Language as a community of interacting belief systems: A case study involving conduct toward self and others [Book Review]
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Biology and Philosophy 10 (1):77-97 (1995)
Words such as selfish and altruistic that describe conduct toward self and others are notoriously ambiguous in everyday language. I argue that the ambiguity is caused, in part, by the coexistence of multiple belief systems that use the same words in different ways. Each belief system is a relatively coherent linguistic entity that provides a guide for human behavior. It is therefore a functional entity with design features that dictate specific word meaning. Since different belief systems guide human behavior in different directions, specific word meanings cannot be maintained across belief systems. Other sources of linguistic ambiguity include i) functional ambiguity that increases the effectiveness of a belief system, ii) ambiguity between belief systems that are functionally identical but historically distinct, and iii) active interference between belief systems. I illustrate these points with a natural history study of the word selfish and related words in everyday language. In general, language and the thought that it represents should be studied in the same way that ecologists study multi-species communities.
|Keywords||Altruism belief systems language selfish sociolinguistics species of thought|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
Heather Dyke (2011). The Evolutionary Origins of Tensed Language and Belief. Biology and Philosophy 26 (3):401-418.
David Sloan Wilson & Steven Jay Lynn (2009). Adaptive Misbeliefs Are Pervasive, but the Case for Positive Illusions is Weak. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 32 (6):539-540.
Similar books and articles
Jeffrey Yoshimi (2009). Husserl's Theory of Belief and the Heideggerean Critique. Husserl Studies 25 (2):121-140.
Allard Tamminga (2003). A Critical Exposition of Isaac Levi's Epistemology. Logique Et Analyse 183:447-478.
Maarten Boudry & Johan Braeckman (2011). Immunizing Strategies and Epistemic Defense Mechanisms. Philosophia 39 (1):145-161.
Ronald N. Giere (2006). The Role of Agency in Distributed Cognitive Systems. Philosophy of Science 73 (5):710-719.
Andy Egan (2008). Seeing and Believing: Perception, Belief Formation and the Divided Mind. Philosophical Studies 140 (1):47 - 63.
Kristin Andrews, Confronting Language, Representation, and Belief: A Limited Defense of Mental Continuity.
Antonio Quesada (2002). Belief System Foundations of Backward Induction. Theory and Decision 53 (4):393-403.
Nirmalangshu Mukherji (2003). Is C Hl Linguistically Specific? Philosophical Psychology 16 (2):289 – 308.
Maarten Boudry & Johan Braeckman (2012). How Convenient! The Epistemic Rationale of Self-Validating Belief Systems. Philosophical Psychology 25 (3):341-364.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads20 ( #94,858 of 1,410,170 )
Recent downloads (6 months)1 ( #155,015 of 1,410,170 )
How can I increase my downloads?