The Owl of Minerva 27 (2):211-226 (1996)

If a concept, or thought, is not only something one can be aware of but also something which, unlike everything else, can be the same for every thinker, then language is a problem for thinkers. Although a linguistic sign is not itself a concept, but rather is only used to signify a concept, signs are required to think concepts—or, at least, to think the relations of concepts—and the use of linguistic signs may sometimes lead to confusion, for two signs may be used to signify one concept, and one sign may be used to signify two concepts. A thinker may attempt to avoid confusion by using only one sign to signify one concept, but it may be that in any given language there is only one sign with which to signify two concepts. In this case the thinker may borrow a sign from a foreign language or invent a new sign to signify one of the two concepts. A similar problem arises for a thinker who discovers a concept, and may signify it by either using a sign in the given language, borrowing a sign from a foreign language, or inventing a new sign. Even with all these precautions, however, a thinker may occasionally lapse into using one sign to signify two concepts, and this presents a problem for anyone interpreting the thinker’s utterances and written texts.
Keywords Major Philosophers
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ISBN(s) 0030-7580
DOI owl19962725
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