Brandom’s Pragmatist Inferentialism and the Problem of Objectivity

Philosophical Writings:69-78 (2010)
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Brandom’s philosophical programme can be seen as a reversion of the traditional order of explanation in semantics. Whereas traditional semantic theories start with a grip on a notion like truth or reference, Brandom argues that it is also possible to begin with an analysis of the speech acts of what one is doing by making a claim in order to explain representational notions like truth and objectivity. Evaluating the explanatory values of Brandom’s theory, it therefore is necessary to ask to what extent Brandom’s analysis of our linguistic practices is able to explain what other theories start with. That is, can linguistic practices in Brandom’s sense give an account of why we are capable of referring to language-external objects? And can they make evident why we take truth and falsity not to depend upon our beliefs or claims but upon an extra-linguistic reality? After a short discussion of Brandom’s answer to the first question, I argue that Brandom’s answer to the second is not sufficient and that it does not seem to be possible to give a sufficient answer within his theory.
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