Before I bring to an end the interrupted debate between the nominalist and the conceptualist we should try to get a clearer grasp of the methodological significance and scope of the two decisive perspectives on which the nominalist's argument rested. These perspectives constitute our first steps in the direction of a new, no longer ontologically-orientated semantic conceptuality. The first of these perspectives was contained in the question concerning the function of a lingustic expression that was introduced at the beginning of the previous lecture, the second in Wittgenstein's dictum, which was only brought in in the course of the dispute but is in fact fundamental: ‘The meaning of a word is what the explanation of its meaning explains.’ In both cases it is a matter of perspectives which I had applied specifically to our question concerning the meaning of predicates but which are in fact of universal scope; for they concern the question of the meaning of all linguistic expressions and thus reach beyond the special controversy between nominalism and conceptualism.
How far am I entitled to claim that these perspectives have something intrinsically compelling about them and are not arbitrary alternatives to the object-orientated conception? One cannot demand of a new way of looking at things that it be intrinsically compelling, merely that it be more fundamental than the previous one and hence can at least not be called in question by the latter.
I have already shown in the last lecture that this is the case with the functional conception vis-à-vis the object-orientated conception. That signs are used and used to perform a particular function is not denied by the object-orientated conception, but presupposed as obvious; and the only reason why this feature is not made thematic is because the object-orientated philosopher simply takes it for granted that the function of the sign is to stand for an object. But as soon as one explicitly retraces that step the particular function of standing for an object turns out to be merely one possibility among others. Of course the object-orientated philosopher may say that we cannot conceive of any other function for a sign than that of standing for an object.
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