Formal semantics and intentional states

Analysis 64 (3):215–223 (2004)
My aim in this note is to address the question of how a context of utterance can figure within a formal, specifically truth-conditional, semantic theory. In particular, I want to explore whether a formal semantic theory could, or should, take the intentional states of a speaker to be relevant in determining the literal meaning of an uttered sentence. The answer I’m going to suggest, contrary to the position of many contemporary formal theorists, is negative. The structure of this note is then as follows: first, I’ll very briefly sketch three distinct forms of semantic theory. One, ‘strong formal semantics’, will be seen to be immediately problematic, leaving us with two other options: use-based theories and what I’ll term ‘moderate formal semantics’. If we opt for the latter position, the question arises of what kinds of appeals to a context of utterance are legitimate given a formal outlook. I’ll suggest that this question arises in two distinct ways and explore the moderate formal semanticist’s position in regard to both. However, the conclusion I will reach is that what is characteristic of formal semantics is that it makes only the most minimal semantic concessions to context.
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DOI 10.1111/j.0003-2638.2004.00488.x
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References found in this work BETA
Keith DeRose (1992). Contextualism and Knowledge Attributions. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52 (4):913-929.

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