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Externalism and a posteriori semantics
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Philosophy.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Philosophy.
2007 (English)In: Erkenntnis, ISSN 0165-0106, Vol. 67, no 3, 373-386 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

It is widely held that the meaning of certain types of terms, such as natural kind terms, is individuated externalistically, in terms of the individual’s external environment. Recently a more radical thesis has emerged, a thesis we dub ‘a posteriori semantics.’ The suggestion is that not only does a term’s meaning depend on the external environment, but so does its semantics. One motivation for this is the aim to account for cases where a putative natural kind term fails to pick out a natural kind: The term may have a standard externalist semantics (if it picks out a natural kind) or a more descriptivist one (if it does not). Knowing which semantics applies will therefore require detailed empirical knowledge. This move has also been employed in cases where a singular term, such as a name, fails to have a reference. We argue that a posteriori semantics is inherently implausible, since the type of semantics common terms should be given ought not to be conditional on details of chemistry or physics. A number of difficulties for the position—‘metaphysical,’ epistemological, and methodological—are articulated. Finally, we suggest that a posteriori semantics misconstrues the way in which semantics is empirical.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2007. Vol. 67, no 3, 373-386 p.
Keyword [en]
externalism, natural kind terms, meaning, intentions, a posteriori
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-10440DOI: 10.1007/s10670-007-9051-4ISI: 000249969500001OAI: diva2:176959
Available from: 2008-01-02 Created: 2008-01-02 Last updated: 2009-12-14Bibliographically approved

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Häggqvist, SörenWikforss, Åsa
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