Intuitions and semantic theory

Metaphilosophy 36 (3):363-380 (2005)
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Abstract

While engaged in the analysis of topics such as the nature of knowledge, meaning, or justice, analytic philosophers have traditionally relied extensively on their own intuitions about when the relevant terms can, and can't, be correctly applied. Consequently, if intuitions about possible cases turned out not to be a reliable tool for the proper analysis of philosophically central concepts, then a radical reworking of philosophy's (or at least analytic philosophy's) methodology would seem to be in order. It is thus not surprising that the increasingly critical scrutiny that intuitions have received of late has produced what has been referred to as a "crisis" in analytic philosophy. This paper will argue, however, that at least those criticisms that stem from recent work on semantic externalism are not as serious as their proponents have claimed. Indeed, this paper will argue while the conceptual intuitions (and the analyses that result from them) will have to be recognized as fallible, they still have a prima facie claim to correctness. A naturalistic and externalistic account of concepts thus merely requires that the methodology of conceptual analysis be reinterpreted (from a 'Platonic' to a 'constructive' model) rather than given up

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Henry Jackman
York University

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