Radical Conceptual Change: From Inference to Semantic Drift

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Title: Radical Conceptual Change: From Inference to Semantic Drift
Authors: Bizri, Rana
Permanent link: http://hdl.handle.net/10197/12814
Date: 2021
Online since: 2022-04-29T15:13:50Z
Abstract: This thesis investigates the conditions that must be in place in order to account for radical changes of meaning in time. The radicality of changes in meaning will be examined in the context of language as living social activity. This project’s culmination is that the most convincing way to account for conceptual change is through Jacques Derrida’s notion of ‘iterability’ that results in what he calls ‘essential drifting’. Through ‘iterability’ displacement and break with the context become possible which makes for a narrative of radical changes in meaning. The first part stages a dialectical confrontation between Wilfrid Sellars’ account of meaning as rule-following and Robert Brandom’s re-working of it. Sellars’ conception of pattern-governed behaviour, I argue, makes it seem that apart from explicit or deliberate authoring of conceptual change (e.g., in scientific theory construction), there may be no genuine alternative for theorising changes in meaning. Brandom’s re-conception of normativity enables him to describe shifts in meaning as resulting from practices of reciprocal recognition of authority and responsibility both synchronically and diachronically. Norms, be they explicit or implicit, are constantly reinstituted by turning on precedents and serving as precedents for future linguistic practitioners. Toward the end of my thesis, I move to a Derridian framework to address the question of the extent to which the subject is authoritative in these linguistic practices, if normative practical attitudes are unreflective for the most part. Crucial here is the distinction between ‘radical’ changes and ‘revolutionary’ changes. In the former case, such changes are seen as semantic drifts due to the contextuality of meaning. In the latter case, subjects seem to play an active role in bringing about change. My contention is that prior slippage in a particular linguistic configuration due to the contextual nature of meaning prompts subjects to actively introduce new concepts and actively influence the status quo. There seems to be two aspects to meaning: impersonal replicability and personal appropriation of concepts. Such distinction shows how certain norms can be replicated and massively produced unreflectively and impersonally, on the one hand, and how these same norms can be resisted through active reconceptualisation, on the other.
Type of material: Doctoral Thesis
Publisher: University College Dublin. School of Philosophy
Qualification Name: Ph.D.
Copyright (published version): 2021 the Author
Keywords: InferentialismNnormativityIterabilitySemantic drift
Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
This item is made available under a Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ie/
Appears in Collections:Philosophy Theses

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