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Volume 11, 1998
Cognitive Semantics II

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Displaying: 1-17 of 17 documents

radical interpretation, ontology and the structure of language
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Gerhard Preyer, Michael Roth On Donald Davidson’s Philosophy: An Outline
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Donald Davidson's unified theory of language and action can be understood as a continuation of the traditional analytic approach within philosophy of language and action. In the following we give an outline of some of the main themes of his philosophy centered around his core theory of radical interpretation (RI). His theory of rationality, his thesis of the anomalousness of the mental, and the externalist approach in his model of triangulation all follow in a systematic way from RI. Yet, Davidson's philosophy can also be seen as giving a new systematic elaboration of central perspectives of W,v.O Quine's theory of language. In order to follow Davidson's main theses one therefore has to clarify the main differences and correspondences between both approaches.
2. ProtoSociology: Volume > 11
Richard N. Manning All Facts Great and Small
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I examine the arguments Donald Davidson has offered through the years concerning the ontological bona fides of facts. In “Truth and Meaning”, Davidson uses the so-called “slingshot” argument to the effect that if true sentences refer, then they are all coreferential. Through a detailed examination of the assumptions underlying this argument, I show that, while it is effective as part of a reductio of bottom-up, reference based semantics, it has no tendency to establish the truth of its negative conclusion concerning the existence of facts. Davidson also argues against facts by claiming they are of no help in the explication of truth. I claim that his repeated invocation of the slingshot in this context, as well as of arguments from other authors employing assumptions similar to the slingshot's, is inappropriate, especially in light of his own commitment to a top-down semantics — a committment inspired, ironically, by the reductio offered in “Truth and Meaning”. Davidson's other argument against truth as correspondence, namely that our grasp of facts is no better than our grasp of truths, is sound. But this argument does not show that there are no facts; it shows only that no theory of truth in terms of corre- pondence to facts can genuinely illuminate its explanandum.
3. ProtoSociology: Volume > 11
Barbara Fultner Of Parts and Wholes: The Molecularist Critique of Semantic Holism
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Pace Dummett, the issue between molecularism and holism does not turn on whether a meaning theory is compositional, but on how successful communication is conceived. Given a notion of partial understanding, molecularism escapes the two most prevalent objections against holism (learnability and communication). Holism, too, can escape these objections, provided we also grant the holist a notion of partial understanding and suitably amend our conception of successful communication.
4. ProtoSociology: Volume > 11
Louis Goble Re-Evaluating Supervaluations
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The method of supervaluations offers an elegant procedure by which semantic theory can come to terms with sentences that, for one reason or another, lack truth-value. I argue, however, that this method rests on a fundamental mistake, and so is unsuitable for semantics. The method of supervaluations, I argue, assigns semantic values to sentences based not on the semantic values of their components, but on the values of other, perhaps homophonic, but nevertheless distinct, expressions. That is because supervaluations are generated from classical valuations which necessarily require reinterpreting the component expressions, but the reinterpretation of an expression is tantamount to the introduction of a new expression, or alternatively, to a shift to an entirely new language. To confuse the expression of the language for which a semantic theory is developed with its reinterpreted counterpart, is to commit a fallacy of equivocation. That is the flaw within the method of supervaluations. We see it manifest in a number of examples.
5. ProtoSociology: Volume > 11
David Simpson Interpretation and Skill: On Passing Theory
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In this paper I argue that Donald Davidson's rejection of the notion of language, as commonly understood in philosophy and linguistics, is justified. However, I argue that his position needs to be supplemented by an account of the development and nurture of pre-linguistic communicative skills. Davidson argues (in ‘A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs' and elsewhere) that knowledge of a language (conceived of as a set of rules or conventions) is neither sufficient nor necessary for 'linguistic' communication. The strongest argument against the initial formulation is that while Davidson may have shown that knowledge of a language is not sufficient, he failed to show that it is not necessary. Subsequently, Davidson has invoked his Triangulation' thesis, to show that understanding can rest on the apprehension of mutuality in a shared objective world, and does not presuppose the sharing of rules or practices. I argue that the starting position arrived at from the triangulation thesis itself presupposes the possibility of communication. The triangulation thesis needs, therefore, to be supplemented by a (non-reductive) naturalistic account of non-linguistic communicative skills. In such an account we must posit shared practices (practices of mutual engagement with a shared world), but not an account of practices conceived on the model of rules or conventions. I note, finally, that by adopting such an approach we offer a way of explicating the formulation of passing theories, which in Davidson's account are the point at which communicative understanding occurs.
6. ProtoSociology: Volume > 11
Wulf Kellerwessel Katz on Semantics and Pragmatics
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Jerrold J. Katz advocates a theory of semantics and pragmatics which is a realistic, platonic, anti-naturalistic, anti-psychological and non-fregean version of intensionalism. He intends by his approach to solve various substantial problems of philosophy of language (for example those dealing with “meaning” and “reference”).In the following, at first this theory will be presented shortly. This presentation deals primarily with the foundations of Katz' theory and his treatment of the important concepts “meaning” and “reference”. Secondly, it includes a discussion of some recent criticism (of P.A. Boghossian and of R.F. Gibson) concerning Katz' notions of pragmatics and semantics. At last, a shorter critical evaluation of the principles of Katz' theory follows.
externalism and the individuation of content
7. ProtoSociology: Volume > 11
Ron Wilburn Knowledge, Content, and the Wellstrings of Objectivity
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In a number of recent papers, Davidson cultivates a new-found interest in “external world.” Starting from a naturalistic “attitude and method,” he purports to show that the skeptic's doubts are vacuous because the skeptic "does not understand his own doubts. ” His argument for this invokes a theory of cognitive content on which the traditional Cartesian picture of inference from inner to outer domains is allegedly turned on its head. On Davidson's alternative account, propositional thought is only made possible by a prior understanding of "objective truth,” where this notion is itself only given content by the presupposition of communicative exchange between speakers disparately located in a common spatio-temporal setting. What allegedly emerges is a comprehensive system within which the preconditions of meaningfulness effectively double as the preconditions of knowledge, providing an account of knowledge within which the skeptic has no room to maneuver. My concern in this paper is both with the semantic aspects of this account and with the epistemological consequences that Davidson sees as following from them. The story he tells, I argue, fails to prevent an alternative form of skepticism from arising from within his own naturalistic account of the nature and acquisition of knowledge. This is because a central contention of the account he provides is not only capricious, but implicitly at odds with his long-held views on the anomalousness of the mental.
8. ProtoSociology: Volume > 11
Anthony Brueckner Content Externalism and A Priori Knowledge
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M. McKinsey has argued that the externalist theory of mental content implies that one can have a priori knowledge of propositions that are in fact only knowable a posteriori. So, according to McKinsey, the externalist theory must be mistaken. A. Gallois and J. O'Leary-Hawthorne have formalized this argument. In this paper, I discuss their formalization and their criticisms of it.
9. ProtoSociology: Volume > 11
Consuelo Preti The Irrelevance of Supervenience
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Externalistic theses about the nature of content appear to have untoward consequences for the role of content in folk pscyhological causal explanation. Given the predominance of Twin Earth formulations ofexternalism, however, the explanatory role problem is often construed as the problem of content's failure to supervene on intrinsic states of the head.In this paper I argue that this is misleading. The most general formulation of externalism is shown to be independent of any supervenience claims. The result is that all concepts can be shown to be both externalist in individuation and irrelevant in causal explanation, whether or not they fail to supervene on intrinsinc states.
10. ProtoSociology: Volume > 11
Michael Liston Externalist Determinants of Reference
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According to externalism, reference is a relation between uses of an expression and features of the environment. Moreover, the reference relation is normative (constitutive of correct semantic use), and the referential relata of our expressions are explanatory of successful language use. This paper largely agrees with the broad conception underlying externalism: it is what people do with words that makes them have the references they have, and the world constrains what people can successfully do with words. However, the paper strongly disagrees with the details (at least as usually presented). A centrally important feature of what people do with words is how they use them in inferential contexts. When due attention is given to the reference-determining role played by inferential properties of expressions, I argue, we arrive at a more satisfactory account of semantic norms and explanations. Much of the argument is based on a detailed look at the language of chemical classification used in the late 19th century.
11. ProtoSociology: Volume > 11
Arnold Silverberg Semantic Externalism: A Response to Chomsky
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In this essay I respond to criticisms of semantic externalism that Noam Chomsky has presented in several recent publications. In the first section of the essay I present reasons to think that there are virtues to both semantic externalism and to semantic internalism, and that these two views are compatible. Linguistic items and intentional phenomena might have semantic content which is determined by factors external to their possessor, and also have semantic content which is determined by factors that are internal. In the second section I respond to Chomsky's argument that the cognitive sciences are internalist, and hence semantic reference has no place in naturalistic inquiry. I argue that the cognitive sciences are not exclusively internalist, that they are significantly externalist. In my discussion I attend mainly to the case of scientific studies of vision. In the third section I deal with issues specifically concerning language. I counter Chomsky's arguments that semantic reference can play no role in the scientific study of language; I argue that it in fact does play a role in significant developments that should be regarded as belonging to the scientific study of language. I also present considerations in defense of semantic externalism with regard to proper names and natural kind terms, and in defense of there being a social factor to semantic content.
12. ProtoSociology: Volume > 11
Gerhard Preyer Interpretation and Rationality: Steps from Radical Interpretation to the Externalism of Triangulation
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In recent years Donald Davidson has outlined main features of a “unified theory” of language and action. The article tries to lay open the central theoretical steps one has to take from his “radical interpretation” to his theory of rationality and his triangulation model of externalism. It is argued that Davidson's reinterpretation of Tarski's T - sentences can be used to show a fundamental symmetry between representation and expression of propositional contents. Yet, his theoretical framework has to be enriched to deal with the problem of contextualism that arises from his redescription of utterance meanings. The paper shows in order to elaborate Davidson's claim that rationality is a normative concept one has to address the question of an internal relationship between radical interpretation, rationality and externalism.
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Forthcoming Volume
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Bookpublications within the Project ProtoSociology
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