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Truth, Language, and HistoryPhilosophical Essays Volume 5$
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Donald Davidson

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780198237570

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2005

DOI: 10.1093/019823757X.001.0001

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James Joyce and Humpty Dumpty

James Joyce and Humpty Dumpty

(p.143) 10 James Joyce and Humpty Dumpty
Truth, Language, and History

Donald Davidson

Oxford University Press

This essay explores the tension between the idea that what the speaker intends by his words determines what he means, and the idea that what a speaker means depends on what he can expect the listener to understand. It is argued that this is a false choice. Meaning is a function of what the speaker intends, but this intention includes what the speaker expects his listener to understand. Thus, Humpty Dumpty’s theory of meaning, “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean”, omits the crucial interpersonal element. As Joyce himself thought, his daring use of words put him in a sense beyond his own language, society, and self.

Keywords:   philosophy of language, intention, Humpty Dumpty, James Joyce

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