Literal meaning, conventional meaning and first meaning

Erkenntnis 40 (2):213 - 225 (1994)
Abstract
Literal meaning is often identified with conventional meaning. In A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs Donald Davidson argues (1) that literal meaning is distinct from conventional meaning, and (2) that literal meaning is identical to what he calls first meaning. In this paper it is argued that Davidson has established (1) but not (2), that he has succeeded in showing that there is a distinction between literal meaning and conventional meaning but has failed to see that literal meaning and first meaning are also distinct. This failure is somewhat surprising, since it is through a consideration of Davidson's notion of radical interpretation that the distinction between literal meaning and first meaning becomes apparent.
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