Negative facts get a bad press. One reason for this is that it is not clear what negative facts are. We provide a theory of negative facts on which they are no stranger than positive atomic facts. We show that none of the usual arguments hold water against this account. Negative facts exist in the usual sense of existence and conform to an acceptable Eleatic principle. Furthermore, there are good reasons to want them around, including their roles in causation, chance-making (...) and truth-making, and in constituting holes and edges. (shrink)
This paper argues that the new metaphysics of powers, also known as dispositional essentialism or causal structuralism, is an illusory metaphysics. I argue for this in the following way. I begin by distinguishing three fundamental ways of seeing how facts of physical modality — facts about physical necessitation and possibility, causation, disposition, and chance — are grounded in the world. The first way, call it the first degree, is that the actual world or all worlds, in their entirety, are the (...) source of physical modality. Humeanism is the best known such approach, but there are other less well-known approaches. The second way, the second degree, is that the source of physical modality lies in certain second-order facts, involving a relation between universals. Armstrong’s necessitarianism and other views are second-degree views. The third way, the third degree, holds that properties themselves are the source of physical modality. This is the powers view. I examine four ways of developing the third degree: relational constitution, graph-theoretic structuralism, dispositional roles, and powerful qualities. All these ways are either incoherent, or just disguised versions of the first-degree. The new metaphysics of powers is illusory. With the collapse of the third degree, the second degree, the necessitarian view of law, collapses as well. I end the paper with some reflections on the first degree, on the problem of explaining necessary connections between distinct existences, and on the dim prospects of holist ontology. (shrink)
Bird argues that Armstrong’s necessitarian conception of physical modality and laws of nature generates a vicious regress with respect to necessitation. We show that precisely the same regress afflicts Bird’s dispositional-monist theory, and indeed, related views, such as that of Mumford & Anjum. We argue that dispositional monism is basically Armstrongian necessitarianism modified to allow for a thesis about property identity.
This book develops an alternative approach to sentence- and word-meaning, which I dub the speech-act theoretic approach, or STA. Instead of employing the syntactic and semantic forms of modern logic–principally, quantification theory–to construct semantic theories, STA employs speech-act structures. The structures it employs are those postulated by a novel theory of speech-acts. STA develops a compositional semantics in which surface grammar is integrated with semantic interpretation in a way not allowed by standard quantification-based theories. It provides a pragmatic theory of (...) truth, a treatment of logically complex discourse as expressive cognitive states, and a background metaphysics in which the world is a totality of logically simple states of affairs. The book also puts forward an account of how intentional states provide the simple, representational foundation for a superstructure of speech-act structures–a system of thoughts–that far outruns the expressive power of the intentional foundation. In short, it provides an account of cognitive foundations of a language and a naturalistic reduction of semantics through an expressive theory of semantic norms. (shrink)
Are the sculpture and the mass of gold which permanently makes it up one object or two? In this article, we argue that the monist, who answers ‘one object’, cannot accommodate the asymmetry of material constitution. To say ‘the mass of gold materially constitutes the sculpture, whereas the sculpture does not materially constitute the mass of gold’, the monist must treat ‘materially constitutes’ as an Abelardian predicate, whose denotation is sensitive to the linguistic context in which it appears. We motivate (...) this approach in terms of modal analyses of material constitution, but argue that ultimately it fails. The monist must instead accept a deflationary, symmetrical use of ‘materially constitutes’. We argue that this is a serious cost for her approach. (shrink)
Let us call dispositional monism the view that all natural properties have their identities fixed purely by their dispositional features, that is, by the patterns of stimulus and response in which they participate. DM implies that natural properties are pure powers: things whose natures are fully identified by their roles in determining the potentialities of events to cause or be caused. As pure powers, properties are meant to lack quiddities in Black's sense. A property possesses a quiddity just in case (...) its identity is fixed by something independent of the causal–nomological roles it may enter into. Paradigmatically, a categorical property is thought of as a property whose identity is fixed by a quiddity .The key question about the viability of DM as a theory of properties is how properties can be pure powers devoid of any quiddity. Bird provides an answer. According to Bird , ‘all there is to a property is a matter of second-order relations to other properties’. The second-order relation is just the relation that a disposition, its stimulus condition, and a manifestation condition bear to each other. Call this relation SR. SR is not causation or physical necessitation. The latter relations are first-order relations between concrete events. SR is a second-order relation. Its possession by properties explains why events featuring those properties can enter into certain first-order relations of causation or necessitation.Bird's thought then is this: the sense in which properties have their identities fixed purely by their causal–nomological roles is that they are relationally constituted, where the relation doing the constituting is SR. 1 This thesis of relational constitution does not imply that natural properties are themselves relations. Nothing prevents the identity …. (shrink)
In this paper we present a new metaphysical theory of material objects. On our theory, objects are bundles of property instances, where those properties give the nature or essence of that object. We call the theory essential bundle theory. Property possession is not analysed as bundle-membership, as in traditional bundle theories, since accidental properties are not included in the object’s bundle. We have a different story to tell about accidental property possession. This move reaps many benefits. Essential bundle theory delivers (...) a simple theory of the essential properties of material objects; an explanation of how object coincidence can arise; an actual-world ground for modal differences between coincident objects; a simple story about intrinsic properties; and a plausible account of certain ubiquitous cases of causal overdetermination. (shrink)
In this chapter I consider the prospects of globalizing expressivism. Expressivism is a position in the philosophy of language that questions the central role of representation in a theory of meaning or linguistic function. An expressivist about a domain D of discourse proposes that utterances of sentences in D should not be seen, at the level of analysis as representing how things are, but as expression of non-representational states. So, in the domain of value-utterances, the standard idea is that speakers (...) are expressing affective-states, such as approval or disapproval focused on objects or conditions. Global expressivism is the thesis that for all domains of discourse, we treat utterances, at the level of analysis, as expressing non-representational states. I set out several conceptions of how one might formulate this programme. The first involves minimalism about truth and semantic content – and only partially gives up representationalism (viz., the thesis that some utterances express representational states). The second is Price’s conception, which incorporates minimalism, Brandomian inferentalism, and concepts from Carnap, but still clings to representationalism. I then arrive at my favoured third conception, which does not employ minimalism or inferentialism, and eliminates vestiges of representationalism. It does the latter by embracing expressivism about meaning-attribution. Having set out key aspects of the approach I then address the question of metaphysics. What metaphysical conception of reality goes with global expressivism so understood? I argue it implies a form of metametaphysical nihilism. This is that idea that reality lacks any ultimate nature. (shrink)
Are all instances of the T-schema assertable? I argue that they are not. The reason is the presence of conventional implicature in a language. Conventional implicature is meant to be a component of the rule-based content that a sentence can have, but it makes no contribution to the sentence's truth-conditions. One might think that a conventional implicature is like a force operator. But it is not, since it can enter into the scope of logical operators. It follows that the semantic (...) content of a sentence is not given simply by its truth-conditional content. So not all instances of the T-schema are assertable in the relevant sense. Consequently, there is a strong case to be made against truth-conditional semantics of the disquotational variety and deflationism about truth. (shrink)
I offer a new theory of faultless disagreement, according to which truth is absolute (non-relative) but can still be non-objective. What's relative is truth-aptness: a sentence like ‘Vegemite is tasty’ (V) can be truth-accessible and bivalent in one context but not in another. Within a context in which V fails to be bivalent, we can affirm that there is no issue of truth or falsity about V, still disputants, affirming and denying V, were not at fault, since, in their context (...) of assertion V was bivalent. This theory requires a theory of assertion that is a form of cognitive expressivism. (shrink)
Frege’s distinction between force and sense is a central pillar of modern thinking about meaning. This is the idea that a self-standing utterance of a sentence S can be divided into two components. One is the proposition P that S’s linguistic meaning and context associates with it. The other is S’s illocutionary force. The force/sense distinction is associated with another thesis, the embedding principle, that implies that the only content that embeds in compound sentences is propositional content. We argue that (...) both the Force/Sense distinction and the principle of embedding are seriously challenged by figurative language, and irony in particular. We conclude that theorists need to go back to the drawing board about the nature of illocutionary acts. (shrink)
Can hybridism about moral claims be made to work? I argue it can if we accept the conventional implicature approach developed in Barker (Analysis 2000). However, this kind of hybrid expressivism is only acceptable if we can make sense of conventional implicature, the kind of meaning carried by operators like ‘even’, ‘but’, etc. Conventional implictures are a form of pragmatic presupposition, which involves an unsaid mode of delivery of content. I argue that we can make sense of conventional implicatures, but (...) doing so requires we embrace a form of pure, non-hybrid expressivism. This is a cognitivist expressivism I have developed elsewhere. We need cognitivist expressivism to make sense of how we evaluate—judge as correct or incorrect—implicature-bearing sentences. Once we embraced the possibility of this pure expressivism, we might as well be pure expressivists about normative discourse too. I show how we can do that. The motivations for a specifically hybrid theory are dialectically undercut. (shrink)
I argue that figurative speech, and irony in particular, presents a deep challenge to the orthodox view about sentence content. The standard view is that sentence contents are, at their core, propositional contents: truth-conditional contents. Moreover, the only component of a sentence’s content that embeds in compound sentences, like belief reports or conditionals, is the propositional content. I argue that a careful analysis of irony shows this view cannot be maintained. Irony is a purely pragmatic form of content that embeds (...) in compound sentences. The standard view cannot account for this fact. I sketch out a speech-act theoretic framework that can. But in accepting this alternative framework we are giving up on the whole idea of an autonomous semantics. (shrink)
My goal is to illuminate truth-making by way of illuminating the relation of making. My strategy is not to ask what making is, in the hope of a metaphysical theory about is nature. It's rather to look first to the language of making. The metaphor behind making refers to agency. It would be absurd to suggest that claims about making are claims about agency. It is not absurd, however, to propose that the concept of making somehow emerges from some feature (...) to do with agency. That's the contention to be explore in this paper. The way to do this is through expressivism,. Truth-making claims, and making-claims generfally, are claims in which we express mental states linked to our maipulation of concepts, like truth. In particular, they express disposition to undertake derivations using inference rules, in which introduction rules have a specific role. I then show how this theory explains our intuitions about truth's asymmetric dependence on being. (shrink)
There is a wide-spread belief amongst theorists of mind and language. This is that in order to understand the relation between language, thought, and reality we need a theory of meaning and content, that is, a normative, formal science of meaning, which is an extension and theoretical deepening of folk ideas about meaning. This book argues that this is false, offering an alternative idea: The form of a theory that illuminates the relation of language, thought, and reality is a theory (...) of language agency. In a nutshell, the theory of language agency is a theory of competence, without being a theory of understanding or grasping rules. It is a theory of cognitive structure and language production. This theory distils all there is to say about language, thought, and reality. It does not supplement a theory of truth-conditions or semantic norms. It is not the explanation of how a speaker, qua cognitive system causally embedded in a larger reality, is able to use a language with some pre-existing semantic characterization. There is no pre-existing semantic characterization. Nevertheless, there are facts of meaning, as good as any other facts. The dissolution of the theory of meaning is accompanied by another disappearance. That is the disappearance of metaphysical questions in a number of domains. Once we complete the theory of language agency, then just as theoretical questions about meaning disappear, certain theoretical questions about existence disappear. Having provided a theory of the language agency for talk of meaning, fact, property, relation, and proposition, there is no question left over about what meanings, facts, properties, relations, and propositions are. There is no theory to be given of their natures. This is not because they have primitive irreducible natures. Rather it is because, in a sense to be clarified in this work, they lack natures. I call this approach to language agency Global Expressivism. That is because it generalizes some of the insights brought to the study of value-language by expressivists. However, it removes these insights from the clouding affects of attempting to make expressivism a semantic theory. Expressivism about value fails as a semantic theory of value talk. However, global expressivism can succeed as a theory of all talk because it is not a semantic theory but a theory of language agency, wherein the theory of meaning is replaced by a theory of talk about meaning. (shrink)
At the heart of semantics in the 20th century is Frege’s distinction between sense and force. This is the idea that the content of a self-standing utterance of a sentence S can be divided into two components. One part, the sense, is the proposition that S’s linguistic meaning and context associates with it as its semantic interpretation. The second component is S’s illocutionary force. Illocutionary forces correspond to the three basic kinds of sentential speech acts: assertions, orders, and questions. Forces (...) are then kinds of acts in which propositions are deployed with certain purposes. I sketch a speech-act theoretic semantics in which that distinction does not hold. Instead of propositions and forces, the theory proposes proto-illocutionary acts and illocutionary acts. The orthodox notion of a proposition plays no role in the framework, which is a good thing, since that notion is deeply problematic. The framework also shows how expressionists, who embrace a sophisticated speech-act framework, face no Frege-Geach embedding problem, since the latter assumes the Sense/Force distinction. (shrink)
I use the principle of truth-maker maximalism to provide a new solution to the semantic paradoxes. According to the solution, AUS, its undecidable whether paradoxical sentences are grounded or ungrounded. From this it follows that their alethic status is undecidable. We cannot assert, in principle, whether paradoxical sentences are true, false, either true or false, neither true nor false, both true and false, and so on. AUS involves no ad hoc modification of logic, denial of the T-schema's validity, or obvious (...) revenge. (shrink)
This paper falls into two parts. In the first part, I argue that consideration of general indicative conditionals, e.g., sentences like If a donkey brays it is beaten, provides a powerful argument that a pure material implication analysis of indicative if p, q is correct. In the second part I argue, opposing writers like Jackson, that a Gricean style theory of pragmatics can explain the manifest assertability conditions of if p, q in terms of its conventional content – assumed to (...) be merely (p⊃q) – and the conversational implicature contents which utterance of if p, q may gain in certain contexts. I also defend the pragmatic approach against a recent objection by Edgington that appeal to pragmatics cannot explain what we are inclined to say about the believability conditions, as opposed to the assertability conditions, of indicative if p, q. (shrink)
The standard view about counterfactuals is that a counterfactual (A > C) is true if and only if the A-worlds most similar to the actual world @ are C-worlds. I argue that the worlds conception of counterfactuals is wrong. I assume that counterfactuals have non-trivial truth-values under physical determinism. I show that the possible-worlds approach cannot explain many embeddings of the form (P > (Q > R)), which intuitively are perfectly assertable, and which must be true if the contingent falsity (...) of (Q > R) is to be explained. If (P > (Q > R)) has a backtracking reading then the contingent facts that (Q > R) needs to be true in the closest P-worlds are absent. If (P > (Q > R)) has a forwardtracking reading, then the laws required by (Q > R) to be true in the closest P-worlds will be absent, because they are violated in those worlds. Solutions like lossy laws or denial of embedding won't work. The only approach to counterfactuals that explains the embedding is a pragmatic metalinguistic approach in which the whole idea that counterfactuals are about a modal reality, be it abstract or concrete, is given up. (shrink)
I argue that Lewis's counterfactual theory of causation, given his treatment of counterfactuals in terms of world-comparative similarity faces insuperable problems in the form of the problem of effects and the problem of epiphenomena.
A comprehensive theory ofeven if needs to account for consequent ‘entailing’even ifs and in particular those of theif-focused variety. This is where the theory ofeven if ceases to be neutral between conditional theories. I have argued thatif-focusedeven ifs,especially if andonly if can only be accounted for through the suppositional theory ofif. Furthermore, a particular interpretation of this theory — the conditional assertion theory — is needed to account foronly if and a type of metalinguistic negation ofQ if P. We therefore (...) have evidence that the currently accepted approaches to conditionals are basically wrong about the semantic forms they attribute toif P, Q.11. (shrink)
I argue that a new solution to the semantic paradoxes is possible based on truth-making. I show that with an appropriate understanding of what the ultimate truth and falsity makers of sentences are, it can be demonstrated that sentences like the liar are alethically undecidable. That means it cannot be said in principle whether such sentences are true, not true, false, not-false, neither true nor false, both true and false, and so on. I argue that this leads to a solution (...) to the semantic paradoxes that appears to be free of revenge problems, allows us to maintain classical logic and the validity of the T-schema. (shrink)
I argue that conventional implicatures embed in logical compounds, and are non-truth-conditional contributors to sentence meaning. This, I argue has significant implications for how we understand truth, truth-conditional content, and truth-bearers.
Can we believe that there are non-existent entities without commitment to the Meinongian metaphysics? This paper argues we can. What leads us from quantification over non-existent beings to Meinongianism is a general metaphysical assumption about reality at large, and not merely quantification over the non-existent. Broadly speaking, the assumption is that every being we talk about must have a real definition. It’s this assumption that drives us to enquire into the nature of beings like Pegasus, and what our relationship as (...) thinkers is to them. However, I argue this assumption only holds if you think your language, and in particular that aspect of it to do with referring to entities works in a specific way. This is the specific way generally assumed by the discipline called ‘Semantics’. I sketch out an alternative, call it global expressivism, in which talk of referring is given an expressivist, speech-act theoretic treatment. If we accept that our talk of the non-existent works as the global expressivist tells us it does, then the question of the metaphysical nature of non-existent entities is utterly void. You might say that Pegasus is empty of any metaphysical nature. Since the non-existent lacks any metaphysical nature, the metaphysics of the non-existent, Meinongianism, as a form of inquiry, lacks a subject matter, despite the fact that we talk happily, and indeed unavoidably, of the non-existent. (shrink)
Doubting that any version of induction could be satisfactory as the basic principle of nondemonstrative inference the author analyzes elaborately and rejects eliminative and enumerative induction in the search for a satisfactory criterion of confirmation. The basic difficulty is that induction fails to provide a means of confirming hypotheses about unobserved things. He inclines toward a method of hypothesis but rejects previous formulations in favor of one that involves systems of confirmable hypotheses that are competetively chosen as the simplest available.
The essay continues the discussion on democracy begun in Derrida Today 4:2, interrogating the associations between the nature of the pharmakon and democracy ‘itself’, seen as ‘the sovereignty of the people’. Starting with Derrida's notion of writing (and grammatology in general) as what he calls the ‘errant democrat’, shared by – and indeed defining – all, and at the same time prior to the demos, Bernard Stiegler makes the further claim that this foundation of democracy, the pharmakon, is not simply (...) a dialectical site of poison and remedy, as it is often seen, but rather a neutral space or referent that simultaneously connects and disconnects through Stiegler's wider sense of grammatisation, which includes Derrida's sense but extends to all tertiary memory, those external mnemonic devices that not only articulate but guide and indeed anticipate culture and its evolution. The implications of a pharmako-democracy are enormous in a hypertechnological epoch in technics as a tool has emerged as a controlling cultural force. In this sense pharmacopolitics are the only politics. The essay considers how Derrida's exploration of this pharmako-neutrality is at work in Specters of Marx as well as ‘Plato's Pharmacy’, and how it provides a frame for and a bridge to Jean-François Lyotard's related sense of desire in Libidinal Economy, where pharmacological neutrality must also be seen as excess or, in Lyotard's word for it, ‘inascribable’. (shrink)
Ruins, their evocations and enigmas, have been a source of fascination since the advent of civilization. Both coordinating and distressing the relations of space and time, ruins are unparalleled catalysts of cultural analysis, as both history and adumbration. Ruins, and the concept of ruin on which they ‘rest’ and through which they decay, can be regarded in space, as strata, in time, as sedimenta, and in dynamic terms, as lamina. This essay works down through each focusing on the forceof ruin (...) occurring between them. The essay itself is a lamination: Anselm Kiefer's exploration of ruins as artefacts, in recent works such as ‘Falling Star’, shown at Paris’ Grand Palais in the summer of 2007 as the first installation in its Monumenta series, plays across many dimensions of ruins’ themes; Derrida's exploration of the very idea of ruin – not ruins but ruin, as artefacture – conceptualizing ruins’ liminal nature, at the very limit of phenomenology, in Mémoires d'aveuglesand elsewhere; the ruin-caught-in-motion of the virtually unknown French-Italian painter ‘Monsù Desiderio’; and the linguistic ruin of Samuel Beckett's ‘D'un ouvrage abandonné’ and ‘Sans’. Each contributes to the others as ruins and ruin accumulate. Finally, ruin's decay passes into and through a passe partout into the uninhabitable. (shrink)
This paper proposes interpretations of the vexed notions of intensionality and intentionality and then investigates their resulting interrelations.The notion of intentionality comes from Brentano, in connection with his view that it can help us understand the mental. Setting aside Husserl’s basic definition of intentionality as not quite in line with Brentano’s explanatory purpose, this paper proposes that intentionality be defined in terms of inexistence and indeterminacy.It results that Brentano’s thesis (that all and only mental phenomena are intentional) will not be (...) strictly true. However, intentional descriptions will always be intensional, though not all intensional descriptions will be intentional. (shrink)