Some Questions about Language / Edition 1

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How do meaningless marks and sounds become the meaningful words of a natural language? To what do words having referential significance refer? What is the meaning of words that do not have referential significance? Can ordinary language really do what it appears to do, or is this an illusion?

Dr. Adler maintains that these fundamental questions are not satisfactorily treated in the two main philosophies of language that have dominated twentieth-century thinking on the subject--the syntactical and 'ordinary language' approaches.

Drawing upon the tradition of Aristotle, Aquinas, Poinsot, and Husserl, Dr. Adler's own discussion exemplifies the third approach, which he describes as "semantic and lexical". In this now-classic work, the fruit of more than 50 years' concern with the philosophy of language, Dr. Adler advances a powerful theory of meaning and applies it to some outstanding philosophical problems. In unpretentious and uncluttered prose, he provides a limpid introduction to a number of knotty philosophical issues and at the same time issues a challenge to some of the most tenacious doctrines of the modern world.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812691788
  • Publisher: Open Court Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 1/28/1976
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 204
  • Product dimensions: 4.94 (w) x 8.94 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface xi
Chapter I. The Scope of a Philosophy of Language
Question 1. What is the primary fact that a philosophy of language should try to explain or account for? 4
Question 2. What aspects of language should a philosophical approach to the subject not attempt to deal with? 6
Question 3. What, specifically, should be avoided in developing a philosophical theory of language? 8
Question 4. How are the philosophical problems of language related to the concerns of the logician and the grammarian in dealing with language? 10
Chapter II. The Primary Problem for a Philosophy of Language
Question 1. Can the problem of meaning be formulated in a way that is not prejudicial to any possible solution of it? 16
Question 2. What different meanings of the word "meaning" must be noted to achieve a clearer statement of the problem of meaning? 18
Question 3. What mode of meaning is peculiar to words and what mode of meaning do words share with other things? 20
Question 4. Is there only one mode of meaning peculiar to words, or are there two? 24
Question 5. Can ambiguities latent in the word "meaning" be avoided? 27
Question 6. Does the eulogistic use of the word "meaningful" and the dyslogistic use of the word "meaningless" raise a problem for the philosophy of language? 29
Question 7. Of the several modes of meaning (i.e., of signifying) that we have so far considered, and of the various uses of the word "meaning" that we have so far indicated, which concern the philosophy of language in dealing with its primary problem? 34
Chapter III. The Solution of the Primary Problem
Question 1. Can meaningless notations acquire referential significance without the intervention of mind? 39
Question 2. Can meaningless notations acquire referential significance by being imposed on things? 44
Question 3. Can meaningless notations acquire referential significance by being imposed on ideas? 49
Question 4. Why is it that meaningless notations can acquire referential significance in no other way than by being imposed on the objects of perception, memory, imagination, and thought? 54
Question 5. Do meaningful words ever function in the acquisition of referential significance by meaningless notations? 66
Question 6. How do the meaningless notations that become syncategorematic words acquire their syntactical significance, and how does that mode of meaning differ from the referential significance of categorematic words or name-words? 70
Chapter IV. The Underpinnings of the Theory
Question 1. What posits are required for a solution of the problem of meaning? 77
Question 2. As compared with really existent things, what mode of existence do subjective ideas have? 83
Question 3. As compared with things and ideas, what mode of existence do apprehended objects have? 88
Question 4. What relationships obtain between things and ideas, between ideas and objects, and between objects and things? 92
Question 5. Does the distinction between three modes of being, appropriate to things, ideas, and objects, call for a distinction between modes of cognition? 95
Question 6. Is human experience all of one piece, or can it be divided into objective and subjective experience? 97
Question 7. How does human discourse deal with matters of subjective experience or with what is not experienceable at all? 101
Chapter V. Two Difficult Questions
Question 1. How can two or more numerically distinct ideas be the means whereby one and the same object is apprehended? 106
Question 2. How is the perceptual object related to the really existing thing which causes our perception of that object? 111
Chapter VI. Discourse About Objects of Perception, Memory, and Imagination
Question 1. In our conversations about objects of perception are we also talking to one another about really existent things? 124
Question 2. Can one and the same object of discourse be a perceptual object for one person, a remembered object for another, and an imagined object for a third? 128
Question 3. Can we discourse about imaginary objects that are never objects of perception or memory? 131
Chapter VII. Discourse About Objects of Thought
Question 1. Can the meaning of a common name be explained in any other way than by a universal object of thought as its referent? 140
Question 2. Are universal objects of thought entities that also have real existence? 146
Question 3. Can all universal objects of thought be instantiated by perceived or perceivable particulars? 149
Question 4. How can two or more persons assure themselves that the conceptual object signified by a common name they are using is one and the same object for all of them? 155
Epilogue 161
Bibliographical Appendix 173
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