How can the inferentialist make room for the distinction between factual and linguistic correctness?

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy (2023)
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Brandom (Citation1994) made inferentialism an intensely debated idea in the philosophy of language in the last three decades. Inferentialism is a view that associates the meaning of linguistic expression with the role said expression plays in inferences. It seems rather uncontroversial that the correct theory of meaning should distinguish between linguistic correctness and factual correctness. For instance, speaker S can be wrong in saying ‘I have arthritis’ in two distinct ways: (i) S fails to apply a word correctly to make a true statement due to having made a factual error, and (ii) S uses an expression incorrectly because they are wrong about its meaning. In this paper, I show that properly understood normative inferentialism can make room for such a distinction. I propose that linguistic correctness is a structural issue: linguistic mistakes stem from the improper or insufficient acquisition of an inferential role. Factual correctness, on the other hand, is a one-off issue of the correct application of inferential rules to a particular situation. I argue that, by tying the issue of correctness to the game of giving and asking for reasons, inferentialism can establish a reliable method for distinguishing between two types of correctness (and mistakes).

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Bartosz Kaluziński
Adam Mickiewicz University


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