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Philosophy of Language

Philosophy of Language

Scott Soames
Copyright Date: July 2010
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Philosophy of Language
    Book Description:

    In this book one of the world's foremost philosophers of language presents his unifying vision of the field--its principal achievements, its most pressing current questions, and its most promising future directions. In addition to explaining the progress philosophers have made toward creating a theoretical framework for the study of language, Scott Soames investigates foundational concepts--such as truth, reference, and meaning--that are central to the philosophy of language and important to philosophy as a whole. The first part of the book describes how philosophers from Frege, Russell, Tarski, and Carnap to Kripke, Kaplan, and Montague developed precise techniques for understanding the languages of logic and mathematics, and how these techniques have been refined and extended to the study of natural human languages. The book then builds on this account, exploring new thinking about propositions, possibility, and the relationship between meaning, assertion, and other aspects of language use.

    An invaluable overview of the philosophy of language by one of its most important practitioners, this book will be essential reading for all serious students of philosophy.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3393-1
    Subjects: Philosophy, Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    This book focuses on two main facets of the philosophy of language: its contribution to the development of a theoretical framework for studying language, and the investigation of foundational concepts—truth, reference, meaning, possibility, propositions, assertion, and implicature—that are needed for this investigation, and important for philosophy as a whole. Part 1 traces major milestones in the development of the theoretical framework for studying the semantic structure of language. Part 2 explores new ways of thinking about what meaning is, and how it is distinguished from aspects of language use.

    Philosophy of language is, above all else, the midwife...

  5. PART ONE: A Century of Work in the Philosophy of Language

    • CHAPTER ONE The Logical Study of Language
      (pp. 7-32)

      Although philosophers have long speculated about language, it wasn’t until the late nineteenth century that the philosophy of language emerged as a self-conscious and systematic area of study. Four publications by Gottlob Frege marked this emergence. Two of these—Begriffsschrift (Concept-Script) (1879) and Grundgesetze der Arithmetik (The Basic Laws of Arithmetic) (1893/1903)—focused on logic and the foundations of mathematics. Their aims were (i) to set out a formalized language and proof procedure sufficient for mathematics, and (ii) to derive arithmetic from the axioms of, and definitions available in, this system—and thereby to provide a logical basis for all...

    • CHAPTER TWO Truth, Interpretation, and Meaning
      (pp. 33-49)

      In the 1930s, the great logician Alfred Tarski published two articles that became classics. In “The Concept of Truth in Formalized Languages” (1935) he defines truth for formal languages of logic and mathematics. In “On the Concept of Logical Consequence” (1936) he uses that definition to give what is essentially the modern “semantic” (model-theoretic) definition of logical consequence. In addition to their evident significance for logic and metamathematics, these results have come to play an important role in the study of meaning. Since this extrapolation wasn’t part of Tarski’s original motivation, the genesis of his results is worth rehearsing.


    • CHAPTER THREE Meaning, Modality, and Possible Worlds Semantics
      (pp. 50-76)

      Whereas Davidsonians apply semantic ideas from extensional logic to natural language, possible worlds semanticists apply similar ideas from modal logic. The initial aim of these systems was to introduce an operator ‘’ into languages of the predicate calculus with roughly the meaning “it is a logical/analytic/necessary truth that”—so that prefixing it to a standard logical truth would produce a truth. Since the operator can be iterated, the resulting logic is more complex than that. However, apart from persistent problems of interpretation—What is this notion of logical/analytic/necessary truth that is to be captured?—the underlying technical ideas are clear....

    • CHAPTER FOUR Rigid Designation, Direct Reference, and Indexicality
      (pp. 77-106)

      The contributions of Saul Kripke and David Kaplan discussed in this chapter are leading elements of a body of work that changed the course of analytic philosophy. Prior to it, T1–T5 were widely accepted; afterwards they were not.

      T1. The meaning of a term is never its referent, but rather is a descriptive sense that provides necessary and sufficient conditions for determining reference.

      T2. Since the meaning of a word, as used by a speaker s, is the sense s mentally associates with it, if two words have the same meaning and s understands both, then s should be...

  6. PART TWO: New Directions

    • CHAPTER FIVE The Metaphysics of Meaning: Propositions and Possible Worlds
      (pp. 109-130)

      Apart from truth and reference, no notions are more central to theories of meaning and the philosophy of language than proposition and possible world. However, they are also sources of controversy. Propositions are bearers of truth, semantic contents of sentences, and that which we assert, believe, and know. Possible worlds—aka ways the world could have been—are parameters to which truth is relativized. The controversy about propositions and possible worlds concerns whether they exist at all, what sorts of things they are (if they do exist), and which, if either, is explanatorily fundamental. For some, e.g., Davidson, theories of...

    • CHAPTER SIX Apriority, Aposteriority, and Actuality
      (pp. 131-144)

      Much philosophical reasoning consists in tracing “modal connections” among sentences and propositions, and drawing conclusions from, or about, them. The connections are truth guarantees in which, for various senses of ‘must’, one set of sentences or propositions must be true if other sets of sentences or propositions are. When such a relation holds between two sets, the former is a consequence of the latter. If a set is a consequence of the empty set, its members must be true, without qualification. When the bearers are sentences, the relevant modalities are logical and analytic truth, and consequence. When they are propositions,...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN The Limits of Meaning
      (pp. 145-174)

      On the traditional view, the meaning of a nonindexical (declarative) sentence is the proposition it expresses, while the meaning of a sentence containing an indexical, or other context-sensitive expression, is a rule for determining the different propositions it expresses in different contexts of utterance. In short, the meaning of S is a function from contexts C to propositions expressed by S in C—where, if S is nonindexical, the function yields the same proposition for every C. This proposition is often described as what S “says” in C. Although it is really speakers, not sentences, that say things, this informal...

  7. References
    (pp. 175-186)
  8. Index
    (pp. 187-190)