, Volume 154, Issue 2, pp 231-257

Meaning Naturalism, Meaning Irrealism, and the Work of Language

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Abstract

I defend the hypothesis that organisms that produce and recognize meaningful utterances tend to use simpler procedures, and should use the simplest procedures, to produce and recognize those utterances. This should be a basic principle of any naturalist theory of meaning, which must begin with the recognition that the production and understanding of meanings is work. One measure of such work is the minimal amount of space resources that must go into storing a procedure to produce or recognize a meaningful utterance. This cost has an objective measure, called Kolmogorov Complexity. I illustrate the use of this measure for a naturalist theory of meaning by showing how it offers a straight solution to one of the most influential arguments for meaning irrealism: the skeptical challenge posed by Kripke’s Wittgenstein.