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Williamson's defensive note in his Preface bespeaks the sort of question-begging you point out:

"By any normal scientific standard, it is intelligible to say that there are things that would have dissolved if they had been put in water, and correspondingly intelligible to say that there are things that could have dissolved in water. To condemn such statements as unintelligible by some special philosophical standard is bad science and bad philosophy. Books on modality have no more obligation to spend their readers’ time on defences of the intelligibility of modal discourse than books on the mind have to spend it on defences of the intelligibility of mentalistic discourse."

Bad philosophy? Perhaps. But bad science? Science has generally left disputes of intelligibility to philosophy, as well as questions around the riddle of induction. The "scientific standard" being invoked here seems to be Williamson's own alone.

A similar move occurs in his critique of Quine's attack on Carnap on modal intensions. "On Carnap's view, coincidence in intension, not just extension, is always required to support intersubstitutability in modal contexts, irrespective of what sort of entity the extension happens to involve. Thus Quine’s objections fail to refute Carnap’s claim to have given a workable semantics for quantified modal logic." This defense only works if one has a readymade science of intensions, which is precisely what Williamson is trying to lay the ground for. (Quine and Geach did go on to point out the problems with the very idea of "coincidence in intension," which Williamson does not mention as far as I can see.)

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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