•  354
    While philosophers of language have traditionally relied upon their intuitions about cases when developing theories of reference, this methodology has recently been attacked on the grounds that intuitions about reference, far from being universal, show significant cultural variation, thus undermining their relevance for semantic theory. I’ll attempt to demonstrate that (1) such criticisms do not, in fact, undermine the traditional philosophical methodology, and (2) our underlying intuitions abou…Read more
  •  312
    Ordinary Language, Conventionalism and a priori Knowledge
    Dialectica 55 (4): 315-325. 2001.
    This paper examines popular‘conventionalist’explanations of why philosophers need not back up their claims about how‘we’use our words with empirical studies of actual usage. It argues that such explanations are incompatible with a number of currently popular and plausible assumptions about language's ‘social’character. Alternate explanations of the philosopher's purported entitlement to make a priori claims about‘our’usage are then suggested. While these alternate explanations would, unlike the …Read more
  •  293
    Intuitions and semantic theory
    Metaphilosophy 36 (3): 363-380. 2005.
    While engaged in the analysis of topics such as the nature of knowledge, meaning, or justice, analytic philosophers have traditionally relied extensively on their own intuitions about when the relevant terms can, and can't, be correctly applied. Consequently, if intuitions about possible cases turned out not to be a reliable tool for the proper analysis of philosophically central concepts, then a radical reworking of philosophy's (or at least analytic philosophy's) methodology would seem to be i…Read more
  •  278
    Foundationalism, coherentism, and rule-following skepticism
    International Journal of Philosophical Studies 11 (1): 25-41. 2003.
    Semantic holists view what one's terms mean as function of all of one's usage. Holists will thus be coherentists about semantic justification: showing that one's usage of a term is semantically justified involves showing how it coheres with the rest of one's usage. Semantic atomists, by contrast, understand semantic justification in a foundationalist fashion. Saul Kripke has, on Wittgenstein's behalf, famously argued for a type of skepticism about meaning and semantic justification. However, Kri…Read more
  •  249
    We live forwards but understand backwards: Linguistic practices and future behavior
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 80 (2): 157-177. 1999.
    Ascriptions of content are sensitive not only to our physical and social environment, but also to unforeseeable developments in the subsequent usage of our terms. This paper argues that the problems that may seem to come from endorsing such 'temporally sensitive' ascriptions either already follow from accepting the socially and historically sensitive ascriptions Burge and Kripke appeal to, or disappear when the view is developed in detail. If one accepts that one's society's past and current usa…Read more
  •  245
    Temporal externalism and our ordinary linguistic practices
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 86 (3): 365-380. 2005.
    Temporal externalists argue that ascriptions of thought and utterance content can legitimately reflect contingent conceptual developments that are only settled after the time of utterance. While the view has been criticized for failing to accord with our “ordinary linguistic practices”, such criticisms (1) conflate our ordinary ascriptional practices with our more general beliefs about meaning, and (2) fail to distinguish epistemically from pragmatically motivated linguistic changes. Temporal ex…Read more
  •  221
    Expression, thought, and language
    Philosophia 31 (1-2): 33-54. 2003.
    This paper discusses an "expressive constraint" on accounts of thought and language which requires that when a speaker expresses a belief by sincerely uttering a sentence, the utterance and the belief have the same content. It will be argued that this constraint should be viewed as expressing a conceptual connection between thought and language rather than a mere empirical generalization about the two. However, the most obvious accounts of the relation between thought and language compatible wit…Read more
  •  205
    Semantic pragmatism and a priori knowledge: (Or 'yes we could all be brains in a vat')
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 31 (4): 455-480. 2001.
    Hillary Putnam has famously argued that we can know that we are not brains in a vat because the hypothesis that we are is self-refuting. While Putnam's argument has generated interest primarily as a novel response to skepticism, his original use of the brain in a vat scenario was meant to illustrate a point about the "mind/world relationship." In particular, he intended it to be part of an argument against the coherence of metaphysical realism, and thus to be part of a defense of his conception …Read more
  •  200
    Semantic Norms and Temporal Externalism
    Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. 1996.
    There has frequently been taken to be a tension, if not an incompatibility, between "externalist" theories of content (which allow the make-up of one's physical environment and the linguistic usage of one's community to contribute to the contents of one's thoughts and utterances) and the "methodologically individualist" intuition that whatever contributes to the content of one's thoughts and utterances must ultimately be grounded in facts about one's own attitudes and behavior. In this dissertat…Read more
  •  198
    Externalism, metasemantic contextualism, and self-knowledge
    In Sanford Goldberg (ed.), Externalism, Self-Knowledge and Skepticism., Oxford University Press. pp. 228-247. 2015.
    This paper examines some of the interactions between holism, contextualism, and externalism, and will argue that an externalist metasemantics that grounds itself in certain plausible assumptions about self- knowledge will also be a contextualist metasemantics, and that such a contextualist metasemantics in turn resolves one of the best known problems externalist theories purportedly have with self-knowledge, namely the problem of how the possibility of various sorts of ‘switching’ cases can appe…Read more
  •  190
    Temporal externalism and epistemic theories of vagueness
    Philosophical Studies 117 (1-2): 79-94. 2004.
    'Epistemic' theories of vagueness notoriously claim that (despite the appearances to the contrary) all of our vague terms have sharp boundaries, it's just that we can't know what they are. Epistemic theories are typically criticized for failing to explain (1) the source of the ignorance postulated, and (2) how our terms could come to have such precise boundaries. Both of these objections will, however, be shown to rest on certain 'presentist' assumptions about the relation between use and meanin…Read more
  •  189
    James' pragmatic account of intentionality and truth
    Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 34 (1): 155-181. 1998.
    William James presents a preference-sensitive and future-directed notion of truth that has struck many as wildly revisionary. This paper argues that such a reaction usually results from failing to see how his accounts of truth and intentionality are intertwined. James' forward-looking account of intentionality (or "knowing") compares favorably the 'causal' and 'resemblance-driven' accounts that have been popular since his day, and it is only when his remarks about truth are placed in the context…Read more
  •  181
    Convention and language
    Synthese 117 (3): 295-312. 1998.
    This paper has three objectives. The first is to show how David Lewis' influential account of how a population is related to its language requires that speakers be 'conceptually autonomous' in a way that is incompatible with content ascriptions following from the assumption that its speakers share a language. The second objective is to sketch an alternate account of the psychological and sociological facts that relate a population to its language. The third is to suggest a modification of Lewis'…Read more
  •  173
    Charity, Self-Interpretation, and Belief
    Journal of Philosophical Research 28 143-168. 2003.
    The purpose of this paper is to motivate and defend a recognizable version of N. L. Wilson's "Principle of Charity" Doing so will involve: (1) distinguishing it fromthe significantly different versions of the Principle familiar through the work of Quine and Davidson; (2) showing that it is compatible with, among other things, both semantic externalism and "simulation" accounts of interpretation; and (3) explaining how it follows from plausible constraints relating to the connection between inter…Read more
  •  171
    William James on Conceptions and Private Language
    Belgrade Philosophical Annual 30 175-193. 2017.
    William James was one of the most frequently cited authors in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, but the attention paid to James’s Principles of Psycho- logy in that work is typically explained in terms of James having ‘committed in a clear, exemplary manner, fundamental errors in the philosophy of mind.’ (Goodman 2002, p. viii.) The most notable of these ‘errors’ was James’s purported commitment to a conception of language as ‘private’. Commentators standardly treat James as committed…Read more
  •  163
    Another paper exploring the relation between Temporal externalism and Epistemicism about Vagueness, but with slightly more emphasis on the role of constitutive norms relating to our concept of truth.
  •  159
    It has frequently been suggested that meaning is, in some important sense, normative. However, precisely what is particularly normative about it is often left without any satisfactory explanation, and the ‘normativity thesis’ has thus, justly, been called into question. That said, it will be argued here that the intuition that meaning is ‘normative’ is on the right track, even if many of the purported explanations for meaning’s normativity are not. In particular, rather that being particularly s…Read more
  •  154
    In her “Humor, Belief and Prejudice”, Robin Tapley concludes: "Racist/racial, sexist/gender humor is funny because we think it’s true. We know the beliefs exist in the laugher, there’s no way to philosophically maneuver around that." In what follows I’ll be trying to do some philosophical maneuvering of the sort she thinks hopeless in the quote above.
  •  151
    Moderate holism and the instability thesis
    American Philosophical Quarterly 36 (4): 361-69. 1999.
    This paper argues that popular criticisms of semantic holism (such as that it leaves the ideas of translation, disagreement and change of mind problematic) are more properly directed at an "instability assumption" which, while often associated with holism, can be separated from it. The versions of holism that follow from 'interpretational' account of meaning are not committed to the instability assumption and can thus avoid many of the problems traditionally associated with holism.
  •  143
    Incompatibility Arguments and Semantic Self Knowledge
    Southwest Philosophy Review 23 (1): 173-180. 2007.
    There has been much discussion recently of what has been labeled the “Brown-Boghossian-McKinsey”, “Brown-McKinsey” or sometimes just “McKinsey” arguments for the incompatibility of externalism and self-knowledge. However, while the three author's arguments have been treated as interchangeable, they are not identical. In particular, Brown’s and Boghossian’s arguments have a fairly serious flaw that cannot so easily be attributed to McKinsey. In what follows, I’ll (1) present a version of the …Read more
  •  140
    Deference and self-knowledge
    Southwest Philosophy Review 16 (1): 171-180. 2000.
    It has become increasingly popular to suggest that non-individualistic theories of content undermine our purported a priori knowledge of such contents because they entail that we lack the ability to distinguish our thoughts from alternative thoughts with different contents. However, problems relating to such knowledge of 'comparative' content tell just as much against individualism as non-individualism. Indeed, the problems presented by individualistic theories of content for self-knowledge are …Read more
  •  133
    Holism, relevance, and thought content
    Proceedings of the Ohio Philosophical Association 1999 140-151. 1999.
    NB: This paper has been largely displaced by my: “Externalism, Metasemantic Contextualism and Self-Knowledge”, in Goldberg, (ed.) Externalism, Self-Knowledge and Skepticism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015, pp. 228-247. // While straightforwardly ambiguous words like “bank” and obviously indexical words like “I” are unproblematically treated as referring to different things in different contexts, such variations are displayed by terms that seem neither ambiguous nor indexical. This paper…Read more
  •  131
    Radical interpretation and the permutation principle
    Erkenntnis 44 (3): 317-326. 1996.
    Davidson has claimed that to conclude that reference is inscrutable, one must assume that "If some theory of truth... is satisfactory in the light of all relevant evidence... then any theory that is generated from the first theory by a permutation will also be satisfactory in the light of all relevant evidence." However, given that theories of truth are not directly read off the world, but rather serve as parts of larger theories of behavior, this assumption is far from self-evident. A proper un…Read more
  •  127
    Individualism and interpretation
    Southwest Philosophy Review 14 (1): 31-38. 1998.
    'Interpretational' accounts of meaning are frequently treated as incompatible with accounts stressing language's 'social' character. However, this paper argues that one can reconcile interpretational and social accounts by distinguishing "methodological" from "ascriptional" individualism. While methodological individualism requires only that the meaning of one's terms ultimately be grounded in facts about oneself, ascriptional individualism requires that the meaning of one's terms be independent…Read more
  •  122
    William James has been characterized as “the major whipping boy of the later Wittgenstein,” and the currency of this impression of the relation between James and Wittgenstein is understandable. Reading Wittgenstein and his commentators can leave one with the impression that James was a badly muddled “exponent of the tradition in the philosophy of mind that [Wittgenstein] was opposing.” There have been recent attempts to resist this trend, but even these tend to focus on the affinities between th…Read more
  •  117
    This paper will appeal a recent argument for the indeterminacy of translation to show not that meaning is indeterminate, but rather that assertion cannot be explained in terms of an independent grasp of the concept of truth. In particular, it will argue that if we try to explain assertion in terms of truth rather than vice versa, we ultimately will not be able to make sense of the difference between assertion and denial. This problem with such 'semantic' accounts of assertion then illustrates wh…Read more
  •  116
    William James was one of the most controversial philosophers of the early part of the 20 century, and his apparent skepticism about logic and any robust conception of truth was often simply attributed to his endorsing mysticism and irrationality out of an overwhelming desire to make room for religion in his world-view. However, it will be argued here that James’s pessimism about logic and even truth (or at least ‘absolute’ truth), while most prominent in his later views, stem from the naturalist…Read more
  •  112
    Prudential Arguments, Naturalized Epistemology, and the Will to Believe
    Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 35 (1). 1999.
    This paper argues that treating James' "The Will to Believe" as a defense of prudential reasoning about belief seriously misrepresents it. Rather than being a precursor to current defenses of prudential arguments, James paper has, if anything, more affinities to certain prominent strains in contemporary naturalized epistemology.
  •  102
    This paper argues that Davidson's claim that the connection between belief and the "constitutive ideal of rationality" precludes the possibility of any type-type identities between mental and physical events relies on blurring the distinction between two ways of understanding this "constitutive ideal", and that no consistent understanding the constitutive ideal allows it to play the dialectical role Davidson intends for it
  •  97
    Our ascriptions of content to utterances in the past attribute to them a level of determinacy that extends beyond what could supervene upon the usage up to the time of those utterances. If one accepts the truth of such ascriptions, one can either (1) argue that subsequent use must be added to the supervenience base that determines the meaning of a term at a time, or (2) argue that such cases show that meaning does not supervene upon use at all. The following will argue against authors such as L…Read more