The existence and nature of the a priori are defining issues for philosophy. A philosopher's attitude to the a priori is a touchstone for his whole approach to the subject. Sometimes, as in Kant's critical philosophy, or in Quine's epistemology, a major new position emerges from reflection on questions that explicitly involve the notions of the a priori or the empirical. But even when no explicit use is made of the notion of the a priori in the questions addressed, a philosopher's methodology, the range of considerations to which the philosopher is open, his conception of the goals of the subject, his idea of what is involved in justification — all of these cannot fail to involve commitments about the nature and the existence of the a priori. So understanding the a priori is of interest in itself.
This article describes the concept of ascriber contextualism in relation to skepticism. It explains that ascriber contextualism in epistemology is the view that the truth conditions for sentences containing “know” and its cognates are context sensitive. It discusses the motivations for contextualism, skeptical paradoxes, the mechanism of context shifting, and sensitive moderate invariantism (SMI). It also comments on objections to ascriber contextualism and SMI.
This article discusses the thesis that a subject can have a concept, think thoughts containing it, that she incompletely understands. The central question concerns how to construe the distinction between having a concept and understanding it. Two important versions of the thesis are distinguished: a metasemantic version and an epistemic version. According to the first, the subject may have concept C without being a fully competent user, in virtue of deference to other speakers or to the world. According to the second, the subject may have a concept without being able to provide a proper explication of it. It is argued that whereas the epistemic version is plausible, the metasemantic version faces some challenges. First, it needs to be explained precisely how deference enables a speaker to have C. Second, metasemantic incomplete understanding is in tension with the idea that concepts serve to capture the subject’s cognitive perspective.
The purpose and plan of the Handbook is described herein. Key concepts in the contemporary literature on reasons and normativity are introduced, and the forty-four chapters that make up the main body of the Handbook are each summarized. In the process, important connections between the chapters are highlighted. A distinctive feature of the Handbook is said to be the way in which it surveys work on normative reasons in both ethics and epistemology, focusing, when appropriate, on issues concerning unity or lack of it in different domains. It is noted that discussions of reasons and normativity in philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and aesthetics are also surveyed in the Handbook.
The article presents, clarifies, defends, and shows the contemporary relevance of ordinary language philosophy (OLP), as a general approach to the understanding and dissolution of at least very many traditional and contemporary philosophical difficulties. The first section broadly characterizes OLP, points out its anticipation in Immanuel Kant’s dissolution of metaphysical impasses in the ‘Transcendental Dialectic’ of the Critique of Pure Reason, and then shows its contemporary relevance by bringing its perspective to bear on the recent debates concerning the philosophical ‘method of cases’. The second section responds to a series of common objections to, and misunderstandings of, OLP.
This article deals with the relations between language, thought, and rationality, and especially the role and status of assumptions about rationality in interpreting another's speech and assigning contents to her psychological attitudes—her beliefs, desires, intentions, and so on. Some large degree of rationality is required for thought. Consequently, that same degree of rationality at least is required for language, since language requires thought. Thought, however, does not require language. This article lays out the grounds for seeing rationality as required for thought, and it meets some recent objections on conceptual and empirical grounds. Furthermore, it gives particular attention to Donald Davidson's arguments for the Principle of Charity, according to which it is constitutive of speakers that they are largely rational and largely right about the world, and to Davidson's arguments for the thesis that without the power of speech one lacks the power of thought.
This article explores Ludwig Wittgenstein’s ideas about the nature of philosophy, with particular emphasis on his rejection of “T-philosophy”—a traditionally dominant form of philosophy that, although self-consciosly a priori, is shaped by theoretical goals and methods of reasoning that closely resemble those of the sciences. After discussing the goals and methods that characterize T-philosophy, the article presents a formidable Wittgensteinian argument against that practice. It proceeds to describe the sort of treatment of particular philosophical problems that is called for by this argument; and it assesses the common complaint against Wittgenstein that his overall position is self-undermining—an anti-theoretical theory. It goes on to consider whether Wittgenstein’s perspective involves an objectionable prioritization of language over reality, that is, an objectionable “linguistic turn”. Finally, it compares Wittgenstein’s arguments with the Oxonian “ordinary language philosophy” of philosophers such as Austin, Ryle, and Strawson.