Lexical meaning and propositional representation : an investigation into the problem of the unity of the proposition

Summers, Simon (2012) Lexical meaning and propositional representation : an investigation into the problem of the unity of the proposition. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

In this thesis, I offer a novel account of how best to reorient our semantic and conceptual inquiries into lexical meaning and propositional representation. I achieve this by means of a partly historical investigation into the problem of the unity of the proposition; this is the problem of distinguishing a proposition - the bearer of truth, the complex object or content of a belief or other propositional attitude, and the meaning of a true/false statement - from an „aggregate‟ of its constituent parts. In chapter 1, I assess Bertrand Russell‟s first attempt at a solution, and give a detailed account of why his proposed analysis of a proposition and the sentence expressing it generates a viciously regressive analysis. In chapter 2, I assess Frege‟s approach to the problem, and show that he offers a fundamental insight by way of his approach to analysis which draws an absolute distinction between functions and their argument, and treats concepts as functions to truth-values. Frege has, of course, influenced many contemporary philosophers of language, notably Dummett and Davidson, who have argued that Frege‟s insights offer us a lens thorough which to understand the nature of predication in natural languages. I argue that these proposed revisions of Frege‟s account fall short of an adequate solution to the unity problem. In chapter 3, I present and critically discuss Russell‟s multiple relation theory of judgment and Wittgenstein‟s approach to the unity problem as presented in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and how these may be interpreted as offering a partial advance to the unity problem over the solutions previously considered. Then, in chapter 4, I move on to assess some recent solutions which, influenced by both Russell‟s later theory and Wittgenstein‟s early work, attempt to either solve or expose the question of unity as it struck Russell and Frege as a „pseudo-problem‟. These solutions propose a range of approaches to the „naturalisation‟ of the concept of meaning and the phenomenon of propositional representation. Whilst I take this naturalistic turn to be - at least in some respects - commendable, in chapter 5 I develop an alternative account, focusing how lexical meaning may be investigated independently of its contribution to full propositional (true/false) representation. I show how this reorientation might light the path towards richer accounts of meaning-relevant syntactic structure and lexical content than the rival accounts previously discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Philosophy
Depositing User: Mia Reeves
Date Deposited: 16 May 2013 15:39
Last Modified: 16 May 2013 15:39
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/42422
DOI:

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