This article addresses the phenomenology of aesthetic experience. It first, critically, considers one of the most influential approaches to the psychophysics of aesthetic perception, viz. neuroaesthetics. Hereafter, it outlines constitutive tenets of aesthetic perception in terms of a particular intentional relation to the object. The argument comes in three steps. First, I show the inadequacies of the neuroaesthetics of beauty in general and Semir Zeki’s and V.J. Ramachandran’s versions of it in particular. The neuroaesthetics of beauty falls short, because it (...) develops hypotheses of aesthetic experience which have no consequences for the understanding of what art is, that is, how artists produce visual meaning effects in their works. This is so because they make the rewarding feeling of beauty the cornerstone of aesthetic experience. Next, I show why and how aesthetic experience should be defined relative to its object and the tools for meaning-making specific to that object, and not relative to the feeling (of beauty) it may elicit. Finally, I sketch the import this fact may have on a research program in empirical aesthetics. (shrink)
In this new book, the author of the classic Truth presents an original theory of meaning, demonstrates its richness, and defends it against all contenders. He surveys the diversity of twentieth-century philosophical insights into meaning and shows that his theory can reconcile these with a common-sense view of meaning as derived from use. Meaning and its companion volume Truth (now published in a revised edition) together demystify two central issues in philosophy and offer a controversial but (...) compelling view of the relations between language, thought, and reality. (shrink)
What is it for marks or sounds to have meaning, and what is it for someone to mean something in producing them? Answering these and related questions, Schiffer explores communication, speech acts, convention, and the meaning of linguistic items in this reissue of a seminal work on the foundations of meaning. A new introduction takes account of recent developments and places his theory in a broader context.
Most people, including philosophers, tend to classify human motives as falling into one of two categories: the egoistic or the altruistic, the self-interested or the moral. According to Susan Wolf, however, much of what motivates us does not comfortably fit into this scheme. Often we act neither for our own sake nor out of duty or an impersonal concern for the world. Rather, we act out of love for objects that we rightly perceive as worthy of love--and it is these (...) actions that give meaning to our lives. Wolf makes a compelling case that, along with happiness and morality, this kind of meaningfulness constitutes a distinctive dimension of a good life. Written in a lively and engaging style, and full of provocative examples, Meaning in Life and Why It Matters is a profound and original reflection on a subject of permanent human concern. (shrink)
In _The Meaning of the Body_, Mark Johnson continues his pioneering work on the exciting connections between cognitive science, language, and meaning first begun in the classic _Metaphors We Live By_. Johnson uses recent research into infant psychology to show how the body generates meaning even before self-consciousness has fully developed. From there he turns to cognitive neuroscience to further explore the bodily origins of meaning, thought, and language and examines the many dimensions of meaning—including (...) images, qualities, emotions, and metaphors—that are all rooted in the body’s physical encounters with the world. Drawing on the psychology of art and pragmatist philosophy, Johnson argues that all of these aspects of meaning-making are fundamentally aesthetic. He concludes that the arts are the culmination of human attempts to find meaning and that studying the aesthetic dimensions of our experience is crucial to unlocking meaning's bodily sources. Throughout, Johnson puts forth a bold new conception of the mind rooted in the understanding that philosophy will matter to nonphilosophers only if it is built on a visceral connection to the world. “Mark Johnson demonstrates that the aesthetic and emotional aspects of meaning are fundamental—central to conceptual meaning and reason, and that the arts show meaning-making in its fullest realization. If you were raised with the idea that art and emotion were external to ideas and reason, you must read this book. It grounds philosophy in our most visceral experience.”—George Lakoff, author of _Moral Politics_. (shrink)
According to the dominant position among philosophers of language today, we can legitimately ascribe determinate contents to natural language sentences, independently of what the speaker actually means. This view contrasts with that held by ordinary language philosophers fifty years ago: according to them, speech acts, not sentences, are the primary bearers of content. François Recanati argues for the relevance of this controversy to the current debate about semantics and pragmatics. Is 'what is said' determined by linguistic conventions, or is it (...) an aspect of 'speaker's meaning'? Do we need pragmatics to fix truth-conditions? What is 'literal meaning'? To what extent is semantic composition a creative process? How pervasive is context-sensitivity? Recanati provides an original and insightful defence of 'contextualism', and offers an informed survey of the spectrum of positions held by linguists and philosophers working at the semantics/pragmatics interface. (shrink)
Many people claim that semantic content is normative, and that therefore naturalistic theories of content face a potentially insuperable difficulty. The normativity of content allegedly undermines naturalism by introducing a gap between semantic 'ought's and the explanatory resources of naturalism. I argue here that this problem is not ultimately pressing for naturalists. The normativity thesis, I maintain, is ambiguous; it could mean either that the content of a term prescribes a pattern of use, or that it merely determines which pattern (...) of use can be described as 'correct'. For the antinaturalist argument to go forward, content must be prescriptive. I argue, however, that it is not. Moreover, the thesis that content supplies standards for correct use is insufficient to supply a similar, a priori objection to naturalism. (shrink)
This paper argues that contemporary philosophical literature on meaning in life has important implications for the debate about our obligations to non-human animals. If animal lives can be meaningful, then practices including factory farming and animal research might be morally worse than ethicists have thought. We argue for two theses about meaning in life: that the best account of meaningful lives must take intentional action to be necessary for meaning—an individual’s life has meaning if and only (...) if the individual acts intentionally in ways that contribute to finally valuable states of affairs; and that this first thesis does not entail that only human lives are meaningful. Because non-human animals can be intentional agents of a certain sort, our account yields the verdict that many animals’ lives can be meaningful. We conclude by considering the moral implications of these theses for common practices involving animals. (shrink)
This paper defends the use-based metasemantic project against the problem of meaning without use, which allegedly shows the predictions of use-based metasemantic accounts to be indeterminate with respect to unusably long or complex expressions. This criticism is commonly taken to be decisive, prompting various retreats and contributing to the project’s eventual decline. Using metasemantic conventionalism as a case study, I argue the following: either such expressions do not belong to used languages or their meanings are uniquely determined by use. (...) Thus, the alleged problem of meaning without use offers no challenge to the use-based metasemantic project generally, nor to conventionalism in particular. (shrink)
I defend the normativity of meaning against recent objections by arguing for a new interpretation of the ‘ought’ relevant to meaning. Both critics and defenders of the normativity thesis have understood statements about how an expression ought to be used as either prescriptive or semantic. I propose an alternative view of the ‘ought’ as conveying the primitively normative attitudes speakers must adopt towards their uses if they are to use the expression with understanding.
Intentions matter. They have some kind of normative impact on our agency. Something goes wrong when an agent intends some end and fails to carry out the means she believes to be necessary for it, and something goes right when, intending the end, she adopts the means she thinks are required. This has even been claimed to be one of the only uncontroversial truths in ethical theory. But not only is there widespread disagreement about why this is so, there is (...) widespread disagreement about in what sense it is so. In this paper I explore an underdeveloped answer to the question of in what sense it is so, and argue that resolving an apparent difficulty with this view leads to an attractive picture about why it is so. (shrink)
In this important new collection, Gilbert Harman presents a selection of fifteen interconnected essays on fundamental issues at the center of analytic philosophy. The book opens with a group of four essays discussing basic principles of reasoning and rationality. The next three essays argue against the once popular idea that certain claims are true and knowable by virtue of meaning. In the third group of essays Harman presents his own view of meaning and the possibility of thinking in (...) language The final three essays investigate the nature of mind, developing further the themes already set out. Reasoning, Meaning, and Mind offers an integrated presentation of this rich and influential body of work. which Harman has developed over thirty years. (shrink)
Stephen Schiffer presents a groundbreaking account of meaning and belief, and shows how it can illuminate a range of crucial problems regarding language, mind, knowledge, and ontology. He introduces the new doctrine of 'pleonastic propositions' to explain what the things we mean and believe are. He discusses the relation between semantic and psychological facts, on the one hand, and physical facts, on the other; vagueness and indeterminacy; moral truth; conditionals; and the role of propositional content in information acquisition and (...) explanation. This radical new treatment of meaning will command the attention of everyone who works on fundamental questions about language, and will attract much interest from other areas of philosophy. (shrink)
According to Susan Wolf's hybrid view about meaning in life, a life is meaningful in virtue of subjective attraction to objectively valuable pursuits. Recently, several philosophers have presented counterexamples to the subjective element in Wolf's view. We argue that these examples are not clearly successful and present a modified version which is even stronger in the face of them. Finally, we offer some positive reasons for accepting a subjective condition on a meaningful life.
The concepts of meaning and mental content resist naturalistic analysis. This is because they are normative: they depend on ideas of how things ought to be. Allan Gibbard offers an expressivist explanation of these 'oughts': he borrows devices from metaethics to illuminate deep problems at the heart of the philosophy of language and thought.
It's an achievement of the last couple of decades that people who work in linguistic semantics and people who work in the philosophy of language have arrived at a friendly, de facto agreement as to their respective job descriptions. The terms of this agreement are that the semanticists do the work and the philosophers do the worrying. The semanticists try to construct actual theories of meaning (or truth theories, or model theories, or whatever) for one or another kind of (...) expression in one or another natural language; for example, they try to figure out how the temperature could be rising compatibly with the substitutivity of identicals. The philosophers, by contrast, keep an eye on the large, foundational issues, such as: what's the relation between sense and denotation; what's the relation between thought and language; whether translation is determinate; and whether life is like a fountain. Every now and then the philosophers and the semanticists are supposed to get together and compare notes on their respective progress. Or lack thereof. (shrink)
UNCLEAR as it is, the traditional doctrine that the notion "meaning" possesses the extension/intension ambiguity has certain typical consequences. The doctrine that the meaning of a term is a concept carried the implication that mean- ings are mental entities. Frege, however, rebelled against this "psy- chologism." Feeling that meanings are public property-that the same meaning can be "grasped" by more than one person and by persons at different times-he identified concepts (and hence "intensions" or meanings) with abstract (...) entities rather than mental entities. However, "grasping" these abstract entities was still an individual psychological act. None of these philosophers doubted that understanding a word (knowing its intension) was just a matter of being in a certain psychological state (somewhat in the way in which knowing how to factor numbers in one's head is just a mat- ter of being in a certain very complex psychological state). (shrink)
What makes a person's life meaningful? Thaddeus Metz offers a new answer to an ancient question which has recently returned to the philosophical agenda. He proceeds by examining what, if anything, all the conditions that make a life meaningful have in common. The outcome of this process is a philosophical theory of meaning in life. He starts by evaluating existing theories in terms of the classic triad of the good, the true, and the beautiful. He considers whether meaning (...) in life might be about such principles as fulfilling God's purpose, obtaining reward in an afterlife for having been virtuous, being attracted to what merits attraction, leaving the world a better place, connecting to organic unity, or transcending oneself by connecting to what is extensive. He argues that no extant principle satisfactorily accounts for the three-fold significance of morality, enquiry, and creativity, and that the most promising theory is a fresh one according to which meaning in life is a matter of intelligence contoured toward fundamental conditions of human existence. (shrink)
Wayne Davis presents a highly original approach to the foundations of semantics, showing how the so-called "expression" theory of meaning can handle names and other problematic cases of nondescriptive meaning. The fact that thoughts have parts ("ideas" or "concepts") is fundamental: Davis argues that like other unstructured words, names mean what they do because they are conventionally used to express atomic or basic ideas. In the process he shows that many pillars of contemporary philosophical semantics, from twin earth (...) arguments to the necessity of identity, are unfounded. (shrink)
This self-contained introduction to natural language semantics addresses the majortheoretical questions in the field. The authors introduce the systematic study of linguistic meaningthrough a sequence of formal tools and their linguistic applications. Starting with propositionalconnectives and truth conditions, the book moves to quantification and binding, intensionality andtense, and so on. To set their approach in a broader perspective, the authors also explore theinteraction of meaning with context and use (the semantics-pragmatics interface) and address some ofthe foundational questions, especially in (...) connection with cognition in general. They also introducea few of the most accessible and interesting ideas from recent research to give the reader a bit ofthe flavor of current work in semantics. The organization of this new edition is modular; after theintroductory chapters, the remaining material can be covered in flexible order. The book presupposesno background in formal logic (an appendix introduces the basic notions of set theory) and only aminimal acquaintance with linguistics. This edition includes a substantial amount of completely newmaterial and has been not only updated but redesigned throughout to enhance itsuser-friendliness. (shrink)
What is the relationship between meaning in life and happiness? In psychological research, subjective meaning and happiness are often contrasted with each other. I argue that while the objective meaningfulness of a life is distinct from happiness, subjective or felt meaning is a key constituent of happiness, which is best understood as a multidimensional affective condition. Measures of felt meaning should consequently be included in empirical studies of the causes and correlates of happiness.
The word 'ought' is one of the core normative terms, but it is also a modal word. In this book Matthew Chrisman develops a careful account of the semantics of 'ought' as a modal operator, and uses this to motivate a novel inferentialist account of why ought-sentences have the meaning that they have. This is a metanormative account that agrees with traditional descriptivist theories in metaethics that specifying the truth-conditions of normative sentences is a central part of the explanation (...) of their meaning. But Chrisman argues that this leaves important metasemantic questions about what it is in virtue of which ought-sentences have the meanings that they have unanswered. His appeal to inferentialism aims to provide a viable anti-descriptivist but also anti-expressivist answer to these questions. (shrink)
The meaning of the wave function has been a hot topic of debate since the early days of quantum mechanics. Recent years have witnessed a growing interest in this long-standing question. Is the wave function ontic, directly representing a state of reality, or epistemic, merely representing a state of knowledge, or something else? If the wave function is not ontic, then what, if any, is the underlying state of reality? If the wave function is indeed ontic, then exactly what (...) physical state does it represent? In this book, I aim to make sense of the wave function in quantum mechanics and find the ontological content of the theory. The book can be divided into three parts. The first part addresses the question of the nature of the wave function. After giving a comprehensive and critical review of the competing views of the wave function, I present a new argument for the ontic view in terms of protective measurements. In addition, I also analyze the origin of the wave function by deriving the free Schroedinger equation. The second part analyzes the ontological meaning of the wave function. I propose a new ontological interpretation of the wave function in terms of random discontinuous motion of particles, and give two main arguments supporting this interpretation. The third part investigates whether the suggested quantum ontology is complete in accounting for our definite experience and whether it needs to be revised in the relativistic domain. (shrink)
Professor Recanati's book is a major new contribution to the philosophy of language. Its point of departure is a refutation of two views central to the work of speech-act theorists such as Austin & Searle: that speech acts are essentially conventional, & that the force of an utterance can be made fully explicit at the level of sentence-meaning & is in principle a matter of linguistic decoding. The author argues that no utterance can be fully understood simply in terms (...) of its linguistic meaning, but that only a contextual inference can provide an adequate framework. In pursuit of this argument, he deals with the major issues of pragmatics & speech-act theory: conversational implicatives & indirect speech acts, the classification of illocutionary forces, the performative/constative distinction, delocutivity, locutionary meaning, non-literal uses of languages, the principle of expressibilty, & the difference between institutional & communicative illocutionary acts. (shrink)
David Charles presents a major new study of Aristotle's views on meaning, essence, necessity, and related topics. These interconnected views are central to Aristotle's metaphysics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of science, and are also highly relevant to current philosophical debates. Charles aims to reach a clear understanding of Aristotle's claims and arguments, to assess their truth, and to evaluate their importance to ancient and modern philosophy.
The meaning of 'most' can be described in many ways. We offer a framework for distinguishing semantic descriptions, interpreted as psychological hypotheses that go beyond claims about sentential truth conditions, and an experiment that tells against an attractive idea: 'most' is understood in terms of one-to-one correspondence. Adults evaluated 'Most of the dots are yellow', as true or false, on many trials in which yellow dots and blue dots were displayed for 200 ms. Displays manipulated the ease of using (...) a 'one-to-one with remainder' strategy, and a strategy of using the Approximate Number System to compare of (approximations of) cardinalities. Interpreting such data requires care in thinking about how meaning is related to verification. But the results suggest that 'most' is understood in terms of cardinality comparison, even when counting is impossible. (shrink)
Paul Horwich's main aim in Reflections on Meaning is to explain how mere noises, marks, gestures, and mental symbols are able to capture the world--that is, how words and sentences (in whatever medium) come to mean what they do, to stand for certain things, to be true or false of reality. His answer is a groundbreaking development of Wittgenstein's idea that the meaning of a term is nothing more than its use. While the chapters here have appeared as (...) individual essays, Horwich has edited them to make a continuous argument, focused on articulating and developing an important new conception of language. (shrink)
A four dimensional approach to Newtonian physics is used to distinguish between a number of different structures for Newtonian space-time and a number of different formulations of Newtonian gravitational theory. This in turn makes possible an in-depth study of the meaning and status of Newton's Law of Inertia and a detailed comparison of the Newtonian and Einsteinian versions of the Law of Inertia and the Newtonian and Einsteinian treatments of gravitational forces. Various claims about the status of Newton's Law (...) of Inertia are critically examined including these: the Law of Inertia is not an empirical law but a definition; it is not a law simpliciter but a family of schemata; it is a convention and gravitational forces exist only by convention; it is (or is not) redundant; the concepts it embodies can be dispensed with in favor of operationally defined entities; it is unique for a given theory. More generally, the paper demonstrates the importance of space-time structure for the philosophy of space and time and provides support for a realist interpretation of space-time theories. (shrink)
Emphasis on autonomy of texts presupposes that there are perennial concepts. But researchers' expectations may turn history into mythology of ideas; researchers forget that an agent cannot be described as doing something he could not understand as a description, and that thinking may be inconsistent. They will never uncover voluntary oblique strategies and by treating ideas as units will confuse sentences with statements. On the other hand, a contextual approach to the meaning of texts dismisses ideas as unimportant effects. (...) Neither method shows how what was said was meant is crucial for understanding. There are no perennial problems; philosophers of different times do not speak directly to us. But history of ideas helps us recognize the contingency of many of our beliefs. (shrink)
It is widely recognized that lives and activities can be meaningful or meaningless, but few have appreciated that they can also be anti-meaningful. Anti-meaning is the polar opposite of meaning. Our purpose in this essay is to examine the nature and importance of this new and unfamiliar topic. In the first part, we sketch four theories of anti-meaning that correspond to leading theories of meaning. In the second part, we argue that anti-meaning has significance not (...) only for our attempts to theorize about meaning in life, but also for our ability to lead meaningful lives in the modern world. (shrink)
This chapter critically explores contemporary philosophical understandings of whether meaning in life might depend on the presence or absence of an afterlife. After distinguishing various kinds of afterlife, it focuses most on the potential relevance of an eternal one, and considers at length the extreme but common views amongst philosophers that an eternal afterlife would be either necessary for a meaningful life or, conversely, sufficient for a meaningless one. It concludes by considering the plausibility of a more moderate view, (...) that an eternal afterlife could substantially enhance the meaning of our lives, even if they would not be meaningless without it. The aim of the chapter is not to defend some overall thesis about these positions, but rather to acquaint the reader with recent English-speaking philosophical discussions of them. (shrink)
What words mean plays a role in determining when they would be true; but not an exhaustive one. For that role leaves room for variation in truth conditions, with meanings fixed, from one speaking of words to another. What role meaning plays depends on what truth is; on what words, by virtue of meaning what they do are requied to have done (as spoken) in order to have said what is true. There is a deflationist position on what (...) truth is: the notion is exhausted by a given, specified, mass of 'platitudes', each to the effect that if words said (say) things to be thus, things must be that way. (The thought that thus-and-so is true iff thus-and-so.) These platitudes, and so deflationism, miss that aspect of truth that determines meaning's role. Truth requires words to have the uses which, given what they mean, they should have in the circumstances of their speaking. Through this link with use, when words would be true is a factor fixing what it is they said. (shrink)
According to Normativism, what an expression means has immediate implications for how a subject should or may employ that expression. Many view this thesis as imposing substantive constraints upon theories of linguistic meaning. In this paper, I shall not consider that view; instead, I shall address the prior issue of whether or not one should accept Normativism. Against certain recent prominent lines of attack common to a number of different anti‐Normativist discussions, I shall defend both the Normativist thesis and (...) an attempt to appeal to a certain platitude in its support. (shrink)
According to a widespread picture due to Kaplan, there are two levels of semantic value: character and content. Character is determined by the grammar, and it determines content with respect to context. In this chapter Recanati criticizes that picture on several grounds. He shows that we need more than two levels, and rejects the determination thesis: that linguistic meaning as determined by grammar determines content. Grammatical meaning does not determine assertoric content, he argues, but merely constrains it — (...) speaker’s meaning necessarily comes into play. On the alternative picture he offers, there are four basic levels, only one of which is determined by the grammar. Pragmatics is what enables the transition from each level to the next. (shrink)
He proposes, in his characteristically allusive and intriguing way, a politics of gestureOCoa politics of means without end.Among the topics Agamben takes up are the properly political paradigms of experience, as well as those generally not ...
This article surveys a range of current views on the semantics of imperatives, presenting them as more or less conservative with respect to the Truth-Conditional Paradigm in semantics. It describes and critiques views at either extreme of this spectrum: accounts on which the meaning of an imperative is a modal truth-condition, as well as various accounts that attempt to explain imperative meaning without making use of truth-conditions. It briefly describes and encourages further work on a family of views (...) lying somewhere in the middle. On such views, an imperative will semantically determine, without having as its meaning, a modal truth-condition, which figures centrally in accounting for various aspects of its meaning. (shrink)
This philosophical treatise on the foundations of semantics is a systematic effort to clarify, deepen, and defend the classical doctrine that words are conventional signs of mental states, principally thoughts and ideas, and that meaning consists in their expression. This expression theory of meaning is developed by carrying out the Gricean program, explaining what it is for words to have meaning in terms of speaker meaning, and what it is for a speaker to mean something in (...) terms of intention. But Grice's own formulations are rejected and alternatives developed. The foundations of the expression theory are explored at length, and the author develops the theory of thought as a fundamental cognitive phenomenon distinct from belief and desire, argues for the thesis that thoughts have parts, and identifies ideas or concepts with parts of thoughts. This book will appeal to students and professionals interested in the philosophy of language. (shrink)
Stefano Predelli explores the relationships between semantic notions of meaning and truth. He develops a 'Theory of Bias' in order to approach notorious semantic problems, offers a solution to Quine's 'Giorgione' puzzle and a new version of the demonstrative theory quotation, and defends a bare-boned approach to demonstratives and demonstrations.
What is truth? -- Varieties of deflationism -- A defense of minimalism -- The value of truth -- A minimalist critique of Tarski -- Kripke's paradox of meaning -- Regularities, rules, meanings, truth conditions, and epistemic norms -- Semantics : what's truth got to do with it? -- The motive power of evaluative concepts -- Ungrounded reason -- The nature of paradox -- A world without 'isms' -- The quest for reality -- Being and truth -- Provenance of chapters.