, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 885-901
Date: 18 Apr 2012

What Role Should Propositions Have in the Theory of Meaning? Review Essay: Scott Soames. What is meaning?

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What is Meaning? addresses “an unsolved problem at the heart of our conception of what meaning is, and what we want from a theory of meaning” (p. 2). The problem is whether propositions, as they are traditionally conceived, can play the roles intended for them in theories of language and mind.

In approaches to the theory of meaning that trace their lineage back to Frege, propositions are structured sentence meanings, construed as abstract objects. They intrinsically represent states of affairs and are the timeless bearers of truth-values. In virtue of this they are to be able to play their various roles in our theories of thought and meaning. They are the referents of names (‘Logicism’, ‘The Banach-Tarski Paradox’) and demonstratives (‘That’s true/false’, ‘That’s surprising!’), the values of variables of quantification (‘Of all the mathematical conjectures proven in the 20th century perhaps the most famous was Fermat’s Last Theorem’), and the objects of belief and other attitudes (‘Why,