Anaphoric Deflationism and Theories of Meaning

In Theodora Achourioti, Edgar Andrade & Marc Staudacher (eds.), Proceedings of the Amsterdam Graduate Philosophy Conference. Meaning and Truth. Amsterdam, October 1-3, 2009. ILLC Publications. pp. 52-66 (2010)
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It is widely held that truth and reference play an indispensable explanatory role in theories of meaning. By contrast, so-called deflationists argue that the functions of these concepts are merely expressive and never explanatory. Robert Brandom has proposed both a variety of deflationism — the anaphoric theory —, and a theory of meaning — inferentialism — which doesn’t rely on truth or reference. He argues that the anaphoric theory counts against his (chiefly referentialist) rivals in the debate on meaning and thereby paves the way for inferentialism. In this paper, I give a friendly reconstruction of anaphoric deflationism (section II) and point to a distinguishing feature of the theory with respect to other deflationist proposals. While Brandom simply assumes, but doesn’t earn this feature, I propose a natural argument to justify it (section III). Then, however, I point out a subtle but clear sense in which truth and reference can play a role in explaining meaning, even if the anaphoric theory holds. Thus, anaphoric deflationism will turn out to be neutral in the debate on meaning (section IV).
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