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)
Moral relativism is often rejected on grounds that it is either descriptively inadequate, at best, or self-defeating, at worst. In this essay, I swim against the predominant anti-relativistic philosophical tide. My minimal aim is to show that relativism is neither descriptively inadequate nor self-defeating. My maximal aim is to outline the beginnings of an argument that relativism is a truth resting on deep facts about the human normative predicament. And I shall suggest that far from being a source of cultural (...) degeneracy, the fact of relativism has the potential to ground a culture that is deeply life-affirming. My argument against the twin charges of descriptive inadequacy and self- defeat turns on a distinction between tolerant and intolerant relativism. I concede that many of the standard arguments against relativism do have force against tolerant relativism. But against intolerant relativism, those arguments are entirely unavailing. The crucial difference between the tolerant and intolerant relativist is that although the intolerant relativist agrees with the tolerant relativist that norms are relative, she insists that agents are sometimes entitled to hold others to norms by which they are not bound. I shall argue that just because the intolerant relativist allows that we are sometimes entitled to hold others to norms by which we are bound but they are not, she is able to escape both the charge of descriptive inadequacy and the charge of self- defeat. In particular, I shall show that the intolerant relativist has a coherent and satisfying account of the nature of moral disagreement and moral argument. Establishing the ultimate truth of relativism, however, would take more than showing that one form of relativism escapes certain standard arguments against relativism. Though I do not pretend to conclusively discharge the burden of showing that relativism is true in the space of this essay, I do sketch the beginnings of an account of what I call the bindingness of norms that has intolerant relativism as more or less straight-forward downstream consequence. If there are independent grounds for accepting that account of bindingness, then there are independent grounds for accepting intolerant moral relativism. (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.
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