Inscrutability arguments threaten to reduce interpretationist metasemantic theories to absurdity. Can we find some way to block the arguments? A highly influential proposal in this regard is David Lewis’ ‘eligibility’ response: some theories are better than others, not because they fit the data better, but because they are framed in terms of more natural properties. The purposes of this paper are (1) to outline the nature of the eligibility proposal, making the case that it is not ad hoc, but (...) instead flows naturally from three independently motivated elements; and (2) to show that severe limitations afflict the proposal. In conclusion, I pick out the element of the eligibility response that is responsible for the limitations: future work in this area should therefore concentrate on amending this aspect of the overall theory. (shrink)
There are two doctrines for which Quine is particularly well known: the doctrine of ontological commitment and the inscrutability thesis—the thesis that reference and quantification are inscrutable. At first glance, the two doctrines are squarely at odds. If there is no fact of the matter as to what our expressions refer to, then it would appear that no determinate commitments can be read off of our best theories. We argue here that the appearance of a clash between the two (...) doctrines is illusory. The reason that there is no real conflict is not simply that in determining our theories’ ontological commitments we naturally rely on our home language but also (and more importantly) that ontological commitment is not intimately tied to objectual quantification and a reference-first approach to language. Or so we will argue. We conclude with a new inscrutability argument which rests on the observation that the notion of objectual quantification, when properly cashed out, deflates. (shrink)
I shall here discuss some matters related to the so-called radical indeterminacy or inscrutability arguments due to, e.g., Willard v. O. Quine, Hilary Putnam, John Wallace and Donald Davidson.1 These are arguments that, on the face of it, demonstrate that there is radical indeterminacy in what the expressions in a theory refer to and in what the ontology of the theory is. I will use “inscrutability argument” as a general label for these arguments. My main topic – after (...) I have dealt with some issues that in the context are mere preliminaries – will be what the consequences of inscrutability for ontology might be. (The label ‘inscrutability’ is not ideal, as it suggests that the problem raised is primarily epistemic. But it is common to use the label in the context of Quine’s arguments. And it has the advantage over the alternative suggestion “indeterminacy” that it signals that we are here dealing with a special kind of indeterminacy, not only more widespread but also in principle irremediable.). (shrink)
Quine's argument for indeterminacy and inscrutability equivocates about what it is for one set of truths to determine another. In addition to being unsupported, these doctrines lead Quine to reject our ordinary notions of meaning, truth, and reference in favor of certain replacement notions, including stimulus meaning, and disquotational, or Tarski, truth and reference for one's own present language. This is self-defeating. To formulate the doctrines of physicalism, underdetermination, indeterminacy, and inscrutability, one must refer to the totality of (...) true propositions about the subject matter of physics, and it's relation to all other propositions--something precluded by Quine's semantic eliminativism. (shrink)
A long-standing objection to the artistic pretensions of photography is that, because of the ‘causal’ nature of the process whereby a photographic image is produced, the formative intelligence of the photographer does not play a significant role in the generation of the image. Only where we can see such intelligence manifested in an image, it is claimed, can we legitimately take the representational content of the image to be a proper subject of artistic interest. I examine the most sophisticated modern (...) version of this argument in Roger Scruton's paper, ‘Photography and Representation’. I first critically examine Dominic Lopes's reconstruction of Scruton's argument and his proposed response to it. I then present an alternative analysis that brings out a central charge—what I term the ‘inscrutability’ argument that is obscured in Lopes's analysis. I then suggest how we can answer the inscrutability argument. (shrink)
Quine's proxy function argument for the inscrutability of reference fails, for proxy function reinterpretations do not in fact have either the same connections to sensory stimuli or the same logical interconnections as do the standard interpretations. This is so in spite of the guarantee of sameness of truth value.
That reference is inscrutable is demonstrated, it is argued, not only by W. V. Quine's arguments but by Peter Unger's "Problem of the Many." Applied to our own language, this is a paradoxical result, since nothing could be more obvious to speakers of English than that, when they use the word "rabbit," they are talking about rabbits. The solution to this paradox is to take a disquotational view of reference for one's own language, so that "When I use 'rabbit,' I (...) refer to rabbits" is made true by the meaning of the word "refer." The reference relation is extended to other languages by translation. The explanation for this peculiarly egocentric conception of semantics-questions of others' meanings are settled by asking what I mean by words of my language-is to be found in our practice of predicting and explaining other people's behavior by empathetic identification. I understand other people's behavior by asking what I would do in their place. (shrink)
According to Quine, terms of divided reference like 'rabbit' have two sorts of problems: problems of direct and deferred ostension. Hence the reference of these terms is inscrutable. This article holds that the problems of deferred ostension can be handled by Goodman's theory of projection, and that the problems of direct ostension turn out to be pedestrian problems of signs.
We assemble here in this time and place to discuss the thesis that conscious attention can provide knowledge of reference of perceptual demonstratives. I shall focus my commentary on what this claim means, and on the main argument for it found in the first five chapters of Reference and Consciousness. The middle term of that argument is an account of what attention does: what its job or function is. There is much that is admirable in this account, and I am (...) confident that it will be the foundation, the launching-pad, for much future work on the subject. But in the end I will argue that Campbell’s picture makes the mechanisms of attention too smart: smarter than they are, smarter than they could be. If we come to a more realistic appraisal of the skills and capacities of our sub-personal minions, the “knowledge of reference” which they yield will have to be taken down a notch or two. (shrink)
We assemble here in this time and place to discuss the thesis that conscious attention can provide knowledge of reference of perceptual demonstratives. I shall focus my commentary on what this claim means, and on the main argument for it found in the first five chapters of Reference and Consciousness. The middle term of that argument is an account of what attention does: what its job or function is. There is much that is admirable in this account, and I am (...) confident that it will be the foundation, the launching-pad, for much future work on the subject. But in the end I will argue that Campbell's picture makes the mechanisms of attention too smart: smarter than they are, smarter than they could be. If we come to a more realistic appraisal of the skills and capacities of our subpersonal minions, the "knowledge of reference" which they yield will have to be taken down a notch or two. But first let us clarify what the argument is. (shrink)
It is commonly thought that w v quine's indeterminacy thesis can be devastatingly undercut by a straightforward survey of the details of one's own linguistic capabilities. However, Because any such survey must depend upon a repudiation of the quinean doctrines used to generate his thesis, Objections based upon introspective evidence remain question begging without a critique of those more central doctrines. Since such a critique would be sufficient in itself to undermine quine's thesis, Objections based upon introspective gleanings must be (...) abandoned as either question begging or superfluous. (shrink)
I examine the evidential argument from inscrutable evil, evil for which we can see no morally adequate reason. Such evils are often thought to provide evidence for the existence of gratuitous evil that God could not be justified in allowing, but arguments for this are often informal and intuitive. I try to contribute greater rigor by developing a probabilistic argument that large numbers of inscrutable evils are strong evidence for the existence of gratuitous evil. Then, I consider and reject two (...) plausible replies on behalf of the theist. (shrink)
I discuss David Chalmers’ “scrutability thesis,” roughly that a Laplacean intellect could know every truth about the universe from a “compact class” of basic truths. It is argued that despite Chalmers’ remarks to the contrary, the thesis is problematic owing to quantum indeterminacy. Chalmers attempts to “frontload” various principles into the compact class to help out. But though frontloading may succeed in principle, Chalmers does not frontload enough to avoid the problem.
Just war theory entails that some wars may be morally unjustifiable, and hence citizens may be right to object morally to their government''s waging of a war and to their being compelled to serve in it. Given the evils attendant upon even justified war, this fact sharply restricts any obligation to die for the state, and raises important questions about the appropriate state response to selective conscientious objectors. This paper argues that such people should be legally accommodated, and discusses objections (...) to doing so, in particular, the possible erosion of the state''s capacity to wage justified war, the unfairness of granting such exemptions from military service, and the impossibility of determining genuinely conscientious objection. (shrink)
Because there is no formal procedure for determining to which language a given expression belongs, it is impossible to limit indeterminacy and inscrutability "at home" by appealing to the principle of ontological relativity. Not only is it impossible to ostend a unique language to which a particular expression would belong, it is impossible even to determine rigorously the boundaries which separate one language from another. Languages are themselves inscrutable.
Many writers have held that in his later work, David Lewis adopted a theory of predicate meaning such that the meaning of a predicate is the most natural property that is (mostly) consistent with the way the predicate is used. That orthodox interpretation is shared by both supporters and critics of Lewis's theory of meaning, but it has recently been strongly criticised by Wolfgang Schwarz. In this paper, I accept many of Schwarze's criticisms of the orthodox interpretation, and add some (...) more. But I also argue that the orthodox interpretation has a grain of truth in it, and seeing that helps us appreciate the strength of Lewis's late theory of meaning. References T. Bays. The Problem with Charlie: Some Remarks on Putnam, Lewis and Williams. Philosophical Review 116:401–425, 2007. http://dx.doi.org/10.1215/00318108-2007-003 J. Hawthorne. Craziness and Metasemantics. Philosophical Review 116:427–440, 2007. http://dx.doi.org/10.1215/00318108-2007-004 R. Holton. David Lewis's Philosophy of Language. Mind and Language 18:286-295, 2003. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1468-0017.00228 D. Lewis. Convention: A Philosophical Study. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1969. D. Lewis. Radical Interpretation. Synthese 27:331–344, 1974. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF00484599 D. Lewis. Languages and Language. In Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 7:3–35. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1975. D. Lewis. Attitudes De Dicto and De Se. Philosophical Review 88: 513–543, 1979. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2184843 D. Lewis. Mad Pain and Martian Pain. In Ned Block, editor, Readings in the Philosophy of Psychology, pages 216-232. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980. D. Lewis. New Work for a Theory of Universals. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61: 343–377, 1983. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00048408312341131 D. Lewis. Putnam's Paradox. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 62: 221-236, 1984. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00048408412340013 D. Lewis. On the Plurality of Worlds. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1986. D. Lewis. Meaning without Use: Reply to Hawthorne. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 70: 106-110, 1992. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00048408112340093 D. Lewis.. Reduction of Mind. In Samuel Guttenplan, editor, A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind, pages 412–431. Oxford: Blackwell, 1994. Reprinted in Lewis 1999. References to reprint. D. Lewis. Papers in Metaphysics and Epistemology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511625343 W. Schwarz. Lewisian Meaning without Naturalness. Unpublished manuscript, 2006. W. Schwarz. David Lewis: Metaphysik und Analyse. Paderborn: Mentis-Verlag, 2009. T. Sider. Criteria of Personal Identity and the Limits of Conceptual Analysis. Philosophical Perspectives 15: 189–209, 2001a. T. Sider. Four-Dimensionalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001b. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/019924443X.001.0001 T. Sider. Writing the Book of the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. PMCid:3539916 R. Stalnaker. Lewis on Intentionality. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82: 199–212, 2004. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/713659796 B. Weatherson. What Good Are Counterexamples?. Philosophical Studies 115: 1-31, 2003. http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1024961917413 B. Weatherson. Vagueness as Indeterminacy. In Richard Dietz and Sebastiano Moruzzi, editors, Cuts and Clouds: Vaguenesss, its Nature and its Logic, pages 77–90. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199570386.003.0005 J. R. G. Williams. Eligibility and Inscrutability. Philosophical Review 116: 361-399, 2007. http://dx.doi.org/10.1215/00318108-2007-002. (shrink)
This paper re-addresses Quine's indeterminacy of translation/inscrutability of reference thesis, as a problem for cognitive theories of content. In contradistinction with Quine's behavioristic semantics, theories of meaning, or content, in the cognitivist tradition endorse intentional realism, and are prone to be unsympathetic to Quine's thesis. Yet, despite this fundamental difference, I argue that they are just as vulnerable to the indeterminacy. I then argue that the vulnerability is rooted in a theoretical commitment tacitly shared with Quine, namely, the commitment (...) to the view that the perceptual input to the cognitive system is extensional - differentiating objects, but not the aspects (or, properties) they manifest. Thus, input extensionalism, and not behaviorism, is what forces the indeterminacy. I conclude by suggesting that the solution to Quine's indeterminacy problem hinges on the elaboration of an intensional theory of perceptual input, and of content in general. (shrink)
The central question in this book is why it seems reasonable for the words of our language to divide up the world in ordinary ways rather than other imaginable ways. Hirsch calls this the division problem. His book aims to bring this problem into sharp focus, to distinguish it from various related problems, and to consider the best prospects for solving it. In exploring various possible responses to the division problem, Hirsch examines series of "division principles" which purport to express (...) rational constraints on how our words ought to classify and individuate. The ensuing discussion deals with a wide range of metaphysical and epistemological topics, including projectibility and similarity, alternative analyses of natural properties and things, the inscrutability of reference, and the relevance of such pragmatic notions as salience and economy. The final chapters of the book develop what Hirsch contends is the most promising response to the division problem: a theory in which constraints on classification and individuation are seen to derive from the necessary structure of "fine-grained" propositions and the necessary dependence of some concepts on others. (shrink)
In this paper I examine a series of criticisms that have been levelled against Quine's naturalized epistemology, regarding its response to the problem of scepticism. Barry Stroud and Michael Williams, assuming that Quine wishes to refute scepticism, argue that Quine not only fails to undertake this refutation, but is also committed to theses (such as the inscrutability of reference and the underdetermination of theory by evidence) which imply versions of scepticism of their own. In Quine's defence, Roger Gibson argues (...) that Quine can succeed in showing sceptical doubts to be incoherent. But I contend that both parties of this dispute wrongly assume that Quine wishes to defeat the sceptic in a traditional way. Instead, Quine is happy to 'acquiesce' in scepticism about a certain kind of justification. No logical justification of our scientific beliefs is possible on his view. But Quine thinks that pragmatic justification is possible, and acknowledging that this is his view leads to the resolution of a number of interpretive quandaries. (shrink)
Four empirically equivalent versions of general relativity, namely standard GR, Lorentz-invariant gravitational theory, and the gravitational gauge theories of the Lorentz and translation groups, are investigated in the form of a case study for theory underdetermination. The various ontological indeterminacies (both underdetermination and inscrutability of reference) inherent in gravitational theories are analyzed in a detailed comparative study. The concept of practical underdetermination is proposed, followed by a discussion of its adequacy to describe scientific progress.
My theme here will be vagueness. But first recall Quine’s arguments for the indeterminacy of translation and the inscrutability of reference. (I will presume these arguments to be familiar.) If Quine is right, then there are radically different acceptable assignments of semantic values to the expressions of any language: different assignments of semantic values that for all that is determined by whatever it is that determines semantic value are all acceptable, and all equally good. Quine even argued that the (...) indeterminacy is so radical that some sentences are true under some acceptable assignments but false under others.1 Still, Quine does not allow intermediate truth-values or truthvalue gaps. (As I will put it, avoiding the disjunctive formulation: does not allow that there are sentences which are neuter.) Quine holds on to classical logic and bivalence and requires each acceptable assignment to be classical and bivalent.2.. (shrink)
How are permutation arguments for the inscrutability of reference to be formulated in the context of a Davidsonian truth-theoretic semantics? Davidson (1979) takes these arguments to establish that there are no grounds for favouring a reference scheme that assigns London to “Londres”, rather than one that assigns Sydney to that name. We shall see, however, that it is far from clear whether permutation arguments work when set out in the context of the kind of truth-theoretic semantics which Davidson favours. (...) The principle required to make the argument work allows us to resurrect Foster problems against the Davidsonian position. The Foster problems and the permutation inscrutability problems stand or fall together: they are one puzzle, not two. (shrink)
In this paper I apply an old problem of Quine's (the inscrutability of reference in translation) to a new style of theory about mental content (causal/nomological/informational accounts of meaning) and conclude that no "naturalization" of content of the sort currently popular can solve Quine's "gavagai" enigma. I show how failure to solve the problem leads to absurd conclusions not about one's own mental life, but about the non-mental world. I discuss various ways of attempting to remedy the accounts so (...) as to avoid the problem and explain why each attempt at solving the problem would take the information theorists further from their self-assigned task of "naturalizing" semantics. (shrink)
Davidson has claimed that to conclude that reference is inscrutable, one must assume that "If some theory of truth... is satisfactory in the light of all relevant evidence... then any theory that is generated from the first theory by a permutation will also be satisfactory in the light of all relevant evidence." However, given that theories of truth are not directly read off the world, but rather serve as parts of larger theories of behavior, this assumption is far from self-evident. (...) A proper understanding of the role truth theories play in theories of interpretation makes the inscrutability of reference much less wide-spread than Davidson suggests, and, as a result, the radical interpretation methodology is much less likely to saddle its defenders with counterintuitive cases of indeterminacy than is commonly supposed. (shrink)
In this paper, I develop a criticism to a method for metaontology, namely, the idea that a discourse’s or theory’s ontological commitments can be read off its sentences’ truth-conditions. Firstly, I will put forward this idea’s basis and, secondly, I will present the way Quine subscribed to it (not actually for hermeneutical or historic interest, but as a way of exposing the idea). However, I distinguish between two readings of Quine’s famous ontological criterion, and I center the focus on (assuming (...) without further discussion the other one to be mistaken) the one currently dubbed “ontological minimalism”, a kind of modern Ockhamism applied to the mentioned metaontological view. I show that this view has a certain application via Quinean thesis of reference inscrutability but that it is not possible to press that application any further and, in particular, not for the ambitious metaontological task some authors try to employ. The conclusion may sound promising: having shown the impossibility of a semantic ontological criterion, intentionalist or subjectivist ones should be explored. (shrink)
In his new paper, “Eligibility and Inscrutability,” J. R. G. Williams presents a surprising new challenge to David Lewis’ theory of interpretation. Although Williams frames this challenge primarily as a response to Lewis’ criticisms of Putnam’s model-theoretic argument, the challenge itself goes to the heart of Lewis’ own account of interpretation. Further, and leaving Lewis’ project aside for a moment, Williams’ argument highlights some important—and some fairly general—points concerning the relationship between model theory and semantic determinacy.
Kant -- drawing on his eighteenth-century predecessors -- provided a discerning and powerful characterization of what biologists had to explain in organic form. His difference from the rest is that he opined that was impossible to explain it. Its ’inscrutability’ was intrinsic. The third ’Critique’ essentially proposed the reduction of biology to a kind of prescientific descriptivism, doomed never to attain authentic scientificity. By contrast, for Locke, and ’a fortiori’ for Buffon and his followers, ’intrinsic purposiveness’ was a fact (...) of the matter about concrete biological phenomena; the features of internal self-regulation were hypotheses arising out of actual research practice. The difference comes most vividly to light once we recognize Kant’s distinction of the concept of organism from the concept of life. (edited). (shrink)