Consciousness Thought

Occasion-Sensitivity: Selected Essays by Charles Travis

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By Charles Travis

Charles Travis offers a sequence of essays during which he has constructed his specified view of the relation of suggestion to language. the foremost proposal is "occasion-sensitivity": what it really is for phrases to specific a given thought is for them to be apt for contributing to any of many alternative stipulations of correctness (notably fact conditions). in view that phrases suggest what they do via expressing a given proposal, it follows that which means doesn't ascertain fact stipulations. This view ties ideas much less tightly to the linguistic types which show them than conventional perspectives of the problem, and in instructions: a given linguistic shape, which means fastened, might convey an indefinite number of innovations; one idea may be expressed in an indefinite variety of syntactically and semantically particular methods. Travis highlights the significance of this view for linguistic idea, and exhibits the way it offers new shape to quite a few conventional philosophical difficulties.

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But what, 26 Occasion-Sensitivity strictly speaking, would be said in such a speaking? Consider the following two contrasting cases: A. Max fills his shiny new aluminum kettle with the makings of a stew, and sets it over the campfire. An hour later, he informs Sam that he has done this. ‘That was pretty stupid’, Sam replies, and rushes out to the fire. He returns holding a soot-blackened pot and says (speaking truly), ‘Look. ’ B. Everard and Clothilde are acquiring their first common batterie de cuisine.

The English, ‘The kettle is black’—will be an (ordered) list of examples—speakings, or possible speakings of the words—in each of which, we would perhaps naively and overhastily, take a different thing to have been said (or at least a different point to have been made) from that said (or made in any of the others). We will, thus, say such things as, ‘That’s true’, and ‘That’s false’, and perhaps also give other assessments, such as, ‘Correct’, ‘Right’, ‘You can’t be serious’, ‘That’s deceitful’, ‘It’s just like/not a bit like what you said it to be’, under different circumstances for each member of the list—at least when we are doing what we should be inclined to regard as correct.

In Grice’s terminology, ‘part of the total signification of the utterance’. ⁷ William James lectures, lecture 3. 24 Occasion-Sensitivity applicability of some notion—for example, the notion of an action’s being done voluntarily, or of someone’s knowing that such and such, or of someone’s trying to do something or other (which he did do). The claim of an A-thesis, for some such notion, is that it may not be correct, or even sensible to apply that notion to an object of the relevant kind (a doing, say, or a knower and an appropriate object of knowledge), either by saying that the object is what the notion is a notion of being, or that it is not.

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