Ineffability: The very concept

Philosophia 48:1-12 (2020)
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Abstract
In this paper, I analyze the concept of ineffability: what does it mean to say that something cannot be said? I begin by distinguishing ineffability from paradox: if something cannot be said truly or without contradiction, this is not an instance of ineffability. Next, I distinguish two different meanings of ‘saying something’ which result from a fundamental ambiguity in the term ‘language’, viz. language as a system of symbols and language as a medium of communication. Accordingly, ‘ineffability’ is ambiguous, too, and we should make a distinction between weak and strong ineffability. Weak ineffability is rooted in the deficiencies of a particular language while strong ineffability stems from the structure of a particular cognitive system and its capacities for conceptual mental representation. Mental contents are only sayable if we are able to conceptualize them and then create signs to represent them in communication.
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Archival date: 2020-03-15
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Meaning.Grice, H. Paul

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