Naturalising it all

Posted on May 31, 2008


The week after the meeting in Torun, I hosted Maria Frapolli from Granada at my department in the Marie Curie-Sklodowska University. She came on the Erasmus teaching staff exchange and taught a short course on the philosophy of language. Unfortunately, due to the Corpus Christi holiday on Thursday and Friday that I had completely forgotten about but which is normal in all Catholic countries such as Poland, the course had to be very short, only running over three two hour meetings. Still, I found it to be singularly interesting. Maria focussed upon her own reading of Frege and Grice and put together a view of language which I find much more plausible than the usual analytical philosophy of language – an area that I had largely given up on due to how unlikely the standard views seemed to me. I have done a little work in the area, nonetheless, arguing with John Collier that pragmatics actually plays a central role within language rather than the peripheral role it is normally given. The overall problem seems to me that philosophy of language is the least naturalised of the areas of philosophy and since you can not naturalise just epistemology without naturalising the rest of philosophy, it is holding back developments. On numerous occasions I have seen arguments which consist of showing that some naturalist position is inconsistent with the unnaturalised philosophy of language. Whereas the authors of such arguments invariably conclude that this means the naturalist view is incorrect I point out that one man’s modus ponens is another’s modus tollens and claim that this merely shows that it is high time to naturalise the philosophy of language. Maria appears to be attempting to achieve just such a naturalisation. Right now she is finishing a book on the philosophy of logic but, as I told her, I really hope that she next writes an introduction of the philosophy of language from the point of view which she presented in Lublin. I know that I would most definitely use this text: to the benefit of my students, as well as my own.