Non-Holistic Meaning Anatomism and the No-Principled-Basis Consideration

CHUL HAK SA SANG - Journal of Philosophical Ideas:201-221 (2017)
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Jerry Fodor and Ernest Lepore (1999/2002) frame the debate over meaning holism in terms of a distinction between meaning atomism and meaning anatomism. The former holds that the meaning of an expression E is determined by some relation between E and some extra-linguistic entity. The latter holds that the meaning of E is at least partly determined by some of E’s “inward” relations (IRs) with other expressions in the very language. They (1992) argue that meaning anatomism inevitably collapses into meaning holism, which is the view that the meaning of E is determined by E’s IRs with every other expression in the very language because there is no principled distinction for the anatomist to divide the meaning-determining IRs from the non-meaning-determining ones. In response, the non-holistic anatomist urges that Fodor and Lepore’s no-principled-basis consideration is groundless because the lack of a generally accepted criterion for such a distinction does not undermine the viability of the distinction itself. While this point is well taken, I think that Fodor and Lepore are onto an important question here. That is, what does it make non-holistic anatomism distinctive from its holistic counterpart if without a principled basis for the distinction among IRs? I look into this question and give an alternative argument from Fodor and Lepore’s to suggest that non-holistic anatomism cannot bypass the no-principled-basis consideration. The non-holistic anatomist will need a principled distinction in kind between IRs to back her point.

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Chun-Ping Yen
Academia Sinica


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