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Philosophical Relativity$
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Peter Unger

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780195155532

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/019515553X.001.0001

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Two Approaches to Ostensible Intuitions

Two Approaches to Ostensible Intuitions

(p.79) V Two Approaches to Ostensible Intuitions
Philosophical Relativity

Peter Unger (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Explores the distinction between the prevalent approach to ostensible intuitions, which takes such intuitions to be indicative of semantic conditions, and the broadly psychological approach, which does not. An attack is made against Kripke and Putnam's causal theory of (semantic) reference (for words, as opposed to names) via Putnam's Twin Earth thought experiments. Our responses to such examples may be distinguished into two types, (1) a dominant response, and (2) a dominated response. The common aspect to all demonstrable counterexamples to the causal theory of reference turns on the individual differences among the responses. The prevalent approach must deny semantic competence to dissenting agents. We may maintain, in a relativist spirit, that there is no absolutely right answer in such cases. Kripke's distinction between epistemological examples and metaphysical examples is noted and the two are united in order to generate combined examples. The failure of the causal theory of reference to deal with any such examples in a successful and systematic way tells against the prospect of maintaining an internalized semantics. Historical and current versions of the causal theory of reference are explored, with neither accurately capturing our natural responses, strengthening the objection against the prevalent approach and supporting the broadly psychological approach, which in contrast to the prevalent approach attributes agents’ responses to the examples to their (the agents’) egocentric bias, which may not be fully rational. As such, the relativist now has a direct reply to the objection from semantic intuitions, this being that such common sense intuitions are not a function of an internalized semantics. Supposing that the broadly psychological approach is no stronger than the prevalent approach merely strengthens the relativist's position.

Keywords:   broadly psychological approach, causal theory of reference, combined example, current version, dominant response, dominated response, egocentric bias, epistemological example, historical version, individual differences, kripke, metaphysical example, ostensible intuitions, prevalent approach, putnam, twin earth

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