Attributions of Meaning and Content

Hartry Field

in Truth and the Absence of Fact

Published in print March 2001 | ISBN: 9780199242894
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597381 | DOI:
 Attributions of Meaning and Content

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Is concerned with the special epistemological status possessed by attributions of meaning to sentences we understand: such attributions seem a priori, in a strong sense that includes empirical indefeasibility. What explains this special status? One explanation involves the idea that attributions of meaning (and of belief, etc.) express relations between an expression (or an agent) and a linguistic item in one's own language; in the special case of a meaning attribution to one's own language, the attribution is trivial. Argues that this linguistic view of attributions can be defended against well‐known objections. Also argues that alternatives in terms of propositions are perfectly acceptable, if suitably understood; they can even be developed in a way that accommodates Quinean doubts about interpersonal comparison, by viewing the propositions as ‘local entities’. But (whether or not one accepts the Quinean doubts), it is essential to view the assignment of propositions in a somewhat deflationary spirit, not altogether removed from a linguistic view of them, if the special epistemological status is to be explained.

Keywords: belief; interpersonal synonymy; meaning; propositions; Quine; truth; truth‐conditions

Chapter.  9406 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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