Monday, September 19, 2005

Is "pretending" anti-factive?

Time for another survey of intuitions! Consider the following situation:

As part of a tasteless joke, Rob starts pretending that he's a blind person. From noon to 12:02 PM, he closes his eyes and wanders around the room with his hands outstretched. But at 12:01, a strange chemical reaction occurs in his eyes, permanently and totally destroying his ability to see. The reaction is painless, and he doesn't come to believe that anything is wrong with him until 12:02, when he opens his eyes. Until 12:02, he just keeps making jokes about blindness while wandering around the room with his eyes closed.

It seems pretty uncontroversial to me that Rob is pretending to be blind from 12:00 to 12:01. But here's the harder question: From 12:01 to 12:02, is Rob pretending to be blind?

I solicit opinions from philosophers and non-philosophers alike!

[Update]: As always, make up your mind before you look at the comments, so nobody taints your intuitions. Of course, if the comments convince you that you've misunderstood the question, feel free to rethink.

14 comments:

Justin said...

I say yes, he's pretending even though he's really blind. I could say more but I don't want to taint anyone else's intuitions.

Dennis said...

I say yes too -- I can pretend I have fashion sense, contrary to my beliefs about myself, even though it's possible that the algorithm that I use to dress myself constitutes fashion sense. I feel like pretending is fundamentally a state of mind and thus invariant under changes of fact.

Neil Sinhababu said...

Yeah, guys, that's my position too.

dadahead said...

Yes, my intuition is that he's pretending from 12:01 to 12:02. (The fact that he actually went blind just being a touch of irony, or maybe poetic justice. Or something. English majors, help me out.)

Brandon said...

Yes, he is. Imagine a blind guy "pretending to be blind" - that is, doing stereotypical and exaggerated behaviors attributed to blind people, like feeling around with his hands, moving his head side to side like Stevie Wonder. I think you could do this even though you've been blind from birth.

Josh said...

Three considerations:

(1) The word "pretend" derives from the Latin "praetendere", which means "to hold forth". The older use of the word means merely "to present a claim for consideration", so there clearly hasn't always been an anti-factive element to it. One hates to be a slave to etymology, but the history is at least suggestive.

(2) It seems to me that there's a distinction between "pretending to phi" and "merely pretending to phi". The addition of "merely" seems to dictate anti-factivity, which would create a difference only if "pretend" were not, in itself, already anti-factive.

(3) On the other hand, the adjectival use of "pretend", as in "a pretend gun", does seem to me to be anti-factive. Perhaps one can pretend that a gun is a gun (easiest, of course, when the first NP scopes out), but I don't think that leaves one with a pretend gun.

Pepper said...

I think I'll get Englishy here and take a walk on the wild side. He is not pretending to be blind from 12:01 to 12:02. It all depends on how much power you give the subject. What's more important, Rob or the blindness?

*Because we can't assume that the blindness BELONGS to Rob, it just happens in connection with him.

Just kidding! I'm with Brandon on this one, but I had to give propers to all the lit-critters who debate the existence of the subject.

www.dailypepper.com

Justin said...

2 things.

#1: Why do you ask? If you would rather wait and get a few more responses before you explain, that's understandable.

#2: I don't think pretending is anti-factive, but maybe it's "anti-doxastic"? That is, I think that maybe in order to pretend that P you need to not believe that P; and maybe you even need to believe that not P.

Pace Brandon, I don't think a blind guy can pretend to be blind if he knows he actually is. He can pretend to be *stereotypically* blind, or to be Stevie Wonder blind, but if he believes he's blind then I don't think he can literally pretend to be blind. The fact that Brandon had to put "pretending to be blind" in scare quotes to discuss the case is, I think, suggestive.

If this is right, then if you believe that P you can't pretend that P, although maybe you can "pretend" that P (scare quotes).

Here's a stronger claim: in order to pretend that P, not only must you not believe P, you must actually believe not P -- that is, you can't just be neutral on P, you have to take a stand against P.

Suppose that someone gives me a stone which is either real gold or fool's gold and I don't know which -- I remain neutral and form no belief one way or the other. Still, can I pretend that it's gold? Well, I can certainly act as if it is gold: treating it very carefully, not letting it out of my sight, etc. And I can do this in ways which are consistent with ordinary cases of pretending. For instance, I can treat it as a precious stone one minute and then stop treating it that way the next (just as I can treat the banana as a phone one minute and then return to reality, recognizing it as a banana, the next). It's not clear to me though that this should count as pretending that it's gold. In order to properly count as pretending it's gold, it may be that I have to believe that it's not gold -- here, believe that it's fool's gold instead. I haven't completely thought this second part through, though, so maybe I can be talked out of it.

Anonymous said...

I think that he is still pretending.

Neil Sinhababu said...

I can't exactly remember how it came up, but Martinich approvingly cited someone in a recent chapter (it might've been Kendall Walton) who said that you couldn't pretend that P, if P. So I presented him with the blind guy counterexample, and it seemed pretty good to him, but he wasn't entirely sure. I offered to blog it to get more feedback.

Walton doesn't want pretending to be anti-doxastic, and I'm somewhat sympathetic with his view. Here's an example I presented to Cory Juhl today: suppose Cory plays a make-believe game where he chases his kid, while the kid pretends that he's running away from a monster. Here I think I want to say that the kid believes he's running, even while he pretends he's running. Otherwise you have the following wacky consequence: The kid pretends he's running from a monster, but he doesn't pretend he's running.

A response to the view I've presented above might go as follows: the kid certainly imagines that he's running, but for an instance of imagining to count as pretending, you can't believe. (Maybe there's something else in there too -- pretending is more associated with physical motions than imagining is.) Then he can pretend he's running from a monster without pretending that he's running. Actually, maybe this is the better way to go.

Walton will probably be okay with this, since he'll be able to get all his work done with "imagining" instead. He talks the most about "make-believe", and I don't recall which mental state he thinks is the most fundamental. "Imagining" seems to me the best choice.

Jonathan said...

Walton has some funny ideas about pretense. He does think that there's this tight connection between imagining and pretending, but I think he's wrong, because of just what you say, Neil -- they're different kinds of things. Pretense is a kind of behavior, imagination is a kind of mental state. They're independent. I don't have to imagine in order to pretend.

In the case you give, I think he's definitely pretending.

Michael said...

He's still pretending for that last minute. Because he has his eyes closed, he lacks either a rebutting or an undercutting defeater for his (presumptive) belief that he could actually see if only he opened his eyes. There does not seem to be any epistemically reasonable way in which he could arrive at the belief (much less the knowledge) that he can't see while he has his eyes closed.

Tim said...

Yes, he was pretending the whole time. He couldn't have been pretending if he *thought* he was blind, but actually being blind doesn't bar him from pretending.

Tim

P.S.: Now I can go back to the comments and see if I'm just repeating the same old positionothers have made.

AJD said...

To be sure: is this a philosophical/epistemological question in some way I'm missing, or is it just a lexicographic/semantic question about the meaning of the English word pretend? I mean, I think we can easily imagine languages English-a and English-b which differ only in whether the word pretend can be true in any cases when the situation being enacted by the pretender is in fact true; is the only question here whether English is a or b?