Language and thought both presuppose the intelligibility of the distinction between correct and incorrect applications of words and concepts. For instance, if I mean red by ‘red’, or if I have the concept red, I am misapplying the word or concept when I say of a green item that it is red. According to the prevalent view in contemporary philosophy, the source of the standards of correctness that govern language and thought lies entirely in our dispositions to respond to the world in particular ways, dispositions that can be fully elucidated with the methods of scientific inquiry. Though I find the aspiration to explain meaning congenial, I believe that the form of explanation on offer cannot succeed. Much of my work is concerned with dislodging it. I try to uncover crucial aspects of the use of words and concepts that contemporary philosophers of language and mind typically fail to appreciate, to show that contemporary approaches by and large lack resources for explaining those aspects, and to work toward the articulation of a general account of the human mind that reveals both the essential contribution of linguistic agency to its constitution and the intimate connection between our rationality and our sociality. 

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Abstract: In his treatment of the Wittgensteinian paradox about rule-following, Saul Kripke represents the non-reductionist approach, according to which meaning something by an expression is a sui generis state that cannot be elucidated in more basic terms, as brushing philosophical questions under the rug.  This representation of non-reductionism captures the way in which some of its proponents conceive of it.  Meaning is viewed by these philosophers as an explanatory primitive that provides the basic materials for philosophical inquiry, but whose nature cannot serve as an object for that inquiry.  There is, however, an alternative way of conceiving of non-reductionism, which makes it possible to tackle philosophical questions about the nature of meaning head-on.

Work in progress:

Hedda Sterne. New York, 1956. The Art Institute of Chicago. 
Edward R. Miller. Bucharest, Romania, 1956.  The Art Institute of Chicago.