For the Intentionalist, utterance content is wholly determined by a speaker’s meaning-intentions; the sentence uttered serves merely to facilitate the audience’s recovering these intentions. We argue that Intentionalists ought to be Particularists, holding that the only “principles” of meaning recovery needed are those governing inferences to the best explanation; “principles” that are both defeasible and, in a sense to be elaborated, variable. We discuss some ways in which some theorists have erred in trying to tame the “wild west” of pragmatics (...) and context-sensitivity -- including recent work that makes essential appeal to the information structure of a discourse -- and in so doing, offer a general recipe for defending the Particularist picture of utterance content and its recovery that we favor. (shrink)
I introduce game-theoretic models for threats to the discussion of threats in speech act theory. I first distinguish three categories of verbal threats: conditional threats, categorical threats, and covert threats. I establish that all categories of threats can be characterized in terms of an underlying conditional structure. I argue that the aim—or illocutionary point—of a threat is to change the conditions under which an agent makes decisions in a game. Threats are moves in a game that instantiate a subgame in (...) which the addressee is ‘under threat’. (shrink)
We are often justified in acting on the basis of evidential confirmation. I argue that such evidence supports belief in non-quantificational generic generalizations, rather than universally quantified generalizations. I show how this account supports, rather than undermines, a Bayesian account of confirmation. Induction from confirming instances of a generalization to belief in the corresponding generic is part of a reasoning instinct that is typically (but not always) correct, and allows us to approximate the predictions that formal epistemology would make.
ABSTRACT Act-based theories of content hold that propositions are identical to acts of predication that we perform in thought and talk. To undergo an occurrent thought with a particular content is just to perform the act of predication that individuates that content. But identifying the content of a thought with the performance of an act of predication makes it difficult to explain the intentionality of bouletic mental activity, like wanting and desiring. In this paper, I argue that this difficulty is (...) insurmountable: the contents of occurrent desires cannot be determined by acts of predication. (shrink)
Triviality arguments against the computational theory of mind claim that computational implementation is trivial and thus does not serve as an adequate metaphysical basis for mental states. It is common to take computational implementation to consist in a mapping from physical states to abstract computational states. In this paper, I propose a novel constraint on the kinds of physical states that can implement computational states, which helps to specify what it is for two physical states to non-trivially implement the same (...) computational state. (shrink)
A number of philosophers have become interested in the ways that individuals are subject to harm as the performers of illocutionary acts. This paper offers an account of the underlying structure of such harms: I argue that speakers are the subjects of illocutionary harm when there is interference in the entitlement structure of their linguistic activities. This interference comes in two forms: denial and incapacitation. In cases of denial, a speaker is prevented from achieving the outcomes to which they are (...) entitled by their speech. In cases of incapacitation, a speaker’s standing to expect certain outcomes is itself undermined. I also discuss how individual speakers are subject to interference along two dimensions: as exercisers of certain non-linguistic capacities, and as producers of meaningful speech. (shrink)
Attitude verbs like ‘believe’ and ‘want’ exhibit neg-raising: an ascription of the form a doesn’t believe that p tends to convey that a disbelieves—i.e., believes the negation of—p. In ‘Belief is Weak’, Hawthore et al. observe that neg-raising does not occur with verbs like ‘know’ or ‘need’. According to them, an ascription of the form a believes that p is true just in case a is in a belief state that makes p more likely than not, and so—excepting cases of (...) complete indifference—a will either believe p or disbelieve p. I expand and revise this explanation: so-called ‘weak’ attitude verbs are used in ascriptions of an opinion about some subject matter S—a kind of selection from among the elements of S—and these ascriptions are themselves responsive to conversational topics that presuppose that the subject of the ascription has an opinion about S. ‘Strong’ attitude verbs denote more direct relationships between subject and world. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue against a dispositional account of the intentionality of belief states that has been endorsed by proponents of phenomenal intentionality. Specifically, I argue that the best characterization of a dispositional account of intentionality is one that takes beliefs to be dispositions to undergo occurrent judgments. I argue that there are cases where an agent believes that p, but fails to have a disposition to judge that p.
I argue that directing is a more fundamental kind of speech act than asserting, in the sense that the conditions under which an act counts as an assertion are sufficient for that act to count as a directive. I show how this follows from a particular way of conceiving intentionalism about speech acts, on which acts of assertion are attempts at changing a common body of information – or conversational common ground – maintained by conversational participants’ practical attitude of acceptance. (...) I suggest that the function of assertion is not to share information, but to signal that we can be relied on to act as though some information is true, and to foster that same reliability in others. (shrink)
It is often assumed that singular thought requires that an agent be epistemically acquainted with the object the thought is about. However, it can sometimes truthfully be said of someone that they have a belief about an object, despite not being interestingly epistemically acquainted with that object. In defense of an epistemic acquaintance constraint on singular thought, it is thus often claimed that belief ascriptions are context sensitive and do not always track the contents of an agent’s mental states. This (...) paper uses first-person attitude reports to argue that contextualism about belief ascriptions does not present an adequate defense of an acquaintance constraint on singular thought. (shrink)
The Nyāya school of classical Indian epistemology defended (by today’s standards) a radical version of epistemic externalism. They also gave arguments from their epistemological positions to an early version of disjunctivism about perceptual experience. In this paper I assess the value of such an argument, concluding that a modified version of the Nyāya argument may be defensible.
In performing an act of assertion we are sometimes responsible for more than the content of the literal meaning of the words we have used, sometimes less. A recently popular research program seeks to explain certain of the commitments we make in speech in terms of responsiveness to the conversational subject matter (Hoek 2018, Stokke 2016, Yablo 2014). We raise some issues for this view with the aim of providing a more general account of linguistic commitment: one that is grounded (...) in a more general action-theoretic notion of responsibility. (shrink)
Linguistic intervention in rational decision making is standardly captured in terms of information change. But the standard view gives us no way to model interventions involving expressions that only have an attentional effects on conversational contexts. How are expressions with non‐informational content – like epistemic modals – used to intervene in rational decision making? We show how to model rational decision change without information change: replace a standard conception of value (on which the value of a set of worlds reduces (...) to values of individual worlds in the set) with one on which the value of a set of worlds is determined by a selection function that picks out a generic member world. We discuss some upshots of this view for theorizing in philosophy and formal semantics. (shrink)
The following argument is widely assumed to be invalid: there is a pain in my finger; my finger is in my mouth; therefore, there is a pain in my mouth. The apparent invalidity of this argument has recently been used to motivate the conclusion that pains are not spatial entities. We argue that this is a mistake. We do so by drawing attention to the metaphysics of pains and holes and provide a framework for their location which both vindicates the (...) argument's validity and explains why it appears invalid. To this end, we show that previously proposed explanations for the apparent invalidity of the argument fail. Moreover, we show that our account accommodates and explains seemingly opposing linguistic data. We conclude that the ‘pain-in-mouth argument’ does not undermine the view that pains are spatial entities. (shrink)