Between primitivism and naturalism: Brandom’s theory of meaning

Acta Analytica 21 (3):3-22 (2006)
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Abstract

Many philosophers accept that a naturalistic reduction of meaning is in principle impossible, since behavioural regularities or dispositions are consistent with any number of semantic descriptions. One response is to view meaning as primitive. In this paper, I explore Brandom’s alternative, which is to specify behaviour in non-semantic but normative terms. Against Brandom, I argue that a norm specified in non-semantic terms might correspond to any number of semantic norms. Thus, his theory of meaning suffers from the very same kind of problem as its naturalistic competitors. It is not sufficient, I contend, merely that some norms be introduced into one’s account but that they be specified using intensional, semantic notions on a par with that of meaning. In closing, I counter Brandom’s reasons for resisting such a position, the most significant of which is that it leaves philosophers with nothing constructive to say about meaning.

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Daniel Whiting
University of Southampton

Citations of this work

Rule-Following and Intentionality.Alexander Miller & Olivia Sultanescu - 2022 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
On Epistemic Conceptions of Meaning: Use, Meaning and Normativity.Daniel Whiting - 2009 - European Journal of Philosophy 17 (3):416-434.
Meaning Holism and De Re Ascription.Daniel Whiting - 2008 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 38 (4):575-599.

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