The use theory of meaning and semantic stipulation
Author: Textor, Mark
Source: Erkenntnis, Volume 67, Number 1, July 2007 , pp. 29-45(17)
Abstract:According to Horwich's use theory of meaning, the meaning of a word W is engendered by the underived acceptance of certain sentences containing W. Horwich applies this theory to provide an account of semantic stipulation: Semantic stipulation proceeds by deciding to accept sentences containing an as yet meaningless word W. Thereby one brings it about that W gets an underived acceptance property. Since a word's meaning is constituted by its (basic) underived acceptance property, this decision endows the word with a meaning. The use-theoretic account of semantic stipulation contrasts with the standard view that semantic stipulation proceeds by assigning the meaning (reference) to W that makes a certain set of sentences express true propositions. In this paper I will argue that the use-theoretic account does not work. I take Frege to have already made the crucial point: "a definition does not assert anything but lays down something ["etwas festsetzt"]” (Frege 1899, 36). A semantic stipulation for W cannot be the decision to accept a sentence containing W or be explained in terms of such an acceptance. Semantic stipulation constitutes a problem for Horwich's use theory of meaning, especially his basic notion of acceptance.
Document Type: Research article
Publication date: 2007-07-01