Volume 79, Issue 1, October-December 2016
The Many Faces of Putnam
Raphaël Ehrsam & Pierre Fasula, The Many Faces of Putnam
Putnam is famous for advocating “realism” in all his books and papers, as well as for striving to connect logic, mathematics, the philosophy of mind, language and knowledge, or ethics and religion. This presentation argues that such concerns have met different answers at different times. First, Putnam had endorsed a metaphysically seasoned scientific realism ; then, his realism underwent an epistemic turn drawing part of its inspiration from Kant’s transcendental philosophy; eventually, till his recent death, Putnam has explored a pragmatist line of thoughts drawing from Wittgenstein and Dewey. However, such an evolution indicates that Putnam’s main goal may have been to build an open rationalism, so as to promote a new enlightenment.
Raphaël Ehrsam, Putnam on Reference. Between Concepts and Reality
Putnam endorses two seemingly opposite claims about reference and the content of mental states. According to Putnam’s semantic externalism in “The Meaning of ‘Meaning’” (1975), reference or intentionality demands that words and mental states bear a relation to the world as it is, independently of our language and thoughts. Meanwhile, according to Putnam’s internal realism in Reason, Truth and History (1981), one cannot think about or refer to an object without making use of a certain conceptual network and entertaining a certain set of beliefs. Is the conjunction of these claims consistent? This paper argues that it is, and indeed corresponds to a core element of Putnam’s thought, since such a conjunction is the sole way to avoid what Putnam calls in 1999 “the antinomy of realism”.
Anna C. Zielinska, Putnam: Conceptual Relativity and Mereology
Ontology is omnipresent in Hilary Putnam’s work – philosophy of mathematics, of sciences, of perception, his epistemology and finally his ethics are incessantly challenged with ontological queries. Putnam’s philosophical enterprise seems to be guided by the following question: how can we think the world without a strong and definitive ontology, but with an epistemology that is robust enough to resist antirealism? This paper recalls what is at stake in various versions of Putnam’s realism, and proposes a critical evaluation of two of its key-concepts: mereology and conceptual relativity.
Alberto Naibo, Putnam-Dummett. Which logic for which realism?
This article compares Putnam’s and Dummett’s positions with respect to the question of the meaning and knowledge of logico-mathematical truths. This comparison reveals an underlying unity in Putnam’s thought, characterized by the attempt to define an intermediate position between a dogmatic realism and a constructive anti-realism. This intermediate position, which can be called « moderate realism », will then be analyzed technically using Kreisel’s no-counter-example interpretation.
Pierre Fasula, Putnam’s Ethics. A “Motley Squared”
In order to describe ethics, Putnam uses Wittgenstein’s expression as regards to mathematics, according to which they form a ‘motley’. His own contribution to ethics could be qualified in the same way, therefore it will be presented in its diversity, in the way it explains at the same time value judgements, rules and principles, or practical reasoning, on the basis of a criticism of ontology.
Sandra Laugier, The Necrology of Ontology. Putnam, Ethics and Realism
This paper is about Putnam’s proposal of an ethic, and more generally, a philosophy without ontology. In his last books, converging with Cora Diamond’s point of view, Putnam seems to go beyond the classical split between non-cognitivism and moral realism, in favour of a realism of a realistic spirit: not a realism of common sense (that would be another thesis) but an ordinary, natural, realism, that considers the expression of morality in our language and usages.
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David Espinet, Politiques of Happiness. Transformation of Kantian Ethics
This paper brings out the strategy, which in the context of Kant’s conception of the highest good characterizes a specific Kantian politics of happiness. Such a strategy consists in subordinating the desire for happiness under the ethical law – this not in order to eradicate the sensible element, but to preserve the heterogeneity essential for the highest human good, that is to say, the difference between moral autonomy and sensible life. In this perspective two more recent transformations of Kantian ethics are taken up: Hans Blumenberg’s considerations on the pluralistic and most often indirect character of human happiness, as well as Derrida’s interpretation of the Kantian notion of friendship, in particular of the interruptive function of respect within the fusional desire of love.