Recurrence

Philosophical Studies 159 (3):407-441 (2012)
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Abstract

Standard compositionality is the doctrine that the semantic content of a compound expression is a function of the semantic contents of the contentful component expressions. In 1954 Hilary Putnam proposed that standard compositionality be replaced by a stricter version according to which even sentences that are synonymously isomorphic (in the sense of Alonzo Church) are not strictly synonymous unless they have the same logical form. On Putnam’s proposal, the semantic content of a compound expression is a function of: (i) the contentful component expressions; and (ii) the expression’s logical form. Kit Fine recently expanded and modified Putnam’s idea into a sweeping theory in philosophy of language and philosophy of mind. The present paper is a detailed critique of Fine’s “semantic relationism.” Fine’s notion of coordination is explained in terms of the familiar pragmatic phenomenon of recognition. A serious error in Fine’s formal disproof of standard Millianism is exposed. It is demonstrated furthermore that Church’s original criticism of Putnam’s proposal can be extended to Fine’s semantic relationism. Finally, it is also demonstrated that the positive position Fine proffers to supplant standard Millianism is in fact exactly equivalent to standard Millianism, so that Fine’s overall position not only does not displace standard Millianism but is in fact inconsistent.

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Nathan Salmon
University of California at Santa Barbara

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Propositions and Attitudes.Nathan U. Salmon & Scott Soames (eds.) - 1988 - Oxford University Press.

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