Meaning, referring, and the problem of universals

Inquiry 4 (1-4):107 – 122 (1961)
The problem of universals, at least in its modern form, often begins from questions which seem, in principle, decidable by the sorts of experimental procedures carried on in descriptive semantics, or in applied linguistics. These are questions about the role which pronouns, common nouns, adjectives etc. play in natural languages. But these apparently scientific questions are interpreted by philosophers in ways which give rise to metaphysical conundrums ? to problems which arc not in principle decidable. The paper traces some of the factors which impel philosophers to interpret these questions in the way they do. The author's thesis is that questions about the roles which linguistic expressions play are often interpreted as questions about the meaning of these words, and these, in turn, are thought to be questions asking for the identification of differing sorts of objects in the universe (e. g., particulars, universals). The author attempts to show in detail why such interpretations of ordinary questions are improper
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DOI 10.1080/00201746108601328
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