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Explanation and Modality: On Why The Swampman Is Still Worrisome to Teleosemanticists (Dongwoo Kim)

The Logic and Metaphysics Workshop will meet on October 7th from 4:15-6:15 in room 7314 of the CUNY Graduate Center for a talk by Dongwoo Kim (CUNY).

Title: Explanation and Modality: On Why The Swampman Is Still Worrisome to Teleosemanticists

Abstract: Many have thought that Davidson’s Swampman scenario offers a serious problem to teleosemantics. For it appears to be possible from the scenario that there are completely ahistorical creatures with beliefs, and this apparent possibility contradicts the theory. In a series of papers (2001, 2006, 2016), Papineau argues that the Swampman scenario is not even the start of an objection to teleosemantics as a scientific reduction of belief. It is against this claim that I want to argue here. I shall argue that the explanatory power of teleosemantics rests on two conceptual pillars, namely success semantics and the etiological conception of biological function, and that the Swampman scenario questions the adequacy of the foundational conceptual commitments. Along the way, some general connection between explanation and modality will be developed that sheds a new light on Kripke’s analysis of necessary a posteriori propositions. The conclusion will be that teleosemanticists should tackle the Swampman objection head on.

 

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