Discussed at the Aspasia Reading Group on December 9, 2018.
(Transcribed by @ding )
Conceptual engineering: Can we change the meaning of words?
political criterion (in service of feminist politics?)
semantic criterion (we expect these people would like to be so called?)
Stoljar: You’re changing the meaning of “woman,” huh?
Question: Can we change the meaning of “woman”? Are we justified in doing so?
Philosophy of Language
Distinction: The word itself (the name “Ding”) vs. what the word refers to (the person Ding)
- “Ding” has four letters, but is not cute.
- Ding is cute, but does not have four letters.
Semantics (语义) vs. pragmatics (语用)
Question: How is the word itself related to its referent (what it refers to)?
- Descriptivist theory (Frege, Russell): the word = a description
- Causal theory (Kripke): a word’s referent is fixed by an original act of naming
Language is arbitrary.
Carnap‘s worry: Are we really talking about the referent (metaphysical) or language?
“What is woman?”
- A question of language: what is the word “woman”?
- A question of metaphysics: what is the referent of the word “woman”?
Again: “Woman” has five letters, but woman does not have five letters.
Haslanger clearly approaches the question from language, but she also seems to focus on metaphysics. Woman is not what our word “woman” (ought to) refer to.
Stoljar: But you cannot go too far! You cannot use a completely different word (different in terms of meaning) to replace our current word.
Question for discussion: How is it possible to change the meaning of a word (it seems to be possible)? Are we justified when we do so?