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Tales of the Mighty Dead
by Robert Brandom
Harvard University Press, 2002
Cloth: 978-0-674-00903-5
Library of Congress Classification B72.B685 2002
Dewey Decimal Classification 190

A work in the history of systematic philosophy that is itself animated by a systematic philosophic aspiration, this book by one of the most prominent American philosophers working today provides an entirely new way of looking at the development of Western philosophy from Descartes to the present.

Brandom begins by setting out a historical context and outlining a methodological rationale for his enterprise. Then, in chapters on Spinoza, Leibniz, Hegel, Frege, Heidegger, and Sellars, he pursues the most fundamental philosophical issues concerning intentionality, and therefore mindedness itself, revealing an otherwise invisible set of overlapping themes and explanatory strategies. Variously functionalist, inferentialist, holist, normative, and social pragmatist in character, the explanations of intentionality offered by these philosophers, taken together, form a distinctive tradition. The fresh perspective afforded by this tradition enriches our understanding of the philosophical topics being addressed, provides a new conceptual vantage point for viewing our philosophical ancestors, and highlights central features of the sort of rationality that consists in discerning a philosophical tradition--and it does so by elaborating a novel, concrete instance of just such an enterprise.

Table of Contents:

Introduction: Five Conceptions of Rationality


1. Contexts
I. Kant and the Shift from Epistemology to Semantics
II. Descartes and the Shift from Resemblance to Representation
III. Rationalism and Functionalism
IV. Rationalism and Inferentialism
V. Hegel and Pragmatism

2. Texts
I. Spinoza
II. Leibniz
III. Hegel
IV. Frege
V. Heidegger
VI. Sellars

3. Pretexts
I. Methodology: The Challenge
II. Hermeneutic Platitudes
III. De dicto Specifications of Conceptual Content
IV. De re Specifications of Conceptual Content
V. Tradition and Dialogue
VI. Reconstructive Metaphysics


4. Adequacy and the Individuation of Ideas in Spinoza's Ethics
I. Ideas Do Not Represent Their Correlated Bodily Objects
II. The Individuation of Objects
III. The Individuation of Ideas
IV. Scientia intuitiva
V. A Proposal about Representation
VI. Conatus
VII. Ideas of Ideas

5. Leibniz and Degrees of Perception
I. Distinctness of Perception and Distinctness of Ideas
II. A Theory: Expression and Inference

6. Holism and Idealism in Hegel's Phenomenology
I. Introduction
II. The Problem: Understanding the Determinateness of the Objective World
III. Holism
IV. Conceptual Difficulties of Strong Holism
V. A Bad Argument
VI. Objective Relations and Subjective Processes
VII. Sense Dependence, Reference Dependence, and Objective Idealism
VIII. Beyond Strong Holism: A Model
IX. Traversing the Moments: Dialectical Understanding
X. Conclusion

7. Some Pragmatist Themes in Hegel's Idealism
I. Instituting and Applying Determinate Conceptual Norms
II. Self-Conscious Selves
III. Modeling Concepts on Selves: The Social and Inferential Dimensions
IV. Modeling Concepts on Selves: The Historical Dimension

8. Frege's Technical Concepts
I. Bell on Sense and Reference
II. Sluga on the Development of Frege's Thought
III. Frege's Argument

9. The Significance of Complex Numbers for Frege's Philosophy of Mathematics
I. Logicism and Platonism
II. Singular Terms and Complex Numbers
III. The Argument
IV. Other Problems
V. Possible Responses
VI. Categorically and Hypothetically Specifiable Objects
VII. Conclusion

10. Heidegger's Categories in Sein und Zeit
I. Fundamental Ontology
II. Zuhandenheit and Practice
III. Mitdasein
IV. Vorhandenheit and Assertion

11. Dasein, the Being That Thematizes
I. Background
II. Direct Arguments for Dasein's Having Sprache
III. No Dasein without Rede
IV. Rede and Gerede
V. Falling: Gerede, Neugier, Zweideutigkeit

12. The Centrality of Sellars's Two-Ply Account of Observation to the Arguments of "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind"
I. Sellars's Two-Ply Account of Observation
II. 'Looks' Talk and Sellars's Diagnosis of the Cartesian Hypostatization of Appearances
III. Two Confirmations of the Analysis of 'Looks' Talk in Terms of the Two-Ply Account of Observation
IV. A Rationalist Account of the Acquisition of Empirical Concepts
V. Giving Theoretical Concepts an Observational Use
VI. Conclusion: On the Relation between the Two Components


Reviews of this book:
Just as Kant managed to recast a good bit of the history of philosophy as a struggle between rationalism and empiricism (thus leading to his synthesis of the two), Brandom has recast a substantial portion of modern philosophy as a struggle over the consequences of inferentialist approaches. The way he shows that there is a coherent line to he traced from Leibniz to Spinoza to Kant to Hegel to Frege to Heidegger to Wittgenstein to Sellars is brilliant; it will quite naturally also he controversial (in all the best senses). This is one of those books that will force even the people who disagree most with him to have to take his position all the more seriously. If nothing else, this shows that the usual ways of drawing the (by now tired) "continental/analytic" distinctions are in serious need of rethinking. Brandom's is an original voice. Brandom's work, obviously analytical in orientation, also claims to take its inspirations from figures normally shunned in analytic circles. This makes him a key figure in the effort to "overcome" the dichotomy.
--Terry Pinkard, Notheastern University

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