Is Meaning Intrinsically Normative ?

Abstract

Prima facie, meaning seems to be a normative property in the simple following sense: if something exemplifies a given meaning property, then some normative consequences follow. So, for example, if the French word ‘cheval’ meansHorse – if it is correctly used to refer to horses –, then it is a mistake to use it to refer to thingswhich are not horses. Equivalently, one ought to use it to refer to horses and only to horses (provided some idealizations). Similarly, my concept Horse – the thought constituent expressible by the French word ‘cheval’ – correctly applies to horses and only to horses. So my concept ought to be tokened to refer to horses and only to horses. Or else, I misapply it. The fact that it would be a mistake to use the word ‘cheval’ to refer to non-horses signals the fact that meaning is a normative property or that it has normative implications. So does the fact that one ought to use a word in certain circumstances and not in others. And furthermore this norm arises in virtue of the meaning of the word. The question I want to ask is: Is meaning intrinsically normative? As I understand it, to claim [N] that meaning is intrinsically normative is to claim both [N1] that meaning is normative and [N2] that the normativity of meaning is sui generis, i.e., that it is irreducibly semantic. Hume is widely taken to have shown that it is a fallacy to derive a moral obligation from premises about matters of fact. Nor can one refute the ethical claim that one ought to keep one’s promiss by exhibiting unfulfilled promisses. Almost a hundred years ago, Moore famously criticized what he called the “naturalistic fallacy” which he thought would undermine any attempt at providing a definition of the meaning of the word ‘good’ in purely descriptive nonnormative naturalistic terms.Now, if [N] is correct – if meaning is intrinsically normative –, then presumably any naturalistic attempt at understanding

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Jacob2002IsMI, title={Is Meaning Intrinsically Normative ?}, author={Pierre Jacob and Albert Newen and Armin Tatzel and Kati Farkas and Paul Horwich and Barry Loewer and Nenad Miscevic and Peter A. Railton and François R{\'e}canati and John Skorupski}, year={2002} }