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Externalism and Conceptual Change Workshop

June 14 - June 15

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Classic work by Kripke, Putnam, Burge, and others have led many philosophers to maintain that the meanings of our words and the contents of our mental states are determined at least in part by factors outside of us: for example, on some views meaning is determined in part by causal or evolutionary history, or by facts about a speaker’s physical or social environment. But at least since Evans’s critique of the causal theory of names, it has been clear that many externalists struggle to accommodate the possibility of meaning change. If meaning is determined by our past, or by our environment, how can changes in what we think or how we talk change what we mean? Topics to be discussed include:
– How can externalists make sense of conceptual or meaning change?
– How can we distinguish change of meaning from mere change of opinion?
– Can new varieties of externalism better cope with issues of conceptual change?
– Does the possibility of change in linguistic meaning raise the same issues as the possibility of change in the content of psychological states? Should externalists treat language and thought differently?
– How do temporal externalist views (on which meaning of present utterances and the content of present mental states is determined by future facts) bear on conceptual change?
– How does externalism relate to revisionary theorising, for example of the sort advocated by Haslanger?


June 14
June 15


Derek Ball


Edgecliffe G03