Wittgenstein's Builders and Perry's Objection to Sentence Priority
Article first published online: 23 JUN 2005
Volume 56, Issue 1, pages 49–63, March 2002
How to Cite
Dresner, E. (2002), Wittgenstein's Builders and Perry's Objection to Sentence Priority. Dialectica, 56: 49–63. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-8361.2002.tb00229.x
- Issue published online: 23 JUN 2005
- Article first published online: 23 JUN 2005
In the first section of this paper I present a view of linguistic meaning that I label 'Sentence Priority’(SP): the position that semantically primitive language-world contact is made at the level of complete sentences (rather than the level of sentence parts). Then, in the main part of the paper, I consider and reject an objection against Sentence Priority raised by John Perry, an objection that appeals to Wittgenstein's builders parable. Perry argues that the builder's utterances (‘Slab’,‘Pillar’, etc.) are utterances of self-standing nouns, and that therefore they constitute a counter-example to SP. A sound assessment of Perry's argument, however, depends on a clear distinction between two cases: one in which the four expressions mentioned in Wittgenstein's example exhaust the builders’expressive powers, and one in which they do not. Once these cases are distinguished it can be seen that in neither does Perry's argument go through.