Rethinking Language, Mind, and Meaning (Carl G. Hempel Lecture Series)
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In this book, Scott Soames argues that the revolution in the study of language and mind that has taken place since the late nineteenth century must be rethought. The central insight in the reigning tradition is that propositions are representational. To know the meaning of a sentence or the content of a belief requires knowing which things it represents as being which ways, and therefore knowing what the world must be like if it is to conform to how the sentence or belief represents it. These are truth conditions of the sentence or belief. But meanings and representational contents are not truth conditions, and there is more to propositions than representational content. In addition to imposing conditions the world must satisfy if it is to be true, a proposition may also impose conditions on minds that entertain it. The study of mind and language cannot advance further without a conception of propositions that allows them to have contents of both of these sorts. Soames provides it.
He does so by arguing that propositions are repeatable, purely representational cognitive acts or operations that represent the world as being a certain way, while requiring minds that perform them to satisfy certain cognitive conditions. Because they have these two types of content--one facing the world and one facing the mind--pairs of propositions can be representationally identical but cognitively distinct. Using this breakthrough, Soames offers new solutions to several of the most perplexing problems in the philosophy of language and mind.
‘meaning’ that must be distinguished. The first sense of meaning is strictly Millian; it is the object or kind that a Millian term stands for. This is what the term contributes to what—in the terminology of contemporary theories of language—is called “the semantic content” of, or “the proposition semantically expressed by,” sentences containing it. The second sense of ‘meaning’ is one in which the meaning of a term—or of a phrase or sentence containing it—is a set of conditions that must be
these propositions as having been asserted or communicated. As I indicated in chapter 6, this can pose an explanatory problem in communicative situations involving agents with differing cognitive access to the propositions to be communicated. The problem won’t typically arise in cases involving (i)—the entertainment of propositions as targets of further predications—because the communication envisioned, involving assertion, reports of assertion, and the like, presupposes that the parties can
distinguish representationally identical propositions that differ as to whether performing those acts (entertaining those propositions) requires one to recognize recurrences of propositional constituents, requires one not to recognize recurrences, or imposes no requirement of recognition or nonrecognition of recurrences. We have seen that which of these propositions one accepts can mark- edly affect the rationally justified inferences one is able to draw. We have also seen that, in addition
corresponding utterance of (2c) would express a truth. 2a. Because Mary only recently came to believe that Venus was a planet in the solar system and Venus was smaller than Earth, she only recently came to believe that some planet in the solar system was smaller than Earth.2 2b. Because Mary only recently came to believe that Hesperus was a planet in the solar system and Phosphorus was smaller than 2 Assume, for the sake of argument, that Mary is ignorant about Mars and Mercury. 160
meaning of a sen- tence, the assertion it is used to make, and the beliefs it is used to express. After Kripke and Putnam it appeared that no plausible assignment of descriptive meanings to names and natural kind terms could vindicate T1 and T2. Although this led both to give up T1, neither gave up T2, despite being unable to provide a plausible nondescriptive concep- tion of meaning that would vindicate it. Initially, Kripke wrote as if it were clear that some version of T2 was true, while