Scholarly Communications Project

Meaning, Functions, and the Promise of Indicator Semantics


Jason Richardson

Thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Virginia Tech in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of





Valerie Hardcastle, Chair
James Klagge
Joseph Pitt

July 19, 1996
Blacksburg, Virginia


In this thesis, I first present Fred Dretske's theory of mental represent- ations, which purports to show how a physical thing could have (non-derived) meaning. In order to illustrate the applicability of the theory to an actual physical system, I discuss the theory in relation to two theories of audio localization (i.e., the capacity to locate the source of sounds in one's environment). Having clarified the theory, I examine two charges laid against it. Lynne Rudder Baker charges the theory with circularity. Her charge is refuted by appealing to the concept of a "standby function." Stephen Stich charges the theory with vagueness. His charge is refuted by appealing to a general analysis of functions. I conclude that a careful use and analysis of the previously unanalyzed term "function" makes possible the refutation of these two charges.

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