In this dissertation on Hilary Putnam's philosophy, I investigate his development regarding meaning and necessity, in particular mathematical necessity. Putnam has been a leading American philosopher since the end of the 1950s, becoming famous in the 1960s within the school of analytic philosophy, associated in particular with the philosophy of science and the philosophy of language. Under the influence of W.V. Quine, Putnam challenged the logical positivism/empiricism that had become strong in America after World War II, with influential exponents such (...) as Rudolf Carnap and Hans Reichenbach. Putnam agreed with Quine that there are no absolute a priori truths. In particular, he was critical of the notion of truth by convention. Instead he developed a notion of relative a priori truth, that is, a notion of necessary truth with respect to a body of knowledge, or a conceptual scheme. Putnam's position on necessity has developed over the years and has always been connected to his important contributions to the philosophy of meaning. I study Hilary Putnam's development through an early phase of scientific realism, a middle phase of internal realism, and his later position of a natural or commonsense realism. I challenge some of Putnam’s ideas on mathematical necessity, although I have largely defended his views against some other contemporary major philosophers; for instance, I defend his conceptual relativism, his conceptual pluralism, as well as his analysis of the realism/anti-realism debate. (shrink)
In recent and not so recent years, fallacy theory has sustained numerous challenges, challenges which have seen the theory charged with lack of systematicity as well as failure to deliver significant insights into its subject matter. In the following discussion, I argue that these criticisms are subordinate to a more fundamental criticism of fallacy theory, a criticism pertaining to the lack of intelligibility of this theory. The charge of unintelligibility against fallacy theory derives from a similar charge against philosophical theories (...) of truth and rationality developed by Hilary Putnam. I examine how Putnam develops this charge in the case of the conception of rationality pursued by logical positivism. Following that examination, I demonstrate the significance of this charge for how we proceed routinely to analyse one informal fallacy, the fallacy of petitio principii. Specifically, I argue that the significance of this charge lies in its issuance of a rejection of the urge to theorise in fallacy inquiry in general and petitio inquiry in particular. My conclusion takes the form of guidelines for the post-theoretical pursuit of fallacy inquiry. (shrink)
The book is an outgrowth of a 1998 conference held at the Nicholas Copernicus University in Toru (Poland), for which Hilary Putnam was the keynote speaker. It contains eleven papers with responses by Putnam, and is divided into two parts, one on pragmatism and one on realism. Each part is prefaced by a short and well-focused introduction by Urszula M. Zeglen, which may be useful for those who did not keep up with the development of Putnam’s thought since the late (...) seventies. Some papers are directly addressed to Putnam, seeking to challenge or support him on particular points, but more of them aim at developing themes on which Putnam has a view. I will discuss only some of the papers; the others will be listed at the end of this review. (shrink)
In this festschrift for the eminent philosopher Hilary Putnam, a team of distinguished philosophers write on a broad range of topics and thus reflect the remarkably fertile and provocative research of Putnam himself. The volume is not merely a celebration of a man, but also a report on the state of philosophy in a number of significant areas. The essays fall naturally into three groups: a central core on the theme of conventionality and content in the philosophy of mind, language, (...) and science, and two smaller sections on the relationship of ethics and language, and on the philosophy of logic and aesthetics.In this festschrift for the eminent philosopher Hilary Putnam, a team of distinguished philosophers write on a broad range of topics and thus reflect the remarkably fertile and provocative research of Putnam himself. The volume is not merely a celebration of a man, but also a report on the state of philosophy in a number of significant areas. The essays fall naturally into three groups: a central core on the theme of conventionality and content in the philosophy of mind, language, and science, and two smaller sections on the relationship of ethics and language, and on the philosophy of logic and aesthetics. (shrink)
Hilary Putnam's The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy and Other Essays serves as his latest installment attempting to detail some of the historical background and recent controversies over the so-called fact/value distinction. In it, Putnam claims that the positivists' influence led to an inflated dichotomy, rather than distinction, between descriptive sentences and evaluative sentences. He argues that such a dichotomy is unwarranted through a number of arguments intended to show that attempts to "disentangle" facts from values always fail. However, in (...) the process Putnam overlooks a number of interesting motives underlying the positivist movement, and disregards a now-enormous body of literature in the philosophy of science on descriptive and evaluative statements. Hence, his attempt, towards the end of the collection, to construct a viable philosophy of language that can support the dichotomy's collapse and an ethical theory that can support his discussion of the dichotomy's collapse appears somewhat weak. Nevertheless, Putnam engages his philosophical discussion with contemporary economic theory in order to motivate his central claim: that taking a somewhat interesting distinction between facts and values and inflating it into a dichotomy can, and often does, lead to disastrous policy decisions. Thus, the collection shines by highlighting real-world, practical and ethical consequences of certain philosophical and theoretical commitments. (shrink)
Since 1976 Hilary Putnam has drawn parallels between his `internal'',`pragmatic'', `natural'' or `common-sense'' realism and Kant''s transcendentalidealism. Putnam reads Kant as rejecting the then current metaphysicalpicture with its in-built assumptions of a unique, mind-independent world,and truth understood as correspondence between the mind and that ready-madeworld. Putnam reads Kant as overcoming the false dichotomies inherent inthat picture and even finds some glimmerings of conceptual relativity inKant''s proposed solution. Furthermore, Putnam reads Kant as overcoming thepernicious scientific realist distinction between primary and secondaryqualities, (...) between things that really exist and their projections, adistinction that haunts modern philosophy. Putnam''s revitalisation of Kantis not just of historical interest, but challenges contemporary versions ofscientific realism. Furthermore, Putnam has highlighted themes which havenot received the attention they deserve in Kantian exegesis, namely, theproblematic role of primary and secondary qualities in Kant''s empiricalrealism, and the extent of Kant''s commitment to conceptual pluralism.However, I argue that Putnam''s qualified allegiance to Kant exposes him tosome of the same metaphysical problems that affected Kant, namely, thefamiliar problem of postulating an absolute reality (Ding an sich), while atthe same time disavowing the meaningfulness of so doing. In conclusion Isuggest that Putnam might consider Hegel''s attempts to solve this problem inKant as a way of furthering his own natural realism. (shrink)
One of the most influential contemporary philosophers, Hilary Putnam's involvement in philosophy spans philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, ontology and epistemology and logic. This edited volume explores Putnam's contribution to the contemporary realist and pragmatist debate and includes Putnam's comments on each issue raised.
While the influential analytical philosopher Hilary Putnam has made significant contributions to philosophy of mind, philosophy of language and philosophy of science, he isn't generally regarded as a philosopher of religion or a theologian. Nonetheless, I argue that his work should be of great interest to philosophers of religion and theologians. Focusing on the relationship between science and religion, this paper explores the importance of Putnam's attempt to reconcile his anti-metaphysical stance and his commitment to a religious form of life (...) for theology. I first demonstrate why an anti-metaphysical stance and a commitment to Judaism can be deemed contradictory, and then characterize Putnam's anti-metaphysical stance as a modus vivendi to avoid both of what I call analytic and scientistic metaphysics. In a third step I offer my interpretation of Putnam's way of relating science and religion without metaphysics in the qualified sense, and subsequently spell out some important consequences of the emerging picture for theology. In my conclusion I give an account of Putnam as a transitional thinker, and draw a parallel between some of his work and Kierkegaard's “leap of faith”. (shrink)
En Razón, Verdad e Historia Hilary Putnam caracterizó la racionalidad informal como una alternativa que permite superar las limitaciones evidenciadas por las concepciones formalistas de la racionalidad. Se revisa inicialmente la caracterización ofrecida por Putnam y se establece que si bien Putnam niega todo principio universal de racionalidad, admite principios relativos, generales e indeterminados, que permanecen sujetos a necesidades de interrelación cognitiva con el entorno. A continuación, se muestra que los principios aceptan excepciones, y, a partir de aquí se defiende (...) y analiza la posibilidad de revisión de principios cuya negación no resulta actualmente concebible. Finalmente, se afirma que tanto exponer como preservar creencias de la controversia constituyen elementos históricos que deben ser contemplados por una concepción informal de la racionalidad. In Reason, Truth and History, Hilary Putnam characterized informal rationality as an alternative that allows to overcome limitations evidenced by the formalist conceptions of rationality. Initially, the paper reviews the characterization provided by Putnam and establishes that, while Putnam denies any universal principle of rationality, he accepts relative, general and vague principles, that remain subject to needs of cognitive interrelationship with the environment. Secondly, we show that principles make exceptions and defend the possibility of reviewing principles whose denial is currently not conceivable. Finally, we state that both expressing and maintaining beliefs of controversy are historical elements that should be contemplated by an informal conception of rationality. (shrink)
Hilary Putnam first published the consistency objection against Ludwig Wittgenstein’s account of mathematics in 1979. In 1983, Putnam and Benacerraf raised this objection against all conventionalist accounts of mathematics. I discuss the 1979 version and the scenario argument, which supports the key premise of the objection. The wide applicability of this objection is not apparent; I thus raise it against an imaginary axiomatic theory T similar to Peano arithmetic in all relevant aspects. I argue that a conventionalist can explain the (...) consistency of T and suggest that an analogous explanation can be provided for the consistency of Peano arithmetic. (shrink)
This specially commissioned collection discusses his contribution to the realist and pragmatist debate. Hilary Putnam comments on the issues raised in each article, making it invaluable for any scholar of his work.
While Hilary Putnam's work on theories of meaning, semantic content, the nature of mental phenomena, interpretations of quantum mechanics, theory-change, logic, and mathematics is crucial to recent and future developments in philosophy, the ...
In this detailed study, Christopher Norris defends the kinds of arguments advanced by the early realist, Hilary Putnam. Norris makes a point of placing Putnam's work in a wider philosophical context, and relating it to various current debates in epistemology and philosophy of science. Much like Putnam, Norris is willing to take full account of opposed viewpoints while maintaining a vigorously argued commitment to the values of debate and enquiry.
En el presente artículo se describe la postura epistemológica de Hilary Putnam en las "Conferencias John Dewey", particularmente su oposición a la concepción de la representación mental como "interfaz", que imposibilitaría el contacto directo con (y por consiguiente el conocimiento de) las cosas del mundo externo. Tomando como punto de partida el hecho de la comunicación lingüística, se concluye, por el contrario, en la necesidad de admitir la peculiar mediación del concepto mental, en tanto signo formal. De este modo, la (...) "interfaz" aparece con características análogas a las que la gnoseología realista atribuye a los signos instrumentales. Para este análisis, se recurre a elementos propios de la epistemología de corte aristotélico-tomasiana dado que, en el marco doctrinario de Putnam, se recurre a ellos indirectamente y -según opinión de la autora- bajo una perspectiva sesgada o equívoca, que merece su esclarecimiento. (shrink)
In 1922 Skolem delivered an address before the Fifth Congress of Scandinavian Mathematicians in which he pointed out what he called a "relativity of set-theoretic notions". This "relativity" has frequently been regarded as paradoxical; but today, although one hears the expression "the Lowenheim-Skolem Paradox", it seems to be thought of as only an apparent paradox, something the cognoscenti enjoy but are not seriously troubled by. Thus van Heijenoort writes, "The existence of such a 'relativity' is sometimes referred to as the (...) Lowenheim-Skolem Paradox. (shrink)
In the 1960s and 1970s, Hilary Putnam articulated a notion of relativized apriority that was motivated to address the problem of scientific change. This paper examines Putnam’s account in its historical context and in relation to contemporary views. I begin by locating Putnam’s analysis in the historical context of Quine’s rejection of apriority, presenting Putnam as a sympathetic commentator on Quine. Subsequently, I explicate Putnam’s positive account of apriority, focusing on his analysis of the history of physics and geometry. In (...) the remainder of the paper, I explore connections between Putnam’s account of relativized a priori principles and contemporary views. In particular, I situate Putnam’s account in relation to analyses advanced by Michael Friedman, David Stump, and William Wimsatt. From this comparison, I address issues concerning whether a priori scientific principles are appropriately characterized as “constitutive” or “entrenched”. I argue that these two features need to be clearly distinguished, and that only the constitutive function is essential to apriority. By way of conclusion, I explore the relationship between the constitutive function of a priori principles and entrenchment. (shrink)
Hilary Putnam's famous arguments criticizing Tarski's theory of truth are evaluated. It is argued that they do not succeed to undermine Tarski's approach. One of the arguments is based on the problematic idea of a false instance of T-schema. The other ignores various issues essential for Tarski's setting such as language-relativity of truth definition.
El presente trabajo busca reconstruir la posición de Hilary Putnam en torno a la filosofía de James, analizando los aspectos que han contribuido principalmente a la evolución del realismo putnamiano. Luego de precisar la afinidad entre Wittgenstein y James que guía el interés de Putnam por el pragmatismo de James, la autora recorre los temas éticos, epistemológicos y metafísicos a partir de los cuales surgen los aspectos más fructíferos de la filosofía pragmatista. Algunos de ellos son: la conjunción entre antidogmatismo (...) y antiescepticismo, la concepción procesal del conocimiento y de la verdad, la crítica al reduccionismo fisicalista y al realismo del sentido común, y, por último, la tesis de la importancia de la dimensión práctica en el desarrollo del análisis filosófico. Queda así subrayada la actualidad de la batalla jamesiana contra la lógica dicotómica que gobierna nuestra tradición teorética. (shrink)
The paper I gave at the Dublin conference celebrating Hilary Putnam’s 80th birthday was “Resurrecting Biological Essentialism” (2008). This was suitable for a celebratory event because it defended Putnam’s position on biological essentialism (1975) from the consensus in the philosophy of biology. This consensus has led to some severe criticisms of Putnam. Michael Ruse, for example, places Putnam, along with Saul Kripke and David Wiggins, “somewhere to the right of Aristotle” on essentialism and talks of them showing “an almost proud (...) ignorance of the organic world” (1987, 358n). John Dupré argues that the views of Putnam and Kripke are fatally divergent from “some actual biological facts and theories” (1981, 66). I argue that the consensus is quite wrong about essentialism and hence that these criticisms are misplaced. (shrink)
In the following discussion, I examine what constitutes the dialectical strain in Putnam’s thought. As part of this examination, I consider Putnam’s (1981) criticism of the fact/value dichotomy. I compare this criticism to Putnam’s analysis of the metaphysical realist’s position, a position which has occupied Putnam’s thinking more than any other philosophical stance. I describe how Putnam pursues a chargeof self-refutation against the metaphysical realist and against the proponent of a fact/value dichotomy, a charge which assumes dialectical significance. So it (...) is that the self-refuting nature of these positions is linked to their unintelligibility. My conclusion relates Putnam’s dialectical project to his wider philosophical ambitions, ambitions which are influenced in large part by Wittgensteinian considerations. (shrink)
Hilary Putnam has famously undergone some radical changes of mind with regard to the issue of scientific realism and its wider epistemological bearings. In this paper I defend the arguments put forward by early Putnam in his essays on the causal theory of reference as applied to natural-kind terms, despite his own later view that those arguments amounted to a form of 'metaphysical' realism which could not be sustained against various lines of sceptical attack. I discuss some of the reasons (...) for Putnam's retreat, first to the theory of 'internal (or framework-relative) realism proposed in his middle-period writings, and then to a commonsensepragmatist stance which claims to resituate this whole discussion on ground that has not been trorldden into ruts by the contending philosophical schools. In particular I examine his protracted engagement with various forms of anti-realist doctrine (Michael Dummett's most prominent among them), with Wittgenstein's thinking about language-games or meaning-as-use, and with a range of sceptical- relativist positions adopted in the wake of Quine's influential attack on the two last 'dogmas' of logical empiricism. My paper seeks to show that Putnam has been over-impressed by some of the arguments — from these and other sources — which he takes to constitute a knock-down case against the kind of extemalist and causal-realist approach developed in his early essays. It concludes by re-stating that position in summary form and relating it to other, more recent defences of causal realism in epistemology and philosophy of science. (shrink)
Eine Konzeption von Wahrheit und Vernunft ist Putnams Thema, deren Wahrheitsbegrili iiber das Menschenmogliche hinweg sich erhebt und deren Vernunftbegriff nicht hoch genug greift, um grundlegende Ziige der nienschlichen Rationalitat zu erfassen. Vornehmlich dieser zweite Punkt ist Gegenstand der letzten vier Kapitel..
The critical focus of this paper is on a claim made explicitly by Gilbert Harman and accepted implicitly by numerous others, the claim that naturalism supports concurrent defense of scientific objectivism and moral relativism. I challenge the assumptions of Harman's ‘argument from naturalism' used to support this combination of positions, utilizing. Hilary Putnam’s ‘companions in guilt’ argument in order to counter it. The paper concludes that while domain-specific anti-realism is often warranted, Harman’s own views about the objectivity of facts and (...) the subjectivity of values are better seen as stemming from scientistic ideals of knowledge than from dictates of naturalism. Scientists qua scientists make value judgments, and setting aside scientistic assumptions and unrealizable conceptions of scientific objectivity should lead us to more symmetrical metaphilosophical conception of epistemic and ethical normativity than that which underlies Harman's account. (shrink)
Zhuangzi’s Butterfly Dream story can be read as a skeptical response to the Cartesian Cogito, ergo sum solution, for it presents I exist as fundamentally unprovable, on the grounds that the notion about “I” that it is guaranteed to refer to something existing, which Descartes seems to assume, is unwarranted. The modern anti-skepticism of Hilary Putnam employs a different strategy, which seeks to derive the existence of the world not from some “indubitable” truth such as the existence of myself , (...) but from the meaning of some particular assertion I make. In this paper, I argue, however, that Putnam’s argument fails to deliver on the promise of showing the self-refuting nature of the skeptical hypothesis, as it relies on a double use of “I”, a fallacy of equivocation, reflecting an unsolved tension between the argument’s general premise, which is rather Zhuangzian in spirit, and his unwitting adoption of that unwarranted notion about “I”. I try to show further that the skepticism in Zhuangzi’s Butterfly Dream not only can be used to refute the proofs of the existence of the empirical I , but also is effective against accounts concerning the existence of the transcendental I. (shrink)
In a series of interesting and influential papers on semantics, Hilary Putnam has developed what he calls a “post-verificationist” theory of meaning. As part of this work, and not I think the most important part, Putnam defends a limited version of the analytic-synthetic distinction. In this paper I will survey and evaluate Putnam’s defense of analyticity and explore its relationship to broader concerns in semantics. Putnam’s defense of analyticity ultimately fails, and I want to show here exactly why it fails. (...) However, I will also argue that this very failure helps open the prospect of a new optimism concerning the theory of meaning, a theory of meaning finally liberated from the dead weight of the notions of analyticity and necessary truth. Putnam’s work, in fact, makes valuable contributions to such a theory. (shrink)
Tim Button explores the relationship between words and world; between semantics and scepticism. A certain kind of philosopher—the external realist—worries that appearances might be radically deceptive; we might all, for example, be brains in vats, stimulated by an infernal machine. But anyone who entertains the possibility of radical deception must also entertain a further worry: that all of our thoughts are totally contentless. That worry is just incoherent. We cannot, then, be external realists, who worry about the possibility of radical (...) deception. Equally, though, we cannot be internal realists, who reject all possibility of deception. We must position ourselves somewhere between internal realism and external realism, but we cannot hope to say exactly where. We must be realists, for what that is worth, and realists within limits. In establishing these claims, Button critically explores and develops several themes from Hilary Putnam's work: the model-theoretic arguments; the connection between truth and justification; the brain-in-vat argument; semantic externalism; and conceptual relativity. The Limits of Realism establishes the continued significance of these topics for all philosophers interested in mind, logic, language, or the possibility of metaphysics. (shrink)
How are the contents of our beliefs, our intentions, and other attitudes individuated? Just what makes our contents what they are? Content externalism, as Hilary Putnam, Tyler Burge, and others have argued, is the position that our contents depend in a constitutive manner on items in the external world, that they can be individuated by our causal interaction with the items they are about. Content internalism, by contrast, is the position that our contents depend primarily on the properties of our (...) bodies, such as our brains. Internalists, moreover, typically hold that our contents are narrow, insofar as they locally supervene on the properties of our bodies or brains. In this article surveys the arguments and problems for these contrasting positions. (shrink)
In our increasingly multicultural society there is an urgent need for a theory that is capable of making sense of the various philosophical difficulties presented by ethical and religious diversity—difficulties that, at first sight, seem to be remarkably similar. Given this similarity, a theory that successfully accounted for the difficulties raised by one form of plurality might also be of help in addressing those raised by the other, especially as ethical belief systems are often inextricably linked with religious belief systems. (...) This article adumbrates a theory that is suitably sensitive to the challenge posed by cultural diversity, and that is respectful of ethical and religious differences. The theory, called “internalist pluralism,” provides a philosophical account of the widely differing claims made by religious believers resulting from the tremendous diversity of belief systems, while simultaneously yielding a novel perspective on ethical plurality. Internalist pluralism is based on Hilary Putnam’s theory of internal realism. This article is not concerned to defend internal realism against its critics, although such defense is clearly required if the theory is to be adopted. Its more modest aim is to show that internal realism has a distinctive voice to add to the current debate about how best to understand religious and ethical diversity. (shrink)