Jonardon Ganeri gives an account of language as essentially a means for the reception of knowledge. The semantic power of a word and its ability to stand for a thing derives from the capacity of understanders to acquire knowledge simply by understanding what is said. Ganeri finds this account in the work of certain Indian philosophers of language, and shows how their analysis can inform and be informed by contemporary philosophical theory.
The boundary between semantics and pragmatics has been important since the early twentieth century, but in the last twenty-five years it has become the central issue in the philosophy of language. This anthology collects classic philosophical papers on the topic, along with recent key contributions. It stresses not only the nature of the boundary, but also its importance for philosophy generally.
_Insensitive Semantics_ is an overview of and contribution to the debates about how to accommodate context sensitivity within a theory of human communication, investigating the effects of context on communicative interaction and, as a corollary, what a context of utterance is and what it is to be in one. Provides detailed and wide-ranging overviews of the central positions and arguments surrounding contextualism Addresses broad and varied aspects of the distinction between the semantic and non-semantic content of language Defends a distinctive (...) and explanatorily powerful combination of semantic minimalism and speech act pluralism Confronts core problems which not only run to the heart of philosophy of language and linguistics, but which arise in epistemology, metaphysics, and moral philosophy as well. (shrink)
The debate between critics of syntactic and semantic approaches to the formalization of scientific theories has been going on for over 50 years. I structure the debate in light of a recent exchange between Hans Halvorson, Clark Glymour, and Bas van Fraassen and argue that the only remaining disagreement concerns the alleged difference in the dependence of syntactic and semantic approaches on languages of predicate logic. This difference turns out to be illusory.
In this paper, I examine the concept of truth in classical Chinese philosophy, beginning with a critical examination of Chad Hansen’s claim that it has no such concept. By using certain passages that emphasize analogous concepts in the philosophy of language of the Later Mohist Canons, I argue that while there is no word in classical Chinese that functions as truth generally does in Western philosophy for grammatical reasons, the Later Mohists were certainly working with a notion (...) of semantic adequacy in which a language-to-world relationship is made an object of investigation, challenging Hansen’s position that classical Chinese functions within a primarily pragmatic linguistic framework in which a language-to-user relationship determines the meaning of words. (shrink)
Introducing a new and ambitious position in the field, Kit Fine’s _Semantic Relationism_ is a major contribution to the philosophy of language. Written by one of today’s most respected philosophers Argues for a fundamentally new approach to the study of representation in language and thought Proposes that there may be representational relationships between expressions or elements of thought that are not grounded in the intrinsic representational features of the expressions or elements themselves Forms part of the prestigious new _Blackwell/Brown (...) Lectures in Philosophy_ series, based on an ongoing series of lectures by today’s leading philosophers. (shrink)
In this article I offer a naturalistic defence of semantic externalism. I argue against the following: (1) arguments for externalism rest mainly on conceptual analysis; (2) the community conceptual norms relevant to individuation of propositional attitudes are quasi-analytic; (3) externalism raises serious questions about knowledge of propositional attitudes; and (4) externalism might be OK for “folk psychology” but not for cognitive science. The naturalist alternatives are as follows. (1) Community norms are not anything like a priori; sometimes they are incoherent. (...) (2) Often propositional attitudes lack determinate content: we do not know the content of thoughts or sentences because there is no fully definite content to be known. (3) Often achieving determinate content is a major socially mediated cognitive achievement that depends on just the factors of social and environmental embedding posited as individuative by externalists, so (4) externalism explains how people can, sometimes, come to have, and to know, determinate attitude contents. (5) Reference and content, for both thought and language, are determined by complex and messy dialectical relations involving many such environmental and social factors; consequently, determinate reference, truth-conditions, etc., are somewhat uncommon outcomes. (6) The basic semantic relation is (typically imperfect) socially mediated accommodation between perceptual, cognitive, linguistic, classificatory and inferential dispositions and relevant causal structures in the environment. (7) This accommodation explains how concepts, language, taxonomies, etc., contribute to individuals' rational inductive, explanatory and practical achievements. (8) So externally individuated propositional attitudes are required for cognitive science explanations of individual human rationality and its inductive and explanatory achievements. “Individual rationality ain't (entirely) in the individual head.”. (shrink)
In this paper I argue, contrary to Chad Hansen’s view , that pre-Han 漢 Chinese philosophy has the semantic concept of truth. Hansen argues that, first, pre-Han Chinese thinkers do not have motivations to introduce the concept of truth in their philosophy due to their peculiar theory of language; second, the concept does not fit well with philosophical texts at that time, and in particular, the Mozi 墨子 text about the three standards of doctrine. However, I argue that (...) Chinese thinkers indeed have reasons to introduce the concept of truth. Hansen’s reading of the three standards of doctrine takes the standards as standards of correct word use, thus attributing to the authors of the Mozi an understanding of yan 言 as something without complete propositional content. However, I argue, a reading that sees the three standards as standards for something with complete propositional content explains better the passages in which the authors apply the standards to various issues. Finally I argue that the term ran 然 is sometimes used as a truth predicate in classical Chinese texts, because it has several important features identical to that of the truth predicate “is true” in English. (shrink)
Essentialism--roughly, the view that natural kinds have discrete essences, generating truths that are necessary but knowable only _a posteriori_--is an increasingly popular view in the metaphysics of science. At the same time, philosophers of language have been subjecting Kripke’s views about the existence and scope of the necessary _a posteriori_ to rigorous analysis and criticism. Essentialists typically appeal to Kripkean semantics to motivate their radical extension of the realm of the necessary _a posteriori_; but they rarely attempt to provide (...) any semantic arguments for this extension, or engage with the critical work being done by philosophers of language. This collection brings authors on both sides together in one volume, thus helping the reader to see the connections between views in philosophy of language on the one hand and the metaphysics of science on the other. The result is a book that will have a significant impact on the debate about essentialism, encouraging essentialists to engage with debates about the semantic presuppositions that underpin their position, and, encouraging philosophers of language to engage with the metaphysical presuppositions enshrined in Kripkean semantics. (shrink)
Semantic externalism is the view that the meanings of referring terms, and the contents of beliefs that are expressed by those terms, are not fully determined by factors internal to the speaker but are instead bound up with the environment. The debate about semantic externalism is one of the most important but difficult topics in philosophy of mind and language, and has consequences for our understanding of the role of social institutions and the physical environment in constituting language and (...) the mind. In this long-needed book, Jesper Kallestrup provides an invaluable map of the problem. Beginning with a thorough introduction to the theories of descriptivism and referentialism and the work of Frege and Kripke, Kallestrup moves on to analyse Putnam’s Twin Earth argument, Burge’s arthritis argument and Davidson’s Swampman argument. He also discusses how semantic externalism is at the heart of important topics such as indexical thoughts, epistemological skepticism, self-knowledge, and mental causation. Including chapter summaries, a glossary of terms, and an annotated guide to further reading, _Semantic Externalism_ an ideal guide for students studying philosophy of language and philosophy of mind. (shrink)
The paper presents a formal explication of the early Wittgenstein's views on ontology, the syntax and semantics of an ideal logical language, and the propositional attitudes. It will be shown that Wittgenstein gave a language of thought analysis of propositional attitude ascriptions, and that his ontological views imply that such ascriptions are truth-functions of (and supervenient upon) elementary sentences. Finally, an axiomatization of a quantified doxastic modal logic corresponding to Tractarian semantics will be given.
In this article I give an overview of some recent work in philosophy of science dedicated to analysing the scientific process in terms of (conceptual) mathematical models of theories and the various semantic relations between such models, scientific theories, and aspects of reality. In current philosophy of science, the most interesting questions centre around the ways in which writers distinguish between theories and the mathematical structures that interpret them and in which they are true, i.e. between scientific theories (...) as linguistic systems and their non-linguistic models. In philosophy of science literature there are two main approaches to the structure of scientific theories, the statement or syntactic approach -- advocated by Carnap, Hempel and Nagel -- and the non- statement or semantic approach --advocated, among others, by Suppes, the structuralists, Beth, Van Fraassen, Giere, Wojcicki. In conclusion, I briefly review some of the usual realist inspired questions about the possibility and character of relations between scientific theories and reality as implied by the various approaches I discuss in the course of the article. The models of a scientific theory should indeed be adequate to the phenomena, but if the theory is 'adequate' to (true in) its conceptual (mathematical) models as well, we have a model-theoretic realism that addresses the possible meaning and reference of 'theoretical entities' without relapsing into the metaphysics typical of the usual scientific realist approaches. (shrink)
Theories of reference have been central to analytic philosophy, and two views, the descriptivist view of reference and the causal-historical view of reference, have dominated the field. In this research tradition, theories of reference are assessed by consulting one’s intuitions about the reference of terms in hypothetical situations. However, recent work in cultural psychology (e.g., Nisbett et al. 2001) has shown systematic cognitive differences between East Asians and Westerners, and some work indicates that this extends to intuitions about philosophical (...) cases (Weinberg et al. 2001). In light of these findings on cultural differences, two experiments were conducted which explored intuitions about reference in Westerners and East Asians. Both experiments indicate that, for certain central cases, Westerners are more likely than East Asians to report intuitions that are consistent with the causal-historical view. These results constitute prima facie evidence that semantic intuitions vary from culture to culture, and the paper argues that this fact raises questions about the nature of the philosophical enterprise of developing a theory of reference. (shrink)
In his preface to the English edition, Apel (identified with critical theory) explains that the title of his two-volume German collection connotes both a reconstruction of the process of hermeneutic transformation in recent philosophy and the author's semiotical transformation of transcendental logic. The emphasis here is on the latter with discussions of the a priori nature of language per Wittgenstein, Peirce, and Chomsky, and its implications for a rational foundation for ethics in modern science. Includes a new foreword. Name (...) index only. Annotation copyrighted by Book News, Inc., Portland, OR. (shrink)
Semantics is a bridge discipline between linguistics and philosophy; but linguistics student are rarely able to reach that bridge, let alone cross it to inspect and assess the activity on the other side. Professor Kempson's textbook seeks particularly to encourage such exchanges. She deals with the standard linguistic topics like componential analysis, semantic universals and the syntax-semantics controversy. But she also provides for students with no training in philosophy or logic an introduction to such central topics (...) in the philosophy of language as logical form, truth, speech acts, analyticity, entailment and presupposition. The exposition throughout is deliberately argumentative rather than descriptive, introducing the student step by step to the major problems in theoretical semantics. Special emphasis is placed on the need to consider individual arguments within the overall perspective of semantics as an integral part of general linguistic theory. Written primarily as a textbook for undergraduates and graduates in linguistics departments, this book will also be useful to undergraduates in philosophy and in psychology where linguistics is a part of their course. (shrink)
Husserl's mathematical philosophy of science can be considered an anticipation of the contemporary postpositivistic semantic approach, which regards mathematics and not logic as the appropriate tool for the exact philosophical reconstruction of scientific theories. According to Husserl, an essential part of a theory's reconstruction is the mathematical description of its domain, that is, the world (or the part of the world) the theory intends to talk about. Contrary to the traditional micrological approach favored by the members of the Vienna (...) Circle, Husserl, inspired by modern geometry and set theory, aims at a macrological analysis of scientific theories that takes into account the global structures of theories as structured wholes. This is set in the complementary theories of manifolds and theory forms considered by Husserl himself as the culmination of his formal theory of science. (shrink)
Expressivism - the sophisticated contemporary incarnation of the noncognitivist research program of Ayer, Stevenson, and Hare - is no longer the province of metaethicists alone. Its comprehensive view about the nature of both normative language and normative thought has also recently been applied to many topics elsewhere in philosophy - including logic, probability, mental and linguistic content, knowledge, epistemic modals, belief, the a priori, and even quantifiers. Yet the semantic commitments of expressivism are still poorly understood and have not (...) been very far developed. As argued within, expressivists have not yet even managed to solve the "negation problem" - to explain why atomic normative sentences are inconsistent with their negations. As a result, it is far from clear that expressivism even could be true, let alone whether it is. Being For seeks to evaluate the semantic commitments of expressivism, by showing how an expressivist semantics would work, what it can do, and what kind of assumptions would be required, in order for it to do it. Building on a highly general understanding of the basic ideas of expressivism, it argues that expressivists can solve the negation problem - but only in one kind of way. It shows how this insight paves the way for an explanatorily powerful, constructive expressivist semantics, which solves many of what have been taken to be the deepest problems for expressivism. But it also argues that no account with these advantages can be generalized to deal with constructions like tense, modals, or binary quantifiers. Expressivism, the book argues, is coherent and interesting, but false. (shrink)
Is a policy-friendly philosophy of science possible? In order to respond this question, I consider a particular instance of contemporary philosophy of science, the semantic view of scientific theories, by placing it in the broader methodological landscape of the integration of philosophy of science into STS (Science and Technology Studies) as a component of the overall contribution of the latter to science policy. In that context, I defend a multi-disciplinary methodological integration of the special discipline composing STS (...) against a reductionist interdisciplinary unification, arguing that if STS wants to contribute to policy advising by constructing narratives of science practice feasible for science policy both in terms of descriptive completeness and intelligibility, then it must avoid the explanatory reductionism tendencies of special disciplines in interdisciplinary contexts. This would favour, at the same time, a relaxation of esoteric language. On this basis, it seems that the semantic view is one right candidate among other approaches in the philosophy of science for facilitating the integration of the methodologically different contributions to STS toward policy objectives. In fact, besides offering a more realistic and descriptively complete picture of science practice with respect to its predecessor in the philosophy of science, namely the syntactic view, the semantic view is also able to capture some aspects of science practice that elude even sociological approaches to STS, thus inviting different perspective on the same subject matter. (shrink)
In this paper I address anew the problem of determinacy in translation by examining the Western philosophical and translation theoretic traditions of the last century. Translation theory and the philosophy of language have largely gone their separate ways . Yet translation theory and the philosophy of language predominantly share a common assumption that stands in the way of determinate translation. It is that languages, not texts, are the objects of translation and the subjects of semantics. The way (...) to overcome the theoretical problems surrounding the possibility and determinacy of translation is to marry the philosopher of language’s concern for determinacy and semantic accuracy in translation with the notion of a “text-type” from the translation theory literature. The resulting theory capable of explaining determinacy in translation is what I call the text-type conception of semantics . It is a novel alternative to the salient positions of Contextualism and Semantic Minimalism in the contemporary philosophy of language. (shrink)
Semantic information is usually supposed to satisfy the veridicality thesis: p qualifies as semantic information only if p is true. However, what it means for semantic information to be true is often left implicit, with correspondentist interpretations representing the most popular, default option. The article develops an alternative approach, namely a correctness theory of truth (CTT) for semantic information. This is meant as a contribution not only to the philosophy of information but also to the philosophical debate on the (...) nature of truth. After the introduction, in Sect. 2, semantic information is shown to be translatable into propositional semantic information (i). In Sect. 3, i is polarised into a query (Q) and a result (R), qualified by a specific context, a level of abstraction and a purpose. This polarization is normalised in Sect. 4, where [Q + R] is transformed into a Boolean question and its relative yes/no answer [Q + A]. This completes the reduction of the truth of i to the correctness of A. In Sects. 5 and 6, it is argued that (1) A is the correct answer to Q if and only if (2) A correctly saturates Q by verifying and validating it (in the computer science’s sense of verification and validation ); that (2) is the case if and only if (3) [Q + A] generates an adequate model (m) of the relevant system (s) identified by Q; that (3) is the case if and only if (4) m is a proxy of s (in the computer science’s sense of proxy ) and (5) proximal access to m commutes with the distal access to s (in the category theory’s sense of commutation ); and that (5) is the case if and only if (6) reading/writing (accessing, in the computer science’s technical sense of the term) m enables one to read/write (access) s. Sect. 7 provides some further clarifications about CTT, in the light of semantic paradoxes. Section 8 draws a general conclusion about the nature of CTT as a theory for systems designers not just systems users. In the course of the article all technical expressions from computer science are explained. (shrink)
This paper is about the relationship between two questions: the question of what the objects of assertion are and the question of how best to theorise about ‘shifty’ phenomena like modality and tense. I argue that the relationship between these two questions is less direct than is often supposed. I then explore the consequences of this for a number of debates in the philosophy of language.
Recent philosophy of language has been profoundly impacted by the idea that mainstream, model-theoretic semantics is somehow incompatible with deflationary accounts of truth and reference. The present article systematizes the case for incompatibilism, debunks circularity and “modal confusion” arguments familiar in the literature, and reconstructs the popular thought that truth-conditional semantics somehow “presupposes” a correspondence theory of truth as an inference to the best explanation. The case for compatibilism is closed by showing that this IBE argument fails (...) to rule out two kinds of deflationism: the position Field famously accused Tarski of having; and a less familiar version of the view that defines reference in terms of a deflated notion of truth. Finally, the distinction between unifying and constitutive explanation is used to forestall the response that correspondence theory is literally part of mainstream semantics. (shrink)
Many philosophers of psychology fail to appreciate the constructivist process of science as well as its pragmatic aspects. A well-developed philosophy of science helps to clear many conceptual confusions. However, ridding ourselves of popular complaints only opens more sophisticated worries regarding how we generalize specific events and how we use those generalizations to build physical systems and abstract models. These questions can still be answered though by realizing that science is largely a social enterprise, and how and what we (...) explain depends a great deal upon who is asking the question of whom and when. (shrink)
Semantic information is usually supposed to satisfy the veridicality thesis: p qualifies as semantic information only if p is true. However, what it means for semantic information to be true is often left implicit, with correspondentist interpretations representing the most popular, default option. The article develops an alternative approach, namely a correctness theory of truth (CTT) for semantic information. This is meant as a contribution not only to the philosophy of information but also to the philosophical debate on the (...) nature of truth. After the introduction, in Sect. 2, semantic information is shown to be translatable into propositional semantic information (i). In Sect. 3, i is polarised into a query (Q) and a result (R), qualified by a specific context, a level of abstraction and a purpose. This polarization is normalised in Sect. 4, where [Q + R] is transformed into a Boolean question and its relative yes/no answer [Q + A]. This completes the reduction of the truth of i to the correctness of A. In Sects. 5 and 6, it is argued that (1) A is the correct answer to Q if and only if (2) A correctly saturates Q by verifying and validating it (in the computer science’s sense of “verification” and “validation”); that (2) is the case if and only if (3) [Q + A] generates an adequate model (m) of the relevant system (s) identified by Q; that (3) is the case if and only if (4) m is a proxy of s (in the computer science’s sense of “proxy”) and (5) proximal access to m commutes with the distal access to s (in the category theory’s sense of “commutation”); and that (5) is the case if and only if (6) reading/writing (accessing, in the computer science’s technical sense of the term) m enables one to read/write (access) s. Sect. 7 provides some further clarifications about CTT, in the light of semantic paradoxes. Section 8 draws a general conclusion about the nature of CTT as a theory for systems designers not just systems users. In the course of the article all technical expressions from computer science are explained. (shrink)
In The Philosophy of Logical Atomism, Russell defends a version of semantic empiricism according to which direct acquaintance with logical atoms is the source of our semantic capacities. Previous commentators have construed Russellian acquaintance in one of two ways: either as an act of de re designation involving neither conceptualization nor propositional content, or as a species of belief de re, which does involve conceptualization or classification. I argue that two further, interim possibilities have been overlooked: that direct acquaintance (...) involves purely phenomenal content or that direct acquaintance involves protoconceptual content. I conclude, however, that on none of the four interpretations considered, can direct acquaintance with logical atoms be the source of our semantic capacities. (shrink)
The semantic view of theories is one according to which theories are construed as models of their linguistic formulations. The implications of this view for scientific realism have been little discussed. Contrary to the suggestion of various champions of the semantic view, it is argued that this approach does not make support for a plausible scientific realism any less problematic than it might otherwise be. Though a degree of independence of theory from language may ensure safety from pitfalls associated with (...) logical empiricism, realism cannot be entertained unless models or aspects thereof are spelled out in terms of linguistic formulations, which can be interpreted in terms of correspondence with the world. The putative advantage of the semantic approach -- its linguistic independence -- is thus of no help to the realist. I consider recent treatments of the model-theoretic view, and find that although some of these accounts harbour the promise of realism, this promise is deceptive. (shrink)
A semantics of pictorial representation should provide an account of how pictorial signs are associated with the contents they express. Unlike the familiar semantics of spoken languages, this problem has a distinctively spatial cast for depiction. Pictures themselves are two-dimensional artifacts, and their contents take the form of pictorial spaces, perspectival arrangements of objects and properties in three dimensions. A basic challenge is to explain how pictures are associated with the particular pictorial spaces they express. Inspiration here comes (...) from recent proposals that analyze depiction in terms of geometrical projection. In this essay, I will argue that, for a central class of pictures, the projection-based theory of depiction provides the best explanation for how pictures express pictorial spaces, while rival perceptual and resemblance theories fall short. Since the composition of pictorial space is itself the basis for all other aspects of pictorial content, the proposal provides a natural foundation for further pictorial semantics. (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.
In their delightfully provocative paper, “Semantics, Cross-Cultural Style,” Edouard Machery, Ron Mallon, Shaun Nichols, and Stephen Stich (2004), make several striking claims about theories of reference. First, they claim: (I) Philosophical views about reference “are assessed by consulting one’s intuitions about the reference of terms in hypothetical situations” (p. B1). This claim is prompted by their observations of the role of intuitions in Saul Kripke’s refutation of the descriptivist view of proper names in favor of a causal-historical view (1980). (...) The particular intuitions they attend to are those aired in discussing Kripke’s cases of Gödel and Jonah. This prompts the next claim: (II) Those particular cases are “central” to Kripke’s refutation (p. B1). Indeed, Machery et al describe these cases as “some of the most influential thought experiments in the philosophy of reference” (p. B8). Inspired by recent work in psychology (e.g., Nisbett et al 2001) that shows “systematic cognitive differences between East Asians and Westerners” (p. B1), Machery et al predicted that there would be cultural differences in referential intuitions. They conducted some ingenious experiments on Gödel and Jonah cases to test this predication. The results in the Gödel cases, although not in the Jonah cases, confirmed their prediction, leading them to conclude: “Westerners are more likely than East Asians to report intuitions that are consistent with the causal-historical view” (p. B1). And, implicitly, they claim: (III) These results raise serious doubts about Kripke’s refutation, which relies solely on the intuitions of Westerners. They are explicit about the following bolder claim: (IV) The fact of these cultural differences “raises questions about the nature of the philosophical enterprise of developing a theory of reference” (p. B1); it points to “significant philosophical conclusions” (p.. (shrink)
This major publication is a history of the semantic tradition in philosophy from the early nineteenth century through its incarnation in the work of the Vienna Circle, the group of logical positivists that emerged in the years 1925-1935 in Vienna who were characterised by a strong commitment to empiricism, a high regard for science, and a conviction that modern logic is the primary tool of analytic philosophy. In the first part of the book, Alberto Coffa traces the roots (...) of logical positivism in a semantic tradition that arose in opposition to Kant's theory that a priori knowledge is based on pure intuition and the constitutive powers of the mind. In Part II, Coffa chronicles the development of this tradition by members and associates of the Vienna Circle. Much of Coffa's analysis draws on the unpublished notes and correspondence of many philosophers. The book, however, is not merely a history of the semantic tradition from Kant 'to the Vienna Station'. Coffa also critically reassesses the role of semantic notions in understanding the ground of a priori knowledge and its relation to empirical knowledge and questions the turn the tradition has taken since Vienna. (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)
Leading scholars in the philosophy of language and theoretical linguistics present brand-new papers on a major topic at the intersection of the two fields, the distinction between semantics and pragmatics. Anyone engaged with this issue in either discipline will find much to reward their attention here. Contributors: Kent Bach, Herman Cappelen, Michael Glanzberg, Jeffrey C. King, Ernie Lepore, Stephen Neale, F. Recanati, Nathan Salmon, Mandy Simons, Scott Soames, Robert J. Stainton, Jason Stanley, Zoltan Gendler Szabo.
Expressivists about epistemic modals deny that ‘Jane might be late’ canonically serves to express the speaker’s acceptance of a certain propositional content. Instead, they hold that it expresses a lack of acceptance. Prominent expressivists embrace pragmatic expressivism: the doxastic property expressed by a declarative is not helpfully identified with that sentence’s compositional semantic value. Against this, we defend semantic expressivism about epistemic modals: the semantic value of a declarative from this domain is the property of doxastic attitudes it canonically serves (...) to express. In support, we synthesize data from the critical literature on expressivism—largely reflecting interactions between modals and disjunctions—and present a semantic expressivism that readily predicts the data. This contrasts with salient competitors, including: pragmatic expressivism based on domain semantics or dynamic semantics; semantic expressivism à la Moss ; and the bounded relational semantics of Mandelkern . (shrink)
Metasemantics is the metaphysics of semantic endowment: it asks how expressions become endowed with their semantic significance. Assuming that semantics is of the usual truth-conditional sort, metasemantics asks after the determinants of expressions’ distinctive contributions to truth-conditions. There are two widely divergent general approaches to the metasemantic project. Some theories – “productivist” ones such as causal theories or intention-based theories – emphasize conditions of production or employment of the items semantically endowed. Other metasemantic theories – “interpretationist” ones – emphasize (...) conditions of interpretive consumption or reception of such items. The book aims to articulate a set of considerations that favour metasemantic productivism over metasemantic interpretationism, to reconcile a general productivist metasemantic approach with contemporary truth-conditional semantics, and to apply the approach to more specialized case studies in the philosophy of language broadly construed. Finally, a major concern in contemporary philosophy of language after Quine is semantic indeterminacy, the worry that there is no fact of the matter as to the semantic significance of our words. The book articulates a distinctly metasemantic strategy to counter the worry. It is shown how the present approach delivers a more successful response to semantic indeterminacy than extant alternatives, a response that emphasizes the priority of reference over truth, which is both intuitively compelling and theoretically motivated. (shrink)
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