No letters: Hobbes and 20th-century philosophy of language

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 38 (4):486-512 (2008)
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Abstract

The author argues that Thomas Hobbes anticipates a set of questions about meaning and semantic order that come to fuller expression in the 20th century, in the writings of W.V.O. Quine, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Donald Davidson, Jacques Derrida, and Richard Rorty. Despite their different points of departure, these 20th-century writers pose a number of profound questions about the conditions for the stability of meaning, and about the conditions that govern the use of the term “language” itself. Though the more recent debate benefits from a set of philosophical tools unavailable in the seventeenth century, the author further argues that Hobbes performs a number of maneuvers in his texts from which his 20th-century successors would profit

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