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)
In Direct Belief I argue for the Theory of Direct Belief, which treats having a belief about an individual as an unmediated relation between the believer and the individual the belief is about. After a critical review of alternative positions, I use Grice’s theory of conversational implicature to provide a detailed pragmatic account of substitution failure in belief ascriptions and go on to defend this view against objections, including those based on an unwarranted “Inner Speech” Picture of Thought. The work (...) serves as a case study in pragmatic explanation, dealing also with methodological issues about context-sensitivity in language and the relation between semantics and pragmatics. (shrink)
Introspection presents our phenomenal states in a manner otherwise than physical. This observation is often thought to amount to an argument against physicalism: if introspection presents phenomenal states as they essentially are, then phenomenal states cannot be physical states, for we are not introspectively aware of phenomenal states as physical states. In this article, I examine whether this argument threatens a posteriori physicalism. I argue that as along as proponents of a posteriori physicalism maintain that phenomenal concepts present the nature (...) of their referents in a partial and incomplete manner, a posteriori physicalism is safe. (shrink)
This paper does two things. First, it argues for a metaphilosophical view of conceptual analysis questions; in particular, it argues that the facts that settle conceptual-analysis questions are facts about the linguistic intentions of ordinary folk. The second thing this paper does is argue that if this metaphilosophical view is correct, then experimental philosophy is a legitimate methodology to use in trying to answer conceptual-analysis questions.
Non-descriptivists in metaethics should say more about intuitions. For one popular theory has it that case-based intuitions are in the business of correctly categorizing or classifying merely by bringing to bear a semantic or conceptual competence. If so, then the fact that all normative predicates have case-based intuitions involving them shows that they too are in the business of categorizing or classifying things. This favors a descriptivist position in metaethics—normative predicates have descriptive content—and disfavors a purely non-descriptivist position, like pure (...) expressivism. However, we can say more. We can distinguish two different sorts of intuitional state, A-grade intuitions and B-grade intuitions, based on a cluster of properties that are distinctive of each. While a hypothesis about categorization best explains the cluster of properties enjoyed by A-grade intuitions, it does not best explain the cluster of properties enjoyed by B-grade intuitions. Indeed, a non-categorizational, attitude-expressive hypothesis about the relevant meanings best explains B-grade intuitions. And intuitions involving thin normative predicates are B-grade. So intuition theory supports non-descriptivism, not descriptivism, about thin normative predicates. (shrink)
According to the traditional bundle theory, particulars are bundles of compresent universals. I think we should reject the bundle theory for a variety of reasons. But I will argue for the thesis at the core of the bundle theory: that all the facts about particulars are grounded in facts about universals. I begin by showing how to meet the main objection to this thesis (which is also the main objection to the bundle theory): that it is inconsistent with the possibility (...) of distinct qualitative indiscernibles. Here, the key idea appeals to a non-standard theory of haecceities as non-well-founded properties of a certain sort. I will then defend this theory from a number of objections, and finally argue that we should accept it on the basis of considerations of parsimony about the fundamental. (shrink)
Object files are mental representations that enable perceptual systems to keep track of objects as numerically the same. How is their reference fixed? A prominent approach, championed by Zenon Pylyshyn and John Campbell, makes room for a non-satisfactional use of properties to fix reference. This maneuver has enabled them to reconcile a singularist view of reference with the intuition that properties must play a role in reference fixing. This paper examines Campbell’s influential defense of this strategy. After criticizing it, a (...) new approach is sketched. The alternative view introduces representational contents to explain perceptual individuation. After arguing that those contents are not satisfactional, it is concluded that there is room for a third view of reference fixing that does not fit into the singularist/descriptivist dichotomy. (shrink)
A context-shifting example involves a putatively non-ambiguous, non-elliptical, non-indexical declarative sentence, some distinct utterances of which differ in truth value despite sameness of place, time, surrounding objects, and other physical factors. Charles Travis has spawned a large literature by arguing that such examples undermine compositional truth-conditional semantics. After explaining how prior responses to Travis’s examples fail in the metaphysical details, the present essay develops a new approach that treats a wide range of subject terms as disguised indexicals sensitive to mereological (...) structure. (shrink)
This paper offers a positive account of an important but under-explored class of mental states, non-propositional attitudes such as loving one’s department, liking lattice structures, fearing Freddy Krueger, and hating Sherlock Holmes. In broadest terms, the view reached is a representationalist account guided by two puzzles. The proposal allows one to say in an elegant way what differentiates a propositional attitude from an attitude merely about a proposition. The proposal also allows one to offer a unified account of the non-propositional (...) attitudes that captures both empty and non-empty cases by properly locating the posited representations in the metaphysical structure of the attitudes. (shrink)
We argue that Recanati burdens his otherwise salutary “Mental File” account of singular thought with an “Actualist” assumption that he has inherited from the discussion of singular thought since at least Evans, according to which singular thoughts can only be about actual objects: apparent singular thoughts involving “empty” terms lack truth-valuable content. This assumption flies in the face of manifestly singular thoughts involving not only fictional and mistakenly postulated entities, such as Zeus and the planet Vulcan, but also “perceptual inexistents,” (...) e.g., Kanizsa figures, rainbows, words and phonemes, as well as hosts of at best metaphysically problematic “objects,” such as properties, numbers, ceremonies, contracts, symphonies, “the sky,” “the rain.” Indeed, reflection on what seems to be the boundless diversity of “things” about which we seem to be able to have singular thoughts strongly suggests that there may be no general metaphysics of objects, much less “acquaintance” and “epistemically rewarding” relations that would distinguish singular from non-singular thought. We recommend that Recanati and other mental file theorists confine the theory to a metaphysically neutral account of singular thought as specific kind of internally “focused” computational state, and not seek any general account of the relation of thought to reality. (shrink)
‘Fred must open the door’ concerns Fred’s obligations. This obligative meaning is turned off by adding aspect: ‘Fred must have opened/be opening/have been opening the door’ are one and all epistemic. Why? In a nutshell: obligative ’must’ operates on procedural contents of imperative sentences, epistemic ‘must’ on propositional contents of declarative sentences; and adding aspect converts procedural into propositional content.
Information Centrism is the view that contexts consist of information that can be characterized in terms of the propositional attitudes of the conversational participants. Furthermore, it claims that this notion of context is the only one needed for linguistic theorizing about context-sensitive languages. We argue that Information Centrism is false, since it cannot account correctly for facts about truth and reference in certain cases involving indexicals and demonstratives. Consequently, contexts cannot be construed simply as collections of shared information.
This paper presents an extension of Putnam's account of how substance terms such as ‘water’ and ‘gold’ function and of how a posteriori necessary truths concerning the underlying microstructures of such kinds may be derived. The paper has three aims. I aim to refute a familiar criticism of Putnam's account: that it presupposes what Salmon calls an ‘irredeemably metaphysical, and philosophically controversial, theory of essentialism’. I show how all of the details of Putnam's account—including those that Salmon believes smuggle in (...) such essentialist commitments—can be squared with a rejection of any such essentialist metaphysics. I aim to reveal why Steward is wrong to suppose that, by helping himself to the claim that ‘H2O’ is a rigid designator of a substance, Kripke, too, presupposes something controversially ‘metaphysical’. I aim to show how my proposed account also sidesteps a variety of objections raised by Needham and others who argue that Kripke's and Putnam's accounts of how ‘water’ and.. (shrink)
In the epistemology of testimony it is often assumed that audiences are able to reliably recover asserted contents. In the philosophy of language this claim is contentious. This paper outlines one problem concerning the recovery of asserted contents, and argues that it prevents audiences from gaining testimonial knowledge in a range of cases. The recovery problem, in essence, is simply that due to the collective epistemic limitations of the speaker and audience speakers will, in certain cases, be insensitive to the (...) ways in which they may be misinterpreted. As a result audiences’ beliefs will often fail the safety and sensitivity conditions on knowledge. Once the problem has been outlined and distinguished from several related problems in the philosophy of language and the epistemology of testimony, a series of responses are considered. The first response holds that audiences possess defeaters in recovery problem cases, and thus wouldn’t form beliefs. The second response holds that the beliefs audiences form are very coarse grained, meaning they are not very vulnerable to failures of safety and sensitivity. The final response holds that the objects of speaker meaning are not propositional. All three responses are found to be unsatisfactory. (shrink)
This paper questions the adequacy of the explicit cancellability test for conversational implicature as it is commonly understood. The standard way of understanding this test relies on two assumptions: first, that that one can test whether a certain content is conversationally implicated, by checking whether that content is cancellable, and second, that a cancellation is successful only if it results in a felicitous utterance. While I accept the first of these assumptions, I reject the second one. I argue that a (...) cancellation can succeed even if it results in an infelicitous utterance, and that unless we take this possibility into account we run the risk of misdiagnosing philosophically significant cases. (shrink)
According to the communication desideratum (CD), a notion of semantic content must be adequately related to communication. In the recent debate on indexical reference, (CD) has been invoked in arguments against the view that intentions determine the semantic content of indexicals and demonstratives (intentionalism). In this paper, I argue that the interpretations of (CD) that these arguments rely on are questionable, and suggest an alternative interpretation, which is compatible with (strong) intentionalism. Moreover, I suggest an approach that combines elements of (...) intentionalism with other subjectivist approaches, and discuss the role of intuitions in developing and evaluating theories of indexical reference. (shrink)
Descartes was certain that he was thinking and he was accordingly certain that he existed. Like Descartes, we seem to be more certain of our thoughts and our existence than of anything else. What is less clear is the reason why we are thus certain. Philosophers throughout history have provided different interpretations of the cogito, disagreeing both on the kind of thoughts it characterizes and on the reasons for its cogency. According to what we may call the empiricist interpretation of (...) the cogito, I can only claim to be certain of having experiences, and this certainty, as well as that of my own existence, stems from their phenomenal and subjective character. According to rationalist interpretations, on the other hand, I am certain of having some self-reflexive propositional attitudes, and this certainty derives from their rational features. Psychiatric patients suffering from acute forms of depersonalization or of the Cotard syndrome often doubt that they think and exist, and might even believe that they don't. I argue that their study allows us to favor the empiricist interpretation of the cogito. (shrink)
Concerning cases involving temporal indexicals Kaplan has argued that Fregean thoughts cannot be the bearers of cognitive significance due to the alleged fact that one can think the same thought from one occasion to the next without realizing this—thus linking the issue of cognitive significance to that of belief retention. Kaplan comes up with his own version of the Fregean strategy for accounting for belief retention that does not face this kind of a problem; but he finds it deficient because (...) it leads us to implausibly deny that one who is lost in time retains the beliefs one held before this occurred. I take issue with Kaplan though in conformity with his plausible demands about belief retention and argue that a situation does not arise in which one can fail to realize that one is thinking the same thought from one occasion to the next. I also argue that thoughts are the bearers of cognitive significance as well as explanatory of belief retention. (shrink)
Sometimes form-meaning mappings in language are not arbitrary, but iconic: they depict what they represent. Incorporating iconic elements of language into a compositional semantics faces a number of challenges in formal frameworks as evidenced by the lengthy literature in linguistics and philosophy on quotation/direct speech, which iconically portrays the words of another in the form that they were used. This paper compares the well-studied type of iconicity found with verbs of quotation with another form of iconicity common in sign languages: (...) classifier predicates. I argue that these two types of verbal iconicity can, and should, incorporate their iconic elements in the same way using event modification via the notion of a context dependent demonstration. This unified formal account of quotation and classifier predicates predicts that a language might use the same strategy for conveying both, and I argue that this is the case with role shift in American Sign Language. Role shift is used to report others’ language and thoughts as well as their actions, and recently has been argued to provide evidence in favor of Kaplanian “monstrous” indexical expressions. By reimagining role shift as involving either quotation for language demonstrations or “body classifier” predicates for action demonstrations, the proposed account eliminates one major argument for these monsters coming from sign languages. Throughout this paper, sign languages provide a fruitful perspective for studying quotation and other forms of iconicity in natural language due to their lack of a commonly used writing system which is otherwise often mistaken as primary data instead of speech, the rich existing literature on iconicity within sign language linguistics, and the ability of role shift to overtly mark the scope of a language report. In this view, written language is merely a special case of a more general phenomenon of sign and speech demonstration, which accounts more accurately for natural language data by permitting more strict or loose verbatim interpretations of demonstrations through the context dependent pragmatics. (shrink)
In this paper, we will defend a particular version of the timeless solution to the problem of divine foreknowledge and human freedom. Our strategy is grounded on a particular temporal framework, which models the flow of time and a libertarian understanding of freedom. The propositions describing a certain act by an agent have an indeterminate truth value until the agent makes her choice; therefore, they become true or false when a decision is made. In order to account for this change (...) of truth value, a multiple frame structure is introduced in which every frame presents a privileged time, with its past and the possible alternative futures, which are still open. God atemporally knows all the frames and the truth values of propositions with respect to each one. Since divine knowledge of what an agent decides in a certain temporal frame depends on the agent’s act itself, divine knowledge does not conflict with the agent’s free will. (shrink)
Pain is unpleasant. It is something that one avoids as much as possible. One might then claim that one wants to avoid pain because one cares about one's body. On this view, individuals who do not experience pain as unpleasant and to be avoided, like patients with pain asymbolia, do not care about their body. This conception of pain has been recently defended by Bain  and Klein [forthcoming]. In their view, one needs to care about one's body for pain (...) to have motivational force. But does one need to care about one's body qua one's own? Or does one merely need to care about the body that happens to be one's own? In this paper, I will consider various interpretations of the notion of bodily care, in light of a series of pathological cases in which patients report pain in a body part that they do not experience as their own. These cases are problematic if one adopts a first-personal interpretation of bodily care, according to which pain requires one to care about what is represented as one's own body. Th.. (shrink)
The standard truth-conditional semantics for substitutional quantification, due to Saul Kripke, does not specify what proposition is expressed by sentences containing the particular substitutional quantifier. In this paper, I propose an alternative semantics for substitutional quantification that does. The key to this semantics is identifying an appropriate propositional function to serve as the content of a bound occurrence of a formula containing a free substitutional variable. I apply this semantics to traditional philosophical reasons for interest in substitutional quantification, namely, theories (...) of truth and ontological commitment. (shrink)
Some expressions of English, like the demonstratives ‘this’ and ‘that’, are referentially promiscuous: distinct free occurrences of them in the same sentence can differ in content relative to the same context. One lesson of referentially promiscuous expressions is that basic logical properties like validity and logical truth obtain or fail to obtain only relative to a context. This approach to logic can be developed in just as rigorous a manner as David Kaplan’s classic logic of demonstratives. The result is a (...) logic that applies to arguments in English containing multiple occurrences of referentially promiscuous expressions. (shrink)
I discuss Lawlor’s Austinian account of knowledge ascriptions and argue that it is a brand of pragmatic encroachment. I then criticize the motivation for pragmatic encroachment theories that derives from assumptions about the functional role of knowledge ascriptions. I argue that this criticism also apply to contextualist followers of Craig. Finally, I suggest that the central lesson from reflection on the communicative functions of knowledge ascriptions is that they, upon reflection, motivate traditional invariantism.
In his Logical Investigations Edmund Husserl criticizes John Stuart Mill’s account of meaning as connotation, especially Mill’s failure to separate the distinction between connotative and non-connotative names from the distinction between the meaningful and the meaningless. According to Husserl, both connotative and non-connotative names have meaning or “signification”, that is, what Gottlob Frege calls the sense (“Sinn”) of an expression. The distinction between connotative and non-connotative names is a distinction between two kinds of meaning (or sense), attributive and non-attributive meaning (...) (“attributive und nicht-attributive Bedeutung”). Attributive (connotative) names denote (refer to) objects through their attributes, whereas a non-attributive name means a thing directly (“direkt”). In this paper I examine the concepts of attributive and non-attributive meaning by means of the semiotic theory of Charles S. Peirce, and compare Peirce’s account with the views of Frege, Husserl, Alexius Meinong, and David Kaplan and Gareth Evans. (shrink)
This paper studies the uses of proper names within a communication-theoretic setting, looking at both the conditions that govern the use of a name by a speaker and those involved in the correct interpretation of the name by her audience. The setting in which these conditions are investigated is provided by an extension of Discourse Representation Theory, MSDRT, in which mental states are represented as combinations of propositional attitudes and entity representations . The first half of the paper presents the (...) features of this framework that are needed to understand its application to the account of names that follows. N-labelled entity representations, where N is a proper name, play a pivotal part in this account: A speaker must have an N-labelled ER in order to be in a position to use a name N, and the interpreter must either have such a representation, or else construct one as part of his interpretation. The paper distinguishes different types of name uses in terms of what they presuppose about the role of N-labelled ERs on the side of the interpreter. (shrink)
In a recent paper, Armstrong and Stanley argue that despite being initially compelling, a Russellian account of singular thought has deep difficulties. I defend a certain sort of Russellian account of singular thought against their arguments. In the process, I spell out a notion of propositional constituency that is independently motivated and has many attractive features.
In the pair of articles of which this is the first, I shall present a set of problems and philosophical proposals that have in recent years been associated with the term “relativism”. All these problems and proposals concern the question of how we should represent thought and speech about certain topics. The main issue here is whether we should model such mental states or linguistic acts as involving representational contents that are absolutely correct or incorrect, or whether, alternatively, their correctness (...) should be thought of as varying with some (more or less surprising) factor. In this, first, article, I shall discuss the general issue of relativism about representational content. I shall claim that there are legitimate ways of attributing contents that are absolute truth-bearers, and there are also equally legitimate ways of attributing relativistic representational contents. In the companion piece “Relativism 2: Semantic Content”, I look in more detail at the more specific question whether semantic contents (i.e. the contents assigned to linguistic utterances in the semantics of natural language) should be construed in an absolutist or a relativist way. (shrink)
In the pair of articles of which this is the second, I present a set of problems and philosophical proposals that have in recent years been associated with the term “relativism”. These problems are related to the question of how we should represent thought and speech about certain topics. The main issue is whether we should model such mental states or linguistic acts as involving representational contents that are absolutely correct or incorrect, or whether, alternatively, their correctness should be thought (...) of as varying with some (more or less surprising) factor. In the first article, “Relativism 1: Representational Content”, I discussed the general issue of relativism about representational content. I argued for the conciliatory view that both relativist and absoutist conceptions of representational content can be legitimate. In the present continuation, I look in more detail at a special case of the general issue, namely the question of whether semantic contents, i.e. the contents assigned to linguistic utterances in the semantics of natural language, should be construed in an absolutist or in a relativist way. (shrink)
My aim in the paper will be to better understand what faultless disagreement could possibly consist in and what speakers disagree over when they faultlessly do so. To that end, I will first look at various examples of faultless disagreement. Since I will eventually claim that different forms of faultless disagreement can be modeled semantically on different forms of context-sensitivity I will, in a second step, discuss three different semantic accounts that all promise to successfully accommodate certain forms of context-sensitivity: (...) Indexical Contextualism, Nonindexcal Contextualism and Radical Relativism . Focussing on the controversy between Indexical and Nonindexical Contextualists the remainder of the paper will be devoted to the question which theory is best suited to handle what kind of disagreement. (shrink)
I argue that free indirect discourse should be analyzed as a species of direct discourse rather than indirect discourse. More specifically, I argue against the emerging consensus among semanticists, who analyze it in terms of context shifting. Instead, I apply the semantic mechanisms of mixed quotation and unquotation to offer an alternative analysis where free indirect discourse is essentially a quotation of an utterance or thought, but with unquoted tenses and pronouns.
Linguistics and philosophy have provided distinct views on the nature of reference to individuals in language. In philosophy, in particular in the tradition of direct reference, the distinction is between reference and description. In linguistics, in particular in the tradition of generative grammar, the distinction is between pronouns and R-expressions. I argue for a third conception, grounded in dynamic semantics, in which the main watershed is between definites, which trigger presuppositions that want to be bound, and indefinites, which set up (...) new discourse referents. On this view, proper names, indexicals, and definite descriptions are all analyzed as presupposition triggers. (shrink)
In this paper I provide novel arguments for the predicative approach to proper names, which claims that argument proper names are definite descriptions containing a naming predicate . I first argue that modified proper names, such as the incomparable Maria Callas or the other Francis Bacon cannot be handled on the hypothesis that argument proper names have no internal structure and uniformly denote entities. I then discuss cases like every Adolf, which would normally be interpreted as every individual named Adolf (...) and show that the predicative approach to proper names can straightforwardly account for the distribution of a detectable naming component in proper names. Finally, I address the issue of proper names used as common nouns and plural proper names and demonstrate that they do not form a homogenous group yet can be clearly distinguished on both syntactic and semantic grounds from proper names involving a detectable naming component. (shrink)
Many claims about conceptual matters are often represented as, or inferred from, claims about the meaning, reference, or mastery, of words. But sometimes this has led to treating conceptual analysis as though it were nothing but linguistic analysis. We canvass the most promising justifications for moving from linguistic premises to substantive conclusions. We show that these justifications fail and argue against current practice (in metaethics and elsewhere), which confuses an investigation of a word’s meaning, reference, or competence conditions with an (...) analysis of some concept or property associated with that word. (shrink)
There is a kernel of truth in the claim that Western, and especially Anglo-American-Australasian, normative philosophy, including that relating to the philosophy of education, is individualistic; it tends to prize properties that are internal to a human being such as her autonomy, rationality, pleasure, desires, self-esteem, self-realization and virtues relating to, say, her intellect. One notable exception is the idea that students ought to be educated in order to be citizens, participants in a democratic and cosmopolitan order, but, compared to (...) non-Western traditions, this social element is thin. What is striking about other philosophical backgrounds in the East and the South, such as sub-Saharan reflection on the proper ends of education, is that they are typically much more communitarian, and are so in ways that differ from dominant forms of communitarianism in the West. I argue that since geographical terms such as ‘Western’, ‘African’ and the like are best construed as picking out properties that are particularly salient in a region, it is fair to conclude that individualism is Western and not African, or, more carefully, that it is much more Western than it is African, and that converse remarks go for communitarianism. What this means is that, if I am correct about a glaring contrast between philosophies of education typical in the West and in sub-Saharan Africa, and if there are, upon reflection, attractive facets of communitarianism, then countries such as the UK, the US and Australia in some real sense must become less Western in order to take them on. (shrink)
This paper presents an argument against the A-Theory of time. Briefly, I shall contend that the A-Theorist has no explanation for why the present moment in particular has the metaphysical privilege she accords it, and that this puts the theory at a disadvantage. In what follows, I shall begin by presenting this argument. I will follow that with some potential explanations for why the present moment is privileged and reasons militating against them, in addition to some other possible objections to (...) my argument and my responses to them. The conclusion will be that the A-Theorist fails to provide either an obvious or a theoretical explanation of the present time’s privileged status and is thereby at a theoretical disadvantage to theories that do not posit a metaphysically privileged present time. Topics covered include the purported analogy between times and worlds, the possibility that times are individuated by what is true at them, and the semantic status of titles for date-times. (shrink)
One of the main arguments intended to show that content externalism undermines the privileged access thesis is the ‘slow switching argument’, originally proposed by Boghossian. In this argument, it is supposed that a subject is unknowingly switched back and forth between Earth and Twin Earth: then it is claimed that, given externalism, when the subject is on Earth thinking that water is wet, he cannot know the content of his thought a priori, for he cannot, by mere reflection, rule out (...) the relevant alternative hypothesis that he is on Twin Earth thinking that twater is wet. One of the controversies surrounding this argument stems from the fact that it is not clear which epistemological principle underlies it. Here, I examine two suggestions made in the literature as to what that underlying principle might be. I argue that neither of these suggested principles is plausible, and thus that the slow switching argument never gets off the ground. (shrink)
It is customary in current philosophy of time to distinguish between an A- (or tensed) and a B- (or tenseless) theory of time. It is also customary to distinguish between an old B-theory of time, and a new B-theory of time. We may say that the former holds both semantic atensionalism and ontological atensionalism, whereas the latter gives up semantic atensionalism and retains ontological atensionalism. It is typically assumed that the B-theorists have been induced by advances in the philosophy of (...) language and related A-theorists’ criticisms to acknowledge that semantic atensionalism can hardly stand, but have also maintained that what is essential for the B-theory is ontological atensionalism, which can be independently defended. Here it is argued that the B-theorists have been too quick in abandoning semantic atensionalism: they can still cling to it. (shrink)
The article investigates the significance of the so-called phenomenon of apparent faultless disagreement for debates about the semantics of taste discourse. Two kinds of description of the phenomenon are proposed. The first ensures that faultless disagreement raises a distinctive philosophical challenge; yet, it is argued that Contextualist, Realist and Relativist semantic theories do not account for this description. The second, by contrast, makes the phenomenon irrelevant for the problem of what the right semantics of taste discourse should be. Lastly, the (...) following dilemma is assessed: either faultless disagreement provides strong evidence against semantic theories; or its significance should be considerably downplayed. (shrink)
Aristotle and Aquinas may have held that the things we believe and assert can have different truth-values at different times. Stoic logicians did; they held that there were “vacillating assertibles”—assertibles that are sometimes true and sometimes false. Frege and Russell endorsed the now widely accepted alternative, where the propositions believed and asserted are always specific with respect to time. This paper brings a new perspective to this question. We want to figure out what sorts of propositions speakers believe. Some philosophers (...) have argued that we must take agents to believe temporalist propositions—propositions that are inspecific with respect to time—if we’re to explain the agent’s own thoughts and inferences. I’ll explore another strategy. I’ll focus on our ability to think and reason about the beliefs that other people have. I’ll suggest that an adequate account of that ability requires that we take others to believe some temporalist propositions. I also ask whether all propositions can be specific with respect to worlds, and close by exploring some general issues. (shrink)
The phenomenon of quantification into attitude ascriptions has haunted broadly Fregean views, according to which co-referential proper names are not always substitutable salva veritate in attitude ascriptions. Opponents of Fregeanism argue that a belief ascription containing a proper name such as ‘Michael believes that Lindsay is charitable’ is equivalent to a quantified sentence such as ‘there is someone such that Michael believes that she is charitable, and that person is Lindsay’. They conclude that the semantic contribution of a name such (...) as ‘Lindsay’ is the same as the semantic contribution of a variable under an assignment, which these opponents suggest is merely the object assigned to that variable. However, renewed interest in variables suggests that they make a more complicated contribution to the semantic processing of sentences that contain them. In particular, a variable contributes both an assignment-unsaturated and an assignment-saturated semantic value. I use this dual role of the semantics of variables to develop a response to the argument from quantifying in. I take as my point of departure Cumming's () view that an attitude ascription relates the subject of an attitude to the assignment-unsaturated semantic value of an open sentence. I argue that this approach fails. I propose an alternative, according to which the truth of a belief ascription depends on both the assignment-saturated and the assignment-unsaturated semantic value of the open sentence in its that-clause. This approach reverses standard assumptions concerning the relation between quantification and substitution. (shrink)
This essay is devoted to an analysis of the semantic significance of a fashionable view of proper names, the Predicate Theory of names, typically developed in the direction of the Metalinguistic Theory of names. According to MT, ‘syntactic evidence supports the conclusion that a name such as ‘Kennedy’ is analyzable in terms of the predicate ‘individual named ‘Kennedy’’. This analysis is in turn alleged to support a descriptivist treatment of proper names in designative position, presumably in contrast with theories of (...) names as ‘directly referring rigid designators’. The main aim of this essay is that of questioning the significance of PT and MT as theories of designation: even granting for the argument’s sake that names are analyzable as predicates, their designative occurrences may be interpreted in consonance with the dictates of Direct Reference—indeed, in consonance with the radically anti-descriptivist version of Direct Reference I call Millianism. (shrink)
While there has been much ado about the innumerable ways a speaker can alter the reach of her quantifier phrases, little fuss has been made over the fact that some forms of alteration are, as it were, impossible to pull off. These impossible interpretations cast a shadow over both syntactic and free enrichment approaches to the phenomenon of quantifier domain restriction. Indeed, I argue that these impossible interpretations help to undermine the presupposition that domain restriction is amenable to a uniform (...) theoretical account. (shrink)
Since Kaplan : 81–98, 1979) first provided a logic for context-sensitive expressions, it has been thought that the only way to construct a logic for indexicals is to restrict it to arguments which take place in a single context— that is, instantaneous arguments, uttered by a single speaker, in a single place, etc. In this paper, I propose a logic which does away with these restrictions, and thus places arguments where they belong, in real world conversations. The central innovation is (...) that validity depends not just on the sentences in the argument, but also on certain abstract relations between contexts. This enrichment of the notion of logical form leads to some seemingly counter-intuitive results: a sequence of sentences may make up a valid argument in one sequence of contexts, and an invalid one in another such sequence. I argue that this is an unavoidable result of context sensitivity in general, and of the nature of indexicals in particular, and that reflection on such examples will lead us to a better understanding of the idea of applying logic to context sensitive expressions, and thus to natural language in general. (shrink)
In this essay I will defend the thesis that proper nouns are primarily used as proper names—as atomic singular referring expressions—and different possible predicative uses of proper nouns are derived from this primary use or an already derived secondary predicative use of proper nouns. There is a general linguistic phenomenon of the derivation of new meanings from already existing meanings of an expression. This phenomenon has different manifestations and different linguistic mechanisms can be used to establish derived meanings of different (...) kinds of expressions. One prominent variation of these mechanisms was dubbed in Nunberg. In the essay I will distinguish two different sub-varieties of this mechanism: occurrent and lexical meaning transfer. Nunberg conceives of meaning transfer as a mechanism that allows us to derive a new truth-conditional meaning of an expression from an already existing truth-conditional meaning of this expression. I will argue that most predicative uses of proper nouns can be captured by the mentioned two varieties of truth-conditional meaning transfer. But there are also important exceptions like the predicative use of the proper noun ‘Alfred’ in as sentence like ‘Every Alfred that I met was a nice guy’. I will try to show that we cannot make use of truth-conditional meaning transfer to account for such uses and I will argue for a the existence of second variant of meaning transfer that I will call use-conditional meaning transfer and that allows us also to capture these derived meanings of proper nouns. Furthermore, I will try to show that the proposed explanation of multiple uses of proper nouns is superior to the view supported by defenders of a predicative view on proper names. (shrink)
Semantic blindness is the inability to recognize semantic features of terms one can competently use. A theory that implies semantic blindness incurs a burden to explain how one can competently use a term without realizing how the term works. An argument advanced in favor of epistemic relativism is that its main competitors, contextualism and subject-sensitive invariantism, imply that speakers suffer from semantic blindness regarding ‘knows’ while relativism has no such implication. However, there is evidence that relativism also implies semantic blindness (...) regarding ‘knows,’ apparently crippling the case for relativism. In this paper I argue that the semantic blindness that affects relativism is not a problem at all. First, the blindness is not as widespread as it appears. It does not prevent ordinary speakers from expressing important epistemic truths. Further, I provide an error theory for relativism that has three features that render it unproblematic: there is evidence independent of relativism that people make this error, relativism predicts this error; it is not an ad hoc rescue, the error only occurs in rare and obscure situations. People are fallible and finite, and assuming relativism is true, they make mistakes exactly where we should expect them to. (shrink)