What determines the meaning of a context-sensitive expression in a context? It is standardly assumed that, for a given expression type, there will be a unitary answer to this question; most of the literature on the subject involves arguments designed to show that one particular metasemantic proposal is superior to a specific set of alternatives. The task of the present essay will be to explore whether this is a warranted assumption, or whether the quest for the one true metasemantics (...) might be a Quixotic one. We argue that there are good reasons—much better than are commonly appreciated—for thinking the latter, but that there nevertheless remains significant scope for metasemantic theorizing. We conclude by outlining our preferred option, metasemantic pluralism. (shrink)
Metasemantics comprises new work on the philosophical foundations of linguistic semantics, by a diverse group of established and emerging experts in the philosophy of language, metaphysics, and the theory of content. The science of semantics aspires to systematically specify the meanings of linguistic expressions in context. The paradigmatic metasemantic question is accordingly: what more basic or fundamental features of the world metaphysically determine these semantic facts? Efforts to answer this question inevitably raise others, including: where are the boundaries of (...) semantics?; what is the essence of the meaning relation?; which framework should we use for semantic theorizing?; and what are the intrinsic natures of semantic values? Metasemantic inquiry has long been recognized as a central part of the philosophy of language, but recent developments in metaphysics and semantics itself now allow us to approach these classic questions with an unprecedented degree of precision. The essays collected here provide promising new perspectives on old problems, pose questions that suggest novel research projects, and taken together, greatly sharpen our understanding of linguistic representation. (shrink)
Some contextually sensitive expressions are such that their context independent conventional meanings need to be in some way supplemented in context for the expressions to secure semantic values in those contexts. As we’ll see, it is not clear that there is a paradigm here, but ‘he’ used demonstratively is a clear example of such an expression. Call expressions of this sort supplementives in order to highlight the fact that their context independent meanings need to be supplemented in context for them (...) to have semantic values relative to the context. Many philosophers and linguists think that there is a lot of contextual sensitivity in natural language that goes well beyond the pure indexicals and supplementives like ‘he’. Constructions/expressions that are good candidates for being contextually sensitive include: quantifiers, gradable adjectives including “predicates of personal taste”, modals, conditionals, possessives and relational expressions taking implicit arguments. It would appear that in none of these cases does the expression/construction in question have a context independent meaning that when placed in context suffices to secure a semantic value for the expression/construction in the context. In each case, some sort of supplementation is required to do this. Hence, all these expressions are supplementives in my sense. For a given supplementive, the question arises as to what the mechanism is for supplementing its conventional meanings in context so as to secure a semantic value for it in context. That is, what form does the supplementation take? The question also arises as to whether different supplementives require different kinds of supplementation. Let us call an account of what, in addition to its conventional meaning, secures a semantic value for a supplementive in context a metasemantics for that supplementive. So we can put our two questions thus: what is the proper metasemantics for a given supplementive; and do all supplementives have the same metasemantics? In the present work, I sketch the metasemantics I formulated for demonstratives in earlier work. Next, I briefly consider a number of other supplementives that I think the metasemantics I propose plausibly applies to and explain why I think that. Finally, I consider the prospects for extending the account to all supplementives. In so doing, I take up arguments due to Michael Glanzberg to the effect that supplementives are governed by two different metasemantics and attempt to respond to them. (shrink)
In this paper, I develop a metasemantics for relaxed moral realism. More precisely, I argue that relaxed realists should be inferentialists about meaning and explain that the role of evaluative moral vocabulary is to organise and structure language exit transitions, much as the role of theoretical vocabulary is to organise and structure language entry transitions.
This paper investigates the determinacy of mathematics. We begin by clarifying how we are understanding the notion of determinacy before turning to the questions of whether and how famous independence results bear on issues of determinacy in mathematics. From there, we pose a metasemantic challenge for those who believe that mathematical language is determinate, motivate two important constraints on attempts to meet our challenge, and then use these constraints to develop an argument against determinacy and discuss a particularly popular approach (...) to resolving indeterminacy, before offering some brief closing reflections. We believe our discussion poses a serious challenge for most philosophical theories of mathematics, since it puts considerable pressure on all views that accept a non-trivial amount of determinacy for even basic arithmetic. (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)
According to intentionalism, a demonstrative d refers to an object o only if the speaker intends d to refer to o. Intentionalism is a popular view in metasemantics, but Gauker has recently argued that it is circular. We defend intentionalism against this objection, by showing that Gauker’s argument rests on a misconstrual of the aim of metasemantics. We then introduce two related, but distinct circularity objections: the worry that intentionalism is uninformative, and the problem of intentional bootstrapping, according (...) to which it is impossible to have referential intentions. We also show how intentionalists could respond to these new objections. (shrink)
ABSTRACT Contemporary relativists often see their view as contributing to a semantic/post-semantic account of linguistic data about disagreement and retraction. I offer an independently motivated metasemantic account of the same data, that also handles a number of cases and empirical results that are problematic for the relativist. The key idea is that the content of assertions and beliefs is determined in part by facts about other times, including times after the assertion is made or the belief is formed. On this (...) temporal externalist view, speaker behaviours such as retraction of previous assertions play a role in making it the case that a past utterance has a given meaning. (shrink)
The idea that experts (especially scientific experts) play a privileged role in determining the meanings of our words and the contents of our concepts has become commonplace since the work of Hilary Putnam, Tyler Burge, and others in the 1970s. But if experts have the power to determine what our words mean, they can do so responsibly or irresponsibly, from good motivations or bad, justly or unjustly, with good or bad effects. This paper distinguishes three families of metasemantic views based (...) on their attitudes towards bad behaviour by meaning-fixing experts, and draws a series of distinctions relevant for the normative evaluation of meaning-determining actions. (shrink)
I consider two competing approaches to metasemantics: productivism, whereby endowment with semantic significance emerges directly from conditions surrounding the production or employment of the items semantically endowed; and interpretationism, whereby endowment with semantic significance emerges directly from conditions surrounding the interpretive consumption of such items. Focusing on the version of interpretationism developed by Lewis and his followers, I present a novel argument to the conclusion that such an approach cannot secure determinacy for singular reference. I then draw a larger (...) moral for metasemantics and its relation to truth-conditional semantics. (shrink)
Metasemantic security arguments aim to show, on metasemantic grounds, that even if we were to discover that determinism is true, that wouldn't give us reason to think that people never act freely. Flew's  Paradigm Case Argument is one such argument; Heller's  Putnamian argument is another. In this paper I introduce a third which uses a metasemantic picture on which meanings are settled as though by an ideal interpreter. Metasemantic security arguments are widely thought discredited by van Inwagen's  (...) Martian Manipulation objection. I argue that van Inwagen's objection, if right, can be parodied to undercut metasemantic arguments which aim to show that deliverances of physics do not tell us that no objects are solid. A diagnosis of where the parody objection breaks down against the pro-solidity argument is then used to resist the objection as applied to the Ideal Interpreter Argument. I go on to defend the argument from the charge that it relies on a ham-fisted version of interpretivism. (shrink)
In Sven Bernecker’s excellent new book, Memory, he proposes an account of what we might call the “metasemantics” of memory: the conditions that determine the contents of the mental representations employed in memory. Bernecker endorses a “pastist externalist” view, according to which the content of a memory-constituting representation is fixed, in part, by the “external” conditions prevalent at the time of the tokening of the original representation. Bernecker argues that the best version of a pastist externalism about memory contents (...) will have the result that there can be semantically-induced memory losses in cases involving unwitting “world-switching”. The burden of this paper is to show that Bernecker’s argument for this conclusion does not succeed. My arguments on this score have implications for our picture of mind-world relations, as these are reflected in a subject’s attempts to recall her past thoughts. (shrink)
I argue for an account of vagueness according to which the root of vagueness lies not in the type of semantic-value that is best associated with an expression, but in the type of linguistic practice that renders the expression meaningful. I suggest, in particular, that conventions about how to use sentences involving attributions of vague predicates to borderline cases prevail to a lesser degree than conventions about how to use sentences involving attributions of vague predicates to clear cases.
What is the relationship between conceptual engineering and metasemantic externalism? Sally Haslanger has argued that metasemantic externalism justifies the seemingly counterintuitive consequences of her proposed conceptual revisions. But according to Herman Cappelen, metasemantic externalism makes conceptual engineering effectively impossible in practice. After raising objections to Haslanger’s and Cappelen’s views, I argue for a very different picture, on which metasemantic externalism bears very little on conceptual engineering. I argue that, while metasemantic externalism principally operates at the level of semantic-meaning, we should (...) understand conceptual engineering to operate largely at the level of speaker-meaning. This ‘Speaker-Meaning Picture’ has two key benefits. Firstly, it makes conceptual engineering often easy in practice. Secondly, it suggests a new, normative response to the well known objection that conceptual engineering serves only to change the subject. (shrink)
There is a familiar disagreement between Justice Antonin Scalia of the US Supreme Court and Ronald Dworkin over whether the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution could be plausibly interpreted so as to prohibit capital punishment. The dispute reflects a deep divergence in approach to statutory interpretation. I explore this divergence by paying particularly close attention to its metasemantic background. I then argue that the metasemantic orientation clearly vindicates the Dworkinian side.
This paper examines some of the interactions between holism, contextualism, and externalism, and will argue that an externalist metasemantics that grounds itself in certain plausible assumptions about self- knowledge will also be a contextualist metasemantics, and that such a contextualist metasemantics in turn resolves one of the best known problems externalist theories purportedly have with self-knowledge, namely the problem of how the possibility of various sorts of ‘switching’ cases can appear to undermine the ‘transparency’ of our thoughts (...) (in particular, our ability to tell, with respect to any two occurrent thoughts, whether they exercise the same or different concepts). (shrink)
In previous work we proposed a sketch of a disposition-based metasemantictheory, which has recently been criticized by James Andow. Andow claims, first, that our dispositionalmetasemantics threatens to render the meanings of our words indeterminate, and second, that our viewrisks a 'semantic apocalypse' according to which most of our terms fail to refer. We respond to Andow'scriticism by modifying and expanding our orignial, underspecified view. In particular, we propose that a viewthat appeals to actual dispositions rather than counterfactual dispositions avoids many (...) difficulties that might confront a disposition-based metasemantics - issues even beyond those that Andow raises. (shrink)
Some philosophers are metaphilosophical deflationists for metasemantic reasons. These theorists take standard philosophical assertions to be defective in some manner. There are various versions of metasemantic metaphilosophical deflationism, but a trap awaits any global version of it: metasemantics itself is a part of philosophy, so in deflating philosophy these theorists have thereby deflated the foundation of their deflationism. The present article discusses this issue and the prospects for an adequate response to the trap. Contrary to most historical responses, the (...) article argues that the best response to the trap is to adopt a local but still pervasive metasemantic deflationism. Such a response might seem ad hoc, but the article argues that the human activity of philosophy isn't a natural kind, and that a heterogeneous metaphilosophy of the appropriate kind is well motivated. (shrink)
In this paper, I consider the relationship between Matthew Kramer’s moral realism as a moral doctrine and expressivism, understood as a distinctly non-representationalist metasemantic theory of moral vocabulary. More precisely, I will argue that Kramer is right in stating that moral realism as a moral doctrine does not stand in conflict with expressivism. But I will also go further, by submitting that advocates of moral realism as a moral doctrine must adopt theories such as expressivism in some shape or form. (...) Accordingly, if you do not want to accept positions such as expressivism, you cannot defend moral realism as a moral doctrine. Similarly, if you want moral realism to compete with expressivism, you cannot accept Kramer’s take on moral realism either. Hence, moral realism as a moral doctrine stands and falls with theories such as expressivism, or so I shall argue. (shrink)
Michael Ridge argues that metaethical expressivism can avoid its most worrisome problems by going ‘Ecumenical’. Ridge emphasizes that he aims to develop expressivism at the level of metasemantics rather than at the level of semantics. This is supposed to allow him to avoid a mentalist semantics of attitudes and instead offer an orthodox, truth-conditional or propositional semantics. However, I argue that Ridge's theory remains committed to mentalist semantics, and that his move to go metasemantic doesn't bring any clear advantages (...) to the debate between expressivism and its opponents. (shrink)
Gödel’s slingshot-argument proceeds from a referential theory of definite descriptions and from the principle of compositionality for reference. It outlines a metasemantic proof of Frege’s thesis that all true sentences refer to the same object—as well as all false ones. Whereas Frege drew from this the conclusion that sentences refer to truth-values, Gödel rejected a referential theory of definite descriptions. By formalising Gödel’s argument, it is possible to reconstruct all premises that are needed for the derivation of Frege’s thesis. For (...) this purpose, a reference-theoretical semantics for a language of first-order predicate logic with identity and referentially treated definite descriptions will be defined. Some of the premises of Gödel’s argument will be proven by such a reference-theoretical semantics, whereas others can only be postulated. For example, the principle that logically equivalent sentences refer to the same object cannot be proven but must be assumed in order to derive Frege’s thesis. However, different true (or false) sentences can refer to different states of affairs if the latter principle is rejected and the other two premises are maintained. This is shown using an identity criterion for states of affairs according to which two states of affairs are identical if and only if they involve the same objects and have the same necessary and sufficient condition for obtaining. (shrink)
Complete information dispositional metasemantics says that our expressions get their meaning in virtue of what our dispositions to apply those terms would be given complete information. The view has recently been advanced and argued to have a number of attractive features. I argue that that it threatens to make the meanings of our words indeterminate and doesn’t do what it was that made a dispositional view attractive in the first place.
It is shown that the most plausible metasemantics for a typical common noun provides materials for a transcendental argument for objectivity: the very possibility that a typical common noun should have its significance requires that there be an objective measure of similarity among instances of the relevant kind.
That we assert things to one another, and that our doing so is central to our linguistic practice, seems beyond question. When we assert, there is typically something we can be said to have asserted. This is what we might think of as the truth conditional content of our assertion. Yet, as I will illustrate in the earlier portions of this paper, it is not immediately clear what communicative function assertoric content actually plays. I suggest that assertoric content functions as (...) a means for us to track the responsibilities undertaken communicators when they speak. However, this, by itself, is not very illuminating. There any many things we take responsibility for when we speak, and many ways in which we undertake such responsibilities. Not all of the responsibilities we undertake when we assert will correspond to the intuitive notion of assertiotic content. I suggest that assertoric commitments are distinguished by their mode of generation: they obtain directly (either compositionally or via bridge principles) in virtue of the words the speaker uses and their manner of combination. But this raises two further questions: Firstly, why are speakers responsible for the content thus generated? And secondly, why is it important for us to distinguish between communicative commitments in terms of the manner in which they are generated? My primary focus will be on the first question: I argue that a plausible metasemantic theory must be able to make sense of the fact that speakers are committed to the assertoric contents of their utterances. Some metasemantic theories are better equipped to do this than others. I present a metasemantic theory that is particularly well equipped to do so: the value a term receives in context corresponds to the use it is most fitting (i.e. there is the most reason) to hold the speaker to in light of their utterance. I turn to the second question in the conclusion. (shrink)
Some ways of updating belief have more epistemic merit than others. Paul Boghossian and Christopher Peacocke have defended varieties of the view that the epistemic merit of certain ways of updating belief is explained by facts about the conditions of possessing certain concepts. In particular, they argue that if it is a condition of possessing a concept C that one must be disposed to update one’s beliefs in accord with a norm N, then beliefs updated in accord with N are (...) thereby epistemically warranted. Following Peacocke, this chapter calls such strategies of vindicating N by appeal to conditions of concept-possession “metasemantic.” Might a parallel metasemantic approach be made to work in vindicating practical norms, norms for updating intentions? After rejecting some blind alleys, it argues for a qualified “yes.” Working with the example of the concept OUGHT TO Φ and an enkratic norm for updating intentions, it argues that we can validly get from premises about the conditions of possessing OUGHT TO Φ to the conclusion that updating intentions enkratically is rationally permissible. The argument generalizes, so that updating intentions in accord with any concept-constituting norm is rationally permissible. (shrink)
Epistemic contextualism in the style of Lewis (1996) maintains that ascriptions of knowledge to a subject vary in truth with the alternatives that can be eliminated by the subject’s evidence in a context. Schaffer (2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2015), Schaffer and Knobe (2012), and Schaffer and Szabo ́ (2014) hold that the question under discussion or QUD always determines these alternatives in a context. This paper shows that the QUD does not perform such a role for "know" and uses this (...) result to draw a few lessons about the metasemantics of context- sensitivity. (shrink)
Generality relativism is the view that any domain of quantification can always be expanded. The view promises to resolve a broad range of paradoxes; but without an explanation of how domains expand it sounds very mysterious. Proponents of linguistic versions of generality relativism try to demystify the view by likening domain expansions to semantic change. They think that domains expand when we re-interpret certain terms so that, upon re-interpretation, the quantifiers range over more things. This article makes trouble for linguistic (...) approaches. According to the so-called charge of ineffability, generality relativism cannot be asserted in a coherent manner—given that asserting the view requires generalizing over absolutely all domains of quantification. Generality relativists typically try to answer the charge with the help of modal operators; but linguistic approaches interpret these operators in semantically and syntactically idiosyncratic ways. I argue that, because of these commitments, linguistic approaches ultimately do not have a good response to the charge of ineffability. (shrink)
ABSTRACTWhat does it take for lawyers and others to think or talk about the same legal topic—e.g., defamation, culpability? We argue that people are able to think or talk about the same topic not when they possess a matching substantive understanding of the topic, as traditional metasemantics says, but instead when their thoughts or utterances are related to each other in certain ways. And what determines the content of thoughts and utterances is what would best serve the core purposes (...) of the representational practice within which the thought or utterance is located. In thus favoring a “relational model” in metasemantics, we share Ronald Dworkin's goal of explaining fundamental legal disagreements, and also his reliance on constructive interpretation. But what we delineate is a far more general and explanatorily resourceful metasemantics than what Dworkin articulated, which also bypasses some controversial implications for the nature of law that Dworkin alleged. (shrink)
A paradigmatic case of rigidity for singular terms is that of proper names. And it would seem that a paradigmatic case of rigidity for general terms is that of natural kind terms. However, many philosophers think that rigidity cannot be extended from singular terms to general terms. The reason for this is that rigidity appears to become trivial when such terms are considered: natural kind terms come out as rigid, but so do all other general terms, and in particular all (...) descriptive general terms. This paper offers an account of rigidity for natural kind terms which does not trivialise in this way. On this account, natural kind terms are de jure obstinately rigid designators and other general terms, such as descriptive general terms, are not. (shrink)
Every theory of pure quotation embraces in some form or another the intuitively obvious thesis that pure quotations refer to their quoted expressions. However, they all remain vague about the nature of these latter. This paper proposes to take seriously the fact that quoted items are semantic, not syntactic objects, and to develop therefrom a semantics for pure quotation that retains the basic intuitions and at the same time circumvents standard problems.
Conceptual engineering is now a central topic in contemporary philosophy. Just 4-5 years ago it wasn’t. People were then engaged in the engineering of various philosophical concepts (in various sub-disciplines), but typically not self-consciously so. Qua philosophical method, conceptual engineering was under-explored, often ignored, and poorly understood. In my lifetime, I have never seen interest in a philosophical topic grow with such explosive intensity. The sociology behind this is fascinating and no doubt immensely complex (and an excellent case study for (...) those interested in the dynamics of academic disciplines). That topic, however, will have to wait for another occasion. Suffice it to say that if Fixing Language (FL) contributed even a little bit to this change of focus in philosophical methodology, it would have achieved one of its central goals. In that connection, it is encouraging that the papers in this symposium are in fundamental agreement about the significance and centrality of conceptual engineering to philosophy. That said, the goal of FL was not only to advocate for a topic, but also to defend a particular approach to it: The Austerity Framework. These replies have helped me see clearer the limitations of that view and points where my presentation was suboptimal. The responses below are in part a reconstruction of what I had in mind while writing the book and in part an effort to ameliorate. I’m grateful to the symposiasts for helping me get a better grip on these very hard issues. (shrink)
In chapter 5 of his 1992 book A Study of Concepts, Christopher Peacocke claims that his account of concepts can be reconciled with naturalism. Nonetheless, despite Peacocke’s greatest efforts to convince the skeptics that the mentioned accommodation is viable if one accepts his approach to concepts, some suspicion survives. In a recent paper on this very topic, Jose Luis Bermudez raises questions about Peacocke’s supposed naturalization by arguing that the approach in question is not able to make sense of the (...) distinction between misapplying a concept one nonetheless possesses and not possessing that concept at all. What I am going to do here is, on the one hand, defend Peacocke’s concept naturalization project from Bermudez’s objection and, on the other hand, show that the latter’s suggestion cannot save the surely crucial distinction between making a mistake in using a concept and being incapable of a mistake or a correct use because of not having the concept. (shrink)
Rationalism offers an account of moral properties as a subset of the properties which serve to rationalize right actions, and these properties are fit to be the referents of our moral terms. That fitness can be exploited in constructing an externalist theory of reference determination for these terms. The resulting externalist theory draws support from standard responses to Moral Twin-Earth scenarios. The relevance of these responses to moral semantics has recently beenvigorously challenged by Dowell and by Schroeter and Schroeter. The (...) social character of meaning relations, which can explain the openness of questions about an analysis, may thereby also make Twin-Earth judgements beside the point. But the resources available to translators go beyond semantic competence and it is these resources that nonetheless make the Moral Twin-Earth responses relevant. (shrink)
The paper discusses in detail John Perry's important article “Davidson's Sentences and Wittgenstein's Builders“. Perry argues, on the basis of Wittgenstein's famous block/slab language, that words make direct metasemantic contact with the world. The present paper urges that, while Perry's conclusions are correct and important, the arguments provided for them, in his 1994 article, ignore essential features of genuine words in natural language. A more empirically-oriented alternative tactic for supporting the same philosophical conclusions is then provided, and its advantages and (...) disadvantages are weighed. (shrink)
This book offers a semantic and metasemantic inquiry into the representation of meaning in linguistic interaction. Kasia Jaszczolt offers a new contextualist take on the semantics/pragmatics boundary, and argues that this is the only promising stance on meaning. This approach allows the selection of the cognitively plausible object of enquiry - namely the intended, primary meaning - and its adoption as a unit of semantic analysis despite the varying provenance of the contributing information. The analysis transcends the said/implicated distinction and (...) heavily relies on the dynamic construction of meaning in discourse, using truth conditions as a tool and at the same time conforming to pragmatic compositionality. Meaning in Linguistic Interaction builds on the author's earlier work on Default Semantics, and adds new arguments in favour of radical contextualism, particularly with regard to the role of salience, the dynamic nature of the unit that forms a basis of the interpretation process, and the flexibility of word meaning. It is illustrated with examples from a variety of languages and offers formal representations of meaning in the metalanguage of Default Semantics. (shrink)
Demonstrative thoughts are distinguished by the fact that their contents are determined relationally, via perception, rather than descriptively. Therefore, a fundamental task of a theory of demonstrative thought is to elucidate how facts about visual perception can explain how these thoughts come to have the contents that they do. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how cognitive psychology may help us solve this metasemantic question, through empirical models of visual processing. Although there is a dispute between attentional and (...) non-attentional models concerning the best metasemantic mechanism for demonstrative thoughts, in this paper I will argue in favor of a hybrid model, which combines both types of processes. In this picture, attentional and non-attentional mechanisms are not mutually exclusive, and each plays a specific role in determining the singular content of demonstrative thoughts. (shrink)
Some moral debunkers such as Sharon Street argue that evolutionary debunking arguments favor a response-dependent or subjectivist metaethics over more realist metaethical accounts. I argue that this thought conflates meta-semantics with semantics by running together mind-dependent content determination relations with mind-dependent content. Insofar as reference is broadly an epistemic relation, evolutionary debunking arguments would cause trouble for mind-independent theories of reference and content determination, since there would be no guarantee that reference would track epistemic access. But a firmly realist theory (...) of content is consistent with a mind-dependent theory of reference. I use David Hilbert's theory of color to illustrate. (shrink)
Context-sensitivity raises a metasemantic question: what determines the value of a context-sensitive expression in context? Taking gradable adjectives as a case study, this paper argues against various forms of intentionalist metasemantics, i.e. that speaker intentions determine values for context-sensitive expressions in context, including the coordination account recently defended by King :219–237, 2014a; in: Burgess, Sherman Metasemantics: New essays on the foundations of meaning, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 97–118, 2014b). The paper argues that all intentionalist accounts face the (...) speaker authority problem, that speaker intentions are just the wrong sorts of things to determine the standards for gradable adjectives in context. The problem comes to light when we look at cases in which speakers have idiosyncratic, false beliefs that cause their proper communicative intentions to come apart from the non-intentional features of context like the question under discussion, facts about the world, practical goals, and prior linguistic discourse. (shrink)