A Defense of Semantic Conventionalism

Dissertation, Loyola University of Chicago (1999)

Sara Waller
George Washington University
This is a defense of semantic conventionalism. Several strategies are used in the defense. In the introduction, I provide criteria for evaluating semantic theories in general. In the first chapter, I survey various types of conventionalism and identify the conventionalism to be defended. The allies for this conventionalism include Quine. In the second chapter, I show that other semantic theories, including holism, can be thought of as conventions. This is done through an appeal to metalanguages. But to understand metalanguages, it seems the originators of the conventions must share styles of perception and conception. This ontological claim is confronted. Other genuinely competing theories of meaning are challenged. The third chapter defends this brand of semantic conventionalism against objections from Quine and Davidson. The fourth chapter defends against realist charges of inconsistency
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