Verbal Disputes and Substantiveness

Erkenntnis 79 (S1):31-54 (2014)

Brendan Balcerak Jackson
University of Miami
One way to challenge the substantiveness of a particular philosophical issue is to argue that those who debate the issue are engaged in a merely verbal dispute. For example, it has been maintained that the apparent disagreement over the mind/brain identity thesis is a merely verbal dispute, and thus that there is no substantive question of whether or not mental properties are identical to neurological properties. The goal of this paper is to help clarify the relationship between mere verbalness and substantiveness. I first argue that we should see mere verbalness as a certain kind of discourse defect that arises when the parties differ as to what each takes to be the immediate question under discussion. I then argue that mere verbalness, so understood, does not imply that the question either party is attempting to address is a non-substantive one. Even if it turns out that the parties to the mind/brain dispute are addressing subtly different questions, these might both be substantive questions to which their respective metaphysical views provide substantive answers. One reason it is tempting to reach deflationary conclusions from the charge of mere verbalness is that we fail to distinguish it from the claim that a sentence under dispute is, in a certain sense, indisputable. Another reason is that we fail to distinguish mere verbalness from a certain sort of indeterminacy. While indisputability and indeterminacy plausibly capture forms of nonsubstantiveness, I argue that mere verbalness is insufficient to establish either indisputability or indeterminacy.
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DOI 10.1007/s10670-013-9444-5
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References found in this work BETA

Writing the Book of the World.Theodore Sider - 2011 - Oxford University Press.
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Individualism and the Mental.Tyler Burge - 1979 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 4 (1):73-122.
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Citations of this work BETA

Essentially Practical Questions.Brendan Balcerak Jackson - 2019 - Analytic Philosophy 60 (1):1-26.
Two Species of Merely Verbal Disputes.Delia Belleri - 2018 - Metaphilosophy 49 (5):691-710.
Contextualism and Disagreement.Nikola Kompa - 2015 - Erkenntnis 80 (1):137-152.

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