Department of Philosophy
Stockholm University
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–“The Insignificance of Transparency”, in Externalism, Self-Knowledge, and Skepticism, ed. S. Goldberg, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. pre-publication pdf

The paper is a critical examination of the transparency of content thesis: the thesis that subjects can tell a priori, on the basis of introspection, whether two thoughts or thought constituents have the same content. It is widely agreed that transparency is a significant thesis. Proponents of transparency argue that the thesis is presupposed if content is to play a role in assessments of rationality and the explanation of action, opponents argue that once it is denied that contents are transparent the need for a Fregean conception of content is undermined. I argue that both sides of this debate are mistaken and that transparency does not have the significance it is held to have.  My argument proceeds in two steps. First, I spell out what I take to be the only plausible construal of the transparency thesis, a construal that has been defended recently by Boghossian. Second, I argue that the thesis, thus understood, cannot do the work it is supposed to do when it comes to assessments of rationality and the explanation of action.  Whether we should adopt a Fregean conception of content, I conclude, does not turn on assumptions about the transparency of content, but on whether the primary role of content is explanatory.

–"Does Semantics Need Normativity? Comments on Allan Gibbard, Meaning and Normativity. Forthcoming in Inquiry Book Symposium.pre-publication pdf

In the book Gibbard proposes, first, that statements about meaning are normative statements and, second, that they can be given an expressivist treatment, along the lines of Gibbard’s preferred metaethics. In my paper I examine the first step: The claim that meaning statements are to be construed as being normative, as involving ‘oughts’. Gibbard distinguishes two versions of the normativity of meaning thesis – a weak version, according to which every means implies an ought, and a strong version, according to which for every means, there is an ought that implies it. I argue that neither thesis withstands scrutiny. The weak thesis depends on assumptions about the notion of semantic correctness that the anti-normativist rejects, and the strong thesis does not solve the problems Gibbard wants it to solve: the problems of indeterminacy and meaning skepticism. I conclude that semantics does not need normativity.

–“Natural Kinds and Natural Kind Terms: Myth and Reality” (with Sören Häggqvist), forthcoming in British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. pre-publication pdf

The paper examines the role of natural kinds in semantic theorizing, which has largely been conducted in isolation from relevant work in science, metaphysics and philosophy of science. We argue that the Kripke-Putnam account of natural kind terms, despite recent claims to the contrary, depends on a certain metaphysics of natural kinds; that the metaphysics usually assumed – microessentialism – is untenable even in a “placeholder” version; and that the currently popular HPC theory of natural kinds is correct only to an extent which fails to vindicate the Kripke-Putnam account. This undermines the metasemantics required for anti-descriptivist semantics.

–“Davidson and Wittgenstein – a Homeric Struggle?”, forthcoming in Wittgenstein and Davidson on Thought, Language, and Action (ed.), Cambridge University Press. pre-publication pdf

P.F. Strawson famously contrasts two approaches to the question of what it is for words to have meaning: That of communication-intention theorists and that of formal semantics theorists. According to Strawson the later Wittgenstein and Davidson end up on opposite sides in this struggle since Wittgenstein, unlike Davidson, takes conventions to be essential to meaning. Several contemporary Wittgenstein scholars agree, among them Hans-Johann Glock and Meredith Williams. They suggest that Wittgenstein puts forth an essentially social picture of language, with the shared conventions at the center, while Davidson defends an individualistic picture that ultimately fails to account for the public nature of language. I shall argue that this description is importantly mistaken: Davidson and Wittgenstein both subscribe to the idea that meaning is determined by use, rather than by conventions, and they both take meaning to be essentially public and tied to its role in communication.