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Res Philosophica


published on October 14, 2015

Sara L. Uckelman, Phoebe Chan

Against Truth-Conditional Theories of Meaning
Three Lessons from the Language(s) of Fiction

Fictional discourse and fictional languages provide useful test cases for theories of meaning. In this paper, we argue against truth-conditional accounts of meaning on the basis of problems posed by language(s) of fiction. It is well-known how fictional discourse—discourse about nonexistent objects—poses a problem for truth-conditional theories of meaning. Less well-considered, however, are the problems posed by fictional languages, which can be created to either be meaningful or not to be meaningful; both of these ultimately also provide problems for a truthconditional account of meaning, because it cannot account for the ways in which we use and evaluate such fictional languages. Instead, a pragmatic or use-based account provides a better explanation for some of the phenomena we discuss.

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