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Minds, Ethics, and ConditionalsThemes from the Philosophy of Frank Jackson$
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Ian Ravenscroft

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199267989

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199267989.001.0001

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The Semantic Foundations of Metaphysics

The Semantic Foundations of Metaphysics

Chapter:
(p.111) 5 The Semantic Foundations of Metaphysics
Source:
Minds, Ethics, and Conditionals
Author(s):

Huw Price (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199267989.003.0006

Certain assumptions about language, naturally cast in semantic terms, are crucial to Jackson's conception of the task of philosophy in the cases he calls location problems. These assumptions underpin the most natural path to the view that there is a distinctively metaphysical problem for philosophy to address, as opposed to a problem of a broadly anthropological kind, about human linguistic behaviour — in this case, about the use of the semantic terms, ‘true’, ‘refers’, and the like. Although Jackson is aware of the need for these assumptions, he underestimates the work needed to justify them, and hence the extent of the threat that they pose to the foundations of his program. By making the assumptions explicit, and by arguing that we need to take seriously the possibility that they might fail, this chapter shows that the foundations are in need of reinforcement; indeed, that there is a serious issue about the advisability of the enterprise, at least in Jackson's ambitious form. There is an alternative conception of what philosophy should be up to in this area — a conception that regards the main task as more like anthropology than metaphysics. And the issue as to which is the right conception is not to be settled by philosophy, but by the science of human linguistic behaviour, broadly construed. So there is an important sense in which the anthropological viewpoint should come first.

Keywords:   Frank Jackson, semantics, metaphysics, language, deflationism

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