Truth II: Abstraction
I. Introduction 183
1. To add explanation. 183
2. Plasticity of the schema. 184
3. The futility of the explanations: (1) inert ontologies; (2) failure to respond to the plasticity of the schema; (3) repeating the problem. 186
(a) Misdirected causation. 188
(b) Inheritance. 190
(c) Truths according to a paradigm. 191
(d) Consider the inert, excess ontologies. 192
(e) We cannot get along with facts, either. 192
(f) Missing the point about what is false. 193
4. Breaking the barrier. 194
II. Conception and Commitment 194
1. No perceived object is present to a human without generality coincident with its particularity. 199
(a) Presence. 208
(b) Inchoate conceptions. 210
2. Our cortex-states are a medium with-which, not in-which for thoughts. 214
Explanatory order? 216
3. Abstraction is something we do. 220
4. Things can be thought-parts through various conceptions. 222
Chapter 5: Outline Page 2
5. No generality outside thought. 224
(a) So what is the story about truth? 226
(b) We live in nominal abstractions. 226
(c) Let's turn to money. Is money real? 229
(d) Many kinds of truths. 232
(e) Transition. 234
6. Disposing of the "cognitive access" and "fact of the matter" issues. 234
(a) What about the paradoxes? 237
Truth II: Abstraction
1. To add explanation.
We need a non-trivial account of "When what I think is true, what I think is what is so" -- one that adapts along with the notions of truth and reality to diverse contexts. The recently prominent disputes about realism, bifurcation, modes of cognitive access, degrees of warrant or justification and even the paradoxes arise from the peculiarities of particular sorts of discourse and are to be resolved as outcomes of the explanation, not parts of it.
What sort of an explanation do we want then? We want pieces of philosophical psychology and of ontology to make transparent what has to happen for what I think to be something that is so, beginning with what is at hand to be perceived and extending all the way to imperceptible, inaccessible historical events and periods (the Industrial Revolution, British Colonialism) and to purely intelligible situations (musical structures, set theory). We have to avoid the implausible ontologies, the failure to reflect the analogous phenomena, and to provide a description of our abstractive activity that closes the gap between reality and thought so that, obviously, real things and happenings become the contents of thought without undergoing any change.
A.N. Prior [1971, pp. 21-22] put it, "To say that X's belief that P is true is to say X believes that p and (it is the case that) p." That's similar to Austin's and Chisholm's more technical schemata [see Chapter 4], and like them lacks an explanatory element, while raising questions about the status of its elements. How can what I believe be what is happening? How can what is happening become what I am thinking?
2. Plasticity of the schema.
What is involved depends on what we are talking about; for it is quite different for the reality I believe to be the day's being sunny, and for it to be that odd and even numbers alternate and that in chess bishops move diagonally on their colors, or that E=mc2.
In Prior's schema what is the status, ontologically, of p? Is it something that exists independently of X's believing (as Chisholm's states of affairs do) and does it obtain or not independently of X's thinking? The latter cannot always be so: if X is thinking "I am thinking," that situation cannot obtain unless X is thinking; yet if X is thinking, "The earth existed before there were any humans," for the thought to be true, that situation has to obtain independently of whether any human thinks it or ever came to think it. Yet if X is thinking "The Queen moves in straight lines and diagonals," whether that is so or not, though not dependent on X's thinking, is not independent of human thinking any more than is "Adverse possession is open notorious, continuous occupation of land under claim of right for the statutory or common law period of years"; and some of us, at least, think "A Euclidean plane triangle has interior angles whose sum equals a straight line" is true because it is a product of a certain kind of human thinking, not because there really are any. So there is not a single answer as to whether what is thought has to be a reality (univocally) or "obtain" independently of X's thinking or even as to what that means.
The idea that all such thoughts are states of affairs that exist no matter what, has many defects, not the least being that had I never existed there could have been no such a state of affairs as "I am (or am not) thinking" nor even "Ross is (or is not) thinking," to obtain or not obtain, because the name and indexical pronoun would be empty, there being no subject constituent for such a state of affairs.
When we consider the particularities of various kinds of thinking, we find that "is true" and "is false" adapt so that sometimes "is true" has "is false" as its opposite in a bifurcated contrast, and sometimes not. Sometimes nothing is counted as true (or false) that is not cognitively accessible in a discipline-specific way (so, "constructive proof" for certain mathematicians). Sometimes we are willing to assign status as true or false by inheritance through a rule (for instance, "conditionals with necessarily false antecedents are true"), and sometimes we assign "true" and "false" as values to propositional variables without any content, "pv-p." Very frequently the existence and features of things we talk about are a causal consequence of what we authorize to be said, as is the case with musical entities, like scales, intervals, keys, clefs, rests, rhythms, meters [see Ross, 1993, pp. 90-102 and Chapter 7, below]. "Authorization" varies with the discipline, too. Thus, authorized arithmetical and set-theoretical assertions have to be decidable in a way quite different from claims as to what the civil law on a matter is. Furthermore, sometimes we use "it is true that" and "it is false that" in a way that asserts something and also indicates that the affirmation or negation is as expressed; for instance, the "filioque" doctrinal definition. We also use "it is true..." concessively: "It's true that he took the money, but he did not rob her unless he used or threatened bodily force." Further, "it is true that" is used as a double affirmation and when that is not properly distinguished, paradoxes arise. That connects with Quine's notion of "semantic ascent," that sometimes we talk about what is so, or is supposed to be so, by saying something about what is said, by applying a predicate to the statement, namely, that it is true or false, and similarly, for brevity, we use indirect discourse, "What Quine said about semantic ascent is true." Some paradoxes that arise when the notions of truth and falsity are made part of the expressed judgment can be dissolved, for instance, Kirkham's example [1995, p. 306] "The is the last falsehood in this Chapter," because there is an implicit affirmation of the expressed statement that conflicts with what the statement expresses and, therefore, a pragmatic conflict that cannot occur in judgment. Thus, despite the appearance of expressing a thought, there is no such thought to be expressed. Similarly, "This statement is true" is vacuous, though some say it is "trivially true" because there is an implicit affirmation of a statement without further content than that affirmation, whereas the structure requires affirmed content affirmed. No such judgment is possible. How many sorts of reality count to make (in what sense) a judgment true or false, and what sort of thing p is, vary with the discourse.
3. The futility of the explanations: (1) inert ontologies; (2) failure to respond to the plasticity of the schema; (3) repeating the problem.
An implicit or explicit ontology that has "all" states of affairs or facts, or whatever, existing in all possible worlds, with some obtaining in all worlds, some in none and some in some and not others [Ross, 1989], is excessive and unpersuasive because it implicitly uses empty names (Homer never existed), and fails to tell us what states of affairs are made out of or constituted by (e.g., real physical things or verbal surrogates), and has paradoxes about empty kinds. What is "obtaining" and especially "obtaining in a world that is not actual" in contrast to obtaining in the actual world? Necessary states of affairs are both said to exist and obtain in all possible worlds. The notions cannot be univocal because the first involves a counterfactual (that it would have obtained had its world been the actual world) that the second does not. It is also impossible that when I think you misunderstand me what I think is some abstract entity, existing no matter what, but happening to obtain (or not) in the actual world. Where is the explanation for how that reality, the abstract necessarily existing state of affairs, comes to be the content of my judgment? The problem is just repeated.
Inventing a realm of propositions to be the content of thoughts, paralleling the states of affairs as Plantinga did , only doubles the technical questions as to how a proposition can be identical with a state of affairs, and come to be the content of a thought. It will not explain anything to say "a proposition is a state of affairs-thought-of."
Anyway, what does "X's believing that-p" consist in? Is the reality (say, your reading this) the content of X's believing? If so how does it get to be the content? And suppose X believes everyone is insane, how does what is not the case, get to be the content of his believing? To answer that, some postulate that we believe sentences which are true just in case they refer to a reality that is meant by the sentence [J. Austin, 1950]. Of course, there is no account of how a sentence can mean or express a reality or refer to one, either. Even less is there an account of how I can believe a sentence. Let it suffice that on any such account, if it were given, the reality would have to be the content of the judgment since that is what we judge to obtain, and no explanation of how that happens is even considered. That is exactly what is missing from these accounts of truth and what I propose to provide.
Next, look at the semantic sinuousness of "believe." Does X's believing have to be conscious? Expressed verbally by X, even subvocally? Can it be subconscious and unarticulated (like your belief, up to now, that you are not falling, or that you are standing, sitting or whatever your posture)? Can it be unconscious but present even if we cannot identify it as a principle of any overt action or any feeling detectable to you (say, that you fear strangers)? Can it be inaccessible to X, say, an unconscious belief in the reality of Satan, to which X cannot advert, but which, to a psychiatrist, explains why X feels uncomfortable when saying he thinks there are no other spirits than God? What about a belief that there are an infinity of unprovable truths of arithmetic? Is that about each and every member of an infinite domain? Or is it about what one thinks can be proved, without there even having to be such a domain? What about the belief that there are an infinite number of English sentences? Is that a metabelief about what the grammar of English is capable of, rather than like the belief that all the French are contemptuous, which, silly as it is, seems to be about each actual and potential French person. And what about beliefs like "Vermonters are taciturn"? How many reticent Vermonters past, present and future does it take to make that true? Believing can be any of those things, and more. Believing is not one thing but a family, and what is believed is a family as well.
How is one going to make sense out of, and also defend the claim that what makes a belief true or false is the actuality of things? If the actual is not the productive cause of truth (and how could it be if it is not the cause of our thinking), then philosophers are acknowledging another kind of causation entirely -- something like Aristotelian formal causation, when they say that the reality believed is the cause of the truth of the belief by causing the content of the belief. Why don't they tell us how? If your understanding what I am saying is the cause of the truth of my belief that you do understand what I am saying, then how does it do so? This is certainly not event-causation, nor is it occasional-causation, and it is certainly not productive causation. So what kind of metaphysical animal have we here?
Michael Dummett muddied the waters by saying that whatever is true is true in virtue of something. In a sense what he says is obvious: whatever is true is true because of something or another. But what kind of "because" is involved, and what kind of "something or another" depends on what sense of "is true" is appropriate for that sort of thinking (and talking): logic, arithmetic, musical composition, philosophy. In virtue of what is Dummett's statement true? Relations of ideas? Meaning? Some necessity of nature? In any of those cases how does "in virtue of" work beyond being sine qua non?
(a) Misdirected causation.
Although philosophers lately talk as if reality is the truthmaker for thoughts (usually they talk of sentences), the claim does not comport well with their other convictions. For instance, most of the same philosophers think that for any C that causes E, it is possible that some C' might obtain, instead, causing E. That is, in general, cause and effect are supposed to be logically independent, even if they are connected by natural necessity. One is not supposed logically to entail the other or to be the same as the other. But there could not be such a contingent relationship between P and the true belief that P. For in that case the belief could be true without P!
Though I do not believe it possible that whatever occurs on account of a cause could have occurred on account of some other cause, that conviction of the others who talk about truth shows that they cannot explain how reality makes true judgments true. For they lack a proper category of making.
The obvious rejoinder is to say the sense in which the reality is truthmaker for the thought is that the reality logically entails the truth of the thought. That is, if I think something and reality is as I think it is, then given my thought, the reality entails that the thought is true. But it does not. The idea that there are logical relations between realities and thoughts -- other than sameness and difference and trivial necessities -- has no basis. Reality's being as it is is not sufficient, but only necessary, for my thinking to be true (except in a case like "I think I am thinking"). What about "If someone thinks that p, then p's being the case is sufficient and necessary for truth?" That's a start. The reality's being as I think, is sufficient for my thinking to be true. But how? One way, of course, is for the reality and the thought to be the same. But if they are not the same, some other explanation is needed. None is offered at an appropriate level of detail. You cannot just assume the contents of thoughts are propositions and that true propositions express realities, without offering any explanation of the status of propositions, of how they express anything, and of how they get to be the content of thought. The whole traditional framework is empty and the recent sentential framework is even worse.
Then we meet the plasticity of "being the case." For when I think, "I am thinking," is what I think one of Chrisholm's states-of-affairs, or a sentence, or a proposition, or the reality itself? And if I think "7 + 5 = 12," is what I think a mathematical reality? Are there any mathematical realities in the sense in which there are physical realities? Is a mathematical reality different from a monetary one? How about my thinking, "The French Revolution of 1789 was not as successful as the American Revolution of 1776." Suppose that is true, what reality is required, some historical, some evaluative reality? Can there be logical relations, say, conjunction or implication, between physical realities and thoughts (except sameness and difference and trivial necessitation)?
There may be some truths where there is no objective measure for the evaluations involved: "That's not loud enough." "That does not match." Reality comes in flavors and colors like quarks. But the proponents I have in mind have no patience with the idea that "being" is analogous and that "exists" and "there is" are semantically captured by their contexts and completion expressions. So, "there's a crisis here" is supposed to be univocal with "there's a leak in a pipe here" or, "there's a fire here" as well as "there's a mistake here," and "there's nothing here." Existence commitments outside formal logic are not univocal. And when even logicians misuse quantification for physical individuals, numbers, and second-order quantification over abstractions, the existential quanitifier is used equivocally.
"Reality makes true judgments true" has to adapt and cannot involve causation. For instance,the rule, "The Queen moves on straight lines and diagonals," makes the fact, not vice versa. There's no way, in general that facts or realities can be truthmakers except by identity with the true thought. Consider some other cases that invite the same conclusion: (i) truths by inheritance, (ii) truths by simulation of inflation, (iii) truths according to a paradigm and (iv) truths by fiat, whether about fictional or real things.
By rules of derivation -- "conditionals with impossible antecedents are true" and "a contradiction implies everything" vs. "indirect proof is not permissible." In these cases no independent facts or realities are relevant. Truth is settled by a rule. What follows from what is settled by the rules of inference, whether of classical, intuitionistic, or quantum logic.
As mentioned frequently, there are truths by inflation, by our constructing entia rationis: Zermelo-Frankel set theory that constructs all the truths, even the unknown and underivable ones, and thereby constructs the denotata, the objects, that completely verify all the relevant theorems. Furthermore, inflation is simulated with the invention of games, fictions and the like, where we don't need realities for truth but, in a sense, make realities in consequence of what we authorize to be thought: so Mickey Mouse is male and married.
(c) Truths according to a paradigm.
For example, what to say or not to say about the Roman gods is regulated by the myths. To an extent historical fiction is like that: it has to fit into the interstices of known events and figures when such figures and events are involved, and has to be consonant with the time (no artillery for the Romans, no airplanes for Hannibal, etc.), otherwise it lacks craftsmanship and may even fail to qualify.
Perhaps most impressive as an inflationary system is the monetary system where the elements are products of exchange conventions made over time, by legal and trade systems, into a system so elaborately connected with human action, belief and coercion, that there is real causation that affects the whole planet (.e.g., ozone depletion and global warming). [I return to the monetary system in III.2, below.]
There are also looser kinds of truth, made by fiat: a character in a novel says, "She was as noble as she could be within the limits of her imagination." How could that be accessible for anyone's knowledge? What would make it false, information inaccessible from the text? How about, "He was the noblest Roman of them all"? "The industrialized West has created a culture of death." Whether those are true or false does not depend on whether what is thought is the same as some reality but upon their success at interpreting human characteristics, society and history. I will return to truth as success at interpretation or diagnosis later on.
Not all truths have to be analyzed according to the template for basic truths with real things and happenings as their constituents where what we think is the very same thing, under abstraction, that is actually so. Analogous variations are more than common and so are remote simulations. The principle "reality makes true judgments true" can be a general truth only if regarded as so plastic that its conceptions fit every kind of assertoric judgment and every kind of fact/happening/situation as well, and "makes" has so little content as to be indefinite among identity, causation, production and virtually any other "because" you like.
(d) Consider the inert, excess ontologies.
Consider the inert, excess ontologies, whether Chisholm's or Austin's, or Plantinga's, or any other that you choose. They explain nothing and duplicate the problems by leaving unexplained how their elements can be the elements of thought and how their elements are related to the physical things and happenings. These ontologies have no psychology of how a fact or happening could be truthmaking, and certainly no account of how a fact or happening could become the content of a belief. But that, in fact, is what the problem is, to provide an explanatory account of truth.
How can what I believe be a state of affairs which is not a belief, e.g., that someone will read this? How can referents that are the same differ in qualities? When I believe there are still some leaves on that maple tree, what I believe is what I just said. The state of the maple was in some way different before I believed it. You might believe the same thing. Yet your thought is not my thought. Besides, the happening in nature is entirely particular, whereas my thought is general as well. My thought, as content, is not some abstract entity/state-of-affairs but that particular physical happening. So is yours. So we still have the question: how did the content of my true belief come to be what is the case? Especially, given the plasticity of "being the case." And worse, how does the content of my false belief come to be what is not the case, since what is not the case, e.g., that there are roses on my desk, does not even exist?
(e) We cannot get along with facts, either.
Facts are obtuse abstractions [Ross, 1989], made up scrapings from reality to match the linguistic elements of expressed thoughts, not the basic reality we believe in. If you happen to misunderstand me, and I happen to believe that, the constituents of my thought are you and your misunderstanding me, not some abstract entity but a very particular happening, more particular and definite than anything I can think about it [see a "lakeful of reality to make one drop of truth," Chapter 1]; the so-called "fact" is a conventional scraping off the definite reality, the same whether you are standing up or sitting down, though what I believe, the whole reality of it, including the unnoticed overflow, is not thus indifferent. [See also Strawson, 1950 and Davidson, 1990, pp. 302-5.]
(f) Missing the point about what is false.
What do these interpreted schemata have to say about the false? Not much. They seem to suppose falsity is failure at truth without explaining how. Simon believes there are ghosts. Suppose you say the belief is false; nothing is a ghost. How does the belief get to be false? The trouble here is that what nothing is, is indefinite. Empty names and empty predicates are referentially unanchored, and thus, have incomplete overflow conditions. Although everything that exists is not a ghost, "being a ghost" lacks determinate content, determinate overflow necessities. There isn't anything definite that everything that exists is not. So there is not some reality, "there are no ghosts." Rather, there is no reality," there are ghosts." Thus, perhaps unknown to the believer whose belief is true (that there are no ghosts), there is no fact or situation that is the reality, "there are no ghosts." So, not in every case where a judgment is true is there some reality that is the same as what is thought? That belief seems to be "made" true by the absence of any things that satisfy the notion as far as it has semantic content. The same is true for the Greek and Roman gods: there are no such things; yet we certainly do not want to "pack" reality with infinities of indeterminate negative facts or states of affairs or propositions. Negative true judgments and false judgments have something in common that does not fit comfortably into "'p' is true just in case p." What is missing in reality is determined by our thought, as far as content goes, and not the reverse. There is nothing false apart from our false believing [more in Chapter 8].
Now someone will say the contraries of all the theorems of arithmetic are false, just as are the contraries of all the entries in a phone book. But that is using "false" in another sense because such things would be false if anyone believed them, but if no one ever does, there is nothing that is actually false among them. Nor are the correct telephone numbers true unless believed or relied upon en block by our relying on selected cases. Thus, we have derivative notions of truth and falsity. We do use "is false" in the sense "would be false to believe." We also use "false" as the trailing opposite of "true" so that the written contraries of arithmetic truths are called false, even though no one believes them. In other contexts, when something is not true because it is unsuitable for belief, we may not count its opposite as true, but rather as inappropriate for belief as well: "If I'd been born in 1040, I'd have joined the Norman Conquest." None of the "sameness" accounts, like Austin's, Prior's or Chisholm's, address the vexing issues about bifurcation, negations, and falsity; and none responds to the contextual adaptation of all the notions we have been discussing.
4. Breaking the barrier.
What is the barrier? It is the apparent gap between judgments sorted by content and what is, in various senses, really so. Stuffing infinities of necessarily existing states of affairs or propositions, or both, into the space cannot fill the gap between my true judgment that it is sunny and the sunny day, which is particular, not abstract. We have to close the gap: by recognizing that the physical happening I perceive is the content of my true judgment. And what I see is not there on the desk gets its content from my thought. To advance that, we have to consider the constant activity of an intelligent perceiver and agent: abstraction.
II. Conception and Commitment
What do we do to things perceived to make the basic elements of thought that is true or false? We constantly transform animal awareness. I do not mean there is a completed activity of animal perception to which another activity is added, or a perception which is made the subject of another activity. Rather, in humans, although the animal activities of sensation and perception are present and are in their physical components the same as in animals with similar organs, they are from a principle (psyche) that exercises those abilities eminently [see Chapter 6], and whose specific activities are abstraction and judgment, activities that are always "on" even when the sensory medium is blank as in some sleep states, anaesthetic states and injury states. In the latter cases, there is no new content to abstraction or judgment as far as we know. Abstraction, judgment, and the concomitant commitment -- existential commitment -- are the transformation of animal awareness by intelligence. We do not have animal perception and then understanding; understanding and reality commitment are the manner of our animal perception.
Even when perception has no noticed content, as happens when one is absorbed in thinking about thinking, say, while looking out a window at a Russian Olive without consciously judging it to be one or to be a tree/bush or to be green with yellow patches or to be in the foreground, still the perception is intelligent and includes the habitual reality-commitment and the habitual classification. We can tell that by the way expectations fail when our habitual reliances desert us. The human mind is like a window through which we understand the world, the glass being the limits of moment by moment sense perception.
Abstraction, like the perception of animals, is an operation upon real things, that makes real things and their conditions, the elements of our basic thoughts, and generates (potentially) the series of further transformations by which anything, judged to be the condition of any real thing, can itself become a constituent of judgments about its conditions, and so on, indefinitely, like making shapes subjects of comparison and then making transformational features of shapes what we think about. Generally, anything you think about something can be made something you think something about. The ability that can turn real objects and happenings into the components of thought can turn anything we think into the subject of further thought, even thinking itself, and can even make up things to think, and make up things to think them about, as we do in inventing the propositional calculus, card games, flight simulators and stories.
So many things are presented to me visually, tactually, etc., all at once and continuously when I am awake or dreaming that I have to focus attention to conceptualize my occurrent beliefs, though a good deal of conceptual recognition is habitual and merely part of awareness. Suppose I am idly looking at 10 or 15 acres of landscape two thousand feet away; unless I focus attention and conceptualise, I may not notice that I see a whole field of dried cornstalks, and thus may not have any belief on that point at all, even though that situation is right before my eyes, and I would not have to relook to know I was seeing such a field. So the details of judgment flood outside the focus of attention.
Now there may be a problem here: if I cannot see it unless I can conceptualise it, then the conceptions apparently cannot come from the seeing; so where do they come from? Are they innate, like computer graphics? Are they given by divine illumination as Augustine supposed? Do we make them up, as some conceptualists suppose? Do we make the physical phenomena through our conceptions and perceptions? Not very likely, given the notorious gaps in critical idealism.
In a sense that there is a field of cornstalks is perceptually present; but in another sense, it is not actually present, qua field of cornstalks, until I notice it. Of course, I might notice it as of a different color from hay fields and wonder "what?" before I recognize it. And, lacking the concept, might not recognize it. Yet the whole visual presentation of the real landscape, even though not segmented conceptually into such a sub-unit, is intelligently present, whether I attend to fields, trees, stone walls, the hillside, or not. The whole is abstractly, as well as particularly present to me and is ready for sub-conceptualization. We don't have a name for the whole conception. (Maybe, landscape, scene or view?)
Suppose I am sitting so that I see out one window, and turning my head, see out another. The whole view changes. But in both cases, even without a name, it is all there, understood, ready for sub-conception according to my interests, instincts, training, etc. Which conceptions will segment or reframe what I see depends in part on my interests, directing my attention, and my experience and learning as sources of my conceptions. So I can look at stone walls along fields and, if I had not the experience of some building, I might lack the conceptions to distinguish whether I am seeing a single-course wall held up by its loops and counter-loops, or a double-course wall with rubble filling and large cross-stone tie-ins and deliberate patterns of stone shapes and colors. Similarly, most people cannot tell the difference between the original walls thrown up as stones were cleared from the fields and the rebuilt walls that have order in the courses and flat capstones. The same could be said about most of us concerning typefaces beyond a few obvious ones. Now I am emphasizing that the detail of conceptualization, though limiting or expanding the arena of true judgment, is a refinement of intelligent perception. Even without the detail, even without any delineable conception at all, human perception is always intelligent, always general [see "Inchoate Conceptions" below]. Humans have to learn language, they do not have to learn conception but only conceptions.
In sensation, material objects do something to us by acting in their environment in ways to which we are sensitive. Sensation is responsive, though active: it is our activity causally initiated by physical signals from objects, the way a motion detector may turn on a camera (though that is only a detection system, not a sensing one). But sensation cannot be just a response, like chemical changes in exposed film. The sensation, and perception it constitutes, wholly or partly, are something the animal does, not just something that happens to it that leaves a trace that converts into action, like a fire-detector that turns sprinklers on.
More than a response-activity is needed to make thought-parts. We make realities into constituents of our thoughts by something we do to things, something that leaves things unchanged but changes us from potentially understanding to actually understanding form, structures, patterns, as the case may be. It is analogous to animal sight; what is seen is unchanged but the seeing animal is changed.
People mistakenly think abstraction has to yield a definite (and correct) "what" for whatever is sensed or even perceived; but it does not. Finding out what a thing is is comparative and judgmental, as F. Suarez said. Understanding material things in a way that explains their behavior is understanding their real natures. Articulating and applying that kind of understanding is part of science. But at a less sophisticated level, it is part of every craft from hunting to flying. I think what Aristotle and Aquinas intended by "the proper object of (embodied) understanding is the essences of material things" was not on a par with "the proper object of sight is color" -- namely, what turns sight active, but what is the natural target of abstraction as an ability: it is aimed at our finding out what things really are as originators of their behavior, by our distinguishing the forms, patterns and generalities of things, whether it be a snake, copper or a wave. Conception names things what they are.
Abstraction follows needs and interests, some instinctive, others from natural talent and others learned. I abstract whatever I notice among the fields, see or feel or hear or touch. Not only is W.V.O. Quine something I think of if I happen to think "Quine wrote a 1987 Journal of Philosophy paper." My thought has him (as a element) and his having written the printed paper as a constituent [see J. Almog, 1986, for the same position]. This is not done by reference -- a logical act -- but by intention and commitment. Reference is another family of thought activities -- mainly linguistic acts -- done through perception, memory, and piggy-backed often on our trust in the experience and reports of others. When I think of the number 10, that it is even, or of God that He is invisible, I am not referring to these things, I am thinking of them. When I tell you about them, then I refer to them. Now, when I say "Quine wrote that paper," someone might ask whether I am referring to W.V.O. Quine; and I might say yes. But I could just as well have been asked: "Whom are you thinking of?" And I could have said, "Oh, W.V.O. Quine."
In a word, for humans, perception, as well as recognition of things, requires abstraction (notionalization). For other mammals, and undoubtedly birds and reptiles too, perception requires real constituents too, but not notionalized.
We abstract perceived particulars without any change in the things. Similarly, perception is mostly an activity of animals upon things with no significant change in things. Of course we have to acknowledge the physical reactions of things perceived, very slight in the case of distant things heard or seen, and much greater with things smelled, and greater still with things touched or tasted. But abstraction involves no further change in things perceived at all. Undergoing abstraction is "a rational relation" in scholastic parlance -- what Peter Geach called a "Cambridge Change" in the real object, by which the object is present to me, involving a real change in me and a real relation on my part to the object, but only a conceptually consequential relation or change in the object, as when I walk away from you, you get further from me. So the question of how the condition of the maple tree can be both particular, as physical, and both particular and abstract, as intelligently perceived, is easily answered. Similarly, your thought, as an event, is yours alone. But your judgment, as the intelligent sensible presence of something, can be exactly the same as mine.
Now someone will say about these observations and others to come," do they have any basis other than my saying so?" Yes they do: they can be confirmed in your own experience and can then be compared to what other philosophers and psychologists say and subjected to the question "which generalizations give us a more satisfying and revealing description of human thought"? I am not suggesting that you test these claims by mere imaginings, but by repetition and inspection of similar experiences of your own. Your not getting the same outcomes, the same convictions, say, that all our perception is abstract as well as particular, is, unfortunate, but not decisive. For we then have to find out whether you are observing the phenomena minutely enough and without disabling convictions, like a person who doesn't notice what marksmen know, that if you stare at a small object it will move (apparently). It takes experience for discernment.
1. No perceived object is present to a human without generality coincident with its particularity.
Whatever we experience presents itself as "being," "something," "something or another" (res), even if it is only a "?". The particularity/generality of perceived and noticed things is a foreground/background polarity, with one aspect foregrounded for one person or at one time, and backgrounded for another, but always coincident even if that duality is not noticed. You strike a key, without even thinking "that's a key" or even what letter-key it is; but once interest is aroused, you know. You can look at the clouds without noticing their motion or color or shape or distance from you or from one another; but to notice, you need a conception, yet the conception can be so complex for a three-dimensional cloud shape that we have no name for it. With storm clouds tornado watchers have names for some parts like "the anvil," though each cloud is particular and distinct in its details. Being present in thought for a real thing is being dematerialized enough for generality to be coincident with its particularity. I make the generality by what I do to physical things: I departicularize what is present perceptually (or imaginatively or in memory). I do that to the objects whether they appear by sound, smell, taste, touch, or sight, or even memory, or all together. The understanding makes the universality in things [Averroes: intellectus est qui agit universatem in rebus. In De Anima, I, comm.8. So says Avicenna, as well. Metaph. V.c.1-2].
As I said, perception does not occur before understanding in humans. It is by the encompassing abstraction that I can perceive the color of the tree, as a color, and the grey or yellow fog, the weight of a pen as a weight, the texture of paper as a texture. It is not as if we are completed animals to which understanding has been added. The two are blended; that's how we can, by perception involving conception and prior knowledge, see a tugboat's pulling a barge even when the towline can be glimpsed only at one sloping end or even not at all, so that it is from the regularity of their procession, and from our habitual other beliefs, that we recognize the situation. For all of what we see, hear, taste, smell or perceive of our movements and actions, animal perception is intermingled with abstraction and structured from prior families of beliefs we do not notice. In almost all perception we are also aware of the mode of perception (seeing, hearing), though later we may not be sure whether we heard or saw something. As Aristotle observed, it is by sight that we know we are seeing. When we are falling, we not only feel it, we think it. Of course it can come so suddenly we do not think it, and are astonished.
In perception, say, seeing a landscape or hearing a symphony, what we notice, and so, attentatively conceptualize, can be changing while the perception is unchanged. For notice can move, as it were, across or down the visual or sound panorama with reality-commitment encompassing the whole, while the conceptions and judgements change. With sight, there are usually slight eye-movement changes, whereas with hearing and feeling, you do not have to move for perception to change.
Generality is the manner in which perception is experienced by humans, solid with its particularity. Serious human pain not only hurts, it is recognized to hurt. That is also why seeing, smelling, tasting, and touching can be such delights: they not only please bodily, they are recognized for the activity they are, and for the content perceived as well. Similarly, for an animal to see is pleasant (even if what is seen is frightful); for a human to see is enjoyment (not just a pleasure) because we understand we are seeing, even though one might see things for which one would tear out one's eyes, if that would stop them. Thus, every sense is a mode of loving. So we say, "just seeing her is a joy" and "the hawthorn delights the eye" and "seeing is a pleasure." Supervening on that, each is a mode of loathing as well, sometimes at once: "The very sight of him disgusts me." "I hate that sound." We continue seeing, hearing, balancing, feeling, tasting, because we like to. There are very serious psychological disorders in which a sense, say, smell or hearing, is permanently turned off, the person no longer smells or hears, without any physical organ damage or brain damage at all, but because, it is said, s/he doesn't want to anymore; perhaps from an unconscious guilt, revulsion, false belief or previous horror.
The typical object of abstraction is not a subjective condition like a color flash or a pure tone, though it can be, as I mentioned, but something shareably perceived like "streetlight" or "talking," "someone's singing" or a public surrounding like a room or a street. Of course you might perceive angina pains that no one else can, and that is still perception not just sensation. And that goes on with how you feel constantly. Still, whatever is a perceived and particular reality, that barge's being towed, that cat's not trusting my approaching, your experiencing a twisted ankle, even your feeling an unnameable disquiet or trembling as if there were a "slightly varying electrical current" in the midriff, is abstracted.
For that to happen, we do something constantly to everything we perceive, whether we notice it or not. We departicularize, actually dematerialize physical things and their features (shape, texture, color, position, etc.) into abstract forms. It is as if we could remove or black out the molecules of a shape leaving only an arrangement for molecules to take up. I do not think that is done, as Aristotle and Aquinas thought, by "abstraction of the phantasm," the complete sensory appearance, with all its supplementation from memory, imagination, habit, instinct, and feeling, through which things are perceived (signum formale quo). I think abstraction is an activity directly upon what is perceived, done through transformed and supplemented perception, as above. Nor, as I said, do I think abstraction is primarily of the real "what-it-is" of things, like success at intuiting essences or real natures. Rather we notionalize any aspect of things that interests us, even aspects that things suggest or which we distinguish in them by association. Our interest may be from instinct, animal desire, intellectual bias, curiosity or other habits or from our temperament or talent, and even from our disorders of thought, character and of mind. Of course we have an intellectual bias toward the real natures of things, namely, what originates and explains their characteristic behavior, for that is what is most useful for us to know as intelligent animals. But abstraction is not limited to real natures, because it separates things perceived and aspects noticed from their individuation, thus giving rise to conceptions without regard for whether the things or aspects are essential or accidental, substances or happenings.
An earlier question comes up again: do we have to have the conception in order to notice the aspects of a thing or do we get the conceptions from noticing the aspects of things? Obviously the latter, though once having the conception, which is an habitual ability to distinguish, it is through the conception that we notice the aspects of later things and are enabled to form further, even more elaborate conceptions. So, when someone noticed an analogy between a landscape and the feel of a street, the conception of a streetscape formed and began generating other concepts.
Abstraction, considered as something done to things that changes the agent, not the things, is the condition of things in which aspects may be distinguished and noticed according to our interests, with a basic level of conceptions arising from instinctive emotion and more elaborate conceptions arising from our need and enjoyment to predict experience and from our enjoyment in understanding, and, of course, from endless refinement through education and experience.
To an intelligent being nothing is just particular, with no "what?" or "how?" or "what sort?" or "which one?" even when we have no interest in the generality and don't advert to it, as we do not advert to the individual sips of coffee that are automatically registered as "not too hot," "sweet enough," "fresh enough," or the like, without such judgments arising to notice unless there is a discrepancy from expectation. There just is no perception without judgment for a human, and very little judgment requires language. That's true of every gesture, posture shift, every non-reflex eye-blink, face twist, smile, glance and movement. Glances are excellent examples of the way habitual beliefs or interests direct action: e.g., many men follow women with their eyes, without being aware of their own interest, habit, or pleasure. Heads turn rapidly from side to side at a tennis match; who remembers turning? That's another reason why judgment and linguistic expression diverge: diverse judgments can be simultaneous and instantaneous as well, and can be of vastly different types, gender interest, say, along with philosophical argument; interest in the contest of tennis, along with interest in seeing what happens. Abstraction, and judgment too, is an activity we do by being at all. And it is something we do, first to things perceived, then to anything we think of by way of doing that.
Cognition is constant animal activity, part of what it is for an animal to live, just as is its breathing, and naturally necessary too. Human cognition is constant, too; it is a locked-on commitment to reality conceived qua-what and qua-how, suffused with emotion and evaluation. Judgment is specific to what it is for us to be, to live at all.
Abstraction is like a constant light that causes perceived things to emit light in other wavelengths, to fluoresce their designs, patterns and forms to activate conception, changing as attention moves from thing to thing or aspect to aspect.
Now you might say, "what is this, magic?" But do you seriously think understanding reduces to some other process? Or even that perception does? Everything in nature is in a way finally magic because there is either an end to reductions or no end ever and, in either case, the explanation, if any, has to lie beyond the cosmos. Why does one thing cause whatever it does, and not just any old thing, or randomly shift its effects? Why do like charges repel? Why does the gravitational constant (G) have the value it has? In the end, as I said, causation does not reduce to anything else, unless you think of a kind of dance of things that are what they do and of causation as the pattern of what they do. But even in that case, there are the final questions: why do they do that, and why are they at all? So the fact that there is a specific constant human abstraction is no stranger than anything else and certainly cannot be reduced to anything else.
By conception, suffusing perception, real things and their conditions, automatically the content of existential commitment, are constituents in predicative and identity judgments that may become parts of more complex conditional, causal, counterfactual, and other judgments. The sorts of judgments we make are the manifestation of our interests, both innate and acquired. When you reach sexual awakening you make judgments not made before, not even possible before. These considerations eliminate the gap between true judgment and the relevant reality while also providing an explanatory account of truth: what I think is true, just in case and only because what I think is what is so. One and the same reality is particular and physical, as cause of sensation and presence in sensation, and univeral and immaterial as content of commitment. As perceived, it is both particular and univeral for humans.
Conceptions are the outcomes of discernment. Discernment varies with age, nurture, natural endowment, interest, instinct and temperament, experience, education, happenstance, desire, metal health (and undoubtedly more). Conservation of quantity over change of shape is not understood by children as early as continuation of objects passing out of sight and reappearing. The leverage of a hammer is unintelligible to a baby; the principles of a zipper and flush toilet elude most adults, and the principle of a gravity pump is as unimaginable to most as the principles of differential calculus. We cannot form judgments involving shape, color, size, weight, distance, and all the others, without having conceptions which are discernments.
If we come equipped with a stock of such abilities, whether innate or from eternal exemplars or by illumination, there will always remain a question as to whether things are really that way. Yet it seems we cannot discern the features of things without such conceptions. Which comes from what? Should we say the conceptions ARE the structures, materialized in things, dematerialized in understanding? To a large extent, we should.
Once acquired, discernment is habitual. In addition to conception arising from our needs, interests and learning, there is the creative configuration of features that we make to form conceptions like "streetscape" or even "architrave" or "cornice." A conception, as it gets more definite in its contrasts, differentiates into concepts. In sum, by discerning a structure, say, "square," one understands "being square" and thereby has a habit of discernment that can be further refined until one grasps a definition. We can also loosen conceptions, so many people call rectangles "squares." Thus, forming the conceptions "shape" and "color" one can form the judgment "What is shaped is colored" and "What is colored is shaped" and "Shapes are not colors" and "Shapes do not cause colors," etc. -- all known to be so by perception, but not perceptible to non-intelligent animals.
How conception is to be explained is all the more controversial because so few theories have been considered in recent philosophy and the ones left over from medieval philosophy seem suggestive but wrong: for instance, they concentrate (as do recent scientists) on the transmission by a signal from the features of things to the receptive organ (brain area as well, nowadays). The whole project of forms transmitted through a material medium which they do not inform (because it lacks the obediential potency), thus, colors through air that they do not color (though sometimes they do, as with distant fires), and of intelligible forms being transmitted along with and by the material forms and included in the phantasm from which they are abstracted, while admirably inventive, is unnecessary. Nowadays, we can better explain the mechanics of sensory stimulation for each of the senses than they could before the 17th century. Yet we have to stop at the same spot the medievals did: how is sensation/perception activated and given content by signals from distant objects that produce physical changes in the organs (including brain sectors)?
Late scholastics had the senses responding to the transmitted form by producing an immaterial likeness (species) through which, like a lens, the animal is aware of the color of the thing, or, like a telephone, of the sound of the thing. In effect, they were doing something analogous to physics/physiology-neurology, filling in the space between the stimulating object and the animal response, but at the last minute leaping over the gap between the organ change that activates the ability and the production of the content of the sensory response, namely, the subjective quality through which the objective color, say, is perceived. Nowadays we can trace the process of seeing from its origin, even in a star, to a sector of the brain, but not onward to the subjective content and not back from there to the traits of objects, because the same gap seems to be there. So we are still stopped at the same place, though it looks as if we have a superior account of organ stimulation up to the cerebral cortex. But when both medieval and recent accounts reach the gap between neural processes and subjectivity, they simply jump.
It really makes no difference whether the sensory stimulation produces awareness of the very quality that is in the things, or whether the stimulation produces a representation, replica, likeness, or whatever. The question is the same. Are we going to say about the subjective experience, produced from sensory excitation, in answer to "How and why does it do that?," that that's what a sense is? Or is there supposed to be another story, say an inner mechanism or an encompassing generality about matter, or neural matter, that explains why and how the quality of the object is sensed or a representation is presented? Both accounts are going to have to accept the first form of answer. And then representationalists, are going to have to answer, "Then, why say what is produced by sensation is a representation, species, simulacrum, likeness, of an objective quality rather than the quality itself?" That will turn the inquiry in the direction of disputing which view will better explain the defective cases of perception, perceptual memory, and imagination. Though I doubt that representations as content of subjectivity will explain defective perception better, I think it quite irrelevant what explains the cases gone wrong when what we need is to explain the cases that go right. And representations, simulacra, and the like, cannot do that at all.
Perceptual realism both for humans and animals is a better account of successful perception and is a better answer to "why do animals perceive at all rather than just detect?". It must be because subjectivity and direct realism, which is surely harder for nature to attain than the detection systems that are to be found everywhere in living things and virtually everywhere in complex non-living systems, is much more efficient for animal well-being. Besides, if you were designing something that could see trees and hear the wind, why would you pick a design in which you had to sub-design awareness of replicas or likenesses as well, when you could pick a sub-design that yields direct awareness and requires no further effects of things for the activity of thought?
Humans suffuse their perception with understanding and intelligent feeling, which for now can be considered abstraction and judgment, where real things, individuals like me and you and real conditions like being annoyed or bored, are elements of thought, so that a true judgment that you are becoming annoyed by my repetition has as its content that very fact. That must be even more efficient for living than animal perception. As indeed it is, as we can see from the lethal superiority it is so easy, once humans have sufficient numbers, to exercise over other animals, as well as the high degrees of comfort, certainty and enjoyment humans can attain. But still, mind the mindless viruses, bacteria, and the like, for whom higher forms of animal life are just food. Against them, and their adaptations, the superiority of human intelligence remains undecided. Yet I suppose that given long enough without a surprise successful attack to destroy mankind, the viruses and bacteria will be defeated by intelligence.
Now some remarks about perceptual presence and about inchoate concepts.
A thing or event is potentially present wherever and whenever it can be differentially perceived by some animal species. It might even be discontinuously present, even discontinuously potentially present, as are the people on a beach over the hill who can be heard and then not, as the sound is blown about. Are these people potentially present all over the sky from which they could be seen? What about all over the stratosphere from which they could be seen through a telescope? What about in outer space where, perchance, their noises are transmitted on a long-wave radio? Why not? It's stretching our notion a bit but not straining it beyond intelligibility.
What about a star, say, 100 light years from earth, receding at 100,000 miles per hour? It is never anywhere near where it seems to be to us, relatively. Would it be present wherever it can be seen from? Yes, for by "present" all we mean is "perceived and noticed." We say we can see the star now even though all the light we'll ever see it by is "old light," 100 years behind it, and more as the star recedes. How do we get across the gap to see the star now? Strictly, we cannot jump the gap. Our seeing is now. But the star is always 100+ years behind us perceptually. That's little different from the radio lapse we all heard from the moon explorers, about a second, or experience on some transoceanic telephone calls and radio transmissions. In fact all seeing and hearing is leaning back in time and even smell and touch despite contact involve time for the neural signals even though we don't notice the lags, though one could be vaporized before a kiss reached the brain.
What looks to be a grand and stationary land, sea and sky scape, say, twenty miles deep, twenty miles across and eight miles high (where we can just make out the silver glint of a 500-seat airplane), is temporally spread out with the foreground maybe a nano-nanosecond away, the middle distance a nano-microsecond, the skytop a nano-microsecond away from all the sea level, and the sun that lights it all eight minutes away! It is all present to sight, even to some other sorts of animals, but it is more like visual music than a small photograph. All that wondering concerns how far and how long the signals have to travel to create perceptual presence. There is no philosophical problem except perhaps to explain, as I did, that the whole gestalt of present perception may be made of elements distant temporally from one another but arriving together in our experience. After all, what difference does it make that the light of the whole scene and that by which I see the sun left the sun eight minutes ago and is a millionth of a second earlier lighting the stratosphere than lighting the horizon, and a ten-billionth of a second later lighting the field in the foreground? The mystery is to explain how anything is seen at all.
Anything perceived by a human is conceived as well. The simplest presence in thought is by perception, proprioception and selfawareness. Most modes of thought-presence are far more complex. For instance, I can think of Betelgeuse, an enormous red giant that I cannot identify in the sky but know from reading is just barely visible, and similarly, in the looseness of the conception, I can think Andromeda is a star I can see in a constellation, though it is a galaxy of billions of stars. Those very things, Betelgeuse and Andromeda, are elements of my existential commitment and of my judgment that they are stars even in daytime when not presented to me by perception. So although perception is the original presenter of things for thought, it is only one way, the one that grounds all others in reality. Perception is the basis of reference, and thus, of naming the absent. Perception is the base of cognition since all the sensory powers, including imagination, memory, and sensation are for perception. If there were no perception there would be no such powers because nature would not need them. Mere detection systems, no matter how complicated, do not need sensation, imagination, memory or the like. Perhaps, though, there may be some intermediate cases where animals, without central brains or mouths, need sensation without perception, responding to the qualities around by nutrition, reproduction, change of shape, that does not require perception.
"Nature does nothing in vain" is an old rule of thumb, but useful. Imagination, memory, language, construction of concepts -- and other things besides, can present things to thought. For instance, my reading about the Punic Wars (264-146 B.C.), and the Carthaginian expansion into the Iberian Penninsula (238-211 B.C.) can present them now, even though sketchily because we cannot furnish them with details the way Cecill DeMille filmed the story of Moses. I leave for separate inquiries the details of how past events, distant geography, future events, cosmological realities, abstract beliefs like "The cosmos will end (or never end) in entropic death," and "There is (or is not) an unperceivable spiritual creator of all other things," present realities, because the basic pattern that we need for now is clear. It really is not different in kind for me to think of Quine, whom I have met, and Hasdrubal, brother of Hannibal, of whom I have only heard. I think of either is not just to refer but to have intentionally present, even though Hasdrubal's presence is a lot smokier and wraithlike than Quine's.
Presence to an animal perceiver is analogous to intellegent perception. In both cases to be present is to be the content perceived, but for intelligent perceivers perception is encompassed by conception and reality commitment (unless defeated by exhaustion, shock, illness, confusion or error). The conception has the content of some structure, pattern, design or form in something, whether or not a predicative judgment is made. One and the same shape of a certain tree that is seen is the shape understood (and, perhaps, judged to be the shape of the tree, as in the simple thought "That shape"). The transition from conception to predicative judgment is typically instantaneous, that is, as far as we can tell, without an interval. When you understand Picasso's Bull, made of a bicycle handle and a seat, seeing it, is seeing that is so. Similarly, seeing "antelope" in the handles of a garden cultivator, is coincident with the judgment, "antelope-shaped." It takes a while to see the movement of a tree-trunk's shadow as the hour hand on a clock face, but when you do, the judgment is complete all at once.
(b) Inchoate conceptions.
I am returning to an aspect of the origin of conceptions. We need not further distinguish conceptions from concepts than to say concepts are more filled out, less loose in their contours, more usually associated with paradigm cases or instances to indicate, and more often there are names with linguistic meanings or even definitions involving the concepts.
Humans who are not specialists in some art or craft, often have inchoate knowledge of nature's secrets, though their conceptions do not contain the explanatory elements or any rigid structure, the way "of-my-family" might in some societies. That holds not only for fields, forests, streams, waves, flowers and crops, but for languages, history, psychology and even one's self. Conceptions are founded in the forms of things, though only simple ones are first found in experience of things and rapidly elaborated. The baby has no conception of continuity of shape, though soon it does, but then not yet of the conservation of volume. And, of course, no names for such phenomena. Some things cannot be conceived, before physical maturation. In addition many conceptions are refined and elaborated in the course of intelligent practices, whether canoeing, sailing, fishing, farming, herding, engineering, sewerage, mathematics, music, sports and history.
Folks commonly understand flexibility, as in a willow wand, and the elasticity of a rubber band. Refining the notions into elastic distortion and attaching a method of measuring, we can find out that all solids are, differently, elastic; that's why we prefer standing on wood floors instead of concrete; resiliance. Grasping that, one can notice reversibility and guess at Hooke's law, that the strain in a solid is proportional to the stress (up to its elastic limit), so that the mechanical work expended is completely recovered by removing the stress, like a spring. Modern engineers use formulae to calculate stress; I don't know how Roman and medieval master builders did it. Maxwell [1865, p. 89] showed there is an analogous property "dielectric polarization" in insulators (of which every solid, not super-cooled, is one to an extent). In fact, elastic distortion, dielectric polarization and heat capacity are all reversible, analogous properties, each of which can in cases produce the other [see below].
In contrast there is heat conduction -- a hot object heats its surrounding and cools, like electrical conduction it is a "transport property," moving energy from one place to another. There is plastic flow -- an unintuitive name, namely, tin's or aluminum's bending without breaking under stress that exceeds the elastic limit, like an aluminum can's deforming in the drinker's grip. Now people have sketchy conceptions of these features, displayed in their own experience as bathwater cools and heats the room, cans bend, bridges stick in the heat, but not refined quantitative concepts or interrelated conceptions, as I mentioned, for the reversible and transport properties. But what they are thinking is the same reality as the scientist measures, only it is far more particular in nature and hides all sorts of generalities like those I mentioned. There is an inchoate grasp that heating a solid expands it (e.g., a drawbridge's jamming on a hot day), and that that is producing a mechanical effect with heat (e.g., heating a rusted nut to loosen it from the screw). Some people know that heating tourmaline (a gem stone) produces an electrical charge (the pyroelectric effect), a reversible effect. People get the idea of liquid crystal displays, and LED, but vaguely. In some solids an electric current will produce a mechanical effect, a slight change of shape that reverses if the charge is removed. So you could make a bomb that fuses when the current goes off (not on), so a circuit closes.
Understanding these things and the nature of light resulted in thermometers, polaroid lenses, polaroid photography, liquid crystal displays, cathode ray tubes, color television and thousands of other things. The general idea is that in solids, electrical causes can have mechanical and thermal effects; heat can have electrical and mechanical effects; and stress (bending or pressure) can have heat and electrical effects. Those are structures in nature ready for conception, even for refined concepts, once interest and refined observation focus on them. From simple observation, refined thought and observation can reveal more and more of the real structures of things.
For someone to say this is all a construction of thought without the same thing in reality is to ignore the natural history of our inquiries and their basis in demonstrable effects. My point, however, is not to argue epistemology as justification right now, but to illustrate the progression by reflection and experiment from direct perceptual observation with inchoate conceptions toward elaborate general understanding involving precisely shaped concepts. I skip the role of idealized models like ideal elasticity and the pure theory of gasses, etc., for now because their function is just more abstractly the same. One of the most useful outcomes of purely theoretical modelling is that the model may indicate something that would have to be real in order for the general theory to be true, and how it would manifest itself. That was how the w-2 particle was found experimentally. Analogously, black holes were theoretical postulates, then indirectly observed from the sink-drain behavior of stars. And one of the continuing challenges to intelligent ingenuity is to establish or dethrone superstring theory -- or any other theory of quantum gravity, given that "the clash between quantum theory and general relativity occurs only at energies a million billion times higher than those achievable in present-day accelerators" [Alan Sokal, 1996]. Sokal goes on to remark that superstring theories, and others, may have observable consequences at lower energies on fundamental particles that will be revealed by further theoretical elaboration. We might then be able to get somewhere experimentally. That illustrates what I said about purely theoretical models, above. Nevertheless, it does seem that eventually we will come to places in physical science where there are experimental gaps requiring times, spaces and energies that humans simply cannot manipulate or evade; then basic science will have to change its character. John Hogan  has some interesting observations and fancies involving physics, cosmology, biology and the whole enterprise of science, though the philosophy throughout is superficial.
Notice, explaining all the above examples from innate ideas or platonic archetypes would only raise questions as to how we are certain that the physical world is known through such ideas. Do we also have another access to reality that circumvents such ideas, letting us peek beyond the "veil of perception"? One proposal, critical idealism, was that experienced reality is constituted from our conceptions and intuitions. That turned out to have too many anomalies and to conflict with the "feel" of experience. Not to mention that there is no way to explain how or why minds acquire their structure or why there are many minds with the same structure or even how we would know whether another mind had the same structure as our own. The account sketched here, though it requires interests and instincts of ours to explain what we do and do not notice, and what we do and do not conceptualize, has the base of all our conceptions being the same as the structures, designs, patterns and forms of things and happenings. The humming that you do, which is a kind of thinking in sound, making a tune, may be the Dies Irae that Berlioz adapted, the same reality recognizable in all the transformations: a real structure, though in this case, an abstract particular [see Chapter 7] rather than just a form.
A last point before moving on. Some people wonder how the content of a true judgment can be the very same thing as what is really so, when what is so is particular, unrepeatable and has endless overflow features and transcendant determinacy, while the thought can be repeated, can be the same as another person's, though numerically distinct from it, and is not transcendently determinate. One way of thinking of the sameness is that the reality has a new feature when understood, intentional being as well as physical being, and whenever thought of, has a numerically distinct feature, intentional being for so-and-so at t-t'. Thus, though the thought lacks physical determinateness, what is thought perceptually is something physically determinate. Similarly when a ball is seen by a pair of cats, what they see, as seen, lacks the overflow and the hidden necessities of what they see; but the two perceptions are still the same. If what an animal sees, when it sees a bird, is not the same as the bird that is seen, then the supposition that the animal sees the bird has been denied. The same holds for a true perceptual judgment and for ones rooted in perception, e.g., that heat makes a solid expand and that pressure solidifies gasses.
2. Our cortex-states are a medium with-which, not in-which for thoughts.
Neural-cortical states are not related to thought the way a natural language is to what I say, or as water-color is to a painting, as a medium of expression, but more the way ink marks, or radio waves, relate to a message. Such states are a medium-with-which rather than a material-out-of-which. They are like the internal electronic states of my computer. Sensations, words, feelings, memories, imagination and gestures (writings, facial expressions, postures, inflections, etc.) and other doings are media for thinking; that is especially obvious for musical thinking. But they are not material-out-of-which, either.
The distinctions among thoughts are limited by the contrastive capacities of the medium: but not to them because the same media contrasts can be used for many thought contrasts, just as nodding can communicate many thoughts and feelings and can be the medium in which the thinking is done. The media-in-which are part of the thought the way water-color or egg-tempera is part of a painting. Not so for what is only a medium-with-which. Ink marks, and pencil, too, can be media-with-which I express judgments, not part of the thought. Gestures, statements, even feelings are media in which, and are part of the thought. I do not mean to suggest that all our thinking is expressed or performed in some medium: for example, our unexpressed, unreflective self-awareness and our enjoyment of understanding and being, and knowing we are saying what we want to say, are not, usually, expressed at all, though one might say they are performed by our thinking in some medium or other.
Brain-states (electrochemical energy fluctuations and transitions) are not "material out-of-which" for thoughts, either. They are only material "with-which," like electronic machine states. You can no more speak when the speech center of the brain is destroyed than you can word-process after the current is off.
Sound impressions are not made out-of anything but sound; so too for colors and tastes, touches and smells. Color can be seen. The microstructure of materials cannot be seen (without instruments). Colors can't be the microstructure; besides, because "red" can be caused in dozens of ways, it cannot be identical with any of its varied causes. Cause and effect cannot be identical anyway.
Are neural-states the material "with-which" animals have sensation? No animal can have any feeling except "with" its neural-cerebral system. Animals do not perceive sensations (outside laboratories and some unlikely extremes), but perceive environments, food, predators, victims, paths, water, in conditions of curiosity, comfort, pain, hunger, fear, fury, flight, approach (etc.). Thus an animal uses its functioning sensorium as a whole for action -- and while sight, smell, taste, sound can be cut off by brain lesions, that does not show those stimuli are ever the object of animal awareness (that is, no non-intelligent animal ever hears sound, just sounds) or hears that it is hearing. Surely the animal neither senses its brain states nor senses changes in its brain states, but senses by means of both. I cannot taste the tea without tea-tasting neural responses with which I have tea-tastes. But the neural responses are the means, not the outcome. The outcome is the presence of things, even of parts of the animal itself. Sensation is more remote from collections of brain states than changes of vehicular and pedestrian traffic in New York's garment district are from changes in clothes preferences in San Francisco.
A unit, like a mark, can belong to a system of shapes. It can also belong to a system of words for which shapes are differently classified -- as handwriting illustrates, with each crabbed and deformed item also classifiable as an allograph of standard printing in Times Roman. It has to be contrastive functional equivalence for meaning that determines the printed allographs for such inscriptions.
Physical marks are the with-which for writing, but words are the medium, the in-which for the message. Notice, too, the physical items (the marks) used in creating the message need not survive transmission, and usually do not; even a medieval copyist made new marks, and the received message nowadays has a material medium in which the writer has no hand. Electrochemical neural states are neither thought of, nor thought-in as feelings, words and images may be, but only states thought-with, for which others of the same sort would do as well. That has to be because otherwise our judgments could not persist from day to day.
Contrasts of marks are for (potential) contrasts of message. Contrasts of message explain contrasts of marks in the sense of explaining why there are such contrasts among marks we use. Perceptual performance explains perceptual ability of this rather than that sort. And apparently the eco-advantages for the animal explain why it has these perceptual abilities. So too, contrasts of thought explain contrasts of brain states at a certain level. If there are distinct brain states for thinking mathematically, in contrast to thinking musically, then their occurrence is explained by the thinking, not vice versa. Similarly, if I use a Casio synthesizer to make songs, the sounds it makes are, along with my fingering, the medium for my songing, a kind of thought. The electronic states are just a "with-which," caused to happen by the thinking, not an out-of-which for my thoughts or an in-which (like the heard sounds).
My musical expression is limited by the contrastive sound abilities of the synthesizer; but not exactly, because the machine-contrasts can be used to express many distinct musical contrasts, potentially infinite, so the same intervals differently ordered can express different feelings, though the component sounds are "the same." Moreover, if the synthesized sounds are written out, then my musical expression can expand to the capacities of any instrument that can play the score.
The sensorium of higher mammals, some birds and many aquatic species is remarkably similar in construction and function to that of humans. One thing we can be sure of: all these systems were organized for the species' eco-place and for life far longer than individual reproductive maturity, and in so far as there is interiority -- as there must be if we have sensation and not mere detection and servo-mechanism -- it is for exterior action, for feeding, reproduction and sociality. It is even likely that adaptation so that individuals outlast their own reproductive success is "for" (in the sense of being a real, physical explanatory component in) the success of the species by reproduction. In brief, old lion males frighten predators of reproducing females.
To anthropomorphize higher apes (for instance, to say they can "learn language" and "use language," thereby treating abilities that are final in them, as if they were stages of our understanding), may block our seeing that their preconscious cognition is, in fact, not the path evolution took to our understanding. However, to compare apes to the cognition of a dog, say, or a horse, and consider how they differ from one another and contrast dramatically with the emotionless cognition of some insects and how spiders seem emotionally complex, seems more fruitful.
Philosophers savage human cognition by underestimates, with naive claims like (1) the illicit contrast of rational understanding with irrational feeling (that implicitly denies any fundamental cognitive role for feeling and desire); (2) the idea that our general knowledge comes by Humean enumerative induction (as if we could even explain a bird's nest-building out of "like" parts that way); and (3) the idea that we are machines limited by our machine-states [see C. Cherniak, 1986; Paul Churchland, 1981, 1984, 1989 and 1995; and Patricia Churchland, 1986].
Humans are nature's successful experiment in how material things can be thinking things. They transcend their material states by making some of them the "material with-which" (the chemical, electronic-biotic "with- which") to do what no material system can do "on its own" [See Chaper 6]. They use sensory states, cognitive and emotional, as media-in-which to do what cannot be done otherwise: abstract thought. Our cognition is not an information-processing system of the kind F. Dretske  imagined. An information system, no matter how complex, needs no display of the external to originate action that is external. But for us the displayed external is essential. Besides, any state of ours can be one we are in either simply or in transparently by our coincidently being in the state of being in the state.
In brief, our understanding requires (1) a sensory medium "in-which" because it requires (2) a medium of (a) presentation (images, feelings, appearances), (b) a medium "out-of-which" (words, feelings, images, sensations, sounds, tastes, colors, etc.) and (c) a medium for storage (as memories in various media), that, in turn, requires material states as medium "with-which": the whole complex of bodily states (of which brain states are just a part). Yet, the ability to understand transcends all media and all matter. We can understand and think things about everything of any sort whatever. And we can observe, imagine and conjecture about anything, "what-is-it?", though not assuredly correctly as our own case illustrates so well: man's glassy essence [Chapter 4].
How does a real object become a constituent of thought (not animal perception alone)? We cannot just bilocate a tree in the world and shrunken up, as Lucretius imagined, a skin of it, inside the atoms in the head; for what good would that do? It could not make a true thought. A true thought has to be the exercise of the ability to think, just as a bird song has to be the exercise of the bird's ability to make sounds. The only way an object in the world can be part of a thought is by a transformation of it that makes it the exercise of the ability to understand, that makes it the content of a change in us, analogously to the way a tree seen thereby becomes the content of my seeing. And your voice, heard, becomes the content of my hearing so that I can say "I heard you."
There is only one way that can happen. We have to do something to it. We have to
dematerialize it, departicularize it. As I said above [p. 204], it is as if we radiate a light frequency that makes crystal molecules, say, give off light of a different frequency, their own, to fluoresce so that the atoms disappear and the geometric relations among the atoms are the actuality of our conception. Thus the arrangements of atoms in one molecule would turn out to be exactly the same (geometrically indistinguishable from) the arrangement in another of the same material, although under ordinary light they would be different because the actual molecules differ and the structures would not be displayed. So too with the stresses in beams, the compression of water or air.
But for a real object to be a constituent of an animal's awareness no dematerialization is required. Then how is perceptual presence accomplished? By engagement with reality from the beginning. The most primitive awareness is objective, is of objects, in animal contact. Understanding has to go beyond that: to make the dead matter, the en soi, glow with "whatness" (for us to fill in) and "thereness" for our perception has to be "locked on" to being. Our constant condition (defeasible by drugs, sleep, fatigue, dreams) is locked-on existentiality: reality commitment (that is why the sense of unreality is so disconcerting and, persisting, so serious a disorder).
3. Abstraction is something we do.
Understanding is our condition of being. We do not have conscious nonabstract experiences. Immanuel Kant held the same position as an outcome of his own theories: "thoughts without content are empty; intuitions without concepts are blind" [1929, B 75:1781, 1787]. For us, to be is to think. Particularity may be in the foreground of what we perceive, but understanding provides a luminous generality even when not well-delineated.
We cannot tell what makes an object that one, except in terms of features that can be shared or by individuating reference ("born of so-and-so, over there, at the end") that only repeats the question. Everything one can both perceive about a thing and understand could also belong to something else. Its difference from everything else by which a thing is individuated is not directly intelligible because it is negative and comparative. Some recent philosophers have tried to avoid that outcome by saying there are individual essences, others, that there are haecceities (not quite as technically elaborate as Scotus worked the idea out), and others still insist that only individuals exist, every generality reducing to a nominalistic class or other extension for a word. Some of those philosophers try to find something that makes a thing the same-thing across all the possible worlds it exists in; that's the transworld heir-lines misconception. Obviously, if an individual exists actually, what makes it the same in any condition in which it might have been, is what makes it that-thing actually, even though, in some other condition, it would have had different accidental traits. And that feature is negative: its real (not Cambridge) differences from every other thing that is actual. So the individuation of a thing consists entirely in differences, and thus has no intelligible content of its own. And it is the unintelligible differences that are left out of perceived particulars by abstraction.
The intelligible is general qua intelligible, as Aristotle and a long line of philosophers recognized. The particular, qua unintelligible, as such, frames the intelligible and lies beyond it. What we can conceive by abstraction, is in principle, neither "this" nor "that," but a "something."
Our unpolarized awareness (and that of other animals, too) is of objects and happenings (presented by sensation, sorted by its needs): of pens, tables, sunshine, and of their conditions and differences. We are not aware of representations, of appearances, of seeming, unless we need to be, e.g., when a person takes a suitcoat outside a store to see its color in natural light, or acquires such habits for other ends, e.g., craft, science, art or commerce. We come upon seeming as distinct from being when we find we've made a mistake or feel dizzy or find an anomaly in our experience. Or, when, as in the case of the stary night or the sun, our scientific understanding provides an interpretation that makes the visible only the apparent. That can happen with every mode of sensing. Nevertheless, through the apparent, because of its input alignment, we perceive the real.
The input alignment of the appearance of things with real things, as well as the phenomena of afterimages, apparent colors and shapes, and even the perceptual illusions, are causally consequences of perception. We distinguish items in alignment (like you, your voice, the telephone sound and what I hear) and on suitable occasions attend to the mirror-image in a reflecting telescope, as distinct from the moon perceived, or to the broken image in cracked glass, as distinct from a tree seen through it, and more rarely, but sometimes, mistakenly we attribute features of how things look, sound, taste, etc., to the things themselves, but more often we attribute features to the appearances of things that we would not attribute to the things. You may sound tinny or faint on a poor phone connection. Sometimes the atmosphere does reflect light from things below so that we can see them upside down from a distance; and sometimes the atmosphere reflects light that we construe to be mountains, lakes and trees in the distance, though it is a mirage. Similarly I once saw in a daylight/morning fog an impossibly enormous sailboat hundreds of feet in the air, in full color, that, as the fog and appearance dissipated, I saw to have come from light refracted from a real sailboat that was in full sunlight beyond the narrow bank of fog that blew away. I did not take the boat in the sky to be real but to be an amazing appearance. That was an appearance perceived. At the time I did not treat the appearance transitively, as we usually do, and so did not think I was seeing the boat I later saw when the fog cleared. But if the same phenomenon happened again, I'd know I was seeing a boat.
We cannot even in principle yet explain the production of experience from neural fluctuations, whether in a worm, nematode, squirrel, clam or mammal, neural states that are no more like what is perceived than the light fluctuations of a city (seen at night from the air) are like what the people do that causes the light patterns. None of these phenomena argue against the naturally necessary coincidence of particular and abstract in everything humans perceive, remark or imagine.
4. Things can be thought-parts through various conceptions.
The feel of a fabric, the quality of a voice, the timbre of the wind around the trees, the railroad sound of the ocean, the vulgar roar of a "gunned car," the snarl of a motorbike, the smell of rubber boots, the taste of red onion, the texture of baked potato -- these are all perceptions through conceptions. The same things can be felt, seen, or heard under other "aspects": the nubbiness of the fabric, the gender of the voice, the pitch of the wind, the millrace sound of the ocean, the whine of an engine.
There is not just one explanation of why we conceptualize things as we do, rather than otherwise as we are able to. There are too many factors, ranging from instinct to socialization, to habit, to learning and to sheer intelligence, good habits, bad habits, disorders of understanding, false beliefs, pathological interests, and more, that prompt our conceptions. There are endless patterns, structures, forms, and designs to be discerned in things and to be made out of what we discern. In general, we should conclude: (1) there is no innate treasury of conceptions to be produced as a precondition or "on the occasion" of perceptual states; (2) abstraction is the activity that both leads to and is guided by conceptualization, making content out-of-things; and (3) abstraction, and the conceptions we make, are neither true nor false, right nor wrong, apart from our judgments (which are analogous to expressed affirmations), although normally abstraction is attended with a habitual judgment that is a reality commitment to what we perceive.
As mentioned before, there can be various conceptions of things, for example,the shapes: chair shapes, house shapes, table shapes, boat shapes, that need not be judged to be the shapes of things but are understood as shapes for things, made subjects of judgment as to which shapes transform smoothly into which others, etc. Notice there are no names for most such shapes. To think of "sound," of what all sounds or many, at least, have in common, is to think of "being a sound" which is itself not a sound. Sounds like pings and bangs and yelps and screeches and voices exist, but "is a sound" is predicable of every sound but not a sound at all; it exists as such only as understood, but never by itself in physical things.
To recapitulate points made before: things can be parts of thoughts under different, and even indeterminate, abstractions. The aspects of things, as well as the things abstracted, can become the objects of judgment, and so elements, of thought. Situations, happenings, relationships, etc. are all equally contents of judgment. The ancient image of the "composing and dividing judgment" is too closely related to Indo-European sentences to be representative of judgment in general. To capture a bit more of the analogous multitude, think of the activities of a composer, a painter, a surgeon. There is no time for verbalized thought ("this is a note"), and no need either. Intelligent commitment is in the doing. The substance/attribute image of judgment is deeply unfaithful to our commitments in intelligent, not necessarily reasonable, action. Besides, the abstractions and even the things and situations abstracted, can be transformed by obtuse abstraction into made-up objects and happenings, the objects of formal thinking, or into idealized happenings (with madeup features, like ideal gasses), or into imaginary objects or into imaginary environments, like made-up animals.
So, there are parts, elements, constituents and whole contents of intelligent perception that are realities. On these all judgments are founded. The further contents of thought (like ideas, concepts, conceptions, meanings, aspects, situations, facts and relations), are made by thought out of things intentionalized, and, derivatively, out of one another, without end. The thought-parts made by thoughts can themselves be the objects of formal abstraction, as mathematical abstraction, logical abstraction and physical idealization. Just as anything we say can be something we say something about, anything we think, whether commitment or conception, can be something we think something about. So our judgments can be at any "remove" from the basic perceptual judgments, from which all our thinking arises.
5. No generality outside thought.
There is no generality actually in things. The rectangularity of a door is molecularly realized and is a physical feature at a dimension where the spaces among molecules and atoms and molecular motion are irrelevant. Generality belongs to science but there is nothing common and separable, except in thought, between two Intel chips. The chips can be interchanged but the structures cannot be separated. Each does everything and only what the other does, yet, everything about each is individuated, begins to be and ceases to be with it. Multitude is real apart from thought. So is similarity of behavior. That one chip does everything and only what the other chip does is real in particular events but not as a generality. Generality is extracted. The same among many, is entirely embedded in matter, accessible only to the dematerializing mind, like a perfume embedded in molecules and accessible only to the nervous system that can smell.
Universals are conditions of things that more than one thing can have or be, say, an Intel chip, black, with prongs. Such a condition is not physically separable or distinct. For if you took away the behavioral structure from the chip, you would destroy it. Even though we speak of the common humanity of Smith and Jones, there is not some physically separable common nature that they share. It is only conceptually separate, and, as such, one and the same. What each is, under abstraction, is indistinguishable from what the other is, individuation being irrelevant.
The only generality that a thing has is its generality as a constituent of thought. The thing is not repeatable. It does not have a separable repeatable "what," only an intelligible "what." It is the intelligible "what" and "what sort" that is physically repeatable. Nor are there two things, Smith and his being human. Rather it is Smith's being human that is understood when I judge that Smith is a human. When I notice I can't see the ocean because of the fog, the generality, "the ocean," ceases with the cessation of the thought, the way being understood ceases to be the condition of the words "veni creator" when thought moves on. Meaning something as an actual condition of words is analogous to being-a-such-and-such for a person. Thus the universal as universal has being only as an exercise of understanding.
If we have not found out exactly how abstraction works to make the forms and features of things and events into exercises of the ability to understand -- if there is anything further to find out about the "how" -- that does not impair this return to realism. For all the other theories of perception and of truth run into analogous difficulties or outright anomalies of their own. Besides, as remarked earlier, there is nothing to reduce abstraction or judgment to. They are not made up of other activities, and, even if they were, either such component activities would be irreducible or not, and so on, until we reach what is fundamental. What would be gained? All other theories leave a sensation/physical object gap as well as an idea/physical thing gap and a true belief/reality gap. This account eliminates them by indicating that animals, by nature, perceive realities and that humans, specifically, abstract and judge realities perceived, and that it is a necessity of nature that animal perception and human thought originate in the realities.
(a) So what is the story about truth?
In animal perception real things and their conditions (relevant to the instinctual and general interests of the animal, limited by its sense powers) are present to the animal and are that on which it acts and to which it responds. Humans transform that awareness by generalizing the objects and conditions perceived, making things-conceived and conditions-conceived into judgments (e.g., "it is about to rain") where the true judgment, as content, is the reality that is grasped, recognized, or expected, etc. The schema, "what I think is true just when what I think is what is so" adapts analogically to whatever we talk about, whether or not the supposed "what-is-so" is made by thinking (geometry), is dependent on thinking (I was thinking), is wholly independent of thinking, or variously mixed with some requiring no "fact of the matter" at all, and others requiring some definite form of access or ascertainment: he was safe (baseball). "Such-and-such is really so" is obviously analogous as the differentiation of "are" and "is" display: (1) There are no cats on that shelf; (2) Six and five are really eleven; (3) The Queen moves in straight lines and on the diagonals; (4) There are nine innings in a baseball game; (5) There are non-euclidean geometries; (6) What each dinosaur did each hour of each day is determinate, even if we cannot know it; (7) Some people are more popular than most others.
(b) We live in nominal abstractions.
Besides the truths that obviously have real constituents such as my opinion about whether my car will start, even businessmen think in terms of abstractions with names: markets, financing, return rates, flow of goods and capital, the time value of money. Paint manufacturers think in terms of pigments, packaging, shipping, storage, blending, matching and other conventionalized abstractions which are often fully grounded physically because they can be repeated, as pigments can be made of chemicals; still, the sales force is concerned with colors and finishes, not physical components. An executive does not even notice the enormous change in thought quality when he drifts from concentrating upon identifying an income loss to responding to the sandwich on his desk.
Adults can think in parallel processes. So I can be playing a piano piece by reading it (thus requiring judgmental perception, transition into muscle output with visual awareness of hand positions and proprioception as well as judgmental hearing and feedback adjustments of volume, speed, staccato, etc.) while thinking about the way to repair a garden tiller. Often one listens to music, watches television, and reads a book, while adjusting one's position for comfort and perhaps smoking and drinking intermittently, all at once in parallel processing. All involve judgment, awareness and understanding. It is as if the awareness of one or another activity (which involves perception, judgment, understanding and response) can be adjusted upward or downward like volume, relatively to the others. The awareness I have in mind is not intermittent; awareness is concomitant, as if subject to an awareness equalizer. Furthermore the time of judgments as Geach pointed out is not the time of utterances or subvocalizations. The judgments are instantaneous in that they are made all at once and persist, though how long depends on what sort of judgment it is and on the utility of persistence. That the played note is right is instantaneous and cancelled, that the music continued, lasts for a while; that I played the piece might be remembered for years.
By "nominal abstractions" I mean abstract entities that are entia rationis, even though quite typically they are well or fully grounded physically or socially, and are treated as subject-realities in business, manufacturing, transportation, law, finance, banking, architecture, engineering, and other activities that involve managing and moving and changing things physically: thus, "loads" of gravel, tonnage of shipments, colors and shades of paint, and textures of stone and terrazo. Some abstractions are nominalistic and some conventional- nominalistic. Many have natural units like people combined in social arrangements, like marriage, family, tribe, and nation. Other abstractions have real components unified by a legal superstructure: states, sales, torts.
Cultures are clustered commitments that amount to systematic evaluations that affect behavior, usually by what is permitted, encouraged and forbidden, with a superstructure of organizing beliefs, among humans who are usually organized geographically or connected ethnically or religiously or politically. A culture orders in importance the values and general beliefs that guide human lives. So one can see why a critic might say "Western industrialized nations are developing a culture of death: rampant violence even by law enforcers, abortion, suicide, euthanasia, pornography, degradation of women, depersonalization of business, governmental and social interactions." The whole diagnosis is full of abstractions. It is a long way from such judgments to the spatio-temporal events of human lives. More abstractly still, we think of civilizations, e.g., ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman, ancient Chinese, modern Chinese. For some, the delineations may be symptomatically definite; for most of us, we have images and perhaps words that are emblematic. But people often make judgments in such broad categories: "Western scientific, individualistic, rational, discoursing, egalitarian, materialistic, popularist civilization is challenged by the out of control world population, though its commercialism and materialism seem to have corrupted both the continent of India and large parts of Asia and South America." "Within western Greco-Roman civilization, materialistic cultures may be in conflict and threaten its survival, just as consumerism may threaten the Indian Hindu civilization of detachment." Are we going to say those utterances are not capable of truth? They aren't just incoherent. But they are quite different from judgments like "AIDS is until 1997 pretty rare in the USA heterosexual community." Though even in that case, what counts as "pretty rare"? Is this truth by preference? In fact, truth or falsity for those interpretive judgments may have more to do on the one hand with a base in observable behavior and attitudes, like consumerism and, on the other, with revelatory success. That is, if the judgment is well-based in acknowledged social phenomena (commercial behavior, social preferences, proclivities to violence, etc.), then its truth is its revelatory power, its ability to organize and make intelligible large group behavior. In brief, sometimes truth is being in accord with the evidential base and being either rich or superior in revelatory effect, or superior diagnostically, and thus, predictively. In these case "thinking to be so, what is so," is only analogous to a case like "He has exhausted his bank account."
(c) Let's turn to money. Is money real?
I do not mean currency because the coins and bills are obviously real, though many coins and bills have ceased to be money in the sense of acceptable for exchange with goods or services. So retired Belgian coins are valueless, as are Confederate bills except as collector's items.
No, I am talking of real money. Is real money real? That brings us to various tests for reality. One test is whether something has a physical effect. In some cases money, as physical items with fixed relative values in a general system of exchange, has weight; in fact, we have machines for counting money by weight. It also takes up space, determinate amounts. So, half a million dollars in new twenties takes up exactly x space. We ship currency by the truck-load. But those are not effects qua money, but effects qua currency. Money is a more abstract and powerful thing.
Some people, perhaps the English Crown and the Sultan of Brunai, are reputed to have (converted into American dollars) one dollar for every year the universe has existed -- and that on a large estimate of 18 billion years. Is that a lot of money? Not compared to the USA national debt of over 3,000 billion dollars, perhaps 4,000. By another measure the national debt, which comes to $15,000 per person, say, is not very large given the amount of private wealth and the goods received in the way of public services and amenities. And, of course, money is not the same as wealth.
But if these billionaires have it, apparently they can do things with it, the way I can buy a pair of shoes by an account transfer or by handing over currency. Something real happens, exactly in proportion to the value attributed to my accounts and to the things I acquire. Moreover a lot of intermediate human and machine events occur. Does that make money real? Not the way tree leaves are. When there were no humans there was no money, but there were leaves. Money does not take up space or change with the weather or die, though it can be devalued or more-valued, or annihilated as well as multiplied.
Thus in extreme inflation, as Argentina experienced not long ago, money, not just currency, can become worthless: at inflation of a thousand percent in a month a hundred dollars at outset is worth ten cents at the end. The rest of the value is gone. And, in the U.S., when local banks have a deposit of $1,000.00 and the multiplier of money is 5, by depositing the thousand with the Federal Reserve bank, the local bank can now lend $5,000, which at a rate of 8% will earn the bank (skipping expenses and simplifying somewhat) $400 for itself per year, so that in two-and-one-half years the bank earns an entire $1,000 (less interest paid to the depositor), the depositor still has the $1,000 in his account, plus his earned interest (say, 3% per year), and the bank's borrowers have $5,000 that they presumably have used to buy houses, stores, or goods, and perhaps even things that earn them money. So money can come into being by the legal device of a multiplier of deposits with a central bank, and various interest rates. The question is whether it is real. It is certainly real in a way that neither Mcbeth nor Mickey Mouse is. Is money more real than numbers?
Note that money, even in its most abstract forms as accounting entries, exerts causation, though the medium of human intentionality, over physical things, even over some of the earth's vital resources, like oil, atmospheric ozone, forests and fish, and lack of it causes illness and death. For the reasons forests are cut down include selling the lumber or selling the crops grown on the cleared land; the reason oil is drilled and pumped is to sell it for fuels and manufacturing, i.e., to turn it into money which is used to cause more changes in nature (like people's houses, cars and clothes), not to mention momentous changes in human relationships, as says the adage: "A man who marries a woman for her money earns every penny of it." If physical beauty is real, even if culturally relative, if divine grace is real, if it exists at all, if the immaterial psyche is real, that is, exists at all, then all exert causation on physical events. So does money even though it depends upon human intelligence. Mere numbers, as such, are not real. They are causally inert. Monetary amounts, however, have enormous leverage on social behavior and, upon humans and animals, physically.
Money facts are not independent of human beliefs and practices, of course. Were all humans annihilated tomorrow, so would all money, all wealth of any kind. There would be no money for the bugs to inherit. But there wouldn't be any pianos or computers, either. Yet that has no effect on whether statements about money are true or not. So it is not adequate to characterize realism as requiring that there be facts of the matter that are independent of whether humans have beliefs about them. That's only one paradigm of realism. Another is the range over which one cannot change the facts by changing one's beliefs. Another still is the range over which one cannot change things by willing it. And still another is the range of truths that, though constituted by thought, cannot be altered by anyone's thinking otherwise, e.g., the truths of arithmetic or Euclidean plain geometry -- any range of judgments to which one must conform one's beliefs in order to be right. Money is paradigmatically objective and real, independent of individual belief and individual will, but to which behavior responds as to a real means of change. So sometimes "is real" has near its center, the notions "independent from any belief" and "is causally active" and sometimes, more formally, "imperviousness to individual belief," and sometimes other features. That should be no surprise by now because "is real" is as much subject to semantic contagion as any other word, and the notion is as plastic as any. Besides, the reality, "is real" is analogous, just as "to be" is. The whole discussion of realism, in terms of "facts of the matter," has been misconceived and so has the discussion of meaning-skepticism when it is framed as to whether there is a fact of the matter as to what I meant by a word yesterday. What kind of a fact is there supposed to be, over and beyond what I did?
All those points taken as made, I think money is real, as real as any discipline of thought or disorder of the understanding is. The disciplines of mathematical thinking are real; the numbers are not. But to say "money is real" is not to speak univocally with "electrons are real."
(d) Many kinds of truths.
So intimately do our beliefs order our lives that we do not see differences among them in ordinary living. And so, the very particular beliefs about which city we live in (which is certainly not independent of what some humans believe about it), and the rarely articulated general beliefs that reflect the collective consciousness (e.g., that money is a means of power and independence; that racial difference is threatening; that being sexually attractive is more important for women than for men) and even the collective unconscious (e.g., that women and men have conflicting personal interests, that power is desirable) affect us actively, but, differently according to the kinds of realities involved, e.g., some physical, some psychological, etc. There is not a single principled answer to "is there a fact of the matter?" That depends on what you are talking about and has no direct connection to whether what you are saying is true or not [e.g., see truth as revelatory and diagnostic, above], and even where there are such facts (e.g., money facts), that tells us nothing directly about the reality of what we are talking about. So, most of the considerations philosophers have appealed to to settle the reality of what we think when what we think is so, are indecisive and irrelevant. It is better simply to recognize the many modes of being so and not, foolishly, to act as if there is only one manner of being real.
The many kinds of truth (and error) we live in can be variously classified according to the diversity of compliant realities, diverse conditions of certification, or according to the status of thought elements. By elements I distinguish truths that have as constituents realities-under- abstraction, where other realities under abstraction are (or can coherently be said to be) present in and predicable of them. At the other extreme there are thoughts whose constituents are abstract objects that cannot be real things because all their traits are determined by what under some form of thought it is right for us to say of them. Between these extremes are thoughts whose constituents are neither entirely determined by what is true to say of them, nor entirely dependent on the properties of real things, like judgments about plays in baseball. Sometimes such judgments depend upon our ordering phenomena by evaluation, for instance, that honesty is more basic than industry, and sometimes they depend on our ordering things by abstractions, or by functions. For example, furniture: it may appear arbitrary what counts and what does not count, but there are limits: you cannot furnish a highway, though you might an overpass or a scenic overlook. Among abstractions that are physically based are "peoples," where real but no particular humans are needed, in arrangements that are cultural, racial, historical, religious and geopolitical. Then there are "hands at cards" or "games of chess" which involve real objects only for convenience and do not require physical events except for ease of communication and so, may be either physically realized or purely logically or even mathematically realized. In fact hands at cards and games of chess, in one respect can be particular events, provided they happen, but in another, need never happen at all because they are abstract objects that can be conceived by abstractly considering real events, if they happen, but can also be conceived by considering arrangements of positions permitted under the rules, whether or not they ever happen.
Abstract particulars present an interesting case. Mahler's Eighth Symphony is abstract in that it can have many materializations, and of many kinds, all at once; yet it is particular in that it is a single sequence of compositional components. It is as real as anything can be, though perhaps not as real as money. It is entirely to product of Mahler's thinking and, of course, perception, since he had to write it out.
Again, there are historical truths, whose constituents are real people and happenings, but construed in a transtemporal story of cause and effect, accident and coincidence. "The Western university system was begun in the first few decades of the 13th century" has among its truth conditions what happened afterward: the practice's having lasted long enough to amount to a university system.
Between real objects and formal objects there are innumberable combinations of "what-there-is-independently" of finite thinkers and "what has its features from what is right to think." Since we can explain truthmaking at both extremes (empirical truth and formal truth), and since we can explain how any given candidate in between has its truth determined, we can explain truthmaking in general, as thinking that what is, is. But we have to acknowledge explicitly that the notion is plastic, where sometimes thinking a certain way will explain truth all by itself by constructing the situations or objects that verify, satisfy, or comply with what is thought or authorized; and other times, where a wholly independent reality has to be the very thing we think. And in between there are the other notions of truth, like what works, what is revelatory, what is predictively rich, and even what is conceptually footstamping to begin a thought process, by fiat, that as a whole will be revelatory, or verified or satisfactory in other ways, to conduct our thought.
I have been concentrating on truth based in direct perception, not just because it is the basis of all truth and falsity, and originates from knowledge, but chiefly because abstraction makes perceived realities into thought-parts and because, though there is no generality as such in things, there is in things an adequate basis for abstraction (whose thought content is conception). The key to a better analysis for notions of truth, is to premise that knowledge begins in experience, not as a subjective, internal state, but as externalized animal experience transformed into generality by abstraction. Human perception is knowledge, not just true belief. When we start this way, the rest of the problems fall into order according to the kinds of discourse involved.
6. Disposing of the "cognitive access" and "fact of the matter" issues.
(i) Not all truth and falsity depends upon there being some thought-independent reality or "fact of the matter," as has been shown.
(ii) Objectivity, as interpersonal accessibility of the truth at least within a community of experts (craftspeople) does not also require realities existing independently of the craft (or art, or science), as is clear in case of true and false judgment about music and musical compositions where the units of composition are constructions of the craft [Ross, 1993].
(iii) Some of the most important bodies of truth are in no way dependent upon there being some independently existing reality that they describe -- pure Newtonian theory of mechanics, ideal gasses, etc.; such truths are man-made, made to fit physical reality with wonderful revelatory and explanatory power.
(iv) Some of our practices of truthmaking suppose that we have practices of ascertainment, ranging from constructive proof, empirical verification and experimental difference-making, that track authorized judgments closely. Other practices do not require a close correlation between assertion and ascertainment for us to regard assertions as true or false, as, for instance, historical evaluations, and doctrinal religious pronouncements for which community authority is sufficient within the community.
(v) Even where our judgmental practices require some sort of ascertainment in order for the products to be regarded as true or false, it is still, I think, usually incorrect to say that there is a "cognitive accessibility" element in the notions of truth and falsity. Sometimes there is. More commonly, in some discourse sectors one or another form of ascertainment is an overflow condition of the applicability of "true" or "false," incorporated by the practice of some art or craft. Thus there are discourse neighborhoods in which neither "true" nor "false" applies to certain statements because a condition of applicability, not contained in the meaning or notion, is not satisfied. That can happen, as intuitionists think, to what appear to be well-formed mathematical and logical judgments. It can happen when an apprentice carpenter wants lengths given in 10,000dths of an inch. Similarly, a lot of contrary-to-fact assertions are passed by, sometimes as jokes: A cowboy's children say, "We'd have been happier if you'd stayed a cowboy and never had children at all." Someone says, "He'd have been happier if he'd been born in the 18th century." That's not ascertainable. It may pass as a character reading, but not as historical conjecture. We are certainly not going to say, "It is false because there is no compliant reality," for what would count as a compliant reality?
So, overall, although "true" and "false" and "not true" undergo semantic contagion as does "is so" and "is not so," the adaptations do not usually make cognitive access part of the linguistic meaning of these words but, instead, frequently discourse includes such conditions of applicability among the overflow for "true" or "false." Thus, "true" and "false" are not used univocally among diverse discourses and, further, can differ in conditions of applicability. None of those features can tell us anything to resolve disputes about ontological realism. So the project M. Dummett  comtemplated is doomed. Moreover, there is no better prospect for Putnam's analysis of truth as "ideally warranted assertability" or any other analysis that is formulated in terms of some epistemic state, regardless of whether it is one's own or an ideal state. For the notions of warrant [Plantinga, 1993] have to be explained in terms of notions involving truth.
(vi) For a judgment to be true, does there have to be an appropriate fact of the matter? First, what a "fact of the matter" is varies with what we are talking about (e.g., is the grass long? Is his hair long? What is the distance from here (where?) to the edge (where?) of the Milky Way? Was that pitch a strike? Will that stone fit? Secondly, when we are talking about assertions of fact, are we talking about conditions in which we can certainly settle the truth of the matter or just conditions of "warranted assertion" or "justified assertion" or "ideally warranted assertability" and the like? Again the answer is "all of those and more, depending upon the discourse, the context and the particular situation," without any of them being more than conditions of applicability, enforced by the practice of discourse, but not, usually, becoming part of what is meant by "true," or "false." Another reason why truth cannot be the same as warranted assertability is that falsity is not the same as not-being-warrantedly-assertable, because of the many cases where cognitive access is lacking. We cannot in general hold that what we cannot know is not so. Someone recommending a usage for "true" and "false" as did Wm. James ("what is true is what is in our interest in the way of believing") and C.S. Peirce ("what the ideal scientific community will agree upon"), and H. Putnam ("truth is ideally warranted assertability") might be proposing such a linguistic inclusion. They are certainly not successfully describing what we do mean. Such proposals tend to fail because it is not one's intention that determines meaning but the pragmatic traction between discourse and the modifying of action. What gets included in linguistic meaning is what practice among the discoursing community finds efficient for that end.
One can be proposing a usage even as one honestly reports what is taken to be what we really mean by a word. Even if such reports or proposals gain currency among philosophers, that does not have the effect of introducing another or a new meaning-element into the previously unbound discourse for the word, or even into craft-bound usage, unless the usage is controlled by an establishment as sometimes happens in philosophy. Thus a person who judges that the cosmos will never end or will end in entropic death, need not grant that his judgment falls short of a truth value just because he is (a) not able to verify or falsify it; (b) is not able to provide "justification" for it; (c) not able to display a position of warranted assertion, and has no interest in what the ideally warranted assertion might be or what the ideal community of scientists would agree upon for the very good reason that none of those types will be around when the reality comes to pass, and what is ideally warranted or agreed to by some ideal community may very well be false or without a truth value.
What about the paradoxes?
Most of the paradoxes can be constructed only with sentences and statements and, thus, have nothing to do with the primary truth-bearers, judgments. There are not self-referential judgments, e.g., of the form, "this judgment is true." There are indeed self-inclusive judgments, e.g., "All judgments are assents or denials" and "All judgments are either true or false." The latter's being false is not on account of the form of the judgment. As I pointed out above, the most serious of the paradoxes concern sentences and, sometimes, statements. The primary truths and falsities, judgments, are not paradoxical even when in the form, "Some of my beliefs are false."
When we allow the questions to apply to statements and to sentences, the best approach is the one suggested by A.N. Prior, with a small addition by Kirkham [1995, p. 295]: every statement and sentence regarded as assertoric, implicity predicates truth of itself. That on my account requires further content than a mere repetition. But if the content is opposed to the implicit predication or identification, a contradiction appears, and thus, an apparent paradox, that is, however not real. That is a consequence of judgments' being (even when they are denials in content) assents. As a result the liar paradox and the strengthened liar paradox cannot even be formulated for judgments alone.
Now we turn to the physical basis of human conception and judgment.