Meaning, Expression, and Thought

Meaning, Expression, and Thought

Meaning, Expression, and Thought

Meaning, Expression, and Thought

Synopsis

This philosophical treatise on the foundations of semantics is a systematic effort to clarify, deepen, and defend the classical doctrine that words are conventional signs of mental states, principally thoughts and ideas, and that meaning consists in their expression. This expression theory of meaning is developed by carrying out the Gricean program, explaining what it is for words to have meaning in terms of speaker meaning, and what it is for a speaker to mean something in terms of intention. But Grice's own formulations are rejected and alternatives developed. The foundations of the expression theory are explored at length, and the author develops the theory of thought as a fundamental cognitive phenomenon distinct from belief and desire, argues for the thesis that thoughts have parts, and identifies ideas or concepts with parts of thoughts. This book will appeal to students and professionals interested in the philosophy of language.

Excerpt

I began work on thought, belief, and desire shortly after I graduated from the University of Michigan in 1973, inspired by Alvin Goldman and his A Theory of Human Action, along with Stephen Stich, Arthur Burks, John Perry, and Jaegwon Kim. That work grew into my doctoral dissertation (Princeton University, 1977), directed by David Lewis, Gilbert Harman, and Richard Jeffrey I remain indebted to these outstanding philosophers not only for key ideas but also for instilling a love of philosophy. the dissertation became a book-length manuscript entitled “Elements of Psychology: Belief, Desire, and Thought.” When a chapter on meaning took on the proportions of a book all by itself, I decided to first complete the present volume, Meaning, Expression, and Thought. Many of the ideas on thought presented in Part iii were first developed in my dissertation and elaborated in “Belief, Desire, and Thought.” I use them here to provide the psychological foundations for the theory of meaning developed in the rest of this work. This book was delayed by my recent Implicature (1998), which explains why Grice's great “synthetic” project gets so much less attention here than his “analytic” project. I wrote Meaning, Expression, and Thought, furthermore, in tandem with my forthcoming Nondescriptive Meaning and Reference, which applies the expression theory of meaning to names, indexicals, and other special cases, develops the expression theory of reference in greater depth, and shows how referential semantics can be treated in the expression theory.

While revised and reorganized here, most of the material in Chapters 1–4 has appeared in the following publications: “Expression of Emotion,” American Philosophical Quarterly 25 (1988): 279–291; “Speaker Meaning,” Linguistics and Philosophy 15 (1992): 223–253; “Cogitative and Cognitive Speaker Meaning,” Philosophical Studies 67 (1992): 71–88; and . . .

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