De Se Communication: language, thought and co-aboutness
AffiliationSchool of Historical and Philosophical Studies
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2019 Lian Zhou
This dissertation is about the co-aboutness problem of de se communication. An essential requirement of successful communication is that participants of communication must talk about the same subject matter. I call this requirement the co-aboutness condition of communication. According to the traditional picture of communication, what is communicated is transmitted between participants of that communication in accordance with the replication transmission model. In that case, the co-aboutness condition is satisfied by same-saying, which is the replication of one other’s linguistic expressions. The basic idea behind the same-saying strategy is that we talk about the same subject matter if we use the same words. However, for an idiosyncratic type of communication, which is de se communication, same-saying simply does not work. De se communication is the communication of de se thought. In de se communication, we will definitely talk past each other if we just replicate one another’s words. For example, if I say, ‘I am happy’, and you reply, ‘I am happy’, we are not talking about the same subject matter because I am talking about my feeling and you are talking about your feeling. So, how can we satisfy the co-aboutness condition in de se communication? This question is the central question of this dissertation. I argue that in de se communication, what is communicated is transmitted in accordance with a new model, the translation transmission model. In order to satisfy the co-aboutness condition of communications which conform to the translation transmission model, a new strategy must be developed. I call the new strategy ‘translation’. Participants of a de se communication talk about the same subject matter by means of translating one another’s words. The most important part of this translation strategy is the translation of first person terms. The singular first person indexical ‘I’ is representative of first person terms. So, in this dissertation I will focus on the translation of ‘I’. For the purpose of fulfilling the co-aboutness condition in de se communication, which term is a good translation of ‘I’? In order to answer this question, I introduce Worsnip’s analogy between the intrapersonal incoherence and interpersonal disagreement (Worsnip, 2019, pp. 252-259). Based on this analogy, I develop a further analogy between the intrapersonal de se inference and the interpersonal de se communication. This analogy gives us an important clue for looking for a good translation of ‘I’: if ‘X’ is a good translation of ‘I’, then the co-referential relation between ‘X’ and ‘I’ must closely imitate the co-referential relation between two tokens of ‘I’. So, the term whose co-referential relation with ‘I’ best imitates the co-referential relation between two tokens of ‘I’ is the translation of ‘I’ for which I am looking. This term, I argue, is ‘you’. The analogy between the ‘I-I’ same-saying and ‘I-You’ translation is sustained by three similarities. The first similarity is that the ‘I-I’ co-reference in de se inference and the ‘I-You’ co-reference in de se communication are both explained by explanations of the externalist approach, and their externalist explanations are analogous to one another. This similarity is the most important one of the three similarities. Why is there ‘I-You’ co-reference in de se communication? How does my ‘I’ co-refer with your ‘you’? I argue that the co-reference of ‘I-You’ translation is established by the match between the mutual recognition relation and the ‘I-You’ reciprocity in de se communication. The second similarity is that the ‘I-I’ co-reference is transparent to the producer of de se inference, just as the ‘I-You’ co-reference is transparent to the participants of de se communication. The third similarity is that both the ‘I-I’ co-reference and the ‘I-You’ co-reference are immune to the effect of misrepresentation. I articulate those three similarities. My articulation justifies the legitimacy of the analogy between ‘I-I’ same-saying and ‘I-You’ translation. In this articulation, I examine the ‘I-You’ translation by three criteria for determining the proper connection between translation and co-aboutness. After this examination, I conclude that the ‘I-You’ translation satisfies all three criteria. At the end of the dissertation, I provide my answer to the central question of this dissertation: when participating in a de se communication, we fulfill the co-aboutness requirement by using ‘I-You’ translation.
Keywordsde se communication, co-aboutness, co-reference, de se thought, first-person thought, essential indexical, immunity to error through mis-identification
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