Some comments on Lehrer semantics

Philosophical Studies 161 (1):109-117 (2012)
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Abstract

Lehrer Semantics, as it was devised by Adrienne and Keith Lehrer, is imbedded in a comprehensive web of thought and observations of language use and development, communication, and social interaction, all these as empirical phenomena. Rather than for a theory, I take it for a ‘‘model’’ of the kind which gives us guidance in how to organize linguistic and language-related phenomena. My comments on it are restricted to three aspects: In 2 I deal with the question of how Lehrerian sense can be empirically distinguished from Lehrerian reference as a precondition for the claim that sense relationships are in general more stable than reference relations. It seems that this very claim must already be presupposed for doing the respective empirical investigation. But in 3, I argue for the option to interpret the Lehrers’ concept of sense resp. sense vectors as intension concepts, by which move one may gain a generalized concept, so-to-say ‘‘graded analyticity’’, containing Carnapian strict analyticity for language systems as the extreme case of sense vectors with maximum value. Such graded sense may also be empirically investigated in the case of normal languages. In 4, I plead for my view that what the Lehrers take for communal languages are really collections of family-resembling idiolects of individual speakers and hypotheses of individual speakers about the idiolects of their fellow speakers. This move should free us from the fiction of, and sterile discussions about, the ‘‘true’’ meanings of words, but nevertheless keep normal language communication possible. As a concluding remark I propose in 5 to have both: normal languages from an empirical point of view, and codified languages from a logical reconstructionist one.

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Alfred Schramm
University of Graz

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