Truth-conditional semantics is the project of determining a way of assigning truth-conditions to sentences based on A) the extension of their constituents and B) their syntactic mode of composition. Truth-conditional semantics is the major research project of linguistic semantics and the project and its prospects are a central concern in contemporary philosophy of language.
Allow me to recapitulate some territory that will be familiar to most readers. Here is how the problem of mental causation has typically been set up since shortly after the onset of non-reductive physicalism. It is now widely assumed that the realm of the physical is causally closed: every physical event has a complete physical cause, a cause that is sufficient for the event’s occurrence. This apparently leaves us with a limited number of options concerning psychological causation, none of which (...) appear hugely attractive. Either: (a) the psychological is epiphenomenal and can have no causal impact on the physical, or (b) the psychological is identical with the physical, or (c) thoughts and actions are all over-determined, each one having two distinct sufficient causes. Option (b) subdivides into two further options. Either (b1) the psychological reduces to the physical and every psychological property is identical with some physical property, or (b2) token psychological events are identical with or constituted from token physical events but psychological properties are not identical with physical properties. (b1) is widely held to be inconsistent with the multiple realisation of the psychological by the physical. And (b2) appears to bring us back to the original problematic, with the properties as the locus of tension. If one event causes another it does so in virtue some of its properties and not others. If I throw a stone at a window and the window breaks, it is because the stone was hard and heavy that it broke the window and not, say, because it was grey and millions of years old. The properties in virtue of which an event has a particular effect are typically called the ‘causally efficacious properties of the cause with respect to the effect.’ Suppose, then that token neural event causes an action. We can ask ‘Does it do so in virtue of its physical properties or its psychological properties?’ and we are back to choosing between options (a) and (c) or returning to (b1).. (shrink)
We discuss the challenge to truth-conditional semantics presented by apparent shifts in extension of predicates such as 'red'. We propose an explicit indexical semantics for 'red' and argue that our account is preferable to the alternatives on conceptual and empirical grounds.
In a number works Jerry Fodor has defended a reductive, causal and referential theory of cognitive content. I argue against this, defending a quasi-Fregean notion of cognitive content, and arguing also that the cognitive content of non-singular concepts is narrow, rather than wide.
Abstract: The paper begins with the assumption that psychological event tokens are identical to or constituted from physical events. It then articulates a familiar apparent problem concerning the causal role of psychological properties. If they do not reduce to physical properties, then either they must be epiphenomenal or any effects they cause must also be caused by physical properties, and hence be overdetermined. It then argues that both epiphenomenalism and over-determinationism are prima facie perfectly reasonable and relatively unproblematic views. The (...) paper proceeds to argue against Kim's ( Kim, 2000, 2005 ) attempt to articulate a plausible version of reductionism. It is then argued that psychological properties, along with paradigmatically causally efficacious macro-properties, such as toughness, are causally inefficacious in respect of their possessor's typical effects, because they are insufficiently distinct from those effects. It is finally suggested that the distinction between epiphenomenalism and overdeterminationism may be more terminological than real. (shrink)
This paper is principally devoted to comparing and contrasting poverty of stimulus arguments for innate cognitive apparatus in relation to language and in relation to folk psychology. These days one is no longer allowed to use the term ‘innate’ without saying what one means by it. So I will begin by saying what I mean by ‘innate’. Sections 2 and 3 will discuss language and theory of mind, respectively. Along the way, I will also briefly discuss other arguments for innate (...) cognitive apparatus in these areas. (shrink)
Please allow me to recapitulate some territory that will be familiar to most readers. Here is how the problem of mental causation has typically been set up since shortly after the onset of non-reductive physicalism. It is now widely assumed that the realm of the physical is causally closed. This means that the probability of any event’s occurring is fully determined by physical causes, and physical causes alone. There is no space in the physical causal nexus for any non-physical event (...) to exert any influence. (shrink)
The paper provides a sketch of the place of the work of Donald Davidsonin the study of formal semantics for natural languages. It discusses someimportant relations between Davidsons work and ideas due to Frege,Tarski, Quine and Chomsky. A criticism of Davidsons behaviouristicmethodology is offered..
Two semantic theories of proper names are explained and assessed. The theories are Burge’s treatment of proper names as complex demonstratives and Larson and Segal’s quasi-descriptivist account of names. The two theories are evaluated for empirical plausibility. Data from deficits, processing models, developmental studies and syntax are all discussed. It is concluded that neither theory is fully confirmed or refuted by the data, but that Larson and Segal’s theory has more empirical plausibility.
The topic of this paper is the semantic structure of belief reports of the form 'a believes that p'. it is argued that no existing theory of these sentences satisfactorily accounts for anaphoric relations linking expressions within the embedded complement sentence to expressions outside. a new account of belief reports is proposed which assigns to embedded expressions their normal semantic values but which also exploits frege's idea of using senses to explain the apparent failures of extensionality in the reports.