Edited by Steven Gross (Johns Hopkins University)
About this topic

Words and phrases have meaning. But what are meanings? Maybe they are the objects and properties that our words are about. But then ‘Mark Twain’ and ‘Samuel Clemens’ would have the same meaning, even though one and the same person can affirm the sentence ‘Mark Twain was a great writer’ but reject the sentence ‘Samuel Clemens was a great writer.’ And what makes it the case that some squiggles or sounds are meaningful? Perhaps it’s because of the mental states of language users, but then in virtue of what do those states have their meaning or content? Might the explanation run in the other direction, so that our mental states have content only because we are language users? Also, can our grasp of what words mean explain our basic logical and mathematical knowledge and otherwise underwrite a compelling conception of the a priori? Perhaps it’s because we know what ‘and’ means that we know that ‘A and B’ is true just in case ‘A’ is true and ‘B’ is true. This category subsumes work that ranges over these and other questions concerning meaning and its bearing on a variety of philosophical topics.

Key works

Frege 1892 and Russell 1905 are seminal works on meaning and reference. Kripke 1980 and Putnam 1975 argue, among other things, that semantic properties are determined by factors external to language users. Grice 1957 and Davidson 1973 explore the relation of language and thought. Quine 1951 rejects the idea of philosophically interesting truths in virtue of meaning and knowledge in virtue of knowledge of meaning.

Introductions Speaks 2010 provides a survey with references. Richard 2003 is a good collection of articles.
Related categories
Intentionality* (10,447 | 1,974)
History/traditions: Meaning

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Material to categorize
  1. Opérations mentales et théories sémantiques. Le rôle du kantisme.Lia Formigari - 1992 - Histoire Epistémologie Langage 14 (2):153-173.
  2. Kathleen Dow Magnus, Hegel and the Symbolic Mediation of Spirit . Pp. 291. ISBN 0791450465. £15.00.Victoria I. Burke - 2002 - Hegel Bulletin 23 (1-2):138-142.
    Kathleen Dow Magnus' Hegel and the Symbolic Mediation of Spirit is a welcome exposition of the role of the symbol in Hegel's philosophy, and it is an important contribution to scholarship on Hegel's philosophy of language, aesthetics, and theology. Magnus is concerned to provide an alternative to the view that Hegel fails to recognize the value of the symbol in the course of privileging the sign. As Jacques Derrida writes, "The sign, as the unity of the signifying body and the (...)
  3. A Semantic Analysis of Russellian Simple Type Theory.Sten Lindström - 1986 - In Paul Needham & Jan Odelstad (eds.), Changing Positions, Essays Dedicated to Lars Lindahl on the Occassion of His Fiftieth Birthday. Uppsala:
    As emphasized by Alonzo Church and David Kaplan (Church 1974, Kaplan 1975), the philosophies of language of Frege and Russell incorporate quite different methods of semantic analysis with different basic concepts and different ontologies. Accordingly we distinguish between a Fregean and a Russellian tradition in intensional semantics. The purpose of this paper is to pursue the Russellian alternative and to provide a language of intensional logic with a model-theoretic semantics. We also discuss the so-called Russell-Myhill paradox that threatens simple Russellian (...)
  4. Hyperintensional Semantics: A Fregean Approach.Mattias Skipper & Jens Christian Bjerring - forthcoming - Synthese:1-24.
    In this paper, we present a new semantic framework designed to capture a distinctly cognitive or epistemic notion of meaning akin to Fregean senses. Traditional Carnapian intensions are too coarse-grained for this purpose: they fail to draw semantic distinctions between sentences that, from a Fregean perspective, differ in meaning. This has led some philosophers to introduce more fine-grained hyperintensions that allow us to draw semantic distinctions among co-intensional sentences. But the hyperintensional strategy has a flip-side: it risks drawing semantic distinctions (...)
  5. Significado e Cognição. O Legado de Frege.João Branquinho - 2016 - In Léo Peruzzo Júnior E. Bortolo Valle (ed.), Filosofia da Linguagem. Curitiba, PR, Brasil: pp. 9 - 52.
    Queremos neste ensaio caracterizar de modo introdutório o essencial do legado de Gottlob Frege para a Filosofia da Linguagem contemporânea, identificando e caracterizando os traços distintivos mais genéricos de uma teoria do significado (ou conteúdo semântico) inspirada nas suas ideias seminais e contrastando-a com outras concepções actuais influentes acerca do significado, em especial as posições sobre o conteúdo singular (conteúdo expresso por nomes próprios e outros termos singulares) remotamente inspiradas em ideias de John Stuart Mill.
  6. Cognition and Content.João Branquinho - 2005 - Lisboa, Portugal: Centro de Filosofia da Universidade de Lisboa.
    Os tópicos e problemas filosóficos discutidos no volume são de natureza bastante variada: a natureza da complexidade computacional no processamento de uma língua natural; a relação entre o significado linguístico e o sentido Fregeano; as conexões entre a a agência e o poder; o conteúdo semântico da ficção; a explicação dos impasses éticos; a natureza dos argumentos cépticos; as conexões entre as dissociações cognitivas e o carácter modular da mente; a relação entre a referência e o significado. Estes tópicos deixam-se (...)
  7. Indétermination de la traduction et intentionnalité.Denis Fisette - 1993 - Philosophie 38:58-90.
  8. The Dilemma Imposed on the Realist by Putnam's and Kripkensteinian Argument.Henrik Sova - 2017 - Studia Philosophica Estonica 10 (1):62-82.
    In this article, I have two aims. Firstly, I argue that Hilary Putnam's model theoretic indeterminacy argument against external realism and Saul Kripke's so-called Kripkensteinian argument against semantic realism have the same dialectical structure and the same conclusion---both force the opponent to face the same dilemma. Namely: either adopt meaning minimalism or postulate unobservable semantic facts. Secondly, I analyze more closely the first horn of the dilemma---meaning minimalism. This is the position according to which there are no truth conditions for (...)
  9. Why Philosophers Shouldn’T Do Semantics.Herman Cappelen - 2017 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 8 (4):743-762.
    The linguistic turn provided philosophers with a range of reasons for engaging in careful investigation into the nature and structure of language. However, the linguistic turn is dead. The arguments for it have been abandoned. This raises the question: why should philosophers take an interest in the minutiae of natural language semantics? I’ll argue that there isn’t much of a reason - philosophy of language has lost its way. Then I provide a suggestion for how it can find its way (...)
  10. Rethinking Language, Mind, and Meaning, by Scott Soames. [REVIEW]Wayne A. Davis - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (4):825-828.
  11. What Was the Syntax‐Semantics Debate in the Philosophy of Science About?Sebastian Lutz - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 95 (2):319-352.
    The debate between critics of syntactic and semantic approaches to the formalization of scientific theories has been going on for over 50 years. I structure the debate in light of a recent exchange between Hans Halvorson, Clark Glymour, and Bas van Fraassen and argue that the only remaining disagreement concerns the alleged difference in the dependence of syntactic and semantic approaches on languages of predicate logic. This difference turns out to be illusory.
  12. On the Connection Between Semantic Content and the Objects of Assertion.Una Stojnić - 2017 - Philosophical Topics 45 (2):163-179.
    The Rigidity Thesis states that no rigid term can have the same semantic content as a nonrigid one. Drawing on Dummett, Evans, and Lewis, Stanley rejects the thesis since it relies on an illicit identification of compositional semantic content and the content of assertion. I argue that Stanley’s critique of the Rigidity Thesis fails since it places constraints on assertoric content that cannot be satisfied by any plausible notion of content appropriately related to compositional semantic content. For similar reasons, I (...)
  13. Finding Meaning.Emma Borg - unknown
    Philosophical questions about how language imparts meaning impact on our understanding of everything from machine translation to legal statutes. This article outlines the key theories and explores why experts still can't agree.
  14. Naturalist Semantics and the Appeal to Structure.Robert De Gaynesford - unknown
  15. Naturalist Semantics and the Appeal to Structure.Robert De Gaynesford - unknown
  16. Naturalist Semantics and the Appeal to Structure.Robert De Gaynesford - unknown
  17. What Makes Logical Truths True?Constantin C. Brîncuș - 2016 - Logos and Episteme 7 (3): 249-272.
    The concern of deductive logic is generally viewed as the systematic recognition of logical principles, i.e., of logical truths. This paper presents and analyzes different instantiations of the three main interpretations of logical principles, viz. as ontological principles, as empirical hypotheses, and as true propositions in virtue of meanings. I argue in this paper that logical principles are true propositions in virtue of the meanings of the logical terms within a certain linguistic framework. Since these principles also regulate and control (...)
  18. Naturalist Semantics and the Appeal to Structure.Robert De Gaynesford - unknown
  19. Must a Semantic Minimalist Be a Semantic Internalist?Emma Borg - unknown
  20. A Performadox in Truth-Conditional Semantics.Steven E. BoËr - 1980 - Linguistics and Philosophy 4:71.
    An argument is developed at some length to show that any semantical theory which treats superficially nonperformative sentences as being governed by performative prefaces at some level of underlying structure must either leave those sentences semantically uninterpreted or assign them the wrong truth-conditions. Several possible escapes from this dilemma are examined; it is tentatively concluded that such hypotheses as the Ross-Lakoff-Sadock "Performative Analysis" should be rejected despite their attractions.
  21. Insensitive Semantics: A Defense of Semantic Minimalism and Speech Act Pluralism.Herman Cappelen & Ernie Lepore - 2006 - Linguistics and Philosophy 29 (1):1-26.
  22. Semantic Reference Not by Convention?Jessica Pepp - 2009 - Abstracta 5 (2):116-125.
    The aim of this paper is to approach a basic question in semantics: what is semantic reference? Or, what is reference, insofar as the notion has a role in the semantics of natural language? I highlight two ways of conceiving of semantic reference, which offer different starting points for answering the question. One of these conceptions – what I call the conventional conception of semantic reference – is the standard conception. I propose an alternative to this conception: what I call (...)
  23. A Note on M. Barbieri’s “Scientific Biosemiotics”.Marc Champagne - 2009 - American Journal of Semiotics 25 (1/2):155-161.
  24. ‘Meaning’ as a Sociological Concept: A Review of the Modeling, Mapping and Simulation of the Communication of Knowledge and Meaning. [REVIEW]L. Leydesdorff - 2011 - Social Science Information 50 (3-4):391-413.
  25. Limitations of the Knowledge Interchange Format as a General Purpose Content Communication Language.Andreas Strotmann - 2004 - Journal of Intelligent Systems 13 (1):1-14.
  26. Word Meaning, Sentence Meaning, and Syntactic Meaning.John R. Taylor, René Dirven & Hubert Cuyckens - 2003 - In John R. Taylor, René Dirven & Hubert Cuyckens (eds.), Cognitive Approaches to Lexical Semantics. Mouton de Gruyter.
  27. A Controlled Natural Language for the Semantic Web.Rolf Schwitter - 2008 - Journal of Intelligent Systems 17 (1-3):125-142.
  28. Complementarity and Antinomy.Teodor Dima - 2011 - Logos and Episteme 2 (4):639-652.
    In this study we present some contributions of the logician and philosopher Petre Botezatu, who turned the idea of complementarity,formulated by Niels Bohr for the interpretation of the wave-particle structure of the quantum world, into an ordering principle of his work. Thus, he understood general logic as a synthesis in which the style of classical logic is complementary to the style of the 20th century logic. He didn’t give up either the mathematical modelling of logical language or the conceptual description (...)
  29. Externalizing Content.Matjaž Potrč - 1989 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 36:179-191.
    Crude externalist theory of content is realistic and teleologically minded. On its basis, predicate notation can render the content's structure. Davidson's views concerning content are able to refine this theory. They are sophisticated externalist by being based on the implicit rejection of the two claims: the plausibility of the organismenvironment dualism and the utility of epistemic intermediaries. It might be well impossible to defend a plausible version of extemalism without such a kind of refmement.
  30. Game-Theoretical Semantics and Referential Inscrutability.Francisco Calvo Garzón - 2005 - NTU Philosophical Review 30:91-122.
    This paper consists of two parts. First, I shall consider two defences of Quine´s polemical Thesis of the Inscrutability of Reference put forward by Hookway, and Calvo Garzón, respectively. Then, I shall consider an extension of Quine´s succinct behavioural criteria of Radical Translationsuggested by Hintikka´s Game-Theoretical Semantics. I shall argue that Hintikka´s semantics suggest behavioural criteria which we can use to constrain perverse semantic theories. In particular, I shall try to show that whilst Hintikka´s behavioural data tells against Hookway´s proposal, (...)
  31. Not Even.Chris Collins - 2016 - Natural Language Semantics 24 (4):291-303.
    :This paper proposes an analysis of the semantics of even that is consistent with the assumptions about the syntax and semantics of negation in Collins and Postal. First, I review the distribution of negation, showing how negation may modify quantificational expressions where it gives rise to scope freezing effects. Second, I discuss the fact that even-phrases can be modified by negation, as in Not even John is there. On the basis of this fact, I argue that even is a quantifier. (...)
  32. 7. Meaning Postulates and Rules of Argumentation: Remarks Concerning the Pragmatic Tie Between Meaning and Truth.Kuno Lorenz - 2010 - In Logic, Language and Method – on Polarities in Human Experience: Philosophical Papers. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 71-80.
  33. Cyberpunk Entre Literatura E Matemática: Processos Comunicacionais da Literatura Massiva Na Crítica Científica da Realidade.Rafael Duarte Oliveira Venancio - 2013 - Conexão 12 (23).
    O presente artigo busca definir o movimento literário cyberpunk a partir da sua influência teórica vinda do campo da matemática. Utilizando a teorização interna ao movimento, centrada em Rudy Rucker, o objetivo aqui é entender como os campos da análise e dos fundamentos da matemática criam uma importante distinção entre os cyberpunks e as demais distopias literárias. Com isso, há a pressuposição de um movimento de uma crítica sociomatemática feita pelos cyberpunks cujos conceitos matemáticos tornam possível criticar o tempo presente, (...)
  34. Direct Reference: From Language to Thought.George M. Wilson & Francois Recanati - 1995 - Philosophical Review 104 (1):159.
  35. Communication and Meaning.David H. Helman & Andrew J. I. Jones - 1985 - Philosophical Review 94 (3):421.
  36. Theory and Meaning.Peter Achinstein & David Papineau - 1982 - Philosophical Review 91 (3):493.
  37. Meaning and Use.Simon Blackburn & Avishai Margalit - 1982 - Philosophical Review 91 (1):128.
  38. The Meaning of Illegitimacy.Kathleen V. Wilkes & J. Teichman - 1981 - Philosophical Review 90 (2):310.
  39. Meaning, Reference and Necessity.Colin McGinn & Simon Blackburn - 1977 - Philosophical Review 86 (1):105.
  40. Meaning.Roger Wertheimer & Stephen R. Schiffer - 1975 - Philosophical Review 84 (2):267.
  41. Meaning and Truth in Religion.Robert C. Coburn & William A. Christian - 1966 - Philosophical Review 75 (3):395.
  42. Semantic Analysis.Virgil C. Aldrich & Paul Ziff - 1962 - Philosophical Review 71 (2):243.
  43. Meaning, Communication, and Value.Virgil C. Aldrich & Paul Kecskemeti - 1954 - Philosophical Review 63 (1):139.
  44. The Meaning of Truth.George Trumbull Ladd & William James - 1910 - Philosophical Review 19 (1):63.
  45. Knowledge of Meaning: An Introduction to Semantic Theory.Zoltan Gendler Szabo, Richard Larson & Gabriel Segal - 1997 - Philosophical Review 106 (1):122.
  46. Contributions to the Semantic History of SaṃnyāsaContributions to the Semantic History of Samnyasa.Patrick Olivelle - 1981 - Journal of the American Oriental Society 101 (3):265.
  47. The Meaning of Ātmahano Janāḥ in Īśā Upaniṣad 3The Meaning of Atmahano Janah in Isa Upanisad 3.Arvind Sharma & Katherine K. Young - 1990 - Journal of the American Oriental Society 110 (4):595.
  48. The Meaning of Prāṇa and Apāna in the Taittirīya-BrāhmaṇaThe Meaning of Prana and Apana in the Taittiriya-Brahmana.P. -E. Dumont - 1957 - Journal of the American Oriental Society 77 (1):46.
  49. Rethinking Language, Mind, and Meaning.Scott Soames - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (9):2529-2532.
  50. Wittgenstein and Interreligious Disagreement: A Philosophical and Theological Perspective.Gorazd Andrejč - forthcoming - Palgrave-Macmillan.
    This book critically examines three distinct interpretations of Ludwig Wittgenstein, those of George Lindbeck, David Tracy, and David Burrell, while paying special attention to the topic of interreligious disagreement. In theological and philosophical work on interreligious communication, Ludwig Wittgenstein has been interpreted in very different, sometimes contradicting ways. This is partly due to the nature of Wittgenstein’s philosophical investigation, which does not consist of a theory nor does it posit theses about religion, but includes several, varying conceptions of religion. In (...)
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