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Plural Signification and the Liar Paradox

Stephen Read
Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition
Vol. 145, No. 3 (Sep., 2009), pp. 363-375
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27734487
Page Count: 13
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Plural Signification and the Liar Paradox
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Abstract

In recent years, speech-act theory has mooted the possibility that one utterance can signify a number of different things. This pluralist conception of signification lies at the heart of Thomas Bradwardine's solution to the insolubles, logical puzzles such as the semantic paradoxes, presented in Oxford in the early 1320s. His leading assumption was that signification is closed under consequence, that is, that a proposition signifies everything which follows from what it signifies. Then any proposition signifying its own falsity, he showed, also signifies its own truth and so, since it signifies things which cannot both obtain, it is simply false. Bradwardine himself, and his contemporaries, did not elaborate this pluralist theory, or say much in its defence. It can be shown to accord closely, however, with the prevailing conception of logical consequence in England in the fourteenth century. Recent pluralist theories of signification, such as Grice's, also endorse Bradwardine's closure postulate as a plausible constraint on signification, and so his analysis of the semantic paradoxes is seen to be both well-grounded and plausible.

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