The cognitivist account of meaning and the liar paradox

Pinder, Mark (2015). The cognitivist account of meaning and the liar paradox. Philosophical Studies, 172(5) pp. 1221–1242.



A number of theorists hold that literal, linguistic meaning is determined by the cognitive mechanism that underpins semantic competence. Borg and Larson and Segal defend a version of the view on which semantic competence is underpinned by the cognition of a truth-conditional semantic theory—a semantic theory which is true. Let us call this view the “cognitivist account of meaning”. In this paper, I discuss a surprisingly serious difficulty that the cognitivist account of meaning faces in light of the liar paradox. I raise an argument to the effect that, in light of linguistic evidence concerning the liar paradox, the cognised semantic theory is inconsistent. This contradicts the cognitivist account. I consider a range of possible responses to the difficulty, raising problems for each. The liar paradox poses a serious difficulty to the cognitivist account of meaning, and it is unclear whether the difficulty can be resolved.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions