Relativist and constructivist conceptions of truth and knowledge have become orthodoxy in vast stretches of the academic world in recent times. In his long-awaited first book, Paul Boghossian critically examines such views and exposes their fundamental flaws. Boghossian focuses on three different ways of reading the claim that knowledge is socially constructed--one as a thesis about truth and two about justification. And he rejects all three. The intuitive, common-sense view is that there is a way the world is that is (...) independent of human opinion; and that we are capable of arriving at beliefs about how it is that are objectively reasonable, binding on anyone capable of appreciating the relevant evidence regardless of their social or cultural perspective. Difficult as these notions may be, it is a mistake to think that philosophy has uncovered powerful reasons for rejecting them. This short, lucid, witty book shows that philosophy provides rock-solid support for common sense against the relativists. It will prove provocative reading throughout the discipline and beyond. (shrink)
I. Recent years have witnessed a great resurgence of interest in the writings of the later Wittgenstein, especially with those passages roughly, Philosophical Investigations p)I 38 Ã¢â¬â 242 and Remarks on the Foundations of mathematics, section VI that are concerned with the topic of rules. Much of the credit for all this excitement, unparalleled since the heyday of Wittgenstein scholarship in the early IIJ6os, must go to Saul Kripke's I4rittgenstein on Rules and Private Language. It is easy to explain why. (...) To begin with, the dialectic Kripke uncovered from Wittgenstein's.. (shrink)
This paper argues that, given a certain apparently inevitable thesis about content, we could not know our own minds. The thesis is that the content of a thought is determined by its relational properties.
This is what many philosophers believe today about the analytic/synthetic distinction: In his classic early writings on analyticity -- in particular, in "Truth by Convention," "Two Dogmas of Empiricism," and "Carnap and Logical Truth" -- Quine showed that there can be no distinction between sentences that are true purely by virtue of their meaning and those that are not. In so doing, Quine devastated the philosophical programs that depend upon a notion of analyticity -- specifically, the linguistic theory of necessary (...) truth, and the analytic theory of a priori knowledge. (shrink)
The paper asks under what conditions deductive reasoning transmits justiﬁcation from its premises to its conclusion. It argues that both standard externalist and standard internalist accounts of this phenomenon fail. The nature of this failure is taken to indicate the way forward: basic forms of deductive reasoning must justify by being instances of ‘blind but blameless’ reasoning. Finally, the paper explores the suggestion that an inferentialist account of the logical constants can help explain how such reasoning is possible.
[Paul Boghossian] The paper asks under what conditions deductive reasoning transmits justification from its premises to its conclusion. It argues that both standard externalist and standard internalist accounts of this phenomenon fail. The nature of this failure is taken to indicate the way forward: basic forms of deductive reasoning must justify by being instances of 'blind but blameless' reasoning. Finally, the paper explores the suggestion that an inferentialist account of the logical constants can help explain how such reasoning is possible. (...) /// [Timothy Williamson] The paper challenges the inferentialist account of concept possession that Paul Boghossian takes as a premise in his account of the transmission of justification by deductive reasoning in his paper 'Blind Reasoning'. Unorthodox speakers who reject the inferences in an alleged possession condition can still have the concept by understanding a word for it. In that sense, the inferences are not analytic. Inferentialist accounts of logical constants, theoretical terms and pejorative expressions such as 'Boche' are examined and rejected. It is suggested that epistemological questions cannot be reduced to questions in the theory of thought and meaning. (shrink)
This volume presents a series of influential essays by Paul Boghossian on the theory of content and on its relation to the phenomenon of a priori knowledge. The essays are organized under four headings: the nature of content; content and self-knowledge; knowledge, content, and the a priori; and colour concepts.
Epistemic relativism has the contemporary academy in its grip. Not merely in the United States, but seemingly everywhere, most scholars working in the humanities and the social sciences seem to subscribe to some form of it. Even where the label is repudiated, the view is embraced. Sometimes the relativism in question concerns truth, sometimes justification. The core impulse appears to be a relativism about knowledge. The suspicion is widespread that what counts as knowledge in one cultural, or broadly ideological, setting (...) need not count as knowledge in another. (shrink)
A n irrealist conception of a given region of discourse is the view that no real properties answer to the central predicates of the region in question. Any such conception emerges, invariably, as the result of the interaction of two forces. An account of the meaning of the central predicates, along with a conception of the sorts of property the world may contain, conspire to show that, if the predicates of the region are taken to express properties, their extensions would (...) have to be deemed uniformly empty. The question then becomes whether the predicates are best understood as expressing properties, and hence as founded on error, or whether they ought to be understood along non-factualist lines.z Historically, irrealist models were developed primarily in connection with evaluative discourse, although as physicalism has flourished and as reductionist programs have failed, their application has been extended to many other domains. Indeed, it is one of the more influential suggestions in contemporary philosophy of mind that they apply even to ordinary belief/desire psychology. A correct understanding of the semantics and metaphysics of content-based psychology leaves us, so the proponents of the in-. (shrink)
in Christian Nimtz and Ansgar Beckermann (eds.): Philosophy - Science - Scientific Philosophy. Main Lectures and Colloquia of GAP.5, Fifth International Congress of the Society for Analytical Philosophy, Bielefeld, 2003, Mentis, 2005.
The paper looks at three big ideas that have been associated with the term “relativism.” The first maintains that some property has a higher-degree than might have been thought. The second that the judgments in a particular domain of discourse are capable only of relative truth and not of absolute truth And the third, which I dub with the oxymoronic label “absolutist relativism,” seeks to locate relativism in our acceptance of certain sorts of spare absolutist principles. -/- The first idea (...) is well illustrated by the famous cases drawn from physics, but is ill suited for providing a model for the sorts of relativism about normative domains that have most interested philosophers. -/- The second idea – according to which it is the truth of certain judgments that is relative – seems subject to a very difficult dilemma. -/- The final idea provides a coherent model of cases like etiquette but is not plausibly applied to the moral or epistemic domains. (shrink)
Controversy continues to attach to the question whether an externalism about mental content is compatible with a traditional doctrine of privileged self-knowledge. By an externalism about mental content, I mean the view that what concepts our thoughts involve may depend not only on facts that are internal to us, but on facts about our environment. It is worth emphasizing, if only because it is still occasionally misperceived, that this thesis is supposed to apply at the level of sense and not (...) merely at that of reference: what concepts we think in terms of -- and not just what they happen to pick out -- is said by the externalist to depend upon environmental facts. By a traditional doctrine of privileged self-knowledge, I mean the view that we are able to know, without the benefit of empirical investigation, what our thoughts are in our own case. Suppose I entertain a thought that I would express with the sentence `Water is wet'. According to the traditional doctrine, I can know without empirical investigation that I am entertaining a thought; that it has a particular conceptual content, and that its content is that water is wet. (shrink)
Controversy continues to attach to the question whether an externalism about mental content is compatible with a traditional doctrine of privileged self-knowledge. By an externalism about mental content, I mean the view that what concepts our thoughts involve may depend not only on facts that are internal to us, but on facts about our environment. It is worth emphasizing, if only because it is still occasionally misperceived, that this thesis is supposed to apply at the level of sense and not (...) merely at that of reference: what concepts we think in terms of -- and not just what they happen to pick out -- is said by the externalist to depend upon environmental facts. By a traditional doctrine of privileged self-knowledge, I mean the view that we are able to know, without the benefit of empirical investigation, what our thoughts are in our own case. Suppose I entertain a thought that I would express with the sentence `Water is wet'. According to the traditional doctrine, I can know without empirical investigation (a) that I am entertaining a thought; (b) that it has a particular conceptual content, and (c) that its content is that water is wet. (shrink)
Many philosophers, however, have been tempted to be relativists about speciﬁc domains of discourse, especially about those domains that have a normative character. Gilbert Harman, for example, has defended a relativistic view of morality, Richard Rorty a relativistic view of epistemic justiﬁcation, and Crispin Wright a relativistic view of judgments of taste.¹ But what exactly is it to be a relativist about a given domain of discourse? The term ‘‘relativism’’ has, of course, been used in a bewildering variety of senses (...) and it is not my aim to discuss each and every one of those senses here. Rather, what interests me is the notion that is characterized by the following core idea: the relativist about a given domain, D, purports to have discovered that the truths of D involve an unexpected relation to a parameter. (shrink)
The paper is a defense of the project of explaining the a priori via the notion of meaning or concept possession. It responds to certain objections that have been made to this project—in particular, that there can be no epistemically analytic sentences that are not also metaphysically analytic, and that the notion of implicit definition cannot explain a priori entitlement. The paper goes on to distinguish between two different ways in which facts about meaning might generate facts about entitlement—inferential and (...) constitutive. It concludes by outlining a theory of the latter. (shrink)
Hilary Kornblith’s book is motivated by the conviction that philosophers have tended to overvalue and overemphasize reflection in their accounts of central philosophical phenomena. He seeks to pinpoint this tendency and to correct it. -/- Kornblith’s claim is not without precedent. It is an oft-repeated theme of 20th-century philosophy that philosophers have tended to give ‘overly intellectualized’ accounts of important phenomena. One thinks here of Wittgenstein, Ryle and many others. -/- One version of this charge is that philosophers have tended (...) to appeal to higher-order thoughts when first-order thoughts about the world are all that’s needed. -/- A more specific version of this charge is that philosophers have tended to appeal to second-order thoughts with normative, or quasi-normative, contents when all that’s needed are first-order thoughts with factual contents. -/- It is this second version of the charge that Kornblith is particularly interested in pressing. Although he doesn’t spell it out, the connection between this project and Kornblith’s previous work on naturalistic conceptions of epistemology should be fairly obvious. Very roughly, if you want humans to look a lot closer to the lower animals, then you’d better think that most central human abilities can be explained without appeal to reflection and without appeal to normative thought. -/- What’s good and important about Kornblith’s book is that he gives this charge a sustained and illuminating treatment. He looks in detail at accounts of knowledge, reasoning, epistemic agency, free will and normativity; he identifies sympathetically some of the temptations to think that we must resort to second-order resources to explain these phenomena; and he attempts to show that the appeal never works and is, in any case, not needed, since first-order accounts manage very well. (shrink)
I agree with Sosa that intuitions are best thought of as attractions to believe a certain proposition merely on the basis of understanding it. However, I don't think it is constitutive of them that they supply strictly foundational justification for the propositions they justify, though I do believe that it is important that the intuition of a suitable subject be thought of as a prima facie justification for his intuitive judgment, independently of the reliability of his underlying capacities. I also (...) think that we need to be able to explain how mere understanding of a proposition can confer upon us an ability to have reliable intuitions, that we cannot simply take that idea for granted. And that when try to explain that, our best avenue for doing so is to take the intuitions as constituting the understanding of which they are said to be a manifestation. (shrink)
This paper examines the relationship among behaviorism, constructivism and Socratic pedagogy. Specifically, it asks if a Socratic educator can be a constructivist or a behaviorist. In the first part of the paper, each learning theory, as it relates to the Socratic project, is explained. In the last section, the question of whether or not a Socratic teacher can subscribe to a constructivist or a behaviorist learning theory is addressed. The paper concludes by stating that while Socratic pedagogy shares some similarities (...) with each learning theory, ultimately it is fundamentally incompatible with both. (shrink)
This is a critical discussion of Jerry Fodor and Ernie Lepore's "Holism". The paper questions the existence of a slippery slope from some inferential liaisons are constitutive of meaning' to all inferential liaisons are constitutive of meaning'. "Interalia", it defends the existence of an analytic/synthetic distinction.
The core idea seems clear enough. To say of something that it is socially constructed is to emphasize its dependence on contingent aspects of our social selves. It is to say: This thing could not have existed had we not built it; and we need not have built it at all, at least not in its present form. Had we been a different kind of society, had we had different needs, values, or interests, we might well have built a different (...) kind of thing, or built this one differently. The inevitable contrast is with a naturally existing object, something that exists independently of us and which we did not have a hand in shaping. (shrink)
In the autumn of 1994, New York University theoretical physicist, Alan Sokal, submitted an essay to Social Text , the leading journal in the field of cultural studies. Entitled Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity ," it purported to be a scholarly article about the "postmodern" philosophical and political implications of twentieth century physical theories. However, as the author himself later revealed in the journal Lingua Franca, his essay was merely a farrago of deliberately concocted solecisms, (...) howlers and non sequiturs, stitched together so as to look good and to flatter the ideological preconceptions of the editors. After review by five members of Social Text 's editorial board, Sokal's parody was accepted for publication as a serious piece of scholarship. It appeared in April 1996, in a special double issue of the journal devoted to rebutting the charge that cultural studies critiques of science tend to be riddled with incompetence. (shrink)
Abstract -/- Many philosophers and non-philosophers are attracted to the view that moral truths are relative to moral framework or culture. I distinguish between two versions of such a view. I argue that one version is coherent but not plausible, and I argue that the second one can’t be made sense of. The upshot is that we have to make sense of at least some objective moral truths.