Conceptual Change in Perspective

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I argue that Sarah Sawyer's and Herman Cappelen's recent accounts of how speakers talk and think about the same concept or topic even when their understandings of that concept or topic substantially diverge risk multiplying our metasemantic categories unnecessarily and fail to prove explanatory. When we look more closely at our actual practices of samesaying, we find that speakers with seemingly incompatible formulations of a subject matter take one another to samesay when they are attempting to arrive at a correct understanding of that subject matter. These speakers adopt what I call a prospective externalist perspective on the subject matter in question. I then argue that there are contexts where judgments of samesaying are more routinely defeated because speakers are taking up a perspective I call retrospective internalism. From this perspective, speakers are aiming to render maximally intelligible the linguistic behavior of other speakers that appear to them to deviate from their own. Whether or not we count speakers as samesaying with us will therefore depend on the kind of the perspective we adopt. Different perspectives, it will turn out, often yield different verdicts. On my perspective-based approach, there is no need to hypostatize or inflate our metasemantic taxonomies.
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Archival date: 2021-09-16
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