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NOTES ON WILLIAMSON: CHAPTER 11 ASSERTION 11.1 Constitutive Rules Chapter 11 is not a general scrutiny of all of the norms governing assertion. Assertions may be subject to many different norms. Some norms are ‘constitutive’ in the sense that ‘they are tied to the nature of the act’. Rules of a game can be thought of as the paradigm of constitutive rules. Of course, while playing a game you’re also subject to lots of other norms, but it is in virtue of abiding to the rules of the game that you’re engaging in that particular practice. How do we look for the constitutive rules of a practice? We want a minimal set of rules that will yield (together with some more general rules) all of the normative verdicts about assertions. At any rate, this is the only methodology that is followed in this chapter. Note that it is essential to applying this methodology that we have some idea, or at least clear intuitions, about what the “external” rules are. Why have any constitutive rules? It isn’t obvious that there is such a minimal set of rules. The alternative, W says, is to think of assertion “more like a natural phenomenon than it seems.” This is a bit dense for me. Can’t there be rule governed activities in which every rule is a derivative rule–a rule that derives from more general rules, and perhaps the speciFc circumstances one is in ? Is this enough to make an activity ‘natural’? Maybe this is a question for later. Breaking a constitutive rule is not: ceasing to be an asserter (analogy with games). conducive to a moral criticism (though of course some violations of constitutive rules may be so). conducive to teleological criticism (i.e. the criticism is not that one has used the speech act in a way incompatible with its aim) (Maradona’s hand of God) I took the last point (as made on p. 240-1) seems to me to imply that we shouldn’t confuse talk of ‘the aim of assertion’ with talk of the ‘constitutive norms of assertion’. Except, W did this at a couple of later points. Simplicity. Any instance of the following schema is a simple rule (where C is a prop- erty of propositions): (C) One must: [ (assert p ) only if p has C ] 1
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2 NOTES ON WILLIAMSON: CHAPTER 11 ASSERTION A simple account (of assertion) is one that accepts some particular instance of the C-rule as the unique constitutive rule governing assertion. Moreover the following is necessary: assertion is the unique speech act for which the (C) rule is uniquely constitutive. As W puts it, the simple rule must be individuating. I suppose that the individuating claim follows from the claim that given a practice and a complete enumeration of its constitutive rules there cannot be another practice with exactly the same constitutive rules (b/c constitutive rules aim at being complete speciFcations). If, as I said before, it isn’t obvious that there are constitutive rules, it is even harder to defend the view that a simple account is true. Let’s concede this as a
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This note was uploaded on 08/01/2008 for the course PHIL 290 taught by Professor Fitelson during the Fall '06 term at Berkeley.

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