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Ontology in the Theory of Meaning

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Abstract:

This paper advances a general argument, inspired by some remarks of Davidson, to show that appeal to meanings as entities in the theory of meaning is neither necessary nor sufficient for carrying out the tasks of the theory of meaning. The crucial point is that appeal to meaning as entities fails to provide us with an understanding of any expression of a language except insofar as we pick it out with an expression we understand which we tacitly recognize to be a translation of the term whose meaning we want to illuminate by the appeal to assigning to it a meaning. The meaning drops out as irrelevant: the work is done, and can only be done, by matching terms already understood with terms they translate.

Keywords: Davidson; compositionality; meanings; ontology; theory of meaning

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09672550600858312

Publication date: September 1, 2006

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