Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Field Motivates Concept Grounding

In his paper 'Recent Debates About the A Priori', Hartry Field seems to me to be spot on the following passage (pp. 13-14 of the online paper):

[T]he key issue is ... : why should the fact, if it is one, that certain beliefs or inferences are integral to the meaning of a concept show that those principles are correct? Why should the fact, if it is one, that abandoning those beliefs or inferences would require a change in meaning show that we shouldn't abandon those beliefs or inferences? Maybe the meaning we've attached to these terms is a bad one that is irredemably bound up with error, and truth can only be achieved by abandoning those meanings in favor of different ones ...

However, I don't agree with Field that this point is a step on the way towards his conclusion, namely that to claim we have an entitlement, at least in the case of 'basic' beliefs or logical rules, is merely to express an attitude of approval toward those beliefs or rules.

Rather, what Field's questions rightly raise to notice is the need for some account of why we should trust the meanings we have attached to our words (or, as I would prefer to say, why we should trust the concepts we express by them) to serve as epistemic guides to the way the world is. That is, we need a story about concept grounding to explain why these meanings or concepts are rightly taken as encoding information about the world which we can recover through introspection.

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