Features of semanticprosody -- The evaluative and the hidden -- The diachronic and the synchronic -- Semanticprosody and lexical environment -- Semanticprosody and corpus data -- Semanticprosody and the concordance -- Intuition, introspection, and corpus data -- Semanticprosody and lexical priming.
An experiment explored the acquisition of conscious and unconscious knowledge of semanticprosody in a second language under incidental and intentional learning conditions. Semanticprosody is the conotational coloring of the semantics of a word, largely uncaptured by dictionary definitions. Contrary to some claims in the literature, we revealed that both conscious and unconscious knowledge were involved in the acquisition of semanticprosody. Intentional learning resulted in similar unconscious but more conscious knowledge than incidental (...) learning. The results are discussed in terms of second language learning and the nature of unconscious knowledge. (shrink)
Recent experiments have shown that people iconically modulate their prosody corresponding with the meaning of their utterance. This article reports findings from a story reading task that expands the investigation of iconic prosody to abstract meanings in addition to concrete ones. Participants read stories that contrasted along concrete and abstract semantic dimensions of speed and size. Participants read fast stories at a faster rate than slow stories, and big stories with a lower pitch than small stories. The (...) effect of speed was distributed across the stories, including portions that were identical across stories, whereas the size effect was localized to size-related words. Overall, these findings enrich the documentation of iconicity in spoken language and bear on our understanding of the relationship between gesture and speech. (shrink)
The relationship between a biological process and a behavioral trait indicates a proximate mechanism by which natural selection can act. In that context, examining an aspect of infant health is one method of investigating the adaptive significance of infant-directed speech (ID speech), and it could help to explain the widespread use of this communication style. The correlation between infant growth and infant-directed speech is positive and significant, and provides a vehicle for testing evolutionary history hypotheses.
When the stored representation of the meaning of a stimulus is accessed through the processing of a sensory input it is maintained in an activated state for a certain amount of time that allows for further processing. This semantic activation is generally accompanied by conscious identification, which can be demonstrated by the ability of a person to perform discriminations on the basis of the meaning of the stimulus. The idea that a sensory input can give rise to semantic (...) activation without concomitant conscious identification was the central thesis of the controversial research in subliminal perception. Recently, new claims for the existence of such phenomena have arisen from studies in dichotic listening, parafoveal vision, and visual pattern masking. Because of the fundamental role played by these types of experiments in cognitive psychology, the new assertions have raised widespread interest. (shrink)
According to Semantic Minimalism, every use of "Chiara is tall" (fixing the girl and the time) semantically expresses the same proposition, the proposition that Chiara is (just plain) tall. Given standard assumptions, this proposition ought to have an intension (a function from possible worlds to truth values). However, speakers tend to reject questions that presuppose that it does. I suggest that semantic minimalists might address this problem by adopting a form of "nonindexical contextualism," according to which the proposition (...) invariantly expressed by "Chiara is tall" does not have a context-invariant intension. Nonindexical contextualism provides an elegant explanation of what is wrong with "context-shifting arguments" and can be seen as a synthesis of the (partial) insights of semantic minimalists and radical contextualists. (shrink)
We describe a strategy for integration of data that is based on the idea of semantic enhancement. The strategy promises a number of benefits: it can be applied incrementally; it creates minimal barriers to the incorporation of new data into the semantically enhanced system; it preserves the existing data (including any existing data-semantics) in their original form (thus all provenance information is retained, and no heavy preprocessing is required); and it embraces the full spectrum of data sources, types, models, (...) and modalities (including text, images, audio, and signals). The result of applying this strategy to a given body of data is an evolving Dataspace that allows the application of a variety of integration and analytic processes to diverse data contents. We conceive semantic enhancement (SE) as a lightweight and flexible process that leverages the richness of the structured contents of the Dataspace without adding storage and processing burdens to what, in the intelligence domain, will be an already storage- and processing-heavy starting point. SE works not by changing the data to which it is applied, but rather by adding an extra semantic layer to this data. We sketch how the semantic enhancement approach can be applied consistently and in cumulative fashion to new data and data-models that enter the Dataspace. (shrink)
The use of highly abstract mathematical frameworks is essential for building the sort of theoretical foundation for semantic integration needed to bring it to the level of a genuine engineering discipline. At the same time, much of the work that has been done by means of these frameworks assumes a certain amount of background knowledge in mathematics that a lot of people working in ontology, even at a fairly high theoretical level, lack. The major purpose of this short paper (...) is provide a (comparatively) simple model of semantic integration that remains within the friendlier confines of first-order languages and their usual classical semantics and logic. (shrink)
We describe a strategy that is being used for the horizontal integration of warfighter intelligence data within the framework of the US Army’s Distributed Common Ground System Standard Cloud (DSC) initiative. The strategy rests on the development of a set of ontologies that are being incrementally applied to bring about what we call the ‘semantic enhancement’ of data models used within each intelligence discipline. We show how the strategy can help to overcome familiar tendencies to stovepiping of intelligence data, (...) and describe how it can be applied in an agile fashion to new data resources in ways that address immediate needs of intelligence analysts. (shrink)
This paper outlines a quantitative theory of strongly semantic information (TSSI) based on truth-values rather than probability distributions. The main hypothesis supported in the paper is that the classic quantitative theory of weakly semantic information (TWSI), based on probability distributions, assumes that truth-values supervene on factual semantic information, yet this principle is too weak and generates a well-known semantic paradox, whereas TSSI, according to which factual semantic information encapsulates truth, can avoid the paradox and is (...) more in line with the standard conception of what generally counts as semantic information. After a brief introduction, section two outlines the semantic paradox implied by TWSI, analysing it in terms of an initial conflict between two requisites of a quantitative theory of semantic information. In section three, three criteria of semantic information equivalence are used to provide a taxonomy of quantitative approaches to semantic information and introduce TSSI. In section four, some further desiderata that should be fulfilled by a quantitative TSSI are explained. From section five to section seven, TSSI is developed on the basis of a calculus of truth-values and semantic discrepancy with respect to a given situation. In section eight, it is shown how TSSI succeeds in solving the paradox. Section nine summarises the main results of the paper and indicates some future developments. (shrink)
Halvorson argues that the semantic view of theories leads to absurdities. Glymour shows how to inoculate the semantic view against Halvorson's criticisms, namely by making it into a syntactic view of theories. I argue that this modified semantic-syntactic view cannot do the philosophical work that the original "language-free" semantic view was supposed to do.
Subjects classified visible 2-digit numbers as larger or smaller than 55. Target numbers were preceded by masked 2-digit primes that were either congruent (same relation to 55) or incongruent. Experiments 1 and 2 showed prime congruency effects for stimuli never included in the set of classified visible targets, indicating subliminal priming based on long-term semantic memory. Experiments 2 and 3 went further to demonstrate paradoxical unconscious priming effects resulting from task context. For example, after repeated practice classifying 73 as (...) larger than 55, the novel masked prime 37 paradoxically facilitated the “larger” response. In these experiments task context could induce subjects to unconsciously process only the leftmost masked prime digit, only the rightmost digit, or both independently. Across 3 experiments, subliminal priming was governed by both task context and long-term semantic memory. (shrink)
Epistemic Contextualism is the view that “knows that” is semantically context-sensitive and that properly accommodating this fact into our philosophical theory promises to solve various puzzles concerning knowledge. Yet Epistemic Contextualism faces a big—some would say fatal—problem: The Semantic Error Problem. In its prominent form, this runs thus: speakers just don’t seem to recognise that “knows that” is context-sensitive; so, if “knows that” really is context-sensitive then such speakers are systematically in error about what is said by, or how (...) to evaluate, ordinary uses of “S knows that p”; but since it's wildly implausible that ordinary speakers should exhibit such systematic error, the expression “knows that” isn't context-sensitive. We are interested in whether, and in what ways, there is such semantic error; if there is such error, how it arises and is made manifest; and, again, if there is such error to what extent it is a problem for Epistemic Contextualism. The upshot is that some forms of The Semantic Error Problem turn out to be largely unproblematic. Those that remain troublesome have analogue error problems for various competitor conceptions of knowledge. So, if error is any sort of problem, then there is a problem for every extant competitor view. (shrink)
The article addresses the problem of how semantic information can be upgraded to knowledge. The introductory section explains the technical terminology and the relevant background. Section 2 argues that, for semantic information to be upgraded to knowledge, it is necessary and sufficient to be embedded in a network of questions and answers that correctly accounts for it. Section 3 shows that an information flow network of type A fulfils such a requirement, by warranting that the erotetic deficit, characterising (...) the target semantic information t by default, is correctly satisfied by the information flow of correct answers provided by an informational source s. Section 4 illustrates some of the major advantages of such a Network Theory of Account (NTA) and clears the ground of a few potential difficulties. Section 5 clarifies why NTA and an informational analysis of knowledge, according to which knowledge is accounted semantic information, is not subject to Gettier-type counterexamples. A concluding section briefly summarises the results obtained. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to develop a class of semantic tableau systems for some dyadic deontic logics. We will consider 16 different pure dyadic deontic tableau systems and 32 different alethic dyadic deontic tableau systems. Possible world semantics is used to interpret our formal languages. Some relationships between our systems and well known dyadic deontic logics in the literature are pointed out and soundness results are obtained for every tableau system. Completeness results are obtained for all 16 (...) pure dyadic deontic systems and for 16 alethic dyadic deontic systems. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to develop a class of semantic tableau systems for some counterfactual logics. All in all I will discuss 1024 systems. Possible world semantics is used to interpret our formal languages. Soundness results are obtained for every tableau system and completeness results for a large subclass of these.
This paper is an attempt to clarify the notion of semantic presupposition and to refute Böer and Lycan's critique of that notion. The author presents a feasible and coherent formal definition of semantic presupposition after examining several popular definitions of the notion. In terms of this definition, two central arguments against semantic presupposition presented by Böer and Lycan are analyzed and responded to with care. It is concluded that the notion of semantic presupposition is not empty (...) but rather is philosophically interesting and fruitful. (shrink)
Aggregating snippets from the semantic memories of many individuals may not yield a good map of an individual’s semantic memory. The authors analyze the structure of semantic networks that they sampled from individuals through a new snowball sampling paradigm during approximately 6 weeks of 1-hr daily sessions. The semantic networks of individuals have a small-world structure with short distances between words and high clustering. The distribution of links follows a power law truncated by an exponential cutoff, (...) meaning that most words are poorly connected and a minority of words has a high, although bounded, number of connections. Existing aggregate networks mirror the individual link distributions, and so they are not scale-free, as has been previously assumed; still, there are properties of individual structure that the aggregate networks do not reflect. A simulation of the new sampling process suggests that it can uncover the true structure of an individual’s semantic memory. (shrink)
Abstract Since their inception, distributional models of semantics have been criticized as inadequate cognitive theories of human semantic learning and representation. A principal challenge is that the representations derived by distributional models are purely symbolic and are not grounded in perception and action; this challenge has led many to favor feature-based models of semantic representation. We argue that the amount of perceptual and other semantic information that can be learned from purely distributional statistics has been underappreciated. We (...) compare the representations of three feature-based and nine distributional models using a semantic clustering task. Several distributional models demonstrated semantic clustering comparable with clustering-based on feature-based representations. Furthermore, when trained on child-directed speech, the same distributional models perform as well as sensorimotor-based feature representations of children’s lexical semantic knowledge. These results suggest that, to a large extent, information relevant for extracting semantic categories is redundantly coded in perceptual and linguistic experience. Detailed analyses of the semantic clusters of the feature-based and distributional models also reveal that the models make use of complementary cues to semantic organization from the two data streams. Rather than conceptualizing feature-based and distributional models as competing theories, we argue that future focus should be on understanding the cognitive mechanisms humans use to integrate the two sources. (shrink)
According to semantic minimalism, context-invariant minimal semantic propositions play an essential role in linguistic communication. This claim is key to minimalists’ argument against semantic contextualism: if there were no such minimal semantic propositions, and semantic content varied widely with shifts in context, then it would be “miraculous” if communication were ever to occur. This paper offers a critical examination of the minimalist account of communication, focusing on a series of examples where communication occurs without a (...) minimal semantic proposition shared between speaker and hearer. The only way for minimalists to respond to these examples is by restricting the scope of their account to intra-lingual communication. It can then be shown that the minimalist’s notion of a language shrinks to a point, such that practically no instances of communication will fall under that account, and that the retreat to intra-lingual communication is in any case self-defeating, since the only way for minimalists to account for the individuation of languages is by resort to precisely the kinds of contextual considerations they abjured in the first place. In short, if, as minimalists allege, contextualism founders because it renders communication contingent on speaker and hearer sharing a context, it can now be seen that minimalism faces a parallel problem because it renders communication contingent on speaker and hearer sharing a language. I end by arguing that the possibility of communication cannot, as minimalists assume, be grounded in shared semantic conventions; rather, successful communication must precede the establishment of any particular set of semantic conventions. (shrink)
The discussion presents a framework of concepts that is intended to account for the rationality of semantic change and variation, suggesting that each scientific concept consists of three components of content: 1) reference, 2) inferential role, and 3) the epistemic goal pursued with the concept’s use. I argue that in the course of history a concept can change in any of these components, and that change in the concept’s inferential role and reference can be accounted for as being rational (...) relative to the third component, the concept’s epistemic goal. This framework is illustrated and defended by application to the history of the gene concept. It is explained how the molecular gene concept grew rationally out of the classical gene concept despite a change in reference, and why the use and reference of the contemporary molecular gene concept may legitimately vary from context to context. (shrink)
I use the principle of truth-maker maximalism to provide a new solution to the semantic paradoxes. According to the solution, AUS, its undecidable whether paradoxical sentences are grounded or ungrounded. From this it follows that their alethic status is undecidable. We cannot assert, in principle, whether paradoxical sentences are true, false, either true or false, neither true nor false, both true and false, and so on. AUS involves no ad hoc modification of logic, denial of the T-schema's validity, or (...) obvious revenge. (shrink)
The semantic view of theories is normally considered to be an ac-count of theories congenial to Scientific Realism. Recently, it has been argued that Ontic Structural Realism could be fruitfully applied, in combination with the semantic view, to some of the philosophical issues peculiarly related to bi-ology. Given the central role that models have in the semantic view, and the relevance that mathematics has in the definition of the concept of model, the fo-cus will be on population (...) genetics, which is one of the most mathematized areas in biology. We will analyse some of the difficulties which arise when trying to use Ontic Structural Realism to account for evolutionary biology. (shrink)
Three influential forms of realism are distinguished and interrelated: realism about the external world, construed as a metaphysical doctrine; scientific realism about non-observable entities postulated in science; and semantic realism as defined by Dummett. Metaphysical realism about everyday physical objects is contrasted with idealism and phenomenalism, and several potent arguments against these latter views are reviewed. -/- Three forms of scientific realism are then distinguished: (i) scientific theories and their existence postulates should be taken literally; (ii) the existence of (...) unobservable entities posited by our most successful scientific theories is justified scientifically; and (iii) our best current scientific theories are at least approximately true. It is argued that only some form of scientific realism can make proper sense of certain episodes in the history of science. -/- Finally, Dummett’s influential formulation of semantic issues about realism considered. Dummett argued that in some cases, the fundamental issue is not about the existence of entities, but rather about whether statements of some specified class (such as mathematics) have an objective truth value, independently of our means of knowing it. Dummett famously argued against such semantic realism and in favor of anti-realism. The relation of semantic realism to the metaphysical construal of realism and Dummett’s main argument against semantic realism is examined. (shrink)
I discuss Saul Kripke’s Normativity Argument against semantic dispositionalism: I criticize the orthodox interpretation of the argument, defend an alternative reading and argue that, contrary to what Kripke himself seems to have been thinking, the real point of the Normativity Argument is not that meaning is normative.
In the pair of articles of which this is the second, I present a set of problems and philosophical proposals that have in recent years been associated with the term “relativism”. These problems are related to the question of how we should represent thought and speech about certain topics. The main issue is whether we should model such mental states or linguistic acts as involving representational contents that are absolutely correct or incorrect, or whether, alternatively, their correctness should be thought (...) of as varying with some (more or less surprising) factor. In the first article, “Relativism 1: Representational Content”, I discussed the general issue of relativism about representational content. I argued for the conciliatory view that both relativist and absoutist conceptions of representational content can be legitimate. In the present continuation, I look in more detail at a special case of the general issue, namely the question of whether semantic contents, i.e. the contents assigned to linguistic utterances in the semantics of natural language, should be construed in an absolutist or in a relativist way. (shrink)
Some experimental studies have recently claimed to undermine semantic externalism about natural kind terms. However, it is unclear how philosophical accounts of reference can be experimentally tested. We present two externalistic adaptations of psychological placeholder essentialism, a strict externalist and a hybrid externalist view, which are experimentally testable. We examine Braisby, Franks, and Hampton's (1996) study which claims to undermine externalism, and argue that the study fails in its aims. We conducted two experiments, the results of which undermine internalism (...) and the hybrid theory, and support strict externalism. Our conclusion is that lay speakers' natural kind concepts involve a belief in an external category essence, which determines reference. (shrink)
The distinction between the semantic content of a sentence or utterance and its use is widely employed in formal semantics. Semantic minimalism in particular understands this distinction as a sharp dichotomy. I argue that if we accept such a dichotomy, there would be no reason to posit the existence of semantic contents at all. I examine and reject several arguments raised in the literature that might provide a rationale for assuming semantic contents, in this sense, exist, (...) and conclude that Ockham’s razor should be applied to these postulated entities. Since the notion of “semantic content” doubles both as what a semantic theory is a priori supposed to account for and as the product of that same theory, it is methodologically unsound to appeal to this notion to fend off criticisms of and counterexamples to semantic theories. (shrink)
Up to now theories of semantic information have implicitly relied on logical monism, or the view that there is one true logic. The latter position has been explicitly challenged by logical pluralists. Adopting an unbiased attitude in the philosophy of information, we take a suggestion from Beall and Restall at heart and exploit logical pluralism to recognise another kind of pluralism. The latter is called informational pluralism, a thesis whose implications for a theory of semantic information we explore.
Recently, some philosophers have argued that we should take quantification of any (finite) order to be a legitimate and irreducible, sui generis kind of quantification. In particular, they hold that a semantic theory for higher-order quantification must itself be couched in higher-order terms. Øystein Linnebo has criticized such views on the grounds that they are committed to general claims about the semantic values of expressions that are by their own lights inexpressible. I show that Linnebo’s objection rests on (...) the assumption of a notion of semantic value or contribution which both applies to expressions of any order, and picks out, for each expression, an extra-linguistic correlate of that expression. I go on to argue that higher-orderists can plausibly reject this assumption, by means of a hierarchy of notions they can use to describe the extra-lingustic correlates of expressions of different orders. (shrink)
Within contemporary philosophy of mind, it is taken for granted that externalist accounts of meaning and mental content are, in principle, orthogonal to the matter of whether cognition itself is bound within the biological brain or whether it can constitutively include parts of the world. Accordingly, Clark and Chalmers (1998) distinguish these varieties of externalism as ‘passive’ and ‘active’ respectively. The aim here is to suggest that we should resist the received way of thinking about these dividing lines. With reference (...) to Brandom’s (1994; 2000; 2008) broad semantic inferentialism, we show that a theory of meaning can be at the same time a variety of active externalism. While we grant that supporters of other varieties of content externalism (e.g., Putnam 1975 and Burge 1986) can deny active externalism, this is not an option for semantic inferentialists: On this latter view, the role of the environment (both in its social and natural form) is not ‘passive’ in the sense assumed by the alternative approaches to content externalism. (shrink)
It is often argued that inferential role semantics (IRS) entails semantic holism as long as theorists fail to answer the question about which inferences, among the many, are meaning-constitutive. Since analyticity, as truth in virtue of meaning, is a widely dismissed notion in indicating which inferences determine meaning, it seems that holism follows. Semantic holism is often understood as facing problems with the stability of content and many usual explanations of communication. Thus, we should choose between giving up (...) IRS, to avoid these holistic entailments, and defending holism against this charge, to rescue IRS. I try to pursue the second goal by analyzing certain patterns of counterfactual reasoning. Wilfrid Sellars and Robert Brandom claim that, to defend IRS, content-constitutive inferences are those counterfactually robust. While it is difficult to assess the goodness of such a view, it nonetheless entails that counterfactually non-robust inferences (which I call “modally ruled out inferences”) are not content-constitutive. If this is true, and if we take certain remarks about the grasp of concepts on board, there is a way to restrict the scope of the holism entailed by IRS to the extent of reshaping problems with the stability of content. (shrink)
We start with the ambition -- dating back to the early days of the semantic web -- of assembling a significant portion human knowledge into a contradiction-free form using semantic web technology. We argue that this would not be desirable, because there are concepts, known as essentially contested concepts, whose definitions are contentious due to deep-seated ethical disagreements. Further, we argue that the ninetenth century hermeneutical tradition has a great deal to say, both about the ambition, and about (...) why it fails. We conclude with some remarks about statistics. (shrink)
Buddhist semantic realists assert that reality is always non-linguistic, beyond the domain of conceptual thought. Anything that is conceptual and linguistic, they maintain, cannot be reality and therefore cannot function as reality.The Pra¯san˙gika however rejects the realist theory and argues that all realities are purely linguistic—just names and concepts—and that only linguistic reality can have any causal function. This paper seeks to understand the Pra¯san˙gika’s radical semantic nominalism and its philosophical justifications by comparing and contrasting it with the (...) realistic semantic theories. (shrink)
Definitions I presented in a previous article as part of a semantic approach in epistemology assumed that the concept of derivability from standard logic held across all mathematical and scientific disciplines. The present article argues that this assumption is not true for quantum mechanics (QM) by showing that concepts of validity applicable to proofs in mathematics and in classical mechanics are inapplicable to proofs in QM. Because semantic epistemology must include this important theory, revision is necessary. The one (...) I propose also extends semantic epistemology beyond the ‘hard’ sciences. The article ends by presenting and then refuting some responses QM theorists might make to my arguments. (shrink)
This paper proposes a critical analysis of that interpretation of the Nāgārjunian doctrine of the two truths as summarized—by both Mark Siderits and Jay L. Garfield—in the formula: “the ultimate truth is that there is no ultimate truth”. This ‘semantic reading’ of Nāgārjuna’s theory, despite its importance as a criticism of the ‘metaphysical interpretations’, would in itself be defective and improbable. Indeed, firstly, semantic interpretation presents a formal defect: it fails to clearly and explicitly express that which it (...) contains logically; the previously mentioned formula must necessarily be completed by: “the conventional truth is that nothing is conventional truth”. Secondly, after having recognized what Siderits’ and Garfield’s analyses contain implicitly, other logical and philological defects in their position emerge: the existence of the ‘conventional’ would appear—despite the efforts of semantic interpreters to demonstrate quite the contrary—definitively inconceivable without the presupposition of something ‘real’; moreover, the number of verses in Nāgārjuna that are in opposition to the semantic interpretation (even if we grant semantic interpreters that these verses do not justify a metaphysical reconstruction of Nagarjuna’s doctrine) would seem too great and significant to be ignored. (shrink)
When searching for concepts in memory—as in the verbal fluency task of naming all the animals one can think of—people appear to explore internal mental representations in much the same way that animals forage in physical space: searching locally within patches of information before transitioning globally between patches. However, the definition of the patches being searched in mental space is not well specified. Do we search by activating explicit predefined categories and recall items from within that category, or do we (...) activate and recall a connected sequence of individual items without using categorical information, with each item recalled leading to the retrieval of an associated item in a stream, or both? Using semantic representations in a search of associative memory framework and data from the animal fluency task, we tested competing hypotheses based on associative and categorical search models. Associative, but not categorical, patch transitions took longer to make than position-matched productions, suggesting that categorical transitions were not true transitions. There was also clear evidence of associative search even within categorical patch boundaries. Furthermore, most individuals' behavior was best explained by an associative search model without the addition of categorical information. Thus, our results support a search process that does not use categorical information, but for which patch boundaries shift with each recall and local search is well described by a random walk in semantic space, with switches to new regions of the semantic space when the current region is depleted. (shrink)
In a recent article in this journal, Giuseppe Ferraro mounted a sustained attack on the semantic interpretation of the Madhyamaka doctrine of emptiness, an interpretation that has been championed by the authors. The present paper is their reply to that attack.
This paper addresses one of the fundamental problems of the philosophy of information: How does semantic information emerge within the underlying dynamics of the world?—the dynamical semantic information problem. It suggests that the canonical approach to semantic information that defines data before meaning and meaning before use is inadequate for pre-cognitive information media. Instead, we should follow a pragmatic approach to information where one defines the notion of information system as a special kind of purposeful system emerging (...) within the underlying dynamics of the world and define semantic information as the currency of the system. In this way, systems operating with semantic information can be viewed as patterns in the dynamics—semantic information is a dynamical system phenomenon of highly organized systems. In the simplest information systems, the syntax, semantics, and pragmatics of the information medium are co-defined. It proposes a new more general theory of information semantics that focuses on the interface role of the information states in the information system—the interface theory of meaning. Finally, with the new framework, it addresses the debate between weakly semantic and strongly semantic accounts of information, siding with the strongly semantic view because the pragmatic account developed here is a better generalization of it. (shrink)
Many biologists still believe in a sort of post-Cartesian foundation of reality wherein objects are independent of subjects which cognize them. Recent research in behaviour, cognition, and psychology, however, provides plenty of evidence to the effect that the perception of an object differs depending on the kind of animal observer, and also its personality, hormonal, and sensorial set-up etc. In the following, I argue that exposed surfaces of organisms interact with other organisms’ perception to form semiautonomous relational entities called (...) class='Hi'>semantic organs, which participate in biological reality as discrete heritable evolutionary units. The inner dimensions and potentialities of an organism can enter the senses of another living being when effectively expressed on the outer surfaces of the former and meaningfully perceived by the latter. Semantic organs have three basic sources of variability: intrinsic, i.e., genetic, epigenetic, and developmental processes; extrinsic, meaning the biotic and abiotic environmental conditions which affect the developmental generators of intrinsic variability; and perceptual, stemming from differences in the subject-specific interpretation of a SO’s structural basis. Extrinsic and intrinsic sources of variability are, however, just precursors to semantic organs. SOs are relational entities which always come into existence through an act of perception and their actual form depends both on the physical potentialities of the bearer and the species- or group-specific interpretation of the receiver. (shrink)
To avoid difficulties that arise when we appeal to speaker intentions or multiple rules to determine the meaning of indexicals, Cohen (2013) recently defends a conventionalist account of these terms that focuses on their context of tokening. Apart from some tricky cases already discussed in the literature, however, such an account faces a serious difficulty: in many speech acts, multiple apparent tokens are produced – for example when a speaker speaks on a telephone, and her utterance is heard both where (...) she speaks, and at the location of the receiver of the call. The ‘token-contextual’ account seems to imply that in such cases a speaker will simultaneously produce multiple contradictory utterances. Here I argue that to resolve such problems we cannot help but to invoke speaker intentions. However, by appealing to intentions at the level of the metaphysics of semantic tokens, rather than to decide their meaning, the token-contextualist can make this appeal without reintroducing the difficulties associated with intentionalist accounts that she hopes to avoid. The resulting metaphysics of semantic tokens is, interestingly, more complex than we might have expected. -/- . (shrink)
I review a widely accepted argument to the conclusion that the contents of our beliefs, desires and other mental states cannot be causally efficacious in a classical computational model of the mind. I reply that this argument rests essentially on an assumption about the nature of neural structure that we have no good scientific reason to accept. I conclude that computationalism is compatible with wide semantic causal efficacy, and suggest how the computational model might be modified to accommodate this (...) possibility. (shrink)
In this paper, I address the idea that certain sentences suffer from what is generally called semantic unspecificity: their meaning is determinate, but their truth conditions are not. While there tends to be agreement on the idea that semantic unspecificity differs from phenomena such as ambiguity and vagueness, some theorists have defended an account which traces it to indexicality, broadly construed. Some authors have tried to vindicate the distinction between unspecificity and indexicality and, in this paper, I pursue (...) the same cause, but with a critical stance towards previously employed strategies. I urge that the central argument employed by Sainsbury to trace this difference fails suitably to set unspecificity apart from indexicality and I propose a new argument, which helps to trace this distinction more perspicuously. The argument is based on embeddings of indexical and unspecific expressions within modal operators and on the ways in which the truth conditions of utterances of the resulting, complex expressions are thereby affected. (shrink)
The article considers Jürgen Habermas's views on the relationship between postmetaphysical philosophy and religion. It outlines Habermas's shift from his earlier, apparently dismissive attitude towards religion to his presently more receptive stance. This more receptive stance is evident in his recent emphasis on critical engagement with the semantic contents of religion and may be characterized by two interrelated theses: (a) the view that religious contributions should be included in political deliberations in the informally organized public spheres of contemporary democracies, (...) though translated into a secular language for the purposes of legislation and formal decision making and (b) the view that postmetaphysical philosophy should seek to salvage the semantic contents of religious traditions in order to supply the evocative images, exemplary figures, and inspirational narratives it needs for its social and political projects. With regard to (a), it argues that the translation requirement impairs the political autonomy of religious believers and other metaphysically inclined citizens, suggesting that this difficulty could be alleviated by making a distinction between epistemologically authoritarian and non-authoritarian religious beliefs. With regard to (b), it argues that the salvaging operation is not as straightforward as Habermas seems to suppose and that social and political philosophy may not be able to tap the semantic power of religious traditions without relying on metaphysical assumptions; it concludes that, here, too, a distinction between authoritarian and non-authoritarian approaches to knowledge and validity may be useful. (shrink)
In his book Semantic Relationism, Kit Fine propounds an original and sophisticated semantic theory called ‘semantic relationism’ or ‘relational semantics’, whose peculiarity is the enrichment of Kaplan’s, Salmon’s and Soames’ Russellian semantics (more specifically, the semantic content of simple sentences and the truth-conditions of belief reports) with coordination, “the very strongest relation of synonymy or being semantically the same”. In this paper, my goal is to shed light on an undesirable result of semantic relationism: a (...) report like “Tom believes that Cicero is bald and Tom does not believe that Tully is bald” is correct according to Fine’s provided truth-conditions of belief reports, but its semantic content is (very likely) a contradiction. As I will argue in the paper, even the resort to the notion of token proposition, introduced in Fine’s recent article “Comments on Scott Soames’ ‘Coordination Problems’”, does not suffice to convincingly eliminate the contradiction; moreover, it raises new difficulties. (shrink)
This paper argues that several leading theories of subjunctive conditionals are incompatible with ordinary intuitions about what credences we ought to have in subjunctive conditionals. In short, our theory of subjunctives should intuitively display semantic humility, i.e. our semantic theory should deliver the truth conditions of sentences without pronouncing on whether those conditions actually obtain. In addition to describing intuitions about subjunctive conditionals, I argue that we can derive these ordinary intuitions from justified premises, and I answer a (...) possible worry for my derivation by refuting a subjunctive triviality result modeled on (Lewis 1976). I conclude that the debate over the correct theory of subjunctive conditionals requires settling meta-philosophical questions about the relative value of various virtues of first-order theories of subjunctive conditionals. (shrink)