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Compositionality and the Metaphysics of Meaning

  • Author / Creator
    Fedorkiw, Jeffery
  • The principle of compositionality states that the meaning of a complex expression is determined by the meanings of its constituent parts and the way those parts are combined. Jerry Fodor has argued that semantic productivity and systematicity require compositionality and that compositionality requires atomism about semantic values. Atomism is here the thesis that there are simple meanings which are assigned to grammatical terms completely independent of any other (i.e. regardless of anything like context) and that users can grasp any one of these atomic meanings without grasping any other. This thesis argues against Fodor's claim through a defense of Robert Brandom's holistic semantics. I will argue that Brandom's semantics is able to account for linguistic productivity and systematicity without atomism, even though his molecular ontology of semantic values, whereby complex meanings are prior to simple ones, might at first seem intuitively less plausible than atomism.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2011-11
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R3RW79
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
    English
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
    Master's
  • Department
    • Department of Philosophy
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Pelletier, Francis Jeffry (Philosophy)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Brigandt, Ingo (Philosophy)
    • Gagné, Christina (Psychology)
    • Linsky, Bernard (Philosophy)