Stefano Predelli comes to the defense of the traditional "formal" approach to natural-language semantics, arguing that it has been misrepresented not only by its critics, but also by its foremost defenders. In Contexts he offers a fundamental reappraisal, with particular attention to the treatment of indexicality and other forms of contextual dependence which have been the focus of much recent controversy. In the process, he presents original approaches to a number of important semantic issues, including the relationship between validity and (...) indexicality, the limits of token-reflexive systems, the significance of contextualist arguments, and the interpretation of attitude reports. Contexts will make invigorating reading for all philosophers of language and many linguists. (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)
Stefano Predelli explores the relationships between semantic notions of meaning and truth. He develops a 'Theory of Bias' in order to approach notorious semantic problems, offers a solution to Quine's 'Giorgione' puzzle and a new version of the demonstrative theory quotation, and defends a bare-boned approach to demonstratives and demonstrations.
The main aim of this paper is that of providing a unified analysis for some interesting uses of quotation marks, including so-called scare quotes. The phenomena exemplified by the cases I discuss have remained relatively unexplored, notwithstanding a growing interest in the behavior of quotation marks. They are, however, of no lesser interest than other, more widely studied effectsachieved with the help of quotationmarks. In particular, as I argue in whatfollows, scare quotes and other similar instances bear interesting relations with (...) someimportant themes in the study of natural languages, such as questions regarding alleged devicesof conventional implicature, cases of so-called metalinguistic negation, and, moregenerally, problems pertaining to the distinction between semantic and pragmatic fieldsof inquiry.In Section 1, I begin with a description of some examples involvingthe uses of quotation marks I intend to discuss, and I hint at some desiderata fortheir analysis. In Section 2, I temporarily abandon quotation marks, and, inspired by therecent work of Stephen Neale and Kent Bach on alleged devices of conventional implicature,I present what I call the theory of message and attachment. In Sections 3 and 4,I return to my initial examples, I employ the theory of message and attachment in theiranalysis, and I discuss certain features regarding the behavior of negation in some related cases. (shrink)
This essay proposes a systematic semantic account of Davidson’s demonstrative theory of pure quotation (Davidson Theory and decision, 11: 27–40, 1979) within a classic Kaplan-style framework for indexical languages (Kaplan 1977). I argue that Davidson’s informal hints must be developed in terms of the idea of ‘character-external’ aspects of meaning, that is, in terms of truth-conditionally idle restrictions on the class of contexts in which quotation marks may appropriately be used. When thus developed, Davidson’s theory may correctly take into account (...) the intuitively special status of disquotational sentences, such as “Boston’ refers to Boston’, and “‘Boston” refers to ‘Boston”, and is thus immune from the important objections recently raised in Cappelen and Lepore 2007. (shrink)
This essay studies the semantic properties of what I call Russell-names. Russell-names bear intimate semantic relations with descriptive conditions, in consonance with the main tenets of descriptivism. Yet, they are endowed with the semantic properties attributed to ordinary proper names by Millianism: they are rigid and non-indexical devices of direct reference. This is not an essay in natural language semantics, and remains deliberately neutral with respect to the question whether any among the expressions we ordinarily classify as proper names behave (...) as Russell-names. Its aim is rather that of casting a new light on the traditional debate about descriptivism on the one hand, and, on the other, what is commonly understood as a radically anti-descriptivist approach. From the viewpoint of descriptivism, the conceivability of Russell-names provides welcome relief from the pressure exerted by considerations at odds with a flaccid and/or indexical treatment of proper names. Conversely, from a Millian standpoint, the conceivability of Russell-names indicates that the Millian stance, far from providing a meagre picture of names as ‘mere tags’, is at least in principle consistent with the recognition of their semantic bonds with richer descriptive material. The Appendix provides a formal treatment of Russell-names within a model theoretic semantics for indexical intensional languages, developed within an original ‘double-context’ framework. (shrink)
I present a novel explanation of the apparent truth of certain remarks about fiction, such as an utterance of ''Salieri commissioned the Requiem'' during a discussion of the movie Amadeus. I criticize the traditional view, which alleges that the uttered sentence abbreviates the longer sentence ''it is true in the movie Amadeus that Salieri commissioned the Requiem''. I propose a solution which appeals to some independently motivated results concerning the contexts relevant for the semantic evaluation of indexical expressions.
In this essay, I propose an analysis of Quine’s example ’Giorgione was so-called because of his size’, grounded on the idea of an obstinate demonstrative. In the first sections, I discuss the advantages and drawbacks of the demonstrative and logophoric treatments of ‘so called’, I highlight certain parallelisms with Davidson’s paratactic view of quotation, and I introduce independent considerations in favor of the idea of an obstinate demonstrative. In the second half of my essay, I apply this notion to Quine’s (...) example, and I discuss its consequences with respect to the principle of substitutivity of coreferential singular terms. (shrink)
This essay proposes a novel semantic account of demonstratives, aimed at clarifying the sense in which demonstratives are semantically dependent on demonstrations. Its first two sections summarize the main views currently on the market. Section 3 argues that they are all vitiated by the same shortcomings, and yield incorrect results of ‘truth in virtue of character’ and entailment. Section 4 proposes a different account of the relationships between demonstratives and demonstrations, grounded on the idea of truth-conditionally irrelevant aspects of the (...) meaning of certain expressions. The resulting view of demonstratives is consonant with the so-called ‘bare boned’ account of their truth-conditional role, but is also in the position to recognize that the dependence of a demonstrative on a demonstration is, in some sense of the term, meaning-governed. The final section of this essay discusses the distinction between ‘vacuous’ and ‘incomplete’ uses of demonstratives, and cases involving multiple occurrences of these expressions. (shrink)
This essay presents an argument against the token-reflexive approach to the semantics for indexical languages. After some preliminary remarks in section one, sections two and three explain why some traditional arguments against token-reflexivity are ultimately ineffective. Section four puts forth a more persuasive argument, to the effect that token-reflexive views overgenerate with respect to results of analyticity. However, as section five explains, defenders of the alternative, type-oriented view have all too often wasted the advantage offered by their approach: the unmotivated, (...) independent restriction of semantic evaluation to so-called ‘proper’ indexes is responsible for undesirable conclusions, similar to those to which token- reflexive theorists are committed. (shrink)
In this paper, I defend a view of names from fiction compatible with the Millian theory of proper names. Unlike other attempts at providing a Millian analysis of names from fiction, my approach gives semantic recognition to our pre‐theoretic intuitions without postulating metaphysically dubious entities. The intuitively correct treatment of typical examples, including true negative existential statements, is obtained by appealing only to independently motivated results in the semantics for natural languages.
This essay proposes a semantic analysis of biscuit-conditionals, such as Austin's classic example "there are biscuits in the cupboard if you want some". The analysis is grounded on the ideas of contextual restrictions, and of non-character encoded aspects of meaning, and provides a rigorous framework for the widespread intuitions that the if-clause in a biscuit-conditional is truth-conditionally idle, but it 'qualifies' the speech-act in question. In the concluding section of this essay, the analysis is also applied to the importantly similar (...) phenomenon of speech-act adverbs. (shrink)
This essay is devoted to an analysis of the semantic significance of a fashionable view of proper names, the Predicate Theory of names, typically developed in the direction of the Metalinguistic Theory of names. According to MT, ‘syntactic evidence supports the conclusion that a name such as ‘Kennedy’ is analyzable in terms of the predicate ‘individual named ‘Kennedy’’. This analysis is in turn alleged to support a descriptivist treatment of proper names in designative position, presumably in contrast with theories of (...) names as ‘directly referring rigid designators’. The main aim of this essay is that of questioning the significance of PT and MT as theories of designation: even granting for the argument’s sake that names are analyzable as predicates, their designative occurrences may be interpreted in consonance with the dictates of Direct Reference—indeed, in consonance with the radically anti-descriptivist version of Direct Reference I call Millianism. (shrink)
This paper argues in favor of a treatment of discourse about fiction in terms of operators on character, that is, Kaplanesque ‘monsters’. The first three sections criticize the traditional analysis of ‘according to the fiction’ as an intensional operator, and the approach to fictional discourse grounded on the notion of contextual shifts. The final sections explain how an analysis in terms of monsters yields the correct readings for a variety of examples involving modal and temporal indexicals.
This essay argues that cases of apparently sub-sentential speech, such as Charles’ utterance of ‘a world famous topologist’ in the presence of a suitably salient woman, are unproblematic from the viewpoint of the Traditional View of meaning and truth-conditions. My argument is grounded on the distinction between different senses of ‘truth-conditions’ in double-index semantics, and on an understanding of semantic inputs as constraints on logical forms. Given these conceptual resources, I argue that an utterly traditional understanding of the relationships between (...) meaning and truth yields the intuitively desired results. (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)
This essay defends an analysis of malapropisms consistent with the Simple Picture of communication, namely the view that speakers communicate that P by employing expressions associated with P by the regularities appropriate for the linguistic community to which they belong. My analysis, grounded on the distinction between traces, shapes, and forms, is consistent with an intuitive assessment of the contents conveyed by instances of malapropisms, and with a standard, ‘fully articulated’ approach to semantic interpretation.
In a recent essay in this journal, Ross Cameron presents a novel solution to the problem of musical creation.1 The solution is of the ‘using a sledgehammer to crack a nut’ variety, since side by side with a dissolution of the problem of musical creation, his approach, if successful, would yield a swift answer to pretty much every central question in the ontology of art, and, for that matter, to a wide variety of perennial metaphysical difficulties. Nothing of this magnitude (...) should be nonchalantly swept aside. Unfortunately, Cameron's approach does not survive close scrutiny. (shrink)
Typically, in cases where an agent's actions produce foreseen harmful consequences, we morally discriminate in favor of scenarios in which those consequences are unintended. This intuitive distinction plays a particularly important role in our moral assessment of military strategies, especially when innocent bystanders may be involved. However, the analysis of the general principles governing such pre-theoretical inclinations must inevitably confront difficult and obstinate philosophical problems. As has often been pointed out, the criteria proposed by the traditional view on this issue, (...) the so-called Doctrine of Double Effect, are dependent upon the description of the agent's intentional profile in an intuitively inadmissible way. As a solution to the Doctrine's shortcomings, contemporary philosophers have proposed analyses in which the notion of harmful involvement plays a central role. The main thesis of this paper is that appeals to harmful involvement do not provide the desired solution. Given the pervasive role played by the assessment of an agent's intentions in our moral evaluation of the use of military force in particular situations, the philosophical puzzles raised in this paper bring to the foreground a set of correlated problems of unequivocal relevance for the discipline of military ethics. (shrink)
William Kneale famously noted that "it is obviously trifling to tell [a man] that Socrates was called Socrates" . Leaving aside some debatable details in Kneale's example, it would indeed seem trivial to tell someone that, say, Socrates bears "Socrates."The reason why this sort of communication strikes us as eminently uninformative has occasionally been treated as the symptom of a semantic phenomenon—more precisely, as evidence in favor of nominal descriptive approaches to the semantic behavior of proper names such as "Socrates." (...) According to these approaches, it is obviously trifling to tell someone that Socrates bears "Socrates" because the descriptive condition of bearing "Socrates" is part of the meaning of "Socrates" in some semantically significant sense of "meaning." The aim of this essay is to present a novel counter-argument against nominal descriptivism, and to defend a nondescriptivist explanation of cases such as . In particular, it is argued that nominal descriptivism is independently untenable, since it yields incorrect logical verdicts, and even disregarding its independent inadequacy, nominal descriptivism does not provide an analysis of the peculiar status of preferable to the treatment proposed in what follows. (shrink)
According to a popular approach to the ontology of music, the identity conditions for a musical work include the specification of properties of sound, which constrain the class of its correct performances. This essay argues that the resulting invariantist view of the work–performance relation is inadequate and defends a contextualist alternative.
This essay discusses some aspects of the logical behaviour of sentences in languages containing indexical and demonstrative expressions. After some preliminary remarks in section one, sections two and three focus on instances of logically true sentences that may be uttered falsely, and on cases of logically equivalent sentences whose utterances may have distinct truth-values. The logical and semantic problems taken into consideration include the validity of a Principle of Translation, the so-called ‘puzzle of addressing’, and examples related to measurement and (...) approximation. Section four discusses the complementary phenomenon of sentences that may presumably always be uttered truly, but that do not qualify as logically true. In particular, I argue against the widespread tendency to consider ‘I am here now’ or ‘I exist’ as truths of the logic of indexicals. (shrink)
According to the view I call `innocent Millianism', that-clauses differing only for occurrences of co-referential names provide the same contribution to the intensional profile of a belief report. It is widely believed by friends and foes of innocent Millianism alike that this approach entails either the denial of what I label a `naïve' account ofbelief reports, or a dismissive attitude towards our semantic intuitions. In this essay, I counter that the conjunction of innocent Millianism and the naïve view of belief (...) reports is compatible with our intuitions of truth-conditions. In order to defend this conclusion, I defend an independently motivated approach, in which utterances endowed of the same intension may nevertheless differ in truth-conditions. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss two influential analyzes of belief reports, John Perry's and Marc Crimmins's "Contextual View," and Scott Soames's and Nathan Salmon's "Radical View". It is often alleged that the "Contextual View," unlike the "Radical View," is able to account for the apparent invalidity of arguments involving the substitution of coreferential names. I counter that the "Contextual View" and the "Radical View" are on a par with the respect to our intuitions regarding failures of substitutivity.
In this paper, I discuss the general features of what I call ‘the semantics of message and attachment’. According to this theory, utterances of declarative sentences may be semantically associated with a plurality of information contents. I explain how this suggestion may provide a promising tool for the analysis of a variety of phenomena in the semantics for natural languages, such as complex demonstratives, dangling adverbs, or appositive clauses. I then focus on certain structural aspects of the theory, in particular (...) pertaining to the demands it imposes on the lexicon, and on the role it plays with respect to the truth-conditions for an utterance. In this last respect, I also discuss the logical outcomes of the theory, and I compare what I call a ‘content-containment’ approach to validity with a more traditional, truth-conditional understanding. (shrink)
When discussing the distinction between referential and attributive uses of definite descriptions, Keith Donnellan also mentions cases such as âSmithâs murderer is insaneâ, uttered in a scenario in which Smith committed suicide. In this essay, I defend a two-fold thesis: (i) the alleged intuition that utterances of âSmithâs murderer is insaneâ are true in the scenario in question is independent from the phenomenon of referential uses of definite description, and, most importantly, (ii) even if such intuition is granted semantic relevance, (...) the evidence it presents is compatible with a Russellian treatment of definite descriptions. I thus present a Russellian analysis of âSmithâs murderer is insaneâ which, when coupled with certain independently plausible hypotheses, explains the presumed intuition that certain utterances of this sentence are indeed true, at least as long as the intended individual is insane. (shrink)
In this essay, I explain how certain suggestions put forth by Frege, Wittgenstein, and Schlick regarding the interpretation of indexical expressions may be incorporated within a systematic semantic account. I argue that the ‘hybrid’ approach they propose is preferable to more conventional systems, in particular when it comes to the interpretation of cases of cross-contextual ellipsis. I also explain how the hybrid view entails certain important and independently motivated distinctions among contextually dependent expressions, for instance between ‘here’ and ‘local’.