Interpretative Modesty

Journal of Philosophy 120 (1):42-59 (2023)
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Philosophers have wanted to work with conceptions of word-competence, or concept-possession, on which being a competent practitioner with a word amounts to being a competent judge of its uses by others. I argue that our implicit conception of competence with a word does not have this presupposition built into it. One implication of this is what I call "modesty" in interpretation: we allow for others, uses of words that we would not allow for ourselves. I develop this point by looking at Saul Kripke's discussion of some famous examples given by Benson Mates, concerning beliefs about beliefs. I defend Mates's point against Kripke's claim that an interpreter who is modest in my sense must be "conceptually confused."

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Mark McCullagh
University of Guelph


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