My Abstract Submission to the Next International Social Ontology Conference (A Non-Ideal Account of Meaning Based Upon a Modified Lewisian/Hartian Account of Social Conventions)

I finished my abstract for my 3rd dissertation paper, to submit to the next International Social Ontology Conference. I just submitted it. My 3rd Dissertation Paper is called: A Non-Ideal Account of Meaning Based Upon a Modified Lewisian/Hartian Account of Social Conventions.

The next International Social Ontology Conference takes place in Vienna this summer, and I want so desperately to go, but you can also attend online.

My last 3 submissions were accepted, so I hope this one will be too.

Here it is:

A Non-Ideal Account of Meaning Based Upon a Modified Lewisian/Hartian Account of Social Conventions


What does it mean for a language to be the language of that population?  David Lewis argues in Convention that a language is the language of a certain population, if that population has a social convention of truthfulness in that language.  This might seem intuitive, even if an idealization.  Don’t we use language to align our beliefs about objects and facts in the world?  

I argue that this is mistaken.  We are never simply aligning our beliefs.  We use language to impose our worldviews upon one another.  

Social power is antecedent to linguistic meaning.  The world doesn’t come to us carved at the joints.  We do the carving.  And, we are always carving the world into extension sets of referents and corresponding linguistic concepts.  I am carving the world as I type.

Linguistic meaning is a social institution like any other social institution; linguistic meaning is a social convention; it is a step public social good.  And, the assumption and conferral of practical authority is an essential feature of all social institutions/conventions (step public social goods).

This is why I use a Modified Lewisian/Hartian Account of Social Conventions as the basis for a Non-Ideal Account of Meaning.  This account can accommodate our pre-theoretical intuitions that linguistic meaning evolves over time, waxing and waning, as sub social groups introduce and cease to use linguistic terms and concepts and referents.  It also solves many problems in the philosophy of language. 

It solves Saul Kripke’s problem of the eternal initial baptism/primitive reference.  The initial baptism is an ostensive definition with a demonstrative reference, i.e., a pointing with authority.  The initial baptism is rendered an identity statement between two rigid designators (the pointing and the authority), because a social group has conferred naming authority.  This answers to our pre-theoretical intuitions that we use proper names and general terms as rigid designators, even for what we construe as artifact kind terms.  

And, we may use proper names and general terms to refer to objects about which we may know nothing.  This is the beauty of an account of reference for proper names and general terms that is a social convention to refer as a naming authority refers.  (This is why I argue that linguistic competence is much more a matter of know how than know that.)  

It also solves Gareth Evans’ problems with his causal description theory of reference for proper names.  Every time we stand in the ostensive definition relation to an object, we make it the case that the name/general term that we use possesses indexicality.  But, because the ostensive definition relation is the most intimate relation in which a speaker may stand with respect to the referent, the truth conditions of our statements never become severed from the things that we care about in the present.  Using a name is bestowing a name, if I have the authority to so bestow a name.

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