Philosophy Lexicon of Arguments

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Elm/Beech example, philosophy: thought experiment of H. Putnam (Putnam, H. Reason, truth and history, Cambridge, 2008). The speaker cannot distinguish elms and beeches, but he knows that both are different trees. What is the status of his knowledge? Putnam draws the conclusion that meanings are not in the head. See also reference, knowledge, causal theory, meaning, thought experiments.

Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments.

Author Item Summary Meta data
I 153
Elm/Beech/Expert/Layman/Understanding/to mean/Millikan: the layman can think something of gold, elm trees or monotremes, even if he has no knowledge of these.
To mean: he can even mean the same as the expert!
N.B.: there are therefore no full-bodied intensions, which are common to all idiolects of the speakers of a public language.
Names/knowing/understanding/claiming/Millikan: Problem: is that not paradoxical? If I do not know anything about monotremes, except I've heard the name once, how can I mean the same with the word as the expert? E.g.
Expert: I'm going to Brazil, to explore monotremes.
I: What are monotremes?
Expert: what do you mean with "monotreme"?
Me: I mean what you mean, of course.
Expert: do you know what monotremes are?
Me: no idea, so I ask.
Expert: then you cannot have meant the same as I have.
Menon's paradox/Millikan: here we see a shadow of Menon's paradox.
Solution/Carnap: instead of "What are monotremes" we actually ask "What does the term 'monotreme' mean?" ((s) > semantic ascent).
Intuitive/Millikan: but this is the question about monotremes, not about words.
Understanding/Millikan: even a parrot can ask something about monotremes without understanding anything of them.
I 154
To mean/Parrot/Millikan: the parrot cannot mean the question of course.
To mean/Millikan: I can mean something with "monotreme", because I intend that the word has its eigenfunction, even if I cannot specify it in detail.
Expert/Layman/To mean/understanding/knowing/knowledge/Millikan: the paradox does not come from the fact that I cannot mean the same as the expert, but that there is a sense in which the expert knows what he means with "monotreme" and I do not know this in this sense ((s) not what I mean and not what the expert means).

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.

Millk I
R. G. Millikan
Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories: New Foundations for Realism Cambridge 1987

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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2018-06-19