On Experiencing Meanings

Southern Journal of Philosophy 53 (4):481-492 (2015)
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Do we perceptually experience meanings? For example, when we hear an utterance of a sentence like ‘Bertrand is British’ do we hear its meaning in the sense of being auditorily aware of it? Several philosophers like Tim Bayne and Susanna Siegel have suggested that we do (Bayne 2009: 390, Siegel 2006: 490-491, 2011: 99-100). They argue roughly as follows: 1) experiencing speech/writing in a language you are incompetent in is phenomenally different from experiencing speech/writing you are competent in; 2) this contrast is best explained by the fact that we experience meanings in the latter case, but not the former. In contrast, in an important recent discussion Casey O’Callaghan has argued that we do not (O’Callaghan 2011). He responds to the above contrast argument by claiming that this phenomenal contrast is instead best explained by the fact that we hear language-specific phonological properties in the latter case, but not in the former. In this paper I argue that O’Callaghan’s response to the popular contrast argument is too limited in scope, provide a more general response, and present a new case against experiencing meanings.
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First archival date: 2015-11-21
Latest version: 2 (2015-12-02)
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