Intuitions about disagreement do not support the normativity of meaning

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Abstract

Allan Gibbard (2012) argues that the term ‘meaning’ expresses a normative concept, primarily on the basis of arguments that parallel Moore's famous Open Question Argument. In this paper I argue that Gibbard's evidence for normativity rests on idiosyncrasies of the Open Question Argument, and that when we use related thought experiments designed to bring out unusual semantic intuitions associated with normative terms we fail to find such evidence. These thought experiments, moreover, strongly suggest there are basic requirements for a theory of meaning incompatible with Gibbard's ultimate goal of providing an expressivist account of meaning-related concepts. I conclude by considering a possible way in which meaning could be normative, consistent with the intuitions about disagreement; but this form of normativism about meaning appears incompatible with Gibbard's expressivism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-84
Number of pages20
JournalDialectica
Volume70
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016

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