On the autonomy of linguistic meaning

Mind 106 (422):217-243 (1997)
Abstract
Frege and many following him, such as Dummett, Geach, Stenius and Hare, have envisaged a role for illocutionary force indicators in a logically perpspicuous notation. Davidson has denied that such expressions are even possible on the ground that any putative force indicator would be used by actors and jokers to heighten the drama of their performances. Davidson infers from this objection a Thesis of the Autonomy of Linguistic Meaning: symbolic representation necessarily breaks any close tie with extra-linguistic purpose. A modified version of Frege's ideal is here propounded according to which all expression is a force indicator just in case it indicates force in any speech act in which it occurs. It is shown that attainment of such an ideal would not have deprived Frege of what he desired of a perspicuous notation. In elaborating this ideal we also espouse an illocutionary conception of validity and argue that the ideal is one to which English conforms: parenthetical speech act verbs in the first person present indicative active are force indicators in the modified sense. But the mere possibility of force indicators in the modified sense is enough to show Davidson's Autonomy Thesis to be at best at half-truth.
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