SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Knowledge of Meaning?: Reconciling the Epistemic Intuitions and Empirical Theories of Linguistic Understanding
(Philosophy of Language, English)

The aim of this paper is to provide a philosophical account of knowledge of meaning that can reconcile two apparently inconsistent views on the relation between a language user and linguistic meaning.

On the one hand, we seem to have a pre-theoretical intuition about meaning that the epistemic relation between a language user and the meanings of linguistic expressions in her language must be relatively "intimate." This might lead to a view on knowledge of meaning that linguistic competence requires possessing internal representations of meaning, and they in turn constitute knowledge of meaning in the full-fledged epistemic sense. On this view, each language user would be able to, for instance, access such representations of meaning and employ them as reasons in her rational inference (LePore (1986)). On the other hand, in empirical cognitivist theories of linguistic competence, theoretically postulated cognitive states and processes are often construed as subpersonal (Sedivy (2014)) -- they are not directly accessible to consciousness, and hence cannot play the role of reasons in rational inference (Fodor (1983)). This suggests that there are two apparently conflicting views on the relation between a language user and meaning ((Barber (2013), Gross (2010)).

If the cognitive states and processes that underlie linguistic competence are mostly subpersonal, then they cannot at least directly play the role of reasons in inference (Evans (1981)). However, on my view, this is not incompatible with the claim that such subpersonal cognitive states might be still causally responsible for the production of personal-level beliefs about meaning. On this view, the language user is able to form personal-level beliefs about meaning that reliably track her subpersonal representations of meaning, via a non-inferential causal-cognitive mechanism. I will develop an account of knowledge of meaning on the basis of this idea, and defend it from several possible objections.

Chair: Nadja-Mira Yolcu
Time: 10:40-11:10, 20 September 2019 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.006

Ryo Tanaka 
(University of Connecticut, USA)

Ryo Tanaka is a PhD candidate in philosophy at University of Connecticut, USA. He is currently working on the topic of semantic knowledge, and in the dissertation he aims to provide an account of knowledge of meaning that both incorporates philosophical intuitions about linguistic meaning and findings from the relevant empirical fields (linguistics as well as psycholinguistics). Before coming to Connecticut, he obtained B.A. and M.A. in philosophy at Kyoto University, Japan, where he conducted research on Wilfrid Sellars_ philosophy.

Testability and Meaning deco