On Kratzer’s canonical account, modal expressions (like “might” and “must”) are represented semantically as quantifiers over possibilities. Such expressions are themselves neutral; they make a single contribution to determining the propositions expressed across a wide range of uses. What modulates the modality of the proposition expressed—as bouletic, epistemic, deontic, etc.—is context.2 This ain’t the canon for nothing. Its power lies in its ability to figure in a simple and highly unified explanation of a fairly wide range of language use. Recently, (...) though, the canon’s neat story has come under attack. The challenge cases involve the epistemic use of a modal sentence for which no single resolution of the contextual parameter appears capable of accommodating all our intuitions.3 According to these revisionaries, such cases show that the canonical story needs to be amended in some way that makes multiple bodies of information relevant to the assessment of such statements. Here I show that how the right canonical, flexibly contextualist account of modals can accommodate the full range of challenge cases. The key will be to extend Kratzer’s formal semantic account with an account of how context selects values for a modal’s.. (shrink)
J. L. Schellenberg’s Philosophy of Religion argues for a specific brand of sceptical religion that takes ‘Ultimism’ – the proposition that there is a metaphysically, axiologically, and soteriologically ultimate reality – to be the object to which the sceptical religionist should assent. In this article I shall argue that Ietsism – the proposition that there is merely something transcendental worth committing ourselves to religiously – is a preferable object of assent. This is for two primary reasons. First, Ietsism is far (...) more modest than Ultimism; Ietsism, in fact, is open to the truth of Ultimism, while the converse does not hold. Second, Ietsism can fulfil the same criteria that compel Schellenberg to argue for Ultimism. (shrink)
2. The Contingency and A posteriority Constraint: A formulation of the thesis must make physicalism come out contingent and a posteriori. First, physicalism is a contingent truth, if it is a truth. This means that physicalism could have been false, i.e. there are counterfactual worlds in which physicalism is false, for example, counterfactual worlds in which there are miracle -performing angels. Moreover, if physicalism is true, our knowledge of its truth is a posteriori. This is to say that there are (...) ways the world could turn out to be such that physicalism is false. For example, if there are miracle -performing angels, then physicalism is false. So there are worlds considered as actual in which physicalism is false. For short, call this ‘the a posteriority constraint’.. (shrink)
We argue that Parfit's "Triviality Objection" against some naturalistic views of normativity is not compelling. We think that once one accepts, as one should, that identity statements can be informative in virtue of their pragmatics and not only in virtue of their semantics, Parfit's case against naturalism can be overcome.
This paper addresses two related questions. First, what is involved in giving a distinctively realist and naturalist construal of an area of discourse, that is, in so much as stating a distinctively realist and naturalist position about, for example, content or value? I defend a condition that guarantees the realism and naturalism of any position satisfying it, at least in the case of positions on content, but perhaps in other cases as well. Second, what sorts of considerations render a distinctively (...) realist and naturalist position more plausible than its irrealist and non-naturalist rivals? The answer here focuses again on theories of content and is wholly negative. I argue that the standard array of arguments offered in support of realist and naturalist theories in fact provide equal support for a host of irrealist and non-naturalist ones. Taken together, these considerations reveal an important gap in the recent philosophical literature on content. The challenge to proponents of putatively realist and naturalist theories is to insure that those theories so much as state distinctively realist and naturalist positions and then to identify arguments that support what is distinctively realist and naturalist about them. (shrink)
This paper begins by isolating the reductive component of Brandom's inferentialism. In order to assess to what extent that reductive component is supported by the considerations Brandom marshals in its defense, I assess the comparative degree of support those considerations provide a non-reductive counterpart of Brandom's original, reductive theory. One of the central claims here is that once the reductive and non-reductive theories are placed side-by-side, it is clear that, save one, all of the considerations Brandom marshals in defense of (...) inferentialism equally well support its non-reductive counterpart. This shows that those considerations offer no support for the reductions at inferentialism's heart. -/- What the considerations raised here ultimately show is that Brandom's defense of the reductive core of his theory ultimately rests on the simple fact that it has a certain feature, namely, that it is reductive in the sense reserved here. I close with a brief discussion of some advantages that some reductive theories have over non-reductive ones, but show how none of these advantages are had by Brandom's theory in particular. (shrink)
On the one hand, Austin appreciates truth as the aim not only of science, but also of philosophy. On the other hand, truth in his works is demythized, contextualized, or even relativized. I analyze this ambivalence by considering some aspects of Austin’s thought which may appear close to pragmatism: his claims that the bearer of truth is assertion as a speech act, that speech acts are to be assessed as felicitous and infelicitous before being assessed as true or false, and (...) that the truth/falsity judgment is concerned with assertions in their contexts, including the participants’ goals and knowledge. These claims are, however, argued for in full coherence with a corrispondentist conception of truth. At a closer examination, Austin’s conception of truth appears to be an independent, “heretic” development of that of Frege. In taking distance from Frege, albeit on a Fregean basis, Austin went some length in the direction in which pragmatists too had gone, without actually sharing any properly pragmatist assumption. (shrink)
Rarely have I begun a book with such keen enthusiasm only later to cool to a deep but respectful ambivalence. In this clearly written and thoughtful monograph, Canadian analytic philosopher J. L. Schellenberg spurs readers to think about religion in evolutionary terms analogous to how Darwin and others have taught us to think about nature. As I will outline, I think he has mixed success in this engaging endeavor.Schellenberg’s valuable insight, and the source of my initial enthusiasm, is his emphasis (...) on the full spectrum of what he calls “deep time” (pp. 1–7). Evolutionary thinking has rightly taught us to take the long view, but it is difficult for us to fully grasp the immensity of what this means. “Evolutionary time,” he notes, “is of an extent almost beyond fathoming—that’s why scientists call it ‘deep.”’ Quoting Stephen Jay Gould, he continues: “‘[A]n abstract, intellectual understanding of deep time comes easily enough—I know how many zeroes to place after 10 when I mean billions .. (shrink)
In these essays, J.L. Mehta, Indian philosopher in whose life and work East and West met profoundly, reflects on the origins and potency of modern hermeneutics and phenomenology, and applies the principles of interpretation to Hindu traditions. These farseeing essays show a hopeful way for non-Western cultures to gain insight into the basic presuppositions of the Western world, and to reclaim their own origins and ways of thinking, and to participate in an emerging planetary thinking.
In this volume, Savas L. Tsohatzidis brings together a team of leading experts to provide up-to-date perspectives on the work of J. L. Austin, a major figure in twentieth-century philosophy and an important contributor to theories of language, truth, perception, and knowledge. Focusing on aspects of Austin's writings in these four areas, the volume's ten original essays critically examine central elements of his philosophy, exploring their interrelationships, their historical context, their reception, and their implications for key issues of contemporary philosophical (...) research. The volume deepens our understanding of Austin's philosophy while illustrating its continuing significance, and will appeal to students and scholars of modern philosophy, particularly to those interested in the philosophy of language and epistemology. (shrink)
Alice Crary has recently developed a radical reading of J. L. Austin's philosophy of language. The central contention of Crary's reading is that Austin gives convincing reasons to reject the idea that sentences have context-invariant literal meaning. While I am in sympathy with Crary about the continuing importance of Austin's work, and I think Crary's reading is deep and interesting, I do not think literal sentence meaning is one of Austin's targets, and the arguments that Crary attributes to Austin or (...) finds Austinian in spirit do not provide convincing reasons to reject literal sentence meaning. In this paper, I challenge Crary's reading of Austin and defend the idea of literal sentence meaning. (shrink)
Chris Tucker's paper on the hiddenness argument seeks to turn aside a way of defending the latter which he calls the value argument. But the value argument can withstand Tucker's criticisms. In any case, an alternative argument capable of doing the same job is suggested by his own emphasis on free will.
What if human joy went on endlessly? Suppose, for example, that each human generation were followed by another, or that the Western religions are right when they teach that each human being lives eternally after death. If any such possibility is true in the actual world, then an agent might sometimes be so situated that more than one course of action would produce an infinite amount of utility. Deciding whether to have a child born this year rather than next is (...) a situation wherein an agent may face several alternatives whose effects could well ramify endlessly on such suppositions, for the child born this year would be a different person—one who preferred different things, performed different actions, and had different descendants—from a child born next year. It has recently been suggested that traditional utilitarianism stumbles on such cases of infinite utility. Specifically, utilitarianism seems to require, for its application, that all experience of pleasure and pain cease at some time in the future or asymptotically approach zero.2 If neither of these conditions holds, then the utility produced by each of two alternative actions may turn out to be infinite, and utilitarianism thus loses its ability to discriminate morally between them. (shrink)
This article aims to disrupt received views about the significance of J. L. Austin's contribution to philosophy of language. Its focus is Austin's 1955 lectures How To Do Things With Words . Commentators on the lectures in both philosophical and literary-theoretical circles, despite conspicuous differences, tend to agree in attributing to Austin an assumption about the relation between literal meaning and truth, which is in fact his central critical target. The goal of the article is to correct this misunderstanding and (...) to show that Austin is deeply critical of a picture of correspondence between language and the world which nearly half a century after he delivered his lectures continues to structure philosophical discussions of language. (shrink)
If philosophy and poetry are to illuminate each other, we should first understand their tendencies to mutual antipathy. Examining mutual misapprehension is part of this task. J. L. Austin's remarks on poetry offer one such point of entry: they are often cited by poets and critics as an example of philosophy's blindness to poetry. These remarks are complex and their purpose obscure—more so than those who take exception to them usually allow or admit. But it is reasonable to think that, (...) for all his levity at their expense, what Austin offers poets is exemption from forms of commitment. Since such exemption is precisely what poets and critics have sought, this diagnosis is eirenic. This exemption has a price, but it may be affordable. (shrink)
Mark McCreary has argued that I cannot consistently advance both the hiddenness argument and certain arguments for religious scepticism found in my book The Wisdom to Doubt . This reaction was expected, and in WD I explained its shortsightedness in that context. First, I noted how in Part III of WD , where theism is addressed, my principal aim is not to prove atheism but to show theists that they are not immune from the scepticism defended in Parts I and (...) II. To the success of this aim, McCreary's arguments are not so much as relevant, for a thoroughgoing scepticism embracing even the hiddenness argument is quite compatible with its success. But I also explained how someone convinced that the hiddenness argument does prove atheism escapes the grip of religious scepticism because of that argument's reliance on apparent conceptual truths. McCreary's critique obscures this point but does not defuse it. (shrink)
When people speak of ‘the law of the jungle’, they usually mean unions restrained and ruthless competition, with everyone out solely for his own advantage. But the phrase was coined by Rudyard Kipling, in The Second Jungle Book , and he meant something very different. His law of the jungle is a law that wolves in a pack are supposed to obey. His poem says that ‘the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is (...) the Pack’, and it states the basic principles of social co-operation. Its provisions are a judicious mixture of individualism and collectivism, prescribing graduated and qualified rights for fathers of families, mothers with cubs, and young wolves, which constitute an elementary system of welfare services. Of course, Kipling meant his poem to give moral instruction to human children, but he probably thought it was at least roughly correct as a description of the social behaviour of wolves and other wild animals. Was he right, or is the natural world the scene of unrestrained competition, of an individualistic struggle for existence? (shrink)
J. L. Austin (1911-1960) exercised in Post-war Oxford an intellectual authority similar to that of Wittgenstein in Cambridge. Although he completed no books of his own and published only seven papers, Austin became through lectures and talks one of the acknowledged leaders in what is called ‘Oxford philosophy’ or ‘ordinary language philosophy’. Few would dispute that among analytic philosophers Austin stands out as a great and original philosophical genius. Three volumes of his writing, published after his death, have become classics (...) in analytical philosophy: Philosophical Papers ; Sense and Sensibilia ; and How to Do Things with Words . First published in 1969, this book is a collection of critical essays on Austin’s philosophy written by well-known philosophers, many of whom knew Austin personally. A number of essays included were especially written for this volume, but the majority have appeared previously in various journals or books, not all easy to obtain. (shrink)
The late J. L. Mackie and his work were a focus for much of the best philosophical thinking in the Oxford tradition. His moral thought centres on that most fundamental issue in moral philosophy – the issue of whether our moral judgements are in some way objective. The contributors to this volume, first published in 1985, are among the most distinguished figures in moral philosophy, and their essays in tribute to John Mackie present views at the forefront of the subject. (...) Five of the essays give a new understanding of the objectivity of moral judgements. These are by Simon Blackburn, R.M. Hare, John McDowell, Susan Hurley and Bernard Williams. The remaining contributors – Philippa Foot, Steven Lukes, Amartya Sen, David Wiggins – give their attention to problems which are equally compelling, such as the defence of a moral outlook based on a conception of a need and of what follows from it. The volume also includes the addresses given by Simon Blackburn and George Cawkwell at the memorial service for John Mackie, and a list of his publications, compiled by Joan Mackie. (shrink)
William Alston's Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious Experience is a most significant contribution to the philosophy of religion. The product of 50 years' reflection on its topic , this work provides a very thorough explication and defence of what Alston calls the ‘mystical perceptual practice’ – the practice of forming beliefs about the Ultimate on the basis of putative ‘direct experiential awareness’ thereof . Alston argues, in particular, for the rationality of engaging in the Christian form of MP . (...) On his view, those who participate in CMP are justified in forming beliefs as they do because their practice is ‘socially established’, has a ‘functioning overrider system’ and a ‘significant degree of self-support’; and because of the ‘lack of sufficient reasons to take the practice as unreliable’. (shrink)
Gershom Scholem wrote his famous article, “Redemption through sin”, in 1937, and J.L. Talmon gained the inspiration for his first book, The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy, in the years 1937–1938 at the time when the Moscow trials revealed to the world the bitter reality of what was happening in the Soviet Union. Scholem and Talmon were contemporaries and witnesses of the transformation of communism in the Soviet Union from a vision of egalitarian and universal redemption into a bureaucratic and nationalistic (...) despotism. The major scholar of the history of religious Messianism and the major scholar of the history of secular Messianism both widened the scope of their investigations—the first extending them into the history of Sabbataianism and the second into the French Revolution—and both reached a similar conclusion: both recognized, as Scholem put it, “the profound truth relating to the dialectics of history … of the historical process whereby the fulfilment of one political process leads to the manifestation of its opposite. In the realization of one thing its opposite is revealed”. The two great Israeli historians of ideas plumbed the depths of one of the most fascinating and at the same time tragic manifestations of la condition humaine: the human challenge of bringing the heavenly city down to the vale of tears, and the price that men have to pay for their Messianic passion. (shrink)
(2011). Critical Race Theory Matters: Education and Ideology. By M. Zamudio, C. Russell, M. A. Rios and J. L. Bridgeman. British Journal of Educational Studies: Vol. 59, Research capacity building, pp. 348-350.
The thesis presents a development of J. L. Austin's analysis of truth and its accompanying analysis of sentence structure. This involves a discussion and refinement of Austin's notions of the demonstrative and descriptive conventions of language and of the demonstrative and descriptive devices of sentences. The main point of the thesis is that ordinary language must be treated as an historical phenomenon: one that has evolved its more complex features through a long series of variations upon a small number of (...) rudimentary conventions and locutions. The utility of Austin's analysis is shown to lie in the description that it provides of the functions of these rudimentary conventions and locutions. The analysis is used to illuminate a number of problematic sentences and expressions of ordinary language, including identity sentences, definite descriptions, existential sentences, and conditionals. (shrink)
Analytical philosophers, if they are true to their training, never forget the first lesson of analytical philosophy: philosophers have no moral authority. In so far as analytical philosophers believe this, they find it easy to live with. For them even to assert, let alone successfully lay claim to, moral authority would require, first, hard work of some non-analytical and probably mistaken kind and, secondly, personality traits of leadership or confidence or even charisma, which philosophers may accidentally have but which they (...) are certainly not trained to have and had better not rely upon, while they live by analytical standards. Yet a further reason why analytical philosophers find the denial of their moral authority easy to accept is that they never forget the second lesson of analytical philosophy, either: nobody else has any moral authority. (shrink)
There are doubtless many with personal experience of suffering, or of comforting others in distress, who would agree with Milton thus far that philosophic argument is powerless to satisfy those who in their anguish ask the question ‘Why did it happen to me?’ Yet to think so is to underestimate both the necessity and the power of reason: clarity of mind and the disposition to argue are commonly enhanced rather than diminished by suffering; and if reason is an essential part (...) of man's nature, it should serve him, if anywhere, in the trials of life. We have every justification, therefore, despite common opinion, for seeking a rational answer to the question proposed. It must, however, be admitted at the outset that there is no direct answer to the question which can both withstand critical scrutiny and bring genuine comfort to the afflicted, an answer, that is, which accepts the question as it stands with its attendant presuppositions; but there is an indirect answer, which, precisely by rejecting one or more of these presuppositions and restating the question, can indeed satisfy these two requirements. Before such an answer can be outlined, however, the question in its traditional form must be examined and the traditional answers to it critically reviewed. (shrink)
A play's text is nearly all talk, and in the performance of a play the physical activity is sparse and exceedingly limited. Used of a play, the term ‘action’ does not mean what it normally means. Its true meaning is illuminated by reference to J. L. Austin and his doctrine of speech-acts. Dramatic action is, for the most part, speech-action. And a skilful manipulation of speech-acts enables the gifted dramatist not only to tell a story but to communicate what is (...) going on below the surface. (shrink)
In the first chapter of Confucius: The Secular as Sacred, Herbert Fingarette argues that in the Analects Confucius holds the essence of human virtue to be a kind of magic power and this magic can be explained in terms of J. L. Austin’s analysis of the “performative utterance.” This paper attempts to explicate what Fingarette’s claims concerning magic and the “performative” amount to. I will argue that even though there is something to the underlying spirit of Fingarette’s project, he either (...) misused or simply misunderstood Austin and, because of this misuse or misunderstanding, he has possibly misunderstood Confucius as well. (shrink)
Jürgen Habermas derives his political theory and discourse ethics from a view of language based upon “universal pragmatics.” Universal pragmatics is identified by Habermas to reveal universal conditions of possible understanding with the belief that not only syntactic and semantic characteristics of language, but also pragmatic characteristics of utterances related to speech should be reconstructed to build an undistorted communication. Nevertheless, the communicative competence, which is supposed to be related to pragmatics of language, is derived from the misinterpretation of J. (...) L. Austin’s theory of performative utterances. Linguistic as well as communicative competences have a universal core in universal pragmatics, which paves the way for the essentialist depiction of language having the Chomskyian overtones. Austin’s theory of performative utterances, on the other hand, does not have a universalistic claim. Because Habermas derives universal pragmatics from the misinterpretation of Austin’s theory of performative utterances, it is important to evaluate Austin and Habermas’s views of language by comparing and contrasting them with one another. The first part of the paper consists of the articulation of universal pragmatics. The second part of the paper focuses on Habermas’s unjustified critique of Austin. (shrink)
Amongst Kant's lesser known early writings is a short treatise with the curious title Dreams of a Spirit-Seer Explained by Dreams of Metaphysics , in which, with considerable acumen and brilliance, and not a little irony, Kant exposes the empty pretensions of his contemporary, the Swedish visionary and Biblical exegete, Emanuel Swedenborg, to have access to a spirit world, denied other mortals. Despite his efforts, it must be feared, however, that Kant did not, alas, succeed in laying the spirit of (...) Swedenborg himself to rest once and for all, for there has arisen in our own day, and within philosophy itself, a movement of thought, if such it can be called, which, like that of Swedenborg, is founded upon an unbridled and unhealthy exercise of the imagination, and apparently believes that philosophical problems can be discussed and resolved by the elaboration of fantastical, and at times repulsive, examples; if we require a name for this contemporary pretence at philosophy, we could take as our model the Italian word for science fiction, fantascienza , and call it ‘fantaphilosophy’: it is my aim to show that this fantaphilosophy is a phantom philosophy. (shrink)
La explicación, defensa y justificación de la teoría de los datos sensibles ha absorbido grandes energías dentro de la filosofía de la percepción. Con todo se nos presenta hoy en día como una teoría tan derruida como el edificio epistemológico al cual pretendía sustentar: el fundamentalismo. Muchas, y desde muy diferentes flancos, han sido las críticas que han causado su caída. Precisamente aquí se expone la que considero una de las más agudas: la que realiza J. L. Austin desde la (...) postura teórica que él llama "fenomenología lingüística". (shrink)