Twin Earth and the Normativity of Meaning
In this dissertation, I attempt to provide some new evidence in favour of the claim that meaning is normative—specifically, for the claim that semantic judgments or ascriptions of meaning are action-guiding. I attempt to achieve this by developing an analogue of the Moral Twin Earth argument advanced by Horgan and Timmons (1992a) which I call the ‘Meaning Twin Earth’ argument. In the course of the dissertation, I outline Kripke’s 1982 sceptical argument for the thesis that there are no meaning facts in virtue of which ascriptions of meaning are true or false and highlight how the claim that meaning is normative is necessary for that argument to succeed with the kind of generality that Kripke intends. I then explain how one of Kripke’s main arguments against dispositionalist accounts of meaning can be viewed as a kind of open question argument. This argument is ultimately a failure, but nonetheless, I argue that the argument can be revised in a way that does pose a genuine threat to dispositionalist accounts of meaning by using an analogue of Horgan and Timmons’ Moral Twin Earth argument. I claim that a Meaning Twin Earth scenario yields linguistic intuitions that, in my view, are best explained by invoking the claim that meaning is normative. These intuitions constitute evidence against both reductive dispositionalism and anti-normativism about meaning. I forestall several potential objections to the Meaning Twin Earth argument drawn from Plunkett and Sundell (2013), Copp (2000), Merli (2002), and Baker (2016). In closing, I consider two broad options for a normativist account of semantic judgment: an expressivist form (Gibbard) and a rationalist form (McDowell). I argue that, provisionally, McDowell’s rationalist version of factualism about meaning faces a less serious challenge than Gibbard’s expressivist alternative.
Advisor: Miller, Alex; Pigden, Charles
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Philosophy
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: meaning; normativity; metaethics; normativity of meaning and content; philosophy of language; twin earth; disagreement; kripke's wittgenstein; meaning scepticism; rule-following
Research Type: Thesis