One of the mainstays of the theory of deﬁnite descriptions since Russell (1905) has been their interaction with negation. In particular, Russellians, who advocate the view that deﬁnite descriptions are a kind of quantiﬁer, point to these interactions as evidence in favor of the their view. The argument runs roughly as follows.
(1) He spoke GREEK. Philosophers coming to language from the tradition of logical semantics have sometimes been inclined to discount this sort of phenomenon. It makes no diﬀerence to the truth conditions of this particular sentence, and may appear merely to be an aspect of the vocal realization of the sentence—of interest to phonologists, and perhaps to socio-linguists, but not of much importance to fundamental philosophical questions about semantics and pragmatics. This appearance is deceptive. In fact, as we will see (...) below, focus is a locus of interaction between semantics and pragmatics. Understanding this innocent-looking phenomenon is important to understanding how semantics and pragmatics relate to one-another. (shrink)
This paper argues against a broad category of deﬂationist theories of truth. It does so by asking two seemingly unrelated questions. The ﬁrst is about the well-known logical and semantic paradoxes: Why is there no strengthened version of Russell’s paradox, as there is a strengthened version of the Liar paradox? Oddly, this question is rarely asked. It does have a fairly standard answer, which I shall not dispute for purposes of this paper. But I shall argue that asking it ultimately (...) leads to a fundamental challenge to some popular versions of deﬂationism. (shrink)
A great deal of discussion in recent philosophy of language has centered on the idea that there might be hidden contextual parameters in our sentences. But relatively little attention has been paid to what those parameters themselves are like, beyond the assumption that they behave more or less like variables do in logic. My goal in this paper is to show this has been a mistake. I shall argue there are at least two very different sorts of contextual parameters. One (...) is indeed basically like variables in logic, but the other is very different, and much more like overt referring expressions. This result is of interest in its own right, to those of us who are concerned to map out the details of the semantic and pragmatic workings of language. But it will have some wider morals as well. One of the important issues behind the debate over hidden parameters has been how we can posit hidden structure in language, and how far such structure can stray from the intuitive forms and contents speakers see in communication. I shall argue that one sort of hidden parameter is surprisingly close to the contents and forms speakers find intuitive, while another is more remote. I shall show that the.. (shrink)
The story goes that Epimenides, a Cretan, used to claim that all Cretans are always liars. Whether he knew it or not, this claim is odd. It is easy to see it is odd by asking if it is true or false. If it is true, then all Cretans, including Epimenides, are always liars, in which case what he said must be false. Thus, if what he says is true, it is false. Conversely, suppose what Epimenides said is false. Then (...) some Cretan at some time speaks truly. This might not tell us anything about Epimenides. But if, to make the story simple, he were the only Cretan ever to speak, and this was the only thing he ever said, then indeed, he would have to speak truly. And we would then have shown that if what he said was false, it must be true. (shrink)
A great deal of discussion in recent philosophy of language has centered on the idea that there might be hidden contextual parameters in our sentences. But relatively little attention has been paid to what those parameters themselves are like, beyond the assumption that they behave more or less like variables do in logic. My goal in this paper is to show this has been a mistake. I argue there are at least two very different sorts of contextual parameters. One is (...) indeed basically like variables in logic, but the other is very different, and much more like overt referring expressions. Most of this paper is an in-depth study of an example where we see both classes of contextual parameters at work: the case of predicates of personal taste. I claim they have standard parameter, like all gradable predicates, which behaves much as a variable does. But I also claim they have an experiencer parameter, which behaves strikingly like an overt referring expression, syntactically, semantically, and pragmatically. I show that the different properties of these two classes of parameters are reflected in different sorts of evidence we can bring to bear in showing their existence, and in different ways they interact with the contents speakers intuitively seek to convey with their utterances. (shrink)
This paper explores how words relate to concepts. It argues that in many cases, words get their meanings in part by associating with concepts, but only in conjunction with substantial input from language. Language packages concepts in grammatically determined ways. This structures the meanings of words, and determines which sorts of concepts map to words. The results are linguistically modulated meanings, and the extralinguistic concepts associated with words are often not what intuitively would be expected. The paper concludes by discussing (...) implications of this thesis for the relation of word to sentence meaning, and for issues of linguistic determinism. (shrink)
Cappelen and Hawthorne’s Relativism and Monadic Truth (2009) offers an extended defense of a thesis they call simplicity, which, in brief, holds that propositions are true or false simpliciter. Propositions are cast in their traditional roles as the contents of assertions, and as the semantic values of declarative sentences in contexts. Simplicity stands in sharp contrast to forms of relativism including, for instance, a form that hold that our claims are true or false only relative to a judge. This applies (...) especially to claims of taste, which come out true or false only relative to the judge who finds things tasty (e.g. Glanzberg 2007, Lasersohn 2005). But simplicity also rejects the more widespread temporalist view that propositions are true or false only relative to a time, and it rejects the even more widely held view that propositions are true or false only relative to a world. One reason that has been advanced for temporalism, e.g. by Kaplan (1989), is that our languages seem to contain non-trivial temporal operators. Hence, the argument goes, the semantic values of sentences need to be temporally neutral, i.e. vary for truth or falsehood with time. The same goes for possible worlds and modal operators. Hence, Kaplan and many others think of the semantic values of sentences as sets of world-time pairs. It has been tempting to apply this sort of argument much more widely, to see the semantic values of sentences as varying not just with world and time, but perhaps with location and other parameters as well. Kaplan.. (shrink)
The papers published in this volume were presented at the 6th International Symposium of Cognition, Logic and Communication, entitled ‘Formal Semantics and Pragmatics: Discourse, Context, and Models’, taking place at the University of Latvia, Riga, initially scheduled for April 2010.
The first sentence in this essay is a lie. There is something odd about saying so, as has been known since ancient times. To see why, remember that all lies are untrue. Is the first sentence true? If it is, then it is a lie, and so it is not true. Conversely, suppose that it is not true. As we (viz., the authors) have said it, presumably with the intention of you believing it when it is not true, it is (...) a lie. But then it is true! (shrink)
This paper argues that relativity of truth to a world plays no significant role in empirical semantic theory, even as it is done in the model-theoretic tradition relying on intensional type theory. Some philosophical views of content provide an important notion of truth at a world, but they do not constrain the empirical domain of semantic theory in a way that makes this notion empirically significant. As an application of this conclusion, this paper shows that a potential motivation for relativism (...) based on the relativity of truth to a world fails. (shrink)
The study of truth is often seen as running on two separate paths: the nature path and the logic path. The former concerns metaphysical questions about the ‘nature’, if any, of truth. The latter concerns itself largely with logic, particularly logical issues arising from the truth-theoretic paradoxes. Where, if at all, do these two paths meet? It may seem, and it is all too often assumed, that they do not meet, or at best touch in only incidental ways. It is (...) often assumed that work on the metaphysics of truth need not pay much attention to issues of paradox and logic; and it is likewise assumed that work on paradox is independent of the larger issues of metaphysics. Philosophical work on truth often includes a footnote anticipating some resolution of the paradox, but otherwise tends to take no note of it. Likewise, logical work on truth tends to have little to say about metaphysical presuppositions, and simply articulates formal theories, whose strength may be measured, and whose properties may be discussed. In practice, the paths go their own ways. Our aim in this paper is somewhat modest. We seek to illustrate one point of intersection between the paths. Even so, our aim is not completely modest, as the point of intersection is a notable one that often goes unnoticed. We argue that the ‘nature’ path impacts the logic path in a fairly direct way. What one can and must say about the logic of truth is inﬂuenced, or even in some cases determined, by what one says about the metaphysical nature of truth. In particular, when it comes to saying what the well-known Liar paradox teaches us about truth, background conceptions — views on ‘nature’ — play a signiﬁcant role in constraining what can be said. This paper, in rough outline, ﬁrst sets out some representative ‘nature’ views, followed by the ‘logic’ issues (viz., paradox), and turns to responses to the Liar paradox. What we hope to illustrate is the fairly direct way in which the background ‘nature’ views constrain — if not dictate — responses to the main problem on the ‘logic’ path.. (shrink)
In this paper, I shall explore a determiner in natural language which is ambivalent as to whether it should be classiﬁed as quantiﬁcational or objectdenoting: the determiner both. Both in many ways appears to be a paradigmatic quantiﬁer; and yet, I shall argue, it can be interpreted as having an individual—an object—as semantic value. To show the signiﬁcance of this, I shall discuss two ways of thinking about quantiﬁers. We often think about quantiﬁers via intuitions about kinds of thoughts. Certain (...) terms are naturally used to express singular thoughts, and appear to do so by contributing objects to the thoughts expressed. Other terms are naturally used to express general thoughts, and appear to do so by contributing higher-order properties to the thoughts expressed. Viewed this way, the main condition on whether a term is a quantiﬁer or not is whether its semantic value is an object or a higher-order property. At least, these provide necessary conditions. Both can be interpreted as contributing objects to thoughts, and in many cases appears to express genuine singular thoughts. Thinking about quantiﬁers this way, both can appear object-denoting and non-quantiﬁcational. We also often think about quantiﬁers in terms of a range linguistic features, including semantic value, presupposition, scope, binding, syntactic distribution, and many others. Viewed this way, I shall argue, both can appear quantiﬁcational. In particular, it displays scope behavior that is one of the hallmarks of quantiﬁcation. But, I shall show, it can do so even if given a semantics on which it denotes an object. Thus, both appears quantiﬁcational by some linguistic standards, and yet appears object-denoting by standards based on intuitions about the kinds.. (shrink)
Truth is one of the central subjects in philosophy. It is also one of the largest. Truth has been a topic of discussion in its own right for thousands of years. Moreover, a huge variety of issues in philosophy relate to truth, either by relying on theses about truth, or implying theses about truth.
The study of truth is often seen as running on two separate paths: the nature path and the logic path. The former concerns metaphysical questions about the ‘nature’, if any, of truth. The latter concerns itself largely with logic, particularly logical issues arising from the truth-theoretic paradoxes.
This paper argues against relativism, focusing on relativism based on the semantics of predicates of personal taste. It presents and defends a contextualist semantics for these predicates, derived from current work on gradable adjectives. It then considers metasemantic questions about the kinds of contextual parameters this semantics requires. It argues they are not metasemantically different from those in other gradable adjectives, and that contextual parameters of this sort are widespread in natural language. Furthermore, this paper shows that if such parameters (...) are rejected, it leads to an unacceptably rampant form of relativism, that relativizes truth to an open-ended list of parameters. (shrink)
Quantiﬁcation is haunted by the specter of paradoxes. Since Russell, it has been a persistent idea that the paradoxes show what might have appeared to be absolutely unrestricted quantiﬁcation to be somehow restricted. In the contemporary literature, this theme is taken up by Dummett (1973, 1993) and Parsons (1974a,b). Parsons, in particular, argues that both the Liar and Russell’s paradoxes are to be resolved by construing apparently absolutely unrestricted quantiﬁers as appropriately restricted.
Philosophers like to talk about propositions. There are many reasons for this. Perhaps the most common is that philosophers are sometimes more interested in the content of a thought or utterance than in the particular sentence or utterance that might express it on some occasion. Propositions are offered as these contents.
A common objection to hierarchical approaches to truth is that they fragment the concept of truth. This paper defends hierarchical approaches in general against the objection of fragmentation. It argues that the fragmentation required is familiar and unprob-lematic, via a comparison with mathematical proof. Furthermore, it offers an explanation of the source and nature of the fragmentation of truth. Fragmentation arises because the concept exhibits a kind of failure of closure under reflection. This paper offers a more precise characterization of (...) the reflection involved, first in the setting of formal theories of truth, and then in a more general setting. (shrink)
This paper presents an approach to truth and the Liar paradox which combines elements of context dependence and hierarchy. This approach is developed formally, using the techniques of model theory in admissible sets. Special attention is paid to showing how starting with some ideas about context drawn from linguistics and philosophy of language, we can see the Liar sentence to be context dependent. Once this context dependence is properly understood, it is argued, a hierarchical structure emerges which is neither ad (...) hoc nor unnatural. (shrink)
In Logical Properties, Colin McGinn oﬀers a new theory of truth, which he describes as “thick disquotationalism.” In keeping with wider theme of the book, truth emerges as conceptually primitive. Echoing Moore, it is simple and unanalyzable. Though truth cannot be analyzed, in the sense of giving a conceptual decomposition, McGinn argues that truth can be deﬁned. A non-circular statement of its application conditions can be given. This makes truth a singularly remarkable property. Indeed, by McGinn’s lights, it is the (...) only property which enjoys being both unanalyzable and deﬁnable. (shrink)
This paper argues for the thesis that, roughly put, it is impossible to talk about absolutely everything. To put the thesis more precisely, there is a particular sense in which, as a matter of semantics, quantifiers always range over domains that are in principle extensible, and so cannot count as really being ‘absolutely everything’. The paper presents an argument for this thesis, and considers some important objections to the argument and to the formulation of the thesis. The paper also offers (...) an assessment of just how implausible the thesis really is. It argues that the intuitions against the thesis come down to a few special cases, which can be given special treatment. Finally, the paper considers some metaphysical ideas that might surround the thesis. Particularly, it might be maintained that an important variety of realism is incompatible with the thesis. The paper argues that this is not the case. (shrink)
∗Thanks to J. C. Beall, Alex Byrne, Jason Decker, Tyler Doggett, Paul Elbourne, Adam Elga, Warren Goldfarb, Delia Graﬀ, Richard Heck, Charles Parsons, Mark Richard, Susanna Siegel, Jason Stanley, Judith Thomson, Carol Voeller, Brian Weatherson, Ralph Wedgwood, Steve Yablo, Cheryl Zoll, and an anonymous referee for valuable comments and discussions. Versions of this material were presented in my seminar at MIT in the Fall of 2000, and at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Parts of this paper also derive from (...) my comments on a paper of Scott Soames at the ‘Liars and Heaps’ conference at the University of Connecticut in the Fall of 2002. I am grateful for the help of these audiences, and especially to Prof. Soames. (shrink)
This paper argues against minimalism about truth. It does so by way of acomparison of the theory of truth with the theory of sets, and considerationof where paradoxes may arise in each. The paper proceeds by asking twoseemingly unrelated questions. First, what is the theory of truth about?Answering this question shows that minimalism bears important similaritiesto naive set theory. Second, why is there no strengthened version ofRussell's paradox, as there is a strengthened Liar paradox? Answering thisquestion shows that like naive (...) set theory, minimalism is unable to makeadequate progress in resolving the paradoxes, and must be replaced by adrastically different sort of theory. Such a theory, it is shown, must befundamentally non-minimalist. (shrink)
Current theories of context see context as composed of information that is localizable to individual utterances. Current theories of discourse grant that discourses have important global properties that are not so localizable. In this paper, I argue that context, even narrowly construed as whatever combines with a sentence to determine truth conditions, must have a discourse-global component. I identify a context-dependence phenomenon related to the linguistic concepts of topic and focus, isolate the pertinent feature of context, and show (...) that this feature must be discourse-global in nature. I thus argue that context is as complicated as an entire discourse. (shrink)
The discussion of supervenience is replete with the use of in?nitary logical operations. For instance, one may often ?nd a supervenient property that corresponds to an in?nite collection of supervenience-base properties, and then ask about the in?nite disjunction of all those base properties. This is crucial to a well-known argument of Kim (1984) that supervenience comes nearer to reduction than many non-reductive physicalists suppose. It also appears in recent discussions such as Jackson (1998).
About twenty-ﬁve years ago, Charles Parsons published a paper that began by asking why we still discuss the Liar Paradox. Today, the question seems all the more apt. In the ensuing years we have seen not only Parsons’ work (1974), but seminal work of Saul Kripke (1975), and a huge number of other important papers. Too many to list. Surely, one of them must have solved it! In a way, most of them have. Most papers on the Liar Paradox offer (...) some explanation of the behavior of paradoxical sentences, and most also offer some extension for the predicate ‘true’ that they think is adequate, at least in some restricted setting. But if this is a solution, then the problem we face is far from a lack of solutions; rather, we have an overabundance of conﬂicting ones. Kripke’s work alone provides us with uncountably many different extensions for the truth predicate. Even if it so happens that one of these is a conclusive solution, we do not seem to know which one, or why. We should also ask, given that we are faced with many technically elegant but contradictory views, if they are really all addressing the same problem. What we lack is not solutions, but a way to compare and evaluate the many ones we have. (shrink)
Quantiﬁed terms are terms of generality. They are also provide some of our prime examples of the phenomenon of scope. The distinction between singular and general terms, as well as the ways that general terms enter into scope relations, are certainly fundamental to our understanding of language. Yet when we turn to natural language, we encounter a huge and apparently messy collection of general terms; not just every and some, but most, few, between ﬁve and ten, and many others. Natural-language (...) sentences also display a complex range of scope phenomena; unlike ﬁrst-order logic, which clearly and simply demarcates scope in its notation. (shrink)