I met Ernie in 1965 on the wrestling mats of our high school in North Bergen, New Jersey, a township on top of the plateau overlooking Hoboken and across the Hudson River from Manhattan. Hoboken then was still the Hoboken of Elia Kazan’s “On the Waterfront” (1954).1 Even though the Hudson was less than a mile across at that point, it was a wide spiritual divide. We were Jersey boys, not New Yorkers. Ernie was as ambitious as I was about (...) wrestling, and, so, after the season was over, we used to take a bus to Journal Square in Jersey City, and then walk about eight city blocks to a gym to lift weights. In those days, high schools didn’t have weight rooms; and gyms were scarce, men only, quite ﬁlthy, and entirely devoid of cardio equipment and Nautilus machines. They were all sweat, grunts, groans, and clanking iron. By 1968, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, after a grueling wrestling practice at the high school, we would take a bus to New York City (it took about a half hour to get into “the City” by bus, less if the Lincoln Tunnel was not crowded), and then a short subway ride up to the New York Athletic Club on 59th street, across from Central Park, to spend a couple of hours working out with former university wrestling stars—guys in their mid-twenties from places like Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Iowa—who were training to make the Olympic team. Even with all of this wrestling time, we were frustrated by the fact that there was nowhere to work out on Sundays. We investigated and found out that the Jersey City YMCA had a wrestling mat and was open on Sundays. We then spent our Sunday afternoons working out there, so as not to miss a day of wrestling. Wrestling was our savior: a healthy way to get out anger.2 But it wasn’t all wrestling. We did something else too: We talked. We spent many hours together introspecting out loud, and just trying to make sense of things. Ernie has mentioned in print one early topic of discussion: “We spent years trying to solve various logical conundra like how on earth the Virgin Mary could have been a virgin.... (shrink)
It has become something of a truism that people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have difficulties with pragmatics. Granting this, however, it is important to keep in mind that there are numerous kinds of pragmatic ability. One very important divide lies between those pragmatic competences which pertain to non-literal contents – as in, for instance, metaphor, irony and Gricean conversational implicatures – and those which pertain to the literal contents of speech acts. It is against this backdrop that our question (...) arises: Are certain pragmatic tasks more difficult than others for people with ASD? (shrink)
Does scientific psychology have a legitimate role to play in the philosophy of language? For example, is it methodologically permissible for philosophers of language to rely upon evidence from neurological development, experiments about processing, brain scans, clinical case histories, longitudinal studies, questionnaires, etc.? If so, why? These two questions are the focus of this survey. I address them in two stages. It may seem obvious that the science of psychology is relevant. I thus begin by introducing arguments against relevance, to (...) motivate the discussion. I will urge that these arguments ultimately fail, and that the appearance of relevance should be taken at face value. Next, I introduce positive arguments for relevance, with examples. To foreshadow the main conclusion, the methods and results of contemporary cognitive psychology are relevant because there are non-obvious connections, both constitutive and contingent, between language and human psychology. (shrink)
My modest aim in this note is to sketch three interrelated critiques of public languages, and to respond to them. All are broadly Chomskyan, and all support the same conclusion: that, insofar as they even exist, the study of public languages is not a viable scientific project. (Related critiques of semantics, understood as involving word–world relations, will be touched on as well).
This article has two aims. The ﬁrst is to introduce some novel data that highlight rather surprising pragmatic abilities in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The second is to consider a possible implication of these data for an emerging empirical methodology in philosophy of language and mind. In pursuing the ﬁrst aim, we expect our main audience to be clinicians and linguists interested in pragmatics. It is when we turn to methodological issues that we hope to pique the interest of philosophers. (...) Still, the methodological issue becomes pressing precisely because of the empirical ﬁnding—thus the ﬁrst part is important for the philosophical readers as well. The game plan is as follows. Given our intended dual audience, we begin with background on autism and pragmatics. Some of this material will be familiar to some of our readership, but few will know all of it. (Those who do are invited to skip these sections.) We then present some results from our pilot study on a corpus of speech by people with ASD. The heart of our ﬁnding is that certain speakers with ASD, who have severe trouble with familiar pragmatic phenomena such as metaphor and conversational implicature, exhibit surprising abilities with respect to what is often called “pragmatic determinants of what is said.” We turn next to a possible implication of this ﬁnding: It seems to suggest that hitherto seemingly promising evidence from ASD about the semantics/pragmatics boundary is.. (shrink)
This paper discusses, in a preliminary manner, what revenge is. (It does not address the rationality or moral standing of revenge.) In particular, it proposes four elements of revenge --an agent, a recipient, a harm intended by the former, and a harm done by the latter which provokes the revenge. Based on these four elements, it highlights both agent-internal conditions for getting revenge, and agent-external ones. Along the way, the paper contrasts revenge with related phenomena like merely getting even, and (...) retribution. /// Este trabajo discute de manera preliminar lo que es la venganza. (No considera la racionalidad ni la moralidad de la venganza.) En particular, propone cuatro elementos de la venganza: un agente, un receptor, un daño que el primero tiene la intención de hacer, y un daño hecho por el segundo que provoca la venganza. Basándose en estos cuatro elementos, resaltan tanto las condiciones internas del agente como las externas a él para obtener venganza. A lo largo del trabajo se contrasta la venganza con fenómenos relacionados como el de desquitarse y la retribución. (shrink)
From the perspective of certain contextualists, the most worrisome theses of Cappelen & Lepore’s Insensitive Semantics would seem to be: T1: The only context sensitive items are the basic and obvious ones, i.e., pronouns, demonstratives, etc.; T2: Once referents are assigned to these basic and obvious items in a (declarative) sentence, that sentence has truth conditions; T3: This truth-conditional content is asserted when the sentence is used; T4: The content of the assertion made is not thereby fixed, however, because speech (...) act content depends upon features beyond the utterance context; T5: The relativized truth conditions are psychologically relevant. (shrink)
We discuss two kinds of quotation, namely indirect quotation (e.g., 'Anita said that Mexico is beautiful') and pure quotation (e.g., 'Mexico' has six letters). With respect to each, we have both a negative and a positive plaint. The negative plaint is that the strict Davidsonian (1968, 1979a) treatment of indirect and pure quotation cannot be correct. The positive plaint is an alternative account of how quotation of these two sorts works.
Our first aim in this paper is to respond to four novel objections in Jason Stanley's 'Context and Logical Form'. Taken together, those objections attempt to debunk our prior claims that one can perform a genuine speech act by using a subsentential expression—where by 'subsentential expression' we mean an ordinary word or phrase, not embedded in any larger syntactic structure. Our second aim is to make it plausible that, pace Stanley, there really are pragmatic determinants of the literal truthconditional content (...) of speech acts. We hope to achieve this second aim precisely by defending the genuineness of subsentential speech acts. Given our two aims, it is necessary to highlight briefly their connection—which we do in the first part of the Introduction. Following that, we introduce Stanley's novel objections. This is the role of the second part of the Introduction. We offer our rebuttals in Section 2 (against 'shorthand') and Section 3 (against syntactic ellipsis, among other things). (shrink)
Vernacularism is the view that logical forms are fundamentally assigned to natural language expressions, and are only derivatively assigned to anything else, e.g., propositions, mental representations, expressions of symbolic logic, etc. In this paper, we argue that Vernacularism is not as plausible as it first appears because of non-sentential speech. More specifically, there are argument-premises, meant by speakers of non-sentences, for which no natural language paraphrase is readily available in the language used by the speaker and the hearer. The speaker (...) can intend this proposition and the hearer can recover it (and its logical form). Since they cannot, by hypothesis, be doing this by using a sentence of their shared language, the proposition-meant has its logical form non-derivatively, which falsifies Vernacularism. We conclude the paper with a brief review of the debate on incomplete definite descriptions in which Vernacularism is assumed as a suppressed premise. (shrink)
It seems to me that the argument has a certain initial plausibility, especially when ‘sentence’, ‘used in isolation’ and ‘meaning in isolation’ are explicated in a certain way. ~For instance, one must take sentences to include elliptical sentences; and one must take ‘use in isolation’ to entail use in the performance of a genuine speech act.! It also seems to me that the argument is important. For one thing, the Conclusion can be recruited in reasoning to the effect that, because..