Richard Gaskin analyses what is distinctive about sentences and the propositions they express--what marks them off from mere aggregates of words and meanings respectively. Since he identifies the world with all the true and false propositions, his account has significant implications for our understanding of the nature of reality.
John McDowell's "minimal empiricism" is one of the most influential and widely discussed doctrines in contemporary philosophy. Richard Gaskin subjects it to careful examination and criticism, arguing that it has unacceptable consequences, and in particular that it mistakenly rules out something we all know to be the case: that infants and non-human animals experience a world. Gaskin traces the errors in McDowell's empiricism to their source, and presents his own, still more minimal, version of empiricism, suggesting that a correct philosophy (...) of language requires us to recognize a sense in which the world we experience speaks its own language. (shrink)
Richard Gaskin offers an original defence of literary humanism, according to which works of imaginative literature have an objective meaning which is fixed at the time of production and not subject to individual readers' responses. He shows that the appreciation of literature is a cognitive activity fully on a par with scientific investigation.
Is there an explanation of why the state of x's bearing the non-symmetric binary relation R to y is different from its differential opposite, the state of y's bearing R to x? One traditional view has it that the explanation is that non-symmetric relations hold of objects in an essentially directional way, ordering the relevant relata. We call this view ‘directionalism’. Kit Fine has suggested that this approach is subject to significant metaphysical difficulties, sufficient to motivate seeking an alternative analysis. (...) He considers two such alternative explanations, which he labels ‘positionalism’ and ‘anti-positionalism’. Of these he endorses the latter. We argue that anti-positionalism fails to provide a coherent explanation of the distinction between differential opposites, and that one should simply hold the minimalist position that there is no explanation for this metaphysical difference. (shrink)
If we make the basic assumption that the components of a proposition have reference on the model of proper name and bearer, we face the problem of distinguishing the proposition from a mere list' of names. We neutralize the problem posed by that assumption of we first of all follow Wiggins and distinguish, in every predicate, a strictly predicative element (the copula), and a strictly non-predicative conceptual component (available to be quantified over). If we further allow the copula itself to (...) conform to the basic assumption, a regress ( Bradley's regress') arises: the referent of the copula will be instantiation, the instantiation of instantiation etc. To avert the regress, Wiggins simply legislates that the basic assumption is to fail for the copula. But we are entitled to regard the regress as constitution not a difficulty, but the solution: the infinitism it imports (capturable in a finitistic theory of meaning) is just what the unity of the proposition "is". (edited). (shrink)
It is often held to be definitive of consciousness that there is something it is like to be in a conscious state. A consensus has arisen that ‘is like’ in relevant ‘what it is like’ locutions does not mean ‘resembles’. This paper argues that the consensus is mistaken. It is argued that a recently proposed ‘affective’ analysis of these locutions fails, but that a purported rival of the resemblance analysis, the property account, is in fact compatible with it. Some of (...) the implications of this argument are briefly explored: it is suggested that the meaning of ‘what it’s like’ does not, in itself, have any special bearing on consciousness, and that the implications for the so-called ‘hard problem’ of consciousness are deflationary. (shrink)
This book defends a version of linguistic idealism, the thesis that the world is a product of language. In the course of defending this radical thesis, Gaskin addresses a wide range of topics in contemporary metaphysics, philosophy of language, philosophical logic, and syntax theory. Starting from the context and compositionality principles, and the idea of a systematic theory of meaning in the Tarski-Davidson tradition, Gaskin argues that the sentence is the primary unit of linguistic meaning, and that the main aspects (...) of meaning, sense and reference, are themselves theoretical posits. Ontology, which is correlative with reference, emerges as language-driven. This linguistic idealism is combined with a realism that accepts the objectivity of science, and it is accordingly distinguished from empirical pragmatism. Gaskin contends that there is a basic metaphysical level at which everything is expressible in language; but the vindication of linguistic idealism is nuanced inasmuch as there is also a derived level, asymmetrically dependant on the basic level, at which reality can break free of language and reach into the realms of the unnameable and indescribable. Language and World will be of interest to scholars and advanced students working in metaphysics, philosophy of language, and linguistics. (shrink)
The paper contains a general argument for linguistic idealism, which it approaches by way of some considerations relating to the unity of the proposition and Tractarian metaphysics. Language exhibits a function–argument structure, but does it do so because it is reflecting how things are in the world, or does the relation of dependence run in the other direction? The paper argues that the general structure of the world is asymmetrically dependent on a metaphysically prior fact about language, namely that it (...) exhibits subject–predicate structure. (shrink)
This volume, including sixteen contributions, analyses ancient and medieval theories of intentionality in various contexts: perception, imagination, and intellectual thinking. It sheds new light on classical theories and examines neglected sources, both Greek and Latin.
We analyse Reach's puzzle, according to which it is impossible to be told anyone's name, because the statement conveying it can be understood only by someone who already knows what it says. We argue that the puzzle can be solved by adverting to the systematic nature of mention when it involves the use of standard quotation marks or similar devices. We then discuss mention more generally and outline an account according to which any mentioning expressions that are competent to solve (...) Reach's puzzle – and in particular those consisting of standard quotation marks and their fillings – have a descriptive analysis: we rebut the usual objections to this account, and show how it is superior to some of the alternatives in the literature. We conclude by briefly connecting the foregoing discussions with semantic theory. (shrink)
Bruno Snell has made familiar a certain thesis about the Homeric poems, to the effect that these poems depict a primitive form of mindedness. The area of mindedness concerned is agency, and the content of the thesis is that Homeric agents are not agents in the fullest sense: they do not make choices in clear self-awareness of what they are doing; choices are made for them rather than by them; in some cases the instigators of action are gods, in other (...) cases they are forces acting internally on the agent and over which he has no control. Homeric heroes act in the way Descartes thought an animal acts: agitur, non agit. Such agents ‘handeln nicht eigentlich , sondern sie reagieren’. The model of the agent which we nowadays have is roughly of a self which determines, rather than is determined to, action; the self arrives at this determination by considering available reasons for action in the light of its overall purposes, and it moves to action in full self-consciousness of what it is doing, and why. This model of action, Snell claims, is not met in Greek literature before the tragedians. I think anyone ought to concede that there is some difference between the way Homer portrays decision-making and the way it is portrayed in tragedy ; but has Snell located the difference in the right place? I shall argue in this paper that he has not. (shrink)
The doctrine of Middle Knowledge presupposes that conditionals of freedom (statements of the form 'If A were circumstances C, he would perform X') can be true. Such conditions are, where true, not true in virtue of the truth of any categorical proposition. Nor can their truth be modelled in terms of comparative similarity of possible worlds, because the structure of possible worlds is a necessary one, whereas the connection between antecedent and consequent of a conditional of freedom is a contingent (...) one. Lewis and Stalmaker are committed to 'conditional fatalism', the view that things only would go a certain way if they would have to go that way. Although commitment to conditional fatalism does not itself import a commitment to fatalism, it is hard to find a separate motivation for it. (shrink)
This book is an English version of a book published in 1984 in French, the aim of which was to give a reconstruction of Diodorus Cronus's Master Argument, together with a historical analysis of some of the central modal notions on which it draws. In preparing the English text, Vuillemin has made some changes to the logic of his reconstruction of Diodorus's Argument and added an epilogue. The Master Argument consisted of three premises: Every past truth is necessary, The impossible (...) does not follow from the possible, and Something is possible which neither is nor will be true. Diodorus claimed that these premises are inconsistent, and purported to derive the negation of the third premise, which is plausibly to be identified with the principle of plenitude, from the first two premises. (shrink)
A position that has been called ‘classical indeterminism’ has recently been developed in order to model vagueness: this approach appeals to an object-language ‘determinately’ operator, the semantics of which are defined in such a way as to preserve the principle of bivalence. I suggest that a prominent argument against this strategy, which I call the Field–Williamson argument, fails. The classical indeterminist position in its general form was anticipated by the Aristotelian commentators in their discussions of Aristotle’s famous ‘sea battle’ passage (...) concerning future contingency. But I maintain that, ironically enough, the strategy is less happily applied in this case, where a version of the Field–Williamson argument succeeds. (shrink)
Bruno Snell has made familiar a certain thesis about the Homeric poems, to the effect that these poems depict a primitive form of mindedness. The area of mindedness concerned is agency, and the content of the thesis is that Homeric agents are not agents in the fullest sense: they do not make choices in clear self-awareness of what they are doing; choices are made for them rather than by them; in some cases the instigators of action are gods, in other (...) cases they are forces acting internally on the agent and over which he has no control. Homeric heroes act in the way Descartes thought an animal acts: agitur, non agit. Such agents ‘handeln nicht eigentlich, sondern sie reagieren’. The model of the agent which we nowadays have is roughly of a self which determines, rather than is determined to, action; the self arrives at this determination by considering available reasons for action in the light of its overall purposes, and it moves to action in full self-consciousness of what it is doing, and why. This model of action, Snell claims, is not met in Greek literature before the tragedians. I think anyone ought to concede that there is some difference between the way Homer portrays decision-making and the way it is portrayed in tragedy ; but has Snell located the difference in the right place? I shall argue in this paper that he has not. (shrink)
John Wyclif claims that there are relations of essential identity and formal distinctness connecting universals, complexly signifiables, and individuals. In some respects Wyclif's position on complexly signifiables coincides with what I call the advanced res theory, the view that complexly signifiables are really identical with but formally distinct from worldly individuals. But there is no question in Wyclif's treatment of a reduction of complexly signifiables to individuals. I argue that Wyclif populates his most fundamental ontological level with propositionally structured entities (...) both individual and universal, and that this approach is superior to that of its nominalist rivals. But Wyclif shares with other versions of the advanced res theory an implausible theory of identity, and this affects the coherence of the claimed real identity between individuals and complexly signifiables. (shrink)
I argue that fidelity to the context principle requires us to construe reference as a theoretical relation. This point helps us understand the bearing of Putnam's permutation argument on the idea of a systematic theory of meaning. Notwithstanding objections that have been made against Putnam's deployment of that argument, it shows the reference relation to be indeterminate. But since the indeterminacy of reference arises from a metalinguistic perspective, our ability, as object‐language speakers, to talk about the ordinary features of our (...) lives is unaffected. (shrink)
Between 1903 and 1918 Russell made a number of attempts to understand the unity of the proposition, but his attempts all foundered on his failure clearly to distinguish between different senses in which the relation R might be said to relate a and b in the proposition aRb: he failed to distinguish between the relation as truth-maker and the relation as unifier, and consequently committed himself again and again to the unacceptable consequence that only true propositions are genuinely unified. There (...) is an anticipation of this confusion in the writings of the fourteenth-century philosopher Richard Brinkley. (shrink)
In his paper ‘Some Comments on Fatalism’, The Philosophical Quartery, 46 (1996), pp. 1–11, James Cargile offers an argument against the view that the correct response to fatalism is to restrict the principle of bivalence with respect to statements about future contingencies. His argument fails because it is question‐begging. Further, he fails to give due weight to the reason behind this view, which is the desire to give an adequate account of the past/future asymmetry. He supposes that mere appeal to (...) the direction of causation will suffice to explain this asymmetry, whereas in fact the causal asymmetry is the same as the temporal asymmetry, and so cannot ground it. I finish by drawing a connection between the power asymmetry (our ability to affect the future but not the past) and the memory/intention asymmetry. (shrink)
Available from UMI in association with The British Library. Requires signed TDF. ;The manifest image is 'a sophistication and refinement of the image in terms of which man first came to be aware of himself as man-in-the-world' and in its methodology 'limits itself to what correlational techniques can tell us about perceptible and introspectible events'. The scientific image, on the other hand, 'postulates imperceptible objects and events for the purpose of explaining correlations among perceptibles'. This thesis is centred on a (...) consideration of two difficulties facing anyone who takes the manifest image seriously as an autonomous image of man. In chapter 1 I consider the connection between perception and its objects, and argue that there is a disharmony between the manifest and scientific accounts of this connection. But I also suggest that the manifest image, which incorporates a certain Cartesianism or internalism, cannot lightly be dispensed with in our understanding of the nature of experience. In chapter 2 I argue that the manifest view of experience accords a certain metaphysical priority to secondary over primary qualities in the constitution of any world capable of being experienced; I also suggest that the scientific image is dependent on the manifest image, and so cannot subvert it. In chapter 3 I argue that free will as the incompatibilist contrues it is constitutive of the time-order; but that it carries with it implicit internal contradictions. The conflict here lies within the manifest image; the scientific image discerns no such freedom, and so incurs no such problems. I also argue that there is a relation of mutual dependence between freedom, incompatibilistically construed, and internalism. Chapter 4 shows how no parallel difficulties attend the constitution of experiential space, because space is not transcendental. In chapter 5 I examine the commitments of the notion of the transcendental self, whose existence was deduced in chapter 3 as a condition of freedom. (shrink)
This book offers a unique interpretation of tragic literature in the Western tradition, deploying the method and style of Analytic philosophy. Richard Gaskin argues that tragic literature seeks to offer moral and linguistic redress for suffering. Moral redress involves the balancing of a protagonist's suffering with guilt : Gaskin contends that, to a much greater extent than has been recognized by recent critics, traditional tragedy represents suffering as incurred by avoidable and culpable mistakes of a cognitive nature. Moral redress operates (...) in the first instance at the level of the individual agent. Linguistic redress, by contrast, operates at a higher level of generality, namely at the level of the community: its fundamental motor is the sheer expressibility of suffering in words. Against many writers on tragedy, Gaskin argues that language is competent to express pain and suffering, and that tragic literature has that expression as one its principal purposes. The definition of tragic literature in this book is expanded to include more than stage drama: the treatment stretches from the Classical and Medieval periods through to the early twentieth century. There is a special focus on Sophocles, but Gaskin takes account of most other major tragic authors in the European tradition, including Homer, Aeschylus, Euripides, Virgil, Seneca, Chaucer, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Corneille, Racine, Lessing, Goethe, Schiller, Kleist, Büchner, Ibsen, Hardy, Kafka, and Mann; lesser-known areas, such as Renaissance neo-Latin tragedy, are also covered. Among theorists of tragedy, Gaskin concentrates on Aristotle and Bradley; but the contributions of numerous contemporary commentators are also assessed. Tragedy and Redress in Western Literature: A Philosophical Perspective offers a new and genuinely interdisciplinary perspective on tragedy that will be of considerable interest both to philosophers of literature and to literary critics. (shrink)
The paper examines the nature of the unity of the proposition, distinguishing this issue from that of the unity of states of affairs. I argue that Bradley′s regress has an important role to play in constituting a proposition as a unity, and I address some of the problems that this solution might be thought to involve.