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Olivero, Irene (2017) On the semantics of artifactual and social kind terms. [Ph.D. thesis]

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Abstract (english)

Hilary Putnam’s proposal of extending the scope of his famous externalist semantic theory to artifactual (e.g. ‘pencil’, ‘chair’, ‘television’, etc.) and social kind terms (e.g. ‘pediatrician’, ‘university’, ‘money’, etc.) has opened an ongoing debate, which is the main focus and basis of the present work. By contrast, the same semantic account limited to words for natural substances and species (e.g. ‘water’, ‘gold’, ‘tiger’, etc.) has become very popular and quite widely adopted, since it seems to give a convincing explanation of how the semantics of these terms works. The first part of the present work is dedicated to a twofold purpose: on the one hand, I aim to argue that Putnam’s argument about the semantics of artifactual (and social) kind terms fails in its goal; on the other hand, – on the strength of the considerations drawn out from this analysis – I point out that the main positions which characterize the aforementioned debate do not succeed in their intent either. In the second part, I focus on remarking that the criticisms of Externalism arise already even when accounting for some of usually believed steady cases. I aim to argue, in this respect, that all problems of Putnam’s Semantic Externalism – as applied not only to artifactual and social kind words, but across the board – are a consequence of the fact that Putnam implicitly relies on a hyperrealist view on modality. Such a modal approach notoriously encounters several problems. In order to bypass those problems, Amie Thomasson proposes an alternative approach to modality: Modal Normativism. I aim to highlight that adopting a normativist approach commits us to abandon Putnam’s Externalism and to embrace a hybrid theory of reference. Such view on reference combined with Modal Normativism – I intend to show – not only overcomes the semantic weaknesses of Putnam’s Externalism, but it also accounts for those controversial cases emerged within the debate, as much as by the opponents of Putnam’s semantic view in general. Such alternative approaches combined constitute – I therefore argue – a more tenable and attractive account of the semantics of our kind terms. Within the perspective I here advocate for the debates about artifactual and social kind terms, as much as in general about the controversial cases Externalism has difficulties to explain, can be seen – I suggest – as metalinguistic negotiations. With such a notion – advanced by Tim Sundell and David Plunkett and taken up by Thomasson – we gain the further advantage of accounting for the importance of the debate while still preserving the advantages of a deflationary approach.

Abstract (italian)

La proposta di Hilary Putnam di estendere l'ambito di applicazione della sua famosa teoria semantica esternista a termini artefattuali (ad esempio, "matita", "sedia", "televisione", ecc.) e sociali (ad esempio "pediatra", "università", ecc.) ha aperto un dibattito in corso, che è l'obiettivo principale e la base del presente lavoro. Al contrario, la stessa teoria semantica applicata alle parole per specie e sostanze naturali (ad esempio "acqua", "oro", "tigre", ecc.) é diventato molto popolare e ampiamente adottato, in quanto sembra dare una spiegazione convincente di come funziona la semantica di questi termini. La prima parte del presente lavoro è dedicata a un duplice scopo: da una parte, intendo sostenere che l'argomento di Putnam sulla semantica dei termini gentili e sociali (artificiali) fallisce nel suo obiettivo; dall'altra, - sulla base delle considerazioni tratte da questa analisi - sottolineo che neppure le posizioni principali che caratterizzano il dibattito di cui sopra non sono riuscite nel loro intento. Nella seconda parte, mi concentro sull'osservare che le critiche dell'Esternismo sorgono già in merito ad alcuni dei casi di solito creduti non problematici. A questo proposito sostengo che tutti i problemi dell'esternismo semantico di Putnam - applicati non solo alle parole artefattuali e sociali, ma anche a quelle di genere naturale - sono una conseguenza del fatto che Putnam basa (implicitamente) il suo approccio semantico su una visione iper-realista della modalità. Un tale approccio modale incontra notoriamente diversi problemi. Per aggirare questi problemi, Amie Thomasson propone un approccio alternativo alla modalità: il Normativismo Modale. Dimostro quindi che l'adozione di un tale approccio normativista ci obbliga ad abbandonare l'esternismo di Putnam e ad abbracciare una teoria ibrida di riferimento. Tale teoria del riferimento, combinata con il Normativismo Modale - intendo mostrare - non solo supera le semantiche debolezze dell'Esternismo di Putnam, ma rende conto anche di quei casi controversi che emergono dal dibattito, così come di quelli citati dagli avversari della visione semantica di Putnam in generale. Questi approcci alternativi combinati costituiscono, dunque, una relazione più sostenibile e attraente della semantica dei nostri termini di genere naturale, artefattuale e sociale. Nell'ambito della prospettiva che qui sostengo i dibattiti su termini artefattuali e sociali, tanto quanto in generale qielli sui casi controversi che l'esternismo ha difficoltà a spiegare, possono essere visti - suggerisco - come negoziazioni metalinguistiche. Grazie a questa nozione - avanzata da Tim Sundell e David Plunkett e ripresa da Thomasson - si ha l'ulteriore vantaggio di rendere conto dell'importanza del dibattito, pur mantenendo i vantaggi di un approccio deflazionista.

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EPrint type:Ph.D. thesis
Tutor:Carrara, Massimiliano
Ph.D. course:Ciclo 29 > Corsi 29 > FILOSOFIA
Data di deposito della tesi:01 August 2017
Anno di Pubblicazione:01 August 2017
Key Words:Semantic Externalism; hybrid theory of reference; artifactual kind terms; social kind terms; natural kind words; Modal Normativism; metalinguistic negotiations
Settori scientifico-disciplinari MIUR:Area 11 - Scienze storiche, filosofiche, pedagogiche e psicologiche > M-FIL/05 Filosofia e teoria dei linguaggi
Struttura di riferimento:Dipartimenti > Dipartimento di Filosofia, Sociologia, Pedagogia e Psicologia Applicata
Codice ID:10487
Depositato il:16 Nov 2018 09:54
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