Review of Metaphysics 9 (2):236 - 251 (1955)

The premise of functional meaning is to the effect that the appropriate use of words--the employment of words in accordance with the standard usage--discloses their meaning. In its extreme or radical version the premise is a downright identification of a meaning with an act, or acts, of using words, i.e., with actual occurrences. Since actual occurrences are particulars, this extreme form would appeal to a nominalist who wants to eschew universals, especially in a concern with meaning. But the radical premise is incompatible with the second premise of a dispositional semantics. For the second premise is intended to do justice to the fact that the same word may take care of endless variations of its meaning or, at any rate, of a number which is not limited to particular variations that occur with the act, or acts, of using the word. Accordingly, a dispositional semantics requires a moderate version of the premise of functional meaning.
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