e-book The Themes of Quines Philosophy: Meaning, Reference, and Knowledge

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Davidson suggests that an adequate theory of meaning for a given language would be one which would suffice for the interpretation of speakers of that language. In addition, he has suggested that a Tarskian theory of truth look at the reading under the semantic conception of truth in the chapter Logic and Metaphysics could be employed as an adequate theory of meaning for natural languages. Is it really possible that there could be a theory of truth for a natural language such as English-how is one to cope with context-sensitive expressions, for example?

A truth theory is interpretive where the right-hand side of its T-theorems translate the sentence mentioned on the left-hand side: e. A theory of truth could do duty as a theory of meaning only if it was interpretive, but it is conceivable that a theory of truth could be true and not interpretive. What constraints can be imposed on constructing a theory of truth for a natural language which would narrow down the options only to the interpretive ones, and how could a theorist know that a theory was interpretive without already knowing that the right-hand side of the theorems translate the left-hand side?

While the details of Davidson's own account are the subject of much controversy, the idea that we should look at problems of language in terms of the need to construct a systematic and compositional theory of meaning for problematic constructions has been highly influential and is reflected in the way many philosophers both frame and attempt to settle the problems discussed further below.

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Synthese Oxford: Clarendon Press, Evans, and J. Oxford: Clarendon Press, reprinted in D. Dialectica Reprinted in D. Journal of Philosophy Davies, M.

Peter Frederick Strawson

Sainsbury, M. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society Dummett has been an influential discussant of Davidson's approach to meaning: he both emphasises the need to see an account of meaning as an account of understanding; and that meaning is use. While endorsing Davidson's aim to construct a systematic meaning theory for natural languages, he challenges the idea that truth should be the central notion used to construct such a theory; he places much weight on the need for speakers to be able to manifest their knowledge of meaning, and assertibility conditions in their use of language.

Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume London: Duckworth, Reprinted in The Seas of Language. Grice sought to explain facts about the meanings of public languages in terms of facts about mental states and social conventions. A speaker has the intention to lead the audience to have a certain response to his speech act and to recognise his intention in doing so. Are there problems specifying the relevant response, and the intentions involved?

Can the account be generalised from one off communication to a shared language? Even if one does not look for a reduction of meaning to the mentalistic facts that Grice appeals to, can his approach give us some account of the nature of speech-acts?

Quine on Truth by Convention

Philosophical Review Reprinted in Studies in the Way of Words. Avramides, A. Linguistics and Philosophy Strawson, P.

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Reprinted in Logico-Linguistic Papers. London: Methuen, Schiffer, S.

Oxford: Oxford University Press, Sperber, D and D. Mind Hale, and C. Quine challenges the assumption that there are determinate facts about what someone means. He introduces the much appealed to notion of a radical translator. All facts about meaning, Quine claims, must be accessible to such a translator. According to Quine, it is possible that there could be distinct translation manuals for a language each with an equally good claim to being the correct translation manual. The Pursuit of Truth. Guttenplan, ed. Moore, ed. Davidson, and J.

Hintikka, eds. Dordrecht: Reidel.


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Reprinted in Collected Papers. George, A. What is it to know a language or to follow rules of language? Chomskian linguistics, as a matter of empirical enquiry, posits a language faculty possessed by each human in virtue of which he or she can come to acquire a language.

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If Chomsky is right, is it true that we know the languages we speak? Some philosophers have sought to extend Chomsky's account of knowledge of syntax to knowledge of meaning, and there has been a lively debate over what implicit or tacit knowledge of meaning could consist in.


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  • Language and Problems of Knowledge: the Managua Lectures. Higginbotham, J. George, ed. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Garfield, ed. Segal, G. Leich, ed. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Wright, C. Oxford: Blackwell, Smith, Barry C. Where the dominant approach to the study of meaning has focused on reference and truth, some philosophers have instead stressed the need to focus on the use that words are put to in order to explain what meaning is.

    Use-based approaches to meaning have sometimes been thought to lead to scepticism about the existence of rules or of determinate meaning facts. Some have argued that such irrealism about semantic facts is incoherent; others have argued that use-theories do not lead to these consequences anyway. Wittgenstein, L. Philosophical Investigations.

    Translated by G. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, See esp. Brandom, R. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research Indexical expressions appear to have a constant conventional meaning across different speakers, while varying in their reference. Can a semantic theory both account for how indexicals have a constant meaning, and yet in a context fix a referent? Do indexicals cause special problems for a Fregean theory of meaning?

    Frege, G. Reprinted in N. Salmon, and S. Oxford: Oxford University Press, ; also in M. Beaney, ed. Kaplan, D. Journal of Philosophical Logic 8: Reprinted in P. Yourgrau, ed. Thinking, Language and Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Perry, J.

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    Oxford: Clarendon Press, ; and in P. The definition of the amount of information in a number in therms of logarithms allows us to classify other mathematical functions in terms of their capacity to process information. The Information Efficiency of a function is the difference between the amount of information in the input of a function and the amount of information in the output Adriaans [ OIR ]. It allows us to measure how information flows through a set of functions.

    We have:. In general deterministic information processing systems do not create new information.