“I want to talk about objects!”

I had a discussion today that spawned some thoughts on language. I was trying to get clear about the word “evil” in a Mackey essay on the problem of evil. I was told that I was talking about words, where they want to talk about objects. I didn’t know what that meant. I still don’t. What does it mean to just talk about objects and not talk about language? How can I talk about an object without first clarifying the words it refers to?

I’m pulled by the idea that we have don’t know what we’re referring to until we look at the words. The words which are used in philosophical texts (all texts really) take on a particular life. The phrase “good without limitation” is very important in Kant, but is hard to understand what it means. The word “know” is very important to Descartes, it takes on a different character than the ordinary use. I can’t know this without looking at the language (looking at the use). What would it mean to talk about objects but not words?

~ by Barky on September 8, 2011.

2 Responses to ““I want to talk about objects!””

  1. Keep in mind how common it is to philosophers, and how deep it goes in them, to believe that you can secure objects of thought independent of the ways in which you think about them, or (slight shift) to think that you can secure something to talk about independent of your ways of talking about it. I’ve taught you to think against that, but doing so really requires that you swim upstream.

    Maybe you can get a hearing by simply stating: “Look, you treat the problem in the material mode. I treat it in the formal mode. I am a fan of (something like) Quinean “semantic assent”.)”

  2. Thanks! Is there a good paper that maps the distinctions well? The information on the internet is scarce. Same with semantic assent.

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