Friday, 21 April 2017

Explaining the A Priori in Terms of Meaning and Essence

It wasn't just the positivists who thought there was a tight connection between meaning and truth in the case of a priori propositions:
However, it seems to me that nevertheless one ingredient of this wrong theory of mathematical truth [i.e. conventionalism] is perfectly correct and really discloses the true nature of mathematics. Namely, it is correct that a mathematical proposition says nothing about the physical or psychical reality existing in space and time, because it is true already owing to the meaning of the terms occurring in it, irrespectively of the world of real things. What is wrong, however, is that the meaning of the terms (that is, the concepts they denote) is asserted to be something man-made and consisting merely in semantical conventions. (Gödel (1951/1995), p. 320.)
Perhaps we should try to recover some insight from the idea, nowadays highly unfashionable within philosophy (but alive and well in the broader intellectual culture, I think), that a priori truths like those of mathematics are in some sense true owing to their meanings. Philosophers often used to express this by calling such propositions 'necessarily true', but since Kripke that sort of usage has been crowded out by another.
Noteworthy in this connection is that Kripke was not altogether gung ho about his severance of necessity from apriority:
The case of fixing the reference of ‘one meter’ is a very clear example in which someone, just because he fixed the reference in this way, can in some sense know a priori that the length of this stick is a meter without regarding it as a necessary truth. Maybe the thesis about a prioricity implying necessity can be modified. It does appear to state some insight which might be important, and true, about epistemology. In a way an example like this may seem like a trivial counterexample which is not really the point of what some people think when they think that only necessary truths can be known a priori. Well, if the thesis that all a priori truth is necessary is to be immune from this sort of counterexample, it needs to be modified in some way. [...] And I myself have no idea it should be modified or restated, or if such a modification or restatement is possible. (Kripke (1980), p. 63.)
This may make it sound like the required modification would consist in somehow ruling out the problematic contingent a priori truths from the class of truths whose epistemic status is to be explained. But Chalmers' idea of the tyranny of the subjunctive suggests another route: try instead to find a different notion of necessity - indicative, as opposed to subjunctive, necessity; truth in all worlds considered as actual, rather than truth in all worlds considered as counterfactual - better suited to the explanation of apriority.

Now, in Chalmers' epistemic two-dimensionalist framework, indicative necessity is itself explained in epistemic terms. But if we try for a more full-bloodedly semantic conception of it, we may get something more explanatory of the special epistemic status of a priori truths. The notion we are after is something like: a proposition is indicatively necessary iff, given its meaning, it cannot but be true. And the modality here is not supposed to be epistemic.

But what aspect of its meaning? Sometimes 'meaning' covers relationships to things out in the world, and even the things out there themselves. What we are interested in is internal meaning. Putnam's Twin Earth thought experiment - though this is not how he used it - lets us see the distinction we need here. We want to talk about meaning in the sense in which Earth/Twin Earth pairs of propositions mean the same. This can be articulated using the middle-Wittgenstein idea of the role an expression plays in the system it belongs to (see Wittgenstein (1974, Part I)).

So, what if we say that a proposition is indicatively necessary iff any proposition with its internal meaning must, in a non-epistemic sense, be true? Can indicative necessity in this sense be used to explain apriority?

Maybe not, since there are indicatively necessary truths which are indicatively necessary only because their instantiation requires their truth. Example: language exists. (Language is here understood as a spatiotemporal phenomenon.) This is indicatively necessary, because any proposition with its internal meaning must be true, if only because the very existence of that proposition requires it to be true. Its truth comes about from the preconditions for its utterance, but - you might think - not from the internal meaning itself. It is interesting to note that it is indicatively necessary, but it lacks the special character of a priori propositions whereby they, in some sense, don't place specific requirements on the world.

This situation pattern-matches with Fine's celebrated (1994) distinction between necessary and essential properties. Socrates is necessarily a member of the set {Socrates}, but that membership is not part of his essence, since it doesn't have enough to do with Socrates as he is in himself. Likewise, he is necessarily distinct from the Eiffel Tower, but this is no part of his essence. So let us throw away the ladder of indicative necessity and instead hone in on the notion of essential truth. A proposition is essentially true iff it is of its internal meaning's essence to be true (i.e. to be the internal meaning of a true proposition).

Thus, with encouragement from Gödel and Kripke, we can develop ideas from Chalmers, Putnam, Wittgenstein, and Fine, to yield:

To say that a proposition is a priori is to say that it can, in some sense, be known independent of experience. (You may need experience to get the concepts you need to understand the proposition, but you don't need any particular further experience to know that the proposition is true.) What is distinctive about these propositions which explains their being knowable in that peculiar way? It is that their internal meanings - their roles in language - are, of their very essence, the internal meanings of true propositions; any proposition with that internal meaning must be true, and not for transcendental reasons relating to the pre-conditions of the instantiation of the proposition, but as a result of that internal meaning in itself.

So we can have an account of apriority which explains it in terms of a tight connection between meaning and truth, freed of its accidental associations with conventionalist and deflationary views about meaning, modality and essence.

This is not to say that a priori propositions' truth is to be explained in a case by case way by considerations about meaning and essence. That would be to crowd out the real mathematical justifications of non-trivial mathematical truths. But explaining apriority in general in this way wards off misunderstandings which come from treating a priori truths too much like empirical truths. And that is what makes it an explanation.


Chalmers, David J. (1998). The tyranny of the subjunctive. (unpublished)

Fine, Kit (1994). Essence and modality. Philosophical Perspectives 8:1-16.

Gödel, Kurt (1951/1995). Some basic theorems on the foundations of mathematics and their implications. In Solomon Feferman (ed.), Kurt Gödel, Collected Works. Oxford University Press 290-304. (Originally delivered on 26 December 1951 as the 25th annual Josiah Willard Gibbs Lecture at Brown University.) 

Kripke, Saul A. (1980). Naming and Necessity. Harvard University Press.

Putnam, Hilary (1973). Meaning and reference. Journal of Philosophy 70 (19):699-711. 

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1974). Philosophical Grammar. University of California Press.

Modern Quantificational Logic Doesn't Subsume Traditional Logic

It seems to be a received view about the relationship of traditional Aristotelian logic to modern quantificational logic that the inferences codified in the old-fashioned syllogisms - All men are mortal, Socrates is a man, etc. - are all, in some sense, subsumed by modern quantificational logic. (I know I have tended to assume this.)

But what about:

P1. All men are mortal.
C. Everything is such that (it is a man  it is mortal)?  

This is a logical inference. It is not of the form 'A therefore A'. It embodies a very clever logical discovery! P1 and C are not the same statement. Talk of 'translating' the former by means of the latter papers over all this.

Modern quantificational logic does not really capture the inferences captured by traditional logic, any more than it captures this link between the two. It does capture inferences which, given logical insight, can be seen to parallel those codified by traditional logic, but that is not the same thing.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Reflections on My Claim that Inherent Counterfactual Invariance is Broadly Semantic

This post presupposes knowledge of my account of subjunctive necessity de dicto as expressed in my thesis and in a paper derived from it which I have been working on. (I hope my self-criticism here doesn't cause any should-have-been-blind referees to reject the paper. A revise-and-resubmit verdict I could live with.) Here I try to take a next step in getting clear about the status and significance of the account.

In my thesis and derived paper, I propose that a proposition is necessary iff it is, or is implied by, a proposition which is both inherently counterfactually invariant (ICI) and true, and explicate this notion of ICI.

I claim that ICI is broadly semantic, and put this forward as a key motivation and virtue of the account. I don’t provide much argument for this claim - the intention, I suppose, was that this would just seem self-evident. But I have become increasingly aware of the importance of the fact that this could be challenged, and the importance of getting clearer about the underlying primitive notion of a genuine counterfactual scenario description (CSD).

I do provide one reason, near the end of my presentation of my account, for thinking that ICI is broadly semantic given my preferred approach to propositions and meaning. But there are two reasons for wanting more. One is that it may be hoped that my claim that ICI is broadly semantic could be justified independently of my particular approach to propositions and meaning, where I advocate understanding what I distinguish as the ‘internal’ component of meaning as role in language system. A second, perhaps more suggestive, reason for wanting more is that, even given my preferred approach, the argument I give is basically this: ICI is explained in terms of how a proposition - its negation, really - behaves in certain contexts - namely CSDs. But here of course I have to single out genuine CSDs.

And here’s the thing. (At least, the following seems to be right.) For my claim that ICI is broadly semantic to hold water, the notion of genuineness of a CSD had better be broadly semantic. For it is not enough for a notion to be broadly semantic that it can be characterized in terms of appearance in certain sorts of linguistic context C, where C-hood is blatantly extra-semantic. For instance, we may say a proposition has G iff it (or its negation, to make this more like the ICI case) doesn’t appear in any description which has the property of being written in some notebook I have in my room. In that case, it is plain that whether or not a proposition has G is not a matter of its meaning or nature.

So, I now think that the little argument I give at the end of my presentation of my account, about how my particular approach to propositions and meaning ‘fits well’ with the notion of ICI as broadly semantic only goes so far, and that as an argument that given my particular approach the notion of ICI is or should be seen as broadly semantic, it is weak, since it gives no reason to think that the all-important notion of genuineness of CSD is broadly semantic.

Further, I think it is clear that I want to put forward my account, and I think the account has theoretical value, independent of whether a case can be made that genuineness of CSD is broadly semantic. And so my whole presentation of why my account is interesting and of its motivation is somewhat crude. As a story about what caused it, and the specific things I was thinking, it may have some interest. But as a way of situating the theory and giving a sense of what its value (within philosophy) consists in, it is crude and not really to the point. I do of course hint at other sources of interest (e.g. that the account clarifies the relationship between the notion of necessity and those of truth and implication), and don’t rest everything on the ‘semantic hunch’, but I do perhaps give it too prominent a place - or at least, an incompletely justified place.

So, is the notion of a ‘genuine counterfactual scenario description’ broadly semantic? And what does it mean to be broadly semantic? I may follow up with a post addressing these questions more thoroughly, but for now a couple of remarks. Whatever it is to be broadly semantic, it is not to be conventional in any sense. The idea is perhaps better gotten at, in some ways, by saying that genuine CSD-hood is a conceptual matter. But really I need to roll up my sleeves and investigate this more closely - it is not merely a question of hitting on some formulation. Finally, I propose that the following passage from §520 of Wittgenstein’s Investigations seems very to-the-point when it comes to the questions and difficulties I find myself coming up against here, and may help me plumb the depths of the matter:
So does it depend wholly on our grammar what will be called (logically) possible and what not,—i.e. what that grammar permits?”—But surely that is arbitrary!—Is it arbitrary?—It is not every sentence-like formation that we know how to do something with, not every technique has an application in our life [...].

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Quantification and 'Extra Constant' Semantics

(The following is a companion piece to this offsite post.)

In a fascinating new paper entitled 'Truth via Satisfaction?', N.J.J. Smith argues that the Tarskian style of semantics for first-order logic (hereafter 'FOL'), which employs the special notion of satisfaction by numbered sequences of objects, does not provide an explication of the classical notion of truth - the notion of saying it like it is - but that the second-most prominent style of semantics for FOL, which works by considering what you get if you introduce a new constant, does. I agree with him about the first claim but disagree with him about the second.

My main point in this post, however, is not to argue that Smith's preferred style of semantics for FOL fails to explicate the classical notion of truth. I will do that a bit at the end - although not in a very fundamental way - but the main point will be to draw out a moral about how we should think about the 'extra constant' semantics for FOL, and more generally, about how we need to be careful in certain philosophical contexts to distinguish mathematical relations (such as 'appearing in an ordered-pair with') from genuinely semantic ones (such as 'refers to'). The failure to do this, in fact, is what made Tarski introduce his convoluted satisfaction apparatus which others have muddle-headedly praised as some sort of great insight. (I blogged about this debacle, to this day largely unrecognized as such by the logical community, offsite in 2015.)

By way of intuitive explanation of the universal quantifier clause of his preferred semantics for FOL, Smith writes: 
Consider a name that nothing currently has—say (for the sake of example) ‘Rumpelstiltskin’. Then for ‘Everyone in the room was born in Tasmania’ to say it how it is is for ‘Rumpelstiltskin was born in Tasmania’ to say it how it is—no matter who in the room we name ‘Rumpelstiltskin’. (p. 8 in author-archived version).
But this kind of explanation is not generally correct. Get a bunch of things with no names and stick them in a room. Now, doesn’t this purported explication of what it is for quantified claims to be true run, in the case of the claim ‘Everything in this room is unnamed’, as follows: for ‘Everything in this room is unnamed’ to say it how it is is for ‘Rumpelstiltskin is unnamed’ to say it how it is--no matter what in the room we name ‘Rumpelstiltskin’? And this, I think, is very clearly false; by hypothesis, everything in the room in question is unnamed, so surely ‘Everything in this room is unnamed’ says it how it is. But if we name one of the things in the room‘Rumpelstiltskin’, then ‘Rumpelstiltskin is unnamed’ will certainly not say it how it is.

Now, as Smith pointed out to me in correspondence, this problem with unnamedness can be avoided by considering another method of singling out objects, such as attaching a red dot to them. (The worry arises that some objects are abstract and so it makes no sense to talk about attaching a red dot to them, but I won't pursue that here.) Then you can use a slightly different form of explanation, and say that for 'Everything in the room is unnamed' to say it how it is is for 'The thing with the red dot on it is unnamed' to say it how it is no matter which thing in the room has the red dot on it. Now we will of course get a counterexample involving 'red-dotlessness' but we can then just consider a different singling-out device.

But this slightly different style of explanation is also not generally viable, as becomes clear when we consider, not unnamedness, but unreferred-to-ness. Things which haven't been named but have been referred to, say by a definite description, count as unnamed but not as unreferred-to. And let's stipulate that we are talking only about singular reference - so that even if 'All the unreferred-to things' in some sense refers to the unreferred-to things, it doesn't singularly refer to them, so this wouldn't stop them from being unreferred-to in the relevant sense.

Now, applying the new style of explanation involving an arbitrary singling-out method to the case of 'Everything in this room is unreferred-to', we get:
For 'Everything in this room is unreferred-to' to say how it is is for 'The thing with the red dot on it is unreferred-to' to say how it is, no matter which thing we put the red dot on.
And this is wrong, not because the thing has a red dot on it, but because 'The thing with the red dot on it is unreferred-to' can't be true, whereas the quantified claim can be.

No analogous problem arises in the formal setting. If we specify that 'G' is to be mapped to the set of things in some room and 'F' is to be mapped to the set of unreferred-to things, and consider '(x)(Gx  Fx)', then neither Smith's preferred style of semantics for FOL nor the silly Tarskian style cause any sort of problem, since for there to exist a function which maps some constant c to an object o is compatible with o being unreferred-to. Thus we get the desired truth-value for '(x)(Gx  Fx)'.

(You might now think: OK, but what if we replace unreferred-to-ness with not-being-mapped-to-by-any-function, or whatever? Don't we then get the wrong truth-value? Well, no, because - at least on a classical conception of functions - nothing is unmapped-to-by-any-function.)

So, quantified propositions are not correctly explicated by talking about the truth-values of propositions you get by naming things. Nor are they correctly explicated by adopting a non-semantic singling-out device and then considering propositions which talk about 'The thing' singled out. This in itself shouldn't really be news, but also noteworthy is that, despite such explications being incorrect, the style of semantics for FOL which works via consideration of an extra constant gives no undesired results, and is arguably better than the Tarski-style semantics, which is needlessly complicated and is born of philosophical confusion. (Still, it does create a danger that students of it will wrongly think that you can explain quantified propositions in the way shown here to be incorrect.)

What does this mean for Smith's claim that 'extra constant' style semantics for FOL explicates the classical conception of truth, the conception of saying it like it is? Well, I think that's an interestingly wrong idea anyway, and probably deeper things should be said about it, but: Smith's incorrect informal gloss of the formal quantification clause - which gloss, as we have seen, cannot be corrected by moving to an arbitrary singling-out device and talking about 'The thing' singled out - certainly seems to be doing important argumentative work in his paper. His main claim, bereft of the spurious support of the informal gloss, is as far as I can see completely without support.

Many thanks to N.J.J. Smith for discussion.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

The Resurgence of Metaphysics as a Notational Convenience

Reading Jessica Wilson's interesting new SEP entry on Determinables and Determinates, the following speculation occurred to me: the oft-remarked-upon resurgence of metaphysics heralded by the work of David Lewis, D.M. Armstrong and others was driven in part by cognitive resource limitations and practicalities of notation; putting things metaphysically often lightens our cognitive loads and makes thinking and writing more efficient in many philosophical situations.

Wilson's piece is dripping with metaphysical turns of phrase, but much of what she says could be re-expressed in a conceptual or linguistic key. I think this goes for a good deal of contemporary metaphysics. However, converting metaphysically-expressed ideas and claims into a conceptual or linguistic key may make them a bit fiddlier to think and express. And if you're doing hard philosophy and need to think and express a lot of things, this extra cost is going to pile up. Sometimes, having things in a conceptual or linguistic register may make things clearer, and sometimes it may be essential. But for many purposes the metaphysical register does fine, and often has the benefit of being less resource-hungry.

Yes, some metaphysics may not be capturable in conceptual or linguistic terms, and perhaps even in favourable cases the capturing will not be complete or perfect. And there are doubtless other important things going on behind the sociological phenomenon of the resurgence of metaphysics. But maybe this is part of the story.

UPDATE: Brandon Watson (at the end of a post on Fitch's paradox) links to this post, writing: 'I'm very interested, of course, in accounts of how philosophical scenes get transformed, how ideas transmogrify, and the like. This hypothesis for the rise of analytic metaphysics makes considerable amount of sense, and is probably true.' This is encouraging!

Friday, 20 January 2017

'Close Enough' Closer to the Truth About Counterfactuals

Lewis would have liked to be able to say that a counterfactual A > C is true iff the corresponding material conditional is true at all closest worlds. But his example of the inch long line seemed to show that sometimes there are no closest worlds - you can get closer and closer without limit to being one inch long while still not becoming one inch long. Wanting to avoid the Limit Assumption - the assumption that you do hit a limit as you get closer to actuality, after which you cannot get closer except by reaching actuality - he plumped for a clever, but complicated and costly solution; requiring that no A & ~C world is closer to actuality than any A & C world. (In his (1981) he admitted that this is costly in terms of simplicity and intuitiveness.)

I think Lewis here was too hung up on the idea of minimal change to the actual world. Proposing instead that a counterfactual A > C is true iff the corresponding material conditional is true at all close enough, or relevantly similar, worlds is a better way to avoid the Limit Assumption. (This theory might work for indicatives, too, but that's an especially vexed issue.) Why is this better?

(1) It lets you have a simpler, more intuitive form of account, with a set of worlds which are relevant.

(2) This also lets you have nice things like these results about when it's OK to use certain inference patterns.

(3) It better handles what might be called 'categorical' or 'no matter what' conditionals like 'If you had seen a cat then you would have seen an animal', where this is intended in such a way that you could add 'definitely' or 'no matter what' after the 'then' without changing the truth-condition, and is generally a more flexible and hence powerful account.

(4) It lets you straightforwardly explain why 'If this person had been taller, they would have been only a tiny bit taller' and the like are not true. Lewis can do this at the cost of saying that here close similarity in height just isn't important, but this is a little awkward given his case against the Limit Assumption.

(Donald Nute long ago proposed a 'close enough' account as better than Lewis's (see references below), but it seems few people listened. Also, some of his reasons can be diffused by being clever and flexible about what matters for similarity, and he didn't have (2) above to offer, and maybe not (3) either.)

Why wouldn't you go this way? One reason I can think of is that it may seem like a regrettable move to a less definite, less informative form of account. After all, if I am told 'the tallest people will be given a prize' this seems more informative than 'everyone tall enough will be given a prize'. But in the present context, this is illusory. You need to build in so much contextual flexibility into Lewis's account to make it at all plausible that the indefiniteness there swallows up the apparent difference in informativeness. Either that, or you keep the edge in definiteness but at the cost of implausible truth-value verdicts. Minimal change, I suspect, is a good way of thinking about lots of counterfactuals, and maybe those were the ones on Lewis's mind - but I see no reason why the change would ever have to be so minimal that you need to abandon having a set of relevant worlds and move to Lewis's official 'no A & ~C world closer than any A & C world' account. For other counterfactuals, minimality seems not to the point at all. So it's good to have a more flexible 'close enough' style account for your general theory of counterfactuals (or conditionals in general).


Lewis, David (1981). Ordering semantics and premise semantics for counterfactuals. Journal of Philosophical Logic 10 (2):217-234.

Nute, Donald (1975). Counterfactuals and the similarity of words. Journal of Philosophy 72 (21):773-778. (Title [sic]. As far as I know it's just a very unfortunate typo and it should be 'worlds'.)

Saturday, 24 December 2016

What Are My Problems Now?

This is a follow-up to What Was My Problem?.

1. The Basis of Puzzlement about Modality

One line of investigation I would like to pursue now is into what might be called the basis of the puzzlement about modality. And as suggested by my experience of vaguely wrestling with a bunch of problems, before realizing that my strongest leading ideas for my thesis were really about some of these problems rather than others, I think this line of investigation may itself call for the distinguishing of various problems.

One locus of puzzlement about modality is the notion of metaphysical or subjunctive necessity as it applies to propositions. And one question about this notion is whether, and how, meaning comes into the picture. Also, just the question of how this notion relates to other notions, and the extent to which it can be analyzed (not necessarily in non-modal terms). Those problems are addressed, properly I hope, by the account in my thesis. But lots of what I was wrestling with at the beginning of my research remains, and does not attach specifically to the notion of subjunctive necessity de dicto; there is a lot that is puzzling about modality that my thesis does not address.

One puzzling thing which borders directly on my thesis work, and does have to do with the notion of subjunctive necessity de dicto, is the question of how this relates to de re modal constructions and quantification into modal contexts. But I have been very frustrated in my research here, and to be honest I have come to feel like it is a bit of a minor, abstruse issue compared to some of the more fundamental problems about modality (although I have no doubt that very interesting work could be done on that issue, and have a couple of ideas).

A more fundamental area I would like to work on is indicated by the question: Why is modality puzzling at all? But here too there are probably several puzzling things to distinguish. One thing I am not primarily thinking of, although it may end up becoming relevant to the problems I am grasping at, are questions about modality in an extremely general sense. For instance, the question of what unifies all uses of expressions which we call modal, or which we say are about possibility or whatever - including 'You can come in if you like', 'It could be that John is on his way', 'It is impossible for two colours to be in the same place', '"Hesperus is Phosphorus" is necessarily true', 'I can lift this weight', 'This apparatus has four possible configurations'. Also, questions about what generalizations can be made covering all or at least a great diversity of such uses, for instance about logical implication relations between them.

Rather, I am interested in trying to get at the basis of our puzzlement about what may be called objective modality. What does 'objective modality' mean? Well, one clear thing it does is exclude epistemic modals, like 'It could be that John is on his way' in natural uses. These are to be put to one side - at least initially - in the line of investigation I want to pursue. Likewise with uses of modal language having to do with permission. Within the puzzlement attaching primarily to objective modality as opposed to these set-aside kinds, important distinctions may have to be made. For instance, there may be a need to distinguish between more down-to-earth uses of modal language, for instance 'I can lift this weight', from what may be called more metaphysical uses - but not 'metaphysical' in the sense often used in modal philosophy, to mean either something like 'objective' or something a bit more specific, like picking out what I pick out with 'subjunctive'. Rather, by 'more metaphysical uses' I mean uses which are so to speak puzzling from the start. That is, where there isn't as much non-problematic, clearly useful use as in the case of 'I can lift this weight' and the like. E.g. 'The world could have been otherwise', 'Aristotle is essentially human'.

One way forward in this line of investigation would be to look critically and closely at philosophers' attempts to give a sense of the puzzlement about (objective) modality, often as a preliminary to some account or a survey of accounts. For instance, Sider's remarks on the subject in 'Reductive Theories of Modality'. But I think it will also be important to look within, so to speak, and keep seriously asking myself 'What is it that puzzles me about this?'.

2. Propositions and Meaning, Language Systems, and Our Expectations

Another line of investigation I would like to pursue has to do with the account of propositions and meaning sketched in chapter 6 of my thesis. That account appeals to a notion of an expression's internal meaning, cashed out in terms of the expression's role in the language system to which it belongs. This may raise questions about the nature of the system, and how we should think of it and describe it. In my thesis, I tried to remain quite open about this, emphasizing that I was offering a sketch, and that different fillings in of the detail here may be possible.

It was hard to avoid striking a false note here. For I do not think this is the whole story about my sketch, and the middle-Wittgenstein idea about role-in-system which it takes over; it may not be quite right to just think about it as a sketch of a theory, where some aspects are not filled in. For the very idea of what needs filling in, and how, should I think be scrutinized. It is not that I am advocating quietism, or defeatism, about questions about the 'language system' I appeal to. But I think that some of our expectations here may be in need of examination.

A curious thing happens in this territory - it is easy to become disoriented, and wonder what the problem was and what is needed now. Maybe sometimes in philosophy, as we solve problems, they slip from our grasp. Sometimes there is a strange feeling where we wonder something like: how could there be a solution here which is given in mere words? How could that ever do? We feel we still need to be taught something, or shown something. Could it be something practical, so to speak? I.e. something we could get through practice?

In the new year, I intend to use this blog to try to make some inroads into these and related problems.