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Friday, June 22, 2012

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Bill,

I thank you for taking a journey through memory lane and for the kind words. Unfortunately, 2008 was a tragic year for me. Still it warms my heart remembering those early days of our acquaintance which turned into a close friendship.

I will confine myself to your objections against premise (1). The pivotal words in (1) are explicable content. Your objection seems to assume that (1) entails that if a term ‘F’ has no explicable content, then it has no sense or content and therefore sentences in which F is used have no truth-conditions. This is not my current view and I should like to think that it was not my view at the time of the above exchange (but, I may be wrong about the later). Moreover, I do not think that (1) entails any such thing.

Here is the way I would currently put the views you ascribe to me (roughly). A term has explicable content only if a reductive theory can be given to it. A reductive theory is a theory which strives to directly capture the sense of the term in other terms without substantial residue. It is imperative to distinguish between reductive-theories, in the sense I have just given to them, and extensional theories. Extensional-theories typically attempt to articulate some general propositions regarding the extension of the term (typically by means of axioms). So a proponent of (1) holds the terms may have content without having explicable content; i.e., content that can be fully explicated in terms of a reductive-theory. However, even terms without explicable content may admit of an extensional theory.

Moreover, one may hold that there are certain terms (concepts) which are so fundamental that we cannot explicate their content in other terms in any useful way. Part of the reason is that such terms apply to everything within their category without exceptions. Hence, the content of these terms cannot be captured in terms of a reductive-theory. Nevertheless, such terms certainly have content and typically admit of extensional theories, which just may be the best we can do. Call such fundamental terms B-terms (for “basement-terms"). Self-identity as well as existence are B-terms, in the above sense.

Now from the above perspective, it simply does not follow that if a term fails to have explicable content, then it fails to have content or truth-conditions. The only thing that follows is that if a term is a B-term and, hence, applies to everything within its category, then it does not admit of a reductive theory and, therefore, fails to have explicable content. But lacking explicable content does not entail that the term fails to have content or truth-conditions. Therefore, (1) is true for terms such as ‘self-identity’ and ‘existence’ without necessitating that these terms lack sense as your objection alleges. I think that (1) can be defended along these lines against your objection and I would so defend it.


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