quinta-feira, 1 de novembro de 2018


Draft of the last appendix of Philosophical Semantics. To be published by CSP in 2018/1. 

Appendix to Chapter VI


Notre époque est une époque de misère sans art, c’est pitoyable. L’homme est nu, dépouillé de tout, même de sa foi en lui.
[Our epoch is a time of misery without art, it is pitiable. Man is naked, despoiled of all, even of his faith in himself.]
Louis-Ferdinand Céline
The name of poet was almost forgotten; that of orator was usurped by the sophists. A cloud of critics, of compilers, of commentators, darkened the face of learning, and the decline of genius was soon followed by the corruption of taste.
Edward Gibbon
We have first raised a dust and then complain we cannot see.
Once one absurdity is accepted, the rest follows.

There is a mythical story of the discovery of wine, told by the humorist Millôr Fernandes in his book Fabulous Fables (1963), which I would like to recall here. It goes as follows:
  A traveler once needed to cross a desert. Since he loved grapes, though not grape pits and skin, it occurred to him that in his saddlebag he could bring with him not water but only the juice of crushed grapes. After a journey of three days he noticed that the juice had turned yellow, tasted different and was releasing bubbles. After he had drunk this beverage, he noted that it made him feel much better than usual, so much so that he judged this to be the most enjoyable trip of his entire life! After his arrival, he told the news to his fellow travelers, who decided to follow his example, making long journeys across the desert with heavy saddlebags filled with the juice of crushed grapes, so that they could enjoy the same feeling of well-being. For a long time this state of affairs continued unchanged, until one day a stubborn camel refused to commence a journey and for three days remained so to speak nailed to the same spot with the grape juice on his back. To the surprise of the camel’s owner, the juice also changed its color and taste and released bubbles. The news spread quickly. From the discovery of fermentation to the bottling and commercialization of wine, it was hereafter a very short step.
  For me this story illustrates the all too easy ways in which we can go astray in developing our philosophical conjectures. In a world plagued by a growing multiplication of philosophical views, many of them inevitably standing on equivocal foundations, this difficulty can lead to dangerous disorientations that accumulate in unappealing forms of escapism like skepticism, relativism, irrationalism and the most surreptitious forms of sophistry[1]… not to speak of expansionist scientism. Under these circumstances, the effort to achieve some comprehensive picture – as was attempted here – could possibly (though not certainly) furnish better guidance by suggesting conclusions that have a better chance to impose themselves by the force of the picture’s internal coherence.
  My point should not be carried too far: the above mentioned pitfalls have in one way or another always belonged to philosophy, since it has always encouraged hopes that have subsequently been exposed as highly questionable even in the best of cases! In this regard, my hope concerning the stories told in this book is still the same: I believe have approached the right comprehensive view of the cluster of conceptual structures associated with reference and cognitive meaning, finding in this way the right path to critical consensual truth. This alternative approach should cut deeply into the inherited wisdom of contemporary philosophy of language, having the potential to liberate it from its main stalemates and to remap much of the field by bringing it back to its most proper epistemic center. In this way it might offer us renewed hope of approaching science in its wider sense as ‘consensualizable public knowledge’ (J. M. Ziman, 1968),[2] sparing the reader many long, senseless journeys across the scorched desert sands of philosophically illusory arguments.

[1] See Frankfurt 2005.                          
[2] This is a weak but all-embracing intuitive definition of science as any knowledge already able, within the appropriate community of ideas, to achieve legitimate consensual truth concerning its results. This has been impossible for philosophy due to a lack of consensus regarding fundamental assumptions concerning methodology and starting points. (Costa 2002, Ch. 2) But if the views defended in the present book are substantially right, we now have a better chance to lift some issues of theoretical philosophy to a less speculative stage.