It has been known for some time that context-dependence poses a problem for disquotationalism, but the problem has largely been regarded as one of detail: one that will be solved by the right sort of cleverness. I argue here that the problem is one of principle and that extant solutions, which are based upon the notion of translation, cannot succeed.
Disquotationalism is the view that the only notion of truth we really need is one that can be wholly explained in terms of such trivialities as: “Snow is white” is true iff snow is white. The 'Classical Disquotational Strategy' attempts to establish this view case by case, by showing that each extant appeal to truth, in philosophical or scientific explanations, can be unmasked as an appeal only to disquotational truth. I argue here that the Classical Strategy fails in at least (...) two cases: attributions of truth to context-dependent utterances and uses of truth psychological explanations of behavioral success or, more fundamentally, appeals to falsity in psychological explanations of behavioral failure. -/- It's my intention to turn this paper into two papers. It's become quite unwieldy as it is---not unlike "The Strength of Truth Theories". (shrink)
An object-based correspondence theory of truth holds that a truth-bearer is true whenever its truth conditions are met by objects and their properties. In order to develop such a view, the principal task is to explain how truth-bearers become endowed with their truth conditions. Modern versions of the correspondence theory see this project as the synthesis of two theoretical endeavours: basic metasemantics and compositional semantics. Basic metasemantics is the theory of how simple, meaningful items (e.g. names and concepts) are endowed (...) with their contributions to truth conditions, and compositional semantics is the theory of how the meanings of simple items compose to generate (among other things) the truth conditions of sentences. Understanding truth along these broad lines was once popular; it was first championed by Field (1972). However, the once-popular conception of its tasks included an over-ambitious view of basic metasemantics. It was thought that reference needed to be analyzed (or reduced a posteriori) in terms of more fundamental, non-semantic relations (e.g. causal relations, indication, or teleological relations, in the case of mental representation). Obstacles in providing such an analysis engendered skepticism towards this understanding of truth and eventually gave way to its deflationary competitors. This dissertation aims to defend the modern, object-based correspondence theory against its rivals—especially deflationism. Chapter one provides a historically-grounded overview of the theory. Chapter two identifies two points of contrast between the correspondence theorist and the deflationist: they employ different orders of explanation for the variety of semantic phenomena, and they (traditionally) take different attitudes towards the prospects of reduction. Situating the dialectic in this way allows me to develop a middle ground: a moderate version of inflationism that takes the inflationary explanatory structure and combines it with a non-reductive, pluralist approach to basic metasemantics. Chapter three expands on the details of this pluralist account of reference. Chapter four contrasts the view with another rival approach to basic metasemantics: metasemantic interpretationism. And finally, chapter five applies the theory to answer another question of broad philosophical interest: what role does our conception of truth play in inquiry about the world? (shrink)
This essay argues for a two-part thesis concerning the deflationist theories of truth and reference. First, I identify two points of contrast between the deflationist theories and their traditional inflationary opponents: (1) they each employ different orders of explanation for the variety of semantic phenomena, and (2) the inflationist is typically taken to be beholden to a reductive explanation of reference, whereas the deflationist is doubtful of this project. Secondly, I argue that these two points of contrast need not come (...) together to exhaust the space of possible views. There is room for a plausible middle ground: a moderate version of inflationism. My moderate inflationism will reject the deflationist's order of explanation, so it counts as genuinely inflationary. However, it also rejects the reductionist ambitions of the earlier inflationists, so it isn’t an apt target for deflationary scepticism. (shrink)
Hilary Putnam’s Realism with a Human Face began with a quotation from Rilke, exhorting us to ‘try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue’. Putnam followed this advice throughout his life. His love for the questions permanently changed how we understand them. In Naturalism, Realism, and Normativity – published only a few weeks after his death – Putnam continued to explore central questions concerning realism and perception, from the (...) perspective of ‘liberal naturalism’. The volume’s thirteen papers were written over the past fifteen years (only one paper is new), and they show a man who fully inhabited the questions he loved. And the main significance of this book is that it shows – implicitly, but very clearly – quite how much of Putnam’s contribution to his philosophy is continuous with his ‘The Meaning of “Meaning”’. (shrink)
A lot of us have given up on the idea that there will be a naturalistic account of the relation of semantic reference and so have resolved to formulate our theories of semantics and communication without appeal to semantic reference. Still, there is a resilient intuition to the effect that I know the extensions of the terms of my language. This paper explicates that intuition without yielding to it. The key idea is to give a “skeptical” account of what it (...) is to “know the meaning” of a word, by which I mean an account of the status that is granted to a person in saying that he or she “knows the meaning” of a word. (shrink)
Much contemporary thinking about language is animated by the idea that the core function of language is to represent how the world is and that therefore the notion of representation should play a fundamental explanatory role in any explanation of language and language use. Leading thinkers in the field explore various ways this idea may be challenged as well as obstacles to developing various forms of anti-representationalism. Particular attention is given to deflationary accounts of truth, the role of language in (...) expressing mental states, and the normative and the natural as they relate to issues of representation. The chapters further various fundamental debates in metaphysics--for example, concerning the question of finding a place for moral properties in a naturalistic world-view--and illuminate the relation of the recent neo-pragmatist revival to the expressivist stream in analytic philosophy of language. (shrink)
This article analyzes whether Brandom’s ISA (inferential-substitutional-anaphoric) semantics as presented in Making It Explicit (MIE) and Articulating Reasons (AR) can cope with problems resulting from inferentialism’s near-implied meaning holism. Inferentialism and meaning holism entail a radically perspectival conception of content as significance for an individual speaker. Since thereby its basis is fixed as idiolects, holistic inferentialism engenders a communication-problem. Brandom considers the systematic difference in information among individuals as the „point“ of communication and thus doesn’t want to diminish these effects (...) of inferentialism. Instead, explains communication with a model of “navigating among perspectives without sharing contents”. The crucial element in this navigation-model is the functioning of anaphoric connections between tokens uttered in discourse that can be used by every individual speaker in their own perspectival semantic substitution-economies. The heart of Brandom’s semantics is the thesis of the purely inferential, hence non-referential nature of anaphora, coupled with the claim that anaphoric-inferential semantic mechanisms yield sufficient conditions for mutually successful “information-extraction” or interpretation. This article disputes the thesis and denies the claim. Regarding the former it is observed that all of Brandom’s plausible reconstructions of anaphoric discourse-structures rely on covert “reference-infiltrations” that can’t be eliminated. Regarding the latter, a new argument based on context-sensitive semantic phenomena in anaphoric settings shows that the crucial distinction between initiator or anaphoric antecedent and anaphoric dependent cannot be drawn according to Brandom’s own premises without overt and irreducible referential premises. The article concludes that either Brandom’s semantics can offer determinate contents, but then must accept genuinely referential semantic primitives, or else it leaves utterance-contents undeterminable and hence cannot explain communication. (shrink)
In this paper I consider whether disquotationalist accounts of reference can accommodate our intuitions concerning reference. I argue that, if our intuitions are to be satisfactorily accommodated, the disquotationalist must regard the semantic content of a referring singular term as depending upon the object which is the intuitive referent of that singular term. Granted this, however, the way then looks open for the inflationist about reference to simply identify the object dependence relation with the reference relation. I consider how damaging (...) this is for the disquotationalist, and how she might respond, concluding on a note of pessimism for disquotationalist accounts of reference. (shrink)
The article first rehearses three deflationary theories of reference, (1) disquotationalism, (2) propositionalism (Horwich), and (3) the anaphoric theory (Brandom), and raises a number of objections against them. It turns out that each corresponds to a closely related theory of truth, and that these are subject to analogous criticisms to a surprisingly high extent. I then present a theory of my own, according to which the schema “That S(t) is about t” and the biconditional “S refers to x iff S (...) says something about x” are exhaustive of the notions of aboutness and reference. An account of the usefulness of “about” is then given, which, I argue, is superior to that of Horwich. I close with a few considerations about how the advertised theory relates to well-known issues of reference, the conclusions of which is (1) that the issues concern reference and aboutness only insofar as the words “about” and “refer” serve to generalise over the claims that are really at issue, (2) that the theory of reference will not settle the issues, and (3) that it follows from (2) that the issues do not concern the nature of aboutness or reference. (shrink)
Few philosophers today doubt the importance of some notion of rigid designation, as suggested by Kripke and Putnam for names and natural kind terms. At the very least, most of us want our theories to be compatible with the most plausible elements of that account. Anaphoric theories of reference have gained some attention lately, but little attention has been given to how they square with rigid designation. Although the differences between anaphoric theories and many interpretations of the New Theory of (...) reference are substantial, I argue that rigid designation and anaphoric theories can be reconciled with one another and in fact complement one another in important ways. (shrink)
In a number of influential papers, Hartry Fieldhas advanced an account of truth and referencethat we might dub quasi-disquotationalism. According to quasi-disquotationalism, truth and reference are to be explained in terms of disquotationand facts about what constitute a goodtranslation into our language. Field suggeststhat we might view quasi-disquotationalism aseither (a) an analysis of our ordinarytruth-theoretic concepts of reference andtruth, or (b) an account of certain otherconcepts that improve upon our ordinaryconcepts. In this paper, I argue that (i) ifthe view is (...) understood along the lines of (a)it fails, and (ii) if it is construed along thelines of (b) it is, at best, under-motivated. (shrink)
A theory of reference may be either an analysis of reference or merely an account of the correct use of the verb "refer". If we define the validity of arguments in the standard way, in terms of assignments of individuals and sets to the nonlogical vocabulary of the language, then we will be committed to seeking an analysis of reference. Those who prefer a metalinguistic account, therefore, will desire an alternative to standard semantics. One alternative is the Quinean conception of (...) logical validity as essentially a matter of logical form. Another alternative is Leblanc's truth-value semantics. But these prove to be either inadequate for purposes of metatheory or philosophically unsatisfactory. This paper shows how validity (i.e., semantic consequence) may be defined in a way that avoid the problems facing these other alternatives to standard semantics and also permits a metalinguistic account of reference. The validity of arguments is treated as a matter of logical form, but validity for forms is defined on analogy with the definition of semantic consequence in truth-value semantics. (A more radical kind of semantics without reference is the context logical approach represented in several of my other publications.). (shrink)
Takes up Kripke's theory of reference for proper names and natural kind words. Advocates investigation by means of ordinary language examples. Finds the problem for which Kripke's theory is offered as an answer seems to rest on an implausible picture of language.
The model-theoretic argument known as Putnam´s paradox threatens our notion of truth with triviality: Almost any world can satisfy almost any theory. Formal argument and intuition are at odds. David Lewis devised a solution according to which the very stucture of the world fixes how it is to be divided into elite classes which determine the reference of any true theory. Three claims are defended: Firstly, Lewis´ proposal must be completed by an account of successful referential intentions. Secondly, contrary to (...) Catherine Elgin´s criticism of Lewis, natural properties corresponding to elite classes may play a role in sound scientific inquiry. Thirdly, despite Bas van Fraassen´s objection that the sceptic cannot consistently maintain doubts about reference, there is a promising sceptical strategy of exploiting Putnam´s results which is answered by Lewis´ account. (shrink)