David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In R. E. Auxier & L. E. Hahn (eds.), The Philosophy of Michael Dummett. Open Court. 531--57 (2007)
Many philosophers have been attracted to the idea that meaning is, in some way or other, determined by use—chief among them, perhaps, Michael Dummett. But John McDowell has argued that Dummett, and anyone else who would seek to draw serious philosophical conclusions from this claim, must face a dilemma: Either the use of a sentence is characterized in terms of what it can be used to say, in which case profound philosophical consequences can hardly follow, or it will be impossible to make out the sense in which the use of language is a rational activity. The paper evaluates McDowell's arguments and, in so doing, attempts to offer an initial sketch of how the notion of use might be so understood that the claim that use determines meaning is a substantive one. (I do not take any stand here on whether one should accept that claim.)
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