On Travis cases

Linguistics and Philosophy 35 (1):3-19 (2012)
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Charles Travis has been forcefully arguing that meaning does not determine truth-conditions for more than two decades now. To this end, he has devised ingenious examples whereby different utterances of the same prima facie non-ambiguous and non-indexical expression type have different truth-conditions depending on the occasion on which they are delivered. However, Travis does not argue that meaning varies with circumstances; only that truth-conditions do. He assumes that meaning is a stable feature of both words and sentences. After surveying some of the explanations that semanticists and pragmaticians have produced in order to account for Travis cases, I propose a view which differs substantially from all of them. I argue that the variability in the truth-conditions that an utterance type can have is due to meaning facts alone. To support my argument, I suggest that we think about the meanings of words (in particular, the meanings of nouns) as rich conceptual structures; so rich that the way in which a property concept applies to an object concept is not determined
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