quarta-feira, 21 de fevereiro de 2018




On my CV:
After a graduation in medicine I made my M.S. in philosophy at the UFRJ (Rio de Janeiro), Ph.D. at the University of Konstanz (Germany) and post-doctoral works at the Hochschule für Philosophie (Munich) and at the universities of Berkeley, Oxford, Konstanz, Göteborg, and at the École Normale Supérieure. 
My main articles published in international journals were collected and better developed in the book Lines of Thought: Rethinking Philosophical Assumptions (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014). Also from interest may be a short theory on the nature of philosophy in the book The Philosophical Inquiry (UPA, 2002). Presently I am writting a book aiming to recuperate the credibility of the old orthodoxy in analytic philosophy of language. This book, to be called Philosophical Semantics, shall be also published by CSP in 2017/2. 

I am full professor at the Department of Philosophy of the UFRN, Natal, Brazil, though with ergonomic limitation.

Advertisement of some published books (see Amazon.usa):


Advanced draft for Philosophical Semantics, to be publidhed in 2018/1

- I -

Logic, I should maintain, must no more admit a unicorn than zoology can; for logic is concerned with the real world just as truly as zoology, though with its more abstract and general features.
Bertrand Russell
A philosophical tradition which suffers from the vice of horror mundi in an endemic way is condemned to futility.
Kevin Mulligan, Peter Simons, Barry Smith

The old orthodoxy of the philosophy of language that prevailed during the first half of the twentieth century was marked by an insistence on the centrality of meaning, an eroded semantic principle of verifiability, naive correspondentialism, an elementary distinction between analytic and synthetic, crude descriptivist-internalist theories of proper names and general terms, a monolithic dichotomy between the necessary a priori and the contingent a posteriori… Could it nevertheless come closer to the truth than the now dominant causal-externalist orthodoxy?
  This book was written in the conviction that this question should be answered affirmatively. I am convinced that the philosophy of language of the first half of the twentieth century that formed the bulk of the old orthodoxy was often more virtuous, more comprehensive, more profound and closer to the truth than the approaches of the new orthodoxy, and that its rough-hewn insights were often more powerful, particularly in the works of philosophers like Wittgenstein, Frege, Russell and Husserl. My conjecture is that the reason lies in the socio-cultural background. Even if also motivated by a desire to approach the authentic consensual truth only possible for science, philosophy in itself has its own epistemic place as a cultural conjectural endeavor, inevitably harboring metaphorical components which are comparable to those of the fine arts and comprehensive aims comparable to those of religion, even if it is in itself independent of both (Costa 2002). The first half of the twentieth century at best preserved these traits. One reason might be that this was still a very elitist, small and hierarchical social and intellectual world, while our present world is much more level and uniform, which does not make it the best place for more ambitious forms of cultural development. Moreover, great culture is often the result of great conflict which puts received views in doubt. And the period between the end of the nineteenth century and the Second World War was one of increasing social turmoil. This conflict cast doubt on all established cultural values, creating the right atmosphere for intellectuals and artists disposed to develop sweepingly original innovations. This could be felt not only in philosophy and the arts, but also in fields reserved for particular sciences.
  Philosophy of language since the Second World War has been much more a form of strongly established academic ‘normal philosophy,’ to borrow Thomas Kuhn’s term. On the one hand, it was a continuation of the old orthodoxy, represented in the writings of philosophers like John Austin, P. F. Strawson, Michael Dummett, John Searle, Ernst Tugendhat, Jürgen Habermas… whose side I generally take. On the other hand, we have seen the emergence of what I call the new orthodoxy, founded by Saul Kripke and Keith Donnellan in the early seventies and later elaborated by Hilary Putnam, David Kaplan and many others. In opposition to the old orthodoxy, this approach emphasizes externalism about meaning, causalism and anti-cognitivism. This new orthodoxy has become the contemporary mainstream position in philosophy of language.
  I do not deny the philosophical relevance of this new orthodoxy. Nor do I reject its originality and dialectical force. Perhaps I am more indebted to it than I want to admit. Nevertheless, the new orthodoxy has already long since lost much of its creative impetus, and it now risks transforming itself into a kind of scholastic discussion among specialists. Moreover, the value of the new orthodoxy in philosophy of language is in my judgment predominantly negative, since most of its conclusions fall short of the truth. This means that the significance of its ideas consists mostly in their being dialectically relevant challenges, which, I believe, could be adequately answered by an improved reformulation of old, primarily descriptivist-internalist-cognitivist views of meaning and reference that are to some extent developed in the present book. Indeed, I intend to show that the views of the old orthodoxy could be reformulated in much more sophisticated ways, not only answering the challenges of the new orthodoxy, but also suggesting solutions to problems that the contemporary philosophy of language hasn’t addressed as well as it should.
  My approach to the topics considered here consists in gradually developing and defending a primarily internalist, cognitivist and neo-descriptivist analysis of the nature of the cognitive meanings of our expressions and their inherent mechanisms of reference. But this approach will be indirect, since the analysis will usually be supported by a critical examination of some central views of traditional analytic philosophy, particularly those of Wittgenstein and Frege. Furthermore, such explanations will be supplemented by a renewed reading and defense of the idea that existence is a higher-order property, a detailed reconsideration of the verificationist explanation of cognitive meaning, and a reassess­ment of the correspondence theory of truth, which I see as complementary to the suggested form of verificationism and dependent on a correct treatment of the epistemic problem of perception.
  The obvious assumption that makes my project prima facie plausible is the idea that language is a system of rules, some of which should be the most proper sources of meaning. Following Ernst Tugendhat, I assume that the most central meaning-rules are those responsible for what Aristotle called apophantic speech: the representational discourse, whose meaning-rules I call semantic-cognitive rules. Indeed, it seems at first highly plausible to think that the cognitive meaning (i.e., informative content and not mere linguistic meaning) of our representational language cannot be given by anything other than semantic-cognitive rules or associations of such rules. Our knowledge of these typically conventional rules is – as will be shown – usually tacit, implicit, non-reflexive. That is, we are able to use them correctly but we are almost never able to analyze them in a linguistically explicit way when they belong to philosophically relevant concepts.
  My ultimate aim should be to investigate the structure of semantic-cognitive rules by examining our basic referential expressions – singular terms, general terms and also declarative sentences – in order to furnish an appropriate explanation of their reference mechanisms. In the present book, I do this only partially, often in the appendices, summarizing ideas already presented in my last book (2014, Chs. 2 to 4), always aware that they still require development. I proceed in this way because in the main text of the present book my main concern is rather to justify and clarify my own assumptions on the philosophy of meaning and reference.

1. Ernst Tugendhat’s analysis of singular predicative statements
In developing these views, I soon realized that my main goal could be seen as essentially a way to revive a program already speculatively developed by Ernst Tugendhat in his classical work Traditional and Analytical Philosophy: Lectures on the Philosophy of Language (2016).[1] This book, published in 1976, can be considered the swansong of the old orthodoxy, defending a non-externalist and basically non-properly-causalist program that was gradually abandoned during the next decade under the ever-growing influence of the new causal-externalist orthodoxy. Tugendhat’s strategy in developing this program can be understood in its core as a semantic analysis of the fundamental singular predicative statement. This statement is not only epistemically fundamental, it is also the indispensable basis for building our first-order truth-functional language.[2] In summary, given a statement of the form Fa, he suggested that:

1)            The meaning of the singular term a should be its identification rule (Identifikationsregel),
2)            the meaning of the general term F should be its application rule (Verwendungsregel), which I also call a characterization or (preferably) ascription rule,
3)            the meaning of the complete singular predicative statement Fa should be its verifiability rule (Verifikationsregel), which results from the collaborative application of the first two rules.
(Cf. Tugendhat & Wolf 1983: 235-6; Tugendhat 1976: 259, 484, 487-8).

In this case, the verifiability rule is obtained by jointly applying the first two rules in such a way that the identification rule of the singular term must be applied first, in order to then use the general term’s ascription rule. Thus, for instance, Yuri Gagarin, the first man to orbit the Earth from above its atmosphere, gazed out of his space capsule and exclaimed: ‘The Earth is blue!’ In order to make this a true statement, he should first have identified the Earth by applying the identification rule of the proper name ‘Earth.’ Then, based on the result of this application, he would have been able to apply the ascription rule of the predicative expression ‘…is blue.’ In this form of combined application, these two rules work as a kind of verifiability rule for the statement ‘The Earth is blue.’ That is: if these rules can be conjunctively applied, then the statement is true, otherwise, it is false. Tugendhat saw this not only as a form of verificationism, but also as a kind of correspondence theory of truth – a conclusion that I find correct, although it is rejected by some of his readers.[3]
  In order to test Tugendhat’s view, we can critically ask if it is not possible that we really first apply the ascription rule of a predicative expression. For example, suppose that one night you see something burning at a distance without knowing what is on fire. Only after approaching it do you see that it is an old, abandoned factory. It may seem that in this example you first applied the ascription rule and later the identification rule. However, in suggesting this you forget that to see the fire one must first direct one’s eyes at a certain spatio-temporal spot, thereby localizing the individualized place where something is on fire. Hence, a primitive identification rule for a place at a certain time was first generated and applied.
  That is, initially the statement will not be: ‘That old building is on fire,’ but simply ‘Over there… is fire.’ Later on, when you are closer to the building, you can make a more precise statement. Thus, in this same way while looking out of his space capsule’s porthole, Gagarin could think, ‘Out there below the porthole it is blue’, before saying ‘The Earth is blue’. Even in this case, the ascription rule cannot be applied without the earlier application of some identification rule, even if it is one that is only able to identify a vague spatio-temporal region from the porthole. To expand on the objection, we could consider a statement like ‘It is all white fog.’ Notwithstanding, even here, ‘It is all…’ expresses an identification rule (of my whole visual field covering the place where I am right now) for the singular term, while ‘…white fog’ expresses the ascription rule that can afterwards be applied to the place where I am. Even if there is no property, as when I state ‘It is all darkness,’ what I mean can be translated into the true statement ‘Here and now there is no light.’ And from this statement it is clear that I first apply the indexical identification rule for the here and now and afterwards see the inapplicability of the ascription rule for lightness expressed by the negation ‘…there is no light’ or by the predicative expression ‘…is all darkness.’
  Tugendhat reached his conclusions through purely speculative considerations, without analyzing the structure of these rules and without answering the many obvious external criticisms of the program, like the numerous well-known objections already made against verificationism. But what is extraordinary is that he was arguably right, since the present book will make it hard to contest his main views.[4]

2. The virtue of comprehensiveness
My methodological strategies are also different from those used in the more formally oriented approaches criticized in this book, insofar as they perfectionate a positivist ideal language philosophy indifferent from empirical truth. In opposition, my approach is primarily oriented by the communicative and social roles of language regarded as the fundamental units of analysis. It must be so because I assume that the most proper philosophical approach must be as comprehensive as possible and that an all-inclusive understanding of language and meaning must emphasize its unavoidable empirical involvement in overall societal life. This means that I am more influenced by the so-called natural language tradition (understood in a broad, critical sense) than by the ideal language tradition, thus being inclined to assign a fair amount of heuristic value to common sense and critical examination of natural language intuitions, often seeking support in a more careful examination of concrete examples of how linguistic expressions are effectively employed in adequately chosen contexts.[5] 
  Finally, my approach is systematic, which means that coherence belongs to it heuristically. The chapters of this book are so interconnected that the plausibility of each is better supported when regarded in its relation to arguments developed in the preceding chapters and their often critical appendices. Even if complementary, these appendices are included as a sometimes indispensable counterpoint to the chapters, aiming to better justify the expressed views, if not to add something relevant to them.
  The whole work strives in the direction of comprehensiveness, aiming to reintegrate theoretical philosophy under the recognition that there is no philosophical question completely independent of all the others (Appiah: 377).[6]  In this way it shows itself to be an attempt to analyze linguistically approximated concepts like meaning, reference, existence and truth, insofar as they are internally associated with one another and, unavoidably, with a cluster of some main metaphysical and epistemological framework concepts constitutive of our understanding of the world.

[1] Original German title: Vorlesungen zur Einführung in die sprachanalytische Philosophie.
[2] I use the word ‘statement’ in most cases as referring to the speech act of making an assertion.
[3] An antecedent of this is J. L. Austin’s correspondence view, according to which an indexical statement (e.g., ‘This rose is red’) is said to be true when the historical fact correlated with its demonstrative convention (here represented by the demonstrative ‘this’) is of the type established by the sentence’s descriptive convention (the red rose type) (Austin 1950: 122). This is a first approximation of conventionalist strategies later employed by Dummett in his interpretation of Frege (Cf. 1981: 194, 229) and still later more cogently explored by Tugendhat under some Husserlian influence.
[4] Tugendhat’s thesis has a wide scope. Consider a conversational implicature: – ‘Do you know how to cook?’ – ‘I am French,’ which implicates the statement ‘I know how to cook.’ (Recanati 2004: 5) But this does not effect Tugendhat’s thesis, for the proper and implied meanings posed by the statement ‘I am French’ would then be established throught verifiability rules like those he proposed.
[5] The ideal language tradition (inspired by the logical analysis of language) and the natural language tradition (inspired by the real work of natural language) represent opposed (though arguably also complementary) views. The first was founded by Frege, Russell and the early Wittgenstein. It was also later strongly associated with philosophers of logical positivism, particularly Rudolf Carnap. With the rise of Nazism in Europe, most philosophers associated with logical positivism fled to the USA, where they strongly influenced American analytic philosophy. The philosophies of W. V-O. Quine, Donald Davidson, and later Kripke, Putnam and David Kaplan, along with the present mainstream philosophy of language, with its metaphysics of reference, are in indirect ways later American developments of ideal language philosophy. What I prefer to call the natural language tradition was represented after the Second World War by the Oxford School as the somewhat restrictive ‘ordinary language philosophy.’ The latter was inspired by the analysis of what J. L. Austin called ‘the total speech act in the total speech situation.’ Its main theorists were Austin, Gilbert Ryle and P. F. Strawson, although it had an antecedent in the later natural language philosophy of Wittgenstein and, still earlier, in G. E. Moore’s commonsense approach. Natural language philosophy also affected American philosophy through relatively isolated figures like Paul Grice and John Searle, whose academic influence has foreseeably not been as great... For the initial historical background, see J. O. Urmson (1956).
[6] After his broad exposition of contemporary philosoply K. A. Appiah concluded: ‘The subject is not a collection of separate problems that can be addressed independently. Issues in epistemology and the philosophy of language reappear in the discussions of philosophy of mind, morals, politics, law, science and religion… What is the root of the philosophical style is a desire to give a general and systematic account of our thought and experience, one that is developed critically, in the light of evidence and arguments.’ (2003: 377-378) In Anhony Kenny’s words this also explains the distinctiveness of classical philosophers like Aquinas: ‘Philosophy is so all-embracing in its subject-matter, so wide in its field of operation that the achievement of a systematic philosophical overview of human knowledge is something so difficult that only genius can do it. So vast is philosophy that only a wholly exceptional mind can see the consequences of even the simplest philosophical argument or conclusion.’ (1993: 9)

domingo, 18 de fevereiro de 2018


This is the table of contents and last draft of the preface of the book to be published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing in 2018/1


Reintegrating Theoretical Philosophy

Table of Contents


Chapter I: Introduction
1.     Ernst Tugendhat’s analysis of singular statements
2.     The virtue of comprehensiveness

Appendix to Chapter I: How Do Proper Names Really Work? (Cutting the Gordian knot)
1.     A meta-descriptivist rule for proper names
2.     Identification rules at work
3.     Objection of vagueness
4.     Signification
5.     Ignorance and error
6.     Rigidity
7.     Rules changeability
8.     Names versus descriptions
9.     Autonomous definite descriptions
10.                        Kripke’s counterexamples
11.                        Donnellan’s counterexamples
12.                        Explanatory failure of the causal-historical view

Chapter II: Against the Metaphysics of Reference: Methodological Assumptions
1.     Common sense and meaning
2.     Ambitious versus modest common sense
3.     Resisting changes in worldviews
4.     Primacy of established knowledge
5.     Philosophizing by examples
6.     Tacit knowledge of meaning: traditional explanation
7.     A very simple model of semantic-cognitive rule
8.     Criteria versus symptoms
9.     Challenges to the traditional explanation (i): John McDowell
10.                        Challenges to the traditional explanation (ii): Gareth Evans
11.                        Unreflected semantic cognitions
12.                        Conclusion

Appendix to Chapter II: Modal Illusions: Against Supra-Epistemic Metaphysical Identities
Addendum: disposing of externalism

Chapter III: Wittgensteinian Semantics
1.     Semantic-cognitive link
2.     Why can’t reference be meaning?
3.     Failure of Russell’s atomistic referentialism
4.     Meaning as a function of use
5.     Meaning as a kind of rule
6.     Meaning as associations of rules
7.     Meaning and language-games
8.     Meaning and form of life
9.     Tying the threads together
10.                        Criteria and symptoms revisited
11.                        Transgressions of the internal limits of language
12.                        The form of semantic cognitive rules
13.                        What is wrong with the private language argument?
14.                        Concluding remarks

Appendix to Chapter III: Trope Theory and the Unbearable Lightness of Being
1.     Introducing tropes
2.     Tropes and universals
3.     Tropes and concrete particulars
4.     Formal tropes
5.     Conclusion

Chapter IV: An Extravagant Reading of Fregean Semantics
1.     Reference of a singular term
2.     Sense of a singular term
3.     Reference of a predicative expression
4.     Ontological level
5.     Referring to particularized properties (tropes)
6.     Difficulties with the concept of unsaturation
7.     Unsaturation as ontological dependence
8.     Sense of a predicative term
9.     The dependence of the predicative sense
10.                        The concept of horse paradox
11.                        Existence as a property of concepts
12.                        Existence as a property of conceptual rules
13.                        Two naïve objections
14.                        Attributing existence to objects
15.                        The existence of objects and its identification rules
16.                        Existence of spatio-temporal locations: indexicals
17.                        Advantages of the higher-order view of existence
18.                        Ubiquity of existence
19.                        Answering some final objections
20.                        Reference of concepts again: a metaphysical excurse (Mill)
21.                        The reference of a sentence as its truth-value
22.                        Logical structure of facts
23.                        Ontological nature of facts
24.                        Church’s slingshot argument
25.                        Facts: sub-facts and grounding facts
26.                        Taking seriously the sentence’s reference as a fact
27.                        The riddle of identity in difference
28.                        Contexts of interest: no need for a necessary a posteriori
29.                        Sense of sentences: the thought
30.                        The thought as the truth-bearer
31.                        Facts as true thoughts?
32.                        The thought as a verifiability rule
33.                        Frege’s Platonism
34.                        Avoiding Frege’s Platonism
35.                        Further ontological consequences
36.                        A short digression on contingent futures
37.                        Conclusion

Appendix to Chapter IV: Frege, Russell, and the Puzzles of Reference
1.     Russell’s solutions to the puzzles of reference
2.     Fregean solutions to the same puzzles
3.     Reviewing Fregean assumptions
4.     Reviewing Russell’s assumptions
5.     Building a bridge between both views
6.     Conclusion

Chapter V: Verificationism Redeemed
1.     Origins of semantic verificationism
2.     Wittgensteinean verificationism
3.     Verifiability rule as a criterial rule
4.     Objection 1: the principle is self-refuting
5.     Objection 2: a formalist illusion
6.     Objection 3: verificational holism
7.     Objection 4: existential-universal asymmetry
8.     Objection 5: arbitrary indirectness
9.     Objection 6: empirical counterexamples
10.                        Objection 7: formal counterexamples
11.                        Objection 8: skepticism about rules
12.                        Defending analyticity
13.                        Conclusion

Appendix to Chapter V: The only Key to Solving the Humean Problem of Induction
1.     Formulating a Humean argument
2.     The basic idea
3.     Reformulating PF

Chapter VI: Sketch of a Unified Theory of Truth
1.     The deceptive simplicity of correspondence
2.     Analysis of correspondence (1): structural isomorphism
3.     Analysis of correspondence (2): categorial match
4.     Analysis of correspondence (3): intentionality and causality
5.     Exemplifying correspondence
6.     Compatibility between verificationism and correspondence
7.     The most suitable formal definitions of truth
8.     Negative truths
9.     Self-referentiality
10.                        Pragmatics of the correspondence relation
11.                        Retrograde procedures
12.                        A more complex case
13.                        General statements
14.                        Some funny facts
15.                        Expansion to formal sciences
16.                        Why can analytic truth be called true?
17.                        The insufficiency of coherence
18.                        Coherence as a mediator
19.                         Roles of empirical coherence
20.                        Reverend David’s case
21.                        What about the truth of the truth-maker?
22.                        Objection of the linguistic-cognitive circle
23.                        Answering the objection of the linguistic-cognitive circle
24.                        The argument of illusion
25.                        Answering the argument of illusion
26.                        The argument of science and its answer
27.                        Question: How do we warrant the perception of external content?
28.                        Answer: A definitional criterion of external reality
29.                        Proving the existence of the external world
30.                        Skeptical scenarios
31.                        Verification and intentionality: Husserl
32.                        Solving two Husserlian problems
33.                        Truth and factual existence again
34.                        The rule’s structural mirroring of the world
35.                        Conclusion

Epilogue: Discovery of Wine

Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hazard.
[A throw of the dice will never abolish hazard.]
Stéphane Mallarmé

This is a.n advanced draft to be published in 2018 by Cambridge Scholars Publishing


Niemand weiß noch, wer künftig in jenem Gehäuse wohnen wird und ob am Ende dieser ungeheuren Entwicklung ganz neue Propheten oder eine mächtige Wiedergeburt alter Gedanken und Ideale stehen werden, oder aber – wenn keins von beiden – mechanisierte Versteinerung, mit einer Art von krampfhaftem sich wichtig nehmen verbrämt. Dann allerdings könnte für die “letzten Menschen” dieser Kulturentwicklung das Wort zur Wahrheit werden: “Fachmenschen ohne Geist, Genußmenschen ohne Herz: dies Nichts bildet sich ein, eine nie vorher erreichte Stufe des Menschentums erstiegen zu haben.”
[No one knows who will live in this cage in the future, or whether at the end of this tremendous development entirely new prophets will arise, or there will be a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals, or, if neither, mechanized petrification, embellished with a sort of convulsive self-importance. For the ‘last man’ of this cultural development, it might well be truly said: ‘Specialist without spirit, sensualist without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of humanity never before achieved.’]
Max Weber
The aim of philosophy, abstractly formulated, is to understand how things in the broadest possible sense of the term hang together in the broadest possible sense of the term.
Willfried Sellars
Making empty is the result of making small.
Malcolm Bull

Science (mainly applied science) rises, while culture (artistic, religious, philosophical) falls. Whereas culture was once a source of values, today science and technology have made cultural values seem superfluous.
  The critical theory of society has offered some explanations for this, drawing on Max Weber’s basic idea of the ‘disenchantment of the world’ (Entzauberung der Welt). According to him, Western society has undergone a long and seemingly irreversible process of rationalization, in which a scientific-technological society, characterized by increasing bureaucratic rationality, gradually becomes alienated from the values, traditions and sentiments of older forms of social thinking and acting, without having developed suitable resources to fill the void left behind.
  As a result, in a scientifically oriented society, instrumental reason tends to prevail over valuing reason, furthering science and technology at the expense of any sufficiently adequate substitute for the traditional aesthetic, mystical and humanistic cultural practices, which as such have proved to be insufficient to fulfill their roles. Sociologists have used terms like ‘anomia,’ ‘alienation,’ and ‘nihilism’ to designate the negative effects on individuals and society of this mismatch between science and humanistic thinking. Mass culture is a poor attempt to fill the gap; another is scientism.
  Given the pressure of modern social forms resulting from rapidly spreading disenchantment, we should not wonder that a kind of philosophy prevails that all too often materially and institutionally simulates the methods and aims of particular scientific fields. In fact, it often emulates the sciences in a manner suggesting the way much of continental philosophy has emulated rhetorical-literary forms, that is, taking over the place of the most proper forms of philosophical argumentation with the effect of losing much of its relation to truth. Moreover, a scientistic attempt to ‘disenchant philosophy’ is actually incoherent because science in a wide sense must be ‘consensualizable public knowledge’ (John Ziman), opposed in this way from the inevitably non-consensualizable philosophical activity. Hence, a scientistic attempt to disenchant philosophy is in fact a thinly veiled attempt at ‘re-enchantment,’ a deficient one insofar as the epistemic place of philosophy in its central domains is deeply ingrained in older forms of a deeply comprehensive conjectural argumentative endeavor, which cannot be reduced to the domain of a particular science without being severely mutilated.
  We can feel this tension in praxis: by taking into account only the discussions of recent years, as science does, one might pretend that philosophy is going through the same linear development as science, only to find itself some time later lost in confusing variety of foreseeable culs-de-sac. But an inevitably segmented philosophy of the ‘last novelty’ made for ‘immediate consumption’ by and for small self-protective cliques of specialists and related scientists no longer seems, as in the tradition, to be an independent conjectural undertaking making balanced use of whatever new scientific knowledge can serve its purposes. More often, it seems a busy handmaiden of science suffering from loss of identity and self-esteem; a forcefully particularized pseudo-scientific guesswork, an atomized conjectural endeavor that does not look beyond its own narrow interests and scarcely touches the central philosophical problems inherited from the philosophical tradition, or touches them in a way that is irrecognizably deformed by their own particularizing perspective. They seem unprepared to see that in its most central domains philosophy should absorb science instead of being absorbed by science.
  In pointing to this, I am far from embracing Manichaeism. I am not claiming that for science to exert great influence on philosophy is inevitably specious and unfruitful. There are many useful limited ways of doing philosophy. Often, particularized philosophy furthers the development of particular sciences or develops into a new field that approaches science, as in the case of contemporary pragmatics. Moreover, there are felicitous cases, like the rapid proliferation of speculative theories of consciousness over the last five decades, which serves as a striking example of fruitful philosophical work very closely associated with the development of empirical science that has deepened the field of investigation. And these are only a few cases among many.
  Nevertheless, it is important to remember that this same intellectual movement can easily become an ideologically motivated agenda if it tempts the theoretical philosopher to import new knowledge from particular sciences – formal or empirical – in ways that cause him to lose sight of the vast and plural scope of the philosophical landscape. A possible consequence of this is what some have aptly labeled expansionist scientism: an effort to forcibly reduce some wide domain of philosophy to the scope of investigative strategies and views derived from a new, more or less established particular science. In order to achieve this aim, the particular (formal or empirical) scientific field must be expanded in order to answer questions belonging to some central domain of philosophy, using a reductionist strategy that under­estimates philosophy’s encompassing and multifaceted character. An earlier example of expansionist scientism was in my view Pythagoreanism, which unsuccessfully tried to find answers to the problems of life using the newly developed science of numbers and their applications. The price one must pay for this may be that persistent, distinctive philosophical difficulties which cannot be accommodated within the new particularizing model must be minimized if not quietly swept under the rug.
  A chief inconsistency of scientism arises from the fact that while sciences are in various ways all particular, philosophy is most properly ‘holistic’: As Wittgenstein once wrote, the difficult of philosophy is that its problems are so interconnected that it is impossible to solve any one philosophical problem without first having solved all the others. Insofar as his claim is true, it means that a persistent difficulty of the central philosophical problems is that we need a proper grasp of the whole to be able to evaluate and answer them properly. Indeed, this is what can make philosophical understanding so unbearably complex and multifarious. And the lack of this kind of comprehensiveness is what can make fragmented contemporary analytic philosophy often appear like a headless turkey running around aimlessly. Nonetheless, taking account of parts as belonging to a whole, trying to see things sub specie totius, is what the great systems of classical philosophy – such as those of Aristotle, Kant and Hegel – strove to achieve, even if paying a price that we are now better able to appreciate as unavoidably high in terms of misleading and aporetic speculation. Anyway, it would be too easy to conclude that true comprehensiveness is no longer a fundamental desideratum of philosophy (Wittgenstein was well aware of this when he called for more ‘Übersichtlichkeit’).
  The internal reason for the narrowness and fragmentation of much of our present linguistic-analytical philosophy can be explained as follows. The new Anglo-American philosophy – from W. V-O. Quine to Donald Davidson, and from Saul Kripke to Hilary Putnam and Timothy Williamson – has challenged a great variety of inherited commonsense starting points and challenged them in often undeniably insightful and imaginative ways, although in my view with ultimately unsustainable results. Because of this, a large part of theoretical philosophy has increasingly lost touch with its intuitive commonsense grounding in the way things prima facie seem to be and for the most part really are.
  Take, for instance, the concept of meaning: the word ‘meaning’ was challenged by Quine as too vague a noise to be reasonably investigated. But an approach is inevitably limited if it, moved by contentious arguments, starts from a kind of positivist-reductionist perspective that denies or ignores commonsense certainties, like the obvious fact that meanings exist and demand appropriate explanation. Indeed, using this strategy of skeptically questioning all kinds of deeply ingrained truisms, scientistically oriented philosophers have sawed off the branches they were sitting on. The reason for this is that the result of the adopted strategy couldn’t be other than replacing true comprehensiveness with a superficializing positivistic fragmentation of inevitably misleadingly-grounded philosophical concerns, which ends by plunging philosophy into what Scott Soames confidently called the ‘age of specialization,’ while Susan Haack with a healthy touch of pessimism would call it ‘a disastrous age of fragmentation.’
  Admittedly, this fragmentation can be regarded as dividing to conquer; but it may also be a matter of dividing to subjugate; and what is here to be subjugated is more often the philosophical intellect. Indeed, by focusing too much on the trees, we may lose sight of the philosophical forest and thereby even of where the trees are and how to compare them. Without the well-reasoned assumption of some deep common­sense truisms, no proper descriptive metaphysics, to use P. F. Strawson’s expression, remains possible. And without this, the only path left for originality in philosophy of language, after rigorous training in techniques of argumentation, may turn out to be the use of new formalistic pyrotechnics of unknown value or the production of intellectual artificiality of scarce intelligibility and suspicious deepth. This would have the end-effect of blocking paths of inquiry, disarming adequate philosophical analysis and increasing the risk that the whole enterprise will degenerate into a sort of scholastic, fragmented, vacuous intellectual Glasperlenspiel.
  It may be that practitioners of reductive scientistic philosophy are aware of the problem, but they have found plausible excuses for neglecting to deal with it. Some have suggested that any attempt to do philosophy on a comprehensive level would not suffice to meet the present standards of scholarly adequacy demanded by the academic community. But in saying this they forget that philosophy does not need to be pursued too close on the heels of new advances in the sciences, which are continually producing and handing down new authoritative developments. Philosophy in itself still remains to a great extent an autonomous cultural enterprise: it is inherently conjectural and dependent on indispensable metaphorical elements intrinsic to its pursuit of comprehensiveness (Aristotle, calling his first philosophy ‘the searched for science’ was well-aware of this). Indeed, most of philosophy remains a relatively free cultural enterprise with a right to controlled speculation, experimentation and even transgression, though most properly done in the pursuit of truth.
  Others have concluded that today it is impossible to develop a truly encompassing theoretical philosophy. For them this kind of philosophy cannot succeed because of the difficulties imposed by the overwhelming amount of information required, putting the task far beyond the cognitive capacity of individual human minds. We are – to borrow Colin McGinn’s original metaphor – cognitively closed to finding decisive solutions for the great traditional problems of philosophy: In our efforts to do ambitious comprehensive philosophy, we are like chimps trying to develop the theory of relativity. Just as they lack sufficient mental capacity to solve the problems of relativistic mechanics, we lack sufficient mental capacity to develop comprehensive philosophy and will therefore never succeed! Hence, if we wish to make progress, we should shift our efforts to easier tasks...
  This last answer seems specious and borders on defeatism. The very ability to initiate the discussion of broadly-inclusive philosophy suggests that we might also be able to accomplish our task. As Wittgenstein once wrote, if we are able to pose an appropriate proper question, it is because we are also in principle able to find its answer. In contrast to human thinkers, one indication that chimps could never develop a theory of relativity is that they are unable to even pose questions such as what would happen if they could move at the speed of light as Einstein did. Moreover, even if the total amount of scientific knowledge available to us has increased immensely, it may well be that the amount of really essential information needed to answer any given question is sufficiently limited for us to grasp and apply. As Bertrand Russell once wrote, very often the science needed to do philosophy can be limited to very general findings. Furthermore, not all philosophical approaches need to be taken into account, since they are often superimposed or displaced. The main difficulty may reside in the circumstances, strategies and authenticity of attempts, in limits on the context of discovery, rather than in the sheer impossibility of progress. In any case, it is a fact that in recent years true comprehen­siveness has almost disappeared in the so-called philosophy of linguistic analysis. However, my guess is that the main reason isn’t impossibility in principle, but rather loss of the suitable cultural soil in which a more comprehensive philosophy could flourish.
  In this book, I begin by arguing that more fruitful soil can be found if we start with a better reasoned and more affirmative appreciation of commonsense truisms, combined with a more pluralistic approach, always prepared to incorporate the relevant (formal and empirical) results of science. Perhaps it is precisely against the uncomfortable return of a broader pluralistic approach that much of the mainstream of our present philosophy of language secretly struggles. This is often obscured by some sort of dense, nearly scholastic scientistic atmosphere, so thick that seasoned practitioners barely notice it surrounding them. The intellectual climate sometimes recalls the Middle Ages, when philosophical investigation was allowed, providing it left unchallenged established religious dogmas. I even entertain the suspicion that in some quarters the attempt to advance any plausible comprehensive philosophy of language against the institutional power of reductive scientism runs the risk of being ideologically discouraged as a project and silenced as a fact.
  Ernst Tugendhat, who (together with Jürgen Habermas) attempted with considerable success to develop comprehensive philosophy in the seventies, seems to have hoisted the white flag by admitting that the heyday of philosophy is past. The problem is in my view aggravated because we live in a time of widespread indifference concerning high culture, as I pointed out at the beginning, heavily influenced by a steady, almost exponential development of science and technology that minimizes the role of valuing reason. Though quite indispensable from the viewpoint of instrumental reason, our scientifically biased age tends to impose a compart­mental­ized form of pragmatic alienation on philosophical research that works against more broadly oriented attempts to understand reality.
  In the present book, I insist on swimming against the tide. My main task here – a risky one – is to establish the foundations of a more comprehensive philosophy of meaning and reference, while arguing against some main reductionist-scientistic approaches that are blocking the most promising paths of inquiry. Hence, it is an attempt to restore its deserved integrity to the analytic philosophy of language, without offending either common sense or science; an effort to give a balanced, systematic and sufficiently plausible overview of meaning and the mechanisms of reference, using bridges laboriously constructed between certain summits of philosophical thought. In this way, I hope to realize something of the old philosophical ambition of a comprehensive synthesis, insofar as this still sounds like a reasonable undertaking.
Paris, 2018