On Knowing One's Own Language <sup>1</sup>

Barry C. Smith

in Knowing Our Own Minds

Published in print October 2000 | ISBN: 9780199241408
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598692 | DOI:
 On Knowing One's Own Language  1

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The problem of self‐knowledge is examined and the linguistic strategy for tackling it is explored. The strategy attempts—as in Davidson's and Wright's discussions of self‐knowledge—to ground knowledge of one's mind on knowledge of what one means in speaking one's mind. If knowing what one is saying in speaking a language is to provide a means of knowing one's own mind, it cannot simply be a part of it. But if no account of knowledge of what one means is offered, there will be a lacuna in the strategy. The paper considers what form a full account should take, and argues that it will have to combine first‐personal, third‐personal and sub‐personal elements of our knowledge of language. All three elements are necessary to explicate what is made available in, and expressed by, instances of disquotational knowledge, such as ‘Snow is white’ means that snow is white.. Immediate and authoritative knowledge of which sentences are grammatical depends on the internal workings of the language faculty and their impact on the conscious experience of the speaker, but immediate and authoritative knowledge of word meaning is not solely a matter internal to the speaker. Knowledge of word meaning is knowledge of public norms that govern our use of words, which introduce third‐personal standards into our first‐personal use. It is argued that our knowledge of word meaning is immediately authoritative about objective standards governing the proper use of our words, and so the authority attaching to these disquotational pronouncements is substantial and not merely an artefact of disquotation. Without an account of that knowledge the lacuna in the linguistic strategy remains.

Keywords: Davidson; disquotational knowledge; first‐person authority; knowledge of meaning; linguistic strategy; publicity

Chapter.  18134 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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