Is Semantics in the Plan?



We consider the role and place of semantic notions such as reference, satisfaction and truth in the so-called Canberra Plan, and in the Lewisian program from which it is descended. We argue that although Lewis's own program is compatible with semantic deflationism, the most natural interpretation of the 'globalisation' of Lewis's technique envisaged by Frank Jackson and his co-workers requires that semantic notions play the 'substantial' role played by causation in Lewis's original. This leaves the Canberra program vulnerable to two kinds of objections: (i) that relying on semantic foundations places the desired metaphysical conclusions out of reach, because there is no prospect of our achieving the kind of knowledge of the relevant semantic relations on which such conclusions would have to rely; and (ii) that the program is inapplicable, by its own lights, to the metaphysics of the semantic notions themselves.

We conclude that there are actually two distinct interpretations of the Canberra program, which haven't been properly distinguished. One version relies on substantial semantic notions, and is subject to these problems; the other does not rely on such notions, but is correspondingly less ambitious than Lewis's original program. In different ways, both options offer us less than the Canberra Plan seemed to promise, but the choice cannot be avoided.




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