Current textbooks in formal semantics are all versions of, or introductions to, the same paradigm in semantic theory: Montague Grammar. Knowledge of Meaning is based on different assumptions and a different history. It provides the only introduction to truth- theoretic semantics for natural languages, fully integrating semantic theory into the modern Chomskyan program in linguistic theory and connecting linguistic semantics to research elsewhere in cognitive psychology and philosophy. As such, it better fits into a modern graduate or undergraduate program in (...) linguistics, cognitive science, or philosophy. Furthermore, since the technical tools it employs are much simpler to teach and to master, Knowledge of Meaning can be taught by someone who is not primarily a semanticist. Linguistic semantics cannot be studied as a stand-alone subject but only as part of cognitive psychology, the authors assert. It is the study of a particular human cognitive competence governing the meanings of words and phrases. Larson and Segal argue that speakers have unconscious knowledge of the semantic rules of their language, and they present concrete, empirically motivated proposals about a formal theory of this competence based on the work of Alfred Tarski and Donald Davidson. The theory is extended to a wide range of constructions occurring in natural language, including predicates, proper nouns, pronouns and demonstratives, quantifiers, definite descriptions, anaphoric expressions, clausal complements, and adverbs. Knowledge of Meaning gives equal weight to philosophical, empirical, and formal discussions. It addresses not only the empirical issues of linguistic semantics but also its fundamental conceptual questions, including the relation of truth to meaning and the methodology of semantic theorizing. Numerous exercises are included in the book. (shrink)
We discuss the challenge to truth-conditional semantics presented by apparent shifts in extension of predicates such as ‘red’. We propose an explicit indexical semantics for ‘red’ and argue that our account is preferable to the alternatives on conceptual and empirical grounds.
To the best of my knowledge, no one in recent decades has written a book of this magnitude about the semantics of natural language. Certainly, nothing available today matches this volume in depth, precision, and coherence. The authors present classical and recent results of linguistic semantics within the framework of interpretative T-theories and defend the philosophical foundations of their approach by showing how it fits into the larger enterprise of cognitive linguistics. The book also includes an array of excellent exercises (...) and a good list of references. (shrink)
We criticize attempts to define hope in terms of other psychological states and argue that hope is a primitive mental state whose nature can be illuminated by specifying key aspects of its functional profile.
Two semantic theories of proper names are explained and assessed. The theories are Burge’s treatment of proper names as complex demonstratives and Larson and Segal’s quasi-descriptivist account of names. The two theories are evaluated for empirical plausibility. Data from deficits, processing models, developmental studies and syntax are all discussed. It is concluded that neither theory is fully confirmed or refuted by the data, but that Larson and Segal’s theory has more empirical plausibility.
Donald Davidson is, arguably, the most important philosopher of mind and language in recent decades. His articulation of the position he called "anomalous monism" and his ideas for unifying the general theory of linguistic meaning with semantics for natural language both set new agendas in the field. _Interpreting Davidson_ collects original essays on his work by some of his leading contemporaries, with Davidson himself contributing a reply to each and an original paper of his own.
Several philosophers have argued recently that semantic properties do play a causal role. 1 It is our view that none of these arguments are satisfactory. Our aim is to reveal some of the deficiencies of these arguments, and to reassess the question in our own way. In section 1, we shall explain in more detail what is involved in the pretheoretical idea of a causally efficacious property and so provide a fuller sense of the issue. In section 2 we shall (...) discuss Fodor's and Kim's arguments that the semantic properties of mental events are causally efficacious. Their tactic is to articulate sufficient conditions for the causal efficacy of a property, and then apply these conditions to the psychological properties under consideration. We shall show that both formulations are inadequate. However, each account can remedy some of the defects of the other. We shall argue that by putting the two together, and modifying this combined account in certain ways, we can arrive at something that might just pass as a general sufficient condition for causal efficacy. We believe that the question of causal efficacy of content is best approached as a question in the philosophy of science. If one wants to know whether a given species of property is efficacious, the most productive strategy is to find a science that investigates the properties and examine the role they are assigned. In keeping with this attitude we shall restrict our discussion to the notion of content deployed within cognitive science. In section 3 we examine the role of content in cognitive science and discuss whether this role suits content to the conditions on efficacy articulated in section two. Our conclusion will be conditional and hedged: on certain views of cognitive science, content will meet the sufficient condition for efficacy. If other views are correct, the question remains open. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to assess the relative merits of two accounts of the semantics of proper names. The enterprise is of particular interest because the theories are very similar in fundamental respects. In particular, they can agree on three major features of names: names are rigid designators; different co-extensive names can have different cognitive significance; empty proper names can be meaningful. Neither theory by itself offers complete explanations of all three features. But each theory is consistent with (...) them and goes some way towards explaining them. (shrink)
The paper begins with the assumption that psychological event tokens are identical to or constituted from physical events. It then articulates a familiar apparent problem concerning the causal role of psychological properties. If they do not reduce to physical properties, then either they must be epiphenomenal or any effects they cause must also be caused by physical properties, and hence be overdetermined. It then argues that both epiphenomenalism and over-determinationism are prima facie perfectly reasonable and relatively unproblematic views. The paper (...) proceeds to argue against Kim’s attempt to articulate a plausible version of reductionism. It is then argued that psychological properties, along with paradigmatically causally efficacious macro-properties, such as toughness, are causally inefficacious in respect of their possessor’s typical effects, because they are insufficiently distinct from those effects. It is finally suggested that the distinction between epiphenomenalism and overdeterminationism may be more terminological than real. (shrink)
Views on addiction are often polarised - either addiction is a matter of choice, or addicts simply can't help themselves. But perhaps addiction falls between the two? This book contains views from philosophy, neuroscience, psychiatry, psychology, and the law exploring this middle ground between free choice and no choice.
The topic of this paper is the semantic structure of belief reports of the form 'a believes that p'. it is argued that no existing theory of these sentences satisfactorily accounts for anaphoric relations linking expressions within the embedded complement sentence to expressions outside. a new account of belief reports is proposed which assigns to embedded expressions their normal semantic values but which also exploits frege's idea of using senses to explain the apparent failures of extensionality in the reports.
This paper is principally devoted to comparing and contrasting poverty of stimulus arguments for innate cognitive apparatus in relation to language and in relation to folk psychology. These days one is no longer allowed to use the term ‘innate’ without saying what one means by it. So I will begin by saying what I mean by ‘innate’. Sections 2 and 3 will discuss language and theory of mind, respectively. Along the way, I will also briefly discuss other arguments for innate (...) cognitive apparatus in these areas. (shrink)
: The paper begins with the assumption that psychological event tokens are identical to or constituted from physical events. It then articulates a familiar apparent problem concerning the causal role of psychological properties. If they do not reduce to physical properties, then either they must be epiphenomenal or any effects they cause must also be caused by physical properties, and hence be overdetermined. It then argues that both epiphenomenalism and over‐determinationism are prima facie perfectly reasonable and relatively unproblematic views. The (...) paper proceeds to argue against Kim’s attempt to articulate a plausible version of reductionism. It is then argued that psychological properties, along with paradigmatically causally efficacious macro‐properties, such as toughness, are causally inefficacious in respect of their possessor’s typical effects, because they are insufficiently distinct from those effects. It is finally suggested that the distinction between epiphenomenalism and overdeterminationism may be more terminological than real. (shrink)
A good understanding of the nature of a property requires knowing whether that property is relational or intrinsic. Gabriel Segal's concern is whether certain psychological properties—specifically, those that make up what might be called the "cognitive content" of psychological states—are relational or intrinsic. He claims that content supervenes on microstructure, that is, if two beings are identical with respect to their microstructural properties, then they must be identical with respect to their cognitive contents. Segal's thesis, a version of internalism, is (...) that being in a state with a specific cognitive content does not essentially involve standing in any real relation to anything external. He uses the fact that content locally supervenes on microstructure to argue for the intrinsicness of content. Cognitive content is fully determined by intrinsic, microstructural properties: duplicate a subject in respect to those properties and you duplicate their cognitive contents. The book, written in a clear, engaging style, contains four chapters. The first two argue against the two leading externalist theories. Chapter 3 rejects popular theories that endorse two kinds of content: "narrow" content, which is locally supervenient, and "broad" content, which is not. Chapter 4 defends a radical alternative version of internalism, arguing that narrow content is a variety of ordinary representation, that is, that narrow content is all there is to content. In defending internalism, Segal does not claim to defend a general philosophical theory of content. At this stage, he suggests, it should suffice to cast reasonable doubt on externalism, to motivate internalism, and to provide reasons to believe that good psychology is, or could be, internalist. (shrink)
It is argued that alcoholism, and substance addiction generally, is a disease. It is not of its nature chronic or progressive, although it is in serious cases. It is better viewed as a psychological disease than a neurological one. It is argued that each time an alcoholic takes a drink, this is the result of choice; however, in cases of serious affliction, such choices are compulsive and may be called 'involuntary' in that they are made against the subject's will, motivated (...) by an overwhelmingly powerful desire that he wishes he did not have and not to act on. Alternative accounts in terms social learning theory and behavioral economics are critiqued. The conception of alcoholism as a tripartite disease composed of a 'physical allergy,' a mental obsession, and a 'spiritual malady' is defended from a contemporary scientific point of view. (shrink)
This article says something about previous work related to truth and meaning, goes on to discuss Davidson and related papers of his, and then discusses some issues arising. It begins with the work of Gottlob Frege. Much work in the twentieth century developed Frege's ideas. A great deal of that work continued with the assumption that semantics is fundamentally concerned with the assignments of entities to expressions. So, for example, those who tried to develop a formal account of sense did (...) so by treating senses as functions of various kinds; the sense of a predicate, for example, was often seen as a function from possible worlds to extensions. (shrink)
In a number works Jerry Fodor has defended a reductive, causal and referential theory of cognitive content. I argue against this, defending a quasi-Fregean notion of cognitive content, and arguing also that the cognitive content of non-singular concepts is narrow, rather than wide.
Allow me to recapitulate some territory that will be familiar to most readers. Here is how the problem of mental causation has typically been set up since shortly after the onset of non-reductive physicalism. It is now widely assumed that the realm of the physical is causally closed: every physical event has a complete physical cause, a cause that is sufficient for the event’s occurrence. This apparently leaves us with a limited number of options concerning psychological causation, none of which (...) appear hugely attractive. Either: (a) the psychological is epiphenomenal and can have no causal impact on the physical, or (b) the psychological is identical with the physical, or (c) thoughts and actions are all over-determined, each one having two distinct sufficient causes. Option (b) subdivides into two further options. Either (b1) the psychological reduces to the physical and every psychological property is identical with some physical property, or (b2) token psychological events are identical with or constituted from token physical events but psychological properties are not identical with physical properties. (b1) is widely held to be inconsistent with the multiple realisation of the psychological by the physical. And (b2) appears to bring us back to the original problematic, with the properties as the locus of tension. If one event causes another it does so in virtue some of its properties and not others. If I throw a stone at a window and the window breaks, it is because the stone was hard and heavy that it broke the window and not, say, because it was grey and millions of years old. The properties in virtue of which an event has a particular effect are typically called the ‘causally efficacious properties of the cause with respect to the effect.’ Suppose, then that token neural event causes an action. We can ask ‘Does it do so in virtue of its physical properties or its psychological properties?’ and we are back to choosing between options (a) and (c) or returning to (b1).. (shrink)
Please allow me to recapitulate some territory that will be familiar to most readers. Here is how the problem of mental causation has typically been set up since shortly after the onset of non-reductive physicalism. It is now widely assumed that the realm of the physical is causally closed. This means that the probability of any event’s occurring is fully determined by physical causes, and physical causes alone. There is no space in the physical causal nexus for any non-physical event (...) to exert any influence. (shrink)