UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Convention and the intensional concepts Hadley, Robert Francis

Abstract

The central theme of this thesis is that our use of language is guided by linguistic conventions or linguistic rules. Substantial arguments are produced to show that we must suppose language use to be guided by such conventions. Further arguments are produced to show that the theory that language use is convention-guided can explain many facts which have not yet received satisfactory explanations. Some of the main explanatory advantages of the convention-guidedness theory are: 1) it explains the analytic-synthetic distinction. 2) it enables us to state, with fair precision, exactly what a concept analysis is, and how it is possible for people to use concepts without knowing the analysis of those concepts. 3) it explains why people's intuitions about meaning and synonomy agree to such a large extent. 4) it explains how linguistic descriptions of experience are justified by experience. 5) it explains why all the objects denoted by a given term often share some set of properties which can, fairly easily, be described. One problem which has plagued earlier theories of linguistic convention has been the lack of any acceptable principle of individuation for linguistic rules. In this thesis a satisfactory principle of individuation for linguistic rules is developed. Similiarities are noted between the way computer behaviour is guided by a program and human linguistic behaviour is guided by linguistic rules. It is noted that very precise criteria exist for the identity of computer programs, and these criteria suggest criteria for the identity of linguistic rules. Other questions investigated in this thesis are: a) Whether Quine is right in thinking that absolutely any of our beliefs might be abandoned in the face of experiences which conflict with an accepted theory. It is concluded that this doctrine of Quine's is mistaken. b) Whether the notion of "logical constant" can be elucidated with any precision. This question is answered negatively. It is shown that we must take the general concepts of necessity and validity as fundamental building blocks in intellectual inquiry. c) Whether all necessary truths are analytic. It is shown that the answer to this question is to a large extent arbitrary. d) Whether necessary truths are the result of linguistic convention. It is shown that necessary truths are not, in any interesting sense, the result of convention.

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