According to truth-conditional semantics, to explain the meaning of a statement is to specify the conditions necessary and sufficient for its truth. This book develops a more radical mentalist semantics by shifting the object of semantic inquiry. Classical semantics analyzes an abstract sentence or utterance such as "Grass is green"; in attitudinal semantics the object of inquiry is a propositional attitude such as "Speaker so-and-so thinks grass is green".
Quote marks, I claim, serve to select from the multiple ostensions that are produced whenever any expression is uttered; they act to constrain pragmatic ambiguity or indeterminacy. My argument proceeds by showing that the proffered account fares better than its rivals-the Name, Description, Demonstrative, and Identity Theories. Along the way I shall need to explain and emphasize that quoting is not simply the same thing as mentioning. Quoting, but not mentioning, relies on the use of conventional devices.
Moral philosophers widely believe that it is a part of the MEANING of 'ought' statements that they imply 'can' statements. To this thesis I offer three challenges, and then I conclude on a broader methodological note. (1) Epistemological Modal Argument: for all we know, determinism is true; determinism contradicts “ought implies can”; therefore we don’t know that 'ought' implies 'can'. (2) Metaphysical Modal Argument: determinism is conceptually possible; determinism contradicts “ought implies can”; therefore “ought implies can” is not an analytic (...) truth. (3) Semantic Argument: “You ought to X” is equivalent to “Do X!”; but “Do X!” does not entail that you can X, according to leading analyses of the imperative. (4) My two modal arguments are epistemologically significant, for they illustrate a general method for refuting a whole class of argument. (shrink)
The Demonstrative Theory holds that quoted matter is logically external to the quoting sentence, that quotation marks are (demonstratively) referential, and that quotation marks are grammatically required for autonomous mentioning. In contrast, the Identity Theory holds that quoted matter is integral to its quoting sentence, that quotation marks serve merely as disambiguating punctuation, and that mentionings need not be quotation-marked. I support the Identity Theory by pointing out fallacies in the arguments for demonstrative theories and by considering empty quotation, ordinary (...) language as found in casual use and in novels and plays, and historical and developmental facts about quotation. (shrink)
Understanding quotation is fundamental to understanding the nature of truth and meaning. Quotation, however, is a remarkably complicated phenomenon, and a vigorous literature on the topic has been growing at an increasing rate.§1 To give you a sense of this work, §1 enlarges upon the significance of studying quotation; §2 presents a rudimentary taxonomy of quotation; and §3 critically surveys theories of how quotation works.
The chapters in this volume address a variety of issues surrounding quotation, such as whether it is a pragmatic or semantic phenomenon, what varieties of quotation exist, and what speech acts are involved in quoting. Quotation poses problems for many prevailing theories of language. One fundamental principle is that for a language to be learnable, speakers must be able to derive the truth-conditions of sentences from the meanings of their parts. Another popular view is that indexical expressions like "I" display (...) a certain fixity -- that they always refer to the speaker using them. Both of these tenets appear to be violated by quotation. This volume is suitable for scholars in philosophy of language, semantics, and pragmatics, and for graduate students in philosophy and linguistics. The book will also be useful for researchers in other fields that study quotation, including psychology and computer science. (shrink)
The utterance of any expression x ostends or makes manifest the customary referent of x, x itself, and related matter. If x appears in quotation marks then the presumed intention behind the utterance is to pick out something other than the customary referent (either instead of it or in addition to it). The consequences of these ideas, taken from my 1998 work, are here drawn out in application to a variety of quotations: metalinguistic citation, reported speech, scare-quoting, echo-quoting, loan words, (...) and titles. (shrink)
This paper discusses empty quotation (‘’ is an empty string) and lexical quotation (his praise was, quote, fulsome, unquote), it challenges the minimal theory of quotation (‘ “x” ’ quotes ‘x’) and it defends the identity theory of quotation. In the process it illuminates disciplinary differences between the science of language and the philosophy of language. First, most philosophers assume, without argument, that language includes writing, whereas linguists have reason to identify language with speech (plus sign language). Second, philosophers tend (...) to think of languages as abstract objects whereas linguists tend to think of them as natural objects. These foundational differences help to explain disagreements in grammaticality judgments and consequent disagreements in semantic theory. (shrink)
Section 1 discerns ambiguity in the word “truth”, observing that the term is used most naturally in reference to truth-bearers rather than truth-makers. Focusing on truths-as-truth-bearers, then, it would appear that alethic realism conflicts with metaphysical realism as naturalistically construed. Section 2 discerns ambiguity in the purporting of truth (as in assertion), conjecturing that all expressions, not just those found in traditionally recognized opaque contexts, can be read intensionally (as well, perhaps, as extensionally). For instance, we would not generally want (...) to say that “The Matterhorn is 4,500 m high” expresses the same truth as “The Matterhorn is 14763.7795276 feet high” (or that it is true in the same range of utterance contexts), even though the two are extensionally equivalent. The reason is that they express different intensions. (shrink)
I focus on one approach to understanding quotation, the identity theory; I delineate varieties thereof; and I cite some considerations for favoring a speech-act version. Along the way we shall see how the study of quotation can illuminate the general conflict between speech-act semantics and formal semantics, and we shall see fresh arguments for insisting that the mechanism of quotation is referentially indeterminate.
The principle of charity (“Charity”), in one form or other, is held by many and for various reasons. After cataloging discernible kinds of Charity, I focus on the most familiar versions as found in Davidson, Dennett, Devitt, Lewis, Putnam, Quine, Stich, and others. To begin with, I argue that such versions of Charity are untenable because beliefs cannot be counted, and even if they could be counted there is reason to believe that true beliefs need not outnumber false beliefs. Next (...) I rebut one of the arguments behind Charity, the intelligibility argument. If indeed beliefs are postulated simply as a way to make some system intelligible (predictable and explicable) then a number of theses ensue. First, it would be perfectly intelligible to ascribe mostly false beliefs to an intentional system, or even entirely false beliefs. Second, lower animals would have beliefs. Third, it would sometimes make sense to ascribe beliefs even to inanimate beings. And fourth, the resulting indeterminacy of belief-ascription would suggest a kind of irrealism about belief which may in turn be expressed by the slogan that rejects the container metaphor of the mind. (shrink)
According to orthodox semantics, to know the meaning of a sentence is to know its truth-conditions. Against this view I observe that we typically do not know the truth-conditions of the sentences we understand. We do not know the truth-conditions, for instance, of empty definite descriptions, non-declaratives, subjunctive conditionals, causal ascriptions, belief ascriptions, probability statements, figurative language, category mistakes, normative judgments, or vague statements. Appealing to tacit knowledge does not help, for the problem goes beyond our inability to articulate complete (...) truth-conditions: even full knowledge of the world’s condition would leave us unable to say whether an arbitrary sentence was true or false. (shrink)
Paradoxes are mind-dependent in a number of ways. First, by definition, paradoxes offer surprises or apparent contradictions. Since surprise and appearance rely on subjective psychological reactions, paradoxes rely on psychological events. Second, propositional versions of the liar paradox must eventually appeal to sentences if they are to achieve traction, yet sentential versions of the liar paradox rely on language and hence on mentality. Third, belief paradoxes such as B, "No one believes B", transparently hinge on the existence of mental states. (...) (Belief paradoxes – extending work by Burge, Buridan, Grim, Sainsbury, and Sorensen – demonstrate a fundamental limitation on all cognitive systems: that none can hold all and only truths.) Finally, it is argued that belief paradoxes, like liar paradoxes, arise from the nature of semantic representation. (shrink)
This paper describes the linguistic phenomenon of prospective reference. It is a form of deferred reference exemplified by “my cake is ready to go in the oven”, which is interesting because raw batter generally does not qualify as a cake, and “my baby is kicking,” said of a fetus. Because of its importance in political and commercial discourse, prospective reference demands attention from semantic-pragmatic theories in linguistics and jurisprudence. I argue that in at least some cases prospective reference is not (...) the result of polysemy, indeterminacy, vagueness, or promiscuous breadth of concept; rather it is the result of pragmatics, akin to figurative speech and Donnellan’s “referential” use of language. My conclusion is supported by a philosophical critique of semantic externalism plus experimental work indicating that, for speakers of English, fetuses do not fall into the linguistic categories of children, human beings, or persons. (shrink)
This dissertation formulates, defends, and exemplifies a semantic approach that I call Cognitive Decompositionism. Cognitive Decompositionism is one version of lexical decompositionism, which holds that the meaning of lexical items are decomposable into component parts. Decompositionism comes in different varieties that can be characterized in terms of four binary parameters. First, Natural Decompositionism contrasts with Artful Decompositionism. The former views components as word-like, the latter views components more abstractly. Second, Convenient Decompositionism claims that components are merely convenient fictions, while Real (...) Decompositionism claims that components are psychologically real. Third, Truth-conditional Decompositionism contrasts with various non-truth-conditional theories, in particular with Quantum Semantics. And fourth, Holistic Decompositionism assumes that decompositions are circular, as opposed to Atomistic Decompositionism, which assumes that some primitive basis ultimately underlies semantic components. Cognitive Decompositionism is the conjunction of the following theses: decomposition is Artful , Psychologically Real , Quantum , and Atomistic . As I substantiate these claims, I will be responding to the anti-decompositionist theories of Fodor, Davidson, and Quine. (shrink)
The present work develops a new theory of meaning---which I call attitudinal semantics---and applies it to solving three concrete problems. ;Chapter 1 notes that theories are to be understood and judged in comparison to their rivals. It accordingly sets out the dominant theory of meaning, truth-conditional semantics, which claims that to give the meaning of sentence is to give the conditions under which is true, as in . Chapter 2 articulates my alter native proposal, which claims that to give the (...) meaning of is to give the conditions under which is held under some appropriate propositional attitude by some subject S situated in a given bio/cultural matrix, as in . L'etat c'est moi. "L'etat, c'est moi" is true in French iff I am the state. For any proficient speaker of French S, S thinks "L'etat, c'est moi" iff S thinks that S is the state. Attitudinal semantics thus represents a challenge to the prevailing view of meaning. If it is at all defensible, then it is highly significant. ;Chapter 3. TC semantics claims that the meaning of pejorative statement is given by specifying whether is true or false in various possible worlds. Nietzsche was a kraut. Attitudinal semantics claims that the meaning of is given by specifying the attitudes that various speakers might have toward Nietzsche and Germans more generally. ;Chapters 4, 5 deploy the attitudinal framework to analyze two other phenomena that have resisted TC solutions, ambiguity and the Liar paradox. The Liar paradox, for instance, disproves the naive T-schema and poses difficulties for sophisticated versions. Since the T-schema fails when applied to the Liar sentence, and since the Liar sentence is meaningful, meaning cannot be explicated by means of the T-schema. Instead, the proper analysis of the predicate true, like the analysis of all other predicates, situates language as irrevocably embedded in human thought/use. ;Chapter 6 considers objections to attitudinal semantics, replies to them, and closes with reflections on subjectivity. (shrink)