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Hilary Putnam On Linquistic Meaning (par…t two)

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Continuing on "The Meaning of Meaning" (1975).

We finish giving Putnam's positive theory for "meaning" something, which involves not only referring to something (whose properties, per Kripke, you may well not know) but being familiar with a stereotype of the thing, which is like a description, but isn't the thing that picks out the referent. For example, my stereotype of ""elm"" may (if I don't know a lot about trees) be the SAME stereotype as ""beech,"" yet that's enough for me to be counted by other English speakers as understanding these two words. What makes ""elm"" refer to the kind of tree it does is not my picture of it (I don't really have one!) but what the experts say about it: Putnam calls this a semantic division of labor. Also, the stereotype required by a culture may change over time and may even be false, like pure gold really isn't yellow, but "yellow metal" is part of the stereotype.

We also talk about how reference has an indexical component, which means that like here" and "I" its meaning varies systematically by context, and Mark tries unsuccessfully to connect Putnam's views here to pragmatism.

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