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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.
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