Two fundamental rules of reasoning are Universal Generalisation and Existential Instantiation. Applications of these rules involve stipulations such as ‘Let n be an arbitrary number’ or ‘Let John be an arbitrary Frenchman’. Yet the semantics underlying such stipulations are far from clear. What, for example, does ‘n’ refer to following the stipulation that n be an arbitrary number? In this paper, we argue that ‘n’ refers to a number—an ordinary, particular number such as 58 or 2,345,043. Which one? We do (...) not and cannot know, because the reference of ‘n’ is fixed arbitrarily. Underlying this proposal is a more general thesis: Arbitrary Reference : It is possible to fix the reference of an expression arbitrarily. When we do so, the expression receives its ordinary kind of semantic-value, though we do not and cannot know which value in particular it receives. Our aim in this paper is defend AR. In particular, we argue that AR can be used to provide an account of instantial reasoning, and we suggest that AR can also figure in offering new solutions to a range of difficult philosophical puzzles. (shrink)
I develop a theory of what we mean by the 'look' sentences that we use to describe our visual experiences, and on that basis develop a new adverbial theory of what it is to have a visual experience with a certain character.
My main aim is to clarify what we mean by ‘look’ sentences such as (1) below – ones that we use to talk about visual experience: -/- (1) The ball looked red to Sue -/- This is to help better understand a part of natural language that has so far resisted treatment, and also to help better understand the nature of visual experience. -/- By appealing to general linguistic principles I argue for the following account. First, we use (1) to (...) talk about an event. Second, we use the verb ‘look’ to specify the kind of event about which we are talking – it is a looking event. Third, we use the subject ‘the ball’ to specify a stimulus of the event – something that looks some way in the event. Fourth, we use the adjunct ‘to Sue’ to specify an experiencer of the event – someone to whom things look some way in the event. Finally, we use the complement ‘red’ to specify a way of the event – a way in which the event occurs (I take ways of occurring to be properties of events). Which way do we use ‘red’ in (1) to specify? I argue: the maximally specific way w such that the following is generically true: looking events whose stimulus is red occur in way w (it is important that this is understood generically: this is what does much of the work in explaining our use of (1) and other ‘look’ sentences). Putting this together, what we mean by (1) is: there was a looking event whose stimulus was the ball, whose experiencer was Sue, and which occurred in the maximally specific way that looking events occur when their stimulus is red. -/- This account of how we use ‘red’ in (1) is one of the most interesting aspects of my thesis. It extends to an account of how we use ‘proud’ in ‘John walks proud’, ‘as if he is American’ in ‘John talks as if he is American’, ‘like a duck’ in ‘John sounds like a duck’, and so on. In each case we use the expression in question to specify a way: the maximally specific way proud people walk, the maximally specific way American people talk, and so on. So the study of ‘look’ sentences has much to tell us about the functioning of many other English language constructions, and suggests that ways have a significant role to play in the semantics of natural language – a fact that has not yet been sufficiently recognised by linguists or philosophers of language. -/- My thesis also has implications for the philosophy of perception. One of the central questions about perception is: What is the nature of visual experience? What is it, for example, for a ball to look red to Sue? My thesis offers an answer: What it is for the ball to look red to Sue is for whatever it is that we mean by ‘The ball looks red to Sue’ to be the case, and what we mean by ‘The ball looks red to Sue’ is that there is a looking event whose stimulus is the ball, whose experiencer is Sue, and which is occurring in a certain way. It thus delivers an adverbial account of visual experience, one that has the resources to better deal with problems that are traditionally thought to be decisive against adverbial accounts. (shrink)
Existential instantiation is a rule of inference that allows us infer, from the proposition that there are some p things, the proposition that a is a p thing. What role does 'a' play here? According to one account, recently defended by Breckenridge and Magidor, we use 'a' to refer to a p thing. I argue that this cannot be right. I propose an alternative account, according to which we use 'a' to refer to a supposedly p thing.
There is an account of modal operators that is both elegant and powerful and that deserves to be called the standard account. There are, however, some epistemic uses of modal operators which seem to be counterexamples to the account – they pose what I call the objectivity problem. It is often thought that the objectivity problem can be fixed by a certain kind of modification to the standard account. I argue that this kind of modification cannot work. Then I argue (...) that the problem posed for the standard account by recently discussed eavesdropper cases is really just the objectivity problem in a different guise, thereby emphasizing the need for a new solution to the objectivity problem. Finally, I propose a new solution to the objectivity problem. (shrink)
(Last modified 17th July 2007) I use Williamson’s results about necessary existents to argue that making something never involves bringing into existence something that does not exist. Rather, to make x is, for some kind k, to change x from being a non-k into being a k. I use this result to defend the position that the statue is identical to the lump of clay against one otherwise problematic appeal to Leibniz’s Law. I have presented this paper at the Cornell (...) University Departmental Workshop (handout). (shrink)
Michael Smith attempts to solve the moral problem by arguing that our moral beliefs constitute a rational constraint on our desires. In particular, Smith defends the ‘practicality requirement’, which says that rational agents who believe that an action is right must have some desire to perform that action. We clarify and examine Smith’s argument. We argue that, for the argument to be sound, it must make two crucial assumptions about the rational agent in question: that facts about her desires are (...) transparent to her, and that she believes that she is rational. We conclude that if Smith has solved the moral problem then he has done so only for a restricted class of subjects—those who satisfy these two assumptions. (shrink)