René Descartes Lectures, Tilburg, 2008

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Lecture I begins with a distinction between two themes in philosophical naturalism. The first theme takes science to be our best guide to what there is, the second takes it to be our best guide to the nature of our own thought and talk. Thus the first theme ('object naturalism') motivates a scientifically-constrained metaphysics, while the second ('subject naturalism') motivates a scientifically-constrained philosophy of language and philosophical psychology. The lecture discusses a sense in which these two themes may conflict: in particular, a sense in which subject naturalism may undermine a presupposition of object naturalism. The presupposition in question is the assumption that belief, judgement and assertion are 'referential', or 'representational', in some theoretically robust sense. In showing that this assumption is itself open to naturalistic challenge, the lecture identifies a little-recognised vulnerability in popular forms of (object) naturalism. The remaining lectures aim to show, first, what conception(s) of representation might replace the assumption in question; and second, what the project of philosophical naturalism looks like, in the light of these changes. Lecture II begins with the so-called bifurcation thesis -- the view that speech acts into descriptive and non-descriptive categories. The lecture advocates a different bifurcation, between two notions of representation: an 'external', world-tracking notion, and an 'internal', inferentialist notion. I argue that traditional representationalism confuses these notions. Lecture III outlines a conception of the project of naturalistic philosophy, in the light of this new bifurcation thesis. The recognition that not all representations in the inferential sense need be representation in the world-tracking sense permits a new pluralism within the former class: a pluralism about the functions of representation (in the former sense) in the lives of natural creatures in a natural environment. I emphasise that this kind of pluralism is orthogonal to familiar programs for pluralism in the philosophy of science. It involves a new dimension of variability, that conventional representationalism simply hides from view.