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J. L. Dowell [11]J. L. Dowell [5]
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Janice Dowell
Syracuse University
  1. A Flexible Contextualist Account of Epistemic Modals.Janice Dowell, J. L. - 2011 - Philosophers' Imprint 11:1-25.
    On Kratzer’s canonical account, modal expressions (like “might” and “must”) are represented semantically as quantifiers over possibilities. Such expressions are themselves neutral; they make a single contribution to determining the propositions expressed across a wide range of uses. What modulates the modality of the proposition expressed—as bouletic, epistemic, deontic, etc.—is context.2 This ain’t the canon for nothing. Its power lies in its ability to figure in a simple and highly unified explanation of a fairly wide range of language use. Recently, (...)
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  2. Flexible Contextualism About Deontic Modals: A Puzzle About Information-Sensitivity.J. L. Dowell - 2013 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 56 (2-3):149-178.
    According to a recent challenge to Kratzer's canonical contextualist semantics for deontic modal expressions, no contextualist view can make sense of cases in which such a modal must be information-sensitive in some way. Here I show how Kratzer's semantics is compatible with readings of the targeted sentences that fit with the data. I then outline a general account of how contexts select parameter values for modal expressions and show, in terms of that account, how the needed, contextualist-friendly readings might plausibly (...)
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  3. The Metaethical Insignificance of Moral Twin Earth.Janice Dowell, J. L. - 2016 - In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics volume 11. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 1-27.
    What considerations place genuine constraints on an adequate semantics for normative and evaluative expressions? Linguists recognize facts about ordinary uses of such expressions and competent speakers’ judgments about which uses are appropriate. The contemporary literature reflects the widespread assumption that linguists don’t rely upon an additional source of data—competent speakers’ judgments about possible disagreement with hypothetical speech communities. We have several good reasons to think that such judgments are not probative for semantic theorizing. Therefore, we should accord these judgments no (...)
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  4. Contextualist Solutions to Three Puzzles About Practical Conditionals.Janice Dowell, J. L. - 2012 - In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, volume 7. Oxford University Press.
  5. Advice for Non-Analytical Naturalists.Janice Dowell, J. L. & David Sobel - 2017 - In Simon Kirchin (ed.), Reading Parfit. Routledge. pp. 153-171.
    We argue that Parfit's "Triviality Objection" against some naturalistic views of normativity is not compelling. We think that once one accepts, as one should, that identity statements can be informative in virtue of their pragmatics and not only in virtue of their semantics, Parfit's case against naturalism can be overcome.
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  6. Empirical Metaphysics: The Role of Intuitions About Possible Cases in Philosophy.J. L. Dowell - 2008 - Philosophical Studies 140 (1):19-46.
    Frank Jackson has argued that only if we have a priori knowledge of the extension-fixers for many of our terms can we vindicate the methodological practice of relying on intuitions to decide between philosophical theories. While there has been much discussion of Jackson’s claim that we have such knowledge, there has been comparatively little discussion of this most powerful argument for that claim. Here I defend an alternative explanation of our intuitions about possible cases, one that does not rely on (...)
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  7. A Priori Entailment and Conceptual Analysis: Making Room for Type-C Physicalism.J. L. Dowell - 2008 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86 (1):93 – 111.
    One strategy for blocking Chalmers's overall case against physicalism has been to deny his claim that showing that phenomenal properties are in some sense physical requires an a priori entailment of the phenomenal truths from the physical ones. Here I avoid this well-trodden ground and argue instead that an a priori entailment of the phenomenal truths from the physical ones does not require an analysis in the Jackson/Chalmers sense. This is to sever the dualist's link between conceptual analysis and a (...)
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  8. Serious Metaphysics and the Vindication of Reductions.J. L. Dowell - 2008 - Philosophical Studies 139 (1):91-110.
    What would be sufficient to show of some apparently higher-level property that it is 'nothing over and above' some complex configuration of more basic properties? This paper defends a new method for justifying reductions by demonstrating its comparative advantages over two methods recently defended in the literature. Unlike its rivals, what I'll call "the semantic method" makes a reduction's truth epistemically transparent without relying on conceptual analyses.
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  9.  16
    Finlay’s Methodology: Synthetic, Not Analytic.J. L. Dowell - 2020 - Analysis 80 (1):102-110.
    Stephen Finlay’s proposed methodology for defending the central theses of his impressive Confusion of Tongues is an underexplored aspect of this work.1 1 His official methodology is analytic : A reduction of normative to non-normative vocabulary. Here, I argue that taking this official line at face-value forces the reader to conclude that the reductions at the heart of that book cannot be correct. In contrast, a philosophical methodology that does not proceed via analyses would better support those reductions, then understood (...)
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  10. Contextualism About Deontic Conditionals.Aaron Bronfman & Janice Dowell, J. L. - 2016 - In Nate Charlow & Matthew Chrisman (eds.), Deontic Modality. Oxford: pp. 117-142.
    Our goal here is to help identify the contextualist’s most worthy competitor to relativism. Recently, some philosophers of language and linguists have argued that, while there are contextualist-friendly semantic theories of deontic modals that fit with the relativist’s challenge data, the best such theories are not Lewis-Kratzer-style semantic theories. If correct, this would be important: It would show that the theory that has for many years enjoyed the status of the default view of modals in English and other languages is (...)
     
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  11.  87
    Truth-Assessment Methodology and the Case Against the Relativist Case 1 a Gainst Contextualism About Deontic Modals.J. L. Dowell - 2017 - Res Philosophica 94 (3):325-357.
    Recent challenges to Kratzer’s canonical contextualist semantics for modal expressions are united by a shared methodological practice: Each requires the assessment of the truth or warrant of a sentence in a scenario. The default evidential status accorded these judgments is a constraining one: It is assumed that, to be plausible, a semantic hypothesis must vindicate the reported judgments. Fully assessing the extent to which these cases do generate data that puts pressure on the canonical semantics, then, requires an understanding of (...)
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  12.  64
    Semantics for Deontic Modals.J. L. Dowell - forthcoming - In Ernest Lepore & Una Stojnic (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy of Language. Oxford University Press.
    Over the last fifteen years, linguists and philosophers of language have reexamined the canonical, Kratzerian semantics for modal expressions, with special attention paid to their epistemic and deontic uses. This article is an overview of the literature on deontic modal expressions. Section 1 provides an overview of the canonical semantics, noting some of its main advantages. Section 2 introduces a set of desiderata that have achieved the status of fixed points in the debates about whether the canonical semantics is correct. (...)
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  13. Confusion of Tongues: A Theory of Normative Language, by Stephen Finlay. [REVIEW]J. L. Dowell - 2016 - Mind 125 (498):585-593.
  14. The Language of Reasons and 'Ought'.Aaron Bronfman & J. L. Dowell - forthcoming - In Daniel Star (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Reasons.
    Here we focus on two questions: What is the proper semantics for deontic modal expressions in English? And what is the connection between true deontic modal statements and normative reasons? Our contribution towards thinking about the first, which makes up the bulk of our paper, considers a representative sample of recent challenges to a Kratzer-style formal semantics for modal expressions, as well as the rival views—Fabrizio Cariani’s contrastivism, John MacFarlane’s relativism, and Mark Schroeder’s ambiguity theory—those challenges are thought to motivate. (...)
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  15.  49
    Discourse Contextualism.J. L. Dowell - 2018 - Analysis 78 (3):562-566.
    In Discourse Contextualism, Alex Silk defends a new contextualist account of expressions at the centre of recent debates over contextualism versus relativism, namely, gradable adjectives, taste predicates and epistemic and deontic modals ).1 1 The first part of the book, which lays out the view and shows how it explains the phenomena at issue in those debates, focuses on the case of epistemic modals. The second part of the book extends that account with Discourse Contextualist treatments of the remaining expressions. (...)
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  16. From Metaphysical to Substantive Naturalism: A Case Study.J. L. Dowell - 2004 - Synthese 138 (2):149-173.
    This paper addresses two related questions. First, what is involved in giving a distinctively realist and naturalist construal of an area of discourse, that is, in so much as stating a distinctively realist and naturalist position about, for example, content or value? I defend a condition that guarantees the realism and naturalism of any position satisfying it, at least in the case of positions on content, but perhaps in other cases as well. Second, what sorts of considerations render a distinctively (...)
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