Meaning : the move from minds to practices
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
For centuries referential theories of language and meaning have dominated Western philosophy. The idea that noises and scratches become meaningful words and writing by virtue of a mental grasp one has on the referents they are talking about has become deeply entrenched. Starting with Plato, and reinvented by Locke, contemporary theorists continue to reproduce this mental fix requirement (MFR) in their philosophies of language and intentionality-Physicalists, such as Paul and Patricia Churchland are typical. Plato, Locke and the Churchlands all share the view that bits of language reach out to extra-linguistic entities by some act of mind (for Plato the mind grasped referents via the Forms, for Locke Ideas bridged the relation, and the Churchland's, brain states). In each case a self-referential mental act gets language up and running, i.e. mental connections (or representations) to referents do the trick. My question also concerns what makes squiggles and noises meaningful. The question is a nested one-ancillary to it are questions of what makes language work? How do words mean or relate to the world? How do speakers mean certain things and not others? I will approach the question from a contextualist perspective where roles in rule-governed activities are the bottom line, not representations in the mind/brain.