i. Introduction: Naturaiizing Semantics It seems as though everyone these days is in the business of ‘naituraIizing': apistamologists, philosophers of mind and language, even moral phi- `lcscpheers and philosophers of mathematics. Quine is cften cited as the one who started Et, but expressions of the naturalizing urge can no doubt be found much earlier in the history of phiioscphy. Lccsaly speaking, the- naturalizing urge is the desire to fashion human epistemic achievements in particular arcs after the achievements of the natural (...) sciences. Naturalists believe that.. (shrink)
There is a core metaphysical claim shared by all deflationists: truth is not a genuine, substantive property. But anyone who denies that truth is a genuine property must still make sense of our pervasive truth talk. In addressing questions about the meaning and function of ‘true’, deflationists engage in a linguistic or semantic project, a project that typically goes hand-in-hand with a deflationary account of the concept of truth. A thoroughgoing deflationary account of truth will go beyond the negative metaphysical (...) claim about truth and the positive linguistic account of the word ‘true’: it will also maintain that the concept of truth is a ‘thin’ concept that bears no substantive conceptual connections to other concepts to which it is traditionally tied. (shrink)
As I am sitting at my desk in front of my computer, a thought crosses my mind: There's water in the glass. The thought has a particular content: that there is water in the glass. And, if all is well, there is water in the glass, so my thought is true. According to external-world skepticism, I still do not know that there is water in the glass, because my way of telling what's in front of me does not allow me (...) to rule out the possibility that I’m only under some kind of illusion about what's in front of me. Analogously, according to content skepticism, I cannot know that I am thinking that there is water in my glass, even if in fact that is what I am thinking. This is because for all I know, my way of telling what I am thinking does not allow me to rule out the possibility that I am only under some kind of illusion about what I am thinking. (shrink)
Here are some things that I know right now: that I’m feeling a bit hungry, that there’s a red cardinal on my bird feeder, that I’m sitting down, that I have a lot of grading to do today, that my daughter is mad at me, that I’ll be going for a run soon, that I’d like to go out to the movies tonight. As orthodoxy would have it, some among these represent things to which I have privileged epistemic access, namely: (...) my present states of mind. I normally know these states directly, immediately, non-inferentially – I know them the way no one else can know them, and in a way I know nothing else. It’s the job of philosophers to tell us scope and source of this selfknowledge and to explain what renders it privileged. (shrink)
Deflationists share a core negative claim, that truth is not a genuine, substantive property. Deflationism can be seen in part as a form of eliminativism: we can eliminate the property of truth from our ontological inventory. This is the distinctive claim of what we will call metaphysical deflationism. But anyone who accepts metaphysical deflationism must still make sense of our pervasive truth talk. What is it we are doing when we call something true, if we are not ascribing a genuine (...) property? What is the meaning of the word "true"? What are its main uses or functions? And how should we understand the concept of truth and the role it plays in both ordinary and philosophical discourse? An acceptable deflationism must supplement the negative metaphysical claim with an account of the word "true" as well as an account of our concept of truth. (shrink)
The task of explaining language evolution is often presented by leading theorists in explicitly Gricean terms. After a critical evaluation, I present an alternative, non-Gricean conceptualization of the task. I argue that, while it may be true that nonhuman animals, in contrast to language users, lack the ‘motive to share information’ understood à la Grice, nonhuman animals nevertheless do express states of mind through complex nonlinguistic behavior. On a proper, non-Gricean construal of expressive communication, this means that they show to (...) their designated audience (without intentionally telling)—and their designated audience recognizes (without rationally inferring)—both how things are in the world and how things are with them. Recognizing that our nonhuman predecessors were already proficient—though non-Gricean—sharers of such information would free us to focus on the more tractable problem of explaining how linguistic expressive vehicles came to replace, augment, and transform the nonlinguistic expressive means to which nonhuman animals are consigned. (shrink)
After offering a characterization of what unites versions of ‘expressivism’, we highlight a number of dimensions along which expressivist views should be distinguished. We then separate four theses often associated with expressivism – a positive expressivist thesis, a positive constitutivist thesis, a negative ontological thesis, and a negative semantic thesis – and describe how traditional expressivists have attempted to incorporate them. We argue that expressivism in its traditional form may be fatally flawed, but that expressivists nonetheless have the resources for (...) preserving what is essential to their view. These resources comprise a re-configuring of expressivism, the result of which is the view we call ‘neo-expressivism’. After illustrating how the neo-expressivist model works in the case of avowals and ethical claims, we explain how it avoids the problems of traditional expressivism. (shrink)
Expressivism, broadly construed, is the view that the function of utterances in a given area of discourse is to give expression to our sentiments or other (non-cognitive) mental states or attitudes, rather than report or describe some range of facts. This view naturally seems an attractive option wherever it is suspected that there may not be a domain of facts for the given discourse to be describing. Familiarly, to avoid commitment to ethical facts, the ethical expressivist suggests that ethical utterances (...) (e.g., “Gratuitous torture is wrong”, “What John did was morally good”) do not serve to ascribe ethical properties to objects, actions, persons, or states of affairs. Instead, they simply function to give voice to certain of our sentiments (or ‘pro/con’ attitudes). Along similar lines, philosophers have entertained versions of expressivism about the aesthetic, the modal, the mental, what is funny, even about theoretical science and knowledge ascriptions. (shrink)
In my reply to Boyle, Rosenthal, and Tumulty, I revisit my view of avowals’ security as a matter of a special immunity to error, their character as intentional expressive acts that employ self-ascriptive vehicles (without being grounded in self-beliefs), Moore’s paradox, the idea of expressing as contrasting with reporting and its connection to showing one’s mental state, and the ‘performance equivalence’ between avowals and other expressive acts.
What I call “Rorty’s Dilemma” has us caught between the Scylla of Cartesian Dualism and the Charybdis of eliminativism about the mental. Proper recognition of what is distinctively mental requires accommodating incorrigibility about our mental states, something Rorty thinks materialists cannot do. So we must either countenance mental states over and above physical states in our ontology, or else give up altogether on the mental as a distinct category. In section 2, “Materialist Introspectionism—Independence and Epistemic Authority”, I review reasons for (...) being dissatisfied with materialist introspectionism as a way out of the dilemma. In section 3, “Constitutivism”, I outline two constitutivist alternatives to materialist introspectionism. In section 4, “A Neo-Expressivist View”, I offer my neo-expressivist view (defended in Bar-On, Speaking my mind: Expression and self-knowledge. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2004 ), according to which the distinctive status of mental self-ascriptions is to be explained by appeal to the expressive character of acts of issuing them (in speech or in thought). This view, I argue, allows us to stay clear of eliminativism without committing to Cartesian substance dualism, thereby offering a viable way of slipping between the horns of Rorty’s dilemma. (shrink)
A standard way to explain the connection between ethical claims and motivation is to say that these claims express motivational attitudes. Unless this connection is taken to be merely a matter of contingent psychological regularity, it may seem that there are only two options for understanding it. We can either treat ethical claims as expressing propositions that one cannot believe without being at least somewhat motivated (subjectivism), or we can treat ethical claims as nonpropositional and as having their semantic content (...) constituted by the motivational attitudes they express (noncognitivism). In this paper, we argue that there is another option, which can be recognized once we see that there is no need to build the expression relation between ethical claims and motivational states of mind into the semantic content of ethical claims. (shrink)
Here are some things that I know right now: that I’m feeling a bit hungry, that there’s a red cardinal on my bird feeder, that I’m sitting down, that I have a lot of grading to do today, that my daughter is mad at me, that I’ll be going for a run soon, that I’d like to go out to the movies tonight. As orthodoxy would have it, some among these represent things to which I have privileged epistemic access, namely: (...) my present states of mind . I normally know these states directly, immediately, non-inferentially – I know them the way no one else can know them, and in a way I know nothing else. It’s the job of philosophers to tell us what the scope and source of this self-knowledge and to explain what renders it privileged. (shrink)
Dorit Bar-On develops and defends a novel view of avowals and self-knowledge. Drawing on resources from the philosophy of language, the theory of action, epistemology, and the philosophy of mind, she offers original and systematic answers to many long-standing questions concerning our ability to know our own minds. We are all very good at telling what states of mind we are in at a given moment. When it comes to our own present states of mind, what we say goes; an (...) avowal such as "I'm feeling so anxious" or "I'm thinking about my next trip to Paris," it is typically supposed, tells it like it is. But why is that? Why should what I say about my present mental states carry so much more weight than what others say about them? Why should avowals be more immune to criticism and correction than other claims we make? And if avowals are not based on any evidence or observation, how could they possibly express our knowledge of our own present mental states? Bar-On proposes a Neo-Expressivist view according to which an avowal is an act through which a person directly expresses, rather than merely reports, the very mental condition that the avowal ascribes. She argues that this expressivist idea, coupled with an adequate characterization of expression and a proper separation of the semantics of avowals from their pragmatics and epistemology, explains the special status we assign to avowals. As against many expressivists and their critics, she maintains that such an expressivist explanation is consistent with a non-deflationary view of self-knowledge and a robust realism about mental states. The view that emerges preserves many insights of the most prominent contributors to the subject, while offering a new perspective on our special relationship to our own minds. (shrink)
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Some deflationists about truth maintain that such deflationism undercuts truth-condition theories of meaning. We offer a deductive argument designed to show that meaning must at least include truth-condition. Deflationist replies are considered and rebutted. We conclude that either deflationism is false or it is not, after all, incompatible with truth-condition theories of meaning.
Over the last three decades, truth-condition theories have earned a central place in the study of linguistic meaning. But their honored position faces a threat from recent deflationism or minimalism about truth. It is thought that the appeal to truth-conditions in a theory of meaning is incompatible with deflationism about truth, and so the growing popularity of deflationism threatens truth-condition theories of meaning.
Dummettian anti-realism repudiates the realist's notion of verification-transcendent truth. Perhaps the most crucial element in the Dummettian attack on realist truth is the critique of so-called realist semantics, which assigns verification-transcendent truth-conditions as the meanings of (some) sentences. The Dummettian critique charges that realist semantics cannot serve as an adequate theory of meaning for a natural language, and that, consequently, the realist conception of truth must be rejected as well. In arguing for this, Dummett and his followers have appealed to (...) a certain conception of linguistic knowledge. This paper examines closely the appeal to speakers' knowledge of linguistic meaning, its force and limitations. (shrink)
In this paper, I compare and contrast two kinds of scepticism, Cartesian scepticism about the external world and Quinean scepticism about meaning. I expose Quine's metaphysical claim that there are no facts of the matter about meaning as a sceptical response to a sceptical problem regarding the possibility of our knowledge of meanings. I argue that this sceptical response is overkill; for the sceptical problem about our knowledge of meanings may receive a treatment similar to the naturalistic treatment Quine himself (...) offered for the problem of our knowledge of the external world. Further, I suggest that a naturalistic treatment of Quinean meaning scepticism may fare better than Quine's own naturalistic treatment of external world scepticism. (shrink)