Chapter

The End of Representation?

Stephen Neale

in Facing Facts

Published in print November 2001 | ISBN: 9780199247158
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598081 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199247153.003.0001
 The End of Representation?

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Introduces the criticisms put forward by philosophers such as Donald Davidson and Richard Rorty to the idea that one thing might represent another: that thoughts, utterances, and inscriptions are said to have content by virtue of their power to represent reality; and that those that do the job accurately are true, they correspond to the facts, or mirror reality—they are representations of reality. The author then outlines the deductive proof that he will present in the book to show that Davidson's and Rorty's criticisms are unfounded. The content of the proof is based on the work of Kurt Gödel and W. V. Quine, and demonstrates conclusively that (i) any supposedly non‐truth‐functional operation must satisfy an exacting logical condition in order to avoid collapsing into a truth‐function, and (ii) any theory of facts, states of affairs, situations, or propositions must satisfy a corresponding condition if such entities are not to collapse into a unity. The three main sections of the chapter: examine the case against representations made by Davidson and Rorty, including Davidson's notorious argument against facts; discuss Rorty's critique of representational philosophy (his anti‐representationalism); and consider collapsing (or slingshot) arguments that discredit the existence of facts (and are used in the critique of the fact–representation distinction), as put forward by Gottlob Frege, and developed by Alonzo Church, Quine, Davidson, and Gödel. The last section of the chapter outlines the structure of the book.

Keywords: Alonzo Church; anti‐representationalism; Church; collapsing arguments; critique of the fact–representation distinction; critiques of representational philosophy; Donald Davidson; facts; Kurt Gödel; W. V. Quine; representational philosophy; representations; representations of reality; Richard Rorty; slingshot arguments; theory of facts; truth‐function

Chapter.  6730 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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