The coherence of contextualism: A reply to Cappelen & Lepore

Cappelen and Lepore (2005) begin their critique of contextualism with an anecdote about an exercise they do with their undergraduate students (who I take it are meant to be naïve subjects whose linguistic intuitions have not been contaminated by mistaken philosophical theories). The test is to ask students to categorize types of expressions. Students quickly get the hang of the idea that referring expressions (like indexicals and pronouns) belong to a single category. They’re then asked whether they think that common nouns like ‘penguin’ or adjectives like ‘red’ belong to this category, and of course students are reluctant to see any similarity here. Students are then told that, as incredible as it may seem, there are philosophers (called contextualists) who think that the indexical ‘I’ and the common noun ‘penguin’ belong to the same category and who think that these types of expressions are context-sensitive in just the same way
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