A Husserlian Theory of Indexicality

Kevin Mulligan and Barry Smith

from: Grazer Philosophische Studien, 28 (1986), 133–63.

It is well known that Husserl’s Logical Investigations contain the beginnings of an account of the meanings of indexical expressions, expressions whose meanings depend essentially on some sort of explicit or implicit pointing or indication [Anzeigen], and therefore on some contribution by the surroundings of speaker and hearer. Husserl in fact speaks explicitly of ‘occasional expressions’, that is of expressions like ‘this’ and ‘that’ whose meanings depend on features of the occasion of use,but it is possible to gauge the full implications of his explicit remarks on the problem of indexical or occasional meanings only if these are read in conjunction with what he says elsewhere in the Investigations, especially on the subject of perceptual judgments and proper names. Moreover, Husserl’s deliberations on indication, perception and naming, as also what he has to say on demonstrative pronouns, spatial and temporal adverbs and tenses, must themselves be understood—like everything else in this work—as applications of a very general theory of meaning and of structure or dependence. 

In what follows we shall set out Husserl’s account of indexicality and develop it in various ways. Unlike Husserl himself—who retrospectively described his own account as an ‘act of violence’—we are strongly of the opinion that this effort is worthwhile.

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