John Searle is famous for his description theory of names. Most regard this theory as having been refuted by Kripke. Yet Searle's theory has definite advantages over the Millian and causal alternatives. I show that the advantages are due to his explaining meaning in terms of the contents of mental states. The arguments against descriptivism refute only the claim that the relevant contents are descriptive. We get a better theory of names by keeping Searle's Intentionalism and dropping descriptivism.
SENSE, REFERENCE, AND INTENTIONAL CONTENT
Searle addressed fundamental questions about proper names: Do names have senses? In virtue of what do names refer to objects? How in the utterance of names do speakers succeed in referring to objects? In answering these questions, Searle develops a broadly Fregean account in which the notion of “Intentional content” plays the fundamental role. Searle's basic principle is that the meaning and referential properties of all linguistic units are derived from the intrinsic Intentionality of mental states (1983: vii, 27).
Since linguistic reference is always dependent on or is a form of mental reference and since mental reference is always in virtue of Intentional content … proper names must in some way depend on Intentional content.(Searle 1983: 231ff)
In order that a name should ever come to be used to refer to an object in the first place there must be some independent representation of the object. This may be by way of perception, memory, definite description, etc., but there must be enough Intentional content to identify which object the name is attached to.(Searle 1983: 259)
We have asserted on several occasions that thoughts are complex mental events. They have components that occur together in certain relationships when the thoughts occur. The thought that today is Monday and tomorrow is Tuesday has as a component the idea that today is Monday. The thought that the sky is blue has as components the idea of the sky and the idea of being blue. Hence thoughts are composed of ideas, and thinking is ideation. The assumption that thoughts are complex played a central role in developing the expression theory of meaning. The recursion clause of the neo-Gricean analysis depends on it, as does the theory's ability to account for subsentential word meaning. In the next chapter, we will use the fact that ideas (or equivalently, concepts) are thoughts or parts of thoughts in order to define “idea.” While widely affirmed, the thesis that thoughts literally have parts has been questioned by many and vehemently denied by some. Since the postulate is foundational to everything else in this book, and central to cognitive psychology, this chapter will be an extended argument for the constituency thesis. We will observe in passing that while the thesis is plausible for thoughts and the objects of belief, it fails for the act of belief and other propositional attitudes.
IDEAS AS THOUGHT-PARTS
The relationship between words and ideas is like that between sentences and thoughts (§13.1). Words express ideas, just as sentences express thoughts.
Grice originated the program of defining speaker meaning in terms of intention, and provided what is still the benchmark analysis. Many variations have been proposed, all fairly close to the original. I shall review a wide variety of facts that show that Grice's basic approach was wrong, and that mine is more promising. While my analysis is a descendent of Grice's, the fundamental conception has been transformed. Speaker meaning is not the intention to communicate. It contrasts with other semantic acts in that it need not be audience-oriented. Speakers can mean something without expecting or hoping that their intentions be recognized.
Most of this chapter will focus on cognitive speaker meaning, comparing Grice's analysis to Theorem 3.5, according to which S meant that p by e provided that S used e as an indication that he occurrently believes p, without covertly simulating an unintentional indication of the belief. In light of the equivalence between meaning that p and expressing the belief that p (Definition 2.1), the discussion will be an implicit comparison of a Gricean analysis of expression with the analysis provided in Chapter 3.
The major extant competitor to the Gricean analysis will be critiqued in §4.4. This approach seeks to define speaker meaning or expression in terms of commitment and truth rather than in terms of intention and indication. Commitment has been defined variously, in terms of lending one's authority to a belief, or of conventional norms requiring belief, or of intended truth or verification conditions.
Chapter 14 introduced the thesis that ideas or concepts are thought-parts, and sought to clarify and establish the underlying assumption that thoughts have constituents. This chapter will formally define “idea,” and set out the basic properties of concepts. We will introduce the distinction between atomic and complex concepts, and analyze what it is to conceive concepts. We will discuss the content of concepts, and the fact that concepts represent objects. And we will distinguish the intentional content of ideas from their extension or objective reference.
The terms “idea” and “concept” are ambiguous in English, and have been used with many different meanings in philosophy and psychology. In particular, they have been used to mean universals (e.g., Husserl), sensory images (Hume), objects of thought (Descartes), contents (Burge), senses (Katz), conceptions or belief systems (many contemporary psychologists), and mental representations generally (Brentano). We will use “idea” and “concept” exclusively for thought-parts, distinguishing them from universals and other objects, images, and conceptions (see Chapter 19) as well as from contents (§15.6) and senses (§21.1). An idea, on my conception, is only one kind of mental representation. Whereas ideas or concepts are wordlike mental representations, images are picturelike, and conceptions are theorylike.
Even when “idea” and “concept” both denote thought-parts, they have somewhat different patterns of usage in standard English. The terms are equally natural when discussing expression or containment. They are interchangeable when discussing the contents and objects of thought-parts, and what they represent.
Chapter 2 began with the fundamental distinction between speaker meaning and word meaning. Even though “banana” means a kind of fruit, Alfred Kahn once used it to mean a decline in the gross national product in order to make fun of politicians who wanted him to avoid the terms “recession” and “depression” because of their negative associations. We have defined what it is for a speaker to mean or express something in terms of the speaker's intentions. We must now begin analyzing what it is for a word or other expression to mean something or to express an idea. What makes it true, for example, that “vixen” means “female fox” in English, but does not mean anything in French? Why does “jument” mean “female horse” in French today, whereas earlier it meant “pack horse”?
It seems self-evident that such facts about English and French are determined in some way by facts about the individuals who have actually spoken English and French. It would be as hard to maintain that an abstract system such as English arose and evolved independent of the actions of concrete human beings as it would be to maintain that the species Canis familiaris arose and evolved independent of concrete dogs.
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