David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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British Journal of Aesthetics 43 (1):1-17 (2003)
It has been suggested that we might treat the meaning of literary works as a matter of their function. In this paper I investigate what such an account might look like, given a defensible theory of artificial functions. I consider two teleological accounts of work meaning: one that takes the meaning of a literary work to be determined by its design function and one that takes meaning to depend on use function. It might be thought that an account centring on design functions would be a robustly intentionalist account; in contrast, I argue that such an account would take authors' intentions to be one factor among others determining the meaning of literary works. An account centring on use functions will be a robustly anti-interpretationalist account; but I argue that it is a less attractive version of the account, because it cannot distinguish between a reasonable and an unreasonable reading of a literary work.
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