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The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 118, Issue 1, January 2021

Jessica KeiserOrcid-ID
Pages 5-27

On Meaning without Use

This paper defends the use-based metasemantic project against the problem of meaning without use, which allegedly shows the predictions of use-based metasemantic accounts to be indeterminate with respect to unusably long or complex expressions. This criticism is commonly taken to be decisive, prompting various retreats and contributing to the project’s eventual decline. Using metasemantic conventionalism as a case study, I argue the following: either such expressions do not belong to used languages or their meanings are uniquely determined by use. Thus, the alleged problem of meaning without use offers no challenge to the use-based metasemantic project generally, nor to conventionalism in particular.

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