Our ascriptions of content to utterances in the past attribute to them a level of determinacy that extends beyond what could supervene upon the usage up to the time of those utterances. If one accepts the truth of such ascriptions, one can either (1) argue that subsequent use must be added to the supervenience base that determines the meaning of a term at a time, or (2) argue that such cases show that meaning does not supervene upon use at all. (...) The following will argue against authors such as Lance, Hawthorn and Ebbs that first of these options is the more promising of the two. However, maintaining the supervenience thesis ultimately requires understanding the relation between use and meaning as 'normative' in two important ways. The first (more familiar) way is that the function from use to meaning must be of a sort that allows us to maintain a robust distinction between correct usage and actual usage. This first type of normativity is accepted by defenders of many more temporally restricted versions of the supervenience thesis, but the second sort of normativity is unique to theories that extend the supervenience base into the future. In particular, if meaning is partially a function of future use, we can understand other commitments we are often taken to have about meaning, particularly the commitment to meaning being 'determinate', as practical commitments that structure our linguistic practices rather than theoretical commitment that merely describe such practices. (shrink)
The distinction between the semantic content of a sentence or utterance and its use is widely employed in formal semantics. Semantic minimalism in particular understands this distinction as a sharp dichotomy. I argue that if we accept such a dichotomy, there would be no reason to posit the existence of semantic contents at all. I examine and reject several arguments raised in the literature that might provide a rationale for assuming semantic contents, in this sense, exist, and conclude that Ockham’s (...) razor should be applied to these postulated entities. Since the notion of “semantic content” doubles both as what a semantic theory is a priori supposed to account for and as the product of that same theory, it is methodologically unsound to appeal to this notion to fend off criticisms of and counterexamples to semantic theories. (shrink)
Conceptual engineering concerns the assessment and improvement of our concepts. But how can proposals to engineer concepts be implemented in the real world? This is known as the implementation challenge to conceptual engineering. In this paper, I am concerned with the meta-philosophical implications of the implementation challenge. Specifically, must we overcome the implementation challenge prior to undertaking conceptual engineering? Some critics have recently answered this question affirmatively. I intend to show that they are mistaken. I argue as follows. First, successful (...) implementation is not an integral part of conceptual engineering. Second, the idea that the value of conceptual engineering relies on successful implementation is in tension with widespread assumptions about normative theorizing. (shrink)
Polysemy has only recently entered the debate on semantic minimalism and contextualism. This is surprising considering that the key linguistic examples discussed in the debate, such as ‘John cut the grass’ or ‘The leaf is green’ appear to be prime examples of polysemy. Moreover, François Recanati recently argued that the mere existence of polysemy falsi!es semantic minimalism and supports radical contextualism. The aim of this paper is to discuss how the minimalism-contextualism debate relates to polysemy. This connection turns out to (...) be far from clear-cut. This is partly due to the fact that the term ‘polysemy’ is used in a number of different ways in the literature, which will be reviewed in this paper. Finally, I discuss and reject Recanati’s claim that the existence of polysemy supports radical contextualism against moderate versions and semantic minimalism. I show that minimalism has a number of plausible options to account for polysemy. (shrink)
The linguistic meaning of a word in a language is what fully competent speakers of the language have a grasp of merely in virtue of their semantic competence. The meanings of words sometimes change over time. 'Meat' used to mean 'solid food', but now means 'animal flesh eaten as food'. This type of meaning change comes with change of topic, what we’re talking about. Many people interested in conceptual engineering have claimed that there is also meaning change where topic is (...) retained. For example, they claim that the meanings of ‘fish’ and ‘pasta’ have undergone such change and that the meaning of 'marriage' would change this way after gay marriages become legal and widely accepted. In this paper I relate two sets of relatively independent literatures: mainstream philosophy of language and conceptual engineering to argue that on a plausible and widely accepted Minimalist view of meaning that is part and parcel of anti-descriptivism none of the above sorts of cases involve meaning change with topic retention. I do this by showing how to distinguish minimalism about meaning from the related theses of externalism and anti-individualism about intension and how to separate meaning from intension in a way that allows meaning and topic to remain the same despite changes in intension. The larger lesson is that much like we shouldn’t disregard the boundary between the narrowly meaning-related (“semantics”) and the more broadly communication-related (“pragmatics”), we shouldn’t disregard the boundary between the former and the more broadly thought-related, conceptual or cognitive (“cognition”). (shrink)
If we want to retain classical logic and standard syntax in light of the liar, we are forced to restrict the T-schema. The traditional philosophical justification for this is sentential – liar sentences somehow malfunction. But the standard formal way of implementing this is conditional, our T-sentences tell us that if “p” does not malfunction, then “p” is true if and only if p. Recently Bacon and others have pointed out that conditional T-restrictions like this flirt with incoherence. If we (...) want to keep the “malfunction” motivation, our only other option is to non-conditionally restrict the T-schema, but Field and others have given powerful philosophical and technical arguments against this kind of approach. Here I argue that if we really take the philosophical motivation for restricting T-sentences seriously, we can explain why conditional restrictions fail, answer Field's argument, and reason in a coherent way about truth using a non-conditional restriction strategy. This cracks the door open for a fully classical response to the liar and related paradoxes. In closing, I argue that, when properly understood, this kind of “restriction” is not really a restriction at all. If this is right, then the holy grail of liar studies (classical logic, naïve truth, and standard syntax) may yet be attainable. (Note for readers: when this paper was first put online, the typesetters had changed some instances of corners to brackets, leading to confusion. The paper has now been corrected online by PPR, so please make sure you have the corrected version before reading or citing.). (shrink)
We start with the ambition -- dating back to the early days of the semantic web -- of assembling a significant portion human knowledge into a contradiction-free form using semantic web technology. We argue that this would not be desirable, because there are concepts, known as essentially contested concepts, whose definitions are contentious due to deep-seated ethical disagreements. Further, we argue that the ninetenth century hermeneutical tradition has a great deal to say, both about the ambition, and about why it (...) fails. We conclude with some remarks about statistics. (shrink)
A common framing has it that any adequate treatment of quotation has to abandon one of the following three principles: (i) The quoted expression is a syntactic constituent of the quote phrase; (ii) If two expressions are derived by applying the same syntactic rule to a sequence of synonymous expressions, then they are synonymous; (iii) The language contains synonymous but distinct expressions. In the following, a formal syntax and semantics will be provided for a quotational language which adheres to all (...) three principles. The point here is not merely to provide a “possibility proof”, but to reveal the hard constraints on the theory of quotation, and to highlight certain assumptions at the syntax/semantics/post-semantics interfaces. (shrink)
The paper aims to add contextual dependence to the new directival theory of meaning, a functional role semantics based on Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz’s directival theory of meaning. We show that the original formulation of the theory does not have a straight answer on how the meaning of indexicals and demonstratives is established. We illustrate it in the example of some problematic axiomatic and inferential directives containing indexicals. We show that the main reason why developing the new directival theory of meaning in (...) this direction is difficult is that the theory focuses on the notion of a sentence (and not the notion of an utterance). To add the latter notion to the theory, we introduce the idea of admissible contextual distribution being an interpretation of the hybrid expression view on indexicals and demonstratives. We argue that this idea introduces a small but important modification to the concept of language matrix and gives way to define two distinct concepts of meaning: for an expression type and for a use of an expression type. (shrink)
The meanings of words seem to change over time. But while there is a growing body of literature in linguistics and philosophy about meaning change, there has been little discussion about the metaphysical underpinnings of meaning change. The central aim of this paper is to push this discussion forward by surveying the terrain and advocating for a particular metaphysical picture. In so doing, we hope to clarify various aspects of the nature of meaning change, as well as prompt future philosophical (...) investigation into this topic. More specifically, this paper has two parts. The first, broadly exploratory, part surveys various metaphysical accounts of meaning change. The goal here is to lay out the terrain, thereby highlighting some key choice points. Then, in the second part, after critiquing Prosser’s (Philosophy Phenomenol Res 100(3):657–676, 2020) exdurantism about ‘mental files’, we sketch and defend the enduring senses view of meaning change. (shrink)
Our everyday practices are meaningful in several ways. In addition to the linguistic meanings of our terms and sentences, we attach social meanings to actions and statuses. Philosophy of language and public debates often focus on contesting morally and politically pernicious linguistic practices. My aim is to show that this is too little: even if we are only interested in morally and politically problematic terms, we must counteract a pernicious linguistic practice on many levels, especially on the level of its (...) underlying social meanings. Otherwise, the critique of specific words as the most salient fruits of this practice will be futile. I trace out two paths through which pernicious social meanings feed into linguistic meanings and make the case for constructive contestations of social meanings as an alternative to criticising the use of a few highly pernicious terms in which these social meanings are manifest. My investigation into how social structures shape both social and linguistic meanings sheds further light on the ways in which social meanings enter linguistic exchanges. Moreover, it reveals that what is said in specific situations is more closely connected to our non-verbal actions than the current literature on semantics and the social sciences allows. (shrink)
There is an important analogy between languages and games. Just as a scoresheet records features of the evolution of a game to determine the effect of a move in that game, a conversational score records features of the evolution of a conversation to determine the effect of the linguistic moves that speakers make. Chess is particularly interesting for the study of conversational dynamics because it has language-like notations, and so serves as a simplified study in how the effect of an (...) assertion depends on, as well as evolves, the scoreboard. In this paper, we offer a compositional semantics for chess notation and a simple formal picture for determining the full information conveyed by an entry. We will also discuss an alternative model resembling accounts of centered assertion. (shrink)
Various theorists contend that we may live in a computer simulation. David Chalmers in turn argues that the simulation hypothesis is a metaphysical hypothesis about the nature of our reality, rather than a sceptical scenario. We use recent work on consciousness to motivate new doubts about both sets of arguments. First, we argue that if either panpsychism or panqualityism is true, then the only way to live in a simulation may be as brains-in-vats, in which case it is unlikely that (...) we live in a simulation. We then argue that if panpsychism or panqualityism is true, then viable simulation hypotheses are substantially sceptical scenarios. We conclude that the nature of consciousness has wide-ranging implications for simulation arguments. (shrink)
The paper discusses the answering machine puzzle and cases of non-standard uses of ‘I’. It offers an analysis of the phenomena that is conservative with respect to the Kaplanian account of indexicality. The point of departure of the paper is the observation that some proper indexicals have demonstrative uses. It is argued that treating some occurrences of ‘now’ as cases of such uses results in an intuitive and simple solution to the answering machine puzzle. At the same time, treating some (...) occurrences of ‘I’ in an analogous manner explains away the impression that some non-standard uses of ‘I’ enforce a modification of the standard semantics of the first-person pronoun. (shrink)
This book (in Italian) provides an introduction to the debate about the distinction between semantics and pragmatics, starting with the work of Paul Grice, and touching on some of the most important authors and theories in the literature, including truth-conditional pragmatics, semantic minimalism, indexical and non-indexical contextualism.
Slurs are pejorative expressions that derogate individuals or groups on the basis of their gender, race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation and so forth. In the constantly growing literature on slurs, it has become customary to appeal to so-called “neutral counterparts” for explaining the extension and truth-conditional content of slurring terms. More precisely, it is commonly assumed that every slur shares its extension and literal content with a non-evaluative counterpart term. I think this assumption is unwarranted and, in this paper, I (...) shall present two arguments against it. (i) A careful comparison of slurs with complex or thick group-referencing pejoratives lacking neutral counterparts shows that these are in fact very hard to distinguish. (ii) Slurs lack the referential stability of their alleged neutral counterparts, which suggests that they are not coreferential. Developing (ii) will involve introducing a new concept which I regard as essential for understanding how slurs behave in natural language: referential flexibility. I shall support my claims by looking at historical and current ways in which slurs and other pejorative terms are used, and I shall argue that both etymological data and new empirical data support the conclusion that the assumption of neutral counterparts not only is unwarranted but obscures our understanding of what slurs are, and what speakers do with them. (shrink)
We aim to develop a take on the meaning of works of art that builds on Dennett’s view on the nature of intentionality, namely, that the intentionality exhibited by mental phenomena is not original, but derived. Regarding the meaning of works of art, theories that hold that the meaning is determined by the intentions of the author when creating the work are considered intentionalist. Adopting the view of derived intentionality implies that it is no longer possible to maintain that the (...) semantic content of a work of art is closely linked to the creative act that gave rise to it; accordingly, intentionalist theories should be, broadly speaking, abandoned. However, we claim that one aspect of intentionalist theories is accurate and, moreover, compatible with the perspective on intentionality we adopt: The fact that part of the meaning of a work of art is given by the interpretations that arise when it is assumed that the work was produced by an agent with the purpose of transmitting something. We call this interpretative strategy the work-of-art stance and argue that it should be understood as a subtype of the intentional stance. According to our proposal, this interpretive strategy is part of a view that tries to explain the meaning of works of art as partially indeterminate, relative to a history (and not to a foundational origin) and dependent on interpretive attribution. En este artículo elaboramos una propuesta sobre el significado de las obras de arte que se apoya en la perspectiva de Dennett acerca de la naturaleza de la intencionalidad de los fenómenos mentales. De acuerdo a ella, la intencionalidad que estos exhiben no es original, sino derivada. Adoptar la perspectiva de la intencionalidad derivada implica que ya no será posible sostener que el significado de una obra de arte esté vinculado al acto creativo que le dio origen o que esté determinado por las intenciones que tuvo su autor al crearlas, como han sostenido las teorías intencionalistas. Ahora bien, creemos que hay un aspecto de estas que no es incompatible con la perspectiva de intencionalidad derivada. Se trata del hecho de que parte del significado de la obra de arte está dado por las interpretaciones que surgen sólo cuando se asume que la misma fue producida por un agente con el propósito de transmitir algo. Llamaremos a esta estrategia interpretativa actitud de la obra de arte y defenderemos que debe ser entendida como un subtipo de la actitud intencional. Esta estrategia interpretativa forma parte de una propuesta que intenta explicar el significado de las obras de arte como siendo parcialmente indeterminado, relativo a una historia y dependiente de la atribución interpretativa. (shrink)
Abstract Impossible fictions have lessons to teach us about linguistic representation, about mental content and concepts, and about uses of conceivability in epistemology. An adequate theory of impossible fictions may require theories of meaning that can distinguish between different impossibilities; a theory of conceptual truth that allows us to make useful sense of a variety of conceptual falsehoods; and a theory of our understanding of necessity and possibility that permits impossibilities to be conceived. After discussing these questions, strategies for resisting (...) the picture of impossible fictions presented here and in Part I are discussed. Perhaps apparently impossible fictions describe possibilities after all; or perhaps impossible fictions are all trivial; or perhaps some apparently intelligible impossible fictions are unintelligible after all. (shrink)
What is the relationship between conceptual engineering and metasemantic externalism? Sally Haslanger has argued that metasemantic externalism justifies the seemingly counterintuitive consequences of her proposed conceptual revisions. But according to Herman Cappelen, metasemantic externalism makes conceptual engineering effectively impossible in practice. After raising objections to Haslanger’s and Cappelen’s views, I argue for a very different picture, on which metasemantic externalism bears very little on conceptual engineering. I argue that, while metasemantic externalism principally operates at the level of semantic-meaning, we should (...) understand conceptual engineering to operate largely at the level of speaker-meaning. This ‘Speaker-Meaning Picture’ has two key benefits. Firstly, it makes conceptual engineering often easy in practice. Secondly, it suggests a new, normative response to the well known objection that conceptual engineering serves only to change the subject. (shrink)
Life’s meaning is a deeply important yet perplexing topic. It is often unclear what people are talking about when they talk about life having “meaning”. This paper attempts to clarify things by articulating a schema for understanding claims about meaning. It defends a theory according to which X means Y iff Y is a correct interpretation of X—i.e., if Y is a correct answer to an interpretive question, Z. I argue that this (perhaps surprising) claim has impressive explanatory power. Applying (...) this schema to life explains the many ways in which people seem to think and talk about life’s meaning, and common claims in the philosophical literature. It also makes sense of empirical findings from psychological research on perceived meaning in life. (shrink)
Hilary Putnam spent much of his career criticizing the fact/value dichotomy, and this became apparent already during the phase when he defended internal realism. He later changed his epistemological and metaphysical view by endorsing natural realism, with the consequence of embracing alethic pluralism, the idea that truth works differently in various discourse domains. Despite these changes of mind in epistemology and in theory of truth, Putnam went on criticizing the fact/value dichotomy. However, alethic pluralism entails drawing distinctions among discourse domains, (...) especially between factual and nonfactual domains, and these distinctions are in tension with the rejection of the fact/value dichotomy, as this would in principle hinder factual domains as genuine. This issue raises, prima facie, some doubts about the effective compatibility of these views. (shrink)
I offer an interpretation of Carnap and Quine’s views on cognitive significance and insignificance. The basic idea behind their views is as follows: to judge an expression is insignificant is to recommend it not be used in or explicated into languages used to express truth-valued judgments in inquiry; to judge an expression is significant is to recommend it be used in or explicated into such languages. These judgments are pragmatic judgments, made in light of purposes for language use in inquiry. (...) For Carnap at least, these pragmatic judgments are non-cognitive. This basic idea is only a roughly correct statement of their views. This is because the details of the scientific languages they recommend for inquiry are necessary to understand their views and the way they understand their own views. Even so, I offer two reasons to suggest that this basic idea is worthy of our consideration today. First, it provides a conception of significance that captures the natural thought that epistemological concerns can lead us to consider expressions to be insignificant without requiring an objectionable form of verificationism. Second, if we appeal also to Carnap and Quine’s pluralistic attitude toward explication, we can make a pragmatic judgment that an expression is insignificant while judging it to be significant on a distinct explication of significance fit for describing and explaining natural language. (shrink)
Many have accepted that ordinary counterfactuals and might counterfactuals are duals. In this paper, I show that this thesis leads to paradoxical results when combined with a few different unorthodox yet increasingly popular theses, including the thesis that counterfactuals are strict conditionals. Given Duality and several other theses, we can quickly infer the validity of another paradoxical principle, ‘The Counterfactual Direct Argument’, which says that ‘A> ’ entails ‘A> ’. First, I provide a collapse theorem for the ‘counterfactual direct argument’. (...) The counterfactual direct argument entails the logical equivalence of the subjunctive and material conditional, given a variety of assumptions. Second, I provide a semantics that validates the counterfactual direct argument without collapse. This theory further develops extant dynamic accounts of conditionals. I give a new semantics for disjunction, on which A or B is only true in a context when A and B are both unsettled. The resulting framework validates CDA while invalidating other commonly accepted principles concerning the conditional and disjunction. (shrink)
Free Choice is the principle that possibly p or q implies and is implied by possibly p and possibly q. A variety of recent attempts to validate Free Choice rely on a nonclassical semantics for disjunction, where the meaning of p or q is not a set of possible worlds. This paper begins with a battery of impossibility results, showing that some kind of nonclassical semantics for disjunction is required in order to validate Free Choice. The paper then provides a (...) positive account of Free Choice, by identifying a family of dynamic semantics for disjunction that can validate the inference. On all such theories, the meaning of p or q has two parts. First, p or q requires that our information is consistent with each of p and q. Second, p or q narrows down our information by eliminating some worlds. It turns out that this second component of or is well behaved: there is a strongest such meaning that p or q can express, consistent with validating Free Choice. The strongest such meaning is the classical one, on which p or q eliminates any world where both p and q are false. In this way, the classical meaning of disjunction turns out to be intimately related to the validity of Free Choice. (shrink)
Expressivists about epistemic modals deny that ‘Jane might be late’ canonically serves to express the speaker’s acceptance of a certain propositional content. Instead, they hold that it expresses a lack of acceptance. Prominent expressivists embrace pragmatic expressivism: the doxastic property expressed by a declarative is not helpfully identified with that sentence’s compositional semantic value. Against this, we defend semantic expressivism about epistemic modals: the semantic value of a declarative from this domain is the property of doxastic attitudes it canonically serves (...) to express. In support, we synthesize data from the critical literature on expressivism—largely reflecting interactions between modals and disjunctions—and present a semantic expressivism that readily predicts the data. This contrasts with salient competitors, including: pragmatic expressivism based on domain semantics or dynamic semantics; semantic expressivism à la Moss ; and the bounded relational semantics of Mandelkern . (shrink)
My goal in this short paper is to introduce a dilemma regarding the pronouns ‘ she ’, ‘ he ’, and their various declensions. This dilemma arises from the practice, common in the English speaking world and especially the USA, of letting people choose their own pronouns. And as will become apparent at the end of this paper, I want to suggest that this dilemma might be unique to the English language.
The most popular and influential strategies used against semantic externalism and the causal theory of reference are critically examined. It is argued that upon closer scrutiny, none of them emerges as truly convincing.
Objective. Conceptualization of the definition of space as a semantic unit of language consciousness. -/- Materials & Methods. A structural-ontological approach is used in the work, the methodology of which has been tested and applied in order to analyze the subject matter area of psychology, psycholinguistics and other social sciences, as well as in interdisciplinary studies of complex systems. Mathematical representations of space as a set of parallel series of events (Alexandrov) were used as the initial theoretical basis of the (...) structural-ontological analysis. In this case, understanding of an event was considered in the context of the definition adopted in computer science – a change in the object properties registered by the observer. -/- Results. The negative nature of space realizes itself in the subject-object structure, the components interaction of which is characterized by a change – a key property of the system under study. Observer’s registration of changes is accompanied by spatial focusing (situational concretization of the field of changes) and relating of its results with the field of potentially distinguishable changes (subjective knowledge about «changing world»). The indicated correlation performs the function of space identification in terms of recognizing its properties and their subjective significance, depending on the features of the observer`s motivational sphere. As a result, the correction of the actual affective dynamics of the observer is carried out, which structures the current perception of space according to principle of the semantic fractal. Fractalization is a formation of such a subjective perception of space, which supposes the establishment of semantic accordance between the situational field of changes, on the one hand, and the worldview, as well as the motivational characteristics of the observer, on the other. -/- Conclusions. Performed structural-ontological analysis of the system formed by the interaction of the perceptual function of the psyche and the semantic field of the language made it possible to conceptualize the space as a field of changes potentially distinguishable by the observer, structurally organized according to the principle of the semantic fractal. The compositional features of the fractalization process consist in fact that the semantic fractal of space is relevant to the product of the difference between the situational field of changes and the field of potentially distinguishable changes, adjusted by the current configuration of the observer`s value-needs hierarchy and reduced by his actual affective dynamics. (shrink)
What words we use, and what meanings they have, is important. We shouldn't use slurs; we should use 'rape' to include spousal rape (for centuries we didn’t); we should have a word which picks out the sexual harassment suffered by people in the workplace and elsewhere (for centuries we didn’t). Sometimes we need to change the word-meaning pairs in circulation, either by getting rid of the pair completely (slurs), changing the meaning (as we did with 'rape'), or adding brand new (...) word-meaning pairs (as with 'sexual harassment'). A problem, though, is how to do this. One might worry that any attempt to change language in this way will lead to widespread miscommunication and confusion. I argue that this is indeed so, but that's a feature, not a bug of attempting to change word-meaning pairs. The miscommunications and confusion such changes cause can lead us, via a process I call transformative communicative disruption, to reflect on our language and its use, and this can be further, rather than hinder, our goal of improving language. (shrink)
Here I defend dispositionalism about meaning and rule-following from Kripkenstein's infamous anti-dispositionalist arguments. The problems of finitude, error, and normativity are all addressed. The general lesson I draw is that Kripkenstein's arguments trade on an overly simplistic version of dispositionalism.
I argue that the ability to compute phrase structure grammars is indicative of a particular kind of thought. This type of thought that is only available to cognitive systems that have access to the computations that allow the generation and interpretation of the structural descriptions of phrase structure grammars. The study of phrase structure grammars, and formal language theory in general, is thus indispensable to studies of human cognition, for it makes explicit both the unique type of human thought and (...) the underlying mechanisms in virtue of which this thought is made possible. (shrink)
This paper explores the relationship between dynamic and truth conditional semantics for epistemic modals. It provides a generalization of a standard dynamic update semantics for modals. This new semantics derives a Kripke semantics for modals and a standard dynamic semantics for modals as special cases. The semantics allows for new characterizations of a variety of principles in modal logic, including the inconsistency of ‘p and might not p’. Finally, the semantics provides a construction procedure for transforming any truth conditional semantics (...) for modals into a dynamic semantics for modals with similar properties. (shrink)
This paper argues that we need to re-think the semantics/pragmatics distinction in the light of new evidence from embedding of irony. This raises a new version of the old problem of ‘embedded implicatures’. I argue that embedded irony isn’t fully explained by solutions proposed for other embedded implicatures. I first consider two strategies: weak pragmatics and strong pragmatics. These explain embedded irony as truth-conditional content. However, by trying to shoehorn irony into said-content, they raise problems of their own. I conclude (...) by considering how a modified Gricean model can explain that irony embeds qua implicature. This leads us to prefer a local implicature model. This has important consequences for how we draw the semantics/pragmatics distinction. (shrink)
The main purpose of the paper is to outline the formal-logical, general theory of language treated as a particular ontological being. The theory itself is called the ontology of language, because it is motivated by the fact that the language plays a special role: it reflects ontology and ontology reflects the world. Language expressions are considered to have a dual ontological status. They are understood as either concretes, that is tokens – material, physical objects, or types – classes of tokens, (...) which are abstract objects. Such a duality is taken into account in the presented logical theory of syntax, semantics and pragmatics. We point to the possibility of building it on two different levels; one which stems from concretes, language tokens of expressions, whereas the other one – from their classes, types conceived as abstract, ideal beings. The aim of this work is not only to outline this theory as taking into account the functional approach to language, with respect to the dual ontological nature of its expressions, but also to show that the logic based on it is ontologically neutral in the sense that it abstracts from accepting some existential assumptions, related with the ontological nature of these linguistic expressions and their extra-linguistic ontological counterparts (objects). (shrink)
Certain passages in Kaplan’s ‘Demonstratives’ are often taken to show that non-vacuous sentential operators associated with a certain parameter of sentential truth require a corresponding relativism concerning assertoric contents: namely, their truth values also must vary with that parameter. Thus, for example, the non-vacuity of a temporal sentential operator ‘always’ would require some of its operands to have contents that have different truth values at different times. While making no claims about Kaplan’s intentions, we provide several reconstructions of how such (...) an argument might go, focusing on the case of time and temporal operators as an illustration. What we regard as the most plausible reconstruction of the argument establishes a conclusion similar enough to that attributed to Kaplan. However, the argument overgenerates, leading to absurd consequences. We conclude that we must distinguish assertoric contents from compositional semantic values, and argue that once they are distinguished, the argument fails to establish any substantial conclusions. We also briefly discuss a related argument commonly attributed to Lewis, and a recent variant due to Weber. (shrink)
By creating certain marks on paper, or by making certain sounds-breathing past a moving tongue-or by articulation of hands and bodies, language users can give expression to their mental lives. With language we command, assert, query, emote, insult, and inspire. Language has meaning. This fact can be quite mystifying, yet a science of linguistic meaning-semantics-has emerged at the intersection of a variety of disciplines: philosophy, linguistics, computer science, and psychology. Semantics is the study of meaning. But what exactly is "meaning"? (...) What is the exact target of semantic theory? Much of the early work in natural language semantics was accompanied by extensive reflection on the aims of semantic theory, and the form a theory must take to meet those aims. But this meta-theoretical reflection has not kept pace with recent theoretical innovations. This volume re-addresses these questions concerning the foundations of natural language semantics in light of the current state-of-the-art in semantic theorising. (shrink)
Recording devices are generally taken to present problems for the standard Kaplanian semantics for indexicals. In this paper, I argue that the remote utterance view offers the best way for the Kaplanian semantics to handle the recalcitrant data that comes from the use of recording devices. Following Sidelle I argue that recording devices allow agents to perform utterances at a distance. Using the essential, but widely ignored, distinction between tokens and utterances, I develop the view beyond the initial sketch given (...) by Sidelle, and I answer the main objections raised against the view. The paper is structured as follows. Section 1 gives a succinct presentation of Kaplanian semantics and of the problem raised by the use recording devices, Section 2 presents the remote utterance view and Section 3 answers the objections put forward against the view and further develops it. I conclude that the remote utterance view can handle the data that comes from the use of recording devices with only modest modifications of the Kaplanian semantics. (shrink)
Back in the Good Old Days of Logical Positivism, theories of meaning were part of a normative project that sought not merely to describe the features of language and its use, but so to speak to separate the wheat from the chaff. In this paper, I side with Herman Cappelen (2013) in thinking that we need to rethink and reintroduce the important distinction between sense and nonsense that was ditched along with other normative aspirations during Logical Positivism’s spectacular demise. Despite (...) this, my delineation of the bounds of sense is different from Cappelen’s. One of my goals in the present paper is to argue that category mistakes are paradigmatic examples of nonsensical sentences. To this end I describe one candidate for what it might be that makes category mistakes nonsensical. (shrink)
According to a widespread picture due to Kaplan, there are two levels of semantic value: character and content. Character is determined by the grammar, and it determines content with respect to context. In this chapter Recanati criticizes that picture on several grounds. He shows that we need more than two levels, and rejects the determination thesis: that linguistic meaning as determined by grammar determines content. Grammatical meaning does not determine assertoric content, he argues, but merely constrains it — speaker’s meaning (...) necessarily comes into play. On the alternative picture he offers, there are four basic levels, only one of which is determined by the grammar. Pragmatics is what enables the transition from each level to the next. (shrink)
I propose a pragmatic approach to the kind of reference-shifting occurring in indexicals as used in e.g. written notes and answering machine messages. I proceed in two steps. First, I prepare the ground by showing that the arguments against such a pragmatic approach raised in the recent literature fail. Second, I take a first few steps towards implementing this approach, by sketching a pragmatic theory of reference-shifting, and showing how it can handle cases of the relevant kind. While the immediate (...) scope of the paper is restricted to indexicals and reference-shifting, and the discussion is confined to a specific range of theories and cases, the approach proposed is compatible with a fairly broad range of more or less semantically conservative theories, and many of the conclusions drawn are significant for the evaluation of pragmatic explanations in philosophy more generally. The overall goal is to offer a new perspective on the issues under discussion, and to prompt philosophers to reconsider some of the established methods by which pragmatic explanations are evaluated. (shrink)
This paper excavates a debate concerning the claims of ordinary language philosophers that took place during the middle of the last century. The debate centers on the status of statements about ‘what we say’. On one side of the debate, critics of ordinary language philosophy argued that statements about ‘what we say’ should be evaluated as empirical observations about how people do in fact speak, on a par with claims made in the language sciences. By that standard, ordinary language philosophers (...) were not entitled to the claims that they made about what we would say about various topics. On the other side of the debate, defenders of the methods of ordinary language philosophy sought to explain how philosophers can be entitled to statements about what we would say without engaging in extensive observations of how people do in fact use language. In this paper, I defend the idea that entitlement to claims about what we say can be had in a way that doesn’t require empirical observation, and I argue that ordinary language philosophers are engaged in a different project than linguists or empirically minded philosophers of language, which is subject to different conditions of success. (shrink)
Charles S. Peirce’s semiotics uniquely divides signs into: i) symbols, which pick out their objects by arbitrary convention or habit, ii) indices, which pick out their objects by unmediated ‘pointing’, and iii) icons, which pick out their objects by resembling them (as Peirce put it: an icon’s parts are related in the same way that the objects represented by those parts are themselves related). Thus representing structure is one of the icon’s greatest strengths. It is argued that the implications of (...) scaffolding education iconically are profound: for providing learners with a navigable road-map of a subject matter, for enabling them to see further connections of their own in what is taught, and for supporting meaningful active learning. Potential objections that iconic teaching is excessively entertaining and overly susceptible to misleading rhetorical manipulation are addressed. (shrink)
Статтю присвячено дослідженню змістової складової такого специфічного мовленнєвого жанру як Нобелівська лекція. Увагу зосереджено на проблемно-тематичних характеристиках англомовних лекцій, які були прочитані лауреатами в галузі літератури. Проаналізовано чинники, що впливають на зміст лекції. Встановлено взаємозв’язок між темою доповіді та офіційним обґрунтуванням нагороди членами Шведської академії.
Why are we saddled with Eurocentric Interpretation, which results in the depiction of Nonwestern thought as religious, and bereft of serious moral theory, while the history of European thought is depicted as the content of secular reason? Interpretation as a mode of explanation is part and parcel with the dominant account of thought originating in Europe as the meaning of language. Interpretation is imperialistic. As it spreads, so too does the European outlook, rendering anything deviant inexplicable and mysterious. Orthodox Indology, (...) with its emphasis on linguistics and philology, is a product of this tradition. In contrast, the idea that language encodes thought as its meaning is controversial in the Chinese and Indian traditions. (shrink)
Complete information dispositional metasemantics says that our expressions get their meaning in virtue of what our dispositions to apply those terms would be given complete information. The view has recently been advanced and argued to have a number of attractive features. I argue that that it threatens to make the meanings of our words indeterminate and doesn’t do what it was that made a dispositional view attractive in the first place.
It has been argued by many authors that sentences fail to express full-blown propositions: a phenomenon known as semantic underdeterminacy. In some cases, this thesis is accompanied by a conception of thought as fully propositional. This implies that sentences fail to fully express our thoughts. Against this, I argue that many thoughts can be fully expressed by sentences, where by ‘fully expressed’ I mean encoded by a sentence plus minimal contextual information. These are thoughts that may be characterized as less (...) than fully propositional. I provide examples of such thoughts and argue that they plausibly constitute a non-negligible part of our mental life. As I show, these thoughts can be fully expressed by sentences that fail to express full-blown propositions. So it is not the case that sentences even generally fail to fully express our thoughts. (shrink)