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Rule-Following and Realism Paperback – May 16, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0674005556 ISBN-10: 0674005554

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 388 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (May 16, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674005554
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674005556
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,696,192 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Following the (later) Wittgenstein's injunction to look at how our words are actually and ordinarily used, Ebbs (philosophy, Univ. of Pennsylvania) bases his investigation of central issues in epistemology and metaphysics on the "participant perspective" of our shared linguistic practices. His analysis of how we actually ascribe meanings, evaluate assertions, and resolve disputes leads him to challenge much that is currently accepted in linguistic analysis. His main foils are Saul Kripke, W.V.O. Quine, Hilary Putnam, and Tyler Burge, whose arguments he reconstructs and then counters point by point. Judging from his own position, he concludes that skepticism is unwarranted and that metaphysical realism and scientific naturalism are unfounded. While tightly argued, this will be largely inaccessible to nonphilosophers.?Leon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Mgt. Lib., Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Gary Ebbs is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Purple Cow on September 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
The philosophical literature on rule-following is difficult and complicated; on top of this, the only expositions of the view that obeying rules is "a practice"--something to which we relate as participants--are vague and obscure. This book, in contrast, is exquisitely clear. Ebbs smoothly explains the main positions on rule-following skepticism, and follows through on several themes in philosophy (the analytic/synthetic distinction, externalism about content, and external world skepticism) that are related to the rule-following problem.

Ultimately, Ebbs's view seems to be that viewing our linguistic practices from any perspective other than the participant perspective is incoherent. This reasoning is analogous to that which rejects the simultaneous suspension of all our beliefs about the external world as incoherent.

Ebbs uses an example from Hare's "Philosophical Discoveries" to shed light on the difference between the "participant perspective" and an external perspective. A group of people are arguing about how to dance a certain dance they all know; to resolve the dispute, they get up and do the dance. Only participants in a particular practice (the dance) can settle disputes, and in particular, make discoveries about the practice in this way. The suggestion is that philosophical disputes are like this group's dispute over the dance, and in order to resolve them we reason together about our concepts, recalling different ways we use them. An anthropologist describing our use of concepts, however, would not necessarily be able to *make discoveries* in this way because she will have no sense of how the concept *should* be used.

I recommend this book to anyone sorting through the literature on rule-following, or trying to understand the views of those who invoke the notion of "practice" to explain why rule-following skepticism isn't problematic.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jon Tsou on January 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book provides a both a sensible and lucid exposition of issues in the history of 20th century analytic philosophy. The most interesting part of the book for me was the second part of the book on the analytic-synthetic distinction (where Ebbs a very comprehensive critical survey of the views of Carnap, Quine and Putnam). Here, Ebbs provides an interesting and perceptive diagnosis of why Quine's rejection of analyticity ultimately begs the very question (viz., analyticity) at issue. Overall, this book serves as a useful resource for analytic philosophers, suitable for either an upper-level undergraduate or graduate course. Its greatest merit is its clear presentation of difficult problems in philosophy of logic and mathematics, philosophy of language, and epistemology.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 23, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This is a lucid exposition and critique of the state of the art in the philosophy of language--well-suited for a course in the subject provided you do some backfilling. The critique is launched from the participant perspective and the conviction that one should furnish a picture of how words refer to things and that a theory that seeks to specify necessary and sufficient conditions of reference is doomed to fail. The book is scrupulously clear and fair to the point of being austere. Only occasionally would one surmise that the author is a superb pianist, a fine downhill skier, and a prince of a fellow.
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By William Warren on August 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
Dr. Ebbs studied under Quine and is knowlegeable about the Quine -Carnap Briefwecksel. His Wittgensteinian approach to to semantics and the related internalist/externalist meaning criteria controversy of Putnam's "Twin Earth" thought experiment is informed by a deep knowledge of the formal semantics of Frege,Tarski and Carnap;even though,like the later Wittgenstein he is ultimately much more hostile to scientific naturalism than were the logical empiricists.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ebbs considers views concerning meaning that have recently led to skeptical arguments. Kripke's skeptical arguments are said to result from common-sense 'metaphysical' constraints concerning meaning. Quine's skeptical arguments are said to result from 'scientific naturalism'. Ebbs thinks that Putnam's superficially similar (to Quine) views concerning analyticity point us in a very different direction, towards a 'participant perspective' on meaning. From this perspective the skeptical problems to not arise, Ebbs thinks. Along the way Ebbs considers McDowell's attempt to avoid a similar dilemma (between Quinean and 'metaphysical' views) Ebbs explains why he does not find McDowell's attempt to navigate between this Charybdis and Schylla to be successful. There is also a very gripping argument concerning how we seem able to know that we were not kidnapped by aliens and taken to twin Earth recently, since if that had occurred 'water' would not mean water. A highly original and thought-provoking work that will also help readers to understand his second book, *Truth and Words*.
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