Review text: "Ronald W. Langacker is universally acclaimed as one of the founding fathers of the cognitive linguistics movement. His pioneering efforts towards developing a meaning-oriented, usage-based theory of grammar have given cognitive linguistics many of its key concepts, and his theory of Cognitive Grammar is not only one of the cornerstones of cognitive linguistics, it is also a magnificent achievement in its own right." Dirk Geeraerts, January 2009.
This dissertation defends an account of linguistic meaning and propositional mental content in terms of linguistic practice. In other words, it clarifies and defends the counterintuitive claim that linguistic communication is prior, rather than posterior, in the order of explanation to the semantic features of thought and talk. The project's point of departure is Robert Brandom's comprehensive recent theory of linguistic practice. Two core theses characterize Brandom's theory. First, meaning and content are to be understood in terms of the norms (...) of inference relating the sentences of a natural language to each other. Second norms of inference are to be explained in terms of certain normative attitudes that speakers take towards each other implicitly in linguistic practice. In the sense of the second explanatory thesis, linguistic practice explains meaning and content qua norms of inference, according to Brandom. ;For the sake of my project I agree with both theses. However, I take issue with Brandom's efforts to substantiate the second, explanatory thesis. The negative parts of my project argue that Brandom's specific account of meaning and content in terms of implicit normative attitudes is in some respects underdeveloped and in other respects problem laden. It therefore needs both elaboration and revision. The positive parts of my project offer an alternative account of meaning and content in terms of implicit non-native attitudes---an account that avoids the shortcomings of Brandom's approach. The heart of this alternative account is the notion of a we-attitude, borrowed from Wilfrid Sellars' theory of moral judgments. I argue that if speakers take such we-attitudes towards the linguistic performances they exchange, they both take certain implicit normative attitudes towards each other and recognize themselves as bound by the corresponding norms. And normative attitudes thus conceived suffice, I argue, to explain norms of inference themselves, hence meaning and content. Central themes of this project are, among other, the objectivity of semantic norms, the possibility to reduce semantic norms to normative attitudes, and the holistic character of meaning. (shrink)
Argues that information, in the animal behaviour or evolutionary context, is correlation/covariation. The alternation of red and green traffic lights is information because it is (quite strictly) correlated with the times when it is safe to drive through the intersection; thus driving in accordance with the lights is adaptive (causative of survival). Daylength is usefully, though less strictly, correlated with the optimal time to breed. Information in the sense of covariance implies what is adaptive; if an animal can infer what (...) the information implies, it increases its chances of survival. (shrink)
The aesthetic appreciation of both art and nature is often, in fact, judged to be more – and less – serious. For instance, both natural objects and art objects can be hastily and unthinkingly perceived, and they can be perceived with full and thoughtful attention. In the case of art, we are better equipped to sift the trivial from the serious appreciation; for the existence of a corpus, and a continuing practice, of criticism of the arts – for all their (...) internal disputatiousness – furnishes us with relevant criteria. In the case of nature, we have far less guidance. Yet it must matter, there too, to distinguish trivial from serious encounters. When we seek to defend areas of “outstanding natural beauty” against depredations, it matters greatly what account we can give of the appreciation of that beauty: how its value can be set alongside competing and vociferously promoted values involved in industry, commerce and urban expansion. If we wish to attach very high value to the appreciation of natural beauty, we must be able to show that more is involved in such appreciation than the pleasant, unfocused enjoyment of a picnic place, or a fleeting and distanced impression of countryside through a touring-coach window, or obligatory visits to standard viewpoints or snapshot-points.That there is much work to be done on this subject is of course due to the comparative neglect of natural beauty in recent and fairly recent aesthetics. (shrink)
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