Author's Introduction (Truncated)
- Hilary Putnam has devised a bomb that threatens to devastate the realist philosophy we know and love. He explains how he has learned to stop worrying and love the bomb. He welcomes the new order that it would bring ("Putnam (Hilary) - Reason, Truth and History: Preface"). But we who still live in the target area do not agree. The bomb must be banned.
- Putnam's thesis (the bomb) is that, in virtue of considerations from the theory of reference, it makes no sense to suppose that an empirically ideal theory, as verified as can be, might nevertheless be false because the world is not the way the theory says it is. The reason given is, roughly, that there is no semantic glue to stick our words onto their referents, and so reference is very much up for grabs; but there is one force constraining reference, and that is our intention to refer in such a way that we come out right; and there is no countervailing force; and the world, no matter what it is like (almost), will afford some scheme of reference that makes us come out right; so how can we fail to come out right?
- Putnam's thesis is incredible. We are in the presence of paradox, as surely as when we meet the man1 who offers us a proof that there are no people, and in particular that he himself does not exist. It is out of the question to follow the argument where it leads. We know in advance that there is something wrong, and the challenge is to find out where. If the paradox-monger is good at his work, we stand to learn something; and indeed, I think that Putnam's paradox affords an important lesson.
- In the first half of the paper I shall give my account of what I take to be the core of Putnam's argument, and I shall say how I think it fails. In the second half of the paper, I shall raise some questions about aspects of Putnam's presentation that puzzle me.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)