4/07/2011

Moore's paradox (or something like it) in the mail

A few days ago, I received a postcard. On one side is a picture of Barack Obama, with the caption "I value your ongoing support," and a facsimile of his autograph. On the other side, it says "This communication is not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee."

Granted, this is not precisely Moore's paradox, but it seems close. (Hmm... what's the relationship between uttering P and uttering 'I authorize the communication of P'?)

Thoughts?

6 Comments:

At 7/4/11, Blogger Jonathan Livengood said...

They seem pretty different to me. If I do not authorize the communication that p, it is not necessarily the case that I do not endorse the claim that p. I might not want anyone to know that I endorse p, or I might not think it is appropriate to say out loud that I endorse p, or whatever.

Compare: (1) the CIA chief says, "It is the case that bin Laden is alive and in hiding, but I don't believe it" and (2) the CIA chief says, "It is the case that bin Laden is alive and in hiding, but I don't authorize communicating it."

(1) looks incoherent. (2) does not. I think there are circumstances in which (2) would be incoherent, but there are also circumstances in which (2) would be appropriate -- for example, in a briefing with intelligence officers before they are interviewed by members of the press.

 
At 8/4/11, Blogger Greg Frost-Arnold said...

Yes, that definitely seems right to me. And the converse direction doesn't work either: for example, if the CIA director was engaged in some sort of disinformation campaign, the director could authorize the communication of P, even if she would never utter an unembedded/ stand-alone token of P.

But there's *still* something weird about the card I got in the mail -- unless someone is engaging in a disinformation campaign... and admitting it publicly on the other side of the disinformation.

 
At 8/4/11, Blogger Jonathan Livengood said...

Nice. I wasn't sure if the converse worked or not, but your example is convincing. I agree that there is something odd about the card, but I really don't know what it is.

I wonder a bit how the triple -- authorized, unauthorized, disavowed (anti-authorized?) -- compares with the triple -- believed, not-believed, disbelieved (doubted). My suspicion is that not-believed is more powerful in Moore-like cases than not-authorized is.

There is also the further wrinkle that the card is published by a third party, and it is that third party that is saying the card is not authorized by Obama (or any other candidate). Even if it were a Moore-like case, we wouldn't get a paradox with a third-person statement. It's perfectly fine, for example, for me to say, "It's raining, but Kerrith doesn't believe it."

 
At 8/4/11, Blogger Greg Frost-Arnold said...

So let's replace 'authorize' with 'believe.'

But then this case is more like me playing a video of you (perhaps wearing a name tag) saying "It's raining," followed by me immediately saying 'No one named Livengood believes it's raining.' (Barack Obama is clearly a candidate.)

 
At 8/4/11, Blogger Jonathan Livengood said...

In your example, the statement isn't paradoxical, it's just false, right? That is, it seems like we have someone, call him S1, asserting that p and then another person, call her S2, asserting that S1 does not assert that p. What S2 asserts isn't paradoxical, it's just false. Or am I missing something?

 
At 3/5/11, Blogger Christina Dietz said...

Hahaha Very funny.

 

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