It would be ever so nice if there were a viable analytic/synthetic distinction. Though nobody knows for sure, there would seem to be several major philosophical projects that having one would advance. For example: analytic sentences2 are supposed to have their truth values solely in virtue of the meanings (together with the syntactic arrangement) of their constituents; i.e., their truth values are supposed to supervene on their linguistic properties alone.3 So they are true in every possible world where they mean (...) what they mean here.4 So they are necessarily true. So if there were a viable analytic/synthetic distinction (‘a/s distinction’ often hereafter), we would understand the necessity of at least some necessary truths. If, in particular, it were to turn out that the logical and/or the mathematical truths are analytic, we would understand why they are necessary. It would be ever so nice to understand why the logical and/or mathematical truths are necessary (cf. Gibson 1998; Quine 1998). Any account of necessity would be welcome, but one according to which necessary truths are analytic has special virtues. Necessity isn’t, of course, an epistemic property. Still, suppose that the necessity of a sentence arises from the meanings of its parts. It’s natural to assume that one of the things one knows in virtue of knowing one’s language is what the expressions of the language mean (cf., e.g., Boghossian 1994). A treatment of modality in terms of analyticity therefore connects the concept of necessity with the concept of knowledge; and knowledge is, of course, an epistemic property. So maybe if there is an a/s distinction, we could explain why the necessary truths, or at least some of the necessary truths, are knowable a priori by anybody who knows a language that can express them (cf. Quine 1991). It bears emphasis that not every theory of.. (shrink)
The idea that quotidian, middle-level concepts typically have internal structure -- definitional, statistical, or whatever -- plays a central role in practically every current approach to cognition. Correspondingly, the idea that words that express quotidian, middle-level concepts have complex representations "at the semantic level" is recurrent in linguistics; it's the defining thesis of what is often called "lexical semantics," and it unites the generative and interpretive traditions of grammatical analysis. Recently, Hale and Keyser (1993) have provided a budget of sophisticated (...) and persuasive arguments for the claim that `denominal' verbs are typically derived from phrases containing the corresponding nouns: `singvtr' is supposed to come from something like DO A SONG; `saddlevtr' is supposed to come from something like PUT A SADDLE ON; `shelvevtr' is supposed to come from something like PUT ON A SHELF, and so forth.1 We think these are among the most persuasive arguments for lexical decomposition in the linguistics literature. Still, this paper is going to claim that they are finally unconvincing. In Part 1, we will show that there are quite serious arguments of a familiar kind against the decompositional analyses that Hale and Keyser (henceforth, HK) propose; in Part 2 we'll show that the arguments that HK offer in favor of their analyses are flawed. (shrink)
It matters to a number of projects whether monomorphemic lexical items (‘boy’, ‘cat’, ‘give’, ‘break’, etc.) have internal linguistic structure. (Call the theory that they do the Decomposition Hypothesis (DC).) The cognitive science consensus is, overwhelmingly, that DC is true; for example, that there is a level of grammar at which ‘breaktr’ has the structure ‘cause to breakint’ and so forth. We find this consensus surprising since, as far as we can tell, there is practically no evidence to support it. (...) (For example, there is no psychological evidence that you can’t have a word that expresses the concept BREAKTR unless you have the concept CAUSE. But there ought to be if CAUSE is a constituent of BREAKTR) This isn’t, of course, to say that there are no prima facie arguments at all for DC. The best one’s we’ve heard are the Impossible Word Arguments (IWA). That being so we’re very interested in whether IWAs are, in fact, sound. (shrink)
This is a long paper with a long title, but its moral is succinct. There are supposed to be two, closely related, philosophical problems about sentences1 with truth value gaps: If a sentence can't be semantically evaluated, how can it mean anything at all? and How can classical logic be preserved for a language which contains such sentences? We are neutral on whether either of these supposed problems is real. But we claim that, if either is, supervaluation won't solve it.
According to Kent Bach (forthcoming), our book, Insensitive Semantics (IS), suffers from its 'implicit endorsement' of (1): (1) Every complete sentence expresses a proposition (this is Propositionalism, a fancy version of the old grammar school dictum that every complete sentence expresses a complete thought) (Bach (ms.)) In response (C&L, forthcoming), we claim to be unaware of endorsing (1). No argument in IS depends on (1), we say. We don't claim to have shown that that there couldn't be grammatical sentences the (...) semantic contents of which are not propositional. (shrink)
In Insensitive Semantics (INS) and earlier work (see for example C&L (1997), (1998), (2004), (2005)) we defend a combination of two views: speech act pluralism and semantic minimalism. We're not alone advocating speech act pluralism; a modified version of it can be found in Mark Richard (1998), and we're delighted to have found a recent ally in Scott Soames (see chapter 3 of Soames (2001)1). There's less explicit support for minimalism, though we think it’s one way to interpret parts of (...) Donald Davidson's work. John MacFarlane's reply to INS made clear to us that there might be more minimalists than we thought and that MacFarlane is one of them. MacFarlane's Non-Indexical Contextualism (NIC) incorporates a version of semantic minimalism; this made us realize that others who sympathize with MacFarlane's view (for example Mark Richard (2003) and Egan, Hawthorne and Weatherson (2005)) are, in effect, semantic minimalists. (shrink)
In Insensitive Semantics (INS) and several earlier articles (see C&L 1997, 1998, 2003, 2004) we appeal to a range of procedures for testing whether an expression is semantically context sensitive. We argue that claims to the effect that an expression, e, is semantically context sensitivity should be made only after checking whether e passes these tests. We use these tests to criticize those we classify as Radical and Moderate Contextualist (Taylor is one of our targets in the latter category.).
(1) I’m Spartacus! [Said by Spartacus] (2) I’m Spartacus! [Said by Antoninus] What Spartacus said was true, and what Antoninus said was not. Yet the two slaves uttered the exact same sentence, so how can this be? Admittedly, the puzzle is not very hard, and its solution is uncontroversial. The first person pronoun “I” is – to use a technical term – context sensitive. When Spartacus uses it, it refers to Spartacus; when Antoninus uses it, it refers to Antoninus. So (...) when Spartacus says “I’m Spartacus”, he expresses the true proposition that he, Spartacus, is Spartacus. And when Antoninus says it, he expresses the false proposition that he, Antoninus, is Spartacus. The sentence “I’m Spartacus” expresses different propositions when used by different people. Another example will help. Contrast these two utterances, made by subjects in a study carried out by experimental epistemologists: (3) This is a zebra. [Said by someone while pointing at a zebra] (4) This is a zebra. [Said by someone while pointing at a cleverly decorated mule]. (shrink)
It’s hardly news that speakers often fail to produce verbatim direct reports. Clark and his collaborators (Wade and Clark 1993, W&C; Clark and Gerrig 1993, C&G) attempt to exploit this widespread foible in practice to expose and undermine what they believe is a deep-seated assumption about the semantics of direct quotation, viz., that one is true just in case it is a verbatim reproduction of the original speaker’s words. Accordingly, Clark denies that (1) can be true only if Joe uttered (...) (2). (shrink)
We cannot explain our diverse practices for engaging with imagery through general pragmatic mechanisms. There is no general mechanism behind practices like metaphor and irony. Metaphor works the way it works; irony works the way it works.
In this paper, we defend Davidson's program in truth-theoretical semantics against recent criticisms by Scott Soames. We argue that Soames has misunderstood Davidson's project, that in consequence his criticisms miss the mark, that appeal to meanings as entities in the alternative approach that Soames favors does no work, and that the approach is no advance over truth-theoretic semantics.
No semantic theory is complete without an account of context sensitivity. But there is little agreement over its scope and limits even though everyone invokes intuition about an expression's behavior in context to determine its context sensitivity. Minimalists like Cappelen and Lepore identify a range of tests which isolate clear cases of context sensitive expressions, such as ‘I’, ‘here’, and ‘now’, to the exclusion of all others. Contextualists try to discredit the tests and supplant them with ones friendlier to their (...) positions. In this paper we will explore and evaluate Cappelen and Hawthorne's recent attempts to discredit Cappelen and Lepore's tests and replace them with others. We will argue they have failed to provide sufficient reason to abandon minimalism. If we are right, minimalism about context sensitivity is still viable. (shrink)
Speakers share content when they make the same assertion (claim, conjecture, proposal, etc). They also share content when they propose (entertain, discuss, etc.) the same hypothesis, theory, and thought. And again when they evaluate whether what each says (thinks, claims, suggests, etc.) is true, false, interesting, obscene, original or offensive. Content sharing, so understood, is the very foundation of communication. Relevance Theory (RT), however, implies that content sharing is impossible; or at least, we will argue as much in what follows.
We take it that Brandom’s sense of the geography is that our way of proceeding is more or less the first and his is more or less the second. But we think this way of describing the situation is both unclear and misleading, and we want to have this out right at the start. Our problem is that we don’t know what “you start with” means either in formulations like “you start with the content of words and proceed to the (...) content of sentences” or in formulations like “you start with the content of sentences and you proceed to the content of words.” Brandom’s official view seems to be that he’s talking about explanatory priorities (see the preceding quote); but we think that can’t really be what he has in mind, and we can’t find any alternative interpretation that seems plausible. Speaking just for ourselves, we’re inclined towards a relatively pragmatic view of explanation; what explanation we should “start with” depends, inter alia, on what it’s an explanation of and whom it’s an explanation for. But, in any case, we would have thought that explanatory priority is of more than heuristic interest only if it reflects a priority of some other kind: ontological, semantical, psychological, or whatever. In talking about what one “starts with”, Brandom must be claiming more than. (shrink)
This paper responds to a critical review of our 2005 book Donald Davidson: Meaning, Truth, Language and Reality, by Frederick Stoutland. It identifies a number of serious misreadings of both Davidson and the book.
Insensitive Semantics (I) has three components: It defends a positive theory; it presents a methodology for how to distinguish semantic context sensitivity from other kinds of context sensitivity; and finally, it includes chapters critical of other contributors on these issues. In this Précis, we outline each component, but before doing so a few brief ‘big picture’ remarks about the positions defended in IS are in order.
Can one and the same quotation be used on different occasions to quote distinct objects? The view that it can is taken for granted throughout the literature (e.g. Goddard & Routley 1966, Christensen 1967, Davidson 1979, Goldstein 1984, Jorgensen et al 1984, Atlas 1989, Clark & Gerrig 1990, Washington 1992, García-Carpintero 1994, 2004, 2005, Reimer 1996, Saka 1998, Wertheimer 1999). Garcia-Carpintero (1994, p. 261) illustrates with the quotation expression ''gone''. He says it can be used to quote any of the (...) following items. (shrink)
In Insensitive Semantics (2004), we argue for two theses – Semantic Minimalism and Speech Act Pluralism. In this paper, we outline our defense against two objections often raised against Semantic Minimalism. To get to that defense, we first need some stage setting. To that end, we begin with five stage setting sections. These lead to the first objection, viz., that it might follow from our view that comparative adjectives are context insensitive. We defend our view against that objection (not, as (...) you might expect, by denying that implication, but by endorsing it). Having done so, we address a second objection, viz., that Semantic Minimalism makes it difficult to see what role semantic content plays in communicative exchanges. We respond and end with a reversal, i.e., we argue that even though the second objection fails against us, it works against those who raise the objection. In particular, we show that Recanati ends up with a notion of communicated content that fails various tests for psychological reality. (shrink)
But the sort of context sensitivity exhibited in such sentences does not compromise the claim that meaning determines truth conditions, since recourse to context here is directed and restricted by conventional meaning alone. Anyone who understands sentence (2) knows that its utterances are true just in case whatever object is demonstrated in the context of utterance is nice; and he also knows that any utterance of (2) says of, or expresses about, whichever object is demonstrated that it’s nice. (Similarly, anyone (...) who understands (3) knows that any utterance of it is true just in case whoever utters it has eaten. And every utterance says of, or expresses about, the speaker that he or she has eaten.) In sum, according to the thesis that meaning determines truth conditions, (indicative) sentences divide into two classes – those with truth conditions tout.. (shrink)
The Oxford Handbooks series is a major new initiative in academic publishing. Each volume offers an authoritative and up-to-date survey of original research in a particular subject area. Specially commissioned essays from leading figures in the discipline give critical examinations of the progress and direction of debates. Oxford Handbooks provide scholars and graduate students with compelling new perspectives upon a wide range of subjects in the humanities and social sciences. -/- Ernie Lepore and Barry Smith present the definitive reference work (...) for this diverse and fertile field of philosophy. A superb international team contribute more than forty brand-new essays covering topics from the nature of language to meaning, truth, and reference, and the interfaces of philosophy of language with linguistics, psychology, logic, epistemology, and metaphysics. It will be an essential resource for anyone working in the central areas of philosophy, for linguists interested in syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, and for psychologists and cognitive scientists working on language. (shrink)
It’s been, for some time now, a pet thesis of ours that compositionality is the key constraint on theories of linguistic content. On the one hand, we’re convinced by the usual arguments that the compositionality of natural languages1 explains how L-speakers can understand any of the indefinitely many expressions that belong to L. 2 And, on the other hand, we claim that compositionality excludes all “pragmatist” 3 accounts of content; hence, practically all of the theories of meaning that have been (...) floated by philosophers and cognitive scientists for the last fifty years or so. A number of objections to our claim have been suggested to us, but none that we find persuasive (see, for example, the discussions of the “uniformity principle” and of “reverse compositionality” in Fodor and Lepore 2002). These objections have a common thread: they all grant that mental and linguistic content are compositional but challenge the thesis that compositionality is incompatible with semantic pragmatism. In this paper, we want to consider an objection of a fundamentally different kind, namely, that it doesn’t matter whether compositionality excludes semantic pragmatism because compositionality isn’t true; the content of an expression supervenes not on its linguistic structure4 alone but on its linguistic structure together with the context of its tokening. 5.. (shrink)
This paper develops the view presented in our 1997 paper "Varieties of Quotation". In the first part of the paper we show how phenomena such as scare-quotes, echoing and mimicry can be treated as what we call Speech Act Heuristics. We then defend a semantic account of mixed quotation. Along the way we discuss the role of indexicals in mixed quotation and the noncancelability of reference to words in mixed quotation. We also respond to some objections raised by Recanati, Saka, (...) Stainton and Reimer. (shrink)
Context Shifting Arguments (CSA) ask us to consider two utterances of an unambiguous, non-vague, non-elliptic sentence S. If the consensus intuition is that what’s said, or expressed or the truth-conditions, and so possibly the truthvalues, of these utterances differ, then CSA concludes S is context sensitive. Consider, for example, simultaneous utterances of ‘I am wearing a hat’, one by Stephen, one by Jason. Intuitively, these utterances can vary in truth-value contingent upon who is speaking the sentence, while holding hat-wearing constant, (...) and so they express distinct propositions and differ in their truth conditions. Since these differences are not the result of ambiguity (lexical or structural), vagueness, conversational implicature, or syntactic ellipsis, we have pretty strong evidence that ‘I am wearing a hat’ is context sensitive. (shrink)
Indexicals are linguistic expressions whose meaning remain stable while their reference shifts from utterance to utterance. Paradigmatic cases in English are ‘I’, ‘here’, and ‘now’. Recently, a number of authors have argued that various constructions in our language harbor hidden indexicals. We say 'hidden' because these indexicals are unpronounced, even though they are alleged to be real linguistic components. Constructions taken by some authors to be associated, or to ‘co-habit’, with hidden indexicals include: definite descriptions and quantifiers more generally (hidden (...) indexical refers to a domain – Davies (1981), Westerstahl (1985), Soames (1986), Higginbotham (1988), Stanley and Williamson (1995)), propositional attitude verbs (hidden indexical refers to a mode of presentation – Richard (1990)), comparative adjectives (hidden indexical refers to comparison classes – Partee (1989), Kamp (1975), Ludlow (1989)). An interesting recent addition is the view that all nouns are associated with a hidden indexical referring to a domain restriction (Stanley and Szabo (2000), Stanley.. (shrink)
Following Aristotle (who himself was following Parmenides), philosophers have appealed to the distributional reflexes of expressions in determining their semantic status, and ultimately, the nature of the extra-linguistic world. This methodology has been practiced throughout the history of philosophy; it was clarified and made popular by the likes of Zeno Vendler and J.L. Austin, and is realized today in the toolbox of linguistically minded philosophers. Studying the syntax of natural language was fueled by the belief that there is a conceptually (...) tight connection between the syntax of our language and its semantics, and the belief that there is a similarly tight connection between the semantics of our language and metaphysical facts about the world. We are less confident than our colleagues about the relation syntax has to semantics and metaphysics. In particular, we do not believe that the current status of theoretical syntax (or semantics or metaphysics) provides much support for either of the above two beliefs. We will illustrate our view with a case study regarding the status of complex demonstratives. We will show that a recent and particularly subtle syntactically based argument for the semantic/metaphysical status of complex demonstratives does not in fact show what semantic category complex demonstratives are.. (shrink)
Compositionality is the idea that the meanings of complex expressions (or concepts) are constructed from the meanings of the less complex expressions (or concepts) that are their constituents.1 Over the last few years, we have just about convinced ourselves that compositionality is the sovereign test for theories of lexical meaning.2 So hard is this test to pass, we think, that it filters out practically all of the theories of lexical meaning that are current in either philosophy or cognitive science. Among (...) the casualties are, for example, the theory that lexical meanings are statistical structures (like stereotypes); the theory that the meaning of a word is its use; the theory that knowing the meaning of (at least some) words requires having a recognitional capacity for (at least some) of the things that it applies to; and the theory that knowing the meaning of a word requires knowing criteria for applying it. Indeed, we think that only two theories of the lexicon survive the compositionality constraint: viz., the theory that all lexical meanings are primitive and the theory that some lexical meanings are primitive and the rest are definitions. So compositionality does a lot of work in lexical semantics, according to our lights. (shrink)
Paul Saka, in a recent paper, declares that we can use, mention, or quote an expression. Whether a speaker is using or mentioning an expression, on a given occasion, depends on his intentions. An exhibited expression is used, if the exhibiter intends to direct his audience’s attention to the expression’s extension. It is mentioned, if he intends to draw his audience’s attention to something associated with the exhibited token other than its extension. This includes, but is not limited to, an (...) orthographic form, a phonic form, a lexical entry, and an intension. (shrink)
We begin our discussion of Richard by comparing his and our aims. Richard argues for and begins to develop an account of a connection between the semantic content of (an utterance of) a sentence and correct indirect reports of it. He submits that by doing so he refutes us, but that's just not so. We never challenged the existence of every such connection. Surely there is some connection (probably many). Our paper attempts to show that one alleged connection does not (...) obtain. We articulated two central goals, one specific (1), and one more general (2). (shrink)
A certain metaphysical thesis about meaning that we'll call Informational Role Semantics (IRS) is accepted practically universally in linguistics, philosophy and the cognitive sciences: the meaning (or content, or `sense') of a linguistic expression1 is constituted, at least in part, by at least some of its inferential relations. This idea is hard to state precisely, both because notions like metaphysical constitution are moot and, more importantly, because different versions of IRS take different views on whether there are constituents of meaning (...) other than inferential role, and on which of the inferences an expression occurs in are meaning constitutive. Some of these issues will presently concern us; but for now it will do just to gesture towards such familiar claims as that: it's part and parcel of dog meaning dog2 that the inference from x is a dog to x is an animal is valid; it's part and parcel of boil meaning boil that the inference from x boiled y to y boiled is valid; it's part and parcel of kill meaning kill that the inference from x killed y to y died is valid; and so on. (See Cruse, Ch. 1 and passim.) IRS brings in its train a constellation of ancillary doctrines. Presumably, for example, if an inference is constitutive of the meaning of a word, then learning the word involves learning that the inference holds. If dog means dog because dog ---> animal is valid, then knowing that dog ---> animal is valid is part and parcel of knowing what the word dog means; and, similarly, learning that x boiled y ---> y boiled is part and parcel of learning what boil means, and so forth. IRS constrains grammatical theories. The semantic lexicon of a language is supposed to make explicit whatever one has to know to understand the lexical expressions of the language, so IRS implies that meaning constitutive inferences are part of the semantic lexical entries for items that have them. Lexical entries are thus typically complex objects (`bundles of inferences') according to standard interpretations of IRS.. (shrink)
A semantic theory T for a language L should assign content to utterances of sentences of L. One common assumption is that T will assign p to some S of L just in case in uttering S a speaker A says that p. We will argue that this assumption is mistaken.
There are at least four varieties of quotation, including pure, direct, indirect and mixed. A theory of quotation, we argue, should give a unified account of these varieties of quotation. Mixed quotes such as 'Alice said that life is 'difficult to understand'', in which an utterance is directly and indirectly quoted concurrently, is an often overlooked variety of quotation. We show that the leading theories of pure, direct, and indirect quotation are unable to account for mixed quotation and therefore unable (...) to provide a unified theory. In the second half of the paper we develop a unified theory of quotation based on Davidson's demonstrative theory. 'Language is the instrument it is because the same expression, with semantic features (meaning) unchanged, can serve countless purposes.' (Davidson 1968). (shrink)