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By S. J. Methven (auth.)

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Extra resources for Frank Ramsey and the Realistic Spirit

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16 There may, on that view, be mental activities which appear, both ‘from the inside’ and to other speakers, to be thought and inference but which fail to be so by lacking the requisite conformity. What is strikingly odd about this view is that we, as performers, are isolated from our performances. Take two sentences of ordinary language, p and q; then our success in inferring p from p&q is not only a matter of our having a grasp of the internal relations that stand between the facts expressed by those sentences, but also of its turning out that the analysis of those sentences, a procedure that we may never be able to complete, reveals their conformity.

While each of the realist theories that Ramsey considers holds that there is an independent reality which determines the truth or falsity of instances of those sentences, note that that putative reality can make no difference to the ways in which we actually infer and can make no difference to which claims some speaker is or is not inclined to make. After all, our practices of enquiry which ground our assent or dissent from those claims are wholly isolated from the natures of those posited realities.

The connection between anti-scholasticism and self-conscious reflection as a source of knowledge is one that helps to make sense of Ramsey’s remark that the realistic spirit must reject some forms of ‘realism’ because the realistic spirit ‘can understand nothing’ of the sentences that purport to express those views. As in the case of inference, a scholastic view which pretends that language and thought are, at core, logically perfect is a view which does so at the risk of isolating us from having knowledge of what it is that we 32 Frank Ramsey and the Realistic Spirit are doing – what it is that we mean by a particular sentence or what it is that some mental activity amounts to.

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