Wittgenstein, Theories of Meaning, and Linguistic Disjunctivism
This paper argues that Wittgenstein opposed theories of meaning, and did so for good reasons. Theories of meaning, in the sense discussed here, are attempts to explain what makes it the case that certain sounds, shapes, or movements are meaningful linguistic expressions. It is widely believed that Wittgenstein made fundamental contributions to this explanatory project. I argue, by contrast, that in both his early and later works, Wittgenstein endorsed a disjunctivist conception of language which rejects the assumption underlying the question that such theories seek to answer—namely, the assumption that the notion of a meaningful linguistic expression admits of non-circular analysis. Moreover, I give two arguments in favor of the view I ascribe to Wittgenstein: one based on later Wittgenstein's discussion of meaning skepticism and one based on considerations concerning the identity of linguistic expressions.