Document Type



Master of Arts



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Berit Brogaard, Ph.D.


Black, Andrew

Kurtsal Steen, Irem


Looking at those debates which are commonly regarded as verbal disputes we can detect two kinds of verbal disputes: (STDC) cases in which disputing parties apply the Same Term or phrase to Different Concepts; (DTSC) cases in which disputing parties apply Different Terms or phrases to the Same Concept. While cases of (STDC) or (DTSC) may be verbal disputes, I will argue that (STDC) and (DTSC) are neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for a verbal dispute. I will explore the identity of a verbal dispute, the conditions for its occurrence, and methods for detecting it. I develop a condition for verbal disputes which I call the Principle of Equal Power: (PEP) For any dispute to be a verbal dispute requires that the linguistic frameworks of the disputing parties have equal powers to express the parties’ undisputed beliefs – albeit expressed in different ways. This condition is similar to the conditions developed by numerous verbal dispute theorists. In most cases we will not be able to analytically detect that (PEP) is satisfied. I argue that the best method for detecting when (PEP) is satisfied is an empirical method which attempts to test a sufficient number of relevant conceptual scenarios to assess whether the linguistic frameworks of each side have equal powers to express the same beliefs. Only then can we conclude that we most likely have a verbal dispute. I will take up the internalism vs. externalism debate in epistemology and address compatibilist arguments which treat the debate as a verbal dispute. We can employ an empirical method to determine which view has greater powers to express these shared beliefs. Though there are ways in which particular internalist/externalist debates could be compatible, there are also incompatible debates. Thus, we cannot say that internalism and externalism in epistemology are wholly compatible. Among the debates which seem incompatible, we will have to decide which view is correct by assessing which side has greater powers to express the undisputed beliefs. In the meantime, we have no good reason to think that the internalism/externalism debate is, on the whole, a verbal dispute.

OCLC Number