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Meaning

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Semantics and Metaphysics

This, though perhaps better, is not good enough. Consider the fol­lowing cases:

  1. Herod presents Salome with the head of St. John the Baptist on a charger.

  2. Feeling faint, a child lets its mother see how pale it is (hoping that she may draw her own conclusions and help).

  3. I leave the china my daughter has broken lying around for my wife to see.

Here we seem to have cases which satisfy the conditions so far given for meaningNN. For example, Herod intended to make Salome believe that St. John the Baptist was dead and no doubt also intended Salome to recognize that he intended her to believe that St. John the Baptist was dead. Similarly for the other cases. Yet I certainly do not think that we should want to say that we have here cases of meaning^.

What we want to find is the difference between, for example, “de­liberately and openly letting someone know” and “telling” and be­tween “getting someone to think” and “telling.”

The way out is perhaps as follows. Compare the following two cases:

  1. 1 show Mr. X a photograph of Mr. Y displaying undue familiar­ity to Mrs. X.

  2. I draw a picture of Mr. Y behaving in this manner and show it to Mr. X.

I find that I want to deny that in (1) the photograph (or my showing it to Mr. X) meant^ anything at all; while I want to assert that in (2) the picture (or my drawing and showing it) meantNN something (that Mr. Y had been unduly familiar), or at least that I had meant^ by it that Mr. Y had been unduly familiar. What is the difference between the two cases? Surely that in case (1) Mr. X’s recognition of my inten­tion to make him believe that there is something between Mr. Y and Mrs. X is (more or less) irrelevant to the production of this effect by the photograph. Mr. X would be led by the photograph at least to suspect Mrs. X even if, instead of showing it to him, I had left it in his room by accident; and I (the photograph shower) would not be unaware of this. But it will make a difference to the effect of my pic­ture on Mr. X whether or not he takes me to be intending to inform him (make him believe something) about Mrs. X, and not to be just doodling or trying to produce a work of art.

But now we seem to be landed in a further difficulty if we accept this account. For consider now, say, frowning. If I frown sponta­neously, in the ordinary course of events, someone looking at me may well treat the frown as a natural sign of displeasure. But if 1 frown deliberately (to convey my displeasure), an onlooker may be ex­pected, provided he recognizes my intention, still to conclude that I am displeased. Ought we not then to say, since it could not be ex­pected to make any difference to the onlooker’s reaction whether he regards my frown as spontaneous or as intended to be informative, that my frown (deliberate) does not mean^ anything? I think this difficulty can be met; for though in general a deliberate frown may have the same effect (with respect to inducing belief in my displeasure) as a spontaneous frown, it can be expected to have the same effect only provided the audience takes it as intended to convey displeasure. That is, if we take away the recognition of intention, leaving the other circumstances (including the recognition of the frown as deliberate), the belief-producing tendency of the frown must be regarded as being impaired or destroyed.

Perhaps we may sum up what is necessary for A to mean something by x as follows. A must intend to induce by x a belief in an audience, and he must also intend his utterance to be recognized as so intended. But these intentions are not independent; the recognition is intended by A to play its part in inducing the belief, and if it does not do so something will have gone wrong with the fulfillment of A’s intentions. Moreover, ^4’s intending that the recognition should play this part implies, I think, that he assumes that there is some chance that it will in fact play this part, that he does not regard it as a foregone conclu­sion that the belief will be induced in the audience whether or not the intention behind the utterance is recognized. Shortly, perhaps, we may say that “A meant^ something by x” is roughly equivalent to “A uttered x with the intention of inducing a belief by means of the recognition of this intention.” (This seems to involve a reflexive par­adox, but it does not really do so.)

Now perhaps it is time to drop the pretense that we have to deal only with “informative” cases. Let us start with some examples of imperatives or quasi-imperatives. 1 have a very avaricious man in my room, and I want him to go; so I throw a pound note out of the window. Is there here any utterance with a meaningNN? No, because in behaving as I did, I did not intend his recognition of my purpose to be in any way effective in getting him to go. This is parallel to the

DMU Timestamp: August 22, 2013 03:13





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