Seminar Series in Analytic Philosophy 2021-22, Session 3

Ontological Disputes, Reference and the Limits of Charity
Delia Belleri (LanCog, University of Lisbon)

01 October 2021, 16:00 (Lisbon Time – GMT+1) | Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: Eli Hirsch argues that certain ontological disputes are merely verbal: the principle of charity should compel each party to interpret the other side as speaking truly in a different language. Hirsch adopts an “intensional” method of language interpretation, which maps sentences (in context) onto sets of possible worlds, but which assigns no role to reference. I argue that this method leads to an overly uncharitable portrayal of the disputes at issue – whereby ontologists can only argue about syntax. Lack of charity stems from the fact that this portrayal likely fails to uphold the self-conception of the disputants – and particularly what I will call “the weak self-conception”. As a result, Hirsch’s deflationism falls victim of the same principle of charity that informs it.

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