Content and Meaning Constitutive Inferences


conceptual role semantics
logical rules



A priori theories of justification of logic based on meaning often lead to trouble, in particular to issues concerning circularity. First, I present Boghossian’s a priori view. Boghossian maintains the rule-circular justifications from a conceptual role semantics. However, rule-circular justifications are problematic. Recently, Boghossian (Boghossian, 2015) has claimed that rules should be thought of as contents and contents as abstract objects. In this paper, I discuss Boghossian’s view. My argumentation consists of three main parts. First, I analyse several arguments to show that in fact, Boghossian’s inferentialist solution is not fully satisfying. Second, I discuss the matter further, if one accepts that basic logical rules are constitutive of meaning, that is, they constitute the logical concepts and the content of a rule is an abstract object, then abstract objects—like, for example, rules—could be constitutive of meaning. The question is whether conceptual priority is in the judgment or in the object and what theory of content is pursued. Grasping content as a matter of knowing how a word or concept behaves in inferences is not completely explicative. Finally, I contend that rules come to exist as a result of certain kinds of mental action. These actions function as constitutive norms. Logical rules are not abstract objects but ideal. What one construes as norms or rules of content may involve idealization, but this is because we share a language.



Boghossian, P. (1996). Analyticity Reconsidered. Noûs, 30(3), 360–391.

Boghossian, P. (1997). Analyticity. In: B. Hale, C. Wright (Eds.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Language (pp. 331–68). Oxford: Blackwell.

Boghossian, P. (2000). Knowledge of Logic. In: P. Boghossian, C. Peacocke (Eds.), New Essays on the A Priori (pp. 229–254). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Boghossian, P. (2001). How Are Objective Epistemic Reasons Possible? Philosophical Studies, 106(1/2), 1–40.

Boghossian, P. (2003a). Blind Reasoning. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume, 77(1), 225–248.

Boghossian, P. (2003b). Epistemic Analyticity: A Defence. Grazer Philosophische Studien, 66(1), 15–35.

Boghossian, P. (2004). Is Meaning Normative? In: C. Nimtz, A. Beckermann (Eds.), Philosophy-Science-Scientific Philosophy (pp. 205–218), Paderborn: Mentis: PP.

Boghossian, P. (2008a). Epistemic rules. Journal of Philosophy, 105(9), 472–500.

Boghossian, P. (2008b). Content and Justification: Philosophical Papers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Boghossian, P. (2015). Rules, Norms and Principles: A Conceptual Framework. In: M. Araszkiewicz, P. Banaś, T. Gizbert-Studnicki, K. Płeszka (Eds.), Problems of Normativity, Rules and Rule-Following (pp. 3–13). London: Springer.

Brandom, R. (2000). Articulating Reasons: An Introduction to Inferentialism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Broome, J. (2013). Rationality Through Reasoning. Oxford: Blackwell.

Broome, J. (2014a). Comments on Boghossian. Philosophical Studies, 169(1), 19–25.

Broome, J. (2014b). Normativity in Reasoning. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 95(4), 622–633.

Burge, T. (1993). Content Preservation. The Philosophical Review, 102(4), 457–488.

Carnap, R. (1937). The Logical Syntax of Language. London: Routledge.

Carnap, R. (1947/1956). Meaning and Necessity: A Study in Semantics and Modal Logic, Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Carroll, L. (1895). What the tortoise said to Achilles. Mind, 4(14), 278–280.

Devitt, M. (2005). There is no A Priori. In: E. Sosa, M. Steup (Eds.), Contemporary Debates in Epistemology (pp. 105–115). Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers.

Dogramaci, S. (2012). Apriority. In: D. G. Fara., G. Russell (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Language (pp. 768–782). New York: Routledge.

Dummett, M. (1991). The Logical Basis of Metaphysics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Field, H. (1977). Logic, Meaning, and Conceptual Role. Journal of Philosophy, 74(7), 379–409.

Field, H. (2000). Apriority as an Evaluative Notion. In P. Boghossian, C. Peacocke (Eds.), New Essays on the A Priori (pp. 117–149). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fodor, J. A., LePore, E. (2002). The Compositionality Papers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fodor, J. A., LePore, E. (1993). Why Meaning (Probably) Isn’t Conceptual Role, Philosophical Issues, 3 Science and Knowledge, 15–35.

Frapolli, M. J. (Ed.) (2007). Filosofía de la lógica. Madrid: Tecnos.

Frege, G. (1918). The Thought. In: P. Geach, R. H. Stoothoff (Trans.), Gottlob Frege (pp. 351–372). Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

García-Arnaldos, M. D. (2017). Elizabeth Anscombe: razones y acciones. In: M. Ríos Guardiola, et al. (Ed.), Mujeres con luz (pp. 89-108). Murcia: EDITUM.

García-Arnaldos, M. D. (2018). La relación mente-mundo en McDowell. Conocimiento y experiencia. Madrid: Ápeiron Ediciones. Colección Faber & Sapiens.

Glüer, K., Wikforss, Å. (2018). The Normativity of Meaning and Content. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from:

Gómez Torrente, M. (2007). Constantes lógicas. In: M. J. Frapolli (Ed.) Filosofía de la lógica (pp. 179–206). Madrid: Tecnos.

Hansen, H. (2015). Fallacies. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from:

Harman, G. (1973). Thought. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Harman, G. (1986). Change in View. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Kripke, S. (1982). Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

MacFarlane, J. (2015). Logical Constants, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from:

Margolis, E., Laurence, S. (2001). Boghossian on Analyticity. Analysis, 61(4), 293–302.

Martínez Vidal, C. (2004). Normativity and Its Vindication: The Case of Logic. Theoria, 50(19/2), 191–206.

McDowell, J. (1994). Mind and World. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

McGee, V. (1985). A Counterexample to Modus Ponens. The Journal of Philosophy, 82(9), 462–471.

Peacocke, C. (1999). Being Known. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Prior, A. (1969). The Runabout Inference-Ticket. Analysis, 21(2), 129–31.

Quine, W. V. O. (1951). Two Dogmas of Empiricism. Philosophical Review, 60(1), 20–41.

Quine, W. V. O. (1953). From a Logical Point of View. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Quine, W. V. O. (1963). Carnap and Logical Truth. In: W. V. O. Quine (Ed.), The Ways of Paradox and Other Essays. New York: Random House.

Railton, P. (2000a). A Priori Rules: Wittgenstein on the Normativity of Logic. In: P. Boghossian, C. Peacocke (Eds.), New Essays on the A Priori (pp. 170–96). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Railton, P. (2000b). Normative Force and Normative Freedom. In: J. Dancy (Ed.), Normativity. Ratio Special Issues (pp. 1–33). Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell.

Thomasson, A. L. (2014). Ontology Made Easy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Whiting, D. (2009). Conceptual Role Semantics. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from:

Williamson, T. (2003). Understanding and Inference, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume, 77(1), 249–293.

Williamson, T. (2007). The Philosophy of Philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell.

Williamson, T. (2011). Reply to Boghossian. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 82(2), 498–506.

Wittgenstein, L. (1953). Philosophical Investigations. New York: Macmillan.

Wright, C. (2001). On Basic Logical Knowledge. Philosophical Studies, 106(1/2), 41–85.

Wright, C. (2004a). Intuition, Entitlement and the Epistemology of Logical Laws. Dialectica, 58(1), 155–175.

Wright, C. (2004b). Warrant for Nothing (And Foundations for Free)? The Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume, 78(1), 167–212.

Wright, C. (2014). Comments on Paul Boghossian, What Is Inference?. Philosophical Studies, 169(1), 27–37.