In assessing and responding to twentieth century philosophy there is one subject in particular one must come to grips with. It loomed large both as a topic and method of investigation and the charge of its absence was a favorite form of criticism. In the first half of the century it was even thought to hold the key to the very history of philosophy, explaining its past failures as well as its future prospects.
We are speaking of course of meaning. While today meaning is still investigated within mainstream philosophy it is no longer the main player and magic mover it once seemed to be and its former importance (as well as the finer concerns of many early twentieth century thinkers) are comfortably dismissed as philosophical over-excitement.
Still, if we are not quite so happy or comfortable being dismissive, we owe it to our better philosophical selves to approach meaning with a cultivated sensitivity. This meetup will be the first in a series in which we do just that.
As an anchor for the discussion we will look at a short text by Paul Grice, called, appropriately enough, "Meaning", in which Grice begins to develope his famous theory of meaning based on nested intentions. (A sentence is meaningful when it is said with the intention of getting you to do something via your recognition of my intention to get you to do it via your recognition of my intention.) We will take a look at Grice's theory--intention is an important "aspect of meaning"--but we will also pay close attention to other aspects and distinctions stressed or at least glanced at in the paper: natural vs non-natural meaning, sentence vs speaker's meaning, timeless vs occasion specific meaning.
And perhaps we can add some things to this list. The goal of the meetup is not so much to analyse what Grice has to say as to improve our understanding of meaning's many forms and facets.
The paper can be found here: