A Simple Conceptualist Argument?

1) All propositions are effects of some minds (Conceptualism).
2) With respect to proposition p, all possible worlds entail either the truth of p or the falsity of p.
3) All worlds are mental effects.

Since possible worlds express a “picture” in a way that propositions do (and this will be your position unless you subscribe to modal concretism, I think) then (2) appears to be uncontroversial.

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4 Comments on “A Simple Conceptualist Argument?”


  1. Actually, there’s a few interesting points that can be made with 2.

    Many propositions are neither true or false – instead, they are performative. Often a proposition is actually an action rather than a statement about the world – in fact, the kind of proposition that is a statement about the state of the world is in and of itself the action of stating something about the state of the world.

    There’s also the subset of phatic propositions to be considered, which are an interesting subgroup of performative statements.

    I’m not confirming or denying the conceptualist thing – in fact, I kind of like it. My gut feeling is that conceptualism can very easily incorporate the concept of the performative, but it might take a little bit more monkey-work than just the argument you posted above.

    Hmm… Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. How, in your opinion, does the conceptualist framework integrate with the concept of a performative proposition as opposed to a truth-statement proposition?

    Looking forward to your response.

  2. Josh Says:

    Thank you for your comments Che. I’d like to note that (2) does not need to be about ALL propositions (phatic or otherwise) but about just one (that is a truth-statement). I don’t know what the ontological status of Wittgensteinian propositions are, but it would be interesting to see how a conceptualist would fit something like a threat or promise into their schema. I may have to add a qualification about what kind of proposition, but as long as there is one proposition that is a truth-statement in all possible worlds, I think the argument would work granting (1).


  3. Your post touches on some recent thoughts of my own, Josh. For the most part Plantinga and others have appealed to no more than intuitive support for conceptualism. Though I think conceptualism does have a lot of intuitive support, I think it can be directly argued for as well. Consider propositions and possible worlds. Each are distinctly characterized by the “of-ness” and “about-ness” associated with intentional mental states (a.k.a., intentionality). But intentionality seems necessarily mental. Therefore, propositions and possible worlds are necessarily characterized by mental states.

    Recently on this, see Richard Davis, “God and Modal Concretism” in the latest edition of Philosophia Christi (Vol. 10, No.1, 2008), 66-74.

    Thanks for the reference and kind remarks, by the way!

  4. Josh Says:

    Howdy Chad! Glad to see you around!
    I am not sure of my thoughts on intentionality quite yet. Perhaps the distinction between derived and intrinsic intentionality has bearing on this debate, but I assume that most naturalists would deflate intentionality to make it quite less than mental. I have no idea if that means anything when it comes to possible worlds.


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