William G. Lycan
According to Stich and Weinberg (2001, p. 637), Frank Jackson’s From Metaphysics to Ethics (1998a) “is, by a long shot, the most sophisticated defense of the use of conceptual analysis in philosophy that has ever been offered.”I agree.But the book is also very difficult.In this paper I shall work my way through its three main chapters, trying to clarify its basic notions and its argument, and taking issue where I see fit.
a comprehensive account of some subject-matter—the mind, the semantic, or, most ambitiously, everything—in terms of a limited number of more or less basic notions….
Serious metaphysics…seeks comprehension in terms of a more or less limited number of ingredients, or anyway a smaller list [of kinds of things] than we started with.(pp. 4-5)
particular smaller list of privileged ingredients that interests
For any familiar everyday property of anything (artifactual, mental, semantic, social, economic…), the “location problem” vis-à-vis that property is to say how and why the property does or does not “get…a place in the scientific account of our world” (p. 3).One option is eliminative: in some cases we may find that the property in question does not get a place in the scientific account, and we conclude that the property is unexemplified.Or the property may be “implicit in” the scientific account, in that its ascription is semantically entailed by physical fact (Jackson’s example is that of the taller-than relation being implicit in the sentence “Jones is six foot and Smith is five foot ten” (p. 3)).Or, we will wish to add, the property may bear some other, more complex reductive relation to science.“[T]here are inevitably a host of putative features of our world which we must either eliminate or locate” (p. 5).
turns to defend his first main contention, which he calls “the entry by
entailment thesis”: that “the one and only way of having a place in an
account told in some set of preferred terms is by being entailed by that
account” (p. 5).On its face, that
thesis appears radical, because it suggests that a semantic relation holds
between the set of preferred terms and the relevant macroscopic term, as
if a psychological ascription were to be semantically entailed by a set
of sentences about chemical compounds, in the same analytical way that
“Jones is six foot and Smith is five foot ten” entails “Jones is taller
than Smith.”But on p. 25
Now, “[w]hy should a commitment to entailment [i.e., merely necessitation] theses between matters described in some preferred vocabulary and matters described in various other vocabularies require serious metaphysicians to do conceptual analysis?” (p. 28).That is the question exactly, if by “conceptual analysis” one means anything like traditional Oxford-style analysis, the search for analytically necessary and sufficient conditions, a matter of linguistic meaning.It is the question even if one means any more loosely a priori enterprise, since there is no obvious a priori connection between psychology and chemical composition, or for that matter between water and H2O.
2. Conceptual analysis
short answer is that conceptual analysis is the very business of addressing
when and whether a story told in one vocabulary is made true by one told
in some allegedly more fundamental vocabulary” (ibid.).That
short answer is at first puzzling, because empirical science addresses
the same sort of issue when it achieves a theoretical reduction, and empirical
science is not conceptual analysis in any recognized sense of the term
traditional analysis is not all that
I would point out, there are intuitions and intuitions, though
it does sound like the Lewis-Ramsey-Carnap view.If
“folk theory” means what it did to David Lewis, viz., the set of commonsensical
but mostly contingent platitudes about the subject-matter in question,
then we do obviously disagree about changing the subject, and I would want
to know why Jackson supports Lewis-Ramsey-Carnap against Putnam.But
it becomes clear that that is not what he means by “folk theory.”And
Rather, by “folk theory” I think he means just whatever set of beliefs or cognitive dispositions involving a term underlies such intuitive judgments containing the term in question.
[Y]our intuitions reveal your theory.To the extent that our intuitions coincide, they reveal our shared theory.To the extent that our intuitions coincide with those of the folk, they reveal the folk theory.(p. 32)
agreement [with Putnam about ‘water’]...reflected our folk theory of water.Putnam’s
theory is built precisely on folk intuitions” (pp. 38-39).Our
folk theory of water is that water is “whatever actually
is both watery [i.e., satisfies the Lewis-Ramsey-Carnap platitudes regarding
water] and is what we are, or certain of our linguistic forebears were,
acquainted with [which acquaintance eventuated in our use of the term]”
(p. 39).Although this is not a
traditional Socratic set of analytically necessary and sufficient conditions,
it is (has been revealed to be) a conceptually necessary and sufficient
that is why, as
I do not think
4. The defense: defining/changing the subject
the foregoing notions in place and tentatively understood in the ways I
have outlined, how does the defense of “conceptual analysis” go?
Serious metaphysics requires us to address when matters described in one vocabulary are made true by matters described in another.But  how could we possibly address this question in the absence of a consideration of when it is right to describe matters in the terms of the various vocabularies? And  to do that is to reflect on which possible cases fall under which descriptions.And  that in turn is to do conceptual analysis. Only that way do we define our subject—or rather, only that way do we define our subject as the subject we folk suppose is up for discussion.(pp. 41-42; reference numbers interpolated)
should be uncontroversial.So, I think,
should , though
for the reason given in section 2 above, I balk at
course, there is an anti-metaphysical theory of modality, the Logical Positivists’,
according to which all necessity is linguistic-semantical; the Positivists
would have rejected the foregoing distinction on the spot.But
That brings us back to .Defining the subject should not be an issue.Kripke gave us the theory of reference-fixing by descriptions.Scientists (and others) fix reference to phenomena or underlying mechanisms or substances using linguistic and mental descriptions—a loose, casual, shifting set, varying in response to empirical discoveries but in no systematic way.And each reference-fixer is fallible; it need not correctly apply to the referent, but only be thought to be correct for some reason grounded in the referent.
Well, here is how else the latter could happen, according to the Kripke-Putnam C-H theory: the respective causal-historical chains might be, unbeknownst to the speakers, grounded in different phenomena.I say something about “Rod Stewart,” meaning the philosopher at Austin College in Texas; you take me to mean the now aging rock star, and for a little while we talk at cross purposes.“Meaning” there, says the C-H theory, is just a matter of the causal grounding aforementioned.And the same for natural-kind terms.This sort of story is a little harder to envisage for the intrapersonal case; the speaker’s later uses of the word would have not to be primarily grounded in her/his earlier uses.But it seems perfectly possible, and also, intrapersonal “changing the subject” is itself harder to envisage in the first place.
According to my interpretation of Jackson’s “False Opposition” idea (and cf. again Jackson (1998b)), he will simply co-opt the C-H theory for the terms in question, counting it as the verdict of “folk theory.”But why should he think that what effects the subject-changing is one’s abandoning the Putnamian “folk” condition associated with the term, rather than just the difference in causal grounding itself, when it is the latter that seems to be doing all the work?
Whatever the outcome(s) of those cavils, we shall see that Jackson’s defense gets more ambitious, in each of three ways.
The latter characterization is both obscure and vexed.But I believe the idea is this: To find “water’s” A-extension at a world w, find out what “water” would refer to if it were being used by a denizen of w, meaning what it would mean there in that person’s mouth, as opposed to what it means in our speech, if various other things in the other world are held fixed relative to our actual world.But what things?Here is my guess:Let us stipulate and hold fixed that at the relevant Twin World, “water” is a natural-kind term and works semantically much as it does here.That is, it refers to an underlying chemical compound that is the scientific essence of the familiar liquid in question, and its reference is fixed by superficial descriptions such as “the stuff that fills the lakes” and “the stuff that comes out of the taps.”Everything else about English is held fixed also.Under those suppositions, what does “water” mean at Twin World?Everything is the same except that the underlying substance that “water” refers to there is XYZ.So at Twin World, “water” means XYZ, not H2O, in the same way that in our language “water” does mean H2O.
Now we can generate Jackson’s A-intension for “water.”At any relevant world, i.e., any world at which the sign-design “water” is used as we use it except for there being a different underlying substance, it will mean, not H2O, but the underlying substance at that world.It will refer to whatever “plays the watery role” there (p. 50), which role is given by standard Kripkean this-worldly reference-fixers for the term (p. 49).So (this is Jackson’s bold inference): Even for us in the actual world, “water” has a kind of flaccid intension or meaning along with its normal, rigid referential meaning.Thus, “water”’s flaccid meaning for us is, stuff that plays the watery role.And that intension is a world-indifferent kind of meaning.
N.b., there must be some such kind of meaning, because “water” had a meaning in English long before Watt and Lavoisier, much less Dalton, and we do not suppose that the word now means something different.Also, Jackson is now able to explain the existence of our a posteriori necessities: They arise when a term’s C-intension differs from its A-intension.We know a priori, Jackson maintains, that water is whatever actually plays the water role; empirical input is needed to discover that H2O plays it.But, Jackson insists, we could not have made the empirical discovery without relying on the a priori A-intension, a deliverance of conceptual analysis.Even scientists must at least tacitly rely on conceptual analysis.
Here I must register another, fairly fundamental dissent.I do not believe that English words have A-intensions.To generate an A-intension, one needs a transworld “role,” as in “plays the watery role.”Such roles are supposed to be constituted by reference-fixing descriptions, that are the same across the relevant worlds.Which presupposes that an English word has a distinctive and stable set of reference-fixers.And that presupposition I deny.Reference-fixers are rarely enshrined in the public language; they are private to individual speakers at particular times.
The presupposition is not silly.Dictionary entries contain common stereotypical information about water, and philosophers have had no trouble coming up with sets of stereotypical reference-fixers such as those mentioned above.There is a loose body of information about water that we 21st-century Americans share with our Australian friends.That seems to constitute a “watery role.”But there being such a body of information is a highly contingent fact.One could still have the word “water” explained to one even if there were neither lakes nor taps, by reference to some other mode of acquaintance with water.In fact, even the collective body of all the reference-fixers that have ever been mentioned in the Putnam literature is expendable.Under unusual circumstances, one could have the word “water” explained to one even if there were neither lakes nor taps nor rain nor drinking nor colorless liquid nor..., so long as there were (real or imaginary) water around affecting us in some way—just by making a trickling sound, or looking dark blue, or feeling hot.And “water” would still mean just what it does now, in real-world English, even if its reference were fixed, in some context, by descriptions entirely different from the usual ones.
If that point needs defending:Two English speakers who happen to have in their heads different reference-fixers for “water” do not make the word ambiguous in English.No more would two English-speaking communities which generally had different stereotypes for “water,” a seaside fishing village in rainy country and a desert camp that has all water delivered by camel train.I see no obvious reason why the same would not hold for two planets whose inhabitants bore even more disparate everday relations to water.(There is the fact that all humans need to drink water, but that is a highly atypical feature of this example, and does not carry over to other natural-kind terms.)
Perhaps surprisingly, it is not a linguistic fact that “water” satisfies the descriptions that we find in dictionaries.Dictionaries contain lots of nonlinguistic information.The difference between what information turns up in dictionaries and what information does not is only the difference between information that is, though entirely contingent, widely known among a particular dictionary’s intended readership, and information that is not so widely known.
No distinctive, stable set of reference-fixers, no stereotypical “role.”No stereotypical role, no Jacksonian A-intension.Incidentally, even if I am wrong and there are A-intensions of Jackson’s sort, their specifically linguistic elusiveness distinguishes them from Kaplanian characters, to which it seems Jackson would like to assimilate them (pp. 72-73).Everyone agrees that indexicals have Kaplanian characters and that those characters are part of what one must know if one claims to know English.And the characters are easily, if not exceptionlessly, articulated: “‘I’ refers to the speaker,” “‘Now’ refers to the time interval containing the utterance,” etc.The putative A-intensions are not accessible in this straightforward way.
There is a further problem about A-intensions.It seems perfectly possible that a term’s reference should get fixed by descriptions that are one and all “near-misses” in the sense of Donnellan (1966); recall his example of indicating a party guest by calling him “the man drinking the martini” when in fact the guest’s martini glass contains plain water with an olive in it.Suppose there is a kind term T that refers to an underlying substance S, but none of T’s reference-fixers is strictly correct.Nothing plays the “T-ish role,” though S does things that approximate that role.On Jackson’s view we are supposed to know a priori that S is whatever actually plays the T-ish role.It seems to follow that the term T fails to refer, which is contrary to hypothesis.
6. Entry by conceptual entailment
On p. 68 Jackson turns to a crucial distinction.As we saw in section 1 above, his “entry by entailment” thesis amounted just to the claim that the properties being “located” must supervene on the preferred properties.It is a further question whether this supervenience is semantic or conceptual.“Is physicalism committed to an a priori deducibility thesis in addition to an entailment one in the [weak nonsemantic] sense we have been giving to entailment?”And, boldly, Jackson’s answer is affirmative.He is concerned to defend, as he did in Jackson (1994), what I shall call the Strong entry by entailment thesis, that the one and only way of having a place in an account told in some set of preferred terms is by being semantically or conceptually entailed by, and “deducible” from (pp. 68, 83), that account.This Strong thesis is startling and highly controversial; it is the second way in which Jackson’s defense gets more ambitious.
On the Kripke-Putnam view, the type-identities that figure in scientific reductions are a posteriori, and so they do not afford semantic entailments going upward from micro- propositions to macro- ones.That is one reason why we should expect the Strong thesis to fail.There are other good reasons.A second is that the vocabulary of macro- theories bears no semantic relation to that of micro- ones; what possible semantic relation could there be between “lung,” or “loan,” and “lepton”?A third is that the taxonomies of the special sciences??biology, psychology, economics, etc.??all cross-classify with each other and with chemistry; there are no “bridge principles” of the sort assumed by the positivists.A fourth is the prevalence of idealization at each level of nature: Rarely is there a smooth fit between a reduced concept and the constellation of lower-level reducing entities; even if truths about the lower level did a priori entail something about the upper level, what they would entail would not be that the reduced concept applies, but only some more complex fact still expressed in lower-level terms (to which the reduced concept somehow approximates by idealization).So, to say the least, the Strong thesis requires argument.
Mobilizing his apparatus of A-intensions, Jackson begins by offering us a model for deriving sentences containing “water” from sentences containing “H2O.”
We will be able to move a priori from…sentences about the distribution of H2O combined with the right context-giving statements, to the distribution of water….[F]or consider:
(2) H2O covers most of the Earth;
(2a) H2O is the watery stuff of our acquaintance;
(3) Therefore, water covers most of the Earth.
Although the passage from (2) to (3) is a posteriori, the passage from (2) together with (2a) to (3) is a priori in view of the a priori status of ‘Water is the watery stuff of our acquaintance’(p. 82)
is very compressed.It is crucial
to see that the bridging premise, “Water is the watery stuff of our acquaintance,”
is supposed to be known a priori in virtue of one’s grasp of the A-intension
of “water.”This idea goes back to
Evans (1979): Suppose
someone stipulates, “Let us use ‘Julius’ to refer to whoever [actually]
invented the zip.”Then, “(If anyone
uniquely invented the zip) Julius invented the zip” is known a priori.Likewise,
“(If there is a unique occupant of the ‘K’ role) the actual occupant of
the ‘K’ role is K.”
A first question is, how is (2a) itself supposed to be conceptually derivable from microphysics?But let us put that aside, because the point of the example is only to show how Jackson would deal with the obvious hard case of natural-kind terms.There are more serious objections.One is that (again) English does not specify any “watery role,” and there are no A-intensions to begin with.
Another objection echoes a complaint made against Evans by Donnellan (1979) and Blackburn (1984, pp. 333-35), who question whether Evans’ sample truths are really known a priori.They argue convincingly that the latter claim rests on a use-mention fallacy.To wit, referential a prioritude does not survive disquotation.Take a simple example first:Although in virtue of your grasp of Kaplanian characters you know a priori that “I am here now” as uttered by me is true, you do not know a priori that I am here now; for the latter knowledge you need perception and memory.Nor, for the same reason, do I know a priori that I am here now.I do not know a priori that if anyone uniquely invented the zip, Julius did, even though I do know a priori that the sentence “If anyone uniquely invented the zip, Julius did” must be a true sentence.(Of course, the corresponding T-sentences are not themselves known a priori.)
And similarly, even if we know a priori that the sentence “The actual occupant of the “watery role” = water” must be a true sentence, we do not know a priori that the actual occupant of the “watery role” = water (i.e., H2O).That had to be discovered empirically, and we know it through testimony.Thus, I deny that one can move a priori, much less conceptually, from (2) and (2a) to (3).
let us remember that even if
A second argument for the Strong thesis is suggested by a passage on p. 83:
[T]he contextual information, the relevant information about how things actually are, by virtue of telling us in principle the propositions expressed by the various sentences…enables us to move a priori from the H2O way things are to the water way they are.But if physicalism is true, all the information needed to yield the propositions being expressed about what the actual world is like in various physical sentences can be given in physical terms, for the actual context is givable in physical terms according to physicalism.Therefore, physicalism is committed to the in principle a priori deducibility of the psychological from the physical.
I think this is another assimilation of A-intensions to Kaplanian characters.To understand a sentence containing an indexical is to know, for any context, how to tell what proposition the sentence expresses in that context.Accordingly, contingent contextual information can license semantically valid inferences that are not valid in virtue of their logical forms:Sue, speaking to me from behind, says “Your jacket is on fire”; I infer “My jacket is on fire,” and Frank infers “Bill’s jacket is on fire,” and we all know we are expressing the same proposition.Similarly, Jackson thinks, “context” rules that “water” designates H2O.
But now the question is, how is it that if physicalism is true, “the actual context is givable in physical terms”?If physicalism is true, all relevant features of the actual context supervene on (and are reducible to) microphysics.But without begging the question, Jackson cannot assume that those features figure in “information” in the semantic or conceptual sense, so that such information can be used as a premise in a derivation.And short of that, I do not see how the physicality of the contextual features might help.
A third argument for the Strong thesis is briefly presented in the section, “A Simple Argument to Finish With” (pp. 83-84):
The physical story about amoebae and their interactions with their environments is the whole story about amoebae….Now, according to physicalism, we differ from amoebae essentially only in complexity of ingredients and their arrangement.It is hard to see how that kind of difference could generate important facts about us that in principle defy our powers of deduction.Think of the charts in biology classrooms showing the evolutionary progression from single-celled organisms on the far left to the higher apes and humans on the far right: where in that progression can the physicalist plausibly claim that failure of a priori deducibility of important facts about these organisms and creatures emerges?
I shall content myself with one objection and then one very quick answer to Jackson’s rhetorical question.The objection is that although (of course) I too am a physicalist about amoebae, I do not grant in the first place that sentences about amoebae are conceptually derivable from microphysics.That is just another instance of the issue that currently divides Jackson and me.Even if we waive that, my answer to the question, “[W]here in that progression…?” would be:At the point in the progression where natural selection cuts in and starts dramatically cross-classifying biological structures and functions against chemical kinds.(Granted, that “point” is pretty vague.)
7. Vs. the “metaphysical”/”conceptual” distinction
It is clear throughout the book that Jackson really does not like “the now famous distinction between metaphysical and conceptual necessity” (p. 68), though he has to grant at least a superficial version of it for the case of the a posteriori necessities.He is concerned to emphasize that the distinction is superficial at best and is standardly mischaracterized by us Kripkeans.
Consider the standard picture of logical space, featuring ever-larger concentric circles.We can start with the usual three grades of possibility, nomic, metaphysical, and conceptual; the nomically possible worlds are a proper subset of the metaphysically possible, which in turn are a proper subset of the conceptually possible.(I myself would distinguish logical from conceptual possibility, on the grounds that very little is ruled out by formal logic alone, and I would add plenty of logically impossible worlds outside that pale.)Of course, the usual three grades are only a tiny subset of all the grades or types of possibility there are.Biological possibility, legal possibility, moral possibility,….Andnotice that no ordinary English sentence expresses an unrestricted alethic modality.We do not hear mention of logical necessity, logical possibility or entailmentoutside a philosophy department.Rather, all everyday modalities, expressed by English modal auxiliaries, are restricted, relative to contextually determined sets of background assumptions, and few of even those street-level restriction classes themselves correspond to recognizable philosophical categories.
The usual way of generating and distinguishing all the various types and grades of possibility is in terms of consistency or compatibility.Nomic possibility is consistency with the laws of nature that govern our world, legal possibility is consistency with the relevant civic or criminal laws, epistemic possibility is consistency with what is known; and so on.On this model, conceptual possibility outruns metaphysical possibility because (so far as has been shown) a proposition may be compatible with all conceptual truths yet incompatible with some fact or law of metaphysics.
But Jackson believes that something is very wrong with that familiar picture.(This is the third way in which Jackson aggravates his defense of conceptual analysis.) He is concerned to deny that there is a difference between “metaphysical” and “conceptual” possibility/necessity (pp. 68ff.).
There is a distraction that we need to get out of the way:Jackson denies that there are two senses of the terms “necessary” and “possible,” and he continues to refer to his target view as “the two senses view.”But no one (I trust) thinks that the alethic modal terms are ambiguous, as between different senses.Rather, as I put it earlier, there are types and grades of necessity and possibility, designated by adverbs such as “conceptually” and “legally.”Jackson is surely aware of that, and his arguments do not turn on the difference between different senses and different types.What he wants is to deny that there is a difference between metaphysical and merely conceptual possibility/necessity.
offers two reasons for that denial.The
first is “Occamist” (pp. 70-74).As
its name implies, it is an appeal to parsimony.“The
phenomena of the necessary a posteriori, and of essential properties, can
be explained in terms of one unitary notion of a set of possible worlds”
(p. 70).The main phenomenon that
And the important point for us is that this story about the necessary a posteriori does not require acknowledging two sorts of necessity.The story was all in terms of the one set of possible worlds.”
The latter remark is perfectly true, but unresponsive.First, that the “metaphysical”/”conceptual” distinction is not required to explain the specific phenomenon of how a sentence can be both necessary and a posteriori does not show that it is not required for any explanatory purpose.Second and more importantly, the distinction is not (or not primarily) an explanatory posit in the first place.As before, conceptual possibility outruns metaphysical possibility because, just as a proposition may be (semantically) entailed by the laws of nature without being true in all metaphysically possible worlds, a proposition may be entailed by some fact or law of metaphysics without being a conceptual truth: “All water is H2O,” “Nothing is both red all over and green all over,” and “Mark Twain is Samuel Clemens,” for example.If we think of possible worlds as sets of propositions, the merely conceptually possible worlds contain propositions that no metaphysically possible world contains.Those are (broadly) logical facts, not hypotheses invoked to explain anything in particular.All the distinctions between grades of necessity and possibility??nomic vs. legal vs. biological vs. moral etc. etc.??remain in place just as before; why should metaphysical vs. conceptual be any different?
Jackson’s second argument is brief:
The key point is that the right way to describe a counterfactual world sometimes depends in part on how the actual world is, and not solely on how the counterfactual world is in itself.The point is not one about the space of possible worlds in some newly recognized sense of ‘possible’, but instead one about the role of the actual world in determining the correct way to describe certain counterfactual possible worlds.”(pp. 77-78).
I have my usual reservations about that two-dimensional way of putting it, but let us again suspend those.My problem with this second argument is that I do not see how it gets from premise to conclusion.Suppose Jackson’s “key point,” expressed in the first sentence of the foregoing quotation, is correct.How is it supposed to follow that there is no difference between metaphysical and conceptual possibility?
Perhaps this is another appeal to parsimony: we can construe the arguments of Kripke and Putnam in the two-dimensional way, so there is no need to posit a special realm of conceptual-but-not-metaphysical possibilities.But if that is the right interpretation, I would (obviously) make the same reply as I did to the first argument.The realm is not a special realm, and certainly not “some newly recognized” one; it is an already recognized sector of logical space like any other sector.But if the argument is not another appeal to parsimony, then I do not know what it is.
A better argument against the “metaphysical”/”conceptual” distinction is suggested by Jackson’s remarks on the “methodological objection” (p. 80).He reminds us that the alethic modalities are not primarily features of sentences.He says that what we should be talking about is possibilities themselves and how many kinds of them there are.Presumably they are propositions or states of affairs.
Now, Kripkean-Putnamian believers in a posteriori necessities hold their belief primarily because of a posteriori identities and the Marcus-Kripke point that genuine identities (identities whose terms are rigid designators) are necessary.But someone might argue that any two true identity sentences whose terms are rigid designators of the same individual express the same proposition.“Mark Twain = Samuel Clemens” expresses just the same singular proposition as does “Samuel Clemens = Samuel Clemens,” viz., the proposition that that person is that person.“Water = H2O” expresses just the same proposition as do “Water = water” and “H2O = H2O,” viz., that that stuff is that stuff.Moreover and more generally, outside intensional contexts coreferring rigid designators may be substituted in sentences salva propositione, so “Some water is not H2O” expresses the same proposition as “Some water is not water” and “Some H2O is not H2O.”So if we are individuating worlds according to sets of propositions, there is (at least as yet) no proposition that holds in a conceptually possible world but not in any metaphysically possible world.In particular, the proposition that some water is not H2O does not hold in a conceptually possible world, because it is one and the same as the proposition that some H2O is not H2O.So too for the proposition that Twain is taller than Clemens, which is just the proposition that Clemens is taller than Clemens.
The foregoing argument may seem to break down when it comes to natural-kind terms.For no one thinks that “water” and “H2O” are synonymous.It is a given of the Kripke-Putnam literature that “water” and “H2O” differ in meaning.Since “water” and “H2O” do differ in meaning, “Some water is not H2O” expresses a different proposition from that expressed by “Some water is not water,” and ditto for “Some H2O is not H2O.”So, continues the objection, there is after all a proposition, expressed by “Some water is not H2O,” that holds in a conceptually possible world but in no metaphysically possible one, and the argument fails.
But Jackson has a reply available.He may remind us that “water” and “H2O” do have the same C-intension.Their difference in meaning is a difference in A-intension.The A-intension of “Some water is not H2O” is a metaphysical possibility, not a metaphysical impossibility.So there is no single intension or proposition that is metaphysically impossible but conceptually possible.
Given the two-dimensional framework and the assumption that there are A-intensions, the foregoing seems (otherwise) to be a sound argument.Yet even given those assumptions it could not settle the issue, because as I have said, I believe there are unrelated types of sentence that do express propositions that are conceptually possible though metaphysically impossible: “There are distinct physical objects that occupy the same region of space at the same time”; “Some abstract entities have causal powers.”But Jackson may disagree about that.
study has been unsympathetic.It has
also focused exclusively on the first three chapters of From Metaphysics
to Ethics, which would hardly be fair if this were a book review.As
few readers of the present volume will need to be told,
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in P. Cole (ed), Syntax
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Stalnaker, R. (2001).“On Considering a Possible World as Actual,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume 65, 141-156.
R. (2003).“Conceptual Truth and
Metaphysical Necessity,” in Ways
a World Might Be:Metaphysical
and Anti-Metaphysical Essays (
Stich, S.P. (1996).Deconstructing the Mind.(Oxford: Oxford University Press.)
S.P., and J. Weinberg (2001).“
I should enter an explanation…concern[ing] my word ‘concept’.Our subject is really the elucidation of the possible situations covered by the words we use to ask our questions [about possible cases]….I use the word ‘concept’ partly in deference to the traditional terminology which talks of conceptual analysis, and partly to emphasize that though our subject is the elucidation of the various situations covered by bits of language according to one or another language user, or by the folk in general, it is divorced from considerations local to any particular language.(p. 33, italics original)
On our conception,…we are simply concerned with making explicit what is, and what is not, covered by some term in our language.(p. 51)
metaphysics, as originally defined in the quotations with which we began,
is not a metalinguistic activity.But
allusions to language started taking over very early, as witness
one point (p. 30),
That argument is not reprised in From Metaphysics to Ethics.But a further reason why “conceptual” must be narrower than “a priori” will be noted in section 6 below (note 21).
more serious difficulties with the notion of “considering a world as actual,”
see Stalnaker (2001).For a more recent
(The lack of a convincing nondescriptivist theory of the pre-chemistry meanings of natural-kind terms is another reason for doubting Putnamian orthodoxy; cf. note 5 above.)
[E]ven if these conditions of application are not part of the semantics of “water” in English, this does not entail that a subject’s application of the term to epistemic possibilities is not justified a priori….[I]t may be the case that the relevant [reference-fixers for]…a term may vary as between users of a term (so that the corresponding conditions of application are not built in to the term’s semantics in English), but that each user’s knowledge of the [relevant] conditionals is justified a priori all the same.
The point is correct:A mental A-intension could be constructed from an individual speaker’s mental state at a time.But that takes us beyond the scope of this paper.(I would make a different Quinean objection to such an analogue.)
three points in response to that.First,
on p. 10-11