Semantics: Intuition, Experiment or Illusion?

Abstract

Externalist theories in natural language semantics have become the orthodoxy since Kripke is widely thought to have refuted descriptive theories involving internal cognitive representation of meaning. This shift may be seen in developments in philosophy of language of the 1970s – the direct reference “revolution against Frege” (Wettstein 2004). Almog (2005) writes of the “uprising against Frege’s doctrines” that “spread like fire” based on the work of Kripke, Donnellan, Putnam and Kaplan. However, I consider Fodor’s (2004) heretical thought that something has gone “awfully wrong” in this philosophical consensus, perhaps confirming Chomsky’s (1992) view that the whole field of philosophical semantics is “utterly wrongheaded” and “crazy” by virtue of its non-naturalist assumptions and “methodological dualism.” I suggest that the externalist orthodoxy is a kind of cognitive illusion seen elsewhere in philosophy and cognitive science.


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