Words mean things, speakers mean things in using words, and these need not be the same. For example, if you say to someone who has just finished eating a super giant burrito at the Taqueria Guadalajara, “You are what you eat,” you probably do not mean that the person is a super giant burrito. So we need to distinguish the meaning of a linguistic expression – a word, phrase, or sentence – from what a person means in using it. To (...) simplify matters, let us pretend that an utterance is always of a sentence (and, for mnemonic purposes, let our imagined s peaker be a s he and h earer be a h e). (shrink)
Group slurs are applied to a whole category of people. Whereas slurs like jerk, creep, and hag are generally directed at individuals because of the personal traits (behavior, personality, looks, etc.), group slurs, like spic, commie, and infidel, are applied across the board to members of a category. Even when directed at a particular individual, ethnic, religious, and political slurs are applied on the basis of group membership rather than anything about the person in particular. Before asking about the meanings (...) of such terms, let’s consider their uses and effects. In general they. (shrink)
A speaker can say something without meaning it, by meaning something else or perhaps nothing at all. A speaker can mean something without saying it, by merely implicating it. These two truisms are reason enough to distinguish saying, meaning, and implicating. And that’s what we’ll do here, looking into what each involves and how they interconnect. The aim of this chapter is to clarify the notions of saying, meaning, and implicating and, with the help of some other distinctions, to dispel (...) certain common misunderstandings. (shrink)
How to delimit semantics is an ongoing problem in linguistics and philosophy of language. Like syntax, semantics is concerned only with information that competent speakers can glean from linguistic items apart from particular contexts of utterance. Anything a hearer infers from collateral information about the context of a particular utterance thus counts as nonsemantic information. Even so, it is a semantic fact about certain linguistic items, notably indexicals (such as 'she', 'here', and 'then'), that contextual facts contribute to determining what (...) they are used to refer to. Although it is arguable that indexical reference is not, in general, a strict function of context (Bach 1987, pp. 175-186), contextual sensitivity is a linguistically marked feature of indexicals. So the context sensitivity of an expression is not itself a contextual fact about that expression. On the other hand, there are certain context-independent facts about expressions that are not matters of linguistic meaning. This is where standardization comes in. What is standardization? A form of words is standardized for a certain use if this use, though regularized, goes beyond literal meaning and yet can be explained without special conventions. In each case, there is a certain core of linguistic meaning attributable on compositional grounds but a common use that cannot be explained in terms of linguistic meaning alone. The familiarity of the form of words, together with a familiar inference route from their literal.. (shrink)
Al Mele has been as persistent as anyone in his pursuit of self-deception. He has taken it on in a series of papers over the past twenty years (notably Mele 1997) and at various places in previous books. The present book brings together his main ideas on the subject, and readers unfamiliar with its puzzles or Mele's approach to it will learn a lot. The cognoscenti will not only have their memories refreshed but will be treated to much that (...) is new, including recent experimental work that Mele marshals in support of his deflationary account of "straight" self-deception. There is also a chapter devoted to the neglected case of "twisted" self-deception, in which the self-deceiver believes something he wishes not to be the case. (shrink)
Think of linguistification by analogy with personification: attributing linguistic properties to nonlinguistic phenomena. For my purposes, it also includes attributing nonlinguistic properties to linguistic items, i.e., treating nonlinguistic properties as linguistic. Linguistification is widespread. It has reached epidemic proportions. It needs to be eradicated. That’s important because the process of communication is not simply a matter of one person putting a thought into words and another decoding them back into the same thought. Much of what a speaker means cannot be (...) traced to what his words mean or to their possibly context-sensitive semantic contents. Words carry information all right, but that information hardly determines what speakers mean in uttering them. They leave plenty of pragmatic gaps and sometimes even semantic slack. I’ll mention various reasons for that, but the important thing is to recognize how much people exploit extralinguistic information in communicating and to avoid confusing this process with semantic context sensitivity. To appreciate the limitations of semantics, we shouldn’t fall for the fallacy of misplaced information or for the more specific fallacies enumerated below. (shrink)
A word, phrase, or sentence is ambiguous if it has more than one meaning. The word 'light', for example, can mean not very heavy or not very dark. Words like 'light', 'note', 'bear' and 'over' are lexically ambiguous. They induce ambiguity in phrases or sentences in which they occur, such as 'light suit' and 'The duchess can't bear children'. However, phrases and sentences can be ambiguous even if none of their constituents is. The phrase 'porcelain egg container' is structurally ambiguous, (...) as is the sentence 'The police shot the rioters with guns'. Ambiguity can have both a lexical and a structural basis, as with sentences like 'I left her behind for you' and 'He saw her duck'. (shrink)
Nowadays the traditional quest for certainty seems not only futile but pointless. Resisting skepticism no longer seems to require meeting the Cartesian demand for an unshakable foundation for knowledge. True beliefs can be less than maximally justified and still be justified enough to qualify as knowledge, even though some beliefs that are justified to the same extent are false. Yet a few philosophers suggest that there is a special sort of justification that only true beliefs can have. Call it 'full (...) justification' or simply 'warrant.' One such philosopher is Trenton Merricks. He takes warrant to be "that, whatever precisely it is, which together with truth makes the difference between knowledge and mere true belief," and argues that only true beliefs can have it.1 In his view, then, warrant makes the difference between knowledge and mere belief. Interestingly, Merricks does not concern himself with the nature of this remarkable property. He prefers a "formal characterization" of warrant as the "gap filler" between knowledge and mere true belief. Whatever warrant is exactly, a warranted belief cannot be true accidentally, for then the belief would not qualify as knowledge. (shrink)
Frege's and Russell's views are obviously different, but because of certain superficial similarities in how they handle certain famous puzzles about proper names, they are often assimilated. Where proper names are concerned, both Frege and Russell are often described together as "descriptivists." But their views are fundamentally different. To see that, let's look at the puzzle of names without bearers, as it arises in the context of Mill's purely referential theory of proper names, aka the 'Fido'-Fido theory.
If you think that semantic minimalism is the only alternative to contextualism but you’d rather do without Cappelen and Lepore’s mysteriously minimal “propositions,” you can. You just have to recognize that being semantically incomplete does not make a sentence context-sensitive. You don’t have to go through the ritual of repeatedly incanting things like this: “John is ready” expresses the proposition that John is ready. Instead, you can opt for Radical Minimalism and suppose that “John is ready” and its ilk fall (...) short of semantically expressing propositions – their semantic contents are propositional “radicals.” Now C&L think they’ve addressed Radical Minimalism and offered objections to it. So they find it strange and bizarre that I think they haven’t. In fact, they persist in confusing semantic incompleteness with context sensitivity. If they appreciated the difference, they might even welcome the opportunity to adopt a form of semantic minimalism that does without the minimal propositions that everyone but them find incredible (pun intended). (shrink)
Philosophers have a way of making the obvious seem absurd, the pervasive seem problematic, and the actual seem impossible. They deny, or at least raise grave doubts about or else render paradoxical, such things as causality and change, consciousness and free will, and knowledge of material objects. They use smoke and mirrors, I mean powerful arguments, to do this. Take the case of singular thought.
GRICE, H. PAUL (1913-1988), English philosopher, is best known for his contributions to the theory of meaning and communication. This work (collected in Grice 1989) has had lasting importance for philosophy and linguistics, with implications for cognitive science generally. His three most influential contributions concern the nature of communication, the distinction betwen speaker's meaning and linguistic meaning, and the phenomenon of conversational implicature.
Language is used to express thoughts and to represent aspects of the world. What thought a sentence expresses depends on what the sentence means, and how it represents the world also depends on what it means. Moreover, it is ultimately arbitrary, a matter of convention, that the words of a language mean what they do. So it might seem that what they mean is a matter of how they are used. However, they need not be used in accordance with their (...) literal meanings. One can speak nonliterally, and convey something other than what the sentence means ('The look on his face spoke volumes'), or speak indirectly, and convey something more than what the sentence means ('I wonder if you know the time'). Linguistic communication requires knowledge of linguistic meaning, on the part of both the speaker and his audience, but it requires extralinguistic knowledge as well. (shrink)
I am often asked to explain the difference between my notion of impliciture (Bach 1994) and the relevance theorists’ notion of explicature (Sperber and Wilson 1986; Carston 2002). Despite the differences between the theoretical frameworks within which they operate, the two notions seem very similar. Relevance theorists describe explicatures as “developments of logical forms,” whereas I think of implicitures as “expansions” or “completions” of semantic contents (depending on whether or not the sentence’s semantic content amounts to a proposition). That is (...) not much of a difference. We agree that implicitures/explicatures go beyond what is said (in a strict sense) and yet fall short of being implicatures. So, what is the difference, or is it just terminological? As we will see, the real differences emerge when the two notions are situated in their respective theoretical frameworks with their contrasting conceptions of what is involved in linguistic communication. (shrink)
We can be willing in one context to attribute a bit of knowledge that we wouldn’t attribute and might even deny in another, especially a context in which we’re stumped by a skeptical argument. Apparently, our standards for knowledge sometimes go up, sometimes way up. How can this be? By claiming that the very contents of knowledge ascribing sentences vary with contexts of use, epistemic contextualism offers one explanation. I will offer another. According to contextualism, variation in standards is built (...) into this claimed variation in contents. According to me, the contents of knowledge attributions are invariant. The variation is in what knowledge attributions we’re willing to make or accept. Sometimes our standards are too strong, sometimes they’re too weak, and sometimes they’re just right. (shrink)
THE QUESTION: I am asking a very specific question: what good is knowledge about wine when it comes to enjoying the experience of tasting a wine? Can knowledge, about wine in general or about the specific wine you’re drinking, help you enjoy that wine? Can such knowledge even make the wine taste better? Assuming you have a basic liking for wine, have a normal sensitivity to aromas and flavors, and know how to expose the qualities of a wine to the (...) responsiveness of your senses, how, if at all, can knowledge about a particular wine affect your enjoyment of it? Can it enhance your pleasure or even, on occasion, detract from it? Or, rather, does it provide its own kind of pleasure, cognitive or even intellectual pleasure, distinct from the pleasure of tasting? (shrink)
In my commentary on Herman Cappelen and Ernie Lepore’s aptly titled book, Insensitive Semantics, I stake out a middle ground between their version of Semantic Minimalism and Contextualism. My kind of Semantic Minimalism does without the “minimal propositions” posited by C&L. It allows that some sentences do not express propositions, even relative to contexts. Instead, they are semantically incomplete. It is not a form of contextualism, since being semantically incomplete is not a way of being context-sensitive. In their reply to (...) my commentary, C&L seem to miss this point. Exaggerating the force of their slippery slope argument, they continue to suppose that contextualism is the only alternative to their version of minimalism. They contend that I haven’t replied to their central criticism, but in fact they haven’t replied to mine. (shrink)
The basic reason is this. Even though, as people have been pointing out for some years now, the linguistic meaning of a given sentence generally underdetermines what a speaker means in uttering it, it does not follow that linguistic meaning is infected or infested by what some of these same people call ‘pragmatic meaning’. There is no such thing as pragmatic meaning, at least nothing that is commensurate with linguistic meaning. There is what the sentence means and what the speaker (...) means in uttering it. (shrink)
Even though it’s based on a bad argument, there’s something to Strawson’s dictum. He might have likened ‘referring expression’ to phrases like ‘eating utensil’ and ‘dining room’: just as utensils don’t eat and dining rooms don’t dine, so, he might have argued, expressions don’t refer. Actually, that wasn’t his argument, though it does make you wonder. Rather, Strawson exploited the fact that almost any referring expression, whether an indexical, demonstrative, proper name, or definite description, can be used to refer to (...) different things in different contexts. This fact, he argued, is enough to show that what refers are speakers, not expressions. Here he didn’t take seriously the perfectly coherent view that an expression’s reference can vary with context. So, he concluded, what varies from context to context is not what a given expression refers to but what a speaker uses it to refer to. Strawson went on to suggest that there are several dimensions of difference between various sorts of referring expressions: degree of dependence on context, degree of “descriptive meaning,” and being governed by a general convention vs. an expressionspecific one. But despite these differences, he insisted that regardless of kind, referring expressions don’t themselves refer — speakers use them to refer. (shrink)
Paradoxical though it may seem, there are certain things one can do just by saying what one is doing. This is possible if one uses a verb that names the very sort of act one is performing. Thus one can thank someone by saying 'Thank you', fire someone by saying 'You're fired', and apologize by saying 'I apologize'. These are examples of 'explicit performative utterances', statements in form but not in fact. Or so thought their discoverer, J. L. Austin, who (...) contrasted them with 'constatives'. Their distinctive self-referential character might suggest that their force requires special explanation, but it is arguable that performativity can be explained by the general theory of speech acts. (shrink)
Jonathan is known for his answers as well as his questions. In fact, he is known for giving the same answer to different questions. This illustrates his point about convergent questions: different questions can have the same answer. Jonathan relies on this point to show that if p is the answer to a certain question, knowing the answer to that question doesn’t consist merely in knowing that p. Since p is the answer to many questions, and you can know the (...) answer to one without knowing the answer to another, knowing that p does not suffice for knowing the answer to the question in question. This argument refutes the orthodox reductive view or, as I’ll call it for short, the stupid view. Jonathan thinks that knowledge-wh relates a knower to a question as well as an answer – it’s a three-term relation. Indeed, as previous visitors to Bellingham know, Jonathan even thinks that knowledge-that is a three-term relation. His not-so-hidden agenda this time around is to parlay the shortcomings of the stupid view of knowledge- wh into new support for his contrastivist view of knowledge-that. He now thinks that even “knowledge-that includes a question” (p. 14). As for me, there’s a more sensible way to improve upon the stupid view. This sensible view is reductive insofar as it holds that knowledge-wh reduces to knowledgethat, with knowledge-that understood as a two-term relation. And it’s reductive in a different way: it’s not expansive like Jonathan’s view, which incorporates both questions and answers into knowledge-wh ascriptions. The sensible view says that knowledge-wh is a two-term relation, relating knowers just to questions. Even so, as I will explain, it agrees with Jonathan that knowing-wh is knowing the answer (or at least an answer – like Jonathan, I’ll downplay the fact that some questions have more than one true answer). Best of all, the sensible view exhibits the connection between answers and questions. It shows precisely how it is that what you know when you know the answer to a question is the answer to that question.. (shrink)
Anyone weary of endless philosophical debate on belief reports will find welcome relief in this book. Talking not just about belief talk but about belief itself, it offers much that is new, interesting, and subtle. The central thesis, though interestingly and subtly developed, is not exactly new. It is a version of the “hidden indexical theory” (HIT) of..
Influenced by the Wittgensteinian slogan “Don’t look for the meaning, look for the use,” ordinary language philosophers aimed to defuse various philosophical problems by analyzing key words in terms of what they are used to do or the conditions for appropriately using them. Although Moore, Grice and Searle exposed this error – mixing pragmatics with semantics – it still gets committed, now to a different end. Nowadays the aim is to reckon with the fact that the meanings of a great (...) many sentences underdetermine what we would normally mean in using them – even if the sentence is free of indexicality, ambiguity, and vagueness. This can be so because the sentence expresses a “minimal” proposition or even because it doesn’t fully express any proposition. Many theorists are led to defend “truth-conditional pragmatics” (or linguistic “contextualism”), to find a hidden indexical in every syntactic nook or semantic cranny, or otherwise to pay undue respect to seemingly semantic intuitions and intentions. This paper identifies various such moves and explains what’s regressive about them. (shrink)
The basic question of action theory, what it is to do something, invites the complementary question of what it is to fail to do something (and not merely not do it). At every moment there are zillions of things that you’re not doing but few if any that you’re failing to do. There seem to be four (partly overlapping) ways of failing to do something.
Puzzles about sentences containing expressions of certain sorts, such as predicates of personal taste, epistemic modals, and ‘know’, have spawned families of views that go by the names of Contextualism and Relativism. In the case of predicates of personal taste, which I will be focusing on, contextualist views say that the contents of sentences like “Uni is delicious” and “The Aristocrats is hilarious” vary somehow with the context of utterance. Such a sentence semantically expresses different propositions in different contexts, depending (...) on what standard or perspective (or whose standard or perspective) is implicitly adverted to. According to relativist views, the propositional content of such a sentence is fixed, but what it takes for that proposition to be true varies somehow with the context, depending on the relevant standard or perspective. I will argue that such views are neither well supported by the data nor well motivated by the puzzles themselves. Even so, there is an element of truth in each. I will sketch an alternative view, dubbed Radical Invariantism, according to which the appearance of context sensitivity is illusory. Rather than impute either kind of context sensitivity to these sentences or to their contents, Radical Invariantism says that these sentences are distinguished by what they don’t do. Because they are not explicitly relativized, they leave a certain semantic slack. They fall short of fully expressing a proposition, instead expressing merely a “propositional radical.” We can explain away the appearance of semantic context sensitivity pragmatically, by taking into account facts about how, and under what conditions, speakers who use or encounter these sentences manage to pick up the slack. This can occur in either of two ways. Speakers either take a certain standard or perspective as understood, or else they treat the sentence as if it expresses a standard- or perspective-independent proposition even though it does not.. (shrink)
The theory of speech acts is partly taxonomic and partly explanatory. It must systematically classify types of speech acts and the ways in which they can succeed or fail. It must reckon with the fact that the relationship between the words being used and the force of their utterance is often oblique. For example, the sentence 'This is a pig sty' might be used nonliterally to state that a certain room is messy and filthy and, further, to demand indirectly that (...) it be straightened out and cleaned up. Even when this sentence is used literally and directly, say to describe a certain area of a barnyard, the content of its utterance is not fully determined by its linguistic meaning--in particular, the meaning of the word 'this' does not determine which area is being referred to. A major task for the theory of speech acts is to account for how speakers can succeed in what they do despite the various ways in which linguistic meaning underdetermines use. (shrink)
Minimalism about truth-aptitude, if correct, would undercut expressivism about moral discourse. Indeed, it would undercut nonfactualism about any area of discourse. But it cannot be correct, for there are areas, about which people hold beliefs and make statements, to which nonfactualism uncontroversially applies. Or so I will argue. I will be thereby challenging John Divers and Alexander Miller’s  appeal to minimalism about truth-aptitude in defending a certain argument against expressivism about value. But I will not be defending expressivism. For (...) what is wrong with minimalism about truth-aptitude is, in my view, also what is wrong with expressivism: both mistakenly assume that for an utterance to qualify as a statement or a psychological state as a belief, it must be capable of being true or false. (shrink)
Paul Grice warned that ‘the nature of conventional implicature needs to be examined before any free use of it, for explanatory purposes, can be indulged in’ (1978/1989: 46). Christopher Potts heeds this warning, brilliantly and boldly. Starting with a definition drawn from Grice’s few brief remarks on the subject, he distinguishes conventional implicature from other phenomena with which it might be confused, identifies a variety of common but little-studied kinds of expressions that give rise to it, and develops a formal, (...) multidimensional semantic framework for systematically capturing its distinctive character. The book is a virtuosic blend of astute descriptive observations and technically sophisticated formulations. Fortunately for the technically unsophisticated reader, the descriptive observations can be appreciated on their own. (shrink)
1. Sentences have implicatures. (11, 14, 19)** 2. Implicatures are inferences. (12. 14) 3. Implicatures can’t be entailments. 4. Gricean maxims apply only to implicatures. (16, 17) 5. For what is implicated to be figured out, what is said must be determined first. (12, 13) 6. All pragmatic implications are implicatures. 7. Implicatures are not part of the truth-conditional contents of utterances. (20) 8. If something is meant but unsaid, it must be implicated. (20) 9. Scalar “implicatures” are implicatures. (11) (...) 10. Conventional “implicatures” are implicatures. (shrink)
It is widely though not universally accepted what speakers refer to in using demonstratives or “discretionary” (as opposed to “automatic”) indexicals depends on their intentions. Even so, people tend not to appreciate the consequences of this claim for the view that demonstratives and most indexicals refer as a function of context: these expressions suffer from a “character deficiency.” No wonder I am asked from time to time why I resist the temptation to include speaker intentions as a parameter of context. (...) So I thought it would be a good idea to compile some of the scattered statements of my main reasons for this evidently radical view. (shrink)
There is a problem when these people list all these flavours and aromas they think they have detected. It then gets on to the label of the bottle and what you are looking at appears to be a recipe for fruit salad. – Hugh Johnson..
All sorts of things are context-dependent in one way or another. What it is appropriate to wear, to give, or to reveal depends on the context. Whether or not it is all right to lie, harm, or even kill depends on the context. If you google the phrase ‘depends on the context’, you’ll get several hundred million results. This chapter aims to narrow that down. In this context the topic is context dependence in language and its use. It is commonly (...) observed that the same sentence can be used to convey different things in different contexts. That is why people complain when something they say is ‘taken out of context’ and insist that it be ‘put into context’, because ‘context makes it clear’ what they meant. Indeed, it is practically a platitude that what a speaker means in uttering a certain sentence, as well as how her audience understands her, ‘depends on the context’. But just what does that amount to, and to what extent is it true? (shrink)
Stanley’s insightful new book refines his earlier formulation of intellectualism. Indeed, it does a whole lot more, but leaves open some tough questions. He makes a powerful case for the view that knowing how to do something is to know, of a certain way, that one could do that thing in that way. But he says surprisingly little about what ways are, and how they might differ, depending on the kind of case. And he doesn't exclude the possibility that in (...) some cases what one knows in knowing-how is a way of doing something rather than a fact about a way of doing it. (shrink)
Epistemic possibilities are relative to bodies of information, or perspectives. To claim that something is epistemically possible is typically to claim that it is possible relative one’s own current perspective. We generally do this by using bare, unqualified epistemic possibility (EP) sentences, ones that don’t mention our perspective. The fact that epistemic possibilities are relative to perspectives suggests that these bare EP sentences fall short of fully expressing propositions, contrary to what both contextualists and relativists take for granted. Although they (...) rightly reject propositional invariantism, the implausible view that a bare EP sentence expresses the same classical (absolutely true or absolutely false) proposition in any context, they maintain that a change in perspective shifts either the sentence’s propositional content (to a proposition involving a different perspective) or its truth-value (the same perspectivally neutral proposition now evaluated from a different perspective). I deny that the semantic contents of bare EP sentences shift at all. But I also deny that these contents have truth-values. Rather, according to the radical invariantism I defend, these contents are not full-fledged propositions but merely propositional radicals. Only explicitly relativized EP sentences manage fully to express propositions, and these perspective-involving propositions are the only EP propositions there are. Nevertheless, bare EP sentences are perfectly capable of being used to assert EP propositions, because utterances of them implicitly allude to the relevant perspective. Various problem cases challenge radical invariantism to explain pragmatically which perspective is read into the utterance of a given bare EP sentence. Unlike contextualism and relativism, it can do this without having to resort to any semantic bells and whistles.. (shrink)
This paper offers a smattering of applications of pragmatics to epistemology. In most cases they concern recent epistemological claims that depend for their plausibility on mistaking something pragmatic for something semantic. After giving my formulation of the semantic/pragmatic distinction and explaining how seemingly semantic intuitions can be responsive to pragmatic factors, I take up the following topics: 1. Classic Examples of Confusing Meaning and Use 2. Pragmatic Implications of Hedging or Intensifying an Assertion 3. Belief Attributions 4. Knowledge-wh 5. The (...) Knowledge Rule on Assertion 6. Testimony 7. Asserting and Thinking of Possibilities 8. Concessive Knowledge Attributions 9. “Pragmatic Encroachment” 10. Epistemic Contextualism.. (shrink)
Here's an old question in the philosophy of perception: here I am, looking at this pen [I hold up a pen in my hand]. Presumably I really am seeing this pen. Even so, I could be having an experience just like the one I am having without anything being there. So how can the experience I am having really involve direct awareness of the pen? It seems as though the presence of the pen is inessential to the way the experience (...) is. (shrink)
Insensitive Semantics is mainly a protracted assault on semantic Contextualism, both moderate and radical. Cappelen and Lepore argue that Moderate Contextualism leads inevitably, like marijuana to heroin or masturbation to blindness, to Radical Contextualism and in turn that Radical Contextualism is misguided. Assuming that the only alternative to Contextualism is their Semantic Minimalism, they think they’ve given an indirect argument for it. But they overlook a third view, one that splits the difference between the other two. Like Contextualism it rejects (...) Propositionalism, the conservative dogma that every indexicalfree declarative sentence expresses a proposition. Unlike Contextualism, it does not invoke context to fill semantic gaps and, indeed, denies that filling those gaps is a semantic matter. In rejecting Propositionalism, it is more radical, indeed, more minimalist than Cappelen and Lepore’s brand of Semantic Minimalism. It does not imagine that sentences that intuitively seem not to express propositions at least express “minimal propositions.” Radical Semantic Minimalism, or simply Radicalism, says that the sentences in question are semantically incomplete – their semantic contents are not propositions but merely “propositional radicals.”. (shrink)
This article makes a number of points about reference, both speaker reference and linguistic (or semantic) reference. The bottom line is simple: reference ain't easy — at least not nearly as easy as commonly supposed. Much of what speakers do that passes for reference is really something else, and much of what passes for linguistic reference is really nothing more than speaker reference. Referring is one of the basic things we do with words, and it would be a good idea (...) to understand what that involves and requires before worrying about the linguistic means by which this is done. (shrink)
Once upon a time it was assumed that speaking literally and directly is the norm and that speaking nonliterally or indirectly is the exception. The assumption was that normally what a speaker means can be read off of the meaning of the sentence he utters, and that departures from this, if not uncommon, are at least easily distinguished from normal utterances and explainable along Gricean lines. The departures were thought to be limited to obvious cases like figurative speech and conversational (...) implicature. However, people have come to appreciate that the meaning of a typical sentence, at least one we are at all likely to use, is impoverished, at least relative to what we are likely to mean in uttering it. In other words, what a speaker normally means in uttering a sentence, even without speaking figuratively or obliquely, is an enriched version of what could be predicted from the meaning of the sentence alone. This can be because the sentence expresses a “minimal” (or “skeletal”) proposition or even because it fails to express a complete proposition at all.1 Indeed, it is now a platitude that linguistic meaning generally underdetermines speaker meaning. That is, generally what a speaker means in uttering a sentence, even if the sentence is devoid of ambiguity, vagueness, or indexicality, goes beyond what the sentence means. The question is what to make of this Contextualist Platitude, as I’ll call it. It may be a truism, but does it require a radical revision of the older conception of the relation between what sentences mean and what speakers mean in uttering them? Does it lead to a major modification, or perhaps even outright rejection, of the semantic-pragmatic distinction? I think.. (shrink)