Several philosophers, both in Buddhist and Western philosophy, claim that the self does not exist. The no-self view may, at first glance, appear to be a reason to believe that life is meaningless. In the present article, I argue indirectly in favor of the no-self view by showing that it does not entail that life is meaningless. I then examine Buddhism and argue, further, that the no-self view may even be construed as partially grounding an account of the meaning (...) of life. (shrink)
"There are books—few and far between—which carefully, delightfully, and genuinely turn your head inside out. This is one of them. It ranges over some central issues in Western philosophy and begins the long overdue job of giving us a radically new account of meaning, rationality, and objectivity."—Yaakov Garb, _San Francisco Chronicle_.
As philosophical and scientific arguments for free will skepticism continue to gain traction, we are likely to see a fundamental shift in the way people think about free will and moral responsibility. Such shifts raise important practical and existential concerns: What if we came to disbelieve in free will? What would this mean for our interpersonal relationships, society, morality, meaning, and the law? What would it do to our standing as human beings? Would it cause nihilism and despair as (...) some maintain or would it rather have a humanizing effect on our practices and policies, freeing us from the negative effects of belief in free will? In this chapter we consider the practical implications of free will skepticism and argue that life without free will and basic desert moral responsibility would not be as destructive as many people believe. We argue that prospects of finding meaning in life or of sustaining good interpersonal relationships, for example, would not be threatened. On treatment of criminals, we argue that although retributivism and severe punishment, such as the death penalty, would be ruled out, preventive detention and rehabilitation programs would still be justified. While we will touch on all these issues below, our focus will be primarily on this last issue. -/- We begin in section I by considering two different routes to free will skepticism. The first denies the causal efficacy of the types of willing required for free will and receives its contemporary impetus from pioneering work in neuroscience by Benjamin Libet, Daniel Wegner, and John-Dylan Haynes. The second, which is more common in the philosophical literature, does not deny the causal efficacy of the will but instead claims that whether this causal efficacy is deterministic or indeterministic, it does not achieve the level of control to count as free will by the standards of the historical debate. We argue that while there are compelling objections to the first route—e.g., Al Mele (2009), Eddy Nahmias (2002, 2011), and Neil Levy (2005)—the second route to free will skepticism remains intact. In section II we argue that free will skepticism allows for a workable morality, and, rather than negatively impacting our personal relationships and meaning in life, may well improve our well-being and our relationships to others since it would tend to eradicate an often destructive form of moral anger. In section III we argue that free will skepticism allows for adequate ways of responding to criminal behavior—in particular, incapacitation, rehabilitation, and alternation of relevant social conditions—and that these methods are both morally justified and sufficient for good social policy. We present and defend our own preferred model for dealing with dangerous criminals, an incapacitation account built on the right to self-protection analogous to the justification for quarantine (see Pereboom 2001, 2013, 2014a; Caruso 2016a), and we respond to recent objections to it by Michael Corrado and John Lemos. (shrink)
Can animals be agents? Do they want to be free? Can they have meaningful lives? If so, should we change the way we treat them? This paper offers an account of animal agency and of two continuums: between human and nonhuman agency, and between wildness and captivity. It describes how a wide range of human activities impede on animals’ freedom and argues that, in doing so, we deprive a wide range of animals of opportunities to exercise their agency in ways (...) that can give meaning to their lives. (shrink)
Aristotle is the first philosopher on record to subject the meaning of life to systematic philosophical examination: he approaches the issue from logical, psychological, biological, and anthropological perspectives in some of the central passages in the Corpus Aristotelicum and, it turns out, in some fragments from his (lost) early popular work the Protrepticus (Exhortation to Philosophy). From an Aristotelian perspective, in asking about life’s “meaning”, we may be asking either a theoretical question about the definition of the term (...) life (and this either generically or with specific reference to human life), or a practical question about the final end or purpose of life (or human life). Aristotle carefully considered both questions, and in his view answering the theoretical question is the key to answering the practical question. In brief, his theoretical view is that humans are distinguished from all other living things, and thus defined by their ability to use reason; thus his practical view is that the end or purpose of human existence is intellectual activity, especially doing philosophy. (shrink)
In this new book, the author of the classic Truth presents an original theory of meaning, demonstrates its richness, and defends it against all contenders. He surveys the diversity of twentieth-century philosophical insights into meaning and shows that his theory can reconcile these with a common-sense view of meaning as derived from use. Meaning and its companion volume Truth (now published in a revised edition) together demystify two central issues in philosophy and offer a controversial but (...) compelling view of the relations between language, thought, and reality. (shrink)
Suppose we are about to enter an era of increasing technological unemployment. What implications does this have for society? Two distinct ethical/social issues would seem to arise. The first is one of distributive justice: how will the efficiency gains from automated labour be distributed through society? The second is one of personal fulfillment and meaning: if people no longer have to work, what will they do with their lives? In this article, I set aside the first issue and focus (...) on the second. In doing so, I make three arguments. First, I argue that there are good reasons to embrace non-work and that these reasons become more compelling in an era of technological unemployment. Second, I argue that the technological advances that make widespread technological unemployment possible could still threaten or undermine human flourishing and meaning, especially if they do not remain confined to the economic sphere. And third, I argue that this threat could be contained if we adopt an integrative approach to our relationship with technology. In advancing these arguments, I draw on three distinct literatures: the literature on technological unemployment and workplace automation; the antiwork critique—which I argue gives reasons to embrace technological unemployment; and the philosophical debate about the conditions for meaning in life—which I argue gives reasons for concern. (shrink)
According to a widespread picture due to Kaplan, there are two levels of semantic value: character and content. Character is determined by the grammar, and it determines content with respect to context. In this chapter Recanati criticizes that picture on several grounds. He shows that we need more than two levels, and rejects the determination thesis: that linguistic meaning as determined by grammar determines content. Grammatical meaning does not determine assertoric content, he argues, but merely constrains it — (...) speaker’s meaning necessarily comes into play. On the alternative picture he offers, there are four basic levels, only one of which is determined by the grammar. Pragmatics is what enables the transition from each level to the next. (shrink)
What is it for marks or sounds to have meaning, and what is it for someone to mean something in producing them? Answering these and related questions, Schiffer explores communication, speech acts, convention, and the meaning of linguistic items in this reissue of a seminal work on the foundations of meaning. A new introduction takes account of recent developments and places his theory in a broader context.
We raise various puzzles about the relationship between God and the meaning of life. These difficulties suggest that, even if we assume that God exists, and even if God’s existence would entail that our lives have meaning, God is not and could not be the source of the meaning of life. We conclude by discussing implications of our arguments: these claims can be used in a novel argument for atheism; these claims undermine an extant argument for God’s (...) existence; and they suggest that atheism is consistent with our lives having meaning. (shrink)
D O N A L D D AV I D S O N’S “ Meaning and Truth,” re vo l u t i o n i zed our conception of how truth and meaning are related (Davidson ). In that famous art i c l e , Davidson put forw a rd the bold conjecture that meanings are satisfaction conditions, and that a Tarskian theory of truth for a language is a theory of meaning (...) for that language. In “Meaning and Truth,” Davidson proposed only that a Tarskian truth theory is a theory of meaning. But in “Theories of Me a n i n g and Learnable Languages,” he argued that the ﬁnite base of a Tarskian theory, together with the now familiar combinatorics, would explain how a language with unbounded expre s s i ve capacity could be learned with finite means ( Davidson ). This certainly seems to imply that learning a language is, in p a rt at least, learning a Tarskian truth theory for it, or, at least, learning what is speciﬁed by such a theory. Davisdon was cagey about committing to the view that meanings actually a re satisfaction conditions, but subsequent followers had no such scru p l e s . We can sum this up in a trio of claims: Davidson’s Conjecture () A theory of meaning for L is a truth-conditional semantics for L. () To know the meaning of an expression in L is to know a satisfaction condition for that expression. () Meanings are satisfaction conditions. For the most part, it will not matter in what follows which of these claims is at stake. I will simply take the three to be different ways of formulating what I will call Davidson’s Conjecture (or sometimes just The Conjecture). Davidson’s Conjecture was a very bold conjecture. I think we are now in a.. (shrink)
Ernest Lepore and Kirk Ludwig correctly observe that Donald Davidson’s account of radical interpretation is in tension with his Swampman thought experiment. Nonetheless, I argue, they fail to see the extent of Davidson’s tension—and so do not handle it adequately—because they fail to appreciate that the thought experiment pits two incompatible response-dependent accounts of meaning against one another. I take an account of meaning to be response-dependent just in case it links the meaning of terms in an (...) a priori manner to the responses that a suitable subject under suitable conditions could or did have to those terms. That Davidson proposes two such accounts is deeply problematic for his program. After explaining the sense in which Davidson endorses two incompatible response-dependent accounts of meaning, I use that explanation to resolve the tension myself. (shrink)
This paper distinguishes two projects in Davidson's theory of meaning, an initial project of providing a compositional meaning theory for a natural language for which a Tarski-style truth theory is pressed into service and an extended project that aims to illuminate the basis of meaning in its relation to the neutrally described behavioral evidence in terms of which an interpretive truth theory for a language can ultimately be confirmed, and then argues that having distinguished the two projects (...) we can see that the goal that the radical interpreter sets himself cannot be achieved given the limits on his data. (shrink)
This article argues that the creation of artificial offspring could make our lives more meaningful. By ‘artificial offspring’ I mean beings that we construct, with a mix of human and non-human-like qualities. Robotic artificial intelligences are paradigmatic examples of the form. There are two reasons for thinking that the creation of such beings could make our lives more meaningful and valuable. The first is that the existence of a collective afterlife—i.e. a set of human-like lives that continue after we die—is (...) likely to be an important source and sustainer of meaning in our present lives. The second is that the creation of artificial offspring provides a plausible and potentially better pathway to a collective afterlife than the traditional biological pathway. Both of these arguments are defended from a variety of objections and misunderstandings. (shrink)
Is linguistic meaning to be accounted for independently of the states of mind of language users, or can it only be explained in terms of them? If the latter, what account of the mental states in question avoids circularity? In this book Brian Loar offers a subtle and comprehensive theory which both preserves the natural priority of the mind in explanations of meaning, and gives an independent characterisation of its features. It is a commonplace that in making decisions (...) agents often have to juggle competing values, and that no available choice Will maximise satisfaction of all of them. Prevailing accounts of rational decision making in such contexts asume that, once all factors are taken into consideration, the decision maker will reach a single ranking of his values, resolving the conflict between them. (shrink)
Paul Horwich's main aim in Reflections on Meaning is to explain how mere noises, marks, gestures, and mental symbols are able to capture the world--that is, how words and sentences (in whatever medium) come to mean what they do, to stand for certain things, to be true or false of reality. His answer is a groundbreaking development of Wittgenstein's idea that the meaning of a term is nothing more than its use. While the chapters here have appeared as (...) individual essays, Horwich has edited them to make a continuous argument, focused on articulating and developing an important new conception of language. (shrink)
In _The Meaning of the Body_, Mark Johnson continues his pioneering work on the exciting connections between cognitive science, language, and meaning first begun in the classic _Metaphors We Live By_. Johnson uses recent research into infant psychology to show how the body generates meaning even before self-consciousness has fully developed. From there he turns to cognitive neuroscience to further explore the bodily origins of meaning, thought, and language and examines the many dimensions of meaning—including (...) images, qualities, emotions, and metaphors—that are all rooted in the body’s physical encounters with the world. Drawing on the psychology of art and pragmatist philosophy, Johnson argues that all of these aspects of meaning-making are fundamentally aesthetic. He concludes that the arts are the culmination of human attempts to find meaning and that studying the aesthetic dimensions of our experience is crucial to unlocking meaning's bodily sources. Throughout, Johnson puts forth a bold new conception of the mind rooted in the understanding that philosophy will matter to nonphilosophers only if it is built on a visceral connection to the world. “Mark Johnson demonstrates that the aesthetic and emotional aspects of meaning are fundamental—central to conceptual meaning and reason, and that the arts show meaning-making in its fullest realization. If you were raised with the idea that art and emotion were external to ideas and reason, you must read this book. It grounds philosophy in our most visceral experience.”—George Lakoff, author of _Moral Politics_. (shrink)
This paper argues that contemporary philosophical literature on meaning in life has important implications for the debate about our obligations to non-human animals. If animal lives can be meaningful, then practices including factory farming and animal research might be morally worse than ethicists have thought. We argue for two theses about meaning in life: that the best account of meaningful lives must take intentional action to be necessary for meaning—an individual’s life has meaning if and only (...) if the individual acts intentionally in ways that contribute to finally valuable states of affairs; and that this first thesis does not entail that only human lives are meaningful. Because non-human animals can be intentional agents of a certain sort, our account yields the verdict that many animals’ lives can be meaningful. We conclude by considering the moral implications of these theses for common practices involving animals. (shrink)
The object of this paper is to sketch an approach to propositions, meaning and names. The key ingredients are a Twin-Earth-inspired distinction between internal and external meaning, and a middle-Wittgenstein-inspired conception of internal meaning as role in language system. The focus here is not on working out all the details, but on outlining the approach and showing how it offers a promising solution to the problem of the meaning of proper names. This is a plea for (...) a neglected way of thinking about these topics. (shrink)
In this important new collection, Gilbert Harman presents a selection of fifteen interconnected essays on fundamental issues at the center of analytic philosophy. The book opens with a group of four essays discussing basic principles of reasoning and rationality. The next three essays argue against the once popular idea that certain claims are true and knowable by virtue of meaning. In the third group of essays Harman presents his own view of meaning and the possibility of thinking in (...) language The final three essays investigate the nature of mind, developing further the themes already set out. Reasoning, Meaning, and Mind offers an integrated presentation of this rich and influential body of work. which Harman has developed over thirty years. (shrink)
There is an ongoing debate about the meaning of lexical words, i.e., words that contribute with content to the meaning of sentences. This debate has coincided with a renewal in the study of polysemy, which has taken place in the psycholinguistics camp mainly. There is already a fruitful interbreeding between two lines of research: the theoretical study of lexical word meaning, on the one hand, and the models of polysemy psycholinguists present, on the other. In this paper (...) I aim at deepening on this ongoing interbreeding, examine what is said about polysemy, particularly in the psycholinguistics literature, and then show how what we seem to know about the representation and storage of polysemous senses affects the models that we have about lexical word meaning. (shrink)
I defend the theory that one's life is meaningful to the extent that one promotes the good. Call this the good cause account (GCA) of the meaning of life. It holds that the good effects that count towards the meaning of one's life need not be intentional. Nor must one be aware of the effects. Nor does it matter whether the same good would have resulted if one had not existed. What matters is that one is causally responsible (...) for the good. I argue that the best theory of the meaning of life should clearly distinguish between subjective fulfillment and objective meaningfulness. The GCA respects the distinction. And it is superior to its leading rivals in the recent literature, most notably those of Erik Wielenberg and Susan Wolf. (shrink)
The paper addresses the phenomenology of inference. It proposes that the conscious character of conscious inferences is partly constituted by a sense of meaning; specifically, a sense of what Grice called ‘natural meaning’. In consciously drawing the (outright, categorical) conclusion that Q from a presumed fact that P, one senses the presumed fact that P as meaning that Q, where ‘meaning that’ expresses natural meaning. This sense of natural meaning is phenomenologically analogous, I suggest, (...) to our sense of what is said in fluently comprehending everyday utterances in our first language. The proposal that conscious inference involves a sense of natural meaning is compared with views according to which conscious inference involves taking the premises (i) to be good reasons for the conclusion (as defended by Thomson and Grice), (ii) to support it (as argued by Audi and, recently, Boghossian), or (iii) to imply it (as lately contended by Broome). I argue our proposal can explain certain phenomena handled by alternatives (i) and (ii), but that some further phenomena is handled by our account but not these alternatives. In relation to alternative (iii), I argue that, in so far as implicational and natural-meaning relations come apart, the latter are a better fit for what we sense or take to be so in conscious inference. (shrink)
This essay is divided into two parts. In the first part (§2), I introduce the idea of practical meaning by looking at a certain kind of procedural systems — the motor system — that play a central role in computational explanations of motor behavior. I argue that in order to give a satisfactory account of the content of the representations computed by motor systems (motor commands), we need to appeal to a distinctively practical kind of meaning. Defending the (...) explanatory relevance of semantic properties in a computationalist explanation of motor behavior, my argument concludes that practical meanings play a central role in an adequate psychological theory of motor skill. In the second part of this essay (§3), I generalize and clarify the notion of practical meaning, and I defend the intelligibility of practical meanings against an important objection. (shrink)
What is it for a life to be meaningful? In this article, I defend what I call Consequentialism about Meaning in Life, the view that one's life is meaningful at time t just in case one's surviving at t would be good in some way, and one's life was meaningful considered as a whole just in case the world was made better in some way for one's having existed.
There has been much debate over whether to accept the claim that meaning is normative. One obstacle to making progress in that debate is that it is not always clear what the claim amounts to. In this paper, I try to resolve a dispute between those who advance the claim concerning how it should be understood. More specifically, I critically examine two competing conceptions of the normativity of meaning, rejecting one and defending the other. Though the paper aims (...) to settle a dispute among proponents of the claim that meaning is normative, it should be of interest to those who challenge it. After all, before one takes aim, one’s target needs to be in clear view. (shrink)
Wayne Davis presents a highly original approach to the foundations of semantics, showing how the so-called "expression" theory of meaning can handle names and other problematic cases of nondescriptive meaning. The fact that thoughts have parts ("ideas" or "concepts") is fundamental: Davis argues that like other unstructured words, names mean what they do because they are conventionally used to express atomic or basic ideas. In the process he shows that many pillars of contemporary philosophical semantics, from twin earth (...) arguments to the necessity of identity, are unfounded. (shrink)
The attempt to define meaning arouses numerous questions, such as whether life can be meaningful without actions devoted to a central purpose or whether the latter guarantee a meaningful life. Communities of inquiry are relevant in this context because they create relationships within and between people and the environment. The more they address relations—social, cognitive, emotional, etc.—that tie-in with the children’s world even if not in a concrete fashion, the more they enable young people to search for and find (...)meaning. Examining the way in which philosophical communities of inquiry serve as a dialogical space that enables a search for meaning on the personal and collective plane, this article seeks to expand the discussion of how/whether finding meaning on a private or communal level can promote recognition of the existential uniqueness of each individual and the development of a sense of responsibility for him or her. Grounded in the writings of Matthew Lipman, it links his ideas about finding meaning in philosophical communities of inquiry with those of Jean-Paul Sartre, Viktor Frankl, and Emmanuel Levinas, in particular with regard to the association between meaning and responsibility. (shrink)
According to Brandom’s conceptual role semantics, to grasp a concept involves a commitment to drawing certain inferences. This is a consequence of the inferentialist thesis that the meaning of a term is given by its justification through assertibility conditions. Inferential commitments come out from a material notion of inference which underwrites human rational discourse and activity. In this paper I discuss a problem of Brandom’s semantics allegedly exposed in an argument by Paul Boghossian against Dummett’s and Brandom’s substantive conception (...) of meaning. I contend that Boghossian’s analysis is dubious because it overlooks an important difference between Dummett’s and Brandom’s positions related respectively to a monotonic and a non-monotonic view of the norm underwriting meaning. (shrink)
In standard model-theoretic semantics, the meaning of logical terms is said to be fixed in the system while that of nonlogical terms remains variable. Much effort has been devoted to characterizing logical terms, those terms that should be fixed, but little has been said on their role in logical systems: on what fixing their meaning precisely amounts to. My proposal is that when a term is considered logical in model theory, what gets fixed is its intension rather than (...) its extension. I provide a rigorous way of spelling out this idea, and show that it leads to a graded account of logicality: the less structure a term requires in order for its intension to be fixed, the more logical it is. Finally, I focus on the class of terms that are invariant under isomorphisms, as they render themselves more easily to mathematical treatment. I propose a mathematical measure for the logicality of such terms based on their associated Löwenheim numbers. (shrink)
The analytic/synthetic distinction looks simple. It is a distinction between two different kinds of sentence. Synthetic sentences are true in part because of the way the world is, and in part because of what they mean. Analytic sentences - like all bachelors are unmarried and triangles have three sides - are different. They are true in virtue of meaning, so no matter what the world is like, as long as the sentence means what it does, it will be true. (...) -/- This distinction seems powerful because analytic sentences seem to be knowable in a special way. One can know that all bachelors are unmarried, for example, just by thinking about what it means. But many twentieth-century philosophers, with Quine in the lead, argued that there were no analytic sentences, that the idea of analyticity didn't even make sense, and that the analytic/synthetic distinction was therefore an illusion. Others couldn't see how there could fail to be a distinction, however ingenious the arguments of Quine and his supporters. -/- But since the heyday of the debate, things have changed in the philosophy of language. Tools have been refined, confusions cleared up, and most significantly, many philosophers now accept a view of language - semantic externalism - on which it is possible to see how the distinction could fail. One might be tempted to think that ultimately the distinction has fallen for reasons other than those proposed in the original debate. -/- In Truth in Virtue of Meaning, Gillian Russell argues that it hasn't. Using the tools of contemporary philosophy of language, she outlines a view of analytic sentences which is compatible with semantic externalism and defends that view against the old Quinean arguments. She then goes on to draw out the surprising epistemological consequences of her approach. (shrink)
Metaphysics, Mathematics, and Meaning brings together Nathan Salmon's influential papers on topics in the metaphysics of existence, non-existence, and fiction; modality and its logic; strict identity, including personal identity; numbers and numerical quantifiers; the philosophical significance of Godel's Incompleteness theorems; and semantic content and designation. Including a previously unpublished essay and a helpful new introduction to orient the reader, the volume offers rich and varied sustenance for philosophers and logicians.
The aim of this paper is to propose a new approach to the question of meaning in life by criticizing Thaddeus Metz’s objectivist theory in his book Meaning in Life: An Analytic Study. I propose the concept of “the heart of meaning in life,” which alone can answer the question, “Alas, does my life like this have any meaning at all?” and I demonstrate that “the heart of meaning in life” cannot be compared, in principle, (...) with other people’s meaning in life. The answer to the question of “the heart of meaning in life” ought to have two values, yes-or-no, and there is no ambiguous gray zone between them. I believe that this concept constitutes the very central content of meaning in life. (shrink)
The emergent new science of synthetic biology is challenging entrenched distinctions between, amongst others, life and non-life, the natural and the artificial, the evolved and the designed, and even the material and the informational. Whenever such culturally sanctioned boundaries are breached, researchers are inevitably accused of playing God or treading in Frankenstein’s footsteps. Bioethicists, theologians and editors of scientific journals feel obliged to provide an authoritative answer to the ambiguous question of the ‘meaning’ of life, both as a scientific (...) definition and as an explication with wider existential connotations. This article analyses the arguments mooted in the emerging societal debates on synthetic biology and the way its practitioners respond to criticism, mostly by assuming a defiant posture or professing humility. It explores the relationship between the ‘playing God’ theme and the Frankenstein motif and examines the doctrinal status of the ‘playing God’ argument. One particularly interesting finding is that liberal theologians generally deny the religious character of the ‘playing God’ argument—a response which fits in with the curious fact that this argument is used mainly by secular organizations. Synthetic biology, it is therefore maintained, does not offend so much the God of the Bible as a deified Nature. While syntheses of artificial life forms cause some vague uneasiness that life may lose its special meaning, most concerns turn out to be narrowly anthropocentric. As long as synthetic biology creates only new microbial life and does not directly affect human life, it will in all likelihood be considered acceptable. (shrink)
While there are numerous differences between the approaches taken by Maurice Merleau-Ponty and James J. Gibson, the basic motivation of the two thinkers, as well as the internal logic of their respective views, is extraordinarily close. Both were guided throughout their lives by an attempt to overcome the dualism of subject and object, and both devoted considerable attention to their "Gestaltist" predecessors. There can be no doubt but that it is largely because of this common cause that the subsequent development (...) of their ideas is so similar. It is not my objective in what follows merely to demonstrate a similarity between two lines of thought. Instead, I will try to show that each approach gains considerably from attention to the other. There are numerous ways to begin such a project, each about as arbitrary as the next. For present purposes, I shall take as of central importance the question of the character of the perceived world, both in relation to the traditionally opposed mental and material "substances", and in relation to its identification and individuation of things vis a vis one another and vis a vis ourselves. This will implicate especially Gibson's "affordances" and Merleau-Ponty's thesis concerning the "materiality of meaning.". (shrink)
In this important study, Michael Luntley offers a compelling reading of Wittgenstein’s account of meaning and intentionality, based upon a unifying theme in the early and later philosophies. A compelling reading of Wittgenstein’s account of meaning and intentionality. Offers an important and original reading of Wittgenstein’s key texts. Based upon a unifying theme in Wittgenstein’s early and later philosophies.
Belief and Meaning is a philosophical treatment of intentionality. It offers an original, logical and convincing account of intentional content which is local and contextual and which takes issues with standard theories of meaning.
According to subjectivist views about a meaningful life, one's life is meaningful in virtue of desire satisfaction or feelings of fulfilment. Standard counterexamples consist of satisfaction found through trivial or immoral tasks. In response to such examples, many philosophers require that the tasks one is devoted to are objectively valuable, or have objectively valuable consequences. I argue that the counterexamples to subjectivism do not require objective value for meaning in life. I also consider other reasons for thinking that (...) class='Hi'>meaning in life requires objective value and raise doubts about their strength. Finally, I argue that beauty is not plausibly objective, but that it seems important for meaning. This puts pressure on the objectivist to explain why objectivity matters in the case of other values. (shrink)
The commonplace view about metaphorical interpretation is that it can be characterized in traditional semantic and pragmatic terms, thereby assimilating metaphor to other familiar uses of language. We will reject this view, and propose in its place the view that, though metaphors can issue in distinctive cognitive and discourse effects, they do so without issuing in metaphorical meaning and truth, and so, without metaphorical communication. Our inspiration derives from Donald Davidson’s critical arguments against metaphorical meaning and Richard Rorty’s (...) exploration of the diverse uses of language. But unlike these authors we ground our discussion squarely in distinctions about causal mechanisms in cooperative activity developed by H.P. Grice and others. (shrink)
Allan Gibbard () argues that the term ‘meaning’ expresses a normative concept, primarily on the basis of arguments that parallel Moore's famous Open Question Argument. In this paper I argue that Gibbard's evidence for normativity rests on idiosyncrasies of the Open Question Argument, and that when we use related thought experiments designed to bring out unusual semantic intuitions associated with normative terms we fail to find such evidence. These thought experiments, moreover, strongly suggest there are basic requirements for a (...) theory of meaning incompatible with Gibbard's ultimate goal of providing an expressivist account of meaning-related concepts. I conclude by considering a possible way in which meaning could be normative, consistent with the intuitions about disagreement; but this form of normativism about meaning appears incompatible with Gibbard's expressivism. (shrink)
This article addresses the phenomenology of aesthetic experience. It first, critically, considers one of the most influential approaches to the psychophysics of aesthetic perception, viz. neuroaesthetics. Hereafter, it outlines constitutive tenets of aesthetic perception in terms of a particular intentional relation to the object. The argument comes in three steps. First, I show the inadequacies of the neuroaesthetics of beauty in general and Semir Zeki’s and V.J. Ramachandran’s versions of it in particular. The neuroaesthetics of beauty falls short, because it (...) develops hypotheses of aesthetic experience which have no consequences for the understanding of what art is, that is, how artists produce visual meaning effects in their works. This is so because they make the rewarding feeling of beauty the cornerstone of aesthetic experience. Next, I show why and how aesthetic experience should be defined relative to its object and the tools for meaning-making specific to that object, and not relative to the feeling (of beauty) it may elicit. Finally, I sketch the import this fact may have on a research program in empirical aesthetics. (shrink)
Frank Jackson often writes as if his descriptivist account of public language meanings were just plain common sense. How else are we to explain how different speakers manage to communicate using a public language? And how else can we explain how individuals arrive at confident judgments about the reference of their words in hypothetical scenarios? Our aim in this paper is to show just how controversial the psychological assumptions behind in Jackson’s semantic theory really are. First, we explain how Jackson’s (...) theory goes well beyond the commonsense platitudes he cites in its defence. Second, we sketch an alternative explanation of those platitudes, the jazz model of meaning, which we argue is more psychologically realistic. We conclude that the psychological picture presupposed by Jackson’s semantic theory stands in need of a much more substantial defence than he has so far offered. (shrink)
If, as the new B-theory of time maintains, tensed sentences have tenseless truth conditions, it follows that it is possible for two sentence-tokens to have the sametruth conditions but different meanings. This conclusion forces a rethink of the traditional identification of truth conditions with meaning. There is an aspect of the meanings of tensed sentences that is not captured by their truth conditions, and that has so far eluded explanation. In this paper I intend to locate, examine, and explain (...) this feature of tensed meaning. (shrink)