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Philosophy Philosophy of Language
by
Michael P. Wolf

Introduction

The term “philosophy of language” is generally used more restrictively than newcomers to the discipline might expect. While philosophers of almost every stripe have something to say about language, people who speak of “philosophy of language” generally intend to restrict it to philosophers in the analytic tradition over the last one hundred years or so. This entry reflects that general convention. The entry also breaks the field down by major topic areas, with each later topic including at least one cornerstone work (usually more) and greater attention to recent papers of interest. The topics above (beyond the review of textbooks and supplements) may be thought of as falling into major groups based on a number of larger themes and questions in the field. After some historical review, we consider what our view on what languages must be: how do things become meaningful within a language and how do speakers adhere to the rules governing the language? We then look at how truth should be understood and, more narrowly, whether there are analytic truths (statements that are true in virtue of the meanings of their terms). Questions of how words themselves come to refer to or stand for parts of the world are then considered, both invariantly and in ways that are sensitive to context, including expressions of propositional attitudes. Two sections after that address more pragmatic matters in the philosophy of language: what is it to perform a speech act (and thus communicate with others) and what is it to use an expression metaphorically, deviating from accepted usage and yet being acknowledged by other speakers? We close with a review of an emerging debate between minimalists and contextualists over the degree to which the meanings of most of the language are fixed.

General Overviews

There have been several new volumes in the last ten years offering a comprehensive view of the entire field of philosophy of language. Lepore and Smith 2008, Devitt and Hanley 2006, and Hale and Wright 1999 all offer comprehensive treatments of the field, where not long ago there would have been only anthologies. Of these three, Lepore and Smith 2008 is the most encyclopedic, while Hale and Wright 1999 and Devitt and Hanley 2006 offer greater depth on those issues they treat. For an online resource, see the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which has a great deal of content on philosophy of language but not a comprehensive entry on the entire field. Wolf 2006 may serve as a useful primer, particularly for undergraduate audiences.

Textbooks and Anthologies

Most of the widely available print resources over the years on the philosophy of language have been anthologies of articles, and there have been relatively few good textbooks aimed at undergraduates. Lycan 2008, Miller 2007, and Morris 2007 are welcome recent additions that fill this gap. All three are readable and accessible to undergraduates with little to no background in the subject. Martinich 2008 is by far the most widely used and available anthology and has the most important papers in each area of the entire field, though instructors may want to supplement it with more recent readings. Ludlow 1997 also offers a useful anthology in a similar vein. Lynch 2001 and Davidson 2007 are more specialized anthologies focusing on theories of truth and reference, respectively, but will be valuable resources to those working or teaching graduate courses in that area.

  • Davidson, Matthew, ed. On Sense and Direct Reference: Readings in the Philosophy of Language. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007.

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    Recent anthology covering all sides of the debate on theories of reference. Includes extensive sections devoted to work on direct reference and two-dimensional theories, laid out in a useful historical fashion. Additional sections on indexicals and empty terms. Suitable for specialized graduate courses and as a resource for those doing research on these topics.

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  • Ludlow, Peter. Readings in the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997.

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    Very large anthology, perhaps a bit narrower than Martinich 2008, but very deep on each of its subjects. Covers theories of meaning, logical form, definite and indefinite descriptions, names, demonstratives, and attitude reports. Those teaching a graduate or undergraduate course in the subject might want Martinich; scholars seeking a convenient resource on these topics might prefer Ludlow.

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  • Lycan, William G. Philosophy of Language: A Contemporary Introduction. 2d ed. Routledge Contemporary Introductions to Philosophy. New York: Routledge, 2008.

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    Very accessible textbook, centered primarily around topics rather than authors or schools of thought. Suitable for undergraduate courses.

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  • Lynch, Michael P., ed. The Nature of Truth: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.

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    Comprehensive anthology devoted entirely to important papers on truth. Stretches back to include pragmatists like Peirce and James and continental thinkers such as Heidegger and Foucault.

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  • Martinich, A. P., ed. The Philosophy of Language. 5th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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    Perhaps the most widely used anthology in undergraduate and graduate courses. An excellent source for those most important papers and selections from books in all the major areas. Suitable for upper-level undergraduates and above.

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  • Miller, Alexander. Philosophy of Language. 2d ed. Fundamentals of Philosophy. London: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007.

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    A textbook with a more historical approach, and perhaps the most demanding of the three here. More on the positivists and Quine, with much less on Wittgenstein and use theories of meaning. Extensive attention devoted to specific, explicit argument. Suitable for advanced undergraduate courses.

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  • Morris, Michael. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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    Similar to Miller 2007 in that it focuses a bit more on prominent figures, rather than topics. Morris is distinguished by his emphasis on key texts in the field, rather than more general overviews of areas of debate. More material on speech act theory than Miller 2007.

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Major Figures

Frege 1997 and Russell 1905 can be seen as the first important works in contemporary philosophy of language. Frege’s work should also be seen as an announcement of a program in philosophy, in that he makes the case for logical inquiry and analysis as the province of philosophers, leaving psychology and empirical inquiry to scientists. Wittgenstein 1998, his early work originally published in 1922, can be seen as an effort to bring the most important ideas in Frege and Russell to fruition, though interpretation of that work is notoriously difficult. The Logical Positivists also saw themselves as heirs to the marriage of empiricism and logical analysis, and Carnap 2008 is perhaps the most significant and successful work in that tradition devoted wholly to language. By mid-century, though, persistent problems in the theory of meaning shifted many philosophers’ attention to use and social practice. Wittgenstein 2009 collects and distills work done by Wittgenstein since the 1930s (some of it conversational, some aphoristic) and has been very influential on “use” theories of meaning. Sellars 1953 and Quine 1960 drew heavily from the American pragmatists, particularly Dewey, and have been influential as well.

  • Carnap, Rudolf. Meaning and Necessity: A Study in Semantics and Modal Logic. Alcester, UK: Read Books, 2008.

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    First published in 1947. The last major work on semantics from Carnap, the preeminent logician among the early Logical Positivists. (Most of his later work was on inductive logic.) There are hints of the directions that modal logic would take in the decade to come, and Carnap’s methods here influenced subsequent generations of formal semanticists enormously.

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  • Frege, Gottlob. “On Sinn and Bedeutung.” In The Frege Reader. Edited by Michael Beaney, 151–171. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1997.

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    The origin of the sense/reference distinction and (arguably) the paper, first published in 1892, that marks the advent of analytic philosophy of language. Frege argues that expressions (“signs”) should not be thought of as directly referring to things, but rather indirectly via a sense that determines their referent.

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  • Quine, Willard Van Orman. Word and Object. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1960.

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    This is Quine’s most thorough single treatment of his views on language, translation, reference, and ontological commitment, which would serve as a touchstone for logical empiricists for a generation—and a home to a great many undetached rabbit parts.

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  • Russell, Bertrand. “On Denoting.” Mind 14 (1905): 479–493.

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    Argues that apparently simple referring expressions should instead be understood as logically complex expressions. Addresses problems of meaningful expressions that have no referent (e.g., “the present King of France”), and paves the way for logical atomism and logical positivism.

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  • Sellars, Wilfrid. “Inference and Meaning.” Mind 62 (1953): 313–338.

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    Sellars makes the case for material rules of inference in account of meaning and conceptual content. A dense and difficult work, but very important to some of the more pragmatist accounts in subsequent years (e.g., Brandom 1994, cited under Theories of Meaning) and to conceptual role semantics in philosophy and psychology.

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  • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Translated by C. K. Ogden. New York: Dover, 1998.

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    A systematic work of striking rigor and accomplishment, continuing some of Russell’s themes, but developing a slew of new ones as well. First published in 1922, it aspires to nothing less than an elucidation of the very possibility of language and a revision of philosophy as a whole.

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  • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations. 4th ed. Translated by P. M. S. Hacker and Joachim Schulte. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

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    Posthumous work compiled from notebooks, pulling together numerous lines of argument and critique against much of the philosophy putatively inspired by the Tractatus. The wellspring of most “use” theories of meaning—particularly the work of Dummett and Brandom—though the degree of its departure from Wittgenstein’s earlier work is hotly debated.

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Theories of Meaning

All of the following works either lay out broad programs for giving a theory of meaning or elaborate key features of major schools of thought. Truth conditional theories such as Davidson 2001 have roots as far back as Frege, who suggested that to know the meaning of a sentence was to know when it would be true and when it would be false. Dummett 1999 does not entirely reject that supposition, but believes the relevant conditions involve the capacities and abilities of speakers in a way that places him more squarely in the “use” tradition. Brandom 1994 takes the central feature of linguistic behavior to be giving and asking for reasons, thereby making explicit what was implicit in practice. Price 2013 follows a similar path in proposing a “global expressivist” account that eschews representational relations while emphasizing a more clearly naturalist approach. Horwich 2005 offers an account that also begins in use, but departs from the strongly normative elements that Brandom 1994 and Wittgenstein 2009 (see Major Figures) endorsed. Fodor 2004 and Churchland 2007 seek more naturalistic accounts that integrate more fully with psychology and neuroscience, respectively.

  • Brandom, Robert B. Making It Explicit. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994.

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    An expansive, systematic attempt to wed ideas from Wittgenstein 2009 and Sellars 1953, cited underMajor Figures (among others) to offer an account of meaning and content in normative, social, and practical terms. Brandom holds that using language is making explicit what were implicit practices, which take the form of giving and asking for reasons. The scope and terminology are imposing, but a great many important and original ideas are here.

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  • Churchland, Paul. “Neurosemantics: On the Mapping of Minds and the Portrayal of Words.” In Neurophilosophy at Work. By Paul Churchland, 126–160. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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    Churchland’s work in the philosophy of mind led him to develop a “state-space” semantics, in which content was understood as points or subvolumes in a vector space, rather than as discrete representations that are manipulated as symbols. Not for the faint of heart or the math-anxious, but an important current running between philosophy of language and cognitive science.

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  • Davidson, Donald. “Truth and Meaning.” In Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. 2d ed. By Donald Davidson, 17–42. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    First published in 1967, the wellspring for many truth-conditional theories of meaning in recent decades, drawing heavily on Tarski’s work (Tarski 1983, Tarski 1944; see Truth). Not a very technical paper; more a statement of purpose and philosophical intuition.

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  • Dummett, Michael. “What Is a Theory of Meaning? (II).” In Truth and Meaning: Essays in Semantics. 2d ed. Edited by Gareth Evans and John McDowell, 67–137. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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    Dummett’s single most important piece in developing his idea of a “justificationist” theory of meaning based in use. Originally published in 1976, it defends the core assumption that a theory of meaning should articulate what a speaker must be able to do in order to count as understanding some part of the language. Very dense reading, but very important.

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  • Fodor, Jerry. “Having Concepts: A Brief Refutation of the Twentieth Century.” Mind and Language 19.1 (2004): 29–47.

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    A more recent treatment of numerous themes that Fodor has addressed over the years, particularly compositionality in semantics and the relations between concepts and natural language. Contains three arguments against what he calls the “pragmatist” strain running through most of the last century and a brief defense of a more “Cartesian” view.

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  • Horwich, Paul. Reflections on Meaning. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    This is Horwich’s most recent book developing a use theory of meaning. However, he departs significantly from theorists from Wittgenstein to Brandom who have thought of that usage in normative terms, opting instead for a dispositional account amenable to stronger forms of naturalism. Most of the chapters here appeared as separate essays elsewhere but work together well as a whole.

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  • Price, Huw. Expressivism, Pragmatism and Representationalism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

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    This volume opens with recent work from Huw Price on his global expressivist project in the philosophy of language, in which he challenges traditional notions of representation, continuing themes drawn from Carnap, Quine, and Brandom. These papers were originally delivered at a conference in 2008, and the volume includes responses and replies from Blackburn, Brandom, Horwich, and Williams.

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The Nature of Language

Despite their familiarity to us, natural languages themselves present philosophers with a number of difficult questions: How do they first emerge? What constitutes them? How can we determine correct usage within them when they seem to be so insubstantial? Even if we believe there is some underlying syntax and semantics behind our usage, we have only finite amounts of evidence by which to select from infinitely many possible forms. Attempts to answer these questions have largely fallen into strongly naturalist accounts that draw from psychology and linguistics on the one hand, and accounts based in social practices and rule-following on the other. Chomsky 1980 has been a major figure on the naturalistic side, and Millikan 1989 carves out another path drawing more from evolutionary biology. Lewis 1983 and Burge 2007 both seek to synthesize some of the social insights of earlier theorists with formal or psychological themes. Davidson 1986 challenges the very idea that there are real natural languages, a challenge that Wiggins 1997 happily takes up in their defense.

  • Burge, Tyler. “Wherein Is Language Social?” In Foundations of Mind. By Tyler Burge, 275–290. Philosophical Essays 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    Argues for social accounts of languages, though he sees their social features as compatible with “individual psychology.” Most of the paper, published in 1989, is devoted to showing that the “mental kinds” that are represented in thoughts cannot be individuated based solely on a person’s individual psychological traits (e.g., their perceptual experience). It’s worth reading Putnam 1975 (see Direct Reference and Rigid Designation) and some of Chomsky 1980 with this.

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  • Chomsky, Noam. Rules and Representations. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980.

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    A compact statement of many important themes from Chomsky’s decades of work in philosophy and linguistics, including nativism, generative grammar, computationalism, the relation of linguistic competence to biology, and the natural sciences. Works well as separate essays on topics or as a comprehensive review.

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  • Davidson, Donald. “A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs.” In Philosophical Grounds of Rationality. Edited by Richard E. Grandy and Richard Warner, 157–174. Oxford: Clarendon, 1986.

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    Argues against the very idea of natural languages as real, fixed, objective features of the world. Following his own ideas of radical interpretation to perhaps their furthest point, Davidson suggests we have no unchanging version of a language to appeal to, but rather overlapping idiolects, from which we constantly interpret one another and revise our theories of others’ beliefs and reasons as we go.

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  • Lewis, David. “Languages and Language.” In Philosophical Papers. Vol. 1. By David Lewis. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983.

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    Lewis works here to synthesize formal notions of languages as systems for assigning meanings to strings of symbols with the more social and pragmatic notions of language as a medium of rational exchange. He suggests that what unites these ideas are conventions of “truthfulness and trust” in making use of the language. The heart of the article is actually only a few pages, but Lewis runs through a total of twenty-eight extended objections and replies to flesh out the contours of his account.

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  • Millikan, Ruth Garrett. “Biosemantics.” Journal of Philosophy 86 (1989): 281–297.

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    Aims for a strongly naturalistic account of semantics, driven in particular by concerns from evolutionary biology. The paper’s central emphasis is on the notion of “proper” functions of representation production and consumption, which essentially involve “normal” conditions from the organism’s evolutionary design and development.

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  • Wiggins, David. “Languages as Social Objects.” Philosophy 72 (1997): 499–524.

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    Defends the unfashionable view (in Wiggins’s estimate) that languages are real objects—social objects held by groups of people, but objects just the same. While Wiggins characterizes thought as a framework for the expression of thought, his approach departs significantly from the other theorists here. An excellent companion piece to both Lewis 1983 and Davidson 1986.

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Rule-Following and Meaning Skepticism

Since Wittgenstein’s later work surfaced in 1953 (see Wittgenstein 2009, cited under Major Figures), philosophers of language have been struck by the centrality of rules and rule-following in language and the difficulty of articulating just how we should be compelled by such rules, or even what such rules would compel us to do. Wittgenstein noted that explicit formulations of rules—“I shall call all featherless bipeds ‘human’”—would not serve as explainers because they invited regresses of interpretation. In this example, I must know explicit rules for what count as feathers, bipeds, etc., and explicit rules for any explicit rules used in stating my explicit rules, and so on. Appeals to regularities or dispositions at some suitable level may seem to stop such regresses, but apparently fail to separate correct from incorrect usage. A student learning to count by twos who makes an error when he reaches one thousand may do so with all the regularity and reliable disposition of someone who goes on correctly. Kripke 1982 reignited this debate, suggesting a type of “meaning skepticism,” where this apparent dilemma is genuine and there are no facts about meaning to be found. McDowell 1984 challenges this, both as a reading of Wittgenstein and as a general thesis about language. McDowell also attacks some of the early writings of Crispin Wright, who responds in Wright 1992. Millikan 1990 attempts to circumvent Kripke’s skepticism with an account that imbues dispositions with normativity and weaves them into a larger biological story. More recently, Kusch 2006 has defended a strong version of meaning skepticism and Hattiangandi 2007 has taken the whole debate as proof that meaning is not normative at all (see the separate bibliography entry on Rule-following).

  • Hattiangadi, Anandi. Oughts and Thoughts: Scepticism and the Normativity of Meaning. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    Offers a defense of semantic realism and Kripke’s meaning skepticism, which Hattiangadi dismisses as “outrageous.” More boldly, Hattiangadi does this by arguing that Kripke’s skepticism results from assuming that meaning is normative, then arguing against that widely accepted assumption.

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  • Kripke, Saul A. Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language: An Elementary Exposition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982.

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    With a nod to Hume, Kripke’s interpretation of the early parts of Wittgenstein’s 1953 Philosophical Investigations (Wittgenstein 2009, cited under Major Figures) suggests a skepticism about meaning facts (nothing determines in advance whether we meant one interpretation of a rule or another) and offers a skeptical “solution” to them. Few Wittgensteinians endorse Kripke’s reading, but it has been influential as a set of challenges to any subsequent account of natural language.

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  • Kusch, Martin. A Sceptical Guide to Meaning and Rules. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006.

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    Kusch defends the meaning skepticism proposed by Kripke. He takes Kripke’s argument to be about what he calls “meaning determinism,” which amounts to the view that ascriptions of meaning to others’ utterances necessarily involve ascriptions of particular sorts of mental states. Contains an extensive discussion of the role of dispositions in any response to meaning skepticism.

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  • McDowell, John. “Wittgenstein on Following a Rule.” Synthese 58 (1984): 325–364.

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    A paper about rule-following more generally, but an important foil to Kripke and some strains of antirealism. Also influential to pragmatists like Brandom (see Brandom 1994, cited under Theories of Meaning).

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  • Millikan, Ruth Garrett. “Truth Rules, Hoverflies, and the Kripke-Wittgenstein Paradox.” Philosophical Review 99.3 (1990): 323–353.

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    Published around the same time as “Biosemantics” (Millikan 1989, cited under the Nature of Language), this continues her project of a strongly naturalistic account of semantics and representational content. To address Kripke’s skepticism about meaning, she proposes treating the normative elements of language usage as “purposive” behavior and casts these purposes as biological ones at their root. The naturalism here does not entail a purely dispositional account, however.

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  • Wright, Crispin. Truth and Objectivity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992.

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    Chapter 6, “Quietism,” offers an extended series of replies to McDowell’s criticisms of Wright’s early work on Wittgenstein and antirealism in McDowell 1984. He also addresses Kripke’s rule skepticism, and while not endorsing it, sees it as part of a larger array of routes away from objectivity and realism about meaning.

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Truth

The orthodox view about truth in Western philosophy had long been that truth was “correspondence”; a sentence was true just in case it corresponded with the facts. Analytic philosophers of language working on theories of truth have pursued many other options, though. Tarski 1983 and Tarski 1944 offer a formal analysis of truth that stands as one of the great early achievements of analytic philosophy, and which influenced Davidson 2001 (listed under Theories of Meaning) tremendously. Kripke 1975 continues this approach, with some attempt to resolve the semantic paradoxes. Others were wary that this formalization obscured important concerns, though, and there has been a rising tide toward anti-realist and deflationary accounts since the mid-20th century. Following Wittgenstein 2009, originally published in 1953 (cited under Major Figures), philosophers such as Horwich have denied that truth is a substantial property at all (Horwich 1999), while “prosententialist” and “anaphoric” theorists like Grover have sought to recast truth predicates as specialized logical operators (Grover, et al. 1975). Dummett 1978 has been the most influential figure in anti-realist accounts of truth, and in recent years Wright 2003 has sought to expand on some of his central ideas. (It should be noted that being an anti-realist about truth does not entail anti-realism about other semantic properties, nor a denial of the existence of a mind-independent world.)

  • Dummett, Michael. “Realism.” In Truth and Other Enigmas. By Michael Dummett, 145–165. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978.

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    The single most important paper in Dummett’s defense of antirealism in a theory of truth. Taking a broad look at the history of philosophy, he distinguishes “realist” positions that assume bivalence and evidence-transcendence in accounts of truth from “anti-realist” ones (including intuitionism in mathematics and logic) that require some means of determination or justification before a statement can be said to have a truth value at all.

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  • Grover, Dorothy L., Joseph L. Camp Jr., and Nuel D. Belnap Jr. “A Prosentential Theory of Truth.” Philosophical Studies 27 (1975): 73–124.

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    A very different take on truth, which treats truth predicates not as ascriptions of further semantic properties, but as “prosentences.” Just as pronouns stand in for noun phrases, prosentences stand in for whole sentences. This approach also influenced Brandom’s “anaphoric” theories of truth and reference (Brandom 1994, cited under Major Figures).

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  • Horwich, Paul. Truth. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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    The most prominent recent proponent of deflationary theories of truth. Argues that there is no property of truth, and that truth predicates serve only to express attitudes toward propositions. The book is noteworthy for its directness and accessibility, organized around very direct statements of his views and responses to very explicit criticisms, so it makes a nice addition to the classroom as well.

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  • Kripke, Saul. “Outline of a Theory of Truth.” Journal of Philosophy 72.19 (1975): 690–716.

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    Kripke attempts to outline a theory that will address the semantic paradoxes without using a “sieve” approach to simply sort out paradoxical sentences as somehow ill-formed or meaningless. Instead, he develops the notion of a “truth gap” and leaving the truth predicate partially undefined—some sentences will not end up being true or being false. One of the more technically demanding of the papers in this section.

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  • Tarski, Alfred. “The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 4 (1944): 341–375.

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    Along with Tarski 1983, this lays out Tarski’s formal analysis of truth, a watershed for analytic philosophy. Introduction of truth schemas and “satisfaction” as a tool of analysis.

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  • Tarski, Alfred. “The Concept of Truth in the Languages of the Deductive Sciences.” In Logic, Semantics, Metamathematics: Papers from 1923 to 1938. 2d ed. Edited by John Corcoran. Translated by J. H. Woodger, 152–278. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1983.

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    Fairly technical, but essential reading for this field. Originally published in 1933.

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  • Wright, Crispin. “Minimalism and Deflationism.” In Saving the Differences: Essays on Themes from Truth and Objectivity. By Crispin Wright, 332–350. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.

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    Wright has sought to reorient the debate between realists and anti-realists, preserving a role for truth predicates (unlike deflationary theories), but making accounts of the truth predicate more pluralistic from one form of discourse (ethical, psychological, etc.) to another. This is a good essay to begin with in studying Wright, though other essays in this collection are also quite important.

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Analyticity

The early logical positivists read Wittgenstein 1998 (originally published in 1922, cited under Major Figures) as rehabilitating Kant’s distinction between analytic and synthetic truths for sentences—roughly, those that were true solely in virtue of the meanings of their constituent words and those that that were true in virtue of the facts. The truth of “The book is on the table” depends on the facts, while “All bachelors are unmarried males” is true regardless what else may be. Wittgenstein did not intend to be read this way, but it became orthodoxy among philosophers of language that there was a philosophically significant distinction between analytic and synthetic truths. Ayer 2004, like many positivists, took this not only as a linguistic thesis, but also as an epistemological one; the analytic/synthetic distinction corresponded with what could be known a priori and a posteriori. Quine 1980 challenged this orthodox view, and much of analytic philosophy with it. In the last twenty years, there have been numerous efforts to revive an analytic/synthetic distinction, if not quite as the positivists did, and Fodor and Lepore 1992 did much to spark this with their critique of Quine’s semantic holism. Horwich 1998 sees a semantic utility in the distinction, while Boghossian 2008 emphasizes its relation to a priori knowledge. Williamson 2006 offers criticism of such efforts where they rest on “epistemological” conditions.

  • Ayer, Alfred Jules. Language, Truth, and Logic. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

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    Originally published in 1936. This is a good source for orthodox views of analyticity before Quine. Chapter 4 deals with the historical roots of analyticity, its role in an account of the a priori and its place in logical positivism. Ayer’s prose is quite accessible.

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  • Boghossian, Paul. “Analyticity Reconsidered.” In Content and Justification: Philosophical Papers. By Paul Boghossian, 195–224. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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    Boghossian defends an analytic theory of the a priori here. He argues that Quinean objections with the most traction against analyticity are largely aimed at the metaphysical notion of analyticity—that linguistic and empirical components can be separated from one another—which Boghossian disavows. Instead, he offers an account based in implicit definition and defends it against Quinean objections.

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  • Fodor, Jerry, and Ernest Lepore. Holism: A Shopper’s Guide. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1992.

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    Fodor and Lepore do not defend a new version of the analytic/synthetic distinction (they explicitly set it aside, but do not entirely disavow it), but in chapter 1 they give some of the most closely argued and influential critiques of Quine in recent years.

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  • Horwich, Paul. Meaning. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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    Horwich defends a revived notion of analyticity via implicit definition, particularly in chapter 6, “Implicit Definition, Analytic Truth, and A Priori Knowledge.” Emphasizing usage, he proposes that some regularities in use are “explanatorily basic” and rehabilitates a notion of analyticity from this.

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  • Quine, Willard van Orman. “Two Dogmas of Empiricism.” In From a Logical Point of View: Nine Logico-Philosophical Essays. 2d rev. ed. By Willard van Orman Quine, 20–46. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980.

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    First published in 1953, this was probably the most important paper in philosophy of language at mid-century, widely seen as producing a seismic shift in the field. Quine argues that there is no philosophically significant notion of synonymy from which to draw an account of analyticity, and hence no way to separate questions of meaning from questions of fact. Quine’s writing is breezy, but some knowledge of the logical positivists is advisable before diving into this.

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  • Williamson, Timothy. “Conceptual Truth.” Aristotelian Society supp. 80 (2006): 1–41.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8349.2006.00136.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Williamson attacks “epistemological” conceptions of analytic truth, or those in which assent to the truth of a thought or proposition is a necessary condition of understanding it. He expands this critique to several forms of philosophical analysis in an effort to deflate them, endorsing instead an account of conceptual content and meaning grounded in social practices.

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Direct Reference and Rigid Designation

The orthodox view about reference from the early days of the analytic movement until the 1970s had been indirect accounts, with some mediating layer between a speaker and a referent (e.g., Fregean senses). By the 1960s, many philosophers had taken up “cluster concept” views by which some cluster of descriptions served as conditions for fixing a referent. Putnam 1975 and Kripke 1980 challenged this view, arguing that some terms were rigid designators—picking out the same referent in all possible worlds—and that some of these were rigid because they bore “direct reference” to things without any mediating descriptions. Critics responded with more sophisticated accounts in the spirit of Frege that would come to be known as “two-dimensional” accounts of reference. Soames 2002, Berger 2002, and LaPorte 2013 update the core ideas from Kripke and Putnam. Chalmers 2002 offers an extensive defense of “two-dimensional” semantics that revive Fregean theories of meaning by the addition of “epistemic intentions.” Wolf 2006 offers an account that draws substantially from Brandom 1994 to offer an alternative to both sets of views. (Those diving into the field would be advised to pick up Davidson 2007 [cited under Textbooks and Anthologies], which has most of these and several more of interest.)

  • Berger, Alan. Terms and Truth: Reference Direct and Anaphoric. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002.

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    This book reconstructs some important ideas about the introduction of rigid designators from Kripke and Putnam and lays out an important account of “focusing” on referents to augment those account. Elaborates on some shortcomings in Kaplan’s accounts of demonstratives and includes a formal semantics for anaphoric terms, a first in this debate.

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  • Chalmers, David J. “On Sense and Intension.” Philosophical Perspectives 16 (2002): 135–182.

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    A revisiting and defense of some Fregean ideas and a development of some of the more recent “two-dimensional” accounts of designators.

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  • Devitt, Michael. “Against Direct Reference.” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 14 (1989): 206–240.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4975.1989.tb00190.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    As one might guess from the title, Devitt is against theories of direct reference. He also does a good deal here to separate out three different ideas often conflated in these debates: the nondescriptiveness of names, rigid designation, and causal theories of names. The last third or so of the paper contains very good material on propositional attitudes and their relation to direct reference.

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  • Kripke, Saul A. Naming and Necessity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980.

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    The other seminal source on rigid designation. Originally a series of lectures, and a very breezy read. Divided into three parts, with the first laying out and criticizing the “cluster concept” view of names common since Frege, the second introducing rigid designation and Kripke’s version of essentialism, and the third being the source of a pivotal argument against identity theories in the philosophy of mind.

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  • LaPorte, Joseph. Rigid Designation and Theoretical Identities. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

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    A recent extension of the Kripkean project on rigid designation, with special attention to identities between properties (rather than particular objects).

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  • Putnam, Hilary. “The Meaning of ‘Meaning.’” In Philosophical Papers. Vol. 2, Mind, Language, and Reality. By Hilary Putnam, 215–271. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1975.

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    A longer article, but very readable. Source of the “Twin Earth” thought experiment and Putnam’s “meaning ain’t in the head” view. One of the two seminal sources for an account of rigid designation and reference over the last thirty-plus years.

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  • Soames, Scott. Beyond Rigidity: The Unfinished Semantic Agenda of Naming and Necessity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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    A systematic extension of Kripke’s ideas on rigid designation, including important new work on natural kind terms and arguments against two-dimensional accounts.

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  • Wolf, Michael P. “Rigid Designation and Anaphoric Theories of Reference.” Philosophical Studies 130 (2006): 351–375.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11098-004-5748-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Following Brandom 1994 (cited under Major Figures), this paper develops an account of rigidity as a species of linguistic commitment best understood in terms of anaphoric relations, rather than causal or word-world relations.

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Indexicals and Demonstratives

Expressions like “now” or “here,” pronouns like “I,” and demonstratives like “that” (when used in pointing to something) struck many early analytic philosophers as problematic. In hopes of giving a fully general and systematic theory of meaning, these expressions seemed to shift their reference depending on the context in which they were used. More sophisticated accounts of this sort of shifting reference began to emerge in the 1970s, particularly Kaplan 1989, which drew heavily upon and later shaped the debates around direct reference and rigid designation. Kaplan argued that Perry 1979 countered this formal analysis of indexicals and demonstratives, asserting that at least one (“I”) could not be so analyzed. Evans 1982 and McDowell 1984 reintroduced elements of Frege’s work into this area at a time when many thought they could have no place. (The invariance of Fregean senses, or at least standard conceptions of them, would seem to be at odds with the context-sensitivity of indexicals and demonstratives.) May 2006 continues this neo-Fregean line, while Borg 2000 extends accounts of demonstratives to include more lexically complex expressions.

  • Borg, Emma. “Complex Demonstratives.” Philosophical Studies 97 (2000): 225–244.

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    Refines the notion of a demonstrative by distinguishing the simple (“this,” “that”) from the complex (“this handsome fellow”). It makes the case that Kaplan’s theory of demonstratives can account for these, so long as the “matrix” (predicative expressions like “handsome” above) is not admitted into the content of the complex demonstrative, though she outlines other contributions they may make.

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  • Brandom, Robert B. Between Saying and Doing: Towards an Analytic Pragmatism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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    Brandom lays out an account of analysis consonant with but broader than his neo-pragmatism in Making It Explicit (Brandom 1994, cited under Major Figures). He offers an irenic account that synthesizes the work of Kaplan and Perry for indexicals (though not necessarily demonstratives) rooted in their practical significance. See especially chapter 1 and the appendix to chapter 2.

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  • Evans, Gareth. The Varieties of Reference. Edited by John McDowell. Oxford: Clarendon, 1982.

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    Evans’s book is another important part of the debate outlined above about reference, as he develops a more Fregean account of reference after the wave of philosophers who embraced direct reference after Kripke 1980 (cited under Direct Reference and Rigid Designation). This book is of particular note for its account of demonstratives as part of such an account in chapter 6.

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  • Kaplan, David. “Dthat.” In Syntax and Semantics. Vol. 2, Pragmatics. Edited by Peter Cole, 221–253. New York: Academic Press, 1978.

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    Offers the canonical version of themes and ideas that Kaplan had been discussing and passing around informally for many years. Argues that indexicals and demonstratives should be understood as functions from various contextual indices to contents.

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  • Kaplan, David. “Demonstratives.” In Themes from Kaplan. Edited by Joseph Almog, John Perry, and Howard Wettstein, 481–563. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

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    Introduces the notion of “character” for different indexical types. Both are fairly technical papers, and familiarity with Kripke 1980, Putnam 1975 (both cited under Direct Reference and Rigid Designation), and some logic are presumed.

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  • May, Robert. “Frege on Indexicals.” Philosophical Review 115 (2006): 487–516.

    DOI: 10.1215/00318108-2006-011Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Strives to give a genuinely Fregean account of indexicals, preserving a role for senses in a category of terms that many have come to see as all reference. He does this by suggesting there are different subcategories of senses, some of which determine references, while others (more weakly) constrain it. More historical than the other entries in this section, but its proposals address concerns in the current debate.

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  • McDowell, John. “De Re Senses.” Philosophical Quarterly 34 (1984): 283–294.

    DOI: 10.2307/2218761Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Continues the development of a number of ideas (particularly “dynamic thoughts”) from Evans 1982 that would prove important in neo-Fregean accounts of reference and context-sensitive expressions. McDowell’s aim and achievement here is not to offer a full account of such expressions, but rather to expand the framework in which we think of Fregean senses, so that other accounts might occupy it.

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  • Perry, John. “The Problem of the Essential Indexical.” Noûs 13 (1979): 3–21.

    DOI: 10.2307/2214792Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Makes the case that some indexicals—most notably “I” in English—serve roles that cannot be analyzed entirely away in terms of contextual fixing of referents—e.g., something is absent from my belief “Michael P. Wolf does philosophy” that is present in “I do philosophy” in my case. An important counterpart to the work of Kaplan.

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Propositional Attitudes

Statements expressing propositional attitudes have been of concern in the analytic tradition since its very inception. Frege 1997 (cited under Major Figures), first published in 1892, noted that while substituting terms that referred to the same thing preserved the truth value of a sentence in most contexts, for a special subset (notably reports of propositional attitudes), it did not. For instance, if “Marilyn Monroe was born in Los Angeles” is true, then so is “Norma Jeane Baker was born in Los Angeles,” since those names co-refer. The same could not be said for “Michael believes that Marilyn Monroe was born in Los Angeles” and “Michael believes Norma Jeane Baker was born in Los Angeles,” as I may not be aware that the names co-refer. Readers would be advised to start with Frege 1997 and Davidson 1968 before looking at more technical recent work from Burge 1977, Schiffer 1997, and Brandom 2000. Kripke 1979 and Richard 1983 add a pair of puzzles that are essential reading for the rest of the recent literature.

  • Brandom, Robert B. Articulating Reasons: An Introduction to Inferentialism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.

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    Chapter five of this book (“A Social Route from Reasoning to Representing”) gives a condensed version of Brandom’s views on propositional attitude reports, a full version of which is offered in chapter 8 of Brandom 1994 (cited under Major Figures). Dense reading in either case, but important for current debates.

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  • Burge, Tyler. “Belief De Re.” Journal of Philosophy 74 (1977): 338–362.

    DOI: 10.2307/2025871Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues against the idea that de dicto belief is more fundamental than de re belief, and for the necessity of some de re belief on epistemic grounds.

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  • Davidson, Donald. “On Saying That.” Synthese 19 (1968): 130–146.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF00568054Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This paper is more generally about “that” clauses, as in “Michael said that …” or “Michael heard that …,” but the account includes such uses in propositional attitude reports. Davidson’s view is that “that” is actually serving a role functionally similar to a demonstrative singular term. The embedded sentence in an attitude report is effectively pointed to and an attitude toward it is ascribed to the subject. A hotly debated but widely influential paper.

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  • Kripke, Saul. “A Puzzle about Belief.” In Meaning and Use: Papers Presented at the Second Jerusalem Philosophical Encounter, April 1976. Edited by Avishai Margalit, 239–283. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Reidel, 1979.

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    Often referred to as “Kripke’s Puzzle,” this followed his work on direct reference (Kripke 1980, cited under Direct Reference and Rigid Designation). Some argued that direct reference accounts of names led to the problems for propositional attitude reports suggested in Frege 1997 (cited under Major Figures). This paper suggests that they arise independently of Kripke’s view and remain a substantial problem for any account of propositional attitude reports.

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  • Richard, Mark. “Direct Reference and Ascriptions of Belief.” Journal of Philosophical Logic 12 (1983): 425–452.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF00249259Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article is the source of “Richard’s Puzzle,” which suggested that the problems of substitution arising from Frege 1997 (cited under Major Figures) were matters of pragmatics and not semantics. Richard himself offered later responses to this puzzle, but the article itself is a crucial link between accounts of propositional attitude reports, direct reference, and contextualism.

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  • Schiffer, Stephen. “Descriptions, Indexicals, and Belief Reports: Some Dilemmas (but Not the Ones You Expect).” In Direct Reference, Indexicality, and Propositional Attitudes. Edited by Wolfgang Künne, Albert Newen, and Martin Anduschus, 247–276. Stanford, CA: Center for the Study of Language and Information, 1997.

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    This paper makes the case that there are serious problems in store for those who would ascribe “hidden” indexicals to belief reports and descriptions while also adopting theories of direct reference. Schiffer offers a “radical solution” to these dilemmas that incorporates his novel account of propositions.

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Speech Acts

Speech act theorists have sought to enrich our understanding of language and communication by developing systematic accounts of the practical dimensions of their use in conversation. Thus, speech act theorists generally stipulate that there are sentences with conventional semantic meanings, then go on to ask what it is those sentences use to make reports, promises, etc. (Just how separate semantics and pragmatics truly are is itself a matter of great debate, of course.) Grice 1989 (originally published in 1975) and Austin 1975 set the terms for much of the debate that followed, Bach and Harnish 1979 offer an authoritative survey of the field, and Brown and Cappelen 2011 offers substantial recent contributions to the study of assertion. Those interested in the finer points of debates about implicature will want to see Davis 1998 and Saul 2002, while Kukla and Lance 2009 offer a radical new set of alternatives.

  • Austin, J. L. How to Do Things with Words. 2d ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975.

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    Originally published in 1963, this slim volume includes twelve lectures given by Austin, and many of the key terms and concepts of speech theory—from illocutionary and perlocutionary potentials to performative utterances—take root here.

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  • Bach, Kent, and Robert M. Harnish. Linguistic Communication and Speech Acts. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1979.

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    This book rigorously develops an account of “speech act schema” and is pivotal in the development of analysis of speech acts in terms of illocutionary and perlocutionary potentials. Harnish was as much a linguist as a philosopher, and there is some space devoted to empirical studies and connections to psychology.

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  • Brown, Jessica, and Herman Cappelen. Assertion: New Philosophical Essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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    This is a collection of new essays on assertion, including essays from both Brown and Cappelen, but also from Stalnaker, MacFarlane, Kvanvig, and Maitra. It is divided into two major sections, one devoted to characterizing the speech act of assertion itself, and the other to epistemic norms surrounding asserting. Perhaps most striking is Cappelen’s essay, in which he argues against the need for entitlement for many cases that would typically be treated as assertions, with concomitantly stricter demands.

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  • Davis, Wayne A. Implicature: Intention, Convention, and Principle in the Failure of Gricean Theory. Cambridge Studies in Philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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    A closely argued work addressing the nature and problems of implicature after Grice, and a useful counterpart to the mainstream in speech act theory. It includes sections on presumption and a fruitful look at implicature conventions.

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  • Grice, Paul. “Logic and Conversation.” In Studies in the Way of Words. By Paul Grice, 22–40, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989.

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    Crucial paper, originally published in 1975, in which Grice makes the case that philosophers must go beyond conventional meaning to look at what they “implicate” by their speech acts. He suggests a number of principles at work in interpreting implicatures in conversation, and much of speech act theory thereafter takes these as starting points of discussion.

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  • Kukla, Rebecca, and Mark Lance. Yo and Lo! The Pragmatic Topography of the Space of Reasons. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.

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    This is a recent work that offers a very different take on speech acts and pragmatics, challenging the central role that declaratives have been granted in pragmatics and analytic philosophy in general. It develops a new set of types for speech acts and touches on issues from perception to the objectivity of ethical discourse.

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  • Saul, Jennifer M. “Speaker Meaning, What Is Said, and What Is Implicated.” Noûs 36 (2002): 228–248.

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    Here, Saul argues that much of the work on speaker meaning and implicature has misinterpreted, or at least departed from, Grice’s original work. She criticizes the orthodox view that splits speaker meaning neatly into what is said and what is implicated, as well as the lack of attention to normative dimensions of discourse. Worth reading in conjunction with Davis 1998.

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  • Searle, John R. Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1970.

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    A short but pivotal work in speech act theory. Searle offers the first substantial systematization of that theory, capitalizing on the earlier work of Grice and Austin. Later sections also defend a version of “cluster concept” theories of names that Kripke 1980 (cited under Direct Reference and Rigid Designation) would address.

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Metaphor

Metaphor has been a beguiling phenomenon in the philosophy of language. It appears to strike at the methodological assumption that meaning is first and foremost a matter of declaratives. If one says metaphorically, “Michael is a bear in the morning before he has his coffee,” one certainly means it in some sense, but surely not as a genuine report of my shifting species. At stake is whether we should think there is an additional sort of semantic meaning created by the use of metaphor or that there is only one sort of semantic meaning that is put to a novel sort of pragmatic use. Davidson 1978 offers a notable account asserting that there is no additional sort of meaning involved in metaphor, while Lakoff and Johnson 1980 argues that it is pervasive and that its transformation of regular semantic meaning can be understood in a systematic way. Stern 2006 offers a recent defense of literalism, while Camp 2006 puts forth a pertinent contextualist account.

  • Camp, Elizabeth. “Contextualism, Metaphor, and What Is Said.” Mind and Language 21.3 (2006): 280–309.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0017.2006.00279.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Camp defends a contextualist account of metaphor, one in which pragmatics and conventional semantic meaning regularly intermingle to establish metaphorical meanings. She defends these points in the course of offering a revision of “what is said” in the traditional Gricean framework.

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  • Davidson, Donald. “What Metaphors Mean.” In On Metaphor. Edited by Sheldon Sacks, 29–46. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978.

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    Davidson defends the view that metaphors are to be understood literally when they are used, but that their interpretation requires a measure of creativity. This makes metaphor not so much a semantic category, but rather a feature of usage, more like an element of speech act theory. Written in Davidson’s usual accessible style.

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  • Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. “Conceptual Metaphor in Everyday Language.” Journal of Philosophy 77 (1980): 453–486.

    DOI: 10.2307/2025464Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This paper makes a case for the pervasive presence of “conventional metaphor” in our conceptual system—that is, metaphors that have been used with enough regularity to have their own currency as such (e.g., military metaphors in talk about arguments). A classificatory system for different types of metaphors within the conceptual structure is also included.

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  • Stern, Josef. “Metaphor, Literal, Literalism.” Mind and Language 21.3 (2006): 243–279.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0017.2006.00278.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Stern defends a literalist account of metaphor, arguing that metaphor is a type of linguistic meaning, not simply pragmatics or interpretation. Stern is thus positing a linguistic representation underlying metaphors that determines truth-conditions for its use, rather than sticking to a more austere literal meaning and allowing context to do the rest of the work. He directly addresses contextualist accounts, most notably Recanati.

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Minimalism and Contextualism in Semantics

Semantic minimalists draw inspiration from truth-conditional theories of meaning (particularly Davidson 2001, cited under Theories of Meaning) and assert that each proposition has one fixed, literal meaning. Contextualists argue that this is false because most (maybe all) expressions have some form of context-sensitivity built into them. For instance, if someone were to meet me in person, she might utter “Michael’s hair is long.” “Long” here seems relative in a way; the speaker is saying that it is long for a man, or even for a human being, but not for other sorts of things. Much current thinking on this sort of contextualism traces back to Travis 1996. Minimalists, particularly Cappelen and Lepore 2005, see this as an intrusion of speech act content into a theory of meaning, however. At present, this is one of the most vibrant debates in the field, and it integrates lines of thought stretching back to indexicals and demonstratives, theories of reference and rigid designation, while overlapping with recent debates about contextualism in epistemology. (Three of the articles listed here are from the Preyer and Peter anthology Context-Sensitivity and Semantic Minimalism: New Essays on Semantics and Pragmatics, but those interested in the debate would be well advised to simply get the whole volume.) Borg 2012 continues the development of minimalist themes.

  • Atlas, Jay David. “Meanings, Propositions, Context, and Semantical Underdeterminacy.” In Context-Sensitivity and Semantic Minimalism: New Essays on Semantics and Pragmatics. Edited by Gerhard Preyer and Georg Peter, 217–239. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    Atlas elaborates on some of his own views from thirty years earlier as they relate to some of Searle’s work, criticism from Cappelen and Lepore, and the recent rekindling of interest in contextualist accounts of semantics. Comes out in favor of “meaning dualism,” against minimal propositions, and in favor of certain aspects of contextual dependence in an account of meaning.

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  • Borg, Emma. “Minimalism versus Contextualism in Semantics.” In Context-Sensitivity and Semantic Minimalism: New Essays on Semantics and Pragmatics. Edited by Gerhard Preyer and Georg Peter, 339–360. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    A defense of semantic minimalism in the spirit of Cappelen and Lepore 2005. She recommends revising the radical/moderate division among contextualists to reflect the mechanisms they take to trigger contextual sensitivity rather than the sheer number of expressions they take to be contextually sensitive. She closes by making the case for a fully “formal” (i.e., general, systematic) theory of literal meaning, which minimalism could provide but contextualism could not.

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  • Borg, Emma. Pursuing Meaning. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

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    This is a book-length development of the themes visited in Borg 2007 and the author’s earlier work. It includes extended responses to critics on both methodological and ontological grounds in its closing chapters. Recommended to anyone interested in following the most recent defenses of minimalism.

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  • Cappelen, Herman, and Ernie Lepore. Insensitive Semantics: A Defense of Semantic Minimalism and Speech Act Pluralism. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005.

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    A defense of semantic minimalism and “speech act pluralism,” the latter being the view that every speech act asserts indefinitely many propositions. This is a concise defense of a very strict sort of truth-conditional semantics against a trend toward more contextualist accounts and a meshing of semantic and speech act content.

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  • MacFarlane, John. “Semantic Minimalism and Nonindexical Contextualism.” In Context-Sensitivity and Semantic Minimalism: New Essays on Semantics and Pragmatics. Edited by Gerhard Preyer and Georg Peter, 240–250. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    MacFarlane claims that Cappelen and Lepore 2005 misidentifies the primary objection to minimal propositions. While Cappelen and Lepore rightly distinguish metaphysical problems surrounding minimalism from semantic ones, MacFarlane argues that their strategy for doing so undermines their semantic account. He suggests that a nonindexical contextualism is the best resolution of these difficulties.

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  • Stanley, Jason. “On the Linguistic Basis for Contextualism.” Philosophical Studies 119 (2004): 119–146.

    DOI: 10.1023/B:PHIL.0000029353.14987.34Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This paper is a good place to start for recent discussion of the context-sensitivity of “knows” in knowledge ascriptions and the impact of this in contextualist theories in epistemology. Stanley’s discussion is narrower in that he seeks to argue only for the context-sensitivity of a small number of expressions used in knowledge ascriptions, but his arguments bear substantial affinity to other articles in this section.

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  • Travis, Charles. “Meaning’s Role in Truth.” Mind 105 (1996): 451–466.

    DOI: 10.1093/mind/105.419.451Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues against deflationary theories of truth, beginning from contextualist premises. Anticipating many of the turns taken by contextualists in the decade that followed, Travis makes the case that understanding most of the statements in a natural language requires some sensitivity to contextual features before their truth can be assessed. Travis’s prose can be a bit dense, but his account of how standards are fixed in context is insightful and important for the subsequent debate.

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LAST MODIFIED: 11/27/2013

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195396577-0063

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