Unwrinkling the carpet of meaning: Stephen Schiffer, the things we mean

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 37 (1):85-99 (2007)
Abstract
This article is a critical review of Stephen Schiffer’s monograph The Things We Mean . The text discusses some novel contributions made by Schiffer to the philosophy of meaning, in particular, Schiffer’s proposal for the reification of certain abstract entities and the application of his argument to the philosophical problem of vagueness in natural language. Special attention is paid both to Schiffer’s ingenious use of the notion of conservative extension , here employed as a criterion for distinguishing legitimate from illegitimate reifications and to Schiffer’s notion of vague partial belief and its relation to standard partial belief. Schiffer’s particular understanding of vagueness and its relation to the sorites paradox is also considered, with some remarks made concerning the relationship between these related philosophical problems and human perception. Key Words: meaning • vagueness • sorites • perception • conservative extension • fictional entities.
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