Quotes from Reason in Philosophy

“The sort of self-consciousness that is exhibited in making explicit (in judgeable, sayable, thinkable, propositional form) what otherwise remains implicit in the inferentially articulated practical capacities in virtue of which one can be consciously aware of anything (make something explicit, by judging, saying, or thinking something, applying concepts) is sui generis, and not to be understood on the traditional Tarski-Carnap model of metalanguages.” (Robert B. Brandom, Reason in Philosophy, pp.11-12)

“As concept users, we are beings who can make explicit how things are and what we are doing—even if always only in relief against a background of implicit circumstances, conditions, skills, and practices. Among the things on which we can bring our explicitating capacities to bear are those very concept-using capacities that make it possible to make anything at all explicit. Doing that is philosophizing.” (Robert B. Brandom, Reason in Philosophy, p.18)

“What we have had to presuppose, in telling this story about the activity of synthesizing a transcendental unity of apperception, is the availability, as raw materials, of judgeable (or practically endorsable) items possessing determinate conceptual contents. That is, it must already be settled, at each stage of the process of rational critical and ampliative integration, what relations of material incompatibility and inferential consequence the conceptual contents that are to be integrated stand in to one another.” (Reason in Philosophy, p.47)

“To judge, claim, or believe that the cat is on the mat, one must have at least a minimal practical ability to sort material inferences in which that content is involved (as premise or conclusion) into good ones and bad ones, and to determinate what is from what is not materially incompatible with it. Part of doing that is associating with those inferences ranges of counterfactual robustness: distinguishing collateral beliefs functioning as auxiliary hypotheses that would, from those that would not, infirm [sic] the inference.” (p.54)

“If not only that one is bound by a certain norm, but also what that norm involves—what is correct or incorrect according to it—is up to the one endorsing it, the notion that one is bound, that a distinction has been put in place between what is correct and incorrect according to that norm, goes missing.” (Robert B. Brandom, Reason in Philosophy, p.64)

“It is up to me which counter in the game I play, which move I make, which word I use. But it is not then in the same sense up to me what the significance of that counter is—what other moves playing it precludes or makes necessary, what I have said or claimed by using that word, what the constraints are on successful rational integration of the commitment I have thereby undertaken with the rest of those I acknowledge.” (Robert B. Brandom, Reason in Philosophy, p.72)

“The inexhaustibility of concrete, sensuous immediacy guarantees that we will never achieve a set of conceptual contents articulated by relations of material inferential consequence and incompatibility that will not, when correctly applied, according to their own standards, at some point lead to commitments that are incompatible, according to those same standards. No integration or recollection is final at the ground level.” (Reason in Philosophy, p.104)

“And it has seemed perverse to some post-Enlightenment thinkers in any way to privilege the rational, cognitive dimension of language use. But if the tradition I have been sketching is right, the capacity to use concepts in all the other ways explored and exploited by the artists and writers whose imaginative enterprises have rightly been admired by romantic opponents of logocentrism is parasitic on the prosaic inferential practices in virtue of which we are entitled to see concepts as in play in the first place.” (Reason in Philosophy, pp.120-121)

“How are we to understand and explain propositional content, if not in terms of truth conditions? And what is the overarching cognitive goal we are supposed to be pursuing, if not truth?” (Robert B. Brandom, Reason in Philosophy, p.166)

“Quine uncritically took for granted the availability of a metalanguage in which one could pick out the domain elements over which his variables (a kind of pronoun) ranged. Though that is unobjectionable for certain formal purposes, it does not support a corresponding order of philosophical explanation.” (p.165, footnote 7)

“Having practical mastery of that inferentially articulated space—what Wilfrid Sellars calls “the space of reasons”—is what understanding the concepts red and wet consists in. The responsive, merely classificatory, non-inferential ability to respond differentially to red and wet things is at most a necessary condition of exercising that understanding, not a sufficient one.” (p.170)

“Here, then, is the first lesson that analytic philosophy ought to have taught cognitive science: there is a fundamental metaconceptual distinction between classification in the sense of labeling and classification in the sense of describing, and it consists in the inferential consequences of the classification: its capacity to serve as a premise in inferences (practical or theoretical) to further conclusions.” (Robert B. Brandom, Reason in Philosophy, p.205)


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