Holism, communication, and the emergence of public meaning: Lessons from an economic analogy

Philosophia 37 (1):133-147 (2009)
Holistic accounts of meaning normally incorporate a subjective dimension that invites the criticism that they make communication impossible, for speakers are bound to differ in ways the accounts take to be relevant to meaning, and holism generalises any difference over some words to a difference about all, and this seems incompatible with the idea that successful communication requires mutual understanding. I defend holism about meaning from this criticism. I argue that the same combination of properties (subjective origins of value, holism among values, and ultimate publicity of value) is exhibited by monetary value and take the emergence of equilibrium prices as a model for the emergence of public meanings.
Keywords Semantic holism  Public language  Communication
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DOI 10.1007/s11406-008-9143-7
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