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Document Details :
Title: Semantiek en de zin van het leven
Subtitle: Semantics and the Meaning of Life
Author(s): BUEKENS, Filip
Volume: 59 Issue: 3 Date: 1998
In this essay, I show how semantic theories in contemporary philosophy of language shed light on questions about the meaning of life. Current semantic theories tend to defend various forms of holism in semantics: the meaning of a word or sentence is explained by its place in a pattern of sentences, a framework, or a language (this idea goes ultimately back to Frege). A second feature of these theories is that semantic holism rejects the idea that we understand words and sentences on the basis of a pre-established theory which can be applied to cases. Meaning and understanding always involve interpretation and languages are dynamic idiolects rather than fixed systems of communication. This connects semantics with various forms of particularism in ethics. I show how semantic particularism (mainly, Davidson’s particularism) can be applied to questions were ‘meaning’ is used in its ’existential’ sense (as in ‘the meaning of life’). The semantic and existential meaning of ’meaning’ have analogous functions.