Think of this paper as an exercise in applied philosophy of language. It has both semantic and deontic concerns. More than about the meaning of ‘marriage,’ it is about how one goes about determining the meaning of social kind terms like ‘marriage’. But it is equally about the place of philosophy of language in the legislative sphere, and inter alia, about the roles and responsibilities of philosophers in public life.
Two central tenets of externalist theories of word individuation are: the claim that some terms derive their meaning from causal connections to the world , and the claim that some terms derive them from intentional connections to the linguistic community . A normative conception of language underlies the latter claim . It is this conception which motivates the reliance on a principle of literal interpretation in interpreting ascriptions of intentional content. ;The new theory of grammar initiated by Chomsky yields radically (...) individualistic conceptions of language and of mind incompatible with those underlying communalist theories of conceptual content. ;The feasibility of the principle of literal interpretation postulated by normativist theories depends on the possibility of identifying the language of the subject. This condition grounds an important distinction between cases of deference to science and cases of deference to communal norms. For while our shared commitments to science are a function of our sharing the same world, and thus transcend language communities, commitments to linguistic norms differ essentially across language communities. ;The conception of language and concept acquisition underlying normativism leaves unexplained the facts of language change. Moreover, the problem of concept-individuation, which communalism seeks to solve by appeal to an individual's normative commitments, merely resurfaces as that of individuating linguistic communities. ;Subjectivism provides an explanation of language change, as well as an important insight into the historical chain picture of the reference of names. ;Moreover, the view that humans are innately endowed with concepts is problematic for an externalist theory of concept-individuation. I conclude that a relational theory of concept-individuation is inconsistent with Chomskian premises. (shrink)
Conventional behavior is behavior engaged in because of, or due to, convention. There are two senses of “due to”: the convention explains my behavior by actually causing it; or the convention explains my behavior by providing reasons I have for engaging in this behavior. Either way, behaviors cannot be explained by conventions unless the conventions exist; and conventions cannot provide me with (conscious) reasons for engaging in my behavior unless I know what they are. I argue that, far from causing (...) behavior, conventions are the results of behavior: conventions exist, in the sense in which they may be said to exist at all, only retrospectively. Moreover, as natural language speakers, we are ever at best in the position of thinking we know what the conventions are. But thinking one is acting conventionally is not the same thing as acting conventionally. Claims about the role of convention in linguistic competence interestingly both mirror and differ from claims about the role of genes in evolutionary theory, as I briefly pointout by way of conclusion. (shrink)
I present several arguments which provide what I consider to be a definitive argument against certain forms of masculine language in their so-called sexually neutral usage. In the first part, I concentrate on the use of the word and I defend the idea that it embodies a perverse contingent a priori. In the second part, I examine how this pernicious a prioriinfects the pronominal system of French. I conclude with an undoubtedly surprising linguistic and feminist criticism of a recent decision (...) by the Office de la langue franbec to feminize job titles, arguing instead that the problem lies elsewhere and hence so does an efficient solution. (shrink)
My aim in this paper is two?fold. I start by contrasting three versions of externalist arguments based on etiological considerations, whose differences are not often appreciated. My purpose in doing so is to isolate one of these versions of externalism as most supportive of current anti?individualist attitudes toward the mental. My second aim is to show that this version, which I call (for reasons soon to be clear) Dialectal Etiology , is marred to a greater extent than the other two (...) by an important problem of language individuation.ii.. (shrink)