Philosophy | Seminar Philosophy of Language
P720 | 28463 | Ludwig, Kirk

Topic: Theories of Meaning

The seminar will be concerned with evaluating various specific
(sorts of) philosophical theories of meaning, and with the more
general questions of what a philosophical theory of meaning is,
whether there is a single or rather multiple projects that are or
can or should be pursued under this heading, what its, or their,
goals should be, and what form or forms it or they should take.  I
have in mind (at the moment) to look at theories of meaning under
five general headings, though when we get to details it will not
always possible to keep the boundary lines sharp.

First, we will be concerned with what I will call broadly Fregean
theories, which assign to all, or at least some theoretically
central expression types or tokens, apart from referring terms,
certain entities, variously called, e.g., senses, properties,
relations, intensions, functions, propositions, situations or states
of affairs, sets of possible worlds, or semantic values (or whatever
sort), and which seek to understand how language works and how we
understand the languages we speak in terms of such assignments.

Second, we will be concerned with truth conditional approaches to
the theory of meaning, the central exemplar of which for our
purposes will be Davidsonís semantic program, and its embedding in
the project of radical interpretation.  This sort of program seeks
to get as much or more insight into meaning as Fregean approaches
without having to carry their ontological baggage.

Third, we will be concerned with theories that focus attention on
the use of expressions in a linguistic community in seeking to
understand meaning.  In this connection we will consider such
Wittgensteinian inspired approaches as that of Paul Horwich.

Fourth, we will consider approaches which look to the psychological
etiology of the actions we count as instances of speech.  In this
category falls Griceís program of analyzing token utterance meaning
in terms of speaker intentions and extending this to an analysis of
type utterance meaning.   We may also have a look at Searleís rather
different account of meaning in terms of speakerís intentions.

Fifth, we will consider approaches that focus primary attention on
the concept of a linguistic convention.  Here we will look at
Lewisís analysis of convention and its application to meaning.  We
will also, however, look at the application of some recent work in
the theory of collective intentional behavior see whether it can
provide a deeper and more unified account of the nature of meaning
and linguistic convention than any of the traditional approaches
have managed to do.


Horwich, P. Meaning Clarendon Press, 1998.
Horwich, P. Reflections on Meaning Clarendon Press, 2006.
Davidson, D. Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation, Oxford
University Press, 2001.
Soames, S. What Is Meaning? Princeton University Press, 2010.

Various articles and selections made available on-line.


Grice, P. Studies in the Way of Words.  Harvard University Press,
Lewis, D. Convention: A Philosophical Study. Wiley-Blackwell, 2002.
Lepore, E. and Kirk Ludwig. Donald Davidson: Meaning, Truth,
Language and Reality. Oxford University Press, 2005.
Lepore, E. and Kirk Ludwig. Donald Davidsonís Truth-theoretic
Semantics. Oxford University Press, 2007.