Among the many philosophers who hold that causal facts1 are to be explained in terms of—or more ambitiously, shown to reduce to—facts about what happens, together with facts about the fundamental laws that govern what happens, the clear favorite is an approach that sees counterfactual dependence as the key to such explanation or reduction. The paradigm examples of causation, so advocates of this approach tell us, are examples in which events c and e— the cause and its effect— both occur, (...) but: had c not occurred, e would not have occurred either. From this starting point ideas proliferate in a vast profusion. But the remarkable disparity among these ideas should not obscure their common foundation. Neither should the diversity of opinion about the prospects for a philosophical analysis of causation obscure their importance. For even those philosophers who see these prospects as dim—perhaps because they suffer post-Quinean queasiness at the thought of any analysis of any concept of interest—can often be heard to say such things as that causal relations among events are somehow “a matter of” the patterns of counterfactual dependence to be found in them. (shrink)
The theory that structured propositions are complex act-types has been independently articulated by Peter Hanks and Scott Soames. The present paper argues that the role of the act in such theories is supererogatory, for the individuation conditions of the act-based propositions remain wholly at the level of concepts and their formal combination, features which the traditional structured proposition theorist endorses. Thus, it is shown that the traditional problems for structured propositions are only ameliorable on the act conception by appeal to (...) the very resources of the traditional conception. It is also shown that the act theories have no act-based account of quantification and other operator-involving relations. An elementary account of propositions is sketched, after Fodor, which retains the virtues of the traditional structural conception without falling into ’Platonism’. (shrink)
Stephen Law developed a challenge to theism, known as the evil-god challenge (Law () ). The evil-god challenge to theism is to explain why the theist’s responses to the problem of evil are any better than the diabolist’s – who believes in a supremely evil god – rejoinders to the problem of good, when all the theist’s ploys (theodicy, sceptical theism, etc.) can be parodied by the diabolist. In the first part of this article, I extend the evil-god challenge by (...) showing that additional theist replies to the problem of evil (more theodicies, the privation view of evil, and others) also may be appropriated, with just as much plausibility, in support of the diabolist position. In the second part of the article, I defend the evil-god challenge against several objections. (shrink)
Much of the best contemporary work in the philosophy of language and content makes appeal to the theories developed in generative syntax. In particular, there is a presumption that—at some level and in some way—the structures provided by syntactic theory mesh with or support our conception of content/linguistic meaning as grounded in our first-person understanding of our communicative speech acts. This paper will suggest that there is no such tight fit. Its claim will be that, if recent generative theories are (...) on the right lines, syntactic structure provides both too much and too little to serve as the structural partner for content, at least as that notion is generally understood in philosophy. The paper will substantiate these claims by an assessment of the recent work of King, Stanley, and others. (shrink)
Humean supervenience is the doctrine that there are no necessary connections in the world. David Lewis identifies one big bad bug to the programme of providing Humean analyses for apparently non-Humean features of the world. The bug is chance. We put the bug under the microscope, and conclude that chance is no special problem for the Humean.
The standard view of truth-conditional semantics is that it is world-involving in the sense that a theory that specifies truth conditions eo ipso is a theory that specifies the way the world must be if the target sentences are to be true. It would appear to follow that the semantic properties of expressions, such as nominals, specify the very worldly objects that make true or false the sentences that host the nominals. Chomsky and others have raised a fundamental complaint against (...) this thought: perfectly quotidian nominals, such as London or book, may occur copredicatively as a single argument of categorically mismatched predicates, which prima facie preclude a coherent uniform construal of the nominal argument. The argument has hitherto been presented via examples that challenge the standard view. My aim here is to present the argument explicitly, defend it against some likely counterclaims, and resolve what might appear to be a decisive consideration against the conclusion of the argument, viz., if nominals as copredicatively occurring do not contribute uniform worldly entities, then how can the copredicative constructions be counted as true? (shrink)
John Collins presents a new analysis of the problem of the unity of the proposition-how propositions can be both single things and complexes at the same time. He surveys previous investigations of the problem and offers his own novel and uniquely satisfying solution, which is defended from both philosophical and linguistic perspectives.
As the ball flew towards us I leapt to my left to catch it. But it was you, reacting more rapidly than I, who caught the ball just in front of the point at which my hand was poised. Fortunate for us that you took the catch. The ball was headed on a course which, unimpeded, would have taken it through the glass window of a nearby building. Your catch prevented the window from being broken.
Jerry Fodor, among others, has maintained that Chomsky's language faculty hypothesis is an epistemological proposal, i.e. the faculty comprises propositional structures known (cognized) by the speaker/hearer. Fodor contrasts this notion of a faculty with an architectural (directly causally efficacious) notion of a module. The paper offers an independent characterisation of the language faculty as an abstractly specified nonpropositional structure of the mind/brain that mediates between sound and meaning—a function in intension that maps to a pair of structures that determine soundmeaning (...) convergence. This conception will be elaborated and defended against a number of likely complaints deriving from Fodor's faculty/module distinction and other positions which seek to credit knowledge of language with an empirical or theoretical significance. A recent explicit argument from Fodor that Chomsky must share his conception will be diagnosed and the common appeal to implicit knowledge as a foundation for linguistic competence will be rejected. (shrink)
Generics are exception-admitting generalisations, which find expression in apparently diverse linguistic forms. A standard claim is that there is a hidden linguistic unity to genericity in the form of a covert operator, Gen. This article surveys and rejects a range of considerations that purport to show Gen to be syntactically essential to the explanation of a range of linguistic phenomena connected to genericity. The conclusion reached is that genericity is not a specifically linguistic property insofar as it does not supervene (...) upon any especial linguistic device; rather, genericity supervenes on broader cognitive competencies within linguistic constraints. (shrink)
Experimental philosophy is one of the most exciting and controversial philosophical movements today. This book explores how it is reshaping thought about philosophical method. Experimental philosophy imports experimental methods and findings from psychology into philosophy. These fresh resources can be used to develop and defend both armchair methods and naturalist approaches, on an empirical basis. This outstanding collection brings together leading proponents of this new meta-philosophical naturalism, from within and beyond experimental philosophy. They explore how the empirical study of philosophically (...) relevant intuition and cognition transforms traditional philosophical approaches and facilitates fresh ones. Part One examines important uses of traditional "armchair" methods which are not threatened by experimental work and develops empirically informed accounts of such methods that can potentially stand up to experimental scrutiny. Part Two analyses different uses and rationales of experimental methods in several areas of philosophy and addresses the key methodological challenges to experimental philosophy: Do its experiments target the intuitions that matter in philosophy? And how can they support conclusions about the rights and wrongs of philosophical views? Essential reading for students of experimental philosophy and metaphilosophy, _Experimental Philosophy, Rationalism, and Naturalism_ will also interest students and researchers in related areas such as epistemology and the philosophies of language, perception, mind and action, science and psychology. (shrink)
It is widely held that propositions are structured entities. In The Nature and Structure of Content (2007), Jeff King argues that the structure of propositions is none other than the syntactic structure deployed by the speaker/hearers who linguistically produce and consume the sentences that express the propositions. The present paper generalises from King’s position and claims that syntax provides the best in-principle account of propositional structure. It further seeks to show, however, that the account faces severe problems pertaining to the (...) fine individuation of propositions that the account entails. The ‘fineness of cut’ problem has been raised by Collins (The unity of linguistic meaning, 2007) and others. King (Philos Stud 163(3):763–781, 2013) responds to these complaints in ways this paper rebuts. Thus, the very idea of structured propositions is brought into doubt, for the best in-principle account of such structure appears to fail. (shrink)
We have reasons to want an epistemology of simple belief in addition to the Bayesian notion of belief which admits of degree. Accounts of simple belief which attempt to reduce it to the notion of credence all face difficulties. We argue that each conception captures an important aspect of our pre-theoretic thinking about epistemology; the differences between the two accounts of belief stem from two different conceptions of unlikelihood. On the one hand there is unlikelihood in the sense of improbability, (...) on the other hand there is unlikelihood in the sense of far-fetchedness. A non-reductive account of simple belief is outlined. Belief aims not just at truth, but at attaining the status of knowledge, and knowledge should satisfy the weak modal principle: If S knows that p then S is certain that there is no possibility very close to actuality at which p is false. The account faces a difficulty in dealing with statistical inductive cases. We sketch a speculative strategy for dealing with such cases, based on the pragmatic considerations that lead to an agent’s partition of the space of possibilities and a nonprobabilistic notion of the “estimated distance” of elements of such a partition from actuality. (shrink)
The article takes up a range of issues concerning knowledge of language in response to recent work of Rey, Smith, Matthews and Devitt. I am broadly sympathetic with the direction of Rey, Smith, and Matthews. While all three are happy with the locution ‘knowledge of language’, in their different ways they all reject the apparent role for a substantive linguistic epistemology in linguistic explanation. I concur but raise some friendly concerns over even a deflationary notion of knowledge of language. Against (...) Devitt I have more serious worries. The latter half of the paper seeks further clarification of Devitt’s realism and raises concerns over its ability to reflect the shape and content of linguistics. (shrink)
The paper considers our ordinary mentalistic discourse in relation to what we should expect from any genuine science of the mind. A meta-scientific eliminativism is commended and distinguished from the more familiar eliminativism of Skinner and the Churchlands. Meta-scientific eliminativism views folk psychology qua folksy as unsuited to offer insight into the structure of cognition, although it might otherwise be indispensable for our social commerce and self-understanding. This position flows from a general thesis that scientific advance is marked by an (...) eschewal of folk understanding. The latter half of the paper argues that, contrary to the received view, Chomsky's review of Skinner offers not just an argument against Skinner's eliminativism, but, more centrally, one in favour of the second eliminativism. (shrink)
The paper outlines the evolution of on-going meta-philosophical debates about intuitions, explains different notions of 'intuition' employed in these debates, and argues for the philosophical relevance of intuitions in an aetiological sense taken from cognitive psychology. On this basis, it advocates a new kind of methodological naturalism which it finds implicit, for instance, in the warrant project in experimental philosophy: a meta-philosophical naturalism that promotes the use of scientific methods in meta-philosophical investigations. This 'higher-order' naturalism is consistent with both methodological (...) naturalism and methodological rationalism about first-order philosophy, and can help us adjudicate between the two, in a piecemeal manner. (shrink)
There is an incompatibility between the deflationist approach to truth, which makes truth transparent on the basis of an antecedent grasp of meaning, and the traditional endeavour, exemplified by Davidson, to explicate meaning through of truth. I suggest that both parties are in the explanatory red: deflationist lack a non-truth-involving theory of meaning and Davidsonians lack a non-deflationary account of truth. My focus is on the attempts of the latter party to resolve their problem. I look in detail at Davidson's (...) more recent work and suggest that it seeks to articulate a primitive notion of truth that may balance between a notion that collapses into deflationism and one that is wholly subsumed under a general theory of interpretation. I conclude that this tightrope walk is ultimately unsuccessful. Equally, however, some reasons are provided for thinking that deflationism might be equally unsuccessful with its problem. 'Truth or meaning?' remains an open question. (shrink)
Borg (2009) surveys and rejects a number of arguments in favour of semantic internalism. This paper, in turn, surveys and rejects all of Borg's anti-internalist arguments. My chief moral is that, properly conceived, semantic internalism is a methodological doctrine that takes its lead from current practice in linguistics. The unifying theme of internalist arguments, therefore, is that linguistics neither targets nor presupposes externalia. To the extent that this claim is correct, we should be internalists about linguistic phenomena, including semantics.
A plausible thought about vagueness is that it involves semantic incompleteness. To say that a predicate is vague is to say (at the very least) that its extension is incompletely specified. Where there is incomplete specification of extension there is indeterminacy, an indeterminacy between various ways in which the specification of the predicate might be completed or sharpened. In this paper we show that this idea is bound to founder by presenting an argument to the effect that there are vague (...) predicates which cannot be sharpened in such a way as to meet certain basic constraints (of penumbral connection and public accessibility) that must be imposed on the very notion of a sharpening. (shrink)
My contribution takes up a set of methodological and philosophical issues in linguistics that have recently occupied the work of Devitt and Rey. Devitt construes the theories of generative linguistics as being about an external linguistic reality of utterances, inscriptions, etc.; that is, Devitt rejects the ‘psychologistic’ construal of linguistics. On Rey’s conception, linguistics concerns the mental contents of speaker / hearers; there are no external linguistic items at all. I reject both views. Against Devitt, I argue that the philosophical (...) issues in linguistics should be framed in terms of the theories themselves, not pre-theoretical conceptions front either philosophy or commonsense as to what linguistics is about or what a language is. In this light, I suggest that Devitt’s key arguments (concerning parameter setting, psychological reality, and the role of intuitions) do not make sense of current linguistic inquiry and so do not offer an adequate philosophical basis of that work. To this extent, I agree with Rey. Ourdifferences emerge over the putative role of content in linguistic inquiry and how the concept of computation ought to be understood. Following the lead of Chomsky’s recent philosophical remarks, I argue that a theory of the language faculty should be understood as an abstract specification of the function that pairs ‘sound’ with ‘meaning’ rather than as a specification of the content the mind represents. But doesn’t ‘computation’ presuppose ‘representation’? I argue for a negative answer, at least if ‘representation’ is read intentionally. A ‘representation’ can be construed as brain structure that, at the present stage of inquiry, can only be picked out via the abstract concepts of linguistic theory. We are entitled to posit such structures insofar as they earn their explanatory keep over the output of the faculty. The linguistic function is a way of setting the boundary conditions on what the brain must be doing such that humans get to be competent speaker / hearers, although we do not therefore take the function to be a story of the causal spring of linguistic performance. (shrink)
In recent years, a number of philosophers have argued against a biological understanding of the innate in favor of a narrowly psychological notion. On the other hand, Ariew ((1996). Innateness and canalization. Philosophy of Science, 63, S19-S27. (1999). Innateness is canalization: in defense of a developmental account of innateness. In V. Hardcastle (Ed.), Where biology meets psychology: Philosophical essays (pp. 117-138). Cambridge, MA: MIT.) has developed a novel substantial account of innateness based on developmental biology: canalization. The governing thought of (...) this paper is that the notion of the innate, as it re-emerged with the work of Chomsky, is a general notion that applies equally to all biological traits. On this basis, the paper recommends canalization as a promising candidate account of the notion of the innate. (shrink)
My paper defends the use of the poverty of stimulus argument (POSA) for linguistic nativism against Cowie's (1999) counter-claim that it leaves empiricism untouched. I first present the linguistic POSA as arising from a reflection on the generality of the child's initial state in comparison with the specific complexity of its final state. I then show that Cowie misconstrues the POSA as a direct argument about the character of the pld. In this light, I first argue that the data Cowie (...) marshals about the pld does not begin to suggest that the POSA is unsound. Second, through a discussion of the so-called `auxiliary inversion rule', I show, by way of diagnosis, that Cowie misunderstands both the methodology of current linguistics and the complexity of the data it is obliged to explain. (shrink)
Jerry Fodor argues that the massive modularity thesis – the claim that (human) cognition is wholly served by domain specific, autonomous computational devices, i.e., modules – is a priori incoherent, self-defeating. The thesis suffers from what Fodor dubs the input problem: the function of a given module (proprietarily understood) in a wholly modular system presupposes non-modular processes. It will be argued that massive modularity suffers from no such a priori problem. Fodor, however, also offers what he describes as a really (...) real input problem (i.e., an empirical one). It will be suggested that this problem is real enough, but it does not selectively strike down massive modularity – it is a problem for everyone. (shrink)
This note briefly responds to Devitt’s (2008) riposte to Collins’s (2008a) argument that linguistic realism prima facie fails to accommodate unvoiced elements within syntax. It is argued that such elements remain problematic. For it remains unclear how conventions might target the distribution of PRO and how they might explain hierarchical structure that is presupposed by such distribution and which is not witnessed in concrete strings.
Managers of organizations should be aware of the attitudes of employees concerning whistleblowing. Employee views should affect how employers choose to respond to whistleblowers through the evolving law of wrongful discharge.This article reports on a survey of employee attitudes toward the legal protection of whistleblowers and presents an analysis of the results of that survey.
Do lexical items have internal structure that contributes to, or determines, the stable interpretation of their potential hosts? One argument in favour of the claim that lexical items are so structured is that certain putative verbs appear to be ‘impossible’, where the intended interpretation of them is apparently precluded by the character of their internal structure. The adequacy of such reasoning has recently been debated by Fodor and Lepore and Johnson, but to no apparent resolution. The present paper argues that (...) such ‘impossible word arguments' for internal lexical structure, although not apodictic, do constitute inferences to the best explanation for such structure. Alternative explanations for the ‘impossible words' are considered and rejected. (shrink)
The paper presents an accommodation problem for extant semantic accounts of fiction. Some accounts of fiction are designed to accommodate one or another form of fictive statement exclusively, what I shall call in-fiction and out-fiction. Thus, typically, the accounts fail to do justice to their respective excluded form. A natural response, entertained by Kripke and in a different fashion by latter-day Meinongians, is to let the two different kinds of fiction have their respective accounts. It is very easy, however, to (...) mix in and out predicates, which amounts to a species of copredication, where a single nominal receives simultaneous distinct interpretations relative to distinct predicates without creating ambiguity. Copredication is a perfectly general phenomenon that arises for any nominal. The simple problem now is that copredication appears to render all extant accounts of fiction either essentially partial, in dealing with one kind of simple form of fiction but not another, or merely wrong in imagining that fiction comes in categorically distinct forms, for the coherence of copredication is enough to show that this is not so. The aim of the paper is to show to resolve this accommodation problem by the radical expedient of suggesting that the fiction/non-fiction distinction is not really a semantic one, but more one between different ways in which sentences are made true or false. (shrink)
ABSTRACT The paper proposes that the distinctive features of aesthetic assertion are due to a special norm governing such assertion rather than any semantic features of aesthetic predication. The norm is elaborated as a reading of Kant’s analysis of aesthetic judgment. Apart from the proposed norm capturing various features of aesthetic assertion, it is supported by various linguistic considerations that point to the semantic profile of predicates of personal taste and aesthetic predicates being in fact alike with respect to the (...) role of a judge or experiencer in the interpretation of the respective kinds of assertions. The difference between the two, therefore, must have a different source than the understood role of an agent, viz. the advertised norm. In particular, it is argued that the role of an explicit agent in both predicates acts to signal a presupposition of another agent having a different experience or judgment from the speaker rather than an articulation of the content of the predicate itself or a determination of its truth value. (shrink)
It is commonly assumed that natural languages, construed as sets of sentences, contain denumerably many sentences. One argument for this claim is that the sentences of a language must be recursively enumerable by a grammar, if we are to understand how a speaker-hearer could exhibit unbounded competence in a language. The paper defends this reasoning by articulating and defending a principle that excludes the construction of a sentence non-denumerably many words long.
This is an encyclopedia article about epistemic closure principles. The article explains what they are, their various philosophical uses, how they are argued for or against, and provides an overview of the related literature.
The paper articulates and defends the view that paired structures of mentally 'represented' phonological and semantic features should, for all theoretical purposes, replace the notions of proposition and sentence. Following Chomsky, I refer to such pairs as expressions (EXP). In the first part, I elaborate the notion of an EXP and contrast it with that of sentence/proposition. The paper's second part questions a range of considerations which putatively show that propositions are fundamental to our understanding of meaning and cognitive attitudes. (...) I argue that while these considerations are effective against the theoretical worth of sentences, as usually understood, they may be accommodated by the EXP-conception or otherwise eschewed. (shrink)
Most content externalists concede that even if externalism is compatible with the thesis that one has authoritative self-knowledge of thought contents, it is incompatible with the stronger claim that one is always able to tell by introspection whether two of one’s thought tokens have the same, or different, content. If one lacks such authoritative discriminative self-knowledge of thought contents, it would seem that brute logical error – non-culpable logical error – is possible. Some philosophers, such as Paul Boghossian, have argued (...) that this would present a big problem for externalism, forcing the externalist to overhaul our norms of rationality. I consider several externalist strategies to block this possibly unhappy epistemological consequence, but I argue that they all fail. (shrink)
I argue for a cognitive architecture in which folk psychology is supported by an interface of a ToM module and the language faculty, the latter providing the former with interpreted LF structures which form the content representations of ToM states. I show that LF structures satisfy a range of key features asked of contents. I confront this account of ToM with eliminativism and diagnose and combat the thought that "success" and innateness are inconsistent with the falsity of folk psychology. I (...) show that, while my ensemble account of ToM and language refutes the culturalist presuppositions that tend to underlie eliminativist arguments, the falsity of folk psychology is consistent with the account. (shrink)
The anti- Humean proposal of constructing desire as belief about what would be good must be abandoned on pain of triviality. Our central result shows that if an agent's belief- desire state is represented by Jeffrey's expected value theory enriched with the Desire as Belief Thesis (DAB), then, provided that three pairwise inconsistent propositions receive non- zero probability, the agent must view with indifference any proposition whose probability is greater than zero. Unlike previous results against DAB our Opinionation or Indifference (...) Theorem is a purely synchronic one that depends in no way of the properties of Jeffrey conditionalization. (shrink)
(i) Languages are indefinitely various along every dimension. (ii) Languages are essentially systems of habit/dispositions. (iii) Languages are learnt from experience via analogy and generalisation. (iv) There is no component of the speaker/hearer’s psychology that is..