Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Subjectivism and Counteractual Dependence
My computer is still dead, but there are plans in place that might revive it. In the meantime, bear with me on the slow email, the rare blog-post, and the increasingly-behind OPP. Also, here are some thoughts about subjectivity and counterfactual and counteractual dependence. Here's a first-pass account of subjectivity: if you're a subjectivist about property A, then you think that whether A is true of something or other counterfactually depends on facts about the person judging, or the society, or whatever it is that your subjectivity is indexed to. So, if you're a subjectivist about MORALLY RIGHT, then you think that whether the invasion of Iraq was morally right counterfactually depends on the values of the person making the judgment, or of society at large, or whatever. Likewise, if you're a subjectivist about RED, you think that whether an object is red depends counterfactually on the way most people experience it. Nobody's that kind of a subjectivist about RED, as far as I know. Instead, it's natural to treat RED as rigidly indexed to the actual perceivers; something is red iff it is such that it would cause redness sensations in the actual normal perceivers. So there's no counterfactual dependence; if people were wired differently, (maybe) they would experience human blood with greenish sensations, but blood would still be red. People would see red things as green. So is color objective after all? It is on the account I gave above, along with the rigid index view (which seems right to me). But what if we start thinking about other kinds of dependence than counterfactual dependence? What about counterACTUAL dependence? Whether an object is red does not counterfactually depend on facts about perceivers' experience, but it does counteractually so depend. If, contrary to our evidence, things emitting wavelength frequencies of 650 nm (you know, things like stop signs and human blood) cause green sensations in normal perceivers, then stop signs and human blood are green. So there's some sense in which colors, even when indexed to the actual world, depend on facts about the experience of perceivers. This suggests to me that subjectivism comes in different stripes, or may be even ambiguous. There's a useful notion of subjectivism that is about counteractual dependence, in addition to the one about counterfactual dependence.