[FOM] re the meaning of set

Mark Lance lancem at georgetown.edu
Tue Feb 21 07:07:07 EST 2006

F.A Muller: " Since Wittgenstein it has become a triviality
  to say that our use of expressions is
  constitutive for their meaning. But only
  very recently has Paul Horwich made an attempt
  to propound a theory of meaning based on this
  triviality. "

I'm actually skeptical that one needs a theory of meaning as  
background to a discussion of ordinary uses of "set".  (There are  
other fom issues far more deeply connected to questions of meaning.)   
More specifically on this post, a few observations as someone who  
works primarily in philosophy of language:
In my view -- and I've published papers defending this --  
WIttgenstein did not think use constitutive of meaning.
The view is  certainly is not a triviality as many people continue to  
deny it, basing meaning on mental states (Chomsky, Fodor, W. Davis),  
biological function (milikan), causal relations to the world (devitt)  
Horwich is certainly not the first to propound a theory of meaning  
based on use -- Quine, Sellars, Dummett, Hintikka, and Brandom all  
have put forward much more detailed accounts of meaning.  One can  
argue in any of these cases -- including Horwich -- about whether  
these really are precisely theories in which "use is constitutive of  
meaning," but there is no grounds for singling out Horwich as the  
unique follower of Wittgenstein on this.  (And needless to say, each  
of these philosophers has things to say about the way their account  
of meaning relates to mathematical language.)

Mark Lance
Georgetown University

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