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Profile: Bryan Pickel (University of Edinburgh, University of Texas at Austin)
  1. 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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  2. 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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  3.  85
    Structured Propositions in a Generative Grammar.Bryan Pickel - forthcoming - Mind.
  4. Naming, Saying, and Structure.Bryan Pickel - 2016 - Noûs 50 (2).
    It is commonplace for philosophers to distinguish mere truths from truths that perspicuously represent the world's structure. According to a popular view, the perspicuous truths are supposed to be metaphysically revelatory and to play an important role in the accounts of law-hood, confirmation, and linguistic interpretation. Yet, there is no consensus about how to characterize this distinction. I examine strategies developed by Lewis and by Sider in his Writing the Book of the World which purport to explain this distinction in (...)
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  5. Are Propositions Essentially Representational?Bryan Pickel - 2015 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 97 (2).
    Jeffrey King argues that nothing has truth conditions except by being taken to be true or false by rational agents. But – for good reason – King claims that propositions possess truth conditions essentially and intrinsically. I will argue that King cannot have both: if the truth conditions of a proposition depend on the reactions of rational agents, then the possession of truth conditions can't follow from the intrinsic nature or existence of the proposition. This leaves two options. Either, nothing (...)
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  6.  60
    Frontloading, Supposition, and Contraction.Bryan Pickel - 2016 - Philosophical Quarterly 66 (264):559-578.
    In Constructing the World, Chalmers observes that our knowledge exceeds the core evidence provided by our senses and introspection. Thus, on the basis of core evidence, one also can know (S) that water covers the majority of the Earth. This knowledge, Chalmers suggests, requires a great deal of apriori knowledge. Chalmers argues that even if one suspends belief in one’s core evidence, one can nevertheless reason from a description of this evidence to an ordinary claim such as S. Chalmers concludes (...)
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    Unity Through Truth.Bryan Pickel - forthcoming - Synthese:1-28.
    Renewed worries about the unity of the proposition have been taken as a crucial stumbling block for any traditional conception of propositions. These worries are often framed in terms of how entities independent of mind and language can have truth conditions: why is the proposition that Desdemona loves Cassio true if and only if she loves him? I argue that the best understanding of these worries shows that they should be solved by our theory of truth and not our theory (...)
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  8. A Quinean Critique of Ostrich Nominalism.Bryan Pickel & Nicholas Mantegani - 2012 - Philosophers' Imprint 12 (6).
    Ostrich nominalists often cite Quine’s criterion of ontological commitment in order to claim that their view is more parsimonious than rival positions in ontology such as realism. We show that Quine’s criterion, properly understood, does not support this claim. Indeed, we show that ostrich nominalism has a far more profligate ontology than realism.
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  9. One Dogma of Millianism.Derek Ball & Bryan Pickel - 2013 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 86 (1):70-92.
    Millians about proper names typically claim that it is knowable apriori that Hesperus is Phosphorus. We argue that they should claim instead that it is knowable only aposteriori that Hesperus is Hesperus, since the Kripke-Putnam epistemic arguments against descriptivism are special cases of Quinean arguments that nothing is knowable apriori, and Millians have no resources to resist the more general Quinean arguments.
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  10.  60
    Variables and Attitudes.Bryan Pickel - 2015 - Noûs 49 (2):333-356.
    The phenomenon of quantification into attitude ascriptions has haunted broadly Fregean views, according to which co-referential proper names are not always substitutable salva veritate in attitude ascriptions. Opponents of Fregeanism argue that a belief ascription containing a proper name such as ‘Michael believes that Lindsay is charitable’ is equivalent to a quantified sentence such as ‘there is someone such that Michael believes that she is charitable, and that person is Lindsay’. They conclude that the semantic contribution of a name such (...)
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  11.  72
    Rigidification and Attitudes.Bryan Pickel - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 158 (1):43-58.
    Scott Soames has argued that Rigidified Descriptivism wrongly predicts that one cannot believe, say, that Joe Strummer was born in 1952 without having a belief about the actual world. Soames suggests that agents in other possible worlds may have this belief, but may lack any beliefs about the actual world, a world that they do not occupy and have no contact with. I respond that this argument extends to other popular actuality-involving analyses. In order for Soames to hold on to (...)
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    Naming, Saying, and Structure.Bryan Pickel - 2016 - Noûs 51 (2).
    It is commonplace for philosophers to distinguish mere truths from truths that perspicuously represent the world's structure. According to a popular view, the perspicuous truths are supposed to be metaphysically revelatory and to play an important role in the accounts of law-hood, confirmation, and linguistic interpretation. Yet, there is no consensus about how to characterize this distinction. I examine strategies developed by Lewis and by Sider in his Writing the Book of the World which purport to explain this distinction in (...)
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  13.  68
    There is No 'Is' of Constitution.Bryan Pickel - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 147 (2):193 - 211.
    I defend the view that ordinary objects like statues are identical to the pieces of matter from which they are made. I argue that ordinary speakers assert sentences such as ‘this statue is a molded piece of clay’. This suggests that speakers believe propositions which entail that ordinary objects such as statues are the pieces matter from which they are made, and therefore pluralism contradicts ordinary beliefs. The dominant response to this argument purports to find an ambiguity in the word (...)
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  14.  24
    Syntax in Basic Laws §§29–32.Bryan Pickel - 2010 - Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 51 (2):253-277.
    In order to accommodate his view that quantifiers are predicates of predicates within a type theory, Frege introduces a rule which allows a function name to be formed by removing a saturated name from another saturated name which contains it. This rule requires that each name has a rather rich syntactic structure, since one must be able to recognize the occurrences of a name in a larger name. However, I argue that Frege is unable to account for this syntactic structure. (...)
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  15.  34
    Complex Predication and the Metaphysics of Properties.Bryan Pickel - 2014 - Dialectica 68 (2):209-230.
    The existence of complex predicates seems to support an abundant conception of properties. Specifically, the application conditions for complex predicates seem to be explained by the distribution of a sparser base of predicates. This explanatory link might suggest that the existence and distribution of properties expressed by complex predicates are explained by the existence and distribution of a sparser base of properties. Thus, complex predicates seem to legitimize the assumption of a wide array of properties. The additional properties are no (...)
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  16.  41
    Russell on Incomplete Symbols.Bryan Pickel - 2013 - Philosophy Compass 8 (10):909-923.
    Russell's notion of an incomplete symbol has become a standard against which philosophers compare their views on the relationship between language and the world. But Russell's exact characterization of incomplete symbols and the role they play in his philosophy are still disputed. In this paper, I trace the development of the notion of an incomplete symbol in Russell's philosophy. I suggest – against Kaplan, Evans, and others – that Russell's many characterizations of the notion of an incomplete symbol are compatible. (...)
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  17.  27
    Things: Papers on Objects, Events, and Properties. By Stephen Yablo. (Oxford UP, 2010. Pp. 323. Price £55.00.).Bryan Pickel - 2012 - Philosophical Quarterly 62 (246):215-217.
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