SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Linguistic Relativism and Conceptual Schemes
(Philosophy of Language, English)

We use our mother tongue every day. We do this not only to communicate with other speakers, but also to grasp the world. We interpret each sensory perception through a set of concepts that derive from our language, through a conceptual scheme. And since we have yet to come across a language completely different and in principle untranslatable to e.g. English, there seems to be only one conceptual scheme common to arbitrarily distant languages. This notion was encouraged in the 1970s by Donald Davidson's rational argument in his article On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme, where he shows that if the conceptual scheme is to be what we believe it to be, then it is impossible to put this framework aside and look at the matter impartially. Yet Davidson's position can be criticized from many quarters. Most often, his argument does not directly concern the idea of conceptual schemes itself, but only one its group. Indeed, unless we accept assumptions about the key role of translatability in comparing different conceptual schemes, or we reject Kantian dualism of scheme-content, linguistic relativism will remain disproved.

The reason why to deal with this issue is obvious. If there can be different conceptual schemes, then their owners can live in different worlds. This could mean that all knowledge - including philosophy - is relative to these schemes. In the contribution, I will focus on challenging Davidson's conclusion from all points of view. I will briefly present linguistic relativism as such, then to show Davidson's reasoning with mentioned assumptions. In the main part of the contribution, I will focus on exposing the weaknesses of such an approach and try to show the potential viability of linguistic relativism.

Chair: Katharina Anna Sodoma
Time: 17:00-17:30, 18 September 2019 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.006

Jan Stepanek 
(Masaryk University, Czech Republic)

I am a Ph.D. student of Philosophy at Masaryk University in Brno. My specialization is philosophy of language, logic and philosophy of mathematics. Specifically I deal with intuitionism (which is also the subject of my dissertation), non-classical logics and linguistic relativism.

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