Logic alone cannot tell you if a given premise is true. It can only tell you that if a given premise is true, then certain other statements must be true... or false. Logic will serve whatever premises you plug into it. So before we can judge reality by logic, we have to feed true premises into it. And premises are made of terms, each of which corresponds to something - at least we assume they do.
But do terms correspond to the things themselves, or to mental representations of those things?
Actually that was a bad question to start with. The first question we think of is necessarily our starting point, but we can't always move forward from it. Sometimes we must go backward. Unless we can think of examples to show that A does B, we should first establish that A can do B.
So. Can terms correspond to mental representations of things?
You must have not understood the question. Consider the term 'mommy'. It was probably the first term that ever corresponded to anything (in whatever the first language was). When an infant associates the term with an image of its mother, that's correspondence.
Right. In fact, terms must correspond to mental representations of things whenever there is a difference (erroneous or deliberate) between the mental representation and the thing itself. Likewise when things themselves are not understood except by means of mental representations.
Can terms ever correspond to the things themselves?
You may be right. Minds may need a mental representation as a buffer between the term and the thing. But unless we know that in all cases, we can't legitimately say it's impossible for a term to correspond to a thing itself. There's a principle here: X is theoretically possible until not-X is proven.
Possibly. If the thing itself remains the same regardless of one’s mental representation, then I know of no reason why a term can't correspond directly to it. Until I see such a reason, I have epistemic justification to assert that a term can theoretically correspond to the thing itself.
Did I need to say theoretically?
Epistemic justification! What's that?
Epistemic justification is having sufficient reason to claim to know something. I have sufficient reason to claim to know something unless someone can show a greater reason why I can't know it.
How do you even know that? How does anyone know anything?
I don't know how anyone knows anything. But I know I exist... and think... and emote. Therefore I know stuff whether I know how I know it or not.
But you can't claim to know anything unless you know how you know it!
How do you know that?
But seriously folks, we're not interactive enough to do this right, so either trust me on it, or be an epistemological nihilist - on your own time.
I can't legitimately assert that a term can actually correspond to the thing itself until I show an example of one that can. Therefore I'll try an example: table.
Is there any reason why the term "table" can't actually correspond to the thing itself?
You're correct in a limited sense if you mean that we can use the term to correspond to a particular table. We necessarily have an image of the table in mind, but that doesn't mean the term can't correspond directly to the thing itself. But if we're talking about the term in general, that won't work.
I agree. Firstly, the term "table" is ambiguous. Does it mean a flat slab with four legs, or a grid of rows & columns, or something else? You need a mental representation to know what you're talking about.
What if a term is not ambiguous? Then can it correspond to the thing itself?
Come on, we already did this. X is theoretically possible until not-X is proven.
You didn't say theoretically in the question!
Okay, well let's pretend I did.
Maybe, but what if a term is vague?
What's the difference?
For example, what if it's "gray"? Any line between gray and not gray is arbitrary - and there are shades of gray. So if a term is vague, it needs an intermediary mental representation. Right?
Ambiguity is having multiple meanings.
Vagueness is having unclear boundaries.
Maybe again, but what if you don't care about edges and shades? What if you mean gray in a vague and general sense?
Then can the term correspond to the thing itself?
Can you think of any examples of vague terms that don't need mental representations?
Examples are your job, right?
If I imply that an example exists, it's my job to produce it. In this case, you need an example to prove your point. But since we're not that interactive, I've provided one. Go back and choose Yes.
I agree. If the term is general and vague, and you mean that exact general and vague thing, then I see no reason why the term can't correspond to the thing itself - theoretically. We can't assert it actually unless we know that our minds don't require such a representation.
Let's try a particular term. How about Eifel Tower? That's neither vague nor ambiguous and there's only one. Is there any reason why the term can't correspond to the thing itself?
Then pretend I asked if there's any reason why the term theoretically can't correspond to the thing itself.
I agree. That doesn't mean we're right; it just means we haven't thought of a reason that proves us wrong.
Can we therefore legitimately assert that the term Eifel Tower can actually correspond to the thing itself.
We have epistemic justification to assert it theoretically. But in actuality there may be obstacles we don't know about. e.g. What if our minds require an intermediary representation? I don't know how our minds are wired well enough to make a knowledge claim either way.
Would you either publish a treatise on mind wiring or stop messing around.
Okay. Then We don't know if the term "Eifel Tower" can actually correspond to the thing itself.
Can we therefore legitimately assert that it can't be known if "Eifel Tower" can actually correspond to the thing itself?
We have epistemic justification to assert it theoretically until someone shows us how to know the answer one way or the other. But we can't legitimately assert that something actually can't be known unless we can prove there is no way to know it. But if I assert that there is no way to know something, I can't even prove that! I can only say I know of no way to know it, and challenge anyone who says it can be known to show how.
So have we accomplished anything toward answering the original questions?
Agreed. We have established that some terms can't correspond to things themselves, some things can theoretically, and some terms must correspond to mental representations. We have not shown that any term can actually correspond to the thing itself.
Can you think of any?
Cool! Email me, and I'll revise this thing - if you're right.
The terms we've examined so far were either attributes or concrete entities.
So let's try an abstraction. What if the term were a ten digit prime number? Though we have a mental representation of the digits, the actual quantity is vague in our minds. If it were a hill of beans, we couldn't distinguish it from other quantities close to it.
Can that term correspond to the thing itself?
It has to! The thing itself is what we do math with. The mental representation is irrelevant for all purposes except quantity estimation. The term not only can correspond to the thing itself, it definitely does.
But... is the thing itself even distinguishable from a mental representation?
Do numbers have any existence outside of minds?
I see no way to answer this question. In fact, how can we know if any abstraction exists outside of a mind? But rather than assert that it can't be known (which I can't prove), I choose to stay within my epistemic bounds and say I don't know the answer.
We could now press on to see under what conditions various kinds of terms can & can't correspond to the things themselves, but that would be more tedious than it's worth to most of us. We're here to understand reality better, not to beat one miniscule part of it to death. We have established that terms may sometimes correspond to things themselves, but usually correspond to mental representations. So if we want to use logic (which is totally composed of terms) to figure out reality, then we must identify mental representations accurately. Mental representations are commonly called concepts. You are ready for Reality 1c: CONCEPT IDENTIFICATION.