Words and phrases have meaning. But what are meanings? Maybe
they are the objects and properties that our words are about. But then ‘Mark
Twain’ and ‘Samuel Clemens’ would have the same meaning, even though one and
the same person can affirm the sentence ‘Mark Twain was a great writer’ but
reject the sentence ‘Samuel Clemens was a great writer.’ And what makes it the
case that some squiggles or sounds are meaningful? Perhaps it’s because of the
mental states of language users, but then in virtue of what do those states
have their meaning or content? Might the explanation run in the other
direction, so that our mental states have content only because we are language
users? Also, can our grasp of what words mean explain our basic logical and
mathematical knowledge and otherwise underwrite a compelling conception of the a priori? Perhaps it’s because we know
what ‘and’ means that we know that ‘A and B’ is true just in case ‘A’ is true
and ‘B’ is true. This category subsumes work that ranges over these and other
questions concerning meaning and its bearing on a variety of philosophical
Frege 1892 and Russell 1905 are seminal works on meaning and
reference. Kripke 1980 and Putnam 1975 argue, among other things, that semantic
properties are determined by factors external to language users. Grice 1957 and Davidson 1973 explore the relation of language and thought. Quine 1951 rejects the idea
of philosophically interesting truths in virtue of meaning and knowledge in virtue
of knowledge of meaning.
This would have been a better book if Sampson had argued his main point, the usefulness of the Simonian principle as an explanation of the evolution, structure, and acquisition of language, on its own merits, instead of making it subsidiary to his attack on ‘limited-minders’ (e.g., Noam Chomsky). The energy he has spent on the attack he might then have been willing and able to employ in developing his argument at reasonable length and detail. He might then have found that (...) argument faulty, or even wrong. Underdeveloped as it is, however, his point about the Simonian principle does seem to have thepossibility of some significance in understanding the empirical issues of this book (and the dichotomy of ‘limited’ and ‘creative’ minds is certainly not one of these).What Sampson has done inMaking Sense has the appearance of science, and theoretical linguistics, and therefore it is somewhat puzzling to find the conclusions that the human mind cannot be scientifically studied (p. 10), and that theoretical linguistics is a “mirage” (p. 210). His statement that It may still seem worthwhile to some to work out the exact implications for present-day linguistic structure of the fact that languages are evolved systems, but I cannot see that there is much glamour or, indeed, much substance in this task (p. 210) would surely be surprising to a geneticist or ethologist. We hope his apparent misunderstanding on this point will not lead him to give up his profession, in which he seems willing and able to make a significant contribution.What in particular is required is a clear indication of how the Simonian principle imposes itself in the ontogenesis of language. Consider Chomsky's example of the rule for forming questions in English. For sentence (1) below, children able to deal with such examples would give (2) but not (3) as the corresponding question (Chomsky, 1975, p. 31).The man who is tall is in the room.Is the man who is tall in the room?*Is the man who tall is in the room?Now compare Sampson's evolutionary explanation for the structure-dependence of rules which is illustrated in (1)-(3): “once a behavior-pattern has become thoroughly established, it will tend to be treated as a fixed given when used as a constituent of a more complex, later-learned behavior-pattern” (p. 183). In order for this to account for Chomsky's example it would have to be the case that children learn relative clauses before they learn questions, which simply isn't true.In conclusion, we wish not to seem unaware of the problems with the position Sampson is attacking, or unaware of the sometimes dogmatic way it too has been presented. Chomsky's hypothesis of innate linguistic ideas seems, fundamentally, to derive from the claimed rapidity and uniformity of language acquisition in the face of limited and degenerate data. Chomsky appears to have been unwilling to argue these points directly or to show their relation to others, for which he has argued, for example, the implausibility of some abstract constraint's having been learned (cf. 1971, pp. 22–44; 1975, pp. 30–33; 1980, pp. 35–52). And almost from his first invoking of rationalism in support of his linguistic method, Chomsky has himself resorted to an unnecessarily polemical attack on empiricism (cf. 1965, p. 58, n. 33). The innateness issue is just not clear or simple enough to justify so much animus, or even conviction. (shrink)
The title question should be construed as an epistemological and not ontological one. Omitting the difficult problems of the ontology of intentionality we will ask, if all, what is needed to explain the phenomenon of meaningful use of words, could be found “in our private head” interpreted as a sphere of specific privileged access, the sphere that is in the relevant epistemological sense subjective, private or non public. There are many “mentalistic” theories of meaning that force us to the answer: (...) “yes”. According to these theories our words are meaningful in virtue of some intentions of the speaker. And our intentions consist in having some mental states that should be in the relevant sense subjective or private. (Searle, Chisholm) But there are also the philosophers (Kripke, Putnam) who claim to have the evidence to the contrary. They argue that the meanings of our words could not be “in the head”, because of two important reasons. (i) Very often we don’t know exactly the meanings of the words that we use meaningfully. Furthermore, our “semantical self-knowledge” is principally corrigible by other people, and hence our access to the meanings we use could be by no means privileged. And secondly (ii) we can imagine a situation in which two subjects with the same mental intention use the same word with the very different meanings. We will investigate our question on the ground of the Ingarden’s philosophy. As we will see, his answer turns out to be in an interesting sense: “yes and no”. (shrink)
It has often been suggested that the meaning of terms is theory dependent. Bas van Fraassen has proposed a particular way of inferring which sentences are true in virtue of meaning, given a theory in so-called state-space format. I examine his claims by means of simple examples.
In this paper we explore how compositional semantics, discourse structure, and the cognitive states of participants all contribute to pragmatic constraints on answers to questions in dialogue. We synthesise formal semantic theories on questions and answers with techniques for discourse interpretation familiar from computational linguistics, and show how this provides richer constraints on responses in dialogue than either component can achieve alone.
"For riding is required a horse"--"I promise you a horse"--Chimeras and imaginary objects--Theories of the proposition--The structure of mental language--Mental language and the unity of propositions--"Do words signify ideas or things?"--Locke on language--The doctrine of exponibilia in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries--Multiple quantification and the use of special quantifiers in early sixteenth century logic--Thomas Bricot(d. 1516) and the Liar paradox--Will Socrates cross the bridge?
We have sketched how it is possible to give an analysis for adjoined relative clauses which is consistent with the compositionality principle and have shown that the technique which seems necessary for this analysis can be used to provide a compositional semantics for the NP-S analysis of English relative clauses.It is unlikely that anyone working within the framework of a compositional theory would choose the NP-S analysis for English, since it is clearly much less elegant and simple, in some intuitive (...) sense, than the alternative Nom-S analysis. Our results seem to indicate, however, that such an analysis cannot be ruled out in principle, since any constraint on the theory that would exclude the NP-S analysis would seem to exclude the Hittite analysis as well. So the arguments for the Nom-S analysis in the English case must be based on other grounds, or the Hittite analysis is also incorrect and should be ruled out, or the happy discovery of some as yet unknown principles will allow one but not the other. (shrink)
Expressivism, broadly construed, is the view that the function of utterances in a given area of discourse is to give expression to our sentiments or other (non-cognitive) mental states or attitudes, rather than report or describe some range of facts. This view naturally seems an attractive option wherever it is suspected that there may not be a domain of facts for the given discourse to be describing. Familiarly, to avoid commitment to ethical facts, the ethical expressivist suggests that ethical utterances (...) (e.g., “Gratuitous torture is wrong”, “What John did was morally good”) do not serve to ascribe ethical properties to objects, actions, persons, or states of affairs. Instead, they simply function to give voice to certain of our sentiments (or ‘pro/con’ attitudes). Along similar lines, philosophers have entertained versions of expressivism about the aesthetic, the modal, the mental, what is funny, even about theoretical science and knowledge ascriptions. (shrink)
This paper aims to argue for two related statements: first, that formal semantics should not be conceived of as interpreting natural language expressions in a single model (a very large one representing the world as a whole, or something like that) but as interpreting them in many different models (formal counterparts, say, of little fragments of reality); second, that accepting such a conception of formal semantics yields a better comprehension of the relation between semantics and pragmatics and of the role (...) to be played by formal semantics in the general enterprise of understanding meaning. For this purpose, three kinds of arguments are given: firstly, empirical arguments showing that the many models approach is the most straightforward and natural way of giving a formal counterpart to natural language sentences. Secondly, logical arguments proving the logical impossibility of a single universal model. And thirdly, theoretical arguments to the effect that such a conception of formal semantics fits in a natural and fruitful way with pragmatic theories and facts. In passing, this conception will be shown to cast some new light on the old problems raised by liar and sorites paradoxes. (shrink)
Arguments are given against the thesis that properties and propositional functions are identical. The first shows that the familiar extensional treatment of propositional functions -- that, for all x, if f(x) = g(x), then f = g -- must be abandoned. Second, given the usual assumptions of propositional-function semantics, various propositional functions (e.g., constant functions) are shown not to be properties. Third, novel examples are given to show that, if properties were identified with propositional functions, crucial fine-grained intensional distinctions would (...) be lost. (shrink)
La "Semántica de las imágenes" apela al contexto, a los usos, a lo simbólico, y no sólo a las categorías y taxonomías de tipo estructural o lógico. Es probable que dos sean las razones principales de esta rebeldía del sentido visual: la plasticidad de la imagen y el régimen de lo imaginario.
Experientialist semantics has contributed to a broader notion of linguistic meaning by emphasizing notions such as construal, perspective, metaphor, and embodiment, but has suffered from an individualist concept of meaning and has conflated experiential motivations with conventional semantics. We argue that these problems can be redressed by methods and concepts from phenomenology, on the basis of a case study of sentences of non-actual motion such as “The mountain range goes all the way from Mexico to Canada.” Through a phenomenological reanalysis (...) of proposals of Talmy, Langacker, and Matlock, we show that non-actual motion is both experientially and linguistically non-unitary. At least three different features of human consciousness—enactive perception, visual scanning, and imagination—constitute experiential motivations for non-actual motion sentences, and each of these could be related to phenomenological analyses of human intentionality. The second problem is addressed by proposing that the experiential motivations of non-actual motion sentences can be viewed as sedimented through “passive” processes of acquisition and social transmission and that this implies an interactive loop between experience and language, yielding losses in terms of original experience, but gains in terms of communal signification. Something that is underestimated by phenomenology is that what is sedimented are not only intentional objects such as states of affairs, but aspects of how they are given, i.e., the original, temporal, bodily experiences themselves. Since cognitive semantics has emphasized such aspects of meaning, we suggest that phenomenology can itself benefit from experientialist semantics, especially when it turns its focus from prepredicative to predicative, linguistic intentionality. (shrink)
Many philosophers, however, have been tempted to be relativists about speciﬁc domains of discourse, especially about those domains that have a normative character. Gilbert Harman, for example, has defended a relativistic view of morality, Richard Rorty a relativistic view of epistemic justiﬁcation, and Crispin Wright a relativistic view of judgments of taste.¹ But what exactly is it to be a relativist about a given domain of discourse?
It is sometimes said that no living philosopher is a genuine modal realist. This is no doubt an exaggeration. But at least this much is true: while we all partake of possible world talk when philosophizing, most of us regard this talk as incurring no commitment to a plurality of concrete worlds.
What we believe depends on more than the purely intrinsic facts about us: facts about our environment or context also help determine the contents of our beliefs. 1 This observation has led several writers to hope that beliefs can be divided, as it were, into two components: a "core" that depends only on the individual?s intrinsic properties; and a periphery that depends on the individual?s context, including his or her history, environment, and linguistic community. Thus Jaegwon Kim suggests that "within (...) each noninternal psychological state that enters into the explanation of some action or behavior we can locate an ?internal core state? which can assume the causal-explanatory role of the noninternal state."2 In the same vein, Stephen Stich writes that "nonautonomous" states, like belief, are best viewed as "conceptually complex hybrids" made up of an autonomous component together with historical and contextual features.3 John Perry, whose term I have adopted, distinguishes between belief states, which are determined by an individual?s intrinsic properties, and objects of belief, which are not.4 And Daniel Dennett makes use of the same notion when he asks:5. (shrink)
This is a collection of eleven original essays in analytical philosophy by British and American philosophers, centering on the connection between mind and language. Two themes predominate: how it is that thoughts and sentences can represent the world; and what having a thought - a belief, for instance - involves. Developing from these themes are the questions: what does having a belief require of the believer, and of the way he or she relates to the environment? In particular, does having (...) a belief require speaking a language? The volume concludes the informal series stemming from the meetings sponsored by the Thyssen Foundation. (shrink)
The expression ‘Like’ has a wide variety of uses among English and American speakers. It may describe preference, as in (1) She likes mint chip ice cream. It may be used as a vehicle of comparison, as in (2) Trieste is like Minsk on steroids.
Paul Grice (1913-1988) is best known for his psychological account of meaning, and for his theory of conversational implicature. This is the first book to consider Grice's work as a whole. Drawing on the range of his published writing, and also on unpublished manuscripts, lectures and notes, Siobhan Chapman discusses the development of his ideas and relates his work to the major events of his intellectual and professional life.
David Charles presents a major new study of Aristotle's views on meaning, essence, necessity, and related topics. These interconnected views are central to Aristotle's metaphysics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of science, and are also highly relevant to current philosophical debates. Charles aims to reach a clear understanding of Aristotle's claims and arguments, to assess their truth, and to evaluate their importance to ancient and modern philosophy.
Grice’s notion of what is said has been challenged in many directions and, since then, there are a lot of new proposals to understand it. One of these new proposals claims that what a speaker said is not part of the speaker meaning. In that sense, the content said by uttering a sentence is not intentioned by the speaker but a purely semantic and syntactic matter. Kent Bach argues for this proposal and is the main exponent of it. My aim (...) will be to show that Bach’s arguments do not work. There are two different arguments in Bach (1994, 1999, 2001). The first, that I call the direct argument, gives us three reasons against the idea that what is said is meant by the speaker. My goal in the first section will be to show that these reasons are not conclusive. Bach’s notion of what is said should rest on the second argument, the indirect argument. In it, he argues that if what is said is not part of the communicative intentions of the speaker, then it is possible that the content said is not propositional. With this idea, Bach uses what he calls the IQ test.. (shrink)
We started from the fact that type theory, in the way it was implemented in IL, makes it costly to deal with nominalization processes. We have also argued that the type hierarchy as such doesn't play any real role in a grammar; the classification it provides for different semantic objects is already contained, in some sense, in the categorial structure of the grammar itself. So, on the basis of a theory of properties (Cocchiarella's HST*) we have tried to build a (...) language (IL*) whose syntax does not contain any explicit typing of expressions. Some of the consequences that this move brings about in the overall organization of the grammar can be summarized as follows:it allows for a simple treatment of infinitives, gerunds, factives and, in general, all those phenomena which might be analyzed as cases of nominalization;it provides a simpler and more constrained semantics than IL, since IL* doesn't go beyond second order, and its non-modal basis is axiomatizable;it suggests that the role of logical form in a theory of grammar could be that of a family of theories of semantic objects;it eliminates the extrinsic limitations of a type hierarchy on the choice of the system of syntactic categories.I think that it is interesting to notice how having an explicit semantic framework helps to provide a sense in which it is legitimate to regard the syntax of a language as ‘autonomous’. (shrink)