In answering “No” to his question “Does the descriptivist/antidescriptivist debate have any philosophical significance [beyond semantics]?” Lowe gives what at first sounds like an exciting answer to an interesting question – until one identifies his reason. That reason is the belief – now widely shared -- that a decisive resolution of this semantic debate would not allow one, using only secure non-philosophical knowledge, to establish interesting metaphysical principles, beyond philosophical doubt. Though this belief is widespread, the idea that its truth (...) would show the semantics of modality to have no significance for metaphysics (or other areas of philosophy) is preposterous, and, as far as I know, the sole possession of Professor Lowe. Are we to suppose that for any area of philosophy A, and any debated question Q in A, the resolution of Q has no significance for any other part B of philosophy, unless that resolution, absent all other philosophical principles, is sufficient (together with secure non-philosophical knowledge) to establish interesting positions in B, beyond philosophical doubt? It is hard to imagine anyone agreeing with that. Lowe’s failure to find the philosophical significance of semantic anti-descriptivism comes from looking in the wrong place. Its importance lies in expanding the range of metaphysical hypotheses to be taken seriously, not in limiting debate by proving metaphysical theorems from nonmetaphysical premises. The unraveling of Quine’s attack on the intelligibility of essentialism is a case in point. That attack, which distorted discussion of the subject from 1943 until well into the sixties, was based on faulty semantic premises about modality, singular terms, and quantification. Particular troublesome were Quine’s identification of necessity with analyticity, and his implicitly descriptivist conception of singular terms. It was recognized early on – by Smullyan, Fitch, Marcus, Follesdal, and the young Kripke, among others – that the availability of nondescriptive terms would blunt the attack. However, it wasn’t until Naming and Necessity that this line of thought came together in a decisive.... (shrink)
write to correct errors in Christopher Pincock’s review of my discussion of IRussell. First, according to Pincock, I attempt to “undermine Moore’s views on ethics in Part One, [and] Russell’s conception of analysis in Part Two” by charging them with a pre-Kripkean conflation of necessity with apriority and analyticity. Not so. Although I do show that such conflation had negative consequences for the views of several philosophers, Moore and Russell are not among them. Moore’s error—which marred the defence of his (...) thesis that conclusions about goodness are never consequences of purely descriptive premisses—was in tacitly assuming that all necessary/a priori relations among concepts arise from definitions (see my : –). A similar problem occurs in Russell, but only tangentially in connection with one possible route to his problematic principle () in Our Knowledge of the External World, the critique of which was not as part of any attack on his general conception of analysis (. (shrink)
Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century by Scott Soames reminds me of nothing so much as Lectures on Literature by Vladimir Nabokov. Both are works that arose immediately out of the needs of undergraduate teaching, yet each manages to say much of significance to knowledgeable professionals. Each indirectly provides an outline of the history of its field, through a presentation of selected major works, taken in chronological order and including items that are generally recognized as marking decisive turning points. Yet (...) neither Soames’s work nor Nabokov’s is a history in any conventional sense, both being immediately disqualified from that category by the general absence of coverage of minor and middling works and writers. The emphasis is pedagogical rather than historiographical: the emphasis is on introducing the student to the field through very close examination of the limited number of key texts selected for inclusion. (shrink)
The publication of Kripke (2009), originally delivered as a lecture at Princeton University in 1990, was long in coming. Widely circulated since then, some aspects of the original manuscript are now well known by many working on presupposition. The published paper differs from the manuscript in clarifying certain points, tying up loose ends, answering some previously open questions, and incorporating a modest revision or two. That would be reason enough to review it here. More important is an assessment of what (...) is truly groundbreaking in the discussion, and what is not. It is not, I will argue, Kripke’s attempted demonstrations that propositions previously said to be presupposed by various utterance types really aren’t presupposed, though there is something correct about those critical remarks. Nor is it his identification of new propositions presupposed by the utterances in question. Although there are new presuppositions, in certain cases his characterization of them requires revision or supplementation. However, these are not the most important aspects of his paper. Rather, I will argue, his most significant insights concern the mechanisms that give rise to presuppositions, which involve the formulation of presuppositional requirements of a kind different from those of the theories on which he comments. These in turn have far-reaching consequences for the notion of conversational contexts incorporating shared background information that utterances are used to update, and against which they are evaluated. Ironically, it is these, most important, aspects of Kripke’s view that (to my knowledge) have been least understood, and most incompletely assimilated into ongoing work. For this reason, I will concentrate on them. (shrink)
believe, or know something to that which they assert believe, or know. A2. The things asserted, believed, and known are bearers of truth and falsity. A3. Propositions -- the things satisfying A1 and A2 -- are expressed by sentences. The..
Understanding Truth aims to illuminate the notion of truth, and the role it plays in our ordinary thought, as well as in our logical, philosophical, and scientific theories. Part one is concerned with substantive background issues: the identification of the bearers of truth, the basis for distinguishing truth from other notions, like certainty, with which it is often confused, and the formulation of positive responses to well-known forms of philosophical skepticism about truth. Part two explicates the formal theories of Alfred (...) Tarski and Saul Kripke, including their treatments of the Liar paradox, and evaluates the philosophical significance of their work. Part three extends important lessons drawn from Tarski and Kripke to new domains: vague predicates, the Sorites paradox, and the development of a larger, deflationary perspective on truth. Part one attempts to diffuse five different forms of truth skepticism, broadly conceived: the view that truth is indefinable, that it is unknowable, that it is inextricably metaphysical, that there is no such thing as truth, and the view that truth is inherently paradoxical, and so must either be abandoned, or revised. An intriguing formulation of the last of these views is due to Alfred Tarski, who argued that the Liar paradox shows natural languages to be inconsistent because they contain defective, and ultimately incoherent, truth predicates. I argue in response that on a plausible interpretation of his puzzling notion of an inconsistent language, Tarski’s argument turns out to be logically valid, but almost certainly unsound, since one of its premises can be seen to be indefensible. Similar results are achieved for other forms of truth skepticism. (shrink)
Chris Pincock is offended that I presumed to write a historical overview of analytic philosophy without filling it with scholarly detail provided by specialists. Instead of relying on them, I simply read the works of leading philosophers and tried to figure out for myself what they were up to. Didn’t I know that this is impossible? I myself point out in the Epilogue that the history of philosophy is now a specialized discipline. How, Pincock wonders, could I have failed to (...) recognize the implications of this lesson for my own project? Don’t try this at home! Read the original works, if you must, but don’t dare say anything about the views you find – let alone evaluate them by contemporary standards -- unless you first vet your remarks with those in the archives. History isn’t easy, you know! On the contrary, Pincock tells us, “the overriding lesson of work in the history of analytic philosophy is that history is hard.” Conveying that lesson should, he tells us, be the main goal of any historical introduction to the subject. “Above all,” he says, “I would hope that the reader would finish reading such a book with an appreciation of the difficulties inherent in the study of the history of philosophy.” This, I submit, is self-serving nonsense. Conveying its own difficulty is not an overriding goal of any worthwhile intellectual enterprise. The chief difficulty that daunts Pincock is, of course, the secondary literature produced by those like himself. According to him, any proper historical introduction “would have to build on the mountain of books and papers” – by which he means the mountain of secondary literature – and, “judiciously choose from all the proposed interpretations of those details,” carefully referencing alternative interpretations. I disagree. There are different kinds of historical work, with different goals, which make different contributions. My goal was to present analytic philosophy by identifying both its most important 2 achievements and those of its failures from which we have the most to learn.. (shrink)
Quine and Davidson are the topics of, respectively, parts five and six of volume II of Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century.1 In chapter 10, Soames examines Quine’s arguments in Word and Object for the indeterminacy of translation; chapter 11 is devoted to the radical consequences of this thesis and an assessment of it. In chapter 12, Soames turns to Davidson’s claim that theories of truth are theories of meaning; and in chapter 13, to his argument against alternative conceptual schemes. (...) Obviously this is to omit much (although Quine receives more attention in Soames’s volume I); in compensation we get Soames’s characteristically detailed, clear, and penetrating treatment of some central doctrines of both philosophers. Someone who associates analytic philosophy with mind-numbing wrangles about “ordinary language” might suppose that analytic philosophers spurn mind-boggling philosophical theorizing. Soames’s chapters on Quine and Davidson will quickly cure this misapprehension. For reasons of space, I will pass over Soames’s instructive discussion of Davidson on theories of meaning, sticking instead to Quine on indeterminacy, and Davidson on conceptual schemes. (shrink)
By “legal interpretation” I mean the legally authoritative resolution of questions about what the content of the law is in its application to particular cases. It is the interpretation of legal texts by legally authoritative actors. One aspect of it is epistemological and one is constitutive. The epistemological task is to ascertain the content of laws resulting from previous actions of other legally authoritative sources. The constitutive task is to render an authoritative judgment that itself plays a role in determining (...) what the content of the law is. Sometimes this judgment changes the content of the laws, or legal provisions, that were the focus of the epistemological task. (shrink)
With the addition of Kit Fine’s Semantic Relationism to the mix, there are now two main versions of Millianism on offer.1 Both maintain (i) that the semantic contents of names, indexicals, and variables (appropriately relativized) are their referents.
We all know that much in our thought and language, as well as much in the law, is vague. We are also reasonably good at recognizing cases of vagueness, even though most of us would be hard pressed to say exactly what vagueness is. In recent decades, there has been a flowering of work in the philosophy of logic and language attempting to do just that. Much of this work focuses on what it is for a word or phrase to (...) be vague. The aim of this effort is to clarify what it is for a claim, question, command, or promise expressed using such a term to be vague, as well as what it is to reason with such terms. Different logico-linguistic theories have different conceptions of the scope of putative laws of classical logic, including bivalence (which states that every declarative sentence or proposition is either true or false) and excluded middle (which asserts all instances of A or ~A). In addition to this work in philosophical logic, recent decades have seen a growing interest in vagueness among legal scholars and philosophers of law. Here the focus is not so much on what legal vagueness is, which is generally assumed to be readily recognizable. Rather, it is on the extent and sources of vagueness in the law, the implications of vagueness for interpretation and adjudication, the systemic effects of vagueness, and the function – i.e. important positive value – of vagueness in certain areas of the law, as opposed to its disutility in others.1 To date, these two investigations of vagueness – in philosophical logic and the philosophy of law – have been largely independent of one another. This independence gives rise to a natural line of questioning. Can work in one domain contribute to work in.. (shrink)
By the early 1970s, and continuing through 2001, David Lewis and Saul Kripke had taken over W.V.O. Quine’s leadership in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophical logic in the English-speaking world. Quine, in turn, had inherited his position in the early 1950s from Rudolf Carnap, who had been the leading logical positivist -- first in Europe, and, after 1935, in America. A renegade positivist himself, Quine eschewed apriority, necessity, and analyticity, while (for a time) adopting a holistic version of (...) verificationism. Like Carnap, he placed philosophical logic and the philosophy of science at the center of philosophy. (shrink)
Quine was born on June 25, 1908 in Akron Ohio. From 1926 to 1930 he attended Oberlin College, from which he graduated with a B.A. in mathematics that included reading in mathematical philosophy. He received his PhD from Harvard in 1932 with a dissertation on Principia Mathematica advised by Whitehead. The next year traveling on fellowship in Europe, where he interacted with Carnap, Tarski, Lesniewski, Lukasiewicz, Schlick, Hahn, Reichenbach, Gödel, and Ayer. He was back in Cambridge between 1933 and 1936 (...) as a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society. In 1936, he joined the Harvard faculty, where he remained for 42 years, except for 3 years in the Navy in World War II. Returning after the war, he was promoted to Professor in 1948. Although he retired in 1978, he retained his office and remained active through much of the 1990s. Quine died on Christmas Day 2000. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: -- 1. The Value of Vagueness, Timothy Endicott -- 2. Vagueness and the Guidance of Action, Jeremy Waldron -- 3. What Vagueness and Inconsistency tell us about Interpretation, Scott Soames -- 4. Textualism and the Discovery of Rights, John Perry -- 5. The Intentionalism of Textualism, Stephen Neale -- 6. Can the Law Imply More than It Says? On some pragmatic aspects of Strategic Speech, Andrei Marmor -- 7. Modeling Legal Rules, Richard Holton -- 8. Trying (...) to Kill the Dead: De Dicto and De Re Intention in Attempted Crimes, Gideon Yaffe -- 9. Philosophy of Language and the Law of Contracts, Gideon Rosen -- 10. Language and Law: Who's in Charge?, Mark Greenberg -- 11. Meaning and Impact, Nicos Stavropoulos. (shrink)
Saul Kripke’s discussion of the necessary aposteriori in Naming and Necessity and “Identity and Necessity” -- in which he lays the foundation for distinguishing epistemic from metaphysical possibility, and explaining the relationship between the two – is, in my opinion, one of the outstanding achievements of twentieth century philosophy.1 My aim in this essay is to extract the enduring lessons of his discussion, and disentangle them from certain difficulties which, alas, can also be found there. I will argue that there (...) are, in fact, two Kripkean routes to the necessary aposteriori – one correct and philosophically far-reaching, the other incorrect and philosophically misleading. (shrink)
Cappelen and Hawthorne tell us that the most basic, explanatory notion of truth is a monadic property of propositions. Other notions of truth, including those applying to sentences, are to be explained in terms of it. Among them are those found in Kripkean, Montagovian, and Kaplanean semantic theories, and their descendants – to wit truth at a context, at a circumstance, and at a context-plus-circumstance. If these are to make sense, the authors correctly maintain, they must be explained in terms (...) of the monadic notion of truth. (1-2) I thought that this was the received view, but the authors indicate otherwise. They describe possible-worlds semantics as making it “very natural to think of the foundational mode of evaluation for propositions as truth relative to worlds.”(7) I disagree. The natural way to understand possible worlds-semantics is to take world-states to be certain kinds of properties, and to take the truth of p at w to be the fact that p would be true (i.e. would instantiate monadic truth) were the universe to instantiate w. The authors add that it is somewhat natural to take “the actual truth of a proposition as [being] a matter of the proposition getting the value ‘true’ relative to a distinguished world -- the actual world.” (7) If this means that being actually true is being true at the actual world-state @, this isn’t just natural, it is unassailable -- as long as one doesn’t erroneously identify being true with being actually true. Since Cappelen and Hawthorne don’t do this, I take us to be on more or less the same page. Others, apparently, aren’t. We are told that “a number of the participants in the relevant disputes [about relativism] seem to take it for granted that philosophical semantics has somehow shown that the semantic value of sentences cannot be evaluated for truth or falsity simpliciter, since truth and falsity hold of a proposition relative to a world.” (77-8) We are also told: 1 Contemporary Analytic relativists reason as follows: ‘Lewis and Kaplan have shown that we need to relativize truth to triples of .. (shrink)
Two Kinds of Vagueness When signing up for insurance benefits at my job, I was asked, “Do you have children, and if so are they young enough to be included on your policy?” I replied that I had two children, both of whom were over 21. The benefits officer responded, “That’s too vague. In some circumstances children of covered employees are eligible for benefits up to their 26th birthday. I need their ages to determine whether they can be included on (...) your policy.” She was right; my remark was too vague. The information it provided was insufficiently specific to advance our common conversational purpose. However, it was not vague, or at any rate not too vague, in the sense in which philosophical logicians and philosophers of language study vagueness. Vague predicates – like ‘old’, ‘bald’, ‘rich’, and ‘red’ – are those for which there are “borderline cases” separating things to which the predicate clearly applies from those to which it clearly does not. When o is a borderline case for a predicate P, there is, in some sense, “no saying” whether or not the proposition expressed by That/he/she/it is P (said demonstrating o) is true. According to some theories of vagueness, the proposition is undefined for truth, or untruth, and so can’t correctly be characterized either way. According to others, it is true or false -- even though it is impossible, in principle, to know which. On still other theories, it is only partially true (or true to some degree). For present purposes we needn’t worry about which of these theories is correct, or which is most illuminating in discussions of the law. The present point is simpler. The problem with my remark to the benefits officer – the sense in which it was too vague – is not a matter of its susceptibility to borderline cases. What I stated, on December 10, 2009, was that my two children were both over 21 years old then. That statement is true if and only if both were born on or before.... (shrink)
Although ‘Rxx’ and ‘Rxy’ are both applications of a two-place predicate to a pair of terms, ‘Rxx’ resembles a one-place predicate in that all one needs to evaluate it is an assignment to ‘x’. A similar point applies to the sequences ‘Fx’, ‘Gx’ and ‘Fx’, ‘Gy’ – even though neither is a one-place predicate. Kit Fine’s semantic relationalism aims to extract a common idea uniting these comparisons, and to use it to provide a Millian solution to Frege’s Puzzle.
The origins of these essays -- Introduction -- Presupposition -- A projection problem for speaker presupposition -- Language and linguistic competence -- Linguistics and psychology -- Semantics and psychology -- Semantics and semantic competence -- The necessity argument -- Truth, meaning, and understanding -- Truth and meaning in perspective -- Semantics and pragmatics -- Naming and asserting -- The gap between meaning and assertion : why what we literally say often differs from what our words literally mean -- Drawing the (...) line between meaning and implicaturem and relating both to assertion -- Descriptions -- Incomplete definite descriptions -- Donnellan's referential/attributive distinction -- Why incomplete descriptions don't refute Russell's theory of descriptions -- Meaning and use : lessons for legal interpretation -- Interpreting legal texts : what is and what is not special about the law. (shrink)
In the middle of the twentieth century a dispute erupted between the chief architect of Logical Empiricism, Rudolf Carnap, and Logical Empiricism’s chief reformer, Willard van Orman Quine -- who was attempting to save what he took to be its main insights by recasting them in a more acceptable form. Though both eschewed metaphysics of the traditional apriori sort, and both were intent on making the investigation of science the center of philosophy, they disagreed about how to do so. Part (...) of the disagreement involved the nature of ontological disputes. The central documents in the debate are: (i) Quine’s 1948 article, “On What There Is,” which tells us how to discern ontological.. (shrink)
Paul Grice’s theory of Conversational Implicature is, by all accounts, one of the great achievements of the past fifty years -- both of analytic philosophy and of the empirical study of language. Its guiding idea is that constraints on the use of sentences, and information conveyed by utterances of them, arise not only from their conventional meanings (the information they semantically encode) but also from the communicative uses to which they are put. In his view, the overriding goal of most (...) forms of communication is the cooperative exchange of information -- the pursuit of which generates norms for its rational and efficient achievement. Among them are Grice’s conversational maxims. (shrink)
The article rebutts Michael Kremer’s contention that Russell’s contextual definition of set-theoretic language in Principia Mathematica constituted the ontological achievement of eliminating commitment to classes. Although Russell’s higher-order quantifiers, used in the definition, need not range over classes, none of the plausible substitutes provide a solid basis for eliminating them. This point is used to defend the presentation, in The Dawn of Analysis, of Russell’s logicist reduction, using a first-order version of naive set theory.
My topic is the attempt by Donald Davidson, and those inspired by him, to explain knowledge of meaning in terms of knowledge of truth conditions. For Davidsonians, these attempts take the form of rationales for treating theories of truth, constructed along Tarskian lines, as empirical theories of meaning. In earlier work1, I argued that Davidson’s two main rationales – one presented in “Truth and Meaning”2 and “Radical Interpretation,”3 and the other in his “Reply to Foster”4 – were unsuccessful. Here, (...) I extend my critique to cover an ingenious recent attempt by James Higginbotham to establish Davidson’s desired result. I will argue that it, too, fails, and that the trajectory of Davidsonian failures indicates that linguistic understanding, and knowledge of meaning, require more than knowledge of that which a Davidsonian truth theory provides. I begin with a look at the historical record. (shrink)
No semantic theory satisfying certain natural constraints can identify the semantic contents of sentences (the propositions they express), with sets of circumstances in which the sentences are true–no matter how fine-grained the circumstances are taken to be. An objection to the proof is shown to fail by virtue of conflating model-theoretic consequence between sentences with truth-conditional consequence between the semantic contents of sentences. The error underlines the impotence of distinguishing semantics, in the sense of a truth-based theory of logical consequence, (...) and semantics, in the sense of a theory of meaning. (shrink)
Though the question is ontological, I will approach it through another, partially linguistic, question. What must natural kinds be like, if the conventional wisdom about natural kind terms is correct? Although answering this question won’t tell us everything we want to know, it will, I think, be useful in narrowing the range of feasible ontological alternatives. I will therefore summarize what I take to be the contemporary linguistic wisdom, and then test different proposals about kinds against it. As we will (...) see, some fare better than others. (shrink)
Linsky’s central point is correct; Kripke’s distinction between rigid and nonrigid designators can be extended in a straightforward way from singular terms to general terms. In both cases, for an expression to rigidly designate its extension is for it to designate the same extension with respect to every possible world-state (in which it has an extension at all). On this account, simple natural kind terms like water, gold, electricity, blue, and tiger – as well as ordinary general terms like bachelor, (...) philosopher, automobile and triangle – designate the same extension with respect to each world-state. As I see it, however, the two diﬀer importantly in the metaphysics of their designata. Whereas a term like bachelor designates a property that may be distinguished from other properties that are necessarily coextensive with it, natural kinds diﬀer from one another only if there are possible world-states in which some of their instances are diﬀerent. Intuitively this seems plausible; it is hard to imagine two distinct species of animal, two distinct substances, or two distinct colors which have precisely the same instances in every possible world-state. This is important for my linguistic model. Consider, for example, the color blue (which I take to be a natural kind). Color science tells us that the object-color blue is determined.. (shrink)
My goal in writing 'Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century' was to identify and explain the most important achievements of analytic philosophy which every student of the subject should be aware of, as well as those of its failures from which we have the most to learn. I attempted to do this by constructing a history that was itself a piece of analytic philosophy in its emphasis on analysis, reconstruction and criticism of arguments. In rebutting Hacker's critique of it, I (...) explain how my goal shaped my selection of topics, with special reference to the ordinary language period. I correct his misrepresentations of my treatment of the philosophers of this period, I demonstrate his failure to grasp, or understand the significance of, the Kripkean necessary a posteriori, and I reveal the misconceptions in his criticism of my interpretation of the 'Tractatus'. (shrink)
In Beyond Rigidity I argue that, like ‘red’, ‘water’ can be used both as a singular term, and (when combined with the copula) as a predicate – as illustrated by (1) and (2). 1a. Red is a color. b. Bill’s shirt is red. 2a. Unlike gold, which is an element, water is a compound. b. The liquid in the (...) glass is water. Just as ‘red’ designates a kind instances of which (at a world-state w) constitute the extension of the predicate ‘is red’ (at w), so ‘water’ designates a kind instances of which constitute the extension of the predicate ‘is water’. This observation is used in analyzing examples of the necessary aposteriori like those in (3), which have the force of quantified conditionals in which both the grammatical subjects and ‘is H2O’ function as mass predicates, true of all instances of the associated kinds. 3a. Water is H2O. b. Ice is H2O. c. Water vapor is H2O.. (shrink)
Beyond Rigidity is divided into two parts. Part 1 is devoted to the semantics and pragmatics of names, and the sentences, including attitude ascriptions, that contain them. In part 2, the model developed in part 1 is extended to natural kind terms, and simple predicates in which they occur. The model is then used to explain the necessity of certain aposteriori statements containing such predicates.