Literature/1975/Putnam/215

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Putnam, Hilary (1975). "The Meaning of 'Meaning'," in: Putnam, Hilary (1975), Mind, Language and Reality, Cambridge University Press,* pp. 215-271.

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w: Hilary Putnam
  • Putnam, along with Saul Kripke, Keith Donnellan, and others, contributed to what is known as the causal theory of reference. In particular, Putnam maintained in The Meaning of "Meaning" that the objects referred to by natural kind terms -- such as tiger, water, and tree -- are the principal elements of the meaning of such terms. There is a linguistic division of labor, analogous to Adam Smith's economic division of labor, according to which such terms have their references fixed by the "experts" in the particular field of science to which the terms belong. So, for example, the reference of the term "lion" is fixed by the community of zoologists, the reference of the term "elm tree" is fixed by the community of botanists, and the reference of the term "table salt" is fixed as "NaCl" by chemists. These referents are considered rigid designators in the Kripkean sense and are disseminated outward to the linguistic community.

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Gradient-optical-illusion.svg
The shade of the bar looks invariant in isolation but variant in context, in (favor of) sharp contrast with the color gradient background, hence an innate illusion we have to reasonably interpret and overcome as well as the mirage. Such variance appearing seasonably from context to context may not only be the case with our vision but worldview in general in practice indeed, whether a priori or a posteriori. Perhaps no worldview from nowhere, without any point of view or prejudice at all!

Ogden & Richards (1923) said, "All experience ... is either enjoyed or interpreted ... or both, and very little of it escapes some degree of interpretation."

H. G. Wells (1938) said, "The human individual is born now to live in a society for which his fundamental instincts are altogether inadequate."