What are the philosophical views of contemporary professional philosophers? We surveyed many professional philosophers in order to help determine their views on 30 central philosophical issues. This article documents the results. It also reveals correlations among philosophical views and between these views and factors such as age, gender, and nationality. A factor analysis suggests that an individual's views on these issues factor into a few underlying components that predict much of the variation in those views. The results of a metasurvey (...) also suggest that many of the results of the survey are surprising: philosophers as a whole have quite inaccurate beliefs about the distribution of philosophical views in the profession. (shrink)
By “epistemic modals,” I mean epistemic uses of modal words: adverbs like “necessarily,” “possibly,” and “probably,” adjectives like “necessary,” “possible,” and “probable,” and auxiliaries like “might,” “may,” “must,” and “could.” It is hard to say exactly what makes a word modal, or what makes a use of a modal epistemic, without begging the questions that will be our concern below, but some examples should get the idea across. If I say “Goldbach’s conjecture might be true, and it might be false,” (...) I am not endorsing the Cartesian view that God could have made the truths of arithmetic come out differently. I make the claim not because I believe in the metaphysical contingency of mathematics, but because I know that Goldbach’s conjecture has not yet been proved or refuted. Similarly, if I say “Joe can’t be running,” I am not saying that Joe’s constitution prohibits him from running, or that Joe is essentially a non-runner, or that Joe isn’t allowed to run. My basis for making the claim may be nothing more than that I see Joe’s running shoes hanging on a hook. (shrink)
I think that there are good reasons to adopt a relativist semantics for epistemic modal claims such as ``the treasure might be under the palm tree'', according to which such utterances determine a truth value relative to something finer-grained than just a world (or a <world, time> pair). Anyone who is inclined to relativise truth to more than just worlds and times faces a problem about assertion. It's easy to be puzzled about just what purpose would be served by assertions (...) of this kind, and how to understand what we'd be up to in our use of sentences like ``the treasure might be under the palm tree'', if they have such peculiar truth conditions. After providing a very quick argument to motivate a relativist view of epistemic modals, I bring out and attempt to resolve this problem in making sense of the role of assertions with relativist truth conditions. Solving this problem should be helpful in two ways: first, it eliminates an apparently forceful objection to relativism, and second, spelling out the relativist account of assertion and communication will help to make clear just what the relativist position is, exactly, and why it's interesting. (shrink)
Predicates of personal taste (fun, tasty) and epistemic modals (might, must) share a similar analytical difficulty in determining whose taste or knowledge is being expressed. Accordingly, they have parallel behavior in attitude reports and in a certain kind of disagreement. On the other hand, they differ in how freely they can be linked to a contextually salient individual, with epistemic modals being much more restricted in this respect. I propose an account of both classes using Lasersohn’s (Linguistics and Philosophy 28: (...) 643–686, 2005) “judge” parameter, at the same time arguing for crucial changes to Lasersohn’s view in order to allow the extension to epistemic modals and address empirical problems faced by his account. (shrink)
Confusion in terms inspires confusion in concepts. When a relevant distinction is not clearly marked or not marked at all, it is apt to be blurred or even missed altogether in our thinking. This is true in any area of inquiry, pragmatics in particular. No one disputes that there are various ways in which what is communicated in an utterance can go beyond sentence meaning. The problem is to catalog the ways. It is generally recognized that linguistic meaning underdetermines speaker (...) meaning because of the need for disambiguation and reference assignment and because people can speak figuratively or indirectly. But philosophers and linguists are coming to recognize that these are not the only ways. The situation may be described in Gricean terms: the distinction between what is said and what is implicated is not exhaustive. Charting the middle ground between the two will require attending to specific examples, noting their distinctive features, and articulating the relevant concepts. That is what I aim to do here. The basic idea will be to distinguish not only the implied from the explicit but the implicit from the implied. (shrink)
This paper argues against relativism, focusing on relativism based on the semantics of predicates of personal taste. It presents and defends a contextualist semantics for these predicates, derived from current work on gradable adjectives. It then considers metasemantic questions about the kinds of contextual parameters this semantics requires. It argues they are not metasemantically different from those in other gradable adjectives, and that contextual parameters of this sort are widespread in natural language. Furthermore, this paper shows that if such parameters (...) are rejected, it leads to an unacceptably rampant form of relativism, that relativizes truth to an open-ended list of parameters. (shrink)
In this paper, I take issue with an idea that has emerged from recent relativist proposals, and, in particular, from Lasersohn, according to which the correct semantics for taste predicates must use contents that are functions of a judge parameter rather than implicit arguments lexically associated with such predicates. I argue that the relativist account and the contextualist implicit argument-account are, from the viewpoint of semantics, not much more than notational variants of one another. In other words, given any sentence (...) containing a taste predicate, and given any assignment of values to the relevant parameters, the two accounts predict the same truth value and are, in that sense, equivalent. I also look at possible reasons for preferring one account over the other. The phenomenon of "faultless disagreement" is often believed to be one such reason. I argue, against Kölbel and Lasersohn, that disagreement is never faultless: either the two parties genuinely disagree, hence if the one is right then the other is wrong, or the two parties are both right, but their apparent disagreement boils down to a misunderstanding. What is more, even if there were faultless disagreement, I argue that relativism would fail to account for it. The upshot of my paper, then, is to show that there is not much disagreement between a contextualist account that models the judge parameter as an implicit argument to the taste predicate, and a relativist account that models it as a parameter of the circumstances of evaluation. The choice between the two accounts, at least when talking about taste, is thus, to a large extent, a matter of taste. (shrink)
Epistemic modals are standardly taken to be context-dependent quantifiers over possibilities. Thus sentences containing them get truth-values with respect to both a context and an index. But some insist that this relativization is not relative enough: `might'-claims, they say, only get truth-values with respect to contexts, indices, and—the new wrinkle—points of assessment (hence, CIA). Here we argue against such "relativist" semantics. We begin with a sketch of the motivation for such theories and a generic formulation of them. Then we catalogue (...) central problems that any such theory faces. We end by outlining an alternative story. (shrink)
It has recently been argued that certain areas of discourse, such as discourse about matters of taste, involve a phenomenon of ‘‘ faultless disagreement ’’ that rules out giving a standard realist or contextualist semantics for them. Thus, it is argued, we are left with no choice but to consider more adventurous semantic alternatives for these areas, such as a semantic account that involves relativizing truth to perspectives or contexts of assessment. I argue that the sort of faultless disagreement present (...) in these cases is in fact compatible with a realist treatment of their semantics. Then I briefly consider other considerations that might be thought to speak against realism about these areas of discourse. I conclude with the tentative suggestion that realism about matters of taste is far more plausible than most philosophers believe today. (shrink)
Recently a number of writers have argued that a new form of relativism involves a form of semantic context-dependence which helps it escape the perhaps most common objection to ordinary contextualism; that it cannot accommodate our intuitions about disagreement. I argue: (i) In order to evaluate this claim we have to pay closer attention to the nature of our intuitions about disagreement. (ii) We have different such intuitions concerning different questions: we have more stable disagreement intuitions about moral disputes than (...) about, say, disputes about matters of taste. (iii) The new form of relativism does not vindicate the stable intuitions about disagreement. (iv) It does a better job explaining the unstable intuitions than contextualism. But, pace some relativists, it is not clear that assertion-truth rather than just proposition-truth has to be relativized to accomplish this. (shrink)
We discuss the challenge to truth-conditional semantics presented by apparent shifts in extension of predicates such as ‘red’. We propose an explicit indexical semantics for ‘red’ and argue that our account is preferable to the alternatives on conceptual and empirical grounds.
I set out and defend a view on indicative conditionals that I call “indexical relativism ”. The core of the view is that which proposition is expressed by an utterance of a conditional is a function of the speaker’s context and the assessor’s context. This implies a kind of relativism, namely that a single utterance may be correctly assessed as true by one assessor and false by another.
0. Abstract In this paper, I argue that although the behavior of adjectives in context poses a serious challenge to the principle of compositionality of content, in the end such considerations do not defeat the principle. The first two sections are devoted to the precise statement of the challenge; the rest of the paper presents a semantic analysis of a large class of adjectives that provides a satisfactory answer to it. In section 1, I formulate the context thesis, according to (...) which the content of a complex expression depends on the context of its utterance only insofar as the contents of its constituents do. If the context thesis is false, the content of some complex expression is not compositionally determined. In section 2, using an example due to Charles Travis, I construct an objection to the context thesis based on the behavior of the adjective ‘green’. In section 3 and 4, I look at some of the difficulties surrounding the semantics of ‘good’, which provide the motivation for the thesis that most adjectives are contextually incomplete one-place predicates. In section 5, I discuss how ‘green’ and other color adjectives can be treated within such a semantic theory. Since this theory is compatible with the context thesis, the objection against the compositionality of content looses its force. (shrink)
It is natural to think that the relationship between ‘rain’ and the location of rain is different from the relationship between ‘dance’ and the location of dancing. Utterances of (1) are typically interpreted as, in some sense, being about a location in which it rains. (2) is, typically, not interpreted as being about a location in which the dancing takes place.
Cappelen and Hawthorne tell us that the most basic, explanatory notion of truth is a monadic property of propositions. Other notions of truth, including those applying to sentences, are to be explained in terms of it. Among them are those found in Kripkean, Montagovian, and Kaplanean semantic theories, and their descendants – to wit truth at a context, at a circumstance, and at a context-plus-circumstance. If these are to make sense, the authors correctly maintain, they must be explained in terms (...) of the monadic notion of truth. (1-2) I thought that this was the received view, but the authors indicate otherwise. They describe possible-worlds semantics as making it “very natural to think of the foundational mode of evaluation for propositions as truth relative to worlds.”(7) I disagree. The natural way to understand possible worlds-semantics is to take world-states to be certain kinds of properties, and to take the truth of p at w to be the fact that p would be true (i.e. would instantiate monadic truth) were the universe to instantiate w. The authors add that it is somewhat natural to take “the actual truth of a proposition as [being] a matter of the proposition getting the value ‘true’ relative to a distinguished world -- the actual world.” (7) If this means that being actually true is being true at the actual world-state @, this isn’t just natural, it is unassailable -- as long as one doesn’t erroneously identify being true with being actually true. Since Cappelen and Hawthorne don’t do this, I take us to be on more or less the same page. Others, apparently, aren’t. We are told that “a number of the participants in the relevant disputes [about relativism] seem to take it for granted that philosophical semantics has somehow shown that the semantic value of sentences cannot be evaluated for truth or falsity simpliciter, since truth and falsity hold of a proposition relative to a world.” (77-8) We are also told: 1 Contemporary Analytic relativists reason as follows: ‘Lewis and Kaplan have shown that we need to relativize truth to triples of .. (shrink)
This essay aims at neutralizing the contextualist challenge against traditional semantics. According to contextualism, utterances of non-elliptical, non-ambiguous, and non-indexical sentences may be associated with contrasting truth-conditions. In this essay, I grant the contextualist analysis of the sentences in question, and the contextualist assessment of the truth-conditions for the corresponding utterances. I then argue that the resulting situation is by no means incompatible with the traditional approach to semantics, and that the evidence put forth by the contextualists may easily be (...) taken into account by the customary treatment of natural languages. (shrink)
What words mean plays a role in determining when they would be true; but not an exhaustive one. For that role leaves room for variation in truth conditions, with meanings fixed, from one speaking of words to another. What role meaning plays depends on what truth is; on what words, by virtue of meaning what they do are requied to have done (as spoken) in order to have said what is true. There is a deflationist position on what truth is: (...) the notion is exhausted by a given, specified, mass of 'platitudes', each to the effect that if words said (say) things to be thus, things must be that way. (The thought that thus-and-so is true iff thus-and-so.) These platitudes, and so deflationism, miss that aspect of truth that determines meaning's role. Truth requires words to have the uses which, given what they mean, they should have in the circumstances of their speaking. Through this link with use, when words would be true is a factor fixing what it is they said. (shrink)
Recent years have brought relativistic accounts of knowledge, first-person belief, and future contingents to prominence. I discuss these views, distinguish non-trivial from trivial forms of relativism, and then argue against relativism in all of its substantive varieties.
I want to discuss a puzzle about the semantics of epistemic modals, like “It might be the case that” as it occurs in “It might be the case that Goldbach’s conjecture is false.”1 I’ll argue that the puzzle cannot be adequately explained on standard accounts of the semantics of epistemic modals, and that a proper solution requires relativizing utterance truth to a context of assessment, a semantic device whose utility and coherence I have defended elsewhere for future contingents (MacFarlane..
In the early part of the paper, I attempt to explain a dispute between two parties who endorse the compositionality of language but disagree about its implications: Paul Horwich, and Jerry Fodor and Ernest Lepore. In the remainder of the paper, I challenge the thesis on which they are agreed, that compositionality can be taken for granted. I suggest that it is not clear what compositionality involves nor whether it obtains. I consider some kinds of apparent counterexamples, and compositionalist responses (...) to them in terms of covert indexicality and unspecific meanings. I argue that the last option is the best for most of the cases I consider. I conclude by stressing, as against Horwich and Fodor and Lepore, that the appropriate question concerns the extent to which compositionality obtains in a natural language, rather than whether it obtains or not, so that the answer is essentially messy, requiring detailed consideration of a wide range of examples. (shrink)
What I am calling New Age Relativism is usually proposed as a thesis about the truth-conditions of utterances, where an utterance is an actual historic voicing or inscription of a sentence of a certain type. Roughly, it is the view that, for certain discourses, whether an utterance is true depends not just on the context of its making—when, where, to whom, by whom, in what language, and so on—and the “circumstances of evaluation”—the state of the world in relevant respects—but also (...) on an additional parameter: a context of assessment. Vary the latter and the truth-value of the utterance can vary, even though the context of its making and the associated state of the world remain fixed. (shrink)
Herman Cappelen and John Hawthorne’s Relativism and Monadic Truth presses a number of worries about relativistic content. It forces one to think carefully about what a relativist should mean by saying that speakers disagree or contradict one another in asserting such content. My focus is on this question, though at points (in particular in Sect. 4) I touch on other issues Cappelen and Hawthorne (CH) raise.
Of all the cases made against classical logic, Michael Dummett's is the most deeply considered. Issuing from a systematic and original conception of the discipline, it constitutes one of the most distinctive achievements of twentieth century British philosophy. Although Dummett builds on the work of Brouwer and Heyting, he provides the case against classical logic with a new, explicit and general foundation in the philosophy of language. Dummett's central arguments, widely celebrated if not widely endorsed, concern the implications of the (...) relation between meaning and use for both the inference rules that govern logical connectives and the relation between truth and its recognition. It is less often noted that Dummett has a further argument against classical logic, one based on the semantic and set-theoretic paradoxes. That is the topic of this paper. (shrink)
The received view about meteorological predicates like ‘rain’ is that they carry an argument slot for a location which can be filled explicitly or implicitly. The view assumes that ‘rain’, in the absence of an explicit location, demands that the context provide a specific location. In an earlier article in this journal, I provided a counter-example, viz. a context in which ‘it is raining’ receives a location-indefinite interpretation. On the basis of that example, I argued that when there is tacit (...) references to a location, it takes place for pragmatic reasons and casts no light on the semantics of meteorological predicates. Since then, several authors have reanalysed the counter-example, so as to make it compatible with the standard view. I discuss those attempts and argue that my account is superior. (shrink)
Data about attitude reports provide some of the most interesting arguments for, and against, various theses of semantic relativism. This paper is a short survey of three such arguments. First, I’ll argue (against recent work by von Fintel and Gillies) that relativists can explain the behaviour of relativistic terms in factive attitude reports. Second, I’ll argue (against Glanzberg) that looking at attitude reports suggests that relativists have a more plausible story to tell than contextualists about the division of labour between (...) semantics and meta-semantics. Finally, I’ll offer a new argument for invariantism (i.e. against both relativism and contextualism) about moral terms. The argument will turn on the observation that the behaviour of normative terms in factive and non-factive attitude reports is quite unlike the behaviour of any other plausibly context-sensitive term. Before that, I’ll start with some taxonomy, just so as it’s clear what the intended conclusions below are supposed to be. (shrink)
Both context relativists and circumstance-of-evaluation relativists agree that the traditional semantic interpretation of some sentence-types fails to deliver the adequate truth-conditions for the corresponding tokens. But while the context relativists argue that the truth-conditions of each token depend on its context of utterance—each token being thus associated with a distinct intension—circumstance-of-evaluation relativists preserve a unique intension for all the tokens by placing circumstances of evaluations under the influence of a certain ‘point of view’. The main difference between the two approaches (...) is that only the former can operate locally. It is shown that, for this reason, circumstance-of-evaluation relativism makes erroneous semantic predictions about (relative) gradable adjectives. (shrink)
In the recent literature on contextualism and relativism, one often finds disputes as to which kind of consideration would be relevant for positing a feature of a context as a parameter in the ‘‘circumstance of evaluation’: via the presence of an operator in the language which shifts that feature (Stanley) or by being a feature of a context with respect to which the truth of ‘‘propositions’’ expressed in the context is relative (McFarlane). This kind of dispute arises from two different (...) independent roles that elements in ‘‘circumstances of evaluation’’ are sometimes assumed to have. I distinguish indices from points of evaluation, and motivate its significance in the debate. (shrink)
Richard on truth and commitment Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-9 DOI 10.1007/s11098-011-9795-1 Authors John MacFarlane, Department of Philosophy, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116.
What is insensitive semantics (also semantic minimalism, henceforth SM)? That will need to emerge, if at all, from the authors’ (henceforth C&L) objections to what they see as their opponents. They signal two main opponents: moderate contextualists (henceforth MCs); and radical contextualists (henceforth RCs). I am signaled as a main RC. I will thus henceforth represent that position in propria persona. In most general lines the story is this: MC collapses into RC; RC is incoherent, or inconsistent, on various counts; (...) SM is thus the only game in town. As to all of that, we shall see. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that there are good motivations for a relativist account of the domain-sensitivity of quantifier phrases. I will frame the problem as a puzzle involving what looks like a logically valid inference, yet one whose premises are true while the conclusion is false. After discussing some existing accounts, literalist and contextualist, I will present and argue for an account that may be said to be relativist in the following sense: (i) a domain of quantification is required (...) for determining truth value, but is idle in determining semantic content, and (ii) the same sentence, as used on one and the same occasion, may receive different truth values relative to different domains. (shrink)
A great deal of discussion in recent philosophy of language has centered on the idea that there might be hidden contextual parameters in our sentences. But relatively little attention has been paid to what those parameters themselves are like, beyond the assumption that they behave more or less like variables do in logic. My goal in this paper is to show this has been a mistake. I shall argue there are at least two very different sorts of contextual parameters. One (...) is indeed basically like variables in logic, but the other is very different, and much more like overt referring expressions. This result is of interest in its own right, to those of us who are concerned to map out the details of the semantic and pragmatic workings of language. But it will have some wider morals as well. One of the important issues behind the debate over hidden parameters has been how we can posit hidden structure in language, and how far such structure can stray from the intuitive forms and contents speakers see in communication. I shall argue that one sort of hidden parameter is surprisingly close to the contents and forms speakers find intuitive, while another is more remote. I shall show that the.. (shrink)
Propositions are generally thought to have a truth-value only relative to some parameter or sequence of parameters. Many apparently straightforward notions, like what it is to disagree or retain a belief, become harder to explain once propositional truth is thus relativized. An account of disagreement within a framework involving such ‘stoic’ propositions is here presented. Some resources developed in that account are then used to respond to the eternalist charge that temporalist propositions can't function as belief contents because they don't (...) allow us to make adequate sense of what belief retention amounts to. (shrink)
This essay argues that relativist semantics provide fruitful frameworks for the study of the relationships between meaning and truth-conditions, and consequently for the analysis of the logical properties of expressions. After a discussion of the role of intensionality and indexicality within classic double-indexed semantics, I explain that the non-relativistic identification of the parameters needed for the definition of truth and for the interpretation of indexicals is grounded on considerations that are irrelevant for the assessment of the relationships between meaning and (...) truth. (shrink)
Do motivational limitations due to human nature constrain the demands of justice? Among those who say no, David Estlund offers perhaps the most compelling argument. Taking Estlund’s analysis of “ability” as a starting point, I show that motivational deficiencies can constrain the demands of justice under at least one common circumstance — that the motivationally-deficient agent makes a good faith effort to overcome her deficiency. In fact, my argument implies something stronger; namely, that the demands of justice are constrained by (...) what people are sufficiently likely to be motivated to do. Thus, contrary to the prevailing wisdom, it is the business of ideal theory — not just nonideal theory — to work with the motivational capacities people are likely enough to have. (See also Estlund's reply in the same issue of EJPT and my rejoinder on Philpapers.). (shrink)
Hume appeals to different kinds of certainties and necessities in the Treatise. He contrasts the certainty that arises from intuition and demonstrative reasoning with the certainty that arises from causal reasoning. He denies that the causal maxim is absolutely or metaphysically necessary, but he nonetheless takes the causal maxim and ‘proofs’ to be necessary. The focus of this paper is the certainty and necessity involved in Hume’s concept of knowledge. I defend the view that intuitive certainty, in particular, is certainty (...) of the invariability or necessity of relations between ideas. Against David Owen and Helen Beebee, I argue that the certainty involved in intuition depends on the activity of the mind. I argue, further, that understanding this activity helps us understand more clearly one of Hume’s most important theses, namely that experience is the source of a distinct kind of certainty and of necessity. (shrink)
A consideration of Mach's elements, his philosophy of neutral monism, and philosophy of physics, especially space and time, much of it based on unpublished writings from the Nachlass and other original sources. The historical connection between Mach and logical positivism is shown to be superficial at best, and Mach's elements are shown to be mind independent natural qualities (world-elements) with dynamic force, not limited to human sensations.
ABSTRACT: A very brief summary presentation of western ancient logic for the non-specialized reader, from the beginnings to Boethius. For a much more detailed presentation see my "Ancient Logic" in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosopy (also on PhilPapers).