OSSA Day 3: Arguments as Abstract Objects

Lots of folks have held that 'argument' is ambiguous between process and product.  Process=Speech Act.  Product=abstract object.

Surely the term 'argument' can be used to refer to speech acts. E.g., "The argument was inerrupted by the fire alarm." And it can be an abstract object. E.g., "They keep giving the same argument"

Cases of ambiguity, but not troublesome:

Test 1.  Equivocation

Arthur washed the car.  John lubricated the car.

Here the first is about the outside, the second is about the engine.

John went to the bank. 

To the bank with money or the bank on the side of a river?

Test 2:  Amphiboly. Can be truly denied and truly affirmed about a fact.

S hit a man with a stick.

A&B had an interesting argument.

Test 3: zeugma test – semantic oddness

The newspaper fell off the desk and fired the editor.  (Newspaper the paper object and the organization) — odd!  So ambiguous

Lunch was delicious but took forever (the eating and the food) — but not odd.  Not ambiguous.

His argument was valid but so loud it hurt my ears.  (Abstract object and speech act)  not odd, so not ambiguous.

Test 4: No clear literal meaning

The argument was difficult.  (the speech act … to read it, understand it? or the abstract object … to follow it?)

SO: 'argument' is not ambiguous.  It refers to an abstract objects.

What kind of abstract object?

Answer 1: Platonism about abstract objects, like numbers, the Pythagorean theorem, etc.  It exists independently of human minds, non-spatiotemporal objects.

2 problems. Prob 1: If arguments are independent of human minds, we don't construct them, but discover them.  That's weird.  Prob 2: How do we access them?  They can't cause us to believe things about them….

Answer 2: Minimal Platonism.  Realism about abstract objects.  Do abstract objects have to be atemporal?  Chess and English have histories, and they seem abstract objects.  Arguments are like that.  They have histories, developments, etc.

E.g., Anselm's Ontological argument.  It has a history, a beginning, but can be given again and again.  Identity conditions for arguments, though, need some refinements.

A and B are the same argument when:

1. A and B have same propositions

2. The liative relations in A are the same as those in B,

and 3. the ilative relations in A are on the same propositions as are in B.

Arguments become temporal objects when one's intention are to infer the conc from the premises.

Q1: What do you mean 'argument' is not ambiguous?  It certainly admits of activity-object ambiguity.  E.g., "He was right to resort to argument rather than intimidation."  OR "The argument was difficult to understand" (because his accent was so thick, or because the argument was esoteric?)

Q2: The case against ambiguity depends on failing these four tests.  But passing the test is sufficient for ambiguity, but failing it isn't sufficient for univocality.  Moreover, it seems the "His argument was valid but loud" counts in favor more of the activity,not product, interpretation.

Q3: This is a very demanding notion of ambiguity — polysemy.  Ambiguity is a wider notion, b/c some word tokenings are unclear about what types they are.  That's the issue with the process/product ambiguity.

Q4: What's a temporal abstract object?  They have ilative intentions?  Why not propositions and their support?  (Answer: arguments are products of intentions; tautologies are valid conclusions)

Q5: What's the trouble with thinking that we discover arguments?  We discover mathematical principles!  (Anselm himself thought his OA was a discovery)

Q6: Arguments are like objects in Popper's third world.  That's a model for the story of abstract objects.

Q7: This isn't even weak platonism.  You need an independent arrangement of those objects for platonism — participation is the role, and as a consequence arguments are really just temporal events now!

Q8: Hey, what's an abstract object?