Deflationism and Inferentialism

Abstract

After putting forward his celebrated deflationary theory of truth (Horwich, 1998a), Paul Horwich added a compatible theory of meaning (Horwich, 1998b). I am calling also this latter theory deflationism (although it may be a slightly misleading name in that, as Paul himself notes, his theory of meaning is deflationary more in the sense of being forced by the deflationary theory of truth than of being particularly deflationary in itself). In contrast, what I call inferentialism is the theory of meaning which I am going to advocate here – the view, in a nutshell, that meaning is a matter of inferential role. Various versions of this theory have been defended by Wilfried Sellars, Robert Brandom and a couple of other philosophers including myself. And the thesis I wish to present in this paper – to put it as a provocation right off – is that Paul is an inferentialist led astray. Both deflationism and inferentialism can be seen as elaborations of what can be called the use theory of meaning; for both seem to agree that.

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