Collective Intentionality, Inferentialism and the Capacity for Claim-Making

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Studies in the Philosophy of Sociality


Some of our linguistic practices are special in that they involve claims about how things stand in the world. These judgments are thought to be true or false with respect to what they are about. The nature of these practices of claim-making has been studied by philosophers and psychologists alike. Furthermore, important strands in evolutionary studies have relied on both psychological and philosophical theories for addressing the question of how these practices evolved in the hominins lineage, claiming that engagement in such linguistic practices is humans’ exclusive heritage. This paper aims to show that (some of) the conceptual tools provided by collective intentionality and inferentialist theorists can productively complement each other in pursuing this theoretical endeavor, namely the elucidation of human practices of claim-making. In particular, I argue that (i) Brandom’s inferentialist account of basic linguistic practices in interpretational terms is problematic and that these problems can be addressed via appeal to the collective intentionality theorist’s toolbox, and (ii) Inferentialists resource to linguistic norms in understanding meaning and claim-making can offer crucial tools for understanding the emergence of human specific cognitive capacities of objective judgement, tools that are needed to complement the accounts offered by collective intentionality theorists. The main aim of the paper is to provide an account of the evolution and development of human-specific abilities of claim-making which combines resources from both approaches in order to understand the nature and crucial role of shared activities in their emergence.

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