Two-dimensionalism and the social character of meaning

Erkenntnis 79 (S3):567-595 (2014)
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Abstract

This paper develops and critiques the two-dimensionalist account of mental content developed by David Chalmers. I first explain Chalmers's account and show that it resists some popular criticisms. I then argue that the main interest of two-dimensionalism lies in its accounts of cognitive significance and of the connection between conceivability and possibility. These accounts hinge on the claim that some thoughts have a primary intension that is necessarily true. In this respect, they are Carnapian, and subject to broadly Quinean attack. The remainder of the paper advances such an attack. I argue that there are possible thinkers who are willing to revise their beliefs in response to expert testimony, and that such thinkers will have no thoughts with necessary primary intensions. I even suggest that many actual humans may well be such thinkers. I go on to argue that these possible thinkers show that the two-dimensionalist accounts fail.

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Derek Ball
University of St. Andrews

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