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Meaning and the World

ByRyan Simonelli

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This is my 2022 Ph.D. Dissertation in Philosophy at the University of Chicago. In it, I motivate and develop a use-based semantic theory in opposition to the dominant paradigm in philosophical and linguistic semantics. Drawing inspiration from Wilfrid Sellars, I argue that contemporary semantic theories are faced with a basic problem of explanatory circularity. These theories universally presuppose that worldly knowledge of such things as properties or sets of possible worlds precedes and underlies knowledge of meaning. I argue, however, that it is only through learning a language—mastering the rules governing the use of the expressions belonging to that language—that knowledge of these worldly entities is possible. In response to this fundamental problem, I develop a formal semantic framework in which the meaning of a sentence is understood directly in terms of its role in discourse. In contrast to existing semantic frameworks, this framework does not presuppose speakers’ worldly knowledge, and so is actually able to explain it. The result is not just a new kind of semantic theory, but a new conception of the relation between meaning and the world.


Publication Date
May 27, 2022
Science & Medicine
All Rights Reserved - Standard Copyright License
By (author): Ryan Simonelli


Perfect Bound
Interior Color
Black & White
US Letter (8.5 x 11 in / 216 x 279 mm)


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