Thursday, January 6, 2011

Some Definitions

Chances are, Sven may have used some confusing terms in class today.  Here I try to provide definitions for these terms in everyday, non-technical terms.

Linguistic Intuition:  Linguistic intuitions are the thoughts that you have about what words mean when you think about the meanings of words.  If you think and reflect about what words mean, you probably have some assumptions about what words mean.  These are your intuitions.  They may come from your family, friends, culture or country.  Usually by linguistic intuition we mean the thoughts and assumptions we have about meanings that we acquired accidentally.

Proposition: A proposition is what is meant by a statement that asserts or claims something.  (Some sentences, like many questions, do not assert or claim anything).  For example, if one utters (says), "Man, dat dude is hot.", one might be able to say that the meaning of this declaration, or the proposition, is something like, "I find that male to be very attractive."  The proposition of the statements, "Ich liebe dich." (German) and "Ti amo." (Italian) is the same as the English sentence "I love you."  These three difference sentences all express the same abstract proposition.

Beliefs are propositional attitudes.  In other words, they are relations to propositions.  Belief is the relation that you bear to propositions that you think are true.  To believe that Justin Bieber is annoying is to think that it is true that Justin Bieber is annoying.   An occurent belief is one that is thought about at a given moment in time.  When I am thinking to myself, “Tina Fey is funny.”, I have the occurent belief that Tina Fey is funny.  A dispositional belief is one that I believe in the background (subconsciously or unconsciously).  I may always have the dispositional belief that Tina Fey is funny even when I am not actively thinking, “Tina Fey is funny.”

Justification means that there are good reasons for a belief or claim.

Possible World.  In philosophy, we often imagine hypothetical possible worlds where some relatively minor but relevant things are different from our own world.  The idea is that by noticing similarities and differences between the real world and a possible world, we can better understand whether or not we have knowledge in certain instances.

Covary: to vary together or change together.  If the truth of a statement and belief in that statement covary across possible worlds, this means that they change in similar ways.  If truth and belief do not covary across possible worlds, this means that one changes and the other does not.

Conjunction.  Joining two propositions together with the word "and".

Disjunction. Joining two propositions together with the word "or".  

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