Making It Explicit: Reasoning, Representing, and Discursive Commitment n Second printing Edition
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“Making It Explicit is a landmark in theoretical philosophy comparable to that constituted in the early seventies by A Theory of Justice in practical philosophy...Drawing upon the resources furnished by his intricate theory of language, Brandom succeeds in offering a thoroughly convincing description of the practices within which beings capable of language and action express their rationality and autonomy.”―Jürgen Habermas, Wahrheit und Rechtfertigung
“Robert Brandom's magnificent book is an attempt to rework the whole of the philosophy of language in terms of normative, socially articulated pragmatics. His approach, inferentialism, which he traces through Kant and Frege to Wittgenstein and Sellars, is opposed to a more standard approach, representationalism...Making It Explicit is written with an exhilarating argumentative relish and tremendous assurance and thoroughness.”―Rowland Stout, Mind
“Wilfrid Sellars described his project as an attempt to usher analytic philosophy out of its Humean and into its Kantian stage...Brandom's work can usefully be seen as an attempt to usher philosophy from its Kantian to its Hegelian stage...This sort of free and easy transition between philosophy of language and mind on the one hand, and world-historical vision on the other, is reminiscent not only of Mead and Dewey but also of Gadamer and Habermas.”―Richard Rorty, Introduction to Sellars' Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind
“An extraordinary philosophical book. Brandom has produced a work of great power, scope, and originality. He gives a plausible and powerful reading to the claim that "meaning is normative," or that the concept of meaning is a normative concept, and elucidates it at length. It turns out, in his hands, to be a claim of great philosophical fertility and power.”―Allan Gibbard, University of Michigan
“Robert Brandom's Making it Explicit is an unusual book on the Anglo-American scene...What Brandom achieves is a convincing elaboration of the view of intentionality as a linguistic, normative and social-pragmatic affair...Brandom's book is the first detailed elaboration of the position that it is normative attitudes which distinguishes us, insofar as we are thinking and acting beings, from the physical. It will hopefully contribute to giving that position the attention it deserves in contemporary philosophy of mind.”―Michael Epsfield, Erkenntnis
From the Back Cover
- Publisher : Harvard University Press; n Second printing edition (November 1, 1998)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 768 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0674543300
- ISBN-13 : 978-0674543300
- Item Weight : 2.2 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.36 x 1.5 x 9.18 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #409,203 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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“One of the overarching methodological commitments that orients this project is to explain the MEANINGS of linguistic expressions in terms of their USE… The explanatory strategy pursued here is to begin with an account of social practices, identify the particular structure they must exhibit in order to qualify as specifically LINGUISTIC practices, and then consider what different sorts of semantic contents those practices can confer on states, performances, and expressions caught up in them in suitable ways. The result is a new kind of conceptual-role semantics. It is at once rooted firmly in actual practices of producing and consuming speech acts, and sufficiently finely articulated to make clear how those practices are capable of conferring the rich variety of kinds of content that philosophers of language have revealed and reveled in.” (Pg. xi-xiii)
He continues, “the pragmatics presented here elaborates a conception of ‘normative statuses’; … it puts ‘deontic scorekeeping’---that is, the social practice of attributing and acknowledging commitments and entitlements, which implicitly institute these statuses. The theoretical work … is done by assessments of properties of INFERENCE. Semantic articulation is attributed and acknowledged by keeping score … of indirectly inferential ‘substitutional’ and ‘anaphoric’ commitments, which relate the subsentential contents of expressions of other grammatical categories.” (Pg. xviii) He explains, “So an EXPRESSIVE theory of logic is presented here. On this view, the philosophical significance of logic is ... It brings out into the light of day the practical attitudes that determine the conceptual contents members of a linguistic community are able to express---putting them in the form of explicit claims, which can be debated, for which reasons can be given and alternatives proposed and assessed.” (Pg. xix)
In the first chapter, he asks, “What is it we do that is so special? The answer… is that we are distinguished by capacities that are broadly cognitive. Our transactions with other things, and with each other, in a special and characteristic sense MEAN something to us, they have a conceptual content for us, we UNDERSTAND them in one way rather than another… Picking us out by our capacity for reason and understanding expresses a commitment to take SAPIENCE, rather than SENTIENCE as the constellation of characteristics that distinguishes us. Sentience is what we share with non-verbal animals such as cats---the capacity to be AWARE in the sense of being AWAKE.. Sapience concerns understanding or intelligence, rather than irritability or arousal… one explains its behavior by attributing it to intentional states such as belief and desire as constituting reasons for that behavior.” (Pg. 4-5)
He suggests, “propositional contents have a pragmatic priority, not only in the setting of assessments of the significance of speech acts, but also in the setting of attributions of intentional states that do not evidently depend on linguistic practices. Semantics must answer to pragmatics. The theoretical point of attributing semantic content to intentional states, attitudes, and performances is to determine the pragmatic significance of their occurrence in various contexts… It is specifically PROPISITIONAL contents that determine these pragmatic significances, so it is specifically propositional contents that it is the task of semantic explanatory theories to attribute.” (Pg. 83)
He outlines, “The leading idea of the account to be presented here is that belief can be modeled on the kind of inferentially articulated COMMITMENT that is undertaken or acknowledged by making an assertion. These may be called ‘doxastic’ or ‘assertional’ commitments. This is the basic kind of DISCURSIVE commitment. The strategy is to describe a simplified system of social practices in which something can be taken or treated AS (having the significance of) an assertion---the acknowledging of commitment to an assertible content.” (Pg. 157)
He states, “The rational will as described here is not a particularly puzzling phenomenon. Its normative dimension is explained by extending the account of discursive commitments to encompass not only doxastic but practical deontic statuses.… We are rational creatures exactly insofar as our acknowledgement of discursive commitments makes a difference to what we go on to do---on the side of action, insofar as we incorporate a connection between what is expressed by ‘should’ and what is expressed by ‘shall.’” (Pg. 271)
He recapitulates, “We are the creatures who say ‘we’---who can explicitly take or treat someone as one of us. Adopting this practical attitude is adopting a discursive normative stance… Sapience of the sort distinctive of us is a status achieved within a structure of mutual recognition: of holding and being help responsible, of acknowledging and exercising authority. The specifically DISCURSIVE character of that normative social structure… consists in the INFERENTIAL articulation of those recognitive practices. We are the ones who give and ask for REASONS for what we say and do… Offering a reason is making a claim… [such as] the undertaking (by overt, explicit acknowledgement) of a doxastic commitment… We are sentient creatures as well as sapient ones, but our sentience is different from that of those who cannot give and ask for reasons… We are practical creatures, as well as linguistic ones, but our purposive activity is different from that of those who cannot give and ask for reasons…. Our mammalian cousins, primate ancestors, and neonatal offspring… are interpretable as perceiving and acting only in a derivative sense… Our discursive practices make us semantically autonomous in a sense in which their nondiscursive practices do not.” (Pg. 277)
He notes, “The claim developed and defended here is that representational locutions should be understood as making explicit certain features of communicating by claiming----the INTERPERSONAL giving and asking for reasons… The thesis is that the REPRESENTATIONAL dimension of propositional content is conferred on thought and talk by the SOCIAL dimension of the practice of giving and asking for reasons… However, discursive practice, the giving and asking for reasons.. involves both interCONTENT and interpersonal dimensions. The claim is that the representational aspect of the propositional contents that play the inferential roles of premise and conclusion is to be understood in terms of the social dimension of communicating reasons and assessing the significance of reasons offered by others… Representationally contentful claims arise in the social context of communication and only then are available to be employed in solitary cogitation.” (Pg. 496-497)
He summarizes, “We discursive creatures---rational, logical, concept-using ones---are construed here in EXPRESSIVE terms; we are the ones who can make it explicit… the methodological principle that what is implicit is to be made theoretically, as opposed to practically, intelligible precisely by exercising our defining attribute---by making it explicit. When the inferences implicit in the use of a word are made explicit in the form of conditionals, the fact that the proprieties governing them are relative to a background of collateral commitments is manifest… A word---‘dog,’ ‘stupid,’ ‘Republican’---has a different significance in my mouth than it does in yours, because an insofar as what follows from its being applicable, its consequences of application, differ for me, in virtue of my collateral beliefs…” (Pg. 587) Later, he adds, “[we should be] understanding ourselves as not merely RATIONAL, but LOGICAL normative creatures, as not merely EXPRESSIVE, but SELF-EXPLICATING ones.” (Pg. 639)
He concludes, “So semantic (perspectival) externalism begins at home… The point that matters here is that … the practical norms that govern the attribution of one set of conceptually contentful commitments rather than another can be recognized as just one more instance of deciding what others of us are talking about and what they are saying about it… There is never any final answer as to what is correct; everything, including our assessments of such correctness, is itself a subject for conversation and further assessment, challenge, defense, and correction. The only answer to the question of what makes one interpretation better than another is what makes one conversation better than another. The answer is a matter of our practical norms of understanding one another here at home.” (Pg. 647)
He continues, “So the theoretical attempt to track down the ‘source’ of the normative dimension in discourse leads us right back to our own implicitly normative practices. The structure of those practices can be elucidated, but always from within our normative practices of giving and asking for reasons. That is the project that has been pursued in this work. Its aim is not reductive but expressive: making explicit the implicit structure characteristic of discursive practice as such… In the end, though, this expressive account of language, mind, and logic is an account of who WE are. For it is the account of the sort of thing that constitutes itself as an expressive being---as a creature who makes explicit, and who makes itself explicit. We are sapients: rational, expressive—that is, discursive—beings. But we are more than rational expressive beings. We are also LOGICAL, SELF-expressive beings. We not only make IT explicit, we make OURSELVES explicit AS making it explicit. ” (Pg. 649-650)
This is a rather difficult book, but one that will be of great interest to students of contemporary analytic and linguistic philosophy.
I think this book should be would as a must read for students of contemporary philosophy. Wahrheit Und Rechtfertigung
As for his influences, Brandom's theories are heavily informed by Kant, Frege, Wittgenstein, Michael Dummet, Wilfrid Sellars, Donald Davidson, and John McDowell. I would recommend that one be rather familiar with the work of at least a couple of these philosophers, and analytic philosophy of language in general, before delving into this book.
Although this is a great book, its not a true masterpiece. For one thing the writing is needlessly difficult, even more so that many continental philosophers. He never really achieves or even aims for clarity, and his arguments are often difficult to follow. Reading the work, I often had the impression that he was attempting to sound poetic and deep, but he just comes off like a high school student who is simply trying to hard, if you know what I mean. Also, his account of logic seems to be an implicit form psychologism, verging on social constructivism, which doesn't at all sit right (thankfully his theory of logic isn't particularly convincing). He also never really brings all his disparate ideas together. One can certainly see a common theme in all his claims, but he never really relates them to one another or unifies them into a single theory, even though this is quite obviously what he's attempting to do.
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You can't fail with this puppy.