Expression, truth, predication, and context: Two perspectives

In this article I contrast in two ways those conceptions of semantic theory deriving from Richard Montague's Intensional Logic (IL) and later developments with conceptions that stick pretty closely to a far weaker semantic apparatus for human first languages. IL is a higher-order language incorporating the simple theory of types. As such, it endows predicates with a reference. Its intensional features yield a conception of propositional identity (namely necessary equivalence) that has seemed to many to be too coarse to be acceptable. In the most usual expositions, it takes the object of linguistic explication to be the sentence in a context, as in Kaplan, 1977. This last has led to recent speculations about 'shifted' contexts. IL may be contrasted with a more linguistically (representationally) bound conception of propositions and interpretation of their predicational and functional parts, and with the explication, not of sentences in contexts, but of potential utterances, relative to the antecedent referential intentions of their speakers. We may then advance, as an empirical hypothesis about all human languages, that contexts never shift, and propose that apparent counterexamples stem from the misconstrual of linguistically coded anaphoric relations, relations that are wanted independently anyway. Donald Davidson's posthumous volume Truth and Predication mounts a sustained criticism of the notion of predicate reference. This criticism is not decisive. However, it may put the ball in the other court, insofar as it asks for a justification of what IL takes as given. Elaborations of IL using structured propositions, recently defended in King, 2007, recognize the problem of predicate reference, and the correlative issue of the 'unity of the proposition'; but I do not see that they can do better than bite the bullet already bitten in IL. I agree with Frege's insight that full justification of predicate reference pushes the boundaries of natural language, and to that extent may not be found within the semantic (as opposed to general scientific) enterprise.
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DOI 10.1080/09672550802335846
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References found in this work BETA
Donald Davidson (2010). Truth and Meaning. In Darragh Byrne & Max Kölbel (eds.), Synthese. Routledge 304 - 323.

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