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Synthese

, Volume 194, Issue 12, pp 4781–4797 | Cite as

Global expressivism and the flight from metaphysics

  • Jonathan Knowles
Article

Abstract

In recent work Huw Price has defended what he calls a global expressivist approach to understanding language (and/or thought) and its relation to the physical world. Global expressivism rejects a representationalist picture of the language-world relation and thereby, by intention at least, also a certain metaphysical conception of what are commonly known as placement problems: how entities of the everyday, common sense world like mental states, meanings, moral values, modalities and so on fit into the natural world. Global expressivism upholds a commitment to substantive enquiry into the naturalistic basis of thought about the world, but pursues this in a pragmatist or non-representationalist ’key’ (as Price often puts it), thereby rendering—as it sees things—traditional metaphysical questions otiose. I am in broad sympathy with many of Price’s arguments and ideas. However, I believe the specific sub-variety of non-representationalism he develops actually fails to secure the anti-metaphysical results he seeks. My arguments have their starting point in the Carnap-Quine debate. Given Price’s view of this, which I endorse, I think it can be made clear that Quine’s view, or something very close to it, presents us with a coherent example of a non-representationalist metaphysical placement project. Though one might reasonably doubt the rationality of or motivation for such a view, Price’s own strongly naturalistic assumptions, as these are evinced in his so-called ’subject’ naturalism, make that move dialectically unavailable to him. I end with a brief sketch of an alternative non-representationalist and anti-metaphysical position.

Keywords

Global expressivism Non-representationalism Placement problems Metaphysics Price Quine Carnap 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Versions of the is paper have been presented at the Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature colloquium (Oslo, March 2014), the conference Perspectives on Intentionality (Fefor, Norway, September 2014) and the Cambridge Philosophy of Science seminar (‘CAMPOS’) (February 2015). I thank audiences for their questions and comments on those occasions. Thanks also to two anonymous reviewers, whose comments substantially improved the final product. Finally, special thanks to Huw Price for inspiration and discussion over the years.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Religious StudiesNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway

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