Reason has co-opted our conception of autonomy. My purpose is to set autonomy free. Here is the problem: some philosophers, Kant most notably, have said that governing your life by reason or by being responsive to reason is the source of autonomy. But there is a paradox concealed in these plausible claims. On the one hand, a person can be enslaved to reason and lack autonomy because of this kind of bondage. On the other hand, if reason has no influence, then it appears that one would be the slave of one's passions, and, however eloquently Hume might have written about reason being the slave of the passions, there is something odd about the idea that a person who is enslaved by his passions is autonomous. The paradox, which I shall call the paradox of reason, is that if we are governed by reason in what we choose, then we are in bondage to reason in what we choose, and we are not autonomous. Yet, if we are not governed by reason, then we do not govern ourselves in what we choose, and again we are not autonomous.
I do not think that this paradox is a mere sophism of philosophy. At the level of phenomenology, we might feel that if we are governed by reason, then we are constrained by it, and if we are not governed by reason, then we are not in control.
The traditions of semantics in linguistics and philosophy have overlapped somewhat in recent decades, but earlier trends and treatments in each discipline have dealt with rather different aspects of meaning. In this essay we hope to unite some of these different threads. It is a special pleasure to contribute to a volume in honour of Sir John Lyons, who has made major contributions to a theory of meaning.
In Lyons' early work (1963, 1968) the meaning of a word was conceived of as its place in the lexical network of the semantic field to which it belonged. A theory of reference - to hook up language and the world - is also a necessary part of the semantic enterprise. We wish to explore how theories of sense and reference can be related.
A word on terminology
The word meaning is used in many different ways, in both philosophy and linguistics. It has been used to describe extralinguistic relationships, that is, between an expression and something in the external world, and intralinguistic relationships - between expressions within a language or between those in different languages. Given the ambiguity of the word meaning, we shall try to avoid using this word, instead employing reference or denotation for word-world connection, and sense, which Lyons has defined as the ‘place in a system of relationships which it contracts with other words in the vocabulary’ (Lyons, 1968: 427).
In this essay, I shall explore the relationship between supervenience and epistemology. There are many theories of supervenience and many theories of epistemology, and that means that it will be extremely difficult to say anything definitive. It is not my aim to explore this subject in a definitive way. My interest in the subject of supervenience and epistemology was aroused by the work of Alston, Van Cleve, and Sosa. They have argued that if epistemic terms supervene on nonepistemic ones, then one argument in favor of coherence theories over foundation theories of justification is undermined. The argument is one to the effect that if the supervenience thesis is correct, then the coherence theorist must sacrifice her primary alleged advantage over any foundation theorist. That advantage is that the coherence theorist can explain why our most fundamental beliefs are justified, namely, because they cohere with some system of beliefs, while the foundation theorist is limited to saying that our basic beliefs are justified without giving any explanation of why. Any explanation of why our basic beliefs are justified would become the basis of an argument to the conclusion that they are justified, and such an argument would render the justification of the beliefs in question nonbasic. The coherence theorist thus claims that the foundation theorist is left with a kind of explanatory surd that the coherence theorist can avoid by explaining justification in terms of coherence.
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