reason to think that computers will never be able to represent anything in a veridical way and that a non-biological machine will never be conscious.

Sensory consciousness and reality
Returning to our main point: sensory consciousness involves the necessary condition of consciousness, that of representing things and facts as they really are. If the aim is to perceptually represent things in a veridical way and succeed in this, we are said to be primarily conscious. Even the mouse must aim to represent the cat as it really is, and not as a piece of cheese, for its own sake (this aim can be inferred from the manifest behaviors of mice, and does not imply an attribution of intentionality).
     It is important to note that when we speak about sensory consciousness, we are not usually linking it with the veridicality of a representation alone, but rather with a cluster of representations. Consider, for example, a man suffering from delirium tremens. In this condition, he may lie writhing on a bed, trembling, sweating, uttering incoherent groans and suffering all sorts of tactile and visual hallucinations of disgusting creatures attacking him, while he twists and turns and tries to protect himself. His consciousness is said to be confused. Indeed, we could say that he lacks sensory consciousness of the world around him, although not completely.
     This is also a reason why we are not very inclined to say that dreams are conscious. Dreams are non-veridical representations, because they do not correspond to what the dreamer believes he is representing, since the content of these representations is something that on reflection he would not be willing to accept as real. Therefore, in this sense they cannot be conscious. However, a truly prophetic dream, foreseeing a future real state of affairs, could be seen as a work of consciousness, since it would be veridical. This clairvoyant dream could even be said to be ‘super-conscious’.
     We can explain the kind of non-veridicality of dreams, recurring to two domains of reality. The first is that of concrete reality, of reality as such: of things involving us, of our bodies, and even of qualitative subjective states like feelings, as we originally experience them. The second domain is that of reality as if, the kind of fictional reality that is assigned to dream images, to hallucinations, to projected images in a dream, which only imitate concrete reality. Under this assumption, we can say that the lack of consciousness in a dream arises from a category mistake: in dreaming the person believes that she is representing concrete reality, since this is what she aims to represent; however, what she really manages to represent is only fictional reality. This is why the representations in a dream can be said to be non-veridical and therefore non-conscious. If the intention were only to represent fictional reality, they would be veridical and therefore conscious. This is also a reason why day-dream is said to be conscious. It is because its representations are veridical, that is, they represent what they are meant to represent, namely, only a kind of fictional reality.

Reflexive consciousness
The second and more important kind of consciousness is what we could call reflexive consciousness. Reflexive consciousness or self-consciousness can be seen as the:

cognitive representation of one’s own mental states.

     This simultaneous cognitive/representative experience of our internal mental states is what we may call reflexive cognition, which can have as its objects all kinds of mental states: sensations, feelings, desires, perceptions and even thoughts and beliefs. (Since many first-order mental states are already cognitive or representative, their second-order reflexive cognitions can be correctly called meta-cognitions or meta-representations.) Reflexive consciousness is consciousness in capital letters. It is typically, if not properly human. Great apes can have it, but not mice and not even a newborn human infant. [5]
     As an example of how reflexive consciousness makes a difference, imagine that you have a nearly imperceptible toothache all day long, but that you simply ignore it. However, when you pay attention to it, you see that the feeling is there, and the language allows you to say that your toothache is conscious. Now, when you pay attention to the state of discomfort, what you have is at least a suitable reflexive cognition or belief about this state.[6] It is this reflexive consciousness that makes people truly conscious, and a piece of evidence for this is that you are able to report verbally, saying that you have headache.
     Reflexive consciousness was already compared by Armstrong with the self-scanning process of a computer. He gave an important explanation for the emergence of reflexive consciousness (called by him ‘introspective consciousness’). His suggestion is that through evolution the mental processes of living beings have become more and more complex and sophisticated; as this occurred, mental processes gave rise to urges that led to their being simultaneously monitored, that is, controlled, organized and directed by a higher instance.[7] This higher instance, we could add, consists in what is responsible for reflexive consciousness, that is, suitable cognitions of lower-order mental states.
     The main objection to the monitoring hypothesis is that reflexive cognitions are thoughts generated by the simultaneous lower-order mental states and that these reflexive cognitions (usually second-order cognitions) have, therefore, no causal powers concerning the lower-order mental states that have generated them.[8] However, this consequence is unnecessary for two reasons: the first is that the reflexive cognitions that make the lower-states conscious seem to be generated by our attention to the lower states and not by the lower states alone; the second is that according to the causal theory of action, reasons can have causal effects, and reasons are nothing more than beliefs plus desires (volitions). If we accept this, it is easy to understand that the suitable reflexive cognitions, being asserted thoughts, that is, beliefs, when adequately associated with volitions moving our attention, could also possess causal powers. By their association with volitions, reflexive cognitions would be able to control the lower order states of mind and in this way to influence actions derived from them.
     As first-order mental events can usually be seen as representations, reflexive consciousness of them must involve suitable reflexive representations or metacognitions. Because of this we can speak about reflexive consciousness in two ways: in a relational way – as transitive consciousness – by saying that we are conscious of our first-order states, and in a non-relational way – as state consciousness – by saying that first-order mental states are conscious.[9] Thus, I can say that I am conscious of my feelings for Suzy (relational or transitive consciousness), but I can also say that my feelings for Suzy are conscious (non-relational or state consciousness). These reflexive representations are what make us conscious of first-order mental states. But they are not able to make us conscious of themselves. In order to reach consciousness, they would need to be the objects of meta-reflexive cognitions (usually meta-meta-cognitions), and so on. As Rosenthal noted, writing about this point, the thought at the top always remains beyond the reach of consciousness.
     It is interesting to consider the relation between reflexive and sensory consciousness. We are only able to achieve a first-person awareness of our sensory consciousness because we are able to have reflexive cognitions/representations of the sensory and perceptual states belonging to the latter. Therefore, in our view, perceptual consciousness is paradoxically a non-conscious kind of consciousness. (A cat can recognize a dog and be afraid of it, but probably it cannot be conscious that it is facing its arch-enemy or even of its own fear.)[10]
     Finally, the adoption of the concepts of reflexive plus sensory consciousness helps us to explain some interesting empirical phenomena.
     1) Somnambulism: sleepwalkers can sit up in bed, walk, and even do hazardous activities without being awake, being later unable to remember what they have done. Here, as Armstrong would say, the system of reflexive consciousness is switched off, while the system of sensory consciousness continues to operate.
     2) Blind-sight: subjects with blind-sight cannot see, but they can guess correctly what appears in the blind half of their visual field, and in some cases they can even catch objects tossed in front of them when prompted and even move around objects. The cause of blind-sight is a lesion in the region V1 of the visual cortex, where the information that comes from more primitive regions of the brain is integrated and processed. The explanation could be that, although the subject still has sensory visual consciousness, he has lost the capacity for reflexive consciousness of visual states. This would be the reason why he is not conscious of seeing anything.
     3) Benjamin Libet’s experiments: in these well-known experiments, the agent is teach to make a movement after a stimulus. After the stimulus there is an unconscious build up of electrical charge within the brain called readiness potential (Bereitschaftspotential) corresponding to the decision to act. However, the awareness of the decision – which occurs ~200 milliseconds before the movement – occurs ~350 milliseconds after the readiness potential, showing that the decision is made before it is consciously taken.
     The explanation would be that, although sensory consciousness arises simultaneously with the readiness potential, reflexive consciousness arises only ~350 milliseconds later. The readiness potential, resulting from the fact that the agent has already being teach about the reaction he should have after the given stimulation, demonstrates the presence of sensory consciousness, while the monitoring function of reflexive consciousness is made evident by the fact that the agent is still able to suppress or withhold the action in the next ~200 milliseconds, as Libet’s experiments also show. In my view these experiments not only show the extension to which sensory consciousness is in itself unconscious, but also confirms the existence and role of reflexive consciousness.
     4) Lucid dreams: these are dreams in which we are aware that we are dreaming and that we can steer in different directions, according to our own will. These dreams, also called conscious dreams, have greater clarity and, after we wake up, are more easily and clearly remembered than most dreams. Reflexive consciousness could explain this: dream processes become more conscious when we gain a suitable metacognitive representation of them.

Integrative dimension of reflexive consciousness
The main alternatives to the idea of reflexive consciousness are what we may call the integrationist views.[11] According to these views, conscious states are not properly those that are the object of reflexive cognitions, but those that can be well integrated into the system of mental states of the conscious person and with her motor system, that is, with her action and speech. Indeed, unconscious mental states are more or less isolated: one cannot make them conscious by means of their usual association with other cognitive states. Moreover, they remain usually unrelated to the motor system, particularly to speech, as we see in cases of non-reportable subliminal perception. Based on this, one can held the idea that repressed and subliminal states are unconscious, not because we do not have a metacognition of them, but because we are unable to integrate them sufficiently with the other mental states of the system. Thus, it seems that there are two competitive ways to explain state consciousness: the integrative and the reflexive one. 
     At this point I would like to offer a conciliatory hunch. My proposal is that integration is typically mediated by reflexive cognition, which has some kind of binding property: the property of integrating the first-order state referred to by it with a system of others states. We can remember here Bernard Baar’s metaphor of the theater of consciousness in his global workspace theory of consciousness – an integrationist theory. According to this metaphor, a conscious state is a mental state under the spotlight of the reflector of attention, which enables this state to be ‘broadcasted’ to the whole auditory of pre-conscious and unconscious states.[12] I find this a good metaphor. But I would add that a suitable reflexive cognition is the very spotlight controlled by the reflector of attention. This view is not without intuitive appeal: when we become aware of a mental state, we inevitably recognize it by cognitive means. However, in doing this we are inevitably relating the state with others, and – actually or potentially – with the whole system, including the motor system.
     To exemplify this point, consider the case of a man suffering a seizure of temporal epilepsy. He is able to act and even speak, showing some integration. But since this integration is comparatively deficient, it is used to say that he has ‘a narrowed field of consciousness’. But together with this there is a lack of reflexive consciousness, since he does not remember what he has done after being awaken. According to the view I am suggesting, reflexive cognition and integration go together because reflexive cognition is a way of improving integration.[13]
     Finally, my conciliatory hunch also suggests an answer to what some theoreticians consider the main objection against cognitivist-reflexive views of consciousness, namely, that they do not provide a criterion for distinguishing a reflexive cognition that makes a mental state conscious from a reflexive cognition that does not.[14] The answer is: the binding property of a non-inferential and simultaneous reflexive cognition should be the criterion. What makes the reflexive cognition suitable for consciousness is that it has the binding property of integrating the lower-order state referred to by it with a whole system of mental states.

Reflexive consciousness and reality
Returning to our Leitfaden: Just as with sensory consciousness, reflexive consciousness also involves veridical representation. The difference is that reflexive consciousness (considered in its relational sense) does not consist in veridical (meta)representations of sensed or perceived states of affairs, but rather in veridical (meta)representations of lower-level mental states. However, we can only say that we are conscious of these first-order mental states because they are in some way veridically represented: they are represented as they really are. If these (meta)representations are not veridical, then we cannot say that lower-level states are really conscious, or even that we are conscious of what is represented by them. Consider, for example, the case of someone who constantly lies to himself about his sensations, feelings, thoughts; if he consistently reads them incorrectly in his mind, he will be said to be someone who lacks self-consciousness.
   A first case of non-veridical representation producing lack of consciousness concerns feelings. In Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado about Nothing, Benedick and Beatrice love one another, but because of their pride they prefer to believe that they hate one another deeply. Perceiving what is going on, they friends decide to help them. They tell each one separately that the other is suffering to death because of hidden love. This is sufficient to make them conscious that they are in love with the other and to give their story its happy end. Now, it is only when they are allowed to make a veridical representation of their real feeling – the repressed feeling of love – that this feeling can get conscious. Weren’t they earlier conscious of their hate? Yes, since they had a veridical representation of their defensive hate. But we cannot then say that they were aware of their true feelings, for they had no veridical representation of them.
     Another case is that of lucid dreams. Dreams, as is commonly said, are not conscious. But a lucid dream is said to have a certain level of consciousness. It is even called a ‘conscious dream’. Why? Because it involves a veridical metacognitive representation of the dreaming process or, as we could also say, of fictional reality in its fictional character, namely, as it really is. Indeed, we can have a bad dream that nearly awakes us, and then, half-awaken, we say to ourselves: ‘This is only a dream’. This case also shows that the veridicality of suitable meta-cognitions concerning the represented mental states is essential to reflexive consciousness.
     A particularly important case is that of conscious perception, which is in fact reflexive consciousness of a sensory consciousness that is perceptual. When the object of a reflexive representation is a perceptual representation, that is, something belonging to sensory perceptual consciousness (which is already cognitive), the reflexive representation is aimed to be doubly veridical: it must be (i) a veridical metacognitive representation of (ii) a veridical perceptual representation of empirical things and facts. For example: If I am reflexively aware that I am perceiving a snake near my feet, I must be veridically aware of my veridical sensory perception of this fact, namely, of the real snake near my real feet.
     One could still object that subliminal perceptions are veridical, but not conscious. However, they are not just conscious in the reflexive sense of the word. We say that they are veridical because we get a third person acknowledgement that we are sensorially conscious of them. As such, they are standard examples of what we already called unconscious consciousness.

Thinking consciousness
A last and more controversial point: I believe that we need to add one more kind of consciousness in order to accommodate some resilient intuitions. It seems that in many cases we are said to be conscious of things that are neither objects of present perceptual or sensorial or emotional experience, that are not personal memories, and that are not simultaneously meta-represented by given mental states. For example: I am conscious that

      The Moon is made of rock.
      Schliemann discovered Troy.
      I cannot go to the movie and to my preferred restaurant at the same time.
The total amount of matter and energy in an isolated system remains constant over time.
      The sum of the internal angles of a Euclidean triangle is 180º.

     We may call these affirmed contents of consciousness mediated thoughts, since they are beliefs supported by other thoughts about states of affairs that are not presently given to experience. It is true that such mediated thoughts can be accompanied by reflexive meta-cognitions: we can think about them. But isn’t true that when we think them without thinking about them we are already in some measure conscious of them? Is it not the case that their own existence entails the consciousness of their contents? So it seems: if I really think that Schliemann discovered Troy or that the energy remains the same in closed systems, I cannot be unaware of the facts reported by these thoughts, even if I am not meta-cognitively conscious of my thinking of them.
     I believe that it is because of the fact that alone the existence of such mediated thoughts is sufficient to give us consciousness of their contents, that some philosophers have maintained that conscious mental states intrinsically generate reflexive higher-order representations. However, we know that this view is implausible, not only because in this case there would be no unconscious mental states, but because this view lacks intuitive evidence.
     My proposal is not that mediated thoughts are conscious of themselves, since this would be the function of a metacognitive or reflexive awareness of them. My proposal is that they are conscious in themselves because their representative function gives them a conscious-making function beyond that of sensory consciousness. They are like crystals reflecting veridical information coming from other thoughts and from experiences. They have a multi-representative role. Consider the thought that I cannot go to the cinema and to my preferred restaurant at the same time. I am conscious of the content of this thought without having a metacognitive or reflexive awareness of it because this thought-content can only be appreciated against some representation of perceptual experiences that are themselves representations of external states of affairs. If it is so, thinking consciousness is not a form of unconscious consciousness, like sensory consciousness; it works somewhat like reflexive consciousness. It must in some way makes us aware of the sensory experiences or of formal principles implied in the mediated thoughts. Complementarily, the mediated thoughts also gain their conscious status by reaching a more nodal position in our network of beliefs, which endows them with an increased integrative power – a nodal position that cannot be separated from their multi-representative function.

Thinking consciousness and reality
Finally, mediated thoughts must be veridical representations supported in a variety of ways by representations ultimately grounded on sensory experience and/or formal principles. Thinking consciousness demands a cluster of veridical representation, even without directly involving the present experience of their ultimate perceptual or formal truth-makers.  On the other hand, the non-veridical representation of the states of affairs involved in thinking consciousness will limit or hinder consciousness. So, one cannot be conscious that the Moon is made of green cheese or that energy can be created from nothing, since these are false claims (though a person can be conscious in and of having these beliefs).

What I have presented here is only a programmatic sketch sustained by argumentative coherence. However, I hope I have offered some confirmation for the view that consciousness unavoidably involves veridical representation. It seems that the veridicality of the representation is essential, in the sense of being a necessary feature of the three kinds of consciousness briefly examined here. Moreover, we may guess whether precisely the veridicality of the involved representations isn’t the feature that originally brought these three kinds of consciousness together under the same concept. For it seems clear that they are kinds of consciousness because they are distinctive means used by the mind to grasp reality.

[1] We fail to be struck by what, once seem, is most striking and most powerful.
[2] I chose the word ‘aim’ instead of the word ‘intention’, because the concept of intention often presupposes consciousness, which makes it unsatisfactory when we are trying to elucidate consciousness. The word ‘aim’, to the contrary, is humble enough: we can say that a spider aims to build its web, without implying that the spider has such an intention. Here the aim is a teleological embodiment of evolutionary achievements.
[3] See David Armstrong, ‘What is Consciousness?’ in his The Nature of Mind (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1980), pp. 55-67. The expression ‘perceptual consciousness’ is suggestive but somewhat misleading: if a person has a headache, she has perceptual consciousness of it; however, she is not perceiving, but rather feeling her headache. The same holds for emotions or feelings: feelings are felt, not perceived, though feelings alone cannot in my view be conscious.
[4] John R. Searle, Consciousness and Language (CambridgeCambridge University Press, 2002), p. 7.
[5] The reflexive theory of consciousness has its origins in the philosophical tradition. But it was introduced into the contemporary philosophy of mind by David Armstrong in the already mentioned paper as a higher-order perception theory. David Rosenthal has over the years developed a detailed version of the reflexive view of consciousness as demanding a simultaneous and suitable higher-order thought about a lower-level state in order to make it conscious. If we understand words like ‘perception’ and ‘internal vision’ in the first theory as mere metaphors and the word ‘thought’ in the second theory as a mere act of cognitive experience that does not necessarily requires language, then both theories tend to collapse into a single one, for a higher-order cognitive representation or experience seems to be an inevitable common element of both. Only the emphases are different. I also think that Rosenthal is mistaken in believing that his theory is incompatible with Armstrong’s and W. C. Lycan’s view that reflexive consciousness has a monitoring function, as the development of my text shows. In my exposition, I try to be neutral and use the vague and ambiguous term cognition as something assumed in both views. See D. M. Armstrong, Mind-Body Problem: An Opinionated Introduction (Boulder: Westview Press, 1999), pp. 114-120; see also W. C. Lycan, Consciousness and Experience (Cambrige Mass.: MIT Press, 1996), chap. 2. For an introduction to Rosenthal’s views, see his ‘Explaining Consciousness’, in D. J. Chalmers (ed.): Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).
[6] There is also primary or sensory consciousness of pain, since neurophysiology shows that sensations have a representational structure that should reflect states of the body. See, for example, C. S. Hill: Consciousness (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), chap. 6.
   By sustaining that consciousness involves representation of how things are, I am committed to the view that there is no consciousness without representation. This commitment finds no difficulty regarding cognitive states like perceptions, beliefs, wishes and desires. Emotions, however, seem to be an exception, since they are not representational. However, we can always be conscious of emotions as objects of representation, and when this occurs, the language also allow us to say that they are conscious states. Consequently, my depression cannot be sensory conscious. The better I can do is to say that my depression is conscious if I have a true reflexive cognition/representation of my own feeling of depression.
[7] David Armstrong, ‘What is Consciousness?’ in The Nature of Mind, pp. 65-66.
[8]  See David Rosenthal: ‘Consciousness and its Function’, Neuropsychologia , 46, 3 (2008), 829-840.
[9] The distinction between a relational and a non-relational way can be found in Bertrand Russell, An Outline of Philosophy (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1970), chap. XX. David Rosenthal and most theorists call these ways of speaking about consciousness respectively transitive and intransitive/state consciousness.
[10] Defenders of first-order theories of consciousness tend to reduce state consciousness to sensory consciousness; as a result, they have difficulties to explain the unconsciousness of many states of awareness. As an example of first-order theory, see Fred Dretske, Naturalizing the Mind (Cambridge Mass.: MIT Press, 1994).
[11] Integrationist views of consciousness were already maintained by tinkers from Kant to Freud. But they have been, in different ways, emphasized in the contemporary philosophy of consciousness by Daniel Dennett (with his claim that consciousness is cerebral celebrity), by Ned Block (with his definition of access-consciousness as the poising of a state for free use in reasoning and for directing action), by Bernard Baars (with the view that consciousness is the broadcasting of content under the spotlight of attention for the global mental workspace), by G. M. Edelman and Giulio Tononi (with the idea that consciousness corresponds to the brain ability to integrate information), and by many others.
[12] B. J. Baars: In the Theater of Consciousness: The Workspace of the Mind (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997)
[13] Reflexive cognition is not the only way to achieve integration. As we will see, also thinking consciousness could have an integrative dimension, and we should not confuse them.
[14] William Seager: Theories of Consciousness: An Introduction and Assessment (London: Routledge, 1999), p. 82.



Sinto muito, mas após ler um pouco de economia política cheguei à conclusão de que o Brasil não tem desenvolvimento ético-social nem cultural nem econômico para uma social-democracia liberal do tipo escandinavo. Definitivamente, não somos a Finlândia. É necessário lembrar que a social-democracia é um subproduto do capitalismo de livre mercado defendido a partir de Adam Smith e depende dele. Os países escandinavos primeiro ficaram ricos, depois instituíram social-democracia, depois esqueceram-se disso e começam agora a se a ver com dificuldades. Além disso, essa mesma social-democracia só funcionou devido à grande homogeneidade cultural e a valores culturais que ainda são insipientes em um país como o Brasil. Valores civis importam. A sociedade civil brasileira é uma minoria. A coisa é cultural. Nenhum país de cultura islâmica, por exemplo, conseguiu sequer democracia – quem dirá social-democracia. Não dá para queimar etapas. E a social-democracia seria disfuncional se tentada nos EUA, como a recente história tem mostrado.
Também nada temos do altruísmo social da cultura oriental, coisas como a Coréia do Sul, que depois de ter sido completamente devastada pela guerra teve condições de se desenvolver, com um governo inicialmente autoritário, voltando o estado para o desenvolvimento industrial sem esmagar a economia privada como o nosso inepto governo acabou por fazer. O que aconteceu por lá foi um milagre com apoio Americano.
Para dar exemplos, ouvi dizer que em 2015 uma bicicleta de dois mil reais era taxada pelo governo brasileiro em mil reais e que empresas brasileiras foram para o Paraguai para se livrar dos impostos e agora vendem para o Brasil. Exceto as escolhidas pelo governo, que passava leis que as protegiam.
A classe política Brasileira é em geral – mas nem sempre – decepcionante, para qualquer lado que se olhe, tanto em termos éticos quanto em competência. E em termos éticos eles não tem nem sequer tanta culpa assim, pois vivem no interior de um sistema intrinsecamente perverso.
O país é viciado em estado desde o tempo colonial. Pessoas inteligentes de classe média buscavam algum cargo como funcionários públicos. Um exemplo foi Machado de Assis, funcionário público exemplar e o melhor escritor do país.
Sabemos que Pedro II, um monarca responsável, percorria o país lépido em sua carruagem na ânsia de resolver os problemas. Segundo um historiador que li, o Brasil seria hoje um país desenvolvido se tivesse continuado se desenvolvendo como na segunda metade do século XIX. Não sei!
Mas era ingenuamente liberal, liberal demais para a época, errando, criou condições para o golpe militar que instaurou uma democracia de fachada, sem consulta popular. A herança Varguista - um pouco como o Peronismo na Argentina - se tornou no mundo atual mais um lastro ultrapassado, como o Lulo-petismo, se é que é possível comparar.
Ora, seguindo a tradição do governo-maternal, em nosso tempo tentou-se primeiro o capitalismo de estado de direita, a chamada ditadura militar, que teve o primeiro esperado milagre econômico que acabou abrigando corrupção e desandando em estagnação.
Tentou-se então o capitalismo de estado de esquerda, inspirado em um Gramscismo e em um Marxismo-Leninismo infantil. Ajudou um pouco por questão de sorte, em grande parte devido à conjuntura internacional favorável (que fez outros países da América Latina se desenvolvessem mais do que o Brasil) e à estabilidade financeira conseguida pelo governo anterior e a alguma ousadia. Parecia outra vez que lá vinha o milagre, mas que hoje em 2016 parecia estar ponto a pique o país inteiro, mais fundo do que a fossa das Marianas.
O Brasil não tem sido o país do futuro, mas o país da ilusão. Um país que não cuida da educação não sabe o preço que isso pode custar. A esquerda cuidou da educação universitária, como se isso fosse promover um milagre, talvez por aumentar votos com professores influentes bem pagos. Mas esqueceu-se do essencial, a educação básica, essencial por ser nela que o aluno aprende a aprender – afinal crianças não dão votos. O resultado disso é que mais de trinta por cento de analfabetos funcionais pulula nas universidade federais. Com poucas exceções, a universidade brasileira é coisa de se lamentar.
Daí surge a pergunta: por que não tentar o que nunca existiu por aqui? Capitalismo de verdade? Honesto, sem monopólios, desburocratizado? Por que não esperar que o progresso venha principalmente do livre mercado, do que Adam Smith chamava de “a mão invisível” da livre concorrência produtora de valor, que premia o bom empreendedor e leva a falência o mau, e que se bem conduzida por um pequeno governo não lhes cobre taxas sufocantes e que impeça monopólios, produz através dessa competição progresso e um aumento geral da riqueza. A Microsoft é resultado disso, para não falar do McDonalds.
Cobrar menos impostos, diminuir a burocracia, fazer as reformas necessárias, vender a Petrobrás, a Eletrobrás, o Banco do Brasil, a Caixa, os Correios, aeroportos, estradas, essa coisa toda! (Há ao todo mais de 200 empresas governamentais no Brasil.) Quanto à universidade pública, onde trabalho, vamos com mais calma. Sugiro que alunos sem condições de pagar não paguem. Que alguns recebam bolsas. Quanto aos que tem condições, que paguem. E quanto ao número de alunos, este poderia ser reduzido pela metade sem perda alguma.
Note que não estou pensando em estado mínimo como se pensa nos EUA. Lá há riqueza, mas o nível de stress também é grande e muitos não conseguem resistir à pressão competitiva. Países como Brasil ou, digamos, França ou Itália, tem suas culturas próprias e o tamanho do livre mercado pode ser calibrado de acordo com demandas culturais específicas. O que definitivamente não funciona é o mega-estado que cuida de tudo menos do principal e que, inoperante, incompetente, mal gastador do que recebe em impostos, esmaga a economia produtiva, como ocorreu por aqui.
   O caso dos EUA serve de exemplo. O país começou com socialismo: um por todos e todos por um: propriedades comuns. Não deu certo porque os que trabalhavam, sabendo que no final ganhariam a mesma coisa, deixaram de trabalhar e o resultado foi um fracasso. Depois, na primeira metade do século XIX o governo tentou intervir com navios responsáveis por viagens internacionais, código morse... coisas por ele monopolizadas. Resultado: prejuízo. Afinal, o governo não tem competidor. Foi então que descobriram a pólvora. O governo ficaria apenas com os serviços essenciais, como segurança, educação básica, defesa. Na segunda metade do século XIX o governo cobrava apenas 3 a 5 % de impostos (ao invés dos nossos de mais de 40%). O resultado foi um florescimentos explosivo da iniciativa privada (Friedman). As muitas ferrovias tinham uma diversidade de donos que competiam entre si baixando os preços. E essa é a razão simples pela qual os EUA é um país rico enquanto o Brasil é um país pobre. Nós nunca descobrimos o capitalismo. Nós apenas recorremos a ele, talvez um pouco envergonhados.
Enfim, continuar acreditando no patrimonialismo anti-meritocrático de um estado grade é entre nós um fetichismo ingênuo, tolo e verificado como destrutivo e perverso em todos os exemplos históricos. É como dizer que a Amazônia é nossa. Mesmo que a internet produza mecanismos de transparência absolutos, a falta de competição não diz às empresas estatais onde e como elas podem melhorar. Produzem-se melhoras de faz-de-conta ou incompetentes, como a biblioteca virtual do CNPq, na qual não encontrei sequer a Philosophical Review, que é vista como a melhor revista filosófica do mundo. Não serve para pesquisa séria. Onde não há meritocracia como é possível que os donos do poder sejam capazes de tomar decisões eficazes?
Além disso não tem nenhuma importância quem é o pobre do empresário – que se arrisca a enfartar – nem os acionistas – que ninguém sabe quem são – mas quem trabalha nessas empresas. Assim, uma multinacional é bem-vinda, pois produz empregos e dá as pessoas condições de ascender.
 Depois, como empreendedor o governo é um péssimo gestor do ponto de vista econômico porque – como Mises e Hayeck notaram – não é capaz de saber o que é do interesse de cada um dos agentes econômicos e por conseguinte age como um investidor míope. Os descalabros da economia soviética foram provas cabais disso. Da Venezuela à Cuba, da URSS à Coréia do Norte e ao Laos, temos visto provas de que o governo dirigista pode ser bem pior do que míope: por lógica própria tende a se tornar totalitário quando não genocida.
Afora isso ele não é controlado nem tem concorrentes, uma vez que basta imprimir dinheiro para não ir à falência, se atola e nos atola em dívidas de forma irresponsável e ainda, como vimos aqui, acabou por explorar empresas estatais em detrimento do cidadão pagador de imposto. A burocracia estatal se deixada livre cresce como um câncer e a corrupção dela decorre como consequência natural.
 Assim, um governo mínimo mas suficiente, adaptado à cultura do país, cuidando da segurança, da saúde básica, da escolaridade e educação, mesmo em nível superior, saúde, incluindo um salário desemprego e nada mais, me parece a alternativa realista em termos da mentalidade brasileira – um país em que se plantando tudo dá.
Poderia com um pouco disso até se resolver o problema endêmico da corrupção, que é sobretudo gerada no ventre desse mastodonte inepto, perdulário e promíscuo chamado governo.
Eis porque vejo em algo como, digamos, o pequeno Partido Novo uma proposta razoável. Eles perceberam o ponto crucial. Se somos por natureza uma Mohagoni, que seja mais do tipo Hong-Kong, que pela sábia orientação inglesa se tornou um dos lugares mais ricos do mundo, décimo segundo em IDH, acima da Inglaterra, da França e da Alemanha.
Cheguei a essa conclusão ao tentar entender a crise de 2015 e diante dos escândalos que vieram à tona. Fui ler um pouco de economistas como Friedman, Hayeck e von Mises e percebi os riscos do Keynesianismo. Marx é um clássico, mas não era um economista profissional e em seus devaneios em muitos pontos trocou os pés pelas mãos. Por exemplo, Mises notou que não é o trabalho que produz valor, desfazendo a ideia de mais-valia. O que produz valor é aquilo que o consumidor está disposto a pagar. Uma pessoa pode passar anos construindo uma máquina, devotando para isso um imenso trabalho, mas pode ser que ninguém veja nessa máquina utilidade alguma, e portanto essa máquina não tem valor. 
Outra coisa que Mises notou é que as terríveis condições dos trabalhadores no início da revolução industrial não eram tão terríveis como Marx descreve. A vida no campo era, segundo Mises, ainda pior. E Friedman notou que um operário tinha uma vida melhor do que um soldado romano. Mais ainda, as condições miseráveis do trabalhador durante a revolução industrial começaram a melhorar para o final o século XIX, razão pela qual se deixou de acreditar em uma revolução Marxista na Inglaterra, contrariamente ao que previra Marx. Lênin inventou então a falácia do Marxismo-Leninismo.
Um último ponto notado por Mises é que o chamado capitalismo de estado (tentado na URSS e em outros países socialistas) não dá certo porque o estado não tem condições de adivinhar as necessidades variada de milhões de agentes econômicos. O resultado é que ele passa a produzir mercadorias inúteis e não produzir o que muitos consideram necessário.
Política é o domínio do provável, mas imprevisível. Pode ser que amanhã tudo se torne diferente. Mas não creio, uma vez que estou falando de uma realidade que se formos ver com cuidado já existe há milhares de anos. Só não é vista como ciência devido à usual irracionalidade impregnada de ideologia com a qual o tema é tratado.

segunda-feira, 13 de fevereiro de 2017

PHILOSOPHICAL SEMANTICS (preface, introduction)

 Advanced draft 2

Table of Contents


Chapter I: Introduction
Appendix to Chapter I: How Do Proper Names Really Work? (Cutting the Gordian knot)
1.     A meta-descriptivist rule for proper names
2.     Identification rules at work
3.     Objection of vagueness
4.     Signification
5.     Ignorance and error
6.     Rigidity
7.     Names versus descriptions
8.     Autonomous definite descriptions
9.     Some classical counterexamples
10. Explanatory failure of the causal-historical view

Chapter II: Against the Metaphysics of Reference: Methodological Assumptions
1.     Common sense and meaning
2.     Critical common-sensism
3.     Ambitious versus modest common sense
4.     Primacy of established knowledge
5.     Philosophizing by examples
6.     Tacit knowledge of meaning: traditional explanation
7.     A very simple example of semantic-cognitive rules
8.     Criteria versus symptoms
9.     Challenges to the traditional explanation (i): John McDowell
10. Challenges to the traditional explanation (ii): Gareth Evans
11. Non-reflexive semantic cognitions
12. Conclusion

Appendix to Chapter II: Modal Illusions: Against Trans-epistemic Metaphysical Identities

Chapter III: Wittgensteinian Semantics
1.     Semantic-cognitive link
2.     Why can’t reference be meaning?
3.     Failure of Russell’s atomistic referentialism
4.     Meaning as a function of use
5.     Meaning as a kind of rule
6.     Meaning as a combination of rules
7.     Meaning and language games
8.     Meaning and forms of life
9.     Tying the threads together
10. Criteria and symptoms again
11. Transgressions of the internal limits of language
12. The form of semantic cognitive rules
13. What is wrong with the private language argument?
14. Concluding remarks

Appendix to Chapter III: Trope Theory and the Unbearable Lightness of Being
1.     Introducing tropes
2.     Tropes and universals
3.     Tropes and concrete particulars

Chapter IV: An Extravagant Reading of Fregean Semantics
1.     Reference of a singular term
2.     Sense of a singular term
3.     Reference of a predicative expression
4.     Ontological level
5.     Referring to particularized properties (tropes)
6.     Difficulties with the concept of unsaturation
7.     Unsaturation as ontological dependence
8.     Sense of a predicative term
9.     The dependence of the predicative sense
10. The concept of horse paradox
11. Existence as a property of concepts
12. Two naïve objections
13. Existence attributed to objects
14. Existence of objects and its identification rules
15. Existence of spatio-temporal locations: indexicals
16. Advantages of the higher-order view of existence
17. The ubiquity of existence
18. Answering some final objections
19. Reference of concepts again: a metaphysical excurse (Mill)
20. The reference of a sentence as its truth-value
21. Structural status of facts
22. Ontological status of facts
23. Church’s slingshot argument
24. Facts: sub-facts and grounding facts
25. Taking seriously the sentence’s reference as a fact
26. The problem of identity in difference
27. Sense of sentences: the thought
28. The thought as the truth-bearer
29. Facts as true thoughts?
30. The thought as a verifying rule
31. Frege’s Platonism
32. Avoiding Frege’s Platonism
33. Further ontological consequences
34. A short digression on contingent futures
35. Conclusion

Appendix to Chapter IV: Frege, Russell, and the Puzzles of Reference
1.     Russell’s solutions to the puzzles of reference
2.     Fregean solutions to the same puzzles
3.     Reviewing Fregean assumptions
4.     Reviewing Russellian assumptions
5.     Building a bridge between both views
6.     Conclusion

Chapter V: Verificationism Redeemed
1.     Origins of semantic verificationism
2.     Wittgensteinean verificationism
3.     Verifiability rule as a criterial rule
4.     Objection 1: the principle is self-refuting
5.     Objection 2: a formalist illusion
6.     Objection 3: verificational holism
7.     Objection 4: existential-universal asymmetry
8.     Objection 5: arbitrary indirectness
9.     Objection 6: empirical counterexamples
10. Objection 7: formal counterexamples
11. Objection 8: skepticism about rules
12. Defending analyticity
13. Conclusion

Appendix to Chapter V: The only Key to Solving the Humean Problem of Induction
1.     Formulating a Humean argument
2.     The basic point
3.     Reformulating PF

Chapter VI: Sketch of a Unified Theory of Truth
1.     Compatibility between verificationism and correspondence
2.     The nature of correspondence
3.     Formalizing the correspondence relation
4.     Negative truths
5.     Self-referentiality
6.     Pragmatics of the correspondence relation
7.     Anterograde versus retrograde procedures
8.     General statements
9.     Some questioned facts
10. Expansion to formal sciences
11. Why can analytic truth be called true?
12. The insufficiency of coherence
13. Coherence as a mediator
14. What about the truth of the truth-maker?
15. Objection of the linguistic-cognitive circle
16. Answering the objection of the linguistic-cognitive circle
17. Answering traditional arguments against direct realism
18. Axioms of externality
19. Skeptical scenarios
20. Verification and intentionality: Husserl
21. Solving two Husserlian problems
22. Truth and existence
23. Verifiability rules and truthmaking procedures
24. The rule’s structural mirroring of the world
25. Synopsis of this book

Epilogue: The Discovery of Wine

    (to be completed...)

Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hazard.
[A throw of the dice will never abolish chance]
Stéphane Mallarmé



Indem die Besinnung auf das Destruktive des Fortschritts seinen Feinden überlassen bleibt, verliert das blindlings pragmatisierte Denken seinen aufhebenden Charakter, und darum auch die Beziehung auf Wahrheit.
[In that reflection on the destructive aspect of progress is left to its enemies, blindly pragmaticized thought loses its uplifting character and thereby also its relation to truth.]
Theodor Adorno & Max Horkheimer

Making empty is the result of making small.
Malcolm Bull

Science (mainly applied science) rises, while culture (artistic, religious, philosophical) falls. Whereas culture was once a source of values, today science and technology have made cultural values seem superfluous.
   The critical theory of society has offered some explanations for this. Drawing on Max Weber’s basic concept of the ‘disenchantment of the world’ (Entzauberung der Welt), it asserts that in our modern technological society instrumental reason prevails over valuing reason, promoting mass culture and furthering science and technology at the expense of the old mystical-humanistic culture, without having sufficient resources to fill the void left behind.
   In this reductive scientistic institutional framework, we should not wonder that a kind of philosophy prevails that all too often materially and institutionally mimics the ways particular scientific fields work. For instance, taking into account only the discussions of recent years, we might suppose that philosophy had the same linear development as science. This segmented philosophy of the ‘last novelty’ made for ‘immediate consumption’ by and for specialists no longer seems, as in the tradition, to be an independent conjectural undertaking making balanced use of whatever new scientific knowledge can serve its purposes. More often, it seems to be a busy handmaid of science: particularized proto-scientific speculation that does not demand knowledge beyond its narrow interests. In saying this, I am not claiming that a strong scientific influence is inevitably specious and unfruitful. Often it finds a role in furthering the development of particular sciences. Moreover, there are some felicitous cases, like the rapid proliferation of theories of conscience over the last four decades, which serves as a striking example of fruitful philosophical work directly influenced by the development of empirical science – and this is only one example among many.
   Nevertheless, it is important to remember that this same intellectual steering can also easily become an ideologically motivated endeavor if it tempts the theoretical philosopher to import new knowledge from particular sciences – formal or empirical – in ways that cause him to lose sight of the vastness of the true philosophical landscape. A consequence of this endeavor may be what some have aptly labeled expansionist scientism: an effort to reduce the central domain of philosophy to the scope of investigative strategies and views derived from some more or less established particular science. In order to achieve this aim, the particular (formal or empirical) scientific field must be expanded in order to answer questions belonging to this central domain of philosophy, using a reductionist strategy that under­estimates philosophy’s comprehensive and multifaceted character (e.g., the often misguided use of modal logic in philosophy). The price one must pay for this is that persistent, distinctive philosophical difficulties that cannot be accommodated within the new particularizing model must be minimized, if not quietly swept under the rug.
   A chief inconsistency of scientism arises from the fact that while sciences are all particular, philosophy is most properly ‘holistic’: As Wittgenstein once noted, the funda­mental problems of philosophy are so interconnected that it is impossible to solve any one philosophical problem without first having solved all the others. This means that a persistent difficulty of the central philosophical problems is that we need a proper grasp of the whole to be able to evaluate and try to answer them properly. This is what often makes philosophy so enormously complex and multifarious. Taking account of parts as belonging to a whole, trying to see things sub specie totius, is also what the great systems of classical philosophy – such as those of Aristotle, Kant and Hegel – strove to achieve, even if paying a price that we are now better able to see as unavoidably high in terms of misleading and aporetic speculation. Nonetheless, it would be too easy to conclude that true comprehensiveness is no longer a fundamental desideratum of philosophy (Wittgenstein was well aware of this when he called for more Übersichtlichkeit’).
   A main reason for the lack of comprehensiveness of much of our present linguistic-analytical philosophy can be explained as follows. The new Anglo-American philosophy – from W. V-O. Quine to Donald Davidson, and from Saul Kripke to Hilary Putnam and Timothy Williamson – has challenged all kinds of inherited commonsensical starting points and challenged them in undeniably insightful and imaginative ways, although in my view with ultimately unsustainable results. Because of this, much of our theoretical philosophy has increasingly lost touch with its intuitive commonsensical grounding in the way things prima facie seem to be and for the most part really are.
   Take, for instance, the concept of meaning: the word ‘meaning’ was challenged by Quine as too vague a noise to be reasonably investigated. But an approach is inevitably limited if it starts from a purely reductionistic-scientistic perspective that denies or ignores commonsense certainties, like the obvious fact that meanings exist. In fact, using this strategy of skeptically questioning all kinds of deeply ingrained truisms, scientistically oriented philosophers have sawed off the branches they were sitting on. The reason for this is that the result of the adopted strategy couldn’t be other than replacing true comprehensiveness (with its predictable depth) with a superficializing positivistic fragmentation of often misleadingly-grounded philosophical concerns, which ends by plunging philosophy into what Scott Soames uncritically called the ‘age of specialization.’
   This fragmentation could be regarded as dividing to conquer, I admit; but it may also be a matter of dividing to subjugate; and what is here to be subjugated is the philosophical intellect. Indeed, without the well-reasoned assumption of deep common­sensical truisms, no proper descriptive metaphysics remains possible. Without this, the only path left for originality in philosophy of language, after rigorous training in techniques of argumentation, may turn out to be the use of new formalistic pyrotechnics of unknown value. And the end-effect of this may be to limit the possibilities for inquiry, preventing adequate philosophical analysis and increasing the risk that the philosophical enterprise will degenerate into a sort of scholastic, fragmented, vacuous intellectual Glasperlenspiel.
   It may be that the practitioners of scientistic philosophy are aware of the problem, but they have found plausible excuses for it. Some have suggested that any attempt to do philosophy on a comprehensive level would not suffice to meet the present standards of scholarly adequacy demanded by the academic community. But in saying this they forget that philosophy does not need to be pursued close behind new advances in the sciences, which are continually inheriting new authoritative developments. Philosophy in itself still remains an autonomous cultural enterprise: it is inherently conjectural and dependent on the indispensable metaphorical elements intrinsic to its pursuit of comprehensiveness. Most of philosophy remains a relatively free cultural enterprise with a right to controlled speculation, experimentation and even transgression, though typically done in the pursuit of truth.
   Others have concluded that today it is impossible to develop a truly comprehensive theoretical philosophy. For them this kind of philosophy cannot succeed because of the difficulties imposed by the overwhelming amount of information required, putting the task far beyond the cognitive capacity of individual human minds. We are – to borrow Colin McGinn’s original metaphor – cognitively closed to finding decisive solutions for the great traditional problems of philosophy: In our efforts to do ambitious comprehensive philosophy, we are like chimps trying to develop the theory of relativity: Just as they lack sufficient mental capacity to solve the problem of relativity, we lack sufficient mental capacity to develop comprehensive philosophy and will therefore never succeed! Hence, if we wish to make progress, we should shift our efforts to easier tasks...
   This last answer looks suspiciously close to defeatism. The very ability to initiate the discussion of comprehensive philosophy suggests that we might also be able to accomplish our task. As Wittgenstein once noted, if we are able to pose a question, it is because we are also able to find its answer. In contrast to human thinkers, chimps could never develop relativity theory, but they could also never ask what would happen if they could move at the speed of light. Even if the amount of scientific knowledge has increased immensely, it may well be that the amount of really essential information remains sufficiently limited for us to grasp and apply it. As Russell once noted, very often the science needed to do philosophy can be limited to very general findings. Moreover, not all philosophical approaches need to be taken into account, since they are often superimposed or displaced. The main difficulty may reside in the circumstances, strategies and authenticity of attempts; in the limits imposed on the context of discovery more than in the sheer impossibility of making progress. In any case, it is a fact that in recent years, true comprehen­siveness has nearly disappeared in the philosophy of linguistic analysis. However, the main reason does not seem to be impossibility in principle, but rather the loss of the right cultural soil in which comprehensive philosophy could flourish.
   In this book, I begin by arguing that more fruitful soil can be found if we start with a better reasoned and more affirmative appreciation of commonsense truisms, combined with a more pluralistic approach, prepared to incorporate the relevant (formal and empirical) results of science. Perhaps it is precisely against the unwanted return of a broader pluralistic approach that many in the mainstream of our present philosophy of language secretly struggle. This is often (though not always) obscured by some sort of dense, nearly scholastic scientistic atmosphere, so thick that practitioners barely notice it surrounding them. The intellectual climate sometimes recalls the middle ages, when no one was allowed to challenge religious dogmas. I even entertain the suspicion that in some quarters the attempt to advance a plausible comprehensive philosophy of language against the institutional power of reductive scientism runs the risk of being ideologically discouraged as a project and silenced as a fact.
   Ernst Tugendhat, who (together with Jürgen Habermas) attempted with considerable success to develop comprehensive philosophy in the seventies, has recently seemed to have given up and is declaring that the heyday of philosophy is past. The problem is in my view aggravated because we live in a time of widespread cultural indifference, heavily influenced by the increasing development of science and technology. Though quite indispensable, this tends to cause a compart­mental­ized form of alienation in research that works against more comprehensive attempts to comprehend reality.
   In the present book, I insist on swimming against the current. My main task here – a risky one – is to establish grounds for a new comprehensive orthodoxy, while arguing against certain reductionist-scientistic approaches that are blocking the way. Hence, it is an attempt to restore to the philosophy of language its deserved integrity, without contradicting either common sense or science; an effort to give a balanced, systematic and sufficiently plausible overview of meaning and the mechanisms of reference, using bridges laboriously constructed between some summits of philosophical thought. In this way I hope to realize the old philosophical ambition of a comprehensive synthesis, insofar as it still seems to be a reasonable undertaking.


Before any acknowledgments, I must emphasize Wittgenstein’s major influence on my philosophical outlook. His extremely suggestive and multifarious approach is more far-reaching than unprepared readers could possibly grasp, and the originality of his philosophical mind is indebted to his freedom from the burdens of the academic factory. I must also name the strong influence on my work of two living philosophers: John Searle and Ernst Tugendhat.
(to be completed...)

- I -

Logic, I should maintain, must no more admit a unicorn than zoology can; for logic is concerned with the real world just as truly as zoology, though with its more abstract and general features.
Bertrand Russell

A philosophical tradition which suffers from the vice of horror mundi in an endemic way is condemned to futility.
Kevin Mulligan, Peter Simons, Barry Smith

Could the old orthodoxy of the philosophy of language that prevailed in the first half of the twentieth century, with its insistence on the centrality of meaning, its eroded semantic principle of verifiability, its naïve correspondentialism, its elementary distinction between analytic and synthetic, its crude descriptivist-internalist theories of proper names and general terms, its monolithic dichotomy between the necessary a priori and the contingent a posteriori… be nearer to the truth than the now still dominant causal-externalist orthodoxy?
This book was written in the conviction that this question should be answered affirmatively. I am convinced that the philosophy of language of the first half of the twentieth century was more profound, comprehensive and closer to the truth than the approaches of the new orthodoxy, and its insights were often more powerful. The reason seems to lie in the socio-cultural background. Cultural revolutions are products of great conflicts. And the period between the end of the nineteenth century and the Second World War was one of increasing social turmoil. This cast doubt on all established cultural values, providing the right atmosphere for intellectuals and artists disposed to develop sweepingly original innovations. This could be witnessed not only in philosophy and the arts, but also in the human and natural sciences.
   However, in saying this I am not necessarily dismissing the more institutionalized philosophy that came later. In the philosophy of language I don’t, for instance, reject the philosophical interest of anti-verificationist arguments like those of W. V-O. Quine. Nor do I reject the deep philosophical originality and relevance of the new causal-externalist mainstream founded mainly by Saul Kripke and Keith Donnellan in the early seventies and later elaborated by Hilary Putnam, David Kaplan and many others. These and other accomplishments are relevant and in a sense even indispensable for reaching my goals.
   However, the value of their labors is in my judgment predominantly negative, since I think their conclusions fall short of the truth. In other words, their significance consists mostly in being dialectically relevant challenges, which if adequately met would be followed by an enriching reformulation of old primarily descriptivist-internalist-cognitivist views of meaning and reference. These views could become increasingly complex in very positive and productive ways.
   The aim of the present book is to contribute to moving in the proposed direction. My approach to the topics considered here consists in gradually developing and defending a primarily internalist, cognitivist and neo-descriptivist analysis of the nature of the cognitive meaning of our expressions and their mechanisms of reference. But this approach will be indirect, since the analysis will usually be supported by a critical examination of some central views of traditional analytic philosophy, particularly those of Wittgenstein and Frege. Furthermore, such explanations will be complemented by a renewed reading and defense of the idea that existence is a higher-order property, a detailed reconsideration of the verificationist view of meaning, and a reassess­ment of the correspondence theory of truth, which I see as complementary to the suggested form of verificationism and dependent on a renewed treatment of the old problem of perception.
   The obvious assumption that makes my project prima facie plausible is the idea that language is a system of rules, some of which are more proper sources of meaning. The most central meaning-rules are those responsible for what Aristotle called apophantic speech – representational discourse, whose meaning-rules I call semantic-cognitive rules. Indeed, it is prima facie highly plausible to think that the cognitive meaning (i.e., informative content and not mere linguistic meaning) of our representational language cannot be given by anything other than semantic-cognitive rules or combinations of such rules. Our knowledge of these rules or conventions is – as will be defended – usually tacit, implicit, non-reflexive, that is, we are able to use them correctly but are very often unable to develop them in a linguistically explicit way.
   My ultimate aim should be to investigate the structure of semantic-cognitive rules by examining our basic referential expressions, which are singular terms, general terms and in a sense declarative sentences, in order to furnish an appropriate explanation of their reference mechanisms. In the present book, I do this only very partially, often in the appendices, summarizing ideas already presented in my last book which still require development (see 2014, Ch. 2, 3, 4). I do this because in the main text of the present work my central aim is rather to justify and clarify my own assumptions on the philosophy of meaning and reference.
   In developing these views, I realized in retrospect that my main goal was essentially to revive a program already speculatively developed by Ernst Tugendhat in his classical work Vorlesungen zur Einführung in die sprachanalytische Philosophie.[1] This book, published in 1976, can be considered the swansong of the old orthodoxy, defending a non-externalist and non-causalist program that was gradually abandoned during the next decade under the ever-growing influence of the new causal-externalist orthodoxy. Tugendhat’s strategy in developing this program can be understood in its core as a semantic analysis of the fundamental singular predicative statement. This statement is not only epistemically fundamental, it is also the indispensable basis for building our first-order truth-functional language.[2] In summary, offering a statement of the form Fa, he suggested that:[3]

1)            the meaning of the singular term a should be given by its identification rule (Identifikationsregel),
2)            the meaning of the general term F should be given by its application rule (Verwendungsregel), which I also call a characterization or (preferably) ascription rule,
3)            the meaning of the complete singular predicative statement Fa should be given by its verifiability rule (Verifikationsregel), which results from the combined application of the first two rules.
(cf. Tugendhat & Wolf 1983: 235-6; Tugendhat 1976: 259, 484, 487-8).

The verifiability rule is in this case obtained by jointly applying the first two rules in such a way that the identification rule of the singular term must be applied first, in order to then use the general term’s ascription rule. Thus, for instance, Yuri Gagarin, the first man to orbit the Earth from beyond its atmosphere, gazed out of his space capsule and exclaimed: ‘The Earth is blue!’ In order to make this a true statement, he should first have identified the Earth by applying the identification rule of the proper name ‘Earth’; then, based on the result of this application, he would have been able to apply the ascription rule of the predicative expression ‘…is blue.’ In this combined application, these two rules work as a kind of verifiability rule for the statement ‘The Earth is blue.’ That is: if these rules can be conjunctively applied, then the statement is true, otherwise, it is false. Tugendhat saw this not only as a form of verificationism, but also as a kind of correspondence theory of truth – a conclusion contested by some readers.
   In order to test Tugendhat’s view, we can critically ask if it is not possible that we really first apply the ascription rule of a predicative expression. For example, suppose that one night you see something burning at a distance without knowing what is on fire. Only after approaching it do you see that it is an old, abandoned factory. It may seem that in this example you first applied the ascription rule and later the identification rule. However, in suggesting this we forget that to see the fire one must first direct one’s eyes at a certain spatio-temporal spot, thereby localizing the place where something is on fire. Hence, a primitive identification rule for a place was first applied. Hence, initially the statement will not be; ‘That old building is on fire,’ but simply ‘There is a fire… over there.’ Later, when you are closer to the building, you can make a more precise statement. Thus, in this same way while looking out of his space capsule’s window Gagarin could think, ‘There is blue color down below me’, before saying ‘The Earth is blue’. Even in this case, the ascription rule cannot be applied without the earlier application of some identification rule, even if it is one that is only able to identify a vague spatio-temporal region from the window. To expand on the objection, we could consider a statement like ‘It is all a white fog.’ Notwithstanding, even here, ‘It is all…’ expresses an identification rule (of the whole visual field here and now) for the singular term, while ‘…a white fog’ expresses the ascription rule for the general term.
   Tugendhat came to his conclusions as a result of purely speculative considerations, without analyzing the structure of these rules and without answering the many obvious external criticisms of the program, like the numerous well-known objections already made against verificationism. But what is extraordinary is that he was arguably right, since I believe the present book will make it hard to contest his main views.
   My methodological strategies, as will be seen, are also different from those used in the more formally oriented approaches opposed by this book, which are mostly inherited from the philosophy of ideal language in its positivistic developments. My approach is primarily oriented by the communicative and social roles of language, which I use as the fundamental units of analysis. This means that I am more influenced by the so-called ordinary language tradition than by the ideal language tradition.[4] I believe a comprehensive understanding of language must emphasize its unavoidable involvement in overall societal life. Consequently, I assign a heuristic value to common sense and ordinary language intuitions, often seeking support in a more careful examination of concrete examples of how our linguistic expressions are effectively employed.
   Finally, my approach is systematic. The chapters of this book are interconnected so that the plausibility of each is better supported when regarded in its relation to arguments developed in the preceding chapters and their often critical appendices. Even if complementary, these appendices are placed as counterpoints to the chapters, aiming to justify the expressed views, if not to add something to them.

[1] English translation: Traditional and Analytical Philosophy: Lectures on the Philosophy of Language (2016).
[2] In this book I use the word ‘statement’ in most cases as referring to the speech act of making an assertion.
[3] An antecedent of this is J. L. Austin’s correspondence view, according to which an indexical statement (e.g. ‘This rose is red’) is said to be true when the historical fact correlated with its demonstrative convention (here represented by the demonstrative ‘this’) is of the type established by the sentence’s descriptive convention (the red rose type) (Austin 1950: 122). This is a first approximation of conventionalist strategies later employed by Dummett in his interpretation of Frege (cf. 1981: 194, 229) and still later more cogently explored by Tugendhat under some Husserlian influence.
[4] The ideal language tradition (inspired by the logical analysis of language) and the ordinary language tradition (inspired by the real workings of natural language) represent opposed (though arguably complementary) views. The first was founded by Frege, Russell and the early Wittgenstein. It was also strongly associated with philosophers of logical positivism, particularly Rudolf Carnap. With the rise of Nazism in Europe, most philosophers associated with logical positivism fled to the USA, where they strongly influenced American analytical philosophy. The philosophies of W. V-O. Quine, Donald Davidson, and later Kripke, Putnam and David Kaplan, along with the present mainstream philosophy of language with its metaphysics of reference, are in indirect ways later products of ideal language philosophy. The ordinary language tradition, in its turn, was represented after the Second World War by the Oxford School. It was inspired by the analysis of what Austin called ‘the whole speech act in the total speech situation’. Its main theorists were J. L. Austin, Gilbert Ryle and P. F. Strawson, although it had an antecedent in the later philosophy of Wittgenstein and still earlier in G. E. Moore’s commonsense approach. Ordinary language philosophy also affected American philosophy through relatively isolated figures like Paul Grice and John Searle, whose academic influence was foreseeably not as great. For the historical background, see J. O. Urmson (1956).