Tempered Pragmatism

In Cheryl Misak & Huw Price (eds.), The Practical Turn: Pragmatism in Britain in the Long Twentieth Century. British Academy (forthcoming)
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This paper assesses the prospects of a pragmatist theory of content. I begin by criticising the theory presented in D.H. Mellor’s essay ‘Successful Semantics’. I then identify problems and lacunae in the pragmatist theory of meaning sketched in Chapter 13 of Dummett’s The Logical Basis of Metaphysics. The prospects are brighter, I contend, for a tempered pragmatism, in which the theory of content is permitted to draw upon irreducible notions of truth and falsity. I sketch the shape of such a theory and illustrate the role of its pragmatist elements by showing how they point towards a promising account of the truth conditions of indicative conditionals. A feature of the account is that it validates Modus Ponens whilst invalidating Modus Tollens.
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