62 votes
Accepted

Since words are defined in terms of other words in dictionaries, leading to infinite loops, does it mean natural languages are meaningless?

Natural languages do not depend in any fundamental way on our learning the meanings of words from dictionaries. No child I know learns to speak, read and understand meanings by memorising dictionary ...
  • 34.6k
36 votes

Is a human language a prison for a mind?

One version of what you're asking is, in linguistics/cognitive science, called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. There's been a ton of writing and empirical work on this hypothesis.. My understanding (PhD ...
33 votes

Is every sentence we write or utter either true or false?

Various candidates would be: self-referential sentences such as "This sentence is false." opinion-based sentences such as "Chocolate is the most delicious ice cream flavor." sentences where the ...
  • 2,387
20 votes

What is to be understood by the phrase "Israel's right to exist"?

It's referring to the state, not the land or the people, so your example of a pear isn't really applicable. The preamble of the 1988 charter of Hamas (aka "the Islamic Resistance Movement") declares ...
  • 301
16 votes

Is every sentence we write or utter either true or false?

The OP asks the following: Can I write or utter any sentence which is neither false nor true? Yes. An example would be Tomorrow I will rise at precisely 6 am. That sentence today is neither true nor ...
15 votes
Accepted

what is the truth value of a sarcastic statement?

Sarcasm is one of the troublesome linguistic phenomena living in a contested no man's land between semantics (the study of language-internal meaning) and pragmatics (the study of meaning in context). ...
  • 7,207
13 votes

Since words are defined in terms of other words in dictionaries, leading to infinite loops, does it mean natural languages are meaningless?

The fact that a dictionary defines each word as a loop that includes other words doesn't mean there is no information present in the dictionary. The information about all the words together is encoded ...
  • 255
13 votes

Is a human language a prison for a mind?

You're giving too much power to language as a way of structuring lived experience. While there may be some support for a weak version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, minds are more flexible than ...
  • 231
12 votes

Why would this not resolve the Sorites paradox?

Your proposed solution does not solve the paradox. The whole point of the paradox is that the term 'pile' is vague. That is, given an object (e.g. a collection of grains of sand) it is indeterminate ...
  • 6,328
12 votes

Is every sentence we write or utter either true or false?

Is every sentence we write or utter either true or false? NO. A sentence is "a textual unit consisting of one or more words that are grammatically linked. [... The] words [are] grouped meaningfully ...
11 votes

What is the truth value of the proposition 'All unicorns are beautiful'?

Your concern is sound ... In Aristotle's Logic the inference from : ∀x (Fx → Gx) to : ∃x (Fx & Gx) is legitimate. In modern logic, this is not; we say that general terms have existential ...
11 votes
Accepted

How is the meaning of life "recursive"?

I think that the second half of the given Wikipedia passage is just confused. First, the concept of recursion belongs to algorithm theory, and is unhelpful here. Recursion, unlike what is written, is ...
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11 votes
Accepted

Is mathematics a language?

It is more than that. Even if we take the Galileo's metaphor literally, he is suggesting that there is a language of mathematics, specifically geometry, not that mathematics, as such, is a language: ...
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11 votes

What is to be understood by the phrase "Israel's right to exist"?

The reason Israel demands that the Palestinians recognize Israel's so-called "right to exist" is that in so doing, they would officially relinquish any and all claims they have on the land they owned ...
11 votes

Is the dichotomy between natural and unnatural defensible?

Natural is one of those words that fit the description of what John Austin called trouser-words in his book Sense and Sensibilia. Sometimes you can only understand a word by reference to what it is ...
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10 votes
Accepted

Is there a point to arguing about the meaning of words?

In many situations there is. Strictly speaking, a definition can never be "wrong", unless it is incoherent or contains a contradiction, like "dry wetness". But it can be awkward, cumbersome, confusing,...
  • 41.2k
10 votes

Is Wittgenstein right when he criticises recursion theory in the Tractatus 3.333?

It is not a criticism of recursion theory and recursive definitions [by the way, recursion theory originated in the 1930s while the Tractatus was written during the first world war and was first ...
9 votes
Accepted

Who does Wil Wheaton represent in "Big Bang Theory"?

I generally take characters on shows to be a different instance of the same person, that is, the name doesn't matter, but in the context of the show the actor is that same actor but in the context of ...
  • 538
9 votes

Is 'is' a verb?

What is true of words denoting one sort of concept is not always true of words denoting other sorts of concepts, even if they are generally considered to have the same 'part of speech'. For instance, ...
9 votes
Accepted

How to implement the so called 'principle of charity'?

You are right that reading means interpreting, and we can never be sure that we did not misinterpret the author's intentions. But it is as with any human endeavor, we are fallible. The principle of ...
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9 votes

Is music just another language?

The answer is straightforward in the context of Chomsky's universal grammar, which music does not fit. However, the innate grammar structures postulated by Chomsky were not as universally encountered ...
  • 41.2k
9 votes

Why would this not resolve the Sorites paradox?

This is all about the difference between natural language and formal language. In formal language, a term cannot be used unless it's well-defined according to the standards of the language. In ...
9 votes

Since words are defined in terms of other words in dictionaries, leading to infinite loops, does it mean natural languages are meaningless?

Many linguists including Chomsky I believe have studied languages up to the point of realizing that there are no set rules as to how languages develop. They just do. It's technocratic and overly ...
  • 2,764
8 votes

Why does Philosophy of Language matter?

This probably has to do with the so-called "linguistic turn": during the 20th century it has been considered (Wittgenstein, logical empiricists, ...) that the role of philosophy is not answering big ...
8 votes
Accepted

Is there an idea of linguistic realism similar to moral realism?

Your view is similar to that of late Wittgenstein, after the so-called "linguistic turn". In Philosophical Investigations published in 1953 he writes “For a large class of cases of the employment of ...
  • 41.2k
8 votes
Accepted

Do mainstream philosophers believe that Wittgenstein "solved" philosophy?

There are philosophers that hail Wittgenstein as the greatest of the greats. There are also philosophers that do not. Just like in most areas of philosophy there is disagreement. In the Tractatus 6....
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8 votes
Accepted

How do Kripke's rigid designators and the necessity of identity relate to the Duhem-Quine thesis?

They are in opposition, as Quine and Kripke generally are on interpreting modal logic, and much of what is related to it. Rigid designators are defined as those picking out the same object in all ...
  • 41.2k

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