Meaning, dispositions, and normativity

Minds and Machines 9 (3):399-413 (1999)
Abstract
In a recent paper, Paul Coates defends a sophisticated dispositional account which allegedly resolves the sceptical paradox developed by Kripke in his monograph on Wittgenstein's treatment of following a rule (Kripke, 1982). Coates' account appeals to a notion of 'homeostasis', unpacked as a subject's second-order disposition to maintain a consistent pattern of extended first-order dispositions regarding her linguistic behavior. This kind of account, Coates contends, provides a naturalistic model for the normativity of intentional properties and thus resolves Kripke's sceptical paradox. In this paper I argue that Coates' second-order dispositional account cannot solve the sceptic's problems regarding meaning and normativity. My main contention is that in order for second-order dispositions to be able to effectively regulate the coordinated responses constitutive of first-order dispositions, those first order dispositions must be independently identifiable. Yet that's precisely what Kripke's sceptical argument calls into question. I shall also argue, in a more positive fashion, that Coates' own appeal to practical breakdowns may suggest a different —and more effective— response to the sceptic's concern
Keywords Disposition  Language  Mistake  Normativity  Paradox  Scepticism  Coates, P
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