Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Reductive ambitions (Part 2)

Okay, so my actual concern (massively delayed because I forgot to post it when I wrote it).

I've been thinking about reductive ambition.  Particularly I've been worrying about the responsibility that comes with reductive potential. 

I've been working on a conventionalist account of essential predication, through this, essential predications represent claims in the form conditionals.  The essential truths about x entail that it has certain (conventional) necessary properties in virtue of the kinds it is a member of.  In light of the revelations of the last blog post, at first I was only looking to provide a grounding for essential (and potentially modality) in conventions.  However, it soon became clear that the account has potential for a full reduction of the notion(s).  This in inconvenient, as a full reduction is no longer something that I'm all that fussed about, but if the potential is there then it seems like I have a responsibility to investigate further.  This seems odd, that reductive potential should result in reductive obligation even in cases where reduction isn't that desirable an outcome.

Now, maybe I'm just being silly.  Maybe my intuitions are out of whack and I'm making some big mistake by either rejecting reductive ambition, or then reluctantly accepting it as a result of reductive potential.  After all, there are other cases in which reductive potential doesn't lead to reductive obligation.  If you think the whole Lewisian realism jazz provides a full reductive analysis of modality but you think that the ontological burden is just to heavy, you don't go around lamenting the fact that you simply have to be a Lewisian. So what am I doing wrong here?  

1 comment:

  1. If I've understood your problem right, you feel like if you can reduce modality etc to conventions then it'd be unparsimonious not to because conventions are free. Unlike Lewis's other worlds, we've got conventions right here in the actual world. Making modality out of other stuff when we can make it out of stuff we already have would indeed be gratuitous.

    So you're right to see a disanalogy with Lewis's view. What I think you're missing is another difference: Lewis is a realist whereas conventionalism is anti-realist. Taking modal facts as fundamental, grounded or reducible is still being realistic about them, in a way that conventionalism isn't. If you're being anti-realist about I don't think you need to choose between reductionism and non-reductive grounding, because you're rejecting both.