There are several linguistic phenomena that, when examined closely, give evidence that people speak through characters, much like authors of literary works do, in everyday discourse. However, most approaches in linguistics and in the philosophy of language leave little theoretical room for the appearance of characters in discourse. In particular, there is no linguistic criterion found to date, which can mark precisely what stretch of discourse within an utterance belongs to a character, and to which character. And yet, without at (...) least tentatively marking the division of labor between the different characters in an utterance, it is absolutely impossible to arrive at an acceptable interpretation of it. As an alternative, I propose to take character use seriously, as an essential feature of discourse in general, a feature speakers and listeners actively seek out in utterances. I offer a simple typology of actions in discourse that draws on this understanding, and demonstrate its usefulness for the analysis of a conversation transcript. (shrink)
The material account of indicative conditionals faces a legion of counterexamples that are the bread and butter in any entry about the subject. For this reason, the material account is widely unpopular among conditional experts. I will argue that this consensus was not built on solid foundations, since these counterexamples are contextual fallacies. They ignore a basic tenet of semantics according to which when evaluating arguments for validity we need to maintain the context constant, otherwise any argumentative form can be (...) rendered invalid. If we maintain the context fixed, the counterexamples to the material account are disarmed. Throughout the paper I also consider the ramifications of this defence, make suggestions to prevent contextual fallacies, and anticipate some possible misunderstandings and objections. (shrink)
This paper advances the following criticisms against the received view of implicatures: (1) implicatures are relations of pragmatic implication and not attempts to convey particular speaker meanings; (2) conversational implicatures are non-cancellable; (3) generalised conversational implicatures and conventional implicatures are necessary to preserve the cooperative assumption employing a conversational maxim of conveyability; (4) implicatures should be divided into utterance implicatures and assumption implicatures, not speaker implicatures and sentence implicatures; (5) trivial implicatures are genuine implicatures; (6) Grice’s theory of conversation cannot (...) explain most of his examples of particularised conversational implicatures; (7) the apparent attempts of explicit cancellation of implicatures are apologies, not attempts to avoid misunderstandings. (shrink)
The material account proposes that indicative conditionals are material, but it is widely believed that this account cannot be applied to subjunctive conditionals. There are three reasons for this consensus: (1) the concern that most subjunctive conditionals would be vacuously true if they were material, which seems implausible; (2) the inconsistency with Adams pair, which suggests that indicative and subjunctive conditionals have different truth conditions; and (3) the belief that the possible world theories are a superior alternative to the material (...) account. In this paper, I will argue against (1) by showing that the counterintuitive aspects of vacuously true conditionals can be explained away in a consistent manner, regardless of whether they are indicative or subjunctive. I will support this argument by demonstrating that the positive arguments for the material account of indicatives also apply to subjunctives. I will counter (2) by explaining the Adams pair as logically equivalent conditionals that may be appropriate at different times, depending on the speaker’s epistemic situation. Finally, I will challenge (3) by arguing that the possible world account faces insurmountable issues and that a comprehensive material account of both indicatives and subjunctives is ultimately a more elegant solution. (shrink)
According to the principle of presupposition, in affirmative propositions, whose subject is the impossible being by essence, it is necessary for the subject to be realized, which is impossible. It seems that a good solution to this problem is considering uncertain categorical propositions as conditional ones. However, Muslim philosophers, particularly Mulla Sadra, believe that although uncertain propositions are coextensive with conditional ones, their logical structure is a categorial one.It seems that their most important reason for opposing equating conditional and uncertain (...) propositions with each other is their believing in mental existence, and that one of the most important proofs for demonstrating this existence is based on the idea that subjectless propositions are categorial. (shrink)
Together, the code and inferential models of communication are often thought to range over all cases of communication. However, their prevailing versions seem unable to fully explain what I call underdeterminacy without ostension. The latter is constituted by communication where stimuli that are not (nor appear to be) produced with communicative or informative intentions nevertheless communicate information underdetermined by the relevant codes. Though the prevailing accounts of communication cannot fully explain how communication works in such cases, I suggest that some (...) version of the inferential model can—if we allow it to extend to non‐ostensive, non‐intentional behaviors. (shrink)
I propose an account of the speech act of prediction that denies that the contents of prediction must be about the future and illuminates the relation between prediction and assertion. My account is a synthesis of two ideas: (i) that what is in the future in prediction is the time of discovery and (ii) that, as Benton and Turri recently argued, prediction is best characterized in terms of its constitutive norms.
Joint attention occurs when two (or more) individuals attend together to some object. It has been identified by psychologists as an early form of our joint engagement, and is thought to provide us with an understanding of other minds that is basic in that sophisticated conceptual resources are not involved. Accordingly, it has also attracted the interest of philosophers. Moreover, a very recent trend in the psychological and philosophical literature on joint attention consists of developing the suggestion that it holds (...) partially in virtue of communication: it is because we share our thoughts or feelings about an object that our individual attention becomes joint. This paper unpacks the communicative suggestion in a way that accounts for joint attention's basicness. (shrink)
I summarize several of the main claims, arguments, and innovations in Stojnić's 2021 book. I then take issue with her foundational view, on which both the context of a conversation and the contents of context-sensitive expressions are wholly fixed by the history of a conversation together with grammatical rules.
Speakers assert in order to communicate information. It is natural, therefore, to hold that the content of an assertion is whatever information it communicates to its audience. In cases involving uncertainty about the semantic values of context-sensitive lexical items, moreover, it is natural to hold that the information an assertion communicates to its audience is whatever information audience members are in a position to recover from it by assuming that the proposition it semantically determines is true. This sort of picture (...) corresponds to an influential and widely endorsed theory of assertoric content: diagonalism. I begin by arguing that, despite its intuitive appeal, diagonalism should be rejected because it conflicts with our intuitive judgments about the circumstances in which the contents of speakers’ assertions would be true or false. I then show that the failure of diagonalism requires us to either abandon a familiar way of thinking about information and rational assertion or hold that the content of an assertion is not always the information it communicates. I suggest that we choose the latter horn of this dilemma — assertoric content is better characterized in terms of the commitments speakers undertake than in terms of the information they communicate. (shrink)
This chapter covers some of Robert Brandom’s contributions to our understanding of communication. Topics discussed include his theory of discursive practice, his inferential semantics, his scorekeeping pragmatics, his views on the “transmission” model of communication, and his semantic perspectivism. I compare his scorekeeping pragmatic theory to other kinds of pragmatic theories, and I argue that his semantic perspectivism can be understood as a global indexical relativism.
This paper argues, based on Lewis’ claim that communication is a coordination game (Lewis in Minnesota studies in the philosophy of science, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, pp 3–35, 1975), that we can account for the communicative function of demonstratives without assuming that they semantically refer. The appeal of such a game theoretical version of the case for non-referentialism is that the communicative role of demonstratives can be accounted for without entering the cul de sac of trying to construct conventions (...) of ever-increasing complexity. Instead communication via demonstratives is explained with reference to the general, non-domain specific ability of human beings to solve games of coordination. Furthermore, there is empirical support for such a view. Judgments concerning demonstrative reference have been shown to be sensitive to judgments concerning common ground (Clark et al. in J Verb Learn Verb Behav 22:245–258, 1983), which is exactly what the non-referentialist account would predict. The game theoretical account also allows for an intuitively plausible, non-referentialist treatment of Speaks’ ‘trumping argument’ (Speaks in Philos Stud 174:709–734, 2017), as well as the Carnap/Agnew puzzle (Kaplan in Syntax Semant 9:221–43, 1970). (shrink)
A speaker’s use of a sentence does more than contribute a content to a conversation. It also expresses the speaker’s attitude. This essay is about which attitude or attitudes are expressed by using an interrogative sentence to ask a question. With reference to eight lines of data about how questions are circulated in conversation, it is argued that a desire to know the question’s answer(s) is expressed.
A conviction had by many Christians over many centuries is that natural language is inadequate for describing God. This is the doctrine of divine ineffability. Apophaticism understands divine ineffability as it being justified or proper to negate statements that describe God. This paper develops and defends a version of apophaticism in which the negation involved is metalinguistic. The interest of this metalinguistic apophaticism is two-fold. First, it provides a philosophical model of historical apophaticisms that shows their rational coherence. Second, metalinguistic (...) apophaticism enables a minimal understanding of ineffability that is independently plausible given its minor commitments. (shrink)
Moore’s paradox, the infamous felt bizarreness of sincerely uttering something of the form “I believe grass is green, but it ain’t”—has attracted a lot of attention since its original discovery (Moore 1942). It is often taken to be a paradox of belief—in the sense that the locus of the inconsistency is the beliefs of someone who so sincerely utters. This claim has been labeled as the priority thesis: If you have an explanation of why a putative content could not be (...) coherently believed, you thereby have an explanation of why it cannot be coherently asserted. (Shoemaker 1995). The priority thesis, however, is insufficient to give a general explanation of Moore-paradoxical phenomena and, moreover, it’s false. I demonstrate this, then show how to give a commitment-theoretic account of Moore Paradoxicality, drawing on work by Bach and Harnish. The resulting account has the virtue of explaining not only cases of pragmatic incoherence involving assertions, but also cases of cognate incoherence arising for other speech acts, such as promising, guaranteeing, ordering, and the like. (shrink)
A lot of subordinating speech has moved online, which raises several questions for philosophers. Can current accounts of oppressive speech adequately capture digital hate? How does the anonymity of online harassers contribute to the force of their speech? This paper examines online abuse and argues that standard accounts of licensing and accommodation are not up to the task of explaining the authority of online hate speech, as speaker authority often depends on the community in more ways than these accounts suggests. (...) Instead I argue that online abusive speech is best understood as collective subordinating speech acts, as their authority is drawn from an ad hoc collective. I argue that anonymity and shared language offer online abusers a path to a type of group-authority that explains the harm their speech is capable of. I close by suggesting that similar considerations are in play for IRL subordinating speech, and that online abuse helps to reveal key features of subordinating speech across mediums that are under-emphasized in the existing literature. (shrink)
People often deny having meant what the audience understood. Such denials occur in both interpersonal and institutional contexts, such as in political discourse, the interpretation of laws and the perception of lies. In practice, denials have a wide range of possible effects on the audience, such as conversational repair, reinterpretation of the original utterance, moral judgements about the speaker, and rejection of the denial. When are these different reactions triggered? What factors make denials credible? There are surprisingly few experimental studies (...) directly targeting such questions. Here, we present two pre-registered experiments focusing on (i) the speaker’s incentives to mislead their audience, and (ii) the impact of speaker denials on audiences’ moral and epistemic assessments of what has been said. We find that the extent to which speakers are judged responsible for the audience’s interpretations is modulated by their (the speakers’) incentives to mislead, but not by denials themselves. We also find that people are more willing than we expected to revise their interpretation of the speaker’s utterance when they learn that the ascribed meaning is false, regardless of whether the speaker is known to have had incentives to deceive their audience. In general, these findings are consistent with the idea that communicators are held responsible for the cognitive effects they trigger in their audience; rather than being responsible for, more narrowly, only the effects of what was “literally” said. In light of our findings, we present a new, cognitive analysis of how audiences react to denials, drawing in particular on the Relevance Theory approach to communication. We distinguish in particular: (a) the spontaneous and intuitive re-interpretation of the original utterance in light of a denial; (b) the attribution of responsibility to the speaker for the cognitive effects of what is communicated; and (c) the reflective attribution of a particular intention to the speaker, which include argumentative considerations, higher-order deniability, and reputational concerns. Existing experimental work, including our own, aims mostly at (a) and (b), and does not adequately control for (c). Deeper understanding of what can be credibly denied will be hindered unless and until this methodological problem is resolved. (shrink)
Generic generalisations like ‘Opioids are highly addictive’ are very useful in scientific communication, but they can often be interpreted in many different ways. Although this is not a problem when all interpretations provide the same answer to the question under discussion, a problem arises when a generic generalisation is used to answer a question other than that originally intended. In such cases, some interpretations of the generalisation might answer the question in a way that the original speaker would not endorse. (...) Rather than excising generic generalisations from scientific communication, I recommend that scientific communicators carefully consider the kinds of questions their words might be taken to answer and try to avoid phrasing that might be taken to provide unintended answers. (shrink)
‘I know his name.’ ‘I know something about him.’ ‘I know him.’ Consider how these uses of ‘know’ differ. The first two instances of know, seem to point to knowledge about something. Yet in the latter claim, the subject of the assertion is not a singular fact, but another person. I call these knowledge claims interpersonal knowledge. In the following paper, I provide an account for these interpersonal knowledge claims which employs the Conversational Contextualist view of language by synthesizing Allan (...) Gibbard’s Norm-Expressivist account for ‘good’ with an account of knowledge based in social epistemology. Under my theory ‘knowing someone claims’ amount to endorsements of our beliefs; as such, there is no truth-apt interpersonal knowledge. What is occurring is a self-assessment of our relationship to another person, based on our non-cognitive attitude towards the fact that we should know them. Therefore interpersonal knowledge claims are self-affirmations that assert we are doing what we believe we should, in an attempt to embody our perceived relationship with another person. -/- . (shrink)
Deictic (or pointing) gestures are traditionally known to have a simple function: to supply something as the referent of a demonstrative linguistic expression. I argue that deixis can have a more complex function. A deictic gesture can be used to _say something_ in conversation and can thereby become a full discourse move in its own right. To capture this phenomenon, which I call _rich demonstration_, I present an update semantics on which deictic gestures can indicate situations from a conversation’s context (...) and those situations coherently connect to prior discourse to generate information. (shrink)
This paper is about guessing: how people respond to a question when they aren’t certain of the answer. Guesses show surprising and systematic patterns that the most obvious theories don’t explain. We argue that these patterns reveal that people aim to optimize a tradeoff between accuracy and informativity when forming their guess. After spelling out our theory, we use it to argue that guessing plays a central role in our cognitive lives. In particular, our account of guessing yields new theories (...) of belief, assertion, and the conjunction fallacy—the psychological finding that people sometimes rank a conjunction as more probable than one of its conjuncts. More generally, we suggest that guessing helps explain how boundedly rational agents like us navigate a complex, uncertain world. (shrink)
This paper explains how an assertion may be understood despite there being nothing said or meant by the assertion. That such understanding is possible is revealed by cases of the so-called ``felicitous underspecification'' of demonstratives: cases where there is understanding of an assertion containing a demonstrative despite the interlocutors not settling on one or another object as the one the speaker is talking about (King 2014a, 2017, 2021). I begin by showing how Stalnaker's ( 1999) well-known pragmatic principles adequately permit (...) and constrain the felicitous underspecification of demonstratives. I then establish a connection between the satisfaction of Stalnaker's principles and understanding, and show how that connection sheds further light on the relevant cases. After developing and motivating my proposal, I address some objections to it, then briefly discuss the felicitous underspecification of expressions other than demonstratives alongside contrasting my proposal with a similar one from Bowker (2015, 2019) that concerns definite descriptions. (shrink)
An argumentation profile is defined as a methodological instrument for analyzing argumentative discourse considering distinct and interrelated dimensions: the types of argument used, their quality, and the emotions triggered. Walton’s theoretical contributions are developed as a coherent analytical and multifaceted toolbox for capturing these aspects. Argumentation schemes are used to detect and quantify the types of argument. Fallacy analysis and the assessment of the implicit premises retrieved through the schemes allow evaluating arguments. Finally, the frequency of emotive words signals the (...) most common emotions aroused. This method is illustrated through a corpus of argumentative tweets of three politicians. (shrink)
The detection of hate speech and fake news in political discourse is at the same time a crucial necessity for democratic societies and a challenge for several areas of study. However, most of the studies have focused on what is explicitly stated: false article information, language that expresses hatred, derogatory expressions. This paper argues that the explicit dimension of manipulation is only one – and the least problematic – of the risks of political discourse. The language of the unsaid is (...) much more dangerous and incomparably more difficult to detect, hidden in different types of fallacies and inappropriate uses of emotive language. Through a threefold coding scheme based on the instruments of argumentation theory and pragmatics, a corpus of argumentative tweets published by 4 politicians (Matteo Salvini, Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, and Joseph Biden) within 6 months from their taking office (corresponding to the official end of their election campaign) is analyzed, detecting the types of argument, the fallacies, and the uses and misuses of “emotive words.” This coding results in the argumentation profiles of the speakers, which are compared statistically to show their different implicit strategies and deceptive tactics. (shrink)
Douglas Walton’s work is extremely vast, multifaceted, and interdisciplinary. He developed theoretical proposals that have been used in disciplines that are not traditionally related to philosophy, such as law, education, discourse analysis, artificial intelligence, or medical communication. Through his papers and books, Walton redefined the boundaries not only of argumentation theory, but also logic and philosophy. He was a philosopher in the sense that his interest was developing theoretical models that can help explain reality, and more importantly interact with it. (...) For this reason, he proposed methods that have been used for analyzing different types of dialogical interactions, and modeling procedures for regulating them. (shrink)
This paper considers one of the most significant and controversial attempts to account for the meaning of pejoratives as lexical items, namely Hom and May’s. After outlining the theory, we pinpoint sets of pejorative sentences that come out true on their account and for which the question as to whether they are compatible with the view advocated by them (so-called Moral and Semantic Innocence) remains open. Helping ourselves to the standard model-theoretical framework Hom and May (presumably) work in, we prove (...) they are compatible with the view. Given that the issues of both the moral import of pejoratives and the practical effects of their utterance are not settled by the proof, we then highlight unwelcome moral and pragmatic implications for some of the pejorative sentences under scrutiny, thereby showing that the view, broadly understood, is not as morally and semantically innocuous as it is meant to be. (shrink)
A large body of research has found that people judge bad foreseen side effects to be more intentional than good ones. While the standard interpretation of this Side-Effect Effect takes it to show that the ordinary concept of intentionality is influenced by normative considerations, a competing account holds that it is the result of pragmatic pressure to express moral censure and, thus, that the SEE is an experimental artifact. Attempts to confirm this account have previously been unsuccessful, but Lindauer and (...) Southwood :181–186, 2021) present a study that appears to provide support for it, by cancelling the SEE. We are not convinced. Here, we detail three studies testing their interpretation. The results indicate that it is the purported cancellation, rather than the SEE, that is an experimental artifact. (shrink)
This paper is an attempt to approach Stanley Fish’s anti-foundationalist argument whose clear formulation is found in the development of his literary theory. For this reason, we will start by, first, introducing Fish's literary theory, and, second, it is explored some aspects of Fish’s theories and their bonds with anti-foundationalism.
Grammatical theories of Scalar Implicatures make use of an exhaustivity operator exh, which asserts the conjunction of the prejacent with the negation of excludable alternatives. We present a new Grammatical theory of Scalar Implicatures according to which exh is replaced with pex, an operator that contributes its prejacent as asserted content, but the negation of scalar alternatives at a non-at-issue level of meaning. We show that by treating this non-at-issue level as a presupposition, this theory resolves a number of empirical (...) challenges faced by the old formulation of exh (as well as by standard neo-Gricean theories). The empirical challenges include projection of scalar implicatures from certain embedded environments (‘some under some’ sentences, some under negative factives), their restricted distribution under negation, and the existence of common ground-mismatching and oddness-inducing implicatures. We argue that these puzzles have a uniform solution given a pex-based Grammatical theory of implicatures and some independently motivated principles concerning presupposition projection, cancellation and accommodation. (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.
It has become almost a cliché to say that we live in a post-truth world; that people of all trades speak with an indifference to truth. Speaking with an indifference to how things really are is famously regarded by Harry Frankfurt as the essence of bullshit. This paper aims to contribute to the philosophical and theoretical pragmatics discussion of bullshit. The aim of the paper is to offer a new theoretical analysis of what bullshit is, one that is more encompassing (...) than Frankfurt’s original characterization. I part ways with Frankfurt in two points. Firstly, I propose that we should not analyze bullshit in intentional terms (i.e. as indifference). Secondly, I propose that we should not analyze it in relation to truth. Roughly put, I propose that bullshit is best characterized as speaking with carelessness toward the evidence for one’s conversational contribution. I bring forward, in the third section, a battery of examples that motivate this characterization. Furthermore, I argue that we can analyze speaking with carelessness toward the evidence in Gricean terms as a violation of the second Quality maxim. I argue that the Quality supermaxim, together with its subordinate maxims, demand that the speaker is truthful (contributes only what she believes to be true) and reliable (has adequate evidence for her contribution). The bullshitter’s main fault lies in being an unreliable interlocutor. I further argue that we should interpret what counts as adequate evidence, as stipulated by the second Quality Maxim, in contextualist terms: the subject matter and implicit epistemic standards determine how much evidence one needs in order to have adequate evidence. I contrast this proposed reading with a subjectivist interpretation of what counts as having adequate evidence and show that they give different predictions. Finally, working with a classic distinction, I argue that we should not understand bullshit as a form of deception but rather as a form of misleading speech. (shrink)
Vocal fry is a phonation, or voicing, in which an individual drops their voice below its natural register and consequently emits a low, growly, creaky tone of voice. Media outlets have widely acknowledged it as a generational vocal style characteristic of millennial women. Critics of vocal fry often claim that it is an exclusively female vocal pattern, and some say that the voicing is so distracting that they cannot understand what is being said under the phonation. Claiming that a phonation (...) is so distracting as to prevent uptake of the semantic content of an utterance associated with it is an extreme reaction, especially when accompanied by demands for women to change their phonation. We argue that this reaction limits women's communicative autonomy. We analyze the extreme reaction to female vocal fry, which we characterize as a non-content-based response, from the perspectives of philosophy of language, feminist epistemology, and linguistics. We argue that when fry is heard as annoying and distracting, it is because the hearer interprets the speaker as echoing an utterance from a position of authority to which she is not entitled. We show that this reaction encodes conscious or unconscious sexist attitudes toward women's voices. (shrink)
The sentence "The boss fired the employee who is always late" invites the defeasible inference that the speaker is attempting to convey that the lateness caused the firing. We argue that such inferences cannot be understood in terms of familiar approaches to extrasemantic enrichment such as implicature, impliciture, explicature, or species of local enrichment already in the literature. Rather, we propose that they arise from more basic cognitive strategies, grounded in processes of coherence establishment, that thinkers use to make sense (...) of the world. Attention to such cases provides a richer and more varied landscape of extrasemantic enrichment than has been appreciated to date. (shrink)
The present paper argues that there is a knowledge norm for conversational implicature: one may conversationally implicate p only if one knows p. Linguistic data about the cancellation behavior of implicatures and the ways they are challenged and criticized by speakers is presented to support the thesis. The knowledge norm for implicature is then used to present a new consideration in favor of the KK thesis. It is argued that if implicature and assertion have knowledge norms, then assertion requires not (...) only knowledge but iterated knowledge: knowing that you know that you know that... you know. Such a condition on permissible assertion is argued to be plausible only if the KK thesis is true. (shrink)
Two‐ and 3‐year‐old children (N = 96) were tested in an object‐choice task with video presentations of peer and adult partners. An immersive, semi‐interactive procedure enabled both the close matching of adult and peer conditions and the combination of participants’ choice behavior with looking time measures. Children were more likely to use information provided by adults. As the effect was more pronounced in the younger age‐group, the observed bias may fade during toddlerhood. As there were no differences in children’s propensity (...) to follow peer and adult gestures with their gaze, these findings provide some of the earliest evidence to date that young children take an interlocutor’s age into account when judging ostensively communicated testimony. (shrink)
One of the central questions of discourse dynamics is when an anaphoric pronoun is licensed. This paper addresses this question as it pertains to the complex data involving anaphora and negation. It is commonly held that negation blocks anaphoric potential, for example, we cannot say “Bill doesn’t have a car. It is black”. However, there are many exceptions to this generalization. This paper examines a variety of types of discourses in which anaphora on indefinites under the scope of negation is (...) felicitous. These cases are not just of intrinsic interest, but I argue present serious problems for the dynamic semantic framework, which builds the licensing facts into the semantics. I argue in favor of adopting a dynamic pragmatics, a theory that explains context change through general Gricean principles, and combining it with a static, d-type theory of anaphora, in which pronouns go proxy for definite descriptions. (shrink)
Together with the volume “Inquiries in philosophical pragmatics: Linguistic and theoretical issues,” this book collects selected contributions to the conference Pragmasophia II held in Lisbon in 2018. This first volume intends to contribute to the dialogue between philosophers and linguists, trying to broaden the boundaries of this discipline defined by the crucial notions of context and verbal action. To this purpose, the contributions are collected in an order that reflects the core and the frontiers of pragmatics, the former constituted by (...) the classical and more philosophical topics as quantifiers, semantic intentions and semantics, and common knowledge, and the latter exploring areas such as the relationship between pragmatics and other fields, such as argumentation and discourse analysis. Between these two poles of theoretical developments, we can find new theoretical challenges to some basic pragmatic problems, such as pure indexicals, deferred reference, polysemy, explicatures and indirect reports. (shrink)
In the literature, the pragmatic dimension of metaphors has been clearly acknowledged. Metaphors are regarded as having different possible uses, and in particular, they are commonly viewed as instruments for pursuing persuasion. However, an analysis of the specific conversational purposes that they can be aimed at achieving in a dialogue and their adequacy thereto is still missing. In this paper, we will address this issue focusing on the distinction between the explanatory and persuasive goal. The difference between explanation and persuasion (...) is often blurred and controversial from a theoretical point of view. Building on the analysis of explanation in different theories and fields of study, we show how it can be conceived as characterized by a cognitive and a pragmatic dimension, where the transference of understanding is used pragmatically for different dialogical goals. This theoretical proposal will be applied to examples drawn from the medical context, to show how a pragmatic approach to explanation can account for the complexity of the cases that can be found in actual dialogical contexts. -/- . (shrink)
Acceptable analyticities, i.e. contradictions or tautologies, constitute problematic evidence for the idea that language includes a deductive system. In recent discussion, two accounts have been presented in the literature to explain the available evidence. According to one of the accounts, grammatical analyticities are accessible to the system but a pragmatic strengthening repair mechanism can apply and prevent the structures from being actually interpreted as contradictions or tautologies. The proposed data, however, leaves it open whether other versions of the meaning modulation (...) operation are required. Novel evidence we present argues that a loosening version of the repair mechanism must be available. Our observation concerns acceptable lexical contradictions that cannot be rescued if only a strengthening version of the pragmatic strategy is available. (shrink)
A fundamental question for philosophy of science asks, How is knowledge of the world created? A pragmatist approach is constructed to show how discovery and justification are tightly related during the creation of scientific knowledge. Procedural abduction, at the scientific level of Strict Abduction and higher, integrates the learnable and the logical quite thoroughly. Discovery and justification are functionally fused together within the organized process of procedural abduction by scientific communities. Four questions posed at the start are answered by this (...) pragmatist philosophy of science as follows. Is scientific creativity methodologically related to scientific justification? Answer: scientific creativity is integral to abductive procedures yielding scientific justification. Can a distinction between genuine science and pseudo-science be clearly defined? Answer: genuine science is distinguished by the application of procedural abduction at the level of Strict Abduction or higher. Does scientific knowledge achieve the legitimacy of scientific realism? Answer: procedural abduction legitimates the credibility of highly-confirmed hypotheses and hence justifies scientific realism. How are scientific communities responsible for establishing scientific knowledge? Answer: scientific communities using procedural abduction realize scientific knowledge. (shrink)
This essay attempts to extend the exercise in normative pragmatics undertaken by Robert Brandom to include consideration of the logical relations between the practices of making of claims involving the use of the first-person-singular pronoun (‘I-talk’) and the making of claims involving the second-person-singular pronoun (‘You-talk’). The first part of the essay makes the case that the implicit response found in Brandom’s work affirms the pragmatic independence of I-talk from You-talk, such that it is possible to conceive of a discursive (...) practice involving people using the first person-singular pronoun but not the second-person. The second part argues this response is mistaken, as there are reasons internal to Brandom’s own project that require pragmatic interdependence of I-talk and You-talk. The upshot of this exercise is normative pragmatics is thus that there can be no ‘I’ without a ‘You’. (shrink)
In some sentences, demonstratives can be substituted with definite descriptions without any change in meaning. In light of this, many have maintained that demonstratives are just a type of definite description. However, several theorists have drawn attention to a range of cases where definite descriptions are acceptable, but their demonstrative counterparts are not. Some have tried to account for this data by appealing to presupposition. I argue that such presuppositional approaches are problematic, and present a pragmatic account of the target (...) contrasts. On this approach, demonstratives take two arguments and generally require that the first, covert argument is non-redundant with respect to the second, overt argument. I derive this condition through an economy principle discussed by Schlenker (2005). (shrink)
In the past decade various linguists and philosophers (e.g. Pagin, Pelletier, Recanati, Westerståhl, Lasersohn) have proposed a weakening of the standard interpretation of compositionality for propositional content. Their move is motivated by the desire to accommodate radical forms of context sensitivity within a systematic account of natural languages. In this paper I argue against weakening compositionality in the way proposed by them. I argue that weak compositionality fails to provide some of the expected benefits of compositionality. First, weak compositionality fails (...) to provide systematic meaning-rules which can handle forms of context-sensitivity that are not amenable to explanation in terms of a fixed and limited set of contextual parameters. Secondly, I argue that weak-compositionality fails to play any role in explaining speakers’ ability to calculate the semantic values of complex expressions. I conclude that weak compositionality is not a viable alternative to standard interpretations of compositionality, and that it doesn’t offer an acceptable way to accommodate radical forms of context-sensitivity within a systematic account of natural languages. Given the central role that weak-compositionality plays in recent approaches to natural language (e.g. in truth-conditional pragmatics) this also casts doubt on the viability of these projects. (shrink)
In his last book, Le complexe des trois singes. Essai sur l’animalité humaine (2017), the French philosopher Étienne Bimbenet accuses “sensocentric” (« pathocentristes ») animal ethics of committing a performative contradiction: according to Bimbenet, these theories of animal rights — among which he focuses on the case of Zoopolis (2011) by Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka — would undermine themselves by means of declaring reason a “non-essential” feature of human beings, while at the same time those theories themselves can only (...) be understood as a highly rational human endeavour. As we will try to point out, the alleged performative contradiction does not actually take place. First of all, Donaldson and Kymlicka only describe reason as “non essential” when it comes to describing moral patients, not moral agents, and particularly not moral theoreticians. In the second place, Zoopolis presents itself explicitly as an effort in “articulating moral reasons” — not as a renouncement of reason as such. (shrink)
There has recently been a flurry of activity in the philosophy of language on how to best account for the unique features of epithets. One of these features is that epithets can be appropriated (that is, the offense-grounding potential of a term can be removed). We argue that attempts to appropriate an epithet fundamentally involve a violation of language-governing rules. We suggest that the other conditions that make something an attempt at appropriation are the same conditions that characterize acts of (...) civil disobedience. Accounting for attempts at appropriation is thus both a linguistic and socio-political endeavor. We demonstrate how these two facets of attempts at appropriation also help us understand the communicative features of civil disobedience. (shrink)