The Meaning of Meaning

The Meaning of Meaning - I The Meaning of"Meaning 1 Hilary...

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I The Meaning of "Meaning" 1 Hilary Putnam L ANGUAGE IS THE FIRST BROAD area of hum an cognitive capacity for which we are beginning to obtain a description is n ot exaggeratedly oversimplified. Th anks to the work of c ontemp orary transformational linguists.? a very subtle descripti on of at least some human l an guages is in process of being c - structed. Some features of se languages appear to be uni versal . Wh ere such features turn out to be "species-specific" -" no t explicable on some general grounds of functional utility or simplicity that would apply to arbitrary systems that serve functions of langua ge"-they may shed some light structure of mind. While it is extremely difficult to say what extent structure so illumi na ted will turn out be a universal structure of language , as opposed to a universal structure of inn ate ge ne ral le arn ing strategies;' very fact thi s discussi can take place is testimony to richness and generality of descriptive material linguists are beginning to provide, also testimony to depth of analysis, insofar as features appear to be candidates f or "species-specific" features of language are in no sense surface or phenomenol ogi- cal features language, but lie at level deep structure. The most serious drawback to all this analysis , as far as a philosopher is concerned, is it does not concern meaning words. An alysis structure of linguistic forms gives us an incomparably more powerful description of syntax of natural languages than we have ever had before. But dim en- sion of language associated with word "meaning" is, in spite usual spate of heroic if misguided attempt s, as much in th e dark as it ever was. In this essay, I w ant explore why is should be so. In my opinion, reason at so-called semantics isin so worse cond ition sy nta ctic ory is at pres cientifi c c oncept semantics is based-the prescientific concept of meaning -is itself in much worse shape prescientific c ofsyntax. As usual in philosophy, skeptical doubts ab e do at all help one in clarifying or improving situation any more dogmatic assertions by con ser- vative philosophers all's really well in s best all possible worlds. reason at prescientific meanin g is in bad shape is clarified by some general skeptical or n omin alistic argument effect meanings d 't exist. Indeed, upsh ofour discussi will be meaningsd on't exist iriquite way we tend think they do. But electrons don't exist in quite way B ohr ought ey did, either . There is all distance in world between s assertion and e assert ion m eanin gs (or ele ctron s) "do n' t exist." 3
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4 THE TWIN EARTH CHRONICLES I am going to talk almost entirely about the meaning of wordsrather than about the meaning ofsentences because I feel that our concept of word-meaning ismore defective our concept ofsentence-meaning. But Iwillcomment brieflyon the arguments of philosophers such as Donald Davidson who insist the concept of word-meaning must be secondary and study of sentence-meaning must be primary. Since I regard the traditional theories about meaning as myth-eaten
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The Meaning of Meaning - I The Meaning of"Meaning 1 Hilary...

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