There has been a movement recently to bring to bear on the conduct of philosophical thought experiments 1 the empirical techniques of the social sciences, that is, to treat their conduct as in the nature of an anthropological investigation into the application conditions of the concepts of a group of subjects. This is to take a third person, in contrast to the traditional ﬁrst person, approach to conceptual analysis. This has taken the form of conducting surveys about scenarios used in (...) thought experiments.2 It has been called “experimental philosophy” by its practitioners and has been applied across a range of ﬁelds: the philosophy of language, the philosophy of action, the philosophy of mind, epistemology, and ethics.3 The results of these surveys have been used to support conclusions about the application conditions of particular concepts of interest in philosophy. They have also been used to support skeptical claims about the traditional approach to conceptual analysis. The. (shrink)
Our aim in the present paper is to investigate, from the standpoint of truth-theoretic semantics, English tense, temporal designators and quantifiers, and other expressions we use to relate ourselves and other things to the temporal order. Truth-theoretic semantics provides a particularly illuminating standpoint from which to discuss issues about the semantics of tense, and their relation to thoughts at, and about, times. Tense, and temporal modifiers, contribute systematically to conditions under which sentences we utter are true or false. A Tarski-style (...) truth-theoretic semantics, by requiring explicitly represented truth conditions, helps to sharpen questions about the function of tense, and to deepen our insight into the contribution the tenses and temporal modifiers make to what we say by using them. (shrink)
This chapter is concerned with plural discourse in the grammatical sense. The goal of the chapter is to urge the value of the event analysis of the matrix of action sentences in thinking about logical form in plural discourse about action. Among the claims advanced are that: -/- 1. The ambiguity between distributive and collective readings of plural action sentences is not lexical ambiguity, either in the noun phrase (NP) or in the verb phrase (VP), but an ambiguity tracing to (...) the scope of the event quantifier introduced by the action verb. 2. This allows us to analyze collective action sentences in a way that commits us only to individual agents acting when we say that groups act, without denying that there are groups as such or that we talk about them as such. 3. Intermediate readings, that seem to be neither purely distributive nor purely collective, can be explained in terms of the same apparatus. (shrink)
In this chapter, we focus on collective action and intention, and their relation to conventions, status functions, norms, institutions, and shared attitudes more generally. Collective action and shared intention play a foundational role in our understanding of the social. -/- The three central questions in the study of collective intentionality are: -/- (1) What is the ontology of collective intentionality? In particular, are groups per se intentional agents, as opposed to just their individual members? (2) What is the psychology of (...) collective intentionality? Do groups per se have psychological states, in particular propositional attitudes? What is the psychology of the individuals who participate in collective intentional behavior? What is special about their participatory intentions, their we-intentions, as they are called (Tuomela and Miller 1988), as opposed to their I-intentions? (3) How is collective intentionality implicated in the construction of social reality? In particular, how does the content of we-intentions and the intentional activity of individual agents create social institutions, practices and structures? -/- We first discuss collective action and shared intention in informal groups. Next we discuss mechanisms for constructing institutional structures out of the conceptual and psychological resources made available by our understanding of informal joint intentional action. Then we extend the discussion of collective action and intention to institutional groups, such as the Supreme Court, and explain how concepts of such organizations are constructed out of the concepts of a rule, convention, and status function. Finally we discuss collective attitudes beyond intention. (shrink)
This paper offers an analysis of the logical form of plural action sentences that shows that collective actions so ascribed are a matter of all members of a group contributing to bringing some event about. It then uses this as the basis for a reductive account of the content of we-intentions according to which what distinguishes we-intentions from I-intentions is that we-intentions are directed about bringing it about that members of a group act in accordance with a shared plan.
Much of the recent movement organized under the heading “Experimental Philosophy” has been concerned with the empirical study of responses to thought experiments drawn from the literature on philosophical analysis. I consider what bearing these studies have on the traditional projects in which thought experiments have been used in philosophy. This will help to answer the question what the relation is between Experimental Philosophy and philosophy, whether it is an “exciting new style of [philosophical] research”, “a new interdisciplinary field that (...) uses methods normally associated with psychology to investigate questions normally associated with philosophy” (Knobe et al. 2012), or whether its relation to philosophy consists, as some have suggested, in no more than the word ‘philosophy’ appearing in its title, or whether the truth lies somewhere in between these two views. I first distinguishes different strands in Experimental Philosophy, negative and positive x-phi, and x-phi pursuing philosophy as opposed to x-phi as cognitive science. Next I review some ways in which Experimental Philosophy has been criticized. Finally, I consider what would have to be true for Experimental Philosophy to have one or another sort of relevance to philosophy, whether the assumptions required are true, how we could know it, and the ideal limits of the usefulness Experimental Philosophy to philosophy. I conclude x-phi cannot in principle be a replacement for traditional first person approaches because it yields the wrong kind of knowledge and that it can nonetheless be a practical aid in conducting philosophical thought experiments. n. (shrink)
Donald Davidson was one of the most influential philosophers of the last half of the 20th century, especially in the theory of meaning and in the philosophy of mind and action. In this paper, I concentrate on a field-shaping proposal of Davidson’s in the theory of meaning, arguably his most influential, namely, that insight into meaning may be best pursued by a bit of indirection, by showing how appropriate knowledge of a finitely axiomatized truth theory for a language can put (...) one in a position both to interpret the utterance of any sentence of the language and to see how its semantically primitive constituents together with their mode of combination determines its meaning (Davidson 1965, 1967, 1970, 1973a). This project has come to be known as truth-theoretic semantics. My aim in this paper is to render the best account I can of the goals and methods of truth-theoretic semantics, to defend it against some objections, and to identify its limitations. Although I believe that the project I describe conforms to the main idea that Davidson had, my aim is not primarily Davidson exegesis. I want to get on the table an approach to compositional semantics for natural languages, inspired by Davidson, but extended and developed, which I think does about as much along those lines as any theory could. I believe it is Davidson’s project, and I defend this in detail elsewhere (Ludwig 2015; Lepore and Ludwig 2005, 2007a, 2007b, 2011). But I want to develop and defend the project while also exploring its limitations, without getting entangled in exegetical questions. (shrink)
The work of Donald Davidson (1917-2003) transformed the study of meaning. Ernie Lepore and Kirk Ludwig, two of the world's leading authorities on Davidson's work, present the definitive study of his widely admired and influential program of truth-theoretic semantics for natural languages, giving an exposition and critical examination of its foundations and applications.
The main thesis of this paper is that, whereas an intention simpliciter is a commitment to a plan of action, a conditional intention is a commitment to a contingency plan, a commitment about what to do upon (learning of) a certain contingency relevant to one’s interests obtaining. In unconditional intending, our commitment to acting is not contingent on finding out that some condition obtains. In conditional intending, we intend to undertake an action on some condition, impinging on our interests, which (...) is as yet unsettled for us, but about which we can find out without undue cost. (shrink)
Corporations have often been taken to be the paradigm of an organization whose agency is autonomous from that of the successive waves of people who occupy the pattern of roles that define its structure, which licenses saying that the corporation has attitudes, interests, goals, and beliefs which are not those of the role occupants. In this essay, I sketch a deflationary account of agency-discourse about corporations. I identify institutional roles with a special type of status function, a status role, in (...) which the collectively accepted function is expressed in part through its occupier’s intentional expression of her agency in that role. I identify institutions as systems of status roles and show how this is compatible with seeing the agency of institutions generally, even over time periods in which there is complete change in role occupiers, as a matter of the contributions only of individual agents. I explain how the reduction of the institution to its members is compatible with its potentially having had a completely different membership. I show in the case of the corporation in particular that, once we see its origins and function, the surface features of legal discourse about corporate agency are misleading and are compatible with a deflationary account of corporate agency. I show in connection with this that the corporation is to be identified with its shareholders, and that where a corporation separates ownership and control, its managers and employees are proxy agents of the shareholders doing business under the corporate form. Finally, I canvass the legitimate ways of construing ordinary talk about corporate intention, belief, and so on, in light of this, none of which support the attribution of genuine agency or intentionality to any group per se associated with the corporation. (shrink)
Raimo Tuomela is one of the pioneers of social action theory and has done as much as anyone over the last thirty years to advance the study of social action and collective intentionality. Social Ontology: Collective Intentionality and Group Agents (2013) presents the latest version of his theory and applications to a range of important social phenomena. The book covers so much ground, and so many important topics in detailed discussions, that it would impossible in a short space to do (...) it even partial justice. In this brief note, I will concentrate on a single, though important, theme in the book, namely, the claim that we must give up methodological individualism in the social sciences and embrace instead irreducibly group notions. I wish to defend methodological individualism as up to the theoretical tasks of the social sciences while acknowledging what is distinctive about the social world and collective intentional action. -/- Tuomela frames the question of the adequacy of methodological individualism in terms of a contrast between what he calls the I-mode and the we-mode. He argues that we-mode phenomena are not reducible to I-mode phenomena, and concludes that we must reject methodological individualism. I will argue that the irreducibility of the we-mode to the I-mode, given how the contrast is set up, does not entail the rejection of methodological individualism. In addition, I will argue that the three conditions that Tuomela places on genuine we-mode activities, the group reason, collectivity, and collective commitment conditions, if they are understood in a way that does not beg the question, can plausibly be satisfied by a reductive account. Finally, I will argue that the specific considerations advanced in the book do not give us reason to think that a reductive account cannot be adequate to the descriptive and explanatory requirements of a theory of the social world. (shrink)
I address a criticism of the use of thought experiments in conceptual analysis advanced on the basis of the survey method of so-called experimental philosophy. The criticism holds that surveys show that intuitions are relative to cultures in a way that undermines the claim that intuition-based investigation yields any objective answer to philosophical questions. The crucial question is what intuitions are as philosophers have been interested in them. To answer this question we look at the role of intuitions in philosophical (...) inquiry. When we have done this, we can see that it is impossible for intuitions properly understood to be relative in the way that has been suggested as they are conceived of as expressions of competence in the concepts deployed in their contents. The remaining methodological issues, though not to be dismissed, present no in principle objection to the method of thought experiments. (shrink)
In “The Argument for Subject Body Dualism from Transtemporal Identity Defended” (PPR 2013), Martine Nida-Rümelin (NR) responded to my (PPR 2013) criticism of her (2010) argument for subject-body dualism. The crucial premise of her (2010) argument was that there is a factual difference between the claims that in a fission case the original person is identical with one, or the other, of the successors. I argued that, on the three most plausible interpretations of ‘factual difference’, the argument fails. NR responds (...) that I missed the intended, fourth interpretation, and that, in any case, with an additional assumption, the argument on the third interpretation goes through. I argue that the fourth interpretation, while insufficient as stated, reveals an assumption that provides an independent argument, namely, that in first person thought about future properties we have a positive conception of the self that rules out having empirical criteria of transtemporal identity. I argue that the considerations offered for this thesis fail to establish it, and that we do not bring ourselves under any positive conception in first person thought. I argue also that on the third interpretation, the first premise of the argument is inconsistent with the necessity of identity. (shrink)
Complex demonstratives, expressions of the form 'That F', 'These Fs', etc., have traditionally been taken to be referring terms. Yet they exhibit many of the features of quantified noun phrases. This has led some philosophers to suggest that demonstrative determiners are a special kind of quantifier, which can be paraphrased using a context sensitive definite description. Both these views contain elements of the truth, though each is mistaken. We advance a novel account of the semantic form of complex demonstratives that (...) shows how to reconcile the view that they function like quantified noun phrases with the view that simple demonstratives function as context sensitive referring terms wherever they occur. If we are right, previous accounts of complex demonstratives have misconceived their semantic role; and philosophers relying on the majority view in employing complex demonstratives in analysis have proceeded on a false assumption. (shrink)
What is the ontology of collective action? I have in mind three connected questions. 1. Do the truth conditions of action sentences about groups require there to be group agents over and above individual agents? 2. Is there a difference, in this connection, between action sentences about informal groups that use plural noun phrases, such as ‘We pushed the car’ and ‘The women left the party early’, and action sentences about formal or institutional groups that use singular noun phrases, such (...) as ‘The United States declared war on Japan on December 8th, 1941’ and ‘The Supreme Court ruled that segregation is unconstitutional in 1954 in Brown vs. Board of Education’? 3. Under what conditions does it make sense to speak of a group doing something together, and what, if anything, is a collective action? In this paper, In the following, I argue that a) understanding action sentences about groups does not commit us to the existence of group agents per se, but only to the existence of individual agents; b) there is no difference in this regard between sentences which attribute actions to informal groups on the one hand and institutional groups on the other; c) collective action can be both intentional and unintentional; d) any random group of agents each of whom does something is also a group which does something together; e) while there is a sense in which groups per se perform no primitive collective actions, and therefore no actions at all, f) there is a sensible extension of talk of actions to groups, though it should be treated strictly speaking, like talk of group agents, as a façon de parler, for g) the only agents per se are individuals and the only actions are theirs. -/-. (shrink)
In this paper, we defend Davidson's program in truth-theoretical semantics against recent criticisms by Scott Soames. We argue that Soames has misunderstood Davidson's project, that in consequence his criticisms miss the mark, that appeal to meanings as entities in the alternative approach that Soames favors does no work, and that the approach is no advance over truth-theoretic semantics.
This paper shows that recent arguments from group problem solving and task performance to emergent group level cognition that rest on the social parity and related principles are invalid or question begging. The paper shows that standard attributions of problem solving or task performance to groups require only multiple agents of the outcome, not a group agent over and above its members, whether or not any individual member of the group could have accomplished the task independently.
We can perceive shapes visually and tactilely, and the information we gain about shapes through both sensory modalities is integrated smoothly into and functions in the same way in our behavior independently of whether we gain it by sight or touch. There seems to be no reason in principle we couldn't perceive shapes through other sensory modalities as well, although as a matter of fact we do not. While we can identify shapes through other sensory modalities—e.g., I may know by (...) smell (the scent of mango) that the object causing my sensory experience is round—this is not perceiving an object as shaped, but rather inferring from the character of one's sensory experience and collateral information that an object of a certain shape caused it. That it is possible to perceive shape by other modalities, however, is suggested by the case of bats and aquatic mammals like dolphins which navigate through their environment by a form of sonar. It is plausible that they have some form of auditory representation of space, and so of shape. These facts about shape perception raise important questions about the relation between those features of perceptual experience which are intrinsic to different sensory modalities and the nature of our perceptual representation of shapes, and, more generally, of the space within which we perceive shaped objects to be located. John Campbell's paper, "Molyneux's Problem" (see above), raises a number of interesting and important questions about the nature of our perception of shape properties, particularly the cross-modal nature of shape perception, and ties them to more general questions about the nature both of perceptual.. (shrink)
This paper gives an account of proxy agency in the context of collective action. It takes the case of a group announcing something by way of a spokesperson as an illustration. In proxy agency, it seems that one person or subgroup's doing something counts as or constitutes or is recognized as (tantamount to) another person or group's doing something. Proxy agency is pervasive in institutional action. It has been taken to be a straightforward counterexample to an appealing deflationary view of (...) collective action as a matter of all members of a group making a contribution to bringing about some event. I show that this is a mistake. I give a deflationary account of constitutive rules in terms of essentially collective action types. I then give an account of one form of constitutive agency in terms of constitutive rules. I next give an account of status functions—of which being a spokesperson is one—that also draws on the concept of a constitutive rule. I then show how these materials help us to see how proxy agency is an expression of the agency of all members of the group credited with doing something when the proxy acts. (shrink)
Bertrand Russell, in the second of his 1914 Lowell lectures, Our Knowledge of the External World, asserted famously that ‘every philosophical problem, when it is subjected to the necessary analysis and purification, is found either to be not really philosophical at all, or else to be, in the sense in which we are using the word, logical’ (Russell 1993, p. 42). He went on to characterize that portion of logic that concerned the study of forms of propositions, or, as he (...) called them, ‘logical forms’. This portion of logic he called ‘philosophical logic’. Russell asserted that ... some kind of knowledge of logical forms, though with most people it is not explicit, is involved in all understanding of discourse. It is the business of philosophical logic to extract this knowledge from its concrete integuments, and to render it explicit and pure. (p. 53) Perhaps no one still endorses quite this grand a view of the role of logic and the investigation of logical form in philosophy. But talk of logical form retains a central role in analytic philosophy. Given its widespread use in philosophy and linguistics, it is rather surprising that the concept of logical form has not received more attention by philosophers than it has. The concern of this paper is to say something about what talk of logical form comes to, in a tradition that stretches back to (and arguably beyond) Russell’s use of that expression. This will not be exactly Russell’s conception. For we do not endorse Russell’s view that propositions are the bearers of logical form, or that appeal to propositions adds anything to our understanding of what talk of logical form comes to. But we will be concerned to provide an account responsive to the interests expressed by Russell in the above quotations, though one clarified of extraneous elements, and expressed precisely. For this purpose, it is important to note that the concern expressed by Russell in the above passages, as the surrounding text makes clear, is a concern not just with logic conceived narrowly as the study of logical terms, but with propositional form more generally, which includes, e.g., such features as those that correspond to the number of argument places in a propositional function, and the categories of objects which propositional.... (shrink)
This paper clarifies Searle's account of we-intentions and then argues that it is subject to counterexamples, some of which are derived from examples Searle uses against other accounts. It then offers an alternative reductive account that is not subject to the counterexamples.
In The Mind Doesn’t Work that Way, Jerry Fodor argues that mental representations have context sensitive features relevant to cognition, and that, therefore, the Classical Computational Theory of Mind (CTM) is mistaken. We call this the Globality Argument. This is an in principle argument against CTM. We argue that it is self-defeating. We consider an alternative argument constructed from materials in the discussion, which avoids the pitfalls of the official argument. We argue that it is also unsound and that, while (...) it is an empirical issue whether context sensitive features of mental representations are relevant to cognition, it is empirically implausible. (shrink)
Kirk Ludwig develops a novel reductive account of plural discourse about collective action and shared intention. Part I develops the event analysis of action sentences, provides an account of the content of individual intentions, and on that basis an analysis of individual intentional action. Part II shows how to extend the account to collective action, intentional and unintentional, and shared intention, expressed in sentences with plural subjects. On the account developed, collective action is a matter of there being multiple agents (...) of an event and it requires no group agents per se. Shared intention is a matter of agents in a group each intending that they bring about some end in accordance with a shared plan. Thus their participatory intentions differ from individual intentions not in their mode but in their content. Joint intentional action then is a matter of a group of individuals successfully executing a shared intention. (shrink)
In this paper, we outline an approach to giving extensional truth-theoretic semantics for what have traditionally been seen as opaque sentential contexts. We outline an approach to providing a compositional truth-theoretic semantics for opaque contexts which does not require quantifying over intensional entities of any kind, and meets standard objections to such accounts. The account we present aims to meet the following desiderata on a semantic theory T for opaque contexts: (D1) T can be formulated in a first-order extensional language; (...) (D2) T does not require quantification over intensional entitiesi.e., meanings, propositions, properties, relations, or the likein its treatment of opaque contexts; (D3) T captures the entailment relations that hold in virtue of form between sentences in the language for which it is a theory; (D4) T has a finite number of axioms. If the approach outlined here is correct, it resolves a longstanding complex of problems in metaphysics, the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language. (shrink)
It is natural to think that our ordinary practices in giving explanations for our actions, for what we do, commit us to claiming that content properties are causally relevant to physical events such as the movements of our limbs and bodies, and events which these in turn cause. If you want to know why my body arnbulates across the street, or why my arm went up before I set out, we suppose I have given you an answer when I say (...) that I wanted to greet a friend on the other side of the street, and thought that my arm's going up would be interpreted by him as a signal to stop for a moment. This widely held view' might be disputed, but I shall not argue for it in this paper. I want to start with the view that our beliefs and desires and other propositional attitudes are causally relevant, in virtue of their modes and particular contents, to our movements, in order to investigate the consequences for analyses of thought content. For this purpose, I argue, in )II, for three necessary conditions on causal relevance: (a) a nomic sufficiency condition, (b) a logical independence condition, and (c) a screening-off condition. In /III, I apply these conditions to relational and functional theories of thought content, arguing that these theories cannot accommodate the causal relevance of content properties to our behaviour. I argue further that, on two plausible assumptions, one about the dependence of the mental on the physical, and the other about the availability in principle of causal explanations of our movements in terms of our non-relational physical properties, content properties can be causally relevant only if they are nomically type-correlated, relative to certain circumstances, with non-relational physical properties of our bodies. In )IV, I respond to a number of objections that might be.. (shrink)
A sorites argument is a symptom of the vagueness of the predicate with which it is constructed. A vague predicate admits of at least one dimension of variation (and typically more than one) in its intended range along which we are at a loss when to say the predicate ceases to apply, though we start out confident that it does. It is this feature of them that the sorites arguments exploit. Exactly how is part of the subject of this paper. (...) The majority of philosophers writing on vagueness take it to be a kind of semantic phenomenon. If we are right, they are correct in this assumption, which is surely the default position, but they have not so far provided a satisfactory account of the implications of this or a satisfactory diagnosis of the sorites arguments. Other philosophers have urged more exotic responses, which range from the view that the fault lies not in our language, but in the world, which they propose to be populated with vague objects which our semantics precisely reflects, to the view that the world and language are both perfectly in order, but that the fault lies with our knowledge of the properties of the words we use (epistemicism). In contrast to the exotica to which some philosophers have found themselves driven in an attempt to respond to the sorites puzzles, we undertake a defense of the commonsense view that vague terms are semantically vague. Our strategy is to take fresh look at the phenomenon of vagueness. Rather than attempting to adjudicate between different extant theories, we begin with certain pre-theoretic intuitions about vague terms, and a default position on classical logic. The aim is to see whether (i) a natural story can be told which will explain the vagueness phenomenon and the puzzling nature of soritical arguments, and, in the course of this, to see whether (ii) there arises any compelling pressure to give up the natural stance. We conclude that there is a simple and natural story to be told, and we tell it, and that there is no good reason to abandon our intuitively compelling starting point. The importance of the strategy lies in its dialectical structure. Not all positions on vagueness are on a par. Some are so incredible that even their defenders think of them as positions of last resort, positions to which we must be driven by the power of philosophical argument. We aim to show that there is no pressure to adopt these incredible positions, obviating the need to respond to them directly. If we are right, semantic vagueness is neither surprising, nor threatening. It provides no reason to suppose that the logic of natural languages is not classical or to give up any independently plausible principle of bivalence. Properly understood, it provides us with a satisfying diagnosis of the sorites argumentation. It would be rash to claim to have any completely novel view about a topic so well worked as vagueness. But we believe that the subject, though ancient, still retains its power to inform and challenge us. In particular, we will argue that taking seriously the central phenomenon of predicate vagueness—the “boundarylessness” of vague predicates—on the commonsense assumption that vagueness is semantic, leads ineluctably to the view that no sentences containing vague expressions (henceforth ‘vague sentences’) are truth-evaluable. This runs counter to much of the literature on vagueness, which commonly assumes that, though some applications of vague predicates to objects fail to be truth-evaluable, in clear positive and negative cases vague sentences are unproblematically true or false. It is clarity on this, and related points, that removes the puzzles associated with vagueness, and helps us to a satisfying diagnosis of why the sorites arguments both seem compelling and yet so obviously a bit of trickery. We give a proof that semantically vague predicates neither apply nor fail-to-apply to anything, and that consequently it is a mistake to diagnose sorites arguments, as is commonly done, by attempting to locate in them a false premise. Sorites arguments are not sound, but not unsound either. We offer an explanation of their appeal, and defend our position against a variety of worries that might arise about it. The plan of the paper is as follows. We first introduce an important distinction in terms of which we characterize what has gone wrong with vague predicates. We characterize what we believe to be our natural starting point in thinking about the phenomenon of vagueness, from which only a powerful argument should move us, and then trace out the consequences of accepting this starting point. We consider the charge that among the consequences of semantic vagueness are that we must give up classical logic and the principle of bivalence, which has figured prominently in arguments for epistemicism. We argue there are no such consequences of our view: neither the view that the logic of natural languages is classical, nor any plausible principle of bivalence, need be given up. Next, we offer a diagnosis of what has gone wrong in sorites arguments on the basis of our account. We then present an argument to show that our account must be accepted on pain of embracing (in one way or another) the epistemic view of “vagueness”, i.e., of denying that there are any semantically vague terms at all. Next, we discuss some worries that may arise about the intelligibility of our linguistic practices if our account is correct. We argue none of these worries should force us from our intuitive starting point. Finally, we cast a quick glance at other forms of semantic incompleteness. (shrink)
This paper defends the autonomy thesis, which holds that one can intend to do something even though one believes it to be impossible, against attacks by Fred Adams. Adams denies the autonomy thesis on the grounds that it cannot, but must, explain what makes a particular trying, a trying for the aim it has in view. If the autonomy thesis were true, it seems that I could try to fly across the Atlantic ocean merely by typing out this abstract, a (...) palpable absurdity. If we deny the autonomy thesis, we have an easy explanation: one simply cannot try to do something which one believes to be impossible. In response, I argue, first, by means of examples, that one clearly can try and intend to do what one believes to be impossible; and then l show how we can provide an answer to Adams’s challenge even so. (shrink)
This chapter reviews interpretations of Davidson's project in the theory of meaning and argues against a variety of views according to which Davidson intended to reduce meaning to some variety of truth conditions or replace the project of giving a theory of meaning with a theory of truth, and in support of interpreting him as offering an indirect way of achieving the goals of the traditional project by appeal to knowledge of facts about a semantic theory of truth for the (...) language, including that it was confirmable from the standpoint of the radical interpreter. (shrink)
In its January 20th, 2010 decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, the United States Supreme Court ruled that certain restrictions on independent expenditures by corporations for political advocacy violate the First Amendment of the Constitution, which provides that “Congress shall make no law […] abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Justice Kennedy, writing for the 5-4 majority, (...) held that “[b]y suppressing the speech of manifold corporations, both for-profit and non-profit, the Government prevents their voices and view-points from reaching the public and advising voters on which person or entities are hostile to their interests” (Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission 558 U.S. 38-9 (2010); emphasis added). Much of the language of the opinion, and some of its reasoning, as this passage illustrates, presupposes that corporations are agents capable of speech, and that it is (at least in part) in the light of this that limitations on political advocacy by corporations are prohibited by the Constitution. -/- While there are other strands in the argument, they are interwoven with the conception of the corporation as agent and speaker, with its voice and its viewpoints. The dissenters on the court objected on precisely this point (among others). Justice Stevens wrote sarcastically in his dissent, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor, that “[u]nder the majority’s view, I suppose it may be a First Amendment problem that corporations are not permitted to vote, given that voting is, among other things, a form of speech” (558 U.S. 33 (2010)). Justice Sotomayor suggested in oral argument that the Court’s century-old practice of treating corporations as persons rests on a conceptual mistake. -/- My concern in this essay is not with the question whether the restrictions violate the Constitution. There are many issues that bear on this which will be outside the scope of my discussion. My concern is with the proper conceptual framework for understanding the agency of corporations and corporate speech, and the role that conceptions of these play in the background of the majority’s reasoning. The issue is legal, but it also has philosophical, conceptual and semantic aspects. It will be the latter aspects, and their potential to shed light on legal reasoning, that are my main focus. An adequate framework requires saying what properly speaking the corporation is, how agency is expressed through the corporation, whose agency it is, centrally whether the corporation is an agent or person in its own right, and in what sense it can be said to be capable of speech. I draw on recent work in collective action theory, particularly with respect to the semantics of collective action sentences (Ludwig 2007) and the analysis of the proxy agency in collective action (Ludwig 2014), to show (i) that corporations are neither genuine agents nor (therefore) capable of engaging in genuine speech, (ii) that consequently the First Amendment does not apply to corporations per se, and (iii) that a better understanding of the mechanisms of corporate agency casts doubt on more indirect arguments for extending the First Amendment to “corporate speech” as well. (shrink)
An important objection to sententialist theories of attitude reports is that they cannot accommodate the principle that one cannot know that someone believes that p without knowing what it is that he believes. This paper argues that a parallel problem arises for propositionalist accounts that has gone largely unnoticed, and that, furthermore, the usual resources for the propositionalist do not afford an adequate solution. While non-standard solutions are available for the propositionalist, it turns out that there are parallel solutions that (...) are available for the sententialist. Since the difficulties raised seem to show that the mechanism by which sentential complements serve to inform us about attitudes and about sentence meaning does not depend on their referring to propositions, this casts doubt on whether talk of propositions should retain a significant theoretical role in the enterprise of understanding thought, language and communication. (shrink)
In this chapter, I defend the program of conceptual analysis, broadly construed, and the method of thought experiments in epistemology, as a first-person enterprise, that is, as one which draws on the investigator's own competence in the relevant concepts. I do not suggest that epistemology is limited to conceptual analysis, that it does not have important a posteriori elements, that it should not draw on empirical work wherever relevant (and non-question begging), or that it is not a communal enterprise. Although (...) discussion in the space available will necessarily be brief, and many points must be elided altogether, I aim to sketch salient features of the landscape, clarify issues, set aside some confusions, and outline responses to some recent challenges. In §2, I sketch a traditional account of concepts and conceptual truths. In §3, I review a broad conception of analysis as encompassing not just reduction but also articulation of conceptual connections. In §4, I address the charge that in studying epistemic concepts we turn away from our proper target of study, the actual phenomena of knowledge, justification, and so on. In §5, I give a brief overview of the method of thought experiments. In §6, I address objections to thought experiments that have their source in "experimental philosophy." In §7, I address the charge that pursuing conceptual analysis in epistemology is misplaced because 'knowledge', 'justification', 'evidence' and so on, are natural kind terms, and hence that we must engage in empirical research to discover the real essences of the kinds they pick out (if any). (shrink)
This paper is concerned with a recent, clever, and novel argument for the need for genuine collectives in our ontology of agents to accommodate the kinds of normative judgments we make about them. The argument appears in a new paper by David Copp, "On the Agency of Certain Collective Entities: An Argument from 'Normative Autonomy'" (Midwest Studies in Philosophy: Shared Intentions and Collective Responsibility, XXX, 2006, pp. 194-221; henceforth ‘ACE’), and is developed in Copp’s paper for this special journal issue, (...) “The Collective Moral Autonomy Thesis” (henceforth ‘CAT’). The argument goes as follows. -/- (1) We correctly assign blame (or obligations) to collectives in circumstances in which it would be a mistake to assign any (relevantly related) blame (or obligations) to their members. (2) If (1), then collectives are genuine agents over and above their members. (3) Therefore, collectives are genuine agents over and above their members. -/- Following Copp, I call (1) the Collective Moral Autonomy Thesis (CMA). Copp argues for CMA primarily by appeal to cases, but also offers two general arguments for it. In the cases that Copp describes, we are to judge that a collective act is blameworthy, though each member of the group that acts is blameless because he is merely following procedures appropriate for his participation, or because there are excusing factors, or because of overriding personal duties. -/- I argue that the case for CMA has not been made. In particular, I argue that, in each case in which we feel inclined to hold a group responsible for something but not its members, it is because -/- 1. we have accepted a false dilemma, that when no one agent is fully responsible for the action of a group of which he is a member, the only entity that could be responsible is the group as such, or 2. we have directed our attention to the wrong individual or individuals, or 3. we have become confused about the commitments of the individuals, or 4. we have mistaken ameliorating for excusing factors, or 5. we have mistaken moral blameworthiness and all-in rational blameworthiness, or 6. a combination of these things. (shrink)
I respond to Ferrero’s comments on “What are Conditional Intentions?” in three parts. In the first, I address three arguments Ferrero gives for his account and against mine, the argument from requirement of a formal distinction, the argument from continuity, and the argument from the rational pressures of intention. In the second, I raise some problems for Ferrero’s views on the basis drawing out its consequences and testing those against cases. In the third, I consider in a more theoretical vein (...) how reasons and intentions are related, and offer an explanation of why we should not read reasons for intentions into their contents. (shrink)
This paper advances a general argument, inspired by some remarks of Davidson, to show that appeal to meanings as entities in the theory of meaning is neither necessary nor sufficient for carrying out the tasks of the theory of meaning. The crucial point is that appeal to meaning as entities fails to provide us with an understanding of any expression of a language except insofar as we pick it out with an expression we understand which we tacitly recognize to be (...) a translation of the term whose meaning we want to illuminate by the appeal to assigning to it a meaning. The meaning drops out as irrelevant: the work is done, and can only be done, by matching terms already understood with terms they translate. (shrink)
(1) Content properties are nonrelational, that is, having a content property does not entail the existence of any contingent object not identical with the thinker or a part of the thinker.2 (2) We have noninferential knowledge of our conscious thoughts, that is, for any of our..
This paper attacks an old dogma in the philosophy of action: the idea that in order to intend to do something one must believe that there is at least some chance that one will succeed at what one intends. I think that this is a mistake, and that recognizing this will force us to rethink standard accounts of what it is to intend to do something and to do it intentionally.
Assertoric sentences are sentences which admit of truth or falsity. Non-assertoric sentences, imperatives and interrogatives, have long been a source of difficulty for the view that a theory of truth for a natural language can serve as the core of a theory of meaning. The trouble for truth-theoretic semantics posed by non-assertoric sentences is that, prima facie, it does not make sense to say that imperatives, such as 'Cut your hair', or interrogatives such as 'What time is it?', are truth (...) or false. Thus, the vehicle for giving the meaning of a sentence by using an interpretive truth theory, the T-sentence, is apparently unavailable for non-assertoric sentences. This paper shows how to incorporate non-assertoric sentences into a theory of meaning that gives central place to an interpretive truth theory for the language, without, however, reducing the non-assertorics to assertorics, or treating their utterances as semantically equivalent to one or more utterances of assertoric sentences. Four proposals for how to incorporate non-assertoric sentences into a broadly truth-theoretic semantics are reviewed. The proposals fall into two classes, those that attempt to explain the meaning of non-assertoric sentences solely by appeal to truth conditions, and those that attempt to explain the meaning of non-assertroic sentences by appeal to compliance conditions, which can be treated as one variety of fulfillment conditions for sentences of which truth conditions are another variety. The paper argues that none of the extant approaches is successful, but develops a version of the generalized fulfillment approach which avoids the difficulties of previous approaches and still exhibits a truth theory as the central component of a compositional meaning theory for all sentences of natural language. (shrink)
Donald Davidson has argued that attention to the necessarily public character of language shows that we cannot be massively mistaken about the world around us, and that consequently skeptical doubts about empirical knowledge are misplaced. The arguments Davidson advances rely on taking as the fundamental methodological standpoint for investigating meaning and related concepts the standpoint of the interpreter of another speaker, on the grounds that it is from the interpreter’s standpoint that we discover what constraints are placed on meaning by (...) the public character of language. In this paper, I argue that although Davidson’s arguments reveal important conceptual connections between meaning and belief on the one hand, and truth and interpretation on the other, they do not show that it is impossible that we are massively mistaken about the external world. (shrink)
This paper evaluates Putnam’s argument in the first chapter of Reason, Truth and History, for the claim that we can know that we are not brains in a vat (of a certain sort). A widespread response to Putnam’s argument has been that if it were successful not only the world but the meanings of our words (and consequently our thoughts) would be beyond the pale of knowledge, because a causal theory of reference is not compatible with our having knowledge of (...) the meanings of our words. I argue that this is not so. I argue also, however, that given how Putnam argues (here) for the causal theory of reference, he cannot after all escape this consequence. (shrink)
We sketch an account according to which the semantic concepts themselves are not pathological and the pathologies that attend the semantic predicates arise because of the intention to impose on them a role they cannot fulfill, that of expressing semantic concepts for a language that includes them. We provide a simplified model of the account and argue in its light that (i) a consequence is that our meaning intentions are unsuccessful, and such semantic predicates fail to express any concept, and (...) that (ii) in light of this it is incorrect to characterize the pathology simply as semantic inconsistency; a more nuanced view of the problem is needed. We also show that the defects of the semantic predicates need not undercut the use of a truth theory in a compositional semantics for a language containing them because the meaning theory per se need not involve commitment to the axioms of the truth theory it exploits. (shrink)
I argue that the logical difference between classical and quantum mechanics that Stapp (1995) claims shows quantum mechanics is more amenable to an account of consciousness than is classical mechanics is irrelevant to the problem.
How are we able to perceive the world veridically? If we ask this question as a part of the scientific investigation of perception, then we are not asking for a transcendental guarantee that our perceptions are by and large veridical; we presuppose that they are. Unless we assumed that we perceived the world for the most part veridically, we would not be in a position to investigate our perceptual abilities empirically. We are interested, then, not in how it is possible (...) in general for us to perceive the world veridically, but instead in what the relation is between our environment and its properties, of which we have knowledge, on the one hand, and our perceptual mechanisms, on the other, that results in very many, even most of our perceptions being veridical in everyday life. (shrink)