Brandom beleaguered

We take it that Brandom’s sense of the geography is that our way of proceeding is more or less the first and his is more or less the second. But we think this way of describing the situation is both unclear and misleading, and we want to have this out right at the start. Our problem is that we don’t know what “you start with” means either in formulations like “you start with the content of words and proceed to the content of sentences” or in formulations like “you start with the content of sentences and you proceed to the content of words.” Brandom’s official view seems to be that he’s talking about explanatory priorities (see the preceding quote); but we think that can’t really be what he has in mind, and we can’t find any alternative interpretation that seems plausible. Speaking just for ourselves, we’re inclined towards a relatively pragmatic view of explanation; what explanation we should “start with” depends, inter alia, on what it’s an explanation of and whom it’s an explanation for. But, in any case, we would have thought that explanatory priority is of more than heuristic interest only if it reflects a priority of some other kind: ontological, semantical, psychological, or whatever. In talking about what one “starts with”, Brandom must be claiming more than
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DOI 10.1111/j.1933-1592.2007.00045.x
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Nat Hansen (2012). J. L. Austin and Literal Meaning. European Journal of Philosophy 20 (4):617-632.
Michael Luntley (2008). Training and Learning. Educational Philosophy and Theory 40 (5):695-711.
David Bakhurst (2015). Training, Transformation and Education. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 76:301-327.

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