Brandom on the Normativity of Meaning

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Brandom's "inferentialism" - his theory that an expression's or state's contentfulness consists in its use or occurrence being governed by inferential norms - proves dubiously compatible with his own deflationary approach to underwriting the objectivity of intentional content (an approach that is one of the theory's essential presuppositions). This is because a deflationist argument, adapted from the case of truth to that of correct inference, undermines the key criterion of adequacy Brandom employs in motivating inferentialism. Once that constraint is abandoned, furthermore, Brandom is left vulnerable to the charge thathis inferential norms are unavailable toplay the meaning-constituting role he claims for them. Yet Brandom's account of meaning tacitly intertwines inferentialism with a separate explanatory project, one that in explaining the pragmatic significance of meaning-attributions does yield a convincing construal of the claim that the concept of meaning is a normative one.

Document Type: Commentary

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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