There is a view abroad on which perceptual experience has representational content in this sense: in it something is represented to the perceiver as so. On the view, a perceptual experience has a face value at which it may be taken, or which may be rejected. This paper argues that that view is mistaken: there is nothing in perceptual experience which makes it so that in it anything is represented as so. In that sense, the senses are silent, or, in (...) Austin's term, dumb. Perceptual experience is not as such either veridical or delusive. It may mislead, but it does not take representation to accomplish that. (shrink)
Charles Travis presents a series of essays in which he has developed his distinctive view of the relation of thought to language. The key idea is "occasion-sensitivity": what it is for words to express a given concept is for them to be apt for contributing to any of many different conditions of correctness (notably truth conditions). Since words mean what they do by expressing a given concept, it follows that meaning does not determine truth conditions. This view ties thoughts less (...) tightly to the linguistic forms which express them than traditional views of the matter, and in two directions: a given linguistic form, meaning fixed, may express an indefinite variety of thoughts; one thought can be expressed in an indefinite number of syntactically and semantically distinct ways. Travis highlights the importance of this view for linguistic theory, and shows how it gives new form to a variety of traditional philosophical problems. (shrink)
Charles Travis presents a series of essays on philosophy of perception, inspired by the insights of Gottlob Frege. He engages with a range of contemporary thinkers, and explores key issues including how perception can make the world bear on what we do or think, and what sorts of capacities we draw on in representing something as (being) something.
This book provides a novel interpretation of the ideas about language in Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. Travis places the "private language argument" in the context of wider themes in the Investigations, and thereby develops a picture of what it is for words to bear the meaning they do. He elaborates two versions of a private language argument, and shows the consequences of these for current trends in the philosophical theory of meaning.
Let us begin with a piece of intellectual history. The story begins in a period encapsulating the second world war – say the ‘40’s, give and take a bit. Around then, it began to be argued with force that an expression – e.g., an English one – while it well might mean something, does not say anything, and notably no one thing in particular. The principal behind the argument was surely J.L. Austin, though, I would claim, the same point was (...) argued in a somewhat different way by Wittgenstein. The intended point was not merely a grammatical one: we say of an expression that it means such and such, but not that it says such and such. Be that as it may, the main point was quite substantive: typically, an English expression is such that, with its meaning fixed, there are a variety of distinct things to be said in using it on some production of it or other. (shrink)
What words mean plays a role in determining when they would be true; but not an exhaustive one. For that role leaves room for variation in truth conditions, with meanings fixed, from one speaking of words to another. What role meaning plays depends on what truth is; on what words, by virtue of meaning what they do are requied to have done (as spoken) in order to have said what is true. There is a deflationist position on what truth is: (...) the notion is exhausted by a given, specified, mass of 'platitudes', each to the effect that if words said (say) things to be thus, things must be that way. (The thought that thus-and-so is true iff thus-and-so.) These platitudes, and so deflationism, miss that aspect of truth that determines meaning's role. Truth requires words to have the uses which, given what they mean, they should have in the circumstances of their speaking. Through this link with use, when words would be true is a factor fixing what it is they said. (shrink)
Thought's Footing is an enquiry into the relationship between the ways things are and the way we think and talk about them. It is also a study of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations: Charles Travis develops his account of certain key themes into a unified view of the work as a whole. The central question is: how does thought get its footing? How can the thought that things are a certain way be connected to things being that way?
A continuous Oxford tradition on knowledge runs from John Cook Wilson to John McDowell. A central idea is that knowledge is not a species of belief, or that, in McDowell's terms, it is not a hybrid state; that, moreover, it is a kind of taking in of what is there that precludes one's being, for all one can see, wrong. Cook Wilson and McDowell differ on what this means as to the scope of knowledge. J.L. Austin set out the requisite (...) foundations for McDowell to be right. McDowell has shown why the tradition, and his version of it, need to be right. But he does not accept Austin's innovation. That is a shame. For, despite McDowell's very great insightfulness, precisely that much separates him from a very powerful, and correct, view of what knowledge is. (shrink)
What laws of logic say -- Frege's target -- The twilight of empiricism -- Psychologism -- Morally alien thought -- To represent as so -- The proposition's progress -- Truth and merit -- The shape of the conceptual -- Thought's social nature -- Faust's way.
What makes a veil of perception? Is it merely would-be objects of perceptual awareness, extraneous to the ‘environmental realities’ of which we judge? Or is it merely the presence of something extraneous along the route from perceptual awareness to awareness that our environment is thus and so? In his Mark Sacks lecture John McDowell seems to suppose something like the first answer. This essay argues for the second, thus that he himself imposes such a veil.
What is insensitive semantics (also semantic minimalism, henceforth SM)? That will need to emerge, if at all, from the authors’ (henceforth C&L) objections to what they see as their opponents. They signal two main opponents: moderate contextualists (henceforth MCs); and radical contextualists (henceforth RCs). I am signaled as a main RC. I will thus henceforth represent that position in propria persona. In most general lines the story is this: MC collapses into RC; RC is incoherent, or inconsistent, on various counts; (...) SM is thus the only game in town. As to all of that, we shall see. (shrink)
The role of words in thought expression is to make recognisable what thought is expressed. The role of a definite description in the expression of a singular thought is to make recognisable with respect to what object the thought is singular. That different definite descriptions may play this role for one object settles nothing as to how such thoughts are to be counted. What does settle this? The present brief is: nothing in the notion of a thought as such. For (...) good reason. A way of counting thoughts is under two opposing constraints. First, it must serve the needs of proof. Second, it must yield thoughts which are shareable. Simultaneously satisfying both these demands requires there to be no one way of counting thoughts which is the right one tout court. That is, the notion same thought is an occasion-sensitive notion. (shrink)
Pragmatics concerns the linguistic phenomena left untreated by phonology, syntax, and semantics. This chapter argues that the pragmatic view is the right one; that it is intrinsically part of what expressions of English mean that any English sentence may, on one speaking of it or another, have any of indefinitely many different truth‐conditions, and that any English expression may, meaning what it does, make any of many different contributions to truth‐conditions of wholes in which it figures as a part. The (...) pragmatic view gives a substantially different form to virtually every philosophic problem, not just in philosophy of language, but wherever puzzles arise. Given words may have any of many semantics, compatibly with what they mean. Words in fact vary their semantics from one speaking of them to another. In that case, their semantics on a given speaking cannot be fixed simply by what they mean. (shrink)
This is a response to Marie McGinn, who, roughly, lined me up with J. L. Austin over against GEM Anscombe and Wittgenstein on the issue whether perception is (or can be) intentional. I do not mind being aligned with Austin, but argue that this is the wrong way to line things up. I stand equally with Wittgenstein. Anscombe turns out to be odd man out on this one.
There is a principle that both generates and destroys empiricism. It is a plausible principle, thus often appealed to. Its consequences prove it wrong. This is a story of empiricism's rise and fall. It is historically sketchy. But one should focus on the principle.
Seeing is, or affords, a certain sort of awareness – visual – of one's surroundings. The obvious strategy for saying what one sees, or what would count as seeing something would be to ask what sort of sensitivity to one's surroundings – e.g. the pig before me – would so qualify. Alas, for more than three centuries – at least from Descartes to VE day – it was not so. Philosophers were moved by arguments, rarely stated which concluded that one (...) could not, or never did, see what was before his eyes. So much for the obvious strategy. It occurred to almost no one to object that this could not be right. Frege did, but no one noticed. Austin, finally, did away with that conception of good faith in philosophy which had allowed such a thing to pass, and then with those arguments themselves. Until then, philosophy was deformed. Robbed of the obvious approach, a Drang set in to gaze inward, hoping to find what it really is to see in what enabled sensitivity to pigs, or in its byproducts. Gazing inward can be science, but often merely poses as it. It can be difficult to disentangle actual science from mere preconception pretending to its rigour. Most nowadays feel rid of the grip of those barriers to the obvious approach. But, as we shall see, many so feel wrongly. The Drang still misshapes their thought. I aim here to identify the Drang at work; thereby, I hope, to rid us of it. (shrink)
This is the third and final section of a paper, "Oxford Realism", co-written with Charles Travis. -/- A concern for realism motivates a fundamental strand of Oxford reflection on perception. Begin with the realist conception of knowledge. The question then will be: What must perception be like if we can know something about an object without the mind by seeing it? What must perception be if it can, on occasion, afford us with proof concerning a subject matter independent of the (...) mind? (shrink)
Throughout Wittgenstein had Frege in mind. We should too, to understand him. This is as true for Philosophical Investigations as for the Tractatus. In fact, the later work is, in an important way, closer to Frege than the first—even though the Investigations makes a target of what seems a central Fregean idea. It directs Frege’s own ideas at that target, using something deeply right in Frege to undo a misreading of what, rightly read, are mere truisms.
This is a draft of what became a contribution to a virtual symposium on Susanna Siegel's "The Content of Visual Experience". It takes issue with her claims, and arguments, that perceptual experience has representational content.
In "Truth" Michael Dummett presents a case for intuitionist logic as the logic of ordinary discourse. The case depends on a supposed need to make two intuitions mesh: first, that it is senseless to suppose, of any statement, that it is neither true nor false; second, that there is no guarantee, for every statement, that either there is something in the world to make it true, or there is something to make it false. This paper argues, developing a notion of (...) natural isostheneia, that Dummett's first intuition is wrong as he reads it, and that, consequently, his case for intuitionist logic collapses. (shrink)
This article develops Frege's conception of answerability, and his correlative views on psychologism of the first sort. Compared to prior philosophers, such as British empiricists, Frege is a minimalist in the demands he sets on answerability. If he is ever less than minimalist, that is something that flows out of his particular conception of logic. The article then turns to Wittgenstein's conception of answerability, by which Frege is not quite minimalist enough. That allows us to see how the pursuit of (...) answerability might lead to psychologism of the second kind. (shrink)