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Philosophical Papers$
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J. L. Austin, J. O. Urmson, and G. J. Warnock

Print publication date: 1979

Print ISBN-13: 9780192830210

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/019283021X.001.0001

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The Meaning of a Word

The Meaning of a Word

Chapter:
(p.55) 3 The Meaning of a Word
Source:
Philosophical Papers
Author(s):

J. L. Austin

J. O. Urmson

G. J. Warnock

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/019283021X.003.0003

‘The Meaning of a Word’ is a polemic against the view that philosophy can be done by way of pinning down the meaning of words used in philosophising. Its argument is threefold: the first part argues that ‘the meaning of a word’ is, in general, if not always, a dangerous nonsensephrase, in the sense that there is no simple and handy appendage of a word called ‘the meaning of (the word) “x”’. The second part applies this conclusion to problems that rely on the assumption that phrases like ‘the meaning of a word’ or ‘part of the meaning of the word’ are not completely undefined (e.g. the question of whether a statement such as ‘x is y’ is analytic or synthetic), proposing that we are using a working-model for philosophical problems which fails to fit the facts that we really wish to talk about. The third part addresses the problem of universals, which, according to Austin, boils down to the question of why we call different things, say two chairs in your living room, by the same name, that is, ‘chair’. Austin examines the phrase ‘having the same meaning’ in order to reveal the different reasons we have for calling different things by the same name.

Keywords:   analytic, Austin, meaning, nonsense, synthetic, universals, word

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