In this talk, I will identify a putative principle concerning the relationship between understanding a concept and the ability to use that concept in one’s own thinking. I call this the Use-Understanding Principle (UUP):
(UUP) Thinker S understands concept φ iff S has the capacity to use or employ φ in their own thoughts at their own leisure.
This principle is a way of capturing the idea that a distinctive feature of thought is that it leaves no room for a certain kind of gap that exists between understanding and the exercise of other capacities (e.g. action, perception). I will argue that UUP underwrites a number of common philosophical commitments such as the force-content distinction, the impersonal character of reason, and what the relation between thought and action is. Further, I will claim that UUP is not well supported, and this gives us a reason to re-examine these other commitments.
Ockham Society Convenor: Sean Costello | Ockham Society Webpage