Which concepts should we use to think and talk about the world and to do all of the other things that mental and linguistic representation facilitates? This is the guiding question of the field that we call ‘conceptual ethics’. Conceptual ethics is not often discussed as its own systematic branch of normative theory. A case can nevertheless be made that the field is already quite active, with contributions coming in from areas as diverse as fundamental metaphysics and social/political philosophy. In (...) this pair of papers, we try to unify the field, reflecting on its basic nature, structure, and methodology. (shrink)
Which concepts should we use to think and talk about the world, and to do all of the other things that mental and linguistic representation facilitates? This is the guiding question of the field that we call ‘conceptual ethics’. Conceptual ethics is not often discussed as its own systematic branch of normative theory. A case can nevertheless be made that the field is already quite active, with contributions coming in from areas as diverse as fundamental metaphysics and social/political philosophy. In (...) this pair of papers, we try to unify the field, reflecting on its basic nature, structure, and methodology. (shrink)
This is a concise, advanced introduction to current philosophical debates about truth. A blend of philosophical and technical material, the book is organized around, but not limited to, the tendency known as deflationism, according to which there is not much to say about the nature of truth. In clear language, Burgess and Burgess cover a wide range of issues, including the nature of truth, the status of truth-value gaps, the relationship between truth and meaning, relativism and pluralism about truth, and (...) semantic paradoxes from Alfred Tarski to Saul Kripke and beyond. Following a brief introduction that reviews the most influential traditional and contemporary theories of truth, short chapters cover Tarski, deflationism, indeterminacy, realism, antirealism, Kripke, and the possible insolubility of semantic paradoxes. The book provides a rich picture of contemporary philosophical theorizing about truth, one that will be essential reading for philosophy students as well as philosophers specializing in other areas. (shrink)
Metasemantics comprises new work on the philosophical foundations of linguistic semantics, by a diverse group of established and emerging experts in the philosophy of language, metaphysics, and the theory of content. The science of semantics aspires to systematically specify the meanings of linguistic expressions in context. The paradigmatic metasemantic question is accordingly: what more basic or fundamental features of the world metaphysically determine these semantic facts? Efforts to answer this question inevitably raise others, including: where are the boundaries of semantics?; (...) what is the essence of the meaning relation?; which framework should we use for semantic theorizing?; and what are the intrinsic natures of semantic values? Metasemantic inquiry has long been recognized as a central part of the philosophy of language, but recent developments in metaphysics and semantics itself now allow us to approach these classic questions with an unprecedented degree of precision. The essays collected here provide promising new perspectives on old problems, pose questions that suggest novel research projects, and taken together, greatly sharpen our understanding of linguistic representation. (shrink)
Discussions of “indeterminacy” customarily distinguish two putative types: semantic indeterminacy (SI)—indeterminacy that’s somehow the product of the semantics of our words/concepts—and metaphysical indeterminacy (MI)—indeterminacy that exists as a mind/language-independent feature of reality itself. A popular and influential thought among philosophers is that all indeterminacy must be SI. In this paper we challenge this thought. Our challenge is guided by the question: What, exactly, does it take for a case of indeterminacy to count as SI? We argue that the only satisfactory (...) answer to this question must take SI to be grounded in a more basic type of MI. We conclude that SI cannot be made sense of without implicating MI. If there’s any indeterminacy, there must be indeterminacy in the world itself. (shrink)
Cognitive partitions are useful. The notion of numerical identity helps us induce them. Consider, for instance, the role of identity in representing an equivalence relation like taking the same train. This expressive function of identity has been largely overlooked. Other possible functions of the concept have been over-emphasized. It is not clear that we use identity to represent individual objects or quantify over collections of them. Understanding what the concept is good for looks especially urgent in light of the fact (...) that numerical identities themselves are tangibly trifling. (shrink)
Conceptual engineering is a newly flourishing branch of philosophy which investigates problems with our concepts and considers how they might be ameliorated: 'truth', for instance, is susceptible to paradox, and it's not clear what 'race' stands for. This is the first collective exploration of possibilities and problems of conceptual engineering.
There are three general ways to approach reconciliation: from the side of nonfactualism, from the side of deflationism, or from both sides at once. To approach reconciliation from a given side, as I will use the expression, just means to attend in the first instance to the details of that side’s position. (It will be important to keep in mind that the success of an approach from one side may ultimately require concessions from the other side.) The only attempts at (...) reconciliation in the literature of which I am aware fall in to the first of these three categories. Such writers argue that the tension between our –isms can be resolved by paying sufficiently close attention to the nature of nonfactualism. While I have nothing against this approach in principle, I do have reservations about the particular proposals that have been made in its pursuit. The first section of the present paper briefly develops a line of objection against one such proposal, in order to motivate the approach to reconciliation from the side of deflationism. In section two, I argue that the deflationist can and should reject the inference from (2) to (3) above. Section three addresses a special problem of reconciliation for the nonfactu- alist who continues to use the discourse she takes to be factually defective. By paying close attention to the details of deflationism about reference, I show how a deflationist about truth might avoid this problem. I conclude that deflationism can be developed in a way that renders it compatible with nonfactualism. (shrink)
Recent philosophy of language has been profoundly impacted by the idea that mainstream, model-theoretic semantics is somehow incompatible with deflationary accounts of truth and reference. The present article systematizes the case for incompatibilism, debunks circularity and “modal confusion” arguments familiar in the literature, and reconstructs the popular thought that truth-conditional semantics somehow “presupposes” a correspondence theory of truth as an inference to the best explanation. The case for compatibilism is closed by showing that this IBE argument fails to rule out (...) two kinds of deflationism: the position Field famously accused Tarski of having; and a less familiar version of the view that defines reference in terms of a deflated notion of truth. Finally, the distinction between unifying and constitutive explanation is used to forestall the response that correspondence theory is literally part of mainstream semantics. (shrink)
Metalinguistic descriptivism is the view that proper names are semantically equivalent to descriptions featuring their own quotations (e.g., ?Socrates? means ?the bearer of ?Socrates??). The present paper shows that Millians can actually accept an inferential version of this equivalence thesis without running afoul of the modal argument. Indeed, they should: for it preserves the explanatory virtues of more familiar forms of descriptivism while avoiding objections (old and new) to Kent Bach's nominal description theory. We can make significant progress on Frege's (...) puzzle and Plato's beard without committing ourselves one way or the other on the semantic values of proper names. The view on offer can also be motivated by analogy with Tarski's schema T, inviting the idea that the equivalence between a name and the associated nominal description has more to do with the semantics of representational locutions than it does with names per se. My response to the modal argument exploits the Kripkean distinction between reference at a world and reference in a world, and can be accepted by metalinguistic descriptivists and Millians alike. (shrink)
Suppose our ordinary notion of truth is ‘inconsistent’ in the sense that its meaning is partly given by principles that classically entail a logical contradiction. Should we replace the notion with a consistent surrogate? This paper begins by defusing various arguments in favor of this revisionary proposal, including Kevin Scharp’s contention that we need to replace truth for the purposes of semantic theorizing . Borrowing a certain conservative metasemantic principle from Matti Eklund, the article goes on to build a positive (...) case for the opposite policy: retaining truth as-is. The thought is basically that bivalence for the bulk of what we say in the course of ordinary, scientific, and philosophical inquiry should suffice to justify keeping ‘true’. Two versions of the story are told: one more philosophical, drawing on an analogy to Lewis’ response to Putnam’s paradox; the other more technical, invoking a deviant stran.. (shrink)
There are statements of the form “There are no Fs” that we would like to count as true, yet it is hard to see how they could be true. The relevant Fs are general terms that we take to be semantically fundamental or primitive, especially those native to metaphysical discourse. A case can be made the problem is no less difficult than the corresponding problem for singular terms.
Conceptual engineering and conceptual ethics are branches of philosophy concerned with questions about how to assess and ameliorate our representational devices (such as concepts and words). It's a part of philosophy concerned with questions about which concepts we should use (and why), how concepts can be improved, when concepts should be abandoned, and how proposals for amelioration can be implemented. Central parts of the history of philosophy have engaged with these issues, but the focus of this volume is on applications (...) to work in contemporary philosophy of language and mind, epistemology, gender and race theory, ethics, philosophy of science, and philosophical logic. This is the first volume devoted entirely to conceptual engineering and conceptual ethics. The volume explores the possibilities, benefits, problems, and applications of conceptual engineering and conceptual ethics. It consists of twenty chapters written by leading philosophers. (shrink)