Monthly Archives: December 2017

anaphoric chains

“Anaphoric chains running through bits of discourse are not naturalistic features of them like which organism produces the tokening, or when or where it is produced. They are normative features attributed to the discourse by deontic scorekeepers, matters of conditional commitment or commitment inheritance—of the obligation that the significance assigned to, or score kept on, one part of the discourse answer in systematic ways to the significance assigned to, or score kept on, another.” (Robert B. Brandom, Making It Explicit, p.460)


“As Frege indicates in the Grundlagen, sortals are like predicates, except that they have not only criteria and consequences of application but (like singular terms) also criteria (and so consequences) of identity. For many purposes, ‘. . . is a dog’ functions predicatively, just as ‘. . . is large’ does. But if a is a dog and b is a dog, it makes sense to ask whether a is the same dog as b. Sortals have associated with them practices of identifying and individuating the things they apply to, as nonsortal predicates do not.” (Robert B. Brandom, Making It Explicit, p.437)

intentions and agent semantics

Intending to use an expression as a singular term is adopting a practical commitment to doing what is necessary to make it appropriate for oneself and others to adopt such a stance toward one’s performances. How to understand the scorkeeping attitudes such a stance consists in and the proprieties that govern adopting it are accordingly issues that must be addressed before such intentions can be made intelligible. That the order of explanation in this way dictates that semantic intentions not be appealed to as fundamental at this point is just one particular instance of the difference of explanatory strategy, insisted upon elsewhere, that divides the present approach from that of agent semantics.” (Robert B. Brandom, Making It Explicit, p.432, Note 46)

referring to an object

“A language cannot refer to an object in one way unless it can refer to it in two different ways. This constraint will seem paradoxical if referring to an object by using a singular term is thoughtlessly assimilated to such activities as using a car to reach the airport or using an arrow to shoot a deer: even if only one car or one arrow is available and impossible to reuse, what one is doing can still genuinely be driving to the airport or shooting the deer.” (Robert B. Brandom, Making It Explicit, p.425)


“Logic transforms semantic practices into principles. By providing the expressive tools permitting us to endorse in what we say what before we could endorse only in what we did, logic makes it possible for the development of the concepts by which we conceive our world and our plans (and so ourselves) to rise in part above the indistinct realm of mere tradition, of evolution according to the results of the thoughtless jostling of the habitual and the fortuitous, and enter the comparatively well-lit discursive marketplace, where reasons are sought and proffered, and every endorsement is liable to being put on the scales and found wanting.” (Robert B. Brandom, Making It Explicit, pp.402-403)

syntax and semantics

“Syntactic substitutional categories are defined by specifying which substitutions preserve sentencehood—where being a sentence is understood as having a pragmatic significance of its own, in that its freestanding utterance standardly counts as performing a basic speech act, paradigmatically making an assertion (overtly and explicitly acknowledging a doxastic commitment). Semantic substitutional contents can be defined by specifying which substitutions preserve the basic feature or features of sentences, in terms of which the pragmatic theory explains the properties of their use—namely the significance of the various speech acts they can be used to perform.” (Robert B. Brandom, Making It Explicit, p.370)

singular terms

“Quine is suspicious of the full-blooded notions of representational purport implicit in intentional idioms, and the echoes in his phrase are a reminder of his desire to explain much of what they might be thought to explain by appeal to more austere linguistic analogs. For singular referential purport, in the sense he appeals to, need not be an intentional affair. As Quine is quick to point out, “Such talk of purport is only a picturesque way of alluding to the distinctive grammatical roles that singular . . . terms play in sentences.” The real task is to specify this role.” (Robert B. Brandom, Making It Explicit, p.361)


“Generic phenomenalism has been characterized here in terms of supervenience. The sense intended is that one vocabulary supervenes on another just in case there could not be two situations in which true claims (that is, facts) formulable in the supervening vocabulary differed, while the true claims formulable in the vocabulary supervened on do not differ. . . . Classical subjective phenomenalism about physical objects and properties typically makes stronger, reductionist claims, involving further commitments beyond supervenience. These regard the equivalence of sentences (or in the most committive cases, individual terms and predicates) in physical object talk to sentences (or terms and predicates) constructible in the language of takings-as-seemings.” (Robert B. Brandom, Making it Explicit, pp. 295-296)