Herman Cappelen investigates how language and other representational devices can go wrong, and how to fix them. We use language to understand and talk about the world, but what if our language has deficiencies that prevent it from playing that role? How can we revise our concepts, and what are the limits on revision?
The standard view of philosophical methodology is that philosophers rely on intuitions as evidence. Herman Cappelen argues that this claim is false: it is not true that philosophers rely extensively on intuitions as evidence. At worst, analytic philosophers are guilty of engaging in somewhat irresponsible use of 'intuition'-vocabulary. While this irresponsibility has had little effect on first order philosophy, it has fundamentally misled meta-philosophers: it has encouraged meta-philosophical pseudo-problems and misleading pictures of what philosophy is.
_Insensitive Semantics_ is an overview of and contribution to the debates about how to accommodate context sensitivity within a theory of human communication, investigating the effects of context on communicative interaction and, as a corollary, what a context of utterance is and what it is to be in one. Provides detailed and wide-ranging overviews of the central positions and arguments surrounding contextualism Addresses broad and varied aspects of the distinction between the semantic and non-semantic content of language Defends a distinctive (...) and explanatorily powerful combination of semantic minimalism and speech act pluralism Confronts core problems which not only run to the heart of philosophy of language and linguistics, but which arise in epistemology, metaphysics, and moral philosophy as well. (shrink)
Cappelen and Hawthorne present a powerful critique of fashionable relativist accounts of truth, and the foundational ideas in semantics on which the new relativism draws. They argue compellingly that the contents of thought and talk are propositions that instantiate the fundamental monadic properties of truth and falsity.
The beginning of the twenty-first century saw something of a comeback for relativism within analytical philosophy. Relativism and Monadic Truth has three main goals. First, we wished to clarify what we take to be the key moving parts in the intellectual machinations of self-described relativists. Secondly, we aimed to expose fundamental flaws in those argumentative strategies that drive the pro-relativist movement and precursors from which they draw inspiration. Thirdly, we hoped that our polemic would serve as an indirect defence of (...) a traditional and natural picture concerning truth. According to this picture, what we call ‘Simplicity’, the fundamental structure of semantic reality is best revealed by construing truth as a simple monadic property of propositions that serve as the objects of belief, assertion, meaning and agreement. Our project was not a straightforward one. So-called relativists are not uniform in their key ideology, are often sloppy, casual, obscure or confused in their self-characterization, and differ in their argumentative emphasis among themselves and over time, thereby presenting a target that is both amorphous and shifty. This is an area where parties will frequently claim not to understand each other and where certain parties will sometimes accuse others of failing to make any sense at all. In such a situation, any effort to impose order will inevitably strike some parties as tendentious and unfair. That said, we felt that we had enough of …. (shrink)
Making room for character -- Pluralism and the community of moral judgment -- A cosmopolitan kingdom of ends --Responsibility and moral competence --Can virtue be taught?: the problem of new moral facts -- Training to autonomy: Kant and the question of moral education -- Bootstrapping -- Rethinking Kant's hedonism -- The scope of moral requirement -- The will and its objects -- Obligatory ends -- Moral improvisation -- Contingency in obligation.
Conceptual engineering and conceptual ethics are branches of philosophy concerned with questions about how to assess and ameliorate our representational devices (such as concepts and words). It's a part of philosophy concerned with questions about which concepts we should use (and why), how concepts can be improved, when concepts should be abandoned, and how proposals for amelioration can be implemented. Central parts of the history of philosophy have engaged with these issues, but the focus of this volume is on applications (...) to work in contemporary philosophy of language and mind, epistemology, gender and race theory, ethics, philosophy of science, and philosophical logic. This is the first volume devoted entirely to conceptual engineering and conceptual ethics. The volume explores the possibilities, benefits, problems, and applications of conceptual engineering and conceptual ethics. It consists of twenty chapters written by leading philosophers. (shrink)
Herman Philipse puts forward a powerful new critique of belief in God. He examines the strategies that have been used for the philosophical defence of religious belief, and by careful reasoning casts doubt on the legitimacy of relying on faith instead of evidence, and on probabilistic arguments for the existence of God.
Cappelen and Dever present a forceful challenge to the standard view that perspective, and in particular the perspective of the first person, is a philosophically deep aspect of the world. Their goal is not to show that we need to explain indexical and other perspectival phenomena in different ways, but to show that the entire topic is an illusion.
I call the activity of assessing and developing improvements of our representational devices ‘conceptual engineering’.¹ The aim of this chapter is to present an argument for why conceptual engineering is important for all parts of philosophy (and, more generally, all inquiry). Section I of the chapter provides some background and defines key terms. Section II presents the argument. Section III responds to seven objections. The replies also serve to develop the argument and clarify what conceptual engineering is.
This is the first book devoted to the question of how language can be used to talk about language. Cappelen and Lepore examine the semantics, the pragmatics, and the syntax of linguistic devices that can be used in this way, and present a new account of our use of quotation in a variety of different contexts.
Are trust relationships involving humans and artificial agents possible? This controversial question has become a hotly debated topic in the emerging field of machine ethics. Employing a model of trust advanced by Buechner and Tavani :39–51, 2011), I argue that the “short answer” to this question is yes. However, I also argue that a more complete and nuanced answer will require us to articulate the various levels of trust that are also possible in environments comprising both human agents and AAs. (...) In defending this view, I show how James Moor’s model for distinguishing four levels of ethical agents in the context of machine ethics :18–21, 2006) can help us to develop a framework that differentiates four levels of trust. Via a series of hypothetical scenarios, I illustrate each level of trust involved in HA–AA relationships. Finally, I argue that these levels of trust reflect three key factors or variables: the level of autonomy of the individual AAs involved, the degree of risk/vulnerability on the part of the HAs who place their trust in the AAs, and the kind of interactions that occur between the HAs and AAs in the trust environments. (shrink)
The view defended in this paper - I call it the No-Assertion view - rejects the assumption that it is theoretically useful to single out a subset of sayings as assertions: (v) Sayings are governed by variable norms, come with variable commitments and have variable causes and effects. What philosophers have tried to capture by the term 'assertion' is largely a philosophers' invention. It fails to pick out an act-type that we engage in and it is not a category we (...) need in order to explain any significant component of our linguistic practice. Timothy Williamson (2000) defends a theory of type (i). He says that a theory of assertion has as its goal "[…] that of articulating for the first time the rules of a traditional game that we play" (p. 240). Among those who think we play the game of assertion, there's disagreement about what the rules are. Some think it's a single rule and disagree about what that rule is. Others think the rules change across contexts. According to the No-Assertion view we don’t play the assertion game. The game might exist as an abstract object, but it is not a game you need to learn and play to become a speaker of a natural language. (shrink)
One central purpose of Experimental Philosophy (hereafter, x-phi) is to criticize the alleged reliance on intuitions in contemporary philosophy. In my book Philosophy without Intuitions (hereafter, PWI), I argue that philosophers don’t rely on intuitions. If those arguments are good, experimental philosophy has been engaged in an attack on a strawman. The goal of this paper is to bolster the criticism of x-phi in the light of responses.
Bad Language is the first textbook on an emerging area in the study of language: non-idealized language use, the linguistic behaviour of people who exploit language for malign purposes. This lively, accessible introduction offers theoretical frameworks for thinking about such topics as lies and bullshit, slurs and insults, coercion and silencing.
There are at least four varieties of quotation, including pure, direct, indirect and mixed. A theory of quotation, we argue, should give a unified account of these varieties of quotation. Mixed quotes such as 'Alice said that life is 'difficult to understand'', in which an utterance is directly and indirectly quoted concurrently, is an often overlooked variety of quotation. We show that the leading theories of pure, direct, and indirect quotation are unable to account for mixed quotation and therefore unable (...) to provide a unified theory. In the second half of the paper we develop a unified theory of quotation based on Davidson's demonstrative theory. 'Language is the instrument it is because the same expression, with semantic features (meaning) unchanged, can serve countless purposes.' (Davidson 1968). (shrink)
A semantic theory T for a language L should assign content to utterances of sentences of L. One common assumption is that T will assign p to some S of L just in case in uttering S a speaker A says that p. We will argue that this assumption is mistaken.
This paper evaluates arguments presented by John Perry (and Ken Taylor) in favor of the presence of an unarticulated constituent in the proposition expressed by utterance of, for example, (1):1 1. It's raining (at t). We contend that these arguments are, at best, inconclusive. That's the critical part of our paper. On the positive side, we argue that (1) has as its semantic content the proposition that it is raining (at t) and that this is a location-neutral proposition. According to (...) the view we propose, an audience typically looks for a location when they hear utterances of (1) because their interests in rain are location- focused: it is the location of rain that determines whether we get wet, carrots grow, and roads become slippery. These are, however, contingent facts about rain, wetness, people, carrots, and roads – they are not built into the semantics for the verb 'rain'. (shrink)
This review confirms Herman’s work as a praiseworthy contribution to East-West and comparative philosophical literature. Due credit is given to Herman for providing English readers with access to Buber’s commentary on, a personal translation of, the Chuang-Tzu; Herman’s insight into the later influence of I and Thou on Buber’s understanding of Chuang-Tzu and Taoism is also appropriately commended. In latter half of this review, constructive criticisms of Herman’s work are put forward, such as formatting inconsistencies, a (...) tendency toward verbosity and jargon, and a neglect of seemingly important hermeneutical issues. Such issues, seemingly substantive but neglected by Herman, are the influence of Buber’s prior familiarity with Hasidic teachings on his encounter with Chuang-Tzu, as well as the prevalence of Hasidic and Taoist thought in Buber’s conception of good and evil. (shrink)
The linguistic turn provided philosophers with a range of reasons for engaging in careful investigation into the nature and structure of language. However, the linguistic turn is dead. The arguments for it have been abandoned. This raises the question: why should philosophers take an interest in the minutiae of natural language semantics? I’ll argue that there isn’t much of a reason - philosophy of language has lost its way. Then I provide a suggestion for how it can find its way (...) again. (shrink)
Language Turned on Itself examines what happens when language becomes self-reflexive; when language is used to talk about language. Those who think, talk, and write about language are habitual users of various metalinguistic devices, but reliance on these devices begins early: kids are told, 'That's called a "rabbit"'. It's not implausible that a primitive capacity for the meta-linguistic kicks in at the beginning stages of language acquisition. But no matter when or how frequently these devices are invoked, one thing is (...) clear: they present theorists of language with a complex data pattern. Herman Cappelen and Ernest Lepore show that the study of these devices and patterns not only represents an interesting and neglected project in the philosophy of language, but also carries important consequences for other parts of philosophy. Part I is devoted to presenting data about various aspects of our metalinguistic practices. In Part II, the authors examine and reject the four leading metalinguistic theories, and offer a new account of our use of quotation in a variety of different contexts. But the primary goal of this book is not to promote one theory over another. Rather, it is to present a deeply puzzling set of problems and explain their significance. (shrink)
Husserl and Frege did not criticize psychologism on the ground that it deduced the norms of logic from non-normative premises (naturalistic fallacy), as is often supposed. Rather, their refutation of psychologism assumes that such a deduction is possible. Husserl compared the rules of logic to those of technology, on the supposition that they have a purely theoretical basis. This conception of logic is critically examined, and it is argued (contra Follesdal) that Frege held a similar view.
The 'Discussion' section of this issue contains the following responses to Wilfred Beckerman's article 'Sustainable Development: Is it a Useful Concept?' Environmental Values 3,3 : 191-209. Herman Daly, 'On Wilfred Beckerman's Critique of Sustainable Development'; Michael Jacobs, 'Sustainable Development, Capital Substitution and Humility: A Response to Beckerman'; and Henryk Skolimowski, 'In Defence of Sustainable Development'. These criticisms are answered by Beckerman in Environmental Values 4,2.
For some relativists some of the time the evidence for their view is a puzzling data pattern: On the one hand, there's evidence that the terms in question exhibit some kind of content stability across contexts. On the other hand, there's evidence that their contents vary from one context of use to another. The challenge is to reconcile these two sets of data. Truth relativists claim that their theory can do so better than contextualism and invariantism. Truth relativists, in effect, (...) use an argument to the best explanation: they present data they claim to be able to handle better than any competing theory2. (shrink)
By focussing on the logical relations between scientific theories and religious beliefs in his book Where the Conflict Really Lies, Alvin Plantinga overlooks the real conflict between science and religion. This conflict exists whenever religious believers endorse positive factual claims to truth concerning the supernatural. They thereby violate an important rule of scientific method and of common sense, according to which factual claims should be endorsed as true only if they result from validated epistemic methods or sources.
This paper addresses four issues: 1. What is nonsense? 2. Is nonsense possible? 3. Is nonsense actual? 4. Why do the answers to (1)–(3) matter, if at all? These are my answers: 1. A sentence (or an utterance of one) is nonsense if it fails to have or express content (more on ‘express’, ‘have’, and ‘content’ below). This is a version of a view that can be found in Carnap (1959), Ayer (1936), and, maybe, the early Wittgenstein (1922). The notion (...) I propose abstracts away from their favored (but wrong) theories of what meaning is. It is a notion of nonsense that can be appealed to by all semantic frameworks and all theories of what content is, but structurally it is just like e.g. Carnap’s. Nonsense, as I construe it, is accompanied by illusions of thought (and I think that was part of Carnap’s conception as well). 2. Yes. In particular, I examine three arguments for the impossibility of illusion of thought (which on my construal accompanies linguistic nonsense) and they are all unsound. 3. Yes. There might be a lot of nonsense, both in ordinary and theoretical speech. In particular, it is likely that much of contemporary philosophy consists of nonsense. Empirical work is required to determine just how much. 4. The struggle to avoid nonsense (and achieve meaningfulness) is at least as important as the struggle for truth. The avoidance of nonsense is a precondition not just for having a truth value but also for more important properties such as saying something interesting or kind. (shrink)
Indexicals are linguistic expressions whose meaning remain stable while their reference shifts from utterance to utterance. Paradigmatic cases in English are ‘I’, ‘here’, and ‘now’. Recently, a number of authors have argued that various constructions in our language harbor hidden indexicals. We say 'hidden' because these indexicals are unpronounced, even though they are alleged to be real linguistic components. Constructions taken by some authors to be associated, or to ‘co-habit’, with hidden indexicals include: definite descriptions and quantifiers more generally (hidden (...) indexical refers to a domain – Davies (1981), Westerstahl (1985), Soames (1986), Higginbotham (1988), Stanley and Williamson (1995)), propositional attitude verbs (hidden indexical refers to a mode of presentation – Richard (1990)), comparative adjectives (hidden indexical refers to comparison classes – Partee (1989), Kamp (1975), Ludlow (1989)). An interesting recent addition is the view that all nouns are associated with a hidden indexical referring to a domain restriction (Stanley and Szabo (2000), Stanley.. (shrink)
This is the most comprehensive book ever published on philosophical methodology. A team of thirty-eight of the world's leading philosophers present original essays on various aspects of how philosophy should be and is done. The first part is devoted to broad traditions and approaches to philosophical methodology. The entries in the second part address topics in philosophical methodology, such as intuitions, conceptual analysis, and transcendental arguments. The third part of the book is devoted to essays about the interconnections between philosophy (...) and neighbouring fields, including those of mathematics, psychology, literature and film, and neuroscience. (shrink)
In her very interesting ‘First-personal modes of presentation and the problem of empathy’, L. A. Paul argues that the phenomenon of empathy gives us reason to care about the first person point of view: that as theorists we can only understand, and as humans only evince, empathy by appealing to that point of view. We are skeptics about the importance of the first person point of view, although not about empathy. The goal of this paper is to see if we (...) can account for empathy without the ideology of the first person. We conclude that we can. (shrink)
Philosophers of language and linguists tend to think of the interpreter as an essentially non-creative participant in the communicative process. There’s no room, in traditional theories, for the view that correctness of interpretation depends in some essential way on the interpreter. As a result, there’s no room for the possibility that while P is the correct interpretation of an utterance, u, for one interpreter, P* is the correct interpretation of that utterance for another interpreter. Recently, a number of theorists have, (...) for separate reasons, argued in favour of a radically different view of communication – a view in which the interpreter and her context play what should be thought of as a content-creating role. According to such views, natural languages contain what I’ll call interpretation sensitive terms: terms the correct interpretation of which varies across interpreters (or, more generally, contexts of interpretation).3 An interpretation sensitive sentence can have one content relative to one interpreter and another content relative to another interpreter. This paper is a development and (partial) defence of the view that interpretation sensitivity is ubiquitous in natural language. I call the view that there are interpretation sensitive terms content relativism. Before starting the discussion of content relativism, it is worth pointing out that recent attempts to develop semantically motivated versions of truth relativism should be seen as part of this trend of giving the interpreter a more active role. (shrink)
The archival turn in 19th-century historical scholarship – that is, the growing tendency among 19th-century historians to equate professional historical studies with scholarship based on archival research – not only affected the profession’s epistemological assumptions and day-to-day working manners, but also changed the persona of the historian. Archival research required the cultivation and exercise of such dispositions, virtues, or character traits as carefulness, meticulousness, diligence and industry. This article shows that a growing significance attached to these qualities made the archival (...) turn increasingly contested. As the case of the German-Austrian historian Theodor von Sickel and his critics shows, it was not the necessity of archival research as such on which historians in late 19th-century Europe came to hold different views. Sickel’s critics were rather concerned about the potentially detrimental effects that the increasingly philological ethos of archival studies could have on the historian’s character. What was primarily at stake in late 19th-century debates on the gains and losses of increased commitments to archival study was the persona of the historian – his character traits, his dispositions and the virtues and skills in which he excelled. (shrink)
Philosophers take a great deal of interest in the study of meaning, reference, truth and other semantic properties, but remarkably little attention has been paid to the entities that have semantic properties. The view that’s typically taken for granted has two closely related components.
A penetrating and illuminating exchange of views between Richard Rorty, a highly influential and sometimes controversial philosopher, and seven of his most thoughtful critics, providing new insights into the impact of his work on contemporary American philosophy.