Todd (forthcoming) proposes an analysis of future-directed sentences, in particular sentences of the form 'will(φ)', that is based on the classic Russellian analysis of definite descriptions. Todd's analysis is supposed to vindicate the claim that the future is metaphysically open while retaining a simple Ockhamist semantics of future contingents and the principles of classical logic, i.e. bivalence and the law of excluded middle. Consequently, an open futurist can straightforwardly retain classical logic without appeal to supervaluations, determinacy operators, or any further (...) controversial semantical or metaphysical complication. In this paper, we will show that this quasi-Russellian analysis of 'will' both lacks linguistic motivation and faces a variety of significant problems. In particular, we show that the standard arguments for Russell's treatment of definite descriptions fail to apply to statements of the form 'will(φ)'. (shrink)
Extant contextualist theories have relied on the mechanism of pragmatically driven modulation to explain the way non-indexical expressions take on different interpretations in different contexts. In this paper I argue that a modulation-based contextualist semantics is untenable with respect to non-ambiguous expressions whose invariant meaning fails to determine a unique literal interpretation, such as ‘lawyer’ ‘musician’ ‘book’ and ‘game’. The invariant meaning of such an expression corresponds to a range of closely related and equally basic interpretations, none of which can (...) be distinguished as the literal interpretation. Moreover, what counts as a literal interpretation as opposed to a non-literal one is arguably vague. The nonuniqueness of the literal interpretation and the vagueness in the literal/non-literal divide doubly challenge a modulation-based semantics, for modulation is supposed to operate on a unique literal interpretation to generate a clearly non-literal interpretation. Lastly I contend that non-ambiguous expressions which lack determinate literal interpretation are amenable to a Radical Contextualist semantics, according to which the invariant meaning of such an expression directs its interpretation to congruent background information in context. Thereby, these expressions exhibit semantically driven context sensitivity without displaying indexicality. (shrink)
Compound figures are a rich, and under-explored area for tackling fundamental issues in philosophy of language. This paper explores new ideas about how to explain some features of such figures. We start with an observation from Stern that in ironic-metaphor, metaphor is logically prior to irony in the structure of what is communicated. Call this thesis Logical-MPT. We argue that a speech-act-based explanation of Logical-MPT is to be preferred to a content-based explanation. To create this explanation we draw on Barker’s (...) expressivist speech-act theory, in which speech-acts build on other speech-acts to achieve the desired communicative effects. In particular, we show how Barker’s general ideas explain metaphor as an assertive-act, and irony as a ridiculing-act. We use Barker’s notion of proto-illocutionary-acts to show how metaphorical-acts and ironic-acts can build one on the other. Finally, we show that while an ironic-act can build on a metaphorical-act, a metaphorical-act cannot build on an ironic-act. This restriction on how they can be composed establishes Logical-MPT via a different route. (shrink)
The implicit content associated with incomplete definite descriptions is contributed in the form of definite descriptions of situations. A definite description of this kind is contributed by a small structure in the syntax, which is interpreted, in general terms, as ‘the situation that bears R to s’.
Consider the following sentences: In every race, the colt won; In every race, John won.John Hawthorne and David Manley say that the difference between these two sentences raises a problem for Predicativism about names. According to the currently more standard version of Predicativism, a bare singular name in argument position, like ‘John’ in , is embedded in a definite description with an unpronounced definite article. The problem is supposed to be that permits a covarying reading that allows for different races (...) to have been won by different colts, while does not permit a covarying reading—it can be true only if there is a single John that won every race. But, the objection runs, if the name ‘John’ is really embedded in a definite description with an unpronounced definite article, then the two sentences are structurally parallel and should not differ with respect to covariation. Appealing to Jason Stanley's ‘Nominal Restriction’ , I show that the difference between the two sentences above not only does not raise a problem for Predicativism but also is actually predicted by it. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to show that, pace (Field, 2009), MacFarlane’s assessment relativism and expressivism should be sharply distinguished. We do so by arguing that relativism and expressivism exemplify two very different approaches to context-dependence. Relativism, on the one hand, shares with other contemporary approaches a bottom–up, building block, model, while expressivism is part of a different tradition, one that might include Lewis’ epistemic contextualism and Frege’s content individuation, with which it shares an organic model to deal with (...) context-dependence. The building-block model and the organic model, and thus relativism and expressivism, are set apart with the aid of a particular test: only the building-block model is compatible with the idea that there might be analytically equivalent, and yet different, propositions. (shrink)
In this paper, we compare the formal semantics approach to genericity, within which genericity is viewed as a species of quantification, and a growing body of experimental and developmental work on the topic, mainly by psychologists rather than linguists, proposing that genericity is categorically different from quantification. We argue that this generics-as-default hypothesis is much less well supported by evidence than its supporters contend, and that a research program combining theoretical and experimental research methods and considerations in the same studies (...) is required to make progress. (shrink)
It is widely assumed in psychology, philosophy, and linguistics that we count by identity. For example, to count the dogs by identity, we correlate each dog that isn't identical to the rest with a natural number, starting with one and assigning each successive dog the successive natural number. When we run out of distinct dogs, we've yielded a correct count. I argue that this model of counting is incorrect. We do not count by identity.
This paper presents an extensional account of manyand few that explains data that have previously motivated intensional analyses of these quantifiers :599–620, 2000). The key insight is that their semantic arguments are themselves set intersections: the restrictor is the intersection of the predicates denoted by the N’ or the V’ and the restricted universe, U, and the scope is the intersection of the N’ and V’. Following Cohen, I assume that the universe consists of the union of alternatives to the (...) nominal and verbal predicates, where an alternative to a property ψ is one that shares a pragmatic presupposition with ψ, and a pragmatic presupposition is one that is selected by context from a set of potential presuppositions associated with the sentence. A many/few-quantified sentence is then true iff the proportion of the scope to the restrictor is greater/less than some threshold, n. In addition to explaining various problematic cases from the literature, the analysis shows how the readings of a many/few-quantified sentence can be derived from the same syntactico-semantic structure, it being unnecessary to claim lexical or structural ambiguity. The analysis also provides strong support for the idea that natural language quantification is always purely extensional. (shrink)
According to a recent challenge to Kratzer's canonical contextualist semantics for deontic modal expressions, no contextualist view can make sense of cases in which such a modal must be information-sensitive in some way. Here I show how Kratzer's semantics is compatible with readings of the targeted sentences that fit with the data. I then outline a general account of how contexts select parameter values for modal expressions and show, in terms of that account, how the needed, contextualist-friendly readings might plausibly (...) get selected in the challenge cases. (shrink)
A report of a person's desire can be true even if its embedded clause underspecifies the content of the desire that makes the report true. It is true that Fiona wants to catch a fish even if she has no desire that is satisfied if she catches a poisoned minnow. Her desire is satisfied only if she catches an edible, meal-sized fish. The content of her desire is more specific than the propositional content of the embedded clause in our true (...) report of her desires. Standard semantic accounts of belief reports require, however, that the embedded clause of a true belief report specify precisely the content of the belief that makes it true. Such accounts of belief reports therefore face what I call "the problem of underspecification" if they are extended to desire reports. Such standard accounts are sometimes refined by requiring that a belief report can be true not only if its subject has a belief with precisely the propositional content specified by its embedded clause, but also only if its subject grasps that content in a particular way. Such refinements do not, however, help to address the problem of underspecification for desire reports. (shrink)
Abstract This paper discusses the semantic theory presented in Robert Brandom’s Making It Explicit . I argue that it is best understood as a special version of dynamic semantics, so that these semantics by themselves offer an interesting theoretical alternative to more standard truth-conditional theories. This reorientation also has implications for more foundational issues. I argue that it gives us the resources for a renewed argument for the normativity of meaning. The paper ends by critically assessing the view in both (...) its development and motivations. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-22 DOI 10.1007/s11098-011-9768-4 Authors Bernhard Nickel, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116. (shrink)
This paper defends stage theory against the argument from diachronic counting. It argues that stage theorists can appeal to quantifier domain restriction in order to accommodate intuitions about diachronic counting sentences. Two approaches involving domain restriction are discussed. According to the first, domains of counting are usually restricted to stages at the time of utterance. This approach explains intuitions in many cases, but is theoretically costly and delivers wrong counts if diachronic counting is combined with fission or fusion. On the (...) second approach, domains of counting are usually restricted in an indeterminate way, so as to include at most one member of any maximal class of counterpart-interrelated stages (with respect to a certain utterance). This view can accommodate all the relevant intuitions about counting sentences, and it fits well with a new stage-theoretic view of reference that allows speakers to refer to both present and past stages. (shrink)
It is held by many philosophers that it is a consequence of epistemic contextualism that speakers are typically semantically blind, that is, typically unaware of the propositions semantically expressed by knowledge attributions. In his ?Contextualism, Invariantism and Semantic Blindness? (this journal, 2009), Martin Montminy argues that semantic blindness is widespread in language, and not restricted to knowledge attributions, so it should not be considered problematic. I will argue that Montminy might be right about this, but that contextualists still face a (...) serious and related problem: that it is a consequence of epistemic contextualism that subjects are typically unaware of contents conveyed by knowledge attributions, independently of whether these are semantic or non-semantic contents. Even if semantic blindness is widespread in language, it does not seem that content unawareness of this sort is. (shrink)
Traditional theories of sarcasm treat it as a case of a speaker's meaning the opposite of what she says. Recently, 'expressivists' have argued that sarcasm is not a type of speaker meaning at all, but merely the expression of a dissociative attitude toward an evoked thought or perspective. I argue that we should analyze sarcasm in terms of meaning inversion, as the traditional theory does; but that we need to construe 'meaning' more broadly, to include illocutionary force and evaluative attitudes (...) as well as propositional content. I distinguish four subclasses of sarcasm, individuated in terms of the target of inversion. Three of these classes raise serious challenges for a standard implicature analysis. (shrink)
Fodor (Mind Lang 16:1–15, 2001 ) endorses the mixed view that thought, yet not language, is compositional. That is, Fodor accepts the arguments of radical pragmatics that language is not compositional, but he claims these arguments do not apply to thought. My purpose here is to evaluate this mixed position: Assuming that the radical pragmaticists are right that language is not compositional, what arguments can be provided in support of the claim that thought is compositional? Before such arguments can be (...) evaluated, the relevant notion of compositionality must be clarified. So I first clarify this notion of compositionality, and then consider three arguments in support of the mixed position. All three of these arguments are found to be inadequate, and thus I conclude that the mixed position is unstable: If one endorses the arguments of radical pragmatics against the compositionality of language, then one should also reject the compositionality of thought. (shrink)
In an insightful and provocative paper, Jessica Rett (2006) claims that attempts to locate the (non-indexical, non-demonstrative) semantic contributions of context in syntax run into problems respecting compositionality. This is an especially biting problem for hidden indexical theorists such as Stanley (2000, 2002) who deploy hidden variables to provide a compositional theory of semantic interpretation. Fortunately for the hidden indexical theorists, her attack fails, albeit in interesting and subtle ways. The following paper is divided into four sections. Section I presents (...) a skeletal version of Rett’s argument. Those already familiar with Rett (2006) can skip ahead without shame. Section II offers a .. (shrink)
In his book Language in Context, Jason Stanley provides a novel solution to certain interpretational puzzles (Stanley, 2007). The aphonic approach, as we call it, hangs upon a substantial syntactic thesis. Here, we provide theoretical and empirical arguments against this particular syntactic thesis. Moreover, we demonstrate that the interpretational puzzles under question admit of a better solution under the explicit approach.
Attempts to characterize unarticulated constituents (henceforth: UCs) by means of quantification over the parts of a sentence and the constituents of the proposition it expresses come to grief in more complicated cases than are commonly considered. In particular, UC definitions are inadequate when we consider cases in which the same constituent appears more than once in a proposition that only has one word with the constituent as its semantic value. This article explores some consequences of trying to repair the formal (...) definitions. (shrink)
Jason Stanley has argued that in order to obtain the desired readings of certain sentences, such as “In most of John’s classes, he fails exactly three Frenchmen”, we must suppose that each common noun is associated with a hidden indexical that may be either bound by a higher quantifier phrase or interpreted by the context. This paper shows that the desired readings can be obtained as well by interpreting nouns as expressing relations and without supposing that nouns are associated with (...) hidden indexicals. Stanley’s theory and the present alternative are not equivalent, however. They differ over the status of sentences such as “Every student is happy and some student is not happy”. On Stanley’s theory, this sentence will be true in some contexts, while on the present alternative it will be true in no context. Considerations in favor of the present theory’s verdict on such sentences are presented. The broader question at issue is the correct way to incorporate context-relativity into formal semantics. (shrink)
Philosophers have alleged that paraphrases of metaphors are inadequate. They have presented this inadequacy as a datum predicted by, and thus a reason to accept, particular accounts of ‘metaphorical meanings.’ But to what, specifically, does this inadequacy claim amount? I argue that, if this assumption is to have any bearing on the metaphor debate, it must be construed as the comparative claim that paraphrases of metaphors are inadequate compared to paraphrases of literal utterances. But the evidence philosophers have offered does (...) not support the comparative inadequacy of paraphrases of metaphors. I offer my own empirical evidence against the inadequacy assumption. (shrink)
A number of authors have argued that the fact that certain indexicals depend for their reference-determination on the speaker’s referential intentions demonstrates the inadequacy of associating such expressions with functions from contexts to referents (characters). By distinguishing between different uses to which the notion of context is put in these argument, I show that this line of argument fails. In the course of doing so, I develop a way of incorporating the role played by intentions into a character-based semantics for (...) indexicals and I argue that the framework I prefer is superior to an alternative which has been proposed by others. (shrink)
For a putative knower S and a proposition P , two types of skepticism can be distinguished, depending on the conclusions they draw: outer skepticism , which concludes that S does not know that P , and inner skepticism , which concludes that S does not know whether P . This paper begins by showing that outer skepticism has undesirable consequences because that S does not know that P presupposes P , and inner skepticism does not have this undesirable consequence (...) since that S does not know whether P does not presuppose P . We indicate that the two types of skepticism aim to different loci of doubts: while outer skepticism doubts whether we can gain an epistemic warrant for the actuality, inner skepticism doubts whether we can gain epistemic identification of the actuality. It is further indicated that responses to skepticism from externalist theories, as well as from fallibilist internalist theories, can only respond to outer skepticism but not to inner skepticism. (shrink)
According to the traditional view of weakness of will, a weak-willed agent acts in a way inconsistent with what she judges to be best.1 Richard Holton has argued against this view, claiming that ‘the central cases of weakness of will are best characterized not as cases in which people act against their better judgment, but as cases in which they fail to act on their intentions’ (1999: 241). But Holton doesn’t think all failures to act on one’s prior intentions, or (...) all revisings of intentions, are cases of weakness of will (WW). Rather, he thinks an intention-revision is a case of WW only when it occurs ‘in circumstances in which [one] should not have revised [the intention]’. Holton points out that according to the traditional view of WW, to call an agent ‘weak-willed’ is to make descriptive claim about the agent (about whether an action in fact is inconsistent with what (s)he judges to be best). But according to Holton’s account, the question of whether the agent was weak-willed ‘will depend on which intentions [the agent] should have stuck with as a rational intender. That is a normative question’ (my emphasis) (241-3, 247-8. (shrink)
This paper offers a new semantic theory of existentials (sentences of the form There be NP pivot XP coda ) in which pivots are (second order) predicates and codas are modifiers. The theory retains the analysis of pivots as denoting generalized quantifiers (Barwise and Cooper 1981; Keenan 1987), but departs from previous analyses in analyzing codas as contextual modifiers on a par with temporal/locative frame adverbials. Existing analyses universally assume that pivots are arguments of some predicate, and that codas are (...) main or secondary predicates. It is shown that these analyses cannot account for the behavior of codas with quantifiers and for the interaction of multiple codas, both of which receive a simple treatment on the proposed theory. The assimilation of codas to frame adverbials explains several semantic properties which have not been analyzed in the semantic literature, and that distinguish existentials from their copular counterparts. Furthermore, it highlights important properties of the semantics of modification and its relation to predication. (shrink)
Epistemic contextualism, many critics argue, entails that ordinary speakers are blind to the fact that knowledge claims have context-sensitive truth conditions. This attribution of blindness, critics add, seriously undermines contextualism. I show that this criticism and, in general, discussions about the error theory entailed by contextualism, greatly underestimates the complexity and diversity of the data about ordinary speakers? inter-contextual judgments, as well as the range of explanatory moves that are open to both invariantists and contextualists concerning such judgments. Contextualism does (...) entail that some speakers suffer from semantic blindness; however, at its roots, this blindness concerns not the context-sensitivity of knowledge claims, but the question whether knowledge sentences possess context-independent truth conditions. I argue that this blindness should not be deemed problematic, but that invariantism entails an error theory that is, by comparison, much more troubling. (shrink)
We discuss the challenge to truth-conditional semantics presented by apparent shifts in extension of predicates such as ‘red’. We propose an explicit indexical semantics for ‘red’ and argue that our account is preferable to the alternatives on conceptual and empirical grounds.
In this paper, I argue that there are good motivations for a relativist account of the domain-sensitivity of quantifier phrases. I will frame the problem as a puzzle involving what looks like a logically valid inference, yet one whose premises are true while the conclusion is false. After discussing some existing accounts, literalist and contextualist, I will present and argue for an account that may be said to be relativist in the following sense: (i) a domain of quantification is required (...) for determining truth value, but is idle in determining semantic content, and (ii) the same sentence, as used on one and the same occasion, may receive different truth values relative to different domains. (shrink)
It is widely agreed that contraposition, strengthening the antecedent and hypothetical syllogism fail for subjunctive conditionals. The following putative counter-examples are frequently cited, respectively.
In some utterances, some material does not seem to be explicitly expressed in words, but nevertheless seems to be part of the literal content of the utterance rather than an implicature. I will call material of this kind implicit content. The following are some relevant examples from the literature. (1) Everyone was sick. (2) I haven’t eaten. (3) It’s raining. In the case of (1), we are supposed to have asked Stephen Neale how his dinner party went last night (Neale, (...) 1990, pp. 94–95) and received this as the reply. Obviously, we do not take Neale to be saying that everyone in the world was sick; we interpret him as saying that everyone who attended his dinner party was sick. How, then, do we come to incorporate the property of attending Neale’s dinner party into the proposition expressed, when it does not seem to be the denotation of any overt lexical items in the utterance? In uttering (2), I might be asserting that I have not eaten dinner today (Bach 1994, pp. 135–136), even though I do not use any audible words meaning ‘dinner’ or ‘today’. (I might thereby intend to create an implicature to the effect that we should go to a restaurant.) And in saying (3), I might be claiming that it is raining at 11.59pm on Halloween 2008 in Arkham, Massachusetts, even though I do not appear to mention any time or place (Perry 1986; Stanley 2000; Recanati 2002, 2004, 2007; Mart´ı 2006; Neale 2007). (shrink)
Abstract: A current debate in semantics and pragmatics is whether all contextual effects on truth-conditional content can be traced to logical form, or 'unarticulated constituents' can be supplied by the pragmatic process of free enrichment. In this paper, I defend the latter position. The main objection to this view is that free enrichment appears to overgenerate, not predicting where context cannot affect truth conditions, so that a systematic account is unlikely (Stanley, 2002a). I first examine the semantic alternative proposed by (...) Stanley and others, which assumes extensive hidden structure acting as a linguistic trigger for pragmatic processes, so that all truth-conditional effects of context turn out to be instances of saturation. I show that there are cases of optional pragmatic contributions to the proposition expressed that cannot plausibly be accounted for in this way, and that advocates of this approach will therefore also have to appeal to free enrichment. The final section starts to address the question of how free enrichment is constrained: I argue that it involves only local development or adjustment of parts of logical form, any global developments being excluded by the requirement for the proposition expressed to provide an inferential warrant for the intended implications of the utterance. (shrink)
What is the proper way to draw the semantics-pragmatics distinction, and is what is said by a speaker ever enriched by pragmatics? An influential but controversial answer to the latter question is that the inputs to semantic interpretation contains representations of every contribution from context that is relevant to determining what is said, and that pragmatics never enriches the output of semantic interpretation. The proposal is bolstered by a controversial argument from syntactic binding designed to detect hidden syntactic structure. The (...) following contains an exposition and consideration of the argument. (shrink)
Some linguistic phenomena can occur in uses of language in thought, whereas others only occur in uses of language in communication. I argue that this distinction can be used as a test for whether a linguistic phenomenon can be explained via Grice’s theory of conversational implicature. I argue further, on the basis of this test, that conversational implicature cannot be used to explain quantifier domain restriction or apparent substitution failures involving coreferential names, but that it must be used to explain (...) the phenomenon of referential uses of definite descriptions. I conclude with a brief discussion of the relevance of this point to the semantics/pragmatics distinction. (shrink)
This article deals with the relationship between language and thought, focusing on the question of whether language can be a vehicle of thought, as, for example, Peter Carruthers has claimed. We develop and examine a powerful argument—the "argument from explicitness"—against this cognitive role of language. The premises of the argument are just two: (1) the vehicle of thought has to be explicit, and (2) natural languages are not explicit. We explain what these simple premises mean and why we should believe (...) they are true. Finally, we argue that even though the argument from explicitness shows that natural language cannot be a vehicle of thought, there is a cognitive function for language. (shrink)
Attitude reports are reports about people’s states of mind. They are reports about what people think, believe, know, know a priori, imagine, hate, wish, fear, and the like. So, for example, I might report that s knows p, or that she imagines p, or that she hates p, where p specifies the content to which s is purportedly related. One lively current debate centers around the question of what sort of specification is involved when such attitude reports are successful. Some (...) hold that it is specification of the precise content of a mental state; others hold that it is specification of the content of a mental state only relative to a mode of presentation; yet others hold that it is merely a description or characterization of the content of a mental state. After providing a brief introduction to the traditional debate on attitude reports, this entry argues that for certain kinds of knowledge reports and for so-called de re attitude reports, descriptive theories emerge as the most plausible. The entry concludes with a discussion of how the characterizing relation between attitude reports and mental states might be construed. (shrink)
In this paper I revisit the main arguments for a predicate analysis of descriptions in order to determine whether they do in fact undermine Russell's theory. I argue that while the arguments without doubt provide powerful evidence against Russell's original theory, it is far from clear that they tell against a quantificational account of descriptions.
The paper revisits Sharvy's theory of plural definite descriptions. An alternative account of plural definite descriptions building on the ideas of plural quantification and non-distributive plural predication is developed. Finally, the alternative is extrapolated to account for generic uses of definite descriptions.
A number of authors in favor of a unitary account of singular descriptions have alleged that the unitary account can be extrapolated to account for plural definite descriptions. In this paper I take a closer look at this suggestion. I argue that while the unitary account is clearly onto something right, it is in the end empirically inadequate. At the end of the paper I offer a new partitive account of plural definite descriptions that avoids the problems with both the (...) unitary account and standard Russellian analyses. (shrink)
It is natural to think that the relationship between ‘rain’ and the location of rain is different from the relationship between ‘dance’ and the location of dancing. Utterances of (1) are typically interpreted as, in some sense, being about a location in which it rains. (2) is, typically, not interpreted as being about a location in which the dancing takes place.
There has recently been considerable interest in accounts of fiction which treat fictional characters as abstract objects. In this paper I argue against this view. More precisely I argue that such accounts are unable to accommodate our intuitions that fictional negative existentials such as “Raskolnikov doesn’t exist” are true. I offer a general argument to this effect and then consider, but reject, some of the accounts of fictional negative existentials offered by abstract object theorists. I then note that some of (...) the sort of data invoked by the abstract object theorist in fact cuts against her position. I concludle that we should not regard fictional characters as abstract objects but rather should adopt a make-believe theoretic account of fictional characters along the lines of those developed by Ken Walton and others. (shrink)
These days it is widely agreed that there is no such thing as absolute motion and rest; the motion of an object can only be characterized with respect to some chosen frame of reference.1 This is a fact of which many of us are well-aware, and yet a cursory consideration of the ways we ascribe motion to objects gives the impression that it is a fact we persistently ignore. We insist to the police officer that we came to a full (...) and complete stop at the stop sign, we fret that traffic is moving too slowly, we observe that the sun has dropped below the hills on the horizon, all without ever saying which frames of reference we have in mind. (shrink)
(1) Every miner went to a meeting. It seems that (1) can mean either that there was one meeting that every miner went to, or that every miner went to at least one meeting with no guarantee that they all went to the same meeting. In the language of ﬁrst-order logic we can represent these two readings as a matter of the universal and existential quantiﬁers having diﬀerent scope with respect to each other.