Volume 111, Issue 12, December 2014
Epistemological Semantics beyond Irrationality and Conceptual Change
Quine’s arguments in the final two sections of “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” bring semantic and epistemic concerns into spectacular collision. Many have thought that the arguments succeed in irreparably smashing a conception of a distinctively analytic and a priori philosophy to pieces. In Constructing the World, David Chalmers argues that much of this distinctively analytical and a priori conception of philosophy can be reconstructed, with Quine’s criticisms leaving little lasting damage. I agree with Chalmers that Quine’s arguments do not have the lasting damage some take them to have. However, I do not think that Chalmers has succeeded in explaining why. The core of Chalmers’s error lies in the rational dispositionalism that forms the metasemantics of his Carnapian intensionalism. Responding to Quine requires recognizing conceptions of both concepts and epistemic normativity that go beyond the opposition between irrationality and conceptual change that Chalmers brings to bear on Quine. I explain this expanded conception of concepts and epistemic normativity in terms of another fundamental aim of Constructing the World, namely that of providing an account of Fregean sense, or more generally of defending what Chalmers calls epistemological semantics.