All posts by Kevin Klement

About Kevin Klement

I teach philosophy at UMass-Amherst.

Rawls on Kantian Constructivism

Volume 4.8 of the Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy (JHAP) is now online. It features an article entitled “Rawls on Kantian Constructivism”, by Nathaniel Jezzi. Here is an abstract:

John Rawls’s 1980 Dewey Lectures are widely acknowledged to represent the locus classicus for contemporary discussions of moral constructivism. Nevertheless, few published works have engaged with the significant interpretive challenges one finds in these lectures, and those that have fail to offer a satisfactory reading of the view that Rawls presents there or the place the lectures occupy in the development of Rawls’s thinking. Indeed, there is a surprising lack of consensus about how best to interpret the constructivism of these lectures. In this paper, I argue that the constructivism presented in the Dewey Lectures is best understood as involving the view that moral truth is correspondence with procedurally-determined, stance-dependent facts. Employing Rawls’s discussion of rational intuitionism as a foil, I defend this reading against textual discrepancies from within the lectures, as well as those one finds across Rawls’s other works. In addition to settling interpretive disputes, I draw out the ways in which this understanding of Kantian constructivism fits within the broader comparative project in ‘moral theory’ that Rawls inherits from Sidgwick.

The volume also features a review of Erich Reck., ed. The Historical Turn in Analytic Philosophy, by Sean Morris.

JHAP is available at: Submissions welcome.

The Substance Argument of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus

Volume 4.7 of The Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy (JHAP) has now been published.

It features an article by Michael Morris entitled “The Substance Argument of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus”. Here is an abstract:

In Morris (2008) I presented in outline a new interpretation of the famous ‘substance argument’ in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus (Wittgenstein 1922). The account I presented there gave a distinctive view of Wittgenstein’s main concerns in the argument, but did not explain in detail how the argument works: how its steps are to be found in the text, and how it concludes. I remain convinced that the interpretation I proposed correctly identifies the main concerns which lie behind the argument. I return to the argument here in order to elaborate in fuller detail the relation between those concerns and the actual course of the text.

JHAP is available at Submissions welcome!

Geach and Ascriptivism: Beside the Point / Getting off the Inwagen: A Critique of Quinean Metaontology

Volume 4.6 of the Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy (JHAP) has now been published.

The essays published in this volume were selected as the co-recipients of the 2014 JHAP Essay Prize.

The first paper is “Geach and Ascriptivism: Beside the Point”, by Luís Duarte d’Almeida. Here is an abstract:

This paper discusses the first incarnation of what came to be known as the “Frege-Geach” point. The point was made by Peter Geach in his 1960 essay “Ascriptivism”, and developed in “Assertion”, a 1965 piece. Geach’s articles launch a wholesale attack on theories of non-descriptive performances advanced by “some Oxford philosophers” whom he accuses of ignoring “the distinction between calling a thing ‘P’ and predicating ‘P’ of a thing”. One view that Geach specifically targets is H. L. A. Hart’s claim (in the 1949 essay “The Ascription of Responsibility and Rights”) that sentences of the form “X φ-ed” are not primarily descriptive but ascriptive of responsibility for actions. Hart explicitly accepted Geach’s criticism, and disowned his essay. I argue that he was wrong to do so. Perhaps the essay was worth retracting, but not because of Geach’s objections. I begin by restating and refining Geach’s arguments, in order to bring out the flaw he claimed to have detected in the “pattern of philosophising” that he took Hart’s essay to exemplify. I go on to argue that Geach’s original point poses no obstacle either to non-descriptivism in general, or to Hart’s sui generis non-descriptivist claim in particular.

The second is “Getting off the Inwagen: A Critique of Quinean Metaontology”, by Karl Egerton. Abstract:

Much contemporary ontological inquiry takes place within the so-called ‘Quinean tradition’ but, given that some aspects of Quine’s project have been widely abandoned even by those who consider themselves Quineans, it is unclear what this amounts to. Fortunately recent work in metaontology has produced two relevant results here: a clearer characterisation of the metaontology uniting the aforementioned Quineans, most notably undertaken by Peter van Inwagen, and a raft of criticisms of that metaontology. In this paper I critique van Inwagen’s Quinean metaontology, finding that certain challenges, supplemented by pressure to reflect more closely Quine’s work, should drive Quineans to adopt a stronger metaontology incorporating more of Quine’s radical views. I conclude that while van Inwagen’s Quineanism is problematic there are prospects for a viable, more wholeheartedly Quinean, metaontology.

JHAP is available at Submissions welcome.

Responses to Uebel on American Pragmatism and the Vienna Circle

Volume 4.5 of the Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy (JHAP) is now online. This issue contains discussions in response to Thomas Uebel’s article “American Pragmatism and the Vienna Circle: The Early Years” published in volume 3.3 (2015) of JHAP.

Was James Psychologistic?
Alexander Klein

Abstract: As Thomas Uebel has recently argued, some early logical positivists saw American pragmatism as a kindred form of scientific philosophy. They associated pragmatism with William James, whom they rightly saw as allied with Ernst Mach. But what apparently blocked sympathetic positivists from pursuing commonalities with American pragmatism was the concern that James advocated some form of psychologism, a view they thought could not do justice to the a priori. This paper argues that positivists were wrong to read James as offering a psychologistic account of the a priori. They had encountered James by reading Pragmatism as translated by the unabashedly psychologistic Wilhelm Jerusalem. But in more technical works, James had actually developed a form of conventionalism that anticipated the so-called “relativized” a priori positivists themselves would independently develop. While positivists arrived at conventionalism largely through reflection on the exact sciences, though, James’s account of the a priori grew from his reflections on the biological evolution of cognition, particularly in the context of his Darwin-inspired critique of Herbert Spencer.

The Subterranean Influence of Pragmatism on the Vienna Circle: Peirce, Ramsey, Wittgenstein
Cheryl Misak

Abstract: An underappreciated fact in the history of analytic philosophy is that American pragmatism had an early and strong influence on the Vienna Circle. The path of that influence goes from Charles Peirce to Frank Ramsey to Ludwig Wittgenstein to Moritz Schlick. That path is traced in this paper, and along the way some standard understandings of Ramsey and Wittgenstein, especially, are radically altered.

Pragmatisms and Logical Empiricisms: Response to Misak and Klein
Thomas Uebel

Abstract: This paper responds to the generous comments by Alexander Klein and Cheryl Misak on my “American Pragmatism and the Vienna Circle: The Early Years”. First, besides offering some clarification of my original thesis, I argue that Jerusalem was not liable to the anti-Spencerian criticisms by James that Klein adduces in the course of defending James against the charge of psychologism. Then I investigate the impact of Wittgenstein’s Ramsey-derived pragmatism, importantly foregrounded by Misak, on the Vienna Circle and argue that it was mainly limited to Schlick but not recognized as pragmatist, also leaving unaffected the impact of James’s pragmatism on Frank, Hahn and Neurath specified in my original paper. That said, Klein’s and Misak’s comments add significantly to our understanding of long-neglected transatlantic philosophical connections in the early twentieth century.

JHAP is available at: Submissions welcome.

A. N. Prior on Austin’s ‘Sense and Sensibilia’

Volume 4.4 of the Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy is now online. It features an article entitled "A. N. Prior on Austin's Sense and Sensibilia", edited by Chrissy van Hulst and Max Cresswell. Here is an abstract:

In the early 1960s A. N. Prior was commissioned to write a review of J. L. Austin’s Sense and Sensibilia. The review was never published. The present article presents a transcription of the review from the material available in the Virtual Lab For Prior Studies maintained at Aalborg University, together with an edited version of the transcription of a longer commentary on Sense and Sensibilia from which the review was condensed.

JHAP is available at: Submissions welcome.

Wittgenstein and His Literary Executors / Reviews of Works on Wittgenstein and on Stout

Volume 4.3 of The Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy is now online. It features an article by Christian Erbacher entitled “Wittgenstein and His Literary Executors”.

It also contains a review of Mauro Engelmann’s Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Development, by Alois Pichler, and a review of Maria van der Schaar’s G. F. Stout and the Psychological Origins of Analytic Philosophy by Consuelo Preti.

Here is an abstract of Erbacher’s article:

Rush Rhees, Georg Henrik von Wright and Elizabeth Anscombe are well known as the literary executors who made Ludwig Wittgenstein’s later philosophy available to all interested readers. Their editions of Wittgenstein’s writings have become an integral part of the modern philosophical canon. However, surprisingly little is known about the circumstances and reasons that made Wittgenstein choose them to edit and publish his papers. This essay sheds light on these questions by presenting the story of their personal relationships—relationships that, on the one hand, gave Rhees, von Wright and Anscombe distinct insights into Wittgenstein’s philosophizing; and, on the other hand, let Wittgenstein assume that these three former students, and later colleagues and friends, were the most capable of preparing his work for publication. Using hitherto unpublished archival material as well as information from published recollections, the essay sketches the development of the personal and philosophical bonds from which the literary heirs’ distinct ways of handling Wittgenstein’s unpublished writings grew in later years.

JHAP is available at: Submissions welcome.

Brentano’s Mature Theory of Intentionality / Review of Work on Quine

Volume 4.2 of The Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy is now online. It features an article by Uriah Kriegel entitled “Brentano’s Mature Theory of Intentionality”, as well as a review of Gilbert Harman and Ernie Lepore, eds., A Companion to W.V.O. Quine, by James Pearson.

Here is the abstract to Kriegel’s article:

The notion of intentionality is what Franz Brentano is best known for. But disagreements and misunderstandings still surround his account of its nature. In this paper, I argue that Brentano’s mature account of the nature of intentionality construes it, not as a two-place relation between a subject and an object, nor as a three-place relation between a subject’s act, its object, and a ‘content,’ but as an altogether non-relational, intrinsic property of subjects. I will argue that the view is more defensible than might initially appear.

How to Read Moore’s “Proof of an External World”

Volume 4.1 of the Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy has been published. It features an article by Kevin Morris and Consuelo Preti entitled ‘How to Read Moore’s “Proof of an External World”’. Here is an abstract:

We develop a reading of Moore’s “Proof of an External World” (PEW) that emphasizes the connections between this paper and Moore’s earlier concerns and strategies. Our reading has the benefit of explaining why the claims that Moore advances in “Proof of an External World” would have been of interest to him, and avoids attributing to him arguments that are either trivial or wildly unsuccessful. Part of the evidence for our view comes from unpublished drafts which, we believe, contain important clues concerning Moore’s aims and intent. While our approach to PEW may be classified alongside other broadly “metaphysical” readings, we believe that a proper recognition of the continuity in Moore’s philosophical concerns and strategies across his philosophical career shows that the customary distinction between “epistemological” and “metaphysical” interpretative approaches to PEW is at best superficial.

Carnap’s Contribution to Tarski’s Truth

Volume 3.10 of The Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy has been published featuring an article by Monika Gruber entitled “Carnap’s Contribution to Tarski’s Truth”. Here is an abstract:

In his seminal work “The Concept of Truth in Formalized Languages” (1933), Alfred Tarski showed how to construct a formally correct and materially adequate definition of true sentence for certain formalized languages. These results have, eventually, been accepted and applauded by philosophers and logicians nearly in unison. Its Postscript, written two years later, however, has given rise to a considerable amount of controversy. There is an ongoing debate on what Tarski really said in the postscript. These discussions often regard Tarski as putatively changing his logical framework from type theory to set

In what follows, we will compare the original results with those presented two years later. After a brief outline of Carnap’s program in The Logical Syntax of Language we will determine its significance for Tarski’s final results.

Davidson on Practical Knowledge

Volume 3.9 of The Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy [JHAP] has now been published.
This issue features an article by David Hunter entitled “Davidson on Practical Knowledge”. Here is an abstract:

Did Donald Davidson agree with G.E.M. Anscombe that action requires a distinctive form of agential awareness? The answer is No, at least according to the standard interpretation of Davidson’s account of action. A careful study of Davidson’s early writings, however, reveals a much more subtle conception of the role of agential belief in action. While the role of the general belief in Davidson’s theory is familiar and has been much discussed, virtually no attention has been paid to the singular belief. This essay makes a start on remedying this neglect. I begin, in section 1, by examining Davidson’s claim that for a desire or belief to rationalize and cause an action it must have a suitable generality. It must, he says, be ‘logically independent’ of the action itself. While he was clear about this requirement in the case of the desire that forms part of a person’s primary reason, I show in section 2 that his early treatment of belief confuses general and singular beliefs. This confusion reflects his failure clearly to distinguish the two roles belief can play in his account of action: as rationalizing cause and as agential awareness. Somewhat surprisingly, though, after he carefully drew the distinction and announced that intentional action requires practical knowledge, he pretty much ignored it. This may explain why some have assumed that Davidson parted ways with Anscombe on this. But a careful study of their writings shows that in fact they held remarkably similar views on the nature and need for practical knowledge.