Noûs 42 (3):381-409 (2008)
AbstractIdioms – expressions like kick the bucket and let the cat out of the bag – are strange. They behave in ways that ordinary multi-word expressions do not. One distinctive and troublesome feature of idioms is their unpredictability: The meanings of sentences in which idiomatic phrases occur are not the ones that we would get by applying the usual compositional rules to the usual meanings of their (apparent) constituents. This sort of behavior requires an explanation. I will argue that the right explanation is that the sentences are being interpreted through a pretense. (What this means, exactly, will be explained in what follows.) This is a surprising claim, for two reasons. On the one hand, it seems that adopting a pretense account is overkill—it’s a far more radical move than is required to account for the phenomena. On the other hand, it seems that a pretense account is hopeless—that there is a fatal overgeneration problem for pretense accounts of idiom that causes them to fail, as Jason Stanley charges, “as badly as it is possible for an account of idiom to fail.” So I will have some work to do.
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Citations of this work
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Mimesis as Make-Believe: On the Foundations of the Representational Arts.Kendall L. Walton - 1990 - Harvard University Press.
Does Ontology Rest on a Mistake?Stephen Yablo - 1998 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 72 (1):229 - 283.
Hesperus and Phosphorus: Sense, Pretense, and Reference.Mark Crimmins - 1998 - Philosophical Review 107 (1):1-47.
Metaphor and Prop Oriented Make‐Believe.Kendall L. Walton - 1993 - European Journal of Philosophy 1 (1):39-57.