Monday, April 17, 2006

A list of open questions

Here are some questions that I think are open and that are worth either coming up with answers to or coming up with reasons to think they are bad questions:
What is a language? How do we differentiate between languages?
What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for being one word?
When are word meanings identical? When are they similar?

I am somewhat suspicious of Lewis's answer to the first question. It is an answer, but it does not sit well with me to think that languages are functions like he described. They might represent languages, but I'm not sure how well that will work. I think it would be a more reasonable position if it were supplemented with an account of how to go from language in Lewis's sense, which concerns semantics, to pragmatics. He is concerned with semantics, which gives him a more logical trajectory. I think an answer to my question should address this, but it should point towards something more in line with the philosophy of action. I don't know if there are any good answers to the other questions.

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