Dorit Bar-On
University Of Connecticut, Storrs
Philosophers are often interested in explaining significant contrasts between ordinary descriptive discourses, on the one hand, and discourses – such as ethics, mathematics, or mentalistic discourse – that are thought to be more problematic in various ways. But certain strategies for ‘saving the differences’ can make it too difficult to preserve notable similarities across discourses. My own preference is for strategies that ‘save the differences’ without sacrificing logico-semantic continuities or committing to deflationism about truth, but also without embracing either truth-pluralism or global expressivism.I motivate my preference by examining, as a test case, mentalistic discourse. I begin by reconstructing three philosophical puzzles that have led philosophers to think of mentalistic discourse as problematic. These puzzles concern the semantic, epistemological, and metaphysical status of contrasts between first-person present-tense attributions – ‘avowals’ – and all other ordinary contingent attributions. I then briefly present my own, neo-expressivist strategy for addressing the puzzles. Unlike traditional ‘simple expressivism’, neo-expressivism is not committed to avowals’ being non-truth-apt or having non-propositional meanings. And yet it does not require embracing either deflationism about truth or global expressivism. It preserves continuities between mentalistic and other discourses while allowing us to capture discontinuities. Moreover, it is possible to apply the neo-expressivist framework in other areas where the notion of expression is deemed explanatorily useful, as illustrated by considering ethical neo-expressivism. In the final section, I make more general comments on truth and meaning and tease out some of the commitments of the approach I advocate.
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DOI 10.1017/s1358246119000067
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