Purely Convention and Purely Objective

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I don’t have a Facebook account, but I hear things. One of the recent memes was about how the way you look at a 6 or a 9 determines whether it is a 6 or a 9. The fallacy is then to go to suppose that all things are merely convention, you can’t judge me, etc.

However, the response was equally problematic. Responders suggested that we look around to other number or seek the artist’s intention. This is to take a purely objective position or a hyper-realism.

The intention of the artist is clear that the drawing is to indicate a 6 or a 9 depending on its orientation with respect o the viewer. This is key, because there is no objective fact to whether it is a 6 or a 9. It is simply a matter of convention. Indeed, this is characteristic of human artifacts that they are purely accidental. Whether the pixels on the screen signify a six or a nine is determined by a difference in orientation, that is an accident. There is no substantial reality to it being a six or nine, because this is exactly what the artist intends.

Some things are purely conventional and other things are a mix of the convention or subjective and the objective.

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16 Responses to Purely Convention and Purely Objective

  1. Zippy says:

    Lexical symbols are conventional by definition, but someone who can’t tell the difference between (e.g.) six wheels and nine wheels is out of touch with reality. IOW the lexical symbols we use to refer to six and nine may be conventional; but six and nine are objective.

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  2. Zippy says:

    Human beings often confuse real things with our capacity to adopt conventional ways of making reference to those things. Mathematical objects are a good (kind of) example.

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  3. I agree on both comments. However, there is another error whereby people confuse the objectivity of natural substances with artifacts. There is a definite answer to the number of tires, but there may not be a definite answer as to what a symbol signifies.

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  4. Zippy says:

    Artifacts are objective things. The accident-essence distinction is real (though trickier than the average Aristotlean is likely to admit); but artifacts are real objects and are not (in my view) reducible to bags of accidents bundled together with subjective significances assigned by human beings.

    More generally, Aristotle was probably a kind of paleo-reductionist in my view.

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  5. Artifacts are objective things.

    Agreed.

    The accident-essence distinction is real (though trickier than the average Aristotlean is likely to admit);

    Yes and probably.

    artifacts are real objects and are not (in my view) reducible to bags of accidents bundled together with subjective significances assigned by human beings.

    Agreed. However, there is not the same objectivity of what a symbol signifies as with how many tires there are. The number of tires is definite and objective and no difference of perspective changes that. That the symbol signifies six or nine depends (partially) upon the intention of the author. In this case, the author intends that it signifies differently with respect to different perspectives and there is an error in assuming that such a symbol must be either six or nine and absolutely exclude the other. A none lexical example, would be an optical illusion of an image of a young/old woman, which depends on the orientation of the image. Or the answer to the question, “What did Aragorn eat for lunch before the Battle of Helms Deep?” There is certainly something objective about Aragorn, but he lacks the completeness and definiteness of a natural substance. I’m not sure if you have addressed this point.

    More generally, Aristotle was probably a kind of paleo-reductionist in my view.

    You’ll probably need to qualify that before I understand what you mean by it.

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  6. Zippy says:

    No argument that, qua symbol, a symbol signifies what the author intends. In fact that is basically what convention or signification means: that is, what the author intended.

    However, this is something true of signification, not of artifacts.

    I haven’t written too extensively on why I think Aristotleanism may not be essentialist enough, but Ed Feser, Lydia McGrew, and I used to argue about it. Some posts:

    https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/intelligent-design-at-philosophy-and-growing-rice-on-the-moon/

    https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/im-too-sexy-for-contemporary-aristotleanism/

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  7. Zippy says:

    (A reply is probably sitting in moderation, so the comment that got through may seem a bit out of place).

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  8. Well, I think I better understand your point. “Artifact” was a bit over ambitious for what was written. I think I better understand what you mean by the (polemical?) phrase “bundle of accidents.

    “However, this is something true of signification, not of artifacts.”
    Quite right and I see your point. The mark qua artifact may be a six or nine or a symbol that signifies different numbers with respect to perspective. A particular artifact may be either a cup, bowl, helmet, weapon, shovel, or all as a sort of multi-tool. There is an objectivity to this given the act and will of the creator. However, there is nothing different in the object in and of itself but it differs with respect to particular real relations established by the creator. That at least is a initial position, since I don’t have a fully developed theory of artifacts.

    There is still something indeterminate about Aragorn qua artifact as Tolkein intends Middle-Earth to be a temporal universe and Aragorn as a man of Numenor.

    With respect to your links, I won’t pretend to have more than scanned them. I can’t say any substantive at this point. I’ll try to take time to read and respond to them. I don’t know much about ID theory, but superficially it seemed to me to attribute secondary causality to God where I imagine he could create a world where life and reason arise naturally.

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  9. You’ve probably read this and you may link to it in your posts. http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/04/nature-versus-art.html?m=1

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  10. This also has some relevant links and articles to ID and such. I haven’t read it all so I can’t speak to the quality in particular but the site in general has a lot of good links ( though it is eminently difficult to navigate)

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  11. Pingback: Objectivity of Artifacts | Infinite Semiosis

  12. Pingback: Objecting to Object’s Objectivity | Infinite Semiosis

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