Vol. 18, 2/2024: Certainty and Language (eds. A. Coliva & L. Zanetti)


Guest editors: Annalisa Coliva (University of California, Irvine) & Luca Zanetti (INDIRE)

Deadline: 15/7/2024

Questions about the interplay between certainty and language cut through the whole history of philosophy, from ancient to contemporary debates. One traditional line of thought considers language as some sort of obstacle to the acquisition of absolute certainty. Certain knowledge seems to require a direct doubt-free access to the way things are. Yet language seems to mediate our access to the way things are, thereby creating the space for doubt and uncertainty. This strand of thought interacts with a great variety of classical and contemporary debates on the interplay between language and certainty: one debate concerns the very possibility of there being doubt-free certain foundations for knowledge and the way in which we should think about these foundations; on this line, one classical picture thinks about foundations in terms of some strong epistemic relation with reality, such as acquaintance or intuition; another connected set of questions concerns the very possibility of unmediated language-free epistemic relation with reality, a question which is often nowadays explored in the debates surrounding what Sellars famously described as the myth of the given.

Another recent line of inquiry which tightly connects certainty and language concerns the normative profile of speech and thought. Certainty is one candidate among many (truth, knowledge, justification, etc.) for being the aim or norm of assertion, belief and related key ingredients in inquiry. The question whether certainty plays any normative role for speech and thought in turn interacts with another historically important, yet recently neglected, question: that is, the question whether certainty (of the kind Descartes was looking for in his Meditations) is or should be the aim of philosophy or inquiry more generally. 

The interplay between certainty and language also plays an important role in a variety of philosophical projects that have been highly influential in the history of philosophy and that still inspire philosophical projects nowadays. In the transcendental tradition - from Kant to German Idealism and Husserl, up to the recent debates on transcendental arguments - one fundamental question, to which a variety of transcendental strategies attempt to answer, is whether we can know with certainty whether our conceptual schemes can reach the way things are. In Wittgestein’s reflections in On certainty and in more recent debates at the intersection of philosophy of language and epistemology that draws inspiration from Wittgesteins’ work, we find both lively debates on our language of certainty - that is, how the way in which we speak about certainty reveals how we should think of knowledge, justification and certainty - and debates on the very nature of the psychological state of being certain. 

These are just illustrations of some among many noteworthy interactions between certainty and language in a variety of influential philosophical debates. In this special issue we invite contributions that explore these and other aspects of the relationships between certainty and language both from theoretical and historical perspectives. Possible topics include (but are not limited to): 

  • certainty and language in acquaintance; 
  • certainty and intuition; 
  • the myth of the given;
  • (non)conceptual content of experience;
  • certainty and ineffability; 
  • certainty and transcendental arguments;
  • certainty and language in transcendental philosophy;
  • certainty as the norm of assertion and belief;
  • certainty and language in the history of philosophy; 
  • certainty and language in Wittgenstein;
  • Apel’s transcendental pragmatics.

We call for articles in English, Italian, French, or Spanish. All manuscripts must be accompanied by an abstract (max 250 words), a title and 5 keywords in English.

The manuscript must be prepared using the journal template Download template. All submissions must be prepared by the author for anonymous evaluation. The name, affiliation to an institution and title of the contribution should be indicated in a file different from that which contains the text. The contribution must be sent in electronic format .doc or .rtf to segreteria.rifl@gmail.com.

For any question, please write to luca.zanetti10@unibo.it or to a.coliva@uci.edu

Maximum contribution length: 40000 characters (including spaces) for articles (including bibliography and endnotes).

Deadline 15/7/2024. 

Publication: December 2024