Metasemantic Quandaries

In Billy Dunaway & David Plunkett (eds.), Meaning, Decision, and Norms: Themes From the Work of Allan Gibbard. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Maize Books. pp. 171-202 (2021)
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Abstract

This paper advocates a generalized form of Expressivism, as a strategy for resolving certain metasemantic puzzles about identifying the semantic value of a context-sensitive expression in context. According to this form of Expressivism, speakers express properties of semantic parameters, and they do so in order to proffer those properties for cognitive adoption (acceptance) by their addressees. Puzzles arising from the pressure to say what a putatively context-sensitive expression refers to or denotes in contexts that do not seem to specify a referent or denotation dissolve, once we appreciate that such attempts were ill-placed to begin with. Gibbard's Norm Expressivism, according to which speakers express properties of planning states or normative systems, can be regarded as a branch of this more general theory. I will however argue that Gibbard takes on commitments -- optional for the Expressivist -- that make it a bit hard to see how to distinguish his theory from a nuanced form of Subjectivism.

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Nate Charlow
University of Toronto, St. George Campus

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