The use–mention distinction is a foundational concept of analytic philosophy, according to which it is necessary to make a distinction between using a word (or phrase) and mentioning it, and many philosophical works have been "vitiated by a failure to distinguish use and mention". The distinction is disputed by non-analytic philosophers. The distinction between use and mention can be illustrated for the word cheese:
Use: Cheese is derived from milk. Mention: 'Cheese' is derived from the Old English word ċēse.
The first sentence is a statement about the substance called "cheese"; it uses the word 'cheese' to refer to that substance. The second is a statement about the word 'cheese' as a signifier; it mentions the word without using it to refer to anything other than itself.
1 Grammar 2 In philosophy 3 See also 4 Notes 5 References 6 Further reading 7 External links
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In written language, mentioned words or phrases often appear between
quotation marks (as in "'Chicago' contains three vowels") or in
italics (as in "When I say honey, I mean the sweet stuff that bees
make"), and style authorities such as
Strunk and White
When Larry said, "That has three letters," he was referring to the word 'bee'. With reference to 'bumbershoot', Peter explained that "The term refers to an umbrella."
A few authorities recommend against such a distinction, and prefer one style of quotation mark to be used for both purposes. In philosophy The general phenomenon of a term's having different references in different contexts was called suppositio (substitution) by medieval logicians. It describes how one has to substitute a term in a sentence based on its meaning—that is, based on the term's referent. In general, a term can be used in several ways. For nouns, they are:
Properly with a concrete and real referent: "That is my pig" (assuming it exists). (personal supposition) Properly with a concrete but unreal referent: "Santa Claus's pig is very big." (also personal supposition) Properly with a generic referent: "Any pig breathes air." (simple supposition) Improperly by way of metaphor: "Your grandfather is a pig". (improper supposition) As a pure term: "Pig has only three letters". (material supposition)
The last sentence contains a mention example. The use–mention distinction is especially important in analytic philosophy. Failure to properly distinguish use from mention can produce false, misleading, or meaningless statements or category errors. For example, the following correctly distinguish between use and mention:
"Copper" contains six letters, and is not a metal. Copper is a metal, and contains no letters.
The first sentence, a mention example, is a statement about the word
"copper" and not the chemical element. Notably, the word is composed
of six letters, but not any kind of metal or other tangible thing. The
second sentence, a use example, is a statement about the chemical
element copper and not the word itself. Notably, the element is
composed of 29 electrons and protons and a number of neutrons, but not
Quine said that "quotation has a certain anomalous feature."
which both use the meaning of the quoted words to complete the sentence, and mention them as they are attributed to W. V. Quine, to argue against his teachers' hard distinction. His claim was that quotations could not be analyzed as simple expressions that mention their content by means of naming it or describing its parts, as sentences like the above would lose their exact, twofold meaning. Self-referential statements mention themselves or their components, often producing logical paradoxes, such as Quine's paradox. A mathematical analogy of self-referential statements lies at the core of Gödel's incompleteness theorem (diagonal lemma). There are many examples of self-reference and use–mention distinction in the works of Douglas Hofstadter, who makes the distinction thus:
When a word is used to refer to something, it is said to be being used. When a word is quoted, though, so that someone is examining it for its surface aspects (typographical, phonetic, etc.), it is said to be being mentioned.
Although the standard notation for mentioning a term in philosophy and
logic is to put the term in quotation marks, issues arise when the
mention is itself of a mention. Notating using italics might require a
potentially infinite number of typefaces, while putting quotation
marks within quotation marks may lead to ambiguity.
Some analytic philosophers have said the distinction "may seem rather
In a 1977 response to analytic philosopher John Searle, Jacques
Haddocks' Eyes James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher Map–territory relation Metalanguage Pointer (computer programming) Quasi-quotation Scare quotes Sense and reference White Horse Dialogue
^ Wheeler (2005) p. 568
^ a b c d Devitt and Sterelny (1999) pp. 40–1
^ a b
Derrida, Jacques (1977)
Limited Inc abc ... in Limited Inc
Kim Sterelny (1999)
A. W. Moore (1986) How Significant Is the Use/Mention Distinction? in Analysis Vol. 46, No. 4 (Oct. 1986), pp. 173–179
"Robert And The Use-Mention Distinction", by William A. Wisdom, c.
"On the use of Quotation Marks", by Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. PhD, 29
December 1992, Revised 21 October 1993, Published in Etc.: A Review of
General Semantics, Vol. 51 No 1, Spring 1994. (accessed: 26 August
"The evolution of Confusion", talk by
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