This paper offers an interpretation of the later Wittgenstein's handling of the idea of an "essence of human language", and examines in particular his treatment of the 'Augustinean' vision of reference as constituting this "essence". A central theme of the interpretation is the perennial philosophical desire to impose upon linguistic meaning conceptual templates drawn from outside the forms of thought about meaning in which we engage when we exercise our capacity to speak and understand a language. The paper closes with (...) a consideration of ways in which Donald Davidson's generally congenial work on interpretation may diverge from Wittgenstein's thinking in this vicinity. (shrink)
Although in everyday life and thought we take for granted that there are norms of rationality, their existence presents severe philosophical problems. Kolodny (2005) is thus moved to deny that rationality is normative. But this denial is not itself unproblematic, and I argue that Kolodny's defence of it—particularly his Transparency Account, which aims to explain why rationality appears to be normative even though it is not—is unsuccessful.
One of the chief aims of Donald Davidson's later work was to show that participation in a certain causal nexus involving two creatures and a shared environment–Davidson calls this nexus “triangulation”–is a metaphysically necessary condition for the acquisition of thought. This doctrine, I suggest, is aptly regarded as a form of what I call transcendental externalism. I extract two arguments for the transcendental-externalist doctrine from Davidson's writings, and argue that neither succeeds. A central interpretive claim is that the arguments are (...) primarily funded by a particular conception of the nature of non-human animal life. This conception turns out to be insupportable. The failure of Davidson's arguments presses the question of whether we could ever hope to arrive at far-reaching claims about the conditions for thought if we deny, as does Davidson, the legitimacy of the naturalistic project in the philosophy of mind. (shrink)
One of the chief aims of Donald Davidson' s later work was to show that participation in a certain causal nexus involving two creatures and a shared environment-Davidson calls this nexus "triangulation"-is a metaphysically necessary condition for the acquisition of thought. This doctrine, I suggest, is aptly regarded as a form of what I call transcendental externalism. I extract two arguments for the transcendental-extemalist doctrine from Davidson's writings, and argue that neither succeeds. A central interpretive claim is that the arguments (...) are primarily funded by a particular conception of the nature of non-human animal life. This conception turns out to be insupportable. The failure of Davidson's arguments presses the question of whether we could ever hope to arrive atfar-reaching claims about the conditions for thought if we deny, as does Davidson, the legitimacy of the naturalistic project in the philosophy of mind. (shrink)
Some philosophers hold that rational explanations—explanations of people’s attitudes and actions that cite their reasons for forming these attitudes or performing these actions—are dispositional. The hold that rational explanations do their explanatory work by representing these attitudes and actions as the product of dispositions on the part of the subject. I challenge arguments to this effect by Barry Stroud and Michael Smith. And I argue that human beings do not possess, and could not possess, the dispositions required for the dispositionalist (...) account. I propose an alternative account of rational explanation, one that exploits the connection between rational explanations and rational deliberation to show how such explanations can be simultaneously normative and causal. (shrink)
I argue that the contextualist anti-skeptical strategy fails because it misconstrues skepticism by overlooking two important aspects of skepticism: first, all of our knowledge of the external world is brought into question at one fell swoop; second, skepticism depends on certain ideas about sense-perception and its role in our knowledge of the world. Contextualists may have solved ‘the skeptical paradox’ in their own terms, but such a solution cannot in any way make skepticism less threatening to human knowledge or to (...) the philosophical understanding of human knowledge. I also discuss some important aspects of the practice of knowledge attribution in order to show that the more we can make sense of particular knowledge attributions, the less we can take skepticism seriously, and that the practice of knowledge attribution as we understand and engage in it presupposes that we have knowledge of the world. (shrink)
In A General View of Positivism French philosopher Auguste Comte gives an overview of his social philosophy known as Positivism. Comte, credited with coining the term 'sociology' and one of the first to argue for it as a science, is concerned with reform, progress and the problem of social order in society. In this English edition of the work, published in 1865, he addresses the practical problems of implementing his philosophy or doctrine, as he also refers to Positivism, into society. (...) He believes that society evolves through a series of stages that are ruled by social laws and culminate in a superior form of social life. During this reorganisation of society, which will find its greatest supporters among women and the working class, a 'new moral power' will emerge. Under the motto 'love, order and progress' Comte wishes humanism to replace organised religion as the object of spiritual worship. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that informational semantics, the most well-known and worked-out naturalistic account of intentional content, conflicts with a fundamental psychological principle about the conditions of belief-formation. Since this principle is an important premise in the argument for informational semantics, the upshot is that the view is self-contradictory??indeed, it turns out to be guilty of a sophisticated version of the fallacy famously committed by Euthyphro in the eponymous Platonic dialogue. Criticisms of naturalistic accounts of content typically proceed piecemeal (...) by narrowly constructed counterexamples, but I argue that the current result is more robust. It affects a broad family of accounts, and provokes a wider doubt about the possibility of successful execution of the naturalistic project. (shrink)
A critique of attempts by Charles Travis and others to read contextualism back into Philosophical Investigations. The central interpretive claim is that this reading is not only unsupported; it gets Wittgenstein's intent, in the parts of the text at issue, precisely backwards. The focus of the chapter is on Wittgenstein's treatment of explanation, understanding, proper names, and family-resemblance concepts.
Semantic contextualism is a view about the meanings of utterances. The relevant notion of meaning is that of what is said by an utterance, as it is sometimes put, of the content of the utterance. Semantic contextualism (which I will henceforth simply label “contextualism”) holds that the content of an utterance is shaped in far-reaching and unobvious ways by the circumstances, the context, in which it is uttered. Two utterances of the same sentence might vary in content as a result (...) of differences in their respective contexts that do not map onto any obvious indexical elements in the sentence. (shrink)
Barry Stroud's work has had a profound impact on a very wide array of philosophical topics, but there has heretofore been no book-length treatment of his work. The current collection aims to redress this gap, with 13 essays on Stroud's work, all but one new to this volume.
Fred Dretske’s teleofunctional theory of content aims to simultaneously solve two ground-floor philosophical puzzles about mental content: the problem of naturalism and the problem of epiphenomenalism. It is argued here that his theory fails on the latter score. Indeed, the theory insures that content can have no place in the causal explanation of action at all. The argument for this conclusion depends upon only very weak premises about the nature of causal explanation. The difficulties Dretske’s theory encounters indicate the severe (...) challenges involved in arriving at a robust naturalistic understanding of content. (shrink)
A sympathetic exegesis of themes in Barry Stroud's later writings, with a particular emphasis on the role of a certain conception of "perceptual experience" in generating the skeptical challenge to our knowledge of the external world. The resultant morals are brought to bear on John McDowell's evolving account of the role of contentful "experiences" in providing for empirical thought. For Stroud's response to this essay (and others) see: http://philosophicalskepticism.org/skepsis/numero-14/.
On the horizon between metaphysics and philosophy of religion stands the question of God’s relation to various abstracta. Like other contemporary philosophical debates, this one has resulted in a broadly dichotomous stalemate between Platonic realists on the one hand and varieties of nominalism/antirealism on the other. In this paper, I offer Aquinas’s moderaterealism as a true middle ground between realist or nominalist solutions. What Platonists take to be abstracta are actually the result of intellect’s abstractive work on sensible objects. Further, (...) the Christian philosopher should be concerned as much, if not more so, by nominalism than by Platonism. Given the problems associated with either Platonist or nominalist solutions, one should be open to a Thomistic moderate-realist solution to the problem of God and abstracta. (shrink)
One thing that becomes apparent in this exchange is that each of the positions emerges based on differences in fundamental philosophical commitments. An existential Thomist has a very well-defined and sufficiently “thick” view of being at the heart of his metaphysical system. Van Inwagen rejects such views of being in favor of a “thin” view. This issue is addressed and clarified. Craig takes issue with the way the term “moderate-realism” has been explicated, whether or not the idea of existence in (...) the intellect is coherent, and whether the Thomistic solution offers any real advantages over nominalist ones. In this response, I continue to demonstrate the cogency and advocate the superiority of Aquinas’s position. (shrink)
Although in everyday life and thought we take for granted that there are norms of rationality, their existence presents severe philosophical problems. Kolodny (2005) is thus moved to deny that rationality is normative. But this denial is not itself unproblematic, and I argue that Kolodny’s defense of it—especially his Transparency Account, which aims to explain why rationality appears to be normative even though it isn’t—is unsuccessful. I close with a sketch of an alternative proposal, one that provides for a genuine (...) normative role for rationality while defusing the attendant problems. (shrink)