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Alex Silk
University of Birmingham
  1.  81
    Discourse Contextualism: A Framework for Contextualist Semantics and Pragmatics.Alex Silk - 2016 - Oxford University Press UK.
    This book investigates context-sensitivity in natural language by examining the meaning and use of a target class of theoretically recalcitrant expressions. These expressions-including epistemic vocabulary, normative and evaluative vocabulary, and vague language -exhibit systematic differences from paradigm context-sensitive expressions in their discourse dynamics and embedding properties. Many researchers have responded by rethinking the nature of linguistic meaning and communication. Drawing on general insights about the role of context in interpretation and collaborative action, Silk develops an improved contextualist theory of CR-expressions (...)
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  2. How to Be an Ethical Expressivist.Alex Silk - 2015 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 91 (1):47-81.
    Expressivism promises an illuminating account of the nature of normative judgment. But worries about the details of expressivist semantics have led many to doubt whether expressivism's putative advantages can be secured. Drawing on insights from linguistic semantics and decision theory, I develop a novel framework for implementing an expressivist semantics that I call ordering expressivism. I argue that by systematically interpreting the orderings that figure in analyses of normative terms in terms of the basic practical attitude of conditional weak preference, (...)
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  3. Theories of Vagueness and Theories of Law.Alex Silk - 2019 - Legal Theory 25 (2):132-152.
    It is common to think that what theory of linguistic vagueness is correct has implications for debates in philosophy of law. I disagree. I argue that the implications of particular theories of vagueness on substantive issues of legal theory and practice are less far-reaching than often thought. I focus on four putative implications discussed in the literature concerning (i) the value of vagueness in the law, (ii) the possibility and value of legal indeterminacy, (iii) the possibility of the rule of (...)
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  4. Evaluational Adjectives.Alex Silk - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research:1-35.
    This paper demarcates a theoretically interesting class of "evaluational adjectives." This class includes predicates expressing various kinds of normative and epistemic evaluation, such as predicates of personal taste, aesthetic adjectives, moral adjectives, and epistemic adjectives, among others. Evaluational adjectives are distinguished, empirically, in exhibiting phenomena such as discourse-oriented use, felicitous embedding under the attitude verb `find', and sorites-susceptibility in the comparative form. A unified degree-based semantics is developed: What distinguishes evaluational adjectives, semantically, is that they denote context-dependent measure functions ("evaluational (...)
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  5.  95
    Truth Conditions and the Meanings of Ethical Terms1.Alex Silk - 2013 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 8:195.
  6.  37
    How to Embed an Epistemic Modal: Attitude Problems and Other Defects of Character.Alex Silk - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (7):1773-1799.
    This paper develops a contextualist account of certain recalcitrant embedding phenomena with epistemic modals. I focus on three prominent objections to contextualism from embedding: first, that contextualism mischaracterizes subjects’ states of mind; second, that contextualism fails to predict how epistemic modals are obligatorily linked to the subject in attitude ascriptions; and third, that contextualism fails to explain the persisting anomalousness of so-called “epistemic contradictions” in suppositional contexts. Contextualists have inadequately appreciated the force of these objections. Drawing on a more general (...)
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  7.  5
    Normative Language in Context.Alex Silk - 2017 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 12.
    This chapter develops a contextualist account of normative language, focusing on broadly normative readings of modal verbs. The account draws on a more general framework for implementing a contextualist semantics and pragmatics, Discourse Contextualism. The aim of Discourse Contextualism is to derive the discourse properties of normative language from a contextualist interpretation of an independently motivated formal semantics, along with principles of interpretation and conversation. In using normative language, interlocutors can exploit their grammatical and world knowledge, and general pragmatic reasoning (...)
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  8. What Normative Terms Mean and Why It Matters for Ethical Theory.Alex Silk - 2015 - In Mark C. Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Vol. 5. pp. 296–325.
    This paper investigates how inquiry into normative language can improve substantive normative theorizing. First I examine two dimensions along which normative language differs: “strength” and “subjectivity.” Next I show how greater sensitivity to these features of the meaning and use of normative language can illuminate debates about three issues in ethics: the coherence of moral dilemmas, the possibility of supererogatory acts, and the connection between making a normative judgment and being motivated to act accordingly. The paper concludes with several brief (...)
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  9. Nietzsche and Contemporary Metaethics.Alex Silk - 2018 - In Paul Katsafanas (ed.), Routledge Philosophical Minds: The Nietzschean Mind. Routledge.
    Recent decades have witnessed a flurry of interest in Nietzsche's metaethics — his views, if any, on metaphysical, epistemological, semantic, and psychological issues about normativity and normative language and judgment. Various authors have highlighted a tension between Nietzsche's metaethical views about value and his ardent endorsement of a particular evaluative perspective: Although Nietzsche makes apparently "antirealist" claims to the effect that there are no evaluative facts, he vehemently engages in evaluative discourse and enjoins the "free spirits" to create values. Nearly (...)
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  10. Evidence Sensitivity in Weak Necessity Deontic Modals.Alex Silk - 2014 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 43 (4):691-723.
    Kolodny and MacFarlane have made a pioneering contribution to our understanding of how the interpretation of deontic modals can be sensitive to evidence and information. But integrating the discussion of information-sensitivity into the standard Kratzerian framework for modals suggests ways of capturing the relevant data without treating deontic modals as “informational modals” in their sense. I show that though one such way of capturing the data within the standard semantics fails, an alternative does not. Nevertheless I argue that we have (...)
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  11. Weak and Strong Necessity Modals: On Linguistic Means of Expressing "A Primitive Concept OUGHT".Alex Silk - forthcoming - In Meaning, Decision, and Norms: Themes from the Work of Allan Gibbard.
    This paper develops an account of the meaning of `ought', and the distinction between weak necessity modals (`ought', `should') and strong necessity modals (`must', `have to'). I argue that there is nothing specially ``strong'' about strong necessity modals per se: uses of `Must p' predicate the (deontic/epistemic/etc.) necessity of the prejacent p of the actual world (evaluation world). The apparent ``weakness'' of weak necessity modals derives from their bracketing whether the necessity of the prejacent is verified in the actual world. (...)
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  12.  21
    Modality, Weights and Inconsistent Premise Sets.Alex Silk - 2017 - Journal of Semantics 34 (4):683-707.
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  13. Nietzschean Constructivism: Ethics and Metaethics for All and None.Alex Silk - 2015 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 58 (3):244-280.
    This paper develops an interpretation of Nietzsche’s ethics and metaethics that reconciles his apparent antirealism with his engagement in normative discourse. Interpreting Nietzsche as a metaethical constructivist—as holding, to a first approximation, that evaluative facts are grounded purely in facts about the evaluative attitudes of the creatures to whom they apply—reconciles his vehement declarations that nothing is valuable in itself with his passionate expressions of a particular evaluative perspective and injunctions for the free spirits to create new values. Drawing on (...)
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  14.  42
    Normativity in Language and Law.Alex Silk - forthcoming - In David Plunkett, Kevin Toh & Scott Shapiro (eds.), Dimensions of Normativity: New Essays on Metaethics and Jurisprudence. Oxford University Press.
    This chapter develops an account of the meaning and use of various types of legal claims, and uses this account to inform debates about the nature and normativity of law. The account draws on a general framework for implementing a contextualist theory, called 'Discourse Contextualism' (Silk 2016). The aim of Discourse Contextualism is to derive the apparent normativity of claims of law from a particular contextualist interpretation of a standard semantics for modals, along with general principles of interpretation and conversation. (...)
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  15.  81
    Why 'Ought' Detaches: Or, Why You Ought to Get with My Friends (If You Want to Be My Lover).Alex Silk - 2014 - Philosophers' Imprint 14.
    This paper argues that a standard analysis of modals from formal semantics suggests a solution to the detaching problem — the problem of whether un-embedded 'ought'-claims can "detach" (be derived) from hypothetical imperatives and their antecedent conditions. On a broadly Kratzerian analysis, modals have a skeletal conventional meaning and receive a particular reading (e.g., deontic, epistemic, teleological) only relative to certain forms of contextual supplementation. I argue that 'ought'-claims can detach — subject to an important qualification — but only as (...)
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  16. Expectation Biases and Context Management with Negative Polar Questions.Alex Silk - 2020 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 49 (1):51-92.
    This paper examines distinctive discourse properties of preposed negative 'yes/no' questions (NPQs), such as 'Isn’t Jane coming too?'. Unlike with other 'yes/no' questions, using an NPQ '∼p?' invariably conveys a bias toward a particular answer, where the polarity of the bias is opposite of the polarity of the question: using the negative question '∼p?' invariably expresses that the speaker previously expected the positive answer p to be correct. A prominent approach—what I call the context-management approach, developed most extensively by Romero (...)
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  17.  31
    Commitment and states of mind with mood and modality.Alex Silk - 2018 - Natural Language Semantics 26 (2):125-166.
    This paper develops an account of mood selection with attitude predicates in French. I start by examining the “contextual commitment” account of mood developed by Portner and Rubinstein Proceedings of SALT 22, CLC Publications, Ithaca, NY, pp 461–487, 2012). A key innovation of Portner and Rubinstein’s account is to treat mood selection as fundamentally depending on a relation between individuals’ attitudes and the predicate’s modal backgrounds. I raise challenges for P&R’s qualitative analysis of contextual commitment and explanations of mood selection. (...)
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  18.  82
    Accommodation and Negotiation with Context‐Sensitive Expressions.Alex Silk - 2014 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 3 (2):115-123.
    Contextualists and relativists about predicates of personal taste, epistemic modals, and so on (“CR-expressions”) agree that the interpretation of these expressions depends, in some sense, on context. Relativists claim that the sort of context-sensitivity exhibited by CR-expressions is importantly different from that exhibited by paradigm context-sensitive expressions. This bifurcation is often motivated by the claim that the two classes of expressions behave differently in patterns of agreement and disagreement. I provide cases illustrating that the same sorts of discourse phenomena that (...)
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  19. Having It Both Ways: Hybrid Theories and Modern Metaethics.Alex Silk - 2017 - Analysis 77 (1):197-211.
  20. Semantics with Assignment Variables.Alex Silk - forthcoming - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    This book develops a syntactic and semantic framework for natural language. The principal focus is a spectrum of "shifting" phenomena in which the context relevant for interpreting certain expressions seems to depend on features of the linguistic environment. A key innovation is to introduce explicit representations of context in linguistic structure and meanings. Central applications include local and non-local contextual dependencies with quantifiers, attitude ascriptions, conditionals, questions, and relativization. The project integrates conceptual insights from contemporary philosophy of language, formal tools (...)
     
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  21.  75
    Shafer-Landau, Russ, Ed. Oxford Studies in Metaethics. Vol. 6. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp. 320. $99.00 ; $40.00. [REVIEW]Alex Silk - 2012 - Ethics 122 (3):622-627.
  22. Metaethical Contextualism.Alex Silk - 2017 - In Tristram McPherson & David Plunkett (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Metaethics. Routledge. pp. 102-118.
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  23.  45
    Review of Paul Katsafanas, Agency and the Foundations of Ethics: Nietzschean Constitutivism. [REVIEW]Alex Silk - 2013 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 10.
    Review of Paul Katsafanas, Agency and the Foundations of Ethics: Nietzschean Constitutivism.
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  24.  28
    The Progressive and Verbs of Creation.Alex Silk - 2016 - Journal of Semantics 33 (1):19-48.
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  25.  49
    Whither Anankastics?Billy Dunaway & Alex Silk - 2014 - Philosophical Perspectives 28 (1):75-94.