Two-dimensional semantics and the nesting problem

Analysis 74 (2):210-224 (2014)
David Chalmers
New York University
Brian Rabern
University of Edinburgh
Graeme Forbes (2011) raises some problems for two-dimensional semantic theories. The problems concern nested environments: linguistic environments where sentences are nested under both modal and epistemic operators. Closely related problems involving nested environments have been raised by Scott Soames (2005) and Josh Dever (2007). Soames goes so far as to say that nested environments pose the “chief technical problem” for strong two-dimensionalism. We call the problem of handling nested environments within two-dimensional semantics “the nesting problem”. We show that the two-dimensional semantics for attitude ascriptions developed in Chalmers (2011a) has no trouble accommodating certain forms of the nesting problem that involve factive verbs such as “know” or “establish”. A certain form of the nesting problem involving apriority and necessity operators does raise an interesting puzzle, but we show how a generalized version of the nesting problem arises independently of two-dimensional semantics—it arises, in fact, for anyone who accepts the contingent a priori. We, then, provide a two-dimensional treatment of the apriority operator that fits the two-dimensional treatment of attitude verbs and apply it to the generalized nesting problem. We conclude that two-dimensionalism is not seriously threatened by cases involving the nesting of epistemic and modal operators.
Keywords two-dimensional semantics  nesting problem  apriority  attitude verbs  apriority operator  a priori  epistemic operators  embedded modals  two-dimensionalism
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DOI 10.1093/analys/anu032
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References found in this work BETA

Actuality and Knowability.David J. Chalmers - 2011 - Analysis 71 (3):411-419.
Reply to Forbes.K. Gluer & P. Pagin - 2012 - Analysis 72 (2):298-303.

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Citations of this work BETA

Binding Bound Variables in Epistemic Contexts.Brian Rabern - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-31.
The A Priori‐Operator and the Nesting Problem.Eric Johannesson & Sara Packalén - 2016 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 5 (3):169-176.

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