Kovesi on Natural World Concepts and the Theory of Meaning

In Alan Tapper & Brian Mooney (eds.), Meaning and Morality: Essays on the Philosophy of Julius Kovesi. Leiden: Brill. pp. 167-88 (2012)
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Julius Kovesi was a moral philosopher whose work rested on a theory of concepts and concept-formation, which he outlined in his 1967 book Moral Notions. But his contribution goes further than this. In sketching a theory of concepts and concept-formation, he was entering the philosophy of language. To make his account of moral concepts credible, he needs a broader story about how moral concepts compare with other sorts of concepts. Yet philosophy of language, once dominated by Wittgenstein and Austin, came rather suddenly in the 1960s to be dominated by metaphysicians and philosophers of science trying to give an account of natural science concepts. How then does Kovesi’s theory of concepts fare when viewed in the light of this shift of interests? Does he have a theory of natural world concepts that can stand scrutiny? I will try to show that he does. To show this, I will focus on the concept of water. However, before doing this we need an outline of Kovesi’s account of what he called ‘notions formed about the inanimate world’.

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Alan Tapper
Curtin University, Western Australia


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