We propose a critique of normativism, deﬁned as the idea that human thinking reﬂects a normative system against which it should be measured and judged. We analyze the methodological problems associated with normativism, proposing that it invites the controversial “is-ought” inference, much contested in the philosophical literature. This problem is triggered when there are competing normative accounts (the arbitration problem), as empirical evidence can help arbitrate between descriptive theories, but not between normative systems. Drawing on linguistics as a model, we (...) propose that a clear distinction between normative systems and competence theories is essential, arguing that equating them invites an “is-ought” inference: to wit, supporting normative “ought” theories with empirical “is” evidence. We analyze in detail two research programmes with normativist features – Oaksford and Chater’s rational analysis and Stanovich and West’s individual differences approach – demonstrating how, in each case, equating norm and competence leads to an is-ought inference. Normativism triggers a host of research biases in the psychology of reasoning and decision making: focusing on untrained participants and novel problems, analyzing psychological processes in terms of their normative correlates, and neglecting philosophically signiﬁcant paradigms when they do not supply clear standards for normative judgement. For example, in a dual-process framework, normativism can lead to a fallacious “ought-is” inference, in which normative responses are taken as diagnostic of analytic reasoning. We propose that little can be gained from normativism that cannot be achieved by descriptivist computational-level analysis, illustrating our position with Hypothetical Thinking Theory and the theory of the suppositional conditional. We conclude that descriptivism is a viable option, and that theories of higher mental processing would be better off freed from normative considerations. (shrink)
Normativism, the approach that judges human rationality by comparison against normative standards, has recently come under intensive criticism as unsuitable for psychological enquiry, and it has been suggested that it should be replaced with a descriptivist paradigm. My goal in this paper is to outline and defend a meta-theoretical framework of such a paradigm, grounded rationality, based on the related principles of descriptivism and (moderate) epistemic relativism. Bounded rationality takes into account universal biological and cognitive limitations on human rationality. (...) Grounded rationality accepts universal constraints but adds cognitive variability: Within-individual variability (dual processing), and individual as well as cultural differences. I discuss the implications of grounded rationality to dual processing, proposing that investing limited cognitive resources in analytic processing might be less instrumentally rational for individuals with low cognitive ability. (shrink)
The epistemological argument against descriptivism about proper names is extremely simple. For a proper name ‘N’ and definite description ‘F’, the proposition expressed by “If N exists, then N is F” is not normally known a priori. But descriptivism about proper names entails otherwise. So descriptivism is false. The argument is widely regarded as sound. This paper aims to establish that the epistemological argument is highly unstable. The problem with the argument is that there seems to be (...) no convincing rationale for the first premise that is independent of a view about the nature of the proposition expressed by the sentence “If N exists, then N is F”. (shrink)
This article systematically challenges Kripke's modal argument and Soames's defence of this argument by arguing that, just like descriptions, names can take narrow or wide scopes over modalities, and that there is a big difference between the wide scope reading and the narrow scope reading of a modal sentence with a name. Its final conclusions are that all of Kripke's and Soames's arguments are untenable due to some fallacies or mistakes; names are not “rigid designators”; if there were rigid designators, (...) description(s) could be rigidified to refer fixedly to objects; so names cannot be distinguished in this way from the corresponding descriptions. A descriptivist account of names is still correct; and there is no justification for Kripke's theory of rigid designation and its consequences. (shrink)
Stalnaker argues that, while the two-dimensional framework can be used to give expression to the claims associated with rigidiﬁed descriptivism, it cannot be used to support that position. He also puts forward some objections to rigidiﬁed descriptivism. I agree that rigidiﬁed descriptivism cannot be supported by appeal to the two-dimensional framework. But I think that Stalnaker’s objections can be avoided under a descriptivism that introduces a causal as well as a descriptive element – a descriptivism (...) in which the relevant descriptions are allowed to be, not only rigidiﬁed, but anchored in causal exposure to referents. (shrink)
Despite the otherwise-dominant trends towards physicalism and naturalism in philosophy, it has become increasingly common for metaphysicians to accept the existence either of modal facts and properties, or of Lewisian possible worlds. This paper raises the historical question: why did these heavyweight realist views come into prominence? The answer is that they have arisen in response to the demand to find truthmakers for our modal statements. But this demand presupposes that modal statements are descriptive claims in need of truthmakers. This (...) presupposition was, however, rejected by many earlier analytic philosophers, including the logical positivists, Wittgenstein, Ryle and Sellars, all of whom denied that modal statement were descriptive at all. Yet the non-descriptivist approach has largely fallen out of discussion and out of philosophical consciousness. In this paper I examine why non-descriptivist views first came into and then fell out of favor, and consider what the prospects are for reviving this more deflationary approach to modality. (shrink)
Descriptivism in the ontology of art is the thesis that the correct ontological proposal for a kind of artwork cannot show the nascent ontological conception of such things embedded in our critical and appreciative practices to be substantially mistaken. Descriptivists believe that the kinds of revisionary art ontological proposals propounded by Nelson Goodman, Gregory Currie, Mark Sagoff, and me are methodologically misconceived. In this paper I examine the case that has been made for a local form of descriptivism (...) in the ontology of art: a form that does not quarrel with the possibility of revisionism in matters of ‘fundamental metaphysics’, but which argues that special features of the arts make descriptivism in this particular sphere obligatory. David Davies, Andrew Kania and Stephen Davies are local descriptivists in this sense. I argue that the burden of proof lies with the local descriptivist, but that this burden is too heavy for him to carry. Specifically, it emerges that the only way in which the local descriptivist can motivate his position is by arguing that our artistic practices determine the art ontological facts: a thesis that local descriptivists typically appeal to, but have not been able to argue for successfully. My conclusion is that the methodological debate in the ontology of art should now proceed by focussing on the case for global descriptivism: i.e. that form of descriptivism that opposes the possibility of revisionism in ontological matters across the board. (shrink)
Kripke’s most important arguments in Naming and Necessity against the description theory of reference of proper names are the arguments from ignorance and error concerning names of historical figures. The aim of this paper is to put forward a reply to these arguments. The answer to them is grounded on the development of one component of the version of the description theory proposed by the authors that are regarded as the classical contemporary advocates of this theory, namely Searle and Strawson; (...) one of the targets of Kripke’s arguments is precisely the version of the description theory of reference submitted by these authors. The development of that component results in a sort of description theory of reference not affected by Kripke’s arguments from ignorance and error concerning the names of historical figures, deferential descriptivism. (shrink)
Through a series of writings, Frank Jackson has developed a new kind of descriptivism that he argues can resist all of the three major objections raised by the theorists of direct reference. In this article I articulate some doubts about Jackson’s replies to two of these objections, i.e., the modal argument and the semantic argument.
I argue that mental descriptivism cannot be reasonably thought superior to rival theories on the grounds that it can (while they cannot) provide an elegant account of reference failure. Descriptivism about the particular-directed intentionality of our mental states fails when applied to desires. Consider, for an example, the desire that Satan not tempt me. On the descriptivist account, it looks like my desire would be fulfilled in conditions in which there exists exactly one thing satisfying some description only (...) Satan satisfies (call it the Satanic Description). However, against this analysis, it is clearly compatible with desiring that Satan not tempt me that I also desire that there exist nothing satisfying the Satanic Description. The descriptivist has room for maneuver here, but the cost of accommodating this phenomenon is that the descriptivist shall no longer be able to use her theory to ameliorate the possibility of reference failure. (shrink)
The paper unfolds a non-modal problem for (moderate) meta-linguistic descriptivism, the thesis that the meaning of a proper name (e.g. ‘Aristotle’) is given by a meta-linguistic description of a certain type (e.g. ‘the bearer of “Aristotle”’). According to this theory, if ⌜α⌝ is a proper name, it is a sufficient condition for the name’s being significant that the description ⌜the bearer of ⌜α⌝⌝ is significant. However, a quotational expression may be significant even when the expression quoted is not. Therefore, (...) proper names and their corresponding descriptions cannot be synonymous, and the corresponding descriptions cannot be viewed as giving the meanings of proper names. So, even if it was immune to Kripke-style modal criticisms, moderate meta-linguistic descriptivism would still seem to founder on the rocks of the opacity of quotation. (shrink)
I attempt to identify a problem running through the foundation of R. M. Hare’s ethical prescriptivism and the more recent sentimentalism/ethical expressivism of Simon Blackburn. The non-cognitivism to which Hare and Blackburn’s approaches are committed renders them unable to establish stable contents for basic moral principles and, thus, incapable of conducting a logical analysis of moral terms or statements. I argue that objective-descriptive- natural ethical theories are in a much better position to provide a satisfying account of the logical analysis (...) of moral terms or statements. Such ethical theories can arrive at basic moral principles with stable contents, thus paving the way for the kind of descriptive approach that can accommodate stable truth conditions. This, in turn, provides stable grounds for the logical analysis of moral terms and statements. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue against Millian Descriptivism: that is, the view that, although sentences that contain names express singular propositions, when they use those sentences speakers communicate descriptive propositions. More precisely, I argue that Millian Descriptivism fares no better (or worse) than Fregean Descriptivism: that is, the view that sentences express descriptive propositions. This is bad news for Millian Descriptivists who think that Fregean Descriptivism is dead.
Is ontologizing about art rightly held accountable to artistic practice, and, if so, how? Julian Dodd argues against such accountability. His target is “local descriptivism,” a meta-ontological principle that he contrasts with meta-ontological realism. The local descriptivist thinks that folk-theoretic beliefs implicit in our practices somehow determine the ontological characters of artworks. I argue, however, that according a grounding role to artistic practice in the ontology of art does not conflict with meta-ontological realism. Practice must ground our ontological inquiries (...) because our task is to make sense of the practices into which artworks enter. Terms like ‘musical work,’ as employed by the ontologist, play an essentially explanatory role in this endeavor, and it is only in terms of this role that we can specify the object of our ontological inquiries. But neither our practices nor our folk beliefs are sacrosanct. In taking ontology of art to be reflectively accountable to artistic practice, I also reject Amie Thomasson's claim that it involves conceptual analysis and therefore cannot rightly claim to be directly revisionary of folk understandings. Ontology of art involves not conceptual analysis but the codification of a practice in a way that clarifies that practice. (shrink)
Our target article identified normativism as the view that rationality should be evaluated against unconditional normative standards. We believe this to be entrenched in the psychological study of reasoning and decision making and argued that it is damaging to this empirical area of study, calling instead for a descriptivist psychology of reasoning and decision making. The views of 29 commentators (from philosophy and cognitive science as well as psychology) were mixed, including some staunch defences of normativism, but also a number (...) that were broadly supportive of our position, although critical of various details. In particular, many defended a position that we call which sees a role for normative evaluation within boundaries alongside more descriptive research goals. In this response, we clarify our use of the term and add discussion of defining both as descriptive and non-normative concepts. We consider the debate with reference to dual-process theory, the psychology of reasoning, and empirical research strategy in these fields. We also discuss cognitive variation by age, intelligence, and culture, and the issue of relative versus absolute definitions of norms. In conclusion, we hope at least to have raised consciousness about the important boundaries between norm and description in the psychology of thinking. (shrink)
Contrary to frequent declarations that descriptivism as a theory of how names refer is dead and gone, such a descriptivism is, to all appear- ances, alive and well. Or rather, a descendent of that doctrine is alive and well. This new version—neo- descriptivism , for short—is suppos- ..
David Sosa, Michael Nelson, and Jason Stanley have recently offered a series of interesting and provocative challenges to Kripke's modal arguments against Descriptivism. In this paper I explore these challenges and some of the issues to which they give rise. I argue that, in the end, all three challenges fail.
Call an account of names satisfactionalist if it holds that object o is the referent of name a in virtue of o’s satisfaction of a descriptive condition associated with a. Call an account of names minimally descriptivistif it holds that if a competent speaker finds ‘a=b’ to be informative, then she must associate some information with ‘a’ which she does not associate with ‘b’. The rejection of both positions is part of the Kripkean orthodoxy, and is also built into extant (...) versions of the file-picture of reference. In this paper, I argue that the rejection of minimal descriptivism only follows from the rejection of satisfactionalism given certain implausible assumptions about the nature of competence with a proper name. I do this by showing that considerations internal to the file-picture - in particular the idea that competence with a proper name constitutes an ‘epistemically rewarding’ relation to its bearer - motivate an acceptance of minimal descriptivism. (shrink)
Ethical descriptivism is the view that all ethical properties are descriptive properties. Frank Jackson has proposed an argument for this view which begins with the premise that the ethical supervenes on the descriptive, any worlds that differ ethically must differ also descriptively. This paper observes that Jackson's argument has a curious structure, taking a linguistic detour between metaphysical starting and ending points, and raises some worries stemming from this. It then proposes an improved version of the argument, which avoids (...) these worries, and responds to some potential objections to this version of the argument. (shrink)
I investigate the widely held view that fundamental musical ontology should be descriptivist rather than revisionary, that is, that it should describe how we think about musical works, rather than how they are independently of our thought about them. I argue that if we take descriptivism seriously then, first, we should be sceptical of art-ontological arguments that appeal to independent metaphysical respectability; and, second, we should give fictionalism about musical works—the theory that they do not exist—more serious consideration than (...) it is usually accorded. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Mill is a detractor of the view that proper names have meanings, defending in its place the view that names are nothing more than (meaningless) marks. Because of this, Mill is often regarded as someone who anticipated the theory of direct reference for names: the view that the only contribution a name makes to propositions expressed through its use is the name's referent. In this paper I argue that the association is unfair. With some gentle interpretation, Mill can be portrayed (...) as someone who is a Millian in the sense he most cares about (names are meaningless marks) but a descriptivist in so far as he takes the determinants of reference to be properties in the possession of speakers. I contend that this view is not only one that Mill comes close to holding, but, in light of the reasons that (nearly) led him to such a view, one that is worth taking seriously on its own terms. (shrink)
This essay studies the semantic properties of what I call Russell-names. Russell-names bear intimate semantic relations with descriptive conditions, in consonance with the main tenets of descriptivism. Yet, they are endowed with the semantic properties attributed to ordinary proper names by Millianism: they are rigid and non-indexical devices of direct reference. This is not an essay in natural language semantics, and remains deliberately neutral with respect to the question whether any among the expressions we ordinarily classify as proper names (...) behave as Russell-names. Its aim is rather that of casting a new light on the traditional debate about descriptivism on the one hand, and, on the other, what is commonly understood as a radically anti-descriptivist approach. From the viewpoint of descriptivism, the conceivability of Russell-names provides welcome relief from the pressure exerted by considerations at odds with a flaccid and/or indexical treatment of proper names. Conversely, from a Millian standpoint, the conceivability of Russell-names indicates that the Millian stance, far from providing a meagre picture of names as ‘mere tags’, is at least in principle consistent with the recognition of their semantic bonds with richer descriptive material. The Appendix provides a formal treatment of Russell-names within a model theoretic semantics for indexical intensional languages, developed within an original ‘double-context’ framework. (shrink)
Non-descriptivists in metaethics should say more about intuitions. For one popular theory has it that case-based intuitions are in the business of correctly categorizing or classifying merely by bringing to bear a semantic or conceptual competence. If so, then the fact that all normative predicates have case-based intuitions involving them shows that they too are in the business of categorizing or classifying things. This favors a descriptivist position in metaethics—normative predicates have descriptive content—and disfavors a purely non-descriptivist position, like pure (...) expressivism. However, we can say more. We can distinguish two different sorts of intuitional state, A-grade intuitions and B-grade intuitions, based on a cluster of properties that are distinctive of each. While a hypothesis about categorization best explains the cluster of properties enjoyed by A-grade intuitions, it does not best explain the cluster of properties enjoyed by B-grade intuitions. Indeed, a non-categorizational, attitude-expressive hypothesis about the relevant meanings best explains B-grade intuitions. And intuitions involving thin normative predicates are B-grade. So intuition theory supports non-descriptivism, not descriptivism, about thin normative predicates. (shrink)
This paper proposes a new, stronger version of the cluster theory of proper names. It introduces a meta-identifying rule that can establish a cluster's main descriptions and explain how they must be satisfied in order to allow the application of a proper name. At the same time, it preserves some main insights of the causal-historical view. With the resulting rule we can not only give a more detailed reply to the counter-examples to descriptivism, but also explain the informative contents (...) of proper names and why they are rigid designators in contrast with descriptions.1. (shrink)
This paper considers Kripke's (1972, 1980) modal arguments against descriptivism about proper names, the descriptivist reply that the meaning of a name is given by a description involving the modifier ‘actually’, and Kit Fine's (1994) distinction between necessary and essential attributes. It explains how Kripke's modal arguments can be recast in essentialist terms by appealing to Fine's distinction, and it argues that the resulting essentialist arguments are immune to the abovementioned descriptivist reply to the original modal arguments.
We offer an empirical assessment of description theories of proper names. We examine empirical evidence on lexical and cognitive development, memory, and aphasia, to see whether it supports Descriptivism. We show that description theories demand much more, in terms of psychological assumptions, than what the data suggest; hence, they lack empirical support. We argue that this problem undermines their success as philosophical theories for proper names in natural languages. We conclude by presenting and defending a preliminary alternative account of (...) reference from a developmental perspective. (shrink)
RESUMEN Las teorías de la referencia puramente descriptivistas o causales fracasan a la hora de dar cuenta del modo en que se fija y puede rastrearse la referencia de los términos teóricos. Psillos propuso dos versiones del descriptivismo causal que recogen argumentos presentes en defensas previas de dicha posición. Se trata de una teoría mixta que pretende solucionar el problema y acomodarse a intuiciones presentes en enfoques alternativos, como el que apela a oraciones de Ramsey. El artículo se propone mostrar (...) la insuficiencia del descriptivismo causal como solución al problema de la referencia de los términos teóricos. ABSTRACT Purely descriptivist or purely causal reference theories fail to account for the manner in which the reference of theoretical terms is fixed and can be traced. S. Psillos proposed two versions of causal descriptivism that take up arguments set forth in previous defenses of said position. His is a mixed theory that attempts to solve the problem by adopting insights from alternative approaches, such as those that resort to Ramsey sentences. The objective of the article is to show the insufficiency of causal descriptivism as a solution to the problem of reference of theoretical terms. (shrink)
In response to Kripke's modal argument contemporary descriptivists suggest that referring terms, e.g., ‘water’, are synonymous with actually‐rigidified definite descriptions, e.g., ‘the actual watery stuff’. Following Scott Soames, this strategy has the counterintuitive consequence that possible speakers on Perfect Earth cannot be ascribed water‐beliefs without beliefs about the actual world. Co‐indexing the actuality and possibility operators has the equally untoward result that possible speakers on Twin Earth are ascribed water‐beliefs. So, Soames's dilemma is that the descriptivist can account for either (...) Twin Earth or Perfect Earth but not both. In response, this paper argues that since ‘actual’ is an indexical, the content of water‐beliefs is egocentric, and so if the descriptivist avails herself of relativized propositions as the content of such beliefs, she is able to account for both Twin Earth and Perfect Earth. The lesson is that we have to tread carefully when making inferences about the contents of beliefs from the semantics of belief‐reporting sentences that contain actually‐rigidified expressions. (shrink)
Scott Soames (2002) has recently developed and defended strategies for (i) accounting for the meaning of Millian terms, and (ii) extending Kripke's insights from proper names to natural kind terms. In this paper I argue that if we accept these strategies, and their implausible assumptions and consequences, then we can present a novel defence of descriptivism for at least some natural kind terms – those for substances – on that basis. The conclusion, then, will be that there is just (...) no motivation for being a Soamesian Kripkean for an important class of natural kind terms. (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)
This paper explores the influence of operationalism and its corollary, descriptivism, on Paul Samuelson's revealed preference theory as it developed between 1937 and 1948. Samuelson urged the disencumbering of metaphysics from economic theory. As an illustration, he showed how utility could be operationally redefined as revealed preference, and, furthermore, how from hypotheses such as maximizing behavior, operationally meaningful theorems could be deduced, thereby satisfying his demand for a scientific, empirical approach toward consumer behavior theory. In this paper I discuss (...) the ensuing debate during the 1950s and 1960s on Samuelson's operationalism that raised doubts about its efficacy. In addition, I argue that certain concepts (revealed preference, equilibrium) and theorems (e.g., weak and strong axioms) that are supposedly operational in revealed preference theory, lack operational meaning, not withstanding their mathematical implications. Finally, I suggest that, although Samuelson's methodological rhetoric did not correspond with his implicit aprioristic theorizing, he possibly thought that his methodology and theorizing would converge in the long run. (shrink)
In response to Kripke's modal argument contemporary descriptivists suggest that referring terms, e.g., ‘water’, are synonymous with actually-rigidified definite descriptions, e.g., ‘the actual watery stuff’. Following Scott Soames, this strategy has the counterintuitive consequence that possible speakers on Perfect Earth cannot be ascribed water-beliefs without beliefs about the actual world. Co-indexing the actuality and possibility operators has the equally untoward result that possible speakers on Twin Earth are ascribed water-beliefs. So, Soames's dilemma is that the descriptivist can account for either (...) Twin Earth or Perfect Earth but not both. In response, this paper argues that since ‘actual’ is an indexical, the content of water-beliefs is egocentric, and so if the descriptivist avails herself of relativized propositions as the content of such beliefs, she is able to account for both Twin Earth and Perfect Earth. The lesson is that we have to tread carefully when making inferences about the contents of beliefs from the semantics of belief-reporting sentences that contain actually-rigidified expressions. (shrink)
The work of Kripke, Putnam, Kaplan, and others initiated a tradition in philosophy that has come to be known as anti-descriptivism. I argue that when properly interpreted, Wilfrid Sellars is a staunch anti-descriptivist. Not only does he accept most of the conclusions drawn by the more famous anti-descriptivists, he goes beyond their critiques to reject the fundamental tenant of descriptivism—that understanding a linguistic expression consists in mentally grasping its meaning and associating that meaning with the expression. I show (...) that Sellars’ alternative accounts of language and the mind provide novel justifications for the anti-descriptivists’ conclusions. Finally, I present what I take to be a Sellarsian analysis of an important anti-descriptivist issue: the relation between metaphysical modal notions (e.g., possibility) and epistemic modal notions (e.g., conceivability). The account I present involves extension of the strategy he uses to explain both the relation between physical object concepts (e.g., whiteness) and sensation concepts (e.g., the appearance of whiteness), and the relation between concepts that apply to linguistic activity (e.g., sentential meaning) and those that apply to conceptual activity (e.g., thought content). (shrink)
In Naming and Necessity Saul Kripke offers a number of arguments in order to show that no descriptivist theory of proper names is correct. We present here a certain version of descriptivist theory -we will characterize it as an individual-use reference-fixing descriptivist theory that appeals to descriptions regarding how a name is used by other speakers. This kind of theory can successfully answer all the objections Kripke puts forward in Naming and Necessity. Such sort of descriptivist theory is furthermore compatible (...) with the picture about reference that Kripke presents. It also seems to be able to account for some phenomena that are difficult to explain on Kripke’s view. (shrink)
It is generally thought that Searle 's cluster theory of the sense of a proper name was soundly refuted by Kripke in Naming and Necessity. This paper challenges this widespread belief and argues that the observations made by Kripke do not show that Searle 's version of descriptivism is false. Indeed, charitably interpreted, Searle 's theory retains considerable plausibility.
This paper has two purposes: the first is to critically examine Kripke’s well-known arguments against Descriptivism and suggest that they are not as decisive as many have thought; the second is to argue that proper names do encode descriptive information of various kinds, that such information may be truth-conditionally significant, and hence that a name’s truth-conditional contribution is not limited to its referent.
There are two major semantic theories of proper names: Semantic Descriptivism and Direct Reference. According to Semantic Descriptivism, the semantic content of a proper name N for a speaker S is identical to the semantic content of a definite description “the F” that the speaker associates with the name. According to Direct Reference, the semantic content of a proper name is identical to its referent. As is well known, Semantic Descriptivism suffers from a number of drawbacks first (...) pointed out by Donnellan (1970) and Kripke (1972).1 The first difficulty is semantic: in many cases, the definite description that S associates with N (if it denotes) denotes an entity other than the referent of N. The second difficulty is epistemic: in many cases, contrary to what Semantic Descriptivism predicts, an utterance of “N=the F” does not semantically express a proposition that is knowable a priori. And the third difficulty is modal: although Semantic Descriptivism entails that the proposition semantically expressed by an utterance of “N=the F” is metaphysically necessary, in many cases the relevant proposition is actually metaphysically contingent. Direct Reference faces three main difficulties of its own. First, there is the problem of cognitive significance (or, as it has come to be known, Frege’s Puzzle): if the content of a proper name is its referent, then different proper names have the same content, and hence utterances of “N=M” and “N=N” semantically express the same proposition; yet these two utterances differ in cognitive significance, and it would seem 1 that utterances semantically expressing the same proposition should not differ in cognitive significance. Second, there is the problem of substitution: if the content of a proper name is its referent, then co-referential proper names should be intersubstitutable in propositional attitude contexts salva veritate; yet linguistic intuitions suggest that substitution of co-referential proper names in such contexts often fails to preserve truthvalue.. (shrink)
In Naming and Necessity Saul Kripke offers a number of arguments in order to show that no descriptivist theory of proper names is correct. We present here a certain version of descriptivist theory -we will characterize it as an individual-use reference-fixing descriptivist theory that appeals to descriptions regarding how a name is used by other speakers. This kind of theory can successfully answer all the objections Kripke puts forward in Naming and Necessity. Such sort of descriptivist theory is furthermore compatible (...) with the picture about reference that Kripke presents. It also seems to be able to account for some phenomena that are difficult to explain on Kripke’s view (the existence of informative identity statements and true negative singular existential statements). (shrink)
Na primeira parte, argumento que o descritivismo proposto por Moritz Schlick não compreende adequadamente a função dos juízos morais. Na segunda parte, argumento que o emotivismo não apresenta uma explicação adequada para o papel da razão na ética. Na terceira parte, argumento que o prescritivismo universal proposto por R. M. Hare avança na solução dos problemas do emotivismo, porque amplia o papel da razão na ética, e na solução dos problemas do descritivismo, porque compreende a função dos juízos morais na (...) linguagem ordinária. The first part of this article argues that descriptivism as proposed by Moritz Schlick does not correctly understand the function of moral judgements. The second part argues that emotivism does not provide an adequate explanation of the role of reason in ethics. Finally, the article shows how the universal prescriptivism proposed by R. M. Hare furthers the solution of the problems of emotivism, since it extends the role of reason in ethics and in the resolution of the problems of descriptivism, given that it understands the function of moral judgements in ordinary language. (shrink)
Abstract: By focusing on contributions to the literature on function ascription, this article seeks to illustrate two problems with philosophical accounts that are presented as having descriptive aims. There is a motivational problem in that there is frequently no good reason why descriptive aims should be important, and there is a methodological problem in that the methods employed frequently fail to match the task description. This suggests that the task description as such may be the result of “default descriptivism,” (...) a tendency to take considerations that make sense of a practice to be the very considerations that generate it. Although such hypotheses are frequently quite plausible, the fact of the matter may not be very important for the pursuits of philosophers. (shrink)
This paper looks at how neo-descriptivism grew out of Kripke's anti-descriptivist arguments and examines two arguments for neo-descriptivism: one from Frank Jackson and one from Christian Nimtz. The former argument is that neo-descriptivism best explains how we are able to judge the referent of a term at a possible world when presented with a description of that world; the second argument is that only neo-descriptivism can account for our ability to gain new knowledge from testimony. The (...) paper concludes that neither argument is successful. (shrink)
Kripke's epistemic argument against descriptivism is reconstructed as follows. Premise 1: if descriptivism is correct, then “N is the F” should be knowable a priori; Premise 2: in fact, “N is the F” is not knowable a priori; Conclusion: descriptivism is wrong. This article accepts P2 of the argument as true, but rejects P1 by arguing for the evolution of language and the growth of meaning; so it concludes that the argument fails. It also criticizes Kripke's conception (...) of “a priori,” and interprets why “N is the F” is not knowable a priori. Sometimes this article uses materials from Chinese ancient philosophers, for example, Xunzi and later Moists, to support its arguments. (shrink)
: David Sosa, Michael Nelson, and Jason Stanley have recently offered a series of interesting and provocative challenges to Kripke's modal arguments against Descriptivism. In this paper I explore these challenges and some of the issues to which they give rise. I argue that, in the end, all three challenges fail.
SummaryIn his Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough, Wittgenstein holds that in studying or interpreting a language and associated activities we should not attempt to explain what goes on, just describe, for description is able to give us everything we could ask for. He seems to presents two arguments for this descriptivist approach. I criticize both. Generally, I argue that Wittgenstein's position seems to presuppose a radical distinction between description and explanation that cannot be supported.Specifically, I show that Wittgenstein's first objection (...) to explanatory concerns in interpretive contexts is an overly quick generalization from limitations in Frazer's early attempts at explanation. The inadequacy of one attempt at explaining some phenomena hardly implies that it is wrong to attempt an explanation of that phenomena. Nor does the fact that a false explanation may support a false description of some phenomena show that a correct explanation would not support a correct description. Wittgenstein's second, and most important, objection turns on the crucial claim that correct description is at least as satisfying as explanation. There is one significant respect in which I agree this claim, and another in which I disagree. I show that, on Wittgenstein's view, a description is a perspicuous story about an effect and its antecedents. It answers a “why”‐question. This is to say, a good description is something of a condensed explanation. Now, when description is so understood, it would be foolish to deny that description is as satisfying as explanation, for here, description is not just theory‐laden, it is also explanation‐laden. However, I argue that in contexts where reliability worries become pressing, the more familiar, explicit, forms of explanation have important advantages. (shrink)
Taken together with other plausible theses, Millianism has the counterintuitive consequence that the following belief reports have the same semantic content. (1a) Lois Lane believes that Superman flies. (1b) Lois Lane believes that Clark Kent flies. It has been popular, at least since the publication of Salmon's Frege's Puzzle (1986), to explain the presence of anti-Millian intuitions in terms of pragmatic phenomena. According to Salmon's account, (1a) and (1b) can be used to communicate distinct propositions, and this leads to the (...) mistaken conclusion that (1a) and (1b) differ in semantic content. Since the publication of Soames's Beyond Rigidity (2002) and Thau's Consciousness and Cognition (2002), it has been popular to say that (1a) and (1b) can be used to communicate descriptive propositions. These propositions may be distinct, and this contributes to the mistaken conclusion that (1a) and (1b) differ in semantic content. In this paper, I elaborate and defend a modified version of Salmon's account. This new account incorporates elements from Soames and Thau, so it can be regarded as a synthesis of previous accounts. It is argued that the new account is superior in various respects, not the least of which is its ability to handle various puzzles and problematic cases. Because of the elements that are incorporated from Soames and Thau, the new account can be regarded as an example of Millian Descriptivism. After explaining and motivating Salmon's account, I consider several problems. I then propose the modified account as an attractive way of avoiding these problems. It is noted that there are several similarities between the modified account and the accounts offered by Soames and Thau, but it is argued that the new account is superior in maintaining certain elements of Salmon's original account. Several consequences of the new account are discussed. Some of them concern the nature of the a priori and others concern the individuation of beliefs. I conclude by defending the new account against recent attacks on Millian Descriptivism. I argue that the new account is not suspectible to the objections that have been standardly raised against Fregean Descriptivism. (shrink)
The word 'ought' is one of the core normative terms, but it is also a modal word. In this book Matthew Chrisman develops a careful account of the semantics of 'ought' as a modal operator, and uses this to motivate a novel inferentialist account of why ought-sentences have the meaning that they have. This is a metanormative account that agrees with traditional descriptivist theories in metaethics that specifying the truth-conditions of normative sentences is a central part of the explanation of (...) their meaning. But Chrisman argues that this leaves important metasemantic questions about what it is in virtue of which ought-sentences have the meanings that they have unanswered. His appeal to inferentialism aims to provide a viable anti-descriptivist but also anti-expressivist answer to these questions. (shrink)