A Use Theory of Meaning

Paul Horwich

in Reflections on Meaning

Published in print November 2005 | ISBN: 9780199251247
Published online September 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191603983 | DOI:
 A Use Theory of Meaning

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How should we go about trying to identify which particular underlying property of a given word is responsible for its meaning? And what sort of property will that turn out to be? The answers elaborated in this chapter are that the meaning of a word, w, is engendered by whichever non-semantic feature of w is the one that explains w’s overall deployment; and that this will turn out to be an acceptance-property of the following form: ‘that such-and-such w-sentences are regularly accepted in such-and-such circumstances’ is the idealized law governing w’s use (by the relevant experts, and given certain meanings attached to various other words). Some notable features of this theory are: (i) that it rebuts Quine’s scepticism about meaning, (ii) that it rejects the idea (due to Grice) that the meanings of public-language terms derive from our intentions, (iii) that it focuses on idiolects, but can also accommodate communal meaning (i.e., social externalism), and (iv) that (a la Dummett) it embraces a limited form of meaning-holism.

Keywords: acceptance-property; idealized law; use; Quine; Grice; intentions; social externalism; Dummett; meaning-holism

Chapter.  13124 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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