Review of Reflections on Meaning, by Paul Horwich [Book Review]

Philosophical Review 118 (1):131-134 (2009)
Abstract
Reflections on Meaning refines Paul Horwich’s use theory of meaning. Horwich holds that the meaning of a word is constituted by the nonsemantic property that best explains a certain law. For a given word, the law to be explained governs that word’s use by specifying the “acceptance conditions” of a privileged class of sentences containing the word (26). Horwich devotes considerable energy to details in Reflections on Meaning and focuses on especially pressing problems for his use theory of meaning. As a result the book’s topics run the gamut, and the connections between its chapters are not always strong. Rather than try to provide a synoptic overview, I’ll discuss three areas where it seems further clarification and detail could be fruitful: the distinction between semantic and nonsemantic properties, context sensitivity, and compositionality. Horwich thinks ours is a “fundamentally non-semantic world” (27), making it crucial that meaning be explained in nonsemantic terms. In particular, he insists that we “exclude from the analyzing-properties [of word meaning] anything that would itself require analysis in terms of meaning”: we can’t appeal to reference, belief, or intention, for example (37). But Horwich does not object to “accounts of meaning in psychological terms,” and his own theory relies heavily on a psychological, nonsemantic relation that Horwich calls “acceptance” (37). It’s difficult to see a substantive difference between this technical notion and belief. Acceptance, for Horwich, is “the psychological (but nonsemantic) relation to a sentence that is manifested in our relying on it as a premise in theoretical and practical inference” (40–41). Belief, on the other hand, is a relation with these properties except that it is semantic. Horwich’s other characterizations of acceptance don’t sharpen the distinction very much: “S accepts a sentence just in case that sentence, or its mental correlate, is in S’s belief box” (41); “believing a given proposition is nothing more than accepting some sentence that expresses it” (61)..
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
 
Download options
PhilPapers Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 11,365
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Similar books and articles
Analytics

Monthly downloads

Added to index

2009-01-28

Total downloads

30 ( #59,174 of 1,102,744 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

1 ( #296,833 of 1,102,744 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature


Discussion
Start a new thread
Order:
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.