Closing the last loophole: Joining forces with Vincent Descombes

Inquiry 47 (3):254 – 266 (2004)
Abstract
I will focus on the topic announced in the subtitle of Professor Descombes’ profound and provocative work: The Mind’s Provisions: A Critique of Cognitivism. In the end, I will agree with practically everything in his incisive ‘critique’ except its conclusion: that cognitivism is incoherent. What he shows instead, I think, is that cognitivism, as an account of human thought and understanding, is deeply false. The difference matters because incoherence is harder to prove and, prima facie, less plausible. But, if the same argument, slightly recast, shows falsehood with even more conviction, then the essential point is saved after all. So, following a quick characterization of cognitivism, I will attempt to distill what I take to be the main grounds and themes of Descombes’ critique, explain why I don’t think they expose an incoherence, and then show how they might be recast in a way that is devastating all the same
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