Stephen Neale, Facing Facts, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001, xv + 254 pp [Book Review]

It is now often taken for granted that facts are entia non grata, for there exists a powerful argument (dubbed the slingshot), which is backed by such great names as Frege or Gödel or Davidson (and so could hardly be wrong), that discredits their existence. There indeed is such an argument, and it indeed is not wrong on the straightforward sense of wrong. However, in how far it knocks down any conception of facts is another story, a story which is anything but simple and perspicuous. In his book, Stephen Neale takes pains to excavate the origins of the argument and the presuppositions which it needs to be usable for the purpose of exorcising facts. In the introduction of the book, Neale expresses his conviction that his analysis of the slingshot will not only compromise its usability for the purpose of discrediting facts, but also save representationalist conceptions of language and mind from the attacks of the antirepresentationalist philosophers like Davidson and Rorty. „Representational philosophy,“ he claims, „survives the Davidson-Rorty onslaught because non-truth-functional logics and ontologies of facts, states of affairs, situations and propositions survive not only the actual arguments deployed against them, but also the most precise and powerful slingshot arguments that can be constructed.“ However, what he does take his analyses to show is that „the most precise and powerful slingshot arguments demonstrate conclusively that the logical and ontological theories originally targeted must satisfy non-trivial conditions if they are to avoid logical or ontological collapse.“ (P. 12) The book starts with the discussion of the philosophy of Donald Davidson, who appears to have brought the slingshot argument to the current prominence within philosophical discussions. Here we encounter the first variant of the slingshot: Consider two sentences φ and ψ and a proper name d. Consider the definite descriptions ‘the object x such that (x = d and φ)’ and ‘the object x such that (x = d and ψ)’..
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