Inconsistency theories: The importance of being metalinguistic
This is a discussion of different ways of working out the idea that the semantic paradoxes show that natural languages are somehow “inconsistent”. I take the workable form of the idea to be that there are expressions such that a necessary condition of understanding them is that one be inclined to accept inconsistent claims (an conception also suggested by Matti Eklund). I then distinguish “simple” from “complex” forms of such views. On a simple theory, such expressions are meaningless, while on a complex theory they are not. I argue that complex theories are incompatible with truth conditional semantics and that simple theories are only coherent when the inconsistent claims are metalingusitic attributions of meaning. I close with a discussion of the version of the simple metalinguistic theory I have defended in “Understanding the Liar” and other papers.
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