European Journal of Philosophy 29 (4):1100-1114 (2021)
AbstractWhen we carry out a speech act of stipulation, it seems that we can shape our language however we see fit. This autonomy, however, also seems to make such acts arbitrary: it is unclear if there are any constraints on what counts as a "correct" or "incorrect" stipulation. In this paper, I offer a novel, detailed account of the pragmatics of stipulation and explain its crucial role in conceptual analysis and articulation. My account shows that stipulation does indeed equip us with a key tool for changing our linguistic practices, but that such acts can nonetheless count as meaningfully, normatively constrained: they are always subject to felicitous criticism and the possibility of defeat by others. I then examine the metaphilosophical implications of this account. Philosophers often describe the project of conceptual analysis as having a crucial stipulative dimension, but they rarely explain what they take this act to consist in. On my view, speech acts of stipulation are best understood as acts that generate a shared inferential entitlement for speaker and audience, an entitlement justified on the basis of its utility. In developing this account, I distinguish stipulations from more familiar speech act kinds such as assertions and commands, synthesize and criticize alternative views of stipulation in the literature, and discuss the relationship between stipulation and seemingly kindred speech acts (such as assumptions, suppositions, and proposals).
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