Edifying Semantics

I like Brandom’s recent motto of “edifying semantics”. It strikes me that this is what Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Hegel were after more than anything else in their particular ways of doing philosophy — inquiry into meaning, with an ethical intent. Aristotle even developed natural science in the form of an edifying semantics.

Behind the formidable technical development of Brandom’s other recent motif of “semantic descent” is, I believe, a profound ethical concern to show the relevance of philosophy to ordinary life. Semantic descent shows how lofty higher-order abstractions are effectively operative in the ordinary use of concepts in ordinary experience.

This is not reductionism, but quite the opposite. It is a vindication of the relevance of higher-order things in ordinary life.

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