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Brian Leahy
Harvard University
  1. Mental Files and Belief: A Cognitive Theory of How Children Represent Belief and its Intensionality.Josef Perner, Michael Huemer & Brian Leahy - 2015 - Cognition 145:77-88.
    We provide a cognitive analysis of how children represent belief using mental files. We explain why children who pass the false belief test are not aware of the intensionality of belief. Fifty-one 3½- to 7-year old children were familiarized with a dual object, e.g., a ball that rattles and is described as a rattle. They observed how a puppet agent witnessed the ball being put into box 1. In the agent’s absence the ball was taken from box 1, the child (...)
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  2.  40
    Mental Files in Development: Dual Naming, False Belief, Identity and Intensionality.Josef Perner & Brian Leahy - 2016 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 7 (2):491-508.
    We use mental files to present an analysis of children's developing understanding of identity in alternative naming tasks and belief. The core assumption is that younger children below the age of about 4 years create different files for an object depending on how the object is individuated. They can anchor them to the same object, hence think of the same object whether they think of it as a rabbit or as an animal. However, the claim is, they cannot yet link (...)
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  3.  13
    Teleosemantics: Intentionality, Productivity, and the Theory of Meaning.Brian Leahy - 2014 - Language and Linguistics Compass 8 (5).
    Since the publication of Ruth Millikan's Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories in 1984, a great deal of literature has discussed her so-called teleosemantic or biosemantic solution to the problem of intentionality. Only recently, though, has much attention been paid to her co-ordinated solution to the problem of productivity. This article, first, clearly describes the problems of intentionality, productivity, and compositionality, and describes their relationships and their relevance for the theory of meaning. It then describes Millikan's proposal with respect to (...)
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  4. Presuppositions and Antipresuppositions in Conditionals.Brian Leahy - 2011 - Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory:257-274.
    Abstract Utterances of counterfactual conditionals are typically attended by the information that their antecedents are false. But there is as yet no account of the source of this information that is both detailed and complete. This paper describes the problem of counterfactual antecedent falsity and argues that the problem can be addressed by appeal to an adequate account of the presuppositions of various competing conditional constructions. It argues that indicative conditionals presuppose that their antecedents are epistemically possible, while subjunctive conditionals (...)
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  5.  30
    On Presuppositional Implicatures.Brian Leahy - 2016 - Topoi 35 (1):83-91.
    Scalar implicatures arise when a speaker uses a logically weak alternative in a context where a logically stronger alternative was available. Presuppositional implicatures, as I call them, arise when a speaker uses a presuppositionally weak alternative when a presuppositionally stronger alternative was available. My goal is to give a detailed, working theory of presuppositional implicatures, and show that they are a special case of scalar implicatures. In doing so, I carefully contrast presuppositional implicatures with antipresuppositions. These two phenomena have been (...)
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  6.  27
    Counterfactual Antecedent Falsity and the Epistemic Sensitivity of Counterfactuals.Brian Leahy - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (1):45-69.
    Why do utterances of counterfactual conditionals typically, but not universally, convey the message that their antecedents are false? I demonstrate that two common theoretical commitments–commitment to the existence of scalar implicature and of informative presupposition—can be supplemented with an independently motivated theory of the presuppositions of competing conditional alternatives to jointly predict this information when and only when it appears. The view works best if indicative and counterfactual conditionals have a closely related semantics, so I conclude by undermining two familiar (...)
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  7.  59
    Basic Conditional Reasoning: How Children Mimic Counterfactual Reasoning.Brian Leahy, Eva Rafetseder & Josef Perner - 2014 - Studia Logica 102 (4):793-810.
    Children approach counterfactual questions about stories with a reasoning strategy that falls short of adults’ Counterfactual Reasoning (CFR). It was dubbed “Basic Conditional Reasoning” (BCR) in Rafetseder et al. (Child Dev 81(1):376–389, 2010). In this paper we provide a characterisation of the differences between BCR and CFR using a distinction between permanent and nonpermanent features of stories and Lewis/Stalnaker counterfactual logic. The critical difference pertains to how consistency between a story and a conditional antecedent incompatible with a nonpermanent feature of (...)
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  8.  50
    Two Arguments for the Etiological Theory Over the Modal Theory of Biological Function.Brian Leahy & Maximilian Huber - 2017 - Synthese 194 (4).
    This paper contains a positive development and a negative argument. It develops a theory of function loss and shows how this undermines an objection raised against the etiological theory of function in support of the modal theory of function. Then it raises two internal problems for the modal theory of function.
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    Can Teleosemantics Deflect the EAAN?Brian Leahy - 2013 - Philosophia 41 (1):221-238.
    Alvin Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism aims to show that the conjunction of contemporary evolutionary theory (E) with the claim that there is no God (N) cannot be rationally accepted. Where R is the claim that our cognitive faculties are reliable, the argument is: The probability of R given N and E is low or inscrutable.Anyone who sees (1) and accepts (N&E) has a defeater for R, and this defeater cannot be defeated or deflected.Anyone who has an undefeated, undeflected defeater (...)
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  10. A Teleosemantic Theory of Mental Conditionals.Brian Leahy - manuscript
    The purposes of this paper are first, to develop clearly the problem of mental conditionals for Millikan’s theory; second, to show why existing approaches to conditional semantics face serious challenges from a teleosemantic perspective; and third, to offer an account of the function of mental conditionals that meets the requirements of Millikan’s theory. We end up not only with a solution to a standing problem for teleosemantics, but also with a novel avenue for research in conditional semantics.
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  11.  4
    Mental Files Theory of Mind: When Do Children Consider Agents Acquainted with Different Object Identities?Michael Huemer, Josef Perner & Brian Leahy - 2018 - Cognition 171:122-129.
  12.  17
    Simplicity and Elegance in Millikan’s Account of Productivity: Reply to Martinez.Brian Leahy - 2016 - Philosophical Psychology 29 (4):503-516.
    This paper responds to a problem, raised by Martinez, for Millikan’s explanation of the interpretability of novel signs in terms of mapping functions. I argue that Martinez’s critique is a logically weakened version of Kripke’s skeptical argument about rule following. Responding to Martinez requires two things. First, we must correctly understand the role of simplicity and elegance in choosing the correct mapping function for a signaling system. Second, we need to understand that mapping functions are descriptions of the features that (...)
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