Belief Ascriptions and Social Externalism


semantic externalism, social externalism, de re/de dicto belief ascriptions, semantic holism, linguistic communication, interpretation, psychological explanation, mental content, Brandom, Burge


I outline Brandom’s theory of de re and de dicto belief ascriptions, which plays a central role in Brandom’s overall theory of linguistic communication, and show that this theory offers a surprising, new response to Burge’s (Midwest Stud 6:73–121, 1979) argument for social externalism. However, while this response is in principle available from the perspective of Brandom’s theory of belief ascription in abstraction from his wider theoretical enterprise, it ceases to be available from this perspective in the wider context of his inferential role semantics and his doctrines of scorekeeping and of the expressive role of belief ascriptions in discourse. In this wider context, Brandom’s theory of belief ascriptions implies that Burge’s argument trivially fails to have the disquieting implications for psychological explanations that it is widely taken to have. Yet since this is not trivially so, Brandom’s theory apparently provides a false picture of our practice of interpreting belief ascriptions. I then argue that Brandom might as well accept the alternative picture of interpreting belief ascriptions that Burge’s argument presupposes: even in the context of his overall project, Brandom’s take on our practice of interpreting them does not afford belief ascriptions with the discursive significance Brandom claims they have.

This document is currently not available here.