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The Limits of Conceptual Analysis

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A priori conceptual analysis is once again part of the philosophical mainstream. Unlike their verificationist predecessors, modern conceptual analysts deny that we have armchair access to the essential nature of the objects and properties we think about. Instead, they claim we have access to how the reference of our words and thoughts is fixed. This position seems to resolve the apparent tension between semantic externalism and privileged access to one's own meanings. However, I argue that our grasp of reference-fixing conditions is as fallible as our understanding of essences.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Philosophy Monash University

Publication date: December 1, 2004

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