This paper is concerned with the semantics of bare plural I-generics such as ‘Tigers are striped’, ‘Chickens lay eggs’, and ‘Kangaroos live in Australia’. In a series of recent papers, Bernhard Nickel has developed a comprehensive view of a certain class of bare plural I-generics, which he calls characterizing sentences :629–648, 2009. doi:10.1007/s10988-008-9049-7; Linguist Philos 33:479–512, 2010a. doi:10.1007/s10988-011-9087-4; Philos Impr 10:1–25, 2010b). Nickel’s ambitious proposal includes a detailed account of their truth-conditions, an account of certain pragmatic phenomena that they give (...) rise to, a metaphysical picture of their truth-makers in terms of mechanisms, and an epistemological story connecting characterizing sentences to such concepts as induction and explanation. This paper offers an extended critique of the central truth-conditional component of Nickel’s proposal. In a nutshell, his account has it that ‘Tigers are striped’ is true iff, for tigers, there is a way of being normal with respect to fur-pattern such that all tigers that are normal that way are striped. I begin by explaining what characterizing sentences are and distinguish several readings that are available for sentences with bare plurals in subject position. I then introduce Nickel’s account and discuss some of its predictions which, in my view, seem highly problematic. Moreover, I argue that Nickel’s principle of Homogeneity does not go together well with his proposed truth-conditions, and that his truth-conditional account violates a plausible principle about the logic of generics, a principle I call generic non-contradiction. (shrink)
Philosophers of mathematics commonly distinguish between explanatory and non-explanatory proofs. An important subclass of mathematical proofs are proofs by induction. Are they explanatory? This paper addresses the question, based on general principles about explanation. First, a recent argument for a negative answer is discussed and rebutted. Second, a case is made for a qualified positive take on the issue.
This paper argues, first, that the information problem poses a foundational challenge to mainstream semantics. It proposes, second, to address this problem by drawing on notions from Kit Fine’s essentialist framework. More specifically, it claims that the information problem can be avoided by strengthening standard truth theories, employing an operator expressing the notion of a relative constitutive semantic requirement. As a result, the paper proposes to construe semantic theories as theories of semantic requirements, and semantic knowledge as knowledge of such (...) requirements. (shrink)
The fundamental problem proponents of truth conditional semantics must face is to specify what role a truth theory is supposed to play within a meaning theory. The most detailed proposal for tackling this problem is the account developed by Ernest Lepore and Kirk Ludwig. However, as I will show in this paper, theories along the lines of Lepore and Ludwig do not suffice to put someone into the position to understand the objectlanguage. The fundamental problem of truth conditional semantics thus (...) remains unsolved. (shrink)
Donald Davidson suggested that, in attempting to give meaning theories, we should proceed via giving truth theories. For the programme of truth-theoretic semantics to be successful, two tasks need to be accomplished. First, it has to be shown that natural languages are actually amendable to truth theoretic treatment. The second task is to show how we can bridge the gap between a truth theory and a genuine meaning theory. This second task is necessitated by the simple fact that truth theories (...) by themselves are too weak to satisfy the central desideratum for a meaning theory. In a recent paper, Greg Ray suggests that the goal of giving meaning theories can easily be achieved, not by supplementing the truth-theoretic apparatus, but by doing away with it altogether. In particular, he proposes that what he calls means-that theories meet all the desiderata on meaning theories, and that ‘anyone with basically Davidsonian commitments must accept the means-that approach as viable and that it has certain evident virtues’. This paper argues that theories along Ray's lines do not satisfy the central desideratum for meaning theories. Ray's belief to the contrary rests on a common misunderstanding of what this desideratum amounts to. As I indicate in the final section of the paper, there perhaps is a way of substantially amending Ray's approach in order to meet the central desideratum. However, in an ironic twist, this will require giving a full-fledged truth theory for the metalanguage, including its intensional constructions like ‘means that’ – precisely the project Ray attempted to avoid. (shrink)
Donald Davidson contributed to the discussion of logical form in two ways. On the one hand, he made several influential suggestions on how to give the logical forms of certain constructions of natural language. His account of adverbial modification and so called action-sentences is nowadays, in some form or other, widely employed in linguistics (Harman (forthcoming) calls it "the standard view"). Davidson's approaches to indirect discourse and quotation, while not as influential, also still attract attention today. On the other hand, (...) Davidson provided a general account of what logical form is. This paper is concerned with this general account. Its foremost aim is to give a faithful and detailed picture of what, according to Davidson, it means to give the logical form of a sentence. The structure of the paper is as follows. (1) I will first informally introduce a notion of logical form as the form that matters in certain kinds of entailments, and indicate why philosophers have taken an interest in such a notion. (2) The second section develops constraints that we should arguably abide by in giving an account of logical form. (3) I then turn to Davidson’s view of what is involved in giving such an account. To this end, I will try to reconstruct Davidson’s view of the connection between an assignment of logical forms, a truth theory and a meaning theory. (4) Finally, I will briefly discuss possible problems of Davidson’s account as developed in this paper. (shrink)
Donald Davidson contributed to the discussion of logical form in two ways: by making specific suggestions on how to give the logical forms of certain natural language constructions, and by providing a general account of what logical form is. This chapter's foremost aim is to give a detailed picture of this general account. I introduce a notion of logical form as the form that matters in certain kinds of entailments, indicate why philosophers have taken an interest in such a notion, (...) and develop constraints that we should arguably abide by in giving an account of logical form. I then turn to Davidson's view of what is involved in giving such an account. To this aim, I reconstruct Davidson's view of the connection between an assignment of logical forms, a truth theory and a meaning theory. The chapter closes with a brief discussion of possible problems. (shrink)
Donald Davidson has claimed that for every logical truth 5 of a language L, a theory of meaning for L will entail that S is a logical truth of L. Jim Edwards has argued (2002) that this claim is false if we take 'entails' to mean 'has as a logical consequence. In this paper, I first show that, pace Edwards, Davidson's claim is correct even under this strong reading. I then discuss the argument given by Edwards and offer a diagnosis (...) of where he went wrong. (shrink)
Selected papers from the sections of the eighth international conference organized by the Society for Analytic Philosophy (GAP), Constance, Germany, September 17-20, 2012. The overall theme of the conference was "What may we believe? What ought we to do?", but the papers published here address a wide variety of questions from many fields of philosophy.