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An Antidote to Use—From Semantics to Human Rights and Back

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DOI: 10.4236/ojpp.2012.21008    3,127 Downloads   4,962 Views  


I unpack the contents of the motto that “meaning is use” in fivefold fashion and point to the elements it contains, which are open to an ideological exploitation, the main reason for its strong appeal among intellectual circles. I indicate how the sense of it, “where there is use, there is meaning”, has encouraged equalitarian accounts of meaning and truth (In this case, of truth as coherence). I then present and discuss Austin’s distinction between the Sentence and the Statement, which entails the presence of meaning preceding the use, and directing it, and offer a new proof that Sentences are impossible to eliminate in any semantic scheme of things. Austin’s distinction, as explained and defended, refutes the contention that “meaning is (just) use”. I proceed to his doctrine of Locution and Illocution, reflecting the previous, indicating by a series of examples, that illocutionary varieties, which are varieties but not variances (i.e. se- mantic mutations), can never extend beyond the se-mantic scope generically contained in the original, content; that is to say, the Sentence. Those that do, and they are several, violate the rules of sense. I enumerate his vast differences with Wittgenstein, and proceed to defend Austin’s noted conservatism against the novelties endorsed by the former and his disciples. Charging Wittgenstein’s private language attack as circular, I conclude by marking their further contrast on the actual foundations of meaning and truth.

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The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this paper

Antonopoulos, C. (2012). An Antidote to Use—From Semantics to Human Rights and Back. Open Journal of Philosophy, 2, 50-60. doi: 10.4236/ojpp.2012.21008.


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