Event Detail

Thu Mar 14, 2013
Howison Library, 4:10–6 PM
Philosophy Colloquium
Robert Brandom (University of Pittsburgh)
Modal Expressivism and Modal Realism: Together Again

Modal expressivism (ME) makes claims about what one is doing in using modal concepts, while modal realism (MR) makes claims about what one is saying by using modal concepts. ME says that what one is doing when one makes a modal claim is endorsing an inference relating descriptive concepts as subjunctively (including counterfactually) robust, or treating two descriptive concepts as incompatible. MR says that when one does that, one is claiming that possession or exhibition of one empirical property is a consequence of, or is incompatible with, possession or exhibition of another. The claim that ME and MR are compatible is the claim that one can both be doing what ME says one is doing in applying modal vocabulary and be saying what MR says one is saying by doing that.

According to this way of understanding the relations between ME and MR, the claims of modal expressivism are made in a pragmatic metavocabulary for modal vocabulary: that is, a vocabulary suitable for specifying the practices, abilities, and performances that make up the use of modal vocabulary. And the claims of modal realism are made in a semantic metavocabulary for modal vocabulary: that is, a vocabulary suitable for specifying the meanings or conceptual contents expressed by modal vocabulary.