This may be quite naive and rambling, but I’ll go ahead. There is a difference in views of language that I’ve been somewhat puzzled by for a while. One approach takes linguistics fairly seriously and focuses more speaker intuitions. These two parts may not be intimately related. Philosophers falling into this camp are, say, Jason Stanley and Francois Recanati. Another camp tends not to pay that much attention to linguistics. There is, maybe, a tendency to view language through the lens of first-order logic, broken into terms and predicates. Philosophers in this camp are, say, Sellars and Dummett. I think Davidson might be read as being on each side at different points in his writings. As it stands, I’ve drawn nothing resembling a clear line. This may even play out in different approaches to semantics. Why one might concentrate on, say, meaning in terms of reference or meaning in terms of inference. As an aside, I once asked one of my linguistics professors at Stanford what linguists thought something like conceptual role semantics. He said that they didn’t really think about it because it was a different sort of project than what they were interested in. He pointed me to this little explanatory piece by Ned Block. That helped put things into perspective, but I digress… I almost want to say that the integration of philosophy of language into other areas of philosophy also cuts along these lines. However, I am fairly sure that is false and more a product of selective memory. People on both sides are interested in integrating philosophy of language into other areas, such as philosophy of mind or of action. In any case, I came across a footnote in van Fraassen’s essay on Putnam’s paradox which exemplifies one side (It is left as an exercise to the reader to guess which)(The context is a discussion of translation and knowledge of meaning):
“For the sake of example I am here pretending that Dutch and English are two separate languages in actu. I usually think of one’s language as everything one has learned to speak, and of natural language as consisting in all the resources we have for speaking and writing.”
This, by itself, probably does not force van Fraassen into one or the other grouping, although it seems to lend itself to fitting into one group rather than the other. This idea, it seems, lends itself to viewing language more expansively than usual for linguistic semantics. Interestingly, I think that Lewis in “Language and languages” could be on board with this completely even though he is someone I would usually situate in the first group. I must go ask some linguists what they think of this…

This was a little rambling, but, I am currently stuck on a paper idea. What better way to pass the time than ramble on about approaches to the philosophy of language? Probably doing those model theory proofs now that I think about it… But, I’m pretty sure people that would naturally place themselves in one or the other camp read this, so hopefully someone is interested.

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