Philosophy and Its Epistemic Neuroses

By Michael Hymers | Go to book overview

ing that some representative rival to a causal theory of reference is not as good an explanation of our behavior as a causal theory is. And it happens that in this sort of case the only representative rivals are skeptical hypotheses.

The causal theorist -- or more generally, the externalist about reference -- purports to be offering an empirical explanation. But that very attempt to explain gives rise to skeptical doubts that the causal theorist then wants to regard as uninteresting in much the way that the metaphysical realist is tempted to treat external-world skepticism as uninteresting. Once again, to treat such doubts as uninteresting is to treat the position that engenders them as uninteresting. The causal theorist cannot avoid skeptical worries without avoiding causal, and other externalist, theories, and this ambivalent relation with the skeptic is a symptom of the externalist's epistemic neurosis. "To adopt a theory of meaning according to which a language whose whole use is specified still lacks something -- namely its 'interpretation' -- is to accept a problem which can only have crazy solutions" ( Putnam 1983, 24). 31


Notes
1.
When I say that reference is an intentional notion, I do not mean that intentions to refer can be determinate prior to our acquisition of language. The point is simply that the standard reference of a term is determined by the way in which it is standardly used by speakers, who might well have used the term differently from the ways in which they do and who might well come to use it differently, either by way of stipulation or by way of gradual linguistic evolution.
2.
E.g., the engaging exchange between Austin and Strawson, in which Austin argues for rehabilitating correspondence, while Strawson insists on abandoning it. See Austin 1964 and Strawson 1964. See also the criticisms of Rorty and Davidson in Callinicos 1995, 80-82, which, moreover, follow Devitt 1984 in conflating metaphysical realism with modest realism.
3.
Like Rorty, I do not want any special ontology of "truth-makers." See Rorty 1992a, 415. But like Putnam, I think that there is an innocuous use of such verb phrases as "makes it true that" and "is made true by." See Putnam 1992c, 431-35.
4.
The terminology, of course, is not Frege's. He speaks of Sinn and Bedeutung. The former is usually translated as "sense," while the latter is variously rendered as "meaning," "reference," or "nominatum." In addition to capturing the intuitively obvious distinction between connotation and denotation, these terms have special technical roles to play in Frege's philosophy of language -- so I prefer to avoid them. See Frege 1984, 162.
5.
In the Tractatus, for example, Wittgenstein remarked with some overstatement: "It is clear that 'A believes that p,' 'A thinks p,' 'A says p,' are of the form '"p" says p': and here we have no co-ordination of a fact and an object, but a co-ordination of facts by means of a co-ordination of their objects" ( 1922, §5.542). A more explicit example is Martin 1987, 182-89.
6.
See Davidson 1984b, 37-54; Frege 1984, 163f.; Linsky 1992; Barwise and Perry 1983, 24f.; and Church 1956, 24f. In what follows I take some liberties with the "carving" of content (see Linsky, 1992) to which a critic might object -- e.g., in the move from "was writ-

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Philosophy and Its Epistemic Neuroses
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction: Philosophy and Neurosis 1
  • Notes 11
  • 1 - The "External" World 12
  • Notes 33
  • 2 - Internal Relations 36
  • Notes 53
  • 3 - Truth and Reference 57
  • Notes 77
  • 4 - Renouncing All Theory 80
  • Notes 100
  • 5 - Conceptual Schemes 103
  • Notes 124
  • 6 - The Ethical-Political Argument 127
  • Notes 148
  • 7 - Realism and Self-Knowledge 151
  • Notes 169
  • 8 - Self-Knowledge and Self-Unity 173
  • Notes 190
  • Conclusion: the Rhetoric of Neurosis 193
  • Notes 199
  • Credits 201
  • Reference List 202
  • Index 213
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