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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Recent Paper: Intuition and the Substitution Argument

I'm not sure why it never occurred to me to post announcements of new papers here, but, well, better late than never.

This paper, "Intuition and the Substitution Argument" (PDF here), was delivered at the Analytic Philosophy symposium at the University of Texas in early December, and before that at Duke University, in October. It will appear in a special issue of Analytic Philosophy also containing the other papers from the symposium, by Mike Martin, Tamar Shapiro, and Ralph Wedgwood.

The 'substitution argument' purports to demonstrate the falsity of Russellian accounts of belief-ascription by observing that, e.g., these two sentences:

(LC) Lois believes that Clark can fly.
(LS) Lois believes that Superman can fly.

could have different truth-values. But what is the basis for that claim? It seems widely to be supposed, especially by Russellians, that it is simply an 'intuition', one that could then be 'explained away'. And this supposition plays an especially important role in Jennifer Saul's defense of Russellianism, based upon the existence of an allegedly similar contrast between these two sentences:

(PC) Superman is more popular than Clark.
(PS) Superman is more popular than Superman.

The latter contrast looks pragmatic. But then, Saul asks, why shouldn't we then say the same about the former?

The answer to this question is that the two cases simply are not similar. In the case of (PC) and (PS), we have only the facts that these strike us differently, and that people will sometimes say things like (PC), whereas they will never say things like (PS). By contrast, there is an argument to be given that (LS) can be true even if (LC) is false, and this argument does not appeal to anyone's 'intuitions'.

The main goal of the paper is to present such a version of the substitution argument, building upon the treatment of the Fregean argument against Russellian accounts of belief itself in "Solving Frege's Puzzle". A subsidiary goal is to contribute to the growing literature arguing that 'intuitions' simply do not play the sort of role in philosophical inquiry that so-called 'experimental philosophers' have supposed they do.
Thanks a ton to David Sosa for inviting me to the symposium, and to everyone there for showing me way too good a time.

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