My paper examines the popular idea, defended by Kripke, that meaning is an essentially normative notion. I consider four common versions of this idea and suggest that none of them can be supported, either because the alleged normativity has nothing to do with normativity or because it cannot plausibly be said that meaning is normative in the sense suggested. I argue that contrary to received opinion, we don’t need normativity to secure the possibility of meaning. I conclude by considering the (...) repercussions of rejecting semantic normativity on three central issues: justification, communication, and naturalism. (shrink)
Ever since Putnam and Burge launched their respective attacks on individualist accounts of meaning the individualist has felt squeezed for space.1 Very little maneuvering room, it seems, is left for the philosopher who wants to deny that meaning and mental content depend on the speaker's social environment. One option, popular amongst individualists, is to grant that reference is socially determined but argue that there is nevertheless a notion of meaning or content that can be understood individualistically. That is, the individualist (...) can opt for a. (shrink)
This paper discusses whether it can be known a priori that a particular term, such as water, is a natural kind term, and how this problem relates to Putnams claim that natural kind terms require an externalist semantics. Two conceptions of natural kind terms are contrasted: The first holds that whether water is a natural kind term depends on its a priori knowable semantic features. The second.
The question of whether content externalism poses a threat to the traditional view of self-knowledge has been much debated. Compatibilists have tried to diffuse the threat by appealing to the self-verifying character of reflexive judgments about our own thoughts, while incompatibilists have strenuously objected that this does not suffice. In my paper I argue that this debate is fundamentally misconceived since it is based, on both sides, on the problematic notion of ‘knowledge of content’. What this shows, I argue, is (...) not that content externalism is unobjectionable, but that the real challenge to content externalism is not an epistemological one. The real difficulty concerns the content externalist’s seemingly necessary commitment to the idea that individuals have an incomplete grasp of the concepts that go into their own thoughts. This idea poses a threat not to self-knowledge, I argue, but rather to our first- and second-order reasoning abilities. (shrink)
Sarah Sawyer has challenged my claim that social externalism depends on the assumption that individuals have an incomplete grasp of their own concepts. Sawyer denies that Burge's later sofa thought-experiment relies on this assumption: the unifying principle behind the thought-experiments supporting social externalism, she argues, is just that referents play a role in the individuation of concepts. I argue that Sawyer fails to show that social externalism need not rely on the assumption of incomplete understanding. To establish the content externalist (...) conclusions, further considerations are required, and these do commit the externalist to the assumption of incomplete understanding. (shrink)
At the time that Quine wrote "Two Dogmas" an attack on analyticity was considered a simultaneous attack on the very idea of necessary truth. This all changed with Kripke's revival of a non-epistemic, non-linguistic notion of necessity. My paper discusses the question whether we can take Kripke one step further and free analyticity from its epistemic ties, thereby reinstating a notion of analyticity that is immune to Quine's attack, and compatible with his epistemic holism. I discuss this question by examining (...) Tyler Burge's claim that truths of meaning depend on features of the external environment and are a posteriori. I argue that although Burge's construal of analyticity circumvents Quine's objections, it is not well-motivated philosophically and has problematic implications. Kripke's strategy with respect to necessity, I conclude, is not easily transferable to analyticity. (shrink)
I consider an individualist reply to Burge's well-known anti-individualist thought experiment. It is commonly assumed that the individualist has one of two options: accept that reference is socially determined and opt for a bifurcation of content ; or reject the conclusions of the thought experiment and insist that Burge's patient uttering "I have arthritis in my thigh" has her or his own "arthritis"-concept and utters a true belief. I suggest that neither of these options is very attractive and thus the (...) individualist seems faced with a dilemma. However, Burge's thought experiment rests on problematic philosophical assumptions that the individualist need not accept. One such assumption is that the speaker uttering "I have arthritis in my thigh" makes a non-empirical error. This assumption, as Burge himself makes clear, is crucial if the thought experiment is to go through. So, Burge presents an account of the notion of a "non-empirical error" which is very problematic and fails to support the conclusions of the thought experiment. Once this account is questioned, the individualist can reject the claim that meaning is determined by the speaker's social environment without falling into the dilemma. (shrink)
The thesis examines a central and controversial question in the philosophy of mind and language: Is meaning normative? Are there rules we must follow for our words to have meaning? ;Philosophers are sharply divided over this question. One side, often associated with Wittgenstein and more recently Kripke, sees meaning as essentially normative. If a sign is to be meaningful, then surely, it is argued, there must be a distinction between the correct and incorrect use of that sign. The other side (...) eschews the appeal to rules. This line of thought goes back to Quine, and has been vigorously defended by Davidson, who argues that linguistic rules are no more essential to speaking a language than the rules of etiquette at a dinner table are to consuming food. ;The dissertation proposes that we approach the question by asking whether there is a notion of linguistic incorrectness which is essential to meaning. Various common versions of the notion of linguistic incorrectness are considered, including the one appealed to by Saul Kripke in his discussion of Wittgenstein, the suggestion that going against the communicative conventions is making a linguistic error, and Tyler Burge's idea that we err when we violate certain constitutive community norms. Neither of these suggestions, it is argued, supports the idea that rules are essential to meaning. ;But we should not conclude from this, as does Davidson, that we can reject the notion of linguistic incorrectness altogether. If a speaker is to be interpretable there must be certain constraints on her linguistic use, and a plausible construal of these constraints, it is argued, presupposes a notion of linguistic incorrectness. The conclusion is that there is a notion of linguistic incorrectness which is essential to meaning, although this notion is not to be understood along the ordinary lines. (shrink)