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Thread: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    Quote Originally Posted by Rosa Lichtenstein View Post
    Of course, this touches on the knotty problem of the nature of 'abstract thought', a 'concept' that lacks any rationale, if understood philosophically. WTF is 'abstract thought' other than the use of general nouns (in linguistic functions)?
    As I said I agree that any definition provided will reach its limits sooner or later, but it seems to be close to synonymous with "thought" itself, no?
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    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    Well, I wasn't asking for a definition.

    But I don't understand what you mean by pictures not involving abstract ideas in the sense of general ideas of object that are depicted in them. A painter who paints a horse surely has some conception of "horse" in mind when they are making the painting, no? A child who draws a lion surely has some notion of "lions" as a specific kind of animal, right?
    I think you might be conflating generality with abstraction. That has been the traditional approach since at least Plato's day. It is this that I am questioning.

    And I am far from sure that this is the case, either:

    A painter who paints a horse surely has some conception of "horse" in mind when they are making the painting, no?
    Again, this depends on an early modern understanding of concept formation, which situates it in a private, inner arena, as opposed to locating it in the public domain. Wittgenstein went to great lengths to challenge this metaphysical approach to 'concepts'. I favour a neo-Fregean approach to this topic, which interprets concepts as linguistic functions, and hence with a publicly exhibited skill, mastering a certain use of language.

    but it seems to be close to synonymous with "thought" itself, no?
    Again, this reflects a Cartesian approach to this topic.

    And "abstract thought" can't be synonymous (nor nearly synonymous) with "thought". Check these out:

    So,

    a) "I thought you'd be early", isn't the same as "I abstract thought you'd be early".

    b) "I was just thinking about you" isn't the same as "I was just abstract thinking about you".

    c) "That was a thoughtless remark" isn't the same as "That was an abstract thoughtless remark".

    d) "She doesn't think you are right" isn't the same as "She doesn't abstract think you are right".

    In each case, the first makes perfectly ordinary sense; the second...???

    I can think (no pun intended) of no example where "thought" and "abstract thought" would be the same, or nearly the same.
    Last edited by Rosa Lichtenstein; 09-16-2017 at 7:12 PM.
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    Senior Voting Member Meridian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba
    I don't know the context, but even if that is a script, I don't think that it indicates abstract thought of a different sort than picturing does. Hieroglyphics is a script, but it is nevertheless also pictorial.

    Anyway, sorry that some things are confusing, but I think that's because it's a difficult argument. I wrote up a longer text that might help, or do the opposite.

    If and when picturing is symbolic, we can recognise its style, or the forms of representation it involves. The picture contains elements that can be configured in a range of ways, preserving the identity of the elements across changes. How they are configured is like the verb in a statement, as it were. The configuration is what the picture depicts, what it represents to be the case. By understanding an entire style of picturing, we understand the individual pictures and their meaningful (and meaningless) differences. The style can be altered much like a language, either by introducing new ways of configuring elements, or by introducing new kinds of elements.

    In fact, it is easier for the sake of argument to assume the stylistic elements themselves are mere indistinguishable ink or pigment marks, having no prior or independent meaning or reference outside any picture. Then, the style consists purely of ways elements are configured. Certain distinctions in configuration are meaningful, others are negligible or meaningless. By combining the (independently meaningless) marks or blots, we picture e.g. animal bodies.

    Picturing is symbolic when a given picture can be meaningfully altered to depict something else. That is, when it isn't a static icon, but an example of an overarching style of representation. We know cave paintings are of this sort because the animals are depicted making all manner of expressions, with different appearances, in different stances and scales, etc., and we can easily see how the range of available examples could be extended. We know that just slightly moving one element in a painting would represent an animal with a slightly different posture, for instance. The important thing to recognise is that the 'meaning' or referent of each of the individual marks is dependent on the overall scene, that is, how all of the marks are combined in the picture. Almost all pictures, in the ordinary sense of paintings and sketches, are of this form. Reference here depends, firstly, on the entire style of picturing, and secondly, on the individual picture as a whole. So, reference is not due to an extrinsic stipulation.

    The reason I don't think a script indicates abstract thought very different from symbolic pictures, is that any script is essentially also pictorial in this sense. The arrangement of signs constitutes a fact which is meaningful as a whole, in the same way as a picture. The difference is that linguistic signs contribute to the sense in many different ways, rather than their combination being uniformly mirrored in what is represented. Moreover, the represented combination is not visually inherent in the combination of elements, but expressed by a verb phrase. For example, you get a linguistic function like 'Fa', where the verb phrase might be 'is red'. This could be expressed pictorially by colouring 'a' red, or by some other convention. In fact, I'd put it the other way around: 'Fa' expresses e.g. what we do (or represent) by colouring 'a' red.

    While we could express 'Fa' pictorially, by painting 'a' red or flipping it upside down, we could not mirror the sense of the negation of 'Fa' in a picture. This holds in general: We can picture scenes of arbitrary complexity, but we cannot picture that something is not the case, using non-linguistic pictures alone. (This is not due to some metaphysical barrier, but a grammatical one: We can picture that something is not the case, but not that something is not the case. But how to tell the difference? We have no way of doing so, using pictures alone.) And when we have a picture of 'a', where 'a' is red, this could in fact be interpreted to mean any number of things, e.g. that a is located somewhere in particular, or that a has a specific size. To determine the sense, we go from a picture to a convention based on a picturing technique, or the other way around.

    One such convention is negation, which is expressed in the same way for any picture, with a sign such as 'not'. Obviously that's not a pictorial element in itself, but, loosely speaking, a marker to indicate what is being done with the picture. Wittgenstein (TLP 5.47) writes that "Where there is composition, there is argument and function, and where these are, all logical constants already are." So he seems to have held that the composition involved in a picture, even in the configuration of a single element, already lays the foundation for the use of logical constants. This is so provided the composition is part of a symbolism.

    If I understand things correctly, that seems right. Descriptive language and thought branches out from picturing, but not in a straightforward way. Of course, much more would have to be said about the relation between language and pictures before this would be clear. In particular, about signs/symbols and names/objects. There is plenty of confusion around, especially about the latter. Much of it understandable.

    Anyway, sorry if I ignore some of your questions. Maybe they are implicitly answered. The overall moral is that there is no reason to think general ideas or thoughts about animals precedes the actual picturing of animals. On the contrary. In fact, we should think we are now confused about what it means to think, since the topic seems to invite so much speculation about what people may or may not have had 'in' their minds.

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    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    While I agree with much of this M, how about picturing Fa if a does not exist? As I am sure you know, Wittgenstein's solution to this knotty problem underpinned his ideas about 'substance', so that language enabled us to form propositions whose sense didn't depend on the truth of another proposition -- namely 'a exists', at least -- which would have undermined the determinancy of sense.

    Furthermore, I think you might need to make this paragraph a little clearer, since it isn't abundantly clear what you mean:

    While we could express 'Fa' pictorially, by painting 'a' red or flipping it upside down, we could not mirror the sense of the negation of 'Fa' in a picture. This holds in general: We can picture scenes of arbitrary complexity, but we cannot picture that something is not the case, using non-linguistic pictures alone. (This is not due to some metaphysical barrier, but a grammatical one: We can picture that something is not the case, but not that something is not the case. But how to tell the difference? We have no way of doing so, using pictures alone.) And when we have a picture of 'a', where 'a' is red, this could in fact be interpreted to mean any number of things, e.g. that a is located somewhere in particular, or that a has a specific size. To determine the sense, we go from a picture to a convention based on a picturing technique, or the other way around.
    I am still far from clear what the logical difference is between "something is not the case", and "something is not the case". There might be a rhetorical difference (but even that isn't too clear, either), but I must confess that can't see a logical difference. What am I missing?
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    Senior Voting Member Meridian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    I meant that we can picture that situation which is said not to be the case. In fact, that is what we do with negation in language, going via the positive and just adding a "not". But to say *that* it is not the case requires language.

    I am away at the moment but I'll address the first paragraph within a day or two!

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    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    Well, yes I agree; I go into this in one of my Essays. But, I am still not too sure what the logical difference is between"something is not the case", and "something is not the case".
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    Senior Voting Member Meridian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    I simply meant that we can picture something that isn't the case, but not that it isn't the case. So I emphasized the 'something', and then the 'not'. The difference is negation and what we are trying to picture.

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    Senior Voting Member Meridian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    Quote Originally Posted by Rosa Lichtenstein
    While I agree with much of this M, how about picturing Fa if a does not exist? As I am sure you know, Wittgenstein's solution to this knotty problem underpinned his ideas about 'substance', so that language enabled us to form propositions whose sense didn't depend on the truth of another proposition -- namely 'a exists', at least -- which would have undermined the determinancy of sense.
    I don't think that's a problem, because what a picture depicts is something that can be depicted in the style in question, independently of whether it (or something like it) exists beyond the picture. For instance, there might be a painting of a man in old fashioned garb holding a sword (or something), which might in fact be a painting of Napoleon. However, as I said, it is really a painting of a man in a certain posture (etc). The stipulation that it is intended to portray Napoleon is really an ulterior fact. I suppose the general rule here is that bearers of proper names are not pictured as such. The same holds for 'complexes' in general, and of course you know Wittgenstein's argument in favour of this view.

    I do think Wittgenstein's answer was along these lines. His comments about 'substance' means what is guaranteed by the form of representation employed. E.g. a picture of a man will, at least, presuppose that things being in such and such a configuration might exist. He must have held the relation between the 'simple name' and the 'simple object' was not that of a naming convention, but something guaranteed by the mere existence of the picture, along with the symbolism.

    However, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

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    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    Meridian:

    I simply meant that we can picture something that isn't the case, but not that it isn't the case. So I emphasized the 'something', and then the 'not'. The difference is negation and what we are trying to picture.
    Ah, I see what you meant.

    I don't think that's a problem, because what a picture depicts is something that can be depicted in the style in question, independently of whether it (or something like it) exists beyond the picture. For instance, there might be a painting of a man in old fashioned garb holding a sword (or something), which might in fact be a painting of Napoleon. However, as I said, it is really a painting of a man in a certain posture (etc). The stipulation that it is intended to portray Napoleon is really an ulterior fact. I suppose the general rule here is that bearers of proper names are not pictured as such. The same holds for 'complexes' in general, and of course you know Wittgenstein's argument in favour of this view.

    I do think Wittgenstein's answer was along these lines. His comments about 'substance' means what is guaranteed by the form of representation employed. E.g. a picture of a man will, at least, presuppose that things being in such and such a configuration might exist. He must have held the relation between the 'simple name' and the 'simple object' was not that of a naming convention, but something guaranteed by the mere existence of the picture, along with the symbolism.
    Well, I think that much of what you say might very well represent his later views, but not, perhaps, the Tractatus. The point about substance is that the simple objects are logical objects and so do not need to be presupposed. Otherwise you'd have a transcendental argument, and then the sense of a proposition will depend on the truth of another.

    Have you run together depicting and picturing?
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    Senior Voting Member Meridian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    Quote Originally Posted by Rosa Lichtenstein
    Well, I think that much of what you say might very well represent his later views, but not, perhaps, the Tractatus. The point about substance is that the simple objects are logical objects and so do not need to be presupposed. Otherwise you'd have a transcendental argument, and then the sense of a proposition will depend on the truth of another.
    Can you explain a bit more what you mean by a 'logical object'?

    I don't think Wittgenstein held that simple objects need to be presupposed, either. That's not how I intended to use the word 'presuppose', sorry. I meant that the picture will guarantee, or come with, the objects.

    Have you run together depicting and picturing?
    If you mean running together depicting something, e.g. Napoleon, and picturing some possible fact, no: I simply spoke loosely. The picture in question could e.g. be of Napoleon leading his army to Moscow.

    But if I read the early Wittgenstein correctly, he says 'complexes' are to be understood in terms of conjunctions. So, the picture of Napoleon is really a picture of a man in a certain pose, which in turn is a conjunction of pictures of possible facts. Possible configurations of objects. Moreover, what I think Wittgenstein is saying, but which might not be commonly accepted, is that the object/complex distinction is dependent on the symbolism.

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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    I'll reply to this discussion shortly, have to finish up some stuff before I have the time.

    But on the topic of the thread, this is interesting: Stephen Jay Gould, Kropotkin was no Crackpot
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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    Ok, finally have some time for this now.

    Quote Originally Posted by Meridian View Post
    I don't know the context, but even if that is a script, I don't think that it indicates abstract thought of a different sort than picturing does. Hieroglyphics is a script, but it is nevertheless also pictorial.
    But we don't know whether it is the same as hieroglyphics or something like the Chinese alphabet, which I'm assuming is not pictoral.

    But even if it is pictoral, how does that not indicate abstract thought? Does hieroglyphics not indicate that? Perhaps you answer this below...

    Anyway, sorry that some things are confusing, but I think that's because it's a difficult argument. I wrote up a longer text that might help, or do the opposite.

    If and when picturing is symbolic, we can recognise its style, or the forms of representation it involves. The picture contains elements that can be configured in a range of ways, preserving the identity of the elements across changes. How they are configured is like the verb in a statement, as it were. The configuration is what the picture depicts, what it represents to be the case. By understanding an entire style of picturing, we understand the individual pictures and their meaningful (and meaningless) differences. The style can be altered much like a language, either by introducing new ways of configuring elements, or by introducing new kinds of elements.

    In fact, it is easier for the sake of argument to assume the stylistic elements themselves are mere indistinguishable ink or pigment marks, having no prior or independent meaning or reference outside any picture. Then, the style consists purely of ways elements are configured. Certain distinctions in configuration are meaningful, others are negligible or meaningless. By combining the (independently meaningless) marks or blots, we picture e.g. animal bodies.

    Picturing is symbolic when a given picture can be meaningfully altered to depict something else. That is, when it isn't a static icon, but an example of an overarching style of representation. We know cave paintings are of this sort because the animals are depicted making all manner of expressions, with different appearances, in different stances and scales, etc., and we can easily see how the range of available examples could be extended. We know that just slightly moving one element in a painting would represent an animal with a slightly different posture, for instance. The important thing to recognise is that the 'meaning' or referent of each of the individual marks is dependent on the overall scene, that is, how all of the marks are combined in the picture. Almost all pictures, in the ordinary sense of paintings and sketches, are of this form. Reference here depends, firstly, on the entire style of picturing, and secondly, on the individual picture as a whole. So, reference is not due to an extrinsic stipulation.

    The reason I don't think a script indicates abstract thought very different from symbolic pictures, is that any script is essentially also pictorial in this sense. The arrangement of signs constitutes a fact which is meaningful as a whole, in the same way as a picture. The difference is that linguistic signs contribute to the sense in many different ways, rather than their combination being uniformly mirrored in what is represented. Moreover, the represented combination is not visually inherent in the combination of elements, but expressed by a verb phrase. For example, you get a linguistic function like 'Fa', where the verb phrase might be 'is red'. This could be expressed pictorially by colouring 'a' red, or by some other convention. In fact, I'd put it the other way around: 'Fa' expresses e.g. what we do (or represent) by colouring 'a' red.

    While we could express 'Fa' pictorially, by painting 'a' red or flipping it upside down, we could not mirror the sense of the negation of 'Fa' in a picture. This holds in general: We can picture scenes of arbitrary complexity, but we cannot picture that something is not the case, using non-linguistic pictures alone. (This is not due to some metaphysical barrier, but a grammatical one: We can picture that something is not the case, but not that something is not the case. But how to tell the difference? We have no way of doing so, using pictures alone.) And when we have a picture of 'a', where 'a' is red, this could in fact be interpreted to mean any number of things, e.g. that a is located somewhere in particular, or that a has a specific size. To determine the sense, we go from a picture to a convention based on a picturing technique, or the other way around.

    One such convention is negation, which is expressed in the same way for any picture, with a sign such as 'not'. Obviously that's not a pictorial element in itself, but, loosely speaking, a marker to indicate what is being done with the picture. Wittgenstein (TLP 5.47) writes that "Where there is composition, there is argument and function, and where these are, all logical constants already are." So he seems to have held that the composition involved in a picture, even in the configuration of a single element, already lays the foundation for the use of logical constants. This is so provided the composition is part of a symbolism.

    If I understand things correctly, that seems right. Descriptive language and thought branches out from picturing, but not in a straightforward way. Of course, much more would have to be said about the relation between language and pictures before this would be clear. In particular, about signs/symbols and names/objects. There is plenty of confusion around, especially about the latter. Much of it understandable.

    Anyway, sorry if I ignore some of your questions. Maybe they are implicitly answered. The overall moral is that there is no reason to think general ideas or thoughts about animals precedes the actual picturing of animals. On the contrary. In fact, we should think we are now confused about what it means to think, since the topic seems to invite so much speculation about what people may or may not have had 'in' their minds.
    Ok so I think I get the main point you are trying to make, but there are some steps in the process I don't fully understand/agree with.

    You seem to make a very good case for why scripts that picture are distinct from a language that doesn't, because the latter can do things that the former cannot, like negate. Two things: does this negating aspect not exist in hieroglyphics? I assume it should in theory be possible, no? If so, the scripts that picture precluding abstract thought in the same way as language goes out the window, or at least has to be weakened to some other version (some other functions that it cannot do as non-pictoral scripts can, perhaps?).

    But even if the negating argument holds as a distinguishing mark, why does a pictoral script or a purely pictoral form of symbolic representation (like the animals rather than the markings) not indicate abstract thought, or that abstract thought preceded them (I'm only saying it could be a possibility that this was the case, not necessarily that it is so -- we just don't know and will never be able to know)?

    I am also unsure about how pictures consisting of particular configurations of broader contexts or more general styles (something like a meta-picture) somehow has any bearing on its not being preceded by abstract thought? But perhaps I am not understanding that part of your argument properly.

    In any case it's an interesting case you make. I'll think some more about it, maybe I'll have further thoughts.
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

  13. #33
    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

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