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Returning to a Tension withing Grice’s Original Account of Nonnatural Meaning

Organon F, 2018, vol. 25, No 4, pp. 564-588.
Language: English
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It has become a commonplace to regard Grice’s project in “Meaning” as plagued by circularity, and almost as prevalent to dismiss such charges as unfounded. Much of the controversy surrounding Grice’s presumed circularity revolves around the question whether Grice is committed to a reductionist project of meaning, or whether it is merely meant to elucidate the nature of meaning without pretending to reduce it to something meaningless. Rarely, however, are these views developed as part of a systematic analysis of Grice's original paper, as this paper seeks to do. My paper consists of two parts. In the first part, I try to show how Grice can be defended from John Searle’s criticism relating to the famous American soldier example and argue that Searle’s suggested amendments run counter to Grice’s ambitions. In the second part of my paper, I illustrate – drawing on the first part – why “Meaning” both makes it necessary and seem impossible that the timeless meaning of utterances be fully reducible to individual utterances and thus to individual speakers’ intentions. I argue that this seriously challenges the view that Grice is putting forward a theory of intention-based semantics in “Meaning” which would present a viable alternative to later developments of his theory.


Grice, intentions, meaning, pragmatics

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