Verbal Disputes

Philosophical Review 120 (4):515-566 (2011)
Abstract
The philosophical interest of verbal disputes is twofold. First, they play a key role in philosophical method. Many philosophical disagreements are at least partly verbal, and almost every philosophical dispute has been diagnosed as verbal at some point. Here we can see the diagnosis of verbal disputes as a tool for philosophical progress. Second, they are interesting as a subject matter for first-order philosophy. Reflection on the existence and nature of verbal disputes can reveal something about the nature of concepts, language, and meaning. In this article I first characterize verbal disputes, spell out a method for isolating and resolving them, and draw out conclusions for philosophical methodology. I then use the framework to draw out consequences in first-order philosophy. In particular, I argue that the analysis of verbal disputes can be used to support the existence of a distinctive sort of primitive concept and that it can be used to reconstruct a version of an analytic/synthetic distinction, where both are characterized in dialectical terms alone.
Keywords verbal disputes  philosophical methodology  concepts  analytic/synthetic distinction  disagreement
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