Our aim in the present paper is to investigate, from the standpoint of truth-theoretic semantics, English tense, temporal designators and quantifiers, and other expressions we use to relate ourselves and other things to the temporal order. Truth-theoretic semantics provides a particularly illuminating standpoint from which to discuss issues about the semantics of tense, and their relation to thoughts at, and about, times. Tense, and temporal modifiers, contribute systematically to conditions under which sentences we utter are true or (...) false. A Tarski-style truth-theoretic semantics, by requiring explicitly represented truth conditions, helps to sharpen questions about the function of tense, and to deepen our insight into the contribution the tenses and temporal modifiers make to what we say by using them. (shrink)
I define 'skim semantics' to be a Davidson-style truth-conditionalsemantics combined with a variety of deflationism about truth. The expressive role of truth in truth-conditionalsemantics precludes at least some kinds of skim semantics; thus I reject the idea that the challenge to skim semantics derives solely from Davidson's explanatory ambitions, and in particular from the 'truth doctrine', the view that the concept of truth plays a central explanatory role in Davidsonian theories of (...) meaning for a language. The fate of skim semantics is not determined by the fate of the truth doctrine, so rejecting the truth doctrine does not in itself open the way to skim semantics. I establish my thesis by showing that some recently proposed versions of skim semantics fail because of truth's expressive role. I also discuss the conditions that might permit skim semantics. (shrink)
It has been often argued that parentheticals, discourse adverbials and certain parts of speech like interjections do not contribute to the truth conditional content of the assertions of which they are part. In this paper I argue that many of these constructions do contribute a truth conditional content, and I propose a semantics for parentheticals and discourse adverbials that treats these constructions similarly to SDRT's treatment of presuppositions. I also point out differences between standard presupposition triggers on the one (...) hand and parentheticals or discourse adverbials on the other. (shrink)
According to orthodox semantics, to know the meaning of a sentence is to know its truth-conditions. Against this view I observe that we typically do not know the truth-conditions of the sentences we understand. We do not know the truth-conditions, for instance, of empty definite descriptions, non-declaratives, subjunctive conditionals, causal ascriptions, belief ascriptions, probability statements, figurative language, category mistakes, normative judgments, or vague statements. Appealing to tacit knowledge does not help, for the problem goes beyond our inability to articulate (...) complete truth-conditions: even full knowledge of the world’s condition would leave us unable to say whether an arbitrary sentence was true or false. (shrink)
Davidson approaches the notions of meaning and interpretation with the aim of characterizing semantic competence in the syntactically characterized natural language. The objective is to provide a truth-theory for a language, generating T-sentences expressed in the semantic metalanguage, so that each sentence of the object language receives an appropriate interpretation. Proceeding within the constraints of referential semantics, I will argue for the viability of reconstructing the notion of linguistic meaning within the Tarskian theory of reference. However, the view proposed (...) here involves a revision of Davidson’s con-ception of the object of semantic investigation. Taking (idealized) language-theories as the proper object of semantic characterization, provides solutions to outstanding problems in Davidson’s views, better approximates the practice in standard model-theoretic semantics, and incorporates the elements of semantic competence sought for in tradi¬tional theories of lexical analysis. Sources of evidence beyond those emphasized by Davidson will be invoked in order to allow for the selection of interpre¬tive T-sentences. In the final section, possible Quinean objections will be considered. (shrink)
An argument is developed at some length to show that any semantical theory which treats superficially nonperformative sentences as being governed by performative prefaces at some level of underlying structure must either leave those sentences semantically uninterpreted or assign them the wrong truth-conditions. Several possible escapes from this dilemma are examined; it is tentatively concluded that such hypotheses as the Ross-Lakoff-Sadock Performative Analysis should be rejected despite their attractions.
Recent philosophy of language has been profoundly impacted by the idea that mainstream, model-theoretic semantics is somehow incompatible with deflationary accounts of truth and reference. The present article systematizes the case for incompatibilism, debunks circularity and “modal confusion” arguments familiar in the literature, and reconstructs the popular thought that truth-conditionalsemantics somehow “presupposes” a correspondence theory of truth as an inference to the best explanation. The case for compatibilism is closed by showing that this IBE argument fails (...) to rule out two kinds of deflationism: the position Field famously accused Tarski of having; and a less familiar version of the view that defines reference in terms of a deflated notion of truth. Finally, the distinction between unifying and constitutive explanation is used to forestall the response that correspondence theory is literally part of mainstream semantics. (shrink)
Dynamic and proof-conditional approaches to discourse (exemplified by Discourse Representation Theory and Type-Theoretical Grammar, respectively) are related through translations and transitions labeled by first-order formulas with anaphoric twists. Type-theoretic contexts are defined relative to a signature and instantiated modeltheoretically, subject to change.
The progressive in English appears to be inherently modal, due to what Dowty (Word meaning and Montague grammar: The semantics of verbs and times in generative semantics and in Montague’s PTQ, 1979) terms the imperfective paradox. In truth-conditional accounts, the literal truth of a clause with the modal progressive hinges on the possibility of the described outcome. The clause’s truth under such accounts has also been tacitly assumed to describe its felicitous use. Two challenges for this strategy (...) are discussed. First, a progressive clause exhibiting the imperfective paradox can occur felicitously even when the described outcome is not possible. Second, a progressive clause exhibiting the paradox can occur felicitously with an accompanying unless-clause, yet the analysis of unless-clauses directly contradicts the modal analysis of the truth-conditional behavior of the progressive clause in such cases. If the analysis of unless is not flawed, then the modal progressive will require reanalysis. (shrink)
Several authors propose that performative speech acts are self-guaranteeing due to their self-referential nature (Searle 1989; Jary 2007). The present paper offers an analysis of self-referentiality in terms of truth conditional semantics, making use of Davidsonian events. I propose that hereby can denote the ongoing act of information transfer (more mundanely, the utterance) which thereby enters the meaning of the sentence. The analysis will be extended to cover self-referential sentences without the adverb hereby. While self-referentiality can be integrated in (...) ordinary truth conditional semantic analysis without being a mystery, the resulting account shows that self-referentiality in this sense is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for performative utterances. I propose that the second ingredient of performative utterances consists in an act of the speaker defining her utterance to be an act of the respective kind. The final theory can successfully predict the performativity, or lack thereof, of a wide range of performative sentences, and leads to an explicated interface between compositional sentence meaning and speech act. (shrink)
This paper motivates and develops what I call a condition semantics for moral terms. According to condition semantics, moral sentences conventionally distinguish among moral standards (or test whether a moral standard meets a certain condition) just as ordinary factual sentences conventionally distinguish among possible worlds (or test whether a possible world meets a certain condition). This point is captured formally within an extension of the familiar truth-conditional paradigm. The resulting analysis improves upon its main competitors: invariantism and (...) contextualism. The framework of condition semantics also offers a perspicuous way of posing various classical ethical and metaethical questions—e.g., concerning relativism, expressivism, and judgment internalism. This can motivate clearer, better motivated answers and suggest new ways the dialectic may proceed. (shrink)
The work of Donald Davidson (1917-2003) transformed the study of meaning. Ernie Lepore and Kirk Ludwig, two of the world's leading authorities on Davidson's work, present the definitive study of his widely admired and influential program of truth-theoretic semantics for natural languages, giving an exposition and critical examination of its foundations and applications.
This essay argues that cases of apparently sub-sentential speech, such as Charles’ utterance of ‘a world famous topologist’ in the presence of a suitably salient woman, are unproblematic from the viewpoint of the Traditional View of meaning and truth-conditions. My argument is grounded on the distinction between different senses of ‘truth-conditions’ in double-index semantics, and on an understanding of semantic inputs as constraints on logical forms. Given these conceptual resources, I argue that an utterly traditional understanding of the relationships (...) between meaning and truth yields the intuitively desired results. (shrink)
There is no consensus as to whether a Liar sentence is meaningful or not. Still, a widespread conviction with respect to Liar sentences (and other ungrounded sentences) is that, whether or not they are meaningful, they are useless . The philosophical contribution of this paper is to put this conviction into question. Using the framework of assertoric semantics , which is a semantic valuation method for languages of self-referential truth that has been developed by the author, we show that (...) certain computational problems, called query structures , can be solved more efficiently by an agent who has self-referential resources (amongst which are Liar sentences) than by an agent who has only classical resources; we establish the computational power of self-referential truth . The paper concludes with some thoughts on the implications of the established result for deflationary accounts of truth. (shrink)
Proponents of the projection strategy take an epistemic rule for the evaluation of English conditionals, the Ramsey test, as clue to the truth-conditionalsemantics of conditionals. They also construe English conditionals as stronger than the material conditional. Given plausible assumptions, however, the Ramsey test induces the semantics of the material conditional. The alleged link between Ramsey test and truth conditions stronger than those of the material conditional can be saved by construing conditionals as ternary, rather than binary, (...) propositional functions with a hidden contextual parameter. But such a ternary construal raises problems of its own. (shrink)
Karttunen's seminal 1973 article Presuppositions of compound sentences, lays the groundwork for the elegant and fruitful theory of this subject which he subsequently presented in (1974). In (1973, pp. 185–8), however, he fallaciously argued that the regularities he discovered concerning the behavior of and, or, and if ... then in English cannot be embodied in any three-valued logic giving a truth-functional interpretation to these connectives. The present paper refutes Karttunen's argument by exhibiting an interpretation with the desired properties, and shows (...) further how the full articulation of his 1974 system can be developed naturally within a truth-conditionalsemantics for English if bivalence is abandoned — contrary to what Karttunen expected. (shrink)
Conditional structures lie at the heart of the sciences, humanities, and everyday reasoning. It is hence not surprising that conditional logics – logics specifically designed to account for natural language conditionals – are an active and interdisciplinary area. The present book gives a formal and a philosophical account of indicative and counterfactual conditionals in terms of Chellas-Segerberg semantics. For that purpose a range of topics are discussed such as Bennett’s arguments against truth value based semantics for indicative conditionals.
Late medieval theories of language and contemporary philosophy of language have been compared on numerous occasions. Here, we would like to compare two debates: that between the nature of Virtus sermonis , on the medieval side—focusing on a statute published in 1340 by the Faculty of Arts of the University of Paris and its opponents—and, on the contemporary side, the on-going discussion on the semantics-pragmatics distinction and how the truth-value of an utterance should be established. Both the statute and (...) Gricean pragmatics insist on the importance of taking into account the speaker's intention and the context in establishing the signification of an utterance. Yet, upon closer examination, a more convincing parallel might be drawn between the statute's position and current theories in truth-conditional pragmatics. Focusing on a few aspects of the statute that seem to find a counterpart within contemporary pragmatics, we try to show how the issues they give rise to converge, but also diverge. (shrink)
While there is now considerable experimental evidence that, on the one hand, participants assign to the indicative conditional as probability the conditional probability of consequent given antecedent and, on the other, they assign to the indicative conditional the ?defective truth-table? in which a conditional with false antecedent is deemed neither true nor false, these findings do not in themselves establish which multi-premise inferences involving conditionals participants endorse. A natural extension of the truth-table semantics pronounces as valid numerous inference patterns (...) that do seem to be part of ordinary usage. However, coupled with something the probability account gives us?namely that when conditional-free ? entails conditional-free ?, ?if ? then ?? is a trivial, uninformative truth?we have enough logic to derive the paradoxes of material implication. It thus becomes a matter of some urgency to determine which inference patterns involving indicative conditionals participants do endorse. Only thus will we be able to arrive at a realistic, systematic semantics for the indicative conditional. (shrink)
In this paper I will develop a view about the semantics of imperatives, which I term Modal Noncognitivism, on which imperatives might be said to have truth conditions (dispositionally, anyway), but on which it does not make sense to see them as expressing propositions (hence does not make sense to ascribe to them truth or falsity). This view stands against “Cognitivist” accounts of the semantics of imperatives, on which imperatives are claimed to express propositions, which are then enlisted (...) in explanations of the relevant logico-semantic phenomena. It also stands against the major competitors to Cognitivist accounts—all of which are non-truth-conditional and, as a result, fail to provide satisfying explanations of the fundamental semantic characteristics of imperatives (or so I argue). The view of imperatives I defend here improves on various treatments of imperatives on the market in giving an empirically and theoretically adequate account of their semantics and logic. It yields explanations of a wide range of semantic and logical phenomena about imperatives—explanations that are, I argue, at least as satisfying as the sorts of explanations of semantic and logical phenomena familiar from truth-conditionalsemantics. But it accomplishes this while defending the notion—which is, I argue, substantially correct—that imperatives could not have propositions, or truth conditions, as their meanings. (shrink)
This paper outlines a truth-conditional view of logical form, that is, a view according to which logical form is essentially a matter of truth-conditions. Section 1 provides some preliminary clariﬁcations. Section 2 shows that the main motivation for the view is the fact that fundamental logical relations such as entailment or contradiction can formally be explained only if truth-conditions are formally represented. Sections 3 and 4 articulate the view and dwell on its afﬁnity with a conception of logical form (...) that has been defended in the past. Sections 5-7 draw attention to its impact on three major issues that concern, respectively, the extension of the domain of formal explanation, the semantics of tensed discourse, and the analysis of quantiﬁcation.�. (shrink)
No semantic theory satisfying certain natural constraints can identify the semantic contents of sentences (the propositions they express), with sets of circumstances in which the sentences are true–no matter how fine-grained the circumstances are taken to be. An objection to the proof is shown to fail by virtue of conflating model-theoretic consequence between sentences with truth-conditional consequence between the semantic contents of sentences. The error underlines the impotence of distinguishing semantics, in the sense of a truth-based theory of (...) logical consequence, and semantics, in the sense of a theory of meaning. (shrink)
Introduction The mainstream view in philosophy of language is that sentence meaning determines truth-conditions. A corollary is that the truth or falsity of an utterance depends only on what words mean and how the world is arranged. Although several prominent philosophers (Searle, Travis, Recanati, Moravcsik) have challenged this view, it has proven hard to dislodge. The alternative view holds that meaning underdetermines truth-conditions. What is expressed by the utterance of a sentence in a context goes beyond what is encoded in (...) the sentence itself. Truth-conditional content depends on an indefinite number of unstated background assumptions, not all of which can be made explicit. A change in background assumptions can change truth-conditions, even bracketing disambiguation and reference assignment. That is, even after disambiguating any ambiguous words in a sentence and assigning semantic values to any indexical expressions in the sentence, truth-conditions may vary with variations in the background. (shrink)
The general fact of the impossibility of a bivalent, truth-functional semantics for the propositional structures determined by quantum mechanics should be more subtly demarcated according to whether the structures are taken to be orthomodular latticesP L or partial-Boolean algebrasP A; according to whether the semantic mappings are required to be truth-functional or truth-functional ; and according to whether two-or-higher dimensional Hilbert spaceP structures or three-or-higher dimensional Hilbert spaceP structures are being considered. If the quantumP structures are taken to be (...) orthomodular latticesP L, then bivalent mappings which preserve the operations and relations of aP L must be truth-functional . Then as suggested by von Neumann and Jauch-Piron and as proven in this paper, the mere presence of incompatible elements in aP L is sufficient to rule out any semantical or hidden-variable proposal which imposes this strong condition, for anytwo-or-higher dimensional Hilbert spaceP L structure. Thus from the orthomodular lattice perspective, the peculiarly non-classical feature of quantum mechanics and the peculiarly non-Boolean feature of the quantum propositional structures is the existence of incompatible magnitudes and propositions. However, the weaker truth-functionality condition can instead be imposed upon the semantic or hidden-variable mappings on theP L structures, although such mappings ignore the lattice meets and joins of incompatibles and preserve only the partial-Boolean algebra structural features of theP L structures. Or alternatively, the quantum propositional structures can be taken to be partial-Boolean algebrasP A, where bivalent mappings which preserve the operations and relations of aP A need only be truth-functional (c). In either case, the Gleason, Kochen-Specker proofs show that any semantical or hidden variable proposal which imposes this truth-functionality (c) condition is impossible for anythree-or-higher dimensional Hilbert spaceP A orP L structures. But such semantical or hidden-variable proposals are possible for any two dimensional Hilbert spaceP A orP L structures, in spite of the presence of incompatibles in these structures, in spite of the fact that Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle applies to the incompatible elements in these structures, and in spite of the fact that these structures are non-Boolean in the Piron sense. (shrink)
John Etchemendy has argued that it is but "a fortuitous accident" that Tarski's work on truth has any signifance at all for semantics. I argue, in response, that Etchemendy and others, such as Scott Soames and Hilary Putnam, have been misled by Tarski's emphasis on definitions of truth rather than theories of truth and that, once we appreciate how Tarski understood the relation between these, we can answer Etchemendy's implicit and explicit criticisms of neo-Davidsonian semantics.
A critique of attempts by Charles Travis and others to read contextualism back into Philosophical Investigations. The central interpretive claim is that this reading is not only unsupported; it gets Wittgenstein's intent, in the parts of the text at issue, precisely backwards. The focus of the chapter is on Wittgenstein's treatment of explanation, understanding, proper names, and family-resemblance concepts.
We sketch an account according to which the semantic concepts themselves are not pathological and the pathologies that attend the semantic predicates arise because of the intention to impose on them a role they cannot fulfill, that of expressing semantic concepts for a language that includes them. We provide a simplified model of the account and argue in its light that (i) a consequence is that our meaning intentions are unsuccessful, and such semantic predicates fail to express any concept, and (...) that (ii) in light of this it is incorrect to characterize the pathology simply as semantic inconsistency; a more nuanced view of the problem is needed. We also show that the defects of the semantic predicates need not undercut the use of a truth theory in a compositional semantics for a language containing them because the meaning theory per se need not involve commitment to the axioms of the truth theory it exploits. (shrink)
Spanish verbs display two past-tense forms, the pret´rito and the imperfecto. We offer an account of the semantics of these forms within a situation semantics, addressing a number of theoretically interesting questions about how to realize a semantics for tense and events in that type of framework. We argue that each of these forms is unambiguous, and that the apparent variety of readings attested for them derives from interaction with other factors in the course of interpretation. The (...) meaning of the imperfecto is constrained to always reflect atelic aktionsart. In addition, it contains a modal element, and a contextually-given accessibility relation over situations constrains the interpretation of the modal in ways that give rise to all the attested readings. The pret´rito is indeterminate with respect to aktionsart, neither telic nor atelic. One or the other aktionsart may be forced by other factors in the clause in which the pret´rito occurs, as well as by pragmatic contrast with the possibility of using the imperfecto. (shrink)
The fundamental problem proponents of truth conditional semantics must face is to specify what role a truth theory is supposed to play within a meaning theory. The most detailed proposal for tackling this problem is the account developed by Ernest Lepore and Kirk Ludwig. However, as I will show in this paper, theories along the lines of Lepore and Ludwig do not suffice to put someone into the position to understand the objectlanguage. The fundamental problem of truth conditional (...) class='Hi'>semantics thus remains unsolved. (shrink)
Controversy has arisen of late over the claim that deflationism about truth requires that we explain meaning in terms of something other than truth-conditions. This controversy, it is argued, is due to unclarity as to whether the basic deflationary claim that a sentence and a sentence that attributes truth to it are equivalent in meaning is intended to involve the truth-predicate of the object language for which we develop an account of meaning, or is intended to involve the truth-predicate of (...) the metalanguage in which we develop an account of meaning. The former view is compatible with the truth-conditional theory of meaning for the object language, the latter is incompatible with it. However, the former view is also trivially true; hence we should endorse the claim that any form of deflationism worth being interested in is incompatible with understanding meaning truth-conditionally. (shrink)
Some dynamic semantic theories include an attempt to derive truth-conditional meaning from context change potential. This implies defining truth in terms of context change. Focusing on presuppositions and epistemic modals, this paper points out some problems with how this project has been carried out. It then suggests a way of overcoming these problems. This involves appealing to a richer notion of context than the one found in standard dynamic systems.
The truth-conditional theory of sense holds that a theory of truth for a natural language can serve as a theory of sense: if knowledge of a theory of truth for a language L is sufficient for understanding utterance of L-sentences, the T-sentences of the theory 'show' the sense of the uttered object-language sentences. In this paper I aim to show that indexicals create a serious problem for this prima facie attractive theoretical option. The so-called 'instantiation problem' is that a (...) truth-theory for indexical languages needs to contain universal statements that show how the reference of indexicals depends on features of the utterance context. Now one can deduce from such statements T-sentences that do not show the sense of an indexical sentence on an occasion of use. I survey proposed solutions to the instantiation problem by Evans and Sainsbury and, unfortunately, find them all wanting. Perhaps there is nothing like the sense-giving truth-condition for an indexical sentence. (shrink)
Conditionals somehow express conditional beliefs. However, conditional belief is a bi-propositional attitude that is generally not truth-evaluable, in contrast to unconditional belief. Therefore, this article opts for an expressivistic semantics for conditionals, grounds this semantics in the arguably most adequate account of conditional belief, that is, ranking theory, and dismisses probability theory for that purpose, because probabilities cannot represent belief. Various expressive options are then explained in terms of ranking theory, with the intention to set out a general (...) interpretive scheme that is able to account for the most variegated usage of conditionals. The Ramsey test is only the first option. Relevance is another, familiar, but little understood item, which comes in several versions. This article adds a further family of expressive options, which is able to subsume also counterfactuals and causal conditionals, and indicates at the end how this family allows for partial recovery of truth conditions for conditionals. (shrink)