How much Mentality is Needed for Meaning?

Authored by: Mitchell S. Green

The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Animal Minds

Print publication date:  July  2017
Online publication date:  July  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138822887
eBook ISBN: 9781315742250
Adobe ISBN:


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Some entities and processes exhibit meaning of a sort that is germane to communication. These include words and phrases, as well as gestures, facial expressions, and perhaps also manifestations of biological traits such as bioluminescence, scent-marking, alarm calls, and stridulation. Theoretical questions about these communicative forms of meaning fall into two broad types: (1) In virtue of what do words (phrases, etc.) have meaning? and (2) How shall we best characterize such meaning as words (phrases, etc.) have? One may remain neutral on the type-1 question while focusing on the second, in the course of which debates about the adequacy of truth conditions, possible worlds, sense and reference, context-change potential, and the like, come to the fore. Or one may keep type-2 questions in the background and consider whether words (phrases, etc.) have their meaning given by iconicity (sensu Plato’s characterization of Socrates’ attempt to develop Cratylus’s idea in the dialogue of that name), or conventions, or minds, or some combination of these three.

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