A Paradox of Inferentialism

AL-Mukhatabat 16:163-195 (2015)
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John McDowell articulated a radical criticism of normative inferentialism against Robert Brandom’s expressivist account of conceptual contents. One of his main concerns consists in vindicating a notion of intentionality that could not be reduced to the deontic relations that are established by discursive practitioners. Noticeably, large part of this discussion is focused on empirical knowledge and observational judgments. McDowell argues that there is no role for inference in the application of observational concepts, except the paradoxical one of justifying the content of an observational judgment in terms of itself. This paper examines the semantical consequences of the analysis of the content of empirical judgments in terms of their inferential role. These, it is suggested, are distinct from the epistemological paradoxes that McDowell charges the inferentialist approach with.
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