Shows that the very same asymmetries that arise for intentionally also arise from deciding, desiring, in favor of, opposed to, and advocating. It seems that the phenomenon is not due to anything about the concept of intentional action in particular. Rather, the effects observed for the concept of intentional action should be regarded as just one manifestation of the pervasive impact of moral judgment.
It is a natural thought that understanding language consists in possessing knowledge—to understand a word is to know what it means. It is also natural to suppose that this knowledge is propositional knowledge—to know what a word means is to know that it means such-and-such. Thus it is prima facie plausible to suppose that understanding a bit of language consists in possessing propositional knowledge of its meaning. I refer to this as the epistemic view of understanding language. The theoretical appeal (...) of this view for the philosophy of language is that it provides for an attractive account of the project of the theory of meaning. If understanding language consists in possessing propositional knowledge of the meanings of expressions, then a meaning theory amounts to a theory of what speakers know in virtue of understanding language. In this paper I argue that, despite its intuitive and theoretical appeal, the epistemic view is false. Propositional knowledge is not necessary for understanding language, not even tacit knowledge. Unlike knowledge, I argue, linguistic understanding does not fail in Gettier cases, does not require epistemic warrant and does not even require belief. The intuitions about knowledge that have been central to epistemology do not seem to hold for linguistic understanding. So unless epistemologists have been radically mistaken about what knowledge requires, knowledge is unnecessary for understanding language. (shrink)
How do we know what other speakers say? Perhaps the most natural view is that we hear a speaker's utterance and infer what was said, drawing on our competence in the syntax and semantics of the language. An alternative view that has emerged in the literature is that native speakers have a non-inferential capacity to perceive the content of speech. Call this the perceptual view. The disagreement here is best understood as an epistemological one about whether our knowledge of what (...) speakers say is epistemically mediated by our linguistic competence. The present paper takes up the question of how we should go about settling this issue. Arguments for the perceptual view generally appeal to the phenomenology of speech comprehension. The present paper develops a line of argument for the perceptual view that draws on evidence from empirical psychology. The evidence suggests that a speaker's core syntactic and semantic competence is typically deployed sub-personally. The point is not just that the competence is tacit or unconscious, but that the person is not the locus of the competence. I argue that standing competence can enter into the grounds for knowledge only if it is subject to a certain sort of epistemic assessment, an assessment that is appropriate only if the person is the locus of that competence. If the person is not the locus of a speaker's core linguistic competence, as the psychological evidence suggests, then that competence does not enter into the grounds for our knowledge of what speakers say. If this line of argument is right, it has implications for the epistemology of perception and for our understanding of how empirical psychology bears on epistemology generally. (shrink)
My dissertation concerns the nature of linguistic understanding. A standard view about linguistic understanding is that it is a propositional knowledge state. The following is an instance of this view: given a speaker S and an expression alpha that means M, S understand alpha just in case S knows that alpha means M. I refer to this as the epistemic view of linguistic understanding. The epistemic view would appear to be a mere conceptual truth about linguistic understanding, since it is (...) entailed by the following two claims that themselves seem to be mere conceptual truths: S understands alpha iff S knows what alpha means, and---given that a means M--- S knows what alpha means iff S knows that alpha means M. I argue, however, that this is not a mere conceptual truth. Contrary to the epistemic view, propositional knowledge of the meaning of alpha is not necessary for understanding alpha. I argue that linguistic understanding does not even require belief. My positive proposal is that our understanding of language is typically realized, at least in native speakers, as a perceptual capacity. Evidence from cognitive neuropsychology suggests that our perceptual experience of language comes to us already semantically interpreted. We perceive a speaker's utterance as having content, and it is by perceiving the speaker's utterances as having the right content that we understand what the speaker says. We count as understanding language in virtue of having this capacity to understand what speakers say when they use language. This notion of perceiving an utterance as having content gets analyzed in terms of Dretske's account of representation in terms of a teleological notion of function: you perceive a speaker's utterance as having content when the utterance produces in you a perceptual state that has a certain function in your psychology. I show how this view about the nature of linguistic understanding provides an attractive account of how identity claims can be semantically informative, as opposed to merely pragmatically informative, an account that avoids the standard difficulties for Fregean views that attempt to account for the informativeness of identity claims in terms of their semantics. (shrink)