Epistemic modals in consequent place of indicative conditionals give rise to apparent counterexamples to Modus Tollens. Familiar assumptions behind familiar truth conditional theories of embedded modality facilitate a prima facie explanation—viz., that the target cases harbor epistemic modal equivocations. However, this sort of explanation goes too far. It fosters other predictions of equivocation in places where in fact there are none. It is argued that the solution is to drop the credo that modal claims are inherently relational in (...) favor of a view that treats them as inherently quantificational. In particular it is suggested that epistemic modals express covert mass noun descriptions of information of the form “the actionable information stands in logical relation L to prejacent p”. We demonstrate how this approach unlocks the equivocation problem. (shrink)
In “Epistemic Modals,” Seth Yalcin argues that what explains the deficiency of sentences containing epistemic modals of the form ‘p and it might be that not-p’ is that sentences of this sort are strictly contradictory, and thus are not instances of a Moore-paradox as has been previous suggested. Benjamin Schnieder, however, argues in his Yalcin’s explanation of these sentences’ deficiency turns out to be insufficiently general, as it cannot account for less complex but still defective sentences, such as (...) ‘Suppose it might be raining.’ Consequently, Schnieder proposes his own, expressivist treatment of epistemic modals which he thinks can explain the deficiency of both the original sentence type as well as more complex cases of embedded sentences containing epistemic modals. In this study, I argue that although Schnieder is right to draw our attention to the explanatory failure of Yalcin’s account, we aren’t forced to adopt Schnieder’s expressivist account of epistemic modals. I defend instead a contextualist-friendly alternative which explains the deficiencies of all the relevant sentence types, while avoiding both the defects of Yalcin’s account and the intuitive costs of expressivism. (shrink)
Graeme Forbes (2011) raises some problems for two-dimensional semantic theories. The problems concern nested environments: linguistic environments where sentences are nested under both modal and epistemic operators. Closely related problems involving nested environments have been raised by Scott Soames (2005) and Josh Dever (2007). Soames goes so far as to say that nested environments pose the “chief technical problem” for strong two-dimensionalism. We call the problem of handling nested environments within two-dimensional semantics “the nesting problem”. We show that the two-dimensional (...) semantics for attitude ascriptions developed in Chalmers (2011a) has no trouble accommodating certain forms of the nesting problem that involve factive verbs such as “know” or “establish”. A certain form of the nesting problem involving apriority and necessity operators does raise an interesting puzzle, but we show how a generalized version of the nesting problem arises independently of two-dimensional semantics—it arises, in fact, for anyone who accepts the contingent a priori. We, then, provide a two-dimensional treatment of the apriority operator that fits the two-dimensional treatment of attitude verbs and apply it to the generalized nesting problem. We conclude that two-dimensionalism is not seriously threatened by cases involving the nesting of epistemic and modal operators. (shrink)
Seth Yalcin has pointed out some puzzling facts about the behaviour of epistemic modals in certain embedded contexts. For example, conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and it might not be raining, … ’ sound unacceptable, unlike conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and I don’t know it, … ’. These facts pose a prima facie problem for an orthodox treatment of epistemic modals as expressing propositions about the knowledge of some contextually specified individual or (...) group. This paper develops an explanation of the puzzling facts about embedding within an orthodox framework. (shrink)
A theory for the use of tense and perfect in English should do three things: 1. It should provide rules defining the phrase markers in which tense and perfect can occur; 2. It should specify what extralinguistic phenomena correlate with the occurrence of tense and perfect in the structures that underlie English sentences; 3. It should provide rules which are sensitive to these extralinguistic phenomena, and which place either +PAST or −PAST under tense nodes and either HAVE or f) under (...) perfect nodes, in such a way that the resulting surface realizations correctly match the conceptualizations which they are used to express. As regards point 1, a set of rules of the type used in the autonomous syntax tradition (cf. Culicover et ah 1977, Lapointe 1980) is adopted here, and it is assumed that syntactic structures are paired with functional structures (cf. Bresnan 1978) in such a way that any V1 node in a phrase marker is paired with a tenseless proposition. As regards point 2, it is argued that for every tenseless proposition referring to a state/ event n, the speaker can make a truth commitment to the effect that n holds true at a time T″ within a particular intensional domain (henceforth ID). It is argued that he does this by assigning two semantic tenses to that proposition on the basis of certain chronological orderings within that ID. These two semantic tenses will be called domain tenses. The two domain tenses are the Fn-tense and the Tn-tense. The notions Tn and F″ are defined as follows: Tn is the time where n is located in the chronology of the ID in which the domain tenses for the tenseless proposition referring to n are computed. Fn is the segment of time on which the speaker focuses his attention when committing himself to the truth of n at Tn in that ID. P″ is the present of that ID. The tense is defined in terms of the chronological order of F″ with respect to P″ , and the Tn -tense is defined in terms of the chronological order of Tn with respect to Fn . It is argued that a third semantic tense, called a domain-shift tense (henceforth DOSH tense) is relevant for the surface selection of tense and perfect. A DOSH tense is defined in terms of the relation between the present of an embedding ID and the present of an embedded ID. Tense-representation rules are provided which match the three semantic tenses referred to above correctly with two nodes (i.e. tense and perfect) in finite S structures, and with one node (i.e. perfect) in nonfinite V2 complements. The most complex examples of ‘sequence of tenses’ are covered by these tense-representation rules. Alleged exceptions to ‘sequence of tenses’ are dealt with. It is argued that in free indirect style, in counterfactual conditional statements, and also in children's games of pretend and in self-effacement strategies in conversational interaction (cf. Lodge 1979), the referent n of the tenseless proposition that is paired with a nonembedded clause is presented as true, not in the speaker/writer's primary ID, but in an embedded ID. The idiosyncrasies of the use of tense, perfect and modals in these nonembedded clauses are thus also to be attributed to domain-shift phenomena. (shrink)
I scrutinize the relationship between the way emotions give rise to modal judgement and the metaphysical necessity we ascribe to the latter. While moral concepts are often described as response-dependent, I propose to analyse them as response-enabled or grokking. I discuss how grokkingness is embedded in the emotional mechanisms that provoke imaginative resistance; how it shapes our manifest image of the world and the place of morality in it; the latter’s deep contingency as contrasted to its metaphysical necessity; and (...) what is essential to a moral outlook notwithstanding deep contingency. (shrink)
This paper motivates and develops a novel semantics for several epistemic expressions, including possibility modals and indicative conditionals. The semantics I defend constitutes an alternative to standard truth conditional theories, as it assigns sets of probability spaces as sentential semantic values. I argue that what my theory lacks in conservatism is made up for by its strength. In particular, my semantics accounts for the distinctive behavior of nested epistemic modals, indicative conditionals embedded under probability operators, and instances (...) of constructive dilemma containing epistemic vocabulary. (shrink)
In this paper I argue for a non-referential interpretation of some uses of indexicals embedded under epistemic modals. The so-called descriptive uses of indexicals come in several types and it is argued that those embedded within the scope of modal operators do not require non-referential interpretation, provided the modality is interpreted as epistemic. I endeavor to show that even if we allow an epistemic interpretation of modalities, the resulting interpretation will still be inadequate as long as we (...) retain a referential interpretation of indexicals. I then propose an analysis of descriptive indexicals that combines an epistemic interpretation of modality with a non-referential interpretation of indexicals. (shrink)
On Kratzer’s canonical account, modal expressions (like “might” and “must”) are represented semantically as quantifiers over possibilities. Such expressions are themselves neutral; they make a single contribution to determining the propositions expressed across a wide range of uses. What modulates the modality of the proposition expressed—as bouletic, epistemic, deontic, etc.—is context.2 This ain’t the canon for nothing. Its power lies in its ability to figure in a simple and highly unified explanation of a fairly wide range of language use. Recently, (...) though, the canon’s neat story has come under attack. The challenge cases involve the epistemic use of a modal sentence for which no single resolution of the contextual parameter appears capable of accommodating all our intuitions.3 According to these revisionaries, such cases show that the canonical story needs to be amended in some way that makes multiple bodies of information relevant to the assessment of such statements. Here I show that how the right canonical, flexibly contextualist account of modals can accommodate the full range of challenge cases. The key will be to extend Kratzer’s formal semantic account with an account of how context selects values for a modal’s.. (shrink)
Epistemic modal operators give rise to something very like, but also very unlike, Moore's paradox. I set out the puzzling phenomena, explain why a standard relational semantics for these operators cannot handle them, and recommend an alternative semantics. A pragmatics appropriate to the semantics is developed and interactions between the semantics, the pragmatics, and the definition of consequence are investigated. The semantics is then extended to probability operators. Some problems and prospects for probabilistic representations of content and context are explored.
This paper motivates and develops a novel semantic framework for deontic modals. The framework is designed to shed light on two things: the relationship between deontic modals and substantive theories of practical rationality and the interaction of deontic modals with conditionals, epistemic modals and probability operators. I argue that, in order to model inferential connections between deontic modals and probability operators, we need more structure than is provided by classical intensional theories. In particular, we need (...) probabilistic structure that interacts directly with the compositional semantics of deontic modals. However, I reject theories that provide this probabilistic structure by claiming that the semantics of deontic modals is linked to the Bayesian notion of expectation. I offer a probabilistic premise semantics that explains all the data that create trouble for the rival theories. (shrink)
Recent debate over the semantics and pragmatics of epistemic modals has focused on intuitions about cross-contextual truth-value assessments. In this paper, we advocate for a different approach to evaluating theories of epistemic modals. Our strategy focuses on judgments of the incompatibility of two different epistemic possibility claims, or two different truth value assessments of a single epistemic possibility claim. We subject the predictions of existing theories to empirical scrutiny, and argue that existing contextualist and relativist theories are unable (...) to account for the full pattern of observed judgments. As a way of illustrating the theoretical upshot of these results, we conclude by developing a novel theory of epistemic modals that is able to predict the results. (shrink)
This paper develops an account of the meaning of `ought', and the distinction between weak necessity modals (`ought', `should') and strong necessity modals (`must', `have to'). I argue that there is nothing specially ``strong'' about strong necessity modals per se: uses of `Must p' predicate the (deontic/epistemic/etc.) necessity of the prejacent p of the actual world (evaluation world). The apparent ``weakness'' of weak necessity modals derives from their bracketing whether the necessity of the prejacent is verified (...) in the actual world. `Ought p' can be accepted without needing to settle that the relevant considerations (norms, expectations, etc.) that actually apply verify the necessity of p. I call the basic account a modal-past approach to the weak/strong necessity modal distinction (for reasons that become evident). Several ways of implementing the approach in the formal semantics/pragmatics are critically examined. The account systematizes a wide range of linguistic phenomena: it generalizes across flavors of modality; it elucidates a special role that weak necessity modals play in discourse and planning; it captures contrasting logical, expressive, and illocutionary properties of weak and strong necessity modals; and it sheds light on how a notion of `ought' is often expressed in other languages. These phenomena have resisted systematic explanation. In closing I briefly consider how linguistic inquiry into differences among necessity modals may improve theorizing on broader philosophical issues. (shrink)
Possible worlds semantics faces a range of difficulties for at least certain types of modals, especially deontic modals with their distinction between heavy and light permissions and obligations. This paper outlines a new semantics of modals that aims to overcome some of those difficulties. The semantics is based on an a novel ontology of modal objects, entities like obligations, permissions, needs, as well as epistemic states, abilities, and essences. Moreover, it is based on truthmaking, in the sense (...) of Fine’s recent truthmaker semantics. (shrink)
Moti Mizrahi (2013) presents some novel counterexamples to Hypothetical Syllogism (HS) for indicative conditionals. I show that they are not compelling as they neglect the complicated ways in which conditionals and modals interact. I then briefly outline why HS should nevertheless be rejected.
Our paper addresses the following question: Is there a general characterization, for all predicates P that take both declarative and interrogative complements , of the meaning of the P-interrogative clause construction in terms of the meaning of the P-declarative clause construction? On our account, if P is a responsive predicate and Q a question embedded under P, then the meaning of ‘P + Q’ is, informally, “to be in the relation expressed by P to some potential complete answer to (...) Q”. We show that this rule allows us to derive veridical and non-veridical readings of embedded questions, depending on whether the embedding verb is veridical or not, and provide novel empirical evidence supporting the generalization. We then enrich our basic proposal to account for the presuppositions induced by the embedding verbs, as well as for the generation of intermediate exhaustive readings of embedded questions. (shrink)
This essay proposes a new theory of agentive modals: ability modals and their duals, compulsion modals. After criticizing existing approaches—the existential quantificational analysis, the universal quantificational analysis, and the conditional analysis—it presents a new account that builds on both the existential and conditional analyses. On this account, the act conditional analysis, a sentence like ‘John can swim across the river’ says that there is some practically available action that is such that if John tries to do it, (...) he swims across the river. The essay argues that the act conditional analysis avoids the problems faced by existing accounts of agentive modality and shows how the act conditional analysis can be extended to an account of generic agentive modal claims. The upshot is a new vantage point on the role of agentive modal ascriptions in practical discourse: ability ascriptions serve as a kind of hypothetical guarantee, and compulsion ascriptions as a kind of nonhypothetical guarantee. (shrink)
Kolodny and MacFarlane have made a pioneering contribution to our understanding of how the interpretation of deontic modals can be sensitive to evidence and information. But integrating the discussion of information-sensitivity into the standard Kratzerian framework for modals suggests ways of capturing the relevant data without treating deontic modals as “informational modals” in their sense. I show that though one such way of capturing the data within the standard semantics fails, an alternative does not. Nevertheless I (...) argue that we have good reasons to adopt an information-sensitive semantics of the general type Kolodny and MacFarlane describe. Contrary to the standard semantics, relative deontic value between possibilities sometimes depends on which possibilities are live. I develop an ordering semantics for deontic modals that captures this point and addresses various complications introduced by integrating the discussion of information-sensitivity into the standard semantic framework. By attending to these complexities, we can also illuminate various roles that information and evidence play in logical arguments, discourse, and deliberation. (shrink)
This paper argues that a standard analysis of modals from formal semantics suggests a solution to the detaching problem — the problem of whether un-embedded 'ought'-claims can "detach" (be derived) from hypothetical imperatives and their antecedent conditions. On a broadly Kratzerian analysis, modals have a skeletal conventional meaning and receive a particular reading (e.g., deontic, epistemic, teleological) only relative to certain forms of contextual supplementation. I argue that 'ought'-claims can detach — subject to an important qualification — (...) but only as long as the 'ought's in the conditional premise and conclusion are interpreted relative to the same ordering sources. Although modus ponens can be shown to fail with hypothetical imperatives, the cases in question do not constitute a failure of detachment in the sense that ethicists have cared about. Rival wide-scoping accounts are proven to be linguistically problematic. They make incorrect predictions about the meanings of hypothetical imperatives, and founder in response to quantificational variants of the detaching problem. (shrink)
It is widely acknowledged that epistemic modals admit of inter-subjective flexibility. This paper introduces intra-subjective flexibility for epistemic modals and draws on this flexibility to argue that fallibilism is consistent with the standard account of epistemic modals.
This paper presents and discusses a range of counterexamples to the common view that quantifiers cannot take scope over epistemic modals. Some of the counterexamples raise problems for ‘force modifier’ theories of epistemic modals. Some of the counterexamples raise problems for Robert Stalnaker’s theory of counterfactuals, according to which a special kind of epistemic modal must be able to scope over a whole counterfactual. Finally, some of the counterexamples suggest that David Lewis must countenance ‘would’ counterfactuals in which (...) a covert ‘would’ scopes over the whole consequent of the counterfactual, including an overt ‘might.’. (shrink)
Considerations involving disagreement, as well as related considerations involving correction and retraction, have played an important role in recent debates about epistemic modals. For instance, it has been argued that contextualist views about epistemic modals have problems when it comes to explaining cases of disagreement. In response to these challenges, I explore the idea that the relevant cases of disagreement may involve credal disagreement. In a case of credal disagreement, the parties have different degrees of belief or credences. (...) There does not have to be a difference in outright beliefs in order for the parties to disagree. I argue that the idea of credal disagreement allows us to make sense of otherwise problematic cases of disagreement involving epistemic modals. I also discuss how these ideas can be extended to cases of correction and retraction. (shrink)
We show in this paper that some expressions indicating source of evidence are part of propositional content and are best analyzed as special kind of epistemic modal. Our evidence comes from the Japanese evidential system. We consider six evidentials in Japanese, showing that they can be embedded in conditionals and under modals and that their properties with respect to modal subordination are similar to those of ordinary modals. We show that these facts are difficult for existing theories (...) of evidentials, which assign evidentials necessarily widest scope, to explain. We then provide an analysis using a logical system designed to account for evidential reasoning; this logic is the first developed system of probabilistic dynamic predicate logic. This analysis is shown to account for the data we provide that is problematic for other theories. (shrink)
This article contextualises current debates over human rights and transnational corporations. More specifically, we begin by first providing the background to John Ruggie's appointment as 'Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises'. Second, we provide a brief discussion of the rise of transnational corporations, and of their growing importance in terms of global governance. Third, we introduce the notion of human rights, and note some difficulties associated therewith. Fourth, we (...) refer to Ruggie's scholarly work on 'embedded liberalism', the 'global public domain' and 'social constructivism'. Following this, we refer to the other five papers contained in this "Journal of Business Ethics" special issue, 'Spheres of Influence/Spheres of Responsibility: Multinational Corporations and Human Rights', and consider some of the potential obstacles to Ruggie's recent suggestion that a 'new consensus' has formed, or is forming, around his 'Protect, Respect and Remedy' framework. We conclude by raising questions regarding the processes of consensus-building around, and the operationalisation of, Ruggie's 'Protect, Respect and Remedy' framework. (shrink)
Embodiment and embeddedness define an attractive framework to the study of cognition. I discuss whether theory of mind, i.e. the ability to attribute mental states to others to predict and explain their behaviour, fits these two principles. In agreement with available evidence, embodied cognitive processes may underlie the earliest manifestations of social cognitive abilities such as infants’ selective behaviour in spontaneous-response false belief tasks. Instead, late theory-of-mind abilities, such as the capacity to pass the (elicited-response) false belief test at age (...) four, depend on children’s ability to explain people’s reasons to act in conversation with adults. Accordingly, rather than embodied, late theory-of-mind abilities are embedded in an external linguistic practice. (shrink)
In this paper, we explore semantics for comparative epistemic modals that avoid the entailment problems shown to result from Kratzer’s (1991) semantics by Yalcin (2006, 2009, 2010). In contrast to the alternative semantics presented by Yalcin and Lassiter (2010, 2011), based on finitely additive probability measures, we introduce semantics based on qualitatively additive measures, as well as semantics based on purely qualitative orderings, including orderings on propositions derived from orderings on worlds in the tradition of Kratzer (1991). All of (...) these semantics avoid the entailment problems that result from Kratzer’s semantics. Our discussion focuses on methodological issues concerning the choice between different semantics. (shrink)
In this paper I will be concerned with the question as to whether expressivist theories of meaning can coherently be combined with deflationist theories of truth. After outlining what I take expressivism to be and what I take deflationism about truth to be, I’ll explain why I don’t take the general version of this question to be very hard, and why the answer is ‘yes’. Having settled that, I’ll move on to what I take to be a more pressing and (...) interesting version of the question, arising from a prima facie tension between deflationism about truth and the motivations underlying expressivism for what I take to be two of its most promising applications: to indicative conditionals and epistemic modals. Here I’ll argue that the challenge is substantive, but that there is no conceptual obstacle to its being met, provided that one’s expressivism takes the right form. (shrink)
Epistemic modals in consequent place of indicative conditionals give rise to apparent counterexamples to Modus Ponens and Modus Tollens. Familiar assumptions of fa- miliar truth conditional theories of modality facilitate a prima facie explanation—viz., that the target cases harbor epistemic modal equivocations. However, these explana- tions go too far. For they foster other predictions of equivocation in places where in fact there are no equivocations. It is argued here that the key to the solution is to drop the assumption (...) that modal claims are inherently relational (i.e., that they ex- press a logical relation between a prejacent and a premise-set) in favor of a view that treats them as inherently quantificational. In particular it is suggested that modals are mass noun descriptions of information. We demonstrate how this approach unlocks the equivocation problem. (shrink)
Modals in St’át’imcets (Lillooet Salish) show two differences from their counterparts in English. First, they have variable quantificational force, systematically allowing both possibility and necessity interpretations; and second, they lexically restrict the conversational background, distinguishing for example between deontic and (several kinds of) epistemic modality. We provide an analysis of the St’át’imcets modals according to which they are akin to specific indefinites in the nominal domain. They introduce choice function variables which select a subset of the accessible worlds. (...) Following Klinedinst, we assume distributivity over the resulting set of worlds. St’át’imcets modals thus receive a uniform interpretation as (distributive) pluralities. The appearance of variability in modal force arises because the choice function can select a larger or smaller subset of accessible worlds. Finally, we discuss the implications of our analysis for the investigation of modal systems in other languages. (shrink)
Engaged scholarship is an intellectual movement sweeping across higher education, not only in the social and behavioral sciences but also in fields of natural science and engineering. It is predicated on the idea that major advances in knowledge will transpire when scholars, while pursuing their research interests, also consider addressing the core problems confronting society. For a workable engaged agenda in science and technology studies, one that informs scholarship as well as shapes practice and policy, the traditional terms of engagement (...) must be renegotiated to be more open and mutual than has historically characterized the nature of inquiry in this field. At the same time, it is essential to protect individual privacy and preserve government confidentiality. Yet there is a scientific possibility for and benefit to introducing more collaborative and deliberative research approaches between scholar and subject in ways that will not violate these first-order ethics. To make the case, this article discusses the possibilities and perils of engaged science and technology scholarship by drawing on our own recent experiences to conduct and apply STS research while embedded in the National Science Foundation. Brief accounts of these experiences reveal the opportunities as well as the challenges of engaged scholarship. They also provide lessons for those fellow travelers who might follow the authors to this or other like host organizations with ambitions of increasing fundamental knowledge about and applying research to the policies, programs, and decisions of the scientific enterprise. (shrink)
Recently, Yalcin (Epistemic modals. Mind, 116 , 983–1026, 2007) put forward a novel account of epistemic modals. It is based on the observation that sentences of the form ‘ & Might ’ do not embed under ‘suppose’ and ‘if’. Yalcin concludes that such sentences must be contradictory and develops a notion of informational consequence which validates this idea. I will show that informational consequence is inadequate as an account of the logic of epistemic modals: it cannot deal (...) with reasoning from uncertain premises. Finally, I offer an alternative way of explaining the relevant linguistic data. (shrink)
I provide an objection to an argument targeting the claim that epistemic modality concerns what is possible or necessary given what is known. The argument centers around uses of epistemic modals that co-occur with adjuncts of the form 'according to X', those in which the content of some reported information is at issue. I argue that such contexts do not license us to reach the sort of conclusion that the argument aims to reach.
Epistemic modals are a prominent topic in the literature on natural language semantics, with wide-ranging implications for issues in philosophy of language and philosophical logic. Considerations about the role that epistemic "might" and "must" play in discourse and reasoning have led to the development of several important alternatives to classical possible worlds semantics for natural language modal expressions. This is an opinionated overview of what I take to be some of the most exciting issues and developments in the field.
We argue that embedded cognition provides an argument against Jaegwon Kim’s neural reduction of mental causation. Because some mental, or at least psychological processes have to be cast in an externalist way, Kim’s argument can be said to lead to the conclusion that mental causation is as safe as any other form of higher-level of causation.
This paper is concerned with the acquisition of certain aspects of the meaning of epistemic modal verbs. Epistemic modals encode the probability, predictability or certainty of the proposition embedded under the modal verb. The sentences in (1) are examples of epistemic modality1.
Expressivists and relativists about epistemic modals often motivate their view by arguing against contextualist treatments of certain cases. However, I argue that even expressivists and relativists should consider being a kind of contextualist. Specifically, data involving mixed disjunctions motivate taking epistemic modals to be sensitive to contextually-salient partitions, and thus context-sensitive.
This paper outlines a semantic account of attitude reports and deontic modals based on cognitive and illocutionary products, mental states, and modal products, as opposed to the notion of an abstract proposition or a cognitive act.
Part of what makes working with modals such a tricky business is that apparent modal forms are deployed in all sorts of ways in language. In this paper I explore an interesting example of an apparent modal—the Blofeld case—which was introduced by Gilles and von Fintel as part of their argument against context of assessment accounts of epistemic modals. I argue that the example is subtle, and that the apparent modal may not be an epistemic modal at all—it (...) could be a scalar modifier that merges or “incorporates” with the matrix verb, weakening the meaning of the matrix verb. If apparent modals are used as scalar modifiers and are subject to movement and incorporation, then the surface language of modality may be throwing us some crafty head fakes. Caution is advised. (shrink)
I present experimental and computational research, inspired by the perspective of Embodied Embedded Cognition, concerning various aspects of language as supporting Everett’s interactionist view of language. Based on earlier and ongo- ing work, I briefly illustrate the contribution of the environment to the syste- maticity displayed in linguistic performance, the importance of joint attention for the development of a shared vocabulary, the role of (limited) traveling for language diversification, the function of perspective taking in social communica- tion, and the (...) bodily nature of understanding of meaning. (shrink)
Theorists with otherwise radically different commitments agree that epistemic modals mark the necessity or possibility of a prejacent proposition relative to a body of evidence or knowledge. However, there is vast disagreement about the semantics of epistemic modals, which stems in part from the fact that statements of epistemic possibility or necessity make no explicit reference to a speaker or group, an audience, or an evidence set. This volume introduces new philosophical papers that mark a significant contribution to (...) the debate about epistemic modals. (shrink)
Language is a collaborative act: To communicate successfully, speakers must generate utterances that are not only semantically valid but also sensitive to the knowledge state of the listener. Such sensitivity could reflect the use of an “embedded listener model,” where speakers choose utterances on the basis of an internal model of the listener's conceptual and linguistic knowledge. In this study, we ask whether parents’ spatial descriptions incorporate an embedded listener model that reflects their children's understanding of spatial relations (...) and spatial terms. Adults described the positions of targets in spatial arrays to their children or to the adult experimenter. Arrays were designed so that targets could not be identified unless spatial relationships within the array were encoded and described. Parents of 3–4-year-old children encoded relationships in ways that were well-matched to their children's level of spatial language. These encodings differed from those of the same relationships in speech to the adult experimenter. In contrast, parents of individuals with severe spatial impairments did not show clear evidence of sensitivity to their children's level of spatial language. The results provide evidence for an embedded listener model in the domain of spatial language and indicate conditions under which the ability to model listener knowledge may be more challenging. (shrink)
In the last thirty years, a relatively large group of cognitive scientists have begun characterising the mind in terms of two distinct, relatively autonomous systems. To account for paradoxes in empirical results of studies mainly on reasoning, Dual Process Theories were developed. Such Dual Process Theories generally agree that System 1 is rapid, automatic, parallel, and heuristic-based and System 2 is slow, capacity-demanding, sequential, and related to consciousness. While System 2 can still be decently understood from a traditional cognitivist approach, (...) I will argue that it is essential for System 1 processing to be comprehended in an Embodied Embedded approach to Cognition. (shrink)
According to a recent challenge to Kratzer's canonical contextualist semantics for deontic modal expressions, no contextualist view can make sense of cases in which such a modal must be information-sensitive in some way. Here I show how Kratzer's semantics is compatible with readings of the targeted sentences that fit with the data. I then outline a general account of how contexts select parameter values for modal expressions and show, in terms of that account, how the needed, contextualist-friendly readings might plausibly (...) get selected in the challenge cases. (shrink)
The article proposes an analysis of imperatives and possibility and necessity statements that (i) explains their differences with respect to the licensing of free choice any and (ii) accounts for the related phenomena of free choice disjunction in imperatives, permissions, and statements. Any and or are analyzed as operators introducing sets of alternative propositions. Free choice licensing operators are treated as quantifiers over these sets. In this way their interpretation can be sensitive to the alternatives any and or introduce in (...) their scope. (shrink)
Sentences with disjunction in the scope of a universal quantifier, Every A is P or Q, tend to give rise to distributive inferences that each of the disjuncts holds of at least one individual in the domain of the quantifier, Some A is P & Some A is Q. These inferences are standardly derived as an entailment of the meaning of the sentence together with the scalar implicature that it is not the case that either disjunct holds of every individual (...) in the domain of the quantifier, \Every A is P &\Every A is Q. As we show, this derivation faces a challenge in that distributive inferences may obtain in the absence of plain negated inferences. We address this challenge by showing that on particular assumptions about alternatives, a derivation of distributive inferences as scalar implicatures can be maintained without in fact necessitating plain negated inferences. These assumptions accord naturally with the grammatical approach to scalar implicatures. We also present experimental data that suggest that plain negated inferences are not only unnecessary for deriving distributive inferences, but might in fact be unavailable. (shrink)
By “epistemic modals,” I mean epistemic uses of modal words: adverbs like “necessarily,” “possibly,” and “probably,” adjectives like “necessary,” “possible,” and “probable,” and auxiliaries like “might,” “may,” “must,” and “could.” It is hard to say exactly what makes a word modal, or what makes a use of a modal epistemic, without begging the questions that will be our concern below, but some examples should get the idea across. If I say “Goldbach’s conjecture might be true, and it might be (...) false,” I am not endorsing the Cartesian view that God could have made the truths of arithmetic come out differently. I make the claim not because I believe in the metaphysical contingency of mathematics, but because I know that Goldbach’s conjecture has not yet been proved or refuted. Similarly, if I say “Joe can’t be running,” I am not saying that Joe’s constitution prohibits him from running, or that Joe is essentially a non-runner, or that Joe isn’t allowed to run. My basis for making the claim may be nothing more than that I see Joe’s running shoes hanging on a hook. (shrink)
I think that there are good reasons to adopt a relativist semantics for epistemic modal claims such as ``the treasure might be under the palm tree'', according to which such utterances determine a truth value relative to something finer-grained than just a world (or a <world, time> pair). Anyone who is inclined to relativise truth to more than just worlds and times faces a problem about assertion. It's easy to be puzzled about just what purpose would be served by assertions (...) of this kind, and how to understand what we'd be up to in our use of sentences like ``the treasure might be under the palm tree'', if they have such peculiar truth conditions. After providing a very quick argument to motivate a relativist view of epistemic modals, I bring out and attempt to resolve this problem in making sense of the role of assertions with relativist truth conditions. Solving this problem should be helpful in two ways: first, it eliminates an apparently forceful objection to relativism, and second, spelling out the relativist account of assertion and communication will help to make clear just what the relativist position is, exactly, and why it's interesting. (shrink)