Seminar Series in Analytic Philosophy 2023-24: Session 14

Disputed Disputes

Pedro Abreu & Marcin Lewiński (IFILNOVA, New University of Lisbon)


15 March 2024, 16:00 (Lisbon Time – WET)

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão [C201.J] (Departamento de Filosofia)


Abstract: Our goal is to isolate and analyse a category of “disputed disputes”: philosophically relevant disputes which do not admit of an easy dismissal as verbal nor of straightforward recognition as factual. We offer a new set of arguments challenging the attempts of adjudicating between these two possibilities. We pay special attention to how these attempts are articulated in the recent debates over metalinguistic negotiations — worthwhile disputes about which meaning to associate with some particular expression (Plunkett & Sundell, 2013, 2023). While Plunkett and Sundell hold metalinguistic negotiations to be “ubiquitous”, some recent criticisms maintain that many such disputes should be taken at face value as standard disagreements (Ball, 2020; Schroeter et al., 2022; Koslicki & Massin, 2023). Both positions are built on the underlying assumption that there is indeed a principled and operationalizable distinction to be made between two fundamentally different kinds of disputes. We challenge this assumption. Careful attention to the conditions of the debate reveals: i) unexpected congruence between the interpretative strategies and resources deployed by the two sides in the debate, ii) circularity and indeterminacy brought about by the possibility of applying the metalinguistic negotiation interpretation to the very disputes over the nature of disputed disputes, and, iii) the proliferation of available notions of meaning and corresponding forms of disagreement and verbalness. We show how these considerations coalesce to undermine the possibility of a principled choice between the two interpretations — metalinguistic negotiation and first-order disagreement — and to cast doubts on the claim that there is really a significant choice to be made between them.