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Semantic Scepticism: Normativity and Naturalism

Jones, Matthew (2011) Semantic Scepticism: Normativity and Naturalism. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

The present thesis is a response to Kripke’s sceptical argument for the conclusion that there are no facts of the matter concerning what any speaker means by any expression. This conclusion gives rise a paradox: if true, it is meaningless, and if it is meaningless it cannot be true. I focus on two main topics. The first of these is the putative normativity of meaning, which is taken by Kripke to provide an a priori reason to reject any putative naturalistic or reductive theory of meaning. The second is the naturalisation of meaning. The sceptical challenge is ultimately to account for semantic facts in terms of non-semantic ones. It seems that this would be achieved through a successful naturalisation of the semantic relations. I argue against the claim that meaning is normative in any sense that could provide an a priori argument against factualism about meaning. I then consider the most prominent naturalistic responses to Kripke’s argument and find all of these to be unsatisfactory. I then attempt to provide a partial dissolution of the sceptical paradox by arguing that there are reasons to expect naturalising project in semantics to fail other than the truth of Kripke’s sceptical conclusion. First, I contend that we are not in a position to know what the eventual resources of a naturalised semantics would be. Since our current science is incomplete and potentially subject to revision, it would be a methodological mistake to view any putative naturalising base for semantic facts as metaphysically fixed. Second, I argue that the semantic facts themselves do not constitute a tractable domain for scientific theorising. I conclude that we should neither be too perturbed by, nor draw sceptical conclusions too swiftly from, the failure of such naturalising projects.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Philosophy (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Mr Matthew Jones
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2012 10:59
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:48
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/2042

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