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On the Structure of Communicative Understanding

Begby, Endre (2008) On the Structure of Communicative Understanding. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Meaningfulness in human affairs manifests itself in at least three ways: in thought, in speech, and in intentional action. In our day-to-day communicative interactions, we clearly presume to draw substantive, explanatory connections between these three: we hear what people say, we understand this as the expression of cognitive activity, and we see them engaging in intentional actions which, when all goes well, corroborate our attributions of specific cognitive states to them. I take this to embody rudimentary, though essentially correct, model of communicative understanding. My dissertation seeks to contribute to our understanding of this model and the constraints it imposes on a philosophical theory of meaning. A comprehensive theory of meaning, I argue, should provide a satisfactory account of all three elements of the model and of the conceptual and epistemic relations between them. Minimally, any sketch of a theory of meaning, however partial, should show it capable of serving in implementations of such a model.The bulk of my dissertation takes the form a critical exploration of Tyler Burge's anti-individualism. Anti-individualism trades on the idea that normatively infused conventionally established concepts, shared among speakers of a language, must play a crucial role in underwriting cognition and communication. My dissertation constitutes a sustained argument to the effect that this strategy will not work. Its prima facie plausibility notwithstanding, I argue that theories taking this idea as their starting point will fail to satisfy the constraints laid out in the basic model, and will, as a consequence, end up misrepresenting the basic pattern of our communicative interactions.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMcDowell, John
Committee MemberMcGuire, J.E
Committee MemberSetiya, Kieran
Committee MemberBrandom, Robert B
Committee MemberRicketts, Thomas
Date: 29 October 2008
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 1 May 2008
Approval Date: 29 October 2008
Submission Date: 8 July 2008
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Philosophy
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: anti-individualism; linguistic understanding; mental content attribution; Externalism; Tyler Burge
Other ID:, etd-07082008-072439
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:50
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:45


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