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Language as Truth

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Language as Truth In David Lewis' Languages and Language1 essay, he says that language is: A social phenomenon which is part of the natural history of human beings; a sphere of human action, wherein people utter strings of vocal sounds, or inscribe strings of marks, and wherein people respond by thought or action to the sounds or marks which they observe to have been so produced... He who produces sounds or marks does so for a reason... and he who responds to the sounds or marks in a certain way also does so for a reason (562). In other words, he argues that we speak English, rather than some other language, by convention, because that is what our society has conformed to, and therefore what we conform to as well. He then goes on to say that the meaning of a sentence, when combined with factual information about the world, yields a truth-value. I agree with Lewis' accounts of language. I agree that we speak English because the rest of our society speaks English, and I also agree that language, in general, has a truth-value behind it, because if it didn't, there would be no logic to communication. One main objection for Lewis' account on the meaning of a language L, is to assume a society of liars. ...read more.


I agree with Lewis here because the more we are exposed to something, the more likely we are to [want to] grow accustomed to acquire that which we are exposed to. For example, my mother's first language is Spanish. She was born in, and grew up in, the Dominican Republic. She moved to the United States when she was seventeen, and had me when she was eighteen. I was born in New York, and the first language she taught me was Spanish. My only exposure to a language was Spanish-the language I was spoken to at home. However, when it was time for me to go to school, my Spanish language was no longer the language of convention. All of my peers spoke English and I couldn't understand them, as they couldn't understand me. Therefore, my state of mind, at the time of my Spanish speaking days, was wanting to be able to respond to the sounds and marks that I was hearing from other speakers. My peers would say something to me with the intention of bringing about a response, and I wanted to be able to supply them with the response they were looking for, but the only way I would be able to respond to other speakers was if I conformed to their English language. ...read more.


He says that "in any case in which a language L clearly is used by a population P, then, it seems that there prevails in P a convention of truthfulness and trust in L, sustained by an interest in communication" (566). In other words, in order to be able to believe what another person is saying, there has to be a sense of truth and trust, otherwise you would disregard language and communication all together, and then what would be the point in conversation if all of it were all untrue and irrelevant? In sum, I agree with Lewis in the following accounts: 1) that language is acquired by convention, 2) we speak English because we are part of a society that speaks English, and we conformed to this language because our predecessors conformed to this language before us, and 3) that language is a convention of truthfulness and trust because in order for language to succeed, the hearer must believe what the speaker is saying to be an account of truth (or at least of what the speaker believes to be true), in order for the hearer, in his turn to speak, to receive the same consideration in return. 1 All information written in this paper was taken from Martinich, A.P. The Language of Philosophy, Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press, 2001. "Languages and Language" by David Lewis, pp. 562-580. 1 Karen Ortiz Philosophy 409 Final Paper December 18, 2004 ...read more.

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