06 September 2011

Are the stances really in that order?


I'm basically continuing this from comments that John Shutt and I exchanged on The Obligational Stance. He questions whether the stances are really in that order or even in that topology.

My answer (Repeating myself from a comment)

I'm not sure I have a compelling argument that the hierarchy is in that order, or in that topology. But my thinking, albeit somewhat loose, is "How could stance N+1 mean anything if the machinery for stance N wasn't already in place?", for each of the 3 cases.

In the case of N = intentional, how could an entity see obligations if it didn't have beliefs about the world?

Trying for a counterexample

Would (say) an ATM be a counterexample? As a machine, it naturally fits the design stance and does not naturally fit the intentional stance. Yet it's "obligated" to give you your money on demand, and generally does so.

But is it really seeing an obligation? ISTM no, not any more than it has beliefs when it prints out in English "Your bank balance is X". Its designers have the beliefs and see the obligations. The ATM is competent to realize the designers' beliefs and obligations schematically, but is not competent to treat them qua beliefs and obligations. For instance, it's not capable of improvising with them or of extending them to new situations.

One can try to stretch the stances to cover it. It, like a thermostat, has tiny, rickety, mini-beliefs and mini-sees obligations in a tiny, rickety way. Can it mini-see obligations without having mini-beliefs? My intuition says no.

1 comment:

  1. Hm. Yes, the obligational stance presumes the intentional stance. The design stance presumes the physical stance.

    Does the intentional stance presume the physical stance? First I thought maybe not. Then (poaching on Cartesian territory) I thought maybe if we had minds but not bodies, our minds would effectively *be* the "physical world". But then I realized, that would be a non-reductionist "physical world", and without reductionism the design stance would be, if not meaningless, at least pointless. Which is when I decided reductionism is taken as given by this whole structure. Of course Dennett would. And Dennett, starting from reductionism, would consider evolution (hence, design stance) necessary to support the intentional stance.

    The question is, then, whether one wants a topology that requires reductionism (in which case, linearity is fine), or one that is philosophically robust enough to work for non-reductionists.