The Balance of Meaning : Exploring the possibility of a recognition-transcendent meaning of religious and existentially important terms
Abstract: Can we be mistaken or ignorant about the meaning of our own words? This dissertation explores this question. More specifically it investigates to what extent and in what sense, if at all, the semantic meaning of religious and existentially important words – like ‘God’, ‘friendship’, ‘justice’ or ‘life’ – can be recognition-transcendent to the competent user of them. The possibility of words having such a meaning is assumed to presuppose a delicate balance: The meaning must be external and objective enough to the user for them to possibly be mistaken or ignorant about it. At the same time, the meaning must be internal and subjective enough to the user for them to be committed to it; to be what they mean by the terms in question. In my dissertation I put forward and examine the viability of several attempts to make sense of this balance and, hence, the possibility of recognition-transcendent meaning. In the course of doing so a number of important questions are addressed and investigated. Can people belonging to a certain religion misunderstand the meaning of the words they use to express their religious conviction? Is the reason for our failure to present an adequate definition of ‘life’ the fact that it refers to an unknown natural kind? And if we try to make explicit what is implicit in our use of religious and existentially important words, can intuition-driven conceptual analysis aid us in this endeavour? And to what extent can religious people refer to their object of worship while being mistaken about its true nature? I conclude that the meaning of religious and existentially important terms can be recognition-transcendent and this in more than one sense.
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