Reference and Computation: An Essay in Applied Philosophy of Language

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Rhetoric is the study of the particular words that people use in order to achieve the proper emotional and rational effect in the listener, be it to persuade, provoke, endear, or teach. Some relevant applications of the field include the examination of propaganda and didacticism, the examination of the purposes of swearing and pejoratives especially how it influences the behavior of others, and defines relationships , the effects of gendered language, linguistic transparency, or speaking in an accessible manner, performative utterances and the various tasks that language can perform called "speech acts" , applications to the study and interpretation of law, and to help give insight to the logical concept of the domain of discourse.

Literary theory is a discipline that overlaps with the philosophy of language. It emphasizes the methods that readers and critics use in understanding a text. This field, being an outgrowth of the study of how to properly interpret messages, is closely tied to the ancient discipline of hermeneutics. In Continental Philosophy, language is not studied as a separate discipline, as it is in Analytic Philosophy.

Rather, it is an inextricable part of many other areas of thought, such as Phenomenology , Semiotics , Hermeneutics, Heideggerean Ontology , Existentialism , Structuralism , Deconstruction , and Critical Theory. The idea of language is often related to that of logic in its Greek sense as "Logos," meaning discourse or dialectic. Language and concepts are also seen as having been formed by history and politics, or even by historical philosophy itself.

The field of hermeneutics, and the theory of interpretation in general, has played a significant role in twentieth century continental philosophy of language and ontology beginning with Martin Heidegger. Heidegger combines phenomenology with the hermeneutics of Wilhelm Dilthey. Heidegger believed language was one of the most important concepts for Dasein : "Language is the house of being, which is propriated by being and pervaded by being" [40].

However, Heidegger believed that language today is worn out because of overuse of important words, and would be inadequate for in-depth study of Being Sein. For example, Sein being , the word itself, is saturated with multiple meanings. Thus, he invented new vocabulary and linguistic styles, based on Ancient Greek and Germanic etymological word relations, to disambiguate commonly used words.

He avoid words like consciousness, ego, human, nature, etc. With such new concepts as Being-in-the-world , Heidegger constructs his theory of language, centered around speech. He believed speech talking, listening, silence was the most essential and pure form of language. Heidegger claims writing is only a supplement to speech, because even a reader constructs or contributes one's own "talk" while reading. The most important feature of language is its 'projectivity', the idea that language is prior to human speech.

This means that when one is "thrown" into the world, his existence is characterized from the beginning by a certain pre-comprehension of the world. However, it is only after naming, or "articulation of intelligibility," can one have primary access to Dasein and Being-in-the-World. Hans Georg Gadamer expanded on these ideas of Heidegger and proposed a complete hermeneutic ontology.

In Truth and Method , Gadamer describes language as "the medium in which substantive understanding and agreement take place between two people. For example, monuments and statues cannot communicate without the aid of language. Gadamer also claims that every language constitutes a world-view, because the linguistic nature of the world frees each individual from an objective environment: " The world as world exists for man as for no other creature in the world.

Paul Ricoeur , on the other hand, proposed a hermeneutics which, reconnecting with the original Greek sense of the term, emphasized the discovery of hidden meanings in the equivocal terms or "symbols" of ordinary language. Other philosophers who have worked in this tradition include Luigi Pareyson and Jacques Derrida.

In the field of semiotics , the study of the transmission, reception and meaning of signs and symbols in general, human language both natural and artificial is just one among many ways that humans and other conscious beings are able to take advantage of and effectively manipulate the external world in order to create meaning for themselves and transmit this meaning to others. Every object, every person, every event, and every force communicates or signifies continuously.

The ringing of a telephone for example, is the telephone.

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The smoke that I see on the horizon is the sign that there is a fire. The smoke signifies. The things of the world, in this vision, seem to be labeled precisely for intelligent beings who only need to interpret them in the way that humans do. Everything has meaning. True communication, including the use of human language however, requires someone a sender who sends a message or text in some code to someone else a receiver.

Language is studied only insofar as it is one of these forms the most sophisticated form of communication. Some important figures in the history of semiotics, are C. Peirce , Roland Barthes , and Roman Jakobson. In modern times, its most well-known figures include Umberto Eco , A. One issue that has bothered philosophers of language and logic is the problem of the vagueness of words. Often, meanings expressed by the speaker are not as explicit or precise as the listener would like them to be. In consequence, vagueness gives rise to the Paradox of the heap.

Many theorists have attempted to solve the paradox by way of n-valued logics, such as fuzzy logic , which have radically departed from classical two-valued logics. One debate that has captured the interest of many philosophers is the debate over the meaning of universals. One might ask, for example, "when people say the word, "rocks," what is it that the word represents?

Some have said that the expression stands for some real, abstract universal out in the world called "rocks. The former position has been called philosophical realism , and the latter has been called nominalism. From the radical realist's perspective, the connection between S and M is a connection between two abstract entities.

There is an entity, "man," and an entity, "Socrates. From a nominalist's perspective, the connection between S and M is the connection between a particular entity Socrates and a vast collection of particular things men. To say that Socrates is a man is to say that Socrates is a part of the class of "men. Many philosophical discussions of language begin by clarifying terminology.

One item which has undergone significant scrutiny is the idea of language itself. Those philosophers who have set themselves to the task ask two important questions: "What is language in general? Some semiotic outlooks have stressed that language is the mere manipulation and use of symbols in order to draw attention to signified content.

If this were so, then humans would not be the sole possessors of language skills. More puzzling is the question of what it is that distinguishes one particular language from another. What is it that makes "English" English? What's the difference between Spanish and French? Chomsky has indicated that the search for what it means to be a language must begin with the study of the internal language of persons, or I-languages, which are based upon certain rules or principles and parameters which generate grammars.

This view is supported in part by the conviction that there is no clear, general, and principled difference between one language and the next, and which may apply across the field of all languages. Other attempts, which he dubs E-languages , have tried to explain a language as usage within a specific speech community with a specific set of well-formed utterances in mind markedly associated with linguists like Bloomfield. Another of the questions that has divided philosophers of language is the extent to which formal logic can be used as an effective tool in the analysis and understanding of natural languages.

While most philosophers, including Frege , Alfred Tarski and Rudolf Carnap , have been more or less skeptical about formalizing natural languages, many of them developed formal languages for use in the sciences or formalized parts of natural language for investigation. Some of the most prominent members of this tradition of formal semantics include Tarski, Carnap, Richard Montague and Donald Davidson. On the other side of the divide, and especially prominent in the s and s, were the so-called "Ordinary language philosophers.

Strawson , John Austin and Gilbert Ryle stressed the importance of studying natural language without regard to the truth-conditions of sentences and the references of terms.

Linguistic Content: New Essays on the History of Philosophy of Language - Oxford Scholarship

They did not believe that the social and practical dimensions of linguistic meaning could be captured by any attempts at formalization using the tools of logic. Logic is one thing and language is something entirely different. What is important is not expressions themselves but what people use them to do in communication. Hence, Austin developed a theory of speech acts , which described the kinds of things which can be done with a sentence assertion, command, inquiry, exclamation in different contexts of use on different occasions.

While keeping these traditions in mind, the question of whether or not there is any grounds for conflict between the formal and informal approaches is far from being decided. Some theorists, like Paul Grice, have been skeptical of any claims that there is a substantial conflict between logic and natural language. Translation and interpretation are two other problems that philosophers of language have attempted to confront.

In the s, W. Quine argued for the indeterminacy of meaning and reference based on the principle of radical translation. In Word and Object , Quine asks the reader to imagine a situation in which he is confronted with a previously undocumented, primitive tribe and must attempt to make sense of the utterances and gestures that its members make.

This is the situation of radical translation. He claimed that, in such a situation, it is impossible in principle to be absolutely certain of the meaning or reference that a speaker of the primitive tribe's language attaches to an utterance. For example, if a speaker sees a rabbit and says "gavagai," is she referring to the whole rabbit, to the rabbit's tail, or to a temporal part of the rabbit.

All that can be done is to examine the utterance as a part of the overall linguistic behavior of the individual, and then use these observations to interpret the meaning of all other utterances. From this basis, one can form a manual of translation. But, since reference is indeterminate, there will be many such manuals, no one of which is more correct than the others. For Quine, as for Wittgenstein and Austin, meaning is not something that is associated with a single word or sentence, but is rather something that, if it can be attributed at all, can only be attributed to a whole language.

Quine's disciple, Donald Davidson , extended the idea of radical translation to the interpretation of utterances and behavior within a single linguistic community. He dubbed this notion radical interpretation. He suggested that the meaning that any individual ascribed to a sentence could only be determined by attributing meanings to many, perhaps all, of the individual's assertions as well as his mental states and attitudes. New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards.

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Note: Some restrictions may apply to use of individual images which are separately licensed. Philosophy of language. Previous Philosophy of history. Next Philosophy of mind. Ted Honderich. Oxford:Oxford University Press. Series: Cambridge Studies in the Dialogues of Plato. David Sedley. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press. Mates, , Stoic Logic. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Peter Abelard. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved February 13, Cambridge:Cambridge University Press. Marconi, "Storia della Filosofia del Linguaggio. Gianni Vattimo. Milan:Garzanti Editori. Kretzmann, N. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pagin, "Are Holism and Compositionality Compatible?. Massimo dell'Utri. Retrieved February 11, Stainton, , Philosophical perspectives on language. Peterborough, Ont. Penco, "Filosofia del Linguaggio.

Milian:Garzanti Editori. Davidson, Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Wittgenstein, , Philosophical Investigations. Third edition.

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Brandom, , Making it Explicit. Cambridge, Mass. Putnam, , "The Meaning of 'Meaning'. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Kripke, , Naming and Necessity. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Voltolini, , "Olismi Irriducibilmente Indipendenti?. Massimo Dell'Utri. Macerata: Quodlibet. Dummett, , The Logical Basis of Metaphysics. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. Robert Stainton. Frege, , "On Sense and Reference. Eva Picardi and Carlo Penco.

Bari: Editori Laterza. Russell, , On Denoting. Published in "Mind. Original title: The Principles of Mathematics. Italian trans. Enrico Carone and Maurizio Destro. Rome:Newton Compton editori. Fodor The MIT Press.

ISBN Pinker, , L'Istinto del Linguaggio. Original title: The Language Instinct. Milan:Arnaldo Mondadori Editori. Fodor and E. New York: Random House. Kay and W. Kempton, , "What is the Spair-Whorf Hypothesis? Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Kathleen Freeman. In Kaufmann, W. Philosophic Classics: Thales to Ockham. New Jersey:Prentice Hall, Inc. In the next section, we will discuss some of the debates on this subjects and other related issues. One of the reason that he is regarded as a rationalist might be that Chomsky tries to differentiate himself from the linguistic behaviorism and he emphasizes some of reasonable core of "rationalism" to make a statement that my "sausage-making machines" 16 is not tabula rasa, but has complex, dedicated parts and structure.

The other reason is the tradition of the rationalist philosophy of language, philosophical grammar. Philosophical grammar is "typically concerned with data not for itself but as evidence for deeper, hidden organizing principles, Rationalism stressed the power of reason as opposed to empirical facts and used deductive reasoning as the basis for their knowledge system. Chomsky's theory is an empirical science and his method is largely based on linguistic empirical data.

Therefore, Chomsky's theory is not rationalist in the classical sense. Some of his opponents Quine, Wells confuse what Chomsky is claiming and what he is doing. Understanding of Chomsky's position on those issues, some of the objections to his theory become automatically invalid, Goodman 22 raises a question. How does Chomsky start from some subtle difference in linguistics and then moves on to innate ideas? On the other hand, Chomsky's theory is empirical, but different from behaviorism linguistics.

On the issue of "innate structure", Harman does not accept Chomsky's theory of innate structures. He said: "I view linguistics, it is closer to both anthropology and the behavioral sciences than he would apparently allow. Behaviorism treats a complex system as a black box, a functional mechanism. If two black box function exact the same, behaviorism and functionalism regards them exact the same. This is Quine's so-called 'enigma doctrine'.

He says, "English speakers obey, in this sense, any and all of the extensionally equivalent systems of grammar that demarcate the right totality of well-formed English sentences. The development of brain science will discover the very physical structure of human brain, and there can be only one of a set of "extensionally equivalent systems of grammar" is correctly attributed to the speaker-hearer as a property that is the same as that is physically encoded, where some other one merely happens to fit the speaker's behavior but does not correctly represent the physical facts.

The second difference is reflected by the relationship between I-language and E-language. E-language, as the traditional behaviorist linguistics, deals with steady-state language, or mature language; while I-language in Chomsky's theory specifies not only the internal characteristics of language, but also deals with a dynamic process, language acquiring process, from initial state So to the steady state SL. This dynamic process puts more constraints on the characteristics of the languages.

I-languages may reach the same steady state SL and realize the steady state languages that have "extensionally equivalent systems of grammar"; while these I-languages may specify different dynamic processes that reach SL. These processes differentiate I-languages one another and some of them can be proved to be wrong theories regarding the language acquisition process.

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Therefore, extensionally equivalent systems of grammar in the traditional grammar sense is not necessarily equivalent in terms of I-language. Nagel questioned whether the initial contribution of the organism to language-learning is properly described as knowledge. Chomsky introduces "cognize" in trying to resolve the issue, which we think it might be superficial. In computer science, a computation can be either realized through software, which is written in computer language, or through hardware, which is built by the logic circuits composed of physical parts.

Both functions exactly the same. If we can do an extrapolation or analogy, ideas might be realized through abstract symbol systems or through neural-network. The two mode of structures may have effects on the recognizability. This is a speculation. But our point is that UG is proposed as hypothesis, and if the 'notion of structure' is correct, other hypothesis may be assumed on what kind of structure is and how the structure operates. The final settlement relies on new development of brain sciences. UG as a hypothesis raises questions about to what extend the hypothesis correctly captures the structure of brain.

Danto says:. So far as LA is universal, we live perforce in the same world if the structure of our world reflects the structure of language.

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Obviously, something produced by means of a different LA would not be recognizably a language, nor would the world correlative with this, if there is this correlatively, be recognizably the world. A wholly different language or a wholly different world would be unintelligible, but is the very idea unintelligible?

Chomsky treats the innate idea as a fixed form common grammar hypothesis , which resembles rationalist doctrine of ideas; while his attempts in providing a natural science of language is not consistent with such hypothesis. In this aspect, Herbert Spencer Principle of Psychology might be right that innate ideas, such as adopt form of thought, like the perception of space and time, or the notions of quantity and cause, which Kant supposed innate, are merely instinctive ways of thinking; and as instincts are habits acquired by the race but native to the individual, so these categories are mental habits slowly acquired in the course of evolution, and now part of our intellectual heritage.

In Spencer's word, "the inheritance of accumulating modifications". If this is correct, chimpanzee and human ability in communication and maybe language can be bridged in principle, and the study of chimpanzee's brain would help to discover the innate structure physically encoded in a certain manner too. The authors are grateful to Professor Philip L. Peterson, Syracuse University, for his many comments and remarks. Chomsky, N. Goldman, A. Goodman, N. Nagel, T. Quine, W. In this respect, the study of language as understood in the discussion above is like chemistry, biology, solar physics, or the theory of human vision.

We tend to interpret his theory based on his latest book Knowledge of Language He obviously try to distance his theory from Plato's ideas: "One is not mislead thereby into believing that the subject matter of rational mechanics is an entity in a Platonic heaven, and there is no more reason to suppose that that is true in the study of language.