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 invaluable overview of the philosophy of language by one of its most important practitioners, this book will be essential reading for all serious students of philosophy.
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.
He does so by arguing that propositions are repeatable, purely representational cognitive acts or operations that represent the world as being a certain way, while requiring minds that perform them to satisfy certain cognitive conditions. Because they have these two types of content—one facing the world and one facing the mind—pairs of propositions can be representationally identical but cognitively distinct. Using this breakthrough, Soames offers new solutions to several of the most perplexing problems in the philosophy of language and mind.
Arguing against this reinterpretation, Soames shows how the descriptivist revival has been aided by puzzles and problems ushered in by the anti-descriptivist revolution, as well as by certain errors and missteps in the anti-descriptivist classics themselves. Reference and Description sorts through all this, assesses and consolidates the genuine legacy of Kripke and Kaplan, and launches a thorough and devastating critique of the two-dimensionalist revival of descriptivism. Through it all, Soames attempts to provide the outlines of a lasting, nondescriptivist perspective on meaning, and a nonconceptualist understanding of modality.
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.
As Scott Soames tells it, the story of analytic philosophy is one of great but uneven progress, with leading thinkers making important advances toward solving the tradition's core problems. Though no broad philosophical position ever achieved lasting dominance, Soames argues that two methodological developments have, over time, remade the philosophical landscape. These are (1) analytic philosophers' hard-won success in understanding, and distinguishing the notions of logical truth, a priori truth, and necessary truth, and (2) gradual acceptance of the idea that philosophical speculation must be grounded in sound prephilosophical thought. Though Soames views this history in a positive light, he also illustrates the difficulties, false starts, and disappointments endured along the way. As he engages with the work of his predecessors and contemporaries--from Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein to Donald Davidson and Saul Kripke--he seeks to highlight their accomplishments while also pinpointing their shortcomings, especially where their perspectives were limited by an incomplete grasp of matters that have now become clear.
Soames himself has been at the center of some of the tradition's most important debates, and throughout writes with exceptional ease about its often complex ideas. His gift for clear exposition makes the history as accessible to advanced undergraduates as it will be important to scholars. Despite its centrality to philosophy in the English-speaking world, the analytic tradition in philosophy has had very few synthetic histories. This will be the benchmark against which all future accounts will be measured.