Comments on Fisher's

Abstract

My first plea has to do with the adequacy of this approach for the diverse purposes that philosophers set out for conceptual analysis. It is unclear what to make of concepts that do not lend themselves to obvious analysis in terms of the sorts of benefits that motivate Fisher’s intuitive cases. Some of the central concepts of philosophy — just the ones that where conceptual analysis ought to be most at home — like Knowledge or Person or Just State are not ones where the benefit of determining whether something falls under that concept is as direct as Fisher’s intuitive case suggests. Indeed, in the case of Knowledge, for instance, it is not clear that there is much benefit at all in determining whether something falls under the concept. My sense is that the benefit of philosophical concepts is in their role in a much larger framework of understanding our humanity. That 1 framework has some currency to philosophers, and perhaps there can be some abstract assignment of benefit to the conceptual joints of that framework, but it seems more like the benefit is in the holistic aspects of the framework. If this is right, then the benefit afforded by the individual concepts is going to be massively indirect. The problem appears to be that, for some concepts, PCA’s premier virtue begins to look like a vice. Fisher says, Our explication of concept-meaning will determine which meanings we attribute to various first-order concepts, and that, in turn, will guide our application of those concepts. …[W]e need an explication that will attribute to each concept a meaning that, if employed as application conditions for that concept, would do well to sustain the regular ways in which that concept has been beneficially used (p. 9).

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Joe Cruz
Williams College

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