Multiple meanings and stability of content

Journal of Philosophy 95 (5):255-63 (1998)
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We examine a proposal for dealing with perhaps the chief difficulty facing holistic theories of meaning—meaning instability. The problem is that, given a robust holism, small changes in a representational system are likely to lead to meaning changes throughout the system. Consequently, different individuals are likely never to mean the same thing. Eric Lormand suggests that holists can avoid this problem—and even secure more stability than non-holists—by positing that symbols have multiple meanings. We argue that the proposal doesn't work, however, since multiple meanings are unstable for much the same reason that single meanings are.

Author Profiles

Eric Margolis
University of British Columbia
Stephen Laurence
University of Sheffield


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