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The Meaning of Mathematical Expressions: Does Philosophy Shed Any Light on Psychology?

Paul Ernest
The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Vol. 41, No. 4 (Dec., 1990), pp. 443-460
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/687859
Page Count: 18
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The Meaning of Mathematical Expressions: Does Philosophy Shed Any Light on Psychology?
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Abstract

Mathematicians and physical scientists depend heavily on the formal symbolism of mathematics in order to express and develop their theories. For this and other reasons the last hundred years has seen a growing interest in the nature of formal language and the way it expresses meaning; particularly the objective, shared aspect of meaning as opposed to subjective, personal aspects. This dichotomy suggests the question: do the objective philosophical theories of meaning offer concepts which can be applied in psychological theories of meaning? In recent years cognitive scientists such as Chomsky [1980], Fodor [1981] and MacNamara [1982] have used philosophical approaches to the meaning of formal language expressions as the basis for their psychological theories. Following this lead it seems appropriate to review some of the main treatments of meaning with a view to their transferability.

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