This anthology of essays on the work of David Kaplan, a leading contemporary philosopher of language, sprang from a conference, "Themes from Kaplan," organized by the Center for the Study of Language and Information at Stanford University.
A distinction is developed between two uses of definite descriptions, the "attributive" and the "referential." the distinction exists even in the same sentence. several criteria are given for making the distinction. it is suggested that both russell's and strawson's theories fail to deal with this distinction, although some of the things russell says about genuine proper names can be said about the referential use of definite descriptions. it is argued that the presupposition or implication that something fits the description, present (...) in both uses, has a different genesis depending upon whether the description is used referentially or attributively. this distinction in use seems not to depend upon any syntactic or semantic ambiguity. it is also suggested that there is a distinction between what is here called "referring" and what russell defines as denoting. definite descriptions may denote something, according to his definition, whether used attributively or referentially. (shrink)
The late 20th century saw great movement in the philosophy of language, often critical of the fathers of the subject-Gottlieb Frege and Bertrand Russell-but sometimes supportive of (or even defensive about) the work of the fathers. Howard Wettstein's sympathies lie with the critics. But he says that they have often misconceived their critical project, treating it in ways that are technically focused and that miss the deeper implications of their revolutionary challenge. Wettstein argues that Wittgenstein-a figure with whom the critics (...) of Frege and Russell are typically unsympathetic-laid the foundation for much of what is really revolutionary in this late 20th century movement. The subject itself should be of great interest, since philosophy of language has functioned as a kind of foundation for much of 20th century philosophy. But in fact it remains a subject for specialists, since the ideas are difficult and the mode of presentation is often fairly technical. In this book, Wettstein brings the non-specialist into the conversation (especially in early chapters); he also reconceives the debate in a way that avoids technical formulation. The Magic Prism is intended for professional philosophers, graduate students, and upper division undergraduates. (shrink)
In this volume of essays, Howard Wettstein explores the foundations of religious commitment. His orientation is broadly naturalistic, but not in the mode of reductionism or eliminativism. This collection explores questions of broad religious interest, but does so through a focus on the author's religious tradition, Judaism. Among the issues explored are the nature and role of awe, ritual, doctrine, religious experience; the distinction between belief and faith; problems of evil and suffering with special attention to the Book of Job (...) and to the Akedah, the biblical story of the binding of Isaac; the virtue of forgiveness. One of the book's highlights is its literary approach to theology that at the same time makes room for philosophical exploration of religion. Another is Wettstein's rejection of the usual picture that sees religious life as sitting atop a distinctive metaphysical foundation, one that stands in need of epistemological justification. (shrink)
The nature of reference, or the relation of a word to the object to which it refers, has been perhaps the dominant concern of twentieth-century analytic philosophy. Extremely influential arguments by Gottlob Frege around the turn of the century convinced the large majority of philosophers that the meaning of a word must be distinguished from its referent, the former only providing some kind of direction for reaching the latter. In the last twenty years, this Fregean orthodoxy has been vigorously challenged (...) by those who argue that certain important kinds of words, at least, refer directly without need of an intermediate meaning or sense. The essays in this volume record how a long-term study of Frege has persuaded the author that Frege's pivotal distinction between sense and reference, and his attendant philosophical views about language and thought, are unsatisfactory. Frege's perspective, he argues, imposes a distinctive way of thinking about semantics, specifically about the centrality of cognitive significance puzzles for semantics. Freed from Frege's perspective, we will no longer find it natural to think about semantics in this way. (shrink)
Charles Griswold’s seminal work, Forgiveness, is the focus of the present essay. Following Griswold, I distinguish the relevant virtue of character from something that is more like an act or process. The paper discusses a number of hesitations I have about Griswold’s analysis, at the level both of detail and of underlying conception.
The problem of theodicy is a philosophical classic. I argue that not only are the classical answers suspect, but that the question itself is problematic. In its classical form, the problem presupposes a conception of divinity—call it “perfect-being theology”—that does not go without saying. Even so, there is a significant gap between what the Western religions tell us about the reign of justice and what we seem to find in the world. I argue that approaches to evil need to maintain (...) focus on this discrepancy. I conclude with some suggestions for the shape of “nonopiate” ways of coming to terms with evil. (shrink)
It has long been urged against traditional theism, very long indeed, that God’s perfections—specifically in the domains of goodness, knowledge and power—are logically incompatible with the existence of unwarranted human suffering. It has almost equally long been urged that the problem is illusory—or at least surmountable; the tradition of theodicy must be only moments younger than the problem. The debate is a philosophical classic, with many ingenious moves on both sides, and epicycles galore. But whatever one’s view on the details (...) of the debate, it is difficult—and I think unwise—to resist the sense that evil presents a real and indeed substantial problem for the Western religious tradition. (shrink)
I argue that theological doctrine, the output of philosophical theology, is not a natural tool for thinking about biblical/rabbinic Judaism. Fundamental to my argument is the claim that there is a tension between constellations of theological doctrine of medieval vintage and the primary religious literature---the Hebrew Bible as understood through, and supplemented by, the Rabbis of the Talmud. This tension is a product of the genesis of philosophical theology, the application of Greek philosophical thought to a very different tradition, one (...) that emerged from a very different world. (shrink)
Contemporary semantical discussions make mention of the traditional approach to semantics represented by Frege and/or Russell--even sometimes by Frege-Russell. Is there a Frege-Russell view in the philosophy of language? How much of a common semantical perspective did Frege and Russell share? The matter bears exploration. I begin with Frege and Russell on propositions.
When I was a graduate student in the late 60’s, Wittgenstein was very fashionable. Remarks like “meaning is use” rolled off one’s tongue as easily as “Hell no, we won’t go,” or “It’s not the case that necessarily the number of planets is greater than seven.” I vowed to avoid the Philosophical Investigations , and I was true to my vow until some years later when a friend commented that my approach to indexicals..