Volume 90, Issue 2, Spring 2016
The Identity of a Word
What is it for the same word or expression (written, spoken, or otherwise produced) to occur in two different contexts? One is inclined to say that the word “rat” does not occur in “Socrates loved Plato,” but it is harder to justify this statement than might be thought. This issue lies in the midst of a tangle of issues, a number of which are investigated in an important but little-discussed article of Anscombe’s, in which she considers the question whether the Wittgenstein of the Philosophical Investigations can be read as proposing a “micro-reductionist” theory of language: i.e., a theory which states non-circular conditions for any given sound’s (or shape’s) having a meaning. Anscombe answers the question negatively; and indeed there are obstacles faced by any such theory of language. Our investigation turns out to have implications not only within philosophy of language, but also within (for example) philosophy of psychology.