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Meaning for Radical Contextualists: Travis and Gadamer on Why Words Matter

Abstract

Charles Travis and Hans‐Georg Gadamer both affirm radical contextualism, the view that natural language is ineliminably context‐sensitive. However, they offer different accounts of the role linguistic meaning plays in determining the contents of utterances. I discuss the differences between Travis's and Gadamer's views of meaning and offer an argument in favour of the latter. I argue that Travis's view assumes a principled distinction between literal and figurative speech that is at odds with his wider contextualist commitments. By contrast, Gadamer's view, on which meaning is ‘fundamentally metaphorical,’ makes no such assumption and thus avoids the difficulty.

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