Meaning and Content in Cognitive Science

In Richard Schantz (ed.), Prospects for Meaning. de Gruyter (2012)
Abstract
What are the prospects for a cognitive science of meaning? As stated, we think this question is ill posed, for it invites the conflation of several importantly different semantic concepts. In this paper, we want to distinguish the sort of meaning that is an explanandum for cognitive science—something we are going to call meaning—from the sort of meaning that is an explanans in cognitive science—something we are not going to call meaning at all, but rather content. What we are going to call meaning is paradigmatically a property of linguistic expressions or acts: what one’s utterance or sentence means, and what one means by it. What we are going to call content is a property of, among other things, mental representations and indicator signals. We will argue that it is a mistake to identify meaning with content, and that, once this is appreciated, some serious problems emerge for grounding meaning in the sorts of content that cognitive science is likely to provide.
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