The conceptual theory of meaning: God, the world, and everything

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Susan Haack - Committee Chair


One of the most important tasks in the philosophy of language is to construct an adequate theory of meaning. This is done by constructing and enunciating a more general theory of understanding. Using the works of Wittgenstein and Heidegger, such a theory is developed around the notion of understanding-as. This notion is analyzed in terms of its connections to conceptual schemes and what are called "sprachspiels," or structured speaking activities. In turn, these various items are amplified by recourse to a general account of the nature of human existence, that of Being-in-the-World. This theory of understanding is then applied to meaning, which is subsequently defined as "the intelligible content of what is understood." The implications of this definition are made explicit through an examination of definite descriptions, proper names and metaphor, as well as through a defense of the theory against the twin specters of indeterminacy and externalism. The work then concludes with a defense of the theory against radical relativism and a general blueprint of further avenues of inquiry.


Religion, Philosophy of; Philosophy; Language, General

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