Stevie Wonder – the internalist

I’m a huge fan of sixties and seventies soul. I also love many of these songs for their lyrics. Some of them offer philosophical insights in a style that few philosophers are able to even come close. Here’s a great example from Stevie Wonder.

Here’s part of the lyrics for a song called ‘To Know You Is to Love You’ Wonder wrote for his wife Syreeta Wright:

"To know you is to love you
But to know me is not that way you see
‘Cause you made me so happy
That my love for you grows endlessly
When I’m sad and feelin’ down
You always comfort me
Baby to know you is to love you
Is to see you bein’ free as the wind
‘Cause the power of your lovin’
Is too strong to hold within
I know you and I think I love you
I know you and I think I love you
I know you and I can feel our love
just growing, growing, baby
"

The song is on Syreeta Wright’s 1972 album called ‘Syreeta’ on Motown’s subsidiary label Mowest. She sings it with Stevie Wonder as duet. It’s all very wonderful and emotional. Their love is just tangible in their vocals and in the Wonder’s wonderful orchestral, lush production.  I wish I could play it here.

The philosophical point of course is the open acceptance of internalism. To be in the state of knowing you is to be in the state of loving you which supposedly is to be in an emotive and motivational state. Has any philosophers put this better?

As always there is a tragic point to these songs. The view goes beyond the normal judgment-internalism and towards accepting Mackie’s ‘queer’ properties that have ‘to-be-doneness’ inbuilt. You have the loveable properties because of which knowing you is loving you. on the other hand lack them and therefore knowing me is not loving me – ‘it’s not that way’. You see?

22 Replies to “Stevie Wonder – the internalist

  1. You have the loveable properties because of which knowing you is loving you.
    Unless of course love is de re, as it probably is. In that case to love a person is not equivalent to loving something that satisfies the function ‘x is P0 & P1 & P2’, where P0, P1 and P2 are the loveable properties. In the latter case, loved one’s are replaceable by any other being that satisfies the same function or has the right properties. Not so in the former case. But discovering that your loved one has been replaced by Lewisian duplicate–indiscernable in qualitative properties–might affect your feelings toward that being (it certainly would mine).

  2. Well, it could be that the properties the knowing of which is to love the person who has them are properties that can be known only by acquintance and not by description. In that case, I wouldn’t be acquinted by the properties of the Lewisian dublicate as I am with the object of my love. The properties could also include ones that have indexicality to them – shared experiences and history and the like which the dublicate could not have.

  3. Anal responses: First, “To know you is to love you” is hardly an original phrase with Wonder. Heck, Phil Spector wrote the hit “To Know Him Is To Love Him” in 1958, so it’s not even original as a song title. Second, it’s a huge stretch to think Wonder (or Spector) have any deep philosophical ideas in mind here. Just as we say “seeing is believing” while not thinking that the is of identity is being used, one can say “to know him is to love him” to emphasize just how great a guy someone is. It is just a more literary way of saying “he’s such a great guy that everyone who knows him loves him.” That’s really not all that deep at all.

  4. The properties could also include . . . shared experiences and history and the like which the dublicate could not have.
    Aren’t these relations? Anyway, why quibble. It’s difficult see how S’s loveable “properties” might include the “property” of S’s sharing experience E with me or S’s sharing history H with me. That’s what’s supposed to be loveable about S? I’m guessing that’s probably mistaken. As Smith ages most of his memories about his relations to loved ones might be wrong or missing. He does not recall the history at all, but he has not forgotten them, and certainly he might continue to love them. Note that I’m not talking about what might have caused Smith to love X, those might be properties of X or Smith’s relations to X. I am talking about what it is that Smith loves: and that I claim is X and not the being x such that x has properties F1x & F2x or stands in relations xR1Smith, etc.

  5. The internalism thesis is supposed to be a *platitude* in our normative language. Every competent speaker is supposed to be guided by that thought in their attribution of normative judgments to others. It’s not supposed to be a philosophical thesis. Wittgenstein would of course question whether there are any philosophical thesis at all.
    Most philosophers too have espoused the thesis in one form or another from Plato onwards. That the thesis is so ingrained in our popular culture seems to support the thesis. The important question though is how to express it. I prefer this formulation to the formalisations. Phil Spector, by the way, got the song title from his father’s grave’s inscription. I also like the Syreeta song much more than the Teddy Bears one.

  6. Mike,
    I’m not sure about the first point. Say that I met someone who looked and thought exactly alike someone I love but did not share the same history with me as the person I love. I think the shared history would be one reason I loved my loved one and not the other person.
    Here’s a question about the object/properties issue. Imagine that one night while you were asleep a secret society killed everyone you loved and replaced them with identical, indiscernible, replicants. When you woke up everything was just as it was before and your life would continue as normal. Would you no longer love anyone or would you love as many people as before? I’d say the former. But now it cannot be the case that you love the same objects.

  7. Jussi, I agree with this,
    I think the shared history would be one reason I loved my loved one and not the other person.
    That’s the causal claim. Agreed, the history can be part of the reason you love person P. You write,
    Imagine that one night while you were asleep a secret society killed everyone you loved and replaced them with identical, indiscernible, replicants. When you woke up everything was just as it was before and your life would continue as normal. Would you no longer love anyone or would you love as many people as before? I’d say the former. But now it cannot be the case that you love the same objects.
    Nice example, Jussi, even if a little gruesome. Did you mean to say that you’d say the latter rather than the former? I’m guessing so. I, on the other hand, would say the former. You do not love those beings. You love other beings and you mistakenly believe that these are those. Consider another case. Your wife has an indiscernable twin whose husband is indiscernable from you. One day you mistake the twin for your wife. You spend time t1-tn with the twin, never noticing that this is not your wife. You don’t want to say, do you, that during t1-tn the person you love is the twin? I’m sure you don’t. You rather falsely believe that the twin is the one you love. I don’t deny that the emotion is genuine, or that you are acting in a loving way toward the twin during t1-tn, but I do deny that she is the person you love.

  8. Mike,
    this is great. I think I accept the first claim as a normative reason about good reasons and not one about causes. Love seems to be a positive emotion (all these philosophical claims sound really silly for some reason). Part of what seems to speak for these emotions are for instance how the other person has treated me on earlier occasions.
    Yes – I meant the latter. Thanks for charity. Something you did not spot though in the example. Those other things were killed and destroyed. They no longer exist. So you cannot have attitudes towards them. This would imply that your loving attitudes thereafter would be Evansian illusions of thought. That would be an interesting view. I’d still love the replicates.
    Examples about my wife are little hard to imagine… In the twin-case, well, if the twin was indiscernible not only in looks but in all her thoughts including her memories about the past experiences with me, I think I would love her.

  9. Examples about my wife are little hard to imagine… In the twin-case, well, if the twin was indiscernible not only in looks but in all her thoughts including her memories about the past experiences with me, I think I would love her.
    Now I know you’re kidding. You wouldn’t do anything of the sort. Modify the case: your wife shows up. Now what? You love both?

  10. No I’m not. If they both showed up and they really were indiscernible I would be very confused and not knowing who to love (or both).
    Here’s the problem (I’m very uncertain about this – but I give it ago). Love is an attitude, a thought, towards an individual. I think they usually call these singular thoughts. Most people think that there are two ways in which your thought can be directed towards someone in the required way. The first is with definitive descriptions like ‘the person I met there and then’. In this case, the thought refers thereafter to whoever satisfies that description. Such definitive descriptions require that the objects have unique properties that no other individual have.
    The second way to succeed to think about some individual object is through demonstratives directely. You love *that person*. But, there is at least one plausible requirement for succeeding in picking out an individual as an object of the attitude with such a directly refential thought. This requirement is that you can distinguish the individual from other individuals. This requires that they have at least one unique quality (this can be their position in your field of reference too) on the basis of which you can make the classification.
    So, here’s an example. Say you are having a dinner with your friends. You see a dog. It goes away. You see an identical dog 15 minutes later. You tell your friends – ‘here’s that dog again’. Unbeknownst to you there is actually two identical dogs and the one that you see now is not the same one as the one you saw earlier. Is your statement true or false? Evans would say that it’s neither. This is because your thought ‘that dog’ fails to refer and therefore there is no any one dog to which you attribute a property. So, you think you think about a dog but you are wrong about it.
    I think this would be the result in the indiscernible wifes case. You want to say that you love her and by her you try to refer to a certain individuals. But, if the two wives go in and out without you noticing you fail to have attitudes to any one person. This would become clear when you saw them together for the first time. Then you would have to make a choice. If they had some difference between them that I just failed to notice, then I could say that I actually loved only the other one. But, remember, we stipulated that they were really indiscernible.
    The point is that both ways to think about someone require that they do have some unique individuating quality. I think those in part are the ones for which we love people. Of course we love people for qualities they share with other people too.
    But, if you think that you love a person irrespective of their individuating qualities, then couple of questions. How do you succeed in thinking about them, in having the attitude towards her? What if their all properties change – would you still love them?

  11. Wow, Jussi. If we can get this much out of Stevie Wonder, how much are we going to get out of Bob Dylan?

  12. “To know you is to love you” is a staple of medieval Catholic philosophy–it originally applied to God. (Which is why Madonna is fond of misapplying the quote.) Another famous quote in the same vein is “Love itself is a form of knowledge” though that is likely to get less play in pop songs. The idea is that human beings have an innate attraction to the good (internalism of a form), and to know God, who is infinitely and perfectly good, better is therefore to be more and more attracted. This is less and less accurate the less and less infinitely and perfectly good the object of knowledge is.

  13. Hmh. Were Medieval Catholic philosopher’s familiar with Plato’s work or was there a break in his influence at that time? That just sounds exactly like Plato talking about the idea of Good. Maybe they just took one ‘o’ away…

  14. The first is with definitive descriptions like ‘the person I met there and then’. In this case, the thought refers thereafter to whoever satisfies that description. Such definitive descriptions require that the objects have unique properties that no other individual have.
    Jussi, the definite description you note here picks out whoever uniquely satisfies the description. These are descriptions used attributively. Of course other people might satisfy the description–even on the same day. Example: ‘the tallest person in the room’ picks out different people on the very same day, as people move in and out of the room. Different people can have the ‘unique’ properties moment by moment.
    But, there is at least one plausible requirement for succeeding in picking out an individual as an object of the attitude with such a directly refential thought. This requirement is that you can distinguish the individual from other individuals. This requires that they have at least one unique quality (this can be their position in your field of reference too) on the basis of which you can make the classification.
    Sure. You can use–in Kripke language–a definite description to “fix the reference of, say, ‘Sue'”–and thereafter ‘Sue’ (rigidly) designates the referent so fixed. But referring to the person (or whatever) thereafter does not require that Sue have the properties used to fix the reference to her (in fact, it does not require that Sue ever had those properties). In this case I can refer to Sue no matter what properties she has or loses.
    But, if you think that you love a person irrespective of their individuating qualities, then couple of questions. How do you succeed in thinking about them, in having the attitude towards her? What if their all properties change – would you still love them?
    There are lots of ways. It can be true that the person herself is the object of the attitude. This is just what I’ve been saying. Suppose Smith loves Sue. Smith uses ‘Sue’ to refer to her directly–irrespective of her current qualities–and he has an attitude toward Sue directly (she herself is literally the object of his attitude, not some proposition). He does not have an attitude toward whatever object uniquely satisfies some description associated with ‘Sue’. He does not have an attitude toward that person under some guise, but directly. But even if you hold that there is some sense associated with the name of the person that Smith loves, it obviously need not be the case that the sense determines the reference of the name. Satisfying some description can be what explains how reference is initially fixed in some cases, but as I said above, you can even fix the reference of a term using a description that the referent has never satisfied.

  15. Jussi,
    Yes, neo-Platonic philosophy was a large influence on medieval Catholic philosophy. E.g. Augustine was a Platonist before he was a Christian. So the similarity is no accident.

  16. Mike,
    good, this is very helpful. Couple of thoughts. First, it looks to me that the success in naming requires that you have already succeeded in thinking about the individual. So, take the water case. If the watery stuff was a motley of H2O and XYZ molecules, then we would have failed to name a substance ‘water’. Our samples would not have had an essence to which other substances could have been in the relevant sameness relation (even though Jade works like this). In the same way if there were indiscernible dublicates it would be difficult to say how we could have managed to name one Sue and one Sue-Ann. The fixation of the reference seems to require that we already have a particular individual in mind.
    And, in any case, this view doesn’t strike me as a plausible account of what is loved – the ultra-thin objects that are mere carriers of the reference of names in the causal chain of reference. I think the objects of love need to be more substantially characterised. It does seem like an idealised picture of love but I sceptical whether that kind of love exists. Maybe there is room for error theory here…
    Reminds me of a wonderful story in Moomintroll books. It’s a Finnish thing so I’m not sure if you know about them. Moomins are these really white, fluffy, round, cuddly beings that live in this wonderful fantasy world. There is a family of them – Moomin being the main character, a young boy troll.
    In one of the books a magician drops a hat near their house. It’s a magical hat. Whatever you put into it turns into its own complete opposite. At one point, Moomin himself falls into the hat and turns from a kind, happy, white, fluffy, round troll into this small, vile, ugly being. He tries to tell all his friends that he is still the Moomin they love. But, everyone just laughs, ignores or teases him.
    At this point, he is feeling very miserable. Then he goes to his mum and cries and keeps repeating that he is her son Moomin. Moominmum hugs him and says of course you are. And, Moomin feels so much better. Of course you would want real love to be like that but I wonder if it ever is.

  17. And, in any case, this view doesn’t strike me as a plausible account of what is loved – the ultra-thin objects that are mere carriers of the reference of names in the causal chain of reference. I think the objects of love need to be more substantially characterised.
    Jussi, I’m not suggesting that object of the favorable attitude is anything like a “thin object” or bare particular. It is the substantial thing in front of you. So long as you do not identify the person with her current set of properties, there’s no problem. And I’m sure you don’t do that.
    The initial problem of fixing reference does in general involve intending someone or something as the object of the name. But that presents no problem that I know of. If there are two objects that are exactly alike, I can use the location of the objects, or I can point, or I can walk up, tap the object and say “this person here I dub ‘Bertha'”. So indiscernablity presents no big obstacle to fixing reference. And thereafter I refer to that person so dubbed, no matter how many duplicates are around. Note I am not denying that there can be mix-ups in the causal chain, and referential mix-ups. But these are general problems for causal theory (and some hybrid theories).

  18. Mike,
    that may be right. I still have worries. It won’t do that the object of the attitude is ‘the substantial thing in front of you’ if in the indiscernible twin case the person in front of you keeps changing without you noticing it. I actually might accept that it is. That would make me love two persons. But you want to say that it is only one of them.
    I’m also starting to wonder what we mean by indiscernible. In the twin-case, the problem we had was that the twins were supposed to be indiscernible. If they have different names and they say you the different name when you ask, then they are not indiscernible. So, you might think that having a different name is a property they have that uniquely picks each one of them out. But, now make them really indiscernible so that there are two wifes with the same name. In this case, you think you love your wife Ann, the bearer of the name and the substantial person that is in the front of you oftentimes.
    However, in the nightmarish thought-experiment, she has a twin Ann that replaces her occasionally. My intuition is that your loving thought fails to be directed to any one person as there are two that satisfy the descriptions and bare the name. Either no-one is loved because there is no one Ann that I love or two persons are loved. Would there be a way to love just one of them? Could even in this case the object be singled out?

  19. It won’t do that the object of the attitude is ‘the substantial thing in front of you’ if in the indiscernible twin case the person in front of you keeps changing without you noticing it. I actually might accept that it is. That would make me love two persons. But you want to say that it is only one of them.
    Jussi, I can’t see the problem. The objects might be indiscernable with respect to their qualitative properties and not so with respect to haecceities. Or, they might be discernable with respect to “relational properties”. The cases you bring up all involve epistemological worries that, I think, are not to the point. The person Smith loves is Sue. The fact that he can’t tell Sue from Joan does nothing to show that he also loves Joan. And this is made obvious as soon as he learns that the person in front of him is not, after all, Sue. On learning that he would never conclude–or even be tempted to conclude–that he is just as much in love with Joan.

  20. Mike,
    maybe there is just a difference in the way *we* love. For me, the epistemology seems essential for *in loving*. It seems essential that I can tell my loved ones from other individuals. In the case I couldn’t, it would seem an arbitrary discrimination to love one but not both even if was somehow possible.
    In addition, if I couldn’t, it would seem very hollow to think that the name I use still refers to an individual I cannot tell apart from someone else, and therefore my love is directed to some unique individual.
    But, maybe you and Smith love in different way.

  21. Maybe so, though I was trying to say something more general. I don’t think many believe the person they love is replaceable in this way. Even suggesting so would be quite the insult, I think. But this is where we disagree.

  22. I agree with you on this point. If there is *the* person towards which your loving attitude is directed succesfully, then that person just is the one you love and no-one else. I’m just wondering that in the nightmarish scenarios we have brought up it becomes questionable in virtue of what our attitudes succeed in having unique objects. I understand the idea that being in the causal chain of reference seems to do the job. But, even that account seems to come under pressure under suitable indiscernible twin examples. Fortunately, these are mere philosophical thought-experiments that we do not need to worry about. And, earlier in the discussion I tried to defend unique relational properties on which descriptions about who we love could hatch on to.

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