Making it Explicit: Reasoning, Representing, and Discursive Commitment

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Overview

What would something unlike us--a chimpanzee, say, or a computer--have to be able to do to qualify as a possible knower, like us? To answer this question at the very heart of our sense of ourselves, philosophers have long focused on intentionality and have looked to language as a key to this condition. Making It Explicit is an investigation into the nature of language--the social practices that distinguish us as rational, logical creatures--that revises the very terms of this inquiry. Where accounts of the relation between language and mind have traditionally rested on the concept of representation, this book sets out an alternate approach based on inference, and on a conception of certain kinds of implicit assessment that become explicit in language. Making It Explicit is the first attempt to work out in detail a theory that renders linguistic meaning in terms of use--in short, to explain how semantic content can be conferred on expressions and attitudes that are suitably caught up in social practices.

At the center of this enterprise is a notion of discursive commitment. Being able to talk--and so in the fullest sense being able to think--is a matter of mastering the practices that govern such commitments, being able to keep track of one's own commitments and those of others. Assessing the pragmatic significance of speech acts is a matter of explaining the explicit in terms of the implicit. As he traces the inferential structure of the social practices within which things can be made conceptually explicit, the author defines the distinctively expressive role of logical vocabulary. This expressive account of language, mind, and logic is, finally, an account of who we are.

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Editorial Reviews

Times Literary Supplement

Making It Explicit has already developed a justified reputation as a major contribution to the philosophy of language. It takes the traditional ill-fitting story of the relationship between language and the world and turns it upside down. Instead of starting with the existence of the world and explaining what it is for language to represent the world, it starts with language and explains what it is for the world to be represented by language...With tremendous panache, he launches into accounts of normativity, inference, meaning, truth, reference and objectivity, trying to show that the later concepts in that list are made intelligible by the earlier.
— Rowland Stout

Wahrheit und Rechtfertigung

Making It Explicit is a landmark in theoretical philosophy comparable to that constituted in the early seventies by A Theory of Justice in practical philosophy...Drawing upon the resources furnished by his intricate theory of language, Brandom succeeds in offering a thoroughly convincing description of the practices within which beings capable of language and action express their rationality and autonomy.
— Jürgen Habermas

Mind

Robert Brandom's magnificent book is an attempt to rework the whole of the philosophy of language in terms of normative, socially articulated pragmatics. His approach, inferentialism, which he traces through Kant and Frege to Wittgenstein and Sellars, is opposed to a more standard approach, representationalism...Making It Explicit is written with an exhilarating argumentative relish and tremendous assurance and thoroughness.
— Rowland Stout

Erkenntnis

Robert Brandom's Making it Explicit is an unusual book on the Anglo-American scene...What Brandom achieves is a convincing elaboration of the view of intentionality as a linguistic, normative and social-pragmatic affair...Brandom's book is the first detailed elaboration of the position that it is normative attitudes which distinguishes us, insofar as we are thinking and acting beings, from the physical. It will hopefully contribute to giving that position the attention it deserves in contemporary philosophy of mind.
— Michael Epsfield

Times Literary Supplement - Rowland Stout
Robert Brandom's magnificent book is an attempt to rework the whole of the philosophy of language in terms of normative, socially articulated pragmatics. His approach, inferentialism, which he traces through Kant and Frege to Wittgenstein and Sellars, is opposed to a more standard approach, representationalism...Making It Explicit is written with an exhilarating argumentative relish and tremendous assurance and thoroughness.
Wahrheit und Rechtfertigung - Jürgen Habermas
Making It Explicit is a landmark in theoretical philosophy comparable to that constituted in the early seventies by A Theory of Justice in practical philosophy...Drawing upon the resources furnished by his intricate theory of language, Brandom succeeds in offering a thoroughly convincing description of the practices within which beings capable of language and action express their rationality and autonomy.
Richard Rorty
Wilfrid Sellars described his project as an attempt to usher analytic philosophy out of its Humean and into its Kantian stage...Brandom's work can usefully be seen as an attempt to usher philosophy from its Kantian to its Hegelian stage...This sort of free and easy transition between philosophy of language and mind on the one hand, and world-historical vision on the other, is reminiscent not only of Mead and Dewey but also of Gadamer and Habermas.
Allan Gibbard
An extraordinary philosophical book. Brandom has produced a work of great power, scope, and originality. He gives a plausible and powerful reading to the claim that "meaning is normative," or that the concept of meaning is a normative concept, and elucidates it at length. It turns out, in his hands, to be a claim of great philosophical fertility and power.
Erkenntnis - Michael Epsfield
Robert Brandom's Making it Explicit is an unusual book on the Anglo-American scene...What Brandom achieves is a convincing elaboration of the view of intentionality as a linguistic, normative and social-pragmatic affair...Brandom's book is the first detailed elaboration of the position that it is normative attitudes which distinguishes us, insofar as we are thinking and acting beings, from the physical. It will hopefully contribute to giving that position the attention it deserves in contemporary philosophy of mind.
Rowland Stout
Making It Explicit is one of the most important books in the philosophy of language to be published in recent years....It is dense with difficult and exciting ideas, which are satisfyingly connected to a well-articulated strand in the history of the subject, and it is written with an exhilarating argumentative relish and tremendous assurance and thoroughness. -- Mind Magazine
Booknews
An investigation into the nature of language--the social practices that distinguish us as rational, logical knowers and agents. Setting out an approach based on inference, and on a conception of certain kinds of implicit assessment that become explicit in language, Brandom presents a theory that renders linguistic meaning in terms of use, i.e., that explains how semantic content can be conferred on expressions and attitudes that are suitably caught up in social practice. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674543300
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 768
  • Sales rank: 1,220,216
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.54 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert B. Brandom is Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy and Fellow of the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh.
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Table of Contents

Preface

PART ONE

Toward a Normative Pragmatics

Introduction

From Intentional State to Normative Status

From Norms Explicit in Rules to Norms Implicit in Practices

From Normative Status to Normative Attitude

From Assessment to the Social Institution of Norms

From Intentional Interpretation to Original Intentionality

Appendix: Wittgenstein's Use of Regel

Toward an Inferential Semantics

Content and Representation

The Priority of the Propositional

Conceptual Classification and Inference

Material Inference, Conceptual Content, and Expression

Circumstances and Consequences of Application

Conclusion

Linguistic Practice and Discursive Commitment

Intentional States and Linguistic Practices

Deontic Status and Deontic Attitudes

Asserting and Inferring

Scorekeeping: Pragmatic Significance and Semantic Content

Perception and Action: The Conferral of Empirical and Practical Conceptual Content

Assertions as Knowledge Claims

Reliability

Observation Reports and Noninferential Authority

Rational Agency

Practical Reasoning: Inferences from Doxastic to Practical Commitments

Intentions

PART TWO

The Expressive Role of Traditional Semantic Vocabulary: 'True' and 'Refers'

From Inference to Truth, Reference, and Representation

Truth in Classical Pragmatism

From Pragmatism to Prosentences

Reference and Anaphorically Indirect Descriptions

The Function of Traditional Semantic Vocabulary Is Expressive, Not Explanatory

Substitution: What Are Singular Terms, and Why Are There Any?

Multivalued Logic and Material Inference

Substitution, Sentential Embedding, and Semantic Roles

Subsentential Expressions

What Are Singular Terms?

Why Are There Singular Terms?

Objections and Replies

Conclusion

Appendix: From Substitutional Derivation of Categories to Functional Derivation of Categories

Appendix: Sentence Use Conferring the Status of Singular Terms on Subsentential Expressions—An Application

Anaphora: The Structure of Token Repeatables

Frege's Grundlagen Account of Picking Out Objects

Definite Descriptions and Existential Commitments

Substitution, Token Recurrence, and Anaphora

Deixis and Anaphora

Interpersonal Anaphora and Communication

Appendix: Other Kinds of Anaphora—Paychecks, Donkeys, and Quantificational Antecedents

Ascribing Propositional Attitudes: The Social Route from Reasoning to Representing

Representation and De Re Ascription of Propositionally Contentful Commitments

Interpretation, Communication, and De Re Ascriptions

De Re Ascriptions and the Intentional Explanation of Action

From Implicit Attribution to Explicit Ascription

Epistemically Strong De Re Attitudes: Indexicals, Quasi-Indexicals, and Proper Names

The Social-Perspectival Character of Conceptual Contents and the Objectivity of Conceptual Norms

Appendix: The Construction and Recursive Interpretation of Iterated Ascriptions That Mix De Dicto and De Re

Content Specifications

Conclusion

Two Concepts of Concepts

Norms and Practices

We Have Met the Norms, and They Are Ours

Abbreviations

Notes

Index

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