Research Workshop: "Language and Personhood"

Enoch Yim (UC Santa Cruz)

Friday, April 5th, 2024 (12:10-2:00 PM) Science North (53) Room 125


 In “Languages and Language,” David Lewis suggests understanding the phenomenon of language as the social conventions of truthfulness and trust (in some linguistic model) to resolve the coordination problems between (potential) language-users. My current research project is to supplement this Lewisian view of language by giving an account of the philosophical ground for as well as the implications of taking an individual as subject to the linguistic conventions, i.e., as a member of the linguistic community. As a materialist, Lewis suggests that one could attribute language-usership to another by applying a theory of persons to the individual as a physical system. The obvious question is what this theory of persons is and what it is to apply the theory to an individual within the materialist constraints. The stance approach to personhood inspired by Wilfrid Sellars and P. F. Strawson provides a theoretical framework for answering parts of this question. The main idea is that the essence of personhood is rationality which is an attributional property and that this notion of personhood is central to language-usership. In this presentation, I will explain how the problem of personhood arises from the Lewisian view of language and then how the stance approach provides resources for solving the problem, thereby accounting for the attribution of language-usership within the materialist constraints.


Enoch Yim is a 3rd-year Ph.D. student in Philosophy at UC Santa Cruz. His research interest is in the topics at the intersection of metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of language: rationality, meaning, modality, normativity, and rule-following.

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