, Volume 79, Supplement 3, pp 567–595 | Cite as

Two-Dimensionalism and the Social Character of Meaning

Original Article


This paper develops and critiques the two-dimensionalist account of mental content developed by David Chalmers. I first explain Chalmers’s account and show that it resists some popular criticisms. I then argue that the main interest of two-dimensionalism lies in its accounts of cognitive significance and of the connection between conceivability and possibility. These accounts hinge on the claim that some thoughts have a primary intension that is necessarily true. In this respect, they are Carnapian, and subject to broadly Quinean attack. The remainder of the paper advances such an attack. I argue that there are possible thinkers who are willing to revise their beliefs in response to expert testimony (in a way familiar by Burge’s famous cases), and that such thinkers will have no thoughts with necessary primary intensions. I even suggest that many actual humans may well be such thinkers. I go on to argue that these possible thinkers show that the two-dimensionalist accounts fail.


Expert Testimony Linguistic Community Cognitive Significance Primary Intension Narrow Content 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I would like to thank Dilip Ninan, Bryan Pickel, Mark Sainsbury, and Michael Tye. Special thanks are due to David Chalmers, who very generously gave detailed, incisive, and extremely helpful comments on multiple drafts of this essay.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of St AndrewsSt Andrews, FifeScotland, UK

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