Pragmatics without Pragmatism: Reply to Fantl & McGrath

To accept ‘pragmatic encroachment’ is to take the view that whether you are in a position to know is in part a function of practical stakes. This position strikes many as not just unorthodox but extremely implausible. According to Jeremy Fantl and Matthew McGrath (F&M), however, the best account of the prima facie oddity of certain utterances incorporates just such a pragmatist maneuver. In reaching this conclusion, F&M begin with Trent Dougherty and Patrick Rysiew’s (D&R’s) theory as the best on offer (2009a: 63/2009b: 20), but go on to raise objections to D&R’s recent account of the relevant oddity in purely pragmatic (i.e., extra-semantic) terms and to develop it in directions quite inimical to the general outlook established in D&R 2009 and D&R forthcoming. In this brief note, we reply to F&M’s objections and show that their development in the direction of interest-relativism is ill-founded: the relevant phenomena provide no grounds for budging on the issue of pragmatic encroachment. In addition, in the course of meeting F&M’s objections, an original account of certain Moore-paradoxical sentences is given, and the issue of how probable a proposition needs to be to be known is addressed. The result is a quite general defense of a commonsense, evidence-based approach to the relevant phenomena (quite apart from a defense of D&R)
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