Andrzej Zaporowski: Changing Worlds. A Consequence of the Student-Teacher Interaction

Abstract: While facing one another, a student and a teacher already live in their culturally determined worlds. This means that these worlds are mediated by particular cultures, that is, the sets of beliefs and other propositional attitudes that direct and determine human actions, and that allow a human being to identify any concrete or abstract object. These cultures develop and/or transform according to the individual human experience, be it an interaction with the individual’s counterpart. The interaction in question is a two way interpretation which makes either configuration of these propositional attitudes change. In this respect, such an interpretation entails a use of the notion of falsification and the notion of metaphor. What is crucial is that there is no symmetry between the two sides of the interaction, so that the worlds in question may never meet. In this respect I want to pose two claims. (1) Changing one’s world is of essentially a pragmatic nature. (2) The interaction in question not necessarily leads to the commensurability of both worlds.

What do I mean when I use the expression “changing worlds”? When I use this item I do not simply mean the physical domain of concrete objects and/or the events to be registered there; I do not mean that domain in which a human being, a biological creature, lives. The term “world” suggests here rather a physical domain which is mediated by the mental domain attributed to the being in question on a theoretical level. Such a domain has been variously named. Let me appeal to two such names, that is, “form of life” and “Lebenswelt”. The first was used by Ludwig Wittgenstein, and the second has been utilised by many representatives of so-called antinaturalism and/or hermeneutics (including Alfred Schütz1). What is emphasised in both cases is that the physical world is not a finished product, and therefore cannot be perceived as an independent and objective entity. The notions of form of life and Lebenswelt thus instantiate the heritage of Immanuel Kant’s Copernican revolution. In this respect the physical realm is identified as such due to the human ability to abstract, associate and evaluate the things within it. And this ability cannot be simply reduced to the physical realm. What, then, I mean by the term “world” here is a physical domain of objects and/or events whose identity and mutual relations are determined by whatever the ability in question stems from.

So from what does this ability stem? One thing from which it undoubtedly stems is culture. There are, of course, various and contingent approaches to culture, and many are incommensurate one to another. The point is not to give up any such approach in the light of its contingency and incommensurability, however, but to choose one and use it consequently as a tool to solve a particular problem. Therefore, I will take culture to be a holistically defined set of propositional attitudes. Such a set emerges as a result of one’s various interactions with one’s counterparts and the physical world in general. The set is put in terms of a holism which suggests that its elements form a unity whilst at the same time being in a state of interdependence. The elements in question are called the desires, beliefs and intentions (and one might enumerate a number of other factors) which individual’s have. They are the beings we may postulate but their presence helps to explain or interpret various aspects of human behaviour which cannot be reduced to the simple operation of a reflex arc. What is their role is that they all collectively determine a huge portion of the human actions in a given human’s environment, so that a (wo)man is able to cope with the potentially alien surrounding environment.

On the one hand, such a set is changeable along a timeline. One attitude may be replaced by another , or the whole set may be enriched by the emergence of a new attitude. On the other hand, however, beliefs and intentions are stable, for they remain unchanged over a given period of time. Let me put this problem in terms of semantics. In this respect one should distinguish between the term “quale” and the term “attitude”. The former refers to a singular and contingent sensation of an object or an event in the physical world, whereas the latter gives an account of an ability to associate many such sensations, and therefore allows of an identification of the object or the event. The stability of an attitude is then a result of a process of generalisation and verification. Still, the changeability of the set of attitudes and the stability of a particular attitude should be taken together. In this respect culture can be viewed as a dynamic structure which provides one with predictable responses to potentially unpredictable situations. Yet, one thing should be emphasised here.

Whilst discussing the characteristics of culture, the question arises if culture is of a communal or individual nature? What I claim is that it is both natures that are at stake. The point is not to privilege either of them but to define the relation between the two. On the one hand, a human being becomes a cultural creature through the process of socialisation (or enculturation), and this process is essentially of a communal nature. To learn a language (a mother tongue) or another ability based on some rules is always a social issue. On the other hand, however, there is not just a single community in which to participate. It is especially visible when considering the later stages of one’s life. A human being deals not only with the members of their family – and even in this case an interaction with one’s mother differs from an interaction with one’s father etc – but with plenty of other human beings who possibly belong to various communities. Since an interaction results in an emergence of newer and newer attitudes or reshaping of one’s set of such attitudes, one’s participation in various and simultaneous interactions makes one’s set of propositional attitudes quite unique. In this respect culture should be investigated at the level of individuals.

There is more to this. As I have written, the propositional attitudes are postulated beings, so they cannot be investigated directly. Therefore, what is usually proposed in such cases is a piece of evidence to be registered. And it is the “concrete” human being and not “abstract” society that provides such a piece of evidence. In fact, it is the human being’s verbal and/or non-verbal actions which give an account of the postulated attitudes. An example of such an action may be an utterance. The problem is that the postulated nature of the attitudes makes them difficult to articulate through speech. Therefore the interpreter is often in trouble while trying to reconstruct another speaker’s culture. (I do not want to discuss the problem or the process of reconstruction here.) Still, the verbal and nonverbal actions are the only evidence the interpreter has. This is why the individual level is so crucial when dealing with a culture and then with the world composed of so many cultures.

It is then the individual whom one should approach while investigating the cultural realm, which in turn determines the identification of the world. What is, however, the nature of this determination? One should bear in mind that the individual can be approached in two independent ways. What is at stake are two kinds of vocabulary, that is, the physical vocabulary and the mental vocabulary. The former is usually used to show a human being as a biological entity which adapts to their environment. The human being’s actions are of a reflexive nature, and this makes the being in question only react to various stimuli registered by the being’s nervous system. Such a behaviour is then typical in a sense that a stimulus identical to itself evokes a physical reaction identical to itself (in an organ or tissue) on any occasion, given the conditions are identical at the point of time of this occasion happening. On the other hand, the being in question may be approached by means of their mental vocabulary, which results in making the being’s actions be determined by the presence of the propositional attitudes mentioned above. In this respect one may recall the notion of so-called intentional action. In this case the behaviour ceases to be typical and is viewed in terms of individuality (or exceptionality).

Before I go further I need to note one of the most significant problems of introducing the mental vocabulary. More precisely, what is at stake is a query if the mental can be reduced to the physical. Can, for example, the mental processes be reduced to the processes of the brain? The point is that a human being’s behaviour is generally defined in terms of actions. (These actions are in turn events.) There seem to be no problem when the physical vocabulary is used. Since one agrees that there are the cause and effect chains to explain the human’s behaviour, one understands that the actions described in the homogeneous physical vocabulary – vide the reflex arc – become the evidence to support an appropriate law or hypothesis. However, what happens when one introduces the mental vocabulary and claims that the actions (events) described in the mental vocabulary enter (under such a description) into the cause and effect relation with the physical actions (events)? In other words, how to solve the problem of causality (or causation) between the physical and the mental? To answer these questions I need to say the following.

According to Donald Davidson all events are given under the physical description. As such they may enter into a type connection. Some of them, however, may be also given under the mental description. What Davidson distinguishes here is a causal relation and a descriptive relation. The former deals with events as such. For it is the notion of an event that is of a unitary and homogenous nature. Therefore, whatever kind of a property of an event is at stake it is the event as such that can enter into the causal relation. On the other hand, there emerges a dualism between the two kinds of description. Here one deals with the physical description and the mental description. What is the relation between the two? Davidson applies a widely discussed argument of supervenience here2. According to one of his latest definitions “a predicate p is supervenient on a set of predicates S if and only if p does not distinguish any entities that cannot be distinguished by S” (Davidson, 2005, 187). If this is so, then through the physical description and the mental description one refers to the same entity (that is, the event). If the physical vocabulary were the only option, then the appearance of an individual event could be explained by the typical characteristics of such an event. The point is, however, that the mental vocabulary is not of a typical but of a token (individual) nature, and the typical and the token are not formally commensurable. In this respect the mental is not reducible to the physical3. Now if the event is given under the mental description, then it can as such enter into the causal relation with, say, the physical event. The reason is that the kind of description is irrelevant to the causal power of this event. However, as one can notice, what this relation lacks is that it is not typical; instead it becomes a token connection (being an instance of a lawlike one). Yet, it is worth paying the cost of losing the typical nature of the mental-physical connection to save the causal nature of the mental event and the irreducibility of the mental to the physical.

Still, one thing should be clarified in this respect. It would be a simplification to say that a human being “has” or “possesses” propositional attitudes. In fact, this being takes them. For example, when one experiences rain during the wet season one takes a negative desire to leave one’s shelter. On the other hand, while experiencing rain during the dry season one takes the contrary desire. In this respect one does not have (or possess) a single attitude but takes it twice4. (I should note that taking an attitude is of a gradual nature.) Imagine that taking such an attitude amounts to performing one of at least two actions, which is the mental action (event). One may now perform a physical action as a result of a mental action (and, say, leave one’s shelter). Is the relation between the mental and the physical necessary or contingent? Obviously, the latter is the case. However, it is only the case when noticing a separate connection. Since a physical event is an evidence of the presence of a mental entity, the more physical events identical to themselves occur in the same circumstances, the more regularity of the mental-physical connection can be assumed. Therefore, although taking a particular attitude is contingent, a series of pieces of evidence may prove the stability of this attitude. For the mental event, that is, taking an attitude, is causally linked with the physical event, be it an utterance, when giving an account of the presence of this attitude. There is one more remark in this respect. Since no attitude is present separately and is taken holistically, a singular physical event is the evidence of the presence of the whole set of attitudes.

Now, in what respect do the worlds (mentioned in the first paragraph) change? Let’s remember that these worlds are mediated by sets of propositional attitudes holistically defined. In any given set, a propositional attitude has its propositional content, so that the attitude can be identified. Such a content is a function of the attitude discussed and the remaining attitudes with which it forms a holistic set. For example, if an imaginable set is composed of the attitudes A, B, C and D, then the propositional content of A is the function (the equivalence) of A and the conjunction of B, C and D. The same can be said about the propositional content of either B, C or D. The change of the set amounts, then, to the change of the contents in question. Imagine that, under relevant circumstances, D vanishes or D is replaced by E. The propositional content of A will be altered in either case. My hunch is that such an alteration is in possibly permanent progress. However, the intensity and the extent of the alteration in question may vary from set to set; for the question arises what is the factor behind the change of one’s world? My claim is that it is the evidence that makes one’s configuration of attitudes alter. What in turn is the evidence?

My claim is that it is a stream of the physical events among which one may find verbal and non-verbal actions. Some events may inform one about the condition of the surrounding environment. This is how an inhabitant of the northern hemisphere has learned that in January it is usually cold and in July it is usually hot, while an inhabitant of the southern hemisphere has learned the opposite. In this respect either of them may have believed, expected or desired something based on their learning process. However, the relevant set of their attitudes may have changed in either case due to the so-called global warming. The evidence may have proved the stability of the previous experience false. On the other hand, one should bear in mind that either inhabitant in question may have not only observed some seasonal anomalies but have also heard some scholars and commonsense diagnoses prophesying the global warming. The point is that (1) some seasonal anomaly may not prove a constant process, while a diagnosis may convince one to believe the opposite, and (2) one confronts various kinds of evidence, say, the fluctuation of the air temperature and the spoken accounts of the damaging effects of the emission of a huge volume of CO2 to the atmosphere. Both (1) and (2) prove that the evidence should be taken as a whole and that it contains some evaluation. Let me therefore focus on the latter element for a while.

What does this diagnosis in question amount to? Are not the verbal (and sometimes non-verbal) actions that play the crucial role here? Certainly, they are. Now, on what basis does one produce such a diagnosis. It may be one’s knowledge gained during a long lasting and detailed study of the climate change. Thus it may be in one’s corporate or political or even personal interest to make the public pay attention to an artificial problem. Whatever case is at stake, one thing is common. One’s verbal and non-verbal actions are causally linked with one’s decisions, calculations, changes of belief and observations, which are one’s mental actions. These in turn are performed due to one’s appropriate configuration of one’s propositional attitudes. More precisely, since the actions are given in terms of a cause and effect connection, while the attitudes are given in terms of the conditional relation5, one should imagine a two dimensional picture of how one’s verbal (or non-verbal) action is determined. On the one hand, one may disbelieve some report postulating the global warming due to one’s data collection and a variety of reports contradicting the global warming and decide not to get rid of one’s car producing a significant volume of CO2 and, as a consequence, drive it day after day. On the other hand, such a disbelief is understandable only in the light of one’s having belief in, say, the authority which reports that the climate is not going to change, where one’s having this belief is conditioned by one’s having the intention to rely, say, on such an authority. This intention may be in turn conditioned by a desire to belong to a community led by some authority6. The point is that disbelieving or driving is not understandable until the (wider) realm of the propositional attitudes is recognised7. Still, the act of driving is nevertheless an evidence of such a belief.

Therefore, the relation between the realm of the attitudes and the events (or actions) can be called an explanation8 or an interpretation. In this respect an event (an action) is the evidence of a set of propositional attitudes9. Yet, one thing needs to be clarified. What I mean is the difference between noticing one’s own actions and the actions performed by one’s counterparts. In the former case, the mental actions rather than the physical ones are at stake. This is, e.g., Wittgenstein’s perspective. In the latter case, it is only the physical actions that are acceptable as the evidence. This is, e.g., Willard Van Orman Quine’s perspective10. Since this paper deals with an interpersonal interaction, I take Quine’s perspective and propose the following. Let me simplify the problem for the sake of this paper and introduce two human beings, X and Y respectively, who enter into an interpersonal interaction based on the verbal and non-verbal actions which are the evidence of both X’s and Y’s sets of propositional attitudes, where these attitudes rationalise the actions in question. Let me think of such an interaction as a two way interpretation which results in a possible change of both X’s and Y’s worlds.

What happens in such a case? Imagine X utters something, that is, produces an utterance. X not only directly means something by it. X also expresses an attitude or a set of attitudes, although no single attitude is exposed in this utterance. Anyway, X acts while uttering. Such an action is then interpreted by Y who, among others, confronts it with a set of (Y’s) attitudes trying to rationalise it. X’s utterance is interpreted if, and only if, apart from revealing the proper meaning of this utterance, Y finds it to be conditioned by Y’s set of propositional attitudes. To be able to do this Y’s set needs to be temporarily stable, so that the utterance in question is identified. As a result Y reacts to X’s utterance by producing Y’s utterance (or a non-verbal action). Now, it is X who interprets Y’s action. The picture shows then two creatures who act physically and mentally as a result of interpersonal interaction. On the one hand, there is a two way chain of physical events, that is, a series of verbal and non-verbal actions. On the other hand, there are the two chains of mental events, that is, a separate series of guesses, calculations and identifications that form the process of interpretation (or explanation). There are consequently two chains of physical events and two chains of mental events given in terms of their cause and effect relation. In particular, there are two interpretations which are caused by the relevant verbal and non-verbal actions, and which in turn cause the relevant verbal and non-verbal actions.

A significant problem arises in this respect. The question is if there is a mirror symmetry between X’s and Y’s interpretations. My guess is that it is possible but improbable. Since the interpretation depends on an exceptional configuration of either set of the propositional attitudes and a personal flexibility to associate various events, both X and Y interpret one another’s actions in a possibly different way. There emerges, then, an asymmetry of interpretations. This problem is accompanied by another problem. Does the interpretation leave the configuration of attitudes unchanged? I would argue it does not. Of course, it is a degree of personal (or intellectual) flexibility to change one’s configuration of attitudes in the light of varying evidence, but it is the evidence in question that makes such a change possibly happen. Otherwise neither the development of a self nor the process of learning could be understandable. It is then the interpretation that allows one to rearrange one’s configuration of attitudes.

On the one hand, when Y interprets X’s utterance, Y confronts a presupposed attitude(s) involved in this utterance with Y’s own attitudes. As long as this confrontation is successful, Y maintains Y’s attitudes. Yet, X’s utterance, while produced constantly from occasion to occasion, may falsify one or more of Y’s attitudes. For example, when asked what time it is now, Y may respond to X in a way which X does not accept. If this happens once, there need not be any problem, for it may happen that Y has just returned from a place with a different time zone. However, if there appears a constant discrepancy between X’s and Y’s watch readings, Y may come to an assumption that Y’s watch has broken down, and therefore stop believing that Y’s watch is reliable. It is then the notion of falsification that gives an account of a source of a possible change of one’s configuration of the propositional attitudes. There is, however, one more instance. What I mean here is the importance of the metaphor in the process of changing one’s world.

To address the problem of metaphor I need to make one specification. When talking about interpretation I have focused on the role the set of propositional attitudes play. However, interpretation cannot be limited only to this role. In fact, Y’s understanding of X’s utterance involves two elements. These are (1) the propositional attitude and (2) meaning. Only when they both are taken into account can the process of interpretation be fully described. The point is that the role of meaning has often been overestimated, while the role of propositional attitude has concurrently been underestimated in various trials to describe the process in question. This is one of the reasons why I pay so much attention to the latter element in this paper. Still, what does it has to do with metaphor? Well, basically metaphor is defined linguistically. In other words, it is usually put in terms of its meaning. Let me, however, be more precise. When addressing the notion of metaphor one distinguishes the literal meaning and the metaphorical meaning. Since metaphor is a relation between the two incommensurable contexts of the reference of a sentence an utterance expresses, one takes each context in terms of the literal meaning while taking both contexts in terms of their metaphorical meaning. For example, when X says “You are an angel”, X literally means that there is a realm of the mortals and an incommensurable realm of the immortals. At the same time X takes the characteristics of the former in terms of the characteristics of the latter. Such a metaphorical shift allows one to overcome the gap between the incommensurable realms, but the question arises if the notion of the metaphorical meaning is meaningful.

The starting point is to answer the question what is signified by the word “meaning” . Let me presuppose that meaning is a relation defined by the notion of identity or translation. In this respect it is given in terms of necessity. The reason is that meaning is a domain of language, where language is an abstract entity. Such an entity is unchangeable. More, there is a variety of such entities. One may, of course, change the meaning of a sentence, but this results in one’s shifting from one language to another language. What metaphor results in then is that one language often clashes with another. Therefore one acts. And such an action produces a contingent relation, although there is no language based on the contingent relations. In this respect so called metaphorical meaning is nothing but an illusion of a linguistic realm. Instead there emerges the realm of propositional attitudes that are taken up. More precisely, it is the notion of the use of a sentence or the notion of taking an attitude which gives an account of the possibility of shifting from one language to another language. In this respect the notion of metaphor is not of a descriptive but (rather) of an active nature11.

Therefore, if the implementation of falsification and the use of metaphor play an important role in the process of interpretation, then interpretation is a sort of training. On the one hand, falsification reminds one of calculation or checking. One may falsify various things (like expectations or promises) as spontaneously as one speaks one’s mother tongue. There are, however, situations where a more ordered process of falsification is required. What I mean is a research process which includes a construction of a series of hypotheses. In this respect one has to learn a methodical falsification of such generalisations. Still, the common feature in both cases is that falsification allows one to free oneself from a possibly dogmatic way of thinking (about either an expectation or a hypothesis). On the other hand, the notion of metaphor is linked with the notion of imagination. Some people may be believed to be blessed with a vivid imagination, but there is also a more or less methodical process of improving this quality, which is, e.g., reading poetry. What using metaphors allows of is producing new and unexpected pictures of the world or the self which push many of us to create new and unexpected things that change our lives. (I should add, however, that such changes may have various and often dangerous results.) Now let me take falsification and use of metaphor to be the two poles between which one moves when identifying the world and oneself. It can be pictured as a simultaneous production and falsification of metaphors. This is one of the results of an acceptance of Kant’s Copernican revolution.

It should be clear now that one’s ability to falsify and to think metaphorically can be modelled. If then interpretation strongly depends on both these elements, it can be modelled too. The benefit is the creativity of one’s mental actions and, consequently, productivity of one’s physical actions. This is then the moment to implement the two agents involved in the training in question, that is, a student and a teacher. One should remember, however, that the relation of such a training is of an asymmetric nature (for this training is an instance of the interpretation). In this case the teacher’s competence (of interpreting) is deeper than the student’s. And the teacher’s role is to deepen the student’s competence. What is crucial in this respect is that it does not matter who calls whom a teacher or a student. The point is to look at it from the point of view of a result of interaction between two particular individuals. Those who have deepened their competence are the students, and those who deepened their counterparts’ competence are the teachers. However, what does the process (of deepening the competence in question) amount to? What I mean is a mutual process of interpretation where the teacher (T) makes T’s actions possibly understandable to the student (S) who responds possibly understandably to T. This process should not, however, amount to simply S’s following T’s rule of acting which results in S’s repeating what T does. In such a case neither falsification nor use of metaphor can be applied. It is especially T’s responsibility to be open to S’s checks, doubts and experiments when interpreting T’s actions. On the other hand, S’s reactions should be controlled to a degree that allow S to master some regularity of behaviour. In short, the balance between these two extremes should be kept.

It is also essential to say that it is not T’s expectations to be always met. It may happen that the process of teaching results in S’s action (or series of action) that make T learn something new from S. In such a case, S would become T whereas T would become S, even if this happened for a while. In this respect I would like to note the following. One should imagine there is no separate or single T – S relation. Instead, there is a plenitude of such relations (R1, R2, …, Rn). Now suppose that the one who plays the T role in R1, plays the S role in R2, where R1 occurs at t, and R2 occurs at t+. (Imagine a teacher of history becoming a student of engineering.) In such a situation T in R1 needs to agree taking T’s propositional attitudes in R1 with S in R2 taking S’s propositional attitudes in R2. The point is to see a single human being who plays various roles from time to time. As a result such a being is defined in terms of their flexibility and motion. An additional remark in this respect is that the more roles this being plays, the more possibilities there are of various ways of an interpretation clash emerging (which is conducive to deepening one’s competence).

Such an instance strengthens the claim that the asymmetry between S and T in Rk is maintained12. In this respect a question arises what is the consequence of the interaction between S and T in Rk. Let me remark the following. What I claim is that both worlds are mediated by the appropriate change in the collection of attitudes either S or T takes. The degree to which such worlds can change depends on the flexibility one has to falsify one’s old images and to imagine one’s new images. On the one hand, S can learn to improve S’s interpretations of T’s actions, and implement them in new and often unexpected situations in the absence of T. S can also learn to be freer and freer in interpreting newer and newer actions performed by newer and newer agents. On the other hand, T can confront their previous knowledge with what they have experienced while entering into an interaction with S. For example, T can improve T’s strategies of teaching. In this respect T may pay more attention to teaching S how to avoid mistakes rather than how to repeat a particular action. T may also become more aware of how not to spoil S’s cognitive sensitivity and creativity. Anyway, both S’s and T’s worlds possibly alter as a result of the clashing of the old ways of taking particular attitudes with the new ways. The confrontation between the old attitudes and the new attitudes also make their worlds change. For example, an authority oriented belief may be replaced with a rationality oriented belief. What is crucial, then, is that the new worlds are better worlds, so that both S and T become more reflective and creative, and not more cynical and destructive.

An important aspect of the consequence in question is that these worlds probably never meet. Of course, a process of mutual interpretation is conducive to mutual understanding. However, under the concrete circumstances such an interpretation is limited in time. Moreover, the relation in question is overlapped with other relations many of which are not composed of the S – T one. This makes either agent’s actions be rooted in the holistically defined set of various relations of their unique history. This suggests that the biographies of both S and T differ. S’s previous experiences are not coextensive with T’s ones. It is therefore not only the sole nature of a role of the teacher or a role of the student that makes the worlds in question be separated. However, what makes the relation in question come alive is a remnant of one’s facing a stranger who has changed one’s world. In this respect such a remnant should evoke a feeling of satisfaction rather than failure. For the more frequently the former feeling is evoked, the more stable the positive attitude to the world is.

Therefore changing worlds is the consequence of the student-teacher interaction. How can I conclude then? There are two final points I want to make. The first is that it is the mental and the physical actions causally chained that put the worlds in question in motion. Since the propositional attitudes are involved in these actions, they make this process be of a pragmatic nature. To change one’s world means to perform a series of actions by an appeal to one’s beliefs, intentions, desires and so on. The first point then is closely linked with the second one. One should be aware of the possible effects of one’s actions towards one’s counterpart. For the actions in question may contribute to either ruining or enriching the counterpart’s world. The more then one is aware of this fact, the more one is entitled to play the teacher’s role.


Davidson, Donald; 1984, What Metaphors Mean, w: Donald Davidson, Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 245-264.

Davidson, Donald; 2005, Thinking Causes, w: Donald Davidson, Truth, Language, and History, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp 185-200.

Kim, Jaegwon; 2005, Physicalism, or Something Near Enough, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.

Kripke, Saul A.; 1982, Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


I mention Schütz here for it is he who emphasizes the difference between Lebenswelt and Lebensumwelt. While the former is to mean a world which has been experienced or mediated through our mind, the latter is to mean a world around us which is still alien – as not yet experienced or mediated.


From among a range of scholars who deal with this argument one may mention Jaegwon Kim. He is the one who opposes Davidson’s position. Kim defines supervenience as follows: “Mental properties strongly supervene on physical/biological properties. That is, if any system s instantiates a mental property M at t, there necessarily exists a physical property P such that s instantiates P at t, and necessarily anything instantiating P at any time instantiates M at that time” (Kim, 2005, 33). When the causality (causation) is at stake, Kim postulates the so-called functional reduction according to which a mental property (e.g. being in pain) is to be reduced to a physical property (say, electrical activity in a certain cortical zone). Such a reduction takes two steps. Step one is to functionalize the mental property, that is, “to show that being in pain is definable as being in a state (or instantiating a property) that is caused by certain inputs (i.e., tissue damage, trauma) and that in turn causes certain behavioral and other outputs (i.e., characteristic pain behaviors, a sense of distress, a desire to be rid of it)” (Kim, 2005, 24). Step two amounts to looking for what Kim calls its “realizers”. “Thus, for pain, we look for an internal state in an organism that is caused to instantiate by tissue damage and trauma and whose instantiation in turn causes characteristic pain behaviors (and possibly outputs of other kinds)” (Kim, 2005, 24). The electrical activity in question is such a “realizer”. Among the mental properties there are the so called cognitive/intentional properties like belief or intention. According to Kim they also are “supervenient on behavior and other observable physical facts” (Kim, 2005, 166). Although he adds: “This does not mean that we are now, or ever will be, in a position to produce neat functional definitions for complex and multifaceted capacities and properties like belief, desire, and emotion” (Kim, 2005, 167). At the same time only qualia resist reducibility to the physical. For me the difference between Davidson and Kim is that while the former takes the semantic perspective the latter takes the ontological one. Even if I sympathize with Davidson I offer an alternative view on supervenience.

3 It seems to me that it is a result of a critical viewing of Gottlob Frege’s distinction between Sinn and Bedeutung (where various senses of a proposition are confronted with its one reference).

4 In this respect I want to distinguish a culture from a human being. The former is given in terms of propositional attitudes, whereas the latter is given in terms of actions, some of which amount to taking these attitudes. There is, however, an interdependence between the attitudes and the actions. This means that a mental action instantiates an attitude. Obviously, such a relation cannot be separated from the conditions in which the action is performed.

5 I appeal to the notion of the conditional relation (or the conditional as such) to make one aware of the fact that the propositional attitudes are the postulated entities. In this respect a presence of one attitude is possible to imagine only in the light of a presence of a multiplicity of other attitudes where one attitude conditions other attitudes while at the same time being conditioned by them. Such a vocabulary is necessary to make account of the presence of the postulated beings. The notion of the conditional needs to be distinguished from the notion of the function discussed above. The latter deals with the content and not the attitude as such.

6 At the same time I want to stress that such a conditioning should not be taken in the linear way. In fact, it is the notion of the net or the web rather than the notion of linearity that helps to understand the multiplicity of the conditional relations.

7 In fact, an attitude can be called a disposition to act. I make this comment not to confuse an intentional action and a reflexive one.

8 It is, among others, Davidson who calls such an explanation rationalization. I am also appealing to the notion of interpretation (1) to distinguish between the two kinds of knowledge and (2) not to prejudge the relation between these kinds.

9 If one appealed to the notion of explanation here, one could use the term “explanandum” (or “explicandum”) to name the set of actions (events) and the term “explanans” (or “explicans”) to name the set of propositional attitudes. One could also say that the former is conditioned by the latter.

10 This distinction was made by Saul A. Kripke who focuses on the problem of meaning rather than attitude while discussing the problem of private language raised by Wittgenstein. Still, this difference is of a secondary nature here. Kripke writes: “Quine (…) is more than content to assume that only behavioral evidence is to be admitted into his discussion. Wittgenstein, by contrast, undertakes an extensive introspective investigation, and the results of the investigation (…) form a key feature of his argument. Further, the way the skeptical doubt is presented is not behavioristic. It is presented from the inside. Whereas Quine presents the problem about meaning in terms of a linguist, trying to guess what someone else means by his words on the basis of his behavior, Wittgenstein’s challenge can be presented to me as a question about myself: was there some past fact about me (…) that mandates what I should do now?”(Kripke, 1982, 14-15).

11 Let me quote Davidson in this respect: “What distinguishes metaphor is not meaning but use – in this it is like assertion, hinting, lying, promising, or criticizing. And the special use to which we put language in metaphor is not – cannot be – to ‘say something’ special, no matter how indirectly. For a metaphor says only what shows on its face – usually a patent falsehood or an absurd truth. And this plain truth or falsehood needs no paraphrase – its meaning is given in the literal meaning of the words” (Davidson, 1984, 259).

12 One could presuppose a symmetrical relation between S(T) and T(S) if there was a number of the parallel relations in question, where S in R1 corresponds to T in R2 as T in R1 corresponds to S in R2 and so on. But this would require an equivalence of the depth of competence of both S(T) and T(S) at any stage of any pair of mutual interpretations, e.g., R1 and R2. I skip this theoretical possibility for the sake of this paper.