Philosophical Essays - Vol. 2

Philosophical Essays - Vol. 2

Philosophical Essays - Vol. 2

Philosophical Essays - Vol. 2

Excerpt

The essays in this volume are concerned with four main topics— propositions and attitudes, modality, truth and vagueness, and skepticism about intentionality. The significance of these issues extends well beyond the philosophy of language. In addition to being semantically encoded by sentences, propositions are asserted, believed, and known. Questions about what they are, and how we come to believe or know them—as well as questions about which propositions are expressed by which sentences, and which are asserted by which utterances—are crucial to epistemology and the philosophy of mind, as well as being the touchstone of the systematic study of meaning. The next topic, modality, brings together the study of reference and essence, indexicality and actuality, and the distinction be- tween metaphysical and epistemic possibility. Here, the central issues include the role of evidence in our knowledge of the necessary a posteriori, the metaphysical makeup of possible world-states, and the different ways we acquire knowledge of them. The third topic, truth and vagueness, must be covered by any systematic study of language. But that's not all. In addition to being properties of expressions, truth and vagueness apply to that which these parts of language express, or designate. Sentences are true when the propositions they express are true, and—to the extent that they are vague—it is often not because it is vague which perfectly precise propositions they express, but because the propositions they clearly express are vague. The same is true of predicates, the vagueness of which is often tied to the vagueness of the properties they express. Even singular terms, and the objects they designate, are not exempt. The idea that, apart from language, the world and its objects are pristinely precise is a metaphysical prejudice. The spatial and the temporal boundaries of many things are vague. More generally, clarity about the nature of truth, and an appreciation of how vagueness limits our ability to give precise answers to certain questions, are required in every area of philosophy. Finally, skepticism about intentionality is not just skepticism about meaning, but also skepticism about belief, and mental content. There is no understanding, or rebutting, one without doing the same for the other.

In addition to addressing these topics, the essays that follow will, I hope, illustrate the interpenetration of issues in the philosophy of language with those in other core areas of philosophy. It's not that philosophy of language . . .

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