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The Unity of Linguistic Meaning$
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John Collins

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199694846

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199694846.001.0001

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The unity problem(s)

The unity problem(s)

(p.17) 2 The unity problem(s)
The Unity of Linguistic Meaning

John Collins

Oxford University Press

The present chapter is organised as follows. First, the unity problem will be presented as it struck Bertrand Russell in 1903. Russell’s articulation of the problem is a useful and traditional starting place. Second, it will be argued that there are in fact two unity problems. The first is what I call the interpretive problem, which bears on how we can compositionally describe what a given unity means. This problem presupposes that there are unities around; the problem is how to specify their content in the appropriate way. Although historically deep, the basic problem here is resolvable in a fairly straightforward way. The second unity problem I call the combinatorial problem. This problem does not presuppose that there are unities, but asks how there can be unities at all, or, as it is often put, what’s the difference between a sentence and a list. The remainder of the present chapter and the next one will argue that none of a range of entertained solutions to the combinatorial problem is satisfactory. The arguments to be presented will be based upon three desiderata on an adequate solution. Chapter 5 will attempt something like a solution that meets the three desiderata, and chapters 6 and 7 will clarify and defend the solution.

Keywords:   Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, Donald Davidson, unity of the proposition, truth

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