SOPhiA 2017

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Quine on Shared Language and Linguistic Communities
(Philosophy of Language, English)

The idea that language is primarily social is at the heart of Quine's views. As he famously states: ''Language is a social art'' and he continues to talk about language as ''ours'' and ''social'' at many places of his writings. Numerous references may create the impression that he believes in some kind of naive conventionalism, that he believes that linguistic communities are basically stable and uniform and so members of those communities share a language. This way of interpreting Quine is sometimes explicitly and often implicitly suggested by commentators. I must admit that it is a tempting interpretation, especially if we look at the role which Quine ascribes to the corrective behaviour and if we take into consideration the way that Quine talks about natural languages.

However, I do not believe that naive conventionalism can be legitimately ascribed to Quine. If we look at his views on language learning in detail, we can conclude that his way of talking about natural languages as shared is no more than a provisional simplification. On the contrary, I believe that Quine is much closer to linguistic individualism, the view according to which an explanation of natural languages builds on the notion of idiolects and according to which there is no guarantee that speakers share a language.

As I will try to show, Quine's views do not depend on the notion of shared language at all. When Quine talks about natural languages he talks about scientific idealizations which are necessary for the scientific practice. Moreover, the criterion for deciding if a speaker belongs to a community does not depend on the notion of shared language and communities do not need to be uniform. Boundaries of communities depend on successfulness of communication and ''successful communication'' is a parameter which can be adjusted in accordance with our practical purposes.

Chair: Till Gallasch
Time: 15:10-15:40, 15 September 2017 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.005

Matej Drobňák 
(University of Hradec Králové, Czech Republic)

Matej Drobňák graduated Mgr. studies in philosophy at Catholic University in Ružomberok. Since 2014 he is doing his PhD. at the University of Hradec Králové under supervision of Prof. Jaroslav Peregrin. His main research areas are philosophy of language and metasemantics, specifically the topic of conventions in language and communication.

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