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Profile: Brian Rabern (University of Edinburgh)
  1. Future Contingents and the Logic of Temporal Omniscience.Patrick Todd & Brian Rabern - manuscript
    At least since Aristotle’s famous ‘sea-battle’ passages in On Interpretation 9, some substantial minority of philosophers has been attracted to the doctrine of the open future—the doctrine that future contingent statements are never true. Such views, however, seem inconsistent with what John MacFarlane has called the determinacy intuition—the intuition, roughly, that if something has happened, then (looking backwards) it was the case that it would happen. This tension forms, in large part, what might be called the problem of future contingents. (...)
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  2. The Antinomy of the Variable: A Tarskian Resolution.Bryan Pickel & Brian Rabern - 2016 - Journal of Philosophy 113 (3):137-170.
    Kit Fine has reawakened a puzzle about variables with a long history in analytic philosophy, labeling it “the antinomy of the variable”. Fine suggests that the antinomy demands a reconceptualization of the role of variables in mathematics, natural language semantics, and first-order logic. The difficulty arises because: (i) the variables ‘x’ and ‘y’ cannot be synonymous, since they make different contributions when they jointly occur within a sentence, but (ii) there is a strong temptation to say that distinct variables ‘x’ (...)
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  3. Monsters in Kaplan's Logic of Demonstratives.Brian Rabern - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 164 (2):393-404.
    Kaplan (1989a) insists that natural languages do not contain displacing devices that operate on character—such displacing devices are called monsters. This thesis has recently faced various empirical challenges (e.g., Schlenker 2003; Anand and Nevins 2004). In this note, the thesis is challenged on grounds of a more theoretical nature. It is argued that the standard compositional semantics of variable binding employs monstrous operations. As a dramatic first example, Kaplan’s formal language, the Logic of Demonstratives, is shown to contain monsters. For (...)
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  4. Does Semantic Relationism Solve Frege’s Puzzle?Bryan Pickel & Brian Rabern - 2017 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 46 (1):97-118.
    In a series of recent works, Kit Fine, 605–631, 2003, 2007) has sketched a novel solution to Frege’s puzzle. Radically departing from previous solutions, Fine argues that Frege’s puzzle forces us to reject compositionality. In this paper we first provide an explicit formalization of the relational semantics for first-order logic suggested, but only briefly sketched, by Fine. We then show why the relational semantics alone is technically inadequate, forcing Fine to enrich the syntax with a coordination schema. Given this enrichment, (...)
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  5. Against the Identification of Assertoric Content with Compositional Value.Brian Rabern - 2012 - Synthese 189 (1):75-96.
    This essay investigates whether or not we should think that the things we say are identical to the things our sentences mean. It is argued that these theoretical notions should be distinguished, since assertoric content does not respect the compositionality principle. As a paradigmatic example, Kaplan's formal language LD is shown to exemplify a failure of compositionality. It is demonstrated that by respecting the theoretical distinction between the objects of assertion and compositional values certain conflicts between compositionality and contextualism are (...)
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  6. Well Founding Grounding Grounding.Gabriel Oak Rabin & Brian Rabern - 2016 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 45 (4):349-379.
    Those who wish to claim that all facts about grounding are themselves grounded (“the meta-grounding thesis”) must defend against the charge that such a claim leads to infinite regress and violates the well-foundedness of ground. In this paper, we defend. First, we explore three distinct but related notions of “well-founded”, which are often conflated, and three corresponding notions of infinite regress. We explore the entailment relations between these notions. We conclude that the meta-grounding thesis need not lead to tension with (...)
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  7.  53
    Monsters and the Theoretical Role of Context.Brian Rabern & Derek Ball - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    Kaplan (1989) famously claimed that monsters--operators that shift the context--do not exist in English and "could not be added to it". Several recent theorists have pointed out a range of data that seem to refute Kaplan's claim, but others (most explicitly Stalnaker 2014) have offered a principled argument that monsters are impossible. This paper interprets and resolves the dispute. Contra appearances, this is no dry, technical matter: it cuts to the heart of a deep disagreement about the fundamental structure of (...)
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  8. Descriptions Which Have Grown Capital Letters.Brian Rabern - 2015 - Mind and Language 30 (3):292-319.
    Almost entirely ignored in the linguistic theorising on names and descriptions is a hybrid form of expression which, like definite descriptions, begin with 'the' but which, like proper names, are capitalised and seem to lack descriptive content. These are expressions such as the following, 'the Holy Roman Empire', 'the Mississippi River', or 'the Space Needle'. Such capitalised descriptions are ubiquitous in natural language, but to which linguistic categories do they belong? Are they simply proper names? Or are they definite descriptions (...)
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  9.  31
    Reviving the Parameter Revolution in Semantics.Bryan Pickel, Brian Rabern & Josh Dever - forthcoming - In Derek Ball & Brian Rabern (eds.), The Science of Meaning. Oxford University Press.
    Montague and Kaplan began a revolution in semantics, which promised to explain how a univocal expression could make distinct truth-conditional contributions in its various occurrences. The idea was to treat context as a parameter at which a sentence is semantically evaluated. But the revolution has stalled. One salient problem comes from recurring demonstratives: "He is tall and he is not tall". For the sentence to be true at a context, each occurrence of the demonstrative must make a different truth-conditional contribution. (...)
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  10. Dangerous Reference Graphs and Semantic Paradoxes.Landon Rabern, Brian Rabern & Matthew Macauley - 2013 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 42 (5):727-765.
    The semantic paradoxes are often associated with self-reference or referential circularity. Yablo (Analysis 53(4):251–252, 1993), however, has shown that there are infinitary versions of the paradoxes that do not involve this form of circularity. It remains an open question what relations of reference between collections of sentences afford the structure necessary for paradoxicality. In this essay, we lay the groundwork for a general investigation into the nature of reference structures that support the semantic paradoxes and the semantic hypodoxes. We develop (...)
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  11.  36
    A Bridge From Semantic Value to Content.Brian Rabern - 2017 - Philosophical Topics 45 (2):181-207.
    A common view relating compositional semantics and the objects of assertion holds the following: Sentences φ and ψ expresses the same proposition iff φ and ψ have the same modal profile. Following Dummett, Evans, and Lewis, Stanley argues that this view is fundamentally mistaken. According to Dummett, we must distinguish the semantic contribution a sentence makes to more complex expressions in which it occurs from its assertoric content. Stojnić insists that views which distinguish the roles of content and semantic value (...)
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  12. Against the Russellian Open Future.Anders J. Schoubye & Brian Rabern - forthcoming - Mind.
    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 (...)
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  13. A Simple Solution to the Hardest Logic Puzzle Ever.Brian Rabern & Landon Rabern - 2008 - Analysis 68 (2):105-112.
    We present the simplest solution ever to 'the hardest logic puzzle ever'. We then modify the puzzle to make it even harder and give a simple solution to the modified puzzle. The final sections investigate exploding god-heads and a two-question solution to the original puzzle.
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  14. Two-Dimensional Semantics and the Nesting Problem.David J. Chalmers & Brian Rabern - 2014 - Analysis 74 (2):210-224.
    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 (...)
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  15.  57
    Index, Context, and the Content of Knowledge.Brian Rabern - 2017 - In Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Contextualism. Routledge. pp. 465-479.
    The verb 'knows' is often taken to be context-sensitive in an interesting way. What 'knows' means seems to be sensitive to the epistemic features of the context, e.g. the epistemic standard in play, the set of relevant alternatives, etc. There are standard model-theoretic semantic frameworks which deal with both intensional operators and context-sensitive expressions. In this chapter, we provide a brief overview of the various moving parts of these frameworks, the roles of context and index, the need for double indexing, (...)
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  16. Propositions and Multiple Indexing.Brian Rabern - 2012 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 1 (2):116-124.
    It is argued that propositions cannot be the compositional semantic values of sentences (in context) simply due to issues stemming from the compositional semantics of modal operators (or modal quantifiers). In particular, the fact that the arguments for double indexing generalize to multiple indexing exposes a fundamental tension in the default philosophical conception of semantic theory. This provides further motivation for making a distinction between two sentential semantic contents—what (Dummett 1973) called “ingredient sense” and “assertoric content”.
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  17.  83
    The History of the Use of ⟦.⟧-Notation in Natural Language Semantics.Brian Rabern - 2016 - Semantics and Pragmatics 9 (12).
    In contemporary natural languages semantics one will often see the use of special brackets to enclose a linguistic expression, e.g. ⟦carrot⟧. These brackets---so-called denotation brackets or semantic evaluation brackets---stand for a function that maps a linguistic expression to its "denotation" or semantic value (perhaps relative to a model or other parameters). Even though this notation has been used in one form or another since the early development of natural language semantics in the 1960s and 1970s, Montague himself didn't make use (...)
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  18. Monsters and Communication: The Semantics of Contextual Shifting and Sensitivity.Brian Rabern - 2012 - Dissertation, The Australian National University
    This thesis argues for two main points concerning the philosophy of natural language semantics. Firstly, that the objects of assertion are distinct from the entities appealed to in the compositional rules of natural language semantics. Secondly, natural languages contain context-shifting operators known as "monsters". In fact, it will be shown that these theses are simply two sides of the same coin.
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