Indexicals are linguistic expressions whose reference shifts from context to context: some paradigm examples are ‘I’, ‘here’, ‘now’, ‘today’,‘he’, ‘she’, and ‘that’. Two speakers who utter a single sentence that contains an indexical may say different things. For instance, Fred and Wilma say different things when they utter the sentence ‘I am female’. Many philosophers (following David Kaplan 1989a) hold that indexicals have two sorts of meaning. The first sort of meaning is often called ‘character’ or ‘linguistic meaning’; the second (...) sort is often called ‘content’. Using this terminology, we can say that the word ‘I’ has a single character (or linguistic meaning), but has different contents in different contexts. (shrink)
This excellent book is aptly titled, for in it Scott Soames systematically discusses and greatly extends the semantic views that Saul Kripke presented in Naming and Necessity . As Soames does this, he touches on a wide variety of semantic topics, all of which he treats with his characteristically high degree of clarity, depth, and precision. Anyone who is interested in the semantic issues raised by..
Millianism says that the semantic content of a name (or indexical) is simply its referent. This thesis arises within a general, powerful research program, the propositionalist approach to semantics, which sets as a goal for philosophical semantics an assignment of entities – semantic contents – to bits of language, culminating in the assignment of propositions to sentences. Communication, linguistic competence, truth conditions, and other semantic phenomena are ultimately explained in terms of semantic contents.
Contextualism about ‘might’ says that the property that ‘might’ expresses varies from context to context. I argue against contextualism. I focus on problems that contextualism apparently has with attitude ascriptions in which ‘might’ appears in an embedded ‘that’-clause. I argue that contextualists can deal rather easily with many of these problems, but I also argue that serious difficulties remain with collective and quantified says-that ascriptions. Herman Cappelen and John Hawthorne atempt to deal with these remaining problems, but I argue that (...) their attempt fails. (shrink)
Invariantism about ‘might’ says that ‘might’ semantically expresses the same modal property in every context. This paper presents and defends a version of invariantism. According to it, ‘might’ semantically expresses the same weak modal property in every context. However, speakers who utter sentences containing ‘might’ typically assert propositions concerning stronger types of modality, including epistemic modality. This theory can explain the phenomena that motivate contextualist theories of epistemic uses of ‘might’, and can be defended from objections of the sort that (...) relativists mount against contextualist theories. (shrink)
I modify Grice's theory of conversational implicature so as to accommodate acts of implicating propositions by asking questions, acts of implicating questions by asserting propositions, and acts of implicating questions by asking questions. I describe the relations between a declarative sentence's semantic content (the proposition it semantically expresses), on the one hand, and the propositions that a speaker locutes, asserts, and implicates by uttering that sentence, on the other. I discuss analogous relations between an interrogative sentence's semantic content (the question (...) it semantically expresses), and the questions that a speaker locutes, asks, and implicates by uttering that sentence. (shrink)
This paper presents a semantic and pragmatic theory of complex demonstratives. According to this theory, the semantic content of a complex demonstrative, in a context, is simply an object, and the semantic content of a sentence that contains a complex demonstrative, in a context, is a singular proposition. This theory is defended from various objections to direct reference theories of complex demonstratives, including King's objection from quantification into complex demonstratives.
This paper presents a number of objections to Jeffrey King’s quantificational theory of complex demonstratives. Some of these objections have to do with modality, whereas others concern attitude ascriptions. Various possible replies are considered. The debate between quantificational theorists and direct reference theorists over complex demonstratives is compared with recent debates concerning definite descriptions.
I criticized Jeffrey King's theory of complex demonstratives in "Problems for a Quantificational Theory of Complex Demonstratives." King replied in "Complex Demonstratives as Quantifiers: Objections and Replies." I here comment on some of King's replies.
According to an old and attractive view, vagueness must be eliminated before semantic notions — truth, implication, and so on — may be applied. This view was accepted by Frege, but is rarely defended nowadays.1 This..
Hong Oak Yun is a person who is over three inches tall. And now you know who Hong Oak Yun is. For if someone were to ask you ‘Who is Hong Oak Yun?’, you could answer that Hong Oak Yun is a person who is over three inches tall, and you would know what you were saying. So you know an answer to the question ‘Who is Hong Oak Yun?’, and that is sufficient for knowing who Hong Oak Yun is. (...) Getting to know who a person is may be easier than you think. (shrink)
Propositions are the referents of the ‘that’-clauses that appear in the direct object positions of typical ascriptions of assertion, belief, and other binary cognitive relations. In that sense, propositions are the objects of those cognitive relations. Propositions are also the semantic contents (meanings, in one sense ) of declarative sentences, with respect to contexts. They are what sentences semantically express, with respect to contexts. Propositions also bear truth-values. The truth-value of a sentence, in a context, is the truth-value of the (...) proposition that it semantically expresses, in that context. This much is common ground among many (but not all) philosophers. I accept other claims about propositions that are more controversial. Propositions (I hold) are Russellian: they are structured entities whose constituents include individuals, properties, and relations. The contribution of a proper name to the proposition that a sentence semantically expresses (in a context) is the referent of that name. Thus, the semantic content of ‘Bill Clinton’ is Bill Clinton himself, and the semantic content of ‘Bill Clinton smokes’ is a proposition whose constituents are Bill Clinton and the property of smoking (ignoring tense, as I shall do from here on). Such 1 singular propositions are among the objects of belief, assertion, and other cognitive relations. This combination of a Millian view about proper names with a Russellian theory of propositions might appropriately be called ‘Millian Russellianism’, or ‘MR’ for short. David Chalmers, in his stimulating paper “Probability and Propositions,” defines a closely related view, Referentialism, as follows (see also the penultimate paragraph of his introduction). Referentialist views say that insofar as beliefs are about individuals (such as Nietzche), the objects of these belief are determined by those individuals. On one such view, the objects of belief are Russellian propositions composed from the individuals and properties that one’s belief is about.. (shrink)
Millianism says that the semantic content of a name (or indexical) is simply its referent. This thesis arises within a general, powerful research program, the propositionalist approach to semantics, which sets as a goal for philosophical semantics an assignment of entities — semantic contents — to bits of language, culminating in the assignment of propositions to sentences. Communication, linguistic competence, truth conditions, and other semantic phenomena are ultimately explained in terms of semantic contents. Over 100 years ago Frege (1952/1892) pointed (...) out the problem with Millianism: sentences containing co-referential names seem semantically inequivalent. a=a is trivial, a priori, etc.; a=b is not, even if a and b have the same referent; φ(a) and φ(b) embed differently in the scope of propositional attitude verbs. (shrink)
John Stuart Mill (1843) thought that proper names denote individuals and do not connote attributes. Contemporary Millians agree, in spirit. We hold that the semantic content of a proper name is simply its referent. We also think that the semantic content of a declarative sentence is a Russellian structured proposition whose constituents are the semantic contents of the sentence’s constituents. This proposition is what the sentence semantically expresses. Therefore, we think that sentences containing proper names semantically express singular propositions, which (...) are propositions having individuals as constituents. For instance, the sentence ‘George W. Bush is human’ semantically expresses a proposition that has Bush himself as a constituent. Call this theory Millianism. Many philosophers initially find Millianism quite appealing, but find it much less so after considering its many apparent problems. Among these problems are those raised by non-referring names, which are sometimes (tendentiously) called empty names. Plausible examples of empty names include certain names from fiction, such as ‘Sherlock Holmes’, which I shall call fictional names, and certain names from myth and false scientific theory, such as ‘Pegasus’ and ‘Vulcan’, which I shall call mythical names. I have defended Millianism from objections concerning empty names in previous work (Braun 1993). In this paper, I shall re-present those objections, along with some new ones. I shall then describe my previous Millian theory of empty names, and my previous replies to the objections, and consider whether the theory or replies need revision. I shall next consider whether fictional and mythical names are really empty. I shall argue that at least some utterances of mythical names are. (shrink)
We use names to talk about objects. We use predicates to talk about properties and relations. We use sentences to attribute properties and relations to objects. We say things when we utter sentences, often things we believe.
Many competent speakers initially judge that (i) is true and (ii) isfalse, though they know that (iii) is true. (i) Superman leaps more tallbuildings than Clark Kent. (ii) Superman leaps more tall buildings thanSuperman. (iii) Superman is identical with Clark Kent. Semanticexplanations of these intuitions say that (i) and (ii) really can differin truth-value. Pragmatic explanations deny this, and say that theintuitions are due to misleading implicatures. This paper argues thatboth explanations are incorrect. (i) and (ii) cannot differ intruth-value, yet (...) the intuitions are not due to implicatures, but ratherto mistakes in evaluating (i) and (ii). (shrink)
Many philosophers think that the Substitution Objection decisively refutes Russellianism. This objection claims that sentences (1) and (2) can differ in truth value. Therefore, it says, the sentences express different propositions, and so Russellianism is false.
Russellianism (also called `neo-Russellianism, `Millianism, and `thenaive theory') entails that substitution of co-referring names inattitude ascriptions preserves truth value and proposition expressed.Thus, on this view, if Lucy wants Twain to autograph her book, thenshe also wants Clemens to autograph her book, even if she says ``I donot want Clemens to autograph my book''. Some philosophers (includingMichael Devitt and Mark Richard) claim that attitude ascriptions canbe used to predict behavior, but argue that if Russellianism weretrue, then this would not be so. (...) They conclude that Russellianism isfalse. I defend Russellianism from this objection. I present severalanalyses of ``sentence S can be used to predict event E''. I arguethat, on each of these analyses, attitude ascriptions can be used topredict behavior, even if Russellianism is true. Furthermore, if myarguments are incorrect, and attitude ascriptions cannot be used topredict behavior under Russellianism, then Russellians can explainaway the intuition that they can be so used. (shrink)
(1) Harry believes that Twain is a writer. (2) Harry believes that Clemens is a writer. I say that this is Russellianism's most notorious consequence because it is so often used to argue against the view: many philosophers think that it is obvious that (1) and (2) can differ in truth value, and so they conclude that Russellianism is false. Let's call this the Substitution Objection to Russellianism.
In this paper, I defend a well-known theory of belief reports from an important objection. The theory is Russellianism, sometimes also called `neo-Russellianism', `Millianism', `the direct reference theory', `the "Fido"-Fido theory', or `the naive theory'. The objection concernssubstitution of co-referring names in belief sentences. Russellianism implies that any two belief sentences, that differ only in containing distinct co-referring names, express the same proposition (in any given context). Since `Hesperus' and `Phosphorus' both refer to the planet Venus, this view implies that (...) all utterances of (1) and.. (shrink)
In this paper, I present a new semantics for demonstratives. Now some may think that David Kaplan (1989a,b) has already given a more than satisfactory semantics for demonstratives, and that there is no need for a new one. But I argue below that Kaplan's theory fails to describe the linguistic meanings of 'that' and other true demonstratives. My argument for this conclusion has nothing to do with cognitive value, belief sentences, or other such contentious matters in semantics and the philosophy (...) of mind. Rather, it appeals to the obvious fact that there can be true utterances of certain sentences containing several occurrences of the same demonstrative (for instance, 'That is taller than that'). My argument can be answered by making a fairly modest revision in Kaplan's theory. But I believe that the resulting revised version of Kaplan's theory ignores or distorts various important semantic features of 'that'. Thus I ultimately argue in favor of a more substantial departure from Kaplan's theory. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the theory I favor is that it ascribes three distinct sorts of meanings to demonstratives. (shrink)
But I am troubled by Kaplan's attempts to describe character. For one thing, Kaplan is not consistent in his mathematical representation of character. In some places, he represents character with one sort of function; in other places, he uses another sort of function. I show this in section one below, and argue that one of these representations is clearly better than the other. But I believe that even the better of these two representations is inadequate for capturing the kind of (...) meaning that Kaplan calls 'character'. In section two, I argue that no extensional function can do the job adequately. (shrink)
In this paper I present an analysis of causal relevance for properties. I believe that most of us are already familiar with the notion of a causally relevant property. But some of us may not recognize it "under that description." So I begin below with some intuitive explanations and some illustrative examples.
A structured character is a semantic value of a certain sort. Like the more familiar Kaplanian characters, structured characters determine the contents of expressions in contexts. But unlike Kaplanian characters, structured characters also have constituent structures. The semantic theories with which most of us are acquainted do not mention structured characters. But I argue in this paper that these familiar semantic theories fail to make obvious distinctions in meaning---distinctions that can be made by a theory that uses structured characters. Thus (...) I conclude that we should reject these familiar semantic theories, and accept a semantic theory that includes structured characters among its semantic values. (shrink)