Grades of meaning

Synthese 161 (2):283-308 (2008)
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In this paper, I lend novel support to H. P. Grice’s account of speaker meaning (GASM) by blunting the force of a significant objection. Stephen Schiffer has argued that in order to make GASM sufficient, one must add restrictions that are psychologically impossible to fulfill, thereby making GASM untenable. In what follows, I explain the elements of GASM that require it to invoke these psychologically unrealizable restrictions. I then accept Schiffer’s criticism, but modify its significance to GASM. I argue that the problem that Schiffer notes is not a reason to reject GASM, but a reason to embrace it. GASM shows that meaning is best understood as an absolute concept—an unrealizable ideal limit. Taking some inspiration from contextualist theories of knowledge attribution, I argue that my version of GASM offers a useful contextualist account of meaning attribution. Hence, pragmatic theories of meaning and communication should not wholly exclude GASM from their theorizing, at least not for the reasons that are commonly given.



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J. Robert Thompson
Mississippi State University

Citations of this work

Meaning and Mindreading.J. Robert Thompson - 2014 - Mind and Language 29 (2):167-200.

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References found in this work

Meaning.Herbert Paul Grice - 1957 - Philosophical Review 66 (3):377-388.
Scorekeeping in a Language Game.David Lewis - 1979 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 8 (1):339--359.
Contextualism and Knowledge Attributions.Keith Derose - 1992 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52 (4):913-929.
Meaning.Stephen R. Schiffer - 1972 - New York, NY, USA: Oxford, Clarendon Press.

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