At least since Locke, philosophers and psychologists have usually held that concepts arise out of sensory perceptions, thoughts are built from concepts, and language enables speakers to convey their thoughts to hearers. Christopher Gauker holds that this tradition is mistaken about both concepts and language. The mind cannot abstract the building blocks of thoughts from perceptual representations. More generally, we have no account of the origin of concepts that grants them the requisite independence from language. Gauker's alternative is to show (...) that much of cognition consists in thinking by means of mental imagery, without the help of concepts, and that language is a tool by which interlocutors coordinate their actions in pursuit of shared goals. Imagistic cognition supports the acquisition and use of this tool, and when the use of this tool is internalized, it becomes the very medium of conceptual thought. (shrink)
The proposition expressed by a sentence is relative to a context. But what determines the content of the context? Many theorists would include among these determinants aspects of the speaker’s intention in speaking. My thesis is that, on the contrary, the determinants of the context never include the speaker’s intention. My argument for this thesis turns on a consideration of the role that the concept of proposition expressed in context is supposed to play in a theory of linguistic communication. To (...) illustrate an alternative approach, I present an original theory of the reference of demonstratives according to which the referent of a demonstrative is the object that adequately and best satisfies certain accessibility criteria. Although I call my thesis zero tolerance for pragmatics, it is not an expression of intolerance for everything that might be called “pragmatics.”. (shrink)
This paper aims to clear a path for the thesis that inner speech, in the very languages we speak, is the sole medium of all conceptual thought. First, it is argued that inner speech should not be identified with the auditory imagery of speech. Since they are distinct, there may be many more episodes of inner speech than those that are accompanied by auditory imagery. Second, it is argued that it is not necessary to conceive of linguistic communication as a (...) matter of the speaker’s revealing through words an underlying thought. Rather, acts of speech may be conceived as producing cooperation by intervening on processes of thought that are essentially imagistic. So conceived, the practice of speaking in language may acquire a function wholly internal to the individual, where it adds a layer of coordination to an underlying foundation of imagistic cognition. (shrink)
For many purposes in pragmatics one needs to appeal to a context of utterance conceived as a set of sentences or propositions. The context of utterance in this sense is often defined as the set of assumptions that the speaker supposes he or she shares with the hearer. I argue by stages that this is a mistake. First, if contexts must be defined in terms of shared assumptions, then it would be preferable to define the context as the set of (...) assumptionsthat the interlocutors really do share. Second, not all shared assumptions belong to the context, because not all are relevant. Third, hearers need not accept every member of the context, because some presuppositions are informative. Finally, presupposition coordination problems show that contexts may have contents that even the speaker does not accept. Contexts, we may conclude, are mind-transcendent. In one sense of the term a "presupposition" is an interlocutor's take on this mind-transcendent context. (shrink)
This paper develops the hypothesis that languages may be learned by means of a kind of cause-effect analysis. This hypothesis is developed through an examination of E. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh's research on the abilities of chimpanzees to learn to use symbols. Savage-Rumbaugh herself tends to conceive of her work as aiming to demonstrate that chimpanzees are able to learn the "referential function" of symbols. Thus the paper begins with a critique of this way of viewing the chimpanzee's achievements. The hypothesis that (...) Savage-Rumbaugh's chimpanzees learn to use symbols by means of cause-effect analysis is then supported through a detailed examination of the tasks they have learned to perform. Next, it is explained how language-learning in humans might be conceptualized along similar lines. The final section attempts to explain how the pertinent cause-effect analysis ought to be conceived. (This paper was published with a reply by Savage-Rumbaugh. See the same issue, pp. 55-76.). (shrink)
The proposition expressed by an utterance of a quantified sentence depends on a domain of discourse somehow determined by the context. How does the context of utterance determine the content of the domain of discourse? Many philosophers would approach this question from the point of view of an expressive theory of linguistic communication, according to which the primary function of language is to enable speakers to convey the propositional contents of their thoughts to hearers. This paper argues that from this (...) point of view there is no persuasive treatment of the determinants of the domain of discourse. The argument focuses on an abnormal case in which the domain the speaker has in mind is not evident to the hearer. In this way the question concerning the determinants of the domain of discourse is used to challenge the expressive theory of communication. (shrink)
This paper criticizes the dominant approaches to presupposition projection and proposes an alternative. Both the update semantics of Heim and the discourse representation theory of van der Sandt have problems in explicating the presuppositions of disjunctions. Moreover, Heim's approach is committed to a conception of accommodation that founders on the problem of informative presuppositions, and van der Sandt's approach is committed to a conception of accommodation that generates over-interpretations of utterances. The present approach borrows Karttunen's idea that instead of associating (...) presuppositions with sentences, we should define the conditions that contexts must meet in order to satisfy-the-presuppositions-of a sentence. However, in place of Karttunen's conception of contexts in terms of common ground, the present theory substitutes a conception of contexts as objective entities that are independent of the attitudes of the interlocutors. Contexts, so conceived, may be defined as containing sets of relevant possibilities. This allows us to define the conditions under which a context satisfies-the-presuppositions-of a disjunction. (shrink)
It is commonly supposed that perceptual representations in some way embed concepts and that this embedding accounts for the phenomenon of seeing-as. But there are good reasons, which will be reviewed here, to doubt that perceptions embed concepts. The alternative is to suppose that perceptions are marks in a perceptual similarity space that map into locations in an objective quality space. From this point of view, there are at least three sorts of seeing-as. First, in cases of ambiguity resolution, the (...) schematicity of the figure leaves us with a choice as to where in perceptual similarity space to place a mark. Second, in cases where expertise affects perception, the accumulation of perceptual landmarks permits a more precise placement of a mark in perceptual similarity space. Third, extensive experience with an object allows similarity to that object to serve as an acquired dimension in perceptual similarity space, which in turn affects the relative similarities of other objects. This is an open access publication. (shrink)
Jill de Villiers has argued that children's mastery of sentential complements plays a crucial role in enabling them to succeed at false-belief tasks. Josef Perner has disputed that and has argued that mastery of false-belief tasks requires an understanding of the multiplicity of perspectives. This paper attempts to resolve the debate by explicating attributions of desires and beliefs as extensions of the linguistic practices of making commands and assertions, respectively. In terms of these linguistic practices one can explain why desire-talk (...) will precede belief-talk and why even older children will have difficulty attributing incompatible desires. (shrink)
An Essay on the Relation Between Thought and Language Christopher Gauker. things possible? How, having once perceived the herds by the lake, does the agent remember this for later use? My answer is that one way he may do it is ...
In order to capture our intuitions about the logical consistency of sentences and the logical validity of arguments, a semantics for a natural language has to allow for the fact that different occurrences of a single bare demonstrative, such as “this”, may refer to different objects. But it is not obvious how to formulate a semantic theory in order to achieve this result. This paper first criticizes several proposals: that we should formulate our semantics as a semantics for tokens, not (...) expressions, Kaplan’s idea that syntax associates a demonstration with each occurrence of a demonstrative, Braun’s idea that a context may specify shifts in context across the evaluation of the expressions in a sentence; and Predelli’s idea that we should countenance different classes of contexts. Finally, a solution is proposed that allows that a natural language persists across the addition of basic lexical items but defines logical properties in terms of language stages. A surprising result is that we do not need to think of demonstratives as taking different referents in different situations. (shrink)
A number of philosophers have argued that the key to understanding the semantic paradoxes is to recognize that truth is essentially relative to context. All of these philosophers have been motivated by the idea that once a liar sentence has been uttered we can 'step back' and, from the point of view of a different context, judge that the liar sentence is true. This paper argues that this 'stepping back' idea is a mistake that results from failing to relativize truth (...) to context in the first place. Moreover, context-relative liar sentences, such as 'This sentence is not true in any context' present a paradox even after truth has been relativized to context. Nonetheless, the relativization of truth to context may offer us the means to avoid paradox, if we can justifiably deny that a sentence about a context can be true in the very context it is about. (shrink)
In recent years, many philosophers have supposed that perceptual representations have propositional content. A prominent rationale for this supposition is the assumption that perceptions may justify beliefs, but this rationale can be doubted. This rationale may be doubted on the grounds that there do not seem to be any viable characterizations of the belief-justifying propositional contents of perceptions. An alternative is to model perceptual representations as marks in a perceptual similarity space. A mapping can be defined between points in perceptual (...) similarity space and points in an objective quality space. The correctness of perceptual representation can then be defined as a kind of accuracy of mapping rather than as the truth of a proposition. The phenomenon of seeing-as can be accounted for as a matter of the location of marks in perceptual similarity space relative to other marks in perceptual similarity space. Perceptual representations, on this account, will not justify beliefs, but they may nonetheless guide judgment. (shrink)
"If you turn left at the next corner, you will see a blue house at the end of the street." That sentence -- a conditional -- might be true even though it is possible that you will not see a blue house at the end of the street when you turn left at the next corner. A moving van may block your view; the house may have been painted pink; a crow might swoop down and peck out your eyes. Still, (...) in some contexts, we might ignore these possibilities and correctly assert the conditional. In this book, Christopher Gauker argues that such context-relativity is the key to understanding the semantics of conditionals. Contexts are defined as objective features of the situation in which a conversation takes place, and the semantic properties of sentences -- conditionals included -- are defined in terms of assertibility in a context. One of the primary goals of a theory of conditionals has to be to distinguish correctly between valid and invalid arguments containing conditionals. According to Gauker, an argument is valid if the conclusion is assertible in every context in which the premises are assertible. This runs counter to what Gauker sees as a systematic misreading of the data by other authors, who judge arguments to be invalid if they can think of a context in which the premises are judged true and some other context in which the conclusion is judged false. Different schools of thought on conditionals reflect fundamentally different approaches to semantics. Gauker offers his theory as a motive and test case for a distinctive kind of semantics that dispenses with reference relations and possible worlds. (shrink)
As Grice defined it, a speaker conversationally implicates that p only if the speaker expects the hearer to recognize that the speaker thinks that p. This paper argues that in the sorts of cases that Grice took as paradigmatic examples of conversational implicature there is in fact no need for the hearer to consider what the speaker might thus have in mind. Instead, the hearer might simply make an inference from what the speaker literally says and the situation in which (...) the utterance takes place. In addition, a number of sources of the illusion of conversational implicatures in Grice's sense are identified and diagnosed. (shrink)
Many philosophers hold that for various reasons there must be psychological laws governing beliefs and desires. One of the few serious examples that they offer is the _belief-desire law_, which states, roughly, that _ceteris paribus_ people do what they believe will satisfy their desires. This paper argues that, in fact, there is no such law. In particular, decision theory does not support the contention that there is such a law.
This paper presents a precise semantics for incomplete predicates such as “ready”. Incomplete predicates have distinctive logical properties that a semantic theory needs to accommodate. For instance, “Tipper is ready” logically implies “Tipper is ready for something”, but “Tipper is ready for something” does not imply “Tipper is ready”. It is shown that several approaches to the semantics of incomplete predicates fail to accommodate these logical properties. The account offered here defines contexts as structures containing an element called a proposition (...) set, which contains atomic propositions and negations of atomic propositions. The condition under which “Tipper is ready” is true in a context is defined in terms of the contents of the proposition set for the context. On this account, the content of the context pertinent to a conversation must be determined not by what speakers have in mind but by relations of objective relevance. (shrink)
A similarity space is a hyperspace in which the dimensions represent various dimensions on which objects may differ. The similarity space theory of concepts is the thesis that concepts are regions of similarity spaces that are somehow realized in the brain. Proponents of such a theory of concepts include Paul Churchland and Peter Gärdenfors. This paper argues that the similarity space theory of concepts is mistaken because regions of similarity spaces cannot serve as the components of judgments. It emerges that (...) although similarity spaces cannot model concepts, they may model a kind of nonconceptual representation. (shrink)
It is widely accepted that when ‘might’ expresses certain kinds of relative modality, the sentence ‘p and it might not be the case that p’ is in some sense inconsistent. It has proven difficult to define a formal semantics that explicates this inconsistency while meeting certain other desiderata, in particular, that p does not imply ‘Must p’. This paper presents such a semantics. The key idea is that background contexts have to have multiple levels, including an inner set consisting of (...) worlds that represent what might be true and an outer set of worlds such that a sentence must be true only if it is true in all of them. This is an open access publication. (shrink)
This study examines the relation of language use to a person’s ability to perform categorization tasks and to assess their own abilities in those categorization tasks. A silent rhyming task was used to confirm that a group of people with post-stroke aphasia (PWA) had corresponding covert language production (or “inner speech”) impairments. The performance of the PWA was then compared to that of age- and education-matched healthy controls on three kinds of categorization tasks and on metacognitive self-assessments of their performance (...) on those tasks. The PWA showed no deficits in their ability to categorize objects for any of the three trial types (visual, thematic, and categorial). However, on the categorial trials, their metacognitive assessments of whether they had categorized correctly were less reliable than those of the control group. The categorial trials were distinguished from the others by the fact that the categorization could not be based on some immediately perceptible feature or on the objects’ being found together in a type of scenario or setting. This result offers preliminary evidence for a link between covert language use and a specific form of metacognition. (shrink)
When we imaginatively picture what might happen, we may take what we imagine to be either realistic or fantastic. A wine glass falling to the floor and shattering is realistic. A wine glass falling and morphing into a bird and flying away is fantastic. What does the distinction consist in? Two important necessary conditions are here defined. The first is a condition on the realistic representation of spatial configuration, grounded in an account of the imagistic representation of spatial configuration. The (...) second is a condition on the manner in which realistic courses of mental imagery may be grounded in remembered perceptions. This is defined in terms of an account of the representation of comparative similarity. This is an open access publication. (shrink)
A conversation can be conceived as aiming to circumscribe a set of possibilities that are relevant to the goals of the conversation. This set of possibilities may be conceived as determined by the goals and objective circumstances of the interlocutors and not by their propositional attitudes. An indicative conditional can be conceived as circumscribing a set of possibilities that have a certain property: If the set of relevant possibilities is subsequently restricted to one in which the antecedent holds, then it (...) will be restricted as well to one in which the consequent holds. We will identify a number of desiderata concerning the validity of arguments; we will develop a formally precise semantics for conditionals conceived in this way that satisfies the desiderata, and we will present a deductive calculus that is sound and complete with respect to the semantics. Finally, we will argue that the semantics compares well, both formally and foundationally, with two other semantic theories of indicative conditionals that satisfy the desiderata, namely, those of Gillies and Bledin. (shrink)
A lot of us have given up on the idea that there will be a naturalistic account of the relation of semantic reference and so have resolved to formulate our theories of semantics and communication without appeal to semantic reference. Still, there is a resilient intuition to the effect that I know the extensions of the terms of my language. This paper explicates that intuition without yielding to it. The key idea is to give a “skeptical” account of what it (...) is to “know the meaning” of a word, by which I mean an account of the status that is granted to a person in saying that he or she “knows the meaning” of a word. (shrink)
The question whether semantics is a normative discipline can be formulated as a question about the meaning of the word “means”. If I assert, “The word ‘gatto’ in Italian means cat,” what have I done? The naturalist about meaning claims that I have asserted that a certain natural relation obtains between Italian speakers’ tokens of “gatto” and cats. Or at least, I have asserted something about the way Italian speakers use the word “gatto”, which way presumably has something to do (...) with cats. The normativist claims, on the contrary, that what I have said is that in speaking Italian one ought to use the word “gatto” in a certain way, which way has something to do with cats. What I have done is endorse a certain proposal about how to use the word, which, if accepted, will have normative force. (shrink)
Jason Stanley has argued that in order to obtain the desired readings of certain sentences, such as “In most of John’s classes, he fails exactly three Frenchmen”, we must suppose that each common noun is associated with a hidden indexical that may be either bound by a higher quantifier phrase or interpreted by the context. This paper shows that the desired readings can be obtained as well by interpreting nouns as expressing relations and without supposing that nouns are associated with (...) hidden indexicals. Stanley’s theory and the present alternative are not equivalent, however. They differ over the status of sentences such as “Every student is happy and some student is not happy”. On Stanley’s theory, this sentence will be true in some contexts, while on the present alternative it will be true in no context. Considerations in favor of the present theory’s verdict on such sentences are presented. The broader question at issue is the correct way to incorporate context-relativity into formal semantics. (shrink)
It is commonly supposed that an utterance of a demonstrative, such as “that”, refers to a given object only if the speaker intends to refer to that object. This paper poses three challenges to this theory. First, the theory threatens to beg the question by defining the content of the speaker’s intention in terms of reference. Second, the theory makes psychologically implausible demands on the speaker. Third, the theory entails that there can be no demonstratives in thought.
According to the expressive theory of communication, the primary function of language is to enable speakers to convey the content of their thoughts to hearers. According to Tyler Burge's social externalism, the content of a person's thought is relative to the way words are used in his or her surrounding linguistic community. This paper argues that Burge's social externalism refutes the expressive theory of communication.
Recent philosophical literature has debated the question of how much context-relativity needs to be countenanced in precise semantic theories for natural languages and has displayed different conceptions of the way in which it might be accommodated. This article presents reasons to think that context-relativity is a phenomenon that semantic theory must accommodate and identifies some of the issues concerning how it ought to be accommodated.
I define T-schema deflationism as the thesis that a theory of truth for our language can simply take the form of certain instances of Tarski's schema (T). I show that any effective enumeration of these instances will yield as a dividend an effective enumeration of all truths of our language. But that contradicts Gödel's First Incompleteness Theorem. So the instances of (T) constituting the T-Schema deflationist's theory of truth are not effectively enumerable, which casts doubt on the idea that the (...) T-schema deflationist in any sense has a theory of truth. (The argument in section 2 of "Semantics for Deflationists" supercedes this paper.). (shrink)
Semantics deals with the literal meaning of sentences. Pragmatics deals with what speakers mean by their utterances of sentences over and above what those sentences literally mean. However, it is not always clear where to draw the line. Natural languages contain many expressions that may be thought of both as contributing to literal meaning and as devices by which speakers signal what they mean. After characterizing the aims of semantics and pragmatics, this chapter will set out the issues concerning such (...) devices and will propose a way of dividing the labor between semantics and pragmatics. To semantics belongs the job of defining the conditions under which a sentence is true relative to a context. To pragmatics belongs the job of explicating the conditions under which a given context pertains to a given conversation. (shrink)
It is often assumed that, though we may speak in sentences that express propositions only inexplicitly, our thoughts must express their propositional contents explicitly. This paper argues that, on the contrary, thoughts too may be inexplicit. Inexplicit thoughts may effectively drive behavior inasmuch as they rest on a foundation of imagistic cognition. The paper also sketches an approach to semantic theory that accommodates inexplicitness in mental representations as well as in spoken sentences.
Recanati takes for granted the conveyance conception of linguistic communica- tion, although it is not very clear exactly where he lies on the spectrum of possible variations. Even if we disavow all such conceptions of linguistic communication, there will be a place for semantic theory in articulating normative concepts such as logical consistency and logical validity. An approach to semantics focused on such normative concepts is illustrated using the example of “It’s raining”. It is argued that Recanati’s conception of semantics (...) as involving the pragmatics of saturation and modulation cannot account for the logical properties of “It’s raining. (shrink)
The Lockean theory of communication is here defined as the theory that communication takes place when a hearer grasps some sort of mental object, distinct from the speaker's words, that the speaker's words express. This theory contrasts with the view that spoken languages are the very medium of a kind of thought of which overt speech is the most basic form. This article is a critique of some of the most common motives for adopting a Lockean theory of communication. It (...) is not enough that words in some sense express thoughts. It is not enough that animals and prelinguistic infants in some sense think. It is not enough that speakers mean something by what they say or that hearers must understand a speaker's presuppositions. On the contrary, any explanation of how children can learn to communicate in the way the Lockean imagines will presuppose that words can instill beliefs in some way more fundamental than the Lockean theory itself can explain. (shrink)
Many of the terms of our language, such as “jar”, are open-textured in the sense that their applicability to novel objects is not entirely determined by their past usage. Many others, such as the verbs “use” and “have”, are schematic in the sense that they have only a very general meaning although on any particular occasion of use they denote some more particular relation. The phenomena of open texture and schematicity constitute a sharp challenge to referential semantics, which assumes that (...) every non-logical term has a definite extension. A different, non-referential approach to formal semantics defines truth as relative to a context and defines contexts as built up from exclusively linguistic entities. For any given utterance of a sentence, there will be one of these contexts that pertains to it. In this framework, open texture and schematicity can be understood as consequences of the complex nature of the pertaining relation between contexts and utterances. (shrink)
If we say that the truth of a statement of the form “S knows that p” depends on the pertinent context, that raises the question, what determines the pertinent context? One answer would be: the speaker. Another would be: the speaker and the hearer jointly somehow. Yet a third answer would be: no one gets to decide; it is a matter of what the conversation is supposed to achieve and how the world really is, and it can happen that all (...) of the interlocutors are mistaken about the pertinent context. In this way, the context relevant to knowledge attributions might be mind-independent. In this chapter, we will explore the consequences of taking contexts to be mind-independent. We will not give a definitive account of what determines the pertinent context, but we will have something to say about it. Our focus will be on pointing out that certain debates that have been conducted in the literature might have a different outcome if the possibility that contexts are mind-independent were clearly on the table. (shrink)
The rule of universal instantiation appears to be subject to counterexamples, although the rule of existential generalization is not subject to the same doubts. This paper is a survey of ways of responding to this problem, both conservative and revisionist. The conclusion drawn is that logical validity should be defined in terms of assertibility in a context rather than in terms of truth on an interpretation. Contexts are here defined, not in terms of the attitudes of the interlocutors, but in (...) terms of the goals of conversation, and assertibility is explained in terms of cooperation. (shrink)
It is obvious that there are kinds of cognition -- mental problem solving -- that do not require spoken language. But it should not be obvious that peculiarly conceptual thought is independent of spoken language. This paper is a critical survey of arguments concluding that conceptual thought must be independent of language. The special emphasis is on arguments that John Searle has put forward, but others are considered as well. These include the claim that only the intentionality of thought is (...) "intrinsic", arguments from the nature of speech acts, appeals to the fact that animals and babies think, and the computational theory of mind (this last not being one of Searle's arguments). Finally, there is an argument from a certain conception of linguistic communication. (shrink)
Language acquisition is often said to be a process of mapping words into pre-existing concepts. If that is right, then we ought to be able to obtain experimental evidence for the existence of concepts in prelinguistic children. One line of research that attempts to provide such evidence is the work of Paul Quinn, who claims that looking-time results show that four--month old infants form “category representations”. This paper argues that Quinn’s results have an alternative explanation. A distinction is drawn between (...) conceptual thought and the perception of comparative similarity relations, and it is argued that Quinn’s results can be explained in terms of the latter rather than the former. (shrink)
A number of authors have asked what it takes for a course of mental imagery to be epistemically or practically useful. This paper addresses a prior question, namely, the difference between courses of imagination that are realistic and those that are fantastic. One approach, suggested by recent literature concerning the utility of imagery, holds that a course of imagination represents realistically if and only if the course of events represented conforms to certain accepted constraints. Against this it will be argued (...) that the constraints cannot be both permissive enough and restrictive enough. An alternative approach adds as a necessary condition that realistic courses of imagination are constructed in accordance with certain procedures on the basis of remembered perceptions. (shrink)
Inference rule deflationism is the thesis that the nature of truth can be explained in terms of the inference rules governing the word "true". This paper argues, first, that, in light of the semantic paradoxes, the inference rule deflationist must reject some of the classical rules of inference. It is argued, secondly, that inference rule deflationism is incompatible with model theoretic approaches to the definition of logical validity. Here the argument focuses on the question whether the number of primitive referring (...) expressions in a natural language is denumerably infinite. Finally, it is argued that these conclusions pertain to T-schema deflationism and Horwich's minimal theory as well. (shrink)