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RE: [xmca] Brandom's Inferentialism Further Reflections

Larry, Andy,

A few minor points in response to your thoughts on Brandom (with d rather than s :-) and Taylor.
I did not have time to read Taylor, but let me mention this on Brandom:

1. I agree that Brandom's focus is on semantics rather than larger issues that you raise, Larry. For example, his 2000 book is explicitly about concepts. 

2. The broader context you refer to as "form of life" seems to come close to what Sellars, McDowell and Brandom call "space of reasons". I guess space of reasons and form of life come into play when people like Brandom work towards answering the question what makes human beings distinctive. By the way, David Bakhurst, in his Formation of Reason, explicitly uses the term Form of life (e.g., p. 151) in relation to space of reasons. Bakhurst also has an interesting chapter on exactly the issue you raise, Larry, on human ways of expressing that are not primarily linguistic. Bakhurst addresses the question of how conceptual music is, for example. A subtle issue in which the notion of boundary does not seem to help me much! 

3. Brandom presents is inferentialism literally as "expressive" - the term you mention at the end of your 21 Aug email, so I do not quite recognize Taylor's critique. Moreover, I personally interpret Brandom's use of "representation" as much broader than linguistic representation. I've always interpreted the term as encompassing any signs, including gesture, musical sounds etc. but perhaps I have been overstretching Brandom's intention.

4. Brandom indeed explicitly says that there is just one language game for him, and this is one thing that distinguishes him from Wittgenstein (epistemologia interview).


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Andy Blunden
Sent: dinsdag 23 augustus 2011 5:09
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Bransom's Inferentialism Further Reflections

Very well explained, Larry, thank you! In your exposition, I find myself 
sympathising with Charles Taylor's position. Interesting observation 
about the value of narrowing the context to reason-giving as a route to 
resolving differences. I remain convinced that "project" is the key 
concept in this area of theory, but your presentation of this discussion 
is very engaging. "Form of life" is clearly a concept worth dwelling upon.


Larry Purss wrote:
> Andy
> As I read Taylor's article I was reading his version of context as how 
> perspectives on phenomena [in this case speech acts]  are understood 
> from particular frameworks.  Speech acts, when viewed from an 
> atomistic perspective START with words and then build up to 
> sentences.  Bransom and Taylor criticize this form of analysis. 
> Bransom privleges the assertive aspects of language [the giving and 
> receiving of reasons] as the foundation of language.  This giving and 
> receiving of reasons is produced within specific practical forms of 
> activity.
> Charles Taylor suggests this is a profound move to locate language use 
> within practices and involves embedding language use in a more 
> inclusive context exploring multiple uses of language.  However, 
> Taylor is cautious that Bransom does not make a move to an even more 
> expansive context which Taylor refers to as a "form of life"  What 
> Taylor is pointing to is the recognition that the particular 
> assertoric language uses are generated within particular historically 
> constituted forms of life.  Taylor is suggesting that Bransom's 
> privileging the assertoric language use [REASON ALONE] as adequate to 
> explain language  is itself a position embedded within a particular 
> historically constructed "form of life"  Taylor is suggesting 
> Bransom's position on language use can only emerge within a particular 
> historical context. Taylor uses the term context to suggest Bransom is 
> working within a particular context which is  narrower than "form of 
> life". Bransom's narrower context of language use as judgements and 
> assertions  is too restrictive. Taylor is suggesting that to make 
> sense Bransom's position must be embedded within a wider context of 
> the whole range of symbolic forms [which includes gestures, music, 
> etc] Taylor references Wittgenstein for the suggestion that 
> particular perspectives and actions such as assuming "reason alone" is 
> sufficient to solve our predicaments are assumed within a particular 
> way of life.  Taylor is trying to make the point that Bransom's 
> position CANNOT exist within Bransom's own self-imposed 
> boundaries.  We need to look to "ways of life" to situate Bransom's 
> position as making "sense".  
>  Andy, Taylor returns to the central question, Is reason ALONE 
> adequate to solve predicaments.  Bransom brilliantly articulates the 
> pragmatic processes of  giving and askinf for  reasons. But for 
> Taylor, Bransom has not moved far enough into the more inclusive "form 
> of life" without which Bransom's more narrower perspective would NOT 
> make sense and Bransom's reasons ALONE could not exist on their own.  
> Taylor is pointing out that each form of life makes particular "cuts" 
> or uses "scissors" to make particular distinctions.  For Taylor the 
> "assertoric/disclosive" cut [from withIN his theoretical perspective] 
> is a central distinction. Reason ALONE is not a self-sufficient 
> language use. In our particular historical period we may narrow the 
> range of operations we include as language and the reason Taylor 
> suggests for embracing this narrower context [reasons as 
> self-sufficient] is to FACILITATE finding common conclusions. By 
> focusing on reasons alone, using neutral terms to explain phenomena 
> and predicaments we move to a stance of disengagement from the 
> disclosive forms of language use [dismissed as merely private and 
> subjective]  This form of practice of dismissing the disclosive 
> dimension is accomplished by stating that the disclosive realm is 
> without any "real object" and is therefore "metaphysical". 
>  Andy, Taylor's explanation of how our current "form of life" as 
> dismissing certain language uses as merely metaphysical does seem to 
> be a boundary marker or a particular way of "cutting" the world 
> [making distinctions]  For Taylor the disclosive realm is what "moves 
> us" in our predicaments and language use  is central within this 
> disclosive realm. Taylor is suggesting that Bransom may be 
> "ontologizing" a particular METHOD of giving and asking for reasons as 
> a "form of life" and as THE method to resolve all our predicaments. 
> This reductive move may segregate the disclosive realm into being 
> merely within the private sphere and separate it from the public 
> sphere [in our historically situated form of life]. As I understand 
> Taylor this form of demarcation is a boundary marker [form of cutting] 
> that separates the disclosive from the assertoric speech 
> acts. Taylor's question to Bransom is,
> "Is there more contextualization we have to make?"
> The answer for Taylor is that the practice of giving and receiving 
> answers only makes sense within a broader contextualization which 
> views the assertoric and disclosive language uses as intetwined within 
> a particular form of life.  To narrow the context to "reason alone" is 
> to confuse a "method" for an "ontology"  The disclosive realm is the 
> ESSENTIAL background for our most immediately practical discourse. The 
> disclosive cannot be excluded from the public giving of and asking for 
> reasons. Even within science, mathematics, and logic "there is a 
> continuing and irremovable presence of the articulative-disclosive".  
> The kind of person who attempts to operate under the ethic of using 
> reason alone  "is inseparable from the development of a particular 
> kind of self-consciousness and self-examination and self-scrutiny. For 
> Taylor THIS points to a "way of life" [context] Within THIS way of 
> life your words may be disqualified if you are violating the "reason 
> alone" precepts. For Taylor THIS particular KIND of language game can 
> only be operationalized within a particular way of life [broader 
> context] that includes disqualifying articulative-disclosive 
> considerations in the giving and asking for particular kinds of 
> reasons. This particular way of life is understood within a particular 
> ethic of how we should proceed.  Science when following this kind of 
> narrowed language use is participating in "science-fiction"  For 
> Taylor we are not capable of being guided by reason alone.
> Andy, this extended answer may be "too general" and too repetitive or 
> may be so obvious and "common sense" within the CHAT community. 
> However, I continue to be engaged by John Shotter's perspective of 
> speech acts as "con-scientia" [knowing with].  If this is "merely" 
> metaphysical "ideality" I am willing to consider other perspectives.  
> However, I sense a common thread between Taylor and Shotter's 
> understanding of speech acts as intertwining reasoning and the 
> disclosive.  When reading Ingold's development of his themes from 
> "production" to "history" to "dwelling" and now exploring "lines" as 
> paths of wayfaring I also see an exploration of the disclosive 
> dimension of speech acts. 
> I'm willing to concede that Taylor's use of the term "contexts" may be 
> too fuzzy and indistinct and needs further articulation.[or use a 
> different phrase.  However the theme which Taylor, Shotter, Rey, 
> Ingold, Merleau-Ponty and others are exploring of "ways of life" or 
> "dwelling in the world" seems to have some merit.  Boundary 
> demarcation seems to have a place in these ways of observing and 
> participating in the world and what is considered important to notice 
> and observe.  Everyday expressions within  communicative practices  
> need from Taylor's perspective can only be understood within 
> particular "ways of life"
> Larry
> Larry
> On Sun, Aug 21, 2011 at 11:45 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net 
> <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:
>     Larry, I think the issue which the debate you are reporting fail
>     to examine is *what is meant by context*? And the talk about
>     boundaries, and whether they should be soft or hard points to the
>     problem with this vagueness. The point is to conceive of the
>     interaction, be it dialogic or mediated, in the same concept with
>     the context (and vice versa); only then can these conundrums be
>     unravelled, in my view.
>     Andy
>     Larry Purss wrote:
>         Hi Arthur and Andy
>         Arthur, Your mentioning Bransom's theory of inferentialism
>         left me curious
>         to know more.  I found on Google an edited book titled
>         "Reading Bransom -On
>         Making it Explicit"   In the book numerous authors have
>         responded to Bransom
>         and then Bransom replies in the 4th section of the book.  One
>         particular
>         chapter was written by Charles Taylor and I believe it has
>         relevance to the
>         discussion on Fernando Rey's article for discussion [in a
>         round about way]
>         It also has relevance for reading John Shotter's article on
>         interpreting
>         Vygotsky through analyzing speech acts and the multiple uses
>         of language.
>         This is the reason I'm going to summarize Taylor's perspective
>         on the
>         multiple contexts of language use.
>         Taylor agrees with Bransom's basic premise that concepts are
>         relevant within
>         situated contexts and those concepts justify MULTIPLE
>         inferences. What is
>         crucial in thought and language is these multiple possible and
>         potential
>         inferences within activity. Taylor points out Bransom's notion
>         of holism
>         [grasping the whole of things through the unity of
>         apperception shares
>         Merleau-Ponty's notion of holism.]
>         Taylor then reads Bransom as sharing Wittgenstein's
>         perspective that
>         meaningful language always requires a context of practices and
>         actions.
>         Taylor suggests THIS form of consciousness has been
>         historically developing
>         for the last 2 hundred years gradually undoing the "abstracting"
>         epistemology of Descartes and Hobbes.  In this development of
>         awareness of
>         the primacy of practices and actions within language use
>         "judgements" and
>         "inferences" are central concepts.  However, at this point
>         Taylor draws our
>         attention to Wittgenstein's notion that "judgements" are only
>         KIND of language game.  There are a family of such language
>         games that put
>         in play combinations of reference and prediction which are
>         used to make
>         "empirical claims", "to ask how things are" "to give
>         commands". Bransom
>         articulates this family of language games with clarity and
>         illumination. It
>         is at this point that Taylor opens up a new line of inquiry
>         which supports
>         Shotter's exploration of the uses of speech acts.
>         For Taylor lots of other language games are going on. For
>         example we use
>         language to establish intimacy or distance. To open contact or
>         close it off.
>         To cry for, and give or withhold sympathy, and in multiple
>         ways DISCLOSE the
>         world.  We disclose the depths of our feelings, we disclose
>         the beauty of
>         the world, we disclose the virtues of the good [ethics].
>         Taylor suggests we
>         won't grasp these disclosive aspects of language if we only
>         focus on
>         reference and prediction of judgements.  By FIXING CLEARLY AND
>         DISTINCTLY
>         through reference and prediction we focus on determinate
>         illumination.
>         However, Taylor suggests that disclosive uses of language
>         sometimes depend
>         on the uncertainty and indeterminancy of disclosures.
>         Taylor is pointing to the boundaries we construct to help us
>         determne how we
>         understand the uses of language. To see language use as only
>         ASSERTIVE is
>         too restrictive a boundary marker.  To understand the
>         centrality of the
>         disclosive uses of language Taylor suggests it is analogous to
>         the other
>         disclosive symbol forms such as music, painting, dance, and
>         gesture.
>         Taylor's broader boundary marking suggests the notion of
>         language as "speech
>         in words" as assertive [giving reasons] is too narrow a
>         boundary marker.
>         Speech must relate to the broader field of the whole range of
>         symbolic
>         disclosive forms.
>         Wittgenstein also points out that to take language as
>         judgements [speech in
>         words] is too narrow a boundary and he recognizes this form as a
>         specific type of practice or language game. Wittgenstein
>         suggests embedding
>         this narrower context in the wider frame of multiple practices
>         withIN the
>         all-encompassing frame OF a form of life. A form of life IS
>         the broader
>         context. Wittgenstein also emphasizes these language games can
>         only be
>         played as games of EXCHANGE. They can only be played with
>         others. [what
>         Bransom calls "giving and asking for reasons"].  Bransom
>         brilliantly
>         illuminates the dialogical perspective of language in his
>         explicating using
>         language for the giving and asking for reasons.
>         However, though Taylor agrees with Bransom's positions
>         rejecting monological
>         representationalist epistemology [up to a point] Taylor  asks,
>         How far does
>         this embedding in contexts have to go?  There is a context
>         where  the goal
>         of language games is to make, exchange, and check claims ABOUT
>         factual
>         states of things and also in this family of games the drawing
>         inferences
>         ABOUT what to do.  These practices are a family or set of
>         language games.
>         set this
>         family of assertive approaches withIN a broader context of
>         symbolic forms of
>         disclosure such as music, gesture, painting, and dance?  WE
>         also give and
>         ask for reasons to do with beauty, ethics, and deep feelings
>         in dialogical
>         contexts.
>         What Taylor is drawing our attention to and attempting to
>         illuminate is the
>         ASSERTORIC/DISCLOSIVE DISTINCTION!  as a way of marking a
>         wider more
>         inclusive understanding of the uses of language. Language
>         sometimes is used
>         to make accessible to us [show us] some phenomenon without making
>         assertions. The SENSE of this disclosive use of language can be
>         INDETERMINATE AND INDEFINABLE. The use of language is to draw
>         us into the
>         phenomenon without clarity or determinate boundaries as part
>         of our
>         disclosive world of symbolic form.
>         Taylor points out that for an immense range of language use
>         BOTH assertion
>         and disclosure are expressed. As Shotter emphasizes we can
>         speak of the
>         disclosive DIMENSION of speech acts. The speaker might be
>         articulating a
>         disclosive stance towards language use and we the listener may
>         respond with
>         an assertive judgement by DEFINING its ESSENTIAL features.
>         These are two
>         different dimensions of language use.  But this assertoric
>         response was NOT
>         the description the speaker was expressing withIN his speech acts.
>         The contexts we create by boundary marking what are the
>         legitimate uses of
>         language [legitimate language games] extend to our notions of
>         scientific
>         discourse. Today there is a common sense zone of assertoric
>         language use
>         around our explanations of science and everyday practices.
>          This zone or
>         context can have harder or softer boundaries. Hard line
>         materialists reduce
>         all human phenomena to "natural" physical explanations [minds
>         reduced to
>         brains, feelings reduced to endocrinology]  Moving to softer
>         more inclusive
>         boundaries certain philosophers want to fence in and contain
>         reasoning ABOUT
>         ethics and morals. [they explain and justify morals on the
>         basis of reasons
>         alone independently of disclosive uses of language.]  They
>         stay within the
>         normative rules of particular practices or language games.
>         For Taylor a key question is What are the reasons for defining and
>         DETERMINING such a bounded and marked frame for
>         fact-establishing assertoric
>         discourse?  The crucial boundary marker is asserting that
>         REASON ALONE is
>         the way we use language and leaving the disclosive uses of
>         language outside
>         the boundary. This "reason alone" use of language without
>         recourse to the
>         more inclusive context which also includes disclosive language
>         use has a
>         particular attraction. With the disclosive outside the
>         boundary then CANONS
>         OF ARGUMENT can be made much more RIGOUROUS [rigid] and
>         CONCLUSIVE and
>         DETERMINATE.  Then we can more easily AGREE on the conclusions
>         of assertoric
>         science, and leave the disclosive use of language in our
>         speech acts aside.
>         Differences on the nature of deep feelings, beauty, and ethics
>         can be put
>         aside as outside the boundaries of language use. By narrowing
>         its boundary
>         and range of operations, speech acts as reasons become
>         effective in reaching
>         common conclusions by leaving behind the expressive as disclosive.
>         I believe Rey's article on sense& meaning, and John Shotter's
>         article on
>         speech acts as disclosive contexts is attempting to broaden
>         the context
>         beyond the assertoric to include the INTERTWINING of BOTH the
>         assertoric and
>         disclosive uses of language.
>         I apologize for the length of this post but I'm struggling to
>         "show" the
>         othe dimension of language use that is analogus to music,
>         gesture, dance,
>         and painting as EXPRESSING ways of life or ways to dwell in
>         the world
>         [Ingold & Merleau-Ponty]
>         Larry
>         __________________________________________
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>     -- 
>     ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>     *Andy Blunden*
>     Joint Editor MCA:
>     http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~db=all~content=g932564744
>     <http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title%7Edb=all%7Econtent=g932564744>
>     Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/ <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy/>
>     Book: http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857
>     <http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857>
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*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: 
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857

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