What sort of epistemic positions are compatible with inquiries driven by interrogative attitudes like wonder and puzzlement? The ignorance norm provides a partial answer: interrogative attitudes directed at a particular question are never compatible with knowledge of the question’s answer. But some are tempted to think that interrogative attitudes are incompatible with weaker positions like belief as well. This paper defends that the ignorance norm is exhaustive. All epistemic positions weaker than knowledge directed at the answer to a question are (...) compatible with having an interrogative attitude towards that question. We offer two arguments for this conclusion. The first is based on considerations about the role of hedging in inquiry. The second is conditional on considerations related to the aim of inquiry as a goal-directed activity. (shrink)
Surprisingly little has been written about hedged assertion. Linguists often focus on semantic or syntactic theorizing about, for example, grammatical evidentials or epistemic modals, but pay far less attention to what hedging does at the level of action. By contrast, philosophers have focused extensively on normative issues regarding what epistemic position is required for proper assertion, yet they have almost exclusively considered unqualified declaratives. This essay considers the linguistic and normative issues side-by-side. We aim to bring some order and clarity (...) to thinking about hedging, so as to illuminate aspects of interest to both linguists and philosophers. In particular, we consider three broad questions. 1) The structural question: when one hedges, what is the speaker’s commitment weakened from? 2) The functional question: what is the best way to understand how a hedge weakens? And 3) the taxonomic question: are hedged assertions genuine assertions, another speech act, or what? (shrink)
A speaker's use of a declarative sentence in a context has two effects: it expresses a proposition and represents the speaker as knowing that proposition. This essay is about how to explain the second effect. The standard explanation is act-based. A speaker is represented as knowing because their use of the declarative in a context tokens the act-type of assertion and assertions represent knowledge in what's asserted. I propose a semantic explanation on which declaratives covertly host a "know"-parenthetical. A speaker (...) is thereby represented as knowing the proposition expressed because that is the semantic contribution of the parenthetical. I call this view parentheticalism and defend that it better explains knowledge representation than alternatives. As a consequence of outperforming assertoric explanations, parentheticalism opens the door to eliminating the act-type of assertion from linguistic theorizing. (shrink)
The animalist says we are animals. This thesis is commonly understood as the universal generalization that all human persons are human animals. This article proposes an alternative: the thesis is a generic that admits of exceptions. We defend the resulting view, which we call ‘generic animalism’, and show its aptitude for diagnosing the limits of eight case-based objections to animalism.
Assertion is widely regarded as an act associated with an epistemic position. To assert is to represent oneself as occupying this position and/or to be required to occupy this position. Within this approach, the most common view is that assertion is strong: the associated position is knowledge or certainty. But recent challenges to this common view present new data that are argued to be better explained by assertion being weak. Old data widely taken to support assertion being strong has also (...) been challenged. This paper examines such challenges and finds them wanting. Far from diminishing the case for strong assertion, carefully considering new and old data reveals that assertion is as strong as ever. (shrink)
Humeans are often accused of accounting for natural laws in such a way that the fundamental entities that are supposed to explain the laws circle back and explain themselves. Loewer (2012) contends this is only the appearance of circularity. When it comes to the laws of nature, the Humean posits two kinds of explanation: metaphysical and scientific. The circle is then cut because the kind of explanation the laws provide for the fundamental entities is distinct from the kind of explanation (...) the entities provide for the laws. Lange (2013) has replied that Loewer’s defense is a distinction without a difference. As Lange sees it, Humeanism still produces a circular explanation because scientific explanations are transmitted across metaphysical explanations. We disagree that metaphysical explanation is such a ready conduit of scientific explanation. In what follows, we clear Humeanism of all charges of circularity by exploring how different kinds of explanation can and cannot interact. Our defense of Humeanism begins by presenting the circularity objection and detailing how it relies on an implausible principle about the transitivity of explanation. Then, we turn to Lange’s (2013) transitivity principle for explanation to argue that it fairs no better. With objections neutral to the debate between Humeanism and anti-Humeanism, we will show that his principle is not able to make the circularity objection sound. (shrink)
Propositions are traditionally regarded as performing vital roles in theories of natural language, logic, and cognition. This chapter offers an opinionated survey of recent literature to assess whether they are still needed to perform three linguistic roles: be the meaning of a declarative sentence in a context, be what is designated by certain linguistic expressions, and be the content of illocutionary acts. After considering many of the relevant choice-points, I suggest that there remains a linguistic basis for propositions, but not (...) for some of the traditional reasons. (shrink)
Here is a question as intriguing as it is brief: what are we? The animalist’s answer is equal in brevity: we are animals. This stark formulation of the animalist slogan distances it from nearby claims—that we are essentially animals, for example, or that we have purely biological criteria of identity over time. Is the animalist slogan—unburdened by modal or criterial commitments—still interesting, though? Or has it lost its bite? In this article we address such questions by presenting a positive case (...) for the importance of animalism and applying that case to recent critiques. (shrink)
Lying is standardly distinguished from misleading according to how a disbelieved proposition is conveyed. To lie, a speaker uses a sentence to say a proposition she does not believe. A speaker merely misleads by using a sentence to somehow convey but not say a disbelieved proposition. Front-and-center to the lying/misleading distinction is a conception of what-is-said by a sentence in a context. Stokke (2016, 2018) has recently argued that the standard account of lying/misleading is explanatorily inadequate unless paired with a (...) theory where what-is-said by a sentence is determined by the question under discussion or QUD. I present two objections to his theory, and conclude that no extant theory of what-is-said enables the standard account of the lying/misleading distinction to be explanatorily adequate. (shrink)
Speakers offer testimony. They also hedge. This essay offers an account of how hedging makes a difference to testimony. Two components of testimony are considered: how testimony warrants a hearer's attitude, and how testimony changes a speaker's responsibilities. Starting with a norm-based approach to testimony where hearer's beliefs are prima facie warranted because of social norms and speakers acquire responsibility from these same norms, I argue that hedging alters both components simultaneously. It changes which attitudes a hearer is prima facie (...) warranted in forming in response to testimony, and reduces how much responsibility a speaker undertakes in testifying. A consequence of this account is that speakers who hedge for strategic purposes deprive their hearers of warrant for stronger doxastic attitudes. (shrink)
Epistemic contextualism in the style of Lewis (1996) maintains that ascriptions of knowledge to a subject vary in truth with the alternatives that can be eliminated by the subject’s evidence in a context. Schaffer (2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2015), Schaffer and Knobe (2012), and Schaffer and Szabo ́ (2014) hold that the question under discussion or QUD always determines these alternatives in a context. This paper shows that the QUD does not perform such a role for "know" and uses this (...) result to draw a few lessons about the metasemantics of context- sensitivity. (shrink)
Propositions are posited to perform a variety of explanatory roles. One important role is being what is designated by a dedicated linguistic expression like a "that"-clause. In this paper, the case that propositions are needed for such a role is bolstered by defending that there are other expressions dedicated to designating propositions. In particular, it is shown that natural language has anaphors for propositions. Complement "so" and the response markers "yes" and "no" are argued to be such expressions.
The pluralist about material constitution maintains that a lump of clay is not identical with the statue it constitutes. Although pluralism strikes many as extravagant by requiring distinct things to coincide, it can be defended with a simple argument. The monist is less well off. Typically, she has to argue indirectly for her view by finding problems with the pluralist's extravagance. This paper offers a direct argument for monism that illustrates how monism about material constitution is rooted in commonsense as (...) reflected in linguistic practice. In particular, I argue that everyday judgements that are contrastive like "The statue is beautiful for a lump of clay" entail the identity of the statue and the clay. (shrink)
A speaker’s use of a sentence does more than contribute a content to a conversation. It also expresses the speaker’s attitude. This essay is about which attitude or attitudes are expressed by using an interrogative sentence to ask a question. With reference to eight lines of data about how questions are circulated in conversation, it is argued that a desire to know the question’s answer(s) is expressed.
Evidentials indicate a source of evidence for a content, and sometimes do more. Depending on the language, they also express the speaker's belief in that content or its possibility. This paper is about how to explain the expression of belief. It argues that semantic explanations are better than illocutionary explanations in two ways. First, a general argument is provided that a semantic explanation is preferable. Second, a case study is given to the evidentials of Cuzco Quechua to argue that a (...) semantic explanation is preferable to the illocutionary explanation that has been proposed in great detail by Faller (2002, 2012, 2014). The upshot is that illocutionary explanations of how belief is expressed are dispensable for at least some languages with grammaticalized evidentials. (shrink)
Declarative sentences in English are either unqualified or qualified with an epistemic expression like a parenthetical verb. In this dissertation, I defend parentheticalism, the view that most apparently unqualified declaratives in English covertly contain the verb "know" with a first-person subject in parenthetical position. Paired with a multidimensional semantics for parenthetical verbs, parentheticalism predicts that the use of an apparently unqualified declarative represents the speaker as knowing the at-issue proposition expressed by the declarative in the context. Since the representation of (...) speaker knowledge is what the speech act of assertion is otherwise needed to explain, parentheticalism—by better explaining such knowledge representation—has the consequence that assertion is unnecessary for explaining what the use of a declarative typically does in a context. (shrink)
This paper is about teaching philosophy to high school students through Lincoln-Douglas (LD) debate. LD, also known as “values debate,” includes topics from ethics and political philosophy. Thousands of high school students across the U.S. debate these topics in class, after school, and at weekend tournaments. We argue that LD is a particularly effective tool for teaching philosophy, but also that LD today falls short of its potential. We argue that the problems with LD are not inevitable, and we offer (...) strategic recommendations for improving LD as a tool for teaching philosophy. Ultimately, our aim is to create a dialogue between LD and academic philosophy, with the hope that such dialogue will improve LD’s capacity to teach students how to do philosophy. (shrink)
A traditional problem with the performative hypothesis is that it cannot assign proper truth-conditions to a declarative sentence. This paper shows that the problem is solved by adopting a multidimensional semantics on which sentences have more than just truth-conditions. This is good news for those who want to at least partially revive the hypothesis. The solution also brings into focus a lesson about what issues to consider when drawing the semantics/pragmatics boundary.
Unlike other sources of evidence like perception and memory, testimony is intimately related to natural language. That intimacy cannot be overlooked. In this chapter, I show how cross-linguistic considerations are relevant to the epistemology of testimony. I make my case with declaratives containing grammaticalized evidentials. My discussion has a negative and a positive part. For the negative part, it is argued that some definitions of testimony are mistaken because they do not apply to testimony offered by a declarative containing an (...) evidential. The positive component discusses a new puzzle noted by McCready (2015) that evidentials raise about the justificatory status of testimony-based beliefs. (shrink)
A conviction had by many Christians over many centuries is that natural language is inadequate for describing God. This is the doctrine of divine ineffability. Apophaticism understands divine ineffability as it being justified or proper to negate statements that describe God. This paper develops and defends a version of apophaticism in which the negation involved is metalinguistic. The interest of this metalinguistic apophaticism is two-fold. First, it provides a philosophical model of historical apophaticisms that shows their rational coherence. Second, metalinguistic (...) apophaticism enables a minimal understanding of ineffability that is independently plausible given its minor commitments. (shrink)
This paper argues that "that"-clauses do not reference propositions because they are not intersubstitutible with other expressions that do reference propositions. In particular, "that"-clauses are shown to not be intersubstitutible with propositional anaphors like "so." The substitution failures are further argued to support a semantics on which "that"-clauses are predicates.
The original essays in this volume present new research on unstructured theories of content, which have traditionally played a central role in linguistics and philosophy of language. The volume explores a wide range of themes related to unstructured content, including both the continued controversy over whether unstructured theories individuate contents too coarsely and various applications of unstructured theories to topics like rationality, epistemic commitment, semantic expressivism, relevance, and propositional attitude ascriptions. It contains contributions from different theoretical perspectives, including both those (...) sympathetic to unstructured theories of content and those who are skeptical, as well as from different methodological backgrounds, with philosophy, logic, and linguistics all represented. With contributions from leading scholars in philosophy and linguistics, this volume will be of interest to anyone working in logic, metaphysics, or the philosophy of mind. (shrink)