The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
Inquire about purchasing the book | Table of Contents | Annotated Bibliography | Class on Nature of Mind

These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

Externalism

The US philosopher Hilary Putnam attacked model-theoretic semantics from another perspective: in his opinion, it fails as a theory of meaning because meaning is not in the relationship between symbols and the world. 

Putnam argued that “meaning is not in the mind”. Putnam imagines a world called "Twin Earth" exactly like Earth in every respect except that the stuff which appears and behaves like water, and is actually called "water", on Twin Earth is a chemical compound XYZ. If one Earth and one Twin Earth inhabitants, identical in all respects, think about "water", they are thinking about two different things, while their mental states are absolutely identical. Putnam concludes that the content of a concept depends on the context. Meanings are not in the mind, they also depend on the objects that the mind is connected to.

Meaning exhibits an identity through time but not in its essence (such as the momentum, which is a different thing for Newton and Einstein but expresses the same concept). An individual's concepts are not scientific and depend on the environment. Most people know what gold is, and still they cannot explain what it is and even need a jeweler to assess whether something is really gold or a fake. Nonetheless, if some day we found out that Chemistry has erred in counting the electrons of the atom of gold, this would not change what it is.  The meaning of the word "gold" is not its scientific definition, but the social meaning that a community has given it.  It is not true that every individual has in her mind all the knowledge needed to understand the referent of a word. There is a subdivision of competence among human beings and the referent of a word is due to their cooperation.

 


Back to the beginning of the chapter "Meaning: Journey to the Center of the Mind" | Back to the index of all chapters