Philosophical Essays, Volume 1: Natural Language: What It Means and How We Use It

Princeton University Press
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The two volumes of Philosophical Essays bring together the most important essays written by one of the world's foremost philosophers of language. Scott Soames has selected thirty-one essays spanning nearly three decades of thinking about linguistic meaning and the philosophical significance of language. A judicious collection of old and new, these volumes include sixteen essays published in the 1980s and 1990s, nine published since 2000, and six new essays.

The essays in Volume 1 investigate what linguistic meaning is; how the meaning of a sentence is related to the use we make of it; what we should expect from empirical theories of the meaning of the languages we speak; and how a sound theoretical grasp of the intricate relationship between meaning and use can improve the interpretation of legal texts.

The essays in Volume 2 illustrate the significance of linguistic concerns for a broad range of philosophical topics--including the relationship between language and thought; the objects of belief, assertion, and other propositional attitudes; the distinction between metaphysical and epistemic possibility; the nature of necessity, actuality, and possible worlds; the necessary a posteriori and the contingent a priori; truth, vagueness, and partial definition; and skepticism about meaning and mind.

The two volumes of Philosophical Essays are essential for anyone working on the philosophy of language.

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About the author

Scott Soames is director of the School of Philosophy at the University of Southern California. His books include Reference and Description (Princeton), Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century, Volumes 1 and 2 (Princeton), Beyond Rigidity, and Understanding Truth.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Dec 8, 2008
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Pages
440
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ISBN
9781400837847
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Language Arts & Disciplines / Linguistics / General
Philosophy / General
Philosophy / History & Surveys / General
Philosophy / Language
Philosophy / Mind & Body
Philosophy / Movements / Analytic
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The tradition descending from Frege and Russell has typically treated theories of meaning either as theories of meanings (propositions expressed), or as theories of truth conditions. However, propositions of the classical sort don't exist, and truth conditions can't provide all the information required by a theory of meaning. In this book, one of the world's leading philosophers of language offers a way out of this dilemma.

Traditionally conceived, propositions are denizens of a "third realm" beyond mind and matter, "grasped" by mysterious Platonic intuition. As conceived here, they are cognitive-event types in which agents predicate properties and relations of things--in using language, in perception, and in nonlinguistic thought. Because of this, one's acquaintance with, and knowledge of, propositions is acquaintance with, and knowledge of, events of one's cognitive life. This view also solves the problem of "the unity of the proposition" by explaining how propositions can be genuinely representational, and therefore bearers of truth. The problem, in the traditional conception, is that sentences, utterances, and mental states are representational because of the relations they bear to inherently representational Platonic complexes of universals and particulars. Since we have no way of understanding how such structures can be representational, independent of interpretations placed on them by agents, the problem is unsolvable when so conceived. However, when propositions are taken to be cognitive-event types, the order of explanation is reversed and a natural solution emerges. Propositions are representational because they are constitutively related to inherently representational cognitive acts.

Strikingly original, What Is Meaning? is a major advance.

An in-depth history of the linguistic turn in analytic philosophy, from a leading philosopher of language

This is the second of five volumes of a definitive history of analytic philosophy from the invention of modern logic in 1879 to the end of the twentieth century. Scott Soames, a leading philosopher of language and historian of analytic philosophy, provides the fullest and most detailed account of the analytic tradition yet published, one that is unmatched in its chronological range, topics covered, and depth of treatment. Focusing on the major milestones and distinguishing them from detours, Soames gives a seminal account of where the analytic tradition has been and where it appears to be heading.

Volume 2 provides an intensive account of the new vision in analytical philosophy initiated by Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, its assimilation by the Vienna Circle of Moritz Schlick and Rudolf Carnap, and the subsequent flowering of logical empiricism. With this “linguistic turn,” philosophical analysis became philosophy itself, and the discipline’s stated aim was transformed from advancing philosophical theories to formalizing, systematizing, and unifying science. In addition to exploring the successes and failures of philosophers who pursued this vision, the book describes how the philosophically minded logicians Kurt Gödel, Alfred Tarski, Alonzo Church, and Alan Turing discovered the scope and limits of logic and developed the mathematical theory of computation that ushered in the digital era. The book’s account of this pivotal period closes with a searching examination of the struggle to preserve ethical normativity in a scientific age.

The tradition descending from Frege and Russell has typically treated theories of meaning either as theories of meanings (propositions expressed), or as theories of truth conditions. However, propositions of the classical sort don't exist, and truth conditions can't provide all the information required by a theory of meaning. In this book, one of the world's leading philosophers of language offers a way out of this dilemma.

Traditionally conceived, propositions are denizens of a "third realm" beyond mind and matter, "grasped" by mysterious Platonic intuition. As conceived here, they are cognitive-event types in which agents predicate properties and relations of things--in using language, in perception, and in nonlinguistic thought. Because of this, one's acquaintance with, and knowledge of, propositions is acquaintance with, and knowledge of, events of one's cognitive life. This view also solves the problem of "the unity of the proposition" by explaining how propositions can be genuinely representational, and therefore bearers of truth. The problem, in the traditional conception, is that sentences, utterances, and mental states are representational because of the relations they bear to inherently representational Platonic complexes of universals and particulars. Since we have no way of understanding how such structures can be representational, independent of interpretations placed on them by agents, the problem is unsolvable when so conceived. However, when propositions are taken to be cognitive-event types, the order of explanation is reversed and a natural solution emerges. Propositions are representational because they are constitutively related to inherently representational cognitive acts.

Strikingly original, What Is Meaning? is a major advance.

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