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Essays on Reference, Language, and Mind$
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Keith Donnellan, Joseph Almog, and Paolo Leonardi

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199857999

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199857999.001.0001

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Putting Humpty Dumpty Together Again

Putting Humpty Dumpty Together Again

(p.31) [2] Putting Humpty Dumpty Together Again
Essays on Reference, Language, and Mind

Keith Donnellan

Joseph Almog

Paolo Leonardi

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines Alfred MacKay's views on definite descriptions and his reference to Humpty Dumpty's theory of meaning. Humpty Dumpty believes himself to be master of the meaning of his words, implying that if he intends a word to mean such, then it will mean that when he uses it. The principle that MacKay draws from Humpty Dumpty's conversation with Alice is that the rules of one's language dictate the meaning of one's words, and intentions are powerless to intervene. MacKay also uses the notion of “what the speaker is talking about” that is extensional and allows for the possibility that what the speaker is talking about is an entity that fails to fit the description he used, which he calls “near misses”.

Keywords:   Alfred MacKay, definite descriptions, Humpty Dumpty, theory of meaning, near misses

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