Thursday, March 5, 2015

Response to a Comment
In 1976, when I delivered the John Locke Lectures at Oxford, I often spent time with Peter Strawson, and one day at lunch he made a remark I have never been able to forget. He said, "Surely half the pleasure of life is sardonic comment on the passing show".  This blog is devoted to comments, not all of them sardonic, on the passing philosophical show.
Hilary Putnam

Tristan Haze writes:

 “Thanks for making this post. [Haze is referring to "Rational Reconstruction" 2/18/15] I'm interested in your notion of rational reconstruction but am bothered by something.

I understand and see the usefulness of the idea of a rational reconstruction as a paradox-free way of construing some problematic discourse. And I understand this as something like giving a new but importantly related meaning to that discourse.

But then when you mention the logical positivists/empiricists and say (approvingly as far as I can tell) that for them a rational reconstruction was 'a proposal to *give* a certain predicate an interpretation that exhibits the rationality of certain uses of that expression', this, naturally interpreted, seems to be in tension with the understanding of rational reconstruction as characterized in the last paragraph of this comment.

The tension is: if a rational construction is not intended to be descriptive of the meaning of some discourse as it already was before the rational reconstruction, then how can it exhibit the rationality of any of it? At best, it exhibits a way of changing one's practise in order to *become* rational. Or am I missing something?” 

Response:  Tristan, you are absolutely right. Instead of saying “a proposal to give a certain predicate an interpretation that exhibits the rationality of certain uses of that expression”, I should have said “a proposal to give a certain expression an interpretation that makes certain uses of that expression that are important to us rationally justifiable”.

Thanks for catching me up on this.