Hilary Putnam On Linquistic Meaning (par…t one)

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"On "The Meaning of Meaning" (1975).

So if per Kripke (we're following the thread from #126), meaning is NOT a matter of having a description in your head, then what is it? Hilary Putnam reformulates Kripke's insight in terms of Twin Earths: If Earth-water is H2O, and on Twin Earth, they have something that looks just like water but is a different compound, then we wouldn't call that water, right? Putnam says part of what makes up the meaning of a word is an implicit pointing to the stuff around us, so it's relative to the speaker: The Twin Earthers saying "water" are referring to the stuff around them, not H2O. So even though we and the Twin Earthers both have the same mental contents, our reference points at different stuff.

Putnam then goes on to give a positive theory of meaning (that Kripke lacks), and to give hints about his sympathy with pragmatism, but you'll have to wait until next week to hear that in part two, or maybe just go ahead and become a PEL Citizen to get the ad-free, unbroken Citizen Edition right now. This will also let you participate in the Not School activity that Nathan Hanks describes at the end of the episode.

Mark, Wes, and Dylan are rejoined by Matt Teichman for this gripping discussion, which in addition to covering that main essay also touched on Putnam's articles "It Ain't Necessarily So" (1962) and "Is Semantics Possible" (1970).

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