In Chapter 7 of IS we rely crucially on tests for how speakers share content across contexts. We claim these tests can be used to gather evidence both for and against claims about an expression being context sensitive. Many philosophers now rely on these and related tests – Hawthorne (2003) being early proponent (cf. also Egan, Hawthorne and Weatherson (2004), Lasersohn (2006), Macfarlane (2004), Richard (2004), and (arguably) Stanley (2005)). In his reply, Hawthorne raises interesting challenges to our use of (...) such tests. We agree that the issues are important and that thinking them through will help clarify the nature of the evidence they provide. But we disagree with him about whether the challenges he raises threaten anything we assert in IS. We see Hawthorne’s comments as one more stage in an active research program of which IS is a part. Hawthorne's Examples: 'left' and 'nearby'. (shrink)
One of Szabo's central objections is his ‘reservations about the alleged slide from moderate to radical contextualism’. First, some background: the argument Szabo expresses doubt about is essential both to the critical part of our book and to its positive part. Our argument against what we call moderate contextualism depends on the assumption that it collapses into radical contextualism. Our positive view depends on the assumption that for any utterance, we can trigger the intuition that many different propositions are said (...) (this is at the core of our speech act pluralism). So Szabo is attacking one of the key assumptions in IS – if his 'reservations' are well justified, most of what we have to say collapses. (shrink)
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.).
One central purpose of Experimental Philosophy (hereafter, x-phi) is to criticize the alleged reliance on intuitions in contemporary philosophy. In my book Philosophy without Intuitions (hereafter, PWI), I argue that philosophers don’t rely on intuitions. If those arguments are good, experimental philosophy has been engaged in an attack on a strawman. The goal of this paper is to bolster the criticism of x-phi in the light of responses.
The claim that contemporary analytic philosophers rely extensively on intuitions as evidence is almost universally accepted in current meta-philosophical debates and it figures prominently in our self-understanding as analytic philosophers. No matter what area you happen to work in and what views you happen to hold in those areas, you are likely to think that philosophizing requires constructing cases and making intuitive judgments about those cases. This assumption also underlines the entire experimental philosophy movement: only if philosophers rely on intuitions (...) as evidence are data about non-philosophers' intuitions of any interest to us. Our alleged reliance on the intuitive makes many philosophers who don't work on meta-philosophy concerned about their own discipline: they are unsure what intuitions are and whether they can carry the evidential weight we allegedly assign to them. The goal of this book is to argue that this concern is unwarranted since the claim is false: it is not true that philosophers rely extensively (or even a little bit) on intuitions as evidence. At worst, analytic philosophers are guilty of engaging in somewhat irresponsible use of 'intuition'-vocabulary. While this irresponsibility has had little effect on first order philosophy, it has fundamentally misled meta-philosophers: it has encouraged meta-philosophical pseudo-problems and misleading pictures of what philosophy is. (shrink)
Starting with Frege, the semantics (and pragmatics) of quotation has received a steady flow of attention over the last one hundred years. It has not, however, been subject to the same kind of intense debate and scrutiny as, for example, both the semantics of definite descriptions and propositional attitude verbs. Many philosophers probably share Davidson's experience: ‘When I was initiated into the mysteries of logic and semantics, quotation was usually introduced as a somewhat shady device, and the introduction was accompanied (...) by a stern sermon on the sin of confusing the use and mention of expressions’ (Davidson 1979, p. 79). Those who leave it at that, however, miss out on one of the most difficult and interesting topics in the philosophy of language. (shrink)
The view defended in this paper - I call it the No-Assertion view - rejects the assumption that it is theoretically useful to single out a subset of sayings as assertions: (v) Sayings are governed by variable norms, come with variable commitments and have variable causes and effects. What philosophers have tried to capture by the term 'assertion' is largely a philosophers' invention. It fails to pick out an act-type that we engage in and it is not a category we (...) need in order to explain any significant component of our linguistic practice. Timothy Williamson (2000) defends a theory of type (i). He says that a theory of assertion has as its goal "[…] that of articulating for the first time the rules of a traditional game that we play" (p. 240). Among those who think we play the game of assertion, there's disagreement about what the rules are. Some think it's a single rule and disagree about what that rule is. Others think the rules change across contexts. According to the No-Assertion view we don’t play the assertion game. The game might exist as an abstract object, but it is not a game you need to learn and play to become a speaker of a natural language. (shrink)
One of Weatherson's main goals is to drive home a methodological point: We shouldn't be looking for deductive arguments for or against relativism – we should instead be evaluating inductive arguments designed to show that either relativism or some alternative offers the best explanation of some data. Our focus in Chapter Two on diagnostics for shared content allegedly encourages the search for deductive arguments and so does more harm than good. We have no methodological slogan of our own to offer. (...) Part of what we were trying to do was to clearly articulate what the relevant issues even are. Often relativism is characterized in a way that is offhand and sloppy. The relativist, we are told, accepts 'disquotational truth' for various kinds of claims but denies that they are 'true simpliciter'. What exactly is going on here? Do the relevant distinctions even make sense? Before engaging in various abductive manoevers we need to get much clearer about what it is that we are trying to argue for and against. That said we are perfectly happy with the kind of inductive enterprise that Weatherson sketches. For our part, we were fully aware (and indeed explicit) that the 'agreement' diagnostic does not ‘deductively’ settle all of the relevant disputes. A significant part of Chapter Four is dedicated to something in the vicinity of Weatherson's project. Note, indeed, that our diagnostics are even stated using the ideology of 'providing evidence' – hardly the basis for a straightforwardly deductive argument for or against relativism. Finally, though, we should point out that we are not hostile to deductive arguments against relativism. A philosopher's evidence is theory-laden and in part owes itself to epistemic powers that his or her opponents may not acknowledge. In short, their evidence may not always have the hallmarks of 'evidence neutrality' --- evidence that their opponents would recognize as such. We are perfectly open to there being compelling deductive arguments against relativism from such evidence.. (shrink)
Relativism has dominated many intellectual circles, past and present, but the twentieth century saw it banished to the fringes of mainstream analytic philosophy. Of late, however, it is making something of a comeback within that loosely configured tradition, a comeback that attempts to capitalize on some important ideas in foundational semantics. Relativism and Monadic Truth aims not merely to combat analytic relativism but also to combat the foundational ideas in semantics that led to its revival. Doing so requires a proper (...) understanding of the significance of possible worlds semantics, an examination of the relation between truth and the flow of time, an account of putatively relevant data from attitude and speech act reporting, and a careful treatment of various operators. Throughout, Herman Cappelen and John Hawthorne contrast relativism with a view according to which the contents of thought and talk are propositions that instantiate the fundamental monadic properties of truth simpliciter and falsity simpliciter. Such propositions, they argue, are the semantic values of sentences (relative to context), the objects of illocutionary acts, and, unsurprisingly, the objects of propositional attitudes. (shrink)
For some relativists some of the time the evidence for their view is a puzzling data pattern: On the one hand, there's evidence that the terms in question exhibit some kind of content stability across contexts. On the other hand, there's evidence that their contents vary from one context of use to another. The challenge is to reconcile these two sets of data. Truth relativists claim that their theory can do so better than contextualism and invariantism. Truth relativists, in effect, (...) use an argument to the best explanation: they present data they claim to be able to handle better than any competing theory2. (shrink)
Philosophers of language and linguists tend to think of the interpreter as an essentially non-creative participant in the communicative process. There’s no room, in traditional theories, for the view that correctness of interpretation depends in some essential way on the interpreter. As a result, there’s no room for the possibility that while P is the correct interpretation of an utterance, u, for one interpreter, P* is the correct interpretation of that utterance for another interpreter. Recently, a number of theorists have, (...) for separate reasons, argued in favour of a radically different view of communication – a view in which the interpreter and her context play what should be thought of as a content-creating role. According to such views, natural languages contain what I’ll call interpretation sensitive terms: terms the correct interpretation of which varies across interpreters (or, more generally, contexts of interpretation).3 An interpretation sensitive sentence can have one content relative to one interpreter and another content relative to another interpreter. This paper is a development and (partial) defence of the view that interpretation sensitivity is ubiquitous in natural language. I call the view that there are interpretation sensitive terms content relativism. Before starting the discussion of content relativism, it is worth pointing out that recent attempts to develop semantically motivated versions of truth relativism should be seen as part of this trend of giving the interpreter a more active role. (shrink)
One of the three central issues in Lloyd Humberstone's ‘Sufficiency and Excess’ is what he calls ‘the Complete Thought Issue’ (CTI, for short). This is the question of whether some declarative sentences have proposition radicals, rather than full-blown propositions, as their semantic values. My focus in this reply is exclusively on Humberstone's comments about CTI and on CTI more generally. The goal of Humberstone's discussion of CTI is to defend ‘[Kent] Bach's claim against Cappelen and Lepore's attacks’ (Humberstone, 2006, p. (...) 316). These ‘attacks’ on Bach are found in Cappelen and Lepore (2004). In section one I present CTI, in section two I evaluate Humberstone's defence of Bach, and in section three I discuss two solutions to CTI. (shrink)
It is natural to think that the relationship between ‘rain’ and the location of rain is different from the relationship between ‘dance’ and the location of dancing. Utterances of (1) are typically interpreted as, in some sense, being about a location in which it rains. (2) is, typically, not interpreted as being about a location in which the dancing takes place.
Language Turned on Itself examines what happens when language becomes self-reflexive; when language is used to talk about language. Those who think, talk, and write about language are habitual users of various metalinguistic devices, but reliance on these devices begins early: kids are told, 'That's called a "rabbit"'. It's not implausible that a primitive capacity for the meta-linguistic kicks in at the beginning stages of language acquisition. But no matter when or how frequently these devices are invoked, one thing is (...) clear: they present theorists of language with a complex data pattern. Herman Cappelen and Ernest Lepore show that the study of these devices and patterns not only represents an interesting and neglected project in the philosophy of language, but also carries important consequences for other parts of philosophy. -/- Part I is devoted to presenting data about various aspects of our metalinguistic practices. In Part II, the authors examine and reject the four leading metalinguistic theories, and offer a new account of our use of quotation in a variety of different contexts. But the primary goal of this book is not to promote one theory over another. Rather, it is to present a deeply puzzling set of problems and explain their significance. (shrink)
This paper evaluates arguments presented by John Perry (and Ken Taylor) in favor of the presence of an unarticulated constituent in the proposition expressed by utterance of, for example, (1):1 1. It's raining (at t). We contend that these arguments are, at best, inconclusive. That's the critical part of our paper. On the positive side, we argue that (1) has as its semantic content the proposition that it is raining (at t) and that this is a location-neutral proposition. According to (...) the view we propose, an audience typically looks for a location when they hear utterances of (1) because their interests in rain are location- focused: it is the location of rain that determines whether we get wet, carrots grow, and roads become slippery. These are, however, contingent facts about rain, wetness, people, carrots, and roads – they are not built into the semantics for the verb 'rain'. (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.
Reading these excellent commentaries we already wish we had written another book—a more comprehensive, clearer, and better defended one than what we have. We are, however, quite fond of the book we ended up with, and so we’ve decided that, rather than to yield, we’ll clarify. These contributions have helped us do that, and for that we are grateful to our critics. We’re lucky in that many (so far about twenty)1 extremely able philosophers have read and commented on our work (...) in print. A slightly discouraging fact is that all these commentators seem to think we are completely, utterly mistaken. On the positive side: Our critics seem to disagree about what we’re completely wrong about. On the one hand, radical contextualists (e.g. Travis) find our objections against them off the mark, but our objections to moderate contextualism dead-on. On the other hand, the moderate contextualists (e.g. Szabo) think that our objections against them fail, but our objections to radical contextualism are strong (Szabo, concludes that we ‘present strong arguments against radical contextualism, but only a weak case against moderate contextualism’). This means we’ve got our work cut out for us—defending the middle ground from every which way— something we are more than pleased to do. We start with general points of clarification, points it will be useful to reference from time to time when discussing each commentary. (General Comment #4 is the most important, and we will make reference to it repeatedly in what follows.). (shrink)
A general and fundamental tension surrounds our concept of what is said. On the one hand, what is said (asserted, claimed, stated, etc.) by utterances of a significant range of sentences is highly context sensitive. More specifically, (Observation 1 (O1)), what these sentences can be used to say depends on their contexts of utterance. On the other hand, speakers face no difficulty whatsoever in using many of these sentences to say (or make) the exact same claim, assertion, etc., across a (...) wide array of contexts. More specifically, (Observation 2 (O2)), many of the sentences in support of (O1) can be used to express the same thought, the same proposition, across a wide range of different contexts. (shrink)
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)
This paper assembles examples and considerations bearing on such questions as the following. Are statements to the effect that someone is too young (for instance) or that someone is old enough always to be understood in terms of someone's being too young or too old for such-and-such-for example, for them to join a particular organization? And when a 'such-and-such' has been specified, is it always at least tacitly modal in force-in the case just given, too young or old enough to (...) be able to join the organization? These questions are explored by means of a critical examination of the (affirmative) answers given to them by Eric Nelson in a 1980 paper on the subject, with part of the intention being to rescue Nelson's thoughtful discussion from the oblivion into which it appears to have fallen, judging by more recent contributions on the subject by semanticists. (shrink)
Even though the lines of thought that support skepticism are extremely compelling, we're inclined to look for ways of blocking them because it appears to be an impossible view to accept, both for intellectual and practical reasons. One goal of this paper is to show that when skepticism is packaged right, it has few problematic implications (or at least fewer than is often assumed). It is, for example, compatible with all the following claims (when these are correctly interpreted).
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)
In Insensitive Semantics (2004), we argue for two theses â€“ Semantic Minimalism and Speech Act Pluralism.Â In this paper, we outline our defense against two objections often raised against Semantic Minimalism. 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 our critics, especially, Carston (2002) and Recanati (2004), end up with a notion of communicated content that fails various tests for psychological reality. (shrink)
Three basic elements for a neodavidsonian semantics are presented in thisarticle. Firstly, a rejection of the thesis according to which the semanticcontent is identical with the speech act content. Secondly, the adoption ofsemantic minimalism as the proper domain where a truth-conditionalsemantics ..
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)
The semantic puzzles posed by propositional attitude contexts have, since Frege, been understood primarily in terms of certain substitution puzzles. We will take as paradigmatic of such substitution puzzles cases in which two coreferential proper names cannot be intersubstituted salva veritate in the context of an attitude verb. Thus, for example, the following sentences differ in truth value: (1) Lois Lane believes Superman can fly. (2) Lois Lane believes Clark Kent can fly. despite the fact that "Superman" and "Clark Kent" (...) pick out the same individual.1 Equivalently, the following sentence may be true: (3) Lois Lane believes that Superman can fly, but that Clark Kent cannot fly. despite the coreferentiality of the names. (It will at times be convenient to appeal to this conjunctive attitude report in order to fix a single context of utterance.) Substitution failures such as these create a puzzle when conjoined with the assumptions (a) that attitude reports report a binary relation between an individual and some object of that individual's attitude and (b) that that object of the attitude is determined by the content of the complement sentence in the attitude report. If all of the terms in two complement sentences (e.g., "Superman can fly" and "Clark Kent can fly") have the same semantic content, then, prima facie, they ought to generate the same object of believe and, a fortiori, materially equivalent attitude reports. Frege, famously, attempts to defuse the puzzle by positing a semantic value of sense in addition to that of reference, and thereby distinguishing the semantic contents of the two complement sentences. (shrink)
Philosophers take a great deal of interest in the study of meaning, reference, truth and other semantic properties, but remarkably little attention has been paid to the entities that have semantic properties. The view that’s typically taken for granted has two closely related components.
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 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)