[Marxism] Mr Bendien's remarks on logic

OpenSentence Type Foundry typefoundry at opensentence.org
Sat Nov 29 19:07:19 MST 2003

> Quine had a good quote once: "the university is not the universe".

Nor is the physical universe the university, if we are talking about the 
Idea Of A University (as so many people are wont to do) and the physical 
universe as something less than all possible meaningful symbols (the 
possible equivalence of the latter two was first considered by Tarski in a 
footnote to *Concept Of Truth In Formalized Languages*, which later became 
known *quite* jokingly as "marks-ism").  But ordinarily the "universe of 
discourse" is taken to include objects which are in some sense nonexistent 
or not yet completely signified, and I am far from sure (would like to 
believe) that some sketchy remarks of Mead's and fleshed-out Luhmann index 
cards indicate that such considerations can be effectively linked to 
consideration of the social totality. 

> When you say that: 
> Chomsky's work has (admittedly) relatively few consequences for
> *Ideologiekritik* other than its (quite spirited and cogent) defense of
> Enlightenment values about the mind. 
> Then: 
> This is perhaps true, but you are objectifying a discourse rather than
> participating in it. Chomsky's generative grammars do pick out something
> about language learning by ordinary folks. My point is really that a
> sensitivity to linguistics and language is helpful in distinguishing between
> truth and nonsense.

Chomsky wouldn't agree that special training is required to speak the truth 
concerning matters of interest to you, and I am actually inclined to agree 
with him.  I would instead say that the value of logic and linguistics 
training is in learning to distinguish various types of nonsense in a 
thoroughly non-precious way.  That's nice work if you can get it, though 
(I'm not quite sure what I mean there), but it could potentially serve as a 
way to hone natural faculties I am inclined to claim for mankind. 

> You: 
> But on the other hand, contemporary semantics has a great deal to do with
> proof and the van Benthem school (now expanded to part of Stanford) is today
> almost alone in suggesting there is an important level to the study of
> language beyond stretching provability to fit the exigencies of natural
> language; and my theoretical essays (collected in edited form on my website)
> address such issues in *relatively readable* prose.  They're not
> recommended, really, but such things do exist. 
> me: 
> Well, yes, the formalisation of a variable or a relation does assume
> semantics.

Well, that's not a Quinean view: the famous phrase is "to be is to be the 
value of a variable", and the restriction to quantification over objects is 
usually assumed as grounds for worrying about how love grows where Rosemary 
goes in the absence of reliable supporting data.  That's a more contemporary 
view, and what I'm saying is that the UvA people take it to an extreme such 
that "formalization" (with its traditional connotations of regimentation or 
reform for natural language) becomes the wrong word, as natural language 
already consists of a welter of different formal systems.  Richard Montague
 -- a figure much-neglected in the contemporary US, and in for new rounds of 
abuse as part of the computational linguistics (perma?)fad, went some of the 
way towards this but the Amsterdammers really do break up Montague's rather 
monolithic system into flexible, dynamic, tractable fragments.  The only 
things they leave out are the computationally intractable bits, which are 
unfortunately the ones I'm interested in. 

> You: 
>  UvA has something worth saying and I can't imagine that institution costs
> people around it too much. 
> Me: 
> Of course the UVA has things worth saying. It's just that I am pretty
> hostile to pomo discourses these days.

They're really not pomo at all; in fact, although the European logicians 
have journals with colorful-enough English homonyms as titles, there's 
another one focusing on newer logics with a (rather predictable) joke built 

Jeff Rubard 

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