Archive for the ‘Philosophy of Language’ Category

Universals and Particulars (2): Universals and Infinite Regresses

October 15, 2011

I.

In this post, I argue that infinite regresses are not successful philosophical explanations. An infinite regress of concepts cannot ground understanding; nor can an infinite regress of beings ground the existence of another being. Thus, postulating an infinite regress of universals such as “having a universal” cannot ultimately answer the question “what is the thing that has a universal?”

In the first post in this series, I explained the distinction between universals and particulars. The existence of universals is supported by the argument from exact resemblance. But the same reasoning that leads us to postulate universals in the first place seems to suggest that “having a universal” is a universal. And that leads to an infinite regress of universals. But then why bother saying particulars are an underlying reality that possess universals? Why not just say that particulars are infinite chains of universals, each with one (or more) different properties to individuate them? This post intends to answer that question. (more…)

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A Lewisian Argument for Conceptualism

July 10, 2008

Below is a revision of a paper I wrote for a class on David Lewis’ On the Plurality of Worlds in which I argue for conceptualism about abstract objects. I tried to make it understandable for general readers, but I apologize for readers who are interested but not very well-versed in philosophical style writings. Hopefully this piece will be self-explanatory enough. Originally the instructions for the paper were to try to mimic Lewis’ style, summarizing some argument or idea he has, criticizing it, and then offering a possible defense. The defense of Lewis that I wrote at the end doesn’t seem very substantial to me, so I will attempt to refute it and thus vindicate my argument for conceptualism. Before actually making the argument, I will give a brief introduction to modal logic for those who are new to the subject. (more…)

Thomas Reid's Argument for Natural Language

October 15, 2007

I don’t know much about philosophy of language but here’s an argument I picked up while reading Thomas Reid’s “An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense”. Reid is arguing that human beings have a “natural language”–a way of communicating using symbols that is prior to cultural development or any kinds of agreements about the meanings of symbols. Artificial language is those signs whose meaning has been fixed by an agreement to use them a certain way. His argument goes as follows:

1. Artificial language assumes an agreement to affix meaning to certain signs.
2. Therefore there must be compacts or agreements before artificial language and artificial signs.
3. But there can’t be compacts or agreements without language.

Therefore there must be a natural language before artificial language.

This argument does seem intuitively plausible to me. I would like to learn what critics have said in response to it.

Thoughts anyone?