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Mind and Language – On the Philosophy of Anton Marty

Ed. by Fréchette, Guillaume / Taieb, Hamid

Series:Phenomenology & Mind 19

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November 2017
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Marty’s ‘Psychological’ Semantics and Its Posterity: Internalism and Externalism

Reboul, Anne


In this paper, I will be concerned with what might be called ‘psychological’ semantics: the notion that, in linguistic communication, the interpretation of an utterance crucially involves an appeal to the speaker’s intentions. This position was advocated by Marty, and later on, by Grice. It has come under attack in recent years, under the influence of the Externalist trend in semantics, which seems to refute any ‘psychologism’ in semantics. If, as Putnam’s Twin Earth experiment seems to show, meaning is dependent on the environment the speakers find themselves in, regardless of their mental states, any appeal to the speaker’s intentions seems superfluous. The crucial point here is what happens to a speaker who, unbeknownst to herself, finds herself in an environment which seems similar to her previous one, but which in fact differs. Do her words refer to features in her previous environment or to features in her new environment? Putnam clearly chose the second possibility. However, as I shall show, more recent Externalist theories, notably Millikan’s teleosemantics, do not force such a stark conclusion. Indeed, on the face of it, teleosemantics should be compatible with ‘psychological’ semantics. However, Millikan has rejected Grice’s approach, advocating a purely conventionalist approach to linguistic communication, based on a widespread ambiguity. In slogan form, while Grice goes for psychological inflation and semantic parsimony, it seems that Millikan goes for psychological parsimony and semantic inflation. The problem is that Millikan’s combination leaves a whole host of questions open, notably on the roots of ambiguity and on the resolution of ambiguity, none of which seem to be answerable without an appeal to the speaker’s intentions. So, basically, it seems that whether one chooses semantic parsimony or semantic inflation, psychological inflation is unavoidable. In other words, accounting for linguistic communication necessitates one form of ‘psychological’ semantics or another, as advocated by Marty or Grice.

Citation Information

Anne Reboul (2017). Marty’s ‘Psychological’ Semantics and Its Posterity: Internalism and Externalism. In Guillaume Fréchette, Hamid Taieb (Eds.), Mind and Language – On the Philosophy of Anton Marty (pp. 285–308). Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110531480-013

Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110531480

Online ISBN: 9783110531480

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/BostonGet Permission

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