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Frege and Russell

  • 1. What are Fregean senses? Why does Frege introduce them in his analysis of meaning?
  • 2. Why does Frege believe that senses cannot be merely psychological entities? What would the implications be if they were?
  • 3. How might someone argue that Frege is a dualist?
  • 4. How does Russell account for meaning? How could one argue that Russell’s theory of meaning is externalist?
  • 5. How is Russell’s theory of meaning a response to Frege’s? What does Russell eliminate in Frege’s account of meaning?

Putnam and Burge

  • 1. How does Putnam understand the meaning of the term “water” and terms for other natural kinds? What role does the environment play in his account?
  • 2. Putnam argues that meanings are not in our heads, because two people can use type-identical psychological states to refer to different natural kinds. How does Putnam’s argument work? Is it convincing? Why, or why not?
  • 3. Burge makes a case that beliefs about socially defined phenomena are not in our heads. How does his argument work? How is it different from the Twin Earth argument by Putnam?
  • 4. In response to Putnam, Searle argues that the person who is drinking water is making a background assumption that he is drinking the same kind of water he has always been drinking.[1] It is part of his background understanding that he is drinking the same kind of stuff he has been drinking since he was a child. Moreover, it is also part of his background understanding that meanings of terms can change. We adjust what we mean by water and natural kinds on the basis of what scientists discover about them. For socially defined terms, we adjust our beliefs about them on the basis of a communal consensus. Putnam and Burge fail to see that the mind has capacities prior to intentional states. Intentional states, such as beliefs about water or diseases, function only against such a preintentional background of skills, dispositions, and taken-for-granted assumptions. How might Putnam and Burge respond to this criticism?
  • 5. Are mental contents constituted by causal relations? It is easy to see how causal relations can explain how we come to have the mental states we do. But in what sense could mental contents be made up of such causal relations? In what sense is the meaning of water constituted by causal relations in Putnam’s case? How could a belief be understood in terms of social relations in Burge’s case? Are the externalists confusing how mental contents have evolved with how they are constituted? Why, or why not?

  • [1] Searle discusses this topic in Mind: A Brief Introduction Searle (2004, pp. 178-192).
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