I've just gotten back from a road trip to Sydney for the "Expressivism, Pragmatism, and Representationalism" conference (along with half a day at the "Moral Cognition and Meta-Ethics" conference). I've put some photos online, as have Berit and Joe. Joe also has a report on the first day.
The purpose of the conference was to bring together various "pragmatist" and "expressivist" (e.g. those of Blackburn, Brandom, Gibbard, Price) approaches to truth and meaning, and to contrast them with more traditional "representational" approaches. As a flat-footed representationalist, I thought that the conference would be something like going to an interesting foreign country, but what struck me was that most of what the pragmatists had to say was quite congenial to representationalism. Some amateurish thoughts on these issues follow.
For example, Bob Brandom gave an overview of his Locke lectures on analytic pragmatism, which focus on analyzing those features of use that undergird the use of vocabularies with a certain meaning. This program in effect trades in "use instead of meaning" pragmatism for "meaning in virtue of use" pragmatism. The result seems to be highly congenial to something like an analytic functionalism program on which truth-conditional content is ultimately determined by functional role. As Brandom himself allowed in discussion, this is a step back from a global pragmatist critique of more traditional analytic programs: at most there is a local critique of certain proposals about the way in which use and meaning are connected.
Likewise, Huw Price, Simon Blackburn, and Jamie Dreier focused on the question of how and whether to distinguish "expressive" discourse such as ethics from "representational" discourse such as science, in light of a minimalist approach to truth according to which all of these discourses are truth-apt. Simon and Jamie plumped for an approach where the distinction lies in whether the worldly truths play a certain sort of ineliminable role in explaining the discourse. One might expect a more global pragmatist such as Huw to deny the need for a distinction, but in fact Huw suggested that one can remake the distinction in terms of two notions of representation: a sort of inferential/internal notion, according to which all these discourses are representational, and a sort of covariational/external notion, according to which scientific discourse is representational but ethical discourse is not.
If one maps Huw's covariational notion onto Simon and Jamie's explanatory notion, the overall pictures look strikingly similar. This is surprising if one expected the three to be radical pragmatist, moderate quasi-realist, and realist representationalist respectively. In effect, all three have two senses in which a discourse can be representationally successful: an internal sense by which all the discourses can be successful, and an external sense by which only some of the discourses can be successful. This sort of picture is arguably congenial even to a conservative correspondence theorist of truth who is an expressivist about ethics -- this picture can allow that there's a sense in which certain ethical sentences are successful and others are not, in virtue of conditions of assertibility. We might call the two standards truth1 and truth2, respectively, where these intuitively correspond to something like idealized acceptibility and correspondence truth.
The question I was left with is that if all these different positions allow the two different standards of success, truth1 and truth2, then where do they really differ? A pragmatist might be more inclined to reserve "truth" for truth1, and a representationalist for truth2, but it's not obvious that this is more than a terminological difference. Some are more inclined to focus on the explanatory role of truth1, and some on the explanatory role of truth2, but both can allow that both have significant explanatory roles, and it's not obvious to me just why or where this must lead to a substantive difference. It may well be that there is some important substantive difference lying behind all this. But if so, it's not entirely obvious what it is.
Some possibilities: (i) The pragmatist thinks that the "external" notion can be understood internally, e.g. in terms of our making certain inferences about external covariation (Bob Brandom went this way in discussion, but Huw et al didn't). (ii) Relatedly, the representationalist thinks that truth2 can be evidence-transcendent while the pragmatist does not (but if so, it's not clear why one introduced truth2 in the first place, as opposed to invoking a single expansive version of truth1). (iii) The representationalist thinks that a distinctive sort of metaphysical conclusion can be drawn using the "external" notion, while the pragmatist disagrees (maybe, but not obviously, and in any case it would be interesting if the division about language came down to this sort of issue in metaphysics). Anyway, any thoughts are welcome.