Referentialism has underappreciated consequences for our understanding of the ways in which mind, language, and world relate to one another. In exploring these consequences, this book defends a version of referentialism about names, demonstratives, and indexicals, in a manner appropriate for scholars and students in philosophy or the cognitive sciences. To demonstrate his view, Kenneth A. Taylor offers original and provocative accounts of a wide variety of semantic, pragmatic, and psychological phenomena, such as empty names, propositional attitude contexts, the nature (...) of concepts, and the ultimate source and nature of normativity. (shrink)
This essay some first steps toward the naturalization of what I call rational intentionality or alternatively type II intentionality. By rational or type II intentionality, I mean that full combination of rational powers and content-bearing states that is paradigmatically enjoyed by mature intact human beings. The problem I set myself is to determine the extent to which the only currently extant approach to the naturalization of the intentional that has the singular virtue of not being a non-starter can be aggregated (...) up into an account of rational intentionality. I have in mind a broadly defined family of accounts whose main members are the indicator/information-theoretic approach of Dretske (1988), the asymmetric dependence theory of Jerry Fodor (1987, 1990, 1994) and the teleo-semantics of Ruth Millikan (1984, 1993). Somewhat inaccurately, I will call this family of approaches the information-theoretic family. To be sure, there is only a rough family resemblance among the members of the information-theoretic family. Indeed, several intense quarrels divide the members of that family one from another, but the precise outcome of those internecine struggles is not directly relevant to the aims of this essay. 2 Taken collectively, the information-theoretic family yields a compelling picture of the place of at least a crude form of intentionality -- what I call frog-like or type I intentionality -- in the natural order. Though frog-like or type I intentionality is, I think, a genuine species of intentionality, it may subsist in the absence of rational powers. It is that species of intentionality enjoyed by irritable creatures who, following Brandom (1994). (shrink)
This essay examines the syntax of names. It argues that names are a syntactically and not just semantically distinctive class of expressions. Its central claim is that names are a distinguished type of anaphoric device—devices of explicit co-reference. Finally it argues that appreciating the true syntactic distinctiveness of names is the key to resolving certain long-standing philosophical puzzles that have long been thought to be of a semantic nature.
This paper examines and rejects some purported refutations of eliminative materialism in the philosophy of mind: a quasi-transcendental argument due to Jackson and Pettit (1990) to the effect that folk psychology is “peculiarly unlikely” to be radically revised or eliminated in light of the developments of cognitive science and neuroscience; and (b) certain straight-out transcendental arguments to the effect that eliminativism is somehow incoherent (Baker, 1987; Boghossian, 1990). It begins by clarifying the exact topology of the dialectical space in which (...) debates between eliminativist and anti-eliminativist ought to be framed. I claim that both proponents and opponents of eliminativism have been insufficiently attentive to the range of dialectical possibilities. Consequently, the debate has not, in fact, been framed within the correct dialectical setting. I then go onto to show how inattentiveness to the range of dialectical possibilities undermines both transcendental and quasi-transcendental arguments against eliminativism. In particular, I argue that the quasi-transcendentalist overestimates the degree to which folk psychology can be insulated from the advance of neuroscience and cognitive science just in virtue of being a functional theory. I argue further that transcendental arguments are fallacious and do not succeed against even the strongest possible form of eliminativism. Finally, I argue that that transcendental arguments are irrelevant. Even if such arguments do succeed against a certain'very strong form of eliminativism, they remain complete non-starters against certain weaker forms of eliminativism. And I argue that if any of these weaker forms is true, folk psychology is in trouble enough to vindicate Paul Ckurchland's claim that our common sense psychological framework is “a radically false and misleading conception of the causes of human behavior and the nature of cognitive activity”. (shrink)
If reason is a real causal force, operative in some, but not all of our cognition and conation, then it ought to be possible to tell a naturalistic story that distinguishes the mind which is moved by reason from the mind which is moved by forces other than reason. This essay proposes some steps toward that end. I proceed by showing that it is possible to reconcile certain emerging psychological ideas about the causal powers of the mind/brain with a venerable (...) philosophical vision of reason as the faculty of norms. My account of reason is psychologistic, social, and consistent with an evolutionary approach to mind. The account preserves the normativity by deflating it. But I argue that only such deflated normativity has any chance of being made naturalistically respectable. (shrink)
Much of neuroscience is currently dominated by an information processing metaphor which is largely conceptualized in discrete terms. An alternative metaphor conceptualizes information flow as continuous. A qualitative set of hypotheses based on this metaphor, the energy model, is described here. This model considers information transfer in terms of the flow of an abstract variable, energy, between points in a field comprising the extent of the nervous system. Although extremely simple, it generates some intriguing consequences. In particular, it provides a (...) useful way in which to look at consciousness. Traditional problems of consciousness, such as qualia and the unity of consciousness, are briefly addressed, and outlines are sketched of the answers given by the energy model. (shrink)
At first glance, it may appear that those who believe in divine providence have a happier lot and are much less prone to despair than those who reject god and divine providence altogether. That alone may seem to give us good reason to prefer belief to non-belief. I shall argue in this essay that there is almost nothing to be said for either the view that belief in providence provides invincible armor against despair or for the view that the atheist (...) who rejects providence need surrender to a paralyzing despair. (shrink)
Kenneth A. Taylor examines the complex relationship between semantic analysis and metaphysical inquiry with the aim of bringing philosophical methodology into closer alignment with total science. He urges philosophers who seek metaphysical insight to interrogate reality itself rather than language and concepts.
In this essay, I consider three different conceptions of ‘the people’ and what it means to ‘respect’ their collective will and wisdom: the democratic conception of the people as a sprawling demos, the populist conception of the people as an authentic folk and, finally, the vanguardist conception of the people as the semi-mute masses who stand in need of revolutionary transformation. Although my ultimate aim is to defend the democratic conception of the people over both the populist conception and the (...) vanguardist conception, much of this essay is taken up simply spelling out each of these conceptions of the people and outlining their consequences for the conduct of politics. I begin by contrasting the democratic conception with the populist conception. I then turn briefly to the vanguardist conception. I close with a brief, and admittedly incomplete defence of a particular form of democracy – what I call transformative or ameliorative democracy – which conceives of the people as a self-transformative totality. (shrink)
Representing Representations: The Priority of the De Re.Kenneth A. Taylor - 2019 - In Alessandro Capone, Una Stojnic, Ernie Lepore, Denis Delfitto, Anne Reboul, Gaetano Fiorin, Kenneth A. Taylor, Jonathan Berg, Herbert L. Colston, Sanford C. Goldberg, Edoardo Lombardi Vallauri, Cliff Goddard, Anna Wierzbicka, Magdalena Sztencel, Sarah E. Duffy, Alessandra Falzone, Paola Pennisi, Péter Furkó, András Kertész, Ágnes Abuczki, Alessandra Giorgi, Sona Haroutyunian, Marina Folescu, Hiroko Itakura, John C. Wakefield, Hung Yuk Lee, Sumiyo Nishiguchi, Brian E. Butler, Douglas Robinson, Kobie van Krieken, José Sanders, Grazia Basile, Antonino Bucca, Edoardo Lombardi Vallauri & Kobie van Krieken (eds.), Indirect Reports and Pragmatics in the World Languages. Springer Verlag. pp. 61-97.details
We glide easily from thought and talk about worldly objects to thought and talk about the contents of our beliefs about such worldly objects all the time. Smith ask Jones about the whereabouts of their pet cat and on the basis of Jones’s assertion that the cat is on the mat, Smith comes to believe that the cat is on the mat. Black in turn may ascribe to Smith the belief that the cat is on the mat. Such transitions from (...) thought and talk about worldly objects to thought and talk about states of mind are so familiar to us as to seem second nature. But there is a long-standing philosophical tradition, originating with Frege, but endorsed by philosophers with otherwise varying philosophical outlooks, which makes the very possibility of such transitions puzzling. That tradition assumes that in making at least certain attitude ascriptions – so-called de dicto or “notionally sensitive” ascriptions -- speakers refer to, describe, quantify over, or somehow pragmatically implicate the notions, representations, or modes of presentations that plausibly figure as constituents of our mental contents -- either to the exclusion of the worldly objects themselves or in addition to those objects. Such attitude ascriptions are widely taken to be the primary or unmarked case of an attitude ascription. But it is seldom acknowledged that twin facts that on this approach worldly objects will relate to the representational items that supposedly serve as ingredients of thought content in a one-many fashion and there is no automatic way “back-up” from worldly objects to modes of presentation thereof together generate a mystery about how possibly we are able execute transitions from thought and talk about worldly objects to thought and talk about representational states of mind. It is argued in this essay that the way around this mystery is to see that de re, rather than de dicto ascriptions are the unmarked form of attitude ascription and that our representations of mental contents are parasitic on our representations of worldly objects. That is, we talk about the contents of our states of mind not by adverting, in the first instance, to talk about peculiarly mental or representational entities like notions or modes of presentations, but primarily by talking about worldly entities themselves. That is, to attribute to another the belief that the cat is on the mat, one need not refer to modes of presentations, or their ilk, of said cat or said mat, but only to the relevant cat and the relevant mat. (shrink)
This essay defends three interlocking claims about singular beliefs and their ascriptions. The first is a claim about the nature of such beliefs; the second is a claim about the semantic contents of ascriptions of such beliefs; the third is a claim about the pragmatic significance of such ascriptions. With respect to the nature of singular belief, I claim that the contents of our singular beliefs are a joint product of mind and world, with neither mind nor world enjoying any (...) peculiar priority over the other in the constitution of content. This view amounts to a rejection of the priority of so-called narrow or notional content over wide or referential content for singular beliefs. About the semantics of ascriptions of singular belief, I claim that such ascriptions ascribe what I call predicative doxastic commitments and nothing more. In particular, I will argue that to ascribe a predicative commitment is merely to say what property is being predicated by she who undertakes the relevant commitment to what object. My view has the consequence that ascriptions of singular beliefs typically do not either semantically specify or pragmatically implicate the modes of presentations, notions, or conceptions via which the ascribee cognizes the objects and properties relative to which she undertakes predicative commitments. To be sure, many maintain that at least one class of belief ascriptions -- so called de dicto ascriptions. (shrink)
For Millikan, purpose pervades the biological order, including the genes and genetically encoded traits of every living thing, the unconditioned reflexes and conditioned behavior of every animal, artifacts produced by humans or non-humans. There are also the conscious, explicit purposes and intentions of human beings. These are purposes in “a quite univocal sense,” Millikan insists. “In all cases,” she says, “the thing’s purpose is … what it was selected for doing.” Moreover, “…the purposes we attribute to whole persons … are (...) composed of no more than the purposes of [their] parts and aspects, and of the ways these have been designed to work together.” (13) The chain of purposes forms a double helix with another great chain -- the great chain of signs. At the bottom of the great chain, sit locally recurrent natural signs. These are wholly natural occurrences or states of affairs that carry “local information.” Locally recurrent natural signs are not yet intentional signs but they are the ground on which intentionality ultimately rests. Local natural signs are “basic” representations in the following sense: … when the systems that produce and/or use intentional representations perform the tasks they were designed to perform and perform these tasks by means of their normal mechanism … then the intentional representations are basic representations. (69) When an intentional sign producing/consuming system is functioning “normally” its intentional signs will just be local natural signs. Systems don’t always function normally; So we can’t quite say that intentional signs are built out of locally recurrent natural signs. Still, without such signs subsisting at the ground level, there apparently could not be intentional signs. But it is far from clear whether locally recurrent natural sign can really carry the load Millikan needs them to carry. Locality seems designed to exorcise the ghost of disjunction that haunts many correlational theories of content.. (shrink)
Philosophers of language have lavished attention on names and other singular referring expressions. But they have focused primarily on what might be called lexicalsemantic character of names and have largely ignored both what I call the lexicalsyntactic character of names and also what I call the pragmatic significance of the naming relation. Partly as a consequence, explanatory burdens have mistakenly been heaped upon semantics that properly belong elsewhere. This essay takes some steps toward correcting these twin lacunae. When we properly (...) distinguish that which belongs to the lexical-syntactic character of names, from that which belongs to the lexical semantic character of names, from that which rests on the pragmatics of the naming relation, we lay to rest many misbegotten claims about names and their presumed semantic behavior. For example, though many believe that Frege’s puzzle about the possibility of informative identity statements motivates a move away from a referentialist semantics for names, I argue that the very possibility of Frege cases has its source not in facts about the lexical-semantic character of names but in facts about the lexical-syntax of the naming relation. If I am right, Frege cases as such are insufficient to justify the introduction of the distinction between sense and reference. In a similar vein, I offer a new diagnosis of the widely misdiagnosed felt invalidity of the substitution of coreferring names within propositional attitude contexts. That felt invalidity has been taken 1 to justify the conclusion that an embedded referring expression must be playing some semantic role either different from or additional to its customary semantic role of standing for its reference. I argue, to the contrary, that failures of substitutivity have their source not in the peculiar semantic behavior of embedded expressions but entirely in certain pragmatic principles. (shrink)