From Within and Without: On Relating the Philosophy of Language to the Philosophy of Agency
Ramesh, Vijay Krishna
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My aim here is not to make the case for the importance of a coherent philosophy of language before embarking upon work in the social sciences (though such a case, if not self-evident, is certainly worth making). Instead, I wish to explore what it is particularly about language that makes such a coherent philosophy necessary to other disciplines, and indeed, necessary to the larger study of philosophy itself – namely, the relationship between the philosophy of language and the philosophy of agency. Approaching this issue from the clarity of hindsight, I will offer a historical reconstruction of the development of paradigms in the philosophy of language, with a particular emphasis on the texture of linguistic agency necessitated by them. In doing so, I will make the following major claims: first, that the history of the philosophy of language can broadly be separated into two schools of thought – the semanticist (represented by semantic-orientations, such as truth-conditional semantics and Searle's Intentionality) and the pragmaticist (represented by pragmatic-orientations, and ultimately leading to deconstructionism and meaning-eliminativism); second, that Francois Recanati's truth-conditional pragmatics/moderate relativism addresses the problems (within the limited domain of the philosophy of language) associated with both the semanticist and pragmaticist positions; third, that each linguistic paradigm describes a particular orientation towards linguistic agency, and agency in general (for the semanticist, rationalism along the lines of the Cartesian cogito; for the pragmaticist, empiricism either in a classical Humean sense, or in one of its modern reworkings as in the cognitive/computational sciences or French post-structuralism); fourth, that Recanati's philosophy of language offers an actionoriented model that – both in substance and in argument form – mirrors Robert Pippin's recent work in offering an account of Hegelian agency as recognitive sociality; and finally, that in returning to questions raised in the social sciences with this dual Recanati-Pippin/Hegel model of language and agency, we find ourselves on much more solid ground, both with our respective philosophies of language and agency, but more importantly, with our grasp of how the two are deeply interrelated.
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