In Manuel García-Carpintero & Max Kölbel (eds.), The Continuum Companion to the Philosophy of Language. Continuum International (2012)
Or, in Donald Davidson’s much quoted words: “What is it for words to mean what they do?” (Davidson 1984, xiii). Davidson himself suggested approaching this matter by asking two different questions: What form should a formal semantics take? And: What is it that makes a semantic theory correct for a particular language, i.e. what determines meaning? The second question concerns the place of semantic facts in a wider metaphysical space: How do these facts relate to non-semantic facts? Can they be reduced to non-semantic facts, do they merely supervene on non-semantic facts, or are they something like metaphysical primitives? In the second half of the Twentieth Century, philosophers of language have been especially interested in the relation between semantic facts and facts that can be described in naturalistic terms, and different versions of reductive and non-reductive naturalism have been discussed. Another, though related, debate concerns the question whether the facts determining meaning (and thought content) are facts in some sense internal, or external, to the subject saying or thinking something
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