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Title page for ETD etd-07242017-143430

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Dabay, Thomas M.
URN etd-07242017-143430
Title Naturalism and Inference: On the Need for a Theory of Material Inference
Degree PhD
Department Philosophy
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Scott F. Aikin Committee Chair
Catherine W. Legg Committee Member
Jeffrey Tlumak Committee Member
John Lachs Committee Member
Robert B. Talisse Committee Member
  • Inference
  • Intentionality
  • Pragmatism
  • Naturalism
Date of Defense 2016-11-18
Availability unrestricted
My research centers on analytic pragmatist approaches to intentionality. One goal that defenders of such approaches set for themselves is to be able to provide a naturalistically sound account of intentionality without being pejoratively scientistic. Many critics argue that this is an unattainable goal, and I begin my dissertation by framing in neutral terms what I take to be the core of these critics’ objection. I call this the Pincer Objection, and while surveying the works of four prominent analytic pragmatists—Donald Davidson, John McDowell, Huw Price, and Robert Brandom—I argue that all of them fall prey to the Pincer Objection. The reason they fall prey to this objection is because within their semantic theories they give explanatory priority to the semantic properties of propositions (as opposed to those of concepts or inferences). I argue that, as an analytic pragmatist, I should instead prioritize the semantic properties of inferences, and that once I do so I am faced with the question: How are materially valid inferences possible? Finally, I argue that if I can provide an answer to this question, then I can successfully address the Pincer Objection. In this manner, my dissertation is not directed towards answering this question, but instead towards establishing the naturalistic credentials of accounts of intentionality that take this question seriously.
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