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Episteme

Abstract

This author is puzzled by and disagrees with Putnam’s theory of meaning. In particular, the author argues that there can be a gap between scientific meaning and acceptable normal use, thereby showing the tension between Putnam’s scientism and his attention to linguistic communities. Part of the problem is Putnam’s imprecision, given that he neither argues for why we should privilege scientific classification, nor helps us draw the boundary surrounding our linguistic community. The author cites commentator Gregory McCulloch a great deal to help summarize and grasp Putnam’s project, thereby necessitating a discussion of McCulloch’s own “the understanding tracks real essence” doctrine as well as analyses of Putnam’s Twin Earth, beech/elm, “bonnet” and “robin” scenarios. Even if we are attracted to Putnam’s theses that 1) resemblance to a representation is not sufficient for representation, and 2) syntactic and phonetic similarity is not sufficient for co-extension, Putnam’s theory does not add up.

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