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Logic and Intelligibility

Pearson, James (2012) Logic and Intelligibility. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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All inquirers must have a grasp of implication and contradiction which they employ to structure their investigations. Logical ability is thus some kind of prerequisite for cognition. My dissertation scrutinizes this relationship and argues that different ways of understanding it underlie a deep debate about naturalism and the objectivity of our knowledge.

Frege’s dismissal of logical aliens as mad exposes his conviction that logical ability is exhibited in our practice of demonstrative reasoning, and is a constitutive necessary condition for cognition. By denying the existence of an independent standard for objective truth that a codification of inferential principles must meet, Frege avoids logical “sociologism” (under which the validity of inferential principles is identified with their agreement with our practice).

Quine objects to ascribing a “pre-logical mentality” in radical translation, but only because doing so would represent one’s interlocutor as affirming something one finds obviously false. Under his naturalism, the logician is guided by usefulness to ongoing empirical inquiry, not the search for the constitutive prerequisites of thinking. I argue that the properly-understood naturalist excises various skeptical attacks from epistemology.

Davidson recovers a privileged status for logic as central in the theories of truth that are necessary to interpret another as—and also to be—a cognizer. Under his humanism, it is only through interpreting others that one can grasp the objective/subjective contrast and acquire beliefs that are properly about the world. We do not exhibit our grasp of objective truth by engaging in a practice informed by logic, but by interpreting others who are engaged with, and through, us in such a practice.

Despite initial appearances, naturalism and humanism are not incompatible positions. After examining Quine’s “sectarian” and Davidson’s “ecumenical” attitude to the truth of empirically equivalent theories, I endorse ecumenism about their metaphilosophical disagreement. By renouncing a proprietary attitude to truth, this particular form of tolerance avoids the fragmentation of philosophy into distinct, yet totalizing, and hence warring, programs.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairRicketts, Thomasricketts@pitt.eduRICKETTS
Committee MemberGupta, Anilagupta@pitt.eduAGUPTA
Committee MemberEngstrom, Stephenengstrom@pitt.eduENGSTROM
Committee MemberAwodey,
Date: 1 February 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 24 August 2011
Approval Date: 1 February 2012
Submission Date: 16 November 2011
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 227
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Philosophy
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Gottlob Frege; Donald Davidson; Philosophy of Mind and Language; W. V. Quine; Disagreement; Objectivity of Knowledge
Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2012 13:56
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:55


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