Meaning and Context-Sensitivity Truth-conditional semantics explains meaning in terms of truth-conditions. The meaning of a sentence is given by the conditions that must obtain in order for the sentence to be true. The meaning of a word is given by its contribution to the truth-conditions of the sentences in which it occurs. What a speaker … Continue reading Meaning and Context-Sensitivity →.
In order to uphold the claim that referential intuitions are a reliable source of evidence for theories of reference, Machery et al. conducted an empirical research by testing truth-value judgments. First, we discuss a conceptual limitation of Machery et al. ’s experiment on truth-value judgments. Then, we present the data of an empirical survey that shows that people’s truth-value judgments are not congruent with their use of proper names. We explain why the results of our empirical research refute the conclusions (...) of Machery et al. ’s experiment on truth-value judgments. We conclude that referential intuitions are still problematic. (shrink)
We explain three phenomena in legal discourse in terms of MacFarlane’s assessment-sensitive semantics: incompatible applications of law, assessments of statements about what is legally the case, and retrospective overruling. The claim is that assessment sensitivity fits in with the view, shared by many legal theorists at least with respect to hard cases, that the final adjudicator’s interpretation of legal sources is constitutive of the applied norm. We argue that there are strong analogies between certain kinds of statements in legal discourse (...) as understood in light of that view and discourse about matters of taste and future contingents. Thus, if assessment-sensitive semantics provides a compelling account of discourse about matters of taste and future contingents, then it likewise provides a compelling account of those statements in legal discourse. (shrink)
Using web standards, such as uniform resource identifiers (URIs), XML and HTTP, for naming and describing resources which are not information objects is the key difference between the Web as we know it today and the Semantic Web. Naming and interlinking this type of resources by HTTP URIs (instead of individual constants in a formal language) is the key feature which distinguishes traditional knowledge representation from web-scale knowledge representation. However, this use of URIs brought back attention to the old philosophical (...) problem of identity and reference in a new form. In this paper, we analyze the new version of the problem, provide a formal model for dealing with it when interlinking knowledge on the Web, and argue for the need of a distinction between the use of URIs for describing and accessing resources, and the use of URIs for fixing the reference . We show that in the current practice of linking data these roles are not clearly distinguished, and that this fact may cause unwanted effects and prevent some basic forms of data integration. We also discuss the role of an entity name system as a potential piece of infrastructure for fixing the reference in the Semantic Web. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to present a theory of referential uses of definite descriptions that is alternative to Neale’s theory of Gödelian completions but nonetheless assumes two tenets of Neale’s view: the Russellian analysis of definite descriptions is basically correct, i.e. definite descriptions are quantified NPs and referential uses are not to be explained in terms of the Gricean distinction between what is said and what is meant. The proposition said is the intuitive content of an assertion as (...) opposed to contents that are conversational implicatures. The compositional system computes the proposition said taking into account the semantic information encoded in a sentence and all relevant contextual information. The proposition said is the input for processing the proposition meant as the result of Gricean conversational implicatures. The computation of the proposition said involves linguistic decoding as well as pragmatic inferences. Notice that Neale Philosophical Perspectives, 22, 375–442, uses ‘implied’ instead of ‘meant’). Neale’s Russellian approach to referential uses is assumed. I give no direct argument to prove that Neale’s approach is superior to a Gricean approach and no direct argument to prove that it is superior to an approach such as Devitt’s one that introduces a semantic ambiguity between referential and attributive definite descriptions. Contrary to Neale’s theory of Gödelian completions, the theory I present preserves the uniqueness condition of the orthodox quantificational meaning of definite descriptions as a contribution to what is said on referential uses. I argue that from the orthodox Russellian point of view this is a remarkable advantage over Neale’s theory of Gödelian completions. (shrink)
One recurrent objection against minimalism is that minimal contents have no theoretical role. It has recently been argued that minimal contents serve to draw the distinction between lying and misleading. In Sect. 1 and Sect. 2 I summarise the main argument in support of that claim and contend that it is inconclusive. In Sect. 3 I discuss some cases of lying and some of misleading that raise difficulties for minimalism. In Sect. 4 I make a diagnosis of the failure of (...) minimalism with those cases. In Sect. 5 I strengthen the case against minimal contents by addressing two received says-based definitions of lying. My analysis of the failure of minimalism suggests that the distinction between lying and misleading, at least in some important cases, calls for a kind of utterance content that is grounded on conventions of language. (shrink)
I defend the Fregean model of propositions: propositions are the referents of that-clauses and structured entities made of concepts. Schiffer has presented a group of arguments against the Fregean model and advanced an alternative view: propositions are unstructured pleonastic entities. My purpose is twofold: to counter each of his arguments sketching the guidelines for a theory of concepts as basic constituents of propositions; to maintain that the notion of pleonastic entity is not robust enough for claiming the existence of propositions.
Since Machery et al. Cognition 92, B1-B12 attacked Kripke’s refutation of classical descriptivism, their experiment has been repeated several times, in its original version or in some revised ones, by theorists with contrasting intents. Some repeated the experiment for confirming its results, others for proving them unreliable. One striking characteristic of those surveys is that they mostly replicated the data collected in Machery et al.’s Cognition 92, B1-B12, 2004 experiment: less than 60% of Westerners showed preference for the causal-historical response. (...) We side with the critics of Machery et al.’s experiment. In this paper, we present the results of a survey that tests some hypotheses for explaining that percentage of Westerners’ preferences without taking it as evidence that more than 40% of Westerners have descriptivist intuitions on semantic reference. The aim of our paper is not merely to question the reliability of Machery et al.’s experiment. In sections 4 and 5 we assess the impact of our survey on the current debate in experimental semantics. We provide a novel account of the nature of the epistemic ambiguity that affects experiments in theory of reference and explain the consequences that our account of the epistemic ambiguity has for subsequent works trying to avoid ambiguities. (shrink)
What place is left for semantic notions? There are three main positions in response to that question: eliminativism, physicalism and semanticalism. This book argues in favour of a version of semanticalism. That version of semanticalism does not make semantic notions mysterious as if they are added from outside the realm of nature, as is the case with the Cartesian conception of mental properties. Semantic properties are treated as emergent properties reference to which serves to play a normative role in the (...) account of the nature of linguistic expressions. The need for positing semantic properties stems from the fact that the best explanation of the nature of linguistic expressions as guides to reality, to inform and to learn about the states of the world, invokes semantic properties. It consists in endowing linguistic expressions with semantic properties that correlate them to things and states of the world. Semantics, then, should be kept distinct from the theory of meaning. We need the theory of meaning for giving an account of linguistic competence in order to explain speakers' linguistic behaviour, but we need semantics in order to explain the nature of the objects produced by the behavioural output of linguistic competence. Consider a speaker who reads the sentence "it will be sunny and warm tomorrow" on the weather forecast page of the newspaper. We do not need to model his understanding as if he knew the semantic properties of the expressions occurring in that sentence. Rather, we need to invoke the semantic properties of that sentence, and of its constituents, in order to explain the social practice of uttering and writing it to inform people about weather conditions. This book argues that liberal naturalists are entitled to endorse the same attitude towards semantic properties as W.V.O. Quine's towards mathematical entities. We ought to accept semantic properties since our best theory of the world makes reference to them. The metaphysical principle of the supervenience of semantic properties over naturalistic properties, though unexplained, is justified to the extent that it too belongs to our best overall theory of the world, which as a whole faces the tribunal of experience. (shrink)
Stephen Schiffer holds that propositions are pleonastic entities. I will argue that there is a substantial difference between propositions and fictional characters, which Schiffer presents as typical pleonastic entities. My conclusion will be that if fictional characters are typical pleonastic entities, then Schiffer fails to show that propositions are pleonastic entities.
I argue that the contextualist account of the referential/attributive interpretation of definite descriptions, presented by Recanati and Bezuidehnout and based on the idea that definite descriptions are semantically underdetermined and in need of completion through optional top-down pragmatic processes, suffers from an explanatory gap. I defend the contextualist view but hold that the determination of the content of definite descriptions is a mandatory, linguistically driven process based on saturation rather than on optional pragmatic processes.
I argue that deflationism about truth does not imply minimalism about truthaptness. The condition for truth-aptness can be strengthened and the disquotationalschema restricted without resorting to any inflationary conception of truth-theoretic notions.
I will argue that the standard formulation of non-factualism in terms of a denial of truth-aptness is consistent with a version of deflationsim. My line of argument assumes the use conception of meaning. This brings out an interesting consequence since mostly the philosophers who endorse the use conception of meaning, e.g. Paul Horwich, hold that deflationism is inconsistent with the strategy of implementing non-factualism in terms of a denial of truth-aptness and thereby urge a reformulation of non-factualism.
La logica modale è nata per studiare i ragionamenti su ciò che è possibile e ciò che è necessario. Negli ultimi decenni, a partire dal lavoro di logici e filosofi quali Rudolf Carnap, Saul Kripke e David Lewis, la sua applicazione è stata progressivamente estesa ad altri ambiti, quali il ragionamento sul tempo, sulla conoscenza e sui sistemi di norme. Queste ricerche hanno condotto a un complesso e intrigante dialogo con alcune fondamentali branche della filosofia: la metafisica, l’epistemologia, la filosofia (...) del linguaggio. Lo scopo del volume è offrire una panoramica di questo dialogo al contempo accessibile e rigorosa, pensata sia per gli studenti di un corso universitario, sia per il lettore non specialista. Se da un lato tutte le necessarie nozioni tecniche sono rese accessibili ai non addetti ai lavori, dall'altro si restituisce un'immagine fedele delle sfide concettuali che la ricerca in questi settori è oggi chiamata ad affrontare. (shrink)
The aim of this collection of papers is to present different philosophical perspectives on the mental, exploring questions about how to define, explain and understand the various kinds of mental acts and processes, and exhibiting, in particular, the contrast between naturalistic and non-naturalistic approaches. There is a long tradition in philosophy of clarifying concepts such as those of thinking, knowing and believing. The task of clarifying these concepts has become ever more important with the major developments that have taken place (...) over the last century in the human and cognitive sciences - most notably, psychology, sociology, linguistics, neurophysiology, AI, and cognitive science itself. In all these sciences, there is a need to delineate the domain of the mental and to elucidate the key concepts and underlying assumptions. This need is widely recognized, but approaches and answers vary significantly. Some stress the representational features involved in most of our mental processes, others the inferential dimension; some stress the necessity of using empirical data, others the need to refine ideas before pursuing and drawing on empirical research. The papers collected in this volume are grouped into four parts, on language and thought, on knowledge, belief and action, on intentionality, and on naturalism. The volume will be welcomed by all those engaged and interested in debates about the mental in philosophy and the human and cognitive sciences. Table of Contents PART I: LANGUAGE AND THOUGHT Andrew Woodfield, Public Words Considered as Vehicles of Thinking Andrea Bianchi, Speaking and Thinking (Or: A More Kaplanian Way to a Unified Account of Language and Thought) Stefano Predelli, The Strange Case of the Missing Constituent PART II: KNOWLEDGE, BELIEF AND ACTION Pascal Engel, Taking Seriously Knowledge as a Mental State Carlo Gabbani, Epistemology and the Eliminative Stance Jennifer Hornsby, Knowledge, Belief and Reasons for Acting Wolfgang Kunne, Some Varieties of Deception PART III: INTENTIONALITY Sandro Nannini, Intentionality Naturalised Elisabetta Sacchi, Thought and Thinking: the Ontological Ground of Intentionality Elisabeth Pacherie, Is Collective Intentionality Really Primitive? PART IV: NATURALISM Marcello Frixione, Do Concepts exist? A Naturalistic Point of View Tim Crane, Cosmic Hermeneutics vs. Emergence: the Challenge of the Explanatory Gap Achim Stephan and Robert C. Richardson, What Physicalism Should Provide Us With Mario De Caro, The Claims of Naturalism. (shrink)
Cappelen and Lepore (2005) maintain that Incompleteness Arguments for context sensitivity are fallacious. In their view, Incompleteness Arguments are non sequitur fallacies whose conclusions are not logically related to premises. They affirm that the conclusions of Incompleteness Arguments are metaphysical claims about the existence of entities that might be constituents of propositions, while their premises concern psychological data about speakers' dispositions to truth evaluate sentences in contexts of utterance. Cappelen and Lepore reject Incompleteness Arguments because psychological data have no bearing (...) on metaphysical issues. I do not dispute Cappelen and Lepore's claim that psychological data have no relevance to metaphysics. Nonetheless, I argue that Cappelen and Lepore's criticism is vitiated by a misunderstanding of the nature of Incompleteness Arguments that makes them overlook the link between semantics and linguistic competence. I try to shed light on the real nature of Incompleteness Arguments by pointing at the failure of Cappelen and Lepore's criticism. My aim is not to defend Semantic Contextualism, but to bring to attention the link between semantics and linguistic competence that should never be overlooked in debates in the field of semantics. (shrink)
Stephen Schiffer 2003 presents six arguments against the Fregean model of propositions, according to which propositions are the referents of that-clauses and structured entities made out of concepts. Schiffer advances an alternative view: propositions are unstructured pleonastic entities. My purpose is to argue in favour of the main tenets of the Fregean model by countering each of Schiffer’s arguments and sketching the guidelines for a theory of concepts as basic components of propositions.
Throughout his philosophical career, Michael Dummett held firmly two theses: the theory of meaning has a central position in philosophy and all other forms of philosophical inquiry rest upon semantic analysis, in particular semantic issues replace traditional metaphysical issues; the theory of meaning is a theory of understanding. I will defend neither of them. However, I will argue that there is an important lesson we can learn by reflecting on the link between linguistic competence and semantics, which I take to (...) be an important part of Dummett’s legacy in philosophy of language. I discuss this point in relation to Cappelen and Lepore’s criticism of Incompleteness Arguments. (shrink)
Contextualism, Pragmatics and Definite Descriptions Very few philosophers and linguists doubt that definite descriptions have attributive uses and referential uses. The point of disagreement concerns whether the difference in uses is grounded on a difference in meaning. The Ambiguity Theory holds while the Implicature Theory denies that definite descriptions are ambiguous expressions, having an attributive meaning and a referential meaning. Contextualists have attempted to steer between the Ambiguity Theory and the Implicature Theory. I claim that the early contextualist account provided (...) by Recanati and Bezuidehnout based on the idea that definite descriptions are semantically underdetermined and in need of a completion from the contextually available information through an optional top-down pragmatic process suffers from an explanatory gap. (shrink)
We speak of products in two senses: in one, we speak of types of products, in the other we speak of the particular objects that are instances of those types. I argue that types of products have the same ontological status as that of material stuffs, like water and gold, which have a non-particular level of existence. I also argue that the relationship between types of products and their instances is logically similar to the relation of constitution, which holds between, (...) say, gold and a ring made of gold. In my approach, types of products are concrete entities, having spatiotemporal properties. This picture fits our commonplace conception of types of products better than alternative approaches according to which types of products are universal, abstract, or mereological entities. (shrink)
I argue that there are two ways of construing Wittgenstein’s slogan that meaning is use. One accepts the view that the notion of meaning must be explained in terms of truth-theoretic notions and is committed to the epistemic conception of truth. The other keeps the notion of meaning and the truth-theoretic notions apart and is not committed to the epistemic conception of truth. I argue that Dummett endorses the first way of construing Wittgenstein’s slogan. I address the issue by discussing (...) two of Dummett’s arguments against the realist truth-theoretic conception of meaning: the manifestation argument and the argument for the unintelligibility of classical logic. I examine the dialectic of those arguments and show that they rest on the assumption that meaning needs to be explained in terms of truth-theoretic notions.Tvrdim da postoje dva načina shvaćanja Wittgensteinova slogana da je značenje upotreba. Jedno prihvaća gledište da se pojam značenja mora objasniti na osnovi istinitosnoteoretskih pojmova te je obvezano na epistemičku koncepciju istine. Drugo pojam značenja i istinitosnoteoretske pojmove drži odvojenima te nije obvezano na epistemičku koncepciju istine. Tvrdim da Dummett prihvaća prvo shvaćanje Wittgensteinova slogana. Problemu pristupam tako što raspravljam o dvama Dummettovim argumentima protiv realističke istinitosnoteoretske koncepcije značenja: o argumentu iz manifestacije i argumentu za neshvatljivost klasične logike. Ispitujem dijalektiku tih argumenata i pokazujem da počivaju na pretpostavci da se značenje mora objasniti na osnovi istinitosnoteoretskih pojmova. (shrink)
In Overlooking Conventions Michael Devitt argues in defence of the traditional approach to semantics. Devitt’s main line of argument is an inference to the best explanation: nearly all cases that linguistic pragmatists discuss in order to challenge the traditional approach to semantics are better explained by adding conventions into language, in the form of expanding the range of polysemy or the range of indexicality. In this paper, we discuss three aspects of a draft of Devitt’s Overlooking Conventions, which was discussed (...) at a conference in Dubrovnik in September 2018. First, we try to show that his rejection of Bach’s distinction between convention and standardization overlooks important features of standardization. Second, we elaborate on Devitt’s argument against linguistic pragmatism based on the normative aspect of meaning and show that a similar argument can be mounted against semantic minimalism. While Devitt and minimalists have a common enemy, they are not allies either. Third, we address a methodological difficulty in Devitt’s view concerning a threat of over-generation and propose a solution to it. Although this paper is the result of collaboration the authors have written different parts. Carlo Penco has written part 1, Massimiliano Vignolo has written part 2 and part 3. (shrink)