Quine and First-Person Authority

Logos and Episteme 14 (2):141-161 (2023)
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Blackburn and Searle have argued that Quine‘s thesis of the indeterminacy of translation results in a denial of the sort of first-person authority that we commonly concede we have over our mental and semantical content. For, the indeterminacy thesis implies that there is no determinate meaning to know at all. And, according to Quine, the indeterminacy holds at home too. For Blackburn, Quine must constrain the domain of indeterminacy to the case of translation only. Searle believes that Quine has no other choice but to give up on his behaviorism. Hylton, however, has attempted to defend Quine against these objections, by arguing that Quine‘s naturalistic claim that speaking a language is nothing but possessing certain dispositions to act in specific ways would enable him to accommodate first-person authority. I will argue that the objections from Blackburn and Searle, as well as Hylton‘s solution, are all problematic when seen from within Quine‘s philosophy. I will introduce a sort of Strawsonian-Wittgensteinian conception of first-person authority and offer that it would be more than compatible with Quine‘s naturalistic philosophy.

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Ali Hossein Khani
Iranian Institute of Philosophy (IRIP)


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