Archive for 29 marzo 2009

On Realism about the Normativity of Concepts

29 marzo 2009

To begin with, it is obvious that normativity is a trivial consequence of conceptual content. If the concept x is the concept WATER, then the concept x is correctly applied, and ought to be applied, to all and only instances of water: the notion of the extension of a concept just is the notion of what it is correct to apply the concept to. Now, it can be asked whether such a trivial truth requires an explanation in terms of an underlying nature of normativity. For example, P. Horwich (Meaning, Oxford: OUP, 1998) sustains a deflationary answer: there is nothing what the referential power of a concept consists in and thus there is nothing what its normativity consists in. On the contrary, a realist thesis of concept-application entails a robust notion of normativity: the natural kind whose instances define the extension of a concept provides the norm according to which the concept-application can be evaluated as correct. The underlying nature of normativity is the natural kind referred to by a concept. It seems that the realist does not distinguish the trivial truth from the robust notion if she says: the realist thesis about concept-application is that the standard of correctness for each concept is precisely the kind of things it keeps track of; in other words, a concept is applied correctly to the kind of things it is the concept of. Here the fault is in “in other words”. The second claim is merely an expression of the trivial truth: that a concept is applied correctly to the kind of things it is the concept of does not entail that such a kind of things is the norm according to which the concept-application is correct. Only the first claim is the one with that import. E. Lalumera (“A Simple Realist Account of the Normativity of Concepts”, Disputatio 1/19 (2005), pp. 205-221) says that a simple realist thesis about concept-application is “that a concept is applied correctly when it is applied to the kind of things it is the concept of” (p. 207). But she also says in a robust style: “Concepts, as trackers of natural kinds, are norm-governed in that they are subject to standards of correctness provided by the kinds themselves” (p. 219).

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Inconmensurabilidad y posibilidad epistémica

2 marzo 2009

En su excelente artículo “Radical Interpretation, Logic, and Conceptual Schemes” (en M. de Caro (ed.), Interpretations and Causes, Synthese Library, 1999), N. Tennant argumenta, entre otras cosas, contra la conocida tesis de D. Davidson de que un fallo de traducción entre lenguajes es necesario para que haya una diferencia de esquema conceptual. En otras palabras, argumenta contra la tesis: que haya un esquema conceptual que sea una alternativa al nuestro depende de que no seamos capaces de traducir el lenguaje en cuestión. Tennant propone un contra-ejemplo basado en la hipótesis de una Inteligencia Extraterrestre cuyo lenguaje (o teoría) consta de oraciones que pueden ser emparejadas con las oraciones de nuestra teoría actual mediante un manual de traducción que es una teoría de la verdad para el lenguaje de IE. Con todo, la tesis de Tennant es que, intuitivamente, el esquema conceptual de IE es inconmensurable con el nuestro, en el sentido de que el carácter subjetivo de su experiencia (como qué es percibir el mundo a la manera de IE) es inaccesible para nosotros, y viceversa. El contra-ejemplo de Tennant tiene la consecuencia de que nuestra teoría actual puede y no puede ser falsa, lo que aparentemente es una contradicción. Mi objetivo es mostrar que desde un tratamiento relativista de la posibilidad epistémica, el contra-ejemplo de Tennant queda libre de caer en contradicción alguna.

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