Naturalist Theories of Meaning

David Papineau

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780199552238
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191577451 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Naturalist Theories of Meaning

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Naturalist theories of meaning aim to account for representation within a naturalist framework. This programme involves two ideas: representation and naturalism. Both of these call for some initial comment. To begin with the former, representation is as familiar as it is puzzling. Sentences can represent, and so can mental states. By and large, naturalist theories of meaning take mental representation to be basic, and linguistic representation to be derivative. Most such theories aim first to account for the representational powers of mental states — paradigmatically beliefs — and then to account for the representational powers of sentences in public languages by viewing the latter as in some sense ‘expressing’ mental states.

Keywords: theories of meaning; naturalistic theories; representation; naturalism; mental states; public languages

Article.  6562 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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