James Joyce and Humpty Dumpty

Donald Davidson

in Truth, Language, and History

Published in print February 2005 | ISBN: 9780198237570
Published online July 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191602610 | DOI:
James Joyce and Humpty Dumpty

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This essay explores the tension between the idea that what the speaker intends by his words determines what he means, and the idea that what a speaker means depends on what he can expect the listener to understand. It is argued that this is a false choice. Meaning is a function of what the speaker intends, but this intention includes what the speaker expects his listener to understand. Thus, Humpty Dumpty’s theory of meaning, “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean”, omits the crucial interpersonal element. As Joyce himself thought, his daring use of words put him in a sense beyond his own language, society, and self.

Keywords: philosophy of language; intention; Humpty Dumpty; James Joyce

Chapter.  6177 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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