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Philosophy and Phenomenological Research

Volume 57, Issue 3, September 1997

Carleton B. Christensen
Pages 495-522

Meaning Things and Meaning Others

At least phenomenologically the way communicative acts reveal intentions is different from the way non-communicative acts do this: the former have an “addressed” character which the latter do not. The paper argues that this difference is a real one, reflecting the irreducibly “conventional” character of human communication. It attempts to show this through a critical analysis of the Gricean programme and its methodologically individualist attempt to explain the “conventional” as derivative from the “non-conventional”. It is shown how in order to eliminate certain counterexamples the Gricean analysis of utterer’s meaning must be made self-referential. It is then shown how this in turn admits an “ontological difference” which undercuts all methodological individualism: meaning something by an utterance must then have a certain intrinsic, irreducible “conventionality” and “intersubjectivity”. Objections to this claim are raised and dealt with. It is suggested that any problem of origin might be resolvable by rejecting the semantic reductionism of Grice’s programme. An internal relation between self-consciousness, intersubjectivity and language is suggested. The paper ends by speculating that the self-conscious subject is intrinsically embodied and related to other subjects in that for it its body is essentially a medium of signs with which to express its “inner states” to others.

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