Seminar Series in Analytic Philosophy 2023-24: Session 25

Merely Verbal Disputes in Philosophy: Addressing Their Defectiveness with (More) Metalinguistic Awareness?

Delia Belleri (LanCog, Centre of Philosophy, University of Lisbon)


31 May 2024, 16:00 (Lisbon Time – WET)

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

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


Abstract: In recent years, increasingly more authors have argued that certain philosophical debates are, or can be reasonably interpreted as being, merely verbal disputes. If this phenomenon is real, one might suspect that philosophers are not very good at identifying the meaning(s) of the words on which their disputes are based. To borrow a concept from psycholinguistics, philosophers may lack an appropriate kind of “metalinguistic awareness”. Would increasing the philosophers’ metalinguistic awareness prevent, or help one to diagnose more quickly, such defective linguistic exchanges? This paper advances some hypotheses on how metalinguistic awareness in philosophical disputes may be lost, how one might train oneself to raise it, and how it may be enhanced in practice. The conclusion will, however, be a pessimism of sorts: it is deeply unclear whether more metalinguistic awareness could be of any help in preventing or diagnosing merely verbal disputes in philosophy.