Jody Azzouni. Talking about nothing. New York: Oxford university press, 2010. Isbn 978-0-19-973894-64. Pp. IV + 273

Philosophia Mathematica 19 (3):359-363 (2011)
Abstract
Our normal discourse is replete with discussion of things which do not exist — the objects of fiction, of illusion and hallucination, of religious worship , of misguided fears and other intentional states. Let us call such discourse empty . How to account for the meaning of empty discourse, and such truth values as its statements have, are perennial and thorny philosophical topics. Many positions are well known; in this book of five chapters Azzouni advocates another. Empty discourse is literally about nothing; nonetheless, one may give an account of how its sentences are both meaningful and have appropriate truth values. In the first three chapters, the ideas are applied to the objects of mathematics, hallucination, and fiction, respectively. Chapter 5 fills out the picture with a discussion of truth-conditional semantics. Chapter 4 broaches the question of how all this is relevant to a broader question: the unity of the sciences.The book is ingenious and clearly argued.1 There are many perceptive discussions — for example, of the way we talk about fictional objects, and about hallucination. And although it is not the main aim of the book, it mounts a number of telling arguments against alternative positions. And even if the book did not persuade at least this reader of its main thesis, it has estabished a genuinely novel and intriguing position …
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