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Chapter 10 - What Is Meaning? A Wittgensteinian Answer to an Un-Wittgensteinian Question

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 August 2019

James Conant
Affiliation:
University of Chicago
Sebastian Sunday
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
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Summary

Wittgenstein has often been ascribed a ‘use-theory of meaning’. However, he explicitly renounced theory construction. Furthermore, his slogan ‘Don’t ask for the meaning, ask for the use!’ invites circumventing the question ‘What is meaning?’ altogether. This chapter argues that, Wittgenstein’s ambivalence notwithstanding, there is no merit in avoiding the title question (‘What is meaning?’). Moreover, it is argued that, while Wittgenstein’s reflections are incompatible with a formal theory of meaning, they do lay the foundations of a viable account of the concept of linguistic meaning, namely by elucidating its connections with other concepts like those of rule, explanation, and understanding. The chapter makes a case for a use-theory thus understood.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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