Jackson's Classical Model of Meaning

Laura Schroeter and John Bigelow

in Minds, Ethics, and Conditionals

Published in print January 2009 | ISBN: 9780199267989
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191708268 | DOI:
Jackson's Classical Model of Meaning

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Jackson often writes as if his account of public language meanings in terms of descriptivist conventions were just plain common sense. How else are we to explain how different speakers manage to communicate using a public language? And how else can we explain how individuals arrive at confident judgments about the reference of their words in hypothetical scenarios? This chapter shows just how controversial the psychological assumptions behind Jackson's semantic theory really are. First, it explains how Jackson's theory goes well beyond the commonsense platitudes he cites in its defence. Second, it sketches an alternative explanation of those platitudes, the improvisation model of meaning, which seems psychologically more realistic. The chapter concludes that the psychological picture presupposed by Jackson's semantic theory stands in need of a more substantial defence than he has so far offered.

Keywords: Frank Jackson; public language meaning; semantic theory

Chapter.  10860 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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