Short Communication

Reply to Bernard Williams' ‘Philosophy as a Humanistic Discipline’

Hilary Putnam 


In ‘Philosophy as a Humanistic Discipline,’ Williams is mistaken in thinking that I accused him of thinking that that we can describe the world ‘as it is anyway’ without using concepts. Our real disagreement is over whether it makes sense to think that the concepts of physics do this. The central issue is this: the notion of ‘absoluteness’ is defined using at least one semantical notion (‘convergence’). If Williams' view is to work, I argue, at least one semantical notion needs to be absolute. But Williams himself concedes that semantical notions cannot be reduced to physical ones, and the ‘absolute conception’ is supposed to be given in terms of primary qualities alone.