Character before content Paul M. Pietroski, university of maryland

Speakers can use sentences to make assertions. Theorists who reflect on this truism often say that sentences have linguistic meanings, and that assertions have propositional contents. But how are meanings related to contents? Are meanings less dependent on the environment? Are contents more independent of language? These are large questions, which must be understood partly in terms of the phenomena that lead theorists to use words like ‘meaning’ and ‘content’, sometimes in nonstandard ways. Opportunities for terminological confusion thus abound when talking about the relations among semantics, pragmatics, and truth. As Stalnaker (2003) stresses, in Quinean fashion, it is hard to separate the task of evaluating hypotheses in these domains from the task of getting clear about what the hypotheses are. But after some stage-setting, I suggest that we combine Stalnaker’s (1970, 1978, 1984, 1999, 2003) externalist account of content with Chomsky’s (1965, 1977, 1993, 2000a) internalist conception of meaning.
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