Philosophers have traditionally approached questions of meaning as part of the philosophy of language. In this book David Cooper broadens the analysis beyond linguistic meaning to offer a an account of meaning in general. He shows that not only words, sentences, and utterances in the linguistic domain can be described as meaningful but also items in such domains as art, ceremony, social action, and bodily gesture. Unlike much of the recent work in the philosophy of meaning, Cooper is not concerned with trying to develop a theory of (linguistic) meaning but with examining the meaning of meaning through an overview of the behaviour and scope of "meaning" and its cognates, addressing questions about the import, function, and status of meaning. This fuller account of meaning not only addresses questions of the meaning of meaning but also the issues or problems that answers to those questions generate, such as, Is meaning just a misleading "folk" term for something more basic, such as the causal conditions governing the production of certain noises and movements? Is meaning something that we should strive for or should we let our lives "just be," rather than mean? By taking the problem of meaning out of the technical philosophy of language and providing a more general account Cooper is able to offer new insights into the meaning of meaning that will be of interest not only to philosophers of language but to philosophers working in other areas, such as epistemology and metaphysics.
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