• The work will show a kind of understanding/explanatory power comes from talking about language in this new way (rather than to say that one is rationally obliged to talk this way).
  • Project: explain the meanings of linguistic expressions in terms of their use.
    • This would be trivial if our vocabulary for talking about use allowed “using the word ‘not’ to express negation” or “using the term ‘Julius Caesar’ to refer to Julius Caesar”
    • This would be impossible if our vocabulary for talking about use was restricted to the vocabulary of physics.
    • Brandom will use a normative vocabulary, understanding norms in terms of commitments and entitlements.

Chapter summaries

  1. Introduces / motivates normative pragmatics
  2. Inferential theory of propositional contentfulness
  3. Part 1 of core theory: A model of the social practice of giving and asking for reasons. A social, linguistic account of intentionality.
  4. Part 2 of core theory: A social, linguistic account of perception and action.
  5. The expressive role of traditional representational semantic vocabulary (e.g. ‘true’ and ‘refers’).
  6. Indirect inferential role of singular terms/predicates. Subsitutional analysis which is crucial to understanding how inferentialism can go beyond sentences.
  7. Anaphora
  8. Representational dimension of conceptual content
  • Making something explicit is saying it: putting it into a form in which it can be given as a reason / have reasons demanded for it.
  • Expression is the relation between what is implicit in what we do and what is explicit in what we say.
  • To express something is to make it explicit.
  • Two tasks
  1. Explaining (making theoretially explicit) the implicit structure of linguistic practices in virtue of which they count as making anything explicit at all
  2. Working out a theory of the expressive role distinctive of logical vocabulary.
    • E.g. conditionals make implicit inferential commitments explicit. Negation makes explicit the incompatibility of commitments.

Aspirations (why the book is long)

  • Eschew representational primitives (via inferentialism / expressivism)
  • show how content is related to use
  • achieve self-referential expressive completeness
  • present a unified vision of language and mind

Chapter 1: Toward a Normative Pragmatics

I. Introduction

1. Saying ‘We’

What is ‘we’? How should we demarcate “us” from “them”? This is tantamount to saying who or what we are. It is both discovered as well as decided. We might say there is no right answer to this, each criterion for demarcation just picks out a different kind of community. One criterion that doesn’t feel arbitrary is “X is one of us if X, like us, X says ‘we’ (i.e. makes a distinction of us and them)”. However, this just pushes the problem to specifing what one has to do to count as “saying ‘we’“.

2. Sapience

Demarcating ‘we’ as reasonable beings:

  • Our transactions with other things mean something to us
  • they have conceptual content for us
  • We understand them
  • We are bound by a normative force, a rational ‘ought’.
  • We are placed in a space of reasons

This would be taking sapience rather than sentience as the constellation of characteristics which distinguishes us.

Sentience is what we share with non-verbal animals (being aware in the sense of being awake).

Reliable, differential responsiveness is what we share with non-verbal animals and artifacts such as thermostats and land mines.

Another characterization of sapience is focused on truth, rather than inference (like above):

  • We are believers, where believing is taking-to-be-true
  • We are agents, and acting is making-true
  • We have states such as belief/desire/intention which are contentful in the sense that the question can be raised under which circumstances what is believed/desired/intended would be true.
  • We understand content by grasping the conditions necessary and sufficient for its truth.

Both characterizations of sapience try to explain propositions, which both have truth conditions and stand in inferential relations. These coordinate concepts compete with each other for which should be explained in terms of the other.

3. Intentionality

II. From Intentional State to Normative Status

1. Kant: Demarcation by Norms

2. From Cartesian Certainty to Kantian Necessity

3. Frege: Justification vs Causation

4. Wittgenstein on the Normative Significance of Intentional Content

III. From Norms Explicit in Rules to Norms Implicit in Practices

1. Regulism: Nnorms as Explicit Rules or Principles

IV. From Normative Status to Normative Attitude

V. From Assessment to the Social Institution of Norms

VI. From Intentional Interpretation to Original Intentionality

Chapter 2: Toward an Inferential Semantics

I. Content and Representation

II. The Priority of the Propositional

III. Conceptual Classification and Inference

IV. Material Inference, Conceptual Content, and Expression

V. Circumstances and Consequences of Application

VI. Conclusion

Chapter 3: Linguistic Practice and Discursive Commitment

Chapter 4: Perception and Action: The Conferral of Empricial and Practical Conceptual Content

Chapter 5: The Expressive Role of Traditional Semantic Vocabulary: ‘True’ and ‘Refers’

Chapter 6: Substitution: What Are Singular Terms, and Why Are There Any?

Chapter 7: Anaphora: The Structure of Token Repeatables

Chapter 8: Ascribing Propositional Attitudes: The Social Route from Reasoning to Representing

Chapter 9: Conclusion

I. Two Concepts of Concepts

II. Norms and Practices

III. We Have Met the Norms, and They Are Ours