According to Descartes, it is possible to doubt successfully that there is external world, all around us, yet still to have language, in place, without any complication. According to Wittgenstein, to doubt everything about the external world except language means nothing more than to doubt everything about the external world including language. Why? No speaker is more certain about the meaning of his words than about the external things he believes to be unassailable (for example, that he has two hands and two legs). Without this constitutive connection there would be no communication of a definite sense. Wittgenstein suggests that, after the author of the Meditations on First Philosophy adopts the hypothesis of evil deceiver, we are only under the impression that we deal with language (or that we read a text). We instead deal with symptoms of something rather different. The objective of this paper is to critically reassess Wittgenstein’s criticism of the possibility of holding such a radical sceptical position.
The main goal of this article is to characterise and compare some aspects of Hilary Putnam’s referential theory of meaning and Robert B. Brandom’s inferential theory of meaning. I will do it to indicate some similarities and differences in these theories. It will provide an opportunity for a deeper understanding of these theories and for a more adequate evaluation of how they describe and explain the process of meaning acquisition of linguistic expressions. In his theory of meaning Putnam emphasises the importance of reference understood as a relationship which connects linguistic expressions and extra-linguistic (empirical) reality. Brandom acknowledges inference as a main category useful in characterising the meaning of expressions used in premises and a conclusion of inference. But his theory of meaning is criticised for minimalising the role of an empirical component (demonstratives etc.). He tries to defend his standpoint in the anaphoric theory of reference. Putnam like Brandom claimed that we – as cognitive subjects – are not in a situation in which we learn about the extra-linguistic reality in a direct way. It is the reality itself as well as our cognitive apparatus that play a role in a cognitive process.