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Ideas of Gabriel M.A. Segal, by Text

[American, fl. 2000, At King's College, London.]

2000 A Slim Book about Narrow Content
1.4 p.10 Must we relate to some diamonds to understand them?
     Full Idea: Is a relationship with diamonds necessary for having a concept of diamonds?
     From: Gabriel M.A. Segal (A Slim Book about Narrow Content [2000], 1.4)
     A reaction: Probably not, given that I have a concept of kryptonite, and that I can invent my own concepts. Suppose I was brought up to believe that diamonds are a myth?
1.4 p.10 Maybe content involves relations to a language community
     Full Idea: It has been argued (e.g. by Tyler Burge) that certain relations to other language users are determinants of content.
     From: Gabriel M.A. Segal (A Slim Book about Narrow Content [2000], 1.4)
     A reaction: Burge's idea (with Wittgenstein behind him) strikes me as plausible (more plausible than water and elms determining the content). Our concepts actually shift during conversations.
1.6 p.14 Is 'Hesperus = Phosphorus' metaphysically necessary, but not logically or epistemologically necessary?
     Full Idea: It is metaphysically necessary that Hesperus is Phosphorus, but not logically necessary, since logical deduction could not reveal its truth, and it is not epistemologically necessary, as the ancient Greeks didn't know the identity. (Natural necessity?)
     From: Gabriel M.A. Segal (A Slim Book about Narrow Content [2000], 1.6)
1.6 p.16 If claims of metaphysical necessity are based on conceivability, we should be cautious
     Full Idea: Since conceivability is the chief method of assessing the claims of metaphysical necessity, I think such claims are incautious.
     From: Gabriel M.A. Segal (A Slim Book about Narrow Content [2000], 1.6)
1.7 p.19 If 'water' has narrow content, it refers to both H2O and XYZ
     Full Idea: My view is that the concepts of both the Earth person and the Twin Earth person refer to BOTH forms of diamonds or water (H2O and XYZ).
     From: Gabriel M.A. Segal (A Slim Book about Narrow Content [2000], 1.7)
     A reaction: Fair enough, though that seems to imply that my current concepts may actually refer to all sorts of items of which I am currently unaware. But that may be so.
2.1 p.24 Humans are made of H2O, so 'twins' aren't actually feasible
     Full Idea: Humans are largely made of H2O, so there could be no twin on Twin Earth, and (as Kuhn noted) nothing with a significantly different structure from H2O could be macroscopically very like water (but topaz and citrine will do).
     From: Gabriel M.A. Segal (A Slim Book about Narrow Content [2000], 2.1)
     A reaction: A small point, but one that appeals to essentialists like me (see under Natural Theory/Laws of Nature). We can't learn much metaphysics from impossible examples.
2.1 p.24 If content is external, so are beliefs and desires
     Full Idea: If we accept Putnam's externalist conclusion about the meaning of a word, it is a short step to a similar conclusion about the contents of the twins' beliefs, desires and so on.
     From: Gabriel M.A. Segal (A Slim Book about Narrow Content [2000], 2.1)
     A reaction: This is the key step which has launched a whole new externalist view of the nature of the mind. It is one thing to say that I don't quite know what my words mean, another that I don't know my own beliefs.
2.2 p.31 Externalism can't explain concepts that have no reference
     Full Idea: Empty terms and concepts provide the largest problem for the externalist thesis of the world dependence of concepts.
     From: Gabriel M.A. Segal (A Slim Book about Narrow Content [2000], 2.2)
     A reaction: A speculative concept could then become a reality (e.g. an invention). The solution seems to be to say that there is an internal and an external component to most concepts.
2.2 p.37 Folk psychology is ridiculously dualist in its assumptions
     Full Idea: Commonsense psychology is a powerful explanatory theory, and largely correct, but it seems to be profoundly dualist, and treats minds as immaterial spirits which can transmigrate and exist disembodied.
     From: Gabriel M.A. Segal (A Slim Book about Narrow Content [2000], 2.2)
     A reaction: Fans of folk psychology tend to focus on central normal experience, but folk psychology also seems to range from quirky to barking mad. A 'premonition' is a widely accepted mental event.
2.2 p.43 The success and virtue of an explanation do not guarantee its truth
     Full Idea: The success and virtue of an explanation do not guarantee its truth.
     From: Gabriel M.A. Segal (A Slim Book about Narrow Content [2000], 2.2)
3.2 p.73 Maybe experts fix content, not ordinary users
     Full Idea: Putnam and Burge claim that there could be two words that a misinformed subject uses to express different concepts, but that express just one concept of the experts.
     From: Gabriel M.A. Segal (A Slim Book about Narrow Content [2000], 3.2)
     A reaction: This pushes the concept outside the mind of the user, which leaves an ontological problem of what concepts are made of, how you individuate them, and where they are located.
3.3 p.77 Concepts can survive a big change in extension
     Full Idea: We need to think of concepts as organic entities that can persist through changes of extension.
     From: Gabriel M.A. Segal (A Slim Book about Narrow Content [2000], 3.3)
     A reaction: This would be 'organic' in the sense of modifying and growing. This is exactly right, and the interesting problem becomes the extreme cases, where an individual stretches a concept a long way.
4.1 p.95 If thoughts ARE causal, we can't explain how they cause things
     Full Idea: If we identify a psychological property with its causal role then we lose the obvious explanation of why the event has the causal role that it has.
     From: Gabriel M.A. Segal (A Slim Book about Narrow Content [2000], 4.1)
     A reaction: This pinpoints very nicely one of the biggest errors in modern philosophy. There are good naturalistic reasons to reduce everything to causal role, but there is a deeper layer. Essences!
4.1 p.97 Even 'mass' cannot be defined in causal terms
     Full Idea: We can't define mass in terms of its causal powers because massive objects do different things in different physical systems. …What an object (or concept) with a given property does depends on what it interacts with.
     From: Gabriel M.A. Segal (A Slim Book about Narrow Content [2000], 4.1)
     A reaction: This leaves an epistemological problem, that we believe in mass, but can only get at it within a particular gravitational or inertial system. Don't give up on ontology at this point.
5 p.123 If content is narrow, my perfect twin shares my concepts
     Full Idea: To say that contents of my belief are narrow is to say that they are intrinsic to me, hence that any perfect twin of mine would have beliefs with the same contents.
     From: Gabriel M.A. Segal (A Slim Book about Narrow Content [2000], 5)
     A reaction: I personally find this more congenial than externalism. If my twin and I studied chemistry, we would reach identical conclusions about water, as long as we remained perfect twins.
5 p.127 Science is in the business of carving nature at the joints
     Full Idea: Science is in the business of carving nature at the joints.
     From: Gabriel M.A. Segal (A Slim Book about Narrow Content [2000], 5)
5.1 p.131 Externalists can't assume old words refer to modern natural kinds
     Full Idea: The question of what a pre-scientific term extends over is extremely difficult for a Putnam-style externalist to answer. …There seems no good reason to assume that they extend over natural kinds ('whale', 'cat', 'water').
     From: Gabriel M.A. Segal (A Slim Book about Narrow Content [2000], 5.1)
     A reaction: The assumption seems to be that they used to extend over descriptions, and now they extend over essences, or expert references. This can't be right. They have never changed, but now contain fewer errors.
5.3 p.150 Psychology studies the way rationality links desires and beliefs to causality
     Full Idea: A person's desires and beliefs tend to cause what they tend to rationalise. This coordination of causality and rationalisation lies at the heart of psychology.
     From: Gabriel M.A. Segal (A Slim Book about Narrow Content [2000], 5.3)