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Prolegomena  2005 

On Ambiguity and Two Arguments from Ambiguity

Keywords: Ambiguity , theories of ambiguity , interpretation/disambiguation , arguments from ambiguity , the ‘Language of Thought’ hypothesis , semantics of truthconditions , undecidability , ignorance

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The author explores and criticises two arguments from ambiguity: S. Pinker’s argument from ambiguity in support of the ‘Language of Thought’ hypothesis, and the argument from ambiguity proposed by K. P. Parsons against Davidsonian ‘semantics of truth-conditions’. Leaning primarily on G. Harman and D. Davidson he aims to demonstrate that the Pinker/Parsons arguments share a common strategy, on the one hand, and imply and/or suggest, as he claims, an implausible view of ambiguity, on the other. Discussing Pinker’s argument he further attempts to elucidate the ways in which the modifications of public and inter-subjectively accessible aspects of the use of language reflect the differences in interpretations of an ambiguity. His exploration of the argument against ‘semantics of truth-conditions’ then aims to explain, contra Parsons, the sense in which talk about the truth conditions for ambiguity does not implicate a threat to Davidson’s perspective on the theory of meaning. Finally, the author argues for the view of ambiguity as a kind of ignorance/undecidability that, as he contends, represents both more realistic and more plausible theoretical option than the one on which both Pinker and Parsons found their arguments and which also comes out in Aristotle (under an interpretation), K. Bach and W. Lycan.


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