I explore the idea of language reaching its limits by distinguishing two kinds of limits language may have: The first are “Boundaries” which lie on the edges of language, and distinguish what makes sense from what does not. These, I claim, are suitable in making theoretical generalizations. The second are “Contours,” which lie within language, and allow for contrasting and comparing meanings and shades of meanings that we capture in language. These are more suitable for characterizations of particulars, and for (...) literary use. I claim that failure to draw this distinction is responsible for confusions in Sabina Lovibond’s and Richard Rorty’s views of moral thought and language. (shrink)
Linguists, particularly in the generative tradition, commonly rely upon intuitions about sentences as a key source of evidence for their theories. While widespread, this methodology has also been controversial. In this paper, I develop a positive account of linguistic intuition, and defend its role in linguistic inquiry. Intuitions qualify as evidence as form of linguistic behavior, which, since it is partially caused by linguistic competence (the object of investigation), can be used to study this competence. I (...) defend this view by meeting two challenges. First, that intuitions are collected through methodologically unsound practices, and second, that intuition cannot distinguish between the contributions of competence and performance systems. (shrink)
Michael Devitt ([2006a], [2006b]) argues that, insofar as linguists possess better theories about language than non-linguists, their linguistic intuitions are more reliable. ( Culbertson and Gross  ) presented empirical evidence contrary to this claim. Devitt () replies that, in part because we overemphasize the distinction between acceptability and grammaticality, we misunderstand linguists’ claims, fall into inconsistency, and fail to see how our empirical results can be squared with his position. We reply in this note. Inter alia we argue (...) that Devitt's focus on grammaticality intuitions, rather than acceptability intuitions, distances his discussion from actual linguistic practice. We close by questioning a demand that drives his discussion—viz., that, for linguistic intuitions to supply evidence for linguistic theorizing, a better account of why they are evidence is required. (shrink)
In “Compassionate Phenomenal Conservatism” (2007), “Phenomenal Conservatism and the Internalist Intuition” (2006), and Skepticism and the Veil of Perception (2001), Michael Huemer endorses the principle of phenomenal conservatism, according to which appearances or seemings constitute a fundamental source of (defeasible) justification for belief. He claims that those who deny phenomenal conservatism, including classical foundationalists, are in a self-defeating position, for their views cannot be both true and justified; that classical foundationalists have difficulty accommodating false introspective beliefs; (...) and that phenomenal conservatism is most faithful to the central internalist intuition. I argue that Huemer’s self-defeat argument fails, that classical foundationalism is able to accommodate fallible introspective beliefs, and that classical foundationalism captures a relatively clear internalist intuition. I also show that the motivation for phenomenal conservatism is less than clear. (shrink)
Recently, Michael Huemer has defended the Principle of Phenomenal Conservatism: If it seems to S that p, then, in the absence of defeaters, S thereby has at least some degree of justification for believing that p. This principle has potentially far-reaching implications. Huemer uses it to argue against skepticism and to defend a version of ethical intuitionism. I employ a reductio to show that PC is false. If PC is true, beliefs can yield justification for believing their contents in (...) cases where, intuitively, they should not be able to do so. I argue that there are cases where a belief that p can behave like an appearance that p and thereby make it seem to one that p. (shrink)
Phenomenal conservatism holds, roughly, that if it seems to S that P, then S has evidence for P. I argue for two main conclusions. The first is that phenomenal conservatism is better suited than is proper functionalism to explain how a particular type of religious belief formation can lead to non-inferentially justified religious beliefs. The second is that phenomenal conservatism makes evidence so easy to obtain that the truth of evidentialism would not be a significant obstacle to (...) justified religious belief. A natural objection to phenomenal conservatism is that it makes evidence too easy to obtain, but I argue this objection is mistaken. (shrink)
Michael Dummett famously holds that the “philosophy of thought” must proceed via the philosophy of language, since that is the only way to preserve the objectivity of thoughts while avoiding commitments to “mythological,” Platonic entities. Central to Dummett’s case is his thesis that all thought contents are linguistically expressible. In this paper, I will (a) argue that making the linguistic turn is neither necessary nor sufficient to avoid the problems of psychologism, (b) discuss Wayne Martin’s argument that not all (...) thought-contents are linguistically communicable, and (c) present another, stronger argument, derived from Husserl’s early account of fulfillment, that establishes the same conclusion. (shrink)
Conservatism about perceptual justification tells us that we cannot have perceptual justification to believe p unless we also have justification to believe that perceptual experiences are reliable. There are many ways to maintain this thesis, ways that have not been sufficiently appreciated. Most of these ways lead to at least one of two problems. The first is an over-intellectualization problem, whereas the second problem concerns the satisfaction of the epistemic basing requirement on justified belief. I argue that there is (...) at least one Conservative view that survives both difficulties, a view which has the further ability to undercut a crucial consideration that has supported Dogmatist views about perceptual justification. The final section explores a tension between Conservatism and the prospects of having a completely general account of propositional justification. Ironically, the problem is that Conservatives seem committed to making the acquisition of propositional justification too easy. My partial defense of Conservatism concludes by suggesting possible solutions to this problem. (shrink)
Is linguistic understanding a form of knowledge? I clarify the question and then consider two natural forms a positive answer might take. I argue that, although some recent arguments fail to decide the issue, neither positive answer should be accepted. The aim is not yet to foreclose on the view that linguistic understanding is a form of knowledge, but to develop desiderata on a satisfactory successor to the two natural views rejected here.
Although several important methodologies implicitly assume the truth of epistemic conservatism, the view that holding a belief confers some measure of justification on the belief, recent criticisms have led some to conclude that epistemic conservatism is an implausible view. That conclusion is mistaken. In this article, I propose a new formulation of epistemic conservatism that is not susceptible to the criticisms leveled at earlier formulations of epistemic conservatism. In addition to withstanding these criticisms, this formulation of (...) epistemic conservatism has several benefits. First, this formulation has the benefits of earlier formulations of epistemic conservatism, that is to say it makes sense of our intuitions about justification in regard to both memory beliefs and beliefs for which we have forgotten our evidence. Second, it provides a good way of responding to the skeptic’s challenge concerning the possibility of possessing knowledge of the external world posed by the Alternative Hypotheses argument. Third, it provides responses to both forms of a new skeptical problem plaguing basic knowledge structure theories, the Problem of Easy Knowledge formulated by Stewart Cohen. I argue that given the many benefits of this formulation of epistemic conservatism and the fact that it is not vulnerable to the criticisms that undermine earlier formulations of epistemic conservatism, this formulation of epistemic conservatism is a plausible view to maintain. (shrink)
I present a problem for a prominent kind of conservatism, viz., the combination of traditional moral & religious values, patriotic nationalism, and libertarian capitalism. The problem is that these elements sometimes conflict. In particular, I show how libertarian capitalism and patriotic nationalism conflict via a scenario in which the thing that libertarian capitalists love – unregulated market activity – threatens what American patriots love – a strong, independent America. Unrestricted libertarian rights to buy and sell land would permit the (...) sale of all American territory by private individuals to foreign powers. Patriotic nationalists regard this as outrageous, but libertarian capitalists cannot refuse it. (shrink)
Questions about the relationship between linguistic competence and expertise will be examined in the paper. Harry Collins and others distinguish between ubiquitous and esoteric expertise. Collins places considerable weight on the argument that ordinary linguistic competence and related phenomena exhibit a high degree of expertise. His position and ones which share close affinities are methodologically problematic. These difficulties matter because there is continued and systematic disagreement over appropriate methodologies for the empirical study of expertise. Against Collins, it will (...) be argued that the term ‘expertise’ should be reserved for expertise (esoteric experts) and exclude everyday performance (ubiquitous experts). Wittgensteinian ideas will be employed to maintain that it is mistaken and misleading to derive substantive conclusions about the epistemology of expertise from ordinary linguistic competence and vice versa. Significant attention will be devoted to the notion of following a rule with particular reference to the intelligibility of tacit rule following. A satisfactory theoretical approach to expertise should not involve making important claims about ordinary linguistic competence. (shrink)
The paper considers a version of the problem of linguistic creativity obtained by interpreting attributions of ordinary semantic knowledge as attributions of practical competencies with expressions. The paper explains how to cope with this version of the problem without invoking either compositional theories of meaning or the notion of `tacit knowledge' (of such theories) that has led to unnecessary puzzlement. The central idea is to show that the core assumption used to raise the problem is false. To render precise (...) argument possible, the paper first identifies and removes some relevant semantic indeterminacy in philosophical talk of `semantic knowledge' and `information'. This yields rules for attributing the two to human speakers and information-processors, respectively. The paper then shows, first, that ordinary speakers qualify as possessing all along an other than finite and definite stock of semantic knowledge and, second, that a very simple information-processor running a procedural semantics qualifies as possessing an analogous stock of semantic information. The second result is used to bring out that the first is neither unduly impressive nor particularly puzzling. (shrink)
Jill de Villiers has argued that children's mastery of sentential complements plays a crucial role in enabling them to succeed at false-belief tasks. Josef Perner has disputed that and has argued that mastery of false-belief tasks requires an understanding of the multiplicity of perspectives. This paper attempts to resolve the debate by explicating attributions of desires and beliefs as extensions of the linguistic practices of making commands and assertions, respectively. In terms of these linguistic practices one can explain (...) why desire-talk will precede belief-talk and why even older children will have difficulty attributing incompatible desires. (shrink)
In this article, we explore whether cross-linguistic differences in grammatical aspect encoding may give rise to differences in memory and cognition. We compared native speakers of two languages that encode aspect differently (English and Swedish) in four tasks that examined verbal descriptions of stimuli, online triads matching, and memory-based triads matching with and without verbal interference. Results showed between-group differences in verbal descriptions and in memory-based triads matching. However, no differences were found in online triads matching and in memory-based (...) triads matching with verbal interference. These findings need to be interpreted in the context of the overall pattern of performance, which indicated that both groups based their similarity judgments on common perceptual characteristics of motion events. These results show for the first time a cross-linguistic difference in memory as a function of differences in grammatical aspect encoding, but they also contribute to the emerging view that language fine tunes rather than shapes perceptual processes that are likely to be universal and unchanging. (shrink)
In this paper I examine a contemporary debate about the general notion of linguistic rules and the place of context in determining meaning, which has arisen in the wake of a challenge that the conceptual framework of moral particularism has brought to the table. My aim is to show that particularism in the theory of meaning yields an attractive model of linguistic competence that stands as a genuine alternative to other use-oriented but still generalist accounts that allow room (...) for context-sensitivity in deciding how the linguistic rules would apply in concrete cases. I argue that the ideas developed in relation to particularism in meta-ethics illuminate a difficulty with the modest generalist view, one that can be resolved by adopting semantic particularism instead. (shrink)
My goal in this paper is to defend the plausibility of a particular version of collectivism – understood as the evolutionary claim that individual-level cognition is systematically biased in favor of aggregate-level regularities – in the domain of language. Chomsky's (1986) methodological promotion of I-language (speaker-internal knowledge) and the corresponding demotion of E-language (aggregate output of a population of speakers) has led mainstream cognitive science to view language essentially as a property of individual minds/brains whose evolution is best explained as (...) a result of the natural selection of an innate language faculty (Pinker 1994). Such a framework is largely oblivious to the linguistic dynamics arising from iterated learning, i.e. the fact that linguistic information must be periodically mapped from its I-linguistic into its E-linguistic medium and back in order to persist over time. Recent expression/induction models of language evolution, which are heavily inspired by the simulation-based methodology of Artificial Life, suggest that linguistic universals, such as compositional and recursive structure, can emerge from cultural selection alone (Brighton et al. 2005). I will conclude that there is both a biological and a cultural route towards collectivism. (shrink)
Strong nativist views about numerical concepts claim that human beings have at least some innate precise numerical representations. Weak nativist views claim only that humans, like other animals, possess an innate system for representing approximate numerical quantity. We present a new strong nativist model of the origins of numerical concepts and defend the strong nativist approach against recent cross-cultural studies that have been interpreted to show that precise numerical concepts are dependent on language and that they are restricted to speakers (...) of languages with the right kind of structure. (shrink)
I define ethical intuitionism as the view that it is appropriate to appeal to inferentially unsupported moral beliefs in the course of moral reasoning. I mention four common objections to this view, including the view that all such appeals to intuition make ethical theory politically and noetically conservative. I defend intuitionism from versions of this criticism expressed by R.B. Brandt, R.M. Hare and Richard Miller.
Introduction : a search for icons -- Burke in brief : a "philosophical" primer -- Old seeds, new soil : the land of Paine -- John and J.Q. Adams : federalist persuasions -- Democratic America : the ethos of liberalism -- American Whigs : a conservative response -- The Gilded Age : eclectic interpretations -- Theodore Roosevelt : blazing forward, looking backward -- Woodrow Wilson : confronting American maturity -- Modern times : conjunctions and consensus -- Natural law : a (...) neo-traditionalist revival -- The Cold War : existential threat redux -- Contemporary conservatives : victories and illusions -- Conclusion : a world without fathers. (shrink)
A central finding in experimental research identified with Embodied Cognition (EC) is that understanding actions involves their embodied simulation, i.e. executing some processes involved in performing these actions. Extending these findings, I argue that reenactment – the overt embodied simulation of actions and practices, including especially communicative actions and practices, within utterances – makes it possible to forge an integrated EC-based account of linguistic meaning. In particular, I argue: (a) that remote entities can be referred to by reenacting actions (...) performed with them; (b) that the use of grammatical constructions can be conceived of as the reenactment of linguistic action routines; (c) that complex enunciational structures (reported speech, irony, etc.) involve a separate level of reenactment, on which characters are presented as interacting with one another within the utterance; (d) that the segmentation of long utterances into shorter units involves the reenactment of brief audience interventions between units; and (e) that the overall meaning of an utterance can be stated in reenactment terms. The notion of reenactment provides a conceptual framework for accounting for aspects of language that are usually thought to be outside the reach of EC in an EC framework, thus supporting a view of meaning and linguistic content as thoroughly grounded in action and interaction. (shrink)
In the normal course of events, children manifest linguistic competence equivalent to that of adults in just a few years. Children can produce and understand novel sentences, they can judge that certain strings of words are true or false, and so on. Yet experience appears to dramatically underdetermine the com- petence children so rapidly achieve, even given optimistic assumptions about children’s nonlinguistic capacities to extract information and form generalizations on the basis of statistical regularities in the input. These considerations (...) underlie various (more speciﬁc) poverty of stimulus arguments for the innate speciﬁcation of linguistic principles. But in our view, certain features of nativist arguments have not yet been fully appreciated. We focus here on three (related) kinds of poverty of stimulus argument, each of which has been supported by the ﬁndings of psycholinguistic investigations of child language. (shrink)
Chomsky and others have denied the relevance of external linguistic entities, such as E-languages, to linguistic explanation, and have questioned their coherence altogether. I discuss a new approach to understanding the nature of linguistic entities, focusing in particular on making sense of the varieties of kinds of “words” that are employed in linguistic theorizing. This treatment of linguistic entities in general is applied to constructing an understanding of external linguistic entities.
Panini’s 5th century BC generative Sanskrit grammar is shown to be sufficient to describe any formal or computational system in oral form, using a new observation regarding Panini’s “auxilary markers” and the methods of Post production systems. Modern universal computation is described using rules modeled on Sanskrit positional number words representing large numbers in versified sutras. Two versions of “Panini arithmetic” are defined to contrast the computational strength of non-positional and positional numeration. The computational increase between additive and multiplicative arithmetic (...) is attributed to the cognitive skills required for the grammaticalization of positional number words. Positional notations are formally described using Presburger arithmetic and results of Fischer-Rabin on bounded multiplication. As a whole the construction shows how mathematical computation is constructed from natural language structure and the cognitive skills needed for language use. The modern origins of generative linguistics and Turing’s universal computation are described in a new historical light, with Indian positional notation providing computational expertise needed for modern logic. The paper will interest Sanskritists, computer scientists and logicians, and cognitive linguists. No knowledge of Panini grammar, Sanskrit or linguistic grammaticalization is assumed. (shrink)
How do we refer to people in everyday conversation? No matter the language or culture, we must choose from a range of options: full name ('Robert Smith'), reduced name ('Bob'), description ('tall guy'), kin term ('my son') etc. Our choices reflect how we know that person in context, and allow us to take a particular perspective on them. This book brings together a team of leading linguists, sociologists and anthropologists to show that there is more to person reference than meets (...) the eye. Drawing on video-recorded, everyday interactions in nine languages, it examines the fascinating ways in which we exploit person reference for social and cultural purposes, and reveals the underlying principles of person reference across cultures from the Americas to Asia to the South Pacific. Combining rich ethnographic detail with cross-linguistic generalizations, it will be welcomed by researchers and graduate students interested in the relationship between language and culture. (shrink)
Dr Thrane makes an original contribution to one of the central topics in syntax and semantics: the nature and mechanisms of reference in natural language. He makes a fundamental distinction between syntactic analyses that are internal to the structure of a language and analyses of the referential properties that connect a language with the 'outside world' - and therefore derive in some sense from common human capacities for perceptual discrimination. Dr Thrane argues that the failure to make this distinction and (...) to attend separately to both kinds of analysis has vitiated previous general accounts of linguistic structure. The book focuses particularly on pronouns and on the role of determiners, quantifiers and other components of the noun phrase. Most of the data come from the modern Germanic languages, especially English, but Dr Thrane considers also the structural peculiarities of 'classifier languages' like Vietnamese. The book will be important for students of English language as well as for general linguists. (shrink)
Rooth & Partee (1982) and Rooth (1985) have shown that the English-specific rule-by-rule system of PTQ can be factored out into function application plus two transformations for resolving type mismatch (type lifting and variable binding). Building on these insights, this article proposes a universal system for type-driven translation, by adding two more innovations: local type determination for gaps (generalizing Montague 1973) and a set of semantic filters (extending Cooper 1983). This system, dubbed Cross-Linguistic Semantics (XLS), is shown to account (...) for various phenomena — including scope relations in English and Greenlandic Eskimo, internally headed relative clauses in Lakhota, serial verbs in Yoruba and VP ellipsis in English. (shrink)
Most people working on linguistic meaning or communication assume that semantics and pragmatics are distinct domains, yet there is still little consensus on how the distinction is to be drawn. The position defended in this paper is that the semantics/pragmatics distinction holds between (context-invariant) encoded linguistic meaning and speaker meaning. Two other ‘minimalist’ positions on semantics are explored and found wanting: Kent Bach’s view that there is a narrow semantic notion of context which is responsible for providing semantic (...) values for a small number of indexicals, and Herman Cappelen and Ernie Lepore’s view that semantics includes the provision of values for all indexicals, even though these depend on the speaker’s communicative intentions. Finally, some implications are considered for the favoured semantics/pragmatics distinction of the fact that there are linguistic elements (lexical and syntactic) which do not contribute to truth-conditional content but rather provide guidance on pragmatic inference. (shrink)
The relation between linguistics and logic has been discussed in a, recent paper by Bar-Hillel} where it is argued that a disregard for workin logical syntax and semantics has caused linguists to limit themselves too narrowly in their inquiries, and to fall into several errors. In particular, Bar-Hillel asserts, they have attempted to derive relations of synonymy and so-called ‘rules of transfOI`1'Il8.tiOH,, such as the active—pussive relation, from distributional studies alone, and they have hesitated to rely on considerations of meaning (...) in linguistic analysis. No one can quarrel with the suggestion that linguists interest themselves in meaning or transformation rules, but the relevance of logical syntax and semsmticsz (at least as we now know them) to this study is very dubious. I think that a closer investigation of the assumptions and concems of logical syntax and semantics will show that the hope of applying the results which have been achieved in these fields to the solution of linguistic problems is illusory. (shrink)
According to the phenomenal conservatives, beliefs are justified by non-doxastic states we might speak of as ‘appearances’ or ‘seemings’. Those who defend the view say that there is something self-defeating about believing that phenomenal conservatism is mistaken. They also claim that the view captures an important internalist insight about justification. I shall argue that phenomenal conservatism is indefensible. The considerations that seem to support the view commit the phenomenal conservatives to condoning morally abhorrent behavior. They can deny that (...) their view forces them to condone morally abhorrent behavior, but then they undercut the defenses of their own view. (shrink)
I defend the principle of Phenomenal Conservatism, on which appearances of all kinds generate at least some justification for belief. I argue that there is no reason for privileging introspection or intuition over perceptual experience as a source of justified belief; that those who deny Phenomenal Conservatism are in a self-defeating position, in that their view cannot be both true and justified; and that thedemand for a metajustification for Phenomenal Conservatism either is an easily met demand, or (...) is an unfair or question-begging one. (shrink)
John DePoe has criticized the self-defeat argument for Phenomenal Conservatism. He argues that acquaintance, rather than appearance, may form the basis for non-inferentially justified beliefs, and that Phenomenal Conservatism conflicts with a central motivation for internalism. I explain how Phenomenal Conservatism and the self-defeat argument may survive these challenges.
This paper defends an orthodox model of the linguistic intuitions which form a central source of evidence for generative grammars. According to this orthodox conception, linguistic intuitions are the upshot of a system of grammatical competence as it interacts with performance systems for perceiving and articulating language. So conceived, probing speakers’ linguistic intuitions allows us to investigate the competence–performance distinction empirically, so as to determine the grammars that speakers are competent in. This model has been attacked by (...) Michael Devitt in his recent book and a series of papers. In its place, Devitt advances a model of linguistic intuitions whereby they are speakers’ theory-laden judgements about the properties of languages. In this paper, I try to make clear the rationale behind the orthodox model and the inadequacies of Devitt's model. (shrink)
The manifest dissociation between our capacity to make moral judgments and our ability to provide justifications for them, a phenomenon labeled Moral Dumbfounding, has important implications for the theory and practice of moral psychology. I articulate and develop the Linguistic Analogy as a robust alternative to existing sentimentalist models of moral judgment inspired by this phenomenon. The Linguistic Analogy motivates a crucial distinction between moral acceptability and moral permissibility judgments, and thereby calls into question prevailing methods used in (...) the study of moral judgment. Indeed, the judgments that are the focus of most current empirical work in moral psychology are not proper targets of scientific study. (shrink)
The idea that natural languages shape the way we think in different ways was popularized by Benjamin Whorf, but then fell out of favor for lack of empirical support. But now, a new wave of research has been shifting the tide back toward linguistic relativity. The recent research can be interpreted in different ways, some trivial, some implausibly radical, and some both plausible and interesting. We introduce two theses that would have important implications if true: Habitual Whorfianism and Ontological (...) Whorfianism. We argue that these offer the most promising interpretations of the emerging evidence. (shrink)
Foundations of Speech Act Theory investigates the importance of speech act theory to the problem of meaning in linguistics and philosophy. The papers in this volume, written by respected philosophers and linguists, significantly advance standards of debate in this area.
The Linguistic Turn is the title of an influential anthology edited by Richard Rorty, published in 1967. In his introduction, Rorty explained: The purpose of the present volume is to provide materials for reflection on the most recent philosophical revolution, that of linguistic philosophy. I shall mean by “linguistic philosophy” the view that philosophical problems are problems which may be solved (or dissolved) either by reforming language, or by understanding more about the language we presently use. (1967: (...) 3) ‘The linguistic turn’ has subsequently become a standard vague phrase for a diffuse event — some regard it as the event — in twentieth century philosophy, one not confined to signed-up linguistic philosophers in Rorty’s sense. For those who took the turn, language was somehow the central theme of philosophy. There is an increasingly widespread sense that the linguistic turn is past. In this essay I ask how far the turn has been, or should be, reversed. (shrink)
Liberals claim that some perceptual experiences give us immediate justification for certain perceptual beliefs. Conservatives claim that the justification that perceptual experiences give us for those perceptual beliefs is mediated by our background beliefs. In his recent paper ?Basic Justification and the Moorean Response to the Skeptic?, Nico Silins successfully argues for a non-Moorean version of Liberalism. But Silins's defence of non-Moorean Liberalism leaves us with a puzzle: why is it that a necessary condition for our perceptual experiences to justify (...) us in holding certain perceptual beliefs is that we have some independent justification for disbelieving various sceptical hypotheses? I argue that the best answer to this question involves commitment to Crispin Wright's version of Conservatism. In short, Wright's Conservatism is consistent with Silins's Liberalism, and the latter helps to give us grounds for accepting the former. (shrink)
The thesis we develop in this essay is that all humans are endowed with a moral faculty. The moral faculty enables us to produce moral judgments on the basis of the causes and consequences of actions. As an empirical research program, we follow the framework of modern linguistics.1 The spirit of the argument dates back at least to the economist Adam Smith (1759/1976) who argued for something akin to a moral grammar, and more recently, to the political philosopher John Rawls (...) (1971). The logic of the argument, however, comes from Noam Chomsky’s thinking on language specifically and the nature of knowledge more generally (Chomsky, 1986, 1988, 2000; Saporta, 1978). If the nature of moral knowledge is comparable in some way to the nature of linguistic knowledge, as defended recently by Harman (1977), Dwyer (1999, 2004), and Mikhail (2000; in press), then what should we expect to find when we look at the anatomy of our moral faculty? Is there a grammar, and if so, how can the moral grammarian uncover its structure? Are we aware of our moral grammar, its method of operation, and its moment-to-moment functioning in our judgments? Is there a universal moral grammar that allows each child to build a particular moral grammar? Once acquired, are different moral grammars mutually incomprehensible in the same way that a native Chinese speaker finds a native Italian speaker incomprehensible? How does the child acquire a particular moral grammar, especially if her experiences are impoverished relative to the moral judgments she makes? Are there certain forms of brain damage that disrupt moral competence but leave other forms of reasoning intact? And how did this machinery evolve, and for what particular adaptive function? We will have more to say about many of these questions later on, and Hauser (2006) develops others. However, in order to flesh out the key ideas and particular empirical research paths, let us turn to some of the central questions in the study of our language faculty.. (shrink)
According to the expressive theory of communication, the primary function of language is to enable speakers to convey the content of their thoughts to hearers. According to Tyler Burge's social externalism, the content of a person's thought is relative to the way words are used in his or her surrounding linguistic community. This paper argues that Burge's social externalism refutes the expressive theory of communication.
In “Intuitions in Linguistics” ( 2006a ) and Ignorance of Language ( 2006b ) I took it to be Chomskian orthodoxy that a speaker’s metalinguistic intuitions are provided by her linguistic competence. I argued against this view in favor of the alternative that the intuitions are empirical theory-laden central-processor responses to linguistic phenomena. The concern about these linguistic intuitions arises from their apparent role as evidence for a grammar. Mark Textor, “Devitt on the Epistemic Authority of (...) class='Hi'>Linguistic Intuitions” ( 2009 ), argues that I have picked the wrong intuitions: I should have picked non-judgmental linguistic “seemings”. These reside between metalinguistic judgments and linguistic performances and have an epistemic authority that the orthodox view may well be able to explain. Textor seems to think that the metalinguistic intuitions are not evidence at all. I argue that he is wrong about that. More importantly, I argue that there are no “in-between” linguistic seemings with epistemic authority. (shrink)
The paper challenges Williamson’s safety based explanation for why we cannot know the cut-off point of vague expressions. We assume throughout (most of) the paper that Williamson is correct in saying that vague expressions have sharp cut-off points, but we argue that Williamson’s explanation for why we do not and cannot know these cut-off points is unsatisfactory. -/- In sect 2 we present Williamson's position in some detail. In particular, we note that Williamson's explanation relies on taking a particular safety (...) principle ('Meta-linguistic belief safety' or 'MBS') as a necessary condition on knowledge. In section 3, we show that even if MBS were a necessary condition on knowledge, that would not be sufficient to show that we cannot know the cut-off points of vague expressions. In section 4, we present our main case against Williamson's explanation: we argue that MBS is not a necessary condition on knowledge, by presenting a series of cases where one's belief violates MBS but nevertheless constitutes knowledge. In section 5, we present and respond to an objection to our view. And in section 6, we briefly discuss the possible directions a theory of vagueness can take, if our objection to Williamson's theory is taken on board. (shrink)
Linguistic Semantics: An Introduction is the successor to Sir John Lyons's important textbook Language, Meaning and Context (1981).While preserving the general structure of the earlier book, the author has substantially expanded its scope to introduce several topics that were not previously discussed, and to take account of new developments in linguistic semantics over the past decade. The resulting work is an invaluable guide to the subject, offering clarifications of its specialised terms and explaining its relationship to formal and (...) philosophical semantics and to contemporary pragmatics. With its clear and accessible style it will appeal to a wide student readership. Sir John Lyons is one of the most important and internationally renowned contributors to the study of linguistics. His many publications include Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics (1968) and Semantics (1977). (shrink)
Michael Devitt has argued that a satisfactory explanation of the authority of linguistic intuitions need not assume that they are derived from tacit knowledge of principles of grammar. Devitt’s Modest Explanation is based on a controversial construal of linguistic intuitions as meta-linguistic central-processor judgements. I will argue that there are non-judgemental responses to linguistic strings, linguistic seemings, which are evidence for linguistic theories. Devitt cannot account for their epistemic authority. This spoils his ‘modest explanation’. (...) Devitt’s opponent, the Voice of Competence View, is back in business. (shrink)
Traditionally, the language faculty was supposed to be a device that maps linguistic inputs to semantic or conceptual representations. These representations themselves were supposed to be distinct from the representations manipulated by the hearer.s perceptual and motor systems. Recently this view of language has been challenged by advocates of embodied cognition. Drawing on empirical studies of linguistic comprehension, they have proposed that the language faculty reuses the very representations and processes deployed in perceiving and acting. I review some (...) of the evidence in favor of the embodied view of language comprehension, and argue that none of it is conclusive. Moreover, the embodied view itself blurs two important distinctions: first, the distinction between linguistic comprehension and its typical consequences; and second, the distinction between representational content and vehicles. Given that these distinctions are well-motivated, we have good reason to reject the embodied view of linguistic understanding. (shrink)
In this paper, I present a new semantics for demonstratives. Now some may think that David Kaplan (1989a,b) has already given a more than satisfactory semantics for demonstratives, and that there is no need for a new one. But I argue below that Kaplan's theory fails to describe the linguistic meanings of 'that' and other true demonstratives. My argument for this conclusion has nothing to do with cognitive value, belief sentences, or other such contentious matters in semantics and the (...) philosophy of mind. Rather, it appeals to the obvious fact that there can be true utterances of certain sentences containing several occurrences of the same demonstrative (for instance, 'That is taller than that'). My argument can be answered by making a fairly modest revision in Kaplan's theory. But I believe that the resulting revised version of Kaplan's theory ignores or distorts various important semantic features of 'that'. Thus I ultimately argue in favor of a more substantial departure from Kaplan's theory. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the theory I favor is that it ascribes three distinct sorts of meanings to demonstratives. (shrink)
Recently, several philosophers have recast feminist arguments against pornography in terms of Speech Act Theory. In particular, they have considered the ways in which the illocutionary force of pornographic speech serves to set the conventions of sexual discourse while simultaneously silencing the speech of women, especially during unwanted sexual encounters. Yet, this raises serious questions as to how pornographers could (i) be authorities in the language game of sex, and (ii) set the conventions for sexual discourse - questions which these (...) speech act-theoretic arguments against pornography have thus far failed to adequately answer. I fill in this gap of the argumentation by demonstrating that there are fairly weak standards for who counts as an authority or convention-setter in sexual discourse. With this analysis of the underpinnings of a speech act analysis of pornography in mind, I discuss a range of possible objections. I conclude that (i) the endorsement of censorship by a speech act analysis of pornography competes with its commitment to the conventionality of speech acts, and, more damningly, that (ii), recasting anti-pornography arguments in terms of linguistic conventions risks an unwitting defence of a rapist's lack of mens rea - an intolerable result; and yet resisting this conclusion requires that one back away from the original claim to women's voices being 'silenced'. (shrink)
This paper defends 'plural reference', the view that definite plurals refer to several individuals at once, and it explores how the view can account for a range of phenomena that have been discussed in the linguistic literature.
My target in this paper is a view that has sometimes been called the ‘Linguistic Doctrine of Necessary Truth’ (L-DONT) and sometimes ‘Conventionalism about Necessity’. It is the view that necessity is grounded in the meanings of our expressions—meanings which are sometimes identified with the conventions governing those expressions—and that our knowledge of that necessity is based on our knowledge of those meanings or conventions. In its simplest form the view states that a truth, if it is necessary, is (...) necessary (and knowably necessary) because it is analytic. It is widely recognized that this simple version of the view faces a prima facie problem with the existence of the necessary a posteriori. Assuming that all analytic truths are a priori, if there are necessary a posteriori truths then there are necessary synthetic truths—contradicting the view’s claim that all necessary truths are analytic. Contemporary L-DONTers have things to say about the problem, but in this paper I want to suggest that there is a different, more serious, problem which arises from the phenomenon of indexicality, which L-DONTers have not taken account of. Though there are many versions of the problem, a simple one is this. Consider Kaplan’s celebrated sentence. (shrink)
In this article, I discuss Gadamer's hermeneutic account of understanding as an alternative to Kuhn's incommensurability thesis. After a brief account of Kuhn's aesthetic account and arguments against it, I argue that the linguistic account faces a paradox that results from Kuhn's objectivist account of understanding, and his lack of historical reflexivity. The statement 'Languages are incommensurable' is not a unique view of language, and is thus subject to contest by incommensurable readings. Resolving the paradox requires an account of (...) incommensurability that is self-referentially consistent, open-ended, and historically reflexive whereby we recognize that our very interest in incommensurability is historically conditioned. By meeting these conditions, Gadamer's account of historical understanding offers a middle ground between two extremes: on the one side is the claim that understanding involves becoming a native of an incommensurable language, and on the other side is the rejection of the prospect of understanding a contextually removed language altogether. Gadamer is discussed as a mediator between Kuhn's epistemic and historical projects, and thus paves the way for a new hermeneutics of science. The notions of traditional horizon, historically effected consciousness, the universality of interpretation, alienation, dialogical openness, and the fusion of horizons are also discussed. (shrink)
Much of the plausibility of epistemic conservatism derives from its prospects of explaining our rationality in holding memory beliefs. In the first two parts of this paper, I argue for the inadequacy of the two standard approaches to the epistemology of memory beliefs, preservationism and evidentialism. In the third, I point out the advantages of the conservative approach and consider how well conservatism survives three of the strongest objections against it. Conservatism does survive, I claim, but only (...) if qualified in certain ways. Appropriately qualified, conservatism is no longer the powerful anti-skeptical tool some have hoped for, but a doctrine closely connected with memory. (shrink)
The Linguistic Turn provides a rich and representative introduction to the entire historical and doctrinal range of the linguistic philosophy movement. In two retrospective essays titled "Ten Years After" and "Twenty-Five Years After," Rorty shows how his book was shaped by the time in which it was written and traces the directions philosophical study has taken since. "All too rarely an anthology is put together that reflects imagination, command, and comprehensiveness. Rorty's collection is just such a book."-- Review (...) of Metaphysics Richard Rorty is University Professor of Humanities at the University of Virginia. (shrink)
Since the 1960's, work in the analytic tradition on the nature of mental and linguistic content has converged on the views that social facts about public language meaning are derived from facts about the thoughts of individuals, and that these thoughts are constituted by properties of the internal states of agents. I give a two-part argument against this picture of intentionality: first, that if mental content is prior to public language meaning, then a view of mental content much like (...) the causal-pragmatic theory presented by Robert Stalnaker in Inquiry must be correct; second, that the causal-pragmatic theory is false. I conclude with some positive suggestions regarding alternative solutions to the `problem of intentionality.'. (shrink)
The problem with many contemporary criticisms of Chomsky and linguistic nativism is that they are based upon features of the theory that are no longer germane; aspects that have either been superseded by more adequate proposals, or that have been dropped altogether under the weight of contravening evidence. In this paper, rather than rehashing old debates that are voluminously documented elsewhere, we intend to focus on more recent developments. To this end, we have put a premium on references from (...) the 1990s and the latter half of the 1980s. First, we will describe exactly what is now thought to be innate about language, and why it is thought to be innate rather than learned. Second, we will examine the evidence that many people take to be the greatest challenge to the nativist claim: ape language. Third, we will briefly consider how an innate language organ might have evolved. Fourth we will look at how an organism might communicate without benefit of the innate language structure proposed by Chomsky, and examine a number of cases in which this seems to be happening. Finally we will try to sum up our claims and characterize what we believe will be the most fruitful course of debate for the immediate future. (shrink)
Why are linguistic intuitions good evidence for a grammar? In ‘Intuitions in Linguistics’ ([2006a]) and Ignorance of Language ([2006b]), I looked critically at some Chomskian answers and proposed another one. In this article, I respond to Fitzgerald’s ‘Linguistic Intuitions’ (), a sweeping critique of my position, and to Culbertson and Gross’ ‘Are Linguists Better Subjects?’ (), a criticism of one consequence of the position. In rejecting these criticisms, I emphasize that the issue over linguistic intuitions concerns only (...) metalinguistic ones. And I argue that my critics, like many others, make too much of the distinction between grammaticality and acceptability intuitions. (shrink)
Some of Quine’s critics charge that he arrives at a behavioristic account of linguistic meaning by starting from inappropriately behavioristic assumptions (Kripke 1982, 14; Searle 1987, 123). Quine has even written that this account of linguistic meaning is a consequence of his behaviorism (Quine 1992, 37). I take it that the above charges amount to the assertion that Quine assumes the denial of one or more of the following claims: (1) Language-users associate mental ideas with their linguistic (...) expressions. (2) A language-user can have a private theory of linguistic meaning which guides his or her use of language. (3) Language learning relies on innate mechanisms. Call an antecedent denial of one or more of these claims illicit behaviorism. In this paper I show that Quine is prepared to grant, if only for the sake of argument, all three of the above claims. I argue that his claim that there is nothing in linguistic meaning beyond what is to be gleaned from overt behavior in observable circumstances is unscathed by these allowances (Quine 1992, 38). And I show that the behaviorism which Quine does assume should be viewed as a largely uncontroversial aspect of his evidential empiricism. I conclude that if one sets out to dismiss Quine’s arguments for internal-meaning skepticism, this dismissal should not be motivated by the charge that his conclusions rely on the illicitly behavioristic assumptions that some have suggested that they do. (shrink)
Language and Ontology: Linguistic Relativism (Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis) vs. Universal Grammar Universal Ontology vs. Ontological Relativity Semiotics and Ontology: Annotated Bibliography of John Deely. First part: 1965-1998 Annotated Bibliography of John Deely. Second part: 1999-2010 The Rediscovery of John Poinsot (John of St. Thomas).
Saunders and van Brakel's observation that “linguistic evidence provides no grounds for the universality of basic color categories” also applies to the concept of “colour” itself. The language of “seeing” is rooted in human experience, and its basic frame of reference is provided by the universal rhythm of “light” days and “dark” nights and by the fundamental and visually salient features of human environment: the sky, the sun, vegetation, fire, the sea, the naked earth.
A central argument against Ryle’s (The concept of mind, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1949 ) distinction between propositional and non propositional knowledge has relied on linguistic evidence. Stanley and Williamson (J Philos 98:411–444, 2001 ) have claimed that knowing-how ascriptions do not differ in any relevant syntactic or semantic respect from ascriptions of propositional knowledge, concluding thereby that knowing-how ascriptions attribute propositional knowledge, or a kind thereof. In this paper I examine the cross-linguistic basis of this argument. (...) I focus on the linguistic analysis of practical knowledge ascriptions in Modern Greek, although the issues raised are not restricted to one language. It is relatively straightforward to show that none of the three types of practical knowledge ascriptions in Modern Greek is an embedded question configuration, and hence Stanley and Williamson original claim is confined to certain languages only. This is not the end of the matter, however, since Stanley (Nous 45:207–238, 2011 ) argues that the equivalents of ‘knowing-how’ ascriptions in certain languages should be semantically analyzed as embedded questions despite their syntactic form. I argue that this fallback position faces a host of empirical and theoretical problems, in view of which it cannot bear the weight Stanley puts on it, supporting a conclusion about the kind of knowledge thereby attributed. (shrink)
According to the thesis of epistemic conservatism it would be unreasonable to change one's beliefs in the absence of any good reasons. Although it is claimed that epistemic conservatism has informed and resolved a number of positions and problems in epistemology, it is difficult to identify a single representative view of the thesis. This has resulted in advancing a series of disparate and largely unconnected arguments to establish conservatism. In this paper, I begin by casting doubt on (...) the claim of widespread and genuine applications of the conservative policy. I then distinguish between three main varieties of epistemic conservatism, namely, differential, perseverance and generation conservatism Having evaluated various arguments that have been offered or may be considered on behalf of the conservative thesis, I close by concluding that those versions of the thesis that survive critical scrutiny fail to live up to the aspirations of the thesis as a substantive canon of rationality, that to the extent that principles of conservatism are epistemically promising, they are not plausible. While to the extent that they are plausible, they are not of much epistemic interest. (shrink)
Terms such as 'wisdom' or 'happiness' are commonly held to refer to abstract objects that are properties. On the basis of a greater range of linguistic data and with the support of some ancient and medieval philosophical views, I argue that such terms do not stand for objects, but rather for kinds of tropes, entities that do not have the status of objects, but only play a role as semantic values of terms and as arguments of predicates. Such ‘non-objects’ (...) crucially differ from objects in that they are not potential bearers of properties. (shrink)
Alice Crary claims that “the standard view of the bearing of Wittgenstein's philosophy on ethics” is dominated by “inviolability interpretations”, which often underlie conservative readings of Wittgenstein. Crary says that such interpretations are “especially marked in connection with On Certainty”, where Wittgenstein is represented as holding that “our linguistic practices are immune to rational criticism, or inviolable”. Crary's own conception of the bearing of Wittgenstein's philosophy on ethics, which I call the “intrinsically-ethical reading”, derives from the influential New Wittgenstein (...) school of exegesis, and is also espoused by James Edwards, Cora Diamond, and Stephen Mulhall. To my eyes, intrinsically-ethical readings present a peculiar picture of ethics, which I endeavour to expose in Part I of the paper. In Part II I present a reading of On Certainty that Crary would call an “inviolability interpretation”, defend it against New Wittgensteinian critiques, and show that this kind of reading has nothing to do with ethical or political conservatism. I go on to show how Wittgenstein's observations on the manner in which we can neither question nor affirm certain states of affairs that are fundamental to our epistemic practices can be fruitfully extended to ethics. Doing so sheds light on the phenomenon that I call “basic moral certainty”, which constitutes the foundation of our ethical practices, and the scaffolding or framework of moral perception, inquiry, and judgement. The nature and significance of basic moral certainty will be illustrated through consideration of the strangeness of philosophers' attempts at explaining the wrongness of killing. (shrink)
Marc Hauser, Liane Young, and Fiery Cushman’s paper is an excellent contribution to a now resurgent attempt (Dwyer, 1999; Harman, 1999; Mikhail, 2000) to explore and understand moral psychology by way of an analogy with Noam Chomsky’s pathbreaking work in linguistics, famously suggested by John Rawls (1971). And anyone who reads their paper ought to be convinced that research into our innate moral endowment is a plausible and worthwhile research program. I thus begin by agreeing that even if the (...) class='Hi'>linguistic analogy turns out to be weak, it can do titanic work in serving, "as an important guide to empirical research, opening doors to theoretically distinctive questions that, to date, have few answers" (p. XXX). Granting the importance of the empirical investigation of moral judgment generally, and of research designed to probe the linguistic analogy specifically, I will nonetheless argue that there is simply no evidence that there is a specialized moral faculty, no evidence that the stronger version of the linguistic analogy is correct (p. XXX). (shrink)
Traditionally, the language faculty was supposed to be a device that maps linguistic inputs to semantic or conceptual representations. These representations themselves were supposed to be distinct from the representations manipulated by the hearer’s perceptual and motor systems. Recently this view of language has been challenged by advocates of embodied cognition. Drawing on empirical studies of linguistic comprehension, they have proposed that the language faculty reuses the very representations and processes deployed in perceiving and acting. I review some (...) of the evidence and arguments in favor of the embodied view of language comprehension, and argue that none of it is conclusive. Moreover, the embodied view itself blurs two important distinctions: first, the distinction between linguistic comprehension and its typical consequences; and second, the distinction between representational content and vehicles. Given that these distinctions are well-motivated, we have good reason to reject the embodied view of linguistic understanding. (shrink)
Lycan (1985, 1988) defended a “Principle of Credulity”: “Accept at the outset each of those things that seem to be true” (1988, p. 165). Though that takes the form of a rule rather than a thesis, it does not seem very different from Huemer’s (2001, 2006, 2007) doctrine of phenomenal conservatism (PC): “If it seems to S that p , then, in the absence of defeaters, S thereby has at least some degree of justification for believing that p ” (...) (2007, p. 30). My Principle was differently motivated and put to uses different from Huemer’s. In this paper I shall explore some of the differences. (shrink)
There has been a long tradition of characterizing man as the animal that talks. However, the remarkable ability of using pictures also only belongs to human beings, after all we know empirically so far. Are there conceptual reasons for that coincidence? The paper is dedicated to a philosophical programme of “concept-genetic” considerations dealing in particular with the dependencies between those two abilities: The conceptual relation between the competence to use assertive language and the faculty of employing pictures must be conceived (...) of as being much closer than usually expected. Indeed we conclude, there cannot be creatures with only one of them. (shrink)
This book expounds and defends a new conception of the relation between truth and meaning. Atlas argues that the sense of a sense-general sentence radically underdetermines (independently of indexicality) its truth-conditional content. He applies this linguistic analysis to illuminate old and new philosophical problems of meaning, truth, falsity, negation, existence, presupposition, and implicature. In particular, he demonstrates how the concept of ambiguity has been misused and confused with other concepts of meaning, and how the interface between semantics and pragmatics (...) has been misunderstood. The problems he tackles are common to philosophy, linguistics, cognitive psychology, and artificial intelligence, and his conclusions will be of interest to all those working in these fields. (shrink)
Inspired by the success of generative linguistics and transformational grammar, proponents of the linguistic analogy (LA) in moral psychology hypothesize that careful attention to folk-moral judgments is likely to reveal a small set of implicit rules and structures responsible for the ubiquitous and apparently unbounded capacity for making moral judgments. As a theoretical hypothesis, LA thus requires a rich description of the computational structures that underlie mature moral judgments, an account of the acquisition and development of these structures, and (...) an analysis of those components of the moral system that are uniquely human and uniquely moral. In this paper we present the theoretical motivations for adopting LA in the study of moral cognition: (a) the distinction between competence and performance, (b) poverty of stimulus considerations, and (c) adopting the computational level as the proper level of analysis for the empirical study of moral judgment. With these motivations in hand, we review recent empirical findings that have been inspired by LA and which provide evidence for at least two predictions of LA: (a) the computational processes responsible for folk-moral judgment operate over structured representations of actions and events, as well as coding for features of agency and outcomes; and (b) folk-moral judgments are the output of a dedicated moral faculty and are largely immune to the effects of context. In addition, we highlight the complexity of the interfaces between the moral faculty and other cognitive systems external to it (e.g., number systems). We conclude by reviewing the potential utility of the theoretical and empirical tools of LA for future research in moral psychology. (shrink)
Methodological questions concerning Chomsky’s generative approach to linguistics have been debated without consensus. The status of linguistics as psychology, the psychological reality of grammars, the character of tacit knowledge and the role of intuitions as data remain heatedly disputed today. I argue that the recalcitrance of these disputes is symptomatic of deep misunderstandings. I focus attention on Michael Devitt’s recent extended critique of Chomskyan linguistics and I suggest that his complaints are based on a failure to appreciate the special status (...) of Chomsky’s computational formalisms found elsewhere in cognitive science. Devitt ascribes an intentional conception of representations that Chomsky repudiates and that is independently implausible. I argue that Devitt’s proposed “linguistic reality” as the proper subject matter of linguistics neglects the problems of tokens as opposed to types and he misses the force of Chomsky’s arguments against Behaviourism and nominalism. I suggest that Devitt’s case against intuitions as data misunderstands their standard role throughout perceptual psychology. Finally, of more general interest, I argue that Devitt’s position exemplifies compelling errors concerning mental representation seen throughout cognitive science and philosophy of mind. (shrink)
Buddhist semantic realists assert that reality is always non-linguistic, beyond the domain of conceptual thought. Anything that is conceptual and linguistic, they maintain, cannot be reality and therefore cannot function as reality.The Pra¯san˙gika however rejects the realist theory and argues that all realities are purely linguistic—just names and concepts—and that only linguistic reality can have any causal function. This paper seeks to understand the Pra¯san˙gika’s radical semantic nominalism and its philosophical justifications by comparing and contrasting it (...) with the realistic semantic theories. (shrink)
The Analytic/Synthetic distinction did not originate in Kant, but in Port-Royal's logical theory. The key for the doctrine is the explicite recognition of two different kinds of relative clauses, e.g. explicative and determinative. In the middle eighteenth century the distinction becomes a topic within the grammars. Although we can find by grammarians different criteria for the distinction, these criteria (for which we can find medieval sources) are for the main predictable from the original theory of ideas, which was presented in (...) Port-Royal's logical writings. The topic of the two relative clauses (somewhat broader than the analytic/synthetic distinction) can be used to give empirical criteria for analyticity and also for revisiting Quine's criticism of the topic. Analyticity yet appears as a master piece of classical linguistic philosophy and not as being the empty dogma of modern empiricism. (shrink)
Wilfrid Sellars wrote: all awareness of sorts, resemblances, facts, etc., in short, all awareness of abstract entities -- indeed, all awareness even of particulars ~ is a linguistic affair. 1 This passage from Sellars' famous essay, "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind" has caused, I suspect, some philosophers to view Sellars as committed to linguisticidealism-the view that all awareness is linguistically mediated.
Adorno's conception of conceptually articulated experience can be defended and made fruitful for a critical philosophy after the so-called linguistic turn. The aim is both to answer the criticisms raised by Jürgen Habermas and others that Adorno's philosophy remains bound by the premises of a subject-centred philosophy, and to criticize social-pragmatism from the vantage-point of Adorno's philosophy of language. It is shown that Adorno is committed to a picture of experience very much in line with the recent views of (...) John McDowell, which extends the space of reasons beyond the space of concepts. Further, it is shown that non-inferential justification can be combined with an expressivist picture of judgment. Finally, it is argued that what is called the extended space of reasons is ultimately social; that representation, the aboutness of thought, serves expressive roles in a socially articulated space of reason-giving. The advantage of Adorno's position vis-à-vis a one-sided social-pragmatism consists in his defence of what is called subjective-material proprieties of judgment. Adorno's idea that the extended space of reasons implies the acknowledgement of what he refers to as the non-identical within conceptually articulated experience is thus reconstructed and defended. Such non-identity, it is claimed, is exhibited in successful art-works which thereby ought to be counted as forms of reasoning. On this basis, Adorno's philosophy acquires critical and normative significance after the linguistic turn. (shrink)
This book traces the linguistic turns in the history of modern philosophy and the development of the philosophy of language from Locke to Wittgenstein. It examines the contributions of canonical figures such as Leibniz, Mill, Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Austin, Quine, and Davidson, as well as those of Condillac, Humboldt, Chomsky, and Derrida. Michael Losonsky argues that the philosophy of language begins with Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding and demonstrates how the history of the philosophy of language in the modern (...) period is marked by a split between formal and pragmatic perspectives on language, which modern philosophy has not been able to integrate. (shrink)
A rich tradition in philosophy takes truths about meaning to be wholly determined by how language is used; meanings do not guide use of language from behind the scenes, but instead are fixed by such use. Linguistic practice, on this conception, exhausts the facts to which the project of understanding another must be faithful. But how is linguistic practice to be characterized? No one has addressed this question more seriously than W. V. Quine, who sought for many years (...) to formulate a conception of use that makes sense of certain key features of meaning. The nature, development, and adequacy of his formulations are here explored. All are found to fall short of what he wanted to achieve. Donald Davidson has introduced significant variations on Quine's project. The resulting position is also examined, but likewise found to be problematic. Finally, a neo-Quinean conception is sketched, as are some of the problems such a view would have to surmount. (shrink)
I critique an ancient argument for the possibility of non-linguistic deductive inference. The argument, attributed to Chrysippus, describes a dog whose behavior supposedly reflects disjunctive syllogistic reasoning. Drawing on contemporary robotics, I urge that we can equally well explain the dog's behavior by citing probabilistic reasoning over cognitive maps. I then critique various experimentally-based arguments from scientific psychology that echo Chrysippus's anecdotal presentation.
Our utterances are typically if not always "situated," in the sense that they are true or false relative to unarticulated parameters of the extra-linguistic context. The problem is to explain how these parameters are determined, given that nothing in the uttered sentences indicates them. It is tempting to claim that they must be determined at the level of thought or intention. However, as many philosophers have observed, thoughts themselves are no less situated than utterances. Unarticulated parameters need not be (...) mentally represented. In this paper, I try to make precise the notion of representation at stake here. In one sense of 'representation', something is represented if it is inferentially relevant. In another, less demanding sense, something is represented if it is relevant to the construction of a context-sensitive, ad hoc concept. Ad hoc concepts act as "proxies" for cognitively more demanding representations. They "imitate" the latter's epistemic and pragmatic roles while being inferentially less sophisticated. Thus, there are two senses in which a thought can be said to be situated: (1) its truth-value is relative to a non-represented contextual parameter, (2) its truth-value is not itself relative, but it involves a context-sensitive, ad hoc concept. (shrink)
At present, there is an almost universal consensus that the linguistic doctrine of logical necessity is grotesque. This paper explores avenues for rehabilitating a limited version of the doctrine, according to which the special status of analytic statements like 'All vixens are female' is to be explained by reference to language. Far from being grotesque, this appeal to language has a respectable philosophical pedigree and chimes with common sense, as Quine came to realize. The problem lies in developing it (...) in a way that avoids the powerful objections facing previous versions of the linguistic doctrine. I argue tentatively that this can be done by reconciling Wittgenstein's claim that such statements have a normative role with Carnap's concession that they are true. (shrink)
Does language do violence, and, if so, can linguistic violence be overcome? Language can do violence if violence does not require the exercise of physical force, and linguistic violence can be overcome if its use can be avoided. Some forms of violence do not use physical force, and various means are available for avoiding linguistic violence. Hence, although linguistic violence can and does occur, it also can be overcome. Much of my recent work has focused on (...) how language, which does not rely on physical force, nonetheless often does violence. Linguistic violence occurs when we are hurt psychologically by words and when we are harmed socially by words. While most people are conscious of the pain that words can cause, many social groups are often unconscious of injustices that language helps to create and sustain. Exposing both of these forms of linguistic violence is the first step. (shrink)
?Right words are like the reverse? is the concluding remark of chap. 78 in the Daoist classic Daodejing. Quoted in treatises composed by Seng Zhao (374?414), it designates the linguistic strategy used to unfold the Buddhist Madhyamaka meaning of ?emptiness? and ?ultimate truth?. In his treatise Things Do not Move, Seng Zhao demonstrates that ?motion and stillness? are not really contradictory, performing the deconstructive meaning of Buddhist ?emptiness? via the corresponding linguistic strategy. Though the topic of the discussion (...) and the rhetoric are borrowed from Daoist sources, the point of view is rooted in the Buddhist understanding. The first section of this paper deals with the issue of exegetical methods in early Chinese Buddhism; the subsequent part explains both the Daoist background and the topics modified in Seng Zhao's discussions; the third part analyzes Seng Zhao's linguistic strategy and expounds its particular philosophical significance. (shrink)
Daniel Hutto’s Enactive account of social cognition maintains that pre- and non-linguistic interactions do not require that the participants represent the psychological states of the other. This goes against traditional ‘cognitivist’ accounts of these social phenomena. This essay examines Hutto’s Enactive account, and proposes two challenges. The account maintains that organisms respond to the behaviours of others, and in doing so respond to the ‘intentional attitude’ which the other has. The first challenge argues that there is no adequate account (...) of how the organisms respond to the correct aspect of the behaviour in each situation. The second challenge argues that the Enactive account cannot account for the flexibility of pre- and non-linguistic responses to others. The essay concludes that these challenges provide more than sufficient reason to doubt the viability of Hutto’s account as an alternative to cogntivist approaches to social cognition. (shrink)
George Lakoff (in his book Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things(1987) and the paper "Cognitive semantics" (1988)) champions some radical foundational views. Strikingly, Lakoff opposes realism as a metaphysical position, favoring instead some supposedly mild form of idealism such as that recently espoused by Hilary Putnam, going under the name "internal realism." For what he takes to be connected reasons, Lakoff also rejects truth conditional model-theoretic semantics for natural language. This paper examines an argument, given by Lakoff, against realism and MTS. (...) We claim that Lakoff's argument has very little, if any, impact for linguistic semantics. (shrink)
Prinz (Perceptual the Mind: Concepts and Their Perceptual Basis, MIT Press, 2002) presents a new species of concept empiricism, under which concepts are off-line long-term memory networks of representations that are ‘copies’ of perceptual representations – proxytypes. An apparent obstacle to any such empiricism is the prevailing nativism of generative linguistics. The paper critically assesses Prinz’s attempt to overcome this obstacle. The paper argues that, prima facie, proxytypes are as incapable of accounting for the structure of the linguistic mind (...) as are the more traditional species of empiricism. This position is then confirmed by looking in detail at two suggestions (one derived from recent connectionist research) from Prinz of how certain aspects of syntactic structure might be accommodated by the proxytype theory. It is shown that the suggestions fail to come to terms with both the data and theory of contemporary linguistics. (shrink)
Jill de Villiers has argued that children's mastery of sentential complements plays a crucial role in enabling them to succeed at false-belief tasks. Josef Perner has disputed that and has argued that mastery of false-belief tasks requires an understanding of the multiplicity of perspectives. This paper attempts to resolve the debate by explicating attributions of desires and beliefs as extensions of the linguistic practices of making commands and assertions, respectively. In terms of these linguistic practices one can explain (...) why desire-talk will precede belief-talk and why even older children will have difficulty attributing incompatible desires. (shrink)