Can we say what we mean?
Expressibility and background
The aim of this paper is to discuss a basic assumption tacitly shared by many philosophers of mind and language: that whatever can be meant, can be said. It specifically targets John Searle’s account of this idea, focusing on his Principle of Expressibility (PE henceforth). In the first part of the paper, PE is exposed underlining its analyticity (1) and its relevance for the philosophy of language (2), mind (3), society and action (4). In the critical part, the notion of Background is taken into account in order to re-evaluate two basic distinctions: the one between sentence and utterance meanings (5), and the one between native and type speakers (6). PE is reconsidered in the light of the previous arguments as a methodological strategy that does not prevent uses of language from eventual semantic excesses and deficits (7), and a complementary Principle of Expression Fallibility is finally proposed (8).
Keywords: background, individual/collective intentionality, expressibility, native speaker, John R. Searle, utterance/sentence meaning
Published online: 18 August 2009
Cited by 2 other publications
Padilla Cruz, Manuel
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