How to Think About Meaning

  • Paul┬áSaka

Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP, volume 109)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages I-XIII
  2. Theoretical Issues

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Paul Saka
      Pages 3-34
    3. Paul Saka
      Pages 59-90
    4. Paul Saka
      Pages 91-117
  3. Case Studies

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 119-119
    2. Paul Saka
      Pages 121-153
    3. Paul Saka
      Pages 155-178
    4. Paul Saka
      Pages 179-215
    5. Paul Saka
      Pages 217-246
  4. Back Matter
    Pages 255-270

About this book


According to the dominant theory of meaning, truth-conditional semantics, to explain the meaning of a statement is to specify the conditions necessary and sufficient for its truth. Classical truth-conditional semantics is coming under increasing attack, however, from contextualists and inferentialists, who agree that meaning is located in the mind.

How to Think about Meaning develops an even more radical mentalist semantics, which it does by shifting the object of semantic inquiry. Whereas for classical semantics the object of analysis is an abstract sentence or utterance such as "Grass is green," for attitudinal semantics the object of inquiry is a propositional attitude such as "Speaker so-and-so thinks grass is green." Explicit relativization to some speaker S allows for semantic theory then to make contact with psychology, sociology, historical linguistics, and other empirical disciplines.

The attitudinal approach is motivated both by theoretical considerations and by its practical success in dealing with recalcitrant phenomena in the theory of meaning. These include: presuppositions as found in hate speech, and more generally the connotative force of evaluative language; the problem of how to represent ambiguity; quotation and the use-mention distinction; and the liar paradox, which appears to contradict truth-based semantics.

"Technically exact, highly readable, and illustrated with valuable examples, is a book to counterbalance decades of misdirected anti-psychologistic semantic dogma." Prof. Dale Jacquette, Pennsylvania State University, U.S.A.


Hate speech Linguistics Philosophy of language Semantics issue semantic truth

Authors and affiliations

  • Paul┬áSaka
    • 1
  1. 1.University of HoustonHoustonUSA

Bibliographic information